Your 4-Step Guide to Becoming the Best Mom You Can Be

Your 4-Step Guide to Becoming the Best Mom You Can Be

This is a guest post from Aja Rutledge of She Takes Steps.

Your 4-Step Guide to Becoming the Best Mom You Can Be“Uh oh,” I heard my child say. As I looked over to see what sparked the comment, I saw the cup on its side and juice flowing from the table to the floor. My son was frozen as if he found out about the mannequin challenge and decided this was the time to record his own version.

The natural response would be to grab some paper towels, head over and engage my son in helping to clean it up. Instead, I felt a boiling up within me, something erupting in my throat.

And then it happened. I exploded.

“What did you do that for?! Why are you just standing there? Clean it up!” I started vigorously grabbing paper towels and headed to the accident location. As I sharply dropped to the floor to clean the mess I saw my son flinch, in fear, out of the corner of my eye.

That fear softened me, but I still vigorously cleaned up the mess as my child perfected his mannequin stance. Once done, I muttered some comments and headed to my room as shame took over, tears dripping down my face.

How did this happen? Why did I respond like that? It was JUST spilled juice, seriously not a big deal.

Sitting on the bed, ashamed, embarrassed, and actually afraid, it hit me: I was repeating what my mother did with me. I was once in my son’s shoes, a little kid stuck in fear trying to understand what I did and how to prevent having more rage turned on me.

Yet, here I was, repeating the pattern—the pattern I vowed never to repeat with my own child. More →

How to Make the Most of After-School Time With Your Kids

How to Make the Most of After-School Time With Your Kids

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Schreiber Foods, Inc. All opinions are entirely my own.

How to Make the Most of After-School Time With Your Kids

Even though my son is only in half-day preschool, I have already learned the power of the after-school hour.

That snippet of time between the end of the school day and the beginning of dinner or evening activities is a critical time for families who are able to be together then. It is a daily opportunity for us parents to reconnect and bond with our children, and a chance to set a positive tone for the remainder of the day.

But of course, thanks to too much homework, too tight schedules, and too much fatigue all around, it can also be a time of serious stress and frustration.

If your after-school time is feeling heavy on tension, demands, and strained conversation—and light on connection, family engagement, and energy—consider incorporating these three best practices into your after-school routine. More →

The Ultimate Toddler Gift Idea That Won’t Cost You a Penny

The Ultimate Toddler Gift Idea That Won’t Cost You a Penny

The Ultimate Toddler Gift Idea That Won't Cost You a Penny!First and foremost, I cannot take credit for this amazing toddler gift idea. Well, I can, but that would be dishonest. 

Truth is, my genius husband came up with this one. Here he is with our 18-month-old daughter back when she turned 1.

The Ultimate Toddler Gift Idea That Won't Cost You a Penny

Beautiful, isn’t she? 

I’m hesitant to call her a toddler because I so desperately want her to still be a baby.

But when she tears through the house like a tornado, begs for what she wants with two-word phrases, and paints murals on the walls with her food, I am reminded that, yes, she’s definitely a toddler.

In true toddler spirit, my daughter is far more interested in things that are NOT toys than in things that are. So my husband suggested that instead of dropping mega bucks this Christmas on boring old toys, let’s just get her what she really wants.

And that’s when this incredible toddler gift idea was born.

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5 Surprising Ways to Strengthen Your Child’s Academic Skills at Home

5 Surprising Ways to Strengthen Your Child’s Academic Skills at Home

This is a guest post by freelance writer Patricia Dimick.

5 Surprising Ways to Strengthen Your Child's Academic Skills at Home

As a parent, not only are you the first educator that your child encounters, but you are also the most important teacher that your child will ever come across. You have a very important role in helping your child develop academic skills and opportunities to do so regularly happen in the comfort of your own home.

Living in a home with young children often means something exciting is always happening. Everyday activities around your home provide a great learning opportunity for your child.

These daily unstructured and mostly unplanned activities give you an opportunity to instill a lifelong love of learning in your little ones. Take a look how you can help your children develop skills that they will need to succeed in school and throughout life through these 5 steps. More →

What Millennial Moms Understand About Self Care (That Other Moms Don’t)

What Millennial Moms Understand About Self Care (That Other Moms Don’t)

Last week I overheard some comments that made my heart hurt. They included:

“I can’t believe that mom gets a babysitter so she can go to the gym. Those poor children.”

“I know a mom who took an entire weekend away from her family so she could ‘rest.’ So selfish.”

“I can’t believe how many moms these days put themselves before their kids. It’s like, do you even love them???”

Here’s how I interpreted those comments: Self care = Bad. Moms who engage in self care = Bad moms.

What Millennial Moms Understand About Self-Care That Other Moms Don't

Although the comments were not explicitly directed at me, they still stung personally. They came at a time when I’m working hard to prioritize my physical, mental, and emotional health—for my own sake and that of my children and family—and I walked away feeling I’d been branded a terrible person for DARING to take care of myself. Naturally, then, my internal reaction was one of anger and defensiveness.

As I stewed over what I’d heard, I realized something important. The comments all had one critical thing in common: They were uttered not by moms of my generation, but by moms of the previous one.

When it comes to the topic of self-care, there is definitely a generational divide.

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3 Compelling Reasons Families Should Switch to Natural Personal Care Products

3 Compelling Reasons Families Should Switch to Natural Personal Care Products

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Tom’s of Maine . All opinions are 100% mine.

My first child was only a few days old, just home from the hospital, when I had what I’ll call my “ingredient list awakening.”

We were preparing to give him a sponge bath and pulled out the conventional baby soap we’d been gifted at my baby shower. I glanced at the back of the package and my eyes got huge. What the heck is in this stuff? What exactly am I about to put onto my newborn baby’s skin???3 Compelling Reasons Your Family Should Switch to Natural Personal Care Products

The next thing I knew I was in full-on panic mode, running around the house critically inspecting the packages of all our personal care products. I had always been pretty conscious about the ingredient lists on prepared food items, but hadn’t given a second thought to things like shampoos, deodorants, and toothpaste.

Now, admittedly, panic is probably not the best response. But I’d place bets that I’m not the only person who became a parent and suddenly grew hyper-aware of everything we as a family were putting in and on our bodies.

If your family is still hesitant about jumping on the natural personal care product train, here are 3 reasons you should strongly consider getting on board.

3 Reasons Families Should Switch to Natural Personal Care Products

1. Avoid the artificial onslaught.

The truth is that almost everything has something artificial in it these days. Artificial flavorings, artificial dyes, artificial ingredients, and on and on.

It’s almost impossible to avoid this stuff completely, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take precautions when we can—especially because the long-term effects of everything artificial are still widely unknown. I’d rather be on the safe side than look back a few decades from now and say, “If only we had known then what we do now.”

One the areas we’ve completely committed to going natural is toothpaste. Our personal favorite brand? Tom’s of Maine.3 Compelling Reasons Your Family Should Switch to Natural Personal Care Products

Tom’s of Maine products are free of artificial dyes, fragrances, flavors, and preservatives, so I feel peace of mind using them myself and on my children. The best part is that there’s a toothpaste for everyone in the family: We use Tom’s of Maine Toddler Training Toothpaste for my 1-year-old, Tom’s of Maine Children’s Toothpaste for my preschooler, and Tom’s of Maine Luminous White Toothpaste for us grown-ups.  3 Compelling Reasons Your Family Should Switch to Natural Personal Care Products

The Luminous White toothpaste is one of the new Made to Matter® products handpicked by (and sold exclusively at) Target. It’s Tom’s of Maine’s most advanced natural whitening toothpaste that’s safe for enamel, and gluten and paraben-free.

2. Steer clear of unnecessary irritation. 

There’s nothing quite like a newborn baby’s skin. The sweet smell, the perfect softness—it’s intoxicating!

But all that sweetness and softness means that babies and kids usually have extra sensitive skin. Skin that you can’t put just anything on.

Switching from conventional to natural personal care products means you lessen the chances of your kids’ skin getting irritated and having an adverse reaction. Same goes for the grown-ups! Even if you think you don’t have particularly sensitive skin, transitioning to natural products could make you realize you do. You just didn’t realize the impact harsh conventional products were having.

3. Protect the planet for your kids and grandkids.

For many, it’s all too easy to dismiss environmental concerns as someone else’s problem—that someone else being a future generation. But becoming a parent forces you to challenge the “me! me! me!” attitude and instead confront the problems our planet is facing.

I know that when I look at my kids, I desperately want them (and their kids) to have a beautiful earth to live on. Trashing the place is simply no longer an option for me. Yes, a whole lot of damage has already been done, but that doesn’t mean we should give up. Choosing to switch from conventional to natural products can make a big difference!

Tom’s of Maine believes in healthy, human, and environmental goodness. They don’t just respect the natural world—they love it. And that love shines through in how they select ingredients, manufacture their products, and package them for purchase. 

Be sure to check out the other Tom’s of Maine Made to Matter® products sold exclusively at Target: Wicked Cool! Deodorant for boys and girls and Men’s Naturally Dry Antiperspirant in North Woods. They’re a great way to start your family on the path to natural personal care products.  3 Compelling Reasons Your Family Should Switch to Natural Personal Care Products 3 Compelling Reasons Your Family Should Switch to Natural Personal Care Products

Does your family use natural personal care products? 

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3 Steps to be Fever-Ready With an Infant

3 Steps to be Fever-Ready With an Infant

This is a product-provided, sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of FeverAll® Acetaminophen Suppositories. The opinions and text are all mine.

3 Steps to be Fever-Ready With an Infant

I can remember it so clearly because it was one of my first “parenting fails.”

We’d taken our first child for a train ride on Thomas the Tank Engine. He was a few months shy of his second birthday and officially train-obsessed. I’d been planning the trip for weeks, we’d have to drive over an hour to get there, and I’d carefully arranged his nap times around the experience—so he could be well-rested for all the FUN I was certain we’d have.

So I was understandably exasperated when fun turned out to be in short supply.

My son was extra whiny from the moment we arrived, acted like he couldn’t care less about Thomas, and wailed at the top of his lungs on our way to visit Sir Topham Hatt. He kept asking to be held, but then squirmed uncomfortably in my arms whenever I picked him up. Nothing suited him. After a mere 90 minutes of this “fun,” we all decided enough was enough and packed up and left.

I’ll admit it: I felt very frustrated and annoyed with my child that day. Come on, buddy, we’ve been so excited for this day! Just have FUN, for pete’s sake! 

So I felt downright rotten when—you guessed it!—my son spiked a fever that night.  More →

I’m Raising My Daughter to be Beautiful—And You Should Too

I’m Raising My Daughter to be Beautiful—And You Should Too

“Oh, it happens all the time. A lot of girls do it,” my student stated, with a bit of a shrug.

The nods throughout the classroom told me that, yes, a lot of girls really are doing exactly what she described.

I was filled with sadness, but not surprise.

Parents, Let's Raise Our Daughters To Be Beautiful—Not Just "Pretty." An inspiring, positive parenting article that all parents of girls should read!

We were about four weeks in to my Intro to Women’s & Gender Studies course, discussing the unattainable standards our society imposes on feminine bodies. My student shared a trend I had not yet heard of in which girls post a photo or video of themselves online along with the simple question, Am I pretty or not?

Yes, you read that right: Girls are asking the INTERNET for validation of their physical appearance.

The internet, where the comments section is always deplorable, where plenty of strangers are willing to show their ugliest sides and use their cruelest words. Where it’s all too easy to forget that the person behind the screen is just that: a person.

Girls are requesting scrutiny of their bodies, their faces, and their hair—inviting thousands of strangers to offer opinions, criticism, and judgments of their attractiveness.

Like I said, sad but not surprising. More →

How To Be a Little Girl

How To Be a Little Girl

This is my daughter Lily.

She is constantly messy.
How To Be a Little Girl
If you wipe her down or give her a bath, without fail within five minutes she will find a way to return to her regular state of messiness.
Take yesterday, for example: Right after I pulled her out of the bath and put her in pjs, she proceeded to dump a sippy cup of milk on her head. (But then she made up for it by diving headfirst into the bath tub again—this time when it was occupied by her big brother, and while she was still wearing those pjs I’d just dressed her in. It was a good night.)
An object in motion stays in motion. An object at rest stays at rest. And a grimy and grubby Lily stays a grimy and grubby Lily. Just ask Isaac Newton.

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My Family’s Zero-Pressure Summer Bucket List

My Family’s Zero-Pressure Summer Bucket List

Our Zero-Pressure Summer Bucket List

At first glance, the concept of a “summer bucket list” might seem like a really bad idea.

I mean, by its very nature a bucket list is just another to-do list (albeit a fun one), and if you’re anything like me, you have enough of those in your life already!

No, summer is supposed to be different. It’s supposed to be about slowing down, kicking back, and savoring life’s sweet moments—not about checking things off and getting things done.

That’s why this year my family is making an alternative kind of summer bucket list, one that doesn’t come along with so many requirements or restraints.

It’s the kind of bucket list that will leave you feeling “lazy” rather than accomplished—which is actually quite perfect for the lazy days of summer!
More →

How to Raise Kids Who Aren’t Glued to Their Screens

How to Raise Kids Who Aren’t Glued to Their Screens

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of OurPact.

While at the zoo with my preschooler a few weeks ago, I almost got run over by a teenager who was attempting to navigate the crowds around the monkey cages without even looking up from her smartphone.

Less than an hour later, while waiting to buy the M&M cookie my son desperately wanted (and the iced latte I desperately needed!), we had to prod a young man ahead of us to move forward in line because his attention was on a text, not his surroundings.

And less than an hour after that, while driving home in slow moving traffic, I lost count of how many people—young and old alike—were wielding an electronic device while also operating their vehicles.

It was enough to make me wonder if my children even have a shot at not growing up to be screen-obsessed!

How to Raise Kids Who Aren't Glued to Their Screens

As with most things, of course, the key is to teach our children to find that sweet spot, the one between running people over because we can’t look up from our phones and eschewing technology completely and therefore withdrawing from modern life.

It’s our job to show our kids how to harness all the benefits of our digital devices without allowing those devices to be the center of our lives.

It’s a work in progress, but here’s my plan for raising my children to appreciate the power of technology without obsessing over it. More →

7 Simple Ideas for July 4th Fun

7 Simple Ideas for July 4th Fun

The Aquafresh brand has compensated me in connection with the statements made in this post.

7 Simple Ideas for July 4th Fun

Independence Day in the United States is a unique holiday in that it occurs during the lazy months of summer.

While holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas often feel rushed and frantic because they fall right in the middle of the busy school year, 4th of July celebrations are usually more relaxed to match the slower pace of the season.

With that in mind, these seven simple ideas for July 4th fun will help make your family’s Independence Day special while still keeping with the laid back, no-fuss vibe the holiday usually has.

More →