Friday, January 31, 2014

Frantic Mama's 5 Friday Faves (Round 2)

Below are 5 more of my favorite things for my second round of Friday Faves list.

1.  Sam Adams Cherry Wheat Ale.  This has been my favorite beer for several years now.  You either love it or you don't.


2.  My Kindle.  I never thought I would give up paper books, but once I received a Kindle a few years back, I haven't looked back.  Sadly, I rarely have time to leisurely peruse bookstores anymore (unless everyone there wants to hear my 3 year old yell that he has to pee and my 1 year old cry about being strapped into a stroller), so it is extremely convenient to order new books directly from my Kindle.

3.  Luna Bars.  My blood sugar can drop if I'm busy and not staying on top of all my snacks, so I almost never leave the house without a granola bar, and I think Luna bars are the best.  My two favorite flavors are: Vanilla Almond and Chocolate Peppermint Stick.  These bars taste good, are about as healthy as a granola bar can be, and help tide me over until my next meal.

4.  Simply Clean cleanser by SkinCeuticals.  I started using this gel cleanser twice a day years ago, and I swear it has forever changed my once acne-prone, oily skin.  If that sounds like your skin, this cleanser is SO worth the price.


5.  My Stella & Dot Rhea hoops in rose gold.  I bought these pretty earrings at the second Stella & Dot party I attended, and I've already worn them several times.



What are a few of your favorite things these days?

~Frantic Mama

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Stella & Dot: A Frantic Mama Experiment

Have you been to a Stella & Dot party?  They are like the Tupperware parties of yesteryear, but focused on well-priced, of-the-moment jewelry, handbags, gifts, and accessories rather than plastic containers (a bit more fun, especially with a glass of wine, don't you think?).

This is the first pair of Stella & Dot earrings I bought.  The stones are a beautiful aqua; this picture doesn't do them justice (Amity Drops $34):
Lots of famous people (Jennifer Aniston, Carrie Underwood, Sophia Vergara to name a few) wear the brand, but what I love is that the line is much more affordable than what you might think given the style and on-trend design, with many pieces below $50.


Stella & Dot was founded by Jessica Herrin (the co-creator of WeddingChannel.com) to create flexible entrepreneurial opportunities for women, so support it I will!  I have a friend, Julie Heiden, who is a Stella & Dot stylist.  She hosts these little soirees and has access to the new collections as soon as they become available.



The Experiment Begins:

Julie and I teamed up to pick out some of the best pieces for mamas on the go.  Every day for a week, I wore one or more of the pieces from Julie's collection.  I usually only wear my wedding band and a small pair of earrings, but I thought, why not?  I could use a little pick-me-up in the middle of this Godforsaken Minnesota winter.

The Hypothesis:

Even a frantic mama such as myself can feel more stylish by incorporating a few fresh pieces into my yoga pants and t-shirt wardrobe.

The Materials:

Below are some of the pieces we chose, organized in neat little trays (though my photos won't do them justice).  I chose some, but I also let Julie loan me some of her favorites because knowing me, I'd only pick the smallest and most understated of pieces.  Here are our choices:



(Tassels are big right now; the Milana ($79) with removable tassel, pictured above, is very popular)

(I wouldn't necessarily have chosen such chunky pieces, but I thought, let's give it a go!)


(The yellow and gold necklace is very cool, right?  I really LOVED those delicate, sparkly little leaf earrings!)

(Ivie drops $34)



(I'm a little obsessed with the color turquoise and this dreamy jade color.  The necklace looked HUGE to me, but I it's all the rage, so I tried it).


But from the get-go, this bracelet was my favorite piece:

(Macey Bangle; $39)


Here's what I wore one day to the mall to window shop (I got used to wearing lots of jewelry quickly, and I did feel much more feminine and stylish strolling the mall).  Guess what, even my hubby noticed and liked!

The Devon layering necklace ($49) comes as one long strand, but you can make it into two, like I did.





The bracelets ----->
Easy to layer and very pretty.  (I have narrow wrists and you can actually adjust some of the bracelets so they don't roll right off your arm).


The earrings were simple but added a touch of sparkle.






But wait, there's MORE!  Check out this popular pouf ($24).  I elegantly paired it with something I never leave home without: a car for my son to fiddle with.




My husband and I had a date night recently, and I wore the sparkly, stretchy Odeon Stretch Bracelets ($49)


with the Kahlo Linear Earrings ($39).  I wouldn't necessarily have picked out the bracelet or earrings from a lineup at a party, but once I had them on I REALLY liked their sparkle; I felt quite stylish.





I also used this adorable and versatile faux-leather Tia clutch/cross body bag ($98).







Last but not least, Julie loaned me this cool "How Does She Do It" tote, which I used to carry my laptop, granola bars, diapers for the baby, and smoothies for my son:


(How Does She Do It Tote ($89):  Pictured here in Navy Blue Ikat, but there are several different options).
















Results:

I enjoyed our experiment even more than I thought I would.  It was FUN to pick out a new necklace and/or earrings or bracelet every day.  My kids even liked my various looks.

Next Steps:

Interested in ordering something pictured here or learning more about becoming an independent stylist?  You can also learn about hosting a trunk show (and get the goods at a discount).  Julie would be the perfect person to contact.  Here's her info:

Click Here for Julie's Stella & Dot site.
Julie's e-mail address is:  julieheiden07@gmail.com


*By the way, Julie and I teamed up for the fun of it.  Stella & Dot did not pay me to rave about all their cute products.   The photos are either my own or from the Stella & Dot website.


~Julia @ Frantic Mama


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Friday, January 24, 2014

Frantic Mama's 5 Friday Faves (Round 1)

I'm going to try a new weekly Friday post with five of my favorite things, kind of like Oprah does, only with one millionth of her readership.

Here are 5 of my Favorite Things:

1.  My new pink Keurig brewer.  I didn't think I needed one (we brew a large pot every morning of course), but my generous mom gave me one as a Christmas gift.  Now I especially look forward to choosing my afternoon cup o' joe.  (On a side note: how on earth do non-coffee drinkers SURVIVE?).



2.  FaceTime.  Not an object strictly speaking, but it is something I really enjoy (and/or depend on). My sister and my mom live in different states, and we try to use the FaceTime function on our iPhones several times a week to see each other and our kids (for those of you lost in a sea of smartphones, it's basically a video chat).

3.  Those Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar Dark Chocolate Almonds from Trader Joe's.  Remember when I first wrote about Trader Joe's?  Well, now I love it even more.  It has been the best thing since sliced bread around these parts, and now I NEED my daily chocolate almond fix.



4.  Nars "The Multiple," color stick.  I've written about it before.  I'm obsessed.  It's expensive, but I wear it almost every single day every time I expect to see someone from the outside world, so really it just costs pennies a day, right?

5.  SNL episodes OnDemand.  Again, this not a physical object per se, but there's zero chance I will stay up to watch SNL live and then be expected to survive an endless Sunday with little kids (which often begins by 6 a.m.; yes, it's true, child-free people).  My husband and I have taken to watching episodes that are saved OnDemand, and this season is hilarious.  I'm especially loving the Drunk Uncle character.  Paul Rudd's recent role as the host was a classic as well.

                                                              (Yep.  that's Drunk Uncle alright)

What are a few of your favorite things?

~Frantic Mama

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

No More Epic Fails

*This post was featured on What the Flicka.  Check it out, here!

Recently, I've heard mothers throwing around the term "epic fail" in regard to their parenting efforts.  It is supposed to be a funny/sarcastic way to look at various minor disasters, but it's the self-deprecating aspect of the phrase that I'm feeling some aversion to.

For instance, say a mom takes her kids out for lunch, and one of the kids drops food on the floor, while the other one cries while the tired mom shovels in a couple mouthfuls of her lunch before abandoning mission, she might refer to the outing as an Epic Fail.  But I disagree.  The fact alone that she mustered up the strength to take little ones out for a lunch date is admirable.  Anyone who has/had young children should be able to appreciate that and give her a mental pat on the back.  She might be disappointed that the lunch date didn't go according to plan (it never does, right?), but I would definitely give her an A for effort.



Or, someone might declare an Epic Fail if their kid throws a tantrum at preschool drop-off or pick-up while the baby wanders off down the hallway (eh, a 'friend' told me this one).  But guess what?  Only a judgmental rhymes-with-witch would think less of the mother or child for such textbook little kid behavior.  Again, clearly the mom is trying.  For starters, she managed to get her kid to preschool that morning which in and of itself can take Herculean effort (same 'friend).

I'm not fond of the word failure in general, but I especially dislike it when a mother uses it to describe herself.  We are all working diligently to give everything we have to our children every single day, and it is all so much harder than it looks.  I'm going to try to avoid thinking of the inevitable setbacks of Motherhood as failures-- epic or otherwise.

~Frantic Mama

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

What It's Like

(*This post is featured on Mamalode starting January 15th.  Check it out here and if it speaks to you, please feel free to comment and/or share.)

We all have hopes and fears when our children start school.  Will he have fun?  Will the teachers like him?  Will he make friends?  My biggest fear when my son started preschool was the separation anxiety I was sure he would suffer.  I pictured tearful goodbyes, countless tight hugs, and repeated assurances that I would be back soon.  However, the reality of Motherhood-- that friendly foe-- surprised me yet again.  It wasn't my son’s separation anxiety that led to the phone calls and whispered discussions at the classroom door.  It was his behavior, or his “acting out.”    

Have you ever wondered what it's like to be the parent of the trouble-maker, the difficult one, the challenge?  The parent who the teacher regularly calls into the classroom during pick-up?  The one who waits for the daily phone call?

Please, live through me:

You drop your child off at preschool, praising the good behavior, admonishing the bad.  The teacher visibly bristles upon seeing you.  There is a hopeful, hurried kiss goodbye.  Encouragement to be good and have fun.

You go about your chores, your work, your errands.  Trying to distract yourself from what might be happening at school.

                                                                  (Image from Washington Post)

Your heart thumps a bit as you drive back to the school.  Your stomach churns.  You take a deep breath and say a little prayer that your talk of rewards-- and your warnings of time-outs-- have made an impact.  

He waves, smiling when you get to the door.  He looks happy.  That's a good sign, you dare to think.  You exhale a bit.  

The flustered teacher quickly walks over to greet you at the door, whispering under her breath that your son threw sand at a kid on the playground, pushed or pulled someone, refused to wear mittens, etc., etc.

(Image from Indiereader.com)

Immediately deflated, you apologize, baffled, and think this can’t be my kid.  You assure her that you are working on it at home.  

Red-faced, you walk briskly to safety of your car, holding his soft little hand.  You buckle him into his booster seat and look back at his sweet innocent face.  The one you love more than anything.  Your heart breaks a little.  But you soldier on, clutching onto the familiar, comforting mom-mantra:  this too shall pass. 

~Frantic Mama

P.S.  I'd love to hear your thoughts:  What has surprised you about Motherhood?  (Please don't tell me I'm the only one who finds it so incredibly surprising at every turn.)

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Grown Up

Legally in the U.S., we are considered adults at age 18.  At 18, you can enlist in the army, buy cigarettes, score a lottery ticket, be tried as an adult in court.  But 18 sounds like a child.  Sending off an 18 year old to war-- a freckled boy who has just started to shave his stubble, a fresh-faced girl who has just graduated high school-- seems almost criminal.  At 18, I was going off to college, feeling quite grown-up, but oh my God.  I had no idea what life had in store for me.  No concept of living on my own, taking care of myself, let alone eventually a family.  Not that I was in a hurry to feel grown up or to be old, but a little independence appealed to me.

Fast forward to now, age 32.  At 18, I'm sure 32 sounded old.  Or, at least, officially Grown Up.  And I think I finally do feel grown up.  I say that with caution, however, because with each life change or milestone I've experienced, I've thought, "now I'm an adult.  Now I really have responsibilities."

I thought that at 23, teaching full time, living away from my family, paying rent and utilities for my own apartment, I was an adult.  I certainly felt the weight of being responsible for myself and for my students.  How cute, I think, looking back at my 23 year-old self.  Because while I had a job and was supporting myself, I certainly didn't have to take care of anyone else.  And if I had lost my job, there was always waitressing, right?   The future was wide open:  if all else failed, I could move somewhere glamorous like New York or LA.  What an All-American adventure that would've been...

When I got married a few years later, I thought, Aha! this is what it feels like to be grown up.  Life wasn't just about me anymore.  It was about us, as a couple.  We had in-laws to balance, jobs to juggle, holidays to coordinate and compromise.

                                                       (Image is not me; not my husband either)

How wrong I was.  The day I gave birth to my son, another human being, was when I truly did feel a glimmer of what it feels like to have the weight of the world on my shoulders.  No longer did my needs-- or my husband's-- come first.  Need to pee when I got home from an errand?  I'd have to hold it if my 2 month old was screaming to be fed again.  Want to sleep in a bit on a Saturday?  Not an option.  Want to make plans with friends?  I had to plan it well in advance.  My life wasn't my own anymore, and I don't think it ever will be again.

                 (Image not my baby, but there is nothing like the pride you feel when one of these is yours, right?)


Now I have two beautiful little children.  My husband and I are no longer a wide-eyed couple struggling with the amazing novelty of raising our first child.  We are fortunate enough to have two wonderful running targets we created-- and that we must now take care of day in/day out.

So recently I keep thinking, well this is it.  This is what it feels like to be a grown up.  I'm married, with two children who are completely dependent on us.  We have a house to maintain and a yard to mow.  We have constant bills to pay.  Emergencies and losses to cope with.  Neverending grocery shopping to do.  Friendships to maintain.  Whole grain to consume.  Family all over the country who we need to make time for and worry about.  I feel the weight of it.  I feel the crushing sense of responsibility so much sometimes that I have to remind myself to breathe.

And yet, I wonder:  will I look back on this time a few years out and chuckle?  Will I think, oh, how innocent we were watching four little feet padding around our messy, Lego-filled house? How simple life was back then!  

So, I'll ask you:  When did you first feel like a grown up?

~Frantic Mama

*Check out my open apology for being so clueless about kids before I had them on Mamalode.

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Frantic Mama's Favorite Children's Books

I still remember the first book I was able to read to myself and enjoy:  Green Eggs and Ham.  I read the whole thing sitting in the reading corner of my classroom, and I loved it.  The green eggs and ham started to look quite delicious to me, and with Sam's urging, I would have eaten them on a boat, with a goat, etc., etc.

Reading with my children (one is 3 and a half, and the other is about 16 months) as been one of my most enjoyable activities as a mother.  One of my simple joys during a long day has been to read some of my old favorites, and to discover some new ones with my kids.

In no particular order, here are some of my favorites (besides Green Eggs and Ham, of course)-- new and old.

1.  Corduroy.  Unfortunately, my son has decided he is "scared" of this one (no clue why), but I'm sure it'll grow on him.  I like the message that you don't need to be perfect (that darn missing button!) to be loved.



2.  The Fancy Nancy Series.  This is a newer series that I learned about after my daughter was born.  I thought it looked like just another girly-girl princessy book, but when I read it to her, I LOVED it.  The premise, if you aren't familiar, is that the main character, Nancy, desperately tries to be as "fancy," as possible, despite her "plain" but loving family.  The vocabulary and lessons in each book are fantastic, and the illustrations are beautiful.



3.  Just about anything Roald Dahl.  My kids aren't quite old enough for Matilda, James and the Giant Peach,  George's Marvelous Medicine, and the others, but I'm already looking forward to when they are!



4.  Shel Silverstein's books of fanciful and fun poems and illustrations.  Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic are two that I especially remember.  I look back now and see how bizarre some of the poems are, but did I ever LOVE them when I was growing up.  I still remember many of the poems and their accompanying illustrations vividly.  He clearly knew how to connect kids to words and a love of poetry.



5.  Curious George books.  It is great to see these have made quite a comeback in recent years, with pictures of the infamous little monkey on countless t-shirts, puzzles, and games.



6.  Maybe it's the illustrations, the simple stories, or the squishy covers, but there is something I'm drawn to about these happy books (I Love you Through and Through, Goodnight, I Love You, and How do I Love You?), illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church.  They are just the right length to read with your little one before bedtime or nap time [no need to skip words!].


7.  Last but not least, is this little gem of a Golden Book:  

It's Bedtime might have simply vanished into the depths of my distant memory, but fortunately for me, my mom found it when she was cleaning out her old house.  I immediately recognized the cover and put it on a high shelf in my closet.  I read it to my son last night for the first time and could feel tears welling up as I saw my favorite pictures again.  There may be nothing very unique or unusual about this book or it's words, but clearly there was something I loved about it, and now it feels like I own a treasure.

Please comment if you think of others!  I love learning about new books.

Happy Reading!

~Frantic Mama

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