May 22

Finding Your Beauty

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“Mommy, you’re beautiful.” 

She smiles at me as I walk down the stairs with my hair disheveled and in my pajamas having just woke up. Avery greets me this way nearly every morning. It’s become her thing and she makes sure to tell me as many chances as she gets throughout the day.

I’ve been the first to admit that loving myself has become much harder as I’ve had children and have gotten older. Looking in the mirror, I was dying to see the real person staring back at me and not what the negativity inside of my mind had created. Slowly, I’ve gotten there. I’ve learned to love myself again.

And it was with the help of my daughters that I found my own beauty. In their eyes, I am the most beautiful person. They make it a point to tell me nearly every single day. It doesn’t matter what my hair looks like, what I’m wearing, if my face is breaking out, or if I’ve gained a few pounds. None of that matters. What matters to them is on the inside. It’s whether I snuggle up with them, or if I let them give me unlimited kisses. It’s telling them they did an amazing job at soccer or drawing a person on a piece of paper. It’s the beauty and confidence we have within that matters most. And it took a three and five year-old to show me that.

With all of this positivity, I wish I could just bottle it up and keep it for those moments when we really need. The reality is that it won’t always be this way. They won’t always see themselves (or me) with these rose colored glasses. Today’s society is just getting harder and harder for us to love ourselves. And I mean really and truly love ourselves. Between the filters for photos, apps that allow you to make yourself look thinner, body shaming in the tabloids,  it’s maddening. It’s disheartening to know that my girls will grow up being exposed to it no matter how much I try to shield them from it.

But I do have faith knowing that it will all come full circle. It’s through the confidence that my daughters have given me that I will soon need to pass along to them again. As they get older and those doubts start to enter into their mind, it’s up to me to remain confident within myself so that they know to do the same. When I falter (because it’s only natural to do so,) it’s my job not to do it in front of them. Complaining about the shape of my body or the cellulite on my legs will only inginte the flame inside of them to do much of the same.

A couple of weeks ago while I was attending the Mom 2.0 conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, I had the chance to sit down and speak one-on-one with actress Molly Ringwald.  Ringwald has partnered with Dove to share her #beautystory, Dove’s newest campaign that encourages women to use the #beautystory hashtag and share the story of the women in your life that helped shape you. 

Rongwald was the keynote speaker at the conference and shared with us how she remained confident during her teen years and continues to do so into her adult years and with her children. She was such an inspiration to me growing up and continues to be and I was honored to be able to chat with her and get to know her.

I must disclose that nearly half of our conversation was about the shoes that I was wearing during the interview. They were J. Crew flats that I had to track down by calling nearly every store in Manhattan store because they were sold out online. That sparked a conversation about her looking for J.Crew pants that were sold out online as well and she was trying to track down herself. This is how down-to-earth Ringwald is. I couldn’t get half of the questions in because we were chatting like two girlfriends would. And that is why I love her.

Our formal interview was just as exciting, but so much more inspirational.

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What advice to you give to your children and the younger generation on how to love themselves?

“The best thing that you can do is the importance of story telling. And the importance of passing on information through generation after generation. I was bombarded like any other kid growing up on what was beautiful. I came from a family of blue-eyed blondes. And as you know, I had red hair. I felt like I really wasn’t that thing. I shared a room with my sister and because she was my older sister she was in control of what would be on the wall and what she put on the wall was all of those perfect images of girls like Christy Brinkly and for me it was torture I felt like then I guess I’m not beautiful. I think that for me where I got strength was from my mother and father telling me that that was only part of it and it was really about my brain and talent and my creativity. And that gave me the strength to be different and that’s how I ended up who I was. It’s all about not getting caught up in the trend so much and being true to who you are.”

As a mom, I’ve noticed that my body has changed a lot. How did you embrace those changes?

“Your body changes for sure. And there are certain things where you know you won’t look good in that you could when you were younger. I’ve put those clothes away and in a box with acid free tissue to save for my daughters when they get older. I think it’s just a matter of being the strongest and best you can be right now. For me I love to practice yoga. That’s what works best because it works my mind and body. I’m bringing my daughter with me to yoga class and she was like “wow mom you’re really strong.” beacuse she doesn’t know about those muscles. I look at old movies that I’ve done and I look at myself and say “wow you really didn’t know how to stand then, you didn’t have that confidence. And I think that’s the biggest difference between grown-up me and teenage me is that it’s reflected in my body in the way that I stand. And I think that’s a really good thing.”

If you could go back and do one of your projects again, what would it be?

“I think I really really enjoyed doing the breakfast club. I think the breakfast club is probably my favorite and I would love to experience it again and I’d like to remember even more. I did keep journals during that time. ”

 

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May 19

School’s (Almost) Out! 10 Ways to Infuse Learning Into Summer Activities

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“Mommy, guess what?!” Har said excitedly as she jumped in the car after school.

“What?” I asked.

“The book I brought home is a first grade reading level!” she gushed. “Can I read it to you when we get home?”

“Of course,” I responded.

This year has been huge for Harlan. She’s made leaps and bounds in all aspects of learning, but by far her most exciting accomplishment (to her) is learning to read. She does it any chance she gets. I’ll catch her trying to read the cereal box in the morning during breakfast. It’s finally clicked and she’s doing what she can to improve her skills all of the time.

When she entered Kindergarten this year, she knew the sounds to a handful of letters and by mid-year she was reading words like a champ. Thanks to an excellent teacher (we really lucked out) and some work at home, she’s now reading at a first grade level.

I’ve watched all three of my kids go through different milestones in their life. From saying their first word to learning to walk, it all brings up so many mixed emotions. As they get older, those milestones aren’t as frequent and we get caught up in the day-to-day that we forget about the exciting moments we have ahead of us.

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It wasn’t until Harlan came to me and asked me to sit with her to read her very first book that it hit me. This was a huge milestone for both of us. The amazement grew as I see her desire to read to Avery and Macks. Every night as we’re getting ready for bed, we sit on the couch together and read books. It used to be me reading to all three of them, but now it’s Harlan reading to us. The reading continues much later into the night after I put the girls to bed. I’ll walk in their room to find Harlan has moved from her top bunk to the bottom bunk with Avery because they are reading books together. It’s those kind of moments I just wish I could pause to really truly be able to soak in every last bit.

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As summer approaches I am suddenly hit with the realization that I need to keep up with Harlan’s desire to read. As a mom to a Kindergartener, this is the first year that I’ve really had to put thought into continuing the education for Harlan so that she doesn’t regress for the few months she is out of school.

Other than having her read books to us and using her sight words flash cards that her teacher made us at the beginning of the year, I wanted to know what else I could do as a parent to organically infuse learning into some of our summer activities.

I had the chance to speak with Dr. Emily Levy, the founder and director of EBL Coaching, a tutoring program in the New York and New Jersey area that offers one-on-one educational help to children of all ages. As a mom who honestly didn’t even know where to begin in continuing Harlan’s education over the summer, Dr. Levy was a great help in letting me know that there are several ways we can  fill their summer break from school with learning and fun!

Here are some ideas:

  1. Read to your child on a regular basis. I’ve always thought this is one of the most important things you can do for your child. I started doing it with Harlan from the day she was born and plan on continuing it for many many years. Reading aloud to your child is one of the best ways to develop listening, comprehension, and expressive language skills. Ask your child to predict what the book might be about based on the cover, summarize the story after a few pages, and draw conclusions on events that took place in the story. You can also try having her listen to books on tape as an alternate activity.
  2. Journaling. Now that I’m older, I wish that I would have kept a journal when I was younger. It would have been so cool to look back at it now and read what my thoughts and emotions were about the things going on in life. This just gives me more fuel to encourage my kids to do it. Have your child keep a journal throughout the summer, detailing any activities, events, or vacations that took place. Encourage him to write about what he did, interesting places or people that he saw, and how he felt along the way. Don’t worry about spelling or sentences structure. Jus encourage him to keep the ideas flowing!
  3. Practice math skills while cooking‎. Har loves to be in the kitchen with me when I am cooking dinner and always asks how she can help. This is the perfect way to keep her learning and also lending a helping hand! Have your child help you come up with a delicious dessert or meal to make together. Ask her to decide on portion sizes, measure ingredients, and observe the food while it cooks, integrating math and science concepts along the way.
  4. Plan a family day together. I plan on spending a lot of time as a family this summer, but love this idea of having Harlan plan it for us! Have your child help you coordinate a family day, including supplies, plans, and items needed. First have him research various activities online or in your local newspaper. Have him decide how much each portion of the day will cost (including food, admission prices, and even gas). Also ask him to write a list of all supplies you will need to bring and the time of day each activity will occur. Then tie in the journaling (see item 2!) once the day is over.
  5. Go to a farmer’s market. I discovered the very best farmer’s market in town last year and it quickly became our Thursday morning ritual. It starts back up next week and I’ve already got that first day planned. Aside from being a fun family activity, walking through a farmer’s market can be a great way to infuse basic math skills. Ask younger children to identify the colors of fruits and vegetables and have them count the items as they put them in the basket. You can also ask your child to complete basic addition problems by giving her a scenario like the following: if we put two red apples and two green apples in our basket, how many apples will we have all together? This is a great way to practice arithmetic skills. Older children can weigh items and predict cost based on the items’ weight.
  6. TV without sound. We’re all guilty of using the television as a babysitter so that we, as parents, can get a little time to ourselves. I loe this idea of actually using it for educational purposes. For children who can read, try turning off the sound while watching TV and turn on closed captioning, even for just a portion of a show or movie. This exercise will boost his reading skills while he still enjoys a relaxing activity.
  7. Learn at the beach! Now that we leave just 10 minutes from the beach, I definitely plan on using it as nature’s classroom! The beach can serve as more than a place for R&R. Rather than just lounging on a chair or jumping the waves, encourage your young children to practice letter formations by writing letters and words in the sand. Older children can find sea creatures and perform research later on by looking up information about them online.
  8. Grow a vegetable garden. This has been on my to-do list for a long time and being in the city, it was nearly impossible. I definitely can’t wait to be able to check this off of the list this summer. Have your child help you plan and grow a garden. Take her with you to the plant store and have her read seed packets to decide which plants and flowers are most appropriate for your yard. Then have her chart their growth, count the number of ‎veggies produced, and predict which ones might produce the most bounty. You can even have her write a report detailing the process and results.
  9. Learn on the road! We have a road trip planned from Connecticut to Florida this summer (yes, we might be insane) so I love that we can bring some learning into our long car ride. Road trips can serve as great on-the-go classrooms. Have your children read road signs and billboards or play “I Spy” for items beginning or ending with certain letters. You can have older children predict how much gas is needed based on the miles-per-gallon ratio for your car and the distance you will be traveling. She can also decide how much the gas will cost based on gas prices.
  10. Create reading rituals. Our reading ritual is usually at night before bed, but I love the idea of doing something more with it! Read a story about an outdoor adventure and have hot chocolate and s’mores while you read it. Create a “tent” made of pillows and blankets and read a spooky story underneath it. Make the activity fun and engaging to build your child’s zest for reading.

To learn more about EBL Coaching, including their Summer Skills Building Program, make sure you visit their website. Dr. Levy has also built a great database for educational articles that are a really great resource for parents with kids from preschool to high school!

{Disclosure: This post is brought to you in partnership with EBL Coaching. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the companies that help make A Mommy in the City possible!}

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May 15

Disney World!

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Growing up and living only 45 minutes from Disney World, I was fortunate to visit the magical place several times. We’d go for field trips, weekend day-trips, and even had our graduation night at the theme park. I knew how wonderful the place was, but what I didn’t realize was how magical it was to see it through the eyes of your children.

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We took the kids for a day during the week that we were in Florida for Spring Break. I was nervous going during a busy time of year, but Disney has really make great improvements in the FastPass service which meant that we did not wait more than 10 minutes for any ride throughout the day. Macks was able to go on 90% of the rides and the ones that he couldn’t, we just sat back and relaxed and enjoyed a little people watching.

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I don’t think the girls have smiled this much in a long time. We didn’t hear them complain once throughout the day. It made for a very pleasant day for all of us.

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There were some rides that Avery was a bit too short for, so while MacKay and Harlan went on the ride, Avery, Macks, and I waited in line to meet some of the characters. I thought Avery would be super nervous to see them in costume, but she walked right up with the biggest smile on her face and couldn’t wait to give them a hug.

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And of course we couldn’t make a trip to Disney World without seeing Disney Princesses.

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It was in the 90s the entire week we were in Florida (which is why you see those sunburns :( and them covered the best way possible from the sun) so we indulged in cool sweet treats.

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And Har splashed in the water.

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Macks just wanted to dance and make music.

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And I just wanted my Dole Whip.

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We arrived at the park at 10am and left when it closed at 11pm. The girls were troopers the entire time and didn’t stop for anything. I was skeptical about being at the park with them so late (afraid of meltdowns,) but honestly it was the best time to go. While everyone else was watching the parades and fireworks, we were taking advantage of the no wait times for the rides. All while this guy was sound asleep in the stroller.

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The girls promptly fell asleep on the drive back to my parents house, but woke up in the morning giddy about their day at Disney World. Avery’s asked to go back everyday since we’ve gone. She thinks we can quickly go to Disney World after school. If only it were that easy, my love. :)

 

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May 7

Learning to Love

All of these bits and pieces that are left over from my pregnancies are now a part of me. They are a gift and while it’s hard to look at in that way, they were given to me by my children and represent so much. Pin It

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