You Need to Know About Lionhearts Fitness!

You Need to Know About Lionhearts Fitness!About four months ago, at the invitation of my neighbor, my now eight-year-old took his first class at Lionhearts Fitness. I didn’t really understand what it was all about, but my neighbor had been inviting us for so long and I honestly ran out of excuses not to let him try it. Our schedule is packed full as it is and I was not interested in trying to add another class or expense into my life, but I told him he could try it ONE time. All it took was that one time and now Lionhearts has become a precious part of my family. I only wish we would have given it a try sooner!

Lionhearts Fitness is located right off the interstate next to Costco. (I know all of you mamas know where Costco is!) As soon as you enter the doors of the nearly 7,000 square foot building, you’re greeted by dozens of homemade posters with photos of kids with smiles beaming across their faces — evidence of the pride and fun they feel during their time there. There are three large rooms full of monkey bars, rock walls, and tunnels for the kids to play and practice on, all built by the community for the kids. My kids come home happy and exhausted at the end of every practice!

Lionhearts is a nonprofit organization run by Michele Littlejohn-Luccketta or “Coach Shell” as she is lovingly called by the kids. Lionhearts offers a variety of different events and camps, but the main focus is an Obstacle Course Racing class offered twice a week where children practice climbing the walls, running races, and swinging from ropes to condition themselves for Spartan races! This year, Lionhearts was the largest kids’ racing team in the country. Youth of all ages and abilities are welcome here.

“No one is left behind. No one is left out.”

The vision was born from the empowerment Shell felt after running her first Spartan race in 2017. Shell has been dealing with a terminal liver disease for years and had only been given months to live by her physician, so she fought to make the most of that time. A Spartan race was on her bucket list. Fortunately for all of us, she is beating the odds and her health is still holding steady.

Coach Shell is a truly remarkable woman. She’s warm and whimsical and always in the middle of organized chaos that comes with wrangling dozens of children at a time. Somehow, she is the perfect balance of fun and firm. After observing one class, it was easy to see how much the children respect her, and it was equally obvious that she respects them. I watched as she wrapped up class by giving praise and encouragement to kids who recently completed different races and the atmosphere was so positive. Finally, she asked the kids, “Who are we?” “Lionhearts!,” they responded. Then, “What do we do?” “We help people!,” the kids all replied in unison. My heart melted.

That motto isn’t just for a fuzzy feeling; a huge aspect of being a Lionheart is giving back to the community. Shell requires the kids to serve the community through group outreaches like river clean ups, food and blanket drives, and feeding the homeless.

Shell sets the example of service perfectly. She and her family are constantly giving of their time and resources to make this dream a reality. The kids who participate do it free of charge! The entire program is run solely on donations from the community and volunteers. All participants are able to donate freely to the program if they can, but no one is pressured or turned away for an inability to pay. This is truly a valuable resource for so many families.

The Luccketta family has big plans for the fitness program in 2020, including the implementation of an adaptive youth program for children with autism and other special needs called LionsROAR. I would love to see this program continue to grow and I hope there may be someone reading this who can connect to this vision and help take it to the next level!

If you would like to get involved with this organization, please check out the Lionhearts Fitness website here or connect with them on Facebook.

Where is the Chef? Oh, Wait — I’m the Chef!

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Where is the Chef? Oh, Wait -- I'm the Chef!

Mommas, I do not know about you, but oh my gosh, the idea of cooking every…single…day…I am exhausted just thinking about it! Honestly, it is probably good that I was not born back in the day, as I would be labeled the “Worst Housewife” back in the 1940s.

Not only figuring out what to cook, but actually cooking the meal is a lot! And with most women nowadays also having a career on top of being a mother, it is almost impossible to feel like you can give 100% to your job, your family, and cooking! To top it off, your children complaining about a meal that you didn’t even want to cook in the first place — oh, the vicious cycle of cooking! But I do want to help take some stress off your shoulders when it comes to tackling a dinner here and there.

My crockpot is literally my new best friend.

I do not know where I would be without “Mrs. Pots!” She helps me create a main dish so that I am able to do other things while she handles the rest. All she needs for me to do is pour in the ingredients, turn her on (a very important step I have sadly forgotten a time or two), and just let her do her thing!

Today, I’m sharing an easy crockpot recipe anyone can make!

I am in no way a cook, but this recipe is helpful in getting dinner on the table by 6pm and, for the most part, eaten by even the toughest of critics (you know, those little people who rule the house) without a fight.

White Chicken Chili

I received this recipe from my dear friend Angela, and it is one of my family’s favorites — it is so easy to make!

Ingredients:

  • Two cans northern beans
  • One can Rotel diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • One can chicken broth (I use about half of a box of no-added sodium or low sodium chicken broth)
  • One can cream of chicken (I use the Family Size)
  • One packet of white chicken chili mix
  • Store-bought rotisserie chicken, which allows you not to worry about it being cooked and has its own juices and flavors to add to the soup

Directions:

I use crockpot liners so that I do not have to worry about scraping the mess off the crockpot afterwards. After placing the liner in the crockpot, I pour all my ingredients into Mrs. Pots in the following order (although this may not matter): chicken broth, cream of chicken, northern beans, Rotel, and white chicken chili. I then stir.

Depending on how fast you need it to get warm, I either set it on high or low. For instance, if we are not eating until around 6pm, but I want to start the crockpot around 11am, I will put it on low (because Mrs. Pots heats quickly, especially on high). However, if I decided to make this recipe this last minute, I might pick up a chicken and ingredients on the way home from getting Easton from school around 3:30pm and then cook it on high so that it is heated by the time everyone is ready to eat in the early evening.

After putting in all the other ingredients and turning Mrs. Pots on the needed temperature setting, I start pulling the meat off the rotisserie chicken, making sure that I do not include any pieces of bone and fat. Because I tend to pull off larger pieces of chicken than my family would like to eat in their chili, I put all the chicken I pulled off the bone in a bowl and use my hand mixer to shred the chicken even more. Next, I place the shredded chicken in the crockpot, stir, and cover until heated.

When it comes to toppings, we all do our own thing. While I have a tendency to put French onions on top, some of my family members use sour cream, shredded cheese, or just eat the chili as is! Either way, this meal makes dinner a lot easier on this momma, everyone seems to like it, and it is one less thing to worry about for the day!

Do you have a go-to recipe that your family enjoys that is easy? Share with your fellow mommas, as we all need to support one another in this fight against the stress of cooking dinner every night!

The Baby I Didn’t Want

The Baby I Didn’t WantMy hands had just started to feel empty. 

Four children who could feed themselves, wash their own hands, put on shoes and walk across a parking lot with minimal assistance. People still made the comment about my full hands, but I had hit a good stride for the first time in three years, so I would just smile and nod, and get on with my business. Of the four different sizes of clothes I had stashed away, I was finally in the smallest ones I had saved for “someday.” Kids were sleeping, I was sleeping and it looked like I might have survived the years in the trenches, as the baby and toddler mothering years are often described. My husband and I talked often about whether we were done, but did everything in our power to make sure we were only talking about it. 

Four days late from my very regular cycle and my hands felt the tightening and the heaviness that would be coming.

Five days late and the darkness of the two years of (undiagnosed) postpartum depression came looming in my western sky. With the growing soreness in my chest came the dread of months and months of breastfeeding, days and nights of constant attachment of a new body to my own, never more than two and a half hours of untethering from the leash that linked life and health to a helpless babe.

One week late and I was in tears and rage. 

“You are just really good at having babies,” my doctor told me when I asked if I should be concerned or if I should permanently break my high functioning organs that continued to produced blonde haired, blue eyed, Energizer-bunnies-in-human-form that populated my every waking hour. “You could have a lot more.” I tried to bribe her into a different diagnosis, but it turns out she is a reliable, honest doctor who wants to keep her job. 

We have a beautiful, healthy family. A loud, full and lovely home.

Our marriage has its ups and downs, but we are committed to raising these kids together and always. We have room in our hearts for more, but I didn’t want to make the space. I did not want to make the space in my finally normal hips and worn out tummy. I did not want to make the space in the bed I share with any or all of the residents of this house, or in the time during my full days, or in the little left of my sanity, or in the fragile emotional state we had slowly rebuilt from the years after my fourth baby. I wanted my own space more than I wanted a baby, and I was enraged that God would ask me to give up more of myself…again. 

We told no one for a long, long time. I was sicker than ever before, yet trying not to let on, because what kind of mom tells you she is pregnant and then bursts into tears? Well, there are those kinds of moms, but I wasn’t one of those. I was a good mom, who loved her babies, her family and her life. I am a believer that life comes miraculously and only through the work of the Creator God and without mistake; how could I tell anyone I was believing this and yet hating my body and my God for betraying me at the same time? 

The reality is that I could only pick one way; all mothers can only pick one: the way of welcoming, hoping and dreaming of the life we are allowed, yet never promised to help create, or the way of only seeing dreams crushed, life ruined and hopes put off. And if allowed to stay in my own mind, to follow my heart and believe in myself, I would have stayed in the later way.

But there is something about the human race that cannot react that way when hearing of new life. There is something inside the heart of each person that cannot help but leap and rejoice with news of an expectant mother. It is a beautiful and life giving (literally) quality of the human connection, one which gives strength and courage to a mother who is so clouded by the lies in her own heart that she cannot see beauty or hope or truth. 

So while I tried to not want this baby, this one pound 23-week-old unborn baby girl with four excited brothers, I could not help but catch the excitement and the joy that she is bringing to all who know of her coming. Many, maybe even you who are reading, have pulled my eyes away from what may happen to what is happening — new life and a daughter that I now know I will never wish that I had traded for size 8 jeans, more hours of sleep and a little less space in my heart.

They can’t wait to meet you, Baby Sister!

My Best Books of 2019

My Best Books of 2019

One of my favorite bookish podcasts had a recent episode entitled GoodReads, You’re Fired. The main gist of their argument was how bad the GoodReads Best of the Year awards winner lists always are. And I agree. I’ve always had a beef with their awards; I definitely think people just vote for the book they have heard of. (Which is how Go Set a Watchman became their best fiction read of 2015. REALLY? Had anyone read it who voted?? I don’t think I’ve been as angry about something on the Internet since.)

With just the general population voting, I guess it can’t be helped that the GoodReads awards are just a popularity contest. (Has there ever been a year when Stephen King didn’t win the horror category?) And often the “best of” lists from newspapers, magazines, or even book sites skew toward the very literary fiction. While I can appreciate an incredible work of literature, sometimes they just aren’t as fun to read, you know?

So here is my best of 2019 list. I’ve read 21 books that were published last year, and these were my favorite five.

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro Shapiro was already the author of several memoirs when a life event gave her material for this book. From one of the standard spit tests, Shapiro learned that the father she grew up with was not her biological father. Racking her memory for conversations with her deceased parents, Shapiro tells the story of her discovery, further research, and seeking out her biological father. The whole book is a beautiful look at family, history, and self-identity. This one was a bestseller for a reason.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer – This YA book is totally unputdownable and will leave you begging for more! (Good thing the second book in the series was just released.) Harper, a teen in Washington, D.C., is standing watch for her brother late at night when she tries to keep a young woman from being hurt…and suddenly finds herself in the land of Emberfall, in a castle, with a cursed young prince. A retelling of Beauty and the Beast with an extremely spirited beauty who refuses to let some impediments due to cerebral palsy stand in her way. I loved the spin that the “beast,” Prince Rhen, was forced to live the same few months over and over again until he could find his true love. Far from sappy and sweet but a pageturner you’ll love — and one you could pass on to your teens, too.

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray – Of the three sisters, Althea always seemed like the strong one. So when she and her husband are handed a prison sentence, the younger sisters Viola and Lillian must be the ones to the come to the rescue and parent the couple’s teenage twin daughters. The women all battle their own addictions and issues, and my heartache for these characters was real. A great accompaniment to An American Marriage.

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby – Ruby gives us vivid characters with this deliciously creepy book. It IS narrated by a ghost. Frankie is one of the only girls at the Chicago orphanage where she lives who still has a parent who visits. Her father even brings her and her brother and sister food. But that all changes when her father takes her brother — and only her brother — and moves away with his new wife and stepdaughters. Feisty Frankie must learn how to scrape by and survive without losing her soul in the cold walls of the orphanage, all as World War II starts in. Meanwhile, we take intermissions following around our narrator as she figures out this whole ghost thing and takes a deep look back at her life. Sad and haunting yet beautiful and hopeful, Thirteen Doorways is a great new historical fiction for teens and up.

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal – If, after reading about ghosts and war, you need a little pick-me-up, I bet The Lager Queen of Minnesota will make you smile. Stradal, author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest, brings to life three women connected through beer. Helen and Edith are estranged sisters: one the co-owner of a beer conglomerate and one a baker at a nursing home, struggling to get by. As time passes Diana, Edith’s granddaughter, comes into the picture and Edith’s home. Can Diana change her grandma’s life…through beer? This book is a fun romp, full of girl power, and made me think maybe I could find a beer I like (hasn’t happened yet!). Stradal says a lot with few words and has obviously been guided by some great women.

I’d love to share more of my favorites of 2019 with you, but these five were definitely the cream of the crop for me. What did you read and love in 2019? Do you have any reading goals for 2020 or books you’re excited about?

A Cup for You

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A Cup for YouI’ve come to accept that I am the friend who will talk about uncomfortable things. Alcoholism, mental health issues, having the sex talk with your kids, and even being the one who brings up that uncomfortable conversation about gift-giving over the holidays. It’s fine. We all need that friend, especially if your mom isn’t around to have these talks with, am I right? 

So here we go again ladies (and I am saying “ladies” on purpose because if you are a guy, you definitely want to scroll right on outta here — we are about to get personal). This time, we’re going to chat about…

The Menstrual Cup. 

I know, I know. When I first heard about the menstrual cup, I thought it was either a joke or something only super crunchy women used. I ranked it just above cloth menstrual pads and went on my merry way. But you guys, I tried it and it is LIFE CHANGING. 

I started out using tampons like every other teenage girl in the ’90s. They worked fine until I had kids. I’m not entirely sure what happened to my lady bits after having children (I mean, I have a pretty good idea), but after babies, tampons just didn’t fit correctly. No matter which brand I tried — and believe me, I tried them ALL — they would slip or leak or do any number of other messy and uncomfortable things. 

I’m fitness instructor, living my life in spandex leggings, so pads are not an option. Spending my days in constant fear of a leaking tampon isn’t so great an option either. Enter: The Menstrual Cup.

So many of my friends recommended the cup, but I honestly thought they were bonkers. How does it work? Isn’t it gross? WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?!?

One friend let me have a Flex disc to try. These are disposable, plastic discs that fit just inside the cervix, catch everything, and then are thrown away. I couldn’t really get the hang of it. Another friend told me about a quiz you can take online to find out which cup is right for you. I took the quiz. It asked me if my cervix is high, medium, or low. I guessed. After much internet research, I ordered a Flex cup. I assumed that because I have had four babies and work out regularly, I would need an “industrial grade” menstrual cup. The “large and in charge.” The Big Mama Jama (see what I did there?)

I was incorrect. 

After more internet research and asking friends who are regular cup users, I found that cup size matters and how you think your lady bits are sized and shaped may not, in fact, be real life. FYI, you may have to try out several cups before you find one that fits. It hurt my feelings a little to have to spend $30 or $40 on a cup that I couldn’t use — and you dang sure can’t return it — but when I added up all I’d spent on leaky tampons over the years, I got over it. I found a winner with my second cup purchase, the Saalt Cup. It is smaller and softer than what I thought I would need, but wonders never cease. 

For those of you unfamiliar with the mechanics of it all, it really is genius. Here’s a link to explain exactly how the cup works. I genuinely want to know why no one thought of it sooner. 

When I say this has been life-changing, I am not being dramatic. For years, I have struggled with being able to function like a normal human during my period. I honestly thought there was something wrong with me because it seemed my flow was so heavy. I got checkups, we did blood work, and everything came back 100% normal. It turns out, I’m not bleeding all that much; it’s just that tampons were making it seem like I was hemorrhaging to death every 28 days. 

With the cup, I put it in each morning and basically forget about it until I go to bed at night. There are times, like after a particularly intense workout, that I’ll need to “readjust,” but I typically don’t even think about my period now. No more lugging around tampons of different sizes or desperately asking every woman I see, “Do you have a tampon? No, a BIG tampon?” No more trying to change a tampon with a preschooler looking at me in my eyeballs in a public restroom loudly asking, “Whatcha doin’, mama? You bleeding, mama? You need a bandaid, mama?” 

You guys, I even have fewer cramps.

Change is hard. As a tampon user from way back, it took quite a bit of convincing to get me to try this newfangled vajayjay contraption, but I am oh-so-glad I did! As an aside, my husband is mortified by the term “menstrual cup” and refers to it as my “tupperware.” You can come up with your own name for your new best friend, but we are happy to share this one if you like.  

Another aside: if you want to try the Saalt cup, you can check it out on Amazon.

Have you tried a menstrual cup? Do you have a favorite?

New Year, Same Me

New Year, Same Me

I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard “New Year, New You” in the past month. It’s marketing gold for sure, and I can see why. We’ve spent the better part of two months in the holiday mode, which often keeps us from eating right, taking care of ourselves, and dealing with responsibilities.

The start of a new year signifies a clean slate, a chance to start anew. It’s a beautiful thing to look at 12 unblemished months of potential and dream toward what can happen in 365 days, 8760 hours, and 525,600 minutes (anybody else a Rent fan?). 

I am a huge fan of goals in general, but I have to be honest, I’m terrible at keeping resolutions. I don’t know whether I set them too high, have low motivation, or life gets in the way, but my resolutions tend to fizzle out rather quickly. This past year in particular, as we got closer to the new year, I came up with a LONG list of things I needed to do better, things that needed to change. And let me tell you, it is a daunting list.

Each one of those bullet points is saddled with a negative opinion about myself. I’m lazy, I’m too stressed, I’m not a good friend, I’m not a good mom… The self-talk associated with the way I look at resolutions is dangerous for my mental health, and the fact that time and time again I fail at them makes me feel worse and worse about who I am.

Since I’m not always a great narrator for my own story, I’m giving my inner-me a new outlook on things. Despite my inner critic, there is so much goodness to bring with me from 2019. I have beautiful people in my life — a wonderful husband, sweet kids, and an unbeatable bunch of family and friends in my corner. I’ve got a good job that is allowing for growth. I’ve got my faith, which keeps me questioning and grounded at the same time. I’ve got who I am on the inside — my personality, my values, and my inner strength.

So this year, rather than focusing on all the things I need to change, I’m going to pay closer attention to all the things that I can take with me into 2020. I’m going to focus on the parts of me that I love and find ways to let them shine brighter. 

It may be a new year, but it’s still the same me. And that’s something to celebrate.

What Parenting Multiple Kids is Really Like

What Parenting Multiple Kids is Really LikeParenting three kids is holding one crying kid because they miss their friend, while the other kid just slammed a door when you had to say “No” to an imaginary promise you may have made two weeks ago, all while the third kid is dancing in and out of rooms with their big fluffy unicorn.

It’s easy to focus on that “happy, good” kid; don’t you dare to compare! But admit it; you have made comparative statements: “See how your sister just moves onto the next friend? You can do that too!” “Why can’t you just wake up and do the things you’re supposed to do like your sister?” “I’m not waiting on you — everyone else is able to get it together but you. You’ve lost out on the privilege.” Geeze, that sounds horrible! I have to be honest though; those statements have slipped past my lips and have been followed by an apology more times than I would like to count in my 11 years (seven with multiples) of parenting.

Is three kids something for which you can prepare?

You’re pulled and pushed. Ganged up on and loved times three. Did we think about all of this before having three? Setting ourselves up to be outnumbered as parents, it really didn’t cross my mind! My son was born, and then 4.5 years later his sister came along. Being a stay at home Mom, it just felt right to keep “not trying” to get pregnant and see what happened! Along came that third child, 14 months later. Sure, by the time the third came along we accidentally practiced baby led weaning (aka hand them whatever they want at dinner), everyone had a baby to play with, the oldest and middle naturally took on more responsibility as Momma was tired! That third child didn’t throw a wrench in the wheel so much as she just sat beside the wheel spinning it as fast as she could while we all watched happily!

With three kids, things are ever-changing.

There are continuous variables (infinity!) with three different children. And if college statistics taught me anything, it’s that I could make a probability estimate for what will happen when their three heads flip, for there to be three returning good outcomes.

1/216…1 out of 216 is the probability that if my kids all have an issue at once, ALL THREE will end up on a good note. That deserves a good ole LOL! (This equation brought to you by said children being back in school after 18 days of winter break! Holla! Took a whole lot of brainpower to get that out.)

Are you convinced now that you could never get it perfect? Especially when multiplying times three kids? What if you’re sad and struggling right along with them? Or maybe you were happy before you became the “worst mom EVERRRRR!”? Pause that. With three kids, you better buckle in. No time to be anything but rock steady. Make up a plan. Regroup!

Mothering multiple kids is finding common ground between three different walks of life and maintaining your own testimony when the words someone said out of pain or jealousy against you as a mother still ring like Notre Dame. Moms of multiples hear it all: “You do know what causes that, right? Better put your life on hold! Good luck planning finances for all those kids! How will you give them all attention?”

Oh, you’ll come apart later in the shower that’s two days late or in the dark when sleep evades you because to-do lists are rolling through your mind. “How many kids have Christmas parties tomorrow? What kid needed a white shirt? Did I remember to put his clothes in the dryer?” As a Momma, you keep it together. You make the ways. You dry tears and mend hearts and play imaginary unicorn all at once.

The sweet moments are what we live for!

When the dancing unicorn child cheers up the crying kid, harmony is formed. Peace is not only when all three agree on a Friday night movie, but also when you show your emotions and a child puts on hold what they’re doing to give you a “time out” while they fix their sibling a snack. It might sound like the only reason I had multiples was to help out around the house and to raise each other. But there is a beautiful, lifelong lesson in serving others. In no way would I wish for fewer kids to care for just to be a little less frazzled.

Multiple kids bring only this: multiple opportunities. When motherhood is your greatest blessing, everything else kind of fades into the distance. The hopes and dreams you had before kids don’t fade away, but in my case, I fight harder for them! I want three sets of eyes on a strong woman that will mirror the woman they become or possibly the woman my son marries someday.

What’s beautiful is that your kids will learn regrouping from you. The happy one will read a story to the sad one. Minds cleared, joy restored. “At least you have me, Sissy!” The third lone kid will hear the laughter and migrate down from their sullen cave of anger…joy all around!

Moms of four, five, six, seven, etc….bless your heart. Moms of one or two…I’m sure you have your struggles too! Thanks for listening to this Mom of three vent and see the sunshine beneath the triple layers!

Bedroom Confessions of a Terrible Housewife

Bedroom Confessions of a Terrible Housewife

It’s picturesque in my head. The kids are napping and my husband and I steal away to the bedroom for some alone time. I lock the door just in case. Anticipation fills my heart and my head. It’s a perfect rainy day and what better way to spend it than in the arms of my lover, my husband. I slowly take off my clothes. I’d like to imagine I’m not just awkward, but sexy. I turn around to see…my husband pushing the pile of clean clothes to the floor to join the rest of the pile. Oh well, we have a few minutes — let’s enjoy them.

We do and I get up to get dressed just in case the kids wake. In my mind, I gracefully slip back into my t-shirt and sweatpants. In reality though, I trip on some other random piece of whatever that has landed with the rest of whatevers on my bedroom floor. I catch myself on my vanity regaining my balance. It’s a beautiful, sturdy, refinished piece of furniture that doubles as a makeup vanity and a workspace. Most of the makeup is buried under random things I have taken from the kids and the work space mentioned is just nonexistent. Argh, I growl in my mind. Then I walk to the bathroom in the sexiest way possible, which of course means putting my feet down in just the right places so I don’t trip on the mess.

This is our bedroom. Our sanctuary. It is a mess!

As I leave the bathroom, I survey the chaos. Then I sigh grinding my teeth and push down my anxiety. There is just no time to clean it. Busy schedules, exhausted parents, and a never-ending plethora of things that need safe keeping from the minions stand between us and the one thing I dearly want: a clean bedroom.

The rest of the house is clean enough. I seriously struggle with it, but I try to keep the kitchen and bathrooms as clean as possible. They are the most important. You will often find toys strung about the living space, but I usually put them away long enough to clean the floors underneath. The pantry is even halfway organized. Yet our bedroom is just untouchable. The minute I try to get to it, someone is yelling “mommy” and I’m pulled away again. The time and energy just aren’t there.

Isn’t it just the epitome of motherhood to have the one space that’s yours taken over?

My kids are getting older and I’m slowly regaining some personal space. My bedroom however, remains in distress. It doesn’t keep it from being the fun zone, but it definitely keeps my tension high. Just. Like. Motherhood. It’s the one thing I just don’t have the time for. Oh sure, I’ve cleaned it time and again. I take the hours to fold and put the laundry away. I reorganize the closet. I vacuum the carpet that can finally be seen. Yet it never ceases to amaze me how quickly the rest of life creeps in there and pukes all over the only space in the house we have strictly for ourselves.

Next year, both of my kids will be in school. I will have five blessed hours a day to myself. While it’s bittersweet, I just can’t help squealing with glee as I think of a bedroom space that’s of my dreams. Maybe I’m lying to myself thinking it will be just so. Maybe another unrealistic idea of life and motherhood right there. I’m dreaming of the day I can walk from my bedroom to the bathroom without fear of breaking an ankle after and extraordinarily good time.

In the meantime I must confess my bedroom is a hot mess!

What Your Hogwarts House Says About Your Mom Style

What Your Hogwarts House Says About Your Mom StylePersonality tests all serve the same purpose: to group us together, give us a team, assign us a role and a place to call home. Whether you subscribe to the Enneagram philosophy, believe in the power of Myers-Briggs, or find comfort in a GIF-laden BuzzFeed quiz, you take these tests for the same reason that we all do. We want to know we’re not alone.

I can think of no greater personality test than the one afforded 11-year-olds who get accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And while I might want to write an entirely-too-long essay on all the ways the Sorting Hat is both stunningly astute and completely bonkers, I won’t do that here.

Instead, I’ll take the easy way out and just give you some tidbits so you can say, “Ha! Yep. That’s me.” Ready to see how your personality fits in with the Harry Potter books? Here’s your mom style according to the four Houses of Hogwarts.

(C) Warner Bros.

Gryffindor

As a Gryffindor mom, you’re probably only skimming this post, at best. Brave they may be, but Gryffindors aren’t known for philosophy. They’re the doers of the bunch, the go-getters, the adventurers, the explorers. You’re what everyone thinks about when they hear the phrase “mama bear.” Because of your ferocious need to protect, especially those who can’t defend themselves, you don’t back down from a fight (and you might even start a few given the right circumstances). Those weirdos taking a hike on New Year’s Day instead of sleeping in like the rest of us? That’s you and your brood. You might not be a total adrenaline junkie, but you’re always looking for new experiences to show your kids – because doing something is better than talking about it.

(C) Warner Bros.

Hufflepuff

Hufflepuff House gets a bad rap because, let’s face it, J.K. Rowling set them up for failure with the Sorting Hat’s own admission: “Said Hufflepuff, ‘I’ll teach the lot, / And treat them just the same.’” But these badgers aren’t just a hodgepodge of people without defining characteristics like bravery or cunning. No, Hufflepuffs are loyal, fair-minded, and hardworking. As a Hufflepuff mom, you’re willing to give your kids – and just about anyone – the benefit of the doubt. This allows you to judge squabbles fairly, listen to more than one side of an argument, and dole out discipline with the kind of care and restraint that others imagine only exist in parenting books. And thanks to that work ethic, you try hard at life, which will rub off on your kids, too.

(C) Warner Bros.

Ravenclaw

There’s no such thing as “baby talk” or “baby-proofing” when it comes to a Ravenclaw mom. Known for their wisdom, wit, and superior intellect, Ravenclaws don’t have time to slow down for themselves, let alone other people. As a Ravenclaw mom, you expect your kids to learn things as they should: through thoughtful experiment and trial-and-error. You use big words (on purpose) to build your children’s vocab, invest in Montessori-approved toys and methodology, and take an almost nonchalant approach to things like eating, sleeping, and getting dressed. Are they fed and wearing clothes? Done. You don’t care what others think, and this slight tilt towards arrogance actually serves you well in preparing your kids for the real world. Ravenclaw moms send their children into the world with a good head on their shoulders.

(C) Warner Bros.

Slytherin

Dear Slytherin mom, don’t believe the haters who just don’t understand you. At all. Sure, Slytherin House might be pegged as “the evil House,” but evilness isn’t a trait that the Sorting Hat ever mentioned. Cunning, willing to do anything to achieve their ends – these can be good characteristics in a mom, especially when it comes to protecting her offspring. As a Slytherin mom, you want the best for your kids, for no other reason than that they inherently deserve it. You’re just as protective as a Gryffindor mom but only for your own family. You have a thirst to prove yourself, which means you don’t make decisions lightly or with ease. Plus, a natural distrust in other humans isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You’ll prepare your kids early in life for the harsher realities ahead.

Like all personality tests, the Sorting Hat only tells one part of the story. Hermione is brave and clever. Harry is courageous and fair. Ron got in because of his talented family.

Which House do you belong in?

Best Purchases and Discoveries of 2019

Best Purchases and Discoveries of 2019

As we wrapped up a decade, I decided to look back on 2019’s greatest purchases and discoveries to round up my list of favorite things. I crowdsourced my Facebook friends to see if they had anything to add and have pretty solid lists of things not to miss! I am all about life hacks and anything to make things run a little bit more smoothly, but I have also included some beauty items that I like and other fun things.

Enjoy and get those Amazon Prime boxes shipping!

King Size Weighted Blanket: A few people recommended these to help me sleep, and I was hesitant because I hate being hot when I sleep. I am so glad I gave it a try though. It isn’t hot; rather just a nice comfortable feeling — like a hug. I don’t toss and turn as much, and settle down to sleep much more easily with it. After using it for a week, my husband and I agreed it was one of our top three purchases of 2019. I ordered this one on Amazon.

The Giant Charmin Forever Roll: This is silly, but we ordered the Charmin forever roll starter kit about six months ago and it is a great time saver. Changing the toilet paper roll is just plain annoying and running out is the worst. I haven’t put it in our guest bathroom, but it is great in our personal bathroom.

Kindle Paperwhite: I love to read and I find myself waking up in the middle of the night to read and then end up going down some sort of Facebook rabbit hole reading about someone’s sick great aunt in Idaho who I don’t know and can’t sleep because I’ve gotten sucked into the internet abyss. Now, I grab my Kindle Paperwhite instead and it limits me to just using my device for reading. It’s nice to throw in the beach bag or to take on the plane. I got the idea to buy it from this next favorite discovery, which is an article my friend Tara shared with me….

“How to Configure Your iPhone to Work For You, Not Against You,” written by Coach Tony. I cannot say enough about this article. I read it and adopted so many of its suggestions. It’s not just about your phone, but also about how it affects your life and how you interact with other people and your productivity. It is a long read, but so worth it. If you are a slave to your phone, read this and make the changes suggested. It really has made a difference for me.

Using a coat hanger with clips to close the curtains at hotels: This is another little silly thing that is so dang smart, I don’t know how I didn’t think of it. It looks to have possibly originated from Rick Clau, a Twitter user from California.

Photo credit: Rick Clau, Shutterstock

EZ Retriever Hook: If you have a truck or SUV with a large trunk area, you’ll want this. It’s one of my husband’s favorite purchases of 2019. He loves that it makes it so much easier to grab things from the bed of his truck rather than climbing in and getting them. I think I might need one for my SUV.

Wash your laundry cup: My husband gets credit for this smart little idea. You know how the cup you use to pour your laundry detergent in gets drippy and gross? Throw it in with the wash and pull it out clean. So smart, right?

Tidy Cup Laundry Detergent Gadget: Along that same vein, my friend Dannis suggested I buy this handy little setup. For around $10, you slip this little gadget over the dispenser for your laundry detergent and it keeps it from dripping all over the place.

Erase Your Face makeup remover cloths: I got one of these in one of my Allure Beauty Box shipments and they really work. Add warm water and makeup wipes right off your face. Thanks Lauren Hawk for this suggestion!

UniQlo Airism Ultra Seamless bikini shorts: Kortne Hou, my friend from Seattle who seems to be a constant source of good finds, swears by these seamless underwear from Uniqlo which are cheaper than Lululemon’s Namastay Put. While we’re on the subject of skivvies, Kortne also recommends this comfy wireless lightly padded bra from Aerie for under t-shirts.

Mixed Chicks Leave in Conditioner: My friend Suzanne highly recommends this leave-in conditioner for curly hair. You can find it at Target or Ulta for around $20.  Speaking of curly, thick hair, this transitions nicely to my personal next favorite “discovery” of 2019…

Professional Keratin Treatments: My mom and sister had done this in the past, and I had never found the time until a few months ago to give it a try. It needs to be done by a professional and takes about two hours, but it is a game changer if you have thick, frizzy hair. My hair (which has always been a frizzy mess requiring products and straightening, and a lot of time to get even remotely tamed), suddenly transformed to magical unicorn hair that was straight with just a quick blow dry. It lasted about three months.

Revlon One-Step Hair Dryer and Volumizer: You can find this on sale on Amazon for around $35, and it is awesome. It combines a blow dryer with a round brush and leaves your hair much more tamed and smooth, and it is quick and easy. Even hair challenged people like me can use it. I like to dry my hair first with my Dyson Supersonic hair dryer, which is amazing. The only reason I didn’t list it alone is the price tag. Mine was a gift from my sister-in-law, and it is definitely the gift that keeps on giving. It is amazing.

Dyson Animal Cordless Vacuum: I picked up one of these refurbished for sale at Nordstrom Rack and it is so great. It is lightweight, cordless and just amazing for quick clean ups. I love it. My sister-in-law (who works for Dyson, so she has all the goodies!) also swears by the air purifiers.

Evriholder FURemover Pet Hair Removal Broom: My friend and fellow pet lover, Heather Ward, suggested this broom for pet hair. I just got mine today and am looking forward to trying it out.

Grocery Delivery: You guys, if you haven’t done grocery delivery or pick up in some form or fashion, make 2020 your year. As I am writing this, my groceries are being picked up from Publix by my Shipt delivery person and will arrive momentarily. Check out Instacart, Shipt and anything else available in your area, pick one, and cross grocery shopping off your list. Or do the Walmart or Target pick up. I think I save money because I only pick what I need and don’t make impulse purchases. It’s also a huge time saver. I did in-store pick up for Christmas presents at Target, and it saved SO much time.

Instapots and Air Fryers: Many friends listed their Instapots and air fryers as their favorite purchases in 2019. I haven’t gotten into them yet, but I’m making them a 2020 cooking goal!

Milkies Milk-Savers: For nursing moms, my friends Kortne and Suzanne recommend these milk savers which collect milk from the non-nursing side while breastfeeding because every drop of that liquid gold is precious!

Baby Brezza: My former babysitter and now a mom herself, Lauren, highly recommends the Baby Brezza if you have a baby on formula. I was lucky enough to have this show up on the market for my last baby, and it really is like a Keurig for formula!

Unger Grabber: Another friend recommends this handy grabber to grab those hard to reach items, or maybe your kids! This is one of those things you didn’t really know you needed it until you have it!

Enneagrams: This was an early 2019 find for me, but one that I highly recommend checking out. Take one of the many quizzes available online and figure out your enneagram type. Make your significant other do it too. At the very least, it is interesting to read about your type and see if it lines up with what you think you are like. I thought that it was very helpful in understanding my interactions and emotions when it comes to dealing with other people, like my husband and friends.

Disney Plus: This was one that zipped in right at the end of 2019, and it is a must if you have kids. All the Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel, and National Geographic your heart desires in one streaming place for $6.99 a month. You can add Hulu and ESPN+ to the package for $12.99 a month. I just got this, but it has been a great boredom buster for the holiday break.

Whether it is a great addition to the beauty routine, something to make cooking easier, increase your productivity, or the ability to eliminate some annoying things from your to-do list, this past decade has brought us some pretty great things to make life easier. I’m sure there are many things to add to this list!

Do you have any great 2019 finds? Share them in the comments below!

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