Saturday, November 30, 2013

13 Jams of 2013!

One thing I love about the holidays is you can always find a good countdown on tv!  I love countdown shows because they’re light and fun.  Plus they’re great to have on as background noise if you have lots of cleaning laundry blogging to do! 🙂  Here are my 13 favorite songs of 2013!

Mirrors by Justin Timberlake
Who doesn’t love some JT?  It’s been seven long years since his last solo album… so glad it was worth the wait!

Thrift Shop by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
This song is just so catchy and so funny.  It was a little overplayed, but I still like it!

God Gave Me You by Blake Shelton
God gave me you for the ups and downs/ God gave me you for the days of doubt
Beautiful song.  Beautiful message.

Cruise (Remix) by Florida Georgia Line [feat. Nelly]
This was THE summer song of 2013!  I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of it!

Wagon Wheel by Darius Rucker
I’ll admit one of the reasons I love this song is because it mentions Raleigh 🙂  This is just such a great feel-good song!

Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke [feat. T.I & Pharrell]
So I’ll admit I had to take a break from this song after the whole Miley/VMA debacle, but I still love it!  So catchy, so fun, and one of my fave songs to pump the bass to when I get some kid-free driving time!

Same Love by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
If you have not seen the music video for this song, go see it here.  Now.  Right here.  It’s absolutely beautiful and makes me cry.  This is probably my favorite song on this list.

Love Somebody by Backstreet Boys
Confession:  I’ve seen the Backstreet Boys in concert six times.  Each time I lost my voice from screaming like a teenybopper singing along.  I’m not ashamed!  Backstreet’s Back, Alright!

Royals by Lorde
I wasn’t into this song when it first came out, but I’m really into it now.  Who doesn’t want to be Royal?

Treasure by Bruno Mars
This is just such an upbeat dance song!  Bruno Mars is so talented.  Love!

Come & Get It by Selina Gomez
Guilty pleasure alert!  Not exactly a quality song, but it’s catchy so it made my list! Don’t judge me 🙂

Stay by Rhianna [feat Mkky Ekko]
It’s not much of a life you’re living/ It’s not just something you take– it’s given

Barefoot Blue Jean Night by Jake Owen
Another great summer song!  Being from North Carolina, I’ve had many amazing barefoot-blue-jean-nights.  Great song!

What songs would make your list?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dawkins’ Depression: A Mother’s Response

I’m a Duke fan.  I grew up in the heart of the ACC and my husband went to Duke.  Telling someone you’re a Duke fan can evoke a variety of responses, but they usually fall into one of the following categories:

2.  “I hate Duke…Go Heels!”

This post is about Duke guard Andre Dawkins, but regardless of which shade of blue you bleed, I hope you give this post a read.  My intention is to raise awareness about an issue that is much more serious than college basketball.

Andre Dawkins came to Duke in 2009.  He actually finished high school early to come to Duke.  Dawkins immediately became one of my favorite players because even though he didn’t start on a regular basis, he was explosive to watch.  Every shot went in the hoop– especially from behind the 3 point line.  Dawkins was on Duke’s 2010 National Championship Team– something most college athletes only dream of!  In the 2011-2012 season my husband and I both noticed Dawkins was getting streaky.  If he was on, he was ON… but sometimes we’d watch games and cringe as Dawkins bricked shot after shot.  Of course as a fan, this is frustrating– especially since he had previously shown such talent.  Sometimes his performance varied within a single game.  Against Wake Forest in 2012, Dawkins drained seven 3s in the first half and had zero points the second half.  Dawkins sat out 2012-2013 season without much explanation.  Until now. 
AP Photo Source

Seth Davis recently sat down with Andre Dawkins and wrote an amazing article (read it here).  The article shed some light on Dawkins’ whereabouts last season.  Dawkins was suffering from depression stemming from his sister’s untimely and tragic death.  His depression negatively impacted him both on and off the court.  Coach K told Dawkins he would not be a part of the 2012-2013 team.

Davis’ article talks about how very few people knew about Dawkins’ struggle with depression.  In the article, Dawkins’ college roommate, teammate, and good friend Ryan Kelly stated: “I’d venture to guess most guys don’t talk to each other about this kind of stuff too much.”  Which leads me to the point of this whole post…

How do we raise children, especially little boys, so they feel confident and comfortable expressing their feelings in a healthy way?

Jay Williams interviewing Coach K after win 880!

As a mother, reading what Dawkins’ went through over the past few years makes my heart sink.  It’s gut-wrenching.  Nobody understands unconditional love or the instinct to fiercely protect someone until they become a parent.  I never, ever, ever want C to experience pain… much less the tragic pain of losing of a loved one.

Now before I go on, I want to be clear that I am 100% not critiquing Dawkins’ parents’ ability to raise him at all.  I think the fact that their son went through such a devastating situation and he made the choice to improve himself for the better speaks volumes about his, as well as his parents’, character.  Sadly this whole “emotions=weakness” thing is very much a societal issue (one I’ll save for another day!) Okay, before I venture too far off on a tangent, back to my point:

How do we raise children, especially little boys, so they feel confident and comfortable expressing their feelings in a healthy way?

Well I certainly don’t know all the answers to my questions, but I do have a few ideas…

1.  Everyone Is Different I know this is something we probably heard a million times growing up.  However, it’s something that we as adults need to keep in mind too.  People process and express emotions differently.  Some may need more help than others.  That is okay!  We need to teach our children that everyone is different– physically & emotionally… and there is absolutely nothing wrong with needing help!

2.  Discuss FeelingsThis isn’t always easy.  I don’t always like talking about my feelings.  But if we’re going to raise our children to feel confident expressing their feelings, we’ve got to be the model.  I did this a lot as a teacher.  I can’t tell you how many times I had a conversation along the lines of “It’s okay to feel angry that he messed up your snowman drawing, but it’s not okay to hit him.  What would have been a better choice?”  We need to teach our children to acknowledge and evaluate feelings, as well as appropriate and healthy ways to deal with them (as a young child this might look like taking deep breaths, counting, drawing a picture, etc).

3.  Choose Friends Wisely.  This is a biggie.  Children watch every.single.thing we do.  If they see us surrounding ourselves with toxic people, they will find themselves surrounded by the same toxicity.  I believe in surrounding yourself with people who bring out the best parts of you.  Those are the people we want around our children.

4.  Have A Safe Place.  I’m not suggesting you sit your family down like Dr. Phil on a regular basis, but I absolutely do suggest a forum for judgment-free communication.  I knew someone who had “chit chats” with her middle school son on a weekly basis.  They would go out to eat and her son knew during their chat he could ask her any and everything, without her losing her cool (this last part was sometimes difficult for her!).  One day she told me they were in a power struggle over him being allowed to watch Family Guy.  In one of their chit chats he explained to her the reason he wanted to watch Family Guy so badly was because other kids at school would talk about it at lunch and he felt left out.  In their chit chat they were able to reach a compromise.  While being allowed to watch a tv show is a relatively small issue (although to her son it felt like the end of the world), creating this safe, regular space gave them a forum to discuss feelings openly without fear of being judged. 

5.  Talk About Role Models.  I think it is absolutely amazing that Andre Dawkins chose to talk about his struggle with depression.  I think it shows an immense amount of bravery and confidence on his part, especially as a man and collegiate athlete.  If my son were old enough to understand, I would share the article with him.  I would tell him how I think knowing you need help shows courage.  I would tell him that bad things happen to everyone, but you have the choice to let it destroy you or make you better.  I would tell him I will always love him, no matter what, and there is absolutely nothing he could ever tell me that would make me love him any less.

My 1st trip to Cameron… 2009
Seth Davis’ article has gotten a lot of media attention.  I truly hope that it is sparking conversations all over the country about this whole “feelings=weakness” mess (& I hope that if you were unaware of Davis’ article and Dawkins’ struggle, my little corner of cyberspace has encouraged you to ponder this issue as well).  I hope that parents are talking about it with their children and assuring them that it’s not only okay, but it’s normal to need help sometimes.  Realizing you need to work on yourself doesn’t make you a weak person, it makes you a smart person.  Choosing to work on yourself makes you a brave personThese conversations, along with role models like Andre Dawkins, will hopefully chip away at this horrible stigma and slowly but surely, change our world for the better.

What do you think about Seth Davis’ article?  About Andre Dawkins’ struggle with depression?  What do you think we need to do to ensure our children grow up to feel confident and comfortable expressing feelings in a healthy way?  What can we do to eliminate the stigma associated with depression and other mental health issues?  Please comment below & tell me what you think! 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Healthy Living: Green Smoothies

I consider myself a “part-time health nut.”  I say this because I do attempt to eat mostly clean, but processed sweets like Oreos and Snack Packs can be found in my pantry at any time.

“Eating clean” is such a buzz word right now.  In short, it means eating foods in their most natural state by avoiding processed food as well as food filled with additives and preservatives.  If you want to start eating more clean but don’t know what to do first, green smoothies are a great place to start!

I’ve been making green smoothies for breakfast for a few months now.  I started with mostly fruits and little veggies.  Now I fill my blender with veggies on a daily basis.  I haven’t tried a smoothie I didn’t like (and neither has C, he steals them all the time!).  Since I’ve been making green smoothies on a regular basis, I feel more energized and my skin is more clear.  If I have a day where I don’t eat well, I will crave a green smoothie!

If you don’t know where to start, Good Clean Health has an amazing Smoothieology Guide here.  It has delicious combination ideas– especially if you’re like me and need more ideas than spinach and kale!

Here are some of my favorite smoothie combinations!

Smoothie 1

  • Almond Milk
  • Coconut Oil
  • Cinnamon
  • Cucumber
  • Mango
  • Parsley

The Smoothie:
This smoothie is really light.  It’s almost more of a juice.  The parsley is rich in vitamins, so it’s great for your immune system.  Since cucumbers are mostly water, this smoothie helps keep you hydrated so your body can flush out toxins.  The mango adds a tiny bit of sweetness.

Smoothie 2

  • Almond Milk
  • Peanut Butter
  • Spinach
  • Carrot
  • Grapes
  • Lime (juice only)

The Smoothie:
This smoothie is definitely more rich than the first one.  It’s also a little sweeter.  Spinach is packed with Vitamin K, which helps your bones.  Lime juice aids with digestion.  The peanut butter makes this smoothie creamy, but it also gives you a dose of protein.  Protein will help you feel full longer.

Smoothie 3

  • Almond Milk
  • Cucumber
  • Avocado
  • Kale
  • Cilantro
  • Apple

The Smoothie:
This is my favorite smoothie!  It tastes so fresh and the avocado makes it so creamy.  Avocados are packed with monosaturated fats which are heart healthy and can lower your blood pressure.  In addition to adding some flavor, cilantro can lower anxiety and help you sleep… and who doesn’t need good sleep?

Do you do green smoothies?  What are your favorite combinations?  Share below!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Crafty Project: Mason Jar Makeover

I love mason jars!  I’m from the south and think mason jars add a little southern charm to any room.  Check out these mason jars that recently got a makeover!
I collected 5 jars from random places (old pasta jars, candles, etc).  Sometimes you can get jars at thrift stores for super cheap; I’ve seen them at Good Will for 25 cents!  Then I got 3 glass candlesticks.  I used these from Dollar Tree.

I cleaned all the jars and candlesticks with hot, soapy water and let them dry completely.  Next I picked the 3 jars I was going to glue to the candlesticks.  I used sandpaper to rough up the tops of the candlesticks and bottoms of the jars.  I turned the jars upside down and used E6000 to glue the jars to the candlesticks (Tip- When you’re finished with the E6000, put a little Vaseline in the top; this will keep it from gluing itself shut!).  Then I waited.  Twenty-four hours.  Which was difficult.

I used acrylic paint from Walmart and little foam brushes to paint my jars.  I started with the jars upside-down for the first coat.  When they were dry, I flipped them right-side-up for the second coat.  I did this 3-4 times for each jar until I was pleased with the colors.  Then I waited another 24 hours (I hate waiting!) and used an acrylic sealer on all of the jars.

Once the sealer was dry, I was able to use my jars!  I use them to organize pens, markers, etc on my scrapbook table.

What do you think?  What have you used mason jars (or other jars) for?  Share your ideas below! 🙂

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Crafty Project: DIY Car Table

Today I’m going to share one of my recent projects– a DIY toy car table.  It was a fairly simple project and has provided C with hours of entertainment (which I appreciate because we all know a busy toddler is a happy toddler!).  

Here’s what I used:
  • old coffee table
  • handheld sander
  • painter’s tape
  • paint
  • paint brushes

I started by sanding the table.  I have this sander from Harbor Freight.  I started with 120 grit sand paper and then went over it again with 80 grit.  I wiped off the table and got out the painter’s tape.

I used the painter’s tape to map out “roads” on the table.  Then I painted the whole table green.  I did several coats, waiting a few hours in between each coat.


Once it was dry I pulled off the tape and painted roads.  I also added a lake and river.  Next I painted the legs and drawer.  Finally, I went over the top with a couple coats of polyacrylic top coat so it can withstand some serious toddler playtime.

Here it is!  I’m so pleased with how it turned out
(& I’m pretty sure C is too)!

Are you going to make your own car table?  Come back and share how it turns out!

Let’s Talk Teething

I don’t remember what it feels like to cut a tooth, but I can’t imagine it feels good at all!

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, symptoms associated with teething include:  biting, drooling, gum rubbing, sucking, irritability, wakefulness, ear rubbing, facial rash, decreased appetite for solid foods, and mild fever.  Research has found that the following symptoms are not actually associated with teething:  congestion, cough, sleep disturbance, decreased appetite for liquids, vomiting, and loose/increased stools.

Now, I’m not saying AAP doesn’t know what they’re talking about.  I believe they are all super smart people who know their research.  However, C has 7 teeth and before each tooth cut, he was waking up multiple times each night and had a runny nose/cough.  He was also super fussy and didn’t eat as much.  The night before his 1 year check-up he was up, screaming, every 2 hours with a runny nose and cough.  I told the pediatrician “I know the AAP says his symptoms aren’t related to teething, but this happens every time he cuts a tooth and I know his gums are swollen.”  The pediatrician chuckled, checked him out, and confirmed, with the exception of teething, he was 100% healthy.

He’s working on some molars right now and has all his usual symptoms.  He has better days and he has worse days.  Some days I can’t get food on the table or go to the bathroom without a crying toddler clinging to me like a baby koala bear.  Sometimes I get frustrated with his stage-five-clinger-self, and then I’m immediately consumed with guilt because I know he’s in pain.

Our grandmothers put scotch on our gums, our parents used Orajel– both of which tend to be frowned upon by most pediatricians these days.  In our house we rely on Sophie, teethers that go in the fridge (we like this one), and acetaminophen/ibuprofen.  We also get plenty of quality snuggle time (which selfishly I love).

How do you know your child is teething?  What are their symptoms?  What helps your little one get relief?  Please share… I’m always looking for new ideas!   

Nobody Tells You: Weaning Blues

Throughout my pregnancy and the first year of mommyhood I experienced about a million emotional and physical changes.  There were some I expected (crazy cravings, sleep deprivation, stretch marks).  Then there were TONS I had never heard of before, but when I googled them or spoke to other moms, I realized they’re completely normal.  They’re like mysterious details of a secret society.  They’re the things nobody tells you!

Well today I’m going to reveal one of those secrets!

You’ve probably heard about Postpartum Depression.  According to the American Psychological Association, 9-16% of women experience Postpartum Depression.  A significantly higher percentage of women experience Baby Blues.  Jennifer Lopez opened up about her experience with Baby Blues on Ellen (watch here).

The secret nobody tells you is there is such a thing as Weaning Blues/Depression!

I nursed my son for 13 months, but technically he started weaning the first time he tried solid food (around 5 months) even though he continued to nurse every 2 hours.  Around 8 months he got to where he was eating mostly solid food and only nursing about 3 times a day.  As soon as he was eating more than he was nursing, I sank into a major funk.

I don’t know how to describe it except I just wasn’t myself.  I didn’t feel like the people in commercials who just sit in a dark room and sleep.  I didn’t want to harm myself, my baby, or anyone else.  I wasn’t overly moody or angry.  I just wasn’t me.  I had The Blues.

I knew enough about breastfeeding to know I was going through some hormonal changes due to the drop in milk production, but that’s about all I knew.  After a few days I did some googling.  I found plenty of information about PPD and Baby Blues right after giving birth, but I found very little research about blues/depression associated with weaning.  

Finally I came across this article.  I also read the blogs featured in the article.  I immediately felt better, relieved!  I wasn’t alone and I wasn’t crazy!  What I was going through was completely normal; it was something many women have and will go through.

I called the nurse’s line at my OB’s office to get an opinion about the severity of my Blues.  I spoke to my favorite nurse (the one who often assured me about all those weird pregnancy symptoms!).  She told me many women in their late 20s/early 30s experience hormonal changes and there are definitely hormonal changes associated with weaning.  Additionally, she spoke with me about the emotional aspect of weaning… the whole “my baby isn’t a baby anymore!” thing.  The emotional aspect of weaning was something I didn’t expect, but she was 100% right.  Although part of me felt liberated not having to be glued to my baby every 2 hours like clockwork, part of me felt as if I wasn’t needed anymore.

Once I realized what was going on, I really tried to focus on my physical and emotional health.  I made regular exercise and plenty of sleep a priority.  I carved out some “me time” watching my favorite shows and indulging in at-home pedicures.  I made plans with friends.  All of these things helped, and before I knew it I was back to my regular self.

Thankfully my Blues only lasted a few weeks.  My son fully weaned on his own about a month ago, and even though he’s growing and changing every day, I don’t feel any less connected to him than I did while nursing.

Have you experienced Weaning Depression/Blues?  Do you know someone that has?  What did you/they do to help?  Please share your experience!  I feel this is an important issue and raising awareness will help others.  Also, please know I am definitely not a medical professional, so if you think you are currently experiencing some form of PPD or Weaning Blues/Depression, please share your concerns with your doctor!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Healthy Living: Get Active!

Weight, body image, nutrition, exercise… These are all things most women have struggled with at some point in their lives.  From preschool through high school I was very active in dance.  In elementary school I was also a member of my neighborhood’s swim team.  I never really thought about dance or swimming as exercise because that’s not why I participated.  I danced and swam because I loved it!  I made great friends and it was fun!

Throughout most of my 20s, working out was not something I enjoyed.  The idea of going to the gym and lifting weights or hopping on an elliptical machine was not appealing to me, at all!  And to be perfectly honest, I was more interested in going out with friends than working out.

To say becoming a mother changed me is an understatement.  The second I became a mother my whole world shifted.  It was instantaneous.  All of a sudden my health shot up the priority list.  I remember thinking “I love my son more than anything and want to spend as many of my days with him as possible…and I know that’s not going to happen unless I make some real lifestyle changes!”

And that was it.  I decided it was time to get active and stay active.  No more working out for a few weeks and falling off the wagon.  I was committed to improving my life for the better through regular exercise.

That was five months ago and I’m proud to say I’ve stayed true to my word.  In five months the longest I’ve gone without exercising is three days (with the exception of a few weeks I had to take it easy due to 5 stitches– I dropped a pitcher on my foot!).  I’ve lost a total of 20 pounds and 23 inches, my BMI has dropped 4 points, and I’ve gone down 2 pants sizes… but more importantly, I have more energy, I sleep better, and I feel more confident in my own skin.

I feel like the hardest part of exercising is starting.  How do you start?  There are plenty of ways!

1.  That “Ah ha!” Moment
For me, it was having my son.  For some it’s a real deal talk with your doctor, an event coming up where you want to look amazing, or even seeing a picture of yourself where you think “Oh, gosh, I look like that!?” (I had one of these moments too!)

2.  Commit to a Program
Pick a program and challenge yourself.  Be stubborn and stick with it.  I started with C25K (if it can turn me into a runner, it can turn ANYONE into a runner!).  I also did Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred.

3.  Make Your Friends Join You (or join your friends!)
Many gyms, dance studios, and community centers offer fitness classes.  Find a class and GO!  I recently found an amazing Zumba class on Meetup.  It’s a great workout and I’ve met some really awesome people.  

Do you exercise regularly?  How did you start?
Do you fall on and off the wagon but want to make a lifestyle change?
What are other ways to start getting active?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Mommy Must Have: First Year Survival Kit!

My son recently turned one, which means I survived my first year of mommyhood!  I have mixed feelings about my first year of being a mother.  I feel excited and accomplished, but I also feel a little sad.  There are things I wish I had done differently.  Sometimes I feel guilty thinking about the day we brought C home.  I was emotionally and physically exhausted and even though I took the classes and read the books, I felt completely and utterly clueless!

Throughout the ridiculously crazy whirlwind that was the first year of mommyhood, there were certain things that made my life a little easier.  I want to clarify that these are things I used for me, not my son.  Yes, these items helped me be a happy mommy, which led to a happy baby… But these were (and still are) my must haves for surviving the first year of mommyhood!

1.   Keurig
Everyone knows newborn = little sleep.  Everyone knows caffeine helps us survive on little sleep.  What everyone may not know is how convenient those little K Cups can be!  I never appreciated the simplicity of the K Cup until I realized I could practically brew a cup of coffee in my sleep!  Amazing!

2.  Jillian Michaels DVDs
New moms are eager to get their pre-baby body back.  Now I want to be clear:  I am NOT encouraging new moms (or anyone for that matter) to obsessively exercise.  However, I am all about being healthy.  The key to jumpstarting my healthy lifestyle was Jillian Michaels.  Her DVDs are affordable, effective, and most importantly, short!  My favorites are 30 Day Shred and Kickboxing.  Each of these DVDs have 3 workouts that are about 20-30 minutes each.  You can fit a good workout in and get a shower in less than an hour!  Check out her site here.

3.  Healthy, Easy Snacks
During the first few weeks I would find myself so busy I would forget to eat.  Around lunch time I’d start seeing spots before my eyes and realize all I had for breakfast was coffee.  Not good!  My husband and I started keeping healthy, easy snacks all over the house.  I had granola bars in my nightstand, trail mix beside the rocking chair, and oatmeal cookies near the couch (see my fave recipe here).  We had pre-cut fruits and veggies in the fridge.  I also kept Ensure shakes around.  These snacks helped me feel great and keep my energy up!

4.   Baby-Free Time
Before I had C I didn’t understand women who could only talk about their kids.  Now I get it.  It is so easy to let that happen when you literally cater to every single want and need to another human being… And when you get a much needed break, what do you do?  Read about developmental milestones and homemade baby food!  Sometimes you need a  break.  It’s hard, but it’s necessary.  My husband and I have date nights at home after C goes to sleep.  We turn off the phones, indulge in a yummy snack or open a bottle of wine, and see what’s new on Netflix.  This gave us some quality couple time while letting our brains take a break from all things baby.

5.   Mommy Group
Moms need to connect with other moms– whether it’s in person or online.  You can find all kinds of online groups for moms– Baby Center and What to Expect have multiple groups and message boards.  I found a local mommy group on Meetup.  I joined the group when C was about 3 months old (the group was more for me than him), but now he enjoys playing with the other children.  Regardless of what kind of group you join, a mommy network is a must for support. 

What are your must haves for surviving the baby phase?  Share below!

Blogging tips