Wednesday, June 29, 2016

When Moms of All Boys Are Clueless - Making Memorable Father/Son Moments with Gillette Mach3 SE

This sponsored post celebrates the special father-son relationship and 
is brought to you by my working relationship with Vocalpoint, P&G and Gillette. 
All opinions are my own.

When I first meet other Moms of All Boys, I can't help but immediately feel a certain kind of kinship with them, something deep inside that makes me want to throw out a secret handshake or at the very least, a nod that speaks the unspeakable bond of "I get it. I know. I'm living in a house full of penises too." After all, there's certain things that only us Moms of All Boys understand and can relate to just like there's things about being a Mom of All Girls that I'll never, ever be able to empathize with. 

For instance, it is impossible for little boys to keep their hands off each other. They're like friggin testosterone fueled magnets. Sit three boys on an 8-seat couch with equal distance between them and before you can blink once they're one on top of the other, tapping each other in the balls and pummeling each other in the face. 

It's also near impossible for boys to keep their hands off of... themselves. Speaking of balls, the words "balls" and "penis" will never not be funny. In conjunction with their hands down their pants all of the time, it's no wonder the subject of balls and penises and butts and farts comes up so often.

Also, you cannot feed little boys without filler. Filler before meals, filler between meals and filler after meals. Boys are hungry all of the time and they will eat you out of house and home. Boys are the reason Costco exists and flourishes. Sourdough bread with peanut butter and quick mix-from-a-box cornbread are among the greatest, most useful fillers and because of the ferociousness with which my three boys stand in front of the pantry every hour of every day, I fear for the tween and teen years.

Okay, so maybe I don't understand all of those things exactly but after spending the last six years raising three boys of my own, I've certainly learned to embrace their strange male idiosyncrasies. 

Finally, one more thing about raising boys that I may never understand but must embrace no matter how much it breaks my  heart is that before long, they're going to have to begin separating themselves from me as they continue along the road to becoming Men. For this reason alone, I'm so grateful that I'm on this journey of raising men alongside my husband. 

For all of the things I may not understand about raising boys, he's lived them. Not only is he able to help me understand our boys better but he's also able to step in for me and parent them in the moments that I have absolutely no idea what to do. 

Take for example men's grooming rituals.  

Taking a sharp, bladed object to one's face is foreign to me. While I can hook a brother up with the greatest, most moisturizing pre-shave leg lotion on the market and show them the best angles at which to achieve perfectly smooth and hairless gambs in no time, when it comes to shaving a face I'm more than clueless. 

It's when I get to witness father/son moments like this that I can't help but feel like an outsider being invited to some super secret club mixer. When I do get the chance to be a part of these moments, even as the overeager cheerleader on the bench, it allows me a glimpse into my boys' futures- seeing them more as men and less like the little boys who just yesterday clung to my hip, refusing to leave my side. 

Seeing my oldest perched up on the bathroom counter top, knobby knees and long legs dangling over the edge, watching my husband intently as he lathered his face and began to shave, stirred something in me. Something so grateful yet bittersweet. When my husband took a palm-ful of shave cream and lathered up my son's cheeks, it was as if my son was staring into a mirror of the future and not just his father's face. 

I'm so glad my sons have someone to guide them and tell them manly things like "Gillette® Mach3® Signature Edition Razors are great for faces because they provide a shave that's up to 100% redness-free (it's possible with Mach3®)." I'm also glad these razors are available at Costco because lord knows we spend enough time (and money) there as it is. 

Thankfully my husband's knowledge about "manly things" isn't limited to the proper care and grooming of man parts, but also includes other things I'm equally clueless about such as how to grill the perfect steak (or use the grill at all!), how to mow the lawn with those perfectly shaded crisscrossing lawn lines and eventually, how to select the perfect cigar and complimentary scotch.

Although I don't have a whole lot to offer in these kinds of moments, other than moral motherly support, I'm so grateful that I still get to witness them, that I'm still invited to the Testosterone Party. While I may never understand my three sons entirely and I may not be able to tell them which razor works better and why, I sure as heck have an equal hand in raising them to be kind, competent and respectful gentlemen who just happen to have faces that feel as sweet and as soft as a baby's bottom. 

Truth be told? Men's razors are way better than women's razors anyway so I'm extra grateful to live in a household full of them. (Men, that is). 


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Monday, June 20, 2016

3 Great Reasons To Hire A Summer Sitter

Today I'm sharing how we use Luvs in our life as part of a 
sponsored campaign series for Socialstars. 

When it comes to raising children there's that saying "it takes a village" and while I was initially of the "I can do it myself" mindset when I had my first son, by the time I had my third son, six years later, I saw the village light and happily admitted defeat.

Like many mothers, I could always use an extra set of hands when it comes to the daily care of my children. With three boys so close in age, yet in varying seasons of their childhood, their demands are constant and at times I find myself overwhelmed at the task of keeping up with them as well as all of the other responsibilities I take on as a homemaker and wife.

That said, help can come in many forms. I have girlfriends who rely heavily on their mother or mother-in-law, girlfriends who swap children on a weekly schedule in a "you take mine, then I'll take yours" manner and even a girlfriend who hired a live-in au pair, all to ensure that the needs of their families are met in a safe, less-stressful manner. 

While I always tossed around the idea of hiring a nanny or part-time mother's helper, there were several thoughts that always held me back. First and foremost, I thought that hiring a nanny wasn't something a stay-at-home mom should do. After all, wasn't it my job to stay home and keep the household running smoothly? I have the same amount of hours in the day as everyone else and they seem to be getting their laundry folded and put away without an issue, so what's my issue? Second, would we be able to afford the extra paid help? What sacrifices would have to be made in order to do so and was I ready and willing to give up those little luxuries? Finally, how in the world do you find someone you can trust to enter your home and care for your family and better yet, where do you find them?

After many late night conversations with my husband, over many baskets of half-folded laundry, he decided that it was truly in my best interest (and therefore the best interest of our family) to hire a summer nanny/mother's helper to come and spend some time with our boys each week so that I could get done what I needed, be it tidying up, organizing closets, prepping meals or writing, and not at the sacrifice of missing time with the boys. Sure, some may view it as a stay-at-home-mom failure but the reality is, I feel much less stretched thin each day when I know the boys will  be engaged, happy and playing for several hours while I'm doing boring homemaker things.

Our summer sitter has been with us for several weeks now and I can't convey enough what a difference she has made in our household. Not only do the boys adore her and look forward to her scheduled mornings each week, but I, too, find myself looking forward to her mornings as well because I know they'll result in productivity, a clean house and happy, played-out children.

If you've been considering part-time (or even full-time) help in your home, here are 3 great reasons to hire a summer sitter: 

3. You Can't Do It All: For the longest time I felt like I should be able to prioritize and meet everyone's needs while simultaneously juggling everyone's changing schedules, running a household, meeting writing deadlines and keeping up with my children's social calendar. Not to mention keeping them socially, educationally and emotionally engaged while school is out and maybe sneaking in some time to meet up with my girlfriends on occasion. The truth is, just the thought of doing all of that leaves me overwhelmed and exhausted. Hiring a summer sitter to come in and share just a bit of that responsibility during the summer weeks has been a godsend.    

2. Your Spouse Matters: Often times the care of your spouse can easily be overlooked in the day to day doldrums of working, keeping house and raising a family. At the end of the day it can be a challenge to connect which is why taking time for each other together should be a priority. While my husband and I used to be horrible at scheduling date nights, now we use our nanny at least one night a month to make sure we can get away from home and focus on maintaining the relationship that began it all. 

1. YOU Matter: Let's face it. moms are notorious for putting the needs of their family before their own and it's no surprise that we're always meeting our own needs last and sometimes, not at all. It's so important to take time for ourselves so that we can be in the best shape mentally and physically to care for and perform for our families. Whether it's to skip out of the house to grocery shop alone or head to the nearest coffee shop to sit in the quiet for just an hour without anyone touching me or asking to fill their sippy cup, these kinds of mornings are just as important as the ones where I'm holed up inside meeting deadlines, catching up on laundry or meal planning and prepping while our nanny is outside with the boys on a bug hunt or other wild adventure. 

While I'm home nearly 90% of the time that our summer nanny is in charge of the boys, I always make sure to have new games, craft supplies and other knick-knacks readily available for her upon her arrival. I know what it's like caring for three boys under the age of 6 and I want to make her job as easy as possible. In addition, I want her to enjoy the boys and to want to come back! I also want to make it as easy as possible for her to keep my boys safe and happy. 

That's exactly why I leave everything she might need in case of an emergency readily accessible. This means all emergency contact information (free editable download here.), medicines and doses, allergy information as well as changes of clothes and plentiful diapers and wipes are all left within reach. This way she's ready for whatever her comes her way, especially if I decide to run out for a few minutes. 

While we've been through our fare share of diaper brands over the last six years and three kids, Luvs has always been our go-to diaper of choice, especially during the the busy toddler years. We quickly learned that you don't always have to spend a lot to get a lot and the same rings true for diapers. A great diaper, at a great value and I don't have to worry about leaks and blowouts, especially when my babies are in the trustworthy care of our sitter.

It's funny to look back on our differences as first time parents and now seasoned parents of three. For the longest time we only left our children in the trustworthy care of family and even then could hardly enjoy ourselves without worrying about them. Now I'm happy to say that we've  I've embraced the wonderful things that can happen when you welcome a safe, reliable, trustworthy caregiver into your home to watch over your children. It's worth every background check, every reference, every dollar spent. 

It truly takes a village to raise our children and I'm so glad we took the leap and welcomed a summer sitter into our home. In the few weeks she's been with us she's become so much more than just our sitter. She's a consummate playmate for our children, a little relief for two exhausted parents when they need to reconnect and some great adult conversation that I don't get nearly enough of on the day to day of caring for our kids and keeping house. 

The only regret I have about hiring a summer sitter is that I didn't make the decision earlier!  

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Failing Whole 30 Taught Me A Valuable Life Lesson.

Here's me, today. Literally today, on my middle son's fourth birthday. We had just returned from a delicious summer lunch of hot dogs and pasta salad, a lunch that was had mere hours after we snuck a celebratory Munchkin or two for breakfast. Don't we look happy? Two days ago, I wouldn't have let myself do that. Two days ago I would've had to tell my son, "no thanks, Mommy doesn't want to have that" and trust me, I wasn't happy at all.  

Two years ago, I did two months of Whole30 back to back. Aside from not giving up alcohol, I followed the restrictive program to a "t" and was incredibly pleased with the results. Not only did food taste better but I also learned a lot about myself and why I ate what I did, when I did. Better yet, I lost a little more than 13 pounds which is why I inevitably wanted to start the popular program to begin with. 

Although my first two rounds of Whole 30 were a win in more ways than one, ultimately it was something I would talk myself out of doing ever again for at least the next twenty-two months. 

Why? Because I was overwhelmed by the work of it. 

I made up every excuse for myself, excuses like "surely I don't have time for that because I have three needy children!" and accordingly, continued to put it off until one day I looked in the mirror and finally hit a point that can only be described by no other word than "disappointed." I had become disappointed with myself in spite of myself. 

My clothes didn't fit the greatest. I didn't feel the greatest and I was discouraged that, despite running 4-6 miles every week for the last god-knows-how-many months, I was still wearing the same size pants as I did a year ago, which was not my intent. 

It was then that I knew something had to change. More specifically, my eating habits had to change and because of that, on June the first, I dove head first into another round of Whole 30. Once again, I hopped aboard the train of dietary restrictions and rode it full steam ahead for fifteen whole days. During that time I lost 7lbs. and my clothes started to fit better. I can't necessarily say I felt better each day but I was definitely pleased with my dedication and progression. 

I realized I could do anything for thirty days if I really set my mind to it. If it was really that important to me.

I realized, however, that I was missing out on a lot of things. More things than I realized at the time, things that are much more Big Picture than they seemed. 

For two of those fifteen nights I had to refuse bites of the S'mores I made with the boys. S'mores that they waited all day to make, S'mores that they excitedly made and even more excitedly wanted to share with me. I had to lie behind clenched yet smiling teeth telling them, "no thank you, Mommy doesn't want any," and when they persisted, pushing their sticky marshmallow-covered hands in my face, I had to snap back with, "Mommy can't eat that! I said no!" 

It was during one more of those fifteen days, on a particular family outing, this time for snowballs as a reward for great behavior, that I, once again, had to decline. When my sweet middle little sidled up to me and asked, "Mama, why aren't you having one?" again I had to lie and tell him "Mama doesn't want any. It's okay." 

But it wasn't okay. 

I'm sure you're thinking something ridiculous like "well, just don't put yourself in those positions then," or "have some self control!" to which I would laugh and reply, "And what? Have my family miss out on fun summer treats because Mommy selfishly wanted to lose weight?" Never. Because I didn't want to miss out. I did want a bite of S'mores. I did want to sit next to my boys and share a snowball. And that's when it hit me, 

"Mommy can't eat that!" 

What in the world? (Actually, it was probably more "What the fuck?") 

Why. Why couldn't I eat that. 

Was I allergic? Was something absolutely terrible and awful going to happen to me if I had a bite of a delicious treat offered lovingly to me by one of my children? 

No. No it wasn't. The world wasn't going to end if I had a bite of graham cracker slathered with gooey chocolate and warm melty marshmallow. The Whole30 Gods weren't going to leap out of no where and stone me when I sipped a melted snowball cup. Nothing bad was going to happen to me so why was I being so hard on myself? 

Ultimately I had to decide whether missing out on these moments was worth it. Worth the handful of pounds I would lose. Worth a slightly better fit to my pants. 

What was worth more to me? 

I knew the answer. 

It was sitting alongside my boys and stealing licks of their ice cream cones. It was taking my family out for snowballs and not having to sit on my hands and stare longingly at them while they devoured one of the greatest summer treats Maryland has to offer.  

It was being able to bake my son a birthday cake and lick the icing off of his fingers when he shoved them in my face.

I'm glad I failed Whole 30 this time. I'm so happy I was able to walk away rather than continue to force myself to turn my back on moments that I don't get to enjoy enough of with my children.  

I say all of this not to diminish the point of Whole 30 because in a way, this half-accomplished round taught me a lot. I knew that I needed a reset. I knew that I needed to up my raw and natural food game and step away from the processed garbage that I "thought" was easier to prepare for my "busy self" and by making the commitment, even if only for fifteen days, in a way, this half-round of Whole 30 was a success. 

I'll never be too busy to make healthier food choices. 

I can prepare healthier options no matter how "busy" I think I am. 

But it's okay to indulge in moderation. That is the key. 

I don't need to be eating a cheese stick (or two) for lunch followed by the scraps of sandwich my kids leave behind. I don't need sugary drinks to fill me up because I'm too lazy to pack water or grab a seltzer when I'm on-the-go (which happens to be always). 

I need to make better choices. I need to make myself and what I feed myself a priority. I don't need a strict 30 day program to make myself a priority. I did, however, need a wake up call.

Does food rule my life? No, but it is undoubtedly a very important part of how we celebrate every day as a family. An important part that I no longer wanted to excuse myself from because of the number I weighed. 

So, what's for dinner tonight? Definitely something "Whole 30 approved" but you damn well know I'm following it up with S'mores around the fire pit with my family.

Enjoy the taste of summer, friends. I know I will. 

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Monday, June 13, 2016

A Picture Is Worth 1000 Words And There's An App For That.

I take a lot of pictures. No, really. A lot. Think of a number in your head and multiply it by 10 and add twenty-seven, because that's probably the number of pictures I take in just one month. 

Last week I transferred more than 3000 photos from my phone to my computer, 3000 moments, since April, that I've wanted to freeze, to remember forever and while I'd love to have taken these photos with my fancy "big camera," the truth is that my iPhone is much handier, mostly because it is always within reach. It's the quickest and easiest way to document the moments I don't want to forget and therefore it has become my primary means of capturing my family. 

I can't help but want to document so many of these moments because I grew up with a mother who felt the same way. My childhood home is filled with hundreds of shoe boxes overflowing with evidence of my childhood adventures, adventures big and small, exciting and mundane. Every time I go through those shoe boxes filled with family vacations, birthday parties, field trips and backyard fun, I promise myself to be better about printing hard copies of the memories I want my kids to look back on for years to come. 

My mother did such a great job giving both my brother and I something tangible to take us right back to our favorite childhood places and memories and I want my kids to be able to gather around the table and share the same experience. I want them to be able to look at a photo of them at the zoo and remember how hot and sticky it was and how badly the aviary corner smelled and how hard we all laughed when a bird pooped on Mackie's shoe. I want them to be able to see the photo of the three of them, arms linked, walking through the halls of school and remember how much they loved each other that day. How excited they were to celebrate their biggest brother's Pre-K graduation. 

Thanks to Kodak Alaris, there's an app designed specifically to capture these moments and not just the photographic evidence of the moment but the feelings and emotion that accompany it. With ample space for unique storytelling, the Kodak Moments app focuses on quality over quantity and is meant to be a true representation of a moment in time that means the most to you. 

With unique prompts at every post, the app encourages you to tell your story and to do so with beautifully designed text and layouts. The app is very user-friendly and has been a great resource providing me not just a spot to freeze time but also to jot down exactly how we felt or what was said during that moment. 

If you so choose, these memories can later be turned into a variety of keepsakes including canvases, cards, photo books and collages. It is my goal this summer to take a moment at the end of every day and share a "favorite moment" captured that we will eventually turn into a book for each of the boys to look back on. 

The best part? You can choose to print your photos directly from the app in one easy step which means I can finally create a closet of shoe boxes just like the ones in my childhood home. Whether you connect to a KODAK Picture Kiosk at a local retail store and have your photos printed in minutes or instead have them delivered directly to your door, the app makes it incredibly easy to create tangible evidence of even the most precious of moments. 

And for the moments I want to share with everyone, I can safely and securely invite my friends and family to follow along so they, too, don't miss one single moment. The app is available for download by both Apple and Android products. Be sure to download it and look me up- I'd love to see what moments mean to the most to you! (Username: Ashley Paige) 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I don't want to miss a moment. 

This post is brought to you by a partnership with Kodak. 
All opinions expressed above are honest and my own. 
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