Friday, July 29, 2016

Motherhood Shaming


Motherhood shaming is at an all-time high right now.  We've all done it to some extent, and most likely, many of us have been victims of it. It's so easy to unfairly judge a mother without knowing the whole story, and according to the internet, it's ALWAYS the mother's fault when something goes wrong.


Why is motherhood shaming so prevalent these days? Even though we say we don't do it, we all do it at one point or another. Just step back and listen in your social circles. I guarantee you'll hear motherhood shaming. Is it a way to build ourselves up and make our lives seem better or is it simply because that's what we do to connect other moms? I'm not quite sure, but one thing is certain: It's getting out of control!

I have a personal experience with motherhood shaming. Shortly after Liam was born, one of my posts about having a child with Down syndrome went viral.  Bloggers and writers are always warned about one thing, and that is don't read the comments. And it is absolutely true. Although most of the comments were very positive, there were a few from internet trolls just trying to start a fight. There were also a few genuinely hurtful comments. One sticks out the most: "The child is not retarded. The parents are retarded for bringing a child who has Down syndrome into the world. There's prenatal testing for that." OUCH.  But here's the thing. That person did not read beyond the title. He judged me unfairly without even reading that it was never detected through blood tests and ultrasounds. I think we can agree that in many cases, we judge other mothers at first glance, without seeing the big picture.

 I recently had the pleasure of watching a pre-screening of Tallulah, a movie written and directed by Sian Heder.  The story follows Tallulah (Ellen Page) who is a young woman with no direction in life. After Tallulah's boyfriend leaves her, Tallulah finds herself in an incredibly tough situation where a seemingly unfit mother leaves her toddler in the care of Tallulah while she goes out for the night. When the woman returns and passes out drunk on the bed, leaving her toddler to fend for herself, Tallulah makes the decision to take the toddler from her mother.  Tallulah turns to her boyfriend's mother (Allison Janney) for help, even though she was the first woman her boyfriend ran away from.  I'm not going to give away anything other than the basic synopsis. This incredibly well written and well acted movie deserves to be seen!


After viewing the movie, I had the amazing opportunity to join a Google Hangout with four other Netflix Stream Team members for an interview with Sian Heder, the talented writer and director of Tallulah. It was such a great experience and I loved getting the behind-the-scenes scoop. The plot was loosely based on an experience Sian Heder had as a nanny at a hotel and several of the scenes were inspired by some of her personal experiences and relationships.  I loved the movie the first time around and I can't wait to watch it again now that I have the inside scoop on the some of the scenes!

I could go on and on about the incredible actors, the well written script and the way the storyline draws you in and touches your heart, but what I really want to focus on is the underlying theme of motherhood shaming. My immediate reaction was to support Tallulah's decision, because in my opinion, that mother didn't deserve her child. But on the other hand, it isn't morally right to kidnap a child. Was that child better off with her own neglectful mother or better off with Tallulah? If Tallulah hadn't reacted in that manner, would the child's life be at stake? Although I found myself in favor of Tallulah's decision, my reaction and judgment was a classic case of motherhood shaming.

I think we can all agree that it isn't fair to judge another mother without knowing all the details about the situation.  I tend to believe that life isn't black and white. There are lots of shades of gray in between.  But is motherhood shaming warranted in some situations, like the situation Tallulah faced? 

I will say that because of my own experience, I try not to judge other mothers. I believe in offering encouragement and support, and even defending mothers who are being judged unfairly in certain situations. I believe that it's better to offer help instead of jumping in on the motherhood shaming. I believe in unity. I believe in forgiveness. I believe we must always have an open mind. Most of all, I don't believe there are any perfect human beings, that there isn't a right or wrong answer in most cases and that mistakes happen. The storyline of Tallulah encouraged me to see both sides of the picture, but I still find myself judging some mothers in the most extreme cases. But is that really okay to do?

I want to hear YOUR thoughts about motherhood shaming in the comments below. Have you ever unfairly judged another mother? Have you ever been a victim of motherhood shaming? Are there certain situations that make it okay to shame another mother? What do you think we can do to stop it from spiraling out of control?



Tallulah is definitely a film that touches your heart, makes you think, and it just might change your mind about what you believe in the middle of the movie. Tallulah premieres on Netflix and in select theaters on July 29, 2016.  I highly recommend watching the movie and I would love to hear what you think!




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DISCLOSURE:  I am a member of the StreamTeam. As a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam I am provided with a subscription to Netflix and I also receive other products, special opportunities and exclusive information. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Tips & Tricks to Rock the Spray Park with Kids

We have so many favorite activities on our Summer Bucket List! Cooling down at a spray park is definitely one of our most favorite things to do in the Summer!

Spray Park
Spray Park
Spray Park

Heading to a local spray park is such fun and simple activity!  As a mom with 4+ kids with me at all times, I like simple. My only challenge is keeping Liam out of the maintenance building! Apparently, he just wants to help the man who maintains the pH balance and water flow!

After some trial and error, I discovered several ways to make an afternoon at the spray park with multiple kids run smoothly!

Tips & Tricks to rock the spray park

1. Pack wisely. If you will be spending several hours at the spray park, you will need these essentials:
  • Sunscreen
  • Towels
  • A full change of clothes for each child
  • Reusable wet bags and a mesh laundry bag
  • Drinks and snacks
  • Napkins and wipes
  • Picnic blanket
  • Sunglasses/hats/flip-flops
  • Chairs/Beach umbrella
  • First Aid Kit (you'll need it at some point)
  • Large tote to hold everything
Spray Park

2. Pick the perfect spot. If you can snag a spot in the shade, that's perfect. I finally learned to put a beach umbrella in the car, though, because those spots are usually taken! Pick a spot near the water area with a clear view.

Spray Park

3. If you have a baby or a toddler, take a stroller. It's no fun trying to set up your spot or pack up to leave with a little one running away from you the entire time! Plus, sometimes you just need a break!

Tips for the Spray Park

4. Take more drinks than you think you'll need. Trust me on this one! Put those drinks in a cooler, add some ice packs, then toss in some snacks that need to stay cool.

PicMonkey Collage

5. Pack snacks that won't melt in the sun. I learned my lesson with this one! Thank goodness they could rinse off because what a mess!

Spray Park Fun

6. Take along some inexpensive beach pails. And LABEL THEM! For some reason, the kids love using these to play in the water and other kids always grab them. No beach pails? Don't worry! An empty water bottle does the trick!

Spray Park Tricks

7. Reapply sunscreen every hour. Even better, purchase swimwear with UV protection. I absolutely love SwimZip!

Spray Park

8. Make sure each kid has a friend. Playdates at the spray park are the best!

Spray Park

9. Keep a few small outdoor toys in your car so you can pull them out if one of the kids get bored. I prefer a ball, bubbles, a few small cars and sidewalk chalk.  Somebody always gets bored!

Spray Park

10. When it's time to leave and the kids change out of their suits, zip the suits into a reusable wet bag. Gather up the towels and picnic blanket and toss everything into a mesh laundry bag. It can go straight into the laundry room when you get home! I like easy cleanup!

Spray Parks

One of MY favorite things about going to the spray park is that the kids burn off all their energy! The drive home is usually silent and the kids often doze off. Parenting win!


Spray Park

I always like to hear new ideas, so what are your favorite tips and tricks to make a trip to the spray park run smoothly?

Spray Park Tips

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What's Up Wednesday

I say it each month, but I truly can't believe this is the last week of July! Time is passing by far too quickly for my liking.

One week from today, Lily will turn 5. Two weeks later, Liam will turn 3.  Then all four of my kids are heading to school. I'm not going to lie. I can't even think about sending Lily and Liam to school without tearing up! Why do they have to grow up so quickly?!?

Since life is passing by in warp speed, so I figured it's time for a little life lately post!

 


WHAT WE'RE EATING THIS WEEK...

Monday-Spaghetti with Meat Sauce and Garlic Bread
Tuesday-Creamy Lemon Chicken and Seasoned Potato Wedges
Wednesday-Grilled Brats and Turkey Dogs, Homemade Macaroni and Cheese and Corn on the Cob
Thursday-Grilled Pork Chops, Three Cheese Sliced Potatoes and Cauliflower & Broccoli
Friday-Dinner with my parents
Saturday-Leftovers AKA Clean Out The Fridge Night
Sunday-Baked Chicken, Fried Rice and Creamed Green Beans

Creamy Lemon Chicken

INGREDIENTS:
  • 3-4 boneless chicken breasts 
  • 12 oz chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 8 oz heavy cream
  • Salt & Pepper
1. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper then brown both sides of the chicken breasts in a skillet over medium heat.
2. Mix Chicken broth, garlic powder and lemon juice together in a bowl.
3. Remove chicken from skillet, pour chicken broth mixture into skillet and heat up.
4. Once the sauce is thoroughly heated, mix in the butter and the heavy cream.
5. Place chicken in a casserole dish, pour the sauce over the chicken and bake in the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

WHAT I'M REMINISCING ABOUT...

I miss the baby stage so much! One of my friends had 4 kids the same ages as my kids and she just had her 5th baby. We're done, BUT I could barely control the baby fever! I miss having a baby in the house...

Babies

Slow down, time!

WHAT I'M LOVING...

I absolutely love this time of year! I love the hot weather, the long days, and the warm Summer nights. I love the fact that we can sleep in a bit , I love the more relaxed schedule and I especially love having all four of my kids at home with me!

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WHAT WE'VE BEEN UP TO...

Although our schedule is a bit more relaxed, I think we're actually busier in the Summer than during the school year!

My great niece is with us Monday through Friday, and I watch my best friend's two boys on Thursdays. During the week, we've been having fun with all of our Camp Mom activities. It's hard to believe that we're already 7 weeks into it!

I blog about our activities each Tuesday, but here's a quick photo recap of 35 days of kids activities:

Camp Mom Activities
 Camp Mom Summer Activities

Dylan is in full Tween mode (AKA annoying) and I spend a lot of time being the Mom Taxi so he can hang out with his friends. Lexie is just thrilled to be spending the entire Summer with her best friend (my great niece). Lily is really excited to start Kindergarten AND ballet. She just finished her Summer story time session at the library today and has been practicing her flashcards in preparation for Kindergarten. Liam only has 3 weeks left with in-home therapy through Early Intervention. On the night before his third birthday, he gets kicked out of the program and his first IEP meeting is on August 11th. He will be making the transition to preschool-based therapy.

We've been spending time at the stable where we board our horse every weekend and the kids love it. I love it, too. It's a great escape from Suburbia. We get to enjoy farm life for a few hours each week!

As for me, blogging picked up big time! I'm writing for Pittsburgh Moms Blog in addition to this blog and I have a lot of collaborations in my queue. I also do some online volunteer work. I've been staying up until 4-5 AM to work, because there simply isn't any time during the day, and I'm exhausted.

To sum it up, I spend my days with 5-7 kids, put them to bed, and work for 5 hours. I kind of need a vacation!

WHAT I'M DREADING...

I'm dreading the upcoming school year. I'm not ready for Summer to end and I'm certainly not ready to send my two babies to school! I just bought Liam his first backpack from Pottery Barn Kids, so it's starting to feel real!

 

WHAT I'M WORKING ON...

HOME: I'm currently trying to redo our front door and porch decor and convince my husband to finish the bathroom floor so I can paint!

PHOTOGRAPHY: Liam is a brand rep, so I have some new clothes that need to be photographed along with a few fun clothing brand features.  I'm also going to be taking senior pictures soon!

ORGANIZATION: I swear, I always have a million projects going on at once. I'm desperately trying to sort through all the kids clothing in the attic so I can figure out what I need to buy for Fall/Winter. I'm also writing out meal plans and shopping lists for the rest of Summer, filling out my calendars and planners for August and September and making lists for our upcoming vacation.

BLOG: I'm currently working on awesome collaborations with Netflix and JORD watches and I'm working on a post that's due for Pittsburgh Mom's Blog. I also have plans to update my About page and Media Kit ASAP!

WHAT I'M EXCITED ABOUT...

Did I mention vacation?!? We leave for the beach in a little over 3 weeks! I can't wait. The beach is good for my soul!

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Even though I don't want my babies to grow up so fast, I am looking forward to celebrating Lily and Liam's birthdays next month! Lily is just so excited!

WHAT I'M WATCHING/READING...

Here's what I'm currently watching on Netflix:

Netflix lineup

We actually finished Stranger Things on Sunday. It was REALLY good!

I'm still working on this book from the beginning of the month. It's really good, but I haven't had much time to read over the past few weeks!

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WHAT I'M LISTENING TO...

The playlist my kids created on my iPod. They request Everybody Talks by Neon Trees, Hey There Delilah by Plain White T's, Bad Romance by Lady Gaga and Christina Perri songs on a constant loop. Every so often Let It Go gets thrown in there, too.

WHAT I'M WEARING...

It is really hot and humid in Pittsburgh, so lots of tee-shirt dresses and shorts with cute short-sleeved shirts.

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{Shirt-Kohl's / Shorts-TJ Maxx / Shoes -TJ Maxx}

WHAT I'M DOING THIS WEEKEND...

Hopefully spending time with friends on Saturday night! On Sunday, Grant has to help his brother move and I have to take Lily to her friend's birthday party. And, well, getting as much stuff done around the house as I possibly can. Sleeping in will be involved, too. Just saying.

WHAT I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO NEXT MONTH...

Celebrating Lily and Liam's birthdays and having their birthday party, going to my family reunion, checking more activities off of our Summer Bucket List and going to the beach!

WHAT ELSE IS NEW...

Did I mention that my lease is up and I need to get a new SUV in the next 2 weeks? Oh yeah...that! Life is going to be busy next month!

Question of the month is:
What was your favorite part about summer?

Can I just say everything? I love the weather and the long days and I love spending Summer Break with my kids and having the freedom to do whatever we want most days! It has been a great Summer so far! 

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I'm linking up with The Larson Lingo for What's Up Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

There's Something Fishy About Those Pinterest Pins - Camp Mom Week 7

Happy Tuesday! 

Can you believe it's already the last week of July? I actually saw first day of school pictures in my Facebook feed today. WHAT?!? That just seems way too early. We still have one month of Summer break left and we have so much planned! I know that time is going to pass by so quickly, though.

This past week was a blur. The end of last week wasn't the best and I had 4 big projects due in a 24 hour time period. My entire weekend was spent working, with the exception of going out to dinner with my husband for his birthday. And today? Let's not go there! I'm just now sitting down and it's almost 2 AM!

Although the kids enjoyed this week's Camp Mom activities, some of them were essentially a Pinterest fail. This was the first week I relied on Pinterest for more than one activity. Lexie really wanted to do a fish theme this week and she chose a few while browsing Pinterest. Well. Even the fails need to be shared, right? Even though they weren't quite what we expected, the activities were definitely fun!

For "Fish Week" we made a foil fish craft, created sensory bottle aquariums (Pinterest Fail), whipped up a Jello Aquarium recipe (Pinterest Fail) and made fish slime (Semi-Pinterest Fail). I'm learning that it's best to just alter some of our favorite activities instead of relying on Pinterest! For our "field trip" we planned to go to the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, but it was way too hot outside. We changed our plans at the last minute and headed to the spray park instead!


Here's a recap of all the fish-themed Kids Activities we did this week:

CAMP MOM Fish-Themed Kids Activities

Fish Slime - Camp Mom Day 31


Homemade Glitter Slime

SUPPLIES:
  • 1 Bottle Blue Glitter Glue
  • Borax
  • Water
  • Bowl and Spoon for Mixing
  • Clear Bag
  • Rubber Band
  • Ribbon
  • Plastic Fish

FISH SLIME RECIPE:
  1. Mix 1 tsp Borax into 1 cup warm water.
  2. Empty glitter glue into a bowl, add 1 tbsp warm water and mix.
  3. Slowly add Borax mixture to the glue mixture while stirring.
  4. Form slime into a ball and press a fish into the front.
  5. Slide slime into clear bag, tie with a rubber band and embellish with a ribbon.

We made the slime according to the Pinterest recipe, but it turned out much too dark.  We tried it again using our slime recipe and it was a bit lighter, but still wasn't anything like the pictures on Pinterest. There's simply no way to see the fish if you put it IN the glitter slime, so we just pressed it into the front of the slime before sliding it into the bag!  Although it wasn't what I expected it to look like, it was still very cute and my girls loved it!

Foil Fish Craft - Camp Mom Day 32

Foil Crafts for Kids

SUPPLIES:
  • Cardboard
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Sharpies
 DIRECTIONS:
  1. Draw a fish shape onto a piece of cardboard and cut it out.
  2. Cover the cardboard fish shape in a sheet of foil. 
  3. Give the kids some sharpies and let them decorate their fish!
The foil fish craft is just a version of other foil crafts my kids have made before. It's really simple and doesn't require much preparation or assistance!

Sensory Bottle Aquariums - Camp Mom Day 33

Sensory Bottles
Sensory Bottle

SUPPLIES:
  • Water Bottles with a large opening (I bought Voss water.)
  • Plastic fish and sea creatures and shells
  • Sand
  • Water 
  • Blue food coloring 
 DIRECTIONS:
  1. Add about 1-2 inches of sand to the bottom of the bottle. 
  2. Fill the bottle with warm water, add a drop of blue food coloring and shake.
  3. Drop plastic fish and sea creatures into the bottle.
  4. Seal the lid very tightly!
The sensory aquarium bottles didn't look anything like how they looked on Pinterest but the kids (especially Liam) loved shaking them and watching the sea creatures and sand swirl around. I think I'm going to have the kids make these again. We're going to skip the sand and just use blue hair gel so the sea creatures "float" better!

Jello Aquariums - Camp Mom Day 34

Jello Recipe

SUPPLIES:
  • 2 small boxes blue Jello
  • Swedish Fish
  • Nerds
  • Clear Cups 
 DIRECTIONS:
  1. Cover the bottom of a clear cup with a thin layer of Nerds.
  2. Prepare Jello as directed and allow to cool to room temperature. 
  3. Fill the cups with Jello and refrigerate. 
  4. After about an hour, carefully push the Swedish Fish into the Jello.
  5. Allow to set for 4 more hours.
Okay. I'm going to be completely honest. Out of all the activities this one was the worst in Camp Mom history! Even though the Nerds looked pretty at first, the liquid made the Nerds start to melt and lose their color. The Jello was too dark and the Swedish Fish could barely be seen. I think the finished product looked just like swamp water. And remember those melted nerds? They made the Jello taste sour. No thank you!

Liam, however seemed to enjoy it. He had some after a meal of Spaghetti. By the time he was done he looked like a Zombie who devoured a Smurf.

My advice? Just make a cup of Jello and enjoy! Toss a few Swedish Fish on top if you're feeling inspired!  Just keeping it real...

Pinterest FAIL.

Spray Park - Camp Mom Day 35

 Summer Activities for Kids
Summer Activities for Kids

Sometimes a last minute change in plans works out well. The spray park was a much cooler option than the zoo on a 95 degree day! Plus, it was even better with friends!

Here's to better luck next week!

Coming up next week:
  • Banana Pops Recipe
  • Sponge Bomb Battle
  • "Field Trip"
  • Sand Foam
  • Window Garden Craft

You might also like the kids activities in these posts:

Camp Mom Week One
Camp Mom Week Two
Camp Mom Week Three
Camp Mom Week Four 
Camp Mom Week Five 
Camp Mom Week Six

Have you had a Pinterest Fail lately?



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Linking up for Tuesday Talk.

Monday, July 25, 2016

From The Cutting Room Floor

I have nearly 2800 pictures in my June 2016 folder. 2800. Those are the pictures that made the cut. Thousands more got deleted permanently. It's no secret that I love photography and those pictures add up quickly! Most of those pictures never make it onto my blog or social media. They either aren't relevant to what I'm posting or aren't up to par with my standards. But every so often it's fun to share some of those pictures from the cutting room floor!


My love of photography began when I had Dylan. I suddenly wanted to take pictures all the time and I challenged myself to improve each month. When I got my first Nikon DSLR, I was in heaven! Before long, I decided to upgrade and purchase a few lenses. What started out as a way to just take free pictures of my children turned into one of my most favorite hobbies!

Right now, I shoot with my Nikon D90, and most of the time, I use my favorite 50 mm lens. I've owned this camera for 8 years now and I'm reaching the point where it's time to upgrade again. It just isn't working quite as well as it used to, plus new technology would be awesome!

Thanks to blogging, Liam's work as a brand rep, and the occasional photoshoot for family, friends and acquaintances, I get to take pictures every single day. I'm constantly learning and I push myself to improve and try different methods. My goal when I take pictures is to capture a shot as close to the final product I'm aiming for so the picture requires minimal edits. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so most of those pictures never make it off the cutting room floor or just don't have a place on my blog. But I still want to find a way to share them, because they capture the magic of childhood, the bond my children have with each other and what life with kids is like so perfectly!

Here are a few of my favorite June snaps from the cutting room floor:


From The Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor
Brotherly Love
From The Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor
Farm Life
From The Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor
 The Lucky Few
From The Cutting Room Floor
 From The Cutting Room Floor
 Nothing Down About It
From The Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor
From the Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor
Summer Fun
From The Cutting Room Floor
From The Cutting Room Floor 

These were, without a doubt, some of my favorite moments in June! They may not have made it off the cutting room floor for a specific blog post, but when I put them all together, they told the story of an awesome month with my sweet kids!

 I want to know if you're like me! How many pictures do you take each month?

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