quality time, every time.

As schedules get packed and our lives fill with to-do’s, it’s easy to let life get in the way of quality time with our kids. While we’d all like to have endless quality time, the reality is sometimes we just have to make the most of the time we have to spare!

In my journey to unplug more and spend more time genuinely connecting with my kids, I’ve found some tips that work for us to make any time quality time.

In the car

When you’re in the car, keep the radio off, ignore your phone and make that time all about your kids. Ask them about their day, about school, about their social life and relationships. Just like dinner time around the dining room table, car rides are a great opportunity to really connect with your kids, sans technology distractions. When I was younger and my mom was a busy single mom who didn’t have a ton of time to spare, we always bonded in the car. As I grew older, I counted on that uninterrupted time in the car to bring up things that were on my mind, or confide in her about things happening in my life with friends, boyfriends and school.

At bedtime

Consider stretching out your bedtime routine to pad in a little extra bonding time. While it’s easy to rush through the routines and get from teeth brushing to tucking-in quickly so we can all go about wrapping up our grown-up to-dos, take a little extra time to sit by their bed and recap their day, check in with them about what’s going on in their little world. It gives both of you a little extra time to unwind  and bond before turning in for the night.

Running errands

Since I had the baby, I’ve tried to find ways to sneak in a little extra one-on-one time with my oldest. While bringing him along when I run errands isn’t necessarily the most convenient option, it’s the perfect option if I need some quality time with him. In addition to bonding to-and-from while we’re in the car, I also try and get him involved with the errands. He’ll push the shopping cart, hold the shopping list for me, I’ll engage him about his opinions if I’m choosing between things or drumming up a project. All of those small gestures are a huge deal in his eyes and they go a long way for bonding and validating for him how important his time, his help and his opinions are to me. It would be easy to leave him behind and knock out my errands in half the time (and get some much-needed me time while I’m at it!), but we’d both miss out on a prime opportunity for quality time.

In the kitchen

A few weeks back, my son’s preschool teacher told us how helpful he is in the mornings at school. He had been setting the table, helping to prepare breakfast… things I honestly hadn’t even thought of engaging him in before! Since then, instead of hustling through making breakfast or lunch while he sits at the table and waits for me to finish, I try and get him involved in the kitchen. By letting him grab the bread, or build the sandwiches and be my little helper in the kitchen, it turns what would otherwise be just one more to-do on my list into  something fun we can do together.

How do you find ways to fit in quality time in your day-to-day?

 

celebrity labor stories and the myth of the painless c-section

Let me preface this by saying— if you chose to birth your baby via c-section, vaginally, through your nostrils . . . it’s your body and your business. We all have choices and how we bring babies into this world is one of them. Do as you see fit!

That being said, the stories I read about celebrities opting for c-section because they’re “afraid of pain,” blow my mind.

Who tells women c-sections are somehow less painful or painless, and why are they buying it? Why would anyone opt to have their stomach cut open (muscles, nerves, the whole nine) and a baby pulled out of it (more like pushed, pulled, tugged until it’s out) and think it’s going to be a cakewalk? And the recovery? Here’s what they don’t tell you: The first time you try and walk after 24 hours of leg compresses and catheters— that feels like someone ripped your stomach open, put about a ton of bricks in it, sewed you up and said, ok go ahead and walk now . . . don’t mind the fact that it feels like the contents of your stomach are painfully dragging on the floor.

I remember the first time someone told me after my first c-section, “Well, at least you didn’t have to have any pain.” Seriously? I still have pain. Also not on the list of things you’ll hear from celebrity birth stories: Two c-sections later and my lower abdomen is a mess of dead nerves and shooting pains. And right above the incision looks like a shelf. It’s very attractive.

Of course, at the end of the day I would have birthed my sons through my little finger if that was the only way I could have brought them into this world. I’d give anything, endure any amount of pain … and I’d do it all over again, twice.

My issue is (clearly I have one), it’s annoying when c-sections are glorified with these celebrities like it’s the hip thing to do when you’re just too cool for pain. If you’re considering skipping straight to a c-section because you read your favorite celeb said it was the way to go in Us Weekly, know that it’s not some magically painless process — it’s major surgery.

 

my heartwarming tour of the new CHOC Children’s Hospital tower

The Bill Holmes Tower at CHOC Children’s Hospital is designed to be one of the most advanced and safest children’s hospitals in the world. When I toured the new tower recently, I not only saw firsthand how they’d completely covered everything– from advanced imaging machines that can grab scans in a flash (perfect for restless kids), to high-tech goggles for MRIs that show videos and help soothe children, to the region’s only dedicated pediatric emergency department. While all of those advancements and careful considerations make CHOC Children’s Hospital the best in So Cal, and beyond, it was the people on the front lines of care who really moved me.

We heard stories from the pediatric oncology team about granting patients’ final wishes inside of their Rainbow Rooms, about setting up proms for teenagers with critical illnesses and how much pride they take in creating a loving, supportive environment for the families who are there caring for their children. We saw high-tech operating rooms that George Lucas couldn’t have envision in his wildest dreams and heart imaging technology that’s ahead of its time… but the people who shared the information with us, who guided us along their everyday journey in saving lives and helping families cope with loss are what makes the biggest difference in the care at CHOC. I especially loved hearing stories about how their Child Life therapists help children deal with anxiety and emotions through play and art, and how those therapies are used to cut down on anesthesia use, among many other things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even the executive and administrative staff — while incredibly proud of how their careful plans, procedures and technologies will help reduce wait times, reduce human error, provide doctors and staff with better tools to evaluate, treat and cure — stood out to me. When they spoke about everything that makes this hospital great, it came from such a heartfelt place… as if they were bragging about their own child.

Don’t get me wrong. While I was already a fan of CHOC, my mind was absolutely blown at every detail, every tool, every machine and even the logic behind their ER protocol. I’m just forever touched by the wonderful people who create the team that makes it all happen.

Some of the key features of the incredible new tower (thanks to some very gracious people in the Orange County community, the entertainment industry and beyond) include:

  • The Julia and George Argyros Emergency Department – Orange County’s only dedicated pediatric emergency department with 31 treatment rooms
  • Robert L. Tidwell Procedure Center with seven operating rooms and five minor procedure suites
  • The CHOC Children’s Heart Institute with two cardiac catheterization labs
  • 28 private hematology/oncology acute care patient beds
  • Seacrest Studios, a radio station and multi-media center in partnership with the Ryan Seacrest Foundation
  • Family resource center with multimedia workstations for researching pediatric illnesses and conditions, along with a business center to help working parents juggle the demands of work and family
  • Pre-teen and teen rooms with amenities such as flat panel TVs, DVD players, game entertainment systems and PC stations. The rooms are connected by a kitchenette where patients and families can gather for cooking classes and other activities.
  • Patient outdoor play area – a private outdoor space designed to promote relaxation
  • Diagnostic imaging services & clinical laboratory services
  • Café
  • Public garden with seating to create a serene, relaxing environment
  • Meditation and prayer center to accommodate people of all faith traditions
  • Space to accommodate future needs

 

 

four things you can do with your kids without spending a dime!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re short on ideas (and budget) and scrambling to keep your kids entertained these last few weeks 0f summer, here are a few quick things you can do together that cost absolutely nothing:

Scavenger hunt

Plant things around the house and engage your kids in a game of scavenger hunt. If they’re old enough to read, write down what’s hidden with clues to where the items can be found and have your kids cross off each item as they go. If your kids are too young to read, you can feed them clues and help them with cues when they’re “hot” and close to the item, or “cold” and need to head the other way.

Build a fort

When my cousins and I were little, we’d be entertained for hours by building forts from things we found around the house and have so much fun playing in whatever incredible fortress we created. From chairs and sheets, to couch cushions and pillows, there are endless things you can find around your house to make a great fort. Forts also double as the perfect reading nook, a great place to play games, and even a snuggly little den for nap time.

Role play

Imaginative play is so critical for our growing kids. It gives them opportunities to create, to problem solve, to build social skills and language skills. Instead of turning on the TV or popping in a DVD, role play with your kids to act out their favorite shows and characters. My three- and one-year-old boys love to play Jake and the Neverland Pirates. We hunt for treasure, look for Captain Hook and pretend like our living room is a giant ship. It has benefits for me, too. I love to bond with them, at their level, in their world. I feel like I learn so much about their little personalities by watching them interact on their plating field.

Dress up

Let your kids loose in yours and daddy’s closet and have them pick out a couple grown-up outfits to wear. You can always put on some music, mark a makeshift runway and have a fashion show, too. Of course, another bonus is that the pictures are always priceless!

summer: unplugged.

This summer I have one goal: Unplug. I tried it over the holidays with the kids’ toys  (read: our analog christmas), but I’m thinking it’s time to go big.

From iPhones to iPads, to the constant (freaking) buzzing of the TV in the background… I just want to shut it all off.

I’ve surrendered my iPhone to the kitchen drawer (or my husband’s pocket) on more than one occasion
(OK, like nightly).
I can go days without my iPad.
I’d probably spontaneously combust if I went days without my iMac… but I think that’s worth testing.
I can definitely live without the TV on.
It’s just a matter of pulling all of those things together.
I think.

Here’s my plan:

  • TV off during the day. We actually pretty much already do this (Except for when my husband pretends like he forgot. Then I have to pretend not to be a nag).  In the morning we listen to music, in the afternoon it’s play time or outside time… or anything else but TV time. 

It started with me just being ultra-conscientious about what my kids were watching in the day and that evolved to the realization that there really is no need for the TV to be on at all. A little nudge from Simplicity Parenting didn’t hurt, either (review coming soon). Listen, I’m human. There will exceptions (like feeding my Housewives addiction when the kids are napping). 

  • iPhone lock down. Here’s the hard one, especially since my business isn’t 9-5. 

I’m learning to surrender the iPhone. It’s way too tempting to flip through your phone as you walk by it on the counter. Or roll through your social media accounts to see what’s happening in the virtual world. When work is done, I’m going to do my damnedest to put my phone away. Every night.

Away- like in a drawer (my favorite place) or a cabinet, or a fire-proof safe. Or, have my husband stash it somewhere I can’t reach it.

Yes, my willpower is that bad. Trust me.

  • Kids: unplugged. This summer we’re going old school. 

I’ve already kick-started this by introducing more imaginative, active play and activities in their day-to-day. From puzzles to blocks, fort-building and role playing… it’s amazing what kids can do with their imagination and toys that don’t have batteries or do half the thinking for them.

Now it’s just a matter of getting my husband on board.

Stay tuned…

 

imaginative play: build more forts

Some of my fondest childhood memories are when my cousins and I used to strip our houses of all of its sheets, chairs, couch cushions, blankets — whatever we could get our hands on — and make elaborate forts.

There were no videogames, no iPods (not even a Walkman just yet), no batteries required… just us, our imaginations and the crazy adventures we drummed up along the way. That’s the genius of being a kid: Your imagination is endless. 

The other day, as my three-year-old son was doing a barrel roll off of my couch and onto a pile of cushions, it hit me: He needs more forts in his life. He has enough “passive” toys to entertain an army of preschoolers. What he needs is more opportunity for imaginative play, that he shapes and creates. And what I need is to unplug, roll up my sleeves and engage with him along the way (secretly, I need more forts too!).

Here’s where it gets interesting.

Apparently, my very awesome friend, Robin Laatz, knew I needed more forts in my life, too. I was on Facebook today and saw this ridiculously cool Fort Kit giveaway in honor of her upcoming KidsFest (aptly tagged: A Celebration of the Imagination!) Robin is a friend, a colleague, a client & I knew she was full of amazing ideas… but I had no idea she was also psychic!

Here’s to less TV, play without “on” switches… and more forts!

 

 

“little man” 1st birthday bash

Anyone who knows me knows that my kids’ showers, birthdays, baptisms (there’s always a reason to throw a party) are where my events background meets my OCD. In my career I’ve produced and managed dozens of events with everyone from Snoop Dog to President Obama . . . and I’ve not obsessed over any of them like I have when I’m planning something for my boys.

Enter my baby’s first birthday. Game. On.

After tossing around several ideas, I found a couple adorable “mustache bashes” on my favorite blog in the whole wide world (Shanna McGavoc posted this one on Hostess and I fell in love). Totally inspired, I picked my color theme (cyan, bright green and houndstooth) and hit Photoshop to start making the invite, cupcake toppers and centerpieces.

The cupcake toppers are super easy. I created the design I wanted on Photoshop (1.5 x 1.5 inches), including the houndstooth trim, pasted that onto charcoal cardstock and glued them onto tiny Popsicle sticks.

"Lil Man" 1st Birthday Bash- Cupcakes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the centerpieces, I created mustache and tie templates (by hand), traced them on 12×12 scrapbook paper (you can fit 5 on there), wrapped the ties with a strip of houndstooth ribbon, and hot glued them to sticks that came with the white stands I found at Michaels (in the aisle they sell the letters in).

I also accented the table with tiny white pots with grass, and photos of the baby in white frames.

"Lil Man" 1st Birthday Bash- Centerpieces

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m a big fan of food bars at parties. For my oldest son’s birthday we did a mac-n-cheese bar. For the baby’s 1st, we did a milk & cookies bar.

We had an assortment of cookies, including some really fun “mustache macaroons” my niece helped me create (she took the chocolate mustaches we’d made with molds, melted chocolate to the cookie and stuck the ‘stache on). We also had an assortment of milk, pint-sized milk-bottle glasses and adorable paper straws from Pink Lemonade Party. The little signs on the table are made with chalkboard painted stands, stuffed in floral foam, wrapped in yarn and placed in plastic boxes.

"Lil Man" 1st Birthday Bash- Milk & Cookie Bar

"Lil Man" 1st Birthday Bash- Milk & Cookie Bar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cake table is hands-down my favorite thing to decorate at a party. I wanted it clean, bold and modern. We did a two-tier cake, with a four-layer bottom tier. We paired the cake with chocolate and white cupcakes, photos of the baby and the green and blue chocolate mustache and chocolate tie favors we made. I made the sign with hand-drawn templates on 12×12 scrapbook paper and strung it with 2″ ribbon. We made the paper poofs (fold tissue accordion style 1″ wide until it’s stacked into one strip, tie it in the center, cut the edges into a point, pull each layer of tissue up on both sides to fluff it out).

"Lil Man" 1st Birthday Bash- Cake Table

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was totally intimidated by the idea of handmade chocolate favors, but the lolly molds I got here make it a cinch.

You can buy the chocolate at Michael’s. You can buy organic food coloring at Whole Foods.

"Lil Man" 1st Birthday Bash- Chocolate Mustache & Tie Favors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I fell in love with the tie shirts on the clothesline when I saw them via Shanna. We made a tie template, cut out the fabric then ironed them on. We left the shirts up as decor until it was time to cut the cake, then we handed them out to all the kids so we could take some fun pictures. Decor and party favors in one!

"Lil Man" 1st Birthday Bash- T-Shirt Tie Favors on Clothesline

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby Photo Timeline– I wish I’d captured a better image for this one, since it was what made me tear up every time I looked at it. I took a photo of Lucas every month for his first year, with a giant number for that month (also cut from 12×12 scrapbook paper). I strung the photos from 1-12 on a clothesline over the milk & cookies bar.

"Lil Man" 1st Birthday Bash- Baby Photo Timeline

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My favorite part of the party? Being surrounded by family, friends and lots of super silly kids . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

my future day job

I live for planning events for my kids. I obsess over the details like it’s a launch event for a client, I spend countless hours researching ideas and crafting (it still trips me out that the word crafting is now a regular in my vocabulary), and I revel in the sheer joy of doing something fun and creative for my boys. I often threaten to ditch my day job and do nothing but kids’ parties when I grow up.

When my littlest man’s first birthday started coming around the corner, I wanted to throw him a little man tie & mustache bash. It’s a work in progress, but here’s a sneak peek (tips on homemade chocolate favors, garland, etc., to come):

our analog christmas

I remember being so amazed when my then 15-month-old son slid his dad’s iPhone on, went through his games, found a field goal game and scored a few before we even knew what hit us. A year and a half later, I have to pry electronics away from his tiny little kung-fu grip.

This Christmas we’ve decided to go old-school: nothing digital, no screens, no batteries. We’re looking at active toys that spur imagination, inspire creative play and encourage problem solving so our son can have opportunities to create his play world.

And so begins my obsession with Melissa & Doug.

I love the learning mats (they work wonders when you go out to eat or have a restless toddler waiting for dinner).

      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally a play kitchen that isn’t mandatory Pepto-pink!  FYI– Boys dig kitchens, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My son loves these travel games. He gets his memory-game fix without being on the iPad (iPhone, iPod, etc. etc.)

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who knew these would still be cool 20 years later? Apparently, our parents were on to something.

My toddler and baby are entertained for hours by building blocks.The best part? I’m not worried about BPA or cell phone radiation.

before they were my parents, they were awesome.

When I was a kid, my mom leaned in, looked me in the eye and spoke these genius words of wisdom that I’ll never forget, “Before I was a mom, I was a person.”

That really struck me, even at a young age. You see, I always held my mom up on this towering pedestal because, in my eyes, she was perfect. I loved her so much, I wanted to be with her every second and when she wanted some *gasp* time alone, I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. Looking back, I can see how a single mom of two (who often worked two jobs and struggled to make ends meet) really needed some alone time, some girl time, some wine time, some time to just feel like the person she was before the responsibilities weighed so heavy on her shoulders.

Those few simple words put it all into perspective for me. She wasn’t just my mom. She was a person, she was a friend, she was a daughter, she had ambitions . . . she was human. And by the way, even before she was my mom, she was awesome. Which brings me to my latest online obsession, the website My Parents Were Awesome.

The photos on this site speak volumes. Our parents had eyes filled with hope, with love, with naiveté. They were cool, they rebelled, they pushed boundaries, they weren’t jaded by some of life’s harsh realities (yet). They dove in, they blasted their music, they ran, they dreamed, they took risks. They loved, they laughed . . . they were human.

My parents drove classic cars. They cruised. My dad rigged a record player in his car, my mom threw on her scarf, and they were awesome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My mom had the perfect bangs, the perfect a-line dress and the waist of a Barbie doll the day she was married. My dad had a full head of stand-up-and-take-notice hair. Awesome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My mom had a carefree attitude (that I envy to this day), she was independent and had the most infectious laugh. She still does. Also awesome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you become a parent your whole world really does get flipped upside down. Sometimes we feel like our old selves are buried beneath diapers and toys and the baby-proofed furniture that used to be our newlywed home (that we swore would never look like Romper Room but, of course, now could be its body-double). But  My Parents Were Awesome and my mom’s words will always remind me that no matter how much more I relate to being a mom with every day that passes, I was a person long before I was a parent. There are many things I’ll look back on and be proud of. There are some things I’d rather hide (who dressed me in the 90s, anyway?). And along the way I’ve collected many, many photos that document it all.

Hopefully my kids will look back one day and think that, long ago, I was also awesome.

 

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