Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Fab Five (Bloggers, That Is)

Thanks to Trop50 for sponsoring my writing about fabulous bloggers. This year Trop50 is granting 50 Fabulous Wishes. Click here to enter for a chance to win $1,000 to celebrate a friend with a refreshing attitude about looking and feeling fabulous!

I've been blogging for over five years now, and I'm pretty sure blogging years are like dog years but worse, placing me somewhere after the Ancient Greeks of blogging but before the Dark Ages and the Black Plague. Having been around this long, I can say I've met a lot of bloggers. Most I've liked, many have become aquaintences, and a few have become good friends.

It still feels weird to explain that I have friends I met on the internet. Oh sure, my grandmother totally doesn't understand, while any 20-something doesn't even question it, but I still get odd looks from my peers occasionally. Yeah, my friend so-and-so got this for me. Who's so-and-so? Oh, you've never met her. Actually, I've never met her, either, but we chat all the time on Twitter. Hey, why are you looking at me like that?

You can find hundreds of lists out there of the "top bloggers" for whatever definition of "top" the person is going for. Most lists have a lot to do with popularity. And while I know and love some popular bloggers, I also know some pretty awesome bloggers who don't get as much notice as I think they should. I think they're awesome not only because of their blogs, but because of the personal connections I've made with them.

What's that? You sense a list coming on? Why, you're absolutely correct! I'd like to introduce you to five fabulous bloggers and why I love them.

Amelia Sprout - When she first found my blog, I didn't make the connection that we had an actual connection at first. Even though we live in different states, turns out her ex-boyfriend from middle school happens to be my husband! No worries, though - she's happily married, has one daughter and another child on the way. Not only can we swap stories of my husband, but anytime I need to find some peace I can read her blog posts about gardening and marvel at her green thumb. Visit her for the latest on Baby Watch 2011.

 Amelia & I at BlogHer '10

Heather at Domestic Extraordinaire - Heather is a fantastic storyteller, but that's not even the beginning of her talents. She's also an amazing photographer who somehow always manages to make me look good in photographs. We've roomed together at blogging conferences and survived a loooooooong train ride together, and yet she still speaks to me. We don't live too far from each other, and I always enjoy getting the chance to hang out in person - it's so much easier than trying to type out our conversations!

Heather & I - see, I told you she always makes me look great! (and she's beautiful, too!)

Kari from The Karianna Spectrum - When Cordy was three we were just beginning the path towards a diagnosis of autism. And when I was falling down that rabbit hole into the new world of autism, Kari was there with an umbrella to break my fall and a guidebook to help get me started on my journey. Since then, she's taken up running and continues to amaze me with all she accomplishes. Someday I hope to run the Disney half-marathon with her.

Carmen at Mom to the Screaming Masses - I don't know how she does it. Seriously. To look that good, and stay in shape, and manage a household with six kids? She has to have some ability to manipulate time and space that I haven't learned yet. On top of that, she's wonderful to talk with in person and online. Reading how she got into shape is an inspiration - she helped me realize that no matter how busy my life, I need to take some time for me, too. Someday I hope she'll share her secret to looking perpetually 25 years old even after having kids.

Carmen & I at Blissdom '11 (photo credit, Heather Durdil)

Cecily from Uppercase Woman - The first word that comes to mind when I think of Cecily is strength. She is the definition of that word to me, and I can think of few who would be more fitting to represent strength. I've read her blog for quite a while, but didn't get the chance to really know her well until last year. She's been down some long, hard roads, yet no matter what the obstacle is, she overcomes it with her head held high. I admire her strength and secretly wish I could be as fearless as her.

I'm incredibly thankful that I know these five amazing women, and I'm glad I decided to take up blogging over five years ago so that I could get that chance to know them!

Don't forget to enter the 50 Fabulous Wishes contest for a chance to win $1,000 to celebrate a friend with a refreshing attitude about looking and feeling fabulous.

I was selected for this Tropicana Trop50 sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do. I received compensation to use and facilitate my post.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Treasuring Everyday Joy & Helping Others

I remember the day my first daughter was born. Unlike many, where the time and day are a mystery, I knew the date and the approximate time of her birth. She had flipped into a breech position with no solid presenting part, making any attempt at a natural labor more risky. And so I showed up to the hospital at the scheduled date and time, not in labor, so that my baby could be born.

It was one of the first great decisions I had to make as a mother: attempt a standard birth and hope she didn't get stuck, or take more risk on myself and go for the c-section. She was a large baby, and a version was likely to be unsuccessful, so I chose to have the c-section. Her safety was more important to me than my own. I realized in that moment that this was only the beginning of what being a mother would be. My life was now partially hers.

In the busy operating room, I only got to see her for a few moments before she was taken to the nursery. I had to wait nearly 3 hours before I could hold her - the first 3 hours we'd ever been apart. That moment when I did get to hold her was both strange and wonderful. This baby in my arms was completely unknown to my touch, and yet I had known her all along. She cried and I quickly found myself gently bouncing her and slightly rocking back and forth, instinct that has been passed down from generations of mothers before me. This was it. I was a mother now.

Six years later, Cordy and I spent the day together, without my husband and without my younger daughter. It's so rare that I get the chance to spend time with just one of my daughters. I let it be her day, and she chose to go to the zoo. We looked at the fish, laughed as the penguins swam in their enclosure, peered carefully at the snakes in the reptile house, and placed our hands up against a gorilla's hand, with only a pane of glass between us. She rambled on about each of the animals, and I listened carefully, amazed by all that she's learned since she was that strange, tiny new human, crying in my arms. I then held her as she rode the carousel, going up and down on the horse as she exclaimed, "This is the best day ever, mommy!" It was one of the best days for me as well.

Becoming a mother has changed the very nature of who I am. I love to see the world through my children's eyes from time to time, reminding myself that it's OK to slow down and take in an experience as if it's brand new. I laugh at the strange logic my daughters use to explain what they don't understand. And at the end of the day, I realize that everything else I do - work, bills, shopping, running errands - is nearly all for them in some way. Let me tell you, even though I hate being away from my girls, work is always easier to do when I remember who I'm providing for.

Johnson & Johnson, the sponsors of this blog tour, also understand how as mothers we can treasure the everyday moments. Right now they have a promotion on the Johnson's Baby Facebook page that supports one of my favorite charities, the March of Dimes. Every "Promise" made on the site (just click the "Like" button on the Joy page) gives $1 towards research into helping every infant have a healthy start to life.

Johnson’s will also host a series of photo contests on its Facebook page beginning in May. Selected monthly winners will receive one of a variety of prizes and be eligible for the $25,000 Grand Prize, to be announced in January 2012.

What are some of the memorable moments you've had with your children recently?

Full disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Johnson’s and received Johnson’s Baby products and a promotional item and to facilitate my review.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Staying Healthy As A Mom

I often look back at my pre-child days and wonder what I did with all of that free time? I should have been using that time to cook gourmet meals or go for long hikes in the woods - anything to stay healthy and fit. Instead I somehow wasted those glory days of free-time and look back on that time with regret. With my relaxed schedule, I still would have had time for TV and sleeping more.

But here I am now, a mom of two, working full-time, and I barely have a minute to myself. It's easy to tell someone, "Oh, anyone can squeeze an hour a day into their schedule to workout!" but I'd like to see them find time in my day that didn't involve sacrificing another important task. Or sleep. Which counts as an important task when you already don't get enough of it.

However, I've managed to lose 10 pounds in the last few months to get myself ready for summer. (All chronicled at Losing My Hind.) It hasn't been easy, and as warmer days get closer and closer my time seems to shrink much faster than my hips. So what's worked for me?

First, I did have to force myself to find time to exercise. In the winter, I did it with workout videos and scheduling a fitness class twice a week. Scheduling the class makes it a permanent part of my calendar - I can't just push it aside for some minor crisis because it has a specific time penciled in. It's two hours of the week marked off for me and just me. Surely in all of the hours I give to work and family, I can spare two hours a week for myself, right?

Next, I had to plan my eating. I work third shift, leaving me few options for meals that aren't prepackaged or delivered in cardboard boxes. Eater fewer calories, while trying to incorporate whole grains and vegetables, isn't easy when you have to eat frozen meals or fast food. I quickly learned that I needed to plan out meals and snacks and bring it all with me, or I'd surely find myself staring at the vending machines at 3am. I bring a low calorie frozen meal, like Weight Watchers Smart Ones, with me and eat it for lunch. I also bring snacks like string cheese, Greek yogurt, and apple slices to give me something to munch on throughout the night.

Weight Watchers Smart Ones is making it easier to stay on track with a healthy meal plan without spending time on prep work beforehand. Their products provide a variety of delicious, convenient and portion controlled meals and snacks that contain lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. And now they are offering two new breakfast items – like the new Egg, Sausage & Cheese Wrap and the French Toast with Turkey Sausage. Plus, the packaging tells you the Weight Watchers PointsPlus values in each serving, allowing you to conveniently plan for the day. Visit for more information.

I honestly feel more in control of my health now than I ever have in the past. Despite being busy, I can make the small changes to stay healthy. Perhaps becoming a mother helped nudge me in that direction, because being healthy is no longer just about me. I now want to keep myself healthy so that I can see my children grow up, and provide them with a good role model to follow down the road.
What small changes can you make to be healthier?

Full disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Weight Watchers Smart Ones and received a promotional item and coupons to facilitate my review.