Thunder Thighs and Powerful Lies

Thunder Thighs and Powerful Lies

Nearly every day in the car, my four-year-old son will look down at his thighs, call out for my attention with an excited “LOOK!”, and declare:

“Mommy, mine are getting big—like yours!”

He will then grab his tender limbs and shake them around, repeating over and over again:

“Yours are big! And mine are getting big!”

To him, the size of his thighs—of thighs in general—is a measure of success. He sees it as a character trait of growing up and being strong.

Funny how things can change so much the longer we live in this world.

I have spent my entire life feeling horribly self-conscious about those thighs in question. I remember the exact moment I became aware of my body shape.

In fact, I remember the exact moment I became aware of my body shape.

We were on a family beach trip and I must have been in sixth or seventh grade. Puberty had tacked on some awkward pudge around my thighs and face, but I wasn’t really conscious of it. I was just sort of living my life—the way you would hope any young girl to.

But that day on the beach, I was applying sunblock and my mom looked at my thighs with concern and asked me what the marks were.

I knew then as I know now, that she only asked because she was genuinely concerned. From a distance, I’m sure the purple glow of the stretch marks against my pale skin resembled bruises, and she was merely trying to make sure I wasn’t being hurt by someone or something.

I hadn’t even noticed them before that moment. I looked down trying to understand what she was referring to, and she came closer to show me before suddenly dropping the subject entirely and moving on.

I assume once she grew near she realized what they were and was trying to avoid hurting my feelings or causing me pain by explaining what they were to me.

But it was too late. That day, I became aware of the marks on my skin. The marks that, based on my mom’s reaction, weren’t normal for a kid my age.

It would be years before I would discover what they actually were (because I was way too embarrassed to ask anyone), but once I finally gained the courage to bring the topic back up to my mom years later, she explained to me the normalcy of stretch marks and how she too, had some of her own.

Talking with my mom about it made me feel less alone, but I still couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong with me.

I stood five-foot-four-and-a-half (that half was very important to me). Not tall enough to be considered tall, yet not short enough to be considered short. This sort of, in-the-middle girl, who had power thighs with stretch marks and couldn’t ever find pants that fit her pear frame.

People referred to my body type as “stubby”, which was code for “all of your weight is in your thighs and butt”. I know it was mostly never meant as an insult, but it still plagued me.

I began trying to make myself smaller every chance I could get. Those thunder thighs and powerful lies I told myself became the driving force behind almost everything I did.

I learned how to pose at an angle. How to place one leg slightly in front of the other when I stood. To sit with my legs tightly crossed, even if my toes went numb.

I would squeeze through tight spaces and frequently bruise my hips from it. I still do this from time to time. Old habits die hard, don’t they?

A male friend once told me:

“Your body is perfect. You just need to tone those thighs.”

And so, I would shrink. Literally and figuratively.

I became more agreeable. Less committed to my own thoughts and feelings about things. I would starve myself, then end up binging. I worked out excessively, then not at all.

The multifarious degrees of sabotage began to weigh me down more than the thighs themselves.

And I’m going to be entirely honest with you here…

It was up until about a week ago.

My son, sitting in the car, gazing at his thighs with pride as he proclaimed:

“Mommy, mine are getting big—like yours!”

Those wondrous eyes of my sweet little boy. They are untainted by the world. They see things for what they ARE, rather than what our stories make them up to be.

And he sees power, and strength, and something worthy of praise in my thighs. In me.

All I ever wanted was for someone to tell me that my thighs were thin, yet all my child wants if for me to tell him that his thighs are big.

And it made me realize how backward I have been for so long.

Why have I spent so much time trying to shrink, when I was designed to command the space I stand in?

Why do we, as women, do that so often? Why do we try to reduce ourselves?

I don’t know if your insecurity is your thighs, or your arms, or whatever else that your eyes can’t seem to look away from and your brain can’t seem to stop ripping apart—but I want you to know that you were created beautifully. Perfectly.

And it is our job as women, to start filling the space around us.

We cannot shrink ourselves when we were born to command the space we stand in.

Do not shrink yourself, when you were born to command the space you stand in.

Roll your shoulders back, stand tall, and embrace the power that your presence brings into this world.

Because I can guarantee you that you’ve got your own version of my four-year-old out there looking at your insecurities as the most beautiful, wonderful things about you.

Photos courtesy of Brenda Munoz Photography

 

Adulting With Jam + A Giveaway!

Adulting With Jam + A Giveaway!

Today’s post is sponsored by Woo Garden. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

When I was younger, I probably ate enough Knott’s Berry Farm jam to fill an entire swimming pool. It was practically seeping out of my pores from all of the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and jam slathered toast I consumed.

So you can imagine how depressed I was when I grew up and became aware of the fact that the things I put inside of my body have a direct relationship to how I look and feel on the outside—because those preserves are loaded with high fructose corn syrup, and then more corn syrup, and pectin, etc.

I actually stumbled upon Woo Garden while I was putting together the June box for my company, Mama Love Collective. I loved the idea of doing a jam + tea towel combo to start out the summer, and I was over the moon when I came across Woo Garden and saw all of their unique, delicious sounding flavors.

This is not your mama’s jam, but I guarantee she’ll want some too! They use inventive ingredients such as early grey tea, grand mariner, and balsamic vinegar to craft one of a kind, innovative jams that excite the taste buds. These are the ultimate “I am adulting but I also still love to get down on a PB&J” spreads and I knew they must be mine.

I ordered their pineapple based “Dawn” jam for the boxes, and it was a HUGE hit! And Woo Garden was kind enough to send me two other jams to try out as well, which are both equally delicious.

Dreamy is a peach and earl grey combo, and it tastes just as the name suggests. I feel like I’m sitting on my in-laws back porch in North Carolina in the summertime with this jam. The earl grey tames a little bit of the sugary taste of peaches, and gives it a really great taste that isn’t overly sweet.

Musk is an apricot and cantaloupe jam, and it is absolutely fantastic as well. Again, it is sweet without being overpowering, and it also has a very refreshing taste to it. This one would be delicious on some french toast!

The entire family fell in love with these jams and now I want to buy every single flavor! I love the fact that the flavors are so versatile and I can use these jams on so many different things—from crackers and pancakes, to ice cream and panda cotta.

And because I love you guys and I just so happen to have a little inventory left over from our June box, I’ve decided to do a little Instagram giveaway!

(Image from Woo Garden)

So head on over to my Instagram page to enter for a chance to win a jar of Dawn jam! I will be choosing THREE winners so good luck!

 

 

Ditching The Niche

Ditching The Niche

It’s a sloooow creep back up to the mic. My head more focused on each step than what is right in front of me.

Looking down as my toes lift and fall back onto the cool tiled floor.

Finally, I have arrived to the place my feet set out to take me a lifetime ago.

And so, I raise my chin from my neck and clear my throat.

*Tap* *Tap*

Is this thing on?

You may be wondering where I have been. Then again, maybe you haven’t at all. Blogs are a dime a dozen and there’s definitely no shortage of moms talking about mom stuff on the internet.

Still, this space has been my diary for over five years and suddenly I just abandoned it—or so it may seem.

Truth is, I have been spending a substantial amount of time deciding what I want my voice to sound like in the sea of internet sound.

Everybody tells you that you absolutely need a niche to be successful.

Narrow in on your niche!

Focus on your niche!

Don’t post outside of your niche!

These tips all come from incredibly successful bloggers, so there is obviously proof of the pudding. And yet, every time I would find myself trying to “grow my account” by narrowing in, I felt trapped.

One of the reasons I fell in love with writing as a kid was because there are no limits to it. Stories can take us into someone’s backyard for a DIY tutorial, on a grand road trip through all 50 states, to their traumatic hospital stay, and everything in between. We can create anything we can imagine in our minds through words—be it a unicorn that only eats rainbow bagels or a penguin who becomes the first animal Olympic gold medalist.

When I try and pretend to be only one piece of myself for the sake of a niche, I find myself unable to write here. And when I’m unable to write, my blog goes dark for almost three whole months.

So I have been working on fulfilling all parts of my soul—niche be damned.

For the last 10 weeks I have been diligently working on an ebook that I cannot wait to share with you guys, as well as revamping this site to reflect who I truly am, instead of who society wants me to be.

So here is a brief look at who I am, so that you have a better idea of what to expect out of this space from here on out.

15 Things That Matter To Me

  1. My husband
  2. My kids/the trials and triumphs that come with them
  3. Fitness
  4. Healthy eating
  5. Intimacy
  6. Writing
  7. My company, Mama Love Collective
  8. The gut-wrenching moments in life that define us
  9. Helping others
  10. Celebratory moments
  11. Creating printables
  12. Throwing parties
  13. Traveling
  14. The occasional DIY
  15. Attempting to make this world a better place

If these things appeal to you, then you’re in luck! Because that is precisely the direction this page is taking. Some of these things have long been discussed here and some have never been, so I’m looking forward to fusing everything together.

I hope you’ll continue to join me on this journey and I would LOVE to hear what you’re most excited about reading more of, so make sure to comment and let me know!

The Best At-Home Teeth Whitening System For Tooth Sensitivity

The Best At-Home Teeth Whitening System For Tooth Sensitivity

Have you ever bought a teeth whitening system, only to throw in the towel halfway thorough because of tooth sensitivity?

If so, you’re not alone. I’ve never been the type to experience it right away, but usually by day 3 or 4 it becomes a real problem and I end up tossing the entire system out, because ain’t nobody got time for tooth pain.

But I’ve been a mom for almost four years now, which means my wine game is strong and my coffee game is even stronger. I didn’t notice just how dull and yellow my teeth had gotten until I was standing next to another friend in a photo who had pearly whites.

I thought about running to the mothership (Target) and grabbing a cheap system, but I knew I’d end up throwing it away in a few days once it started to hurt, and I didn’t feel like wasting my money.

Then, as fate would have it, I was approached about Smile Brillant (thanks, internet!) and I was like, “yaaaasssss!”

This system is amazing and unique in that they tackle the issue of tooth sensitivity head on, which I’ll get to in a minute. First, let me give you a run down of the process.

They start by shipping you a kit so that you can create an impression of your teeth. Custom fitted trays ensure that the gel is distributed to all areas of your teeth, which is so important because who wants half white teeth? You can read more about the benefits of custom trays here: https://www.smilebrilliant.com/articles/benifits-of-choosing-custom-fitted-teeth-whitening-trays#lendmeyourkite

Once your kit arrives, you take your impressions, then send them back in a prepaid envelope. It can take up to 2 weeks to get your custom trays, but I promise it’s worth the wait. I was nervous about messing up my impressions, but the instructions were super easy to follow and when my trays came in about two weeks later, they fit perfectly!

The whitening process is hassle free, which is another big bonus. Thanks to the custom trays, I didn’t have to keep adjusting or worrying about the saliva in my mouth messing with the gel. All I had to do was apply a thin layer of gel on the trays and then pop them in for at least 30 minutes.

The last step is also my favorite feature of this kit, and what I feel sets them apart from others. They have created a desensitizing gel that you apply immediately after the whitening to help reduce tooth the sensitivity that commonly accompanies teeth whitening. This was the winnner winner chicken dinner for me, because like I said earlier, my teeth start to get sensitive and then I just give up.

Here are my results from using the kit:

Smile Brilliant Teeth Whitening

Amazing, right?! I’m so happy with the outcome, and I even have leftover gel to use for maintenance! This is hands down the best home teeth whitening kit I have ever used and I am so excited, because I’ve got a giveaway for you guys so that you can try it out too!

One lucky winner will receive $139 store credit to www.smilebrilliant.com

HOW TO ENTER:

Head on over to www.smilebrilliant.com/g/lendmeyourkite and fill out the giveaway entry form. All you need to do is provide your name and email address so that you can be contacted if you win!

*Contest ends in two weeks. Winner will be chosen at random, by Smile Brilliant. Open to UK, Australia, Canada, and USA residents*
If you don’t win, don’t worry. You can grab 5% off your purchase using Discount Code: lendmeyourkite5
Enjoy, lovelies! I know you’re going to love this system as much as I do.


How Much Is Teeth Whitening

Chicago Recap: The Food, The Attractions, The Experience

Chicago Recap: The Food, The Attractions, The Experience

 

Every time I told someone I was taking Derek to Chicago to celebrate his 30th birthday, I was met with the same response:  Why Chicago?

In fact, after the 5th person or so asked, I began to wonder if I had made some sort of Birthday-ruining mistake by planning this trip. Chicago was a place Derek and I had always talked about wanting to visit one day, so I thought his birthday would be the perfect time to cross it off the bucket list. But I think he even began to second guess the trip with all the nay-saying in the background, so we stepped into this little vacation cautiously excited.

Well, to everyone who wondered “why Chicago”, this post is for you. The city blew our socks off. Literally, and figuratively (Chicago definitely lives up to its nickname, The Windy City!). We decided that it was as if Manhattan, New York and Pasadena, California had a baby. It had the hustle and bustle of NY, on a smaller, more manageable scale. And the cleanliness and feel of Pasadena. With fresh tulips growing in planters all throughout the city and some of the kindest people I have ever met.

It’s huuuuge. We could have spent an extra 2-3 days there and probably still have left several things undone. We didn’t do everything we wanted to, but that’s because we chose to walk as much as we could to take in the scenery and fully engulf ourselves rather than rush from place to place. We racked up over 10 miles of walking in one day!

So here’s a rundown of our incredible Chicago trip.

FOOD

Of course, I’m starting with the food because, duh. In all honesty, we ended up eating appetizers and finger food for about 80% of the trip. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to man vs. food it, it’s just that we walked soooo much that by the time we finished, we would find ourselves skipping lunch and heading straight to happy hour because it was usually already pretty late. But here are some of our absolute favorites from the trip.

LOU MALNATI’S PIZZERIA

Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria was our first Chicago deep dish, and it did not disappoint. We ordered the Malnati Chicago classic and added pepperoni at our waiter’s suggestion. It was amaaaazing.

KIM AND CARLO’S HOT DOG CART

We stumbled upon Kim and Carlo’s Hot Dog Cart on our 3 mile (one way) walk to Soldier Field one day, and we ended up coming back two days later because it was that good. Classic Chicago dogs are a must, so that’s what we got! They’ve got a sign on their cart that reads “You must dance for ketchup!” because in Chicago, ordering ketchup on your hotdog is almost offensive.

PUBLIC HOUSE

Admittedly, my dessert game was weak on this trip and I only indulged once. But I made it count with this insane cake shake from Public House. I literally could not stop laughing when our waitress brought it out because I couldn’t believe how absolutely absurd it was. Our seasonal shake was strawberry, with a rainbow lemon cake on top. It was deliciously awful for us and I loved every bite.

GIORDANO’S

Giordano’s was another must and our Chicken, Sausage, Deluxe deep dish was on point!

PORTILLO’S

And we stopped in at the famous Portillo’s for more Chicago dogs. We meant to go back and try their italian beef which is supposed to be amazing, but we never made it. However, I just heard that they’ve actually got a location out here near me, so it looks like we will be making a trip to one soon!

P.S. If you’re thinking that all we ate this entire trip is pizza and hot dogs, you’re basically correct. When in Chicago!

ATTRACTIONS

CLOUD GATE AT MILLENNIUM PARK

Cloud Gate, better known as the Bean, is an obvious but necessary, stop. Millennium Park as a whole is really incredible, and this tourist attraction is one I don’t recommend skipping because it really is very cool to see in real life.

360 CHICAGO OBSERVATION DECK

360 Chicago Observation Deck is a thrill that I definitely recommend. The attraction Tilt, allows you to tilt outward over 1,000 feet above the Magnificent Mile and the view is absolutely breathtaking.

Not into tilting? That’s okay! Grab a cocktail and enjoy the view.

PINSTRIPES

Pinstripes was a bowling alley we stumbled upon and it was fantastic! They had luxury couch seating, table service, and private bowling lanes. Not to mention some delicious calamari and bruschetta which are not pictrued.

SECOND CITY

When I found out that Second City had a comedy show about the website Derek and I met on almost 9 years ago, I knew we had to go. #DateMe: An OkCupid Experiment was vulnerable, hilarious, relatable, and down right perfect. If you’re a comedy fan, I highly suggest you check out this theater and this show!

SAFEHOUSE

We happened upon SafeHouse on accident, which seems to have been a bit of a theme for us this trip. We were hungry and started yelping places nearby, and I saw that the food and atmosphere looked good, so we walked over. When we got there, we thought we had the wrong address, because there was no restaurant in sight.

I ended up opening a door to a room that looked like a real estate office, with one women sitting inside reading a book, and I awkwardly said, “Is there a restaurant here…somewhere?” I felt ridiculous, but to my surprise she replied, “I might be able to help you with that, and had us come inside.” She then asked us if we knew the password (we didn’t) and made us show her our best disco moves before finally letting us through a secret door that led to a downstairs area.

All of a sudden, we were transported into a spy-themed restaurant and we became aware of the fact that security cameras upstairs showed the entire restaurant our embarrassing entrance and disco. It was hilarious and amazing.

The waiters give you name tags to become a spy, along with a mission card—allowing you to walk around the place solving riddles.

And the food was delicious. I had a burger with Brie and bacon jam and ommmmg.

To leave, we had to find a secret doorway, put a dollar in a payphone and wait for it to ring, then enter a secret code. I mean, come on! It was such a happy accident and we had an absolute blast.

THE FIELD MUSUEM

Since The Field Musuem has dinosaurs and mummy tombs and is so gorgeous on the outside, we decided to check it out.

I would say the musuem is a must for anyone who loves science/history. It houses the most complete T-Rex found to date, along with over 30 million other specimens and artifacts.

When I entered the Egyptian tomb, I couldn’t breathe and started to cry, so you know there’s some serious history in the place.

It was remarkable, and definitely worth checking out.

NAVY PIER

Go to the pier, pay the outrageous $15 per person price tag to ride the ferris wheel, and take in the beauty that is Chicago.

 

THE EXPERIENCE

Chicago is rich in history, from its architecture to prohibition and underground crime scene back in the 1920s. We were lucky enough to find ourselves completely engulfed in this culture, often times by total accident. Walking through the city with no destination in mind led us to some gorgeous places.

And walking through the city with Yelp in hand and a vague idea of where to go, also led us to some awesome spots, like these:

THE DRIFTER

You have to walk into a Pub, go downstairs, and find the secret doorway in order to get into The Drifter—but once you do, you’re completely transported into the prohibition back in the 1920’s. Specialty drinks are printed on tarot cards and they have sporadic performers throughout the night. We even saw a burlesque show which was craaaazy!

THREE DOTS AND A DASH

This was another accidental find. We were actually looking for somewhere to eat, and Yelp showed some delicious food here, so we went looking. But once we hit the spot the directions said it was at, there was nothing there and I was sooo confused. Luckily, Derek saw people standing in the alley and decided to walk over, and to our surprise, people were walking into some random back door and we decided to follow.

The door took us to a set of stairs leading down, with skulls hanging overhead. When we got downstairs, we had been completely transported yet again into another world. This time, it was a tiki paradise!

Three Dots and a Dash is definitely worth visiting—that is, if you can find it!

OVERVIEW

Why, Chicago? Because it’s beautiful. It’s full of life. It’s rich in history. It’s welcoming. It’s everything you could possibly want in a city.

And I cannot wait until we return!

 

 

 

Never Pay Full Price Again: The Best Money Saving Apps

Never Pay Full Price Again: The Best Money Saving Apps

 You’ll never pay full price again with these amazing money saving apps.

I love saving money, don’t you? It’s seriously the best, and yet, I haven’t ever been one to actively seek it out. I don’t have the patience to cut coupons or spend hours combing through the sales racks, and as a result, I end up paying full price for things most of the time.
So when I came across these apps, I was excited but also unsure as to how committed I would be to using them. After all, I’m one lazy money saver. But I’ve got to say, all of these are so easy to use and we’ve already saved over $300 this year. We are only three months in, guys, so that’s pretty amazing!
And since I am not one to keep a good thing to myself, I’m sharing my favs with you today. So here are my favorite money saving apps.

IBOTTA

Ibotta allows you to get money back for purchases you were going to make anyway at places like the grocery store, Target, Groupon, etc. When my friend told me about this app, I was a little apprehensive because she told me it involved capturing a photo of my receipt and the occasional barcode off of something I purchased. But I am so glad I didn’t let that deter me, because this app is the best!
Different things show up all of the time, so I always make sure to check my app before heading to the store to see if anything I want/need is being offered on it first. I’ve had Ibotta since January and I’ve made $75 off of it already.
You also get a $10 bonus just for signing up, and an additional $5 for every friend who signs up using your referral link! You can sign up with this referral link or by using my referral code: gpecdhj 

EBATES

I’ve known about Ebates forever, but it always seemed so complicated to me to have to log into a separate website to then head over to where I actually wanted to buy from. But then my mom told me they had an app and I decided to finally give it a try.
We use our Ebates for Amazon purchases, Groupon, Hotels.com, etc. The great thing about this site is that they are partnered with several online retailers, giving you several opportunities to save.
Ebates has a great referral pay rate too. You get $25, and your friend gets $10! So far, I’ve made about $35 through this app for purchasing things I was already buying anyway. Click here to sign up for Ebates!

CARTWHEEL

If your idea of a vacation is taking long walks down the aisles of the mothership (aka Target) then the Cartwheel app is a must have. This app offers discounts on several different categories of products and all you have to do is have the cashier scan the barcode on your phone at checkout. Pair this with a Target red card (5% cash back) and you’re saving some serious moolah!

GROUPON

Guys, I cannot stress how enough how awesome Groupon is. I’ve purchased weekend getaways, local fitness classes, wine packages, and even pillows off of this app. Not only does it give you the chance to try new things, but it gives you some serious discounts. I always check Ibotta first to see if they have any deals with Groupon going, and then I shop directly through the app. It’s so convenient! Last month, I purchased a trip for my parents and got $30 back on Ibotta. $30! On top of the 70% I saved on their hotel room by booking through Groupon. If you haven’t grabbed this app yet, you need to.
Ps. Groupon also gives you $10 for every friend that signs up through your referral and spends more than $10 on their first purchase. Sign up for Groupon deals here!

HOTELS.COM

If you’re a traveler, this app is a must. The app is unique in that it gives you special hotel rates that are not on their desktop site. And I absolutely love the fact that you get a free night after 10 room bookings. We won’t book through anyone else if we can avoid it, because we love racking up those rooms! Derek has already scored two free nights for us this year, which we plan to use for a little romantic getaway.

ACORNS

“This app is legit” as my husband would say. He’s been using it since September, and has already saved over $700! Here’s the scoop: You link you bank account to the app and it helps you save money. You can invest your change into stocks, or put it into a separate account (which you can pull from at any time). So every time you make a purchase, it automatically rounds that amount to the nearest dollar, and puts the change away for you wherever you have specified. You also have the option to withdrawal a reoccurring investment of an amount of your choice every day, week, or month. So if you wanted to put away a dollar a day on top of the change round up, you could!
Like I said, my husband has already saved over $700 using this app, so I highly recommend it if you’ve been looking to put some cash away but have trouble actually committing to the art of saving. Oh, and they also pay you $5 for every friend who signs up (and your friend gets $5 too!) You can sign up for Acorns here!
And there you have it! Full disclosure, if you guys use my links, I’ll make said amounts off of it. That being said, I would never recommend something I don’t stay by, so I promise these are all apps I legitimately use. So get to saving! Maybe you’ll be able to afford that tropical vacation this summer after all (and maybe even a nice bikini to go with it!)
 
picture of app icons