Kindness Starts With You

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I shutter to think of the hollow shell of a woman I was seven months ago. I was elbow deep in postpartum depression and I wrote something that had a much stronger impact than I ever could have anticipated. I can pinpoint this as my lowest moment— when my entire world was rocked by my words.

Everything I knew was being challenged and I found myself struggling to get out of bed in the morning. I was out of a job before I had even begun, people who had no ties to the situation were holding it over my head like an unforgivable sin, and I was reminded that things are not always as they seem— as my quest to shine light on an issue resulted in me doing the very thing I was trying to fight against. It was a brutal reminder that life is not black and white and that actions, however well meaning, have consequences.

I’ve blossomed since then. The upside to having your world turned around is that it forces you to look at yourself from another angle. From upside down, I could see the spots in my heart that needed to change.

And so, I got to work.

I realized that the first step to changing the world is to better yourself. We tend to leave ourselves unscathed when we are on a mission of philanthropy, because we believe that our hearts are already good enough. But good enough was no longer going to be good enough for me. So I checked my inhibitions at the door and started searching for more.

The most important thing I began doing every single day, was changing the way I spoke to myself. Have you ever noticed the things you say to yourself/about yourself to others? The words I spoke of myself daily are things I would never dare utter about another person, so why on earth did I deem them appropriate to say to my own heart?

How can I claim to be a kind person when I can’t even be kind to myself? I couldn’t— and it was time to change that.

I began speaking words of affirmation, twice a day and this changed my soul from the inside, out.

I am strong. 

I am worthy. 

I am the best mother for my children. 

I am a wonderful wife. 

I am kind. 

I am patient. 

I am capable.

I am beautiful. 

My body is perfect because it gave me the greatest joys of my life. 

I see the good in others. 

I can make a difference.

I am stronger than the urges to put myself or others down. 

I am a safe space for others. 

I will speak up immediately when I see someone being mistreated and I will do so with kindness. 

My past does not define me. 

They can vary on any given day, but you get this jist.

At first, I felt silly— embarrassed even, despite nobody being able to hear me when I recited them. But after about a week of committing myself to working through the feelings of insecurity and silliness, I noticed that I was smiling more. I was giving out more compliments to others. I had more patience. Even the way I hugged people changed.

My cousin once told me that I had the softest hugs of anyone she’s ever known. It made me wonder why I chose to restrain myself in this act of affection with people— because I knew that the volume of my love was not reflected in those soft little hugs. I’ve realized now, that it was a defense mechanism I had developed years ago.

My shields are all down today, and when I embrace people, I do so with my whole heart.

These changes all came from speaking to myself with kindness.

Does your heart need a little TLC?

It’s time to start talking to yourself the way you’d want others to talk about you at your funeral— with the upmost love and respect.

Use my affirmations and add your own. Print them out and stick that sheet of paper on your bathroom mirror, or refrigerator, or the back of your toddlers shirt. I don’t care where you put it, just get it in writing and get it up in your face somewhere.

And then read it, EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Shout them, whisper them, sing them— just make sure to say them aloud.

Words hold so much power. They can move us to tears, lead men & women into war, and ignite change.

If your heart is struggling, do this, and watch it transform.

This world needs more love— and it starts with showing love to ourselves.

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Ice Age: Collision Course At Discovery Cube OC

Over the weekend my family and I had the opportunity to attend the Ice Age: Collision Course Media Event at Discovery Cube in Santa Ana. We love the Discovery Cube and all of the Ice Age movies, so I was really excited to get a VIP look into the newest movie and the exhibits that related to it.

The event kicked off with breakfast, where the kiddos got to meet Scrat. Declan wasn’t too sure about him at first, but once Scrat waved at him, he warmed right up.

Ice Age: Collision Course at the Discovery Cube

Am I the only one that thinks he’s one of the funniest characters of all time? Those wild eyes just crack me up!

After breakfast we got a behind-the-scenes look at the new movie, Ice Age: Collision Course, with a special features presentation by the director of the film— Galen Chu. It was really cool to hear about the character and scene development process straight from the director’s mouth.

Ice Age: Collision Course at the Discovery Cube

We got to watch some deleted scenes, as well as hear about all of the research they did on space for the film, how they created their color concepts, etc.

Next, we got to practice drawing Scrat and other characters ourselves, with the help of Story Artist Jony Chandra.

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I doubt Galen Chu will be knocking on my door anytime soon to replace Jony Chandra as a story artist, but my Scrat didn’t turn out too bad!

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The final stretch of the presentation was a real world look at how “Scrat’s antics” impacted the space world that we know today. UCLA professor Abby Kavner passed around various rocks for us to touch and feel, including the oldest known space rocks to date.

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After the presentation, we got a chance to see the science behind the inspiration for the film, in various exhibits throughout the cube. Our guide Cassie, showed Declan how to launch a mission into space.

Ice Age: Collision Course at the Discovery Cube

We explored weather patterns, relived catastrophic earthquakes, and observed how our earth is predicted to look years into the future at the Planetary Research Station— seeing the science behind the phenomenons the Ice Age: Collision Course bunch deal with in the movie.

And we got to learn about the Science of Hockey, which is the gangs favorite pass time in the movie.

© 2016 FOX. All Rights Reserved.

Ice Age: Collision Course at the Discovery Cube

I love how the Discovery Cube’s exhibits give a deeper look into the world of this film. Teaching kids to connect something fun they see in a movie to science is such a great way to get them excited about learning.

Ice Age: Collision Course at the Discovery Cube

The kids were WIPED OUT at the end of the day from so much fun, which was an added bonus!

Thank you to Discovery Cube OC for hosting such a wonderful event. They gifted us with the new Ice Age: Collision Course DVD, and we popped it in the moment we got home. As we watched, we reminded Declan of the exhibits we had visited as they applied to the scenes, and he LOVED it!

Such a fun day and such a great movie. Make sure to check out these awesome exhibits along with many others at Discovery Cube OC, and don’t forget to grab a copy of the new Ice Age movie, which is available on DVD tomorrow!

© 2016 FOX. All Rights Reserved.

With New Heroes, Worlds and Adventures Available October 11 on Blu-rayTM, DVD, and 4K Ultra HD Disc

ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE

Your favorite ICE AGE heroes are back and cooler than ever in this all-new adventure! Scrat’s epic pursuit of the elusive acorn accidently triggers cosmic events that threaten the ICE AGE world. Now Buck, Manny, Ellie, Sid, Diego and the rest of the herd must work together on a hilarious journey filled with nonstop action and colorful new characters in order to survive the global Scrat-tastrophe!

ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE Blu-rayTM & DVD Special Features Include:

• Featurettes

o “Scrat: Spaced Out Mini-Movie”
o “Ice Age: The Story So Far”
o “Scratasia: Scrat’s Solo Adventures”
o “Mysteries of the Scratazons”
o “Star Signs of the Animal Kingdom”
o “The Science of It All: deGrasse Tyson deBunks” o “Figaro Sing-along”

• Gallery (12 images)

 

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The Fragility of Motherhood

The Fragility of Motherhood

“Have I ever cleaned this window in the three years we have lived here?”

It’s the thought that surfaced over a sea of trembling ones as I stood in front of my kitchen sink. I had pulled a carton of grapes out of the fridge to clean, and as the water trickled down their skin I ran my fingers across the stems and thought about that window. I traced each water spot with my mind— wondering which meal preparation or scurried bottle cleaning they came from. Three years of memories had built up in that dirty window. Three years of motherhood and three years of filth— they all came rushing through me as I memorized the pattern of splatter and dust on that kitchen window.

It’s remarkable, isn’t it? The built-in diversion mode that our brains switch on to help us cope with trauma. My trauma in that moment at the kitchen window, was a phone call I had received an hour prior. A phone call that said I may have cancer. And so, my brain— being the clever girl she is, decided to shift my focus to that dirty window of a home full of memories. And in that moment, I felt the full fragility of motherhood.

There is something so vulnerable about being a mother.

When I was younger I felt fearless, invincible— immortal even. It seemed as if things could only graze me, at best. I didn’t fear danger, or life, or death. I just lived. I jumped out of airplanes and drove my car way too fast and slept alone at the beach without telling a soul where I had gone. I can’t say that motherhood changes everyone, but it certainly changed me. Still, I had never fully felt the weight of this change until I received that call. Suddenly I was painfully afraid of death, I was achingly afraid of leaving my children behind.

I spent the next two weeks in a silent panic. It wasn’t the cancer itself that scared me. It wasn’t the idea of chemo or radiation or even dying— though they all crossed my mind. What kept me awake in fear every night, were the people lying right beside me. The idea that my life could end and I would never get to see theirs blossom, was soul crushing. I thought of the people my body would be letting down, like my mom— who is supposed to (potentially) receive a kidney from me in the next year. Would she end up on the donor list for the rest of her life because my body had failed her? I thought of my husband and the tragedy his heart has had to endure. Would he be able to handle this blow?  And my boys— my sweet sweet boys. How would their rambunctious, young hearts be able to grasp that mommy was too sick to play with them every day?

I walked into the hospital and made my way to Radiology alone on Tuesday. Only four people in my life knew I was there. Out of those four, only one knew just how terrified I was. My family was comforted by the odds, but numbers didn’t mean anything to me because I had been that 1 in 10,000 before— I had watched the odds crumble all around me on more than one occasion. I checked in at the front desk and went to text my husband who was out of town, but there was zero cell reception. That’s when I realized I really was doing this alone.

As I walked down the long empty hallway, I thought about how many other mothers had made the same walk of fear as me. I thought of my own mother, and the walks she’s made—from kidney disease to cancer to heart problems. And for a moment, I felt like I knew just how she may have felt when she made her first walk down a long, empty hospital hallway like that one— awaiting a test that would determine whether or not she would get to watch her children grow old. After two exams, the radiologist came in to see me. When they brought me in for the “we need an even closer look” ultrasound after the initial look, my eyes welled up with tears. I prepared my heart for the worst, so when the radiologist opened his mouth to give me a clean bill of health, it took me a moment to process it. He must have noticed my daze, because he repeated the sentence and asked me if I had any questions. That was when it finally registered, and I thanked him for the wonderful news and left.

As I walked out of that hospital building, I felt the weight of two weeks of built up fear flush out of me. I sobbed tears of relief on the steering wheel of my car and grabbed my phone to text Derek. The cell reception was back, and on my lock screen was a message from him that had been sent while I was in the appointment:

“I’m here. Not leaving you.”

 
Those words ran through my veins and breathed life into me again. I looked at my home screen and whispered to those two little boys who grace the background of it:

“I’m here. Not leaving you.”

When I got home, my mom greeted me and I embraced her in a long hug. I knew that she knew better than anyone, the feelings I had been wrestling leading up to this, and I also knew that she needed that hug almost as much as I did. It was a glimpse into the fragility of motherhood my own mom feels every single day. And as she walked away to grab a glass of water, I whispered quietly to her:

“I’m here. Not leaving you.”

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Guest Post: How To Help Children with Sensitive Skin Handle Common Warm Weather Irritations

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Though summertime may be coming to a close, many regions throughout the U.S. will continue to experience warm weather and the skin irritations that come with it. Many of us have experienced the itchiness of dry skin and bug bites, and the pain of blistering and peeling sunburns. It’s important that everyone take precautions for their skin, but it’s especially crucial to keep babies and children safe from these unpleasant conditions. To keep the rest of the season fun for all, here are some tips you should consider.

Safeguard from Sun and Chlorine

The sun can do considerable damage to a child’s skin, but there are some quick and easy tips you can take to lower the possibility of any damage to that delicate skin. Try to keep your child out of direct sunlight. The shade is definitely your friend; find it as often as possible.

Wide-brimmed hats are a great way to keep the sun off your child’s face and neck. And don’t forget about your child’s eyes. Keep them protected with sunglasses, a definite must-have. And of course, don’t forget sunscreen. Be sure to test any new sunscreen on a small area of your child’s body to be sure there isn’t an allergic reaction (their back is a great spot).

Your youngster’s skin can become dry and itchy after taking a dip in the pool. Dry skin (and hair) will soak up more of the chlorinated water found in many swimming pools, so always rinse your child off before pool time. Rinsing off after playing in the pool is also a requisite to avoid dry, itchy skin. One essential way to protect your child’s skin is to make sure the pools they’re swimming in have the proper levels of pool chemicals. Check your own regularly and ask what levels are maintained at your local public pool (if that’s where you’ll be spending most of your swim time).

Bug Bites

Buzzing bugs are a major annoyance, and the bites they leave behind can be painfully unpleasant. To help avoid these troublesome bug bites, dress your child in light-colored clothing, which will help you see and remove some of those aggravating pests. Avoid scented soaps as well; they will, without a doubt, attract the bugs.

Dry Skin Protection

One general tip for avoiding dry skin is to make your child’s bath time shorter. It’s also a good idea to use fragrance-free, soap-free cleanser, as fragrances and soap can be irritating to your child’s skin. A thick moisturizer is also a great way to prevent dry, flaky skin. And always be sure your child is drinking plenty of water; staying hydrated is key on sweltering days.

An Enjoyable, Worry-Free Summer

Summer time should equal fun times and fond memories. To have these happy, long-lasting memories, it’s important to keep everyone safe and healthy. Some of the biggest spoilers for warm weather include sunburns, dry skin, and bug bites. These essential tips for skin safety will keep your child’s sensitive skin problem-free.

Sean Morris is a former social worker turned stay-at-home dad. He knows what it’s like to juggle family and career. He did it for years until deciding to become a stay-at-home dad after the birth of his son. Though he loved his career in social work, he has found this additional time with his kids to be the most rewarding experience of his life. He began writing for LearnFit.org to share his experiences and to help guide anyone struggling to find the best path for their life, career, and/or family.

Image via Pixabay by Pexels

#DadLife

#dadlife

4:19 a.m.

“Dadda, you gotta snuggles me.”

Ten minutes pass, or at least what feels like ten minutes. Who really knows/or is brave enough to open their eyes and accidentally make eye contact.

“Dadda I gotta go pee pee on da potty. You don’t come.”

Twelve footsteps down the hall and 8 seconds pass.

“Dadda you come help. DADDA YOU HELP ME!”

In a whisper, “ok ok buddy. Be quiet. Momma and Benny boo are sleeping.”

I tip toe out of the room and down the hall to find Declan doing his best to make his “pee pee” into the toilet.

His best, of course, results with half in the bowl and half on his undies, still around his little ankles.

“Dadda you help me?”

“Sure thing buddy.”

I help get him dressed into something a little more…well…less covered in “pee pee”.

Once dressed, he bolts to the couch and demands one of his three rotational shows.

This is how our days start. A bonding moment of father and son just trying to master what so many of us take for granted. An early morning rise of excitement from one, and a sleepy eyed might-as-well-embrace-it attitude from another.

“Ok buddy, dada is gonna take a shower. You stay here and let me know if you need anything.”

Step into shower to hopefully wash away the sleepies and get my day going right.

“Ouch what the $%^& son of a B%^&* WHY ARE THERE LEGOS IN THE SHOWERRRRR!”

Don’t worry that is uttered under my breath and only screamed within my own head…most of the time.

As I kick the toys in the shower to the corner, I soak my head and pray daily.

I pray for a lot of things.

I reflect about a lot of things.

And I try to be grateful for the throbbing pain in my foot from that damn Red Lego still in our shower.

I am grateful for being a dad.

Some people can say what they have always dreamed of becoming.

I wanted to be a Dr., until I was told I wasn’t smart enough.

I wanted to be an architect, until I was told how much school would cost.

I wanted to be an FBI agent, until I watched Silence of the Lambs.

But of all my wants I have always known I NEED to be a dadda.

From a very young age, I dreamed of having a family.

Having kids and being a part of their lives.

One could assume it was a way to deal with my own abandonment issues.

But I simply do not think that’s the case. My father was never around, but I still had an awesome dad who taught me how to ride a bike, catch, play Horse, and that even men cry.

My mom stepped in as a father figure too. She went to every game and yelled at the refs. She didn’t baby me when I fell off my bike, and most importantly, she trusted me to make right decisions. Even when I made the wrong ones she was there on my side.

Back to being a dadda…

It was ingrained into me. The thought of someone being a part of me who can ultimately surpass me in every way, excites me.

These two little monsters that are so incredibly different can be the absolute best of me in so many incredible ways.

They make the stepping on the Green Lego so worth it.

3:09 p.m.

Park in the driveway. Lock car. Walk to front door. Keys out. Rattling door handle to unlock.

“Benny Benny Boo Boo whatcha doing!!!”

My excitement to see my boys fills the air and in return I get the Wyatt Earp waddle as fast as he can coming towards me and a hit or miss three year old who can’t wait to tell me about his oh so busy day.

(By busy I mean 8 hours of figuring out every button momma has and how to push them).

It’s these moments that make the Yellow Lego so worth it.

 

5:15 p.m.

It’s become abundantly clear that bath time is guy’s time.

Momma can now start to unwind and start dinner while Dadda gaffles up the troops and gets the water going.

“Declan do you want bubbles?”

“No dada no bubbles. I want to take a baff too!”

After the water has filled, the turbulence has settled, and without skipping a beat.

“Dadda I want bubbles. Please dada Bennett wants bubbles too.”

Palm on forehead.

“Declan its too late for bubbles now. I asked you and you said no bubbles. Maybe tomorrow, okay?”

This is where I tense up and I squint one eye.

Is he going to say “ok” or is he going to throw a fit over bubbles he will no doubt want me to rid of after they have been made?

“Okay, dada.”

The bath is a neutral zone for our boys. This is where they understand it’s an even playing field.

They laugh and play innocently, as little naked monsters do.

The interaction between these two growing brothers alone makes stepping on the Blue Lego, so worth it.

6:30 p.m.

The time we all have been waiting for:

BED TIME!

I think it’s this moment most parents can relate to.

It’s the time of day where the kids go to bed and the parents can finally be whatever they damn well want to be.

For Andrea and I, it’s usually some kind of Netflix binge with a glass or three of wine.

We may play cards on the back deck, go in the hot tub, or play some nostalgic video games.

(She has gotten better at Mario Kart)

But first, it’s the struggle snuggle of getting the boys to bed.

This nightly routine may be odd for some and may very well be normal for others.

We understand each family has their own routine of what works and what is acceptable to one family may be bonkers to another.

Ours plays out like this.

Andrea and I alternate nights on putting boys to bed.

On my night, I have Bennett in one “nest” (armpit area cradling) and Declan in the other.

Declan typically has a toy in his hand and his Goofy in his “nest”.

Bennett of course, is guzzling a bottle to ensure he gets a second one if he finishes before his second wind.

We wind down with an episode of Mickey or Hugglemonsters.

Around 7:00 or 7:30 they boys begin their sleepy eyed descent.

And my night ends as the day began, all over again.

“Dadda you gotta snuggles me.”

I gladly accept his request.

9:15 p.m.

It doesn’t matter what time we go to bed. It can be 9:00 p.m. or midnight, we know Declan will be waking us up before the sun comes up.

So we typically try to be in bed earlier than later.

Our routine works for us.

Even if it does come with an eye roll because I forgot to bring in towels after locking the house up.

Before getting into bed, I transfer Declan to his own bed. I tuck him in and give him a kiss on his forehead.

After all, it’s moments like this that won’t last forever.

I go to get back into bed and pray that my side of the bed is dry.

From what you may ask?

Sadly, two things I must check, as they are my children and being sweaty is a common male trait for our family.

The other…well you guessed it.

“Pee pee”.

It/s not every night or even a regular occurrence, but I do occasionally win the “pee pee” lottery.

9:18 p.m.

Changing the sheets in the dark, I can only imagine, is part of ancient Ninja training. I have mastered it.

Fear me as I fear my side of the bed having a rather large urine soaked wet spot.

2:26 a.m.

Around this time on occasion, Declan climbs over me and once again requests:

“Snuggie me dadda.”

And even at the ungodly hour in the early A.M., it’s moments like this that make stepping on that Red, Green, Yellow, and even the Blue Lego, so worth it.

We get one shot with each of these young people who we are trusted to help develop. I don’t plan on squandering my shot. Through all the snot, the tantrums over simple requests, and the throbbing pain Legos may cause— being a dad is simply the best.

It may not define me, but one day I can imagine it being my greatest accomplishment.

4:22 a.m.

I am blessed to wake up this day and be there for my sons. I wake up knowing I have an example to set. To show these boys love and affection they both so crave and deserve. But at the same time, show a strong presence that they can look up to and desire to become.

Who knows— today, maybe I will pick up the Legos.

Just kidding. It’s 4:22 a.m. and I have more than likely put my polo on inside out again.

True story.

dada

 

Neverland Themed First Birthday Party

Neverland First Birthday Party

I’m finally done throwing parties this summer— yay me!

Who am I kidding? I LOVE throwing parties.

But, I HATE the heat.

And lately, I’ve been feeling like Hansel and Gretel stuffed in the witches oven that is California.

I mean, no one in their right mind would throw an outdoor party in this disgusting weather, right? But I am not of sound mind, and so I was like:

Yeah, it’ll totally be cool to do both of the boy’s parties at home this year in the middle of summer!

Wellllllll, nobody died of heat exhaustion, so I guess I’ll call it a win. But I’m definitely looking into indoor options next year if it’s anywhere close to the same kind of weather.

Anyway, as I said in my post about How To Throw The Perfect Bachelorette Party, I’ve been super into creating my own invitations/printables.

All Children, Except One, Grow Up

This is what I created for B’s party, and I absolutely loved it.

For the party itself, I kept it really mellow. Since Declan and Bennett’s bedroom is already Neverland themed, I literally just pulled things from their room to use as decor. Theming your child’s birthday party to match their room theme? PURE GENIUS! Not having to really buy any decorations allowed us to save a ton of money, which was awesome.

Neverland First Birthday Party

Neverland First Birthday Party

A fallen tree branch I found up at our family cabin, some twine, and a few feathers was all it took to recreate the branch on the invitations in real life.

Theming your child's birthday party to match their room theme? PURE GENIUS! Not having to really buy any decorations allowed us to save a ton of money, which was awesome.

I also used some of those feathers and twine, along with clothespins, to make a “banner” for the food table. Again, super easy and cheap. All I did was pin the feathers and twine together and tape the clothespins to the table for added support.

Neverland First Birthday Party

We had chairs and a table set up for people to sit at (which P.S. NOBODY sat at) but since this was a one year old’s party, I really wanted a seating area that was kid friendly. Derek has oodles and oodles of pallets at his work, so I had him bring a few home and we set up a fun little table area for the little ones to eat and do crafts at.

Dollar store vases, baby’s breath, and SURPRISE! more feathers, rounded out the look.

Neverland First Birthday Party

Neverland First Birthday Party

Neverland First Birthday Party

Food was super casual as well.

Meatball sliders, salad, fruit cups, “Pixie Popcorn”, and some gold dusted Oreos— made to look like pirates booty.

Neverland First Birthday Party

Neverland First Birthday Party

And since my sweet birthday boy isn’t really into sweets, I decided to make him a macaroni and cheese “cake”.

Neverland First Birthday Party

He didn’t eat— probably because it was super hot and he just wanted to play— but I still love the fact that we have the forever memory of his first birthday cake being something that was just so totally him.

Neverland First Birthday Party

It was such a fun party, humidity and all, and it was awesome being able to throw everything together with such minimal costs.

What is your favorite party theme for a one year old? I’d love to hear from you!

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