Mother’s Day Gift Giving Tips

With Mother’s Day around the corner, I thought I would share my gift giving tips.

Let’s start with the ground rules:

  • You are NOT buying for yourself (This is perhaps the most common mistake). Just because you love something, doesn’t mean the other person is going to.  For example, my mom and I have an allergy to fragrances, and so when buying for my mom I avoid anything scented.
  • ALWAYS give a gift receipt. You are setting you both up for failure if you don’t. Let’s be honest, how many times have you tried on something in your normal size from one of your favorite stores, to find that you need to go up or down a size.  Don’t make the person have to ask or explain.

Now it is time to get down to picking a gift.  Don’t forget to check my Pinterest site for more ideas.

  • Just because you love a store, doesn’t mean the other person does.  Or it doesn’t mean one size fits all or one style fits all. If someone has told you they don’t like a certain store, then don’t shop there.  This goes along with #1.  You aren’t buying for you.  You probably asked them about something they have worn or used in their home, go to that store.
  • If you are unsure of size, then pick something where size doesn’t matter. A beautiful ruana or scarf is a nice treat.  A nice billfold or bag for their purse is another great treat.  It is almost beach season, so a cute beach bag with a new beach towel could be a nice surprise.
  • Don’t be afraid of gift cards. If you want it to feel more personal, make it for having photos printed or for some pampering at a spa.  Something they wouldn’t treat themselves to normally.
  • Time is a great gift. Because I live out-of-town, my mom and I don’t get nearly enough time together.  Setting up a time for lunch and catching up can be an even better gift than a new sweater.
  • The best gift is always making sure the person knows how much you appreciate them. Take time to pick out a great card and make sure and put a note in addition to your signature.
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As Seen on Today Parenting: 2016 The Year of Southern Hospitality (Starting with our Children)

At the Style household we have committed that 2016 will be our year of demonstrating Southern Hospitality in our home, work, and community. To kick of this resolution, we are teaching our children what this idea of Southern Hospitality means.

At its purest intention we believe Southern Hospitality embraces four key concepts.

  • Welcoming – Making people feel noticed and greeted in a friendly way. For this Winter, our kindergartener is challenged with seeking out someone at school who is alone in the cafeteria or on the playground and making them feel “welcome”. Our 2 year old is challenged with making a new friend at her tumble class. Mr. Style and I are each inviting a new family in our neighborhood or at work over for dinner each month.
  • Demonstrating Kindness – We are going to spend this Spring focusing on kind words. Each day we are going to begin with a compliment to each other and each day we are tasked with giving a compliment to someone we come across at school or work or in the community.
  • Giving – We are going to spend this Summer giving back to our community. Each month we will pick a different service project that includes something each of the children can help with, and work together to give of our time and talents.
  • Being Respectful – We believe that respect flows out of being truly thankful. We are going to spend the Fall picking something each day to be thankful for and at the end of each day, journaling the reasons why we are thankful for that person, place, or thing. During the holidays, we will revisit what we wrote about and reflect on our blessings.
    December will be the culmination of our focus on Southern hospitality. We plan to use the month to assess how well we as a family progressed on the 4 key areas. We also plan to host several events at the house where we can truly practice our improved sense of Southern Hospitality.

This is not a tradition or something we have tried before. Our experiment in Southern Hospitality, as a family endeavor, will mean all the things I love most about our foursome – quality time, sharing and learning together. Look for updates throughout the year on how the Style family is really doing on our new year’s resolution here.

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The Working Mom’s Guide to the Holiday Dash

Hello November …. Or as I like to call it the Mad Dash between Halloween and Christmas.  So here we go – My tips for surviving the Holiday Dash.

Dinner: This time of year is all about soups, stews and chilis.  I make a lot and it gets me 3 dinners out of the week.  My recipes are on my Pinterest page, but I always double cook on Sunday.  I make dinner with leftovers for Tuesday and I cook another soup, stew, chili to get me Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  Fridays are pizza or popcorn movie night.

Thanksgiving Food: For my newlywed followers, don’t do the crazy recipe for your in-laws.  Trust me, I made chocolate soup pie one year (that is not what it was supposed to be – I felt like Bridget Jones with her blue soup) and I stressed myself out.  Go with what you are good at.  For those of us who are more seasoned and are wrangling the little ones, go with what you really have time for – not in the perfect world if all the stars and moons line up.  Don’t beat yourself up if that is a store-bought something.  Last year, I did not have time to bake a cake for Thanksgiving and I picked one up at Whole Foods.  The lack of stress was worth every penny.

Kids and Eating with Family: I always make my contribution something I know that my kids will eat, especially at the more extended family events.

The Shopping:  I start stashing for Christmas now.  As I see things on my weekly Target run that I think will make a good stocking stuffers, I go ahead and pick it up.  Anytime, I am at a store, I think about Christmas.  Hubby and I do this as a fun date night during the week when the stores are less crowded.  We pick a day and meet after work for dinner and shopping.  We have another couple that we swap sitting for – we do the same for them the next week.

Money Saving Tip:  Watch Amazon’s pre-black Friday deals.  Use Target’s Cartwheel with their weekly ad to maximize savings.

The Elf: We do elf, but I do EASY elf.  I schedule them on my work calendar that syncs with my phone.  I do the “harder” things on the weekend and give them easy tasks during the week. Mine hangs out in shoes and coats, visit the bathroom with the toothbrush (see EASY and promoting good hygiene).  On the weekends we do the really cute stuff like a marshmallow bath, bringing cookie cutters, pancakes, and mine come with Swiffer rockets to encourage the children to help me clean.

Summary: Just have FUN and plan ahead so you can have FUN.  Don’t forget to check my Pinterest site to view my recipes and ideas for the Holidays.

 

Please send all questions, comments, concerns or issues to southernservicestyle@gmail.com

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The Working Mom’s Guide to Halloween

It’s October … I know … I feel like it was just summer.  And with kids, it is all about Halloween.  So here are some of the ways I manage Halloween.  Check out my Pinterest page for even more ideas, and for pictures of the items mentioned.

The Clothes: I bought my daughters from the Disney at JC Penny and got the dress a lot cheaper than the Disney Store.  My son is Captain America from Amazon Prime.  You still have time, Amazon Prime ships in 2 days.

Money Saving Tips:  I like things that do double duty and can be worn, again.  My son was a superhero one year and I bought long john pajamas that looked like a super hero shirt with a graphic belt and then ordered him a really cute cape and some moccasin socks from Hanna Anderson (I bought red to use for Christmas)

The School Party: Thankfully most schools want you to buy things premade to avoid any allergy problems.  When you make your weekly shopping trip pick up something easy like Smartpop Popcorn in individual bags.  There are 12 to a bag.  Or order from Amazon Prime.

The Candy: If you are worried about being allergy friendly, get toys.  You can get 156 piece assortment of Halloween stuff for $21.57 on Amazon right now.  I actually wait until the day before to buy candy because I don’t want to spend the next few weeks eating it.

The Pumpkin:  Several years ago, I invested in a plastic pumpkin that has a carved face and a plug-in light from Target.  I now can put it out on October 1 and look “together”.  We do still buy pumpkins, but it is whenever we get around to it.  We went this past weekend because it was pretty and we actually had time to enjoy the pumpkin patch.  FYI, the grocery store sells pumpkins and they work just as well.

Money Saving Tip: We printed a superhero carving pattern off of Pinterest instead of paying $10 for the patter and cheap tool set at the store.

Be the Fun Mom: I dress up.  I don’t care what the other moms do.  Last year, we were the Batman and Robin Family.  I wore a batgirl t-shirt. My baby was dressed as batgirl.  My husband wore a batman shirt and our son was Robin.  This year, we are less coordinated with the Princess and Captain America.  I have an orange witch hat and I wear all black and carry a broom.  I think it is important to show our kids that we can have fun with them.

Summary: Just have FUN and plan ahead so you can have FUN.

 

Please send all questions, comments, concerns or issues to southernservicestyle@gmail.com

 

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The Working Mom’s Guide to Exercise – Yes You Do Have Time

Trust me, I know it is hard to make the time and you are going to have to change some things, but working out is something you deserve.  It will give you more energy, improve your mood, and you will get better quality sleep because you are working out.

Step 1: Make Time in Your Schedule (Stop laughing … I am going to help you with some ideas)

  • Does your child have an evening practice of some kind that you attend?  PERFECT (Take your workout clothes with you and WALK/RUN or take your bicycle and buy a stationary trainer for it and ride while your child is practicing) My son has soccer two nights a week,  I keep my Jogging Stroller and a bag with workout clothes and I walk/run with the baby while my son practices soccer.  I eat a banana on the way and the baby eats while we walk.  Guess what – now you have at least 2 – 30+ minute workout sessions a week.
  • For those of you that alternate nights for bath/bed time with your partner (Check out my post here), then guess what – that is 30+minutes that can be used for yoga or a walk
  • Get up 35 minutes earlier a few mornings a week (be realistic and start with 2 mornings then when you feel good about it add a 3rd). I also do this.  I have early meetings the other two mornings – so I just get up at the same time all 5 days and workout the mornings I can.
  • On the weekend, do something active as a family – if you go swimming, include some water aerobics with the kids (they will think it is AWESOME and FUNNY); go hiking, ride bikes, or just go for a walk (it doesn’t have to be hard – just MOVE).

Step 2: Do Something You Enjoy

  • I love to dance, so I do dance cardio (with a DVD) – I like Tracy Anderson because she doesn’t talk a lot and you can turn off her music and use your own tunes.
  • I have friends who love basketball and play on a league and they also found they like strength training DVDs that include a weighted ball (there are lots of choices – go find something you like)
  • If you like to run, run

Step 3: Find an Accountability Partner

  • This is the hardest thing on my list. Style is mine.  We don’t work out together, but we make it so the other one can work out and we give each other grief when we don’t work out.
  • We also have a competition. We set easy goals – sometimes they are weight based and sometimes they are just about meeting your workout commitment (The reward/punishment – can be having a mommy day or in our case – Mr. Style just painted our Dining Room)

Step 4: Set Realistic Goals/Rewards/Milestones

  • Post baby, my goal was to fit back in my old clothes and to not have to buy new clothes
  • Your goal can be to have more energy

The biggest mistake people make is missing a day or two and then quitting.  You DESERVE to work out for you, and life will get in the way (whether it is a late meeting or a sick baby) … but that doesn’t mean stop – it means you take a few days off and then START back.

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The First Day of School Fears: What I learned from years of “First days”

I am the product of many big first days of school.  I had the privilege of moving with my family quite a few times as a child, so I can remember almost every first day. I am hoping all this “personal growth” as a child has paid off as I prepare to send my first child off to kindergarten. Here is my advice to him that could be helpful to you and your child as you buy that new backpack and prepare to pack the first lunch:

  1. Being scared is normal.
    1. “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”–Eleanor Roosevelt
    2. They are scared, too. It is everyone’s first day when you start Kindergarten, so you know everyone is in the same boat. Look for people who want to paddle with you in that boat, and you will likely find at least one person to call a “friend” for the year.
  2. Some of these strangers will be your friends in a few days/weeks
    1. The best way to make new friends is to be a good friend. This is just like your little sister trying new things – if he/she looks scared, say something kind and you will get off to a great start.
    2. As you learn your new friends names learn what they like and dislike and tell them what you like and dislike to find common interests. Chances are they like the same book, food or game you do.
  3. Ask if you can join kids playing
    1. Most of the time they will say, “yes.”
    2. If they say, “no” – there is a whole class of other friends to play with, look for the person who may also be standing without a group. Remember the “ask what they like” idea, and see what you both like to do when the class gets to go outside.
  4. Smile and Make Eye Contact. It makes people feel good when they feel like they can talk to you.
  5. We all have a bad day, so if someone isn’t nice they might just be having a bad day. Changes are always hard on the first day, but soon it will become routine for you and that person who likely is just trying to tackle first day jitters.
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Confessions: Working Mom and Sick Kids

We had a summer virus make it’s way through our house last week, and it inspired my confession this week. Sick kids create stress and guilt both at home and work. Other moms and I talk about this and try to find ways to survive the sweeping sicknesses in our house. Here are some tips to help weather the storm of sickness:

Work Out a System with Your Spouse   – Mr. Southern and I do our best to take turns.  We established this on a date night (a night when we were both rested and relaxed to have an open dialogue without accusations of who was doing more).  We came up with the understanding that sometimes we have things at work we can’t miss regardless of whose turn it is.  In this case, it was actually my turn to take the first day – but I was in a meeting and couldn’t leave to pick up Little Southern, so he covered and I worked from home the next day.

Develop a Support System – Sometimes you have to ask for help.  We have a wonderful neighbor that if I am really in a pinch will come watch the baby while I do a conference call or run to the store.  We also have other working-parent friends whose children go to school with ours and are willing to pick up and drop off when we need the help.  Finally, our back-up plan is our very kind family who will make the trip in a pinch to help us out.

Communicate with Work – Mr. Southern and I are always up front with our leadership at work that we both have management jobs and that we have to pitch in when something like this happens. I find that setting this expectation makes it easier when it happens. However, if you tell them you are going to be working from home, give them tangible results. For instance, I always try to return to work with some tangible product or task completed, like actively participating in a conference call.

See if you can Bring Them With You – I have a private office, and it is okay if I bring the oldest one with me for a few hours to make a meeting.  I give him a tablet with a movie and headphones or I bring crayons and coloring books, and snacks.  This is great for those 24 hours windows where they are almost fever free but can not go back to school until the time has expired. This is also super for those times when they are actually better after a good night’s rest or if they have been sick most of the week and you hate to ruin it by taking them back on a Friday.

Work When You are Under the Weather – This is the one area as a manager that I appreciate.  If I am going to miss work for my kids, I am going to avoid calling out for myself.  Essentially, if I can get up and get dressed and won’t infect my team, I am going in to the office. I may not make it all day, but I make the effort.  I assure you leadership appreciates the fact that I minimize my time out as much as possible.

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Ask Southern: Busy Working Mom Dinners

I have received several requests for ideas for weeknight dinners and what we do.  So – here you go.  Also, all of these and more are on my Pinterest page.

  1. Sunday Night Prep Chicken – While I am cooking Sunday dinner I take 2 lbs of chicken (breasts, tenders, whatever floats your boat) and I put them in my 9×13 Pyrex dish that came with a lid and I either add some chicken stock to the bottom with some seasoning or I dump whatever salad dressing floats my boat on it and I bake them at 350 for 20 to 45 minutes depending on thickness. I then let them cool while we eat and put the lid on and Voila – chicken for Monday, Wednesday and maybe Thursday
    1. Boxed mixed Green Salad – I add fruit nuts and some cheese with the chicken
    2. Roast vegetables – our current favorite is roasting halved grape tomatoes with broccoli, then add feta and a dash of Italian vinaigrette
    3. Leftover sweet potatoes mashed and warmed with a drizzle of maple syrup
  2. Rotisserie chicken (I do this for the Sundays I didn’t have time to cook) – this makes great wraps
    1. I chop and mix with black beans,corn, rotel – you can use the mixture in tortillas on salads or on chips
    2. I also do the fruit lettuce wraps.
  3. Southwestern Turkey Burgers on the stove top. I add diced jalapeno and a dash of Worcestershire for some kick and cook with the lid on and serve on whole wheat buns with avocado and pepper jack cheese.
    1. I buy Alexia sweet potato fries and bake while I am prepping and cooking
  4. Ground turkey Asian Lettuce Wraps are also a huge hit. I double the recipe so we can have it twice and have lunch leftovers for Mr. Style.
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Because We Love You: Teaching Your Children a Work Ethic

Mr. Style and I had a discussion about how our parents instilled our work ethic.  His dad used to say, “I am doing this because I love you.”  And as much as my children are going to hate this, here are the things that we are going to do … because we love them:

  1. You will have chores. You will be expected to not only pick up after you eat, keep your room and play areas clean, but you will help clean your bathroom, and help with cleaning the house. (secretly, I am hoping cleaning the toilet will teach my son to have much better aim)  This will teach you that there is no magic fairy and if you make a mess, you own it.
  2. When you are old enough, you will baby sit or volunteer working with young children. You need to appreciate what it is like to take care of another human being.
  3. We will volunteer as a family. We are blessed in so many ways, and I want you to appreciate what we have. I also want you to work in a setting outside our home to see how mom and dad give 100% to each thing they do.
  4. You will have an allowance, and a savings account. We want you to learn what money is and how it works.
  5. You will have a job for school breaks. I don’t care that your friends are spending their summer sleeping in, and going to the pool.  Your daddy and I both worked, and I promise you will thank us one day.
  6. You will not be allowed to quit a team or activity mid-year. I am sorry you don’t like the coach or teacher or some of your peers, but guess what … one day you will probably have a boss or work peers you don’t like.  I do promise to listen to your frustrations, and to give you some tools for dealing with it.
  7. I also promise that every moment you are miserable in any of these activities that it will break my heart. However, I promise that one day, you will realize we did this because “we love you to the moon and back”
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How Does a Working Mom Stop Rushing Her Children in the Morning?

First, since this is in confessions …. I am a Type A mom who happens to have a demanding job and I struggle with rushing my children.

So here are my tips on how I try to reduce the morning push / pull in my house.

  1. Sleep is Key. This means be realistic about bedtime.
    1. Kids: For the baby this is 11 hours before I need her to get up. For my son this is a ½ hour less.  Nap time for both of them effects this time as well.  For my son (if he took a nap, he can stay up a little later).  I know this is hard, because you feel so limited in your evening time with them.
    2. Me: This also means for you. I shoot for 7 hours, and know that I will probably get 6, and yes that means one more load of laundry doesn’t get done and that the baseboards in my house are just going to be dusty and I didn’t really want clean windows.  And sometimes it means that
  2. Wake Up Time Should Include Some Me Time for Everyone
    1. Kids: Both my children want time to wake up slowly and they both want time to run and be silly for about 5 to 10 minutes before they eat breakfast. I wake them up 45 minutes before we have to leave.   While they are waking up, I put away their laundry that I did after they went to bed.
    2. Me: I find that I do best if I have time to work out. It helps me wake up and puts me in the right mind-set.  I do chores for the day while I cool down before showering. (Putting the cold lunch stuff in the coolers, and add to the backpacks, I load my car, and I put away dishes that washed the night before)  This is my protected time.  Style will take care of any kid issues during this time.
  3. Give Yourself Time for the Unexpected. For example, they day the baby has a blowout when you are putting her in the car seat and you have to go back in and change her and set clothing to soak.  (Confession: That was this morning, and I found myself being angry with the baby, but it wasn’t her fault … it was my fault, I hadn’t allowed enough time.  As soon as that thought hit me, she stopped crying and we had fun as we laughed about her need for new clothes and “stinky, stinky pants” which she seems to find incredibly funny as she waves her hand in front of her nose.)
  4. Prepare the Night/Weekend Before
    1. Weekend: On the weekends, I make my mason jar salads and overnight oats for the week. I start the bento boxes for the kids for the week – the meat and cheese can be packed early.  The fruit and veggies are the night before items.  I also pack up for the baby’s sitter for the week. I plan everyone’s outfits for the week (including mine)
    2. Night: I finish the bento boxes for the kids by adding the fruit and veggies, Backpacks are laid out by the door with shoes and coats, Clothes are laid out (which is easy – since I planned at the beginning of the week)
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