Saturday, December 14, 2013

Long Road Trips With Kids!

In the December issue of San Joaquin Lifestyles Magazine I wrote a column that 1) discussed needing to get a hug from my mom, and 2) provided 5 tips for how to travel long distances with kiddos. Funny thing is I wrote that article BEFORE I took my trip, so now I feel like this is a good follow-up AFTER the actual trip.  The main thing to report? The trip was a SUCCESS! 

Somewhere around mile 182 of the trip I heard my daughter say very clearly, "This is fun!"  That was a HUGE accomplishment. HUGE! HUMONGOUS HUGE!

These words came from the same mouth that for two weeks prior to the trip would make an assortment of complaints about how atrocious it is to have to go ANYWHERE by car if it meant being in the vehicle for more than 30 minutes. Hell, even 15 minutes to Lodi is torture to her!

So how was I able to do 1,181 miles? A whole lotta crazy planning - that's for sure!

FIRST -  I didn't want to hear "Are we there yet?" a gazillion times.  A few hundred times I could manage, but a gazillion and I just may have parked the car at Starbucks and drank myself into an espresso coma.

So, I made 1/2 hour tickets. Cute, colorful tickets that I put into a plastic bag. There were as many tickets as the time I estimated it would take us to get to our destination (excluding stop times).  I told Sarah that for every 30 minutes of travel time I would request a ticket. I also reminded her that she would have the power to know just how much time we would have left driving by counting tickets. 8 tickets - 4 hours - don't even need to ask me!

Did it work? YES! She actually got good about knowing what 30 minutes felt like and would offer up tickets, plus she could see the car clock. Either way, she was patient and never once did she ASK me how much longer. Instead, I heard a lot of counting from the backseat.  Her math teacher would be so proud.

SECOND - I gave her a map. The map showed our route. It showed the cities and towns we would travel through, gave an indication of the terrain. and, well, that's about it. But it was enough! The mp meant she could watch us drive to our destination and would even occasionally give me directions, "Mom, we are almost to Winnemucca."  She is such a good navigator! 

Did it work? YES! She likes to be 'in the know'. I think she also appreciates being able to teach us! It made her feel like she was part of the trip and not just a backseat passenger. The only downfall was that there really isn't a whole lot of towns traveling from Stockton, CA to Kuna, ID. I think Winnemmucca was it! Well, except for the biggest little city in the world. (PS we drove through Reno, I thought it would be fun for her and Elijah to see the lights.... I forgot about the jumbo trons full of half naked women.  Sarah said, "Mom, I think this city is inappropriate for me." YES, YES IT IS!)

THIRD - Activity box! I hit up Target for a perfect little box that was also perfect size for a lap desk. I filled it with all kind of items such as: chapstick, gum, color markers, blank paper, drawing tutorials, word finds, 2 books, notepad, coin purse (with money!), nail stickers, and a few other things she could play with. 

Did it work? YES! She was in and out of that box a lot. Mostly for the gum, but for the other goodies, too. She had everything she could ask for already at her fingertips!

FOURTH - An iPad for movies, music, and apps - and headphones.  HEADPHONES ARE KEY! However, I did limit electronic time. She could not watch movies when we were traveling through cities, etc. She had to see the amazing real life movie that was passing right outside her window. Movies were for night time, music was kept to a minimum.

Did it work? YES!  Again, the headphones are key! Mr. Mom and I were able to work on our Spanish while she and my son watched Madagascar!

FIFTH - This is probably the thing I am most proud of and the item that was probably the TRIP SAVER DELUXE! I made a list of fun to-do's - all of which had points assigned to them. The more things she completed, the more points she would earn! For different point levels there were rewards! THIS WAS HUGE! She was so excited to get going on tasks and began immediately racking up points.

The idea started simple, but the more I got into making up tasks, the more I realized I could really blow this thing up by adding in things that involved the people we were traveling to visit, most of which she didn't remember or hadn't met! SO MUCH FUN! 

Did it work? RESOUNDING YES! It worked fabulously! She was completely into it for the whole trip! And not only was SHE into it, but my family joined in as well. It would be too much to explain, so instead I want to share this activity pack with you so you can see for yourself what I did, and maybe, just maybe it would be something that would work for any other moms and dads with upcoming travel plans!

Check it out HERE, along with other activities I added in for good measure and conversation.

The best parts for me were 1) I got my much needed hug and love from my mom (sister, brother, and aunts), and 2) Sarah said on the way home somewhere around Nevada "This was an awesome road trip!" My heart was full. 

Little did I know we were 1 hour and 20 minutes from our car breaking down. Despite a two hour tow adventure from hell that had both kids in full on screaming tears... Sarah STILL said it was an awesome trip. And she was right. 

If you have some traveling tips that work well for your family, please share in the comments! I know I appreciate fresh ideas and so may others! :)  Who knows, maybe your shared words will make someone's trip "over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house" a little less bumpy!


Thursday, November 21, 2013

I Need A Hug

The truth is, for whatever reason, I was sometimes a cranky, moody kid. My husband is shocked by this truth seeing as how I am nothing but joyful these days, but it’s true, as a kid… not so joyous.

Don’t get me wrong, I had lots of fun. I laughed a lot, was goofy, silly, and likeable – a lot of the time, but some of the time I would put way too much energy into fighting and arguing and being a “stinker” as my mom would say.

I don’t know all the reasons I was like that, or maybe I know a few of the reasons, but regardless of what they are, I can tell you true that every.single.time I would get grumpy it was when I needed love the most, but when I was also the most unlovable.

Fast forward 30+ years and you have my daughter Sarah. She is way more awesome than I was, but she, like me, sometimes gets a little moody – don’t we all!

The good news is that I learned a little something in all those growing up years. I learned that if I need something it is a whole lot easier if we ask for what we need instead of playing this silly game of charades with our outward behavior.

I shared this lesson in a conversation with my daughter about three years ago when we were really going through some moody spots.

I told her about me as a little girl, how I was sometimes grumpy and moody and I would drive my mom nuts with my constant arguing, fighting, and my general cantankerous self – but all I really wanted was a hug. All I really wanted was to be told that I was loveable. All I wanted was to be told that while I felt awkward and twisted I was perfect in every way. 

Sarah listened to my words while twisting the hair on her Ariel doll. I wasn’t sure she was getting it. But I kept talking anyway.

I told her that when I would get in those moods it was nearly impossible to change it on my own. I told her that with every increasing need to be hugged I would be meaner and meaner with my words until my mom just had to take a break from it all and would leave me in my room until I could talk nice, and that could take HOURS! I was stubborn, too. As a kid. Now now.
Sarah looked at me a couple times, but mostly kept twirling the flowy red hair on her mermaid.

I told Sarah that what would have been so much better if I had learned to say what I wanted instead of dragging on an argument that only hurt my mom’s feelings and hurt myself. I told Sarah that if she ever felt herself in this same situation, that it would be super smart if she just said, no matter how hard it might be, “Mom, I need a hug.” I told her that if she did that, I would stop talking instantly and always, always give her a hug. I told her that maybe we would still talk about the situation, but not until we had the biggest, quietest, longest hug she needed. I told her that I would do that because no matter what her actions are – she is always huggable – and ALWAYS loveable. That nothing would ever stop me from loving her. Nothing. Ever.

After I finished talking the whole scene ended rather unceremoniously. She was calm and had moved on to dressing Cinderella. I slid off the foot of her bed, kissed her on the forehead, and went into the living room wondering if I was acting a little too much like a therapist as opposed to a mom.

A week later…

Sarah did something kid-like that landed herself in trouble and on the way to her room she slammed the door and a few other things. I heard stomping and some yelling and possibly the word “hate”. As in, “I hate you!” As in, she hated me. 

That’s hard to take. 

I whipped open her door and launched into the mom speech that starts with “If you think you hate me for sending you to your room, just wait to see what else I can do!”  

Lame. SUPER lame. I know. Before anyone leaves comments about how immature I was being, I KNOW! I really, really know. Heck, I have a Master’s degree in Marriage Family Therapy and I get it, I really do. But KNOWING it doesn’t always mean it is easy to APPLY it. 

In this moment I couldn’t APPLY anything because I was too busy LOSING it.

Let’s just say there was a heated conversation that ensued.

The point is, after Sarah said a few mean things and I countered with a few LAME, IMMATURE, WHO IS THE ADULT HERE threats… Sarah said this:

“Can I have a hug.”

I stopped everything, in an instant, and I hugged her. I went to her and I put my arms around her and I held her close and I said, “ALWAYS”.

We just hugged. No words. Minutes ticked by. We hugged. I used my arms to talk to her and to tell her that she was loveable, that she was worthy, that she was good, that she was more than good, she was PERFECT. I hugged until we could feel each others hearts beat.

My internal, unspoken rule is that I will not pull away from her. We can hug as long as she needs and wants.
Eventually she pulled away. 

“Mom, I am sorry for saying mean things.”

“Sarah, I am sorry for losing my cool, I love you always.”

We stayed quiet and for a little longer, and I twirled Ariel’s long red hair. It wasn’t time, yet, for me to teach her. I first needed to love her heart and her spirit. I can’t do that with words. We just needed to be still for a moment, together. 

She changed Cinderella into a different ball gown and when she finally spoke and asked to trade dolls, we started to talk. She still had consequences for whatever kid-thing she originally did, but she accepted them calmly. And more importantly, she is starting to get that if she gets in trouble, it doesn’t mean SHE is trouble. She is a good girl. A good girl that is growing and learning about life.

Since that day three years ago, Sarah has used the “Can I have a hug” technique several times. Sometimes we go for months and months without the need, and sometimes we are hugging every other day. But EVERY SINGLE TIME she uses it I am beyond proud of her.

That’s hard stuff!

There are adults that can’t tell each other what they need and will instead rant and rave and argue and carry on like three-year-olds. Not me, of course. Other adults. Quit looking at me, husband.

All this yappin' brings me to an scene a few nights ago.

You see, I have a lot going on in life (don’t we all!) and sometimes I just get a little overwhelmed. And when I get a little overwhelmed, SOMETIMES I might make a bigger deal than I need to out of something small. Like, let’s say, splashing water all over the floor during bath time. Just an example.

Sometimes something like water all over the bathroom floor might make me launch into a full blown, child-like rant about not appreciating what I do, not respecting our home.. blah blah blah. 

The words that may or may not have come out of my mouth in this hypothetical situation are embarrassing, really.  And I know it. But I can’t stop. I am a train wreck. I am unlovable, unworthy, awkward and twisted in every way. The bathwater isn't the problem. It's my tangled life.

Sarah, wide-eyed, listened, for a moment, and then she interrupted, quietly. Quiety, as if she had the same Masters I did and knew that if she talked quietly I would have to calm myself down and listen intently to hear her (smart girl).

And she said.

“Mom, do you need a hug.”

I needed it in the worst way. And she gave one to me… and somehow she even adopted my unspoken rule and she didn’t pull away.

Life is tough, and it’s easy to get wrapped up in the to-do’s the expectations, the responsibilities of it all. Especially this time of year. 

There’s houses to clean, turkeys to prep, dishes to do, a perfect life performance to put on (pishaw!)…but before we all get to wrapped up in that secondary (third, fourth, and twentieth-ary) stuff, take care of the first and foremost need we all have – to love and be loved.

Slow down, focus up, and tend to the core of who we all are are, our heart and spirit. Don't be shy, ask for what you need. Use your words. Don't play the crazy charades that involves yelling, arguing, arm flailing (don't look at me like that, husband) and instead be clear.

In a soft voice, ask for the hugs. Hold on tight. Let the requester hug for as long as they need. When the hug is done and you have each had a little space to BE, then you can DO. 

PS - you always have someone that can hug you. Don't isolate. And guess what, likely, the other person can use the hug, too. 

With kindness,

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

We All Need Some Home Thyme

I am so thrilled to have been invited to another amazing grand opening party on the Miracle Mile! First it was the Mile Wine Company in September, and then in October I was lucky to join so many others in welcoming the gourmet kitchen store, Home Thyme.

But truthfully, as lovely as the store is (and it is!) the owner was even lovelier! I thoroughly enjoy getting to know the person behind the pretty shelves (and they are pretty!) and Lynn Fochs, owner of Home Thyme, was no exception!

She was super busy greeting tons of people on her grand opening day, but I was lucky to talk with her a little before and again after the big event.

First off I learned that Lynn, now a business owner and goal achiever, is also a mother. She has two beautiful daughters and a sweet granddaughter. She spent many years making sure that her kiddos were growing up strong and true to themselves and now Lynn is working to achieve her own dreams of owning a business that showcases her passion for cooking!

"I worked part time in a kitchen store while I went to college the last 4 years and I just fell in love with it!" said Lynn. "I like to cook for people and inspire people to try new cooking gadgets, recipes and the like!" she continued.

For those reasons Lynn wanted to take a kitchen store to the next level by adding the extra bonus of holding cooking demonstrations, cooking classes, and more. I can see how this unique gourmet kitchen store can easily become the go to place for many local foodies and their friends.

Not only can you browse the wide assortment of recipe books, stemware, cooking gadgets, wall art, linen and the like, but you can also visit Home Thyme for a unique morning out with your children! Or, send dad and daughter on a "date" for a wonderful morning of cookie making! 


On December 7th at 10am Home Thyme will offer a Kids Christmas Cookie Making class! How fun is that! A perfect way to instill a love for cooking in the minds of kids and what a memory that would be for a one-on-one date with a daughter or son!

But wait! There's more! Learn to cook Italian Soup, Bake a Fresh Pumpkin Pie with Real Pumpkin, or set your sights on future date nights in which you can make a pizza with someone special while sipping some incredible wines from Mile Wine Company! For details of what classes are currently scheduled check out Home Thyme's website!

Lynn said her mission is to help her customers enjoy their time at home, to enjoy cooking, and to make their life at home fun -- thus the store name "Home Thyme".  I think she is on track to do just that! And she's not doing it alone. Lynn was quick to share that her family has been extremely supportive and very proud of her for turning her dream into a reality. Her daughters are involved in her business adventure and have been a huge help, something that Lynn appreciates greatly.

So, next time you are cruising down the Miracle Mile, take a moment, park the car, and enjoy a visit inside Home Thyme. I warn you, it will be nearly impossible to walk out empty handed! But enough of my words, check out these pictures from the Grand Opening of Home Thyme!

 I want that turkey, but I need a bigger house to put him in. Please, someone with a
big house, buy that turkey!! He is gonna ROCK someone's Thanksgiving table!
 This tea set was the FIRST thing that caught my eye when I went in the store. I  had
one just like this when I was little and I LOVED it! My daughter got a similar set
from her Grandma when she was four - I think we had tea parties EVERY SINGLE
WEEKEND for 2 years. If you have a 4 year old daughter or granddaughter,
THIS is the gift for Christmas... Trust me.
 The last three years I brined a fresh turkey in my own blend of spices ONLY because
I could not find a local store that sold a good brining kit. I GASPED when I saw
this and all the great Thanksgiving cooking tools around it. GASPED. REALLY.
 If you checked out the book from the Library and are ready to commit to a
purchase - Home Thyme can help you out! Please note, there is an entire cookbook
dedicated to Mac'N'Cheese!! Whoa.

 QUIZ: What song do you think came first, Frosty The Snowman or Rudolph The Red
Nosed Reindeer? Leave your answer on Facebook and make everyone curious what
the comment means: Mom About The Town
 There is a stove, oven, and cooking counter to the left in this image, that is where
they hold cooking demonstrations.

I will quack like a duck if you can't find SOMETHING you want to
buy off of this wall. I have my eye on the pastry crimper.. and then some.

If you like what you see, stop by in person and see EVEN MORE! Come on down and knock of some amazing gift giving for the Foodie in your life! Give Home Thyme a "like" on Facebook, tell them MOM sent you, and get informed about a variety of recipes, sales, cooking demos, and more!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Grilled Cheese and Wisdom

Dad About The Town: Please do not read this. If you do, it will negatively alter our future.

This morning I can’t help but be a little proud of myself. I realized, at the age of 43, I am finally growing up…some. My wisdom is starting to blossom, FINALLY! And it’s all thanks to a grilled cheese sandwich.

Yes. A grilled cheese sandwich.

You see, last night, after work, Dad was headed off to meet with a friend for pizza and guitars. I had the job of staying home with two hungry, loud, cute, kids.

So, there we were, smack dab in the evening routine. Sarah was off to get in a little play time with her bestie next door, Elijah was digging through his toy boxes for Mater,  Dad was switching into his tennis shoes, and I was doing dishes and prepping for dinner. 

After a quick kiss, Dad went out the front door at the same time Sarah came in.

“What’s for dinner?” She says. 

I contemplated tossing cereal in a bowl and calling it good, but thought better of it since that wouldn’t leave enough breakfast for morning be healthy. Then I put the pressure back on my daughter.

“What ingredients do we have that could be made into a meal?”

She wasted not a second before hollering out, “CHEESE AND BREAD! DAD’S GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH!”

That could be a problem. 

You see, Dad left. 

So it would be MOM’S grilled cheese sandwich and to be honest, I like Dad’s better, too.

There is something magical in the way he makes his sandwiches. They are so good that the thought of them will make me salivate and grin ear to ear. And to actually bite into them, well, I moan. They are THAT good. Just being honest.

In fact, this is the one meal that the kids BEG him to make. I love grilled cheese sandwich nights because, 1) THEY ARE TASTY, and 2) because I get the night off. They are DAD’S grilled cheeses, after all. HE has to make them. I am basically pushed to the wayside to go watch television. 

But tonight, I had to sub. Dad was gone, off eating pizza, and now I was gonna have to just bare down and do my own thing. And so I did.

Mamas, let me tell you, I NAILED IT!!!! My grilled cheese sandwich was perfectly browned, perfectly melted, perfectly buttered and it was AWESOME! I knew as soon as I saw the toasted sourdough that everything was going to be okay. 

I plated the kid’s sandwiches, paired them with some lovely red and green grapes, and poured some cold milk into cups that matched their dinnerware.

Proudly I walked to their little table and set the food down. 

I admit, while I was mostly confidant, a small piece of me was a tad nervous because, again, Dads grilled cheese sandwiches really are spectacular.

They both started in with the grapes. The anticipation was mounting. I was nervous. Part of the goodness of a grilled cheese is to get that first bite in while the cheese was still melty warm. Timing is everything. 

And then… it happened. Elijah nibbled and Sarah went in for the full on big bite. I quietly and surreptitiously watched her chew. Her face gave no indication to what she was thinking. 

UGH! The suspense.

Then, she turned her head and her eyes caught mine and said, “MOM! THIS IS AN AMAZING 'DAD GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH'!” 


None of this is demonstrating wisdom, I know this. So far I am only admitting that I am a competitive nutball and a validation junkie. But hang on. Wisdom is coming.

The night continued on. The kids ate, plates were washed, jammies were on, (s)nuggling was had… and eventually both kids were off to bed.

Dad came home.

When he said, “How was your night?”


“Fine.” I said.


“Usual night.” I said.


“We just ate, watched TV, nuggled, that’s all.” I said.

And you see, Mama’s, THAT is wisdom right there. Capital W to the ISDOM! 

Had I jumped the gun and told Dad that I had made some bad-ass grilled cheese sandwiches that night, had I described the way they look and tasted, had I told him that Sarah LOVED them, that they were, dare I say, magical…

I would no longer have that one meal that only Dad could cook. I would no longer be pushed to the wayside to go watch Extra Extra! The History Channel all to myself. And Mama’s, I treasure those nights that he cooks and giggles with the kids. I was not going to let my competitiveness take that away from me.

WISDOM! Right? I made a wise decision? Or maybe it’s selfish, but I am gonna call it wisdom.

Who makes the BEST grilled cheese sandwiches, DAD DOES! He’s the CHAMP!

And that, is fine with me.

Thank you grilled cheese sandwich for showing me that I don’t always have to WIN.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Shop Locally... Online!

Often times when we think of shopping local we think we need to get dressed, climb in the car and head out and about the streets for the brick and mortar shops.  But you know what, that's not true! You can shop local without even leaving your house or your jammies.

Let's face it, some days we really (really) don't feel like doing much more than rolling out of bed and shuffling to a coffee pot.  On those days, you can still shop local to your heart’s content!

Recently I happened upon a local girl doin’ good, online, via Etsy! Her store is named Something Borrowed and her forte is vintage clothing. It would be more accurate to say gorgeous, eclectic, stylish, classic, and feminine vintage clothing.  Beautiful stuff, really! Not just clothes, either! While she has tons of dresses, skirts, shirts, and caftans, she also has purses, shoes, belts, and jewelry! I like jewelry.

You can sit in your jammies sippin' your coffee and shop on her Etsy site for an outfit from head to toe! Save gas, relax, and enjoy the online shopping experience. She has everything to make you look more stunning than you already are.

The gal behind the store is Amy.  Amy lives in Stockton and runs her business from her home. Her love for vintage clothing came about as a teenager when she would go clothes shopping at thrift stores due to lack of funds. However, her passion for fashion and clothing, vintage clothing specifically, blossomed at those thrift stores! Even as her income grew, her style stayed true to vintage.

She got a job as a clothing buyer, visual merchandiser, and retail manager and found that she was in her element. Loving her work she decided to take it a step further. Now with a decade of experience, degrees in fashion merchandising and retail management, she opened her own store - online store. She has been on Etsy since 2010, but still has her eye on a traditional storefront that will specialize in women's clothing from the 1950s-1990s with a splash of pre-1950s.

If you are a vintage clothing fashionista or even have a slight curiosity for that era of clothing, stop by and check her collection! Amy offers a full service clothing store, too.  If you are unsure of which clothing vintage pieces of clothing pair together nicely, or if you are intimidated by older sizing charts, no worries! Amy offers look-books, tips, tricks and links to be sure you look and feel your best! 
Oh, and a side note... not only is Amy a local business, she supports local business – the images showcasing her inventory are made possible by local women models and photographers, such as Staci Takach! Keepin' it local, who doesn't appreciate that?

Go ahead, visit Amy! Check her out on Facebook and tell her Mom About The Town sent you! Even if you don't buy today, take the time and give her page a like, a share and a "hello". A little encouragement and kindness can go a long way!

Where you can find Amy of Something Vintage: