Morning Routines of Regular Moms

First of all, thank you to 4boysmother Facebook fan Jennifer Hoen Dotson for making sure I saw this Forbes article,  knowing I would have some sarcastic lovely words to put together in response to, well, the pure insanity.  Now onto the "The Morning Routines of 12 Women Leaders." What in the actual EFF is this?  Has being just an average regular mom for the last 16 years  left me somewhere underneath the rock of success and womanly leadership? Nope. That’s not it. Because I believe the average (and let’s just make sure to highlight average) SAHM or working mom can in no way honestly and genuinely relate to some of these morning routines. And really, why should they? What is the big deal about a successful person’s morning routine anyway? We are all doing the best we can. Can we just stop giving props to unattainable and unrealistic expectations?  Chances are we already feel inadequate enough about what and who we feel we are failing, so please don’t make another deposit into the guilt bank. Forbes, what is real female success? Well, I consider myself pretty darn successful (at least in my family’s eyes, and truly, who else matters) but my mornings look nothing like this. Nada. No way, no how. Now don’t get me wrong, because some mornings I totally kill it mom wise. There are hot balanced and healthy breakfasts, perfectly packed lunches, no lost shoes, keys, or homework. There are calm voices and peace and harmony in the pre-dawn hours. But in reality, that is not our normal morning routine. That is an anomaly.  As a matter of fact, when the morning routine is actually going smoothly, I get a sense of, “Why is everyone quiet? When is the morning meltdown bomb going to go off?”  And then I sit and wait for it. Tick. Tick. Tick. BOOM goes the chaos. Anyway,  thank you Forbes, for teaching me that to be an ‘extraordinary woman”  I should “adhere to a strict routine.” Hey, nothing against these women. Clearly, they are a success in their own right.  They have big careers and they strive to be the best, including the best in the morning. Me? Yep. I am sooo on that right now because really, I’m just like them. Aren’t you?

Let’s compare….

Superfood Stacey 
She rises at 4:45 butt crack o’clock, then eats hot quinoa and does  an hour “or so” of ashtanga yoga. What. In. Sam. Hell. is ashtanga yoga? Even on those mornings I can’t friggin sleep anyway choose to get up early and run before the kids get up, it is ugly. Ugly, as in, I am swearing while I am lacing up my shoes, I swear while tripping over legos on my way to kitchen, I swear while preparing my hot quinoa coffee, I swear all the way down the damn road. Peaceful yoga? I wish. Stacey then serves her kiddos green milk (don’t ask, but it involves steamed baby spinach and coconuts) while she gets dressed. My kids wolf down breakfast in 47 seconds, hence forcing me to get dressed in the same amount of time- so really, I just don’t.  Good thing black yoga pants double as pajamas, day wear, afternoon wear, and easily transition back into evening wear pajamas again. Forget the 24 hour bra, let’s thank the 24 hour pant that will never, ever, actually see a yoga mat. 

Meet Leslie, the “CFO.” 
God bless Leslie, who wakes up and immediately expresses in prayer how thankful she is to have woken up that day. Ok, I can’t fault her for that. And shame on me for not having the same exact thoughtful feeling every morning, but I just don’t. Mostly, my eyes pop open and my first thought is, “NO WAY it is morning. I felt like I slept five minutes,” followed with “Holy crap they are up. And they are hungry.” During her morning routine, Leslie writes two "networking notes, a follow up note, and a new connection note."  Hey me too! I write a note to the high school begging them to please give my kids lunch today, even though I am $50 in the hole with their lunch accounts (note to self, add $) then I network and make connections with, you guessed it, the meat manager at the grocery store, my UPS man, and friends on Facebook who I have not seen in person for 20 years. I am a networking ninja. 

Nell, the name dropper. 
Our next super successful morning ass kicker is a TV writer, currently working on the film adaptation of the book “Lean In.”  You heard that right, now let it marinate.  So Nell rolls out of bed and slides on some “John Eshaya" sweatpants. I had to Google those, to see why someone would refer to sweatpants by their designer name, and got a quick fashionista education in all things fleece. Turns out, when you pay $116 for sweats, I guess you feel you gotta let everyone know. Nell then makes herself some “fair trade” coffee and eats a “Zen Bakery” muffin. It’s vegan, just in case you were wondering. On Thursday mornings,  she makes homemade crepes and customizes them for each family member, with fresh toasted pecans. Fresh. Toasted. Pecans. Then it is on to the exercise machine, which is the "only place" she watches TV. (Oh hell no Nell, not the treadmill TV! Can't you just lay down for three days straight and binge watch Pretty Little Liars with me, please?) After maybe 80 minutes of cardio TV, it's off to a coffee shop to write. How lovely. (I am currently hiding in the bathroom, sitting on the toilet seat writing this.) 

Claudia, has no kids. And this would explain why her morning routine includes deep meditation, and writing down in detail all that she will accomplish that day, as well as “miracles to expect,” and the “attitude I will lead with.” Oh sweetie pie, my dear Claudia, brace yourself for babies hunny, when the only miracle you will expect for the day is not having poop shoot out the back of a diaper, and the attitude you will lead with will be the '360 degree head turning screaming mama, veins popping out of her unwashed head, shoving everyone out the door in the morning' mama.  No worries, you won't need a life coach to get you to that head spinning point.  I promise, like crap up and out the back of a diaper, it will all come out naturally. 

In all seriousness, cheers to these working women kicking ass at the start of their day. I mean honestly, kudos to you if you can embrace your morning like this. Women who work full time and have children are insanely strong, there is no denying that. But for me, the problem with the Forbes article is all in its tone. It glamorizes and sanitizes the day to day morning routines we all struggle with. If I worked full time and read this article, I would be beyond annoyed and disappointed with myself. But working or staying home,  this is not how things go everyday. This may be how some days are, but honestly, this is not how I would want all my mornings to be. Maybe it’s just my family,  but we thrive in the chaos. Sure, it gets me down, it is mind numbingly exhausting, but I am doing the best I can with the day that God lays before me. Our family morning routine may include moments with plenty of bickering, nothing in the pantry to eat for breakfast, no amazing workouts, meditative reflections, or spiritual journal writing and task listing.  But we try to laugh a lot, and amidst the hectic minutes, I try to breath and process that this too shall pass. I may not get to drink hot coffee today, but dammit, according to every Grandma I have ever met, when the kids all leave the nest, I will be drinking all the hot coffee I want, then crying that I am alone. (Still don’t believe this, but I’m trying.) So when you see me in the morning, in my 24 hour yoga pants, and I see you wearing the same, I am gonna give you the “My morning sucked too” head nod, and then we are gonna go our separate ways, hoping we do it better tomorrow morning. And if not, whatever,  the pants can do 48 hours. Trust me. I’ve done it.

5 Ways to Support St. Jude Children's Research Hospital This Holiday Season

In the heart of Memphis, TN, in a seemingly industrial pocket of town, rises a beacon of hope for thousand of families and their children fighting the battle of their life. Standing tall and ready to help win this battle, is the campus of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital®. It is here, where families from around the globe arrive in the darkest days of their parenting, are met with the promise of hope. St. Jude is leading the way the world understands, treats and cures childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. It is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children.  Consistent with the vision of its Founder Danny Thomas, no child is denied treatment based on race, religion, or a family's ability to pay. All of a family's medical treatment, travel, housing, and food are all covered.  In simple terms, they never see a bill. Ever.  This holiday season, as you gather around your healthy children amidst the hustle and bustle of celebrations and traditions, consider supporting the mission to help ensure a beacon of hope remains for families fighting catastrophic illnesses in their children.  Make that mission St. Jude. 

Here are five ways to support St. Jude this holiday season.

 1. Walk (or run) for St. Jude

On Saturday, November 22, supporters in more than 65 communities across the country will participate in the St. Jude Give thanks. Walk. This exciting, family-friendly event helps raise funds to support the lifesaving mission of St. Jude. You can join an existing team, or start your own and set up a personalized fundraising website. Running events include next month's 13th annual St. Jude Memphis Half and Full Marathon held on December 6, and the The St. Jude Country Music Marathon and Half Marathon to be held April 2015.  Raise money, lace up your shoes, and become a family's hero. 

2. Eat Out

The season lends itself to rushed days and jam packed calendars, making home cooked meals often hard to come by. By choosing to support  restaurants that partner with St. Jude, like Dominoes, Chili's and the Melting Pot, you can eat out and know that your purchase directly supports the mission. These restaurants, as well as many others,  are also partners in the Thanks and Giving® campaign, where monetary donations that go directly to St. Jude are easily added onto your dining bill. Look for the bright green Thanks and Giving® signs. And while I am talking about Thanks and Giving®...

3. Go Out Shopping


You have to holiday shop, so do it with a much deeper and possibly life saving purpose. On November 24, St. Jude will kick off their annual Thanks and Giving® Campaign. In 2004, Marlo, Terre and Tony Thomas created Thanks and Giving®, a national campaign that encourages holiday shoppers to "Give thanks for the healthy kids in your life, and give to those who are not."  During the St. Jude Thanks and Giving® campaign, many of America's most respected companies partner with St. Jude, and  want to make it easy for their customers to give thanks this holiday season, by making donations quickly and easily right at the register.  Then head over to Thanks and Giving® to print out your St. Jude Give Thanks sign, tell the world what you are thankful for this holiday season, then share on social media. Use the hashtag #StJudeGiveThanks. Together, let's get gratitude to go viral. 

4. Stay Home and Shop

It's cold out. You're already in your pajamas. The mall is crazy. Enter the Home Shopping Network This is the 10th year HSN has supported St. Jude, and with your help, they hope to reach $10 million in donations this season. Bedazzle your Christmas tree this year with the HSN Cares heART Designer Ornament Collection.  100% of the profits, no less than 30% of the purchase price of each ornament,  will be donated to St. Jude. The special sale runs through January 31, 2015. Shop on Amazon? No problem. Through Amazon's Smile program, choose St. Jude as your charity of choice at Amazon, and a portion of your purchase goes directly to St. Jude. Several other participating online retailers will offer a St. Jude donation link on their check out pages. 

5. Trim the virtual St. Jude tree and purchase a St. Jude ornament

Grab your kids and head over to the St. Jude Holiday Cheer Tree where they can design and personalize an ornament to be hung on the St. Jude virtual tree. Choose design, color, and then add your family's personal message to be shared with the children of St. Jude. There are also a variety of Christmas gifts, ornaments,  and holiday greeting cards featuring patient inspired art at the St. Jude Gift Shop. 100% of sales go directly to St. Jude.

This holiday season, commit yourself to giving to the moms, dads, and children at St. Jude. Whether you choose to shop with your heart, dine out with your heart, walk with your heart, or simply give with your heart, just GIVE. St. Jude doctors, researchers, parents, and the most precious of all, its patients, all thank you.

What the Blog Am I Doing? The Map to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

I met a dear friend of mine for lunch a few weeks ago. Friends for over a decade, she is one of those mom friends that I can easily and honestly unload onto all the real crap going on in my life. Nothing sugar coated between us two.  We were covering all the basics of conversations- “How are the kids? Seen any good movies lately? How is your husband?” But when the question “How are YOU doing?” came at me, I knew exactly how to answer. I blurted out, “I just don’t know WHAT I am doing.” And by "I don’t know what I am doing," I mean, I really, reaaalllly, don’t know what I’m doing. There has been a lingering sense of completely ‘roaming lost through motherhood’ feeling going in my life for a while, and I have been thirsting for a map. 

I can begin to pinpoint the beginning of the roaming at about the same time my writing started to be noticed by people other than my Facebook friends. I had a blog.  Now what? What the heck do I do with a writing voice? Do I treat writing like a real paying job? Do I now commit to sitting down and pumping out essays on a daily basis? There are an endless amount of opportunities for bloggers, and even women blogging conferences.  In the last few months I have realized that women writers have a vary large and a very in demand voice.  I could become a ‘brand,’ or I could dedicate myself to writing about one specialized thing, or I could solicit my writing and spend time reviewing all types of consumer products. I could add disclosure links and media contacts, and ‘where’ I’ve been published links on my blog. I could spend many hours a day on social media liking, following, sharing, linking, and promoting myself and my writing. I could work the phones and make editorial contacts and submit, submit, submit my writing all over the internet. There’s only one problem with all of the above- I kinda don’t wanna. I just don’t feel like that is what I am supposed to be doing.  Maybe it’s the fact I have a household of young men needing their mom, and a husband who works out of town and needs me to keep things together at home. Or maybe it’s because by age 42, I feel more like I really know the things I DON’T want to do, more than knowing what it is I actually do WANT to do. I know I like to write, but I also know I don’t want a ton of pressure with it. But then again, I also know I have a following.  All of this nonsense had been swirling around in my head when the “How are YOU?” question was asked. And then, out of nowhere, I got a map.

A few weeks ago I was contact by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. They are inviting several women bloggers to their campus for three days, during which time they will be introduced to doctors, researchers, patients, families, and executive leadership of the hospital. They will tour the entire campus, including the Target House, meet with the culinary team at the hospital, as well as brainstorm with the brand marketing staff and editorial and social media teams on ways to promote the hospital’s mission . They invited me to be one of the bloggers. Ummm, what? You want me? A regular mom who writes funny stuff about her crazy family to come to St. Jude and be a blogging partner?  And there it was. The map I was looking for. 

I leave on Wednesday morning for St. Jude. I have no idea what to expect. (Oh, and I have no real professional clothes to wear either.) I am nervous and excited, but most of all I am relieved, as I feel I finally have some sort of direction with my writing. Sure, I am still going to write satirical essays on the insanity of mothering, and anything else that makes me chuckle about life, but I am also going to be voluntarily giving of my writing time to share and promote the mission of St. Jude.  I feel it's part of what I am supposed to do with this blog. And I will start now. 

If you are reading this and you are not familiar with the hospital, here is all you need to know. Families never see a bill. Never. Ever. EVER. Children at St. Jude are fighting some of most catastrophic childhood diseases, including all forms of pediatric cancer. Catastrophic. Let that sink in. Cat-a-stroph-ic. When one of my kids wakes up with a cough and runny nose, I  practically think that’s catastrophic. When I am awoken during the middle of the night by a kid with a tummy ache, my interruption in sleep seems catastrophic. Schlepping four kids to their well-child check ups, sitting in a waiting room for 45 minutes, where a doctor will tell me they are perfectly healthy, well, that often seems like a pain in my day. Something tells me after this visit to St. Jude, there will be a lot less ‘pains’ and minor 'catastrophes' in my day. A. Lot. Less. 

I think my map says I am about to have a total life and perspective changing baptism of epic proportions. I’m ready. Won’t you join me? I hear the water is divine. 

Wanna Be A Mother Runner? 3 Must Haves to Get Moving

You may have noticed on your Facebook feed that fall racing season is upon us, as the crisp days make for cool running, and turkey trots and jingle bell runs beckon.  I may be that your news feed has become an endless stream of photos of all your mom friends beaming at finish lines, status updates filled with tales of couch to 5K miracles, and half and full marathon stories of monumental accomplishments. And all of this is happening because no other endurance sport has witnessed an all out female takeover as much as running has these last few years. According to Running In The, among all running event finishers in 2013, women made up 57%, while men made up 43%. No longer an exclusive ‘men only’ sport, female runners, especially weary and frazzled mothers, are soaring in numbers.  You may be considering taking up running, eager to see what all the hype is, and looking for that runner’s high all your mother runner friends boast about.  And then reality hits; you have kids to nurture, a spouse to love, a home to manage, a full or part-time job, and an endless list of mothering daily duties. So exactly how do you get started running? And where will it fit into your life?

Like most new physical endurance based challenges, running is going to be something you will most likely fail at miserably on the first try. You will lace up your shoes, head out the door, and three minutes in, lungs burning and heart pounding, your mind will begin tossing out questions- “Isn’t this supposed to be fun? When does it get easy? Where’s the runner’s high? When will I be able to talk? What it so darn great about running? I just want to stop and lay down!”

Beginner runners need to be aware that all of us seasoned runners started out the same way. Left foot, right foot, slowly and diligently we perserverd, and took it one run at a time. Some awful, some less than awful, some surprisingly not so bad, until that magical day happens- we are out on a run and for the first time it actually FEELS GOOD.  Suddenly our breathing becomes manageable,  side stitches disappear, our lungs are relaxed. And after? Hello runner’s high endorphins! But how do busy, do-it-all, aspiring runner moms get to this point? Here are three key tips for moms ready to get their run on;

1. Shoes

 You probably wouldn't think  twice about spending an hour in a department store trying on ankle straps, platforms, and wedges. Now put that much effort and then some into buying your first pair of running shoes. Avoid the big box stores and opt for a local running specialty store. There you can have your foot and stride analyzed, and your particular body needs addressed by someone who actually knows what they are talking about. Often these stores allow for a trial period running in the shoe, to ensure you have the proper type, style, and fit.  You may pay more than you anticipated, but a proper shoe can keep you injury and pain free, so don’t skimp.

2. Local support

Don’t go it alone. There is a very good chance a quick Facebook search for running groups in your area will yield many results. Typically these local running groups are free to join, host regular weekly training meet ups, and cater to every type of runner, including the beginner and the run/walker. You will be amazed at what a difference training with other people will do to your running success. In addition to providing encouragement, local groups often offer race discount codes, can share their running equipment reviews, and often train for particular large races together. When you are off and running successfully, think about starting your own local or neighborhood running group and meet ups for moms. Spread the run love!

3. There’s an app (and a podcast) for that

Speaking of spreading the running love, there is a world of running support beyond your neighborhood, and it can easily be found all over the internet. In addition to the thousands of running websites, and personal running blogs, there are an abundance of running apps and running support podcasts. To save you from scrolling from now until next year, here are three of my favorite running support websites and apps for women and mother runners.

Available free in the App Store and Google Play Store, Strava is an app that tracks your runs (also cycling) and records your progress and activity data, and syncs it to the website. You can also join activity challenges for free, and run virtual races against other Strava users, as well as participate in endurance challenges. Premium Strava members have access to even more performance tracking features and support.

A new streaming music service aimed specifically for running, walking, and working out, Rock My Run deems itself “music that moves you” and they aren’t kidding. These seamless mixes arranged by professional DJs come in a variety of genres and lengths. Using MyBeat technology, ’It adjusts the tempo of the music you're listening to in order to match your pace or motivate you to push just a little harder.” Brilliant. 

Another Mother Runner website (AMR) and the AMR Podcast

Join the enthusiast tribe of mother runners at the AMR website, where you will find support and laughter in abundance, as well as equipment recommendations, inspiring personal stories form other mother runners, a large variety of training plans, running playlists, and even mother runner merchandise. Site developers and mother runners, Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell, have authored two best selling running books, with a third due out next spring. Dubbed a virtual aid station for moms on the run, this comprehensive website should be your first stop on the internet for all things lady running. And don’t miss their weekly podcast available in iTunes. The witty duo have recorded over 100 episodes, each about an hour long, and perfect to listen to on your run. Podcasts include interviews with experts in the running, health, and nutrition fields, as well as answering all types of running questions from their community on Facebook. But the best part may be the few minutes of chatting between Shea and McDowell- like listening to your two best friends, as they chat about all things motherhood and running, including balancing career, husbands, children, homes, and achieving running greatness somewhere in the middle of it all.  And really, isn’t that what we all are trying to do? 

The Lost Art of the Anonymous Sale- 10 Questions You Get Asked At Checkout

Recently, my husband needed a new pair of simple khaki chino shorts. Usually, I buy things like that online, but this time he needed them ASAP, so I had to schlep it to Old Navy, errr….that store famous for flag shirts.  Let me preface this by saying I am not a shopper. I dread it. I am blessed in the fact I can pretty much wardrobe  the entire family all from the same online store, and I embrace that wholeheartedly. So when I have to hit a brick and mortar, a little anxiety kicks in. I am way too accustomed to simply clicking add to cart, proceed to check out, then calling it a day. It’s also no surprise this may be why I possess such a great relationship with my UPS man. (You are soooo getting some killer Christmas cookies from me this year ‘Brown.’) And speaking of Christmas, ’tis almost the season for big time shopping, which (GASP!) may actually require me to leave my snuggly checkout line - otherwise known as my couch. 

Meanwhile, back at that big box store with the creepy yet super realistic mannequins, my chino shorts in hand, I head to the checkout. And then it begins- the retail transaction 20 questions. Here are the answers I truly gave, followed by the answers I honestly wanted to give. (Alright, it’s only 10, but it feels like 20).

1.    “Did you find everything you were looking for?”
       “Yes, thank you”

No, not really. And can I please say stop making the tissue paper weight itty bitty shirts? Just stop. I don’t want to layer. I live in Florida. Paired with everything low-rise, you would need a size XXXL shirt, and you would need four of them to cover up your tummy.  And enough with the bazillion toys lining the entire check out counter. Stick to jeans. You hear that kid behind me crying for a motorized lollipop? Yep. Me too. Jeans. Just. Jeans.

2.  “Your zip code?”
     “No thank you.”

Can’t we just assume I live close by? I mean, I didn’t wake up today in Miami and decide it would be super fun and economical to road trip 400 miles for khaki shorts.

3. “Email address?”
    “No thank you”
    “But we send you great coupons!”
    “No thank you.”
   “Are you sure? You could save 10% on your next purchase!”

Yes, I could save 10% on my next purchase, but after I drive here, the 10% is lost in gas. And have I mentioned I have four email accounts? And by golly, I was just thinking I honestly do NOT have ENOUGH unsolicited email in my life. Yes, by all means, please add all four of my email addresses.  I cannot wait to fish through all the 10% coupons you plan on sending me three tat an average of three times a day. Yay- email!

4. “Would you like to apply for a store credit card? You could save 10% on your purchase today”
    “No thank you”
    “It only takes a minute, and if you are approved you could save $3 on those shorts, and you                   get exclusive coupons in the mail.”

Ok, can we talk for a sec? Do you watch the news? Are you aware of the economy we live in? Do you want me to explain interest and revolving credit lines? Because these $20 pair of shorts have the potential of costing $900 to someone who you will  sucker into getting a store card. And seriously, more freakin’ coupons?

5. “There is a shirt that matches those shorts you are buying. Did you see it?”
    “Yes, thank you. Just the shorts please.”

Ahhhh the up sell. I was waiting for it. Hey, why don’t I go over and find that shirt. Then, while I’m gone, you can enter my four email addresses and do the paperwork for my new store credit card, and then add up all my coupons. I’m sure the five people in line behind me (especially the mom of the kid having a tantrum over a motorized lollipop) won’t mind a bit. Go for it.

6. “Would you like to donate $1 to (insert any charity here)?
    “No thank you.” 
     “But it’s for kids!”
     “No thank you.” 

I’m not heartless. I swear. And I love kids. I have four.  But I have many charities that I currently support that are close to my heart, and directly impact my immediate family. I am also a PR blogging partner for St Jude Children’s Hospital. Why I feel the need to explain all this to you I have no idea, but you shot me that ‘you cheap ungiving lady’ look when you asked me to donate and I replied "No." I promise, I'm not a cheap ungiving lady.

7. “Will that be all for you today?”
     “Yes, that’s all.”

OH. MY. GAAAWD. For the love of all things denim, I swear on your 145 pairs of yoga pants that I didn’t just get up here and then realize I wanted three more things. I can promise you, amidst the sea of ridiculous questions, my mind did not drift back to that little black dress, and the desire to suddenly realize that yes, I do in fact want it, and can I go get it and then head to the back of the line, only to start back at question #1! 

8. “Will this be credit or debit?”
    “Ok, you can swipe now. Then it will ask you for your email, if you want cash back, and if the            amount is correct.”

Dear technology nerds- please, please, please somebody develop a uniform one swipe, one click, or one fingerprint way to pay for anything and everything. I’m ready to be Jane Jetson. So. Damn. Ready. 

9. “Would you like your receipt emailed to you?”
    “See #3. I mean, uh, no thank you.”

I'm almost done, I'm almost done, I'm almost done.....

10. “Receipt in bag ok?”
       “Yes, thank you.”

If I could, I would like it folded in thirds, wrapped in pink tulle, spritzed with Armani cologne, and sent overnight to my house, all by 10 a.m. My friend ‘Brown’ can deliver it. Or wear it. Whichever.

“Have a nice day and thank you for shopping today. Please take the quick survey on the bottom of this receipt, for a coupon to save 10% on your next visit.”
“Thank you."

Yup. Then the survey. And people wonder how Amazon got so successful. Back to my couch.....