Total Relaxation –  something we all long for, like a fully paid vacation on a tropical island, eight hours of sleep a night, or even just 10 minutes of alone time on some days.  As much as I’d love world peace, I find myself selfishly longing for a day without doing dishes much more frequently. Alas, since most of us aren’t able to escape to the spa on a daily basis (or permanently eliminate the things that cause us the most stress), here are some simple ways you can have moments of relaxation and reduced stress throughout your day.  Spoiler alert… eating chocolate is one of them!


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1. Eat Breakfast Before Coffee
Caffeine on an empty stomach can increase blood sugar levels, which can lead to irritability.  No wonder we are stressed almost from the moment we wake up.  Also, as many nutrition experts will tell you, it is important to eat something within 30 minutes of waking up to kick-start your metabolism for the day. If you don’t have time for a full breakfast, something small is OK, but keep it healthy, like a hard boiled egg or 1/2 a grapefruit.  Reducing your blood sugar will keep you more calm throughout the day. Check out other quick and healthy options here. (Source)


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2. Tea Time
This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone by now, but green tea is one of the most healthy beverages on the planet.  It’s loaded with antioxidants that can help reduce the risk of cancer, has numerous heart health benefits that can reduce the risk of high blood pressure, and lowers your blood sugar level to keep you calm, among many others.  Take 5 minutes to kick your feet up and enjoy a cup of tea every afternoon!   Make sure you are super comfy from head to toe. I highly recommend keeping your feet cozy with a pair of Gold Toe Oh So Soft socks.  Unlike traditional spa socks, these are thinner so your feet can actually breath without sacrificing softness and comfort.  Love the fun colors, and I love that they are made with a little spandex so they fit my feet perfectly.  Since I work full time, my tea ritual is usually in the mornings or at night right after my shower. (Source)


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3. Take a Long Bath
This one might not be as feasible on a daily basis, but ALL moms need to dedicate at least one day a week to a long, hot bath.  I fill my tub with tons of bubbles and lavender-scented bath oil.  The scent of lavender is known to reduce your heart rate for increased relaxation (more on scents below).  I light a candle, turn off the lights, put on my favorite calming music, and zen out as long as possible. After the bath, of course, I put my Oh So Soft socks on and enjoy a cup of green tea. (Source)


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4. Take Time to Smell the Roses
It might be cliche, but there’s a very real reason this expression exists – aside from the obvious message of stopping the hustle and bustle of your daily activities to enjoy the small things in life (which, of course, is very important). There are many known scents that have been proven to help people relax: lavender (my all-time favorite), jasmine (my other all-time favorite), mandarin, vanilla, chamomile, bergamot, sandalwood, rose, lilac, and ylang-ylang. I try to keep a lavender candle lit whenever I’m home, and I spray jasmine on my pillow case at night. I even have lavender-scented dish soap so I stay a little more calm while doing dishes every day. An easy way to keep a scent with you all day is to spray a little bit of your favorite fragrance on a cloth and put it in your purse. If you start to feel stressed, pull it out and take a little sniff to calm down. Or, next time you eat an orange, keep a few of the orange peels in your car or in a bowl at home so you can be surrounded by the scent all day. (Source)


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5. Eat Chocolate
Yes, you read that correctly my friends.  Studies show that dark chocolate (in moderation) can lower your blood pressure and lower the risk of diabetes, stroke, and heart attack…. not to mention the shear joy of indulging in chocolate guilt-free!  Remember, everything in moderation, so go ahead and have a couple squares of your favorite dark chocolate during tea time.  You’re welcome! (Source)


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6. Exercise
Now that you’ve enjoyed your chocolate… exercise might seem counter-intuitive to the notion of ‘relaxation’, but it’s not.  Exercising even a moderate amount daily actually helps maintain your metabolism and reduce spikes in your blood sugar.  My favorite form of exercise is dancing.  For me, there’s nothing better than putting on my favorite music and busting a move.  While I take regular dance classes at a studio, I will often take a few minutes to dance to a great song if I’m feeling particularly stressed.  Even when I’m at work, I can put my headphones on and take a brisk walk around the block to calm my nerves. (Source)

 

My body is not perfect by any means. My fingernails are uneven and haven’t had a good manicure in a LONG time. My toenails need trimmed. I currently need a shower. My graying hair needs to be redyed sometime soon–the three grown out inches do not blend well with the rest of my chestnut brown hair. It also needs a trim. When I fail to put mousse into my curly hair, it’s the frizziest mess you’ll ever see. My thighs touch (gasp!). My belly is the furthest thing from flat. My arms could give someone a black eye when I wave at people. I have no eyebrows or eyelashes unless I draw them on. I rarely wear make up. I’ve got a black chin hair that grows back more rapidly the older I get. I’ve got wrinkles around my eyes. I’ve got stretch marks and dry skin on my body. I’ve got a double chin in pictures.

READ MORE: Seriously… The Thigh Gap?!?

And yet I am more beautiful than I’ve ever been.

My finger nails are uneven because I was so busy coloring with my kids that I forgot I only filed one hand. I failed to trim my own toenails because my daughter wanted her toes painted “just like mommy’s pretty toes.” I didn’t shower this morning because I wanted the fifteen extra minutes of sleep after being up until 1:15 a.m. (no I wasn’t up with a child, I chose to binge watch “Once Upon A Time.” Don’t judge).

I haven’t made time for a hair appointment because I’ve been having too much fun living life: an extra busy Christmas season spending time with those closest to us, I published a book, I went on a trip, I’ve taken my kids to the science center, we baked cookies, I took my kids sledding, I grew my business, I made new friends, I held new babies, I had date nights with my husband.

READ MORE: I Feel Fat

I often don’t put mousse in my hair so my kids can easily play with it. They love seeing how big it can get and I love that something that simple can make them laugh.

I carry the extra weight that comes with having three kids in under four years and not being able to afford a personal trainer and too busy to make time for a 5 a.m. class at the gym. Yet, I hike for miles on a whim with my kids. I haven’t worked out my arms in years because, well, I really hate arm exercises. And I’m okay with that because I’m finally aware of all that I truly dislike, what I can stand, and what I love to do.

READ MORE: I Have Never Felt Beautiful

I hardly notice my lack of eyebrows or eyelashes. I’m just thankful to have not had any other medical issues. It’s amazing how little focus others put on your flaws when you yourself no longer notice them.

I can be beautiful without the make up. It’s fun to done a full face of make up, a cute outfit, but that’s not my day to day attire. I feel just as beautiful and more myself in my yoga pants (which has a growing hole in the thighs from them rubbing together) and an oversize sweat shirt than I do in my new Banana Republic number that I spent too much money on.

The chin hair I could do without, but if anything, it shows my age. An age that I am at ease with. I don’t dread becoming older because I can look back on my years and know I’ve lived them with no regrets.

READ MORE: What I Wish I’d Known About Body Image

My wrinkles are from smiling because I’m happy, laughing, and smiling my way through life. This is something my grandma once told me as I danced on her feet around her kitchen and something I’ve never forgotten. It’s something I tell my children to remind them to smile through everything.

My stretch marks and scars tell the story of my last 7 years. The story of my children’s births, of my love of dark chocolate, of my surgeries. They show the maturity that I’ve come to find in my journey through motherhood.

READ MORE: Change The Way You Look At Pregnancy

How does any of this accumulate to being beautiful? Because beauty isn’t how you look, how much makeup you cake on to cover the flaws, and it’s most definitely not restricted to a size. Beauty is embracing who you are. It’s living your life the way you want to live it. It’s embracing your flaws and owning them. It’s confidence in yourself and willingness to try the things that you’re unsure about.

READ MORE: Breast Reduction Surgery: The Real Deal

I may not be the 5’11 size 6 twenty one year old I once was, but now I’ve got something I didn’t have then: I’ve got the belief that I have the power to do anything I want. I have the power to laugh at myself: at the finger nails being different lengths, my hair being extra frizzy, my stretch mark shaped like an S for our last name (according to our kids), my chin hair that I forgot to pluck away before I left the house, I’ve got the confidence to simply be me.

Once you learn to love all of yourself and be yourself, true beauty will shine.

Photo via Jade Beall’s A Beautiful Body Project

It’s raining here and I’m not sure about you, but thanks to an over all busy weekend, I’ve been eyeing my bed all day. Now that I’m snuggled up in it watching The Good Wife (OMG can we talk about Jeffrey Dean Morgan on the cast this year?!), I’m remembering the days that it was so much easier to blow off work and life in general… way back before we had kids or had other responsibilities like mortgages and car payments.

So does calling out to your boss (even if they are 5) seem like a good way to start your week but you can’t come up with a solid reason? Choose one of these… shoot…bookmark it and the next time you need a mental health day, come back and pick another! Just don’t hate on me if you jinx yourself…

1. Holiday Candy Hangover

Not that kind of hangover. Unless you really did party like you were 22 and are still recovering because while you can party like you’re 22, you sure as hell can’t recover like you are.

2. Anything Gastro Related

No one wants to think about another person’s belly or butt issues. And they surely don’t want to risk getting whatever it is that you have.

3. Oral Objection

So you snuck into your kid’s candy stash and now you just chipped a tooth on that hard piece of candy. Way to be discreet, Mom. If you don’t want to go that far and have to explain why your teeth look the same as they did on Friday, an abscessed tooth should do it.

4. Plumbing Issues

Kids will flush anything down the toilet… so will teens. And who hasn’t been there with a mop, a bucket, and a shop-vac?

5. Migraines or Sinus Issues

Thank the Lord the only time I had migraines it was when I was pregnant with Sydney but it was enough to make me wish for them to never return. I’m sure your boss will agree.

6. Flu Shot Reaction

It’s the time of the year when we’re all getting flu shots and it’s not uncommon to have an adverse reaction to it.

7. Blame the Kids

Hey.. you have them, use them. I mean, what kid isn’t a walking petri dish this time of the year?

The one thing that I learned early on in my days of working is that if you’re going to call in sick, it’s always much more effective if you do it from your bed, under the covers. Works like a charm every time.

This post was originally featured on Kristen Daukas’ blog, 4 Hens & a Rooster. Featured image via.

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What is your morning routine like? If your mornings are like those of many other moms, you are flying by the seat of your pants from the time your feet hit the floor until you walk out the front door (probably at least a few minutes late, right?).

Mornings don’t have to be so hard. I simplified my own morning routine so that I can get ready for the day in a stress free way. There is no need to rush through your morning routine haphazardly when a little time management is all it takes to start your day in a smooth and productive way.

1. Pick out what you will wear the next day from undies to shoes. Do the same with your children. Every person you are responsible for in the morning should know what he or she is wearing the next day before going to bed at night.

While doing this on a nightly basis is a great start toward an easier morning routine, work up to picking out clothing for the week on Sunday evening. I began doing this when I returned to full time work and it’s a sanity saver, for sure!

2. Make lunches the night before. Let preschool aged and older children help to make their lunches. Never spend your precious morning time making lunches. Once you get used to make lunches every night, start planning lunches for the week on Sunday night so that you know exactly what’s going in the lunch bag every day.

3. Plan your breakfast the night before. Know what you’re having the next morning so that you can adjust your wake up time if making breakfast requires more time than usual.

Again, planning a weekly breakfast menu is a great idea for streamlining your morning routine. The ultimate way to lessen breakfast-making minutes is to cook large batches of your family’s favorite breakfast foods and freeze them.

4. Write your morning routine down to the minute and turn getting ready into a game. I have been known to attempt to beat my best time at getting ready in the morning. As you will see in my morning schedule below, any time I save is time I give back to myself and the things that I enjoy doing, like blogging.

5. Make the next day’s to-do list before bed. This simple step will allow you to rest better, because you won’t spend the night going over the next day in your head. Dump the next day’s tasks on to paper or into your favorite to-do list app and be done with tomorrow until tomorrow.

The Morning Routine

Before you can streamline your morning routine, you need to know what’s taking too much time and what’s not getting enough attention in the morning. For a day or two, record how long certain morning tasks are taking to accomplish. Decide which tasks are a priority. Remove the rest from your morning routine.

Here are my tips for a stress-free morning routine:

1. No electronics until you’ve showered, gotten dressed, made breakfast, etc. Once everything is done, you can sit down with your breakfast and check emails or watch the news.

2. No phone calls at all, unless there is an emergency. Do not talk on your phone while you’re getting ready in the morning. Also — and this could be a tough one — No. Social. Media. Unless you get ready quickly and have time to spare!

3. Get up earlier. Just do it. Start with 15 minutes earlier, move up to 30 minutes. Eventually you will have time to incorporate meditation, scripture reading or your favorite spiritual practice into your morning routine. This will benefit you all day.

4. Put your keys, work bag, children’s backpacks, etc in the same convenient place every day. You should be able to grab and go within seconds and know that everything you need it already in your bag and that the children have what they need in their backpacks.

5. Don’t wash and dry your hair every day. If you have a hairstyle that requires a lot of time in the morning, you have two choices — change your hairstyle or get up earlier. Stop letting your hair make you late.

6. Set a goal time for leaving the house. It is very important that you write down your morning routine to the minute. At first, estimate how long it takes you to shower, make breakfast, get dressed, etc. Write out a schedule. You can adjust the schedule if you find that something takes more or less time than you thought. Write the schedule based on your desired time to walk out the door. (Help your children to make a morning schedule, as well.) See below for my morning schedule.

My Stress Free Morning Schedule

My children are home schooled and I have their lessons and assignments planned by the week. I don’t have to get my children out the door quickly in the morning, but the trade off is that my evenings are packed. I save time in the evenings by getting a lot of work done in the morning before I go to my job.

5:30 am — Get up, shower, get dressed, play a “brain game.”

6:00 am — Start breakfast, unload dishwasher, care for pets, do any dinner prep that is needed.

6:20 am — Gather my things (which are already in one place, remember!), put on my shoes (I put my shoes for the next day under my desk each evening for quick access), put my lunch bag with my work bag.

6:20 am — I’m out the door on my way to work.

I have my morning routine simplified so that I have a whole hour to sit with my breakfast and coffee while working on my blog before going to my full time job if I decide to get up early enough to do so. I’ve also moved the meditation time that was once listed above to the evenings before bed because I find that it helps me get a better night’s sleep.

The things I did with that hour before implementing a stress free morning routine included washing and drying my hair, deciding on an outfit, making my lunch, wondering what to make for breakfast, looking for my shoes and a hefty dose of muttering under my breath.

I wrangled my routine into submission and you can too!

This post was originally featured on Allison Goines’ blog, Our Small Hours. Featured image via.

I often get looks of disbelief when I tell people some of the activities the kids do at daycare (good examples: Field Day 2015 and Pasta Play Day) or when people ask me what I do for a living. I respond “I’m a daycare provider and I also own and run a website and I write books and I’m producing a play!” This leaves people with their mouths open and suddenly they have no idea what to say to me. Usually the first words out of their mouths goes something like this:

“I…um…oh…but…ummm…wow. How do you do it?”

Well, I’m finally prepared to let people in on my little secret. How do I do it? By it, I’m assuming people mean my life. How do I parent, run a successful daycare, keep up on writing, find the time to write books, and how am I producing a play? I am busy. Like crazy busy. I decided to nix our summer vacation because I am drained. I’m opting for a staycation because it sounds way more relaxing and invigorating. I’ll admit, part of me is kicking myself for nixing the trip because…oh my gosh…it would have been such a fun blog post to write about. But my body is telling me to rest and I’m listening.

Things don’t always go smoothly. My pictures may be fun and everything may look amazing, but let me tell you, there are difficulties. During Field Day 2015 there were no less than half a dozen time outs during the three hours of activities. To get our semi-okay pictures before the Minions Movie, threats were made. I told my five year old that if he didn’t stop covering his eyes or grabbing his penis I would hand him off to the next person that walked by. Luckily it didn’t come to that so he didn’t have to call my bluff.

I have to plan. A lot. I have to plan meals, snacks, make sure we have enough hand soap, crafts, toys, which kids need more diapers, schedules for my family and the daycare families. I make lists of things to do. We have several To Do Lists going at once. Our fun to do list, our places to go list, our local restaurants to eat at list, our errand list, and my daily to do list.

I put one thing at the top of my list every day to complete. If I accomplish nothing else on the list, I make sure this one thing gets done. My one thing changes daily. Sometimes it’s as simple as getting an email sent to someone, getting an appointment made, getting pictures loaded onto the computer. Sometimes it’s household chores: I will finish laundry today, clean out the pantry, deep clean a bedroom. Sometimes it’s for my family: we will go swimming this evening, watch a movie together, have a game night. Sometimes it’s for my businesses: I will get receipts filed away, I’ll get everything entered into my spreadsheet. Sometimes it’s a goal: I will walk/run so many miles this evening, I will promote the website to xx amount of businesses when I’m out. Everything else on my To Do List is seemingly less important until my one thing is accomplished. This gives me perspective. It allows me to focus on every aspect of my life on different days.

Even with as much as I plan and try to keep things together, there are a lot of quirks, intense situations (like my three year old locking herself in a bathroom stall), pictures aren’t perfect, and there are so many unplanned events. At the end of the day it makes me smile and laugh and it gives me a good story to write about. It doesn’t matter how much I plan or how much doesn’t go according to plan. I’ve found with my little secret I can accomplish things easily.

“Do what you love and love what you do.”

I don’t do anything I don’t love or that doesn’t make me happy. I love being with my kids, even when they drive me crazy. I love getting creative and igniting creativity in children and teaching them. I love writing, so I write about my adventures as a parent and daycare provider. Because I love both of those things. I love getting out and doing things and exploring, so I do get out and do things with my kids. Then I write about it. Because all of those things make me happy. I love to try new things and take a chance, so I’m producing a play. Because it makes me happy and teaches me new things. That one thing at the top of my list every day is something that makes me happy and betters my life in some way.

I realize I’m lucky to have found my niche in life. To have a life that puts a smile on my face, even when I’m stressed. To have a life I get excited about and I’m passionate about. To have people around me that support me, even if they roll their eyes at me or gasp when they hear about all I do.

I may not do it all perfectly, but that’s okay. I’m not aiming for the perfect life. I’m aiming for the life that puts a smile on my face. I’m aiming to be the person that inspires others and shows others how to do what you love and love what you do.

This post was originally featured on Ashlen Sheaffer’s blog, The Kidsperts. Featured image via.

We sat down with badass cancer-beating, responsibility-juggling chef and entrepreneur Kelly Boyer, aka the woman behind PALETA. In case you missed Felicity’s 5-day cleanse, PALETA provides meal delivery, pressed juice detoxes, and snacks, all with a focus on healthy living.

While the word “meal” usually makes us cringe because it conjures up thoughts of cooking and lecturing our kids to put their dishes in the sink, the word “delivery” makes us salivate. All hail Kelly, patron saint of dinnertime!

1. What made you decide to start your own business?

There were a few factors that built up over time. My cancer diagnosis at age 21 definitely changed the course of my life and how I live it. I’m just a nice Polish girl from the midwest who was weaned on sausages and fried foods with ranch dressing! The illness changed all that and my entire family began to weave the thread of health and fitness throughout the fabric of all our lives. Once I was healthy, I had a great career in Human Resources after attending grad school in Chicago at Northwestern/Kellogg. I almost exclusively worked for entrepreneurial companies that were building new brands or starting new divisions or were being built from the ground up. I became passionate about BUILDING things.

I ultimately left corporate America to take some time off and ended up enrolling in culinary school for almost two years. I’m a classically French trained chef and became pretty unhealthy after all the cooking with butter and cream. I reverted back to my old healthier ways by adjusting the cooking techniques I learned in school to apply to more healthful recipes. I started learning more about organics and sustainability and then became licensed as a nutritionist to have an even deeper understanding of how and what is best to eat. Because of my own life path, I truly believe that a healthier lifestyle saved my life. I KNOW that what you put into your body really matters. And because of my love of FOOD, I knew I could create CLEAN recipes that put a healthy twist on haute cuisine. Once I started looking and feeling better, friends asked me to help them with their meals so they could achieve their own health and fitness goals. And then it spread word of mouth to their personal trainers, physicians, dietitians, neighbors, family, co-workers … and BOOM! PALETA was born.

2. Who has been your biggest inspiration?

The one person who has inspired me the most deeply is my Grandmother Leona who passed away about 7 years ago.

My brothers and I were lucky to have all our grandparents as an integral part of our lives growing up. We rarely went a week without seeing them. My Grandma was a housewife who raised 4 boys and my mom. She didn’t have a career outside of the home. But the home she made was something to be envied. I’ve never met anyone kinder or more patient. I doubt she ever said a harsh word to anyone. I really think she was an angel walking on this earth and had a sweetness and light about her that I’ve never seen before or since.

She inspires me to be kinder and to be more patient (which is not my strong suit!). She helped me be a better listener and gave me a love of FAMILY that I take with me everywhere. Even in my professional life, I use her influence to help me maintain an ongoing standard of integrity, even when it’s hard. It’s her that I want to make most proud in everything I do.

3. What has been your biggest obstacle?

My extremely rare ovarian cancer diagnosis at 21 years of age was a game changer. Immediately after graduating from college I was told I might have a year to live at most and the doctors would do whatever they could to make me comfortable.

At 21 years old I had no concept of mortality. I still had all my grandparents and dozens of great aunts and uncles. My own grandfather lived to be 103! Wrapping my head around the probability that I would not make it to 22 was devastating… at first. Then began the long journey of surgeries, chemotherapy, holistic treatments… you name it, we tried it. After a yearlong battle, we WON! And I say WE because it was a team effort led by my parents and brothers and extended family.

It’s now been almost 29 years of remission, so I’d say I’m sticking around for the long haul and I feel blessed. The biggest challenge in all of this would most obviously be the potential loss of my life, but once I was in recovery I had to address a deeper sadness. I had to have a complete hysterectomy when I was 21 so I was not able to have children. It’s something I mourned for most of my adult years. I grieved quietly, but it ran deep. It wasn’t until someone very special said to me, “Some trees were made to bare fruit, and some trees were meant to provide SHADE. Providing shade is your purpose.” It touched and moved me in a way nothing ever had before and it was only then I began to heal and let go of that loss. I realized my life had great purpose and value in spite of it. I’ve never looked back! And I’m truly blessed to have amazing Godchildren and nieces and nephews. They are the lights of my life.

4. How do you juggle everything?

I came out of the womb a multi-tasker. I am very good at compartmentalizing the multitude of things I have to get done in a day. I can’t live without TO DO LISTS. If I don’t write it down, it does NOT get done. And while I try again and again to use my beloved iPhone to track my to-do lists, I’m still pretty old-school in that I like to have a tiny notebook with me at all times so I can track my lists of things to do and I get a ridiculous satisfaction out of crossing things off. I do use my phone at all hours of the day and night to shoot myself messages as things pop into my head when it’s not convenient to pull out my notebook. When I wake up at 3am with an idea, I simply roll over, mumble something into SIRI, and then deal with it the next day. I also make it a painful habit to tackle the top 5 MOST CHALLENGING things I have to do in a day FIRST. I cringe every morning when I do it, but then I enjoy the relief of facing the toughest part of my day early on. It makes for a better day ahead.

5. What’s your favorite way to relax?

It USED to be cooking at home, but now that it has become my life’s work and my days revolve around food, not so much! I try to separate myself from the joy I get out of my work and the pleasure other things in my life bring to the party. There are 2 things that are my GO TO. First, I love to swim laps. I like the exercise, but more importantly, I love the peace and serenity of being under the water moving forward on of my own steam. No cell phones, no horns blaring, no one asking me questions. It’s MY time away from the world. Second, I really enjoy reading. I have been an avid reader since I was a little girl and used to devour 2-3 books in a weekend. Life gets in the way of that sometimes, so it’s only been in the past few years that I started picking up books again. It takes me to another world. You can hardly get my attention when I’m deeply entrenched in a book. My Mom just gave me a KINDLE and it’s my new favorite possession. I take it with me everywhere. If I have to wait in a line for something, out it comes so I can sneak in a few pages and it helps distract me from the little stressors we all have throughout the day. It’s the BEST way to tune out. And, it just makes you smarter! You’re reminded of the power of words and how beautiful language is.

6. What is your favorite four-letter word?

M F’er! NOT very original of me (or very nice!), but I’m not sure what I’d do without it!