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!

As some of you may be aware, my mother was forced to retire last year. (A stroke has a sneaky way of making decisions for you).

Of course, this has not been easy.

Maybe more so for my mother: She never slowed down. Not for one minute in her entire life. She worked (as a much sought-after Interior Designer) through her retirement… she’s stubborn.. and talented, a true dyed-in-the-wool super sonic ‘tastemaker’ of design, fashion, style, entertaining, and elegance.

She also has a wicked sense of humor.

“Cheryl Ann, I hear you have a blog.”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“That’s nice. What is a blog?”

“It’s a platform for spewing my shizz to a bunch of people I don’t know. It’s writing and publishing on the Internet.”

“What is shizzzz… or did you say ‘shit’?”

“Same thing…”

“Do people actually read your writing?”

” A few Thousands.” (We’re on the phone- thank God. If we had been eye-to-eye…).

“Your sister has read me a few of your letters. You’re just my little writer aren’t you?”

“Well, I guess. Sure. Yes. I am. Absolutely.”

“I find that occasionally you’re even witty. Occaaaasionally.”

“Alrighty then.”

“I think I’d like to write, as well. Do you think I should?”

“Yea. Sure.”

“Could you start a blog for me?”

“I could, but you’d have to write regularly to build an audience, and answer comments, then there’s the social media promo… “

“I think people would like to hear what I have to say. After all, I have stories about being a woman who has survived three strokes at 82, and that’s something.”

“Yes. It is something.”

“Do you think people would like that?”

“I think they would Mom. You should write your story… (before I do).”

“Then it’s settled! I’m going to write down a few things today and mail them to you. You call me as soon as you receive them and we’ll go over it together. Does that sound like a good idea?”

“The best. Idea. Ever.”

As so, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce you to what I hope will be the first of many installments of… (let’s knock a few titles around, shall we?)

Life With Leah (My suggestion)

The Crazy on Main St. (Her suggestion, not mine. I would never dare refer to my mother as ‘crazy’… to her face.)

Queenie (Again- her suggestion, but I believe I have that one already taken).

-or-

Being A Consenting Victim In A Small Town (She wrote that down, so I’m including it because she wrote it down damnit I think it kinda sums up her current state of affairs).

So, without further ado, my mother’s observations (with a wee bit of editing, because, really, how many ways can you spell poop?):

Here is my version of being ‘Free’. No vanity – who needs it.

1. Hair – Pay $6 to the neighborhood bad kid to cut your locks with a weed wacker. Put on safety glasses and ‘have at it’-or- forget the safety glasses and put on a stylish pair and hope for a better cut. Do this on a breezy day.

2. Eyebrows – As they grow they become curly and fall into your eyeballs- or- they fall out. You can draw them on with magic marker or have some Tattoo’d but, either way, without a large arch unless you have a quick cute wink.

3. Get used to the term ‘Old Hag’.

4. Learn to spit and drink beer.

5. Lips – When your lips feel dry go knock back a shot of whiskey.

6. Chin and neck folds – Forget it. They’re already floating around your ankles, which inspires me to design special cowl head covers and spats for shoes and long pants that just rip away. They should be made out of a zebra print or a marine blanket. (She included drawings).

7. Boobs – No bras! Use old Aunt Irene’s ace bandages wrapped around you but add colorful rick-rack to trim the bottom first.

8. Feet – you need them. Leave them alone, but buy expensive shoes.

The rest is just about being old, and who cares, but I can still kick and spit and wink at the mailman and here he comes so I have to find my hat and leopard slippers, but I’m finished with this writing and need a nap just thinking about it but I’ll write more tomorrow if you’ll call me.

~Love,

Mom

ps: Do not forget to call me.

This post was previously featured on Cheryl’s blog, A Pleasant House. Photo via

I came of age during the Sexual Revolution and before AIDS.

We had garden-variety STDs but this was the age of disco, the age of the Pill and even the sponge. It was okay to come home with something that could be treated with an antibiotic, but not to come home pregnant. I didn’t have the time or the money – especially the money – to get pregnant.

So I was a frequent customer to the little Planned Parenthood clinic because there was no way I could afford a fancy gynecologist. The exams and the prescriptions were like gold. I think I may have visited Planned Parenthood more than I stopped in at the college library.

And now, many members of Congress are using the selectively edited video of Planned Parenthood executives as a rallying cry to defund the organization. Many of these members have never have resigned themselves to the fact that abortion is legal. They may even shut down the federal government this week to prove their point.

But this isn’t a blog about abortion.

This is a blog about the health of a young person, a person who didn’t have loving parents to fall back on if she got in a jam. A young person who is not me, but who could have been.

This is a blog about the 400,000 Pap tests and 500,000 breast exams conducted every year to prevent cancer.

It’s about the 4.5 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted diseases, many far more deadly than the garden variety from my youth.

It’s not a blog about abortion, because only 3% of all the stuff Planned Parenthood does is abortions.

It’s not a blog about the 3%. It’s a blog about the 80% who receive services to prevent unintended pregnancies. That’s about 516,000 pregnancies a year. That’s 516,000 times no one even had to discuss whether to have an abortion.

And that’s why Planned Parenthood shouldn’t be part of this Congressional blackmail.

This post was originally featured on Helen’s blog. Photo via Planned Parenthood

I am working on the 2nd season of American Crime and I feel like the luckiest girl alive. I have a job I love in Austin, Texas, a family waiting for me back in LA, and the ability to fly back and forth a lot. This means I am happy, tired, dehydrated and looking older than I would like.
I also had the Emmys on September 20th. Bill and I were both nominated and it was a pretty cool “date night.” BUT the Emmys also means being “Red Carpet” ready. It’s exciting and terrifying. As luck would have it, Kelly Boyer, who created PALETA, reached out to me to see if I needed some help to look my best and feel great.

PALETA is a meal delivery system that Bill used a couple of years ago when he came back home exhausted and unhealthy from the relentless pace of directing a movie. He needed to get healthy and strong to start filming SHAMELESS. He loved Kelly’s program and loved the results.

But let me give you a little run down on Kelly – she is a woman who started her own business (hurray!) in 2005 and it is a huge success. Kelly was diagnosed with a rare, advanced ovarian cancer when she was 21. She was given a year to live, but through change in diet, and eastern and western medicine, she proved them wrong! She has made it her mission to introduce the world to a healthier lifestyle.

So I gratefully said “yes!” to PALETA and I thought I would share the highlights of my five-day “cleanse” program with WTF.

The packages arrived and it felt a little like Christmas.

The basic program I was on was 4 protein shakes a day, a small lunch and normal size dinner.

The PALETA shake is delicious. I felt full, energetic and could do a hard workout. (Full disclosure, I did NOT give up my morning cup of coffee …or my midmorning cup of coffee!)

My morning shake ingredients: PALETA, a big handful of spinach and a few frozen berries. Sometimes PALETA provides the berry blend.)

The other shakes throughout the day were good and filling. If I felt I needed a little extra something I would add another handful of spinach or frozen berries.

Bill and I both in our trailers, Facetiming, as he looks longingly at my PALETA juices.

Also PALETA provided cinnamon and raw cocoa powder, so I could change up the flavor several times a day.

The small lunches did make me panic a little, I didn’t want to get so hungry I went crazy and ate everything in sight, but they were satisfying. Sometimes I would eat some almonds or pumpkin seeds after a hard workout or a long day on set.

My favorite dinner was a stuffed bell pepper with quinoa and black beans. But all the dinners were really delicious.

Here is what I noticed by day three: my energy level was great and consistent. I woke up easily, and ready to go. I didn’t have my usual 10am and 3pm dip where I had to turn to coffee to keep me going. I stopped craving crap food, and not having to negotiate what I was going to eat or not eat throughout the day was a relief.

By the time I hit the red carpet and the Emmy events, my skin was glowing, I felt healthy, and my energy level was high.

I actually looked at some of the photographs of the events and was pleasantly surprised. 

The PALETA protein shake is going to be a permanent part of my morning routine and as a midday pick me up when I am working on set.

Thanks PALETA and to Chef Kelly – you go girl!

Love,

Flicka

Emmy photos via