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

Since I’m so shy in public situations, I never would have believed I would have joined an exercise class. But, I have tried so many different things to try and keep my anxiety in check with some improvements here and there but nothing that made a big enough difference.

Since my husband got stationed here a few years ago, I’ve had my eye on taking a yoga class but always felt too self-conscious. I finally said fuck it, who cares, and signed up for a beginning yoga class that lasted several weeks, If you don’t have much experience with anxiety and panic attacks, it may not seem like a big thing to do something as simple as that but it’s huge for me. I was so nervous and worried about being in a class full of people.

It took some time but I found that surprisingly, I really like the group exercise class better than using dvds at home and I felt more inspired to keep up with it.

I found by the end of my second class, it did wonders for my anxiety and I felt like a dumb ass for not embracing yoga much sooner. I haven’t been practicing it much since the beginner class ended but really need to push myself to add yoga into my life more often.

My yoga classes were 90 minutes and truth be told, it took a good half hour before I could finally quiet my mind and actually focus on the now, of being mindful… and it felt good not having so much worry stuck in my head.

But there was some evil that came with my 12 week yoga course. The class was at 6 pm and despite having a light snack beforehand, it took all the focus in the world at times because there was a Chinese restaurant below the yoga studio so all of us would be smelling the deliciousness rising up to our 3rd floor studio. Egg rolls, fried rice, garlic chicken, oh my.

The most amazing part of the yoga class was towards the end of each session when we would spend time relaxing. By then, over an hour had already gone by and I was pretty much in the awesome yoga zone where no matter what life threw at me, it would all still be good. That’s just damn crazy because I don’t ever think that way. Me, optimistic? What?

The class would end but all I wanted to do was stay lying on my mat and spend the night since I was in such a relaxed state. That should be a thing if it isn’t already. Yoga class slumber parties. You wouldn’t have to deal with all the crazy shit awaiting your arrival at home.

After every class, I would take my sweet time walking to my car and driving home since I loved the feeling of my yoga high. I’d pull into the driveway and slide out of the seat of my car, then slowly walk up to the front door of my house, still in a very relaxed state.

My mistake was opening the front door and expecting to let myself settle for a bit while I changed my clothes and ate a late dinner. Instead, I had my daughter run up to me saying “Mom? Mom?? Mommy?? I hurt my toe earlier. I didn’t like what dad made for dinner. Will you please read to me? Am I having hot lunch or cold lunch tomorrow? What are you making me for a snack? Can I have a playdate with Kiki tomorrow?”

Agghhh!

And my husband would bombard me with a play by-play of the 1 1/2 hours that I was gone for class. I was glad they missed me but holy fucking fuck. Give a mom a damn minute. I just wanted to pee and change clothes and heat up dinner when I first got home.

Finally, with food in my stomach, I could handle the “Mom? Mom? Mom?” from my daughter and “Elle? Hey, Pookie?” questions from my husband but unfortunately, my relaxed and groovy namaste would vanish a few minutes after walking into my house.

And this is why there needs to be yoga class slumber parties. Someone get on that!

In case you’re wondering because I know you’re not but I’ll tell you anyway, I only succumbed to the Chinese restaurant once. That was surprising since there were plenty of times when I would be in warrior pose or downward facing dog with my stomach growling over the amazing smells from the restaurant, and would seriously consider ditching the rest of the class to stuff my face.

The food ended up being just as delicious as it smelled. Now, if they decide to put a donut shop next to the gym I started going to over the summer, I’m fucked. I can just see myself in spinning class, holding a box of a dozen donuts, getting Boston cream all over the handlebars.

This post was originally featured on Elle Davis’ blog, This Is Mommyhood. Featured image via.

We live in Iowa. This means 3 things: corn, nice people, and harsh winters. I’ve always dreaded winter’s arrival, but I dread it even more now that I have kids. We spend more time than we’d like indoors, but I’m always have ideas for those days or weekends we get snowed in or it’s too cold to go anywhere. Here’s our 100 favorite indoor activities that we reserve for winter time:

1.) Scratch color paper

2.) Color forms

3.) Cardboard blocks

4.) Cardboard playhouse (or make your own with large boxes)

5.) Obstacle course. Use pillows, Lego’s, whatever you can to make a course

READ MORE: 8 KIDS SHOWS I TOTALLY DON’T HATE

6.) Water color sheets

7.) Boxes. Stop by your local grocery store if you’re in need of boxes (usually the larger the box the better according to kids)

8.) Movie theater in the living room

9.) Tea party

10.) Hot chocolate bar

11.) Soup day. Spend a day making and trying all kinds of soup. Let kids help pick out recipes and make them

12.) Kids yoga (or any other exercise “class”). Check out Youtube for the how to’s

13.) Game day. Play board games all day. Some of our favorite: Don’t Spill the Beans, Uno, Hungry Hungry Hippos, Connect 4, Don’t Break The Ice, and Disney Hedbanz

14.) Over the door basketball hoop game

READ MORE: 15 SIGNS YOU MIGHT NEED A DAY OFF

15.) Indoor baseball. This is not for those with glass houses

16.) Bowling

17.) Bag toss

18.) Balloon/beach ball volleyball

19.) Playing with ice

20.) Baking soda and vinegar. Makes for some really fun and cool experiments

21.) Make your own Play Doh

22.) Stickers

23.) Puff Paints. Grab bags from Dollar Tree or cheap tees to use

24.) Sensory bins

25.) Tents. We’ve been known to set up our camping tent in the middle of the living room on long gloomy days

26.) Make a fort

27.) Dance party

28.) Hot Wheel races

29.) Dirty cars (Chocolate pudding and any little cars)

30.) Crayola tub paints

31.) Window markers

32.) Insta snow or Baking soda snow

33.) Balloons

34.) Potions Party

READ MORE: THIS IS WHAT A REAL HOUSE LOOKS LIKE

35.) Slime

36.) Play with shaving cream

37.) Goop

38.) “Find the….” game. Have one child hide a toy (of any size, of their choosing) and the other kids find it

39.) Make your own decorations

40.) Gym day with mattresses. Lay mattress on the floor (we’ve been known to move our’s to the living room) and let the kids jump around

41.) Books Day

42.) Kinectic Sand

43.) Create your own treasure hunt

44.) Hide n’ seek

45.) Indoor ball pit (you can buy one or make your own with a kiddie pool and plastic balls)

46.) Cooking. Bake up your favorite goodies or try a new recipe for a meal

47.) Dress up

48.) Play restaurant

49.) Bake and decorate cookies

50.) “Lazer” Maze

51.) Paint your own canvas

52.) Make noodle necklaces

53.) Lava lamp experiment

54.) Puppet theater (you can easily make your own with a cardboard box)

55.) Chalk drawings (use sidewalk chalk or classroom chalk and draw on construction paper)

56.) A slide inside (a Little Tikes slide works great)

57.) Water table/bin

58.) Bouncy ball paintings

59.) Make your own bouncy balls

60.) Make masks out of paper plates

61.) Lego’s

62.) Hot potato

63.) Simon Says

64.) Cookie cutters. Paint with them, play with play dough, make cookies. So many options

65.) Puzzles

66.) Flour “sand”

67.) Muffin Party

68.) Pizza Party

69.) Pet Rescue Center

70.) Make your own games

71.) Chocolate sensory play

72.) Grow capsules

73.) Water beads

74.) Shaving cream paint

75.) Salt dough ornaments/3D figures

76.) Hatching eggs

77.) Painting bird house(s). Nothing like working on a spring project in the middle of winter

78.) Face painting

79.) Pudding painting

80.) Pillow fight

81.) Trampoline

82.) Magnets

83.) Photo booth

84.) Car wash

85.) Make your own wooden blocks

86.) Water bottle shakers

87.) Play grocery store

88.) Kool Aid snow painting

89.) Play dinosaurs

90.) Bop Balloons. Dollar Tree has three packs

91.) Paper airplanes. Make them and have races

92.) Magnets

93.) Make your own music video/video/play/etc

94.) Make cardboard swords

95.) Play pirates with cardboard swords

96.) Make your own puppets. Use brown paper bags and decorate

97.) Crossword puzzles/word find/checkers (great games for older kids)

98.) Make your own crayons. Use up those half broken crayons, an ice cube tray, and the microwave

99.) Build things with mini marshmallows and toothpicks

100.) Fun with flashlights. Take advantage of the sun setting early (incredibly early) and save some electricity. Use flashlights to make shadow puppets (followed by a game of “can you tell what I’m making?”) or play hide n’ seek in the dark or my kids favorite (which always ends in someone getting hurt) is tag in the dark.

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

“Why do you have a big belly?” my four-your-old, Ginny, asked my friend.

Oh boy. It happened. I hoped none of my girls would ever say anything like that, but being children they say what they think. And, Ginny asked the question out of genuine curiosity.

My friend replied to her, “I love food.”

A great answer, but I wanted to let Ginny know it wasn’t appropriate to ask people about the size of their bellies. Heck, the size of anything on their bodies. Immediately, I started to respond, “That’s not a nice thing to say,” but stopped myself before I finished it.

SEE MORE: Mommy, That Lady Is (Points Out Flaw)!

I want my daughters to feel comfortable in their own skin and love themselves. I also want them to recognize that not everyone is the same; all people come in different shapes, sizes, and colors, and there is no shame in that. If I said it wasn’t nice to point out someone having a bigger belly, wouldn’t I actually being saying there is something wrong with my friend? Wouldn’t I also be implying there is something inherently wrong with a big belly?

So, I took a deep breath, and instead said, “Ginny, we don’t comment on people’s bodies. It’s rude. No more asking questions like that.” Ginny seemed to think on that and said, “okay.”

The next day at dinner, Ginny looked at her daddy, patted his belly and asked him why his belly was fat. My husband, having been told about the conversation with my friend, said that he probably ate too much and needed to “Mousekersize” more (Ginny’s word for exercise). After he answered, I reminded Ginny of our conversation from the day before, I explained it was rude to ask people a question like that.

Ginny wasn’t satisfied with that response. She wanted to understand. So, Ginny asked why it was rude. I contemplated my words carefully. Again, trying to avoid any fat-shaming language, but also letting her know there are boundaries and things we don’t say to each other in a way that a four-year-old would understand.

I told my curious child that we don’t ask the questions because not everyone wants to answer questions about their body; that some people might not like their body parts and feel uncomfortable when someone asks them about it. I explained to Ginny that no matter how curious she was, there are some questions that are rude and not proper to ask others.

SEE MORE: Why Making Mistakes Is Good For Your Kids

Again, Ginny seemed to think about my answer. Then, she looked at me across the dinner table and asked me, “Mommy, do you like your belly?”

I smiled, and said, “Yes, Ginny. I love my belly.”

“Why, Mommy?”

“Great question, Sweetie.” I responded. “I love my belly because you were once in my belly as was your sister Grace. I love my belly because I am now carrying your baby sister in it. How can I not love a belly that can do all that?”

Satisfied, Ginny ate the rest of her dinner (or should I say ate what she wanted from her dinner and avoided the rest) with no more words about bellies or the sizes of them.

This morning as I got the girls dressed for our day, Ginny patted my belly and asked why it kept getting bigger. This time I didn’t scold her or remind her about how rude the question can be. Instead, I answered her.

“Well, Ginny, the baby in Mommy’s belly keeps getting bigger. As the baby gets bigger so does my belly.”

Ginny looked up at me and asked, “Will it get smaller soon?”

I chuckled a bit. “Not for a while. My belly will keep growing until your baby sister is born. Then, for a while my belly will stay big, but eventually it will get smaller again.”

Satisfied, Ginny kissed my belly and finished getting dressed.

Perhaps that’s why Ginny asked my friend and husband about their bellies. She just wanted to know if there was a baby in their belly. Or, maybe she was just being a curious four-year-old asking questions about what she observed. No matter, I hope she learns that everyone looks different and there is no shame in being big, small, or somewhere between.

This post was originally featured on Denise’s blog, Jayhawk Mommy. Photo via.

It is a new year. Lists have been made. Resolutions have been firmly committed to. Perhaps even a few have been broken. At some point in my resolution making for this year I decided that I wouldn’t put things like diet, workout, organize my house….etc because I never stick to those.

Today it occurred to me that although I do not belong to a gym, I DO have a workout routine. It probably doesn’t burn an impressive amount of calories, but it works. Or at least that is what I’m telling myself.

This workout does not require flipping tires or running half marathons. You won’t find 800 dumbbells or kettlebells or whateverbells in various weights to lift or throw or torque. There is no accompanying diet of 200 calories to restrict yourself to.

Instead the workout features sweat producing movements like this:

Chop wood
Bring wood into house
Wash dishes or cook dinner WITH two small children in tow
Let the dog outside in his yard area
Chase down dog when he runs away
Laundry
Biting your tongue during Arsenic Hour
Dialing a phone
Breathing exercises (read: furious huffing and puffing when you get interrupted two zillion times)
Finding the toddler’s other shoe
Retrieving objects out of time out from the top of the refrigerator
Putting all the toys away. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Trying not to roll over your children when they all bombard your bed in the middle of the night

In no time at all you will have toned patience, flexible memory loss, and increased endurance for your exhaustion.

This post was originally featured on Sarah’s blog, Housewife Plus. Photo via

I’m not a fan of exercise. Who is, really? It’s a necessary part of life, but that doesn’t make it any less horrible. When I was in high school and college I worked out all the time; so much so it was almost an addiction. Sometime in law school I found a new addiction: Oreos. And Doritos. And pizza. And Taco Bell.

Of course, I also discovered fat rolls.

I’ve gone back and forth with different workouts over the years but nothing has really stuck. So I turned to the only option left. Yoga.

Yes, yoga. At first I thought this would be a great workout because it meant I could sit down and call it exercise. I also loved that I didn’t have to wear shoes. I figured it couldn’t be that hard if it didn’t require footwear.

Obviously I was greatly mistaken. After trying yoga several times I’ve decided that I hate it. No. I despise it. I realize there are people who think it’s great, but there are also people in the world who don’t like cookie cake. It takes all kinds of crazies to make the world go ’round.

Since I want to save my readers from the misery of downward dog, I’ve created a fat girl’s guide to yoga. It’s pretty with pictures so it’s easy to read. Yoga requires effort but following a guide on how to do yoga should be effortless.