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Judge Less…Care More

Last night I had a mom’s night out…that’s right…I got out of my yoga pants and nursing tanks, put on makeup, left the kiddos at home with the hubby, and had an amazing time with some amazing friends. With the release of Bad Moms last week, it was the perfect excuse to get out of the house and enjoy one another’s company.

I knew the movie was produced by the same people who gave us cheeky comedies like Bridesmaids and The Hangover, so I was expecting a very funny, even inappropriate film, but what I got was a whole lot more. While it did make us laugh out loud and at times pushed the envelope, it was also heartwarming and really made me think about the love I have for my kids and the desire I have to help shape them into productive, loving human beings. The moms in the movie are not perfect, and even the ones in the movie who come across as perfect don’t really have it all together. The characters in the movie learn to lean on one another and band together to de-stress their lives so they have time to be better moms.

Here is my plea for all you moms out there. Judge less…care more. What do I mean by that? I mean, we should never cast stones on other moms who are doing their best to keep it all together because let’s face it, we all go through trying times. Whether we are stay at home moms, work from home moms, working moms, moms of multiples, moms of only children, moms of adopted children, moms of toddlers, moms of special needs children, moms of teenagers, or single moms…we all have our moments where we just don’t feel good enough or strong enough.

So instead of rolling your eyes in the supermarket when you see a 2 year old having a meltdown over what kind of gummy bears she wants, have some compassion and give the mom a smile. Instead of complaining when a baby is crying in a restaurant, how about sending the mom a note of encouragement on a napkin. Instead of yelling at that mom on the airplane who can’t get her infant to calm down, how about asking her if she needs any help?

This past week I heard an amazing story while listening to the radio. A waiter at an Olive Garden in Arkansas offered to feed the sick baby at the table he was serving so the (obviously) tired mother could get just a few minutes to eat her meal in peace. What an awesome act of kindness and something we could all learn from. There are times when we all need compassion, empathy, and sometimes a helping hand…so instead of looking down on a mom who seems to be struggling, how can you lift her spirit?

Featured image credit: Today Show

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Maternity Leave – It’s Not a Vacation

In my previous job, I was very blessed with a supportive organization who believed time with family is of utmost importance, especially after the birth of a baby. In fact, the board of directors believed in this so much that any new parent (male or female) received three months of paid leave. Like I said, I was very blessed!

Now, having said that, I also think I had co-workers and others in my life who thought this three months was a breeze – a time to be home resting, relaxing, and in their minds…on a very extended vacation.

But let me be clear…maternity leave IS NOT a vacation. In fact, it is far from it. It is an exhausting time filled with sleepless nights, days that seem to go on forever, and loads and loads of pee, poop, and spit up. There are days when a mom may feel at the end of her rope and unable to tolerate any more crying and times when the anxiety of not being able to do it all (i.e. keep a clean house, a happy baby, and food on the table) is just too much to handle. There are days when you want to throw the breastfeeding schedule out the window and just be normal, and there are days when the pain of breastfeeding is too much to bare. There are days when a hot shower seems so close yet so far away, and there are days when you simply wish you could go to the bathroom…ALONE. Ok, let’s be honest, those are most days.

Yes, there are moments of bonding I wouldn’t trade for the world, but it’s also hard. Hard to be stuck in your house wondering if you will get a shower that day. Hard to deal with the healing of your own body while also taking care of the needs of a tiny little human (or in my case this go round, humans). Hard to feel isolated from friends and co-workers who you are used to seeing/communicating with on a daily basis. Hard to deal with all of the emotions that come along with a new baby…and questioning yourself every step of the way. Am I doing this right? Do I love him/her enough? Am I still being a good parent to my other children? Have I even had a conversation with my husband lately that didn’t involve the children or me crying? Did I remember to feed the dog today? Am I parenting the right way? Did I let the baby cry for too long? Is he/she hungry? Am I hungry…oh, crap, I forgot to eat lunch…

Like I said, it’s not an easy time and it is certainly no vacation. But what I would like to encourage moms to do, is to enjoy every minute of it. The feelings you are feeling are normal…you are doubting yourself, you are transitioning from your pre-baby body into your new post-baby body…you are having mood swings…and all of that is OK. Stay strong; find a support system; workout if you can; and most importantly, take care of yourself. But do enjoy your time at home with baby because it will be gone in a flash.

Before you know it, your first born will be starting first grade like my son in a couple of weeks. Woah, tears…I’ll save the emotions that come along with that for another day.

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The Real Reason I Workout

Most of us consider exercise as just a preventative measure to thwart off disease and keep those extra pounds at bay. While exercising may accomplish those things, I believe it does so much more. I have personally experienced how an exercise program can help one cope with both personal and professional stressors. In fact, scientists have unraveled some of the chemistry that takes place in the brain that makes this happen. When someone initially begins an exercise program, there is a temporary surge of dopamine and endorphins (feel good chemicals) in our brains and a release of serotonin that gives us a heightened sense of pleasure and happiness. By exercising regularly, ie several times a week, we start feeling this way permanently. We notice our energy level increases as well as positive changes in our body, reinforcing this behavior. In essence, we get hooked on it! Pretty soon we become more invested in ourselves and start making other positive life changes.

That being said, today I’m dreading the gym. This week has been a bear and the gravitational pull of the couch is pretty intense. Yet today, like most others, I will still muster up the strength and go. A friend recently asked how I managed to stick with it, having tried so many times herself to workout with little consistency. It got me thinking, what really does motivate me? Is it the endorphins? Vanity? Or something else?

There are countless valid reasons to work-out and stay fit; yes, I like that I can still wear a bikini at age 41. I am grateful that I am able to hike miles into the mountains without needing to call 911. But in the end, it’s my blonde, adorable 8-year old daughter that keeps me in check. She needs me to be here for her, and not just now but for a long time to come. Having lost my own mother in my 20s and having a daughter of my own, has helped me to realize how important parents are to us and how valuable that relationship and support are long after society considers us “all grown up.” That loss has and will continue to have a profound effect on my life. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed to me or to any of us for that matter, but I feel that I can stack the odds in my favor by staying fit, for my child’s sake today and in the future.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

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SC Legislative Year in Review

Shake-up in the Senate
A legislative body known for extended oratory, filibusters and operating on “Senate Time,” come January we will see eight new faces in the South Carolina Senate. As Andy Brack noted in a recent edition of the Statehouse ReportSince 2011… almost half of the Senate will have turned over.” Of the 46 Senators elected in South Carolina, 22 will be gone next year. Three of them were Committee Chairmen: Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin, Banking and Finance Chairman Wes Hayes, and Corrections and Penology Chairman Mike Fair.

By the Numbers
Of the 46 Senators, 28 are Republicans and 18 are Democrats. Of the 124 House members, 77 are Republicans and 44 are Democrats. The House and Senate passed 2,018 bills and resolutions in the past two years.

State Appropriations Bill
The SC Senate adopted the State Appropiations Bill in a record four hours. The bill makes allocations for more than $7.5 billion to various state agencies. Below are a few highlights of this year’s budget:

  • 4% pay increase for state employees
  • $12 million for clean up and recovery after the October and November 2015 storms
  • $72 million for FEMA mitigation
  • Base Student Cost was increased by $130 to $2,350 per student
  • $23 million for new school buses
  • $223 million for Local Government Fund
  • $8 million for the Rural Infrastructure Fund
  • $10 million for Telemedicine
  • $17 million to the Department of Commerce for business recruitment

Ethics Reform
In the final days of Session, a House and Senate Conference Committee reached an agreement that requires elected officials who file a statement of economic interest to include sources of private taxable income. Another element of the Ethics Reform bills was the creation of an eight-member ethics commission to investigate when elected officials are accused of wrongdoing.

Road Funding & DOT Reform
The Senate voted 31-10 to approve the new roads funding proposal with two days left in the year’s legislative session. 

The changes include allowing the governor to nominate highway commissioners and then be subject to consent by the full Senate. Each of the commissioners would serve at the will of the governor, though any firing would be subject to the legislative delegation’s approval. The state’s transportation secretary would be selected by the commissioners.
The reform also requires all State Transportation Infrastructure Bank projects be submitted to the State Department of Transportation Commission for approval and that the threshold for such projects be lowered from $100 million to $25 million. The funding part of the roads bill would provide $216 million in recurring funds to enable borrowing $2.3 billion through bonds over 10 years. Officials believe that money, in turn, would enable DOT to free up other money, ultimately providing $4.3 billion for interstate, road and bridge repairs and improvements.
Cover Photo credit: Wikipedia
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How to Help When a Friend Has a Baby

My husband and I were recently blessed (and challenged) with the arrival of our twin baby girls. It’s been especially hard to balance our growing family because we already have a 6 year old and 2 year old to love and nurture. Leading up to the twins’ birth I was very anxious about how we would manage our family of 6…

Enter our amazing family and friends who have been there for us throughout my pregnancy and now throughout the first few weeks of the twins’ lives. People have loved on us, prayed for us, brought us food, and taken care of our children. I have experienced such amazing support that I wanted to share some ideas with you in case you want to help a friend who has recently had a baby but you just don’t know what to do. In full disclosure, I feel like I have always been one of those people. My friends have babies, and being that I HATE to cook, I never knew how to help. Here are some easy ways to really help your friends ease into their new lives once a baby arrives. And while some of these require your friend to also have older children, many of these are good for anyone having baby number 1, 2 or 10.

1. Visit them in the hospital and bring a bag of goodies to get them through their hospital stay. My childhood friend Stacey is amazing and so thoughtful. Once we were placed in our hospital room after the twins’ birth, she was quick to pay us a visit and left us with a bag full of goodies. They were all individually packaged snacks (goldfish, cookies, chex mix, etc.), which made it easy for us to share with our kids. Seven weeks later, we are still eating the snacks she brought!

2. Love on their older children (if they have any). One of the hardest parts of this transition for me and my husband has been taking care of newborns while also spending time with our older two. But never fear, our friends and family have spoiled them rotten. You could pick up your friends’ kids and take them to the zoo, a movie, or the park to give the parents a break. OR, if you really want to splurge on the older kids, how about a gift card to Build a Bear or a Kindle Fire tablet to keep them entertained while mom and dad are busy changing diapers.

3. Start or participate in a meal train. This has to be, hands down, one of the best things anyone did for us. The Meal Train website makes it very easy to schedule meals in advance for the new parents. It allows them to see who is coming, what they are bringing, and also gives them a space to list any dislikes or allergies so the cooks know exactly what they should and should not bring. We have been astounded at the amount of food that has come our way, and to be honest, had the meal train not existed, we probably would be living off of pb&j!

4. Offer to run carpool. For us, the day we had the babies was also my son’s last day of school, which was exciting for him, but also meant I needed to keep him busy and out of the house some while I tended to the babies. It was great to be able to sign him and his sister up for camps and then rely on my friends to get them there and back without having to leave the house. It’s a simple thing to offer and really helps out the parents so much.

5. Babysit for a date night. This may not sound like much, but new parents NEED to have time together that doesn’t involve changing diapers and discussing feeding schedules. When our twins were just one month old, we celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary. At first we didn’t think we would do much since the babies were all consuming, but then our amazing friends Ben and Nicole agreed to keep not just the babies, but all 4 of our kids, while we spent the day on Lake Murray enjoying each other’s company. It was an amazing day, and I could never thank them enough!

6. Make your visit to meet the babies a productive one. Offer to do the dishes or put in a load of laundry. Yes, the new parents are excited that you are there to visit and definitely want you to spend time holding the newborn, but truth be told, they could also use some help. Even if their house looks clean on the surface, offer to help by loading their dishwasher, putting in a load of laundry, or feeding their pets.

7. Send a congratulatory card. Everyone loves mail! When your days are filled with spit up, lots of crying, and tons of pee and poop, mail is especially exciting. A simple congratulatory card can go a long way in putting a much needed smile on a new mom’s face.

8. Bring diapers and wipes! Want to visit the new parents but don’t want to go empty handed? You can never go wrong with diapers and wipes. This practical gift is something all new parents need, and it could quite possibly save them yet another trip to the store.

9. Sit with the baby while the mom takes a shower or gets a nap. For me, I loved having company because it made the days go by faster, and it was great to have an extra set of hands around with two babies needing attention. While I loved catching up with friends, I also utilized the time they were at my house to take a shower, and sometimes even get a nap. Don’t think the new momma is being rude, she just needs that me-time and your visit allows for that.

10. Bring your kids when you come to visit! Ok, this may not be the case if it’s the new parents’ first child, but if they have older children, one thing I have discovered is that keeping my older two busy is key. When adults come for a visit and bring their kids, my kids are busy, happy, and out of my babies’ faces, which is a battle I am constantly fighting. So bring your kids for a playdate, but check with the new parents before heeding my advice!

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The Fall 2016 Shoe Report

There is no hiding the fact that I love fashion, most notably, shoes! Boots, flats, funky heels and basic work staples; I love them all. While the obsession seems to be taking over my closet, I am always interested in seeing what the upcoming season will behold. (Sidebar: you don’t want to miss the Balenciaga Fall 2016 Show…stilettos and stirrup pants…it’s a DO!

Here are a few takeaways from the runways of New York and Paris:

  1. Patent leather is back, y’all! These beauties from the Yves St. Laurent show made it clear that gloss is boss.
    shoe 1
  2. Fringe will enjoy a second season. From booties to ankle-strap heels, fringe is here to stay friends. Looking to try the trend without the investment? Check out Target, Moda and Forever 21.
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  3. Texture. From calf-hair to snakeskin, the top trend by far is a beautifully colorful shoe that draws you in. Check out a few of my favorites from Gucci and Sam Edelman.
  4. Not only am I happy to see the return of high gloss patent leather, the fact that metallic is back makes this shoe lover smile…and in a classically structured Mary Jane, no less!
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Get Fit Mauldin

We all have excuses for why we aren’t making our daily workout a priority and why we aren’t making healthier lifestyle choices. We place our blame on boredom with the same exercise machines, those same daily workout classes, not enough time to get to the gym, or financial reasons that the cost of gym memberships are just too high. We look at these as our roadblocks (a.k.a excuses) on our stalled path to health and fitness nirvana.

These days, I must say, it is hard to find all our fitness needs from one gym. However, as a knowledgeable consumer of these particular goods and services, I have found a great workout option in our own Upstate City of Mauldin, SC- The Mauldin Sports Center. It claims a large fitness area with numerous specialty machines such as the Reverse Hyperextension Machine for speed training, a handi-friendly accessible multi-gym as well as a large rock climbing wall, indoor basketball courts, and great personal trainers there to assist you and offer help whenever and wherever needed.

It’s one of the only Upstate workout facilities to offer such a large array of class options such as POUND, Piloxing, Piloxing Barre, and RIPPED. The class variety completely rocks. There is a Silver Fit Seniors Program with specialty classes tailored towards their needs. And, let’s not forget about the kiddos. There are weekly summer camps, a monthly Parent’s Night Out, and a ‘Fit Kids” program to keep them active and moving while we try to make it down our own hard paths towards health and fitness enlightenment. Once some of our lofty fitness goals have been achieved then we will be much more empowered to take advantage of the Nutrition and Wellness Program that the Fitness Center also offers. And it too, can be tailored towards your needs.

Right now through August 6, Mauldin residents can participate in the Get Fit Mauldin wellness and membership initiative at the amazing Mauldin Sports Center. An individual 3-month membership is $99.00; bring a friend and they receive 50% off their 3-month $99.00 membership. A 3-month family membership is $141.00 and a Senior Citizen’s membership is $78.00 for 3 months. On August 6 to celebrate ourselves and our ever- improving health and wellness, there will be a Family Fun Day at the Center. I believe it’s time to shake off our previous ideas about boring gym memberships and long-term contract commitments and try this joint out.