The Secret Formula to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed

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I’m getting married in just over two weeks. In my own backyard. And we’re making all the food ourselves.

The perfectionist in me would be stressing out that we haven’t decided on a menu, that the flower girl dresses we ordered on Etsy haven’t arrived yet, and that the tailor told me last weekend I should exchange my dress for a bigger size.

But I’m not stressed.

I’m also swamped at work with no end in sight, we’re leaving for almost a month of work and personal travel a week after the wedding and don’t have a cat sitter lined up, and we haven’t even STARTED to think about taxes due next week.

I should be communicating only in grunts and stress-eating a dozen donuts with my morning coffee.

But I’m not.

Before you jump to conclusions: No, I didn’t become a Buddhist, and no, I haven’t started chugging vodka first thing every morning.

So What’s My Secret?

I’m relying on a few simple tricks to help me hang onto my sanity during this super busy time.

It’s taken me a lifetime to ferret out these fool-proof techniques in books, magazines, and blog posts. Today, I’ve put all my best tricks in one place to save you the trouble of trial-and-error.

The Secret Formula to Stop Feeling OverwhelmedPhoto by Sara V.

8 Ways to Get a Handle on Stressful Times

The next time you feel that telltale eye twitch because you missed a deadline at work and the house hasn’t been vacuumed in three months and your kid won’t stop biting the pastor’s kid at Sunday School, try these tips to keep the stress at bay.

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Here’s a Simple Fix for Greasy Hair

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One of the good parts of being pregnant is that you’re supposed to get this amazingly thick, shiny, beautiful hair.

Not me.

My hair gets flat and greasy.

When I’m pregnant, I can shampoo my hair TWICE but after I’m done blow-drying it, the crown of my head looks like the place where someone spit out the remnants of their oil pulling experiment.

While I was pregnant with Bailey, I told myself I just had to make it to six weeks postpartum, and everything would be back to normal.

Six weeks rolled by, then three months. Four, five, six…

Still a greasy mess.

I tried using more shampoo, which seemed to make it worse. Less shampoo didn’t have an effect. Then I tried five different shampoos – some mainstream and some natural and one perfectly organic, fair-trade, shade-grown brand whose cost rivaled a month of daycare.

All the same reaction.

Gross feeling hair.

So I turned to my good buddy Google.

Here’s a Simple Fix for Greasy HairPhoto by Takashi Ota

A Radical Solution I Wasn’t Ready For

Lots of folks will recommend that you go the no-poo approach to remedy greasy hair.

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21 Free Toys to Keep Your Baby Happy on a Plane

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By the end of her first five months, Bailey had been on:

  • One 21-hour road trip (each way)
  • Six plane rides

The road trip was about as horrible as you could possibly imagine. She screamed approximately 40 of the 42 hours we were on the road. And those two hours of silence were all thanks to these songs. In fairness to Bailey, she was only five weeks old.

But the plane rides were AWESOME. I nursed at take-off, and she slept pretty much the whole flight. Every time.

While she slept, I read books written for grown-ups. I played endless rounds of Dots on my phone. I even got to snooze a little.

Then last week, I went to the DC area for work, which meant 10-month-old Bailey would rack up four more flights.

Luckily, the cheapest flights happened to line up with her nap times.

We packed a few toys in her diaper bag, but I knew we wouldn’t need them.

Away We Go

After we got through security at the airport, I bought some mommy lit for my Kindle phone app – Life, Motherhood & the Pursuit of the Perfect Handbag.

While we waited by the gate, a nice middle-aged woman smiled at Bailey.

“Can you say hi?” I said, moving Bailey’s arm up and down in a wave.

Bailey smiled.

Then the woman’s face fell. Like it was dawning on her that this cherubic little thing might be screaming bloody murder once we were all locked in a small enclosed space and hurtling through the air together.

She looked at me and raised her eyebrows. “Did you remember to pack a pacifier? Babies need it for their ears so they don’t cry.”

I wanted to say: “This ain’t my first ro-DAY-o.” But 6-year-old Abby wasn’t there, so how could this woman know Bailey isn’t my first?

Then I wanted to say: “We don’t need a pacifier because I’m gonna stick my tit in her mouth.”

But instead, I said:

“I’ve got it covered, thanks.”

I smiled with just the tiniest glint of steel in my eye.

And then it was time to board.

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12 Songs for a Rockin’ Family Dance Party

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It was a Friday afternoon.

4:47 pm.

I was at work, trying to finish a document due first thing Monday morning.

Finishing it Friday afternoon meant saying no to working over the weekend.

Ty was already home after picking up both girls. Texting me cute pictures of them. Asking when I’d be leaving work. Saying he had a surprise waiting for me at home.

So I hurried.

At 5:09 pm, I shut my laptop. I loaded up with my laptop bag, my pump bag, and my purse. Then a quick stop at the fridge to get my milk cooler.

In the elevator, the bags started to slide off my shoulder. I heaved them back up with a super graceful grunt.

And then I was in front of the door to outside. I pushed it open, and…

Oh goodness.

72 degrees, sunny, and blue sky for miles.

That feeling of walking out of work on a Friday? You can’t beat that.

If I won the lottery, I’d still keep a day job just so I could get that Friday afternoon buzz.

(Just kidding. I’d totally quit and take Friday afternoon naps instead.)

What Was Waiting For Me

Earlier that week, I’d fallen in love with a new-to-me song. Riptide by Vance Joy.

But I hadn’t bought it yet. Ty buys all our songs on his Apple account, and we use the same iTunes for syncing our phones.

Ty bought Riptide the day I told him about it, and he’d been listening to it on repeat in the car and at his desk.

Me? I’d been listening to the iTunes sample on repeat.

Not quite the same effect.

Especially when you’re sitting at a stoplight, belting out the words to that 30-second sample and your phone signal drops, and you’re left listening to your own horrible voice a cappella.

I should have just shelled out the $1.29 to buy the song myself. But every $1.29 saved brings me 20% of the way towards a 6-pack of gluten-free cookie dough truffles from Whole Foods.

That Friday afternoon, I dumped my bags in the passenger seat of the car, opened the sunroof and all the windows, and queued up the Riptide sample on my phone.

But it wouldn’t load.

I couldn’t even get a measly 10 seconds out of the sample.

12 Songs for a Rockin' Family Dance Party
Photo by Peter Kaminski

At every stoplight, I pressed stop and start to force the sample to reload.

Nothing.

By the final stoplight, I realized I’d spent the whole drive home monkeying with my phone and distracted myself from soaking up the most gorgeous weather of the year.

So I drove the final stretch in silence. I could have turned on the radio, but I wasn’t willing to take a chance of landing on Let It Go.

Instead, I pictured the girls at home, playing together and laughing. The whole weekend ahead of us. And what surprise could be waiting for me. Then I knew…

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3 Easy Fixes for Everyday Tummy Troubles

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Before Ty and I started dating, life was not all rainbows and Ingrid Michaelson songs.

I was going through a divorce, he was going through a divorce, and we both felt like big fat failures at this life thing.

I cope with stress by eating baked goods and watching romantic comedies. Ty, however, didn’t have such a rock solid coping mechanism, and the stress got to him.

His stomach was constantly in knots.

He went to the doctor, and they ruled out irritable bowel syndrome, an ulcer, and lots of scary sounding things that end in -itis.

But knowing it wasn’t any of those things didn’t change the fact that he had a stomachache 24-7.

Ow.

Enter Ms. Fix-It

After we’d been dating a few weeks, Ty admitted his tummy troubles to me.

With the divorce paperwork behind him, the stress had already taken a sharp decline.

Not to mention that we were opening our hearts to a love that took our breath away.

Still, the stomach pain remained.

This would not do. So I did a little research.

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Here’s a Survival Guide Every Mom Needs

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Before my first daughter Abby was born, I read A TON. Books, magazines, and blogs. Web discussion forums. The breast pump manual.

And I had it all figured out.

My baby girl was going to be born at a birthing center instead of a hospital, she wasn’t going to watch TV til the age of 5, and she wasn’t going to reinforce gender stereotypes by wearing pink.

Well.

She was born by c-section, she watches approximately 3.5 movies each weekend, and her favorite color is pink – preferably in tutu form.

While I was busy making plans for a perfect pregnancy and birth, the universe was enjoying a jolly good laugh at my expense.

It’s a Trap!

You’d think I’d have learned my lesson.

But for my second go-round with baby Bailey, I caught myself falling back into the Trap of Perfection.

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A Crazy Experiment for My 36th Birthday

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The week of my birthday this year, Ty and I decided to try going gluten-free.

Just for fun, to see how our bodies would react. We know how to have a good time.

We tried to replace gluten-y foods with real, whole foods like fruits and veggies and lean protein sources, instead of just swapping out the breads and grains for highly processed gluten-free versions. In other words: BORING.

My observations after five days into our experiment:

  • I went through withdrawal. Walking through the bread section of the grocery store with all the free samples was pure TORTURE. The cookies and the cupcakes and the doughy, doughy bread. I thought I might choke on my own drool.
  • Even though Bailey is teething and waking up every two hours during the night, I didn’t feel as tired.
  • I was eating more food. Like, a LOT more. Typically, I feel full halfway into a meal but keep going anyway. But without gluten in the mix, I could keep eating and eating without feeling like Chunk from The Goonies.
  • However, contrary to what I expected from eating more than usual, I actually lost two pounds of pesky pregnancy weight.

Because we both felt better off the gluten teat, we decided to keep up with the experiment except on special occasions like birthdays…for now. But if you bring me a donut tomorrow morning, I can’t be held responsible for my actions.

A Crazy Experiment for My 36th BirthdayPhoto by Omer Wazir

A Selfless Act of Motherhood

Also happening during our gluten-free experiment: Abby turned six.

At Abby’s school, the kids have a tradition of bringing in treats on their birthdays.

When I met Abby for our Friday lunch date before her birthday, I asked what she wanted us to bring.

“Cupcakes,” she said.

Want. Now.

“What kind?” I asked.

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7 Surefire Ways to Make Your Kid a Better Student

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A few questions for you:

  • When your child makes a mistake, does she take it hard?
  • Do you get the feeling your kid isn’t applying himself at school?
  • Does your child shy away from learning new things?
  • Has your kid ever gotten a low grade on a test or a report card and tried to hide it from you?
  • Have you heard your child talk down to herself, saying things like “I’m not good at that” or “I’ll never learn this” or “I’m not smart”?
7 Surefire Ways to Make Your Kid a Better Student
Photo by Hometown Beauty

If you answered yes to any of these questions, your child may have a fixed mindset.

Children with a fixed mindset believe that you are as smart as you’ll ever be. You can’t change how smart you are, no matter how hard you try.

On the other hand, children with a growth mindset believe that if you work hard, you can become smarter. These kids thrive on challenge. Fixed-mindset kids see failure as evidence of not being smart, but growth-mindset kids see failure as an opportunity for growing. In fact, they don’t even see it as failure. They see it as LEARNING.

So What?

More than 20 years of research shows that the key to success in school and life is having a growth mindset. Basically, if you believe that trying hard will make you smarter, it will.

However, if your child doesn’t seem to enjoy the learning process, or can’t stand making mistakes, or lies to cover up failure – they may be struggling with a fixed mindset. And it’s stressing out your kid!

But it’s not just a mental problem. Kids with a fixed mindset tend to do WORSE in school.

The good news: You can help your child change their mindset.

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Here’s the Secret Phrase to Turn Your Kid Into an Amazing Student

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My 5-year-old Abby struggles when she makes mistakes.

Just a hunch, but I think it might have something to do with her mother being a perfectionist. Or maybe it’s just the nature of Abby’s own personality.

But watching my child be so incredibly hard on herself gives me a renewed sense of urgency to get a handle on my own perfectionist tendencies.

Abby will say things like:

  • “I’m never going to learn how to read.”
  • “Everyone else is better than me.”
  • “I’m the worst kid in the world.”

That last one is like an ice-cold knife sliding into my gut.

An Eye Opener

Here’s the Secret Phrase to Turn Your Kid Into a Better Student
Photo by MissMessie

The other night as I was tucking Abby in, I asked: “What makes someone smart?”

“Their brain,” she said.

I laughed. “That’s a good point.”

Then I asked: “What about your baby sister? Is she smart?”

“No.”

I raised one eyebrow. “How will she get smart?”

“By learning things.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “And by making mistakes, right?”

She nodded.

We were both quiet for a few seconds. I thought of earlier in the day when she said she’d never learn to read. In response, I picked out an easy reader book and sat down with her. She read the whole thing, needing help on just a handful of words.

She pulled the covers up over her shoulders, snapping me out of the memory.

I asked: “What about you? Are you smart?”

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12 Romantic Comedies for Women Who Kick Ass

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I was never into celebrating Valentine’s Day.

In fact, I have ranted a time or two (or fifty) about how it’s a Hallmark holiday designed to get Americans to spend money on cards and flowers that end up in the trash a couple days later. Not to mention the splurging on overpriced extravagant jewelry.

Forced romance? No, thank you.

And then I fell in love.

Scratch That

Yes, romance is best when spontaneous. OF COURSE it should come from the heart. And love is something to express year-round, not a checkbox to mark off one day a year.

You Make My Heart Have Really Huge Boners

But getting a ready-made excuse to act as sappy as humanly possible and shower your honey in over-the-top expressions of your love?

SIGN. ME. UP.

No, wait a second – can we have that every month?!

And I’m not talking bonbons and bling.

Now that we have two little ones, we take advantage of any opportunity to stay connected as a couple – no matter how small.

For Valentine’s Day, we’ll celebrate by popping in a romantic comedy after the girls go to bed. (And okay, maybe some bonbons too.)

But Here’s My Problem

My feelings toward the typical romantic comedy are a lot like my feelings toward 50 Shades of Grey or Twilight. Or Diet Coke. I knew they were crap, but some unspecified addictive chemical in them kept me reading/drinking.

So just like I cut out Diet Coke, I want to cleanse myself of movies like The Ugly Truth and What’s Your Number.

Not because romantic comedies are by definition crap. That is definitely not the case.

“Stop saying ‘chick flick’ like it’s ‘pile of rotten meat’ and stop saying ‘chick lit’ and ‘chick book’ and ‘chick movie’ and anything else that suggests that love stories are less than war stories, or that stories that end with kissing are inherently inferior to stories that end with people getting shot.”

No, I want to make room for “chick flicks” that will speak to me, a modern woman.

Wonder Woman

Show me a strong woman who is capable of solving problems on her own. A woman who isn’t magnetically drawn to the most chauvinistic man she’s ever met. A woman who has real life struggles beyond deciding which Manolo Blahnik to drop a whole paycheck on this week.

Because you know what?

We’re better than that.

We deserve a sweet, funny love story that doesn’t ask us to check our badassness at the theater door.

12 Romantic Comedies You’ll Fall in Love With

It was actually Ty’s idea to embark on a quest to find good quality romantic comedies. So we’ve been watching one romantic comedy just about every night since the new year.

Our little project doesn’t come close to this doctoral research, but we did find some amazing little gems.

We started out with two criteria*:

  1. The female lead must take an active role in solving her own problems, i.e. not wait around for a man to swoop in and save the day
  2. The male lead must not be a stereotypical chauvinist, for example his interests must extend beyond eating steak and watching porn (sorry, Don Jon)

It’s no Bechdel Test, but it helped us weed out the ridiculous movies.

Here are the 12 films we loved most.

12 Romantic Comedies for Women Who Kick AssPhoto by Jamie Solorio

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