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Be a Citizen of the World

3 Things by Princess Ivana, PrincessIvana.com

3 Things by Princess Ivana, PrincessIvana.com

Truth

If you want to instill a life-long love of learning in your family, one of the best and most fun ways is travel. There’s no better education for children of all ages than a real taste of the great wide world and its delights: new foods, people, languages, and cultures.

My friends thought I was crazy when, last year, I planned a trip to France with my two toddlers, aged fourteen months and three years old. My son was still being potty trained; my daughter was in diapers. But I had been putting my dream trip off for a few years already, between the pregnancies and daily roster of life’s unexpected adventures. There came a time when I said, “Ready or not, here we go.”

Before we visited France, my children were picky eaters. But the more we traveled, the more they were forced to try new things. They even grew to love some of the very veggies they refused back home.

My daughter’s first complete sentence was spoken in Paris, inspired by a mouthful of Nutella chocolate crepe. “I like it,” she said in a husky, chocolately tone I’d never heard from her before. My son echoed her sentiments. Delicioso! he said. An Italian word I had been trying to teach him at home to no avail. But in Paris all things were possible.

In those few weeks, my children grew up. A certain confidence took hold. They became citizens of the world. We all did, sharing the transformation of new experiences together. My son even said he was going to come back to Paris and live there when he grew up. He loved the motorcycles, and the crepes, of course.

Tip

The logistics of traveling with young children can feel overwhelming, whether you are going near or far. We become Sherpa moms with giant bags and backpacks, baby slings and bottles. The younger your children are, the more tempted you may be to stay at home until they are eighteen and can drive you to your destination. But life isn’t about waiting for the perfect moment.

There are many perfect moments and sometimes the most imperfect moments turn out to be the best. The secret to travel is plan well, and be prepared to let it all go out the window, if necessary. Go with the flow and travel light.

Try not to over-pack or under-pack. If traveling by plane, pack a carry-on ziplock with medications your children might need, such as infant fever reducer, throat soothers, gas or allergy relief. Be sure your Magic Mommy purse has separate compartments for travel documents, baby bottles, kid treats and travel toys. I use one carry-on suitcase for both children. That way all kid items are on board and handy, including comfort favorites like pillow, blanket and snuggly bear.

Find

The “ride on-carry on” must have been invented by a savvy on-the-go mom. Perfect for airport travel, it combines a carry-on bag with a stroller, solving a number of traveling mommy challenges in a single go.

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Contributor: Princess Ivana Maria Pignatelli Aragona Cortes from PrincessIvana.com
(Princess Ivana became a princess when she married Adriano Pignatelli Aragona Cortes—Prince of the Holy Roman Empire and heir to a thousand-year lineage that includes kings of Sicily and Spain; Catherine of Aragon, wife of King Henry VIII; along with a pope and a bona fide saint.  Their two-year-old son and nine-month-old daughter are the latest additions to the line of succession.)
Follow her on Twitter.
Join her on Facebook.
Check out her book: The Modern Princess: A Simple Guide to Pregnancy & Baby’s First Year (co-written with her mom, Magdalene Smith, and sister, Marisa Smith)

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The Love Language of Lunch

3 Things by Peg Moline, Fit Pregnancy

3 Things by Peg Moline, Fit Pregnancy

Truth

I have two girls, one now 20, one 17. And there have been so many things in my life that mark time: the noises heard around the house; which electronics are piled on the coffee table.

But lately, I’ve been thinking about lunch.

I love making a kid’s lunch, finding the perfect little container to put the pasta or sandwich in; adapting to eating habits such as sudden vegetarianism or a vow to go “gluten-free” (why does a 17-year-old need to cut out gluten?); having that tiny bit of control over what she’s ingesting. I even used to put love notes in or even just post-its. Now the lunch is the love.

I remember quite distinctly the day I made my older daughter’s last bag lunch. It was her last day of high school, and as I was cutting the mozzarella and tomatoes, and tearing the basil (she was having a caprese sandwich), it hit me that this was the last time I’d be doing this for her. She was stepping away from me. Most of her friends made their own lunches, anyway, so it shouldn’t have been a huge deal. But it made me cry—not a rare occurrence during her senior year, and it was lunch that did it that day.

I tucked in a love note, just for fun.

Tip

Having a baby is a huge strain on a relationship. I know lots of marriages that broke—a little or a lot—with the arrival of a newborn. My own got pretty battered, and here’s something I wish someone had told me:

At regular times during the day, look at each other. Notice how many days you go through without raising your eyes and looking into each others’. It doesn’t have to lead to sex (sometimes it does, though, and that’s a good thing), but it’s too easy to NOT do this, day after day. Just stop, look away from the dishes or the kids, and gaze. Full on. Say hi. It’s a powerful bond.

Find

I swear I didn’t start out with a theme, but I love Laptop Lunch kits, especially the ones tucked into colorful carriers. The carriers have pockets and zippers for all the utensils, etc, and the kits are full of sandwich-sized containers (great for anything), smaller-sized bento boxes for fruit or salad, even a tiny one for salad dressing or hummus. You really don’t need all those little Earth-wrecking plastic bags.

Lunch ideas and recipes come with it all, and of course you can subscribe to a newsletter that supplies endless ideas, every week.

As I said, I like making lunches; with these kits, I look forward to it even more (my youngest still gets a lunch every day, at least for the next ten months or so. Sigh.)

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Contributor: Peg Moline, Founding editor, Fit Pregnancy magazine; editor in chief, Natural Health magazine
Follow her on Twitter.
Email her at pegmoline@gmail.com

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Don’t Have the “I’m Done” Gene thumbnail

Don’t Have the “I’m Done” Gene

3 Things by Julie Cole, Mabel’s Labels Inc.

3 Things by Julie Cole, Mabel’s Labels Inc.

Truth

I don’t have the “I’m done” gene.

I’ve often been shocked when people hand me over their maternity clothes and baby gear after their second or third baby. How are they so sure they won’t need it again? These mama friends have all assured me that they knew they were done.

After my last couple of babies, I realized that maybe some of us never get that feeling of being done. I expected it after my fourth, fifth and definitely my sixth. Never happened. I describe myself as having missed out on the “I’m done” gene. Every time I have a baby I expect to be greeted with a satisfied feeling of baby closure—an urge to close up shop for this tired uterus once and for all. Well, I’m still waiting.

I’m guessing that it’s the “I’m done” gene that allows women to purge their maternity clothes, pack up the bassinet and happily send husbands off for a minor surgical procedure. For those of us not blessed with the gene, we find each of those actions baffling.

How do those women just know?

JVL photo

Tip

Staff up!

I got a nanny when my fifth child was nine months old, which was about three kids too late. Don’t be a fool like I was—give in and get the help you need!

Don’t feel like dragging a toddler and baby to the bus stop every morning in the dead of winter so you can get your bigger kids on the bus? Yeah, me neither. I got an older kid who goes to the same bus stop to do the morning pick-up and afternoon drop-off for a cool $20 a week. “Bus buddies” are a good investment for busy mamas.

Another good investment is a homework buddy. Homework is often a time of conflict for parents and kids because we are too darn emotionally attached—things heat up when we get frustrated. I have a high school student come to the house and my kids love having some time with their big kid friend. Homework is not something any of us dread anymore!

Find

Tired of being a nag in the morning? Feel like a broken record barking out things like “Don’t forget your lunch!” and “Have you packed your homework?”  Stop the insanity.

Set up a simple system that will get them out the door while keeping your frustration levels down. The Ready, Set, Go Board is a great tool I use with my little ones so they can manage their morning routines. The Ready, Set, Go Board has visual cues along with lists of the morning duties to assist in self-organization.

My kids mark off each duty as they complete it. The picture icons are perfect for pre-readers and children feel pretty darn good about themselves when they have big kid responsibilities.

Ready set go board

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Contributor: Julie, co-founding vice-president of award-winning children’s label manufacturer Mabel’s Labels
Check out Mabel’s Labels.
Follow Julie on Twitter.
Enjoy her blogs: Mabelhood.com and The Baby Machine

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Happiness is More than Gold Stars thumbnail

Happiness is More than Gold Stars

3 Things by Jennifer Sbranti, Hostess with the Mostess

3 Things by Jennifer Sbranti, Hostess with the Mostess

Truth

“Happiness is an inside job.” – William Arthur Ward

Sometimes the simplest thoughts can make the biggest statements, and this little gem is one of them. Although the notion isn’t new, when I stumbled on these 5 little words recently they hit me like a ton of bricks.

As far back as I can remember, my own path to happiness has been via approvals from others—parents, friends, teachers, coaches… you name it. Every shiny gold star or pat on the back made me feel valued, and that made me happy (and still does).

Now that I’m older, there are even more places to seek approval, though: spouse, kids, clients, mentors, colleages, blog readers, facebook and instagram followers—you get the picture. That never-ending quest for those gold stars is addicting, but also paved with frustrations, not to mention totally exhausting.

I’ve been wrestling with these approval-related frustrations a LOT lately—especially when it comes to work. Projects that I’ve felt super happy about (even proud of!) have quickly turned to breeding grounds for self-doubt when they didn’t garner the reaction I was hoping for. Stepping back though, I’ve realized that nothing actually changed about the work in question except for my own perspective on it, and that’s one thing that I can control.

This same rule applies to anything in life. Whether it’s that moment when your 3-year-old spills juice all over the floor you just cleaned, when your spouse somehow fails to notice the fantastic haircut, or when a co-worker responds to your brilliant idea with another nonchalant shrug. We can’t control all the external factors in life, but we have full reign on our internal reaction to them!

Truth-happiness

Tip

When it comes to planning parties—no matter the size—always start with a theme and “inspiration piece.” This will make all your planning-related decisions so much easier.

When I first started HWTM back in 2006, we were hard pressed to find great party inspiration online. Cut to today, and we are overloaded with it from every direction, so it’s imperative to have something to help tighten your focus before you before you get sucked into Pinterest oblivion for hours on end, resulting in way too many ideas to fit into one party (or even one lifetime). That’s the kind of thing that can leave you feeling overwhelmed instead of inspired.

Your theme can be as general as “Italian food” or a favorite color palette, or as specific as  “Modern Robot Baby Shower”. The “inspiration piece” can be anything from a favorite textile swatch or recipe to a great image that captures the vibe you want for your own party. The important thing is for you to have something to reference. Does that cool centerpiece you stumbled on match your inspiration piece? Great! Do those pretty drinks really go with your theme? Not really… next!

Tip-modern-robot-baby-shower

Find

We all get bored with our hair at times, and sometimes you just want to try something fun and unexpected!

That’s the way I’ve been feeling lately, so right before my “usual” hair appointment a few weeks ago I started researching temporary hair color—and I do mean COLOR… hot pink, blue, violet…the fun stuff! A few colorful streaks in the hair sounded like a really fun way to break out of the “hair blahs.”

I can’t commit to any sort of long-lasting crazy hair color right now due to work, but my hairdresser put a “wash out” pink hair color on me that ended up being the perfect solution. It’s called COLOR.BUG by Kevin Murphy and is basically “make up” for your hair.

You can apply it yourself at home, and it washes out with your next shampoo. (Truthfully it took 2 shampoos for me, but I have highlighted hair so that was kind of expected.) Having a few pink streaks in my hair was a really fun change for a couple days—one I will definitely be repeating soon—maybe orange next time? ;)

Find-ColorBug

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Contributor: Jennifer, co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Hostess with the Mostess (HWTM)
Enjoy her blog.
Join her on Facebook.
Check out her pics on Instagram.
Follow her on Twitter.
Shop HWTM on Etsy.

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We Are Not Alone thumbnail

We Are Not Alone

3 Things by Nicole Bennett, Gidget Goes Home

3 Things by Nicole Bennett, Gidget Goes Home

Truth

Never underestimate the power of community.

I’ve felt this truth time and time again in my life. The more I isolate myself, the more I find myself in my own little pity party for whatever I’m struggling with—whether that’s in the form of loss, hard times or the simple trials of motherhood. On the flip side, what bolsters me almost more than anything else during those times is the feeling that…

I Am Not Alone.

Ah, the comfort of those words cannot be underestimated. There’s a definite feeling of darkness that pervades in times of loneliness and yet the light of a single friend, mentor or family member who comes alongside us has an amazing power.

Sometimes, it’s as easy as accepting the support of our own little community, other times it seems, we have to be the one to reach out and let those around us know what we need.

And, of course, at some point comes the great privilege of being the one to come alongside, to be the encourager and supporter—and what a great joy it is to make someone else feel the power of not being alone.

Tip

I love how meaningful the act of saying thank you can be. With a hat tip to my own mom who instilled the value in me, I try hard to keep up with the thank you card tradition, even if I’m not as timely as I should be.

For Christmas, a note of gratitude from the whole family works well for those from whom we received gifts. But for birthdays, I like to make it a bit more personal. As I strive to pass on a legacy of the almost-lost art of writing thank you cards to my kids, I’ve come up with a pretty fun method.

After their birthdays—which come in quick succession, April 6, May 7, June 7—I take a photo of each of them and then use a simple editing program to add a note of thanks to the picture. Then for mere pennies per copy I order enough prints of each to pick up at my local drug store (cheaper and quicker than paying for shipping from an online company).

With a colorful permanent marker (which doesn’t imprint the photo), we write a note together on the back of each one. Starting next year, my oldest will write her own (this year she dictated to me). Stationary can be super pretty, but all our friends and family love getting a more personalized card, and we often see them displayed on fridges afterwards.

For the editing, I use either the free website PicMonkey on my computer, or for even less hassle, I use the apps Phonto or A Beautiful Mess on my iPhone and then upload them directly to the store’s photo center from my phone—easy peasy!

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Find

I’ve always loved the convenience of a loose-leaf 3-ring binder, but the compact design of a spiral notebook—and I’ve lamented that there wasn’t something that combined the best of both worlds.

It turns out there is! This year as I prepped for back-to-homeschool, I discovered the Martha Stewart Discbound line from Staples. The notebook has a special disc binding from which pages can be removed and replaced, and yet it still can fold over like a spiral notebook.

Since I don’t have the special punch yet (the Arc System punch), I just printed my homeschool planner pages right onto the lined pages that came with my notebook. It worked perfectly and I feel empowered by my organization and happy with my beautiful aqua-colored planner.

You can see how I use mine here.

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Contributor: Nicole from Gidget Goes Home
Enjoy her blog.
Join her on Facebook.
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Check out her faves on Pinterest.

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