Category Archives: Stuff for Mom

Find Your Perfect Valentine’s Dress

Admittedly, I’m not that into Valentine’s Day, but I do like a good excuse to step out of my role as mom for a night and put both feet firmly in the role of wife. Yes, I know yoga pants are ridiculously comfortable and practical. I am wearing them right now. But they don’t exactly make me feel sexy. This Valentine’s Day, I don’t want to feel like mom, with snot crusted on the shoulder of my shirt and jelly on my pants in the perfect shape of a little hand. I want to look hot, and more importantly, I want to feel like I look hot.

An amazing dress doesn’t have to be skin tight or cut down to there. It just needs to make you feel good; make you hold your shoulders back and stand up a little straighter; make you feel confident. Here are five dresses that will do just that. While you’re at it, pick up a fun little surprise to go underneath!

Bandana Dress, $24.80 from Forever 21

BB Dakota, $99.99

Prabal Gurung for Target, $39.99

Diane von Furstenberg, $135

The Candy Apple, $150 by Stop Staring Clothing

How to Wear Pantone’s Color of the Year

Last year’s Pantone Color of the Year, Tangerine Tango, was everywhere. Pants, tops, throw pillows, vases, shoes, art, rugs, you name it. So I’m predicting that the 2013 Color of the Year, Emerald Green, will be spring’s color du jour. Emerald green already splashed the runways at the spring 2013 fashion shows for Zac Posen, Lela Rose, Vera Wang, and more, so it’s only a matter of time before it starts popping up everywhere. Here are 12 ways you can rock a little or a lot of this year’s “it” color.

No.1    Banana Republic Sloan Pencil Skirt $79.50
No.2    Essie Nail Polish in Pretty Edgy $8
No.3    Green Bubble Necklace from Etsy Shop Himediy $14.99
No.4    Modcloth Emily and Fin Green Dress $79.99
No.5    Banana Republic Ashley Bow Flat $98
No.6    Old Navy green skinny jeans $19.97
No.7    Gap Striped Moto Jacket $79.95
No.8    The Cambridge Satchel Company Large Classic Satchel $178.00
No.9    Anthropologie Charleston Henley Peasant Blouse $68
No.10  Gap Colorblock Stripe T $24.95
No.11  MAC Eye Kohl in Minted $15
No.12  Gap Floral Scarf $29.95

Happy New Year Y’all!

Happy 2013! It’s a new year, which means I’ll be making collard greens tonight, lamenting tomorrow’s return to work, and setting my annual resolutions.

Most New Year’s resolutions don’t survive to see Valentine’s Day, and at least one of those every year is mine. Yet here I am, thinking about what improvements I want to make for 2013. I can’t help it, I am a sucker for the optimism and hope that makes us all want to be better this year than we were last year.

My resolutions are usually along the lines of everyone else’s: lose weight, do a better job balancing work and family, lighten up, etc., etc. Vague and, therefore, unrealistic. So this year, I’m taking a different approach. I thrive on lists (just ask my coworkers, my notebook is NUTS), so instead of lofty unspecific resolutions, I’ve decided to make a 2013 to-do list.

  1. Be able to run 5K without stopping (pathetic, I know, but I am a HORRIBLE runner)
  2. Launch a new blog design (Mom Machine is getting a face lift!)
  3. Take a long weekend trip with my husband, just the two of us
  4. Keep up with Pilates at least once a week, in class or alone doesn’t matter, as long as I do it
  5. Spend an entire day saying “yes” to Olivia—cookies for dinner, four books for bedtime, an extra slide or six at the playground, whatever she wants
  6. Take a day off to go on a day date with my husband while Olivia is at daycare
  7. Pluck up the nerve to go make friends with my mommy neighbors (who knew it would be so hard to make friends in your 30s?!)
  8. Go an entire week without losing my cool and snapping at someone. . .or at least give it the old college try, ha!
  9. Create a Will (waaaaaay overdue considering we have a little person depending on us)
  10. When Olivia asks me to play with her, do it—doesn’t have to be every single time, but at least twice a week

Are you setting any New Year’s resolutions or creating your own to-do list this year? Share your resolutions if you’re up for it!

Holiday Tipping for Child Care


This post is from the archives but still very relevant. Last year was our first year tipping our daycare providers, and we wanted to be sure we got it right. After all, these people take care of the most important thing in the world to us (and by now, they are like family). Hope this helps other new parents who are asking the same question we did- what’s an appropriate child care tip?

As this is my first Christmas with a child in day care, I’ve been thinking about what’s appropriate in terms of a holiday tip or bonus. I’ve done some research online and found that suggestions range from a handmade gift from the child to two weeks’ pay, quite the chasm.  Shockingly, some holiday tipping guides leave out childcare providers altogether, which just baffles my mind. Let me get this straight—I should tip the person who cuts my hair but NOT the person to whom I entrust the most precious thing in my life on a daily basis? Riiiight.

I found several helpful guides online, including:

CNBC’s Holiday Tipping Guide: 2011

Emily Post’s Holiday Tipping is Really Holiday Thanking

Kiplinger’s Holiday Tipping Tip Sheet

Real Simple’s Holiday Tipping Checklist

After some thought, we settled on one week’s pay for our day care provider, half a week’s pay for her assistant and a small gift from our daughter for each of them.

But I’m curious, what’s the norm? Especially in metro areas like Washington, D.C., where do others fall on the tipping spectrum?

Six Unique Holiday Hostess Gift Ideas

A hostess gift is a great way to thank someone for inviting you into their home. It doesn’t have to be big or crazy expensive; this is one of those times where it truly is the thought that counts. The traditional bottle of wine is never a bad idea (is wine really ever a bad idea?!), but these great hostess gifts will put you at the top of everyone’s guest list this holiday season!

1. Give the gift of a happier morning after! As the one time recipient of such a gift, I can tell you your host will thank you. This adorable basket from Everyday Occasions includes banana bread, coffee, and honey butter, but you could include any combination of your favorite breakfast treats.

Breakfast basket from Everyday Occasions

2. A rosemary tree is both festive and practical—it’s the gift that keeps on giving!

Rosemary Tree from Lowes, $12.98

3. This colorful salt crock will quickly become your host’s favorite kitchen accessory. Its design ensures that the salt stays accessible while cooking but protected from drips and splashes. Plus, it’s super cute!

Salt Crock from Le Creuset, $30

4. Infused with spices like Indian curry, Hungarian paprika, and ginger, these truffles are a uniquely decadent treat. You can also pick up a few of their delicious chocolate bars while you’re at it (the Dark Chocolate Bacon Bar is AMAZING!).

Exotic Truffle Collection from Vosges, $10.50

5. This painted spoon rest is so pretty, who wouldn’t want it sitting in their kitchen? It’s just so happy!

Amaryllis Spoon Rest from Anthropologie, $10

6. Grab some Weck jars and some rosemary sprigs, and you can make your own infused sea salt.

Rosemary Sea Salt from Martha Stewart


A Day in the Life. . .

I always find it interesting to peek behind the curtain at how other moms manage their busy schedules to see what tips and tricks I can pick up to help me improve my balancing act.  So I figured I would pay it forward and share my day with you. I don’t pretend that my life is half as exciting as Gwyneth Paltrow’s. . . just a normal working mom here, trying to get from day to day. If you’re interested in sharing a day in your life, shoot me an e-mail!

5:30 a.m.    Alarm goes off. . . immediately hit snooze (at least three times). Finally roll out of bed cursing the fact that I stayed up too late the night before (again).

6:45 a.m.    Showered, dressed, and ready to go, I hear Olivia yelling “Mommy!” at the top of her lungs and drop kicking her toys out of her crib. When I go into her room, she announces that she has pretty pigtails, which are really two gigantic knots on either side of her head. Great.

6:50 a.m.    Spend at least 5 minutes arguing with a 2-year-old about why she does, in fact, have to wear pants to daycare because, among other things, it’s 40° outside. I switch gears and tackle the knots, thinking this will distract her from the pants issue. Wrong. So wrong. She might win the award for the earliest tantrum of the day.

7:35 a.m.   Olivia decides pants are acceptable and we’re out the door, but only after pulling out every winter hat before we found one that wasn’t itchy, too small, or “scary.” I realize halfway to daycare that, while I made sure to grab all of Olivia’s stuff, I walked out of the house with no coffee, no breakfast, and no lunch. Awesome. Guess it’s a McDonald’s morning, because our Starbucks doesn’t have a drive thru and I have no patience left to get out of the car.

8:40 a.m.    Make it to work and jump right in. I don’t have a single meeting all day, which is a minor miracle. I may actually get some stuff crossed off my list today, woo hoo! Blah blah blah work. For lunch, I run down to the cafe to get a Reuben and scarf it down at my desk while editing some copy. Blah blah more work.

5:05 p.m.    I’m out! Have to stop at the dry cleaners on the way home to pick up our clothes, which puts me a bit behind.

6:15 p.m.    Walk in the door and immediately get tackled by a blur of pink and pigtails. I throw my stuff down, kiss my hellos, then it’s time to throw dinner together. Luckily, my husband is awesome and he’s already started prepping. I write out the menu for the week every Sunday on a chalkboard in our kitchen so there’s never a question as to what is for dinner- this also helps me shop smart and only buy what I need. Tonight it’s pork tacos – YUM! We’re able to sit down to eat at 6:45 p.m., just 15 minutes behind our normal schedule. I’m so thankful tonight isn’t my Pilates class, so I get a few minutes to play with Olivia, color, and snuggle instead of rushing out the door.

7:30 p.m.    Bedtime for bonzo! We troop upstairs to brush teeth, take vitamins, and wrestle our little fish into a clean diaper and jammies. If possible, my husband and I always tag team bedtime to make it go faster. We do bath time every other night to help Olivia’s eczema, so we get lucky tonight (no bath!). Time for a quick bedtime story. Thank you, Sandra Boynton, for your super short books, but you will have to explain to me why the animals take a bath, put on pajamas. . . and then go work out. Makes no sense.

8:50 p.m.    Dishes are done, lunches are packed, laundry is in. Ahhhhhhh . . . I get to sit down! With wine!! I spend the next hour and a half checking e-mail, catching up on Facebook/Twitter, doing blog research, writing, watching the last episode of New Girl, etc.

10:30 p.m.  I climb into bed fully intending to be asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.

11:25 p.m.    Damn you Daily Show. Better turn off the TV so I have half a prayer of getting up on time tomorrow.

How to Give Yourself a Mani in About 10 Minutes—Including Drying Time!

I never have time to go get or give myself a manicure. So it wasn’t surprising that I cringed when I looked down at my hands while on our way to a wedding a couple of weeks ago. I knew I wouldn’t have time to do anything about my nails once we got to the hotel, so my only chance was to try and give myself a mani in the car. . . while going 75 mph down the interstate. Now before you freak out, no, I wasn’t the one driving. But still, I have a hard enough time painting my nails sitting on a completely stationary couch, let alone while hitting a pothole every few minutes.

We stopped at a Walgreens so I could pick up some polish, and I decided to give the Sally Hansen Color Quick Pen a shot. I had seen them before and was pretty skeptical about how well it would actually work. But I figured I would be far less likely to get polish all over the car if it was contained in a spill-proof tube instead of an open bottle. Much to my surprise, it worked really well!

All you have to do to get started is shake the pen and click the top a few times to get the polish going and then start painting.

Overall, I felt like I had more control over the brush, which is saying something considering I was in a moving car. Plus, the polish dried super fast. I don’t think I will use these pens all the time simply because the color selection is a little safe and limited, but if you need to polish in a pinch (or on the go), they are fabulous!

How being a mom cut me to the quick—and why I am better for it

When I became a mom, I was warned that I would be unsure of myself and would question every parenting decision I made—at least until I got my bearings. What I wasn’t prepared for was the hit that my self-confidence and esteem would take. I’m not talking about not being able to fit into my pre-pregnancy skinny jeans or the fact that my belly button doesn’t quite look the same. I’m talking about how being a mom has forced me to put all of my own flaws and shortcomings under a microscope on a daily basis.

I thought that reaching my thirties and being a mom would give me a self-confidence and a surety that, until now, I never realized I was lacking. Instead, I am struggling with my inner self-image more now than ever before.

When my daughter throws a tantrum, or hits, or yells “You’re mean!,” I see my own impatience, my own short fuse, my own irrationality, my own  jealousy, my own competitiveness, staring out of those big blue eyes. And I feel ashamed. I know that this type of behavior is normal for a toddler, but the last thing I want is for my daughter to pick up these traits and experience the same self-doubt and discomfiture that I feel. It breaks my heart to even think about it (seriously, tears are licking my cheeks even as I type).

As difficult as it was for me to acknowledge these failings, I think it’s this recognition that will ultimately make me a better mom. I can begin to recognize my behavior and make conscionable choices to correct it. While becoming a mom was the catalyst for my introspection, it is also my motivation to be a better person and a stronger role model for my daughter. As she grows up, I want her to see me as someone who is not impatient but efficient, not irrational but passionate, not competitive but driven. And I want her to be able to see these things in me because I can glimpse them in myself.

“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing. Use the pain as fuel, as a reminder of your strength.”
—August Wilson 

Guitar String Ring

My little sister plays the guitar (which thrills my dad—at least one of us inherited his musical talent!), so what better gift for her 13th birthday than this guitar string ring from Uncommon Goods? When my stepmom sent me the link to show me what she and my dad had gotten as one of her birthday gifts, I immediately wanted to share it with you guys because I loved it that much. But I promised I would wait until after her birthday to keep the cat in the bag (yes, my 13-year-old sister reads my blog—how cute is that?!).

Even if you don’t play guitar, you have to admit, this ring is pretty awesome. And for only $20, it’s also an amazing steal!


Should you lie about being a mom to get a job?

As if being a mom wasn’t hard enough (what with the mommy wars, sleeplessness, constant worry, and puberty), a new study shows that there may be a “motherhood penalty” when it comes to landing a new job. Brian Serafini, a University of Washington doctoral candidate in sociology, and Michelle Maroto, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Alberta, co-authored the study, which sheds light on the employment disparities between moms, dads, and single women.

The study found that married moms are going longer between jobs, are less likely to even find a job at the end of the day, and if they’re lucky enough to get a job, will make considerably less than married fathers or single women doing the same work.

I have read a lot of articles, op-eds, and blog posts about this topic over the last week, and I am seeing one bit of advice over and over again: lie. As in, do not reveal during the interview process that you are a mother. It’s against the law, after all, for an employer to ask if you have children or if you are pregnant; however, if it comes up in casual conversation or in a roundabout way, simply lie.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I get that a job is a job and it’s none of their business if you have children or not. You should be hired on your abilities and merit and not discriminated against because the hiring manager buys into some stupid, misguided stereotype that moms don’t care about their work.

On the other hand, I would have to ask myself if I really want to work for a company that a) wouldn’t hire me simply because I am a mom and b) clearly doesn’t have any respect for work/life balance or the fact that family should come first. Again, beggars can’t be choosers, and a paycheck is a paycheck, but I would have to think long and hard before lying about my daughter (or even feeling the need to withhold that information).

Just say you do lie about having children and you get the job, then what? The first time daycare calls to say your baby is throwing up and has to go home and your husband can’t be reached. . . yeah, that’s going to be one awkward conversation with your boss.

If employers can’t see that being a mom essentially makes you the ultimate multitasking, conflict mediating, resourceful, efficient working machine, then they have either never had kids or they’ve handed their kids off to their spouses to raise while they stuck their heads in the sand (or their paperwork).

In my experience, some of the most dedicated and focused career women I know are moms—and they don’t lie about it. They come into work, they get their shit done, and they leave on time—they don’t waste their day visiting their coworkers or checking Facebook or taking long lunches. Because they have little hugs and bath time and bedtime stories waiting for them when they get home, which are all the motivation they need to get the job done.