A Letter to Myself – three kids ago

Dear First Time Mommy Vanessa,

I know you are scared. I know you are waking up all throughout the night to make sure the baby is still breathing. I know you are tracking every single feeding, diaper and nap on that baby app. I know you are doing it out of love.

You want that baby to thrive. You’ve never done anything this BIG before. Another human’s LIFE depends on you now and that scares the shit out of you.

I also know how much you love hate advice, but I’m going to give it to you anyway.

  1. Another life depends on you now.
    So don’t forget about yourself. Don’t forget to shower, sleep, eat well, get outside, enjoy time with friends. I know it seems like a lot of unnecessary work to brush your hair and put on a fresh pair of clothes, but YOU are the center of this little life’s world. You need to be strong, positive, happy, vibrant and focused – that only happens if you take your eyes off the baby, put him down for a few minutes and do a little self-care.
  2. Listen to your instincts.
    Ya, I know you read all those books and you understand baby sleeping patterns now, but those books don’t know YOU or your baby. You do. You are his mama for a reason. He and you are inexplicably connected and you will understand things deep in your soul that no expert can tell you. Your motherly instincts and good and true – stop doubting yourself and looking to others to validate what you know deep inside. If it feels right to pick him up, pick him up. If he seems hungry – even though he ate one hour ago – feed him. Babies are people, and people aren’t robots.
  3. Parenting is about love, everything else is gravy
    How you feed him. Where he sleeps. What he wears. These things seem monumentally important, and they are somewhat – but the main factor between children who struggle and children who thrive is LOVE. Nothing else, nothing more. Love him and show him how you love Jesus and how you love your husband and how you love yourself and the rest is just gravy. Stop stressing about doing parenting “right” and look into those beautiful baby eyes and tell him how much you love him. Look into your Bible and strengthen your marriage. Focus on LOVE and the rest will fall into place.
  4. Enjoy this time
    Oh wait, I remember  – you totally did. Even with all the extra stressing and tracking and making yourself crazy trying to follow the advice of books and others you did a pretty good job of enjoying that first baby. Smelling his sweet smell, tickling his soft, round belly and chubby thighs. I guess that’s something we both have in common, no matter how many worries you had with the first, or how much craziness I have now with the fourth, we know that this stage won’t last forever and we are doing all we can to soak it in.

Cheers! first time mommy Vanessa – you probably won’t  believe me, but this motherhood thing actually gets sweeter and sweeter as the years go by and these kiddos are some of the most brilliant, funny, kind and amazing humans you’ll ever meet.

Developing a Pregnancy Style

photo credit @mardimasonstylist

photo credit @mardimasonstylist

I used to think it was vain and unnecessary to spend much time on the way I look. Admittedly there are many who take it too far into obsession, but as I’ve been on my fitness journey I have discovered just how powerful what you feel about yourself is. When I feel strong, energetic, put together and cute, I ACT differently. I approach problems differently. It makes a HUGE difference to my demeanor and everything I do.

In addition (and I’ve blogged on this before if you want to check it out click here) we have to get dressed EVERY SINGLE DAY. To have that activity be filled with frustration and stress is just not how I want to start out my day! I want to start out my day being able to quickly and easily throw an outfit together that makes me feel happy, comfortable and pretty.

With my previous pregnancies I didn’t invest well in maternity wear. I mostly borrowed stuff that I didn’t really like or fit well, or I got a few cheap tees and maybe one dress. The result was me being SO miserable not only because I was getting big, had heartburn and was always overheating (being pregnant in a Miami summer is no joke!) but because I just hated the way I looked. It affected me SO much. I remember crying and crying (thanks pregnancy hormones) every time I had to get dressed for some event, or just to go out to on a date with my husband.

This time around I am excited to invest in my pregnancy wardrobe. No I will not be spending crazy money (it is only a few months of my life and I DO think this will be our last) but I am going to get some key pieces and thoughtfully style myself through these next few crazy months.

I’ve compiled some amazing resources on my Pinterest Pregnancy Style board including an fantastic Maternity Style Series from Joy Cho and some incredible articles with practical advice, inspiration and sources for finding great maternity staples.

Click here for my Pregnancy Style Pinterest Board.

Here are the top ten staples on my list:

1) Bootcut jeans

2) Skinny jeans

3) Black pants

4) Leggings

5) Body-con jersey dress

6) White tunic

7) Maxi dress

8) Chambray shirt

9) Basic Tees: White, Black, Gray, Navy

10) Poncho/Jacket

Any advice from other mamas? What were your favorite staples during your pregnancy?

Christmas Vibes Spotify Playlist

Christmas music is as personal as each of us. I don’t know about you, but the old Barbara Streisand Christmas album brings back the most beautiful memories, it’s what my mom played when we would make cookies and decorate the tree, maybe not my musical tastes today, but I can’t help but love hearing those songs! Whatever songs provided the backdrop to your Christmas memories is what means Christmas to you.

I’m usually not a music snob (too much) but when it came to the perfect playlist on Spotify for Christmas, I just wasn’t finding those songs that meant Christmas to me all in one playlist…so I made my own.

It’s got a little bit of new school a little bit from my childhood, some classical pieces and some Bing Crosby and of course Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You”. I hope you enjoy it and I can’t wait to have it playing in the background this year as I make memories with my kids!

Hope you enjoy!

Fall Wardrobe Planning

This afternoon I am doing one of my absolute favorite things: wardrobe planning.

I do this every season (Fall & Spring) and it’s not because I have all this luxury time to spend browsing Pinterest, or all of this expendable income to shop till I drop – nope, I do it because just like exercising, eating and every other routine in my life, I have to get dressed – EVERY day.

Anything that I have to do every day I have to plan and simplify so that I can do it well. Sound crazy? Just stick with me for a second.

Two years ago I was about to give birth to my third baby with a 1 year old and a 3 year old that I still needed to take care of. I realized right then and there that I needed to simplify EVERY daily routine or be ok with eating fast food, never reading my bible or another book again, walking around with an extra 50lbs of baby weight, and staying in yoga pants and old t-shirts all day.

This is what led me to get plugged in with Beachbody’s 21 Day Fix program – it was a system that was simple and told me EXACTLY what to do!

This is why I have created a routine to my early morning hours – I sit in the same spot at 5:30am every morning and I read.

This is why I plan and prep my meals every weekend.

This is why every season I plan my wardrobe.

You can either simplify and make a plan so that your daily activities are automatic and easy to accomplish, or you can try to re-create the wheel every day, find it to be too difficult (especially when life is super busy) and never make progress in any area of your life and be frustrated all the time. (In all honesty, I’m still frustrated sometimes, but WAY less than before!).

So – onto my fall wardrobe! (the good stuff!)

I stumbled upon Into Mind a few years ago – it is a minimalistic blog written by a fashion blogger in Berlin and I just love it. Even if your style profile isn’t minimalistic you will still benefit from her principals and guidance.

Based on her recommendations I have come up with the following steps when I am ready to re-vamp and plan my wardrobe for the next season. Planning my Fall Wardrobe

1) Use Pinterest to re-define your style.
This is pretty self explanatory. You can search for something as simple as “fall fashion” or as detailed as “minimalistic fall looks in Bordeaux”. If you want to check out my Pinterest board for this Fall you are welcome to! Click Here

2) Choose your color palette.
This is my best kept secret! Each season I decide on one (maybe two) colors that I will be wearing – the rest of my wardrobe is all neutrals. This allows me much more flexibility in mixing and matching pieces. For this fall I am choosing Navy and Bordeaux.

3) Choose your proportions and uniform. 
In order to do this you will need to go to your closet and find the outfit that you love the best! Put it on. What proportions does it have? For me and my body type I love wearing skinny jeans and loose fitting tops, I have an easy going, minimalistic style so that guides my wardrobe. Other women may enjoy a more fitted and tailored look, while still others go even more loose fitting and bohemian. Knowing your “uniform” is a great starting point to structure your wardrobe. (If you are looking for some proportion and uniform examples, Click Here)

4) Inventory and detox your close.
This isn’t as big a project as it was the first time I did this, because now I do this every season and it keeps my close paired down, containing ONLY what I love to wear. I like to take a Sunday afternoon to do this and I literally lay out on the floor all of my tops, pants, skirts, dresses and shoes so I can see them all in a group. Anything that stands out that doesn’t seem to fit with the general look of my wardrobe, I pull aside. Anything I don’t love wearing, or haven’t worn in awhile – I LET IT GO! (I know, it’s hard, but you HAVE to do it!).

Here is Into Mind’s quick guide to wardrobe editing.

This is probably the MOST important part of the entire process (and the most time consuming) but it is VITAL! Also, when you do this, your favorite outfits and pieces will start to show you what your uniform and color pallet should be!

5) Identify gaps and make shopping list.
Once I’ve paired down my wardrobe to ONLY what I love and fits, and isn’t stained, or needing a repair, then I take a look at what’s left and compare it to a basic list of “must haves” for the season. (My favorite list, of course from Into Mind, can be found HERE)

So, there you have it, my 5 steps for wardrobe planning. Of course, if you REALLY dive into the blog and all that she has to offer (which you totally should) you will find ENDLESS resources for how to define your style, how to create a mood board and shop for quality pieces. I highly recommend you do so! It may seem like something trivial and a waste of time, but I can’t tell you how great it feels (and how much less stress I have) to be able to quickly and easily get dressed, EVERY DAY and LOVE the way I look and the outfits I have.

Banana – Oatmeal – 21 Day Fix Approved Cookies

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21 Day Fix Approved Banana Oatmeal Cookies

I was craving something sweet and cookie-like. I had never tried these cookies before so I thought I’d give them a try.

They were SUPER simple to make!

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1 cup oats
2 ripe bananas
1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 tsp cinnamon

Mash ingredients together and cook at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Top with 1 tsp. chocolate.
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This recipe makes 6 cookies – 2 cookies count as 1 yellow treat (plus 1 tsp if you add the chocolate chips)

If you haven’t heard of the 21 Day Fix, it’s basically the simplest, safest, cleanest – most fun way to go from not knowing anything about eating healthy or working out, to being able to satisfy cravings and fuel my body like a champ.

I run monthly online challenge groups that bring the human factor to at home workout programs and can help you with recipes, encouragement, accountability and meal planning!

Send me an email or fill out an application if you are interested to learn more!

My Favorite Montessori Inspired Activities

About two weeks ago I visited a friend who is absolutely INCREDIBLE with her two girls and used to be a Pre-school Montessori Teacher. I was beyond inspired. I knew that I wanted to do something with my kids before we started officially in August, but I was overwhelmed to try and sit down and do lesson plans, or spend a lot of money on curriculums that I just wasn’t sure about.

I began to just look through our toys and craft supplies, and I was surprised at how much I already had around the house, and with a quick trip to the $1 spot at Target and the Dollar Store I was able to put together a great little ‘school room’ and some ‘lessons’ for the kids.
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I really had fun thinking through a clean, welcoming, uncluttered environment for us to focus on learning and fun (of course, IKEA was my best friend in this!

The kids have REALLY loved the lessons – it’s still a little more chaotic than I would like with 3 kids and the baby wanting to get into EVERYTHING, but I know that as we continue, we will only get better and better at learning what works for us.

I won’t get into all the history of the Montessori style of learning here (mostly because I’m not an expert by any stretch), but I just thought I would share a little of what we’ve been up to – I hope this inspires you and gives you some fun ideas to try.

Painted Popsicle Sticks:
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We use these to make letters with.
We use these to make different sized ‘roads’ with (“How many sticks long is the yellow road?” “Which road is longer, the blue or the green?”)
We use these to make shapes.

I feel like you could come up with several other ways to use them. One of my favorite things about Montessori inspired lessons is that the child can lead and discover and I’m always surprised at how my kids ‘play’ with the different materials I provide them.

Sugar Jar and Pipe Cleaners:
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I picked up this sugar jar at the Dollar Store and I thought it would be a fine motor skills lesson for my 3 year old, but to my surprise my one year old LOVES it! He is glued to this project and get’s SO excited when he gets the pipe cleaner through the hole.

Pipe Cleaners and Poms:
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This activity is extremely self evident – you could also connect several pipe cleaners and make a larger circle and have your child find other objects of that color from around the room or in their toy box. It’s great to reinforce colors and if you make them use a plastic spoon to scoop the poms (like I did for my son) it is also great motor skills development.

Popsicle Stick Puzzle:
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This was fun because I printed a picture of my own kids and just glued it to several popsicle sticks, when the kids put it together I actually wrote the numbers on the front of the puzzle as well, so that as long as they got the numbers in the right order they would see the picture. They were SO excited when they realized: “That’s me!!!!”

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I hope that this post gave you some inspiration and ideas – I would LOVE to hear how it went if you do try them out! I have a group that I run on Facebook called Just a Little Fun. I try to update it every so often with new ideas and projects that I’m working on with my kids – if you are interested in joining I’d love to connect with you there!

Paleo Sweet Potato Pancakes

Sweet Potato Pancakes
I have been experimenting with Paleo, or at least going grain free, for a little bit now, and I think with the start of the new year I’m ready to commit to it.

Yesterday morning though, I was just tired of eggs for breakfast, so i decided to experiment with some Sweet Potato ‘pancakes’.

I put 1 medium sweet potato in the microwave for 5 minutes. Don’t forget to fork it first! Once it was done, I peeled off the skin and mashed the flesh, then I added 2 scrambled eggs to the sweet potato. I seasoned it with a little salt and cinnamon. Then I cooked it like a pancake in a skillet with some non-stick spray.

I drizzled a little honey over it and it was incredibly filling and such a nice change from eggs!

I think I will be adding this to my regular rotation!

The Dance of Life is My Favorite

I love the rhythm of life.

The lazy rest of a weekend.

The slow, lingering, without regret.

I love the determination of a Monday.

Goals, dreams, responsibility.

Being focused, intentional and
moving through the week
with strength in my stride
and my eye on the prize.

I love the quiet of the 5am

The crazy of the 10am

The lull of the 1pm

And the push at the 6pm to make it
to the collapse at the 8pm.

Rhythm, flow, routine.

The dance of life is my favorite.

Holiday Giveaway!!

A little while ago, I posted about the awesome idea of giving HEALTH for the holidays.
Well, what kind of coach would I be if I didn’t follow my own advice?!
I’ve decided to host a little holiday giveaway, because giving gifts is my FAVORITE!
So I’ve put together a prize pack of some of my FAVORITE fit gifts:
Healthy Holiday Giveaway! Who wouldn't want to win some great workout gear, waterbottle, dry shampoo, Shakeology and PiYo this holiday? Subscribe and share for your chance to win this awesome prize pack!
– Camelbak Water Bottle
– Super cute workout tee (with a little Miami flair!)
– Some convenient 1 serving Shakeology packets
– Big Sexy Hair dry shampoo (because sometimes we just don’t have time for a post-workout shower)
– PIYO!!! (This is not a little ‘bonus’ workout, it is the entire program <3)

In order to be entered to win this awesome prize pack all you need to do is subscribe to this blog (you can find the link on the sidebar) and share a link to this post or the blog in general on your social media outlet of choice. You will get one entry for each social media platform you share on. One for Instagram, one for Pinterest, etc. Just send me a screenshot of your share.

I will pick the winner on Thursday morning…so you have 3 days to share <3

Good Luck!

Christmas Decor on a Dime

I’ll never forget my first Christmas, married and living on my own. I was SO excited to decorate our tiny 750 sq. ft. apartment. I had dreams of a real tree, decked to the hilt and twinkle lights and garland dripping from every surface.

One conversation with my ever finances-consious husband curtailed those dreams rather quickly. It was one of those ‘first year of marriage’ scuffles.

I ended up getting a 3 ft. fake tree from Michael’s with my 40% off coupon and hanging our 3 ‘our first Christmas’ ornaments on it. A strand or two of christmas lights to go around our one window and that was the extent of my Christmas decor that first year.

In the seven years that have passed (has it really been that long!?) I have accumulated, little by little, a few more decorations, but when Christmas gifts take up all of your extra cash, it’s hard to justify spending a ton on decorations.

If you find yourself wanting a little more to deck the halls with, but not a huge budget to do it – here are my favorite inexpensive, but still fabulous, Christmas decorations.

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1) Winter Wonderland and Chalk Printables

I already had the glass apothecary jar, and to be honest, it is one of the best investments I’ve made. I have used it for countless events, and it can be adapted to any season, and any decor. You can do this with Mason jars, but I love the extra room and size of the apothecary jar. The trees and snow are from the Dollar Store and to make this vignette work, you have to keep it simple. My goal with ALL of my Christmas decor is peaceful and magical.

The chalk printable is free and the frame is $0.99 from Ikea. This is probably my favorite decor in the house, and it literally cost me $3.

2) Felt Stockings  

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I was not cool with all of the crazy colored, character stockings for my kids. It HAD to match, but back when I only had one, I didn’t want to spend a fortune on stockings that I may or may not use. So, I bought the cheapest felt stockings I could find (I got 5…just in case) and monogramed them with some simple two tone felt letters. My weapon of choice for sticking these letters on is a glue gun.

It may be simple, but it matches and stays WAY under budget.

3) Cinnamon Ornaments

cinnamon ornaments

We made these last year, and I was so surprised to find that when I took them out this year, the cinnamon smell was still so strong! Mixed with the Christmas Tree smell, it is pure heaven. I love the ornaments because they cost virtually nothing to make, but really add a rustic charm to the tree, and the kids can put them on without me worrying about breakage!

To make these work, you really need to get the red and white bakers twine – or some other simple and stylish string/ribbon.

4) Glittered Vases

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I made these a few years ago, and love them SO MUCH they are actually apart of my year round decor. Adding some fake berries I pulled off a $0.50 garage sale wreath really gives them a holiday touch.

To make these work you HAVE to get the Martha Stewart glitter from Michael’s. I just haven’t found any that compares! Make sure the Modge Podge (or whatever adhesive you use) is painted on evenly and lightly. Too heavy on the glue and it will start to drip and look uneven.

One more tip – HAIR SPRAY. Spray a liberal amount of hair spray on the glitter after it has dried so that the glitter doesn’t come off.

5) Simple Tree SkirtIMG_3297

I have this thing where I wrap all my Christmas gifts in the same theme of wrapping and it’s different each year. I don’t want my tree skirt clashing with my wrapping! (I know, I know) I also wasn’t ready to spend $50 on a tree skirt, so I got some cheap white fabric and I just drape it around the bottom of the tree. It kind of looks like snow and I can put any theme of wrapping on it and it still looks awesome!

6) Stovetop Fragrance

This isn’t really a decoration, but it adds SO much to the holiday feel when your house smells amazing. Burning through Christmas candles at the rate I do can get pricy! This simple stovetop fragrance recipe costs pennies and really fills the house.

– 1 stick of cinnamon
– Whole cloves
– Vanilla extract
– Orange peel

Put these ingredients into a small pot with water and put on the stovetop on low. Keep an eye on it, so the water doesn’t completely evaporate. You can keep adding water and enjoy this potpori for a week or more. IMG_3311

I hope this gives you some ideas on how to add holiday cheer without breaking the bank. May your days be merry and BRIGHT!