Selfish Parenting and Home School Survival

girls on desk looking at notebookI never could have imagined that life as we know it could change so dramatically within a week.  As the last few weeks progressed, I saw it coming… but NEVER imagined that school would be moved to home base for a month PLUS. I’m doing my very best to embrace this time with my kids that I may NEVER get again, but I’d be lying if I said that this will be easy for me.

I have a confession. I LOVE my kids…. like UNCONDITIONAL love. BUT… I’m simply not the touchy, feely, I want to lay all day in bed and read mom. I rarely play games with them. I have too many rules. I tell them they’re fine when they’ve hurt themselves. I’m THRILLED when one keeps the other company because I can then clean up the breakfast mess, change the laundry, or get some computer work done… totally UNIMPORTANT things in the grand scheme of life. Did I mention I have little patience? Especially when it comes to whiny kids hanging on me. I’m sure many consider me a “bad” mom. I am who I am. I know that what I lack in empathy HAS to be made up somewhere else…

Can I tell you what I AM good at?  I’m good at this thing called SELFISH PARENTING. Over the last decade, many parents have asked me about some of my bedtime and disciplinary rules, and about our faithful date nights. I’ve been told SO many times that I need to write a book. The more children I had, the more selfish I got. If I let the kids rule the roost and the schedule this past decade, I would have sunk into a deep, dark hole of disorganization and despair.

I rarely give parenting advice, especially via social media or my blog.  I am NO expert in the field of parenting, and you will occasionally see my monsters misbehaving like wild animals in public. But I DO feel my fellow parents and friends are desperate, and need all the help they can get over this next month or two.

Frankly, I think they need to get a little selfish.

If you want to make the most of this time with them, you MUST create some time for yourself. This can be quiet time, work time, exercise time… whatever! There are SO many things to do, and with no plan you WILL NOT get it done. Besides, if you have a break and feel even slightly more productive, you will enjoy your children more. I swear.

Tip 1: Set up EXPECTATIONS and a schedule. If you aren’t clear on what they should be doing when, you WILL be nagged.

Tip 2: Teach them to be INDEPENDENT during this time. (This varies with elementary age, of course.) We have NEVER had a teacher who expected every kid to know everything, and they’ve rarely expected us parents to be available to help. Teach them how to contact their teacher directly, who will likely show them via email or send links to tutorials. This teaches them to PROBLEM SOLVE without YOU having to be in the picture… a WIN-WIN! And, an invaluable life skill they’ll use forever.

Tip 3: Have consequences.  I’m not talking about an old-school slap or belt. I’m not even talking about raising voices. Think of THE MANY THINGS they use or own as a privilege… that can be taken away if what you ask of them is not done.  This is POWER people! Use this every day, all day.  Be strong.

The way I am currently implementing it is this: here’s your schedule. If you finish ELA work before the hour is up, you independently read. If you finish math lessons before the time is up, you do supplemental work or practice math facts online. If you’re stuck, you contact your teacher or take the initiative to figure it out. It’s okay if you can’t figure it out today.

If you’re not doing what I ask during this time frame (THIS COULD BE ASKING OF ANYTHING, ANYTIME), there will be a consequence (see above.)

“Are you serious Ally… it’s only day two and you think you have this figured out? I don’t have the time to create a schedule!” No, I know I don’t have it all figured out. BUT… I will GUARANTEE you that if you take a little time up front, set expectations at the start of this new and challenging phase, and stay CONSISTENT in giving consequences, your life over the next month(s) will be dramatically easier.  You will be more productive, happier, and a more patient parent.

 

“And this is the story of how the stone cold witch got so much done while the kids were home for the never-ending spring break.”

Air kisses from six feet or more,

Ally

PS: Stay well.

 

 

 

We CAN Figure This Out : Our State of Mental Health

HelpPhotoIt’s been a while since I’ve taken the time to write for myself.  I’ve been at my computer PLENTY, but for many other reasons.  All great ones, I promise.

First and foremost, Happy New Year, a month late! I thought I would kick off this year (a little late) by updating you on last year’s New Year’s resolution.  Remember, that was the one when I was going to be more “present”?  When I was going to start my days meditating with my Headspace app? And even when my children were all screaming at me at once, I would take a step back, and just be happy that they are a part of my life?

Yeah right.

I am that person that Headspace relies on to make their money. I can honestly say that I ended 2019 less present than the year before. Between my 3-year-old entering a relentless phase, my tween developing an attitude and taking on some additional work, there was little “presence” left. I decided not to make a resolution this year.

I was reading an article just after the new year and learned that for the third straight year in America, life expectancy has decreased. After so many years of technology and medicine effectively lengthening our lives, our lives are starting to shorten.  The top three reasons are of no surprise: drug overdoses, liver disease (mostly from obesity and alcoholism), and suicide. What REALLY got to me was that each of these are related, in one way or another, to our state of mental health. This saddened me to the core.

The thought of raising four children in today’s world frightens me, to say the least. I’m not talking about the fear of child abductors or cancer-causing agents. I’m strictly talking about this generation’s mental health. Our teens are more anxious and depressed than ever before. There are so many reasons for this, with technology standing out above the crowd. As the mental health “stigma” begins to fade and resources become more available, the feeling of helplessness remains.

I fell into a “dark place” about 15 years ago and for a short time, couldn’t see out. It took me having an absolute meltdown in my sister’s kitchen and her saying “Al, you need to go to the doctor!” before I got help. I’m happy to say that with help, I snapped right out of it. I always tell people, the great thing about hitting a low is that you know if it ever happens again, you DO have the strength to get out.

Back to life expectancy. When I read that statistic, I didn’t make a New Year’s resolution.  I made a personal commitment to do everything in my power to stay emotionally well for my children, family and friends. To do simple things like eating well, exercising, and getting fresh air. To talk to someone if I’m struggling. To get professional help if I ever find myself slipping. And most importantly, to always surround myself with lots of friends and loved ones.

Coincidentally I stumbled upon a book which led me to adopt a new mantra: “Everything Is Figureoutable” (Marie Forleo’s book I mentioned in my last IG post). I’ve been saying this to the boys daily, or whenever I sense anxiousness. I NEED them to know that no matter what the struggle may be, you can get through this. We can get through this.  We may not be able to FIX everything, but we sure can shift perspectives.

Just this week, I read that there was a bump in life expectancy and in the first time in four years, the number is now going up again. There’s hope.  People are getting the help they need and watching out for each other. Let’s all work together in turning this number around. It’s not too late. There’s a way out, and there is always someone there to help. Your friends and families need the gifts that you offer this world.  Or as Marie says…

We can ALWAYS figure it out.

XOXO,

Ally

 

 

Dressing My Not-Stick-Skinny Body

on dressing aOnce in a while, I’m following a favorite super-skinny blogger and get majorly envious. NOT envious because I’m unhappy with my own body, but envious of the outfit alone.  That outfit… the one that makes my heart skip a beat, and the one that I KNOW will NEVER work on this short, stocky, athletic build.

At 5’3″ and 145 lbs, I pride myself on giving women style advice applicable to a variety shapes and sizes. I’ve gone through four decades of my life being the “big-boned” one of the five of us kids, and living through the weight fluctuations that late-night college partying and four kids brought. Here I am today, entering a new phase of mid-life body changes. And I’m proud to say, these 40 plus years have taught me WHAT and WHAT NOT to wear.

Boy, it sure would be nice to be able to “throw on” just about anything, but I was born with this body and am determined to make the most of it. Behind even my most effortless-seeming outfits is a strategy: one that has been built from many years of trial and error. I thought you may appreciate reading what goes through my head when getting dressed each and every day.

  1. Monochrome.  I like to wear one continuous color from top to bottom, creating the longest line and most flattering silhouette. Color and pattern can be introduced through a vest or jacket outside the monochromatic base.
  2. If you have a favorite item and you love the way it looks, find more of versions of it!  Although styles may come and go, you can always keep the piece current with accompanying clothing and accessories. Pencil skirts, flared jeans and straight-legged trousers are a few of the items that have been cycling in my wardrobe for decades, despite what’s “current”.
  3. Darker colors are more slimming. Navy and black are the friends who never let me down. If you want to wear a lighter-colored more fitted piece, consider wearing a base layer or shapewear to conceal lines and jiggles.
  4. Knee-high boots are essential in helping these short, muscular legs more confidently wear skinny jeans, leggings and midi skirts.  (I’d SO love to bust out those Gucci loafers I bought two years and wear them with skinny jeans, but they sit and collect dust for just this reason.)
  5. Vests and jackets help to cover my belly bulge while looking put together. From casual quilted designs to black tie-worthy blazers, they are a present day essential for me. Longer versions (I often order my blazers in LONG) allow me to wear skinny jeans and leggings more comfortably.
  6. Most of my dresses and skirts are shortened to just below the knee for the most flattering hemline. I’m careful when I wear midis (slightly longer) for they can often be an unflattering length. When I do, I wear higher boots in the cooler months and nude sandals or pumps in the warmer months to avoid looking “cut off.”
  7. Bold and chunky earrings, necklaces and bangles balance out my frame much better than small, dainty jewelry.
  8. Belts have become a closet staple for me. With age came a disappearing waist. I’ve recently been using thicker belts to create a waistline on fitted dresses and pencil skirts, and to cinch the outside of wraps, blazers and jackets.
  9. Suede, skin-toned pumps are my fall go-to when wearing skirts and dresses to avoid “cankles”.
  10. I never, EVER leave the house without a good, padded bra. This helps to conceal my post-partum pooch. (Honestly, I’m past the point that I can legitimately call it “post-partum”.)

I am a firm believer that one of the best parts about being a woman is the plethora of things that we can do to achieve the look we want. The art of dressing is no exception. As my husband says as he completes his two minute post-shower routine, and while I’m laboring over my outfit…

“It sure takes a lot of work to be you.”

… and I proudly agree every time.

XOXO,

Ally

Boots and Booties: Faves of Fall!

Crisp air, falling leaves and boots. Lots and lots of boots and booties. They are slowly making their way from storage and taking over my bedroom floor. Cowboys, riding, ankle booties and ultra high-stacked heels. They are back, and I’m VERY excited about that.

Here are my favorites of the season. There are so many fabulous options that vary in style, color, texture and price point. Details and links to the boots shown are listed below the slideshow:

 

Walden Ankle Bootie, Sam Edelman

Suede UDay Heeled Western Boot, Marc Fischer

Sacha Chelsea Bootie, The Frye Company

Kork-Ease Cinca Bootie, Caroline & Main Saratoga

Carson Pull-On Riding Boot, The Frye Company

Blanco Waterproof Knee-High Boots, Nordstrom

Traci Booties, Schutz Shoes

Joan Of Arc Bootie, Sorel

Dakota Suede High Boot, Steve Madden

Loeffler Randall (Saks) Knee High Croc Boots

Seychelles Chaparral Snakeskin Bootie, Violet’s of Saratoga

Vince Camuto Sashala Pointed Toe Bootie (Nordstrom)

Sam Edelman Raelle Pointed Toe Bootie, Violet’s of Saratoga

Whether you’re heading to the pumpkin patch or that fall beer fest, head out in style.  You only have a few months until these sidewalks are iced over and treads are essential.

XOXO,

Ally

 

 

 

 

 

5 Looks : Transitioning To Fall

I’ve never met anyone who didn’t wish to make the most of their current wardrobe. Here, I’ve taken five common summer pieces and showed simple ways to transition them into fall. Even if you don’t have these exact items, the looks should provide inspiration… in hopes of wearing some of your OWN pieces in ways you never thought of before! If you love the pieces shown, links are below each look.

Copy of Leopard&SnakeskinIG

Silk Button-Front Floral Dress (Madewell) 

Tecovas Cognac Cowboy Boot

Blank NYC Brown Suede Moto Jacket (Nordstrom)

Shinola Market Tote

2

 

Banana Republic Column Dress

Madewell Oversized Denim Jacket

Veja Sneakers at Amour Vert

Herschel Hip Pack

3

ZARA Printed Pleated Skirt

Andrew Marc Asymmetrical Leather Jacket

EVERLANE Boss Booties

FREE PEOPLE Convertible Backpack

 

4

Madewell (Nordstrom) Demi-Boot White Jeans

ARITZIA Amora Cardigan

Sam Edelman Raelle Pointed Toe Bootie

Kate Spade Fleur Embosssed Snakeskin Bag

5

J Crew Leopard Cropped Pant

EVERLANE Black Cashmere Turtleneck

Cole Haan (Neiman Marcus) Piper Loafer Mule

Longchamp Cavalcade Crossbody

Whatever it takes to pretend that summer is still here, right?

XOXO,

Ally

 

 

 

Leopard and Snakeskin and Classics, Oh My!

Season after season, I wait to see which “trends” will dominate, and which of these coming trends are actually “wearable” by people like you and I. Season after season, year after year, leopard and snakeskin make their way onto those runways. I guess if it’s a “trend” every season, it’s not really a trend after all?  I personally consider both   CLASSICS!

There are so many smart ways to bring a little excitement into an otherwise conservative outfit with just a splash of these prints. Below are some of my favorite finds of the season at a variety of price points.  As always, details and links can be found below the picture.

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  1. Snakeskin Maysha Pump, SCHUTZ
  2. Snakeskin Midi, Banana Republic
  3. Leopard Sweater, & Other Stories
  4. Gigi Pointed Flat, Tory Burch
  5. Leopard Wrap Dress, DVF at Nordstrom
  6. Faux Snakeskin Moto Jacket, BLANKNYC Nordstrom
  7. Python Patchwork Leather Clutch, YSL at Neiman Marcus,
  8. Trista Multi Snake Bootie, Steve Madden
  9. Snakeskin Blouse, Altuzarra for Target
  10. Long Blazer, Zara
  11. Snakeskin iPhone Case, ASOS
  12. Ribcage Straight Leg Cords, Levi’s at Nordstrom

Come on and get WILD! Or maybe just a little bit.

XOXO,

Ally

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Fall Outfits!

“It’s the most wonderful time…of the year!”  … and it’s not the holiday season I’m talking about.  It’s:

FALL FASHION

Nothing makes my heart skip a beat more than those fall fashion magazines arriving in my mailbox, so heavy and full of wool houndstooth. As the weather begins to change here in upstate NY, you’ll often catch me smiling to myself NOT because all four kids are finally in school, but because I’m thinking of fall clothes and they make me happy.  (And perhaps just a wee bit of the former.)

Here are some ideas of fall looks that you, too, can put together. Use or supplement existing pieces from your own personal wardrobe and find details about the items under each photo. As always, the looks reflect data points along the spectrum of my personal style.

LOOK ONE:

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J.Crew Demi Boot Cut Jean

Sam Edelman Black Raelle Bootie, Violets of Saratoga (local) or at samedelman.com

EVERLANE Cashmere Crew

Boden Kemble Faux Shearling Camel Coat

Madewell Transport Camera Bag

 

LOOK TWO:

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GAP Houndstooth Blazer

JCrew Toothpick Jeans

FRYE Paige Tall Riding Boot

JCrew Factory Chambray Shirt

GUCCI Suede Dome Bag at Nordstrom

 

LOOK 3:

IMG_2346

 

ZARA Denim Midi with Top Stitching

FRYE Reed Inside Zip Boot

Boden Markham Cord Trench

REISS Paisley Printed Shirt

Tory Burch McGraw Patchwork Camera Bag

 

LOOK FOUR:

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Banana Republic Corduroy Blazer

Everlane Mid-Rise Skinny Jeans

UNIQLO Merino Ribbed Turtleneck

Vince Havana Suede Booties at Nordstrom

Mark and Graham Dakota Hide Clutch

 

LOOK 5:

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Sam Edelman Kervana Embossed Knee High boot

Splendid Faux Suede Leggings at Nordstrom

CUYANA Alpaca Cape

GUCCI Thick Black Belt

EVERLANE Pima Micro Rib Turtlneck

ALL SAINTS Captain Leather Tote

Happy fall shopping to all!  I hope the idea of some fun fall outfits helps you, as well, look forward to the chillier months ahead.

XOXO,

Ally