Lovelies, I am so excited to announce that over the next few weeks we will be having some amazing guest pieces by fascinating women and mama friends of mine. Each piece is so different, but they are all wonderful and will make you think! Today's guest post is from Jamie, you can see her blog over here, and follow her on Twitter, too. Take it away, Jamie...

Fat. Obese. Pudgy. Big-boned. I have heard it all.

I am a mother to two and a wife to a man who loves spicy food. My son is a year old and my daughter is three and a half. I have always carried extra weight, even through high school, but I seem to have held on to some extra weight after my son was born that had easily melted off while breastfeeding my daughter. I am a size 16 and have been for as long as I can remember. I have seen and heard of so many tears and struggles from other mothers who were in extreme distress because of their extra weight from pregnancy and the change in their body shape since birth. That was never a stressor for me because I had always carried more weight than I liked but I often worried that my children would inherit my body genes.

My daughter has started staring at herself in the mirror often, examining her smile, her hair, her new shoes and Spiderman shirt. I am enraptured watching her watch herself and love what she sees staring back at her. It is vital for her to have a healthy body image and I felt pride in seeing her confidence. I knew from the beginning that I wanted her to understand how beautiful she is – her brain, her spunk, her ideas, AND her outside. She was obviously having no problems believing it, and why should she?

Then, a few days later, the weight of a ton of bricks hit me with one tiny occurrence. We were in a dressing room together, my daughter standing next to me, telling me what to try on. I tried on a pair of pants that were a bit snug and I sighed, sucked in my belly, then released, and completed my belly dance in a slouched, defeated position. My daughter lifted up her shirt, looked at her belly, then looked at me with sad eyes and said, “What wrong, Mama?”

She didn’t see the problem. That’s when I did.

I can tell my daughter and my son, how amazing, wonderful, and beautiful they are but if I don’t believe it about myself, and emulate it to them, they will wonder why they are so great and why Mom doesn’t think she is. “If Mom isn’t amazing, then why am I? I must not be.”

I can’t allow my children to let that doubt sneak in and invade their minds. I have wasted too much of my life allowing those doubts and lies to consume my life and I refuse to have any part in that happening to them.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized; I honestly, completely and wholly, believe I am beautiful. I am no one of importance to the world, but I have my own little world that needs to hear this and know that I believe it. It is a battle in my mind – waged with society, self-doubt, and expectations – and sometimes it is fought daily. I have realized that it is a battle worth fighting and that more women need to battle on the right side. Let me say it again, I AM BEAUTIFUL.

I don't just mean on the inside. I LOVE my body.

I love the way my toes are placed perfectly apart and how the birthmark on my knee will forever be a connection to my Gramma. I enjoy how my rear end fills out my jeans and the way my stomach shows proof of carrying the lives of those who changed mine so deeply. I am proud that after 12 months I am still able to produce milk for my son and that my arms are strong enough to carry both of my children. I appreciate the slight point in my chin, the fullness of my lips, the shape of my nose, the hue of my eyes, and the way I'm not afraid to change my hair. Really, I am in love with my body.

That is a hard confession to make in this society. I wanted to wait until I had lost a good 50 pounds to tell everyone that I love how I look, but I will not wait for my life to be over before I tell the world. At my age, there is so much pressure to be in constant fitness mode. I have tried to get my head in the game but there are many other areas in my life that I want to be my focal point. Health and fitness are extremely important and I admire and appreciate those who share their health and fitness journey with their world and beyond. I have been able to apply tips to my life that I believe will make a large impact in the future. However, I refuse to wait until I am of "acceptable" weight before I accept that I am beautiful.

There is too much at stake, ladies, especially for those who have daughters. I hope to never see my daughter look in a mirror with disgust. I hope the only belly dance she does is the one with cymbals and beaded skirts. I crave to see my son not berate a girl because of her size. I want to raise my children to love themselves from the inside out and to appreciate and respect those who surround them. I want to break the cycle of self-loathing and make it difficult for my daughter to understand what would make someone even consider beginning an eating disorder. I want my daughter to not only accept compliments but to give them freely. I want to give my children confidence in more than just their abilities, thoughts, and actions, but also the beauty of their bodies - no matter the size.

I can't just tell my kids to have confidence; They have to see it in action. I will be that model for them. The consequences are too great to let society win this one.

I will let my children know how I feel. I am beautiful. I am gorgeous, vivacious, wonderfully put together. I hope that is what you see when you look in the mirror. If it isn’t, watch your children look in the mirror today. Ask yourself if you would want your children to speak to themselves the way you speak to yourself. Win the battle with the mirror, my friend. You can do this, not only for your children, but for yourself.

Jamie Vonalt is an amateur writer/blogger with a professional zeal for expressing life journeys in new ways. She works as a virtual assistant for various clients and loves to hear how people think and what they believe. She is married to a man who makes her laugh and keeps her grounded and who has given her two perfect blonde-haired children.

Today I felt like a bad parent.

Let me back up. I took Weston for his one year doctor's appointment, which is totally routine. Jenny came with us (thankfully), because she knows that I get particularly nervous about any doctor's visit, and wanted to be there to lend an extra hand, which, turns out, we needed. When I look back on today, which ended up being a delightful day, there were things about the visit which just really churn my stomach. When I became a mother, my instinct to protect and care for Weston kicked in long before he was born, but sometimes, being strong and figuring how how to care and protect for your child takes some learning and trial and error. Today was one of those days.

In the waiting room, he was totally fine. We held him, walked around, watched the TV. However, once we got into the room and started to undress him, he completely flipped out. I don't blame him! He was in a new environment, with someone new, and was getting naked? That would scare me too! Weston isn't a crier, he may whine and cry when he doesn't want to go to sleep on occasion, but crying just isn't his thing. However, as soon as the stethoscope hit his chest, there was full on wailing and screaming for the next half an hour. I felt miserable for him. When the nurse asked me to un-diaper him and sit him on the scale, he wouldn't stay still and kept reaching out for me. My heart was breaking, and it was dangerous! She suggested lying him down, and the poor thing did that horrible silent scream where they revert back to looking like a newborn, and they can't even scream they're so upset. Again, I upset also. Naked, lying on a cold surface, in the most vulnerable position ever? Yes, I would scream too. Because he kept wriggling around, the nurse was waiting for the scale to find a measurement, and though the same number kept coming up, she kept insisting on keeping him there longer and longer. Weston was in a total panic at this point.

At this point, I should have stepped in. I should have been strong. I should have stopped the nurse from making silly "shh-shh" sounds and picked up my child. But, I didn't. I kept trying to calm him down and hoping he would lie still (ha) for just one more second so she could finally get her number. I feel like I let him down, I should have picked up my screaming baby and held him in my arms, and I didn't.

Finally, she suggested that I get on the scale holding Weston, and then Jenny took Weston, and I weighed myself, and she found his weight that way. But, at that point, he was just done, and screamed all during the doctor's visit with him (and she's the most sweet and calm doctor!). Of course, we had to wait around for his vaccine, and the poor thing kept screaming and pointing at the door to go. It was heart wrenching.

Often, when we look at babies, we forget how much they process. Will Weston remember that moment? No, most likely not. Will he remember the feeling? I believe so. If not consciously, than perhaps subconsciously. As I watched the nurse insist on lying him down and not ending the moment sooner, it dawned on me that so often in the realm of babies we forget a simple fact: that they are human. They they deserve the same rights we, adults, do. If an adult was forced to lie there naked and crying, we would amend the situation to alleviate the stress, so why not for a baby? Why was it okay for us to stand there and try to relax him when that obviously wasn't working? He didn't know why he was naked, or cold, or lying down, all he knew was that he was scared. It's my job to help him navigate the world, and today, I feel like I didn't navigate his ship very well.

But, as with all things, I look back on that scene, see how I would do it differently, and now I will. Next time, I will lift him up and proclaim that that wasn't working and could we calm him down for a moment or try something else? Feeling the need to protect your child may come naturally to most people, but learning how to protect them can be a process, especially when you yourself are nervous.

Parenting isn't easy, but if you're open to learning, it can make certain next times easier than the first. There are so many boundaries in life to realize and acknowledge, and I certainly won't always be there to make my son happy and safe, but at that moment, I could have moved a little quicker; I won't continue beating myself up about it, but the teacher in me will chalk this up to a "teachable moment" and move on, lesson learned.

When I stumbled across Mockingbird Parties, I fell madly in love. A children's party service which designs your kid's dream party and provides every detail in a box? Heaven! Not only is Mockingbird Parties a one of a kind party planning service, but all of the details are exquisite down to the last chirp. Based out of Long Island's own Cold Spring Harbor, and run by creative genius Jennifer, she works tirelessly to ensure that your son or daughter has the ultimate party of their dreams. Jennifer understands that parents are working hard these days, and no one has time to plan all the details of a children's party, so she takes on that job for you by designing and creating all the party accessories and bestowing you with a perfect party in a box! Simply put, you choose a theme and she provides you with everything you need for the day of the party.  Jennifer is also going to be blogging on the Mockingbird Parties website and sharing awesome and easy DIY projects! 

Top Left: Birthstone Crown; Right: Fairy Headpiece; Bottom Left: Woodland Fairy Headpiece; Right: Princess Crown

Jennifer is amazingly creative and detailed, I know this first hand, not from a party stand point, but from an accessories standpoint. I contacted her before my photoshoot with Molly Leon Photography to see if I could have her make Weston something. She took some time to brainstorm and generously gifted Weston a woodland themed Robin Hood hat (his nursery is woodland themed), which has now become a family heirloom. The detailing is fantastic, and though my little creature wouldn't let me put the hat on correctly (see below!), he loved his hat, and it now sits proudly in his room. Jennifer not only curates parties, but creates gorgeous accessories for their parties...not on Long Island? No worries, you can buy her hats, crowns, and even get custom made accessories from Mockingbird Parties' online store.

Like I said, Jennifer's parties are incredibly detailed, and she provides all the supplies for what would certainly be a special day for any child. Some of the themes Mockingbird Parties have done in the past are cars, spa day, Alice in Wonderland, sharks, pirates, and frozen fairies. See photos below for examples!

And, finally, lucky for us, Mockingbird Parties is kindly giving away a gorgeous accessory for the little ladies in your life! See the form below to enter to win 2 flower felt headbands and 10% off any item of your desire in the Mockingbird Parties shop! Open to US residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Photo by Molly Leon Photography
When reached out to bloggers to discuss their dreams and goals, I was on I love discussing what's happening in my mind, ha. is a company with one goal: to help its customers achieve their dreams. You can see more info about Kabbage here.

It's funny, there seems to be a trend happening in my circle of friends right now. Everyone seems to be switching careers faster than I can count. I asked a few of my girl friends why this might be and we all surmised that after college we were desperate for any job, and now...well, now we all want our dream jobs. I was one of the lucky ones who snagged my dream job after college (seriously, I used to dream about being a Latin teacher...seriously), and now, as life twists and turns, my dreams have changed. I feel like as kids we are always asked, "what do you want to be when you grow up?" but, we never ask ourselves at 29, "what do you want to do for the next phase of your life?"

Just a few weeks ago I was at a yard sale, and staring at me from the discarded book pile was a copy of Finding Your Dream Job for Dummies. For a second I had the reflex to go pick it up, but I stopped myself, and realized, woah: you are living your dream job, dummy. Since before I can remember I wanted to be a mom, and, as I realized throughout life, just giving birth to a baby doesn't necessarily make you a mother. Not everyone loves to be home with their child all day either, which I totally understand; but, for me? I love it, I thrive in it. I love taking care of Weston, and the house, and even making Eric's lunch for work. Does it get overwhelming and I cry sometimes? Um, yes. Does that mean it's not my dream job? Not in the least. Just this week I was totally and utterly overwhelmed because Mr. One Year Old wasn't napping; I thought I was going to lose my mind...but, as most kids are, the next day was better than the previous; one can never tell the mood of the day with a one year old in tow.

I'm also living out my dream writing. I've always wanted to be a writer, tell stories, interview people, and also share other people's stories...and now, I am. It hasn't been an easy road to get there, but I've really come to believe, as you open doors, more doors open. And teaching! Oh, teaching. My greatest passion. Now that I'm not in front of the classroom, I do miss it, but I'm so lucky to be working one-on-one with some amazing kids. I love learning new subjects with them, and helping their brains expand.

Will these always be my "dream jobs"? Who knows. But for now, they are. However, this Pisces isn't settled yet, and I have some lofty goals. I would love to write a book, start a magazine, have more kids (someday), and continue connecting with all the wonderful mamas I've been meeting in real life and on the internet. I think my list of goals is never ending, actually! Write a cookbook? Sure! Start a tutoring company? Sure! I love to have my hand in many pots, and there's just not enough hours in the day!

So, do tell: are you in your dream job? What is your dream job? What are your goals? I can't wait to hear!

Photo by Molly Leon
Happy Friday, lovelies! What are you all doing this weekend? We're heading to Weston's first concert...! We're heading to The Sandbox to see Kerri Wirth perform. I'm thrilled to bring Eric to his first visit to The Sandbox and see Weston's reaction to his first real concert. I have so many exciting things happening, with writing, projects, and many giveaways coming up this stay tuned! In the meantime, check out these lovely links I've collected this week!

Have a great weekend, lovelies!

Photo circa 1940 by Russell Lee
When you have a baby it really feels like you're walking into a totally new world. You don't feel the same, mentally or physically, the hues of the world are slightly different, your food tastes and smells a little off, and sometimes words just don't compute in your head right. It takes a second longer to process what people or the TV or radio is saying, it can take even longer to process what you're reading. Suddenly you're a traveler in this new land, but this time not alone: you have a tiny sidekick along for the ride, and while often that makes the journey more fun and exciting, most of the time it simply makes the journey tiring, scary, and stressful.

I entered into this new world with the love and support of my family and friends behind me. They cheered me on as Weston and I donned our travel supplies and headed out into the new world together; however, as much as everyone around me loved me and wanted to help us on our new ventures, sometimes it felt like we were just two souls traveling on our own. There were so many instances that seemed so unique and made me wonder, "is this normal?" As I would lie in bed at night, a wriggly newborn next to me, I would close my eyes and think about the path ahead of seemed daunting, but doable. I thought about my son, by my side...and I realized that the journey with Weston would be amazing, but I would love to have had some people to sojourn with us. However, the winter was cold, I was feeling super gross in my sweaty post-maternity clothing, and the thought of taking a tiny baby out to make mom friends was laughable.

But, as time went on, and winter turned to spring, we started venturing out into the real world, and slowly, we made some friends. New moms who were on their own scary journey. As we would come across these women and babies, we would smile, nod, and sometimes pass on the street, but often, stop to chat. As we got to know these moms and babies, there was a great relief of finding others who knew what I was going through at that exact moment in my life. Oh, you're not sleeping either and are running on caffeine fumes? Oh, you have to see another annoying doctor, too? Oh, you started solids and the baby gagged and threw up all over, too? There was a camaraderie forming between some of the moms we came across, and I soaked it up. I loved knowing that these women were also up late rocking babies, stroking hair, and making bottles. I loved knowing I had teammates in this crazy game of parenthood.

The women I came across may not have lived the same life I have, but there was one thing we all had in common: we were all mama. I'm not sure if you've noticed, but there's a new trend in the mom-world to hark back to the "mama" title....and not just for the babes to call their mothers. I'm talking about the mom-to-mom communication: mama is making a comeback, and I love it. See, when you meet a new mom, and you throw your sweet, innocent three month old under the bus, "this kid never sleeps a wink, he's driving me nuts!" even if the mom you met just met you and has no clue what your name is, she can simply say, "oh, mama, that's so tough! I am so sorry!" Or, you're at the doctor and your baby is screaming, another mother may turn to you and say, "been there, mama, and it's the worst!" Mom and Mommy can be slightly off-putting and condescending, but there's something so sweet about mama; so old fashioned, calming, and even slightly silly.

I'm a huge fan of mamas helping mamas get through these crazy times, and by bringing back "mama," we're allowing women to generate their own villages, even just upon meeting another woman for the very first time. Mama is reassuring, it's comforting; it's putting a hand on the shoulder of the woman you just met and saying, I've been there, we've all been there, and you're going to get through this. Mama is the sweet smile to a confused mom, or the open door to the mom of twins struggling with the giant stroller. Mama is the motioning for a new mom to sit next to you at music class, or the introducing yourself to a nervous looking mom at the playspace. Mama is inviting a new mom, just as you are, to pull on her boots, strap her baby to her chest, and join you on your journey. Your paths may not always be parallel, but for that moment in time, you mamas can sigh together and understand what the other is going through.

As a mom of a little kid, sometimes the only relaxing moments to myself are when I'm driving in the car. This is when I catch up on my podcasts and listen to my music (when he's sleeping...otherwise we jam to our CD from Music Together!). On a recent busy day, while Weston napped in the car, I decided to get a McDonald's iced tea, and pop a new album into the CD player. Luckily, I was just sent Annalise Emerick's new album, Field Notes; we've posted about how much we love her music before, so I was thrilled to open the CD and get a first listen. Let me tell you, simply put: this is an album for the books. Man, is it good! Not only does she have a soulful and gorgeous voice to listen to, and her music style is dead-on, but her lyrics had me tearing up!

She's recently relocated to Nashville and you can definitely hear that in this album. It's full of soulful songs about love--the song Boston is a happy and strong love song--love for music, men, the world, and herself. The first song, The Sun and the Moon, is a sweet love song with a banjo twang in the background, but made me think of the sweet sleepy boy in the backseat:

"The sun has been up for hours, and the moon, I can see up there too, and you're still still far away in dreamland, but me I'm just looking at you. I used to be so scared, and I'd sing about terrible things but you, you make it so easy, your love gave me my wings. Cause you are the sun and I am the moon, you shine so bright and I like the night."

At this point in the car ride, I was totally crying...I mean, it's a gorgeous song and will you just look at those lyrics?! Moving on to the rest of the album, I soaked up all the music and lyrics...and listened to the album about three times in one day. Good One is the sweetest love song, and I can tell is going to become an indie-wedding standard in due time. Born This Way is an amazing anthem to the strong, adventurous and go-getter has some cool piano in it, making it feel a little Old West Saloon--which I happen to love!

Annalise is a little bit Carly, a little Carole, Patti, Emmylou, and a really intelligent version of Taylor Swift (that's a complement!). She's a story teller of Paul Simon caliber, and writes music which will stay in her listener's hearts forever. I highly recommend Field Notes (pre-order the album here!), just try to listen when you can really hear and understand the lyrics--they are worth every word! Annalise is currently touring, so be sure to check out her tour schedule and catch a show!

(PS. Don't forget to like her on Facebook to follow along on her adventures!)

Weston, Mr. One Year Old, at The Sandbox in Huntington
Can you believe it's September? This is the first year (besides maternity leave) in years that I haven't gone back to's very odd! But, I get to spend my days with that vacuuming monster above. Couldn't think of a better way to spend my days! Here's a list of the things I'm loving right now, what's on your 'love-list' at the moment?

  • The Sandbox: Okay, I've heard about this amazing playspace in Huntington Village for months and months, but when I was working, and he was too small, I didn't want to see what it was all about lest I fall in love with it. Today, finally, we headed over to Gibson Street and visited Rob and Toni at their beyond gorgeous play space. I am a total convert! I am a little bit obsessed, actually. It's the most beautiful, peaceful, safe play area I've ever seen! We were the only ones in there (most people were at the beach!), so we ran around and played for over an hour...I didn't even notice the time passing. I bought a membership, so if you need me from 10-4 this winter, you know where to find me! (PS. I'll be writing more about this awesome space, pictured above, but they have the CUTEST birthday party space, so go book your kid's party!--and no, I'm not paid to say that--but if you want a Pinterest looking party, this is the place!)
  • Music: I'm currently jamming out to Phoebe Hunt's Walk With Me and Annalise Emerick's Field Notes (review coming Monday!). I'm obsessed with both albums. Love women with soul! 
  • Drinking: I'm on a 21 Day Sugar Detox right now, so I'm loving La Croix seltzers! Have you tried? I could drink the apple-berry one all day! 
  • Photos: We got our family photos back from Molly Leon Photography and...I am in love with them. I'm so glad we had someone shoot some candid family photos of us! 
What have you been loving lately?