Co-Parenting, Positive Mindset, Single Mom

10 Tips for a Fresh Start After Divorce

Divorce is hard. After all, change is hard and divorce is a whole lot of change.

There are times in our lives when change is generally welcomed:  Going off to college.  The start of a new relationship.  Marriage.  The birth of a baby.  In those circumstances, the benefits of change seem to usually outweigh the negatives.

But breakups, separations, and divorces are not such a positive experience.  Suddenly, the life you had planned out for yourself has come to a dead-end, and now you are faced with a world of uncertainties.

For anyone who has become a single or divorced mom, you probably know what I am talking about.

A million questions plaque you:

How will you pay the bills?

How can you do the work of two people when there is just one of you?

Will you ever find love again?

Are your kids going to be okay?

 Are you ever going to be able to see your ex without wanting to cry or scream (or both)?

Will you be okay?

What is life going to look like for you in five years?  One year?  6 months from now?

It is utterly and completely terrifying.

But what if you look at change as a good thing?

Yes, you can mourn your relationship, especially if you were not the one to choose to end it, but don’t just sit there in the depths of despair and loss.  Pick your chin up and make the most of this new start.

How can you do this?

1. Make a List of Your Blessings

I don’t care how dire your situation is, you have something to be thankful for.  In fact, you probably have many things.  Write them down. No matter how big or small they may be. 

We all have things that we take for granted. What are yours?

Once you have completed your list, put it somewhere that you will see it.  When you feel yourself starting to despair, pick up the list and read those blessings again.

2. Build a Positive Co-Parenting Relationship with Your Child’s Father

This is for your child and for your peace of mind.  No, it is not always possible, but the less drama in your life, the better.  Taking the steps to have a positive co-parenting relationship is better for everyone.

How can you even begin to get there when you are possibly feeling angry, hurt, jealous, a sense of loss…no matter how you feel, it probably isn’t the way you felt whenever your marriage first began. You may feel like you will never be able to look at your ex-husband without feeling hate. But it is possible. And it is the best way to move on in a positive way.

While I could (and will) write a stand-alone post on how to build a successful co-parenting relationship in the future, here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Reframe: Instead of thinking of your ex-husband as YOUR ex, start thinking of him as YOUR CHILD’S Father. Your parenting teammate. This will help you put things in perspective.
  • Try to focus on the good things he does as a father instead of the mistakes. And remember…we moms make mistakes too.
  • Include him in your child’s life. Keep him informed of events and activities. Maybe you’re hoping he doesn’t show up to the play or soccer game so you don’t have to see him, but your child will probably be sad and hurt if he doesn’t.
  • Be kind. Make light conversation. Don’t get personal (no questions about dating, finances, lifestyle, etc), but DO discuss your child together…his/her successes, struggles, the cute thing he/she did the other day.
  • Send pictures of your child doing life to the other parent when the child is with you. That helps keep both parents engaged in all of their child’s life, not just part of it.
  • If your child’s dad begins dating, make the effort to speak to the new flame if she shows up at pick-up/drop off or at a school event or performance. Be kind. She is someone who is in your child’s life, and the more people who love your child, the better! No matter how different you two may be, you can likely find something in common that you can talk about.
  • Make sure to inform your friends and family that you plan to have a positive co-parenting relationship with your child’s father. Don’t let them put down your child’s dad in front of your child or around you. We’re being positive here, and negativity will only hold you and your child back.
  • When your child’s father does something to make you angry (and he will…after all, you’re both only human), step away. Take some deep breaths. Write down what you want to say. Consider whether this is a battle worth fighting over. Re-read and re-write in a kinder way if needed before pressing send.
  • If your child’s father meets your kindness and positivity in a less than favorable light, be patient. He may think you are playing games. He may feel like you’re trying to manipulate him. Stick to your guns. Be consistently kind. Respect his role in your child’s life. Hold your jealousy in check by re-framing him as your child’s father. Eventually your good attitude will probably rub off as he begins to trust that you are legitimately on his side.

I do know that there are some men who do not want to be fathers, for whatever reason, and maybe as you read this you feel as if it doesn’t apply to you. Maybe your child’s father left. Maybe he has mental or personal issues that keep him from being able to parent. Maybe he is too focused on his new girlfriend to think about the children. Or maybe he wants to parent but has been abusive to you or the children and it is an unsafe situation. That is unfortunate, and you need to do what is best for you and your children. If you do not have someone to co-parent with, that is okay and your child will be okay. But for those who have a willing participant, a positive co-parenting relationship is worth the work, and it is more valuable than winning every fight.

Lastly, and most importantly, no matter whether your child’s dad is father of the year, or if he is unavailable or violent, forgiveness is key. It is better for you. It is better for your child.

3. Gain Control of Your Finances

I never paid as much to my finances as I did when I was first on my own, with my small little income (even with child support, it was so much less than I was used to). For the first time since I was 23 years old, I had to pay my own bills. Maybe you are in a similar situation.

In that first year on my own, I learned to shop sales, coupon (although I’m admittedly not the best at this), cook healthy but cheap meals, etc. I started to budget and keep tabs on my credit. While it’s still a work in progress, and I still make mistakes, I am learning to make positive financial decisions.

If you are looking for sound financial advice from a fellow single mom, I suggest you check out www.wealthysinglemommy.com. Another great place to start would be Dave Ramsey. You can find local classes or check it out online HERE.

Yes, it is more stressful to be in charge of the finances myself, but it has also been liberating.

4. Volunteer/Help Those in Need

One of the best ways to find joy in a time of grief and sadness is to focus on helping others! You could volunteer at church or at a charity organization, sponsor a child at Christmas (if your funds allow), collect items to make care packages for the homeless, etc. Whatever need in the community that you are passionate about, find a way to work to fill it.

As an added bonus, you can get your kids involved as well. Along with teaching your children how to be fantastic human beings who have compassion and care for others, you may also be helping them as well as they process and grieve as the family that they one had turns into a new type of family.

5. Sketch Out Who You Want To Be

This is a new chapter of your life. Why not take it as a new opportunity and make the most of it?

There may be things that you wanted out of your life that you couldn’t pursue when you were married. Maybe your ex-husband made fun of you when you mentioned something that you were interested in trying. Maybe you just didn’t have the time to devote to your passion while you were a full-time wife and mother.

This is a fresh start. Who do you want to be in five years? Write it down and find activities/classes/etc. to get you there.

6. Make New Friends

This is a new venture, and your life has changed. Some of your friendships will probably stay the same, or even grow closer. Many will change or cease to exist.

Your former relationship did not exist in a black hole, and others will react to your split. Some may rally for you. Some may rally for your ex. (It would be in everyone’s best interest if you would try to be positive and not put anyone in the middle, but some may still choose a side). Some may just feel uncomfortable with how different your life is now and shy away.

No matter how many relationships you retain post-split, it would be helpful to make friends who are just yours and who are hopefully in a similar situation. After all, it is much more helpful to date and navigate this new life as a single parent when you have someone to share it with!

If you want to make new friends, but don’t know how to find them, don’t be discouraged! Check out my previous article about finding new friends as a single mom!

Photo by Something Beautiful Photography

7. Have Fun With Your Kids

This whole thing is new to them too, and it’s probably been pretty darn stressful.

If you used to be a Stay At Home Mom, and now you’ve gone back to work, they may see you less. They may have had to move from their former home. They may have also lost friends as their lives changed.

Look for ways to engage when you are with them. If you have moved, look for exciting and unique parts in the new area. Go exploring. Hit up a playground. Put down your phone. (I’m speaking to myself too here). If you’re exhausted, cuddle up and watch a movie.

Make the most of the time you have with your kids. It will be good for them and for you. Plus, you are likely now splitting that time with the other parent, so those moments are even more precious.

Photo by James Wheeler on Unsplash
Photo by James Wheeler on Unsplash

8. Make New Traditions

This is not just for the holidays (although you should definitely come up with some fun new traditions for every holiday that rolls around).

One of the traditions that we started once I was separated is that every night that the kids are with me, we eat dinner all together at the table as a family. While we are at dinner, we take turns discussing our “highs” and “lows” (the best and worst parts of our day). My youngest also sometimes adds in a “funny”. Extracurricular activities can sometimes make this tough, but with some accommodations (eating a heavy snack and a late dinner or eating a cheap dinner out near wherever the activity takes place), we are usually able to make it work!

Another tradition we began was to have date nights. I aim to have one date night per kid per week, although sometimes we miss a week here or there. While my oldest is at dance, my youngest and I go out for ice cream or a cupcake and vice/versa. The kids love that one-on-one time with mom that they get less of now than when there was another parent in the home.

9. Try Dating When You Are Ready

Don’t rush into it, but when you want to give it a try, go ahead and dip your toe in the water. Don’t go in with high expectations, but have some fun with it. After all, one of the perks of being out of a relationship that was not good or healthy is having the freedom to pursue a new one with someone else.

I was terrified to start dating again, and while at times it can be exhausting and stressful, it’s also exciting. Just be smart…don’t bring someone that you are dating around your kids too early and try to make good choices. Don’t forget that your decisions this time around affect more people than just you.

When will you be ready to start? It’s different for everyone. Some people are never ready and are perfectly content and satisfied with their lives as is. And that is okay too.

10. Do Adult Things

Spend time with your children when they are with you and make the most of it, but do some things for you too! NOT just dating. In fact, do these things before you ever go on your first date:

  • Sign up for a new book club, bible study group, recreation league, etc.
  • Find out who YOU are.
  • Paper yourself with a spa day if you can afford it or have a DIY spa day with a good book and a bubble bath at home.
  • Go on a walk or run by yourself.
  • Join a gym if you have the time/money/childcare.
  • Try new things you were scared to try before.

Going out and socializing at night with friends is a awesome way to make new friends and potential dates, but moderation is key.

You likely have every other weekend at minimum all to yourself while your children are with their dad, so use this time to grow and figure out who post-divorce you is. She is probably a whole lot different than pre-marriage you.

Yes, it is change.  No, it isn’t fun, but there are positives in your situation, no matter what it may be. 

Focus on those positives and live your best life as a single mom.

Co-Parenting, Friendship, Mom Life, Parenting, Single Mom, Single Mom

To the Married Mom: What Your Divorced Mom Friends Want You To Know

Dear Married Mom:

We were all once like you.  We once had a husband and kids.  We had a family.  Maybe it was picture-perfect, but was wrecked by an affair or betrayal.  Maybe it was never as perfect behind closed doors as it looked on Instagram.  Maybe it was always a hot mess and everyone knew it.

But regardless, we had what you have and now our family is no longer the same.  It has changed.  Our lives have changed.

One of the hardest things about joining the Divorced Wives Club is that it can be isolating.  Whether our old friends just feel like they can’t relate, if they think divorce is contagious (it’s not), or if they think all newly single women want their husbands (we don’t), many of our married friends seem to disappear.

I choose to think that it’s just hard for some of our married friends to understand this new phase in our lives.  Maybe they have questions that they are afraid will be uncomfortable for us to answer.  Maybe they don’t understand why we are only available at odd times (every other weekend we are all in, but the once perfect Thursday nights are now out).  Maybe they think that they are hurting us by talking about their husbands or being invited to family events.

Anyhow, I’m hoping this list may clear a few things up.

  1. We are worried that our kids will be treated differently.

Our kids have been through a lot and we know it.  Many of us carry guilt about not making our relationship work, even if we did all that we could.  We have to answer questions that our kids have, hear them complain about going back and forth between parents, and see them miss out on events because they are with the other parent on that weekend.

We, just like all parents, just want for our kids to be healthy and happy.

Our kids know that a lot of their friends have parents who are married.  They know they are different.

Anything you could do to include our children, to treat them as you did before the divorce, would be so appreciated by us.

  1. Being divorced/separated is not the same thing as having a traveling husband.

While I personally have had a traveling husband, and I know how difficult that is, it is not the same as being divorced or a single mom.  If you happen to suggest as much or call yourself a “single mom” because your husband is gone for a few days or a week, just be aware that you are probably offending a single mom you know.  I know that you probably mean nothing by it, but while you may run the household alone, you do still have someone to do life with.  True single moms do not.

That being said, I personally think that being a divorced mom holding down the fort at home is a bit easier than having a traveling husband in some ways.  When I was married and my husband would come home on the weekends, he would kind of rock the boat of everything we had going on.  Sleep schedules, routines, meals, etc. would be thrown out of whack.  Also, I felt like I had to clean like a madwoman every Friday before he got home.  AND I still missed out on some girls nights, etc. when he was traveling because a sitter was so expensive.  So, while you aren’t a “single mom” while your man is out of town, that doesn’t mean that it is easy or that you have nothing to complain or be frustrated about.  Just know that particular phrase tends to get under some single moms’ skin.

  1. Unless you got married less than 5 years ago, your dating advice is old school. But we still love it when you try to talk girl-talk with us.

We LOVE that you care about our dating life (if we are talking to you about it…unsolicited questions are not so welcome).  It is nice to have someone to talk to about that cute guy we met or the last date we went on.  But wow!  How times have changed!  Not only is dating in general totally different with dating apps galore, but dating with kids is light-years different than dating without them.

Just remember we are trying to figure out this new dating world too and may make some mistakes along the way.  If you can just reserve a bit of judgment and try to be encouraging, that would be great!  And, yes, we do appreciate all of your advice…we just might not take it.

Also, the phrase “I’m so glad I don’t have to date these days!” is probably meant as a way to relate, but it can kind of sting.  Most of us aren’t exactly thrilled to have to go out into the dating world the second time around.

Photo by Huy Phan

  1. Complaining about your husband to us may be a bad idea.

There are three types of divorced women:

TYPE ONE: The well-adjusted ones who are not bitter and who want to hear everything about your life.  You can have an occasional vent session with these girls and they are not offended or bothered in the least (I fall under this category).  But not every divorced woman is there yet.

TYPE TWO: The ones who are hurting.  Complaining to these friends about your husband is like complaining about your kids or pregnancy to someone who just had a miscarriage or is dealing with infertility.  Unless you know for sure your friend can handle your vent sesh, try to be sensitive to her feelings.  While you may be upset that your husband didn’t take out the trash last night, your divorced mom friend has been taking it out by herself every single time since her husband walked out.

TYPE THREE: The bitter ones.  These should be easier to spot.  If your friend is a little too gleeful of your irritation with your husband, and especially if she encourages separation or divorce, stay away from her.  She is toxic to your marriage.  A good friend (married or not) would suggest counseling or reconciliation if you are having issues.  I personally hope my married friends have life-long and happy marriages!  If your friend isn’t on your marriage’s team, drop them.

  1. Please don’t leave us out now that we are single.

We want to be invited on that girl’s trip or to the family cookout.  We miss you.  Our kids miss your kids.

I was so thankful for those friends who still invited me to things after I was divorced.  A few of my friends truly made me feel as if nothing had changed.  They still invited me to adult events where couples were, and to be honest, since the guys usually hang out with the guys and vice versa, I didn’t stick out like a sore thumb.  We were still invited to family parties and cookouts and events.  They made me feel normal.  They made my kids feel normal.

I also had other friends who no longer invited me.  It was as if since I was a little different, I wasn’t welcome.  Or maybe they thought that I would feel uncomfortable, so instead of leaving the decision of whether to attend up to me, they made the decision for me.  Either way, it hurt.  It made me feel weird, out of place, and alienated.

So, if you are on the fence about whether to invite us or not, please invite us.  We’ll make an excuse if it feels too uncomfortable, but we will appreciate the invite all the same.

Photo by Kelsey Chance

Oh, and another thing…if you go to church, invite us to sit beside you on Sunday.  It can be weird to get used to sitting alone at a service where almost everyone seems to have someone with them.

  1. We may have changed, but we still have things in common with you.

I know that having a husband is a big part of your life, and it used to be a big part of ours.  But even though we no longer have that in common, we still have other things that we share with you.

After all, we still have kids and all that comes with that.  Most of us probably originally became friends over our kids anyway…that’s what moms do.

Plus, even though we are no longer wives, we are still women.   We still love neighborhood ladies events, shopping, dancing, trying new restaurants, laughing with our girlfriends, weekends away, etc.  Whatever we did with you before, we still love now!  We can still be friends.

  1. We try to make the most of our “free weekends”.

For those of us who have our children every other weekend, that time is precious to us!!  I know that I personally have my kids 80% of the time.  That means that 80% of the time, I do it all.  I don’t have anyone to pick up the slack or to pass the kids off to if I need a break.  On the flipside, I’m totally alone 20% of the time.  No kids.  Not as many responsibilities.  So, in that 20% of the time, I try to do the majority of my socializing, dating, etc. as well as catch up on housework and my to-do list.  There is nothing worse to me than a wasted “free” weekend.

So, if you do have a weekend free when you would like to have some girl time: grab brunch, get a little pampering, etc., call up your divorced mom friend!  If it is her free weekend, she would probably love nothing more than to have some girl time with you!

  1. But when we are with our kids, we don’t want to leave them.

I cannot tell you how many times I have said no to a kid-free event on a weekday or a weekend when I have my kids.  Yes, I need a break.  Yes, the 12 days straight with my kids without having help can drive me insane.  But I work full-time.  I spend most of my evenings shuttling kids to afterschool activities.  When I have time to spend with my kids, I want to hang out with them.  I DO know I need time for myself and so once in awhile I will do something for me, but don’t get offended if I say no, even if I have someone to babysit.

The worst part of becoming a divorced mom is that almost every single MNO takes place on a Thursday, no matter what it is: Bunco, Book Clubs, etc.  It’s hard to justify getting a babysitter for a Thursday night when my kids are going to their dad’s for the weekend the next day.

Photo by Jordan Whitt

  1. Our kids are going to miss important events because they are with their dad, and we hate it.

My kids have missed out on a lot when they were with their dad.  Even though he and I co-parent very well together, he lives 3 hours away.  Which means that my girls miss a lot of birthday parties, sleepovers, playdates, and other events.

Our kids are sad to miss out and we are sad that they have to miss out.  But don’t stop inviting them!!  They may be able to make it next time!

  1. Our stress level is high.

Oh what I wouldn’t give sometimes to have someone to share the load with.  If anything, I think I miss that the most.

Just someone who could watch the kids while I ran to the store.  Or who could unload the dishwasher.  Or do the night time routine so I could just have a little break.  Someone who could help with taking the kids to their afterschool activities.  Someone who could be there with the kids so I could run out to a girls’ night without feeling guilty about it.  Someone to share paying the bills.  Someone to take over with discipline when I’m burned out.  Someone to back me up when the kids want to keep arguing with me.

It is stressful doing it all on our own.

And on top of that, we are the breadwinner in our family.  And we’re worried about our children’s well-being.  And we’re trying to make sure our kid doesn’t miss out, because they already miss out on having both mom and dad there in their home together like all of their friends whose parents are still married have.

And if we’re dating too….oh boy.  Have you seen the people on those dating apps??  Remember how stressful and nervous you were to go on a date in college when all of your girlfriends were there helping you get ready and sharing in the experience with you?

Well, now it’s just as nerve wracking, but you’re getting ready on your own, and most of your friends can’t really relate because they have been married for eons.  Plus, if you end up going on a date when the kids are with you, you’re trying to get your kids settled with a sitter and battling “mama guilt” before you head out.

So yeah, it’s stressful.  And it never ends.

Photo by Kevin Grieve

  1. We are exhausted.

Like I’m not 100% saying that I am “having a newborn at home” exhausted, but I’d say I’m pretty close to that most of the time.

Look at everything I listed in #10.

My days are spent:

  • Getting kids up for school, packing my child’s Gluten-free & dairy free lunch, getting myself ready for work
  • Going to work for 8 hours
  • Rushing (always rushing) to pick up my kids from daycare and the sitter’s to get them to dance (one of them dances or tumbles every day).
  • We get home. I cook dinner.  Because not only is it expensive to eat out all the time (and out of budget), but my oldest can’t have gluten or dairy, so I have to make special meals for her.
  • After dinner we: practice dance/stretch/sometimes watch a tv show/play basketball/walk to the park on our one early dance day.
  • We do bedtime routine/devotion/prayer/my youngest begs me to sleep with her. I try not to fall asleep and give myself a time-limit on how long I will stay.  I stay about 30 mins longer than I tell her I will.  She still cries when I leave.
  • I do dishes and laundry and clean if I can muster the energy. Or I fall asleep in bed with my clothes on.  Or I have already fallen asleep in bed with my youngest and stumble to my bed in the middle of the night.
  • I set my alarm to do the same thing the next day.

While not every divorced mom shares my exact schedule or circumstances, almost all of us have one thing in common: We are trying to be everything to everyone, while trying our best to support our kids and help them have the best childhood possible.  All with no partner to help.

And, yes, those of us who have every other weekend off can sometimes catch up on sleep on that off weekend.  But we’re also so busy making the most of the that time (we have so much to do to get caught up around the house) that if we DO catch up on sleep and rest, we are behind a day when the kids come back.

  1. When the kids come back after a weekend with dad, it is hard.

So, picture what it’s like when the kids spend the weekend with Grandma and then you get them back.  We all know about that “adjustment period” right?  Well, for many of us divorced moms, we deal with that every other week.

When kids see dad only every other weekend, they tend to get a little spoiled at his house.  I’m not faulting the dads for that.  It’s just that…when you don’t have to actually be a parent to your child every single day, you can let things slide.  You want to make the most of the time the child is with you, and you want for the visit to be a great experience.  It makes sense, and I would probably feel the same way if I were in an “every other weekend” dad’s position.

My kids definitely have different rules at their dads.  There’s more candy and sweets, a lot more screen time, and no responsibilities.  My youngest sleeps with her dad (she is very cuddly), which makes it SUPER fun when she comes home and wants me to lay with her until she falls asleep.

Very doable two weekends a month.  Not practical or feasible when I have to use the time after the kids are in bed to get the house in order.

  1. We are on a budget.

No matter what kind of lifestyle we had when we were married, no matter whether we have gone back to work or if we get child support, we are probably on a tighter budget than we were when we were married.

I had a sweet friend once who was trying to help me house hunt.  She told me that the house down the street from her (in our old neighborhood) was for sale.

While I could have afforded that house when I was married (and I do receive child support and have a great job), I couldn’t move in the same type of house that I had had before my divorce.  Some may be able to fund a similar lifestyle, but most of us have had our budget take a bit of a hit.

  1. We can do it all (almost). But sometimes we do need some help.

We are strong.  We can do almost anything.

Since my divorce, I have learned to kill bugs, conquered my fear of being in a house alone, started paying all the bills by myself, taken up every household chore…

But when you or your kids are sick with something major, you never wish you were still married more.

When I had the flu, my friends dropped off soup, crackers, tea, and medicine to me.  When my daughter had the stomach bug and I couldn’t leave, my friends dropped off Gatorade, Pedialyte, and saltines.

While we don’t want to be pitied, and we can do a lot on our own, there are just some times when we need some help.

There are also some household issues that I can’t tackle alone.  A friend sent her husband to help me hang a light in my house.  My brother-in-law checked out my car when it was acting funny to see what was wrong.

My dad and boyfriend helped me put the furniture together in my house.

Even though we have to do almost everything alone, it is nice to have a little help when we need it.

  1. Please don’t trash our ex-spouse or get involved in the drama of our divorce.

We all have our moments when we want to vent about our ex, but it isn’t healthy for us to dwell on the past or on his bad traits.

I know you may have things that you want to say about our former spouse, especially if you didn’t like him or the way he treated us, but please don’t use our time hanging out as a trash session. Also, please never say anything negative about our child’s dad in front of the children!  After all, no matter what you think of him, he is still the father of his children, they love him.  They don’t need to know everything that their father has done wrong, just as we don’t want them to know everything that we could have done differently.

If you get too involved in the divorce drama, you aren’t going to be able to be supportive of a healthy co-parenting relationship (which is best for the children and all involved).  Your negative behavior could even cause us issues in court as most custody agreements include a clause about disparaging remarks made about either parent in front of the children.

Instead of bashing, keep our mindset positive and help us find solutions to our problems.  Encourage us to make some time for us (maybe even offer to watch the kids for a bit so we can relax).  Remind us to keep our eye on the prize of a healthy co-parenting relationship so our kids can be healthy and happy!  That is what we really need…even if we don’t realize it!

As an added bonus, if you don’t get overly involved in the negativity, you can treat our ex kindly if you see him at a band concert or dance recital without feeling weird and awkward, which is a win-win!

The Verdict

Even though some things in our lives have changed, your friendship is still valuable to us!

Don’t give up on our friendship or shy away just because you don’t understand exactly what our lives are like now.  I hope this post helps those married mamas who are having a difficult time relating to their newly divorced friends, but if you are having a hard time connecting to an old friend who has gone through this huge life change, just ask her about her life now.  She may be dealing with the same things as me, or she may have other challenges, but either way, the path to understanding begins with open dialogue.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez

I’d like to thank those friends of mine who have been there for me through all of the changes in my life, who have never ceased to include me, and who always made my kids and I feel like part of the group!  I love you!!!

Positive Mindset, Single Mom

You Can’t Be Pro-Life Without Being Pro-Single Mom

I have seen many Pro-Life posts and shares on my Facebook feed in the past couple of weeks, and we all know why:  New York signed a bill that made it possible for a baby to be aborted up until the moment of birth.

What I have NOT seen are posts that celebrate Single Moms.

It’s as if most people don’t see that the two go hand in hand.

Picture this:

You head into the check-out line at Wal-Mart, and the woman ahead of you pulls out an EBT to pay.  Like most moms with young children, she seems a bit frazzled, hair a mess. She’s alternating from sliding the card to keeping her two bouncing children in check.  You notice she has no ring on her left hand.  The man behind you makes a comment about how his taxes helped pay for her food, and you watch as a flush colors her cheeks.  What do you do?  How do you feel?

What if I told you that same man was sharing anti-abortion memes the day before?

Let’s think about this logically.  Some people 1) Do not support free birth control  2) Want to ban Plan B  3) Claim to be Pro-Life and 4) Complain when a single mom has to use government assistance.

That, my friend is NOT Pro-Life.

You can’t be Pro-Life and then complain about mothers who get government assistance.

You can’t be Pro-Life and want to ban Plan B (which is NOT an abortion pill.  It does not abort a baby).

You can’t be Pro-Life and not want to hand out free birth control to everyone.  (54% of those who had abortions in 2015 were not on Birth Control while 41% were using it inconsistently).

You can’t be Pro-Life and shame or look down on those who had the baby that they could have aborted.

The reality is that many people have sex.  Not all of them choose great partners. Sometimes this is because they are a bad judge of character, but many times, a person doesn’t reveal who he really is until it is too late.

Supporting single mothers and celebrating their choice to give life instead of looking down on them can only help the abortion rate continue to decline.

How can those who oppose abortion support single mothers?

Financially

According to a survey conducted in 2004, 23% of women who were having an abortion said they did so for financial reasons.

Babies are expensive.   If a single mother had more resources available to help her, maybe that would help her make a different decision.  After all, 86% of those women who choose to have abortions are unmarried, and 59% have had at least one child before.

So in theory, a woman may have decided not to abort in the past, but now she does not see how she can financially support another child.

Change the Narrative About Single Mothers

33% of the women who had abortions in 2015 did so because they did not want to be a single mother or were not ready for a child yet.

Some of the same people who scream that abortion is murder look down on those who chose to give their babies life.  How does that make sense?

According to waitingtillmarriage.org, only 3% of people waited until marriage to have sex between 1994-2003.  Between 1954-1963, only 11% waited until marriage to have sex.  That  means that a lot of the people who are looking down on single mothers should really be counting their blessings that they are not in the same predicament.

*While I think waiting until marriage is commendable and an attainable goal, if the Pro-Life Movement’s objective is to save more babies from abortion, we must all be realistic about the facts.*

As a single woman with an unplanned pregnancy, one would think that part of the appeal for abortion would be that no one would know.  If she keeps the baby, there would be no way to hide that the pregnancy exists.  In my opinion, this is what makes the option of adoption a less attractive choice than abortion for some.

An interesting statistic was that 54% of the abortions performed in 2014 were done on women who had affiliation with the Church (either Protestant or Catholic).  Could it be that the demoralization of unwed mothers has led to more abortions from those who identify as Christian?  After all, if one sin has already been committed, maybe committing a subsequent sin to cover up the first seems like the best option.  If a woman is a “sinner” no matter what, why not commit an additional sin to save face or her reputation?  This is just speculation on my part, but food for thought.

If being a single mom could be easier, and seen in a more favorable light, maybe more mothers would choose to walk down that road instead of taking the quick and quiet way out.

Support Programs that Support Single Mothers

While there are some government programs that provide assistance, you may also have local ministries or programs that provide some type of additional help.  Actively look for those programs and support them financially, as a volunteer, and by sharing them on social media.  That may make a bigger difference than sharing about how abortion is murder.  At this point, I don’t think many people in America are in the dark about abortion.  They may, however, not know about the programs that can help out single moms during and after the unplanned pregnancy.

Take the Time to Listen to Single Moms

Many single moms have heartbreaking stories.  Their boyfriend broke up with them after they got pregnant.  A guy who was supposed to be there went MIA.  Some are survivors of abusive relationships.

Many single moms are trying the best they can.  They work full-time, and then they spend the evenings and weekends parenting alone.  Some do have some government assistance, but some make just enough money with their job not to qualify.  Many receive no child support, or their previous partner is thousands of dollars in arrears.  The majority are just trying to raise their children the best they can just like most moms.

But the best thing about single moms is that they are survivors and fighters.  They are proud about what they have accomplished.  Tell them that you have noticed.  Tell them that they are good moms.  They probably don’t hear it often enough.

Be a Friend

“The physical difficulties of only being one person who has to be responsible for so much isn’t the hardest part. Yeah, I’m sleep deprived and stressed and constantly on the go or looking for something that someone lost. The hardest part for me has always been the lack of a partner to support me in being a mom. The absence of someone standing there lovingly admiring my kids when they say silly stuff or do something special for the first time. And when my kids are hurting and it breaks my heart, there’s no one there feeling that with me to console me. For me it’s always been the lack of emotional support that makes it so incredibly difficult.” – Karen

Being a single mom can be lonely and isolating, especially if the mom has no one to help her with childcare.  Be there for her.  Listen to her stories and watch her videos of her kids.  She may not have anyone else to share those special moments with.

Give Her A Break

One of the things a single mom craves is rest! If you like children, offer to babysit for her while she does something for herself or even just takes a nap. If you aren’t a kid person, you can offer to help in another way, such as helping with dishes, laundry, or bringing a meal. Many single moms are used to doing everything by themselves, and while they may be rocking it, everyone deserves a break now and then!

Pray

Pray for the single moms in your life and community.  Pray for their children.  Pray for our society.  Pray for compassion.

I don’t know all of the answers.  I DO know that being Pro-Life only makes sense if you also support the mothers who give their babies life.

Let’s use this opportunity to celebrate those who gave life to their children when faced with a difficult decision.

Celebrate and support the single mom.

Positive Mindset, Single Mom

Why I, A Single Mom, Take Pictures With My Kids and Their Dad

Why I, a Single Mom, Take Pics with my Kids and Their Dad

Why Involve Him at All?

How involved should a single mom allow her kids’ dad to be in her life?  And why take pictures with someone you used to be romantically involved with? Since my divorce, I have joined several single mom’s groups, and each one has countless questions (or rants) about this very issue.

Some moms go to the extreme.  If their kids’ dad doesn’t want them, then they will do everything possible to make sure that the dad has little or no relationship with his kids.  Some women go the other extreme and live in the same house with their exes so that their kids can have as much access to both mom and dad as possible.

But most of us are just trying to find that perfect balance in between.

My children have always loved their dad, and he was an involved father.  We used to spend a lot of family time together, so that was a hard adjustment when things ended with us.  We still even ate lunch together for awhile after church every week, although it was a little painful for me to be honest.

With time, however, the awkwardness and pain ended.  We each have our own spaces and lives now (we actually live 3 hours apart), but we do still have the occasional meal together with the kids, usually revolving around pick up/drop off or a school or dance event.  He joins us on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought the kids, and we all eat breakfast together.   We sit beside each other at school events and dance recitals.  We celebrate the kids’ birthdays together.  I can only speak for myself, but it feels comfortable for me now, and I hope it’s the same way for him.

I do know that there is no one who I want to be at those events in my kids’ lives more than him.  He is their dad, and even though things didn’t work out the way I wanted between us, that doesn’t mean that I want to ruin things between them.

I don’t want for my kids to have two birthday parties, or to celebrate and not have one of their favorite people, their dad, in attendance because I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable.

I don’t want for my kids to run down and see what Santa got them without having their dad there the way that my dad was.

But Why Take Pictures With Your Ex?

I’m not sure when we started taking family photos at some of these events.  Usually, someone else asks if we want a photo together (sometimes they don’t even realize that we are no longer married), and we take one.  Every time, I am so happy to have that moment preserved for my children.  It is a moment captured in time when they are with the two people who made them.  And they always look so happy.

The issue of pictures as a “family” came up in one of the single mom groups that I am in and one girl commented that she has always made the point to take family photos with her daughter and her daughter’s dad so that her daughter would always have them when she grew up.  She said that she only has one photo of her with both of her parents, because her parents were not together when she was growing up, and she said that she always treasured that photo.

After she made that comment, several other children of divorced, or never together parents agreed that they also would have loved a picture of their parents together with them, but they never had that.

Even though I am no longer with my kids’ dad, that does not mean that he is no longer a part of their family.  They still have only two parents: him and me.

Every time we take a photo together, my daughter has a photo that she can put on a poster at school of her family like everyone else in her class.

Every time we sit together at her dance recital, she only has to look one place to see the people she loves.

Every time we eat a meal together or experience a special event together (like getting ears pierced or dying hair for a birthday present), she will remember that BOTH of her parents were there.

We have a lifetime of family events to attend together.

She has a lifetime of memories to create.

My hope is that she will remember all of those memories fondly, and that she won’t feel like anyone is missing.

And she’ll have the photo to prove it.

I know that not every mom has this option.  Not every dad wants to be involved.  But for those who do, why not embrace it and give the gift of two parents to your children?

But Won’t Other People Think That’s Weird?

If you choose to let your kids’ dad be involved, you may get some backlash.  Friends or family may not want to be around your ex.  The thing is…your ex is your kids’ dad.  If it is your kids’ recital, school event, birthday, etc. your friends and family should be able to suck it up like both of you are and put on a happy face for the kid they love.

Significant others can make things messy as well.  So far, we have not had this problem.  I told my boyfriend from the beginning that my goal was to have a friendly relationship with my kids’ dad.  Instead of feeling threatened, he admired that.  He joined us on Christmas morning and at other events, and made an effort to get to know my ex.

That is what adults do.  They look for the good in those people who their kids’ love so that they can be friendly and kind and actually enjoy them.

And, let me tell you…it gets easier.

At first, your smile in that photo may be a little forced, but after some time, you’ll find that it is more relaxed.  Just like that first time you sit beside each other at an event may feel uncomfortable, but after a few, you’ll find yourself laughing together about something your child did.

So, Is Taking Pictures With Your Kids’ Dad Worth It?

Yes.  It is absolutely worth it.  Share the moments.  Take the pictures.  It’s worth it for your kids, and it’s worth it for you.

Holidays & Parties, Parenting

7 Exciting Ways to Keep Christ at the Center of Easter

As a Christian mom, I want to be sure that my kids understand what Easter is and what Jesus sacrificed for us, but I want to do it in a fun way!  The last thing I want is for the Easter Bunny to be more important to them than Jesus.

Over the past few years, I have assembled a few traditions we do every year to recognize the amazing power of Jesus Christ and to celebrate the resurrection!

First, the food.  Because I love food.

This photo is not the best as it was just taken for fun a couple of years ago, but this is our traditional Easter morning breakfast.  Easter Eggs, Resurrection Cookies, Resurrection Rolls and fruit.  You can see the Resurrection rolls on the right and the Resurrection cookies at the top!

Resurrection Rolls

These are not only fun to make, they are also meaningful as they tell the story of the burial and resurrection of Jesus! They are also so good that my kids have asked to make them other times than just Easter (we don’t though…I want to keep this as a special once-a-year tradition!).  Check out this recipe to add to your collection and enjoy them before heading out to church!

Resurrection Cookies

One of my favorite parts of Easter since I was a child was making and eating Resurrection Cookies.  They are some of the very best cookies I have ever had, and they are fun!  The kids really enjoy taking turns adding the ingredients (which all have a meaning and go along with the Easter story).  Their favorite part is always beating the pecans with a wooden spoon!  Once you are finished making them, you put them in the oven and seal it with tape (just as Jesus was sealed in the tomb).  It is so much fun to take off the tape on Easter morning to get to the cookies!  Wendy at Around My Family Table has the recipe, as well as some activities for the kids to go along with it!

 

Resurrection Eggs 

Resurrection Eggs are our newest tradition!  I purchased a set last year from Barnes and Nobel and they are so cool!  There are a dozen Easter eggs that open up to reveal a symbol that relates to the Easter story!  A little booklet that comes with it that tells you which order to open the eggs.  My kids loved taking turns opening the eggs to see what was inside!

You can get the one I have HERE.

If you want a less expensive option, Oriental Trading has a set that your kids can color!

You can even make your own Resurrection Eggs!  There are several different ways to make them:

  • You can buy plastic Easter eggs and fill them with items that represent the Easter story.  Amy from Wildflower Ramblings posted about her homemade Resurrection Eggs and even includes a free printable that you can use for your own set!
  • If you don’t want to go searching for items to fill the eggs, you can print a coloring sheet for your kids with the items on it!  All you have to do is cut out the pictures when they are done and put them inside the eggs!  This one is free!
  • For another, more creative option, Sarah from Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls made some awesome wooden eggs with symbols burned onto them!  If you are super crafty, you can try her method!

No matter which Resurrection Egg set you purchase or make, it is a great way to teach the Easter story to your kids!

 

Resurrection Garden

Until this year, I had never heard of a Resurrection Garden, but it is a neat concept, especially if you are into gardening and the outdoors!  Basically, you set up a little gardening pot and use it to remember the Easter story.  You can purchase a Resurrection Garden Set at Oriental Trading (and there is free shipping through tomorrow by the way) for $19.99.

If you want to build your own DIY version, you can do that too!  Molly from Sweet Lilac shared her garden as a means to keep Christ at the forefront of Easter.

 

Passover Meal

When I was in high school, our church had a Seder meal.  My parents (and my sisters and I) loved it so much that we did it the following year just for our family.  This is not something that would be as fun for younger children, but if you have older children or teenagers, this tradition is a great way to get to know God and Christ in a new way.  By celebrating Passover, we celebrate God and his provision and plan.  We recognize his power and holiness, and remember how he continued to show love for us by sending Jesus to die as a sacrifice for our sins.  This meal is both a worshipful time and an educational one that I would like to incorporate in our home once my children get a little older.

You can do a Seder meal all sorts of ways, but this post has a great outline of the events, foods, and what all should take place.  You will want to block out a significant amount of time as it is not a quick activity, but as I said before, it is definitely a meaningful one.

 

Flower Experiment to teach Atonement

All in all, the Easter story is full of hard concepts.  The idea of Jesus taking on the sins of the world when he was on the cross…that is difficult even for adults to grasp, much less children.  But it is important to understand that Christ became sin for us so he could be the sacrifice we needed in order to be reconciled with God.  I just found a wonderful experiment to explain this concept, and I am so excited to try it this year with my girls!  Basically, you buy white flowers.  You trim the stems, place them in water, and put food dye into the water.  By the next day, the flowers will take on the color of the water.  You can find all of the specifics for the experiment here.

 

Sin Washing Experiment

Speaking of Easter concepts, the most important part of Easter is the “Why”.  Why did God send Jesus to Earth?  Why did he die on the Cross?  Why was he resurrected again?

The Answer: To cleanse us from our sin so we could be reconciled with God and have a relationship with Him because he loves us.

To demonstrate this concept, you only need a few items to perform an experiment you may remember from youth group or Sunday School.  Some of the ingredients are harsh though, so you won’t want to let your children handle them!

 

I hope you found some activities that you can incorporate into your Easter traditions!  What do you do to remember Christ during Easter?

Parenting

2 Games to Make Cleaning Fun For Kids

It is amazing how big of a mess two little people can make in such a short amount of time.

My youngest finds great joy in taking every single individual toy bin and dumping it out on the floor.  WHY!?!

But luckily kids also love to clean up their messes when they’re done.  Oh, wait.  Yours don’t either?

At my house, getting my kids to clean up their room is like WWIII.  For the last two weeks, I have been at my wits end trying to get my kids to clean up.  I even told them that they couldn’t do anything fun until their room was clean.  I went up to check on their progress, and they were cheerfully playing amongst the mess.

Of course they were.

But then my daughter asked me if we could play the 10 Things Game, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it earlier.  I happily said yes, and the kids excitedly  went to work on their messy room and actually cleaned it.

What is the 10 Things Game, you ask?  Well, when my oldest was around 5 years old, I made up a cleaning up game to make picking up a messy room more fun.  After all, who doesn’t love a good game?  It was a hit at the time, but then somehow, I forgot about it, and we hadn’t played it in years until she asked a few days ago.

Basically, the 10 Things Game solves the hardest hurdle of picking up:  Where to Start.  There is nothing worse than staring at an incredibly messy room and feeling the overwhelming feeling of hopelessness.  Instead of just starting somewhere, we anxiously think about how we will never get done.

Secondly, the 10 Things Game sets small goals and rewards the small accomplishments.  We all know how much easier it is to tackle a little project than a big one, and how amazing it feels to have completed a goal!

Lastly, it is competitive (for kids who thrive with contests).  If your kiddo doesn’t do well with competing, you can take turns instead of having the winner get to go next every time.

So, without further ado, the 10 Things Game:

10 Things Game

  1. Always start with the number 10. (Hence the name).
  2. Yell GO. All kids (and adults if they want to help), begin picking up items in the room. It can be ANY item as long as it is put in the correct spot when it is picked up.
  3. The person who picks up their 10 items the fastest is the winner. He/she gets to pick some type of exercise/dance/etc move for the group to do. The group will do the same number of moves as the number of items.  So, if the winner picks kicks, the group will do 10 kicks.  (Other suggestions: touching toes, jumping jacks, twirls, stretches, running back and forth in the hallway, leaps, etc).
  4. When the group has completed the dance/exercise moves, the winner from picking up will pick a new number. (I always say no less than 5, but really the kids don’t like low numbers anyway…it isn’t as fun).
  5. Repeat the game with the new number. The winner of that round gets to pick the next dance/exercise move and number and so on.

Pro Tip: I usually play with my kids for several reasons: 1) It helps them stay focused 2) It is actually kind of fun 3) I get some exercise 4) It’s fun bonding time.

It is amazing how fast the room will get clean when everyone is staying focused and working together.

Wanting some official “Game Rules” to show the kids?  I’ve got you covered! Just click HERE  to download the game instructions!  There are two different color options to choose from!

If your kids get tired of that game, or if you want to mix it up, I have another game for you!

The Bucket Game

Another game my kiddos love is the Bucket Game.  This game takes a little more prep the first time, but it is reusable.  Write down every item that your kids have in their room on a piece of paper.  Cut up the strips of paper and put them in a bucket or jar.  The child reaches in the bucket to get a slip of paper, and then they pick up all of the items in the room that match that slip of paper.  Then they choose another piece of paper and so on and so forth until the room is clean.

My kids love this game, and it also does a good job of tackling the “Where to begin?” question when looking at an overwhelming mess.  Instead of facing a huge project, it breaks the items down into small categories.  Since the kids have to search through the mess for the correct items, cleaning becomes a fun hunting game.

To save you some time, I have a FREE printable with strips of paper all ready to go!  There are many common kids toys and items on them already, but you can add any additional items on the blank strips!  Just print, cut, fold, and place in a bucket or jar, and you’ll be all ready to go!   Just click HERE to download!

Looking for ways to make it more fun to actually clean the house once all the toys are put away?  Cornerstone Confessions has some ideas here.

How do you get your kids excited to clean up?  Let us know in the comments!

Download Both Games Here!

 

 

 

Budgeting Tips, Fashion

12 Secrets to Scoring a Preppy Wardrobe on a Tight Budget

What if I told you that you can dress the way you want to without breaking the bank?  Building an amazing wardrobe on a budget will take time, but I have some secrets and tips that will help you make the most of your money in the process.  I have rarely paid full price for any item of clothing, and with this list, you won’t either.

  1. Follow your favorite designers and brands on social media and join their email lists. If you want to know about the best sales, this is crucial.  Many preppy designers/brands have amazing sales if you know the right time to shop.  As an added bonus, most websites will give you a percentage off your first online purchase once you sign up!  Start a little “fun money” or “clothing” fund and save it for when the big sales come around.
  • Lilly Pulitzer – Lilly gives 2 chances to shop the “After Party Sale” every year: One in August and one in January, and they both include free shipping.  This sale gets crazy, so if you plan to shop the next one, create an account on the site and enter your credit card info ahead of time.  The site will be locked down the day of and you will be put into a virtual line to shop.  You will want to log in early (on multiple devices if you have them), grab a cup of coffee, and wait for your turn.  This sale truly is major event and you will want to be prepared to make the most of it, so check out additional tips and tricks from Annie Wears It here.
  • Kate Spade – Kate Spade will have “Surprise Sales” from time to time.  This is a great way to score purses and jewelry!  You can expect deals up to 75% off retail!  The Surprise Sales are the best way to save big on Kate Spade, although there are also Friends and Family sales in April and October.  Raging Rouge has more Kate Spade sale info here.
  • Tory Burch – Tory Burch has Private Sales throughout the year, in addition to a Friends and Family sale and a Friends and Fans sale.  Pay close attention to your emails in March, August, and October!  The most recent sale just ended and had items up to 72% off!
  • Lauren James – Lauren James has a big birthday sale every year on January 28th, but there are also other sales throughout the year, such as the Extra Love Sale that took place in February this year where shoppers could score an additional 40% off of sale items!
  1. Know when to shop. Certain days of the year are just better days to shop in general.  Black Friday.  Cyber Monday.  Day after Christmas.  July 4th and 5th.  Even if a designer is not having an online or in-store sale, you may score big at a department store or boutique during these big sale days.

 

  1. Take note of brand/designer secrets and tricks. There are some secret hacks for scoring a deal on certain brands.
  • Hunter Boots – If you wear a size 7 1/2 like me (or if your shoe size is smaller), you are in luck!  You can fit into Hunter Boots kids sizes and purchase a pair for about half the price!  Find out even more Hunter Boots tricks here from Kelly in the City.
  • Kendra Scott – On the month of your birthday, Kendra Scott will give you 50% off of your purchase of one item!  You will need a valid ID.
  1. Shop discount sites. There are several discount sites that sell items that may be on sale or from last season.  This is especially helpful for designers that do not have an online sale page.  My favorites are Rue La La and 6pm.  For a complete list of sites, check out this post.
  1. Hit up the sales rack first. Back in the day, I didn’t like to shop the sales rack because I felt like those clothes were older and not as good.  Then I began working at a retail store in college and realized that some items we received would go straight to the sale rack without ever even hitting the sales floor.  It may be a little more work to look through the sales rack, but you can find some incredible deals! For instance, I once found a cute Banana Republic sweater for $5!

 

  1. Check out the outlets. Many designers and brands have outlets now.  You can find discounted Kate Spade, Vineyard Vines, Polo Ralph Lauren, etc.  The catch is that most outlet stores are not online, however, some are!  For instance, Mudpie has an online outlet store now that has some great deals!

 

  1. Pair designer pieces with cheap ones. Your entire outfit doesn’t have to be expensive.  A Walmart, Target, or Old Navy top will look just as cute with Lilly shorts and will be a lot less expensive.  If you are on a budget, don’t blow $40 on a pink top when you can get one for $3.  No one will know the difference, but they will notice how cute your one-of-a-kind shorts are and compliment you on your Kate Spade purse!

 

  1. Stick to neutral shades for accessories. If you can’t afford to get three different pairs of designer shoes or multiple purses, stick to a color that will go with everything.  For instance, I have two pairs of Tory Burch flats, a black pair and a tan one.  My Lilly Pulitzer sandals are gold.  Neutrals are your friend.

 

  1. Research which items hold their resale value well. Some designers and brands hold their value much better than others.  Lilly Pulitzer, Tory Burch, Tieks, Louis Vitton, Frye, Lulu Lemon, Michael Kors, Burberry, etc.  If you take care of your clothing and accessories, you can sell them when you are tired of them.  Where can you get the biggest bang for your buck?  The old standby is Ebay, but you can also sell locally on neighborhood Facebook groups.  Another option is to join brand/designer specific Facebook groups if you are willing to ship.  You should always use PayPal (not friends and family) when buying and selling online.  Live Laugh Motherhood has some great tips for successful buying, selling and shipping online using PayPal!

 

  1. Buying used clothing. Join the online Facebook groups for the best deals.  You can also stop by consignment stores and head to women’s consignment sales too!  You can sometimes find awesome deals at stores like Goodwill or at yard sales, but those amazing scores are few and far between, and you can waste a lot of time there.  However, if you are careful with your purchases and buy items that hold their resale value well, you can often get back as much as you paid for the item in the first place!  How is that for cheap!?

 

  1. Let gift givers know when your favorite pieces are on sale. When you see an item that you want for a great price, tell those who buy gifts for you, especially if it is near your birthday or Christmas.  Most people will appreciate the heads up!  Just a couple of weeks ago, my kids gave me a hard to find NWT (New With Tags) Lilly dress that I found at a consignment store as a birthday gift!  That never would have happened if I hadn’t given my mom the heads up of the fantastic deal!  Every Christmas, I get a few Lilly gifts that were purchased during the August After Party Sale because we all know that is the best time to buy brand new Lilly!

 

  1. Make friends with people who love the same brands you do! When I lived in Charleston, I started a Facebook group called Lilly Lovers of Charleston (It is still active if you love Lilly and you live in the Charleston, SC area!).  Through it, I was able to connect with others who loved Lilly like I did.  We would shop together and alert each other of great deals!  Plus, when you have friends who love the same clothing as you, they give you first dibs when they are tired of the items they want to sell!

So, there you have it…some of the best secrets and tips for dressing preppy on a budget!  I hope they help you fill your closet with lots of beautiful items that you never thought you could afford!

Speaking of filling your closet, when I lived in Charleston, I began a consignment sale for Lilly Pulitzer clothing.  We then expanded the sale to include some accessories (such as Kate Spade, Tory Burch, Louis Vuitton, etc!)  I am no longer running the sale since I have moved, but some of my closest Lilly friends are keeping it going and it’s this Saturday, March 10th!  If you love Lilly, it is the best way to score some great deals (and it is where I got a pair of Tory Burch flats and a gorgeous hot pink Kate Spade purse!)  I’ll be volunteering and taking home some new finds!  Email chslillylovers@gmail.com for more info!

Do you have any shopping secrets to share?  Let us know in the comments below!

Budgeting Tips, Healthy Eating, Healthy Lifestyle

7 Tips for Cooking on a Budget PLUS 2 Black Bean Recipes

I love food.

Like, I really love food.  Probably as much or more than anyone you know.  There is nothing better than eating a fantastic meal.

But, I have a bit of a confession: I didn’t really learn to cook until I was separated at 30 years old.

When I was married, we went out to eat A LOT.  Every night, the question wasn’t “What’s for dinner?”, it was where.  And I had some great reasons for wanting to go out. Not only did I enjoy the delicious food that seemed intimidating to make, we could also eat different meals at the same time, so everyone was happy. We were also forced to sit at a table together for at least an hour and have family time.  (Now I make sure we eat a family meal every night around our own kitchen table).

It wasn’t until I was alone with two young kids that I realized 2 things: 1) Eating out is expensive.  I can’t even imagine how much money we blew on those amazing dinners, and 2) Going out to eat with a 6 and 2 year old by yourself is just not fun at all.  It was time to learn the skill of cooking on a budget.

So, armed with the motivation to cook for pretty much the first time in my entire life, I began searching for recipes in an attempt to bring the delicious food I was used to eating in restaurants home to our kitchen table.

It wasn’t long before I realized that the soup I was paying $5.00 a cup for was the easiest thing in the world to make at home for way less.  Then I tried the chicken enchilada casserole from 100 Days of Real Food and it was amazing (I added green peppers to mine and used whole grain tortillas), which encouraged me to try even more new recipes! I even learned to cook bacon and grits instead of going out to brunch on the weekends!  (Seriously, that is how much I did NOT cook before).  My girls became more adventurous eaters since they had to eat what I cooked (and there were no chicken tenders or cheeseburgers on the menu).  I began to discover what spices went into which types of dishes, and cooking became kind of fun!

I also realized how little a meal could cost.  Since I am not a huge meat eater, we started to eat mostly vegetarian foods.  I started to pay attention to what was on sale and stock up for future meals.  Cutting out meat may not be for you, but for this little fam of all girls, it has worked well!  (And we still eat meat occasionally).

I’m still learning how to make healthy, kid friendly meals on a tight budget, but these are the tips I have learned so far!

  1. Stock Up on Sale Items. But only items you need.  I purchase healthy snacks for my kids and the ingredients to make meals.  That is it.  And I buy the same items over and over.
  2. Use Coupons if you have them. But only clip the coupons if the are for items you need.  It does not save you money to spend $2.00 on a junk food item that you would never have purchased if you hadn’t see the $.50 off coupon.  I also save the coupon for when the item goes on sale again.
  3. Buy Frozen and Canned foods when possible. Frozen veggies are better for you than canned, so I always buy those, along with frozen fruits if I plan to cook with them.  I do buy canned tomatoes and black beans (and other beans, but black beans are a major staple at my house). I do not buy fresh anything if I can avoid it, because I want every item to have the longest shelf-life possible.  Any food item that is thrown out is a waste of money.
  4. Rotate out Fresh Fruits/Veggies. Of course, there are some items you have to purchase fresh, such as fruits and veggies that you plan to eat raw (especially for snacking)! I used to go wild buying several different types of veggies and fruits at once, and no matter how much we snacked on them, I would usually end up tossing something.  I have learned if I get a couple types of veggies and fruits each, we are more likely to finish them and less is wasted.  Then I can get something new the next week and everyone is excited to eat it.
  5. Limit Your Meat Intake. Meat can easily become the most expensive part of a meal. When I first started cooking, I would make a meat and a couple of sides, and I occasionally still do this.  However, I have learned that my kids eat more vegetables when they are incorporated in the meal in some way (soups, pasta, etc), so I started putting meat on the backburner instead of making it the star of the meal.  When I do cook with meat, I will get a package of something such as chicken breasts, cook them, and use a little bit in multiple meals.  IE: I’ll make a chicken pot pie one day, and chicken noodle soup the next.
  6. Soups are your BFF. I love soups. You can put any vegetable in a soup and it instantly become easier to eat.  My kids won’t touch onions or cooked bell peppers until I put them in our favorite chili!  Plus, as an added bonus, we generally have enough soup left over for at least one meal afterwards, and sometimes for me to take to work too!
  7. Have Flip Flop Day. Eat breakfast for dinner. Eggs and Grits are sooo cheap.  Add bacon for a little more.  Pancakes and waffles are quick and easy on a busy weeknight, or you can whip up omelets for a healthier option.

The two recipes below take all of the rules above in consideration, and they are go-to meals for me!

 

Easy Peasy Black Bean Chili

This chili is ALWAYS a hit at my house and I keep enough ingredients on hand to make it any time I’m not sure what to make for dinner.  At home, we eat the meatless version, but I usually add chicken if I’m making it for others!

Ingredients:

2 cans of black beans

1 can diced tomatoes with chilis

1 can diced tomatoes

1/3 bag frozen corn (save rest for next time!)

1/3 bag frozen sliced peppers and onions (save rest for next time!)

1 container chicken broth

1 1/2 tbsp chili powder

1 tbsp cumin

1 tsp minced garlic

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ground pepper

Diced cooked chicken (optional)

Shredded cheddar cheese, for serving

Sour cream, for serving

Jalapenos, for serving

Cilantro, for serving

Directions:

  1. If you have time, saute the pepper and onions in a pan with a little olive oil and minced garlic. If you’re in a hurry, skip to step 2.
  2. Put black beans, diced tomatoes, and diced tomatoes with chilis in a pot. If you would like your chili to be thicker, drain juice first.  If you want a soupier chili, do not drain.  Add frozen (or fresh) peppers and onions.  Add corn.  Add chicken broth and chicken (optional).  Bring mixture to a boil.
  3. Turn setting down and let the chili simmer. Add seasonings.  I estimated the amounts because I usually taste as I go.  I start with less and add more until I reach the desired flavor.  DO NOT leave out the cinnamon.  It makes a big difference in the recipe!  You can add red pepper flakes for an added kick.
  4. It will be ready to eat in around 30 mins, but the longer it cooks, the better, and it is even better reheated the next day!
  5. Serve with sour cream, cheese, jalapenos, cilantro, etc.

 

Vegetarian Farmers Hash with Gouda Grits

This recipe is my version of my favorite meal at Charleston’s Café, my #1 place to brunch when I’m in Mt Pleasant.  They always add meat in their version (chorizo seems to be a fav), but when I make it at home, I go meatless.  They also usually use potatoes instead of grits, but I prefer keeping grits in my pantry since they have a longer shelf life (and because they’re grits, and I’m a southern girl).

Directions for Vegetarian Farmers Hash:

  1. Saute the pepper and onions in a pan with butter and minced garlic. Add a sprinkle or two of cumin.
  2. Once the onions have caramelized, add drained black beans. Continue to cook mixture until it thickens. (If you want to add cooked meat, you can do so at this time as well).
  3. In the meantime, fry two eggs in a separate pan.
  4. When black bean and pepper mixture is finished cooking, move it to plate. Add shredded gouda cheese on top.  When eggs are done cooking, place them on top of cheese.
  5. Serve with gouda grits and enjoy!

Directions for Gouda Grits:

  1. Cook grits according to package instructions (roughly ¼ cup grits for every 1 cup of water).
  2. Once grits are cooked, add salt and pepper to taste, a pat of butter, and shredded gouda cheese. Add a few splashes of milk and stir.
  3. Serve with Vegetarian Farmers Hash

Don’t forget to shop the sales to get the best price on the ingredients!

What are your favorite healthy meals that are easy on the budget? Any additional tips on how to save?  Tell us in the comments below!

Friendship, Relationships (Friendship/Dating), Tackling Lemons

How to Make Friends as a Single Mom

First Day of Kindergarten.  College Orientation.  There are some situations in life when it is easy to make friends because everyone else is looking for new friends too.  But for the rest of your life, it can be more difficult.  You have to make more of an effort.  You have to seek out friendships instead of having them fall in your lap.

This can become even more difficult as a single mom.  Some newly divorced moms find that their married friends don’t call them to hang out as much, or they stop getting invited to couples events entirely.  On top of that, many single moms end up moving, either for financial reasons or to be near family.  That means they have to start over in the friend department.

But don’t worry, there are many places to make new friends if you take the initiative and have an open attitude!

Where to Make Friends

  1. Church – If you are a Christian, the local church is a great place to build new friendships! The key is getting involved by joining a small group/lifegroup/Sunday School class and/or volunteering in an area where you are gifted.  If you are currently at a church where you aren’t connecting with anyone, try a different church!  Pro Tip – If there is a playground, hang out there for a bit after the service.  That is a great place to meet other parents!
  2. Meetup.com – I have made countless friends on this site at different stages of my life. It is free to join, and there are groups of every kind.  Search for Single Moms groups or moms groups in general!  But don’t limit yourself to meeting other moms!  Charlotte (where I live) has groups for hiking, board games, kickball, wine tastings…etc.  Whatever your interest, you can find others who are into the same thing!
  3. Sports Leagues – If you are the sporty type (or not, but you like team sports anyway like me), check out the local leagues. You can play kickball, soccer, flag football, softball, volleyball, etc.
  4. Facebook Groups – No matter where you live, there is likely at least one group on Facebook for moms in your area. Where I live, for example, I am in three: one for my town, one for moms in my neighborhood with school-aged kids, and a smaller group for those new to the neighborhood.  Post in the group asking if anyone wants to meet up for a drink or a playdate. You’ll likely have a ton of interest!
  5. Neighborhood clubs/events – If you live in an active neighborhood or apartment complex, you probably have clubs and activities going on. Pay attention to any newsletters or announcements that you receive from the HOA or management company to see what all there is out there.  See something that interests you but not sure if it is your thing?  Try it out anyway!  Bunco is something I had never played before, but it was a great way to meet people in my neighborhood!
  6. Start a group for single moms where you can meet up together if you can’t find one! I have lots of friends who are married with and without kids, or single with no kids, but it is nice to have at least a couple of friends who can understand the specific challenges that come with solo-parenting, dating with children, etc.  In fact, I just started my own local group for single moms last week!  I posted in the Facebook mom’s group for our hometown asking if there were any other single moms who would like to get together.  The response was great, so I started a Facebook group for us and we got together this past Friday night for the first time!  If you start it, they will come, and they’ll be thankful you took the initiative!

So now that you know how to find people, how do you turn acquaintances into friendships?  Here are some methods that work for me!

How to Make Friends from Aquaintances

  1. Be open to people who are different than you. When I go somewhere new, I do not just go into the room looking for single moms in their 30s with a 2nd grader and 4 year old.  Don’t discount a potential friend because that person is married, doesn’t have kids, has different interests than you, etc.  There is likely something you have in common with pretty much everyone.  Look for that commonality, and build a friendship from there.
  2. Look for ways to hang out in addition to the planned activity.  If you are meeting people in a structured environment, invite the group out to do something fun.  If you meet at church, see if anyone wants to go out to eat after the service Sunday, or go grab a drink after kickball.
  3. Invite people over to your house.  Pretty much every month has at least one excuse to celebrate!  Super Bowl, Mardi Gras, St Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day, July 4th…  Throw a party and invite people from the groups you are involved in to come.  It is a great way to get to know people better!  Pro Tip: Over-Invite!  Especially if your party is on a holiday when people may have other plans (ie: July 4th), you could have low percentage of attendees.  Even if someone cannot attend, however, your invitation will be appreciated!
  4. Invite people from one group to another group.  I naturally do this, but I’m not sure if others do.  If you are my friend from small group, I’m going to invite you to join my kickball team, and vice versa.  This is a great way to spend more time with your new friends as well as to get to know them in a different environment!
  5. When someone invites you somewhere, go. If you get invited to something and you like the person who invited you, go if at all possible! If you can’t find a sitter or have previous plans, be sure to let that person know that you would love to attend next  time!
  6. Be authentic. We are all different.  Be your own, real self and don’t try to be what anyone wants you to be.  They will like the real you more than someone who wears a mask.                                                                                                                                                     

Bottom Line: No matter where you make your friends, be true to yourself and open to others, even if they seem very different than you…the person who is your total opposite may end up being your best friend!

 

What are your tips for making friends?

Positive Mindset

Raining Lemons

Y’all.

I have been looking so forward to starting this blog about being positive and living your best life as a single mom, and then, oh the irony.  Today, the day I finally took the plunge and bought my domain, my toilet overflowed ALL OVER THE DOWNSTAIRS.

Tomorrow morning, my oldest daughter will be put to sleep for the first time for a minor procedure and her dad is not able to make it due to being between jobs and living in another state.  My youngest just got over the flu.  And then this happens.

Today is a day when I feel like I have been dealt a few lemons.  Too many lemons.  Well, I’m trying to do my best to make the best darn lemonade I can.

We are all dealt lemons sometimes.  Divorce.  Job loss.  Moving from somewhere we love.  Sickness.  Death of a loved one.  I know I have had all of those thrown at me and more.  But it isn’t about the lemons, what matters is our mindset when they come.

When lemons come my way, I try to deal with them and stay positive, even when I want to curl up in a ball and cry (and sometimes I do that first, just being real here).  However, I don’t stay in that place.  I reset my mind on the positive, and these are some of the ways that I am able to do that, even when everything is bad.

  1. Look for the positive in the situation.  There is always a positive. Tonight, I caught the water before it ruined the entire downstairs.  That’s a pretty big positive.
  2. Meditate on your blessings. My kids are generally healthy.  The flu did not spread through our home (knock on wood).  Speaking of homes, we have one and it is a nice one in my favorite place to live.  I have a wonderful family and lots of friends.  I am not doing this thing all by myself, even if it feels like that in the moment when no one else wants to take care of my sick kid and no one else is there when the toilet overflows right when I need a break.
  3. Ask for help. Tonight I called my parents for advice on how to deal with the plumbing issue (and to commiserate with them).  When my daughter had the flu, I posted on my neighborhood page looking for someone to bring me Elderberry syrup (I had cash) and I had two different strangers bring me things I needed to take care of her since I couldn’t get out.  Even though my daughter’s dad won’t be there tomorrow, my boyfriend will be at the hospital when we get there and my dad is going to come when he has to leave so I won’t be alone.  If you need help, ask for it.  Then pay it forward.
  4. Create more positives. If your life right now is just one big lemon, focus on the problems and tackle them one by one.  Have no friends?  Make some (get started here).  Dating life stagnant when you don’t want it to be?  Put yourself out there.  Unhappy with your health?  Start making choices to move towards your goal.  Create more positives in your life instead of focusing on the bad.
  5. Accept that life will not be perfect.  Life is not perfect for anyone.  There are some things that we just have to deal with.  Parenting is hard.  Relationships take work.  Dealing with an ex on a regular basis because you have children together isn’t super fun.  Focus on the things you can change and control, and look for the good in the situations you can’t change.

I am not perfect, and sometimes I have to have a bit of a breakdown before I get to the stage where I can look at the positives, but it really does help to reset my mind and look for the good in a situation instead of wallowing in the bad.  Because no matter how great a person’s life looks, there is always at least a little bad.  And no matter how awful your situation or mine looks, there is always at least a little good.

What are your tips for keeping a positive mindset when it is raining lemons?