National Women’s Health Week 2015

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women health week

Recently I was contacted by a woman who is a 9 year cancer survivor of a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. You can read Heather’s incredible story here.

She shared with me that National Women’s Checkup Day is on May 12th, as a part of an annual event called National Women’s Health Week that kicks off every year on Mother’s Day, and asked if I would want to share with my readers?

My answer? HECK YES!!!

This week is a great reminder for all women that we need to be an advocate for our own health and make regular check-ups and visits to the doctor a priority.

How quickly do you run your child into the doctor at the sign of illness or an ongoing symptom? Would you skip your child’s annual physical? No way! We need to treat our check-ups and doctor visits with the same level of priority.

On the website there are some great resources by age on things you can do to be proactive in your help.

Listen To Your Body

Since we are talking about health, in addition to your regular check-ups, it’s important to listen to your body and see a doctor if you sense a change in your body or if you have a sense something is different or not right.

Our intuition is one of our greatest gifts as women – when it comes to our own bodies we need to use it. 

Summer is Coming – Don’t Forget Your Skin Cancer Check-Up!

Living in Southern California we are in the sun year-round.   Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer – and 1 in 5 adults will be affected by skin cancer in their lifetime. It’s also the easiest to treat and cure if detected early.

The Skin Cancer Foundation says every individual should be seen by a dermatologist for skin cancer check once a year, sometimes more depending on your risk.  Spring time is a great time to schedule your skin check before the summer months.  Here are four questions to ask your dermatologist.

I have a family history of melanoma so I see a dermatologist every six months for a skin check.  Every time I go they ask me if I have noticed an changes, at all.  Changes can be in size, shape, texture, or any new symptoms like scaling, itching or bleeding.  Please see your doctor if you have a mole, freckle or growth that is new or evolving or changing. Here’s a great resource I found on what to look for.

Now ladies, pick up the phone and make those doctor appointments!


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More Great Reads

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Great Reads

This post I wrote on 15 books you can’t put down has been one of my most popular posts to date, and as an unexpected bonus, I have gotten over 228+ comments with readers leaving their OWN favorite books you can’t put down.

Which is beyond awesome, because those comments are now my go-to list for book recommendations of books you can’t put down.

There is nothing I love more than having a book so good I can’t wait to pick it up again.

Since that first list, I have some read some more really great reads, most of which were reader recommendations, so I wanted to share a follow-up list for anytime that made it through the first one!

Great Reads – More Books You Can’t Put Down 

1. Before I Go to Sleep

This book was SO GOOD. I love a good mystery and it leaves you guessing until the very end. It’s about a woman with a rare case of amnesia who wakes up each morning with no memory. Nothing. She has no idea who she is, where she is or who she’s sleeping next to. With the help of a journal she keeps secret from her husband, she is troubled by her own written words, “Don’t Trust Ben” and she learns many things are not what she thought them to be.  It asks the question – who are we if we lost our collective memories and experiences? SO GOOD!!!!!! Read it!

2.The Girl You Left Behind

One of my favorite books from my first list is Me Before You by Jojo Moyes so I waned to give another one of her books a go.  I loved The Girl You Left Behind, not quite as much as Me Before You, because that one is hard to top but this one is also a great read. It’s the story behind a 100-year-old painting and the love, loss and sacrifice behind the portrait of a beautiful young woman during World War I in Paris.

3. The Goldfinch

At over 700 pages, The Goldfinch is a commitment, especially for a busy mom, but it was so good I devoured every page.  It’s the story of a 13-year-old boy who miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother, an event that seals his fate. The ending was so beautiful, my one regret is that I didn’t read this book with a book club because there were so many themes to discuss.

4. The Paris Wife

Oh, how I loved this book, the story of Hadley Richardson and her love affair with Ernest Hemingway in Jazz Age Paris.  The author chose to write the novel in Hadley’s voice after reading Hemingway’s memoir, in the final pages, when he said of Hadley, “I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her.” A delicious, and fascinating love story which will leave you wanting to know more about the life of Ernest Hemingway.

5. Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life

I am reading this book right now and it is SO poignant for anyone currently navigating the world of parenthood.  In a collection of essays written by Glennon Doyle Melton of, you will find yourself laughing at one, and crying at another. Her essays are raw, brave and real and will make you look at your own messy, beautiful life with an aura of newfound acceptance. Mamas, great read.

6. Yes, My Darling Daughter

Haunting. Yes, My Darling Daughter is the story of a single mom raising a sweet and bright daughter, Sylvie, who begins having unexplained tantrums and outbursts. As Sylvie starts to share chilling details of what seem to be past-life experiences, her mother reaches out to a professor in the paranormal for help.  Which ends up in a disturbing murder mystery. Page turner.

7. The Glass Castle: A Memoir

This book should have been on my first list, and when the first reader commented and mentioned it, I was like, OF COURSE! YES! I couldn’t believe I forgot to include it. The Glass Castle is the most fascinating real life story of the author’s dysfunctional family and her crazy experiences growing up. But even with the erratic behaviors of her parents, the drinking and the wanderlust, it’s really a story of unconditional family love. Read this one!!!

8.Big Little Lies

I am absolutely in love with Liane Moriarty. What Alice Forgot and The Husband’s Secret have been two of my all-time favorite books, so I was VERY excited to see it was finally my turn after months on the library wait list (yes, I still read books from the library and intend to for as long as they are around!) to read Big Little Lies.  Readers commented and said they loved Big Little Lies even more than The Husband’s Secret.  I have to disagree, I liked the former better, but Liane still writes an amazing story that you can’t put down.

9. The Light Between Oceans

This is the story of a husband who takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on a remote island off of Australia, and his daring wife who agreed to go with him. Years later after miscarriages and a stillbirth, a baby washes up on the shore in a boat carrying a dead man.  Tom, the husband, wants to report the infant immediately, but Isabel, his wife, feels the baby is a gift from God, and claims the baby as her own.  When the baby is two they return to the mainland and are faced with the choices they made when they see the devastation it has caused others.  This book raised so many questions on morality, right and wrong, and will have you rooting for Isabel even though you know you shouldn’t. Loved this book.

10. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

I never saw the movie with Reese Witherspoon because I was afraid it was going to ruin this book for me! Wild is the true story of a broken young woman who makes a crazy, and life changing decision to hike more than one thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. Alone. First off, a physical feat of that magnitude is astounding to me, but even more so was the fact she did it ALONE. Her story of how this experience shaped and healed her is astonishing.

11.The Rosie Project

The main character in this book, Don, a quirky, socially-inept professor of genetics might be one of my favorite characters ever.  His actions are so wrong, but his heart is just so right.  The story revolves around Don’s quest to find a wife, based on his orderly, scientific knowledge and the development of a 16 page survey to filter out potential mates. Rosie is quickly unqualified but as their friendship grows, Don realized sometimes you don’t find love, it finds you. Adorable, feel good love story of the most quirky kind.

Please add your favorite great reads and books you can’t put down in the comments! I need to keep the recommendations coming! Thank you!

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Local Love: Welcome to Once Upon a Storybook

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Recently, I was introduced to an adorable children’s bookstore in Tustin called Once Upon a Storybook. I love finding fun new spots to take my kiddos, especially when it nurtures reading and learning!

This bookstore is especially designed for little ones, offering cozy nooks to read, a train table area (which will be immediately approved by my son!), fun artwork displayed around, and shelves and shelves of children’s books.  Love.

Story times

Once Upon a Storybook offers several different story time options.

Preschool story times are on Tuesdays and Friday mornings at 11 a.m., aimed at children 2-5 years old. Singing songs and participating in a story-related craft or “experiment” can be expected!

On Thursdays, they offer “Milk and Cookies Story Time” at 7 p.m., which is a great way for littles to relax right before bedtime.

“New Chapters Story Time” is on the second Saturday of each month at 2 p.m., lead by Miss Susie the Storylady. Perfect for ages 8-12, Miss Susie reads a couple of chapters from at least two books to give you an idea of fun new books for kids to read.

Events and summer camps

There always seems to be a fun event scheduled at Once Upon a Storybook, whether it be a pajama book party, an author signing, or even a time to practice reading to a pup (yep, you read that correctly!) – take a peek at their upcoming May calendar.   Remember that some events do require reservations in advance.

For example, their “Paws & Pals” event is scheduled for May 15th from 3-5 p.m., and lets kiddos practice reading to dogs for about 15 minutes.  How cool is that??  This one definitely requires reservations!

In addition to their monthly activities and events, Once Upon a Storybook also offers summer camps for little (and big!) readers. You can check out camp themes, pricing and dates here.

Finally, have you ever thought about hosting a birthday party at a specialty bookstore? Or even a fundraiser, baby shower, or Boy/Girl Scout event? Check out their craft and party room!  They have several party packages available, depending on your needs.

Check them out!

Once Upon a Storybook

17300 East 17th Street, #C
Tustin CA 92780

Phone:  714-669-4377

Hours:  M-Fri 10-7; Sat 11-6; Sun 12:30-5

I can’t wait to take my kids here, especially with summer fast-approaching!

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What IS.

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what if I have struggled with anxiety since I was a little girl. Even at 4-years-old, my mom can remember me talking about being “worried”.  I would worry about fire drills at school, fires, getting kidnapped, my parents dying, war, and those were just a few examples out of the endless things I would worry about.

What If…?

The thing about worry is that it is fueled by “What if’s….?”

As a child my what if’s would have been: What if that car pulls up and tries to kidnap me? What if that airplane bombs us? What if my mom gets in a car crash? What if my dad has a heart attack? What if my house catches on fire when I am sleeping? What IF……?

What if’s can run out of control in your head and spiral into a TOTAL imagined disaster. What if’s can be debilitating and the root of unnecessary anxiety.

Now, there are some kind of what if’s that are necessary.

Like, what if I climb that tree and fall and break my leg? Some what if’s make us stop and question things that might be unsafe. Those are valid what if’s. I am talking about the what if’s which we have absolutely no control over.

Just this past Friday night one of the neighbor kids down the street was having a house party which meant some teenagers were out in front of our house being loud and a little hoodlum-ish and my daughter got freaked out.

Teenagers scare her because our neighbor friend told her a story about how teenagers climbed their back wall in the middle of the night and her parents had to call the police. It was a big deal. Having this in her head, she was scared of the teenagers outside our house.

So much so that she couldn’t go to sleep.

She called for me and told me she was scared of the teenagers.  I was giggling to myself because in a few years she is going to be one herself, but the idea of the “teenagers” doing bad stuff to our house was upsetting her. At this point they were long gone, but she couldn’t let the fear go.

I crawled into bed with her and asked her if she was thinking any “what if’s…” in her head? She said, yes. What if the teenagers try to get into our house? What if the teenagers break into our house?

What IS.

I told her now instead of using “What if…” sentences let’s change our thinking to “What IS.”

Just the facts. What we know for sure, right now, for real.

Here’s what IS.

The teenagers are gone. We are safe. Our house is locked. Mommy and daddy are here. You are snuggled into your comfy bed. God is with you.  You are safe.

I heard her exhale. And she was able to go to sleep.

Following my own advice 

Lately we have had the most unfortunate news of four people we know, people in their late 30’s to early 40’s, being diagnosed with cancer. It’s hitting so close to home. It is terrifying.

A lot of what if’s have plagued me recently.  What if I got cancer? What if my husband got cancer? And as a parent those are the scariest what if’s and it has really been consuming me lately. The fear of what if we got sick?

Then I considered my own advice. What IS.

The fact is we are healthy. We have no evidence to prove otherwise. That’s what I am trying to remember when my mind starts to go there. It’s helping.

So the next time you find yourself diving into the darkness of What If Land, turn around and swim up, reminding yourself of the facts, until you reach the light of What Is Land. 

Do you have any tips on helping children with anxiety?

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Top 10 Tips for Visiting Disneyland with Big Kids

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A few years ago, I wrote a blog about my Top 10 Tips for Visiting Disneyland with Toddlers…and today, I’m going to share my top 10 tips for visiting Disneyland with big kids!

Disneyland Tips

Photo credit: Disneyland

1. Set a budget

Disneyland is SO fun! And can be SO pricey.  I find it’s easier to have a quick conversation with your spouse (and even kids, if they are old enough to participate) about what’s important to you all during your trip.

For example, how many meals will you be eating there?  Do you want to bring snacks or buy snacks?  Will the kids be getting souvenirs?  Face painting?  By establishing these simple budget parameters before the trip, everyone can be on the same page.

2. Pack a family backpack

Just because your “littles” are now “bigs,” doesn’t mean you still won’t need a few things for the day.  The night before (to save time and sanity), I pack the following:

– Water bottles for each family member (that can be refilled at water fountains, throughout the day).

– Sunscreen (hats too, if it’s a hot/sunny day)

– A change of clothes for the kids, if you plan to go on any water rides.

– Hoodies for the kids (if you plan to stay into the evening).

– Baby wipes and hand sanitizer.

– Snacks, snacks, snacks.  They more you bring, the more you save.  And the more you can avoid potentially cranky kids.

– Band aids and or any medications you might need

– A phone charger

– Your camera (if separate from your phone)

– A small wallet/wristlet with your essentials (instead of your jumbo wallet), that can fit in your backpack OR in your pocket (so much easier than carrying a purse).

3. Visit the locker room

And, if you don’t want to lug the backpack around all day, you can easily store it in a locker, right off of Main Street.  For between $7-$15/day (depending on the size of the locker), you can have your belongings safe and sound, without having to take your stuff with you on every ride.  Now that the kids are big, you aren’t obligated to carry around a backpack or diaper bag all day – woo hoo!

A bonus?  There are outlets to charge your cell phone in the locker room.  I learned this on my last trip when my phone died.  Always good to know where the outlets are!

4. Big kids, big rides, big expectations

I find that with my big kids, they have big dreams of riding the BIG kid rides.  Which is so fantastic since my husband and I love them, too!  However, these popular rides tend to also be the busiest rides.  Talk to your kiddos about their top two or three rides that are a MUST.  This will help manage expectations…and any other rides you can squeeze in are a plus!

Disneyland Family Picture 2015

5. Develop your FastPass plan

Speaking of, let’s talk about FastPasses again.  Here’s a quick reminder of how they work…

This is a free service you can take advantage of at the Disney theme parks.  This is a way to “save” your place in line at some of the most popular attractions, cutting wait time to a minimum.  Score!

You can only FastPass one ride at a time per Disneyland ticket (kiosks can be found by the ride, if it’s available), and they give you an hour time frame to come back. You just go to the FastPass line, hand them your FastPass ticket, and usually only have to wait 5-10 minutes for the ride.

FastPass what you think is going to be the most popular ride first. 
Go to the next ride on your list and wait in line.
  Usually, by the time you’re done with that ride, your FastPass will be ready.
  Go to your FastPass ride and enjoy!  
Get your next FastPass immediately after, and then repeat the cycle.  

Per this Disneyland FastPass site, here is what you can FastPass in the Disneyland Park:

– Autopia
– Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
– Fantasmic!
– Indiana Jones Adventure
– Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
– Space Mountain
– Splash Mountain
– Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
– Storytelling at Royal Theatre

6. Be in the know with Disney apps

Apps can make life so much easier, right?!  Take advantage of some cool Disney apps that can help you during your visit to the park.  My husband’s favorite is MouseWait, designed for iOS.  It’s a real-time app that tells you all about popular ride wait times and park information.  There are so many apps out there that can be a great resource – I suggest surfing around before go, and find one that works best for you and your phone.

7. Make lunch reservations

The last two times we visited Disneyland, we ended up making lunch reservations, per my brother-in-law and mother-in-law’s suggestion. O.M.G.  Why didn’t I think of this before??  Unless you plan to grab a quick burger or hot dog (and if so, I suggest doing this at off-times to avoid long lines and crowds), then go to this site and peruse the restaurant options.  Then, make reservations for your family.

Here’s my two cents.  I’m a mama on a budget, and typically pick the less expensive option for food.  However, I’ve found that some of these sit-down restaurants aren’t that much more expensive than the “quick burger” places.  The quality of food is much better, you get to sit down and actually relax, and with your reservation secured, you don’t have to wait in long lines with a hungry family.  Win-win-win!  My favorite place right now is Carnation Cafe.

8. Need a break?  Visit Innovations.

Sometimes, you just need a break.  From the crowds, from the lines, from the chaos.  We’ve found that Innovations in Tomorrowland is the perfect place.  My kids love all of the fun, cool technology to play with, including watching the awesome robot, ASIMO, the humanoid robot. The kids spent at least an hour at Innovations during their last Disneyland visit, giving everyone the perfect break to breathe and chill out for a little while.

9. Make a meeting place

When kids get a little older, they want more freedom, right??  If you choose to let your kiddos go off on their own for a little bit (side note – my kids are still way too young to do this, even though they consider themselves”big” kids)…or even if you don’t, and you accidentally get separated in the crowds, it is absolutely imperative that you make a meeting place with your kids.

Now that they are “big” kids, they should understand how important it is for their own safety.  Pick a central place, and have that be “your spot” every single time you are at the park.  So there is no uncertainty, no confusion.

I also suggest you be specific – “in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle” still may not be much help in large crowds.  For example, I would say in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, right next to the churro cart to the right of the castle.  Or in front of the Walt Disney statue in the little garden area in front of the castle.  Or, better yet, if you ARE taking advantage of the locker room, meet in front of your family locker.

10. Yes, there is now a Starbucks. IN the park!

Parents, it’s true!  There is now a Starbucks on Main Street where you can get your Venti caffeine fix.  Just be prepared to wade through the long zig zag lines…it is a BUSY place (as you can probably imagine!).  I usually leave the kids with my husband in a ride line, and let them enjoy a ride that I’m not interested in, while I make the coffee run.

Next, stay tuned for an upcoming blog where I’ll talk about my top tips for visiting Disney California Adventure with big kids!  My newest favorite…Anna & Elsa’s Royal Welcome…perfect for anyone who loves Frozen!

Do you have any great Disneyland tips to share?  Please comment below!

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