Wednesday, July 30, 2014

10 Reasons to Welcome the Return of Football

As I write this, all 32 NFL teams are in the throes of training camp; the Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony and game will take place this weekend; and fans are already assembling their fantasy leagues.

This all means one thing: Football season has officially begun.

I know, I know. I can see your eyes rolling from here. But I, in fact, welcome this time of year with open arms and a bevy of pizza delivery menus on standby.

Here’s why you should, too:

Your man is home
Bars. Casinos. God-knows-what. There’s no shortage of vices your man could be dabbling in. So when you consider that he’s sitting in front of the TV with a bag of cheese puffs, it’s all good.

Less cooking
Even the man who delights in eating Thanksgiving dinner year-round won’t balk at eating pizza and wings on game day…which means no one has to slave away in front of a hot stove. Got a cell phone? Then you’ve got dinner.

Football season coincides with back-to-school
I’ve heard these stories, and I’m guessing most of them are true: They are tales of mothers who literally rejoice at the arrival of back-to-school time because when the kids schlepp off to school, we have more time for ourselves. (These stories had better be true because I’ll be devastated if, come to find, this is all an urban mommy myth.)

YOU get eye candy…and YOU get eye candy…and YOU get eye candy!!!
(Note: The caption above is best read in the likeness of Oprah à la her famous car giveaway episode.) What physical attributes do you find attractive in a man? Washboard abs? Then wide receivers will tickle your fancy. Tall, lean, and chiseled? Quarterback. Like ‘em on the meatier side? Ogle a lineman. The game of football presents a visual smorgasboard for us all.

Football gives way to a second game: Let’s Make a Deal – The Honey-Do List Edition
That wobbly banister leading to the basement needs fixing. The faucet in the kids’ bathroom has been leaking for so long, you could have fed a small nation with the money it has already cost you. And you have absolutely no intention of climbing a ladder to change the light bulb in the garage. Of course you’ll let him watch football  –  provided he performs a few key upgrades first. It’s called a two-way street, fellas.

He’s not bothering you
Manicures. A trip to the mall. Retreating in solitude to your mom cave. Think of all the glorious things you could be doing if you had time – time that instantly becomes available when your man is watching football. And not nagging you.

Less laundry
NFL football plays on Sunday, Monday, and Thursday. Here’s the deal: I’d venture to say your man and/or son(s) are wearing their favorite football jerseys on one – if not all three of those days. Okay, yes, said jersey will reek like a barnyard by the end of the week, but that’s beside the point. Look at the bright side: They’ve just shaved several pounds off the dirty clothes hamper. 

You might actually enjoy it
“I don’t understand it,” I’ve heard women say. “Football is so complicated,” is another common refrain. Football, complicated? Nah. I’ll show you complicated. Complicated is potty training your toddler with a newborn underfoot. Complicated is trying to navigate the perils of having a boss from hell while juggling equally taxing demands at home. If we can accomplish all of the above, we can comprehend the game of football. And we may actually grow to like it, too.

It’s a ready-made family-friendly party
I'm in awe of those Martha Stewart-meets-Macgyver types I see on Pinterest. I’m missing the DIY gene. But a tailgate party is easy: the team colors are pre-determined, the most pedestrian food and snacks will suffice, and the main event is on TV. So long as you can keep the male attendees from cursing like sailors at every bad play, you’re covered.

You get to cheer…for your kid(s)
So your child plays youth football. And maybe – as much as you hate to admit it – he’s horrible. Or, on the other hand, he might be the team’s MVP. It really doesn’t matter. Regardless, you’ve just been given an opportunity to root for him and boost his self-esteem in the process. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that, years down the line, he won’t remember the outcome of the season’s third away game, but he will remember the look on your face when you said that he rocked and that you are proud of him.

So are you ready for some football?

Yes, ladies. We are.

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Friday, July 25, 2014

8 Crunchy Products I Love

I admit it: I will never be a contender for the gold medal in the Crunchy Olympics, but I think I’m good for an honorable mention: I cloth diapered Scotty; I had more slings and baby carriers than I had bras at one point; I drink almond milk; and I know every single word to Bob Marley’s Legend (Yes, Every. Single. Word.); and I fully admit to getting “blissed out” on my yoga mat during savasana.

But I think the truest testament of my semi-crunchiness is the handful of products that I’ve come to depend on for our family. You won't have to search too far to find the following in my cupboards…

1.) Biokleen Bac-Out Stain and Odor Eliminator Foaming Action Spray
From spaghetti sauce stains on a white t-shirt, to stubborn poo stains on a cloth diaper, and everything in between, this stuff is a miracle in a bottle. I have yet to encounter a stain that Bac-Out can’t eradicate. Biokleen's secret is its live enzyme-producing cultures, which attack stains, organic waste, and odors safely and naturally. Completely safe to use around children, pets and even birds, this spray is preferred by commercial carpet cleaners nationwide. This product is a tad hard to find – you can, however, find it at select Kroger stores, and always carries it. Kroger or; $8

2.) Mrs. Meyers Clean Day All Purpose Cleaner
I lucked upon this gem of a household cleaner by accident. Back in 2011 when I was pregnant with Scotty, our neighborhood T.J. Maxx had  32-ounce bottles of this stuff on clearance for a mere $3.50. I bought five. I love that I don’t need a mask to protect my nostrils from the sting of bleach-like fumes and that I can use this in the presence of Scottt and Kennedy without worrying what they’re breathing in. Plus, it’s safe to use on all non-porous surfaces – including sealed stone and hardwood floors. And Birch Bark Extract – a primary ingredient – is an excellent grease cutter.; $15

3.) VeggieTales Top-to-Bottom
What’s better than a safe, effective product that gives you piece of mind? How about a cheap, safe and effective product that gives you piece of mind! Look no further than VeggieTales Top-to-Bottom. A huge 32-ounce bottle – with pump – is less than five bucks – and when it goes on sale, it’s less than that. This Wash + Shampoo + Moisturizer is tear-free, hypoallergenic, and is also free of dyes, paragons, or sulfates. It is the only thing I use in Scotty and Kennedy's bath. Kroger; $4
4.) Gripe Water
I remember how I first learned about this product just like it was yesterday…
I was nine-months-pregnant with Scotty and I remember reading in one of my 30 parenting magazines – this is not a gross exaggeration – about a celebrity mom who was singing the praises of this magic potion. (If my memory serves, I think it was Camilla Alves, Matthew McConaughey’s wife.) I nearly dropped to my knees when I discovered that I had plucked the last remaining bottle off the shelves at my neighborhood Walgreens. (FYI: I’ve since learned that Walmart has the best price for Gripe Water.) It contains no artificial colors, flavors, gluten, dairy or soy; no alcohol, parabens or harsh chemicals; and no petroleum. You may be wondering, then, what is in this 100% vegetarian and vegan product: pure ginger, mostly. Gripe Water is the number one selling product in its class and safely and quickly relieves gas and stomach discomfort associated with colic, hiccups, teething and general fussiness in babies. It is, in a word, a lifesaver. I still give it to both of my children when they have gas, and you can sense the relief they feel almost instantly. Walmart; $8

5.) Fabulous Frannie Essential Oils
You know how some women stock-pile bottles of nail polish? I do the same with Fabulous Frannie Essential Oils. I first blogged about the splendor that is Fabulous Frannie here and then again here. Just know this: You will be hard-pressed to find a more high-quality yet inexpensive brand of essential oils anywhere else. And don’t even get me started on their selection…; $3 and up

6.) Yummy Earth Lollipops
Move over, gummy fruit snacks. There’s a new, more nutritious treat in town: Yummy Earth Organic lollipops. Last summer I stumbled upon these lollipops, and Scotty has been crazy about them ever since. These are candy, yes; but they are not what I would call junk. These lollipops are the brainchild of two dads who wanted to create treats that are free of high fructose corn syrup and artificial dyes for their own children. These delightful sweets on a stick are high on taste but without all the ingredients you need a dictionary to pronounce. I’ve bought few packs at our local Marshalls, and I think they carry them fairly regularly. Yummy Earth Organic lollipops are also available at Walgreens, Babies R Us, Toys R Us,, and, which has been known to have them on sale. I now deem these lollipops the childhood equivalent to my AAA Auto Club card: I won’t leave home without a few in the diaper bag.; $3

7.) Nature’s Path Pumpkin-n-Spice Flax Plus Granola Bars
Chewy, delicious, and sweet without being too sweet. I used to stockpile these bars like a squirrel hiding acorns – just so I’d be prepared when hunger pangs strike. And guess what? Now Scotty loves them as much as I do. I got turned on to these at my local Big Lots, but they don’t always have them in stock. But when Big Lots doesn’t have them, Amazon always comes through.; $6

8.) Earnest Eats Power Grains & Flax Chewy Granola Bars
These are a very close second to Nature’s Path – I simply like each of these for two different reasons: While Nature’s Path hits the spot for a snack, particularly after working out, or, say, as a hold-over until dinnertime, I like Earnest Eats granola bars as a breakfast supplement. They taste good – they’re just not as sweet as Nature’s Path. However, I’ve found that they are excellent for regulating blood sugar levels, particularly if you have low blood sugar like I do.; $8.95

What's your favorite all-natural product?

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Detroit Lions & community groups tackle hunger

Popsicles. A trip to the park. Playtime without worry.

For many kids, those are the hallmarks of summer.

But what about the children for whom this is not a reality? They don’t call it the dog days of summer for nothing; daytime can be long – and lonely – especially for kids who don’t have access to recreational facilities or the resources to consume a midday meal that is as enjoyable as it is nutritious.

Detroit’s Meet Up & Eat Up program gives these children something to look forward to.

This summer, the Detroit Lions and Ford Motor Company are bringing awareness to Meet Up & Eat Up. The program addresses food insecurity and hunger in Detroit. Several community organizations are doing their part to support the Meet Up & Eat Up program, including United Way for Southeastern Michigan, Detroit Eastern Market, Gleaners Community Food Bank, Fair Food Network, Playworks Detroit, and Wayne State University School of Medicine.

But this initiative isn’t just about food – it’s about health in general. Detroit Lions players and alumni – along with Roary, the Lions mascot – will be present at eight Detroit sites to help lead recreational activities. More than exercise, the games that these players teach emphasize life skills such as sharing, teamwork, and the importance of demonstrating respect. The activities also encourage children to be competitive while putting their best foot forward.

My husband Scott has attended three of these sessions – and will be attending his fourth today. (He's #76 in the photo above; #57 is former Detroit Lion Tim Walton.) He sees firsthand how beneficial a program like this is, and he will tell you that it’s a safe, comfortable, and positive summertime outlet for kids.

Here’s Scott’s take – in his own words: “This program helps subsidize families who are pretty strapped and are often unable to put three full meals on the table. This lunchtime program bridges the gap between breakfast and dinner – and we all know the importance of consuming three full meals a day.”

If you’d like to get involved or pledge your support for the Meet Up & Eat Up program, you may contact Playworks Detroit here, or the United Way of Southeastern Michigan here.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

What would you do over if you could?

Have you ever wanted badly to achieve something – and you were so close; this close – but you blew it?

I have. We all have. Here’s mine…

Remember Ananda Lewis? She was an MTV VJ back in the late 90s. (Google her; you’ll remember.) Here she is in case you need a refresher:
Before she was on MTV, she hosted a show called Teen Summit on BET (Black Entertainment Television). And when she left BET for greener pastures at MTV, I auditioned to become her replacement.

It was my senior year at the University of Michigan, and with mere months until I earned my bachelor’s degree in communications, I wanted nothing more than to line up a job in broadcasting. So I stalked hounded the higher-ups at BET for months. Months. I wrote letters. I mailed countless audition tapes. I even sent flip-flops with my photo on them with a caption that read I just want to get my foot in the door.

And guess what?

My persistence paid off. One day, I got a call from a Teen Summit producer who said that auditions were being held for Ananda’s spot. And I was invited.

My mom and I flew to BET studios in Washington D.C., and the next thing I knew, I was on a soundstage – so close to my then dream job I could taste it.

And then the teleprompter (which I had never read from before) went up…and I shut down.

I still don’t exactly know what happened. All I know is that words were rolling up the monitor faster than I could read them, I nervously began speaking gibberish adlibbing, and despite not being fully aware of anything at that point, I can tell you – with complete and utter certainty – that I felt every bead of perspiration as they slid down my back.

My golden chance was literally slipping through my fingers like sand at the beach, and I remember thinking that my career was FUBAR before it even really began.

Now, as I reflect on that day with the benefit of hindsight, I can say that it’s all good. A year after that horrendous debacle, I signed my first television contract to report the evening news for a CBS affiliate in Columbia, South Carolina (WLTX-TV). And, subsequently, I’m now a pro at reading teleprompter: I can read that sucker while I hang from a tight-rope and paint my toenails at the same time.

To be clear, I don't have any regrets. I, personally, feel that regret is a wasted emotion. I realize that changing even the tiniest detail of my past would alter the entire trajectory of my life's path...which would not make sitting here typing this -- or even having my family -- a sure thing.

Again, absolutely no regrets here.

I ended up making a respectable career in broadcasting, and while I don’t think about that ill-fated audition often, when I look back on the road I’ve traveled, it does cross my mind.  What if?

My husband Scott has experienced a similar scenario. The Detroit Lions get razzed all the time about not having made it to a Super Bowl yet. But in 1991 – Scott’s rookie year – the team was one game away from the Super Bowl. Meaning, had they won this particular play-off contest against the Washington Redskins, they would have been one of two teams in the 1992 Super Bowl.

Scott will be the first to tell you that he didn’t play his best that day – and the team as a whole didn’t either.

That said, several years later, Scott still wonders: What if the Lions had won? What if?

And so I ask you: What’s the one situation you would do over if you had a second chance?

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

7 pieces of our home's best artwork

This past weekend on Facebook, I posted an image of a wall sign I purchased on eBay recently, and, for better or worse, I’ve always said that you can tell a lot about a person – or a family – by what they have on the walls of their home. Well, today I’m giving you rare peek inside Casa Conover so that you may get to know us better. While a good 75% of our home’s artwork is comprised of candid snapshots of our lives, the remaining 25% fits into the “other” category.

And here’s a note about the quality (or lack thereof) of the photos in this post: They suck. And I’m sorry. I took these with my camera phone because our Nikon had apparently gone missing, and due to the fact that we have high ceilings in this house and nearly every item I photographed for this post hangs 90 feet above my head, well, let’s just I did the best I could in taking these photos. 

Here are seven pieces of our home’s best artwork. And first up is the sign that inspired this entire post…

In the kitchen

It was comedienne Phyllis Diller who once famously said, “Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.” I know this. Yet, I still find myself getting pissed off that there aren’t enough hours in the day to feed, bathe, and play with both children, write this blog, do the wash, practice and teach yoga, and tackle the tumbleweeds of dust and grime that roll through this house like the Wild, Wild West. (Note that I didn’t even include sleeping, eating, or showering in the aforementioned to-do list.) But I put my kids first, and I know that I do the best I can. This now hangs above the kitchen sink as a reminder of what is important. A wise mother (Hi, Gail!) once told me that “The days are long, but the years are short.” She’s right. When I’m watching Scotty and Kennedy walk across the graduation stage, I don’t think I’ll give a rat’s @ss whether I kept a spotless oven. I may not have the cleanest house on the block, but I hear my kids laugh every single day – sometimes at me! – and I’ve come to realize that is what matters most.

In the great room
When you leave our foyer and enter our great room, this is perhaps the first thing your eyes may land upon: a stencil of our names which has been applied to the top of the room’s large picture window. I had wanted to have this done for quite some time, but waited until after Kennedy was born because she made our family complete.

In the great room – Part II
On December 4, 1994, Scott scored his first ever NFL touchdown in a contest against the Green Bay Packers. (The Lions went on to win 34-31.) Meanwhile, I was a senior in high school back then, and our lives couldn't have been more different: When Scott was on the field playing that day, I was probably holed up in my room listening to Boys II Men or at the mall with friends, pining over a pair of jeans at Contempo Casuals. Anyhow, the exact uniform Scott wore during that game was professionally cleaned and framed and now hangs behind the wet bar in our great room.

In the nursery
Kennedy sleeps in the same nursery where Scotty slept when he was an infant. Being that they are just two years and 17 days apart – and the nursery is gender neutral, Scott and I have kept virtually everything the same – including this stencil which had been applied directly above the crib in anticipation of Scotty’s arrival. (Sidebar: That blob above you is a prime example of me making a mountain out of a molehill. In an effort to remove a small stain on the wall, I ended up making things worse; thank God it doesn’t look as bad in person. Oh, well. Time to re-paint!)

In the master bedroom
Okay, yes, I concede to being stencil crazy. What can I say? I’m a writer. I like words. I fondly remember insisting that Scott apply this message – right now – one afternoon while I was smack-dab in the middle of the nesting phase of my pregnancy with Scotty.

In the breakfast nook
The words say it all. Aside from being kind to others and believing in themselves, this is the most important creed I want Scotty and Kennedy to live by.

In the breakfast nook – Part II
The picture on the right is the first photo of Scott and me, and it was taken within minutes of our introduction (more on that evening in an upcoming post). The photographer was under the assumption that Scott and I were already dating, when, in fact, we had known each other for all of ten minutes. Then, about a year later, Scott gifted me with a painting he had made (on the left) based on our first photo. We were dating long distance at the time, and unbeknownst to me, he would work on this for months on end while we talked on the phone for hours every night before bed.

In the breakfast nook – Part III*
Alright, so there are actually eight pieces on this list. (I never said I was good at math.) A few nights ago, while everyone was in bed, I decided to capitalize on the silence that had fallen over the house by finishing up this post (while also inhaling two bowls of Lucky Charms, but I digress). Right before I hit Publish, it dawned on me that the greatest piece of artwork was right under my nose, or rather, hanging directly above my head: The piece above was handmade by a dear friend of ours named Marian. Marian introduced Scott and me ten years ago, and it was her gift to us on our wedding day. This message hangs above the table where we break bread every morning together as a family…and, of course, where we gather again later in the day for dinner. These words are a constant reminder that one should never take a loved one for granted.

What is your home’s best artwork? 
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Friday, July 11, 2014

#AskAwayFriday: Sonya K. asked & I answered!

Finally, #AskAwayFriday is here!

A little over a month ago, the very lovely Sonya K., the shopping guru behind the ever practical blog Saving Everyday with Sonya K., invited yours truly to partake in the renowned swapping of questions, also known as #AskAwayFriday. This weekly event, which is the brainchild of Penny from The Real Housewife of Caroline County, has since become a big deal in the blogosphere, and I'm honored to take part. Current #AskAwayFriday hosts include Tamara from Tamara Camera, Tiffany from Mrs. Tee Love Life Laughter, Stacey from This Momma's Ramblings, Christy from Uplifting Families, Amber from Bold, Fit Mom, and Carol from Battered Hope.

If you have not yet visited Sonya's blog, do so. And be prepared to get the heads-up on tons of fabulous steals and deals because Sonya is great at what she does. Today on Sonya's blog you'll find her responses to the ten questions I asked her.

So without further ado, here are my responses to her questions...

1. I love your hair, so let’s start with some hair questions. You recently starting wearing your hair curly. Can you give us a curly hair update (do you like it, is it here to stay)?
A recent post I added to Facebook explains it all:

So basically, I’m back to straight hair...and back to craning my neck like a giraffe so that I don’t ruin my blowouts during my son’s toddler swim classes. It’s not that I dislike curly hair – I’m just not a huge fan of it on me. Plus, my hair is so thick and long that it takes days for my hair to air dry completely between washes. I’m addicted to my flat iron. There. I said it.

2. Have you ever had short hair? If so, pictures please?
I’ve never had short hair. Rather, my hair, for the most part, has always fit into one of three categories: long, longer, and – currently – longest. The shortest my hair has been was about an inch past my shoulder, but I know that’s not technically short. Here’s a pic on my birthday back in 2011 when I was three-months-pregnant with Scotty:

3. Congratulations on your 7th wedding anniversary. If you and Scott could take an impromptu anniversary vacation where would you go?
Thank you! Oh, that’s easy: Jamaica. Hands down. Although we’ve both been there before, we’ve never gone together.

4. What was one thing that you learned about your husband after getting married that surprised you?
That he is surprisingly good about tidying up our bedroom and clearing off his nightstand on a regular basis. Mine, on the other hand, is where useless things come to die. I am embarrassed by the layer of dust, which I’m sure is a violation of health code.

5. You are very lucky to be married to a chef. What is your favorite dish for your husband to cook?
Yes, I count my blessings almost daily that Scott decided to pursue the culinary arts after playing football. I’d have to say his shrimp-stuffed Portabella mushrooms. But I love everything he makes, right down to how it looks. One of the first things chefs learn in culinary school is that we eat with our eyes first, so when Scott prepares a meal, he also considers presentation. Here are a few of his dishes (pardon my photography, as there’s a reason why magazines pay food photographers big bucks); the plate on the far right, steak Oscar, actually inspired my story “Baby Wants Steak,” which was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food & Love:

6. Online or in-store shopping? Which one do you prefer and why?
Laughing. Online! No question. I only find this question amusing because everyone close to me knows that I’m addicted to online shopping. I’m not kidding. I’ve gotten better in recent months, though. I’m a bit of a hermit – and I don’t really enjoy going to a store to shop. I’m particular. I like what I like – and I know whether I like it (or not) mere seconds after I see it. Online shopping allows me to get in, get what I want, and move on. So I can get to more important things…like waiting for the goods to arrive on my doorstep.

7. I see you like shopping on eBay. What has been your favorite find on eBay?
eBay has been very kind to me over the years. From cashmere sweaters to cloth diapers to the personalized cocktail napkins on the wet bar in our great room, I’ve purchased so much. I’ve been an eBay member since 2003, and I just made my 779 transaction. (I think I deserve waaaaaay more from them than a purple star, by the way.) I have so many favorite finds! Far too many to name. But if I can only pick one, I’d have to choose my authentic vintage Louis Vuitton Speedy 35 that I bought back in 2007 from an eBay estate sale. It’s the handbag that has launched a thousand ensembles…and even provided the inspiration for my bridal shower cake: 

8. I saw your three part series on your favorite closet relics. You have a lot of shoes that you love, but if there was a fire and you could only wear one pair of shoes out of your house which pair would you choose?
Oh, Sonya. How dare you make me choose? Sigh. Here’s the thing: My relics series was, quite truthfully, born out of emotion and not practicality. Meaning, the primary reason I would never throw any of those items away is because I love them…but I don’t necessarily wear all of those relics on a regular basis. As much as I love my holey Uggs I featured, I probably wouldn’t think to save them in the event of a fire. The answer to your question would vary depending on the season: If the fire was in the winter, I’d save my Bogg boots; if the fire was in the fall, I’d probably go for one (if not every) pair of Minnetonka moccasins: 

But if the fire was in the summer, I’d probably have to go with a pair of Tory Burch shoes. Right now, I’m loving her limestone Reva flats and her Filipa wedge espadrilles:

9. I was impressed that you are a yoga instructor. How about a few yoga questions. How long have you practiced yoga and what is your favorite pose?
I began practicing yoga when I was in college over 15 years ago. I had been running track and long-jumping competitively since I was 12, and I used to believe that exercise had to hurt in order for something good to happen to your body. Yoga. Changed. Everything. My favorite pose to do is headstand:
I actually feel incredibly calm – “blissed out” is what we call it in yoga – after I've held this pose for a few minutes. I even practiced this pose when I was pregnant with both Scotty and Kennedy…but I couldn’t for as long with Kennedy because I gained so much more weight with her. When you so much as gain one ounce – trust me – it makes a difference when you’re standing on your head. The pic above was taken a few winters ago for Yoga Journal’s talent search. There were so many phenomenal yogis, that doing headstand in the snow doesn’t even earn you an honorable mention.

10. What was the hardest pose for you to learn?
Toe stand:

Quick story about the photo above, which was taken on the boardwalk in Hollywood Beach, Florida, where Scott and I vacationed about six months before becoming pregnant with Scotty. I woke up at 7 a.m. every morning to do yoga alone on the beach, and this older gentleman would always be watching from a nearby bench, and, understandably, he totally creeped me out. On the second to the last morning of our trip, he approached me, told me that he was a photographer, and asked if he could take photos of me doing yoga. “Yeah, okay. That’s what they all say,” I replied. But, seriously, he really was a photographer – and quite well-known in the area, I would come to find out. The next day, he showed up again on the beach and gave me a CD with every photo he had taken. I ended up returning to Hollywood a month later, this time with my mom, and, again, he took more photos of my yoga sessions as well as some beautiful photos of my mom and me on the beach, which he later e-mailed me…but back to toe stand. It’s hard to learn, I think, because it requires surrender. If you are too stressed to concentrate, worried about this or that, you’ll fall over just trying to get into the pose. I was actually physically capable of doing this pose for months before I was prepared mentally. It was hard for me to just let go. But it’s the sweetest lesson to learn…in yoga, in motherhood, and in life.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Why I’m Fine with My Son Playing Youth Football

If I had a dime for every time I was asked the following question, I’d have enough in cash to fly our family first class to Bora Bora and stay there:

“Are you letting Scotty play football?”

When your husband has spent most of his life playing football – and nearly seven years as an offensive lineman in the National Football League, it’s the number one thing people ask, followed closely by “You must be rich…aren’t you rich?”

And while the answer to the second question is no – we are fortunate; but far from rich – my reply to the first question is a resounding yes: Am I letting our son play football?

You bet.

My decision, though, is steeped in irony: My mother-in-law did not allow my husband to play football until he was in the eighth grade, which, by most accounts, is woefully late for a boy who would go on to play at the professional level. Her reasoning was simple: She didn’t want her son to get hurt. And, now, as a mother of a son, I totally get where my mother-in-law was coming from.

Most recently, football has become the poster child of sorts for concussions, but that’s only one concern that has plagued the game for years. It’s no secret that the old gladiator-style of playing the game – which includes body-jolting moves that fans have in some way come to expect – is detrimental to grown men, let alone young children. My husband has regaled me with numerous tales of coaches from his youth who have advised him to “stick your head in there” or “bite the ball.”

Sound dangerous? It is.

Both of those terms are basically code for keep your head down, and, consequently, in the most vulnerable position.

The game-changer in all of this is a program called Heads Up Football

Supported by the National Football League (NFL) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and endorsed by the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, the National PTA, and Pop Warner Little Scholars, Heads Up Football is a program within USA Football which aims to help make the game better and safer for youth. The program educates coaches, league administrators, and even parents on how to fit equipment, understand concussion awareness and teach tackling with players keeping their heads and eyes up. The course even advises coaches on how to get players acclimated to their climate so that athletes don’t fall prey to heat and dehydration.

Heads Up Football’s approach to achieving all of the above is simple: They’ve established standards by which a person becomes certified to coach. A total of 78 master trainers, comprised of the nation’s top high school football coaches, former NFL and college players, have been trained to create a new standard in football by preparing player safety coaches to implement the Heads Up Football program within their organizations. (Instruction includes Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concussion recognition and response protocols and proper helmet and shoulder pad fitting.)

The program also boasts former NFL players who serve as Heads Up Football ambassadors – my husband, Scott, is one of them – who support coaches while helping parents and players understand the importance of implementing sound fundamentals at an early age.

But to me, the most impressive aspect of Heads Up Football is its understanding that parental involvement is vital to making all this work. The program offers free courses to help parents, players and league administrators understand the principles of Heads Up Football, including Protection Tours held at NFL and college football training facilities for youth football players and parents to learn the Heads Up Football curriculum. (To learn whether the youth football leagues in your area are in compliance with the standards of Heads Up Football, click here.) USA Football expects Heads Up Football to reach 5,500 youth organizations and cover 900,000 players and 150,000 coaches in the 2014 season.

Parents: If the youth football leagues in your area are not already Heads Up-certified, request that they be – and urge other parents to do the same. This program is free, and will cost leagues absolutely nothing, save for their time and commitment.  

Here’s the thing. I know I can’t protect Scotty from everything in this world, but if I entrust his well-being to a youth football league – or any extracurricular activity, for that matter – I expect that the organization and the coach leading it will also place the utmost value on his safety.

If you ask my husband, he’ll tell you that the game of football has enriched his life in more ways than he can count, and I want nothing more than to give our son an opportunity to experience the same life lessons – just not at the expense of his health.

The presence of Heads Up Football assures my husband and me that Scotty will indeed get that chance.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Seven Years Hitched: Married on July 7, 2007

Today marks seven years of matrimony for The Hubs and me. (Yup. We're one of those 07-07-07 couples.) And like the sevens on Scott’s Lions football jersey – which we’re rocking in our engagement pic above – that number was all up in our big day.

Here are seven random facts about our nuptials…

It all started with the No. 7.
Not only were we married on July 7, 2007, but prior to walking down the aisle, I descended on our guests in a glass elevator at precisely 7:07 p.m. – and the venue that hosted our wedding and reception was located on Seven Mile Road. Why do we love seven so much? Well, Scott is the oldest of seven, I was born in 1977, and Scott’s birth date also boasts a seven. I could go on about our affinity for this number until your eyes glaze over from boredom, so I’ll just stop there.

I wore a sixpence in my shoe.
I haven’t worn my satin wedding heels since, and it is still in there. I just checked.

We hired a live band in lieu of a DJ.
The funk band that brought the house down at our reception was Back in the Day Band, which is fronted by one of Scott’s former teammates, Larry Lee, who returned to his childhood passion of music after his football career, which included playing eight seasons in the NFL and then serving as the Vice President of Football Operations for the Detroit Lions.

Our wedding favors were a three-part production.
Each guest who attended our reception received the following: One Michigan Lottery Red Blazing 7s scratch-off ticket – and some of our guests won quite a bit of cash that night; one customized poker chip that had my and Scott’s initials engraved on one side and “777” on the other; and one full-size Godiva chocolate bar. The significance of the Blazing 7s scratch-off is a no-brainer, but I think few knew why we chose a Godiva bar: Scott brought me Godiva chocolate on the night we first met. (More on that in a later post.) While the chocolate bars were consumed by everyone in rapid succession, I was able to find the exact lottery tickets (and poker chips) Scott and I scratched off after our first dance:

At the “morning after” brunch we hosted for out-of-town guests, I wore a pair of Jimmy Choo Grecian sandals. 
The suede 3-inch heels (pictured below) inflicted so much pain, they should have been sold with a disclaimer. I wore them for less than 10 minutes before throwing in the towel and perusing the ballroom barefoot (Yes, that was tacky, so go ahead, flame away). I bought these $395 shoes off eBay for $150. They were once display models at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York. But that wasn’t the only reason for the “deep” discount: One shoe was an 8…and the other was an 8.5. I wish I could say that was the extent of these shoes' flaws, but, nope. There's more: They had all the support of a wet napkin. I eventually sold them back on eBay to another poor, unsuspecting soul:

Our wedding announcement was featured in the April 2008 issue of Town & Country magazine:

When Scott and I returned to our presidential suite at the end of the night following our reception, we learned that the Jacuzzi didn’t work.
We were too tired to care or complain.