Dreaming of a Winter Getaway?

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Are you dreaming of getting away this winter, but didn’t plan ahead? That’s ok! There’s more to do than visit Florida for a bit of sunshine. In fact, there are endless opportunities for adventure, some no more than a couple hour drive. Grab the coloring books and snacks for your kiddos, create a budget, and have some fun!

 

  • Lake Tahoe: Hike, heal, relax, repeat. Even though this area is beautiful year-round, it is particularly stunning during the winter months when the blue lake contrasts the snow-capped mountains. 
  • Wisconsin Dells: Ahhhh…a staple for Chicagolanders. There are several indoor waterparks to enjoy just a couple hours north of us. It may be below 0 outside, but inside it’s always balmy and warm. Grab your swimsuits and enjoy a ride down one of the area’s famous water slides, if you dare.
  • Aspen, CO: Do you love to ski or snowboard? There’s no place like Aspen for this adventure. With some of the best ski resorts in the country, Aspen will not disappoint those ready to hit the slopes. 
  • New Hampshire: There’s a winter wonderland here. New Hampshire is magical this time of year. The most popular winter attraction here, especially for kids? Ice Castles New Hampshire…a site to see!
  • Yosemite National Park: While most people think of this California spot as a summer destination, its much less crowded and beautiful during the winter. Watch the sunrise at the crack of dawn, and get ready to hike during the day. 
  • Puerto Rico: Take a beach and history vacay in Puerto Rico! This is going to be one of the warmest places to visit with sandy beaches, colonial architecture, and even a jungle. 
  • Palm Springs: Enjoy a luxurious and warm getaway to Palm Springs, CA. There aren’t any beaches, but sunny days filled with outdoor activities will sure to brighten your spirits. Check out Joshua Tree National Park, or play a round of golf with a beautiful backdrop
  • Colorado Hot Springs: This one is for the couples. This will be one of your most memorable and magical winter getaways. 

 

If you’re unable to get away this year, no worries. Plan for next year, or just take the time to enjoy the season here. You can view the Midwest winter as harsh and blustery, or you can think of all the fun winter activities you can do like having a snowball fight or enjoying a hot cocoa. Whatever you do or wherever you go, choose great company and you’ll have a great time.



Ways to Give Back This Season

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Tis the season for expressing gratitude and appreciating all that we have. If you find yourself in a position to help others, there are so many different ways you and your family can give back this season. 

 

Here are some charitable giving ideas for the holidays that you and your family can take on to bring cheer to those who need it most:

 

  1. Be extra generous with gratuities: delivery drivers, dining out, salon services…a little extra goes a long way for individuals in the service industry.
  2. Give to your favorite charity. Involve your children by having them look into different charities that appeal to them such as an animal shelter, or a toy drive. Even a few dollars can make a difference.
  3. Consider charitable donations for gift giving this year. So many people are trying to reduce clutter. Instead of giving another coffee mug or box of chocolates, consider making a donation in someone’s name. 
  4. Spread holiday cheer for video chatting with family members who don’t live close by. This doesn’t cost a penny and a conversation with an older relative who might not be able to travel this season would make their day!
  5. Volunteer at a local food bank. They’re always looking for helpers, big and small, to help in a variety of ways. This is their busiest season. 
  6. Donate food to local hospitals or firehouses. Check with them before you head over, but nurses working long shifts, or firefighters working over the holidays would surely appreciate food sent to them with love and appreciation. 
  7. Shovel snow or take out the trash for an elderly neighbor: Great for your kiddos. 
  8. Write letters to military members. Remember, they don’t get to spend the holidays with their families. Show them your gratitude by writing them a letter of thanks.
  9. Donate to a local animal shelter. They are often in need of cleaning supplies, food, blankets, and toys. 
  10. Random acts of kindness: hold the door open, smile at strangers, call or message someone from your past who influenced you positively. Little gestures make an impact. 

 

“I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.”-Maya Angelou


Ideas for How to Volunteer as a Family

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In the spirit of #GivingTuesday, you may be looking for tangible ways to teach your children the importance of giving back–instilling in them the idea that impacting the lives of others goes way beyond the holiday season.  We loved these ideas from Sunshine Momma–great ideas for kids of all ages! Let us know what you will be doing this holiday season to teach your children how to give back.

Support a Local Food Bank
In addition to volunteering your time at a local food bank, you can also donate money or items to these organizations. Click here for a list of items most needed. Have your child carefully pick out the items in addition to delivering them.

Create a Blessing Bag
Grab an old bag or backpack and fill it with essentials like toiletries, mittens, and small snacks.  Keep the bag in your car in case you happen to cross paths with a homeless person or you can take a couple of them to a homeless shelter.

Send Holiday Cards to Soldiers
Operation We Are Here has a list of resources to help you figure out how to do this. You can send letters to deployed military personnel, veterans, new recruits, and wounded warriors. There is even a program where you can send blank cards to soldiers so they have cards to send home to family and friends.

Assist a Children’s Hospital
Do a quick Google search to find out if there are any toy/gift lists for children are living at the children’s hospital in your area.  If you can’t find a list, contact your local hospital and ask what items may be needed.

Donate Winter Coats
There are numerous local organizations that offer this service, but One Warm Coat has a map with dropoff locations throughout the United States.  Have your kids help pick out some warm coats from youf closets and drop them off.

Looking For a New Doctor?

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If you’re thinking of switching doctors in the next few months, you might feel overwhelmed by all of the options. Start with which practices are “in network” and therefore covered under your health insurance. This is the very first step before going any further. But even then, how do you know who will be the best fit for you? What is most important to you? Academic credentials? A great bedside manner? Don’t feel intimidated by the idea of interviewing a potential doctor. After all, you should have a relationship filled with trust, and you have to feel good about who you’re seeing. In fact, your health depends on it. 

 

Here are 10 questions to ask when choosing a new doctor: 

 

  1. Is this a group practice or individual? If it’s a group practice, will I always see the same physician?
  2. What hospital is this practice affiliated with?
  3. What days/hours does the doctor see patients? Is there a long wait to schedule appointments? Is there an on-call doctor in case of an urgent matter?
  4. Are there times set aside for doctors to take phone calls or respond to emails? What is his/her communication preference?
  5. Where can I find a list of referrals and reviews?
  6. Where is the doctor’s office located? What is the parking situation? Is the building accessible?
  7. Is the doctor board certified and what is their area of interest? 
  8. What is the typical length of a visit? 
  9. Next, ask yourself how your interaction with office staff was when you called. Were they friendly and helpful? 
  10. Finally, trust your gut. If you get a good feeling, go with it, and if not, trust that intuition and look elsewhere. 

 

It’s important to make your health a priority in the new year. Now is a great time to schedule those appointments to stay on top of  all areas of your health: mind and body.


Allergy Friendly Dishes to Share This Thanksgiving

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Every day we’re becoming more accustomed to asking guests if they or any of their family members have food allergies. Moms ask this question when inviting school friends over for playdates, and employers take this into consideration when catering in lunches. It’s no longer just “no meat, or meat”. Today there are many allergies to consider including nut, gluten, and dairy allergies. 

 

If you are the host with the most this Thanksgiving, while it is not your responsibility to make everything on your table friendly to every single person, it is a kind gesture to ask about food allergies ahead of time and at least have a dish or two that they can enjoy. This small consideration goes a long way and will help all guests feel included. 

 

Not sure where to start? Here are just a few ideas: 

 

  • Try using a milk alternative when cooking and baking. If you have a guest who is vegan, dairy-free or lactose intolerant, this small substitution will help. There are so many milk alternatives available today, so be sure to check the labels for other allergens or sweeteners. You wouldn’t want something that is too sweet in a savory dish. Consider the flavoring. For example, nut milks might work wonderfully in your pie, but not so much in mashed potatoes. 

  • Try making dinner rolls safe for all. No Thanksgiving table is complete without fluffy delicious dinner rolls. There are many options to avoid gluten whether you’re a bake from scratch person or a grab from the freezer at the grocery person. Try Udi’s or Against the Grain. With so many other goodies on the table, no one’s going to even realize they’re gluten free. 


  • Use plant-based butter for cooking and baking. Thanksgiving tends to be a butter-heavy holiday, and because regular butter contains dairy, it’s a no-go for dairy allergies, lactose intolerance, and vegans. There are plenty of butter substitutes that can be used in baking with varying levels of success, like flax or applesauce. For cooking, it’s best to reach for oil or dairy-free butter

 

  • Use allergy-friendly ready-made pie crusts or mixes. Making your own pie crust from scratch is an option that ensures your crust is free of the allergens you’re avoiding. Making a crumb-based baked crust using cookies or graham crackers that are free of your guests’ allergens is another safe and easy way to make a tasty crust without worrying about the drama of rolling out a pie crust. There are also allergy-friendly pie crust mixes at grocery stores. 

 

Thanksgiving is a holiday equally about togetherness and sharing a delicious meal. If you have friends and family with food allergies, intolerances, or a special diet, making an effort to be inclusive ensures that everyone is safe and well-fed.


 

4 Ways to Teach Your Child Gratitude

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The entire month of November is one filled with gratitude and thankfulness, and while we are all busy making our lists of what we are thankful for in our lives, it is also good for us to share this practice with our children—regardless how young they may be.

Here are a few tips as you get started:

 

Teach them about what is truly important

Especially during this time of year when children are bombarded with promotions for treats and toys, it is important to remind them how valuable non-material things are—such as spending time with family, playing with friends, etc.

 

Encourage kindness and helpfulness

Young children love to help out and the holiday season is a great time to show them what they can do to help family, friends,        and people in the community. Donate some old clothes or gather food for a canned food drive.

 

Put things in perspective

Make sure to engage your little ones in conversations about the needs of others. Talking to them about how some people do not have everything they need might inspire them to give as well.

 

You cannot always get what you want

Saying “no” from time to time is beneficial for many reasons- primarily it teaches children to be thankful for what they do have and to not take things for granted.

 

Click here to read an entire blog post on this very topic including a few cute video resources, and share with us how you are teaching your children to be thankful this holiday season.

Making the Most of Your Maternity Leave

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If you’re like many new moms, the first weeks at home with your newborn will run the gamut of emotions, from overwhelming love and joy (your baby is finally here!) to feelings of self-doubt and worry — not to mention 1,001 questions.

That’s because the early days with your tiny new family member involve lots of learning — from getting the basics of baby care down to finding your groove as a mom (and learning to get by in a sleep-deprived state!).

If you’re planning to go back to work, you may be keenly aware that your time at home on maternity leave with your new little love is limited, which can make you all the more eager to figure everything out as quickly as you can.

Here are a few ways to enjoy your maternity leave, and make the most out of every minute. To read this article in its entirety, click HERE.

  • Get to know your newborn
  • Let the outside world wait a little
  • Ask for help
  • Hire help if you can
  • Leave work at work
  • Go for walks
  • Don’t feel guilty about leaving the house
  • Seek out other new moms
  • Start exercising again
  • Line up childcare
  • Prepare for a smooth transition
  • Start to think about weaning
  • Have a backup plan
  • Try not to be too sad

 

And remember, reevaluate your options if you need to. If for some reason, you find that working outside the home — or working from home — isn’t working out for you, that’s okay too. You’re not the first (and you won’t be the last) new mom to change her mind about returning to work.

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Own Your Worth

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Own your worth: SAHM or not, you deserve a seat at the table when it comes to Money.

Over the last couple of months I’ve been spending a little too much time in Mom Facebook groups (yes, guilty as charged), but I’ve found a really awesome community in these groups and reading the experience of other hard working moms makes me feel like I’m not alone…We are all in this together, and even though our circumstances might be different (some might live in
Naperville South, others North, some in Downers, some wealthier, some healthier) we all have similarities too!
What has been disheartening is the amount of posts I keep seeing on this recurring topic where SAHM moms feel they are not “worthy” and associate their net worth (or lack of) with their self worth!

The most common post is “I’m in an abusive relationship, I haven’t worked in X years, I don’t know what financial accounts we have, I need to get out of this marriage but I’m stuck between a tough place and a rock”. This is heartbreaking to read over and over again….

So I’m here to give you some tough love and some lessons learnt so you too can start to master your money and make sure you have a true partnership with your loved one when it comes to your finances.

First off, you’re not alone! 7 years ago I quit my corporate job while 7 months pregnant to become a Financial Advisor. I went from a comfortable salary to $0 …I had my first baby, I was figuring out how to be a mom and keep my baby alive (I knew nothing!) and had lost my “corporate identity” to make no money while I built my financial practice. I was depressed, felt like crap and associated my lack of financial contribution to the family with my self worth! I understand this feeling all too well.

What I will tell you is there’s been plenty of research and statistics to come up with an economic value of a stay at home mom. These numbers go as high as $178,000 for all the things you do around the house! You are absolutely WORTHY whether you get paid in $s or hugs from your family…and if they aren’t hugging you, remind them how much you do for them.

Secondly, a true “partner” will never make you feel less than! I recently had a conversation with my CPA (who also started her practice recently) and she mentioned that her husband made a comment about how she isn’t pulling her weight financially and she “should be” making more!?  I wanted to soccer punch his face when I heard that! My husband has always been supportive whether I made more than him or less than him! He treats me like a partner in the relationship and we review our finances TOGETHER because we are married and that is a legal and financial union. As such, I expect him to be transparent and in return reciprocate. You should also expect this from your significant other, and if you aren’t getting it I’d do to couples therapy and try to figure out why he isn’t open about this area. My opinion is if you haven nothing to hide you won’t have an issue with sharing this information.

Thirdly, even when you have a true partner and are transparent about your finances, you
should ALWAYS have a plan B. This means you keep track of your own credit score (because yes, it is yours and no one else’s),
have your own credit card, bank account (with money in it, just in case). I don’t want you to constantly worry about divorce. But I want you to get the respect you deserve, have an understanding of your family’s finances and be an active participant in your family’s financial future. You owe it to yourself and your kids. And you are SO WORTH IT! Remember that.

IF you need any help or have questions about your money I’m always happy to answer your questions. There is no such thing as a stupid questions and you’re never too old to master your money! Also, if you’re struggling financially as a family there’s free help!

Check this out: https://www.financialplanningassociation.org/advocacy/pro-bono-program

I’m part of this program and so are many other local Certified Financial Planners!

 

Tess Zigo, CFP, CPA, LPL Financial Advisor

 

Should You Hire a Doula?

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A doula  is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical, and educational support to a mother who is expecting, is experiencing labor, or has recently given birth. Their purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable, and empowering birthing experience.

Most often the term doula refers to the birth doula or labor support companion. However, there are also antepartum doulas and postpartum doulas. Most of the following information relates to the labor doula. Doulas can also be referred to as labor companions, labor support specialists, labor support professionals, birth assistants, or labor assistants.

 

The role of a doula

Most doula-client relationships begin a few months before the baby is due. During this period, they develop a relationship in which the mother feels free to ask questions, express her fears and concerns, and take an active role in creating a birth plan. Doulas may provide information about perineal massage and other techniques that can help to reduce stress and trauma often experienced during childbirth.

Most doulas make themselves available to the mother by phone in order to respond to her questions or address any concerns that might arise during the course of the pregnancy. Understand they do not provide any type of medical care. However, they are knowledgeable about many medical aspects of labor and delivery.

As such, they can help their clients gain a better understanding of the procedures and possible complications in late pregnancy or delivery.

During delivery, doulas are in constant and close proximity to the mother. They have the ability to provide comfort with pain-relief techniques including breathing techniques, relaxation techniques, massage, and laboring positions. Doulas also encourage participation from the partner and offer reassurance.

A doula acts as an advocate for the mother, encouraging and helping her fulfill specific desires she might have for her birth. The goal of a doula is to help the mother experience a positive and safe birth, whether an unmedicated birth or a cesarean.

After birth, many labor doulas will help new mothers begin the breastfeeding process and encouraging bonding between the new baby and other family members.

 

What are the benefits of having a doula?

Numerous studies have documented the benefits of having a doula present during labor. A recent Cochrane Review, Continuous Support for Women During Childbirth, showed a very high number of positive birth outcomes when a doula was present. With their support, women were less likely to have pain-relief medications administered and less likely to have a cesarean birth. Women also reported having a more positive childbirth experience.

Other studies have shown that having a doula as a member of the birth team decreases the overall cesarean rate by 50%, the length of labor by 25%, the use of oxytocin by 40%, and requests for an epidural by 60%.2

Doulas often use the power of touch and massage to reduce stress and anxiety during labor. According to physicians Marshal Klaus and John Kennell, massage helps stimulate the production of natural oxytocin. The pituitary gland secretes natural oxytocin to the bloodstream (causing uterine contractions) and to the brain (resulting in feelings of well-being and drowsiness, along with a higher pain threshold).

Historically it was thought that intravenous oxytocin does not cross from the bloodstream into the brain in substantial amounts and, therefore, does not provide the same psychological benefits as natural oxytocin. However, more recent studies indicate that oxytocin administered nasally and/or intravenously may cross from the bloodstream into the brain. Nonetheless, doulas can help mothers experience the benefits of oxytocin naturally without the use of medication.

 

What about the father’s role when using a doula?

The role of the doula is never to take the place of husbands or partners in labor, but rather to complement and enhance their experience. Today, more husbands play an active role in the birth process. However, some partners prefer to enjoy the delivery without having to stand in as the labor coach.

By having a doula as a part of the birth team, a father is free to do whatever he chooses. They can encourage the father to use comfort techniques and can step in if he wants a break. Having a doula allows the father to support his partner emotionally during labor and birth and to also enjoy the experience without the added pressure of trying to remember everything he learned in childbirth class!

 

Are doulas only useful if planning an unmedicated birth?

The presence of a doula can be beneficial no matter what type of birth you are planning. Many women report needing fewer interventions when they have one. But be aware that the primary role of the doula is to help mothers have a safe and pleasant birth–not to help them choose the type of birth.

For women who have decided to have a medicated birth, the doula will provide emotional, informational, and physical support through labor and the administration of medications. Doulas work alongside medicated mothers to help them deal with potential side effects. Doulas may also help with other needs where medication may be inadequate because even with medication, there is likely to be some degree of discomfort.

For a mother facing a cesarean, a doula can be helpful by providing constant support and encouragement. Often a cesarean results from an unexpected situation leaving a mother feeling unprepared, disappointed, and lonely. A doula can be attentive to the mother at all times throughout the cesarean, letting her know what is going on throughout the procedure. This can free the partner to attend to the baby and accompany the newborn to the nursery if there are complications.

 

What about other types of doulas?

Antepartum doulas provide support to a mother who has been put on bed rest or is experiencing a high risk pregnancy. They provide informational, emotional, physical, and practical support in circumstances that are often stressful, confusing, and emotionally draining.

Postpartum doulas provide support in the first weeks after birth. They provide informational support about feeding and caring for the baby. They provide physical support by cleaning, cooking meals, and filling in when a new mother needs a break. They provide emotional support by encouraging a mother when she feels overwhelmed.
Some doulas have training in more than one area and are able to serve as more than one type of doula.

Finding a Doula:
The key to choosing a doula is to find a person with whom you feel comfortable. Most do not charge for an initial consultation, so take the time to interview as many as necessary until you find a good match.

To read this article in its entirety, click HERE.

Gifts on Every Tween’s Wishlist

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Tweens are at that in-between age where they aren’t quite kids anymore, but they’re also not yet teens. Which in short, really just means that shopping for preteen gifts, especially for girls, can be difficult. But not to worry, here are some of the best gifts for tween gals that are worth shopping this holiday season, a birthday, or special occasion. These gifts are sure to put a smile on their faces.

Whether you have a budding scientist on your hands or a kid who loves slippers, these tween gifts will totally blow them away. From play chemistry sets to Polaroid cameras and even a few cozy home decor pieces, there’s really no shortage of cool gifts for tween kiddos that will surely prove to be as unique as they are. These presents are truly ideal for your middle schooler who can’t wait to grow up but also still can’t resist a cute toy or two.

  • Activewear
  • Candles
  • Anything Zodiac related
  • Vintage roller skates
  • Tennis skirt
  • Makeup palettes
  • Comfy cozy scarf or wrap
  • All things LED
  • Cosmetic bags
  • Plants. Plants. More Plants.
  • Jewelry
  • Pompom hat
  • Inspirational book
  • Wall decor
  • Phone strap
  • Wristlet

 

 

To check out ALL ideas along with links, click HERE.

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