50 beautiful custom birdhouses swing from the Tree of Life in Audubon Park

So, this is awesome. You’ve got to see this.

Our family has been climbing the limbs of the Tree of Life in Audubon Park for generations. It’s where my husband takes the girls on a lazy weekend afternoon. They climb and hide and play.

A grande old dame.

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Whether it’s been a while, or you have yet to go, now is the time. From now until Sunday, December 22, when you visit the Tree of Life at Audubon Park, you will notice something very special swinging from her branches–50 beautiful custom birdhouses, each inspired by some of the most interesting and unique Airbnb property listings all around the world.

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Airbnb is a community-driven hospitality company that offers the ultimate home experience to the ultimate traveler. It’s revolutionizing the way we travel the world and discover new places.

“We created these birdhouses inspired by real Airbnb homes as a metaphor for the hospitality about which our company is built:  Our hospitality is completely individual and designed by our hosts who know that making people (or birds!) feel at home any where in the world comes from warmth, intuition and an attention to detail,” said Amy Curtis-McIntyre, CMO, Airbnb.  “We love the world’s real travelers and this is an invitation to travel in a new way.”

Whether an apartment for a night, a castle for a week, or a villa for a month, Airbnb connects us to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 33,000 cities and 192 countries.

Please view this magnificent video about the art and philosophy of what “home” means to each of us and let it inspire you to fly where your wings take you.

What does home mean to you? Ask the kids. They just might surprise you.

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What’s your [child’s] relationship with food? (sponsored)

I have three children. They all have different relationships with food. Anson (6) uses it for fuel, Emmeline (2) uses it to socialize and Catherine (3) uses it for comfort.

When Catherine was a baby, she hated the car. She would scream and squirm. It was painful to my ears and generally very upsetting. To calm her, I would hand her food to nibble on. We both got a little relief.

Something physiological happens to a mother when she hears her baby cry. At some point along the way we, as parents, have decided that it’s not okay for our kids to cry in public or be uncomfortable, and it’s certainly not okay for kids to be disruptive in a store or at the library during story-time. So we feed them. And they’re quiet (or still) and we can grab what we need at the store, or finish our conversation on the phone.

Even now, I’ll grab some snacks to dole out to the girls when I pick them up from school so they won’t kill each other on the two-mile ride home. I do this for my own sanity. I have bribed all of my children with food in exchange for good behavior.

What I didn’t realize at the time, was that by using food to comfort Catherine, I taught her that food is comfort. She is now, at age three, an emotional eater. When she is stressed, bored or upset, she wants to eat. When she is feeling out of control, she heads for the fridge. Many of the tears she sheds are food-related… can’t have, wants more, doesn’t like, all gone, etc. It feels like an endless battle, and food has become a control issue on both sides.

Catherine is not very different from me. I am an emotional eater, too. I don’t know why. Maybe it was one of the few things I could control when I was young– a kid exercising power in a powerless world.

Our adult relationship with food is a direct result of the food habits modeled for us as children. As a mother, I want my daughters to have a healthy relationship with food, but as a woman I know how difficult this can be.

Julie Fortenberry, registered dietitian for Touro, gave me some really helpful insight into understanding the importance of creating healthy eating habits for myself and my children now so they will grow up to be healthy adults. Julie stressed that every child and family is different and there is no one-size-fits-all philosophy or plan, so do what makes sense for your child.

1. Nutrition Awareness

The first step is being aware of the importance of nutrition. As parents, once we know the effects poor nutrition could have on our children’s future, we can start taking it more seriously. Poor nutrition and eating habits can lead to diabetes, obesity, eating disorders, and distorted body image.

Analogy: As parents, there are certain things we insist on teaching our children. Take crossing the street, for example. As soon as they can walk, we start teaching them how to stop at the corner and look both ways. We do this every single time we cross a street and we do it for years until they can do it by themselves. We teach them this because if we don’t, they could get hit by a car. We make them sit in their car seats and booster seats even though they hate it. Why? Because their safety is important to us and by doing so, we create good habits and prolong their lives. Looking both ways and wearing a seatbelt becomes second nature.

Julie points out that nutrition is as important as these other life-long habits that we, as parents, automatically do without thinking. We want to teach them how to be healthy and safe now so that when they are older, they have the foundation to make healthy and safe choices on their own.

2. Self Awareness

If you don’t like how or what your children are eating, look at how or what you are eating. How do you talk about food? Do you crave desert after every meal? Do you emotionally eat? Does food control you? Do you make them eat a healthy meal and then order a pizza for yourself? What foods do you gravitate to? You are the model.

3. Take Inventory

If your child is an emotional eater, pay attention to when and why your child seeks out food. This will give you an idea for what the triggers might be so that you can be proactive.

4. Redirect

If your child eats when she’s bored, redirect her with an activity. If she loves to play outside, take a walk. If that’s not an option, engage her in an activity, chat about the day. Find ways to stimulate her mind and redirect her body. Let her help you make dinner or ask her to set the table.

5. Let Go

Power struggles with children are futile. If a child has a meltdown because she wants more or doesn’t like it, that’s OK. “I know you want more dinner and you are mad. But dinner is over.” “I know you do not like your dinner. It’s OK. You don’t have to eat it, but I will leave it on the table for you if you change your mind.”

6. Healthy Choices

Give your child a healthy option but let him be part of the choosing. That way he feels like he is making a choice. “Do you want oatmeal or eggs?” “For snack do you want apple or cheese?” “I’ve got lean ground beef tonight. Would you like mom to make tacos or spaghetti?”

7. Be Consistent

Once you find something that works, be consistent because that’s how we break bad habits and create good ones. And remember to do this as a family. There is no need to single one person out. All for one and one for all.

From our Sponsor:

Free Monthly Grocery Store Tours with a Touro Nutritionist

Practice Choosing Healthy Foods for Your Family First Hand!

Join Touro Nutritionist Julie Fortenberry for free monthly grocery store tours. Grocery shopping can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be! Touro can take the stress away by walking you down and educating you aisle by aisle. Learn to make better food choices, practice reading food labels, learn about ingredients, and ask your nutrition questions along the way.

Learn to shop with your health needs and goals in mind. Good food choices begin in the grocery store!

For upcoming grocery tour dates and times and to register, please visit www.touro.com/events or call (504) 897-8500.

A personal assistant for the busy parent (dedicated)

Have you noticed your calendar filling up a little quicker these days? As Thanksgiving approaches, New Orleans kicks into high-gear with fundraisers, parties, school holidays and family travels.

And that’s just the fun stuff.

We still have to squeeze in trips to the grocery, post office and dry cleaners, coordinate teacher gifts, wrap gifts, decorate, plan parties, assemble goodie bags, order desert, return the dress, send flowers, and address holiday cards all while waiting for the cable guy to arrive between the hours of 1 and 5.

Ever feel like sometimes you just can’t get it all done?

Well, you can!

Two local ladies with deep New Orleans roots just launched Consider it Done in Nola, a lifestyle and personal services company that helps you check off your to-do list with little to-do from you. They can even help those of us with maturing parents fill prescriptions, run errands or play a few rounds of canasta!

Didn’t quite make it to Target this week? Email your order for their weekly Tuesday Target Run! Seriously.

Delegating isn’t always easy, so when the App-for-That isn’t quite enough, Consider it Done in NOLA!

p.s. Be sure to “Like” them on Facebook for updates, reminders, testimonials and more details about Consider it Done services!

5 Tips For A Great Gender Reveal

Gender reveals have become an exciting new way to celebrate your pregnancy in addition to a baby shower. I for one love this new craze! So, what is a gender reveal?

A gender reveal is an opportunity for expecting parents to share the gender of their baby with family and friends in a creative way. This could be done at a party, a photo announcement, or both! Here are 5 tips on how to host a memorable gender reveal party.

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Hire a photographer – Your event is going to fly by but pictures will last you a lifetime. If a photographer is not in the budget, ask a close friend with a nice camera to take some shots for you (what a great gift!). Just make sure to get yourself (and your bump) in front of the camera and smile. Trust me, after the baby comes most of your time will be spent behind the camera so for now, take part in the fun. You can also use your pictures for announcing the gender to family and friends unable to attend your event. This way, everyone can have fun finding out whether it will be bows or bow ties.

thinkoutsidecake2Think outside of the cake – Pink and blue inside a beautiful cake is not the only concept for a gender announcement. Try incorporating elements that are special to you and your significant other, your relationship, hobbies, or things that just make you smile. That way the reveal has a personal touch. If you are an artist, plan something with paint. If you’re a writer, use your gift of storytelling. If you love to dance, plan a flash mob to make the reveal! There are only two outcomes to the reveal, but there are an unlimited number of ways to tell everyone.

leteveryoneplay3Let everyone play – Gender reveals have given birth, haha, to a whole new set of games. Games are great because the odds of winning are high (50/50). Instead of making everyone wait around for you to make the big announcement, let your guests participate in this exciting event. Create Pink or Blue teams and have them pick their team based on their answers to some of  the gender-based on old wives tales about pregnancy (what your cravings are, how you carry, etc.). Award the winning team with a fun gift, like a free pass on diaper duty or a small version of something you’ve been craving.

keepitsimple4Stressed? scale back – This is a fun way to share the news but it is not a necessity. If you find yourself getting stressed out planning the best gender reveal of the century, just scale back. The whole point is to fun and reveal to those you love the most whether you are having a girl or a boy. It is perfectly fine to keep it simple.

surpriseyourself5Surprise yourself – When you go in for your ultrasound, ask the technician to write the gender of the baby on a piece of paper and seal it in an envelope. Give the envelope to a trustworthy friend, family member or party planner who can help you plan your gender reveal. Then sit back and enjoy the surprise. Another reason to be sure you have a photographer (see Tip #1).

Revealing your baby’s gender is a fun experience for everyone, but the best part has yet to come!

Have you ever attended a gender reveal party? Did you have one yourself? What made it a success?

Family financial planning… and an email to my daughters

My husband and I have decided it’s time to get focused and organized when it comes to our family financial planning. We have lots of plans and need help working toward those plans. As entrepreneurs, our focus has primarily been on building companies and paying bills. We are more than behind when it comes to 401s, 529s and IRAs.

We recently enlisted the help of the most amazing, talented Jude Boudreaux of Upperline Financial. In the two meetings we’ve had with him, my husband and I have had conversations we’ve never had before. Prior to our meeting, Jude asked us to think separately about our own personal vision for ourselves and our family. For example:

If we had everything we needed and all the money in the world, what would life look like?

We took turns sharing our visions with each other. As the chatty one in the family, it felt good to shut up and just listen to what my husband’s hopes and dreams for himself and our family are. He is so hopeful and optimistic–an unexpected reminder of why I fell in love with him in the first place.

Then it was my turn, and he walked away with a greater understanding of where I’m coming from and an appreciation for why it’s been harder for me to articulate my hopes and dreams lately. You see, I’ve been in the trenches running the home operations and haven’t had quite as much mental freedom to dream big.

Sometimes it’s hard to see beyond the diapers, the carpool, the doctor appointments, the playdates, the parenting.

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Jude reminded us that in a relationship, there is a Ying and a Yang. The heaven (the dreamer) needs the earth (the grounder) and vice versa. Both are important and energize each other. This made me feel less inadequate. If we were both dreamers, we’d never land anywhere. My role is just as important as his, and I am grateful for his dreams because they inspire me. I think he is grateful that I’m here to make sure his feet touch the ground every once in a while.

The most exciting part of these preliminary exercises about our vision for our future was that we discovered a lot of similarities, shared goals and values. I think we’ve always known in the back of our minds that our ideas for the future were similar, but we never really put them down on paper and discussed them in a safe, nonjudgmental way.

One of the exercises was to think about what we would do if we knew we only had 5-10 years to live. This was my answer:

  • I would start writing letters to my children.
  • I would spend time with my family.
  • I would make things, sew things, be more creative.

Jude was curious about why I would start writing letters to my children.

If I were to leave this earth early, I want my children to be able to read my letters and hear my voice so that they will always have me near. I want them to know how I feel about them and what my hopes and dreams for them are. I want them to know my thoughts on everything from perms (as in don’t get one) to the importance of buying good sheets (even if it’s the only set you’ve got). I want them to know that time heals everything, that tomorrow is always a new day, that love is the only thing that matters and that tattoos are permanent. I want to prepare them for breaking hearts and broken hearts, that the body is a temple and that it is to be honored. I want them to know that in our family, we work hard for everything we have, and that everything we have is to be shared. I want them to know that we are stewards of this earth and that when they feel they are just a drop in the ocean, they can be certain that the ocean would be less without that drop (to quote Mother Teresa).

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Because my husband and I both expressed a strong desire to ensure our children are prepared for a world with or without us, Jude thought the idea of writing letters to our children would be a great way to do that.

Our “homework” was to start writing letters. I created gmail accounts for each girl and I wrote my first letter. I share it with you today in the event you feel this might be something worthwhile. Email is so easy and you can even attach links, photos, videos, etc. Obviously, technology changes so quickly, so I suspect I will have to “upgrade” things to microchip clouds or brain scans but it’s a start.

Read my first email to my daughters.

How do you share your hopes and dreams with your children?

A Brilliant End of 2013 Calendar

I am the least organized person on the planet. I forget things. I miss appointments. Every day when my husband asks me what I did, I’m never really sure what to say. There are days I don’t have time to pee because I’m just so busy, but I can’t for the life of me tell you why. I organize to procrastinate and then reorganize what I’ve organized because I read a book on organization. It’s ridiculous.

I had the pleasure of sitting in on a presentation by the accomplished Virginia Barkley, life coach, professional organizer, speaker and author of Clutter Busting for Busy Women, a #1 best seller that teaches us what clutter really is, how it distracts us from the good stuff, and prevents us from being productive. Her mantra: More Living, Less Stuff.

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Agreed.

Virginia talked to us about how we can declutter, de-stress and have a perfect holiday season. She gave us some really great tips, all of which can be found in her book, but the one take-a-way that I absolutely fell in love with was her idea of having a one-page calendar that shows the last 49 days of the year… all on one page. No flipping back and forth between November and December, which seem to blur into each other. Everything you need to know and do all on one page. Awesome.

I was so inspired by this calendar that I created one for you. I hope it helps you as much as it wants to help me. 😉

Download the Last Days of 2013 Calendar. Virginia also stapled an extra blank page to the calendar for notes. I thought that was handy. Just FYI.

Let the holidays begin!

candy exchange: one mom’s clever way to rid the house of excess halloween candy

excerpt from The Belly Book by Joe Harris

There’s no denying Halloween is fun. What’s not to love? There’s community. There’s fantasy. There’s candy. But for many parents, it’s a love/hate thing. Purveyor of both tooth decay and temper tantrums (and let’s be honest, a little weight gain), most of us would rather those sweet confections never make an appearance in the first place.

So the question remains, in the aftermath of Halloween, how do we peaceably wrench that spell-binding sweet stuff from our children’s sticky little clutches without the drama?

A Candy Exchange.

This year our family is hosting it’s 2nd Annual Halloween Candy Exchange. We’ve invited our children’s friends and families the weekend after Halloween to bring their excess Halloween candy and ten gently used books and/or toys for a candy exchange. Once everyone arrives, the grown-ups set up a “store” with prices marked on each of the donated items. The children then get to go “shopping” using their candy as currency.

As hostess and cashier, I collect the “money” at the checkout counter and the children walk away with their new purchases. Everyone wins!

Pay it forward.

Once the Halloween Candy Exchange party is over, our family donates the excess “candy cash” to a favorite charity. We choose the Ronald McDonald House of New Orleans, a home-away-from-home for families whose children come to the city to receive specialized medical care. For all the leftover books and toys, I schedule a pick up with www.pickupplease.org, an organization that supports America’s Veterans and their families.

Or keep it simple and make it a Family Night.

If a Candy Exchange sounds like a sweet idea but you don’t want to host a big party, keep it simple. Take a trip to your local Dollar Store. Stock up on trinkets, books, and crafts and open your own little store. Your children will have a great time shopping in your living room.

Candy-related tantrums averted. Healthy eating habits restored.

How do you handle all the excess candy? Swipe it? Stash it? Use it for reward tokens? Please share your clever ideas.

Conversations with a Two Year Old

If you had to submit a transcript of a conversation you had with a two year old and then two adults read the script back to you, what do you think you would hear?

If you haven’t heard of Convos with my 2yo, you’re missing out on some really good belly laughs. Convos is a YouTube series of actual conversations between a dad and his 2yo daughter, Coco, as re-enacted by himself and another full grown man.

These hilarious clips of actual conversations give us some really great insight into the mind of a child. Simple, black and white and dead serious. Here are a few of my favorite episodes. Can you relate to any of these?

She’s not your wife, she’s the princess.

Because I’m naked, I’m the Boss.

One more cookie.

What was the last ridiculous conversation you had with your kid?

Little Darlings for your baby’s nursery!

Marci had her baby! It’s a boy! I can’t wait to get my hands on him. All of a sudden I feel like I’m surrounded by babies. My youngest, Emmeline, is two, and for some strange reason, against all logic, I want another baby. One girlfriend tells me that this is purely biological and after two years, the body is ready to have another go. She’s talked me down from the ledge a few times.

When it comes to babies, mind/body communication goes out the window. My mind very clearly recalls the insomnia, restless leg syndrome, sciatica, heartburn, memory loss, and fatigue as if it were yesterday. My body, on the other hand, is all…

C’mon. It wasn’t that bad! Don’t you want to try for a boy?

I have another girlfriend who is a self-described baby snatcher. She looooves babies and at the drop of a hat will change, burp, rock, walk or swaddle anything that remotely looks like a baby. And even though she’s “fixed,” she can still relate to the baby-itch. But she is wise to remind me that the best thing about other people’s babies is that you get to give them back.

Isn’t that what we used to say about puppies?

So, instead of causing heart-palpitations in my husband, I will just delight in the newness of other people’s babies and share with you dreamy pictures of nurseries and the precious things that people put in them.

Didn’t you know? Babies love to look at babies. Take a look at these Little Darlings by photographer Sharon Montrose.

This is such a beautiful way to decorate a nursery and the prints are so affordable. I can’t imagine anyone getting tired of looking at these. I think they would be perfect in my three year old’s room because she’s my little veterinarian. What I love about these images is that we can see up close the beauty and innocence of new life.

Ahhhh. Everybody loves a baby.

Here are my favorites! Which ones do you love? Take a look here.

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A beautiful nursery.

She’s having a baby! Marci is a dear friend of mine who carried me at some of my lowest points when the weight of carrying three babies under 5 was just too much. She brought lightness and laughter to my darkest days. When I say motherhood can be lonely and isolating, I mean it.

Every mom needs one person who will come over unannounced and pull you up, take the baby, or just say “yes” to whatever help you need at that exact moment, whether it’s to watch the baby so you can go pick up diapers, take a nap, shower, or giving an extra hand at bath time when he’s working late again.

I found great comfort just sitting with Marci at her kitchen table in her beautiful home drinking coffee (or wine). She has worked tirelessly to create a home that is warm and inviting.

It came to no surprise to me that the nursery she created for her very own first bundle of joy offers the same kind of love and peacefulness that I found just sitting at her kitchen table. I can’t wait to see her sitting in this room holding the most beautiful gift she will ever know.

Marci graciously allowed me to photograph her nursery and share it with you.

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 She’ll be spending a lot of time here! Also, one word: pouf!

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So pretty. So cozy.
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My babies lived in their Paty Inc. gowns. And for those of you wondering, the lotion is Noodle & Boo. We tried some on. Yummy.
nursery5Aren’t these beautiful? She placed four of them together: A, B, C, D. The artist added a Louisiana theme to each letter. What a lovely, handmade touch. 

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The bedding is divine. Heirloom-y.nursery10

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Makes you wannanother?nursery7pièce de résistance.

Marci generously shared with me where she found all these wonderful pieces… just in case you were wondering.

Crib: Bratt Decor

Crib bedding: Matteo

Crib duvet and pillow: Pom Pom Interiors

Moses Basket and stand:  Restoration Hardware Baby and Child

Changing Table/Dresser – Restoration Hardware Baby and Child

Side table: Restoration Hardware Baby and Child

Glider/Recliner: The Baby’s Room Metairie

White leather Moroccan pouf: Overstock

Rug: Villa Vici

Light Fixture: Villa Vici

Floor lamp: Restoration Hardware Baby and Child

Lamp on changing table/dresser: Layla Grace

Rope floor basket: Restoration Hardware Baby and Child

Assorted muslin blankets: Aden + Anais

Embroidery A, B, C, and D hoops: Etsy

Paint color on walls: Sherwin Williams Universal Khaki 6150

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