A Nighttime Story

A Nighttime

Almost every night before bed, our children ask me or dad to read them a story. It’s a nighttime tradition I cherish. Especially as a graduated English and Literature major, literature–whether children’s, adult, fiction or non–is near and dear to my heart.

When my first was born in 2012, I read to her constantly. I took it upon myself to adopt the idea of speaking to my babies as adults (thanks Meet the Fockers–see video clip here) and carried it over into literature as well. I read her Lewis Carroll’s version of Alice in Wonderland the most and several other well-known classics.

As I began to look into children’s literature, I found there are so many children’s books that are also rich, moving and contain meaning. I started to fall in love with children’s literature and become intrigued with weaving meaning and lessons in with lively, realistic or completely unrealistic, imaginative children’s stories. The Pirate Train

Last night I read our children a new book, The Pirate Train by Nicole Plyler Fisk. It’s captivating, it’s fun and it’s a great, imaginative story about family. It contains planes, trains and pirate ships, because like the author mentions in her dedication to her son, “Why not?” My three-year-old laughed along with the story and my one-year-old pointed at all his favorite illustrations as we read through the book. It’s easily becoming a favorite.

To top it off, there’s a read-along online, too, for when mom needs a few minutes to herself and the kids INSIST on reading!

Do you have a nighttime story ritual, or do you read to your children often? If so, what’s a book you would recommend?

The Pirate Train banner

Disclosure: HE partnered with The Pirate Train to bring you this awesome post because I only recommend products or services I believe will be awesome for my readers as parents and that I consistently use or believe in, personally.

What You Need to Know About Asking Questions During a Job Interview

Asking Questions During a Job Interview

As much of the younger generation and several peers of mine are beginning to pursue their career paths, I find–when they’re seeking advice–they most often ask me for interview tips.

Many times, individuals are not coached on the interview process unless they go out of their way to seek out information and direction. And most, surprisingly, don’t know that a key part of an interview is preparing their own questions to ask the interviewer.

Ask the Right Questions

Asking a combination of questions that address both the interviewer and the position does two things:

  1. It gets the interviewer talking about themselves. Traditionally, when people think of an interview, they think they’ll be the one doing the bulk of the talking when answering questions. In reality, it should be quite the opposite. Asking direct questions about the person interviewing you–how they got into their position, what they enjoy about the company, strengths, weaknesses, etc.–stops the interview from being one-sided and turns it into more of a conversation. People, like your interviewer, want to feel like you’re genuinely interested in them and enjoy expressing themselves, too. If you’re able to get your interviewer talking or conversing with you, it’s always a big bonus.
  2. It shows you’re genuinely interested in how to best fulfill the position you’re applying for, and if you ask specific questions tied to the company AND the position, it shows you care and have done your research. Both elements, sadly, are generally going above and beyond in today’s professional world. It’s amazing how much further it will get you to sit down and do a few minutes of research beforehand on the company’s website to bring into the conversation and questions during the interview.

In today’s career world, it seems that although your resume may be what initially gets your foot in the door, once you’re in for an interview, it becomes less about what’s on paper and more about how you present yourself. After an interview if and when (because there will always be rejection, and that’s okay) you don’t get a position, it often has less to do with your lack of experience and qualification and more to do with who was the most prepared and which person left the best overall impression.

Think about it this way: If the company didn’t think you were qualified, they wouldn’t have called you in for an interview in the first place. At that point, you know you have what they’re looking for; you just have to figure out how to present yourself better than everyone else. 

Getting the position you want can easily be the difference between…

“What are you looking for in this position?”

and

“I noticed ____, ____ and ____ are some of [Company’s Name]’s highest priorities and am curious: what aspects of this position would you like highlighted to improve and support these priorities?”

You see what I did there? If not, it’s simple. Go to just about any company’s “about” page, find the top values or services they offer up on that webpage and fill in the blanks. Incorporate specific info about the company and your position into your questions, and you’ll be much harder to forget. It’s so easy, it shows effort, and I guarantee it will put you above the majority interviewees.

Another key tip when presenting questions is to avoid speaking in “ifs” and “maybes” and use intros like “when working with” and “as the next [position title]” to psychologically take doubt out of the equation completely. In other words, stop using phrases that could go either way and start using phrases that make it seem you are the person that will be in this position in the future. 

Getting the position you want can also be the difference between…

“If I were on the creative team, what are the biggest trouble-spots you’re hoping the person in this position might help with?”

and

“When working with you on the creative team, what are the biggest trouble-spots you’re looking for me to help with?”

Notice that the first question is presented in a very wishy, washy and doubtful manner in comparison to the second which puts a very clear, confident picture in the interviewer’s mind and leaves no room for interpretation.

So, what questions should I ask?

This is a tough one because if you’re truly going into an interview with a strong set of questions, your best ones are going to be unique to the company and position you’re applying for.

However, there are some general questions that are always great to include…

  1. In order to hire the next [position title], what, specifically, are you looking for?
  2. Where do you see the [position title] in five years? Ten years?
  3. When taking a look at your competition like [drop a couple competitors’ companies], what sets you apart and what are you looking to improve?
  4. How did you end up as a part of [Company Name]?
  5. What do you enjoy most about being [interviewer position title]?

And the question I always end an interview with or ask before I leave is…

6. When can I expect to hear from you next?

This is because: A. It prevents you from ending up in the awkward position of constantly questioning when you’re going to hear back and when it’s okay to follow-up. This way you know, if the interviewer said “within two weeks” and it’s been two weeks, you can confidently email them following up on the position. B. It also forces the interviewer to decide upon a time frame and possibly hold themselves accountable–if they hadn’t already.

Some more great questions to consider, from the managers’ mouths, can be found in this Mashable article: The Questions Managers Want You to Ask During a Job Interview

5 Out-of-the-Box Kansas City Shops to Buy Your Gifts in 2016

KC Shops

As we start the New Year, maybe we can actually follow through on our resolution to plan ahead for birthdays, holidays and especially Christmas in 2016. And even when we don’t, discovering new, local, personalized shops is always a solid goal to fulfill when gift-giving throughout the year–last minute or otherwise.

Peppermint Twist

Photo cred: Images West Photography via Peppermint Twist

In order to make our lovely KC lives a little easier this upcoming year, I’ve compiled a list of my top 5 out-of-the-box local shops to purchase all your gift-giving wonders from. And the best part is all of these stores are unique to Kansas City and contain personalized, handmade and/or restored items.

Peppermint Twist

Photo cred: Images West Photography via Peppermint Twist

Peppermint Twist. This shop is my absolute favorite local retailer for personalizing just about anything. What’s great about it is the unique items available that go along with specific holidays, events, locations, clothing or seasons that you can’t generally find at most other shops. For example, the Christmas bags pictured (that I plan to order for next year), personalized with a last name when delivering gifts to a family event or child’s name if you want to present “Santa’s bag of gifts” on Christmas morning, is one of my favorite items in the shop. I originally discovered Peppermint Twist when I received an address pillow as a gift for our first house, which I am in love with. It resembled the one pictured on the top, left–except, of course, representing a KCMO zip!

Artistic Works by Lu

Photo cred: Artistic Works by Lu

Artistic Works by Lu. If you’re looking for upscale clothing and unique jewelry, Lu is where you want to be. This studio-boutique is best defined as country roots meets urban soul, and their mission is to help women feel beautiful and confident every day. They carry a variety of jewelry designs, unique stones and material along with vintage-inspired tops, sweaters, coats, tights, scarves and boots. Lu’s is the perfect place to check out for that trendy friend or family member in your life … and even for yourself when it’s time for a little wardrobe pick-me-up.

Restoration Emporium

Photo Cred: Restoration Emporium

Restoration Emporium. Ever heard of First Fridays? If the answer is ‘no’ then I don’t know if you can consider yourself a true Kansas Citian just yet. Although this shop is open throughout the week, the first place I discovered it was in the West Bottoms on First Fridays. RE:’s motto is “re: purpose re: finish re: new” and when you enter their store, you feel like there’s a clear purpose: their furniture and decor feels beautifully meaningful and full of new life. To top it off RE: will be partnering with The Home Show of Greater Kansas City, which is one of the most awesome events of the Spring in KC–promising the return of Chip and Joanna Gaines from HGTV’s Fixer Upper in March!

Jowler Creek. If you’re from Kansas City, there are few towns on the outskirts you probably haven’t heard of, but this could very well be one of Jowler Creekthem: Dearborn, Missouri, just 30 minutes North of downtown KC, houses a wonderful, personable winery with an awesome outlook. They use green technologies to make their wine, sheep to keep their weeds low and chicken to bring down the insect count at this 6-acre vineyard started by a couple who were brought together by Kansas City and their love of wine. Their story is as beautiful as their boutique vineyard and winery, and if you’re looking for a great couples’ gift or wine to bring to your next event, check them out!

Westside Storey

Photo cred: Westside Storey

Westside Storey. “LOCAL GOODS and LOCAL MAKERS with ANTIQUES SPRINKLED” is their short description on Facebook, and if that doesn’t make you love this shop already, the handmade, wine-scented candles inside a restored wine bottle candle holder definitely will. Even if you don’t have any gifts to purchase just yet, this shop is well worth a visit for the quality and unique KC themed items, clothing and accessories available that you KCreally can’t find just anywhere else–perhaps a #TreatYoSelf gift? Not to mention the unique foodie selection is on point–my favorite so far being the bacon jam from Our Sassy Pantry, locally made, of course.

As you enjoy the new year and continue loving Kansas City, keep in mind local shops to make your gift giving unique and personal. Do you have any go-to local shops that you enjoy or suggest? Comment and let everyone know below!

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10 Hashtags We Need to Stop Using in 2016

There’s nothing wrong with a couple hashtags in your tweets and posts. They’re there to gain traction, up interaction and make your posts searchable, but for some of these once popular–or still too popular–hashtags, it’s time to put your precious characters into something more meaningful, useful or just not plain stupid.

10 Hashtags

Here’s a list of 10 hashtags we need to stop using in 2016:

1. #WifeyMaterial Stop it. Stop it. Stop it. This is, simply put, degrading to women and wives as a whole. You can make a pie? Awesome. That shouldn’t be the reason a man (or woman) wants to marry you. Nor should your goal in life be to do things that make you societally outdated, 1950’s “marriage material.” Stop it.

2. #HouseWife It’s not really funny or cute anymore. If you want to appear like a girl on The Real Housewives of Orange County then maybe you actually should continue using this hashtag. And also, I feel sorry for you. However, if you think spending the day in yoga pants, drinking wine and watching t.v. makes you a house wife, you’re wrong. It makes you #LazyWife (which is great from time to time). However, you obviously have no idea what many actual married women without mainstream careers do all day, but I guarantee it’s not sit around eating bonbons on their sofa.

3. #SorryNotSorry I understand; sometimes it’s necessary to say very forward things and NOT be sorry about it… So, why are we saying sorry at all? Say it unapologetically and save yourself the 14 characters. (And before you count the characters in “SorryNotSorry” and assume I’m wrong, include the # as a character.)

4. #LOL Are we all, really, collectively as human beings, still 14? Can’t we just know when things are supposed to be funny and laugh on our own without using “lol” anymore? It’s getting old.

5. #Selfie Occasionally, I get it, we all drink a little too much wine. But in general… Are you in high school? Are you of the age where you should be considered a functioning adult in society? Then why in the heck are you taking selfies?

6. #NoFilter Is this an attempt to brag about the selfie you just took or let people know all your other photos are so bad they need filters? You see my point.

7. #YOLO *insert hacking throat noise here* This hashtag is primarily frustrating because of how it’s used. YOLO, meaning “You Only Live Once” is often used as an excuse to do something ridiculously stupid, when in actuality, if you only live once, shouldn’t you be careful to preserve the life you’re only living once or take risks that further enrich your life? Plus, Drake really believes he created this term (although he didn’t really, he did at least make it popular), and if you’ve seen him dance lately, you might be glad you only live once.

8. #AnyRidiculouslyLongHashtagThatHasNothingToDoWithAnythingSomeoneWouldAc
tuallySearch
If you do it every once in a while to be satirical, fine, I get it, but if your serious hashtags are often the size of a sentence, I would suggest not using hashtags at all. Generally, the point of a hashtag is for someone to be able to search a general topic and find your post. Hashtags that no one would ever know to search defeat the purpose.

9. #FirstWorldProblems Are you bragging about being so well-off that your problem really isn’t that much of a problem? You look a little bit like an asshole.

10. #JustSaying You know that feeling when someone texts back “K”? The whole world wants you to feel that by responding with a virtual “K” when you use that hashtag. #JustSaying

What hashtags would you like to see disappear in 2016? Comment and join the conversation below!

The 10 Gifts Mom Bloggers Really Want For Christmas

 

Gifts, Christmas, Mom bloggers

As moms and as bloggers, there are plenty of things that run through our mind. Many of which get an “Oh, wouldn’t that be nice” and are promptly filed away in our brain as unattainable and forgotten. Well, I think it’s time to do what we do best: compile a list. This list, specifically, consists of all the things we really want for Christmas. And if anyone reading it is able to make it happen, I’d call you Santa, I’d call you Saint Nicholas… honestly, I’d call you anything you want.

Canva

So, if you’re curious what the mom bloggers in your life actually want for Christmas, check out this list:

  1. Canva to have an app for phones. If you haven’t used or heard of Canva to create your designs, pull your head out from under a rock and check it out! It’s such a simple and quality way to create awesome images for your posts and they have so many free options. There’s also the option to purchase some designs for $1. Either way, it’s a win, and if I could access it on my phone, I would be unstoppable via mobile. You can be happy that I did receive the response in the photo above from Canva when posting this request via Twitter. Click on the photo to go to their suggest-an-idea page and suggest it!
  2. The ability to schedule texts. As a blogger and social media manager, I’ve gotten in the habit of scheduling E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. I make calendars for content an entire month in advance. I schedule posts weeks in advance. I schedule social media platform (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) posts days in advance. Basically, the second I think of something, I either set a reminder in a calendar or schedule it. Otherwise, there’s a certainty possibility I’ll forget. Lately, I think of a text I want to send someone but it’s either too late or not appropriate at the moment and all I want is the ability to schedule the text ahead of time like I would a reminder or a post.
  3. A tool that will preschedule across ALL social media platforms. No, it doesn’t openly exist yet. And you know what? I’d even be willing to pay for it. I said it. I would pay money for a tool that allowed me to schedule my posts across every single one of my social media platforms. I’m so tired of going from tab to tab and app to app to schedule posts to all of my platforms because there’s no tool that encompasses any and all platforms I want to promote on. Come on, creators! It’s almost 2016, and it’s time we have the option readily available. Bonus points if this tool includes tracking, statistics and engagement charts.
  4. The ability to “like” as much as we want on Facebook without receiving the infamous like ban. I’m a social person. I run both my blog and a growing company’s social media sites. I “like” things A LOT. And although I have strategically avoided the dreaded like ban, I think there needs to be some appeal process in place that allows those of us with legitimate promotional marketing strategies to heighten our “like” quota, within reason.
  5. A discount on Adobe–InDesign or Photoshop, specifically–products. Students and teachers get discounts. They get HUGE discounts, as a matter of fact (60% to be exact). And you know what? I’ll be damned if moms who blog don’t deserve a discount too.
  6. A photography class. Seriously, if there’s one thing on this list YOU as the reader can legitimately buy the mom blogger in your life, it’s a photography class at your local college or studio. Get on Groupon or just skim over some local college websites, and if they’re offering a beginner or general photography class, we would be so impressed with the person who gifted it to us. It’s something we all want to improve upon but one of the last things on our list to invest in.
  7. A photogenic house. Yes, the messiness is great for the posts where we reach out to other parents who deal with crazy children who are also terrorizing lives and homes, but once in a great while, it would be nice to be able to snap a photo of a picture-perfect, decorated home. No toys, no laundry strewn throughout, no food splattered on all the surfaces. Maybe just hire me a cleaning service for a month. I can’t speak for all mom bloggers, but I promise you that I, personally, will not be offended.
  8. More time. There’s never enough of it. By the time we take care of our children, try to keep our house under control, fix a few meals, possibly work or run errands (and also attempt to create a coherent post), it’s 12:10 a.m. and we still haven’t had time to finish putting away laundry, respond to 1/3 of our texts or finish any of the other 99 errands/tasks we have left to complete.
  9. To not have our greatest ideas come to us in the shower or at 1 a.m. At some point in my life, I’m going to need to sleep more than three hours a night, and as long as my creative juices flow at 1 a.m. and my children awake anywhere between 5 and 7 a.m., that’s not a possibility. If you want to offer babysitting services from the moment our children wake up until around 9 or 10 a.m., we’d be forever grateful. A waterproof iPad case and suction cup display for the shower would also suffice because shower time is about the only other time we get to think coherent thoughts by ourselves, and even that is hit or miss.
  10. An appreciation. So many times, I think we’re ashamed to tell people what we do because most people really don’t understand. They think we write some stuff and press publish, but the reality is–just like any profession–we put a lot of effort into what we do. The content is one thing, but there’s also the research that goes into the content, creating images, promotion, interactions, emails, tracking statistics, finances, design, HTML, SEO, website specifics, ads and the list goes on. We’re essentially running our own business, and although it may be much more plausible than a single person running a large company by themselves, it’s still quite an undertaking. Just taking the time to think about and recognize that is much appreciated.

Whether you’re a mom blogger or not, what do you really want for Christmas this year? Comment below and tell everyone about it!

Might I also add, drinking a cup of coffee while it’s actually still hot would be nice, too, but I’m willing to overlook that for any of the ten above.

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A Throwing Up Thanksgiving

A Throwing Up Thanksgiving

Does it sound disgusting? Good. Because it was.

This Thanksgiving I was thankful for pink, plastic trashcans, any sleep available and that whatever monstrous flu bug hit our family only lasted a few hours … each.

Starting the week of Thanksgiving, during my daughter’s birthday brunch, my one-year-old got sick. No big deal–he’s a baby and babies throw up all the time. It was probably that cupcake he ate earlier.

Later that night, we headed to my husband’s parents’ house, who happen to have two of their daughters with their husbands and between each other eight children staying with them.

The one-year-old gets sick again. All over grandpa.

We go home. Think next to nothing of it, because the baby’s acting find aside from his two episodes. The next night we take the kids over to grandpa and grandma’s again to hang out with family after a problem-free and happy day.

This time, our three-year-old throws up, all over grandpa, during Looney Tunes. Twice.

She comes home and spends the night next to our bed, throwing up into a pink, plastic trashcan.

Of course, the next morning, I’m sick and have to call into work. The pink, plastic trashcan is now my best friend, too.

The next victim is my husband, on the day before Thanksgiving, which is the day of a surprise date night that’s been planned for over a month. He sleeps all day and feels well enough to go out. Just barely.

On Thanksgiving, my husband’s HUGE family gathers. We here rumblings of others who may feel sick, and from Thanksgiving day to Saturday afternoon 3/4s of the entire family has thrown up.

You may not think this is a big deal, but take into consideration, there were around 50 people at the Thanksgiving gathering. That’s a lot of pink, plastic trashcans filled with puke.

So, in the spirit of giving, thank you, family, for sharing in this year’s Throw Up Thanksgiving. Here’s to hoping that next year we have a different theme.

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5 of My Favorite Mommy Gifts (Online Version)

5ofmyfavoritemommygifts

As we can all tell, after stuffing our faces full Thursday and stuffing our carts full Friday, Christmas is the next big thing we have to prep for. As I get older, my family gets larger and my life gets crazier, it’s a pretty big goal of mine to get done with shopping as early as possible, as easily as possible and as frugally as possible. It’s almost become a game to see how far in advance I can be completely ready for Christmas and to track how much money I can save in the process.

Gift giving is one of my favorite things to do because I love finding unique and personal gifts for people–holidays or not. So with that in mind and Black Friday out of the way, below is a list of a few of my favorite, unique gifts that you can, for the most part, only find online right now. Some of them are great for kids but help parents out, some are good for just parents and others are more for parents and kids to use together.Lolly + Pop

  1. Lolly + Pop. Adorable, hand-made leather bows (I might use some as bowties as well) for little ones. I love these because they’re leather, they’re simple yet elegant, and the color palette selection is gorgeous. In my experience, leather lasts longer–as far as children’s accessories or jewelry–and has a classy, unique look that you don’t find with just any material. The designer and creator for Lolly + Pop is a mom of two from NYC, who hand makes everything, which makes me love them all the more. For those who are interested for Christmas gifts or for themselves, Lolly + Pop has 40% off this Cyber Monday until midnight AND if you’re a reader of mine, feel free to use code “Homemade15” for 15% off. You really cannot beat that!
  2. Lose the Cape: Never Will I Ever (And Then I Had Kids). When I was little, I used to love reading Chicken Soup for the Soul books because they were a compilation of stories Lose the Cape - coverby real people that were relatable and made me feel warm and content. This is the same type of anthology, except for parents. Lose the Cape is full of great, funny and relatable stories from parents like you and me, and the perfect book to read while cuddling up with a blanket and warm drink throughout the winter season.
  3. Butler BootsI love these boots so much for our toddler because to me, they’re different than most boots. I can use them in rain or snow plus they slip on as boots by themselves or over other shoes because of a washable liner placed inside. This way, when my toddler’s wearing an outfit requiring shoes I IMG_6283don’t want to get wet or that don’t wear well in the snow, I can slip the boots over top and take them off when we get inside without having to hassle with sitting her down and changing her into completely different shoes. They come in several bright, fun colors–my favorite being pink and yellow.
  4. Fun Foodie Friends CookbookObviously, as parents, we have to cook on occasion. Okay, daily. Often, my children want to help, which slows me down and makes the evening Fun Foodie Friendsdinner/bedtime rush more hectic, but having a cookbook that’s both healthy and made for kids to join in on the cooking makes things much smoother, easier and helps my children learn about food and cooking while assisting with their own meals.
  5. Birchbox. This is a great way for moms (or dads) to sample and try new products across several categories–lifestyle, home & food, skincare, makeup, tools, games, etc. For most of us adults who don’t really find the time to spend on picking out new products or trying different brands, getting a monthly box of goodies is a great thing to look forward to (or a nice surprise if you forget about it like I do) and Birchbox, specifically, is a nice way to try several items before buying them to decide what works for you and what you actually like best.

On Cyber Monday, and especially once the madhouse shoppers hit in December, it’s just nice to sit back and order online. The difficulty I find when ordering online is pinpointing the gifts I think are still personal and unique while at the same time remaining well-priced with minimal–if any–shipping. This list hits all of those requirements for me; plus, all of these items either benefit me as a mother or myself and my children together. Hopefully, this list can help with your holiday gifting, as well!

#HE is pumped to be partnering with Fun Foodie Friends and Butler Boots for this post’s awesome gift list!