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Guests and Ghosts

Guest bloggers ... ghostwriters ... It's like Forest's box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get!
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A Short Rant on Twin Day

twin dayI do love twins! Just not Twin Day!

So we’re in the thick of it again at my child’s middle school: Spirit Week. I forget each year that this horror is approaching until a Monday morning—and it’s always the kind of Monday where I’ve either overslept or my cat has thrown up all over the kitchen floor-- and my son announces that he needs a crazy hat, or perhaps hair dye; or is it sports jersey or funny socks day?

He’s never quite sure of what he needs, only that the fate of the free world hangs on his appropriate attire, so one of us has to pull up the school website and try to find what’s what and then panic when we realize we don’t have or can’t find the necessary items to fulfill the day’s requirements. And then it’s 5 minutes before his bus is due to arrive and mass panic followed by a mad dash out the door ensues.

But worse than all these “fun days” (fun for everyone but the parents who have to scramble to find the necessary components to show that their kid has spirit), is the dreaded Twin Day. Every year this one seems to make an appearance in the line-up and every year I wonder, “Why?”

Why give kids an opportunity to exclude or snub each other? Why make them find that onespecialfriend to synch up with and match outfits? If a day could be specifically designed to promote anxiety and the feeling of being left out, I can’t think of a better one than Twin Day. The shy kid, the new kid, the awkward kid—can they find anyone to be their twin? Are the schools trying to make these kids feel bad about themselves and their social capital? If not, what are they trying to do?

Even your run-of-the mill kid who has a good number of friends can have trouble with Twin Day. In the past my son has forgotten to coordinate with a friend and ended up twin-less and sad due to being a typically disorganized boy. My daughter has had issues with this day, too. She was part of tight trio in fourth grade. The relationships between the three girls ebbed and flowed that year and as Twin Day approached, she was definitely number 3. The other two decided to be twins and she was excluded. That is, until one of the other moms got wind of what was going on and declared that they would be triplets. Save!

So let me make a modest proposal. Let’s spirit the heck out of Spirit Week. Sure, it’s a little crazy, trying to find the right components to make up an outfit, but it’s basically a good kind of crazy. Not the bad-feeling-in-the-pit-of-your-stomach kind of crazy when your child realizes they have no twin, or is forced by the day’s structure to pick only one good friend and leave another out. I think we can all agree that school (and life) is stressful enough without that kind of pressure!

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It's Stylish to Plan Ahead

If there's one question that I get asked a lot it's “Can I have a snack?” Oh, no wait, that's the question my kids ask me all the time... I need to switch on the adult conversation mode. Adults frequently ask me “How do you manage to get dressed every morning and look so nice?” I get why they ask; having two young kids at home who have to be shuttled around and told only about a million times to put on actual clothes and to use actual (not pretend) soap when washing their hands, it can be hard to focus on yourself. Let's not even talk about having to do anything before having coffee. I thought I'd share with you what I do to lessen the craziness of my mornings. It’s pretty simple: I plan out all of my outfits.

Now, don't get me wrong, normally I can’t plan my way out of a cardboard box, so planning anything doesn't really come naturally to me. I think I'm missing that gene. But, regardless, I decided when I started my style journey, that I needed a way to streamline getting ready in the mornings so that I wouldn't fall back on my unstylish ways.

Here's what I do, I check my style groups style challenge list, shout out to my OOTD ladies (find “outfit of the day” group on Facebook), and every week or two I pull clothes that I want to wear and that might work for the style challenge for that day. I make a pretty big mess of clothing when I do this; seriously, it looks like a bomb went off in my closet and threw clothes all over the bedroom. It's a process...and that’s fine. My husband thinks I'm a little cray cray... but that’s fine, too. I spend maybe an hour, sometimes less, trying on all of the outfits and making necessary adjustments. I also take photos, because sometimes, an outfit looks ok in the mirror, but when I take a picture it's like “What in the heck is this?” And away it goes.

outfit planningMy outfit planning mess, half of it anyway…don't look in my bathroom


In all seriousness though, if I didn't plan my outfits, I honestly don't think that I could get it together in the mornings. There are days, though, that I look at what I had planned and I'm just not feeling it. It's kinda like when you REALLY want a chocolate sundae but the only thing you have in the house is strawberry ice's still ice cream but it's just not the RIGHT ice cream. It's so unsatisfying. So, for those mornings, I have a back-up outfit. Yup, here's me the “Not so great at planning” lady saying I actually plan a few extra back up outfits for the days when I hate everything! This helps tremendously, and calms my frustration when an unsatisfactory outfit pops up.

backupMy most recent back-up outfit saved the day!

Ok, so, how do I keep everything organized after I've decided on each outfit? I hang every piece of the outfit up together in my closet. I have a dedicated area in my closet for my planned outfits. But I quickly realized that I had a hard time remembering which outfit was for which day, so I made labels with the days of the week! It reminds me of those underpants that have days of the week on them...not that I still have those or anything!

hangersIt looks a little messy, but I promise it's legit!

Can you even believe that I thought of this? Who am I?!? Typed and everything! And, if I happen to have two outfits (like a dress for church then an after-church outfit) I just loop the string with the label over both hangers! Fantastic!

Take it from me, when mornings are already so hectic and crazy, it's easiest to take one thing out of the equation. Planning outfits will help make mornings a little more tolerable and a lot more stylish :)

To read more from me please check out my blog at

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Let's Talk About Basics

Do you look in your closet and feel like an entire overhaul is necessary? Starting a project like this can seem a little intimidating. Some days, even mundane projects like folding and putting away that giant pile of laundry can seem a little daunting. But, eventually that pile gets to Guinness Book of World Record status and you must take action, or it very possibly will engulf one of the children... my current pile might have just giggled...

pile of laundry

So, what do you have, and what are you missing? You’ll want to start with some basics and simple wardrobe essentials. However, just because they are basics doesn't necessarily mean they should stay. I'm not going to tell you to do the KonMari thing (here’s a link that explains and hold each item to see if it brings you joy. (Sometimes a piece of clothing might really make you mad; maybe it's “that time of the month” and EVERYTHING makes you mad. Heck even my kids don't ALWAYS bring me joy. Hello long winter break. Oh, hey kale salad, you bring me no joy, away with you!).

Instead of focusing on whether a shirt or pair of pants brings you joy, consider if you wear the item a lot and if it fits well. Let's get to what I think are basics, and just a heads up, I will go into detail about where I find my favorite items in a future post.

• Shirts- A black and a white t-shirt and long sleeved shirt, a black and a white tank. Actually, you can add a grey and navy too. Solid color tops are versatile and neutrals can be paired with lots of things.

• Jeans- A good fitting pair of jeans in a cut that suits you. All of my jeans are skinny cut. I'm short, and at 5’2 ish, I like the option of being able to roll my jeans; boot cut, flare or straight leg styles aren’t easily rolled. Why roll your jeans? It beats hemming them! And that’s how you do it when you wear booties; roll the jeans to just over the top of the boot. Skinny jeans are also easier to tuck into tall boots.

• Dress pants, white button down shirt, blazer- I admit that I don't have a pair of dress pants or really a solid color button down shirt...and that's ok. I really don't have a need for these pieces (famous last words and yes I just jinxed myself.) In fact, I recently gave away my only pair of dress pants; they went the way of the kale... no joy.

• Pencil skirt- Oh, how I LOVE pencil skirts. They bring me lots of joy!! And, yes, I think you should have one (ahem 20...) in your closet. They are great to dress up or down. For starters, look for a dark colored one that hits at your knee or slightly below for the most versatile and flattering fit.

• Dress- And a dress, or even better, a little black dress! I have LOTS of dresses. You know that movie 27 Dresses where Katherine Heigl has all of her bridesmaids’ dresses stuffed into a closet?!? Like a secret hoard? That's me, no exaggeration. Seriously, though, have a good fitting black dress. It can easily be dressed up or down as needed (I will go into detail in another post devoted to dresses!)

•Jackets- Preferably a dark wash fitted denim jacket and my personal favorite, a black fitted faux leather jacket (I say faux only because that's my personal preference over real leather). If I had to pick one item from my closet as my absolute favorite it would be this faux leather jacket, hands down. I wear it all the time and it goes with everything. Faux leather and me... we’re besties.

jacket collage

• A Sweater and Cardigan- Yes, both. A cardigan being something that is open and it's great to wear over tops and dresses for an extra layer. I have way too many cardigans; they rival my dress collection. I'm starting to think I might have a problem... a stylish problem. I find that I wear my black cardigans the most, but it's also great to have fun colors, think red, blue or even mustard! Feeling adventurous (you go girl!)? Have a leopard pattern cardigan on hand; it's a neutral, albeit a fun and flirty neutral. Lightweight sweaters in neutral colors serve as a standalone top and also as an added layer

• Shoes- Yes you need them. Yes they should include a variety of heel and flat types and colors. Basics would include, a pair of black and nude heels, flats (consider a fun leopard print again), boots or booties (preferably both) and sandals (I'm not talking flip flops here). I’ll be honest; my shoe collection is 90% heels. I don't wear flats very often. That's me. I LOVE a good pair of heels or wedges. People often ask me how I walk in answer? I can't wink, but I can walk in 5” heels...everyone's different right? Talented in our own ways.

We're at the starting line: find your basics. Let's build on that. It's like I keep telling my son when he's trying to build a sky high tower out of blocks but it keeps toppling over... you must start with a strong base. That’s not to say that you will fall, heck’ve got this! You're looking fabulous alrea

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Little Drops of Kindness

A month ago my family was out eating lunch and as usual my sons finished eating before my husband and I. To keep them occupied we took out a few Thomas the Tank Engine Minis for them to play with at the table.

A few tables over, a grandmother was out with her three grandchildren. Just like our little ones they had eaten quickly and were ready to play. The sweet boy at that table seemed heartbroken that he didn’t have a train to play with. My three year old son showed a side of him that I had never seen before; he reached out to show a stranger empathy and compassion. He asked me if he could let his new friend play with one of his trains. The child ran the train across the table, up and down the booth, and across the top of the booth seats. You could also hear random train toots and the conversation as imaginative play began in earnest.

thomas minis

After about five minutes, I heard tears from the other table. I looked back to see our new friend leaning over desperately trying to find the train that he had dropped behind the booth. Unfortunately, the booth at the restaurant was bolted to the wall and the tiny toy was irretrievable. Our son was saddened by the loss of his train, but put on a brave face and he told the other child that it was okay and shared another one. We reassured the family, after all a Thomas Mini costs about $1.50, and we have duplicates of many of them. The grandmother voiced feeling horrible about the situation, but my husband and I assured her it would be just fine. Both families eventually packed up and left, and although our son asked for “Gordon”, the lost train, on the way home, the whole episode was soon forgotten by us.

If you haven’t guessed it, my boy’s favorite show is Thomas and Friends. One of the reoccurring themes in Thomas and Friends is friendship and teamwork. Through sharing, our son learned that he could bring joy to others, and maybe make a new friend. I love that I could use their favorite show to have conversations about how good it feels to be kind to others and to share what we have.

It seems that day at the restaurant sparked a fire in us all to show random acts of kindness more often. My children are in the process of learning to share with each other, and this provided an excellent teaching example of kindness. I see smaller examples of this between my kids more and more now, such as when they will ask for two of something in order to give one item to their brother, or coming up to give a hug or pat on the back when the other is sad.

About a month had gone by; we were at our usual Sunday lunch spot, and the kids were once again done eating and engrossed in their trains, when a little girl came over to our table and gave us a package of three new Thomas Minis. I was a bit taken aback and didn’t recognize her at first. I went over to her table to make sure there wasn’t some mistake. As soon as I greeted the family I recognized the grandmother. Apparently, a few days after the original lunch, she had gone out to purchase a replacement and had carried it with her in hopes of running into us again.

This small act brought joy to my family. It was probably the first comment I had received in a long time about my boys or my parenting. My kids were smiling ear to ear and were delighted to have a new toy. They both wanted to run over and say thank you for this gift. It was proof of the lessons that we teach our kids about the power of selfless giving. All day long my son kept saying how nice his new friends were, and wanted to share his story with all his family, friends, and neighbors.

train overalls

I encourage everyone to reach out beyond their comfort zone and to take the plunge to show compassion. My children showed the smallest kindness to someone they had never met before, and it resonated back to them. This one simple act will stay with my family and provide a reminder that goodness is alive and well in our community. If we encourage our kids to be kind and lead by example our children’s generation may be the ones who set this world in a better direction.

Kristy is a stay-at-home mom by day and social media expert by night. When she's not chasing after her lively boys or writing about their adventures, she enjoys scrapbooking and traveling.

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Style: You Can Do It!

Can you believe a brand new year is upon us? It's crazy to think that 2016 is behind us. If you're like me, your time went to the demands of everyday mommy life. Getting kids to and from school, activities, play dates and doctor appointments, not to mention running a household, making meals and even getting yourself to and from work. Speaking of which...I probably should be doing one of the aforementioned things right now...

How often do you forget what day it is, or things are so hectic that your kids’ names become some merged version of everyone’s name (“Emmaowen...whoever you are”). Heck I’ve even called my kids by the cat’s name. Life is crazy, I get it. My kids are 6 and 4, are 18 months apart, and they sure keep me busy. In addition to my full time mommy job, I work part time as a family photographer. There are days when I don’t even know my own name.

Sometimes, I feel so rushed and frazzled that something as simple as remembering my kids’ doctor appointment seems like a huge accomplishment. This one appointment in particular, we got there EARLY, only for the receptionist to look at me and say there’s no appointment in their calendar...that the appointment I was thinking about was from last year (I blame my phone). Whoops! Guess I need to make an actual appointment, then.

There have been so many times when I feel like a duck in water, calm on the surface but paddling madly underneath. Thanks to all this, up until recently, I paid very little attention to myself. Style? No way, I didn't have time for that. I couldn't care about something so trivial when there were two kids who needed me... every bit of me and my energy. Same pants, same shirt for days in a row? Sure! Who cares?! Ok, that might be an exaggeration, but if I wore the same clothes repeatedly before washing them, that’s less laundry to I right?!

go to outfit

(My go-to outfit, circa 2012)

But someone did care; she just didn't realize it yet. In the midst of mommy duty, probably sometime between activity #3 and doctor appointment #27, something happened. I took time for myself. It might have started with a new haircut or new glasses or a shopping trip alone. You know those glorious moments when you can stroll the aisles of a store and actually think?! It was during one of these trips that I noticed I avoided the mirrors.

When I did accidentally catch a glimpse of myself I wondered, Who is that frumpy lady? The baggy shirt and tired shoes...what is that on her shirt?!? I realized then that I had to find myself again. That reflection wasn’t really me. My younger, pre-kid self screamed at me to make a comeback; I wanted to start paying attention to myself again. I took a long hard look at my wardrobe, as sad as it was: five shirts - most of which had holes, two pairs of jeans that sort of fit, zero dresses, zero skirts, and 1,954 pairs of black leggings or lounge style pants. Oh, and three pairs of shoes: the sad beat up flip flops, my “fancy” sandals and a pair of boots. Then I thought...How is it that my 4 year old daughter has a more extensive wardrobe?!?

So, I did it. I said goodbye to my ill-fitting, but oh- so-comfy, jeans. Adios to my baggy t-shirts with holes (you know those tiny mysterious holes that show up on the bottom half of shirts!). So long to wearing pants all year long, because who has time to shave?!? I even got rid of my tired, but beloved shoes.

But how would I start to rebuild my wardrobe? Standing over a pile of frumpy clothes has a way of defeating you, like it might be easier to climb Mount Everest then to conquer refreshing your style. But don’t be afraid, take your time, find the way. How? I joined a very uplifting Facebook group, Outfit of The Day. I looked at the women who posted their outfits, paid attention to their advice, and tried to find similar pieces. I started a subscription clothing service, Stitch Fix, to help me break from my dowdy rut. Finding time to try things on is never going to be easy, and creating this new, better version of myself didn’t happen overnight. But with the help and encouragement from my husband, I did it. Now I am a new me, a better me. Better because I feel beautiful and more empowered. I get up, get dressed and get to it. Being a mama doesn't mean you have to sacrifice yourself. If anything it means you have to better yourself.

goto outfit

(Go to outfit, circa 2016)

I did it and so can you. Style doesn't have to be out of reach. It's attainable and I can help! Follow me and I will show you what I’ve learned. From thrifted style (which is a favorite topic of mine) to active wear, dressy and casual put together looks. Even how I put outfits together and pre plan what I will wear for the week ahead. Style can be many things but it has to be beautiful and true to you. If my 4 year old can rock four different patterns then add rainbow leg warmers on top of it all and feel stylish, then we mamas can handle a bit of style too. Maybe just not the rainbow legwarmers.

So tell me: where do you want to start?!

Lorraine is a family photographer in Fredericksburg, a mama to two young kids, a wife to a supportive husband and a style enthusiast. Lorraine graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2006, with a degree in advertising photography. She enjoys quiet moments, silly kids, clothes, shoes, coffee, and a little wine too.

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