Introducing New COS Mom Contributor Paras Askari Longanecker

Hello fellow COS mamas! I’m Paras Askari Longanecker, a mother of two wild young boys, wife to an adventurous guy, and practicing pediatrician learning to navigate the challenging yet rewarding world of being a working mom. Since moving to the Springs, I have treasured connecting with other parents and learning about this wonderful city through COSMC. I am thrilled and honored to be a part of the team now as a contributing writer!

Paras

Across an Ocean

When I think about writing an intro “About Me” I can’t help but think “About Them,” my parents. My folks moved to the states from Iran to attend graduate school in the 70s. After earning their degrees and polishing their English, they moved back to Tehran confident they could build a fruitful life together with their shiny new American diplomas in hand.

Things did not go as planned.

Instead they found themselves in the midst of the Iranian Revolution not long after their return and my birth. Thankfully, after years of challenges impossible to summarize in a few sentences, we were all able to return and set roots in the US, safe and sound. They often reminisce about the relief they felt knowing they could raise their children in what they grew up believing was the land of opportunity. Their grit and love for this country has shaped me into who I am, and I am eternally grateful.

Paras

Marriage & Babies

Fast forward to adulthood. I met my husband while we were in medical school at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. We started dating shortly before I moved away to San Antonio, Texas, for residency training. After three years of long-distance (brutal!), we tied the knot. Not long after, we started considering expanding our little family. Me and my type A personality expected that when I was ready to have a baby, it would happen effortlessly and fall nicely into my meticulously planned timeline.

Oh, how I was wrong.

Like so many couples, we found ourselves in the midst of fertility struggles. Two years later, with the help of our great doctors, amazing technology, supportive family and a little luck we were able to welcome our son into the world. About ten months after baby #1 arrived, we learned we were pregnant with baby #2. A truly unexpected and welcomed surprise!

Parenthood & Community

During residency, my bookshelf was filled with every major pediatric text and popular parenting book you could imagine. I made my way through training kid-free and was certain my studies had taught me everything I needed to know about raising little ones. After our son arrived, I very quickly realized that real-life parenting is not nearly as straightforward as the literature implied! Humbling, to say the least.

As I journeyed into motherhood, I came to discover the incredibly vast world of online parenting resources first hand. “What baby equipment would we absolutely need?” “Which breast milk storage system is the best?” “What kid-friendly options do we have in town?!” I learned to value those spaces where I could gather valid information and connect with other parents in a nonjudgmental way. This is exactly what I have found in COSMC and why I am so grateful for this Collective!  Thank you…. sending all of you a virtual hug.

Paras Askari Longanecker

Let’s continue to educate, entertain and encourage one another with love and acceptance. I look forward to enjoying this wild journey we call parenting together in this amazing city we are lucky to call home.

Musings from a Former Political Reporter: Choose Friends Over Politics

It is an election. It is ugly. But it soon will be over. We need to figure out a way to set aside politics and look our neighbors in the eyes again. We need to rediscover civility.

Why?

Because America is bigger than any politician. America is stronger than any political party.

Politics Is a Nasty Business

These days, every election cycle seems more divisive and mean-spirited than the one that preceded it. But when the dust settles, we the people are still here. We can have political opinions and leanings and still have respect for our fellow human beings.

I used to be a political reporter. I used to cover local elections, legislatures, state and national government. Even the president, occasionally.

And here is what I learned: 1. There are honorable politicians on both sides of the aisle. 2. There are not-so-honorable folks on both sides of the aisle. 3. Even the politicians you generally agree with have flaws.

Agree to Disagree, For Now

I am not suggesting anyone suppress their opinion, but I believe frustration should be directed toward the politicians — not toward friends and family. If you’re upset, write a letter to your lawmakers. Don’t berate fellow voters.

I suspect half of you will vote for Trump; half for Biden. No judging here. Your political leanings matter none to me. What does matter to me is that you are a decent human being, trying to make the world a tiny bit better.

Candidates and politicians come and go, but our neighbors, friends and families still will be there – unless we have irreparably damaged those relationships over politics. Gosh folks, don’t damage those relationships over politics. The friends in this blog post span the political spectrum, but somehow manage to love each other.

Social Media = Loss of Context

When I started covering politics, there was no social media. There were newspapers and radio and television. There were phone calls to friends rather than texts. There were beers and burgers and talking in person. Nonexistent were Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and all the other thingamabobs that should tie us together, but sometimes tear us apart.

I use social media, too. Look, I’m a blogger. But I recognize how context vanishes when you can’t see someone’s face or hear their voice. In person, you might recognize that your friend is simply sad or relieved about the election. Online, the same person comes across as irate or extreme.

We are allowed free speech in America and for that, I am grateful. But realize that you’re unlikely to change minds about a candidate or political party with a Facebook post.

People change their minds about politics or politicians based on that party’s or elected official’s actions or sometimes based on circumstances in their own lives — not due to Facebook posts. 

During the last election, some friends of mine were sparring daily on Facebook over politics. It might have been fine in a coffee shop, where they could see that no one meant any personal harm. But online, both sides came across as spiteful and narrow minded.

A favorite former teacher asked friends to “return to those wonderful family pictures and milestones and humorous tidbits.” I never have seen her issue a political comment and have no idea where she stands politically. But within minutes, she was deluged with political comments.

A Better Solution?

A different pal came up with a solution for her own situation four years ago. She tilts far left. She set up a secret page on Facebook just for a few like-minded friends – a safe place to rant freely without marginalizing cherished conservative or moderate friends.

I was not invited to be part of that page. I am not fiercely conservative, but I am not fiercely liberal, either. What I am is fiercely independent.

I used to personally know the candidates I was voting for — that made it easy for me. My gut told me who believed in what they were saying and who was simply trying to make voters believe in what they were saying.

These days, I don’t know the candidates personally. So I do my research. I look up where they stand on issues important to me. I read about what they have done in the past because the past is an amazingly accurate indicator of what they’ll do in the future.

My ballot zigs. My ballot zags.

Maybe someday, I will align with one political party or the other, but I doubt it. I have seen too much.

I understand that political parties do some good work. I understand that they might be necessary to make the system run.

But I believe in people.

Help Make the World a Better Place

After each election, I hope for the best. Even if I didn’t vote for someone, I give each elected candidate a chance. Republican, Democrat or some other party, I want them to succeed because I live in America. Every four years, I get the privilege of voting again. If I dislike the country’s direction, I will vote to replace existing politicians. If I am happy, I will vote to keep them.

In the meantime, I will use my own two hands to make the world a better place.

politics

This post was originally published on March 23, 2017 and updated just slightly to run in 2020.

I’ll take Fall… But, Hold the Pumpkin Please!

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It’s that season again… pumpkin spice everything! From lattes to muffins, candies, breads, pancakes, pasta, sauces, and everything in between. When I say everything… I mean everything. Can I be honest? Don’t hate me, but I’m not a pumpkin fan. Sure, I can take it in small doses here and there. I usually eat an obligatory slice of pumpkin pie during the fall, but really, I shy away from most things pumpkin. It just isn’t my thing.

But fall… Fall IS my thing! I love the colors, the smells, the crisp days. Breaking out my scarves and boots and all my comfy sweaters. I love it all!  I especially love all the sweet treats of the Fall Season.

How can I enjoy seasonal fall treats and not love pumpkin? Never fear! Just because I don’t love pumpkin doesn’t mean there aren’t some absolutely delicious fall recipes to enjoy. Here are my top 5 sweet fall recipes sans that (in my opinion) overdone pumpkin flavor.

Applesauce cake

  • 3 C flour
  • 2 C sugar
  • 2 tsp soda
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1 T nutmeg
  • 2 C applesauce
  • ½ lb butter
  • Chopped pecans optional

Mix the first 6 ingredients.  Heat applesauce and butter until butter melts.  Add to dry ingredients and mix well.  Add nuts (if using) and mix again.  Put batter into greased and floured tube or bundt pan.  Bake at 300 degrees for 1 ¼ hours.

*An absolute favorite for breakfast or dessert!

Pecan dainties

Let 3 oz cream cheese and ½ C butter soften. Blend together. Stir in 1 C flour. Chill dough for 1 hour. Shape into 2 dozen 1-inch balls. Place in greased muffin pan. Press dough against bottom and sides.

Filling:  Beat together 1 egg, ¾ C brown sugar, 1 T softened butter, 1 tsp vanilla, dash of salt. Add 1/3 to 2/3 C chopped pecans (I have used walnuts, too).

Divide mixture among the tarts. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes or until filling is set.  Cool and remove from pans.

*We make these EVERY fall!  These bite-size pecan pies are a wonderful afternoon treat or fabulous at potlucks. I almost always double the recipe!

Cranberry Clafloutis

  • 1 T butter
  • 1 C sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C flour
  • 1 C half-n-half
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 C fresh cranberries
  • 1 C walnuts

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter pie pan. Sprinkle with sugar to evenly coat; remove excess.  Beat eggs, add sugar, beat until smooth. Add flour and beat until smooth again.  Add half-n-half and salt and whisk until smooth.

Slice cranberries in half and chop nuts. Put cranberry/nut mixture in bottom of pie dish and pour better over it. Bake 20-30 minutes until nicely brown and knife is clean after inserting it. Cover with sifted powdered sugar if desired.

*This is a perfect Fall weekend breakfast idea!  My family loves it topped with vanilla Greek yogurt, too!

Apple cider doughnut cake

  • 1 yellow cake mix
  • ¾ C apple cider
  • ¼ C water
  • ½ C applesauce
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/8 C cinnamon
  • ¼ C sugar
  • ¼ C melted butter
  • Apple Cider Glaze
  • 1 C powdered sugar
  • ¼ C apple cider

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl beat the dry cake mix, apple cider, applesauce, water, and eggs. Add in the brown sugar and vanilla. Pour the mixture into a greased bundt pan. Place pan on center rack and bake for 45 minutes. Test with toothpick by sticking into the middle of the cake, if it comes out clean it is ready. Remove from heat and allow to cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

While the cake is cooking, prepare the glaze by adding powdered sugar and ¼ C apple cider to a small bowl and whisk to desired consistency.  In a separate bowl mix together the cinnamon and sugar.  Once the cake has cooled, brush the entire surface of the cake with melted butter.  Rub cinnamon sugar mixture until the whole cake is evenly coated.  Serve the cake with the apple cider glaze dipping sauce or feel free to drizzle over the cake.

*Ummm….doughnuts, cake, and apple cider!  What’s not to love?  A favorite of my kids!

Cranberry Cake

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 C sugar
  • ¾ C butter, softened
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 2 C flour
  • 12 oz fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  With a mixer beat eggs with the sugar until slightly thickened and light in color; about 5-7 minutes.  The mixture should almost double in size.   The eggs work as your leavening agent in this recipe, so do not skip this step.  This mixture should form a ribbon when you lift the beaters out of the bowl.  Add the butter and vanilla; mix two more minutes.  Stir in the flour until just combined.  Add the cranberries and stir to mix throughout.

Spread into buttered 9×13 pan.  Bake 40-50 minutes, or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean.  Let cool completely before cutting into slices.

*This works for both Fall and the holidays!  It melts in your mouth!

************

I’m not a complete pumpkin hater, though… I do have a fall favorite that includes pumpkin. The cake below is delicious and I’ve yet to meet anyone who didn’t love it.

Pumpkin caramel sheet cake

  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin (not pie filling)
  • 2 C sugar
  • 1 C oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 C flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Frosting
  • 6 T butter
  • ½ C heavy cream
  • 1 C brown sugar
  • 2 C powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 15x10x1 baking sheet with cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl combine pumpkin, sugar, and oil. Mix well. Add eggs and beat again.  Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Mix well. Pour into prepared pan and bake 25-30 minutes or until done. Cake should spring back when touched. Cool on rack.

While cake is cooking combine sugar, cream, and brown sugar in medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat and cool for 6 minutes.  Add powdered sugar and vanilla and mix well. Spread over cake. Let set and cut into pieces.

“Leaves and falling and Autumn is calling!” Cheers to the fall season and enjoying the sweet treats it brings! As for me… I’ll take fall… just hold the pumpkin, please!

fall pumpkin

The Moms Will Carry Us Through

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Moms… Have you noticed how people drive these days? It’s like we got out from under the “Stay at Home” order and everyone is suddenly 15 minutes late to their grocery pickup appointment.

If you turn on the TV, commentators and politicians are yelling and screaming and generally carrying on in a way that would make our grandparents blush.

Facebook… Okay. I don’t even need to go there.

So as moms, with the world on our shoulders and kids at home and school decisions and virus worries and a never-ending need for Lysol and hand sanitizer, how do we keep it between the lines?

Moms: Strong and Steady

If we’re being honest, we know on some instinctual level that’s our job as mothers. We are to be the strong, steady, calm and nurturing ones. Immune to the stress of the world, pillars of strength for our families and answers for our children in an increasingly confusing time, where do we find the strength?

We find it in the same place moms during World War I did. The same place as the moms who struggled to feed their families during the Great Depression. The same place as the moms who went to work in place of deployed husbands during World War II. We’re moms. We’re innately and incredibly strong. Embrace it. The world needs us now.

Remember the Time…

If the examples from the past don’t inspire you, think about your own life. Remember that night when baby had a temperature and you sat up all night worrying, cleaning up vomit, changing bedding and still made it to the 8 a.m. doctor’s appointment in clean clothes? Remember that time the teacher wasn’t working out and you went and sat in a meeting of parents and built a comprehensive and cooperative plan to get things on track? What about the day they cancelled in-person school with hours of notice and you juggled your job and your toddler and got to pick up on time and came up with a plan to somehow stay employed with a two-year-old on your lap while supervising seesaw lessons for your second-grader?

I don’t have a word for the mom strength that’s in us all. But it gives me incredible confidence to look at moms of the past – and moms of today – and know that we’re going to make it through this. Because in this troubled world, we know moms have always, always, carried on.

Carry on, mamas.

moms

What Kind of Bird? What Kind of Bird?

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“What kind of bird? What kind of bird?” my dad would call out quickly as soon as he heard the trill of a bird.

Growing up with a game warden meant being able to identify birds by their calls, critters by their prints, and all creatures by their poop. We knew what hunting season it was, based on whether Dad was practicing an elk bugle or putting turkeys to bed.

I considered myself a city child, as much as one could be growing up in a town of 750 people, and didn’t pay nearly as much attention as I now wish I had. Don’t get me wrong, I can easily distinguish a mule deer from a white-tailed deer. And I’m pretty reliable when it comes to scat identification. But what I regret most is not internalizing Dad’s enormous knowledge of birds.

Bird Songs

As soon as my daughter was old enough to delight in the birds she saw, I was intent on helping her learn what kind of birds she was seeing. On our walks, I point out magpies and robins, crows and hummingbirds. But when she hears a bird’s song and asks me what bird it is, I rarely know.

My dad would be disappointed that one of the few calls I remember is that of a chickadee.

Change of Scenery

Due to COVID-19 precautions, I’ve been working out of my dining room for months. I missed my coworkers and the frequent meetings I had in person with people both inside and outside of the organization I work for. In other words, I needed something to spice up my work day.

I remembered the bird feeder and hummingbird feeder sitting in the garage, waiting for me to figure out the perfect place to put them up. They may not be in their permanent home, but now they are both perfectly positioned where I can see them throughout the day.

New Friends

My bird identification books are now right next to my mouse. One is newer, and I reference it frequently so I can properly identify each new visitor to the feeders. I quickly thumb through its pages, relying on knowledge obtained from my dad to quickly get to the right section – jays, sparrows, finches.

The other book is housed in a small, worn black leather three-ring binder mended with tape. The original binding of the Birds of North America book is so worn out from my Dad’s use that it fell apart.

Legacy

Every day when my daughter gets home from daycare, I tell her what new birds visited the feeder that day. House finch, Brewer’s blackbird, a to-be-classified goldfinch. The robins her great-grandmother loved as a sign of spring. The hummingbirds that remind me of my mom and home.

Next up? Re-learning how to identify their calls so I can excitedly exclaim, “What kind of bird? What kind of bird?”

bird

Embracing this Year’s “I Don’t Know”

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“I don’t know.”

These words are powerful.

Do you feel emotion around these words?  What does it feel like for you to say these words? To your boss? Your spouse? A client? Your friend?  Your children?

What does it feel like when you hear these words spoken to you? Does the emotion feel stronger for one of the above examples than for another?

Sit in that emotion for just a minute.

I mean it – stop reading for a few minutes and dig in. Do some honest analysis of why you feel the way you do about this little phrase.

***

It might not be the same for you – but I find that when I dig in to this little phrase, I feel the pressure of expectations.

I feel that pressure in the form of anxiety.
I’m an adult, I “should” know. I mean, I’m smart, right?

I feel that pressure in the form of fear.
I’m their mom, I “should” know.  It’s my job to make the best decision for them.

Sometimes, I feel that pressure in the form of shame.
I have not been living under a rock, I “should” know.  How on earth did I miss that?

Why do we feel such pressure to “know?” I mean, definitively know. And, further than that, to definitively know everything.

I don’t believe it is the expectation of those around us that we know everything.  It would be quite an unrealistic expectation if that were the case. I am a big proponent of a growth mindset, but as the term denotes, it requires ongoing growth to obtain knowledge. There is a learning curve and I, for one, can appreciate those who recognize where they are in the process. Fact finding and weighing those against our personal world view is a vital piece in determining our position on a subject.  New information can (and sometimes should) alter that stance.

So if it is not the expectation of others that we definitively know everything, whose expectation is it?

***

“I don’t know.”

These words are vulnerable.

How do you feel about vulnerability? I will be honest that it is not my favorite thing. It was not until I did some reading and a researcher by the name of Brene Brown was able to teach me that vulnerability could exist independently of shame.  I wasn’t even aware that I felt shame in vulnerability until it was explained to me.

But I do.

And disrupting this link is key for me to be able to be more comfortable with these words.  And to discover their power.

“I don’t know.”

Whether it is professionally, relationally, or with our kiddos, I have been finding that these three little words can be disarming when used mindfully.

Disarming in the sense of allaying the hostility or suspicions in the way one might remove a fuse from a bomb, making it safe. (Thank you, Webster.)

Safe.  I can honestly say that I have never associated vulnerability with safe-ness either.

***

For me, usually the most effective version of the phrase “I don’t know” is followed up with another small and mighty word.  The word “but.”

“But” is a word that can be used to introduce a phrase or clause contrasting with what has already been mentioned. (What would I do without you, Webster?!) In short, this little word can carry hope in the form of its ability to conjoin.

I don’t know.
But I am going to do my best to find out.

I don’t know.
But, I am working on a solution.

I don’t know.
But, I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

A fancier version of this same word is “nevertheless.” It adds a semi-colon where there might have once been a period.  It diffuses by way of hope.  It continues the conversation through conjunction.  And it creates a safe space that still allows for challenge and growth.

This last year has been full of “I don’t knows” for me.  Maybe you can relate.

I have found hope in the “buts,” though.  I appreciate those who have the courage to say “I don’t know” and to follow it up with a “but.”  It feels honest.  It fosters hope and it continues the conversation.

We are all just doing our best.  And even the experts have to be first-timers at something.  Give grace and create space for them to promote honest conversation because that should be our expectation.

i don't know

Talking to a Mom of Twins? Kind Words She’ll Appreciate

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As a mom of two sets of boy/girl twins, I’ve had plenty of comments, questions, one-liners, and stares thrown my way. Some make me smile. Others make me inwardly say “are you serious?” A few make me feel awkward and like I want to run and hide.

I know none of us wants to make our fellow mama friends feel awkward or annoyed, so today I’m sharing questions and comments that are most frequently heard. And I’ll give you some insider information on what to say instead if the question/comment is somewhat borderline.

5. You’re so lucky. I wish I had twins.

This is said to me fairly frequently, especially now that my kids are older (10 & 5) and they can’t see the work it took to get here.

Overall, this is not a bad comment by any means. I totally get what they are saying. Nobody looks at twins and thinks “that must be wonderful 100% of the time!” But what this comment does is make me feel ashamed for not feeling lucky myself. I see the blood, sweat, tears, mess, snot, and bickering every day. I cannot say I look at each moment and think “gosh, I’m so lucky!”

So instead of possibly putting a mama in a position of feeling like she’s doing a terrible job of being grateful, try saying this instead, “I’m sure twins are so much work and you inspire me.”

4. My best friend’s cousin has twins and I babysat them once so I know what it’s like.

This is usually said to me not by friends, but strangers while I’m in the grocery store. And I know people are just trying to find a point of connection and it’s not intended to put me on the offensive. Unless you have twins, I promise you don’t know what it’s like. Just like if I watched my neighbor’s dog for the weekend but don’t own one myself, I really don’t know what it’s like to have a dog day in and day out. I might have an idea, but I cannot say I know.

If you see a twin mom in the grocery store and want to connect with her, first ask yourself “is this a good time?” Second, ask yourself “is this comment helpful or encouraging to her?” If you do say something, try this, “you are doing a great job. What beautiful kids/babies.”

3. How did that happen?!/Do you have a family history of twins?

I know what people are trying to ask here: are they “naturally conceived” twins or did you have fertility treatments? Which is an obvious question… but not always an appropriate one. So here is my general guideline for this type of question:

  • If you know the mother/parents well or are getting to know them, this is a fine question to ask… But it’s probably not one of the first questions you should ask.
  • If you have entered into a conversation with the mother/parents (say chatting at a park while kids play but you don’t personally know each other prior), and the discussion turns from pleasantries to more personal topics, this could possibly be an ok question to ask.
  • If you personally don’t want to explain your own fertility/birth history to someone you just met/don’t know, then it’s never ok to ask this type of question.

We all know fertility can be a tough subject for many women (and men!) so just be cautious and exceedingly kind when it comes to this type of question.

2. I’m glad it’s you and not me.

This is one where many times I have to give the commenter the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they meant to say something like “I couldn’t handle that and I admire you.” But it just came out wrong in the moment.

Sometimes, unfortunately in our culture children are viewed as an inconvenience and there are those who no doubt see my two sets of twins in that light. In those instances, I tend to say something along the lines of, “It’s not an easy job, but they sure bring me joy.” Because typically my kids are within earshot and I want them not to hear the narrative they are an inconvenience just because they came two at a time.

If you are wanting to let a twin mom know she’s doing a great job that you feel you’d be incapable of, say something like “you’re doing a great job mama.” Also, you shouldn’t discount yourself. My husband and I are average people, and we had to figure this out just like anyone else would!

1. You sure have your hands full!

This is the most common comment I get. My older two noticed recently and asked what people meant. Here’s what I tell them: I think people are just trying to break the ice by saying something. Or it’s their way of saying I’m doing a good job in spite of having “a lot” of kids. Or it could be in that moment, I was not at my best and it was showing. Whatever the reason, because this is said to me frequently, I want to respond with grace and kindness and make sure my kids feel wanted and seen in a good way.

I want to acknowledge that many non-twin moms hear this comment, too. I’m not sure if this statement bothers you, but most of the time for me it just seems not super timely. And it’s often followed with “enjoy every moment!” Sometimes all I can do is return this statement with a smile.

***

Your kids are listening

So here’s what I want to say to any mom in any circumstance no matter how many kids or how old they are: your kids are watching and listening. Use these sometimes unwelcome, untimely remarks to make sure your kids know you treasure them in spite of the chaos and mess. Let them see and hear you responding to strangers with a smile, even if it isn’t accompanied with words. Even if in a moment you respond in a less-than eloquent way, you can still use that moment to teach your kids an important lesson and let them hear you admit your mistake.

Here’s what we can all say…

Here’s a comment we can all say to each other no matter how many kids or how old: “I see you mama, and you’re doing a wonderful job. Keep it up.”

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18 Life-Changing Books

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Where are all my book lovers at? Fellow readers and life-long learners, this list is for you. I don’t know about you, but it is impossible for me to choose my favorite book. So I’ve chosen my favorite 18 books that changed my life and I can’t wait to share them with you! 

These books are written by courageous and brilliant people. The authors’ words are a creative force — they are powerful, life-changing, and revolutionizing.

Edward Thorndike said: “Colors fade, temples crumble, empires fall, but wise words endure.”

I hope you get to discover the magic that is in these pages. I believe these books and their words will inspire deeper awareness, understanding, motivation, and authentic change for many years to come for those who embrace them.

Here are 18 books that changed my life:

Creativity inc. – Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull

“Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new.”

Improv Wisdom by Patricia Ryan Madson

“Rocky terrain is unavoidable and may even be the path to something wonderful. “We can count on chaos.”

The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner

“Drink without getting drunk. Love without suffering jealousy. Eat without overindulging. Never argue. And once in a while, with great discretion, misbehave.”

Start With Why by Simon Sinek

“Regardless of WHAT we do in our lives, our WHY—our driving purpose, cause or belief—never changes.”

Food Fix — How to Save Our Health, Our Economy, Our Communities, and Our Planet — One Bite at a Time by Dr. Mark Hyman, MD

“Food fix is a call to action. We have the ability to reclaim our health, reverse climate change, and support our communities with a key set of practical solutions.”

Cancer Free With Food by Lisa Werner-Gray

“Through lifestyle modification alone, we can literally rewrite our genetic code.”

In the Sanctuary of Women by Jan L. Richardson

“Instead, the act of praying prompts us to question, to move beyond familiar habits and patterns and routines, and to imagine possibilities beyond what we can see. Prayer draws us onto a threshold that lies between what we have known and what God may yet be calling us toward.”

Eight Dates by John Gottman

“You can spend a lifetime being curious about the inner world of your partner, and being brave enough to share your own inner world, and never be done discovering all there is to know about each other. It’s exciting.”

The Complete Enneagram by Beatrice Chestnut

“It turns out that the many coping strategies we use to get along in life can be grouped into a finite number of categories, or personality types. By providing detailed descriptions of the typical thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that make up nine basic personality types (and the three subtypes of each of those nine types), the Enneagram highlights how these habitual patterns get enacted so you can start to see them for yourself.”

On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior

“Reading well adds to our life—not in the way a tool from the hardware store adds to our life, for a tool does us no good once lost or broken, but in the way a friendship adds to our life, altering us forever.”

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer

“…a great memory isn’t just a by-product of expertise; it is the essence of expertise.”

Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies by J.B West

“And each of them has performed a great public service to the people of America, filling a role that is nonappointive, nonelective, certainly nonpaid, the most demanding volunteer job in America.”

There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom’s Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids by Linda Åkeson McGurk

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” This phrase hails from Scandinavia, where it’s a common mantra repeated by parents who insist that their children spend time outdoors every day.”

The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids by Jessica Joelle Alexander

“Happy kids grow up to be happy adults who raise happy kids, and so on.”

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel A. van der Kolk

“As long as you keep secrets and suppress information, you are fundamentally at war with yourself…The critical issue is allowing yourself to know what you know. That takes an enormous amount of courage.”

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

“The courage to be vulnerable is not about winning or losing, it’s about the courage to show up when you can’t predict or control the outcome.”

The Ride of a Lifetime by Bob Iger

“Innovate or die, and there’s no innovation if you operate out of fear of the new or untested.”

Quiet: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

“The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk. Use your natural powers — of persistence, concentration, and insight — to do work you love and work that matters. Solve problems. Make art, think deeply.”

Looking for more? Check out these recent favorite books from some of our other writers at Colorado Springs Mom Collective:

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3 Fall Outfit Ideas For Cool Mornings and Warm Afternoons

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I’m sure I don’t need to tell you here in Colorado the weather can be unpredictable in all 4 seasons. This time of year particularly we can experience a wide range of temperatures all in a 12 hour day. Your morning begins chilly, by lunchtime you’re regretting the sweater you selected as your #ootd and using the a/c as you pick up the kids from school. Getting dressed this time of year can be frustrating. You don’t want to have to change your entire outfit by 2 pm because you’re too warm. That’s why I’ve put together 3 fall outfit ideas to help you make the right choices without having to change clothes completely when the sun peeks out and you’re feeling toasty.

Fall Outfit #1 Flannel to Lightweight Blouse

Start your day in flannel, even throw on a cardigan if the morning is especially chilly. I chose wedge sneakers but the outfit would also look put together by wearing booties, riding boots, or flats.

fall outfit 1Later when you’re feeling a tad warm, all you need to do is change your shirt. Easy switch for a busy mom on-the-go.

fall outfit 2Fall Outfit #2: Shirt Dress

You cannot go wrong with a shirt dress. They look classy and put together with minimal effort on your part. This look would work with almost sleeve length as well as any shift-type dress in your closet, not just a shirt dress.

Start your day off wearing a cardigan or a jacket over the dress. These dresses get a modern look when you wear booties, but a flat or riding boots would complete the outfit too.

Fall Outfit 3Later, when it’s warmer, simply remove your cardigan or jacket and you’re good to go!

Fall outfit 4Fall Outfit #3: Black jeans + Chambray Button-Down Under a Poncho Sweater

I realize not everyone has a poncho sweater in their closet… and my purpose is not to get you to go buy new clothes. I’m a huge advocate of using what you already own. So if you do not own a poncho sweater but do own a pullover sweater, or a poncho… use what you’ve got on hand! 

The beauty of a chambray button-down + black jeans… it’s basically a neutral outfit waiting for you to add on almost anything! BUT it also looks classy and put-together all on its own, too. 

Begin your day with the sweater of your choosing over the chambray button-down.

Then, when the temperature rises, remove the sweater and it’s back to black + chambray basics!

fall outfit 6I hope these three easy outfits have inspired you! And just to recap:

  • Go for outfits in layers so as the day gets warmer, it doesn’t require a total change of clothes.
  • Piece some “new” outfits together from items you already own! Like I said, use what you have before you go running out to buy something new. 
  • These outfits are inspirations, no need to feel they are to be copied exactly. You have your own style, flair, and creativity mama! Let that show in your clothes!

Happy fall, and all that comes with it! Chilly mornings to sweaty afternoons! 

Have fun with your fall outfits and I’d love to see what you’re wearing! Post a picture of your fall #ootd in the comments and inspire other mamas with your clothing selections!

This article was originally published on November 5, 2019.

Introducing New COS Mom Contributor Ime Lopez

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I grew up on two different continents, in two contending cultures. I’m a recent single mom raising some fantastic little humans.  A public interest lawyer and advocate for the vulnerable. An unapologetic lover of the Three C’s – coffee, community and crunchy tacos (oh…and ice.) Hello friends and fellow mothers!  My name is Ime.  I’m not a professional writer, but I have a story to tell.

Culture Change

Like all of us here, I am a unique composite of life experiences and changes.  My parents emigrated from Nigeria in the 1970s to pursue their university studies.  They settled in the Midwest and quickly established our family, living in a community of fellow international students.

Since it was important to my parents that we (their children) integrate into our African heritage, we moved back to Nigeria just as I prepared to enter the 3rd grade. Despite the drastic cultural change, memories of my childhood in Nigeria are truly sweet.  One of the most beautiful aspects of Nigerian culture is the careful and intentional handling of family and community.  People rarely live unto themselves, and my siblings and I were raised to esteem importance of contributing to the larger family structure, our immediate community and the greater society.

Family Change

After some years, we returned to the States and our seemingly complete family fell apart along with my parents’ marriage. The resulting pain impacted my life in deeper ways than I can freely tell.

Opportunity knocked, and I moved to New York City to live with my mother — a move which led to significant change for me.  New York City had an appeal and rhythm which enlivened my naive teenage soul. The streets were tough, and I learned quickly to walk fast, think faster and reach fastest for what I thought was important.  For me, it seemed the world was truly my oyster. I felt like a girl who could no longer be held back by circumstances. After graduating from college, I applied for and was accepted to law school, even before my family knew what my plans were.

I became very self-reliant and self-focused — not so interested in what I could contribute, but rather with what I wanted to become.

Heart Change

Well, becoming a Christian in law school transformed my life once again.  My life pursuits dramatically changed.  I committed myself to pursuing a calling where I would serve the weak, most vulnerable and disadvantaged.

When I married and had my children, I continued working until we moved to Colorado. I then jumped on the chance to stay home with my children, which was all at once great and very hard.  I felt like I had lost a key part of myself when I let go of my career to care for the home, prepare meals, and play with littles who could not regulate themselves at all.  In the thick of the loneliness and exhaustion that oftentimes comes with motherhood, I was continually reminded in my heart that my husband and children were the people I was to gladly serve with love. And I set my heart to do that, tripping along the way.

Status Change

Life has been interesting for me.  I am now wading through newer, more challenging waters of single parenting.  I wear many more hats these days. To be honest, it is overwhelming most of the time. I feel weak and vulnerable at times. Good news is, I am slowly picking up the pieces when and where I can, building a new life with my children, and looking to the future with hope, courage, laughter and crunchy tacos.

It can be hard to accept such change. I now see how a person can descend into cynicism, if not checked.  Therefore, I am checking myself, and being checked regularly by close friends and other key edifiers in my life.  I desire to continue growing graciously in the changes, living a life that serves the people around me.

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