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Got Tribal? Nefertitties does, and now has a piece of paper to prove it. She also just turned 31, and desperately needs a party… with spankings!

Speaking of birthday parties, Scarlet Mae goes from peaceful beach retreat to preschool party central, in a matter of hours… with pepsi.

Signs, signs, everywhere are signs. Melia, are you listening?

HippyMom sucks, blows and gets dirty, with the help of a PervyBird.

MamaBirdie knows she’s never really alone.

Stumbling on a cure for her ills, Yums gets all tingly.

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My life: constantly on the go. Always something happening, frequently several somethings happening all at once. Until everything just stops. Or, I get sick. Like most parents, I rarely just get “sick” if I’m getting sick, I’m getting really sick. Can’t get out of bed, can’t lift my own head, my body’s done until whatever it is passes, sick. I spent the majority of last week feeling like I was breathing through a bowl of water. A trip to the Dr. at the beginning of the week confirmed that there was something starting to take hold in my lungs. Great…just what any busy working parent needs–the start of pneumonia.There went all my grand plans for the week.

My family tends toward more natural approaches first. This time, I was coming off 2 work weekends in a row with absolutely NO break on the one day off I had. There just wasn’t enough of anything left to try to fight this off on my own. So, with a prescription for antibiotics and a Dr’s note for two days off work, I tumbled into bed. There I stayed for most of the next 2 days.Luckily, I have a stay at home spouse who can take care of the rest of the family when I just stop and a job that has sick leave. I had the luxury of staying in bed those 2 days while my body worked to heal itself.

Somewhere in between begging the universe to let me rest or just take one tiny breath without coughing for an hour and restless bouts of napping, I came up with the brilliant idea to get something with eucalyptus to help ease my breathing. Better yet, since my back was hurting, why not get something I could use in the bathroom. Maybe a shower steam or something? Hmm….so, late in the evening the day before I had to return to work I made an impromptu run to the local big-box store in search of something with eucalyptus.

What I found was something that not only eased my breathing but also made all my muscles feel totally relaxed in a way that usually only comes at the hands of a masseuse. The name on the bottle read Aches & Pains, I chose it because it contained the Eucalyptus I was looking for. As I poured the salts into the water, I was enveloped in the strong smell of eucalyptus. Adding some bubbles–I love bubbles–from the same line, I just sat for a minute to enjoy the easing sensation I get from the eucalyptus oil. When the tub was full, I grabbed a book and sank into the hot sudsy water.

For the first couple minutes, it was just another bath. Slightly more fragrant than normal (man, that eucalyptus is strong, even when the lid is closed), but still just a regular bath. Then the warming started. I felt it first along the backs of my legs, this gentle warmth that penetrated deeper than just the water. It spread to my back, my belly, my hips. Every sore place on my body that was in contact with the water was warm and tingling and relaxing. Sitting there soaking in the water, I could literally feel the muscles start to relax. The tightness in my chest and back began to ease. I just felt……good and warm and sleepy.

The first rush of air on my wet skin created this penetrating coolness, as relaxing as the warmth. It was all I could do to pour myself out of the water. Wrapped in an absorbant robe, I collapsed into bed. My entire body felt loose, relaxed, and pain-free. My husband was kind enough to rub some lavender oil into my back so the skin wasn’t overly dry and with the combination of relaxed muscles, an eased chest, and the aromatherapy I collapsed into one of the best night’s sleep I have had in a very long time.

I have to admit a weakness for a good cheesecake. Normally, I’m a plain NY-style girl. Keep all the fruity, chocolaty stuff for someone else. There’s just something so comforting about a thick slice of creamy, tangy plain ole’ cheesecake. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

I love cheesecake so much, it’s my “birthday cake” of choice. Occasionally, I’ll get my cheesecake with some berry sauce on top. Tart-sweet berries are a wonderful compliment to the creaminess of cheesecake.

Today, I literally found a deal I could not pass up. I love to shop and finding a great deal is a game in my family. When I saw the fudgy-looking cheesecake sitting on the clearance rack at the grocery for a mere $3.50, I had to have it. Really, even if it was awful–for that price it’s worth a try. The flavor–chocolate covered cherry.

The pre-cut pieces are much too large for one serving. So, we cut a slice in half. The inside was bright pink–a lovely compliment for the dark topping. It was like eating chocolate covered cherries–without the liquid centers. The smooth cherry flavor paired perfectly with the semi-sweet topping. It was one of those really thick, creamy, two-bites-and-you’re-done cheesecakes.

Tomorrow, I’ll try a small slice frozen. I’ll even share a bit with my little cheesecake loving sister. Just one bite and I was in dessert heaven. That, truly, was the best $3.50 cheesecake I have ever had!

One of the most beautiful features on the human body is the eyes. It’s more than a color, shape, or size–eyes let you see the beauty within. The first time I notice someone, it may be because they’re wearing something interesting, saying something interesting, or any other reason. The first time I really see someone, I look to their eyes. There’s just something so mesmerizing about eyes.

It’s not surprising that I consider my eyes to be my best feature. If I want to feel beautiful, I may not put on full face makeup but I will almost always play up the eyes. For a quick job–a little liner and mascara and I’m out the door. For a more formal occasion (or when I want to feel my best), I’ll get out the whole kit. That generally involves paying someone to yank the unruly forest out from above my eyes–but sometimes I just groom them a bit and let it go.

The tools used are really the most important part of the job–I just can’t get my shadow to look right with those little sponge tipped applicators. No, if I want to look my best, I bring out the brushes. I have a variety of brushes, depending on the look I want. There’s a big, soft brush for sweeping color all over the lid, a more rounded brush for blending in the crease, angled brushes for more precision, and my favorite–a flat liner brush that I can use to create the definition I want right at the lash line.

You’ll rarely find me with a kit of colors, I’ve found that I rarely use more than one-two colors. I also tend to blend colors and textures in a different way. What can I say? I’m not your traditional girl. My current favorite is a soft silvery-purple cream by BeneFit. I use my fingertip to blend a little into my lid, highlight my browbone with a either a cream or pale purple and add a liner. Liner colors vary based on my mood–I range from soft brown pencil, to varying shades of purple or dark brown, to my current favorite–teal. Top it all off with a swipe of mascara and I feel like I can take on the world!

Most days, there’s nothing elaborate about my routine. I swipe on some liner, add mascara and walk out the door. Even without putting on anything else, I feel more finished and ready to face the day. With my limited time, I can’t aways afford the time to put a lot of effort into my looks. By sticking to my best feature, I can look great in 5 minutes or less.

One of my favorite things to make myself feel good is to pay it forward. Giving is such a treat for me. For a long time, we were not able to give to our friends or communities because the struggle of everyday was just too much. I treasured those times when a girlfriend called to ask me out for a cup of coffee, or over to watch a movie, or sent a card in the mail. Now that things are looking up in my world, I want to spread the good feelings whenever I can.

1> Cover lunch for a friend.

2> Send a care package to someone. Pick someone, anyone and send a little pick me up. I’ve given tea bags, pouches of cocoa mix, small things of coffee, little trinkets, bath products, whatever I think will brighten someone’s day. It always gives me a smile to think about a friend opening their mailbox to a present instead of the usual bills.

3>Donate to a favorite charity or a local cause. This is a wonderful way to honor the philanthropists in your life. I know my friends support a wide variety of charitable causes. There’s something so gratifying about picking up a few extra school supplies, or a couple cans of food, or finding a great outfit on clearance to give away.

4>Volunteer. I know, I know, we’re all extremely busy. Between work, kids, school, and life there’s not a second to breathe let alone volunteer. Take a good look around your local community–is there a mentoring program you can hit up @ lunch once a week or so? What about your kids schools–do they need a little help? Maybe you have a great talent for something–look for a single project that showcases your talents. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time–most of my “planned” volunteering takes place the weekend before Christmas when my family treks en masse to the local community center to pack holiday boxes. It’s something we look forward to every year.

5>Duplicate dinners. Make a double batch of whatever you’re cooking and take some to a friend or family member who’s having a hard time, working late, or could just use a night off.

6> Sneak treats to friends. I will occasionally leave a favorite treat, usually chocolate, on my co-workers’ desks while there up and about the office. Once I snuck a sample sized bath product in a bag of books I was returning to my neighbor. Get your creative juices flowing and make sure someone special has a surprise waiting for them.

7>Clean out your closet. You know that you’re just dying to get yourself a new wardrobe (at least that’s what’s on my spring to-do list!). If you don’t wear it anymore, just don’t like it, or can’t remember the last time you used it, send it on to a new home. Someone will love that beautiful blouse that just isn’t your color, or those comfy jeans that now fall off your hips.

8> Pick up the tab….for a stranger. I will never forget the day this happened to me. It still makes me tear up with gratitude.

9> Go visiting. Every once in a while, I’ll drop in on my grandma just because. Or I’ll call an old friend an plan a trip to their area. Occasionally, I’ve dropped in on friends in the hospital–either while they were supporting a loved one, or there because they needed to be there. Sometimes bringing a cup of coffee, sometimes just a card and a prayer.

10> Be the clean-up crew. Have you ever thrown a party and done all the clean-up yourself? It’s no fun. Next time you’re invited to play, offer to help with the set-up or tear down. Even little things like rounding up the trash from the tables or carrying dishes to the sink can take some of the burden off the host. Being the clean-up crew doesn’t stop when the party’s over. Pick up the trash you find on the ground instead of leaving it for the next person.

Even little things make a huge difference. So go ahead, give yourself a smile and make someone’s day!

My family could always tell when I was getting bored. One day I’d go to bed with mid-back length brown braids and the next day I’d be out and about with a shoulder length (or shorter) burgundy ‘do. There’s just something so refreshing about changing up the hair.

I tend to stick with tones of red–auburn, burgundy–the darker the better you won’t find any strawberry blonde on me! Every once in a great while I’ll venture into the land of blonde. Since I’m a natural brunette, blondes require more maintenance than I am usually willing to devote. Wash and wear is my hair motto. If I can’t wash it and go, you can bet it’s a ponytail or braid. I never said I was a girly girl–much to my mother’s dismay.

I’m a do-it-yourself kind of girl. We never had the extra money to pay someone to color my hair so I’d venture to the world of the public beauty supply store. No drugstore boxed kits for me! Wandering down the hair color aisle, I’d be bombarded by different brands and colors. Grabbing the developer and a few (depending on how long my hair was *that* trip) boxes of color, I was on my way to a whole new hair adventure.

As I got older, I started thinking about what I was putting on my hair. All those chemicals smell nasty and are not good for the environment. Then I discovered henna. Henna–finally a hair color I could use while pregnant! (A state it felt I was constantly in for about 3-4 years.) Henna combines the best of both worlds–tomboy meets girly. What else can make a mud-like paste that will color your hair or your skin? (aka henna tattoos–body art without needles!)

I can’t say that I’ve fallen off the chemical dye wagon for good. Sometimes you just want a nice, bright, purple streak or five in your hair. Still, if it’s been a long time between dye jobs I’m more likely to just grab a brick of henna and mud up the hair. The color is less obvious as it fades and my hair feels so wonderfully soft afterward.

As winter winds down and the blahs set in, it’s time to start thinking about a new ‘do. Do I go for a trim, something really short, or somewhere in between? Should I opt for more henna, using up the old boxes of dye, or try something completely new? What do you do when it’s time for a change in your everyday hair?

What do you do when the neighbor kidnaps your children for the evening at dinnertime? Well, my original plan involved lots of bubbles, books, and a lovely blueberry wine I had been saving. Just as I was gearing up for a night in the tub, I hear “we have these gift cards….” and the rest is history.

It’s been a long time (nearly a year and before that over a year) since my husband and I could have an actual date. When you’re just this side of broke, with kids, and school, and work, and life sometimes little things like spending time with your spouse take a back seat to everything else. This is not good for a relationship, it’s not good for the person, and really if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody in the house happy. We’re still dealing with the post-holiday bills that came on top of two-weeks out-of-town, out-of-pocket so finances were really, really tight. Still, we had those gift cards…

I looked at the menu online while the hubbs took the bottles back. (Yes, the bottles had to go back so we could have a date. It could have been worse, we could have had no bottles.) Then I looked at the movie schedules and we decided on a time (that really would have been better if we were younger with no small children) and off we went. We looked at the bottle cash and decided that we could totally splurge on the Imax presentation of Avatar at a mere $4 more per ticket. Then I found the gift card I had stashed for gas for the week and we had snack cash too!

The evening began at the Outback where we enjoyed quiet conversation and an entire meal served at the right temperature with no little fingers in it. Then hubbs bought the movie tickets (still 2 hours away) and we hit up the local 24-hour store for some exercise (chasing each other with shopping carts is good exercise, just don’t get caught). We somehow managed to not get thrown out of the store and headed to the theater. We stood in the ridiculously long line (did I mention it was a 10:45PM show, on a Sunday) for popcorn and drinks, grabbed the nifty 3-D glasses and found seats. Somehow we managed to cram ourselves into the chairs without injuring anybody (we have a little extra padding) and settled in to enjoy a movie without the constant interruptions that come with movie-watching with small children.Somehow we even managed to avoid shocking the frat boys behind us and kept our hands mostly to ourselves.

The dinner was nice, the movie was great, the ability to get out and interact without three small children was priceless. We did have to crawl into bed when we stumbled through the door at 2am. Still, sometimes you just have to let it all go and get away with your partner. It doesn’t have to be for a full night, or even for dinner. Take a walk, go to the park, visit the place of your first date (located in the same mall as the movies for us), pack a picnic and go. The focus is on spending quality time with your partner, without the distractions that are common at home (like the internet and children).  I know that if we had waiting for a “good time”, the gifts would have gone to waste. Sometimes there is no perfect time, there’s just right now. Sometimes right now is the perfect time.

There’s something about tea that brings to mind warm, sunny days. Probably because my first experience with tea was the iced form, a refreshing treat on a hot summer day. Tea is no longer used just as a cold beverage on a hot day. It’s something to warm you when the weather is cold, something to make you feel better if you’re sick, a drink with dinner, or afternoon snacks. Something to take to work in the morning. Tea is just one of those multi-purpose wonders in my life.

My husband jokes about my tea taking over the house. He’s not really kidding. I have an entire shelf in our small pantry for my tea stash. I have loose-leaf tea in canisters and bags, boxes of tea bags–in many flavors, medicinal teas, and teas specifically for serving cold. More than just the tea itself are the tools–I have tea pots, tea cups, tea strainers, and even a travel tea cup complete with mesh strainer for making whole-leaf tea on the go.

My children learned from a very young age how to prepare the tea pot and measure the tea, how to strain into cups and choose the right sides to compliment (milk or cream for spicy teas, and sugar or honey for fruitty teas). Tea parties take on a whole new meaning in our home—we get out the flowered tea pot and the fancy tea cups, we carefully choose the tea we’ll brew and what snacks (if any) we’ll serve. We create our space and put down a nice cloth, lay out our snacks, and when the water has boiled, the tea steeping in the pot.

Even on a cold winter day, a cup of tea brings to mind sun and warmth. I can tailor my tea to my mood–something spicy and warm like chai, a strong black tea like assam, an earthy green tea. I can have my tea iced, or hot, or warm with honey. However I choose to serve it, I can have my cup of sunshine any time of the year.

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Mama Duck reminds herself to Stop Waiting and Live in the Moment.

One of my favorite things to do for myself is enjoy a nice meal, solo. Yesterday I was given an unexpected last minute chance to head out for dinner by myself. I could have just grabbed something at the drive-thru and been home earlier. Drive-thru is just not my thing.

Instead I headed over to this little lake front Chinese restaurant that I’ve been going to since I was a girl. It’s cold here so I opted out of the window seat, instead getting a cozy booth with a stunning lake view on an inside wall. Before even taking my seat, I was greeted by a breathtakingly beautiful view of the sunset over the lake. When I entered the restaurant it was at that time that was not quite twilight but close.

As I was perusing the menu, the sky was changing from the light blues of afternoon to the darker blues, purples, and oranges of twilight. The snow and ice on the lake were pale and shimmering against the darkening sky. The bright, orange-red sun shone through the large windows. From my seat, I could see the tree in the courtyard still lit up for the holidays and the garden lying dormant, just waiting for spring to come again. I allowed the peace of the evening wash over me. It was a beautiful way to wind down from the day.

By the time my meal arrived, it was full dark outside and the lights were sparkling against the windows. I turned to my meal and my book, enjoying the peace of a nice meal and a good book. My meal finished, the next chapter read, I was able to return home to my family relaxed and refreshed thanks to my unexpected night out.

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