On The Move: Tips for Families to Minimize Stress When Moving

This post is brought to you by Northwood Realty Services and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own. When I think of the most stressful times in my life, moving easily trickles to the top of that list. Yes, even our wedding day or having twins is beat by the times I’ve moved. Is there really a way to minimize stress when moving?

Minimize Stress When Moving

The thing is, I’ve moved a lot in my life. Moving kind of was my “thing” for a long time. It didn’t bother me in the least, probably because I grew up moving every three to four years as a preacher’s kid. It became part of my blood, something I expected. But just because it was my “norm” doesn’t mean it was easy.

In the time that Greg and I have been together, I’ve moved five times (back to Pittsburgh, down the street to our first rental together, to our first house, to my parents’ for an interim stay between our closings, and to our current – and hopefully forever – home). That’s a lot in a span of eight years, and every one of them was with kids, four of them with dogs. You try to hold it together and keep your sanity so the kids don’t get all worried about the move, but it’s nearly impossible when you’re dealing with schedules and rental trucks and trying not to break precious household items. (And sometimes when you add being pregnant to the mix, it’s just 100x more stressful!)

Luckily, I recently found out that the things I worry about when moving aren’t things that I make up in my head. If you’ve ever had to move (or buy or sell a home), you’ve likely felt these same things. At least that was the case when I got the chance to sit down and talk with fellow Pittsburgh-area bloggers and Northwood Realty Services about the huge life event of moving. We talked about our experiences and personal challenges then came up with ways to minimize stress when moving as a family.

Families on the Move: Tips to Minimize Stress for Moving

Okay, so you’re ready to move from your current home and into your dream home. What gets packed first? What do you pack last? Who do you have help sell the home? Who will be there on moving day? Before you start to fret, here is a list of tips that Northwood Realty Moms (both Realtors who are moms and mom bloggers) came up with to make it less stressful:

Can you tell which tips resonated with me? Here they are:

  • Time house showings for when you know your house will already be empty. We did this when we sold our home in Tarentum – put the sign up in the yard then booked it for Aruba. Thing is, we left Greg’s mom and dad to handle the Bigs and the Dogs for a slew of showings that happened while we were away. Maybe all the family should go on vacation!
  • Make your new house a home. First thing Missy and I did when the guys were off getting the last load of things from my brother’s garage (in our current home) was set up Arianna and Evan’s rooms. I then texted my mom a picture so the kids could see – their beds and packed away special friends were waiting for them to arrive the next day!
  • Don’t overlook selling over the holidays. We didn’t buy or sell over the holidays, but in both I was able to envision the Christmas tree. I can’t even begin to imagine how amazing both would have looked trimmed for the season and how much more in love with them I would have been (if that is possible).
  • Help ease transition to a new school. Arianna went to three different schools her kindergarten year. If she wasn’t such a resilient kiddo, there’s no way I would have embarked on that! We would have moved in the summer or at the end of Christmas break. Hands down. (Next time we move will be after the Twins graduate! HA!)

Families on the Move

So moving with kids (or babies in the womb) isn’t the easiest, but there are plenty of stories from the women who contributed to this infographic – we’ve all survived and I think most of us would do it again for the right house at the right time. I’m not suggesting that Greg and I up and move again anytime soon (our family and friends who bear the load when we move are thanking me), but I know that if the time comes again we’re seasoned and will make it through.

Have you or your family ever moved? What tips and tricks would you add to this list (including buying/selling ideas) to minimize stress when moving?

About Northwood:

  • Northwood Realty Services is one of the region’s largest real estate service providers, serving customers across 30 counties from 39 offices in Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio.
  • Since 1956, Northwood has earned a reputation for integrity, accountability and hard work. Guided by these principles and a desire to serve others, Northwood provides its clients with full-service real estate solutions that cover every step of the buying and selling process.

Half Marathon Training Essentials

(Enter disclaimer text) This list of half marathon training essentials comes to you from someone who grew up walking the Presidential Physical Fitness Test mile and turned into a running junkie. While I’ve been running for five years with a Half Marathon medal hanging in my house, I’m no expert but want to share as I go.

half marathon training essentials

Half Marathon Training Essentials

When I first started running, I had no idea how much gear runners really needed. Granted, I’m not going to tell you to go out and buy a hockey bag to fit your stuff, but it’s definitely more complicated than “I have feet and shoes, what more do I need?”.


Speaking of shoes, I’m not going to get into the shoe conversation. What I found best is to have your feet analyzed at a shoe store (we’re not talking the bargain stores either) and find the right shoe that works for you. Personally, I’ve tried lots of brands and have different shoes (like my kids, no favorites).

Be ready to spend, too. You’re going to want something that works and will last long miles with you. It’s worth it to spend $80 – $140 for a good pair of shoes. Think of the medical deductibles you are saving and tell yourself it is okay. (I am a sucker for watching sales and have gotten a few of mine on BOGO half-off deals!)

Also, be ready to replace. I’ll be breaking in my pair for race day in a few weeks. After shoes get 300 or so miles on them, it’s time to save them for a mud run.


Run a hole into your sock once and you’ll never do it again. Get some good socks and change them out often. Your socks are important because they’ll keep your feet cool and dry and (hopefully) blister free.


Training for the Pittsburgh Marathon events is just awful timing. We get dumped on with snow and cold, often having to get to the treadmill (I did four miles on it today). My boss (who has run multiple marathons and more), recommends Yaktrax cleats for training on the ice and snow. They slip over your shoes and help you get out when it’s warm enough to run but still snow covered.

Running Belt

As your runs get longer, you’ll want somewhere to put your fuel. For me, a running belt makes sure I have my phone and inhaler on me, always a must. This one will hold all your things and is adjustable as your running impacts your weight (in a good way!).

A Good Playlist

This one, 105 Songs for Running, is full of classics that will pump you up. If you don’t already have unlimited music on your phone, I suggest Amazon Prime Music to work on your playlist, too.

LED Running Light

Let’s face it, you aren’t going to be running in the daylight all the time. I recommend getting a slap-on LED wrist band to help others see you on your path at night.

Fitness Tracker

I’m a big fan of Nike+ Run Club (an app), Map My Run (also an app), and my FitBit Charge 2 (which monitors my Heart Rate and tracks my run/pace). You have to get what works for you and what will motivate you as you go. As for consistency, I find my FitBit to be closest while I use MapMyRun on the PC to confirm my distances. You can never be too sure.


Literally just days ago I fell in love with aminos for post-workout recovery. I’m not a health professional, so I’ll leave this one to you, but consider looking into a recovery beverage or cookie (yup!) that is going to make you feel flexible and recovered. Don’t play like me and sit at your desk without moving for hours after a run (again guilty tonight).

Foam Roller

After your run, you’re going to want to roll out all the ouchies. I have tried this foam roller and while it is pretty firm, it does the trick. One with trigger points is on my wish list, though!

Mental Toughness

Training for a half is tough. It is time consuming. You eat a lot. You cry a lot. You want to sleep a lot. Your spouse gets tired of you talking about running. Your pace is like a jack rabbit one day and a turtle the next. If you’re in it, you’re tough. Just believe in yourself.

A Plan

I’ve gone back and forth about a good plan. Many runners I know follow Hal Higdon’s plan. I’m mostly following his plan this time around, but I fall between beginning half-runner and novice half-runner. Whatever you pick, make it fit in your life.

What Else?

If you have done a Half Marathon or Marathon before, what are your must have items that you would add to this list?

If this list has helped you, please share this post!

Top Five Lawn Care Tips

This has been the summer of gardening here around our house. Greg’s been handling most of it, but we’ve both learned some pretty good lessons about how to take care of our lawn. Granted, soil in Pennsylvania is far better than the sandy soil of South Carolina (where he grew up), but it still has its challenges. These are the top five lawn care tips we’ve learned this summer and would like to pass on to you (that you can even implement NOW!).

Top Five Lawn Care Tips

lawn care tips

Tip One: Do it in the morning.

Nope, this isn’t relationship advice. (Though maybe gardening can teach us something about relationships, Greg sure does put time into his relationship with our yard, wink.) This is plain and simple the best way to get the most out of the trifecta of good things for your plants (water, soil, and light).

This includes mowing and watering, both of which if done later in the day (say after 10 AM) can be harmed by the sun. The sun will cause the moisture you put on your plants and grass to evaporate if you wait until later in the day.

What about nighttime? Well, if you’ve ever set a damp swimsuit in a dark corner of your laundry room, you’ll know that moisture in the dark can lead to bad things. Same happens in your lawn – remember the trifecta – you don’t want moisture sitting and bringing disease to your grass or garden. Your yard needs water + soil + light to thrive.

(If you have irrigation questions, the folks at Custom Turf in Pittsburgh can help you find the best plan for your yard, including sprinkler installation!)

Tip Two: Don’t Keep up with the Johnsons.

When we lived in Ford City, the neighbors to the left of us used to battle with their left-hand neighbor over who could have the shortest grass (trick was on them, they were bordered by the Willis and Peterson houses and we live by the “let it grow” method). There’s no need to cut your grass at the first sign of a dandelion or when the neighbor is outside doing it, too. You actually want grass to be a little bit taller for it to be healthier. If you must be cutting frequently, don’t cut it short.

Tip Three: Reuse Your Waste

We became fans of not only compost (more to come on this) but also leaf mulch this year. Returning to your yard what grew in it is sort of a way to tell it thank you for looking so good.

When it comes to grass clippings, we do a combination of using them as yard mulch and compost. You can either put your grass clippings right back on the lawn (with a mulching blade on your mower) or get a mower bag to collect it for the compost pile. Both will give back to your yard in big ways (think free fertilizer!).

When fall comes, mulch up your leaves and use them as leaf mulch in the garden. We did this with ours and are loving the results. Greg will share a leaf mulch tutorial later this year, so stay tuned.

Tip Four: Keep it Dirty

Dirt is one of the key factors in having a successful yard or garden. Sometimes, you have to deal with what you are given and make the best of it. Sometimes, you can use fertilizers and enhancers to make it work to your advantage. We’ve kind of done a combination of all three in our yard – from testing soil to understand just how to work with it, to re-sodding where we had tree stumps. It’s a process and a journey, but your dirt really is important to the process. Treat it well.

Tip Five: Keep Your Lawn Guessing

Change things up and your yard will thank you. When you cut the grass, don’t always do it the same direction. This helps it grow in healthier and fuller. Your stress on keeping things the exact same every single time will go away, and your yard will feel less stressed, too. Bonus? Your mower blades won’t wear in one place faster than in others because you’re asking it to function a little differently each time.


If you have lawn tips to share, please comment and tell your secrets! If you need more tips, check out customturfinc.com

This post, Top Five Lawn Care Tips, is a partnership between me and Custom Turf. All thoughts and tips are my own. 

Panorama Prenatal Screen

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Two pink lines followed by 999 questions. From the moment you see the results of a positive pregnancy test, the lives of new parents becomes filled with overwhelming joy and worry. You might be thinking, “I’m pregnant. Now What?”…and that’s totally normal. I’ve been there (three times) and wanted to team up with Panorama® Prenatal Screen to give first trimester moms some tips and information on the “Now What”.

twins announcement
We announced the twins on 9/28/14

Let’s go back to February 2008, April 2010, and August 2014: the three times I found out I was expecting. All three times I felt joy and fear, like every choice I made was going to make or break if for my baby. With my first pregnancy, I relied on the “What to Expect” book. With my second, I relied on my gut (I did fine once before, I’ll do fine again). And with the third, I took to Pinterest to learn ways to make it a healthy pregnancy. And all three times? I learned some new “do’s and don’ts”.


But the best tip I received? Go with your gut – you know your body (and baby) best. Communicating that with your medical provider, even if it’s 999 fears, is going to go a long way for you and baby.

Twins NST
One of my NST’s with the Twins

Because you now have a ‘lil miracle growing inside you, that first positive test is time to start preparing for baby and working through what you’re feeling in your body. Panorama prenatal screen provided me with some of “do’s and don’ts” of pregnancy to share. My personal favorite is #1 – to pick a care provider that makes you feel comfortable (this includes ob/gyn doctor, staff, and hospital for delivery). It will help make the rest of it smoother in the long run.

Pregnancy Tips

Having had a high-risk pregnancy, I quickly became familiar with tests, ultrasounds, and multiple check-ups. We talked about family history and what prenatal screenings would make sense. Based on our family history and my faith, I passed on many of them. As the pregnancy went on, I wished I had gone through with some of them to put me at ease. One such test is the Panorama, a safe prenatal screening that tell parents more about baby:

[Parents] can find out if baby is at risk for having Down syndrome or other chromosomal abnormalities. Panorama can also tell parents the gender of their baby. Non-invasive and highly accurate, Panorama has the lowest false positive rate of any prenatal screening test for the commonly screened chromosomal abnormalities, trisomies 21, 18 and 13. And, Panorama can be done as early as nine weeks into pregnancy using a simple blood draw.

If you are expecting and are interested in find out more about Panorama Prenatal Screen, find a medical provider and talk to them about your concerns. Understand that you are not alone. While I (or a medical professional) can’t tell you everything will be okay, we can tell you that knowing the “now what” will make a difference in your pregnancy. (You can also learn more from Panorama on Facebook.)


safe prenatal screening

Phone Tips for Conferences

I’ve been having a lot of trouble with my phone lately, and I am about to attend several blog conferences (a place where I am going to rely on my phone to keep me from missing out!). It hasn’t been holding battery and is barely connecting to my home WiFi, so I’m using tons of data when I really need it for my trip. The plan is to follow these phone tips for conferences that I’m about to give you. Stay tuned on social media to see how it’s going.

phone tips for conferences

Let’s start with the important thing – having power for your cell phone. You don’t want to miss out on a tweet that you won a grand prize, right? To maximize your battery power:

  • Turn your phone off at night for charging. Your brain will constantly be in “what am I missing out on” mode and want to check it all night long if you leave it on. You’ll need the rest, so let your body and phone sleep. What? You use your phone as an alarm? Me too. But there’s this brilliant invention that hotels have…an alarm clock OR a wakeup call. Use ’em.
  • Switch to a black background. It’s just a few days, and your phone will use a lot less power.
  • Turn off the WiFi. Sure, it’s free, but there are going to be so many of us trying to get that signal that it’s not going to be easy to get a chunk of it. Searching will drain your battery fast! Same with Bluetooth.
  • Know what apps drain the most. I can only speak to Android / Samsung, but if you go to your settings, check out “Battery” and see what apps are draining your battery. Turn them off, or consider removing them during the conference. Always close apps when you are done.
  • Consider Power Saving Mode. I have yet to use this, but likely will be.
  • Consider an alternative method of connecting. It’s going to be really hard for me to not be nose in phone, but I plan on having a notebook (old fashioned pen and paper) for making connections in person. I’ll jot down the things I need to tweet (like contest entries) then sneak away for some quiet time to schedule these on my social outlets. If I am not relying on my phone for everything, it will stay charged a lot longer.
  • Take advantage of charging stations. There are several throughout the conference floors. Don’t hog all the juice, and tell your fellow phone addicts where they are so that you have good battery karma.

And how about that data? We’ve turned off WiFi, so you’ll want to be sure you are connected and not going over your data. What do you do?

  • Set a limit on data usage. I plan to set a limit each day so that I don’t go over my monthly allowance. My phone will alert me when I’m close. If you share a plan with your family, ask them to do the same. (This is a phone setting that is based on an estimation, your cell provider will have the exact, so just be cautious and generous to yourself.)
  • Turn off notifications. Limit apps with push notifications. I’ll probably not only be turning off notifications but completely uninstalling apps that I won’t need during conference. (Keep a list of the ones to re-install.) Yes, that means email push, too. Manually sync up with your mail accounts. Related? NO STREAMING. This means turning off the games, videos (there’s a setting in your Facebook app to stop this), Maps, even the app store.
  • Be Social. Be social in real life – hug, squeal, talk with the people you interact with online. If you are social online, you’re likely 1) missing out on IRL connections, 2) making your followers who aren’t with you jealous, and 3) draining your data usage because you turned off your WiFi. There’s plenty of time to tweet and snap after conference – take it all in and enjoy.
  • Brave? Turn off the cellular data! This will definitely ensure you aren’t going over limits. I’ve been known to set my phone to Airplane Mode just to be able to use my camera and access my Memo app. It’s a lesson in what you really need.

Even braver? Don’t use your phone at all! Crutch step would be to carry a tablet device with you, but you’ll likely have a ton of swag to tote around, so you don’t want something big weighing you down. Bottom line? Be realistic with your phone usage during these conferences and truly invest in yourself. You’ll be thankful you did.

Playdate Tips For the Introverted Parent

Last week, I got the chance to take the twins to the mall for a mani/pedi and lunch. As I enjoyed my time out of the house with my friend, we noticed moms at the playground either having an official or unofficial playdate with their non-school aged kids. It got me thinking that being on a weekday playdate is probably something that I really can’t do, for a number of reasons. Besides the fact that I am a working mom, my brain hears playdate then introverted parent emerges.

Yeah, I am a social being around people that I really know and trust (you know, besides all you internet pals), but when it really boils down to it, I am an introvert and married to one, too. The sheer thought of taking my kids on a playdate with strangers scares the you-know-what out of me. As you know, I am a brand ambassador for a mom-geared app that helps us to connect with other moms for business, advice, and (gasp!) playdates. I know. Playdates. Before you go calling me a hypocrite, understand that my joining up to promote the MomCo App is part of my way of pushing beyond the comfort zone. When I was asked to write about playdates, my heart starting beating wildly, but my head knew I had to provide moms and dads like me and Greg with some “survival” tips to grow their village through playdates. Thus, this post, Playdate Tips for the Introverted Parent was “born”.


1. Don’t go to a playground. Your first playdate with a new parent friend (and friend for your child) will be a lot more successful if you go somewhere with walls or paths. I know. Gulp. If your first time is at a playground, you both will spend the time chasing your little ones (they will likely have their own agendas and you will be pushing a swing while your new friend is scooping up kids at the bottom of the slide). The goal of a playdate is to test out waters of friendship for both parent and child, to get some energy out, and socialize. This simply won’t happen on the playground quite yet. Instead, opt for a public space or home with set activities. Go to the zoo and follow the same path. Just avoid the park benches for the first time.

2. Set and communicate boundaries up front. This really pertains to time to meet and end, as well as details like meals/snacks and who is paying for what. You don’t want an awkward moment when you whip out the latest Pinterest bento lunch for your kid and their kid doesn’t have a goldfish crumb to eat. Nor do you want to leave your wallet in the car and make your new friend feel responsible for covering your admission. Awkward is the last thing introverted parents need.

3. Pre-planned activities. If you followed my advice in #1, you went somewhere that allows for things like crafts or imaginative play. Maybe you tried out a session at your local craft store or are bowling. Perhaps you opened your house to the friends and have set up toy stations (with toys/games your kid is willing to share). Having something set up ahead for the kids helps immensely. And parents? Sometimes you need an activity too. Yeah, we can all eventually tell stories of that funny blow-out diaper or crazy in-law, but for introverted parents this won’t come immediately. Plan on something that will get you and the other adult(s) interacting, if even only for a round of Guess Who or Charades. Break that ice first.

4. Schedule wisely. Nap time in our house is typically late afternoon, so for us to avoid a meltdown, 10:30 is usually a good time to get out of the house and playing. Tying back to #2, 90 minutes is also a good length of time that then allows you to split for lunch. Or maybe you are a working parent and can only do a lunchtime playdate. The schedule gives you an out – just don’t stare at your watch or phone and miss out on the precious opportunity you have.

5. Be yourself. This may be the hardest thing to do, but when it comes time to having the adult conversations (which you will, and should, you both deserve it), truly be yourself. There is no better you, and you’ll make honest, lasting friends. Bonus? You’ll be a role model for your kids (and that’s the biggest win).

Should these tips fail you, understand that not all playdates are going to turn into lasting relationships. Maybe your kids won’t get along but you really find a good friend. This is okay, and life. We don’t have to like everyone we meet, we just have to remember to always be kind. If you agree to go separate ways, thank them for a good time and wish them the best at their next adventure. If you hit it off, plan another one in the future (because if you don’t, it won’t happen).

Good luck!

What tips would you add? Comment below!

Are you in the Pittsburgh area and looking for a playdate? Right now, my playdate list in our area is blank, but I want to change that. As soon as this mama is back to her normal, healthy self, there will be a playdate with my four ‘lil Burghers in the works. Just sign up for the MomCo App (you need a Facebook account to verify you are who you are, we are all about safety) and watch the playdate section. You can find out more about this app at momcoapp.com. It’s a free app that is available on:

Android Store: http://bit.ly/1GpWVRn

Apple Store:  http://bit.ly/1CLzAUx


Three Ways to Prepare Kids for New Experiences

For many kids, we are embarking on the end of the school year. It’s a time to say good-bye to friends and teachers. Our kids will be spending time at home and maybe catching some Vacation Bible School throughout the summer, but you might be sending your kid to summer camp or to a new sitter for the summer. With this in mind, I put together a few tips to help kids prepare for new experiences.

Three Ways to Prepare Kids for New Experiences

1. Give them the details. You’ll want to cater the amount of details you give to your child based on their age and understanding; however, if they know what is going to happen, it will make it a lot easier. When our kids go to VBS with my parents, I tell them what week of the summer it will be / show it to them on the calendar, tell them what church it will be at / do a drive-by of the location if they haven’t been there before, and remind them that Pappy will be doing the prayers and Grammie will be leading crafts. This lets them know a general idea of what is about to happen so that they aren’t just thrown into the mix of kids and can expect the number of days they’ll be away from us.

2. Set rules and expectations. Just like when you prepare a new meal, you expect that your child will give the new experience a try. Even if you ask them to just give it 30 minutes, let your child know that you want them to give it their best shot and that you’ll be proud of them while they try the new thing. Remind them that there are rules that they’ll need to follow, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t have fun.

3. Talk about the Familiar. Perhaps you’ll want to read a book like Ally-saurus & the First Day of School to give them an example of a new experience and how it can turn out differently than they hope yet not be so bad. Or maybe talking about another time they did something new and how proud of them you were / a new friend they made / a fun craft they did will help.

Sure, these tips won’t make it absolutely 100% without tears, but should alleviate some of the struggles as your child (and you!) embark on a new experience. Good luck, and come back and tell us what worked for you.

Have I ever mentioned that I was a PK (pastor’s kid) and moved a lot in my life? That means I went to a lot of new schools, attended a lot of church camps / Bible Schools and had to make new friends. While this doesn’t make me an expert at advice for new experiences, I hope my life lessons will help your child! 


You can pick up a copy of “Ally-saurus & the First Day of School” at book retailers (suggested retail price is $14.95). It is written and illustrated by Richard Torrey and published by Sterling Children’s Books.

With colorful illustrations that expertly capture the diverse personalities of Ally and her classmates, Ally-saurus & the First Day of School encourages young readers to embrace their differences while also preparing them for new experiences, such as a big move, a new summer camp, or, as in the book, a new school. Add in a charming heroine, a delightful surprise ending, and Walter—a boy in love with his bright, yellow lunchbox—and you have a fun and hilarious read-aloud story that will leave children eager for more of Ally and her imaginative new friends.

Source: Barnes and Noble
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