Decorating for the Holidays

Shadra Bruce

christmas tree

To be honest, I’m not much of an interior designer. My furniture would stay in the same place forever if we weren’t making room for extra people. But this time of year, it’s fun to bring a little holiday spirit into every room, and even I get into the spirit. Try these ideas –

Light Up Your Home with Candles

christmas candlesCandles are one of the easiest ways to make your home cozier for the holidays. While scented candles are ideal for use in bathrooms and guest rooms, unscented candles should be used in kitchen and dining areas so that they don’t compete with the delicious smells of food. Create the perfect look by grouping several candles together, or create an eye-catching centerpiece with a large, multi-wick candle on a mirrored plate or tray.

Chase Away Chills with Throw Blankets

cozy blanketsBlankets and throws in rich colors and soft, inviting fabrics are essential accessories for this time of year. From burgundy to forest green, from velvet to flannel, you can create a welcoming and warm space with these simple additions of color and texture. Flannel or fleece sheets on the guest room bed can be a welcome touch, too.

Go Top Shelf

 If you do not have a bar cart, this is certainly the time of year to add one to your entry way or living room. A bar cart welcomes everyone with an always-ready-to-entertain style. Use cut crystal decanters and offer a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic options for guests to help themselves. Decorate with live fruit and sprigs of mint. Don’t forget to put out fresh ice when guests arrive. Chris Bowman and Benjamin Harrison of Let’s Drink About It provided HuffPost a fabulous guide to the well-stocked bar cart.

Dress Up the Guest Room

guest roomIf your guest room has become your craft space, workout space, or additional storage, now is a great time to create a welcoming space for holiday guests. While a comfortable mattress and luxury bedding should be standard for any guest room, it’s the details that make all the difference. To make your guests feel like they are in a home away from home, provide a sitting area with a comfortable chair and throw blanket. Leave a card on the nightstand with your Wi-Fi username and password. Consider a mini fridge stocked with bottled water and juice. Provide towels, washcloths, shampoo and soap in a basket with a candle.

Christmas Up the Fireplace Mantle

christmas fireplace mantleNo home’s holiday look is complete without the right décor for the holiday mantel. Fresh pine branches, red ribbons, cinnamon scented pine cones, and stockings hung with care create a Rockwell scene straight from the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. You can also use the mantel to carry your holiday color scheme through the home by placing extra ornaments in glass jars on the mantel and decorating with garlands or ribbons in complementary colors. Lights, candles, miniature trees, or an all-white winter wonderland can also create a cozy, holiday feeling.

Encouraging Individuality

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

There are things that your child might do and wear that make you cringe. For example, Kira got her tongue pierced a few years back and all I could think was, “Ouch!” (And, “Stop lisping!”) Yet she was happy, and who were we to tell her who to be? Admittedly, she was over 18 and could make her own decisions, but she still lived with us and I suppose we could have “laid down the law”. But that would have only bred frustration and animosity. [Fast-forward a few years and she figured out on her own that the tongue piercing made it difficult to get the jobs she wanted – and there is a hole in her tongue that remains to this day].

It can be even harder when your child is not 18 yet but still desiring the freedom to express themselves. We certainly put limits on it, such as restricting piercings to ears only and forbidding tattoos before 18, because we do feel the kids need to be emotionally mature enough to make permanent or semi-permanent decisions about their bodies. But if the kids want to dye her hair random colors, or wear crazy outfits that don’t suit my OCD-inspired need to match from head to toe, so what? Hair grows out. Styles change.

All of our children have their own personal style which they embrace and love. As long as it is appropriate and they have good behavior, to us there isn’t a problem.

The thing is, looks are definitely deceiving. Some of the nicest people we have ever known have been covered from head to toe in tattoos and piercings. As children we have to restrict their expression to some extent but parents need to remember that outside appearances don’t tell the whole story – and teach our kids tolerance and appreciation for difference.

A teenager who likes the gothic style is not guaranteed to be depressed. Listening to heavy metal music, as Parker does, does not make him an angry person. Being blonde does not make you unintelligent.

Perhaps if we all celebrated our own unique and wonderful selves a little more we’d be less inclined to judge.

Fighting the Zs with Better Habits

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Plenty of SleepSometimes that morning coffee just doesn’t do it for you. We’ve all had days where we are just dragging, whether we are low on sleep, overworked, or just plain worn out. But if you’re having a hard time shaking sluggishness in general you might need to make some changes.

Some people can’t recall the last time they didn’t feel somewhat tired, which may be a sign that something is a little off. Chronic sleep problems could be a symptom of something other than stress. Constant fatigue is also a potential sign of depression. These are things to look into if you think there may be a serious cause.

But before you go running off to the doctor you might want to try out some simple fixes. Your diet can have a major impact on your energy levels as well as your level of activity. Incorporating exercise and healthy eating could not only boost energy but help you sleep better. Also, some people react differently to caffeine. That soda with dinner may not be much but it could be keeping you up at night.

If you find yourself fighting exhaustion all the time try to figure out why. A few changes to your day could have you feeling healthy, energized and ready when the sun rises.

Stress Management for Kids

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

parkerI have a confession. Every weekend, Dave and I play Mario Kart on our Wii. It’s more than just a video game. It’s a way to recognize that it is the weekend, that the work week is over. And it’s a way to relieve stress. During the game as we race, we get wildly competitive, scream and yell, and really let loose. It’s a wonderful stress release, much like our morning walks during the week.

When your children get upset, regardless of age, they feel many of the emotions that adults do, including anger and stress. Things get messy (sometimes literally) when your child has all of these emotions flying around but doesn’t know how to handle them yet. Younger children especially might throw toys or lash out physically.

Teach Your Child to Manage Stress

Even when a child is too young for critical thinking, there are better ways to handle a tough situation besides kicking mom in the shin and throwing legos. Expose your child to some harmless forms of stress relief.

  • Engage your child in physical activity. Run around outside, crank the music and dance, or jump up and down to release stress in a healthy way.
  • If screaming tends to be the release your child turns to, give them a safe outlet to get it out. Teach them how to scream into a pillow when frustrated, or have a 2-minute yell zone that helps them get the stress out.
  • If your child is prone to throwing things when frustrated, take them out and throw a ball with them or even let them throw clods of dirt at a tree or something.

Finding safe outlets for your child will give them relief and the ability to understand that their anger and stress is ok. How they handle it is what is important and soon they will hopefully be able to use more words than actions.

What’s in YOUR Purse?

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

While I no longer have to stuff an extra diaper, wet wipes, and a binky in my purse just in case, I haven’t found that it has become any lighter – or any smaller.

I often joke that my purse is so heavy that it will eventually cause me to need back surgery, but when I clean it out, I cannot for the life of me decide what I should NOT have in it. I have all the typical stuff – wallet, checkbook, keys – but I also have a compartment in my purse that has extra ponytails so that if I forget to put Anika’s hair up before dance class I can put it up before she starts class, a calendar so that I can book client work when on the go, and a nosebleed kit (homemade) because with HHT you never know when you’re going to need it.

I also keep my Kindle in my purse so that I can steal a few moments of reading when I’m waiting for the kids after school or waiting for dance class to end.

What’s in your purse?

What can’t you live without?

MomsGetReal Roadtrip Day 14: Are We There Yet?

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

We’ve now been on the road for two full weeks. Our kids have been troopers about the time spent in the car, and Dave so far has driven every mile. Today’s drive up 101 from Garberville, CA to Newport, OR was challenging. The kids are restless, the roads were windier and curvier than before. Construction delays and slow trucks made the 8-hour drive seem as though it would last forever. Add the stop and gos through every town, and I think everyone was glad that the arrival in Newport meant the end of long drives for a while.

We’ll be in Newport for five nights (I can already tell I could stay forever – just listen to that ocean!), and then it’s a short drive up to Seaside and over to Portland, where we’ll be for another three nights.

For me, though, it also represents that we’ve already come to the midpoint of our adventure, and soon we will be heading East again. I like being on the road. If it wasn’t so expensive to live in hotels, I think I could get used to doing this on a regular basis.

Newport is not like the Southern California beaches of my childhood. I spent months shopping for a new bathing suit that I will never need to wear here because 1, it’s chilly enough to need clothes, and 2, the water is so cold that even getting my feet wet for a few minutes froze all the blood in my lower body. Yet there is something about the place that lowers my blood pressure, eases my worries, and makes me feel totally at home…I could stay here. (The kids are still hooked on the idea of moving to Utah to be closer to the cousins).

In the Spotlight: Your Amazing Child!

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

We believe all kids are special, and that kids have the power to make a difference in the world with the things they do, and that they’ll continue to do good things when they are encouraged to do so with positive feedback and kudos. We also believe that moms (and dads and grandparents) deserve to have a platform to tell people about their kids. It’s a great thing to have pride in your kids and to go the extra mile to let them know how much they rock your world.

Because bragging about our kids is a mom’s right, MomsGetReal™ is starting a new feature. All of you moms (and dads and grandparents) out there who have somebody special to brag about (under 18 years old) are invited to tell us what he or she did that you think the world should know about – everything from bringing up a grade in a really hard class to starting a charity in your community. This is all about celebrating the kids in our lives and the things they do to amaze us, make us proud, and make us cry.

Here’s the deal: each month, we’re going to choose up to three kids to be featured on the site. The kids who are chosen will receive gift cards to Barnes & Noble or

In order for your child to win, you’ll need to do two things:

1. “Like” us on Facebook (, and

2. Write on our wall to tell us about your child and what he or she did to amaze you.

We can’t wait to hear from you!!

4 Tips to Get Rid Of Working-Mom Guilt

Getting Real With Nicole C. Harris, Guest Contributor

Is pursuing your career weighing you down with guilt because you think your child needs you more than you needing the money? Stop right there! This is not the time for any emotional decisions. In these difficult economic times, an additional income is more than welcome in the family. Although it is natural for you to feel this way but you must get banish the guilt immediately.

After all, keeping up with the needs and demands of your growing child, from braces to paying for their education, is all your responsibility. Follow these 4 simple yet effective tips to understand how you can get banish this working-mom guilt and be a practical, balanced mom, who will be looked up by her children one day:

 1.      Talk To Your Boss About A Flexible Work Schedule

Talk to your boss and request him to give you a flexible work schedule with lenient deadlines. In most cases bosses will be understanding of the situation and respect this request. If you are unlucky to have a boss does not empathize with you, start looking for another job with an understanding boss.

When you apply for a new job, make sure you put this down as a necessary pre-condition. Having a flexible work schedule will enable you to be there with your child when it matters most, say during family emergencies, during his first football game, during her first cheerleading, and many more. And being there during these occasions are sometimes equal to spending 24×7 with your child.

 2.      Don’t Bring Your Office To Home

One of the most common mistakes working mothers do is take work home. This is wrong, as your child will be expecting you to spend quality him when you physically present. Taking work home will distance you emotionally from your child.

Mothers who bring work at home also tend to be more snappy and short tempered because of the work pressure. This will have a negative impact on your child.

 3.      Think Positive

The next time someone points out to you how irresponsible you are being by working a full time job you needn’t slump into depression. Think about the positives of this well paying job. You are being able to offer more opportunities to your child like better medical facilities, private education, his favorite story books and comic figures, her choicest of costly dolls and dresses.

4.      Take A Break

Be aware of the number of casual leaves, paid leaves, medical leaves that your employer is mandated to grant you and ensure you avail every one of them. This way you are being responsible to your workplace, while maintaining a perfect balance with your child. You can occasionally ask your boss to let you off early from office or delegate your share of work to someone else.

Balancing motherhood with your career can be a challenging task, but it is surely not depressing or impossible.

Nicole C Harris is a parenting expert and a freelance writer. She is also the owner of, a popular beauty products website.

On the Road …Again. The Ultimate Travel Experience

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

In 2001, after being married for less than two years and having added a child number four to our growing family, Dave and I decided to move from Boise, Idaho (where each of us had spent a good chunk of our lives) to his hometown of Bath, New York. We made the decision before 9/11 but arrived only a month after, when everyone – even in our small village five hours from the city – was still numb. We grieved and healed along with the rest of New York and the country. We made Bath our home, bought a house, and started traveling in the area. I even returned to school.

My mom, in the meantime, had been diagnosed with cancer. As her health deteriorated, the longing to be near her grew stronger.

So in 2005, we once again packed everything up – except for our oldest son who had graduated and joined the military but including child number 5, who had been born in New York – and, turning down a fellowship offer from Cornell University, headed to a grad program at University of Nevada in Reno (my hometown). Living in Reno would put me in much closer proximity to my mom, who still lived in Boise.

In 2006, as Mom’s health continued to decline and I was spending more time flying back and forth than attending the political science classes I detested at UNR, Reno was no longer close enough. In the space of a week shortly after the new year, we’d packed and moved back to Boise.

My mom passed away three weeks after we arrived. I cherish the time my kids and I had with her, and loved being back in my old stomping ground. The thing is, we’d left Boise on purpose, to escape the growth and chaos of the big city it was becoming. We longed for small town life. So, we decided to move back to New York, but our then-16 year old daughter insisted we stay long enough for her to graduate from high school. We never really unpacked everything, and saved all of our boxes. We knew the two and a half years in Boise was a transient stop.

In 2008, shortly after the twins’ graduation, we packed and once again made the cross-country move to Bath, New York.

If you’re keeping track, that’s three cross-country moves plus a Reno to Boise move in the space of 7 years.

It’s now 2012. I have been in the same place for four whole years.

It’s unnatural.

I’m restless.

I can feel deep in my bones that I should be moving.

But do you know what a pain it is to pack up a house and move that far? And how expensive it is?

Besides, I love my home, our community, and our life here.

So to feed my gypsy soul and allow me to reconnect with the family on the other side of the Mississippi, we’re not moving…but by the time we’re done, it will feel like it although I’m quite certain it will cost less).

Dave is THRILLED <~~ note the drips of sarcasm that are falling from this statement.

This summer when the kids get out of school, Dave and I are loading up the family (minus Derek, who is still in the Army, and minus Kira, who says she loves us but not enough to be stuck in a car with us for a month) and setting out on a journey.

It’s not much different than one our ancestors might have taken, except the ride will be much more comfortable, as will the food and the lodging. We will be leaving New York and traveling 6,540 miles through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Iowa, then back through Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and home to New York. 18 states. 33 days. 6,540 miles.

It’s  once in a lifetime trip made possible by a year of frugal living (we can make the toilet paper stretch if we all limit ourselves to three squares) and saving (empty your pockets into the jar on your way in the house) along with the flexibility I have to work every day while we’re on the road.

(Oh how I love my job).

(Currently seeking mobile internet access solutions).

At least I don’t have to pack up and sell a house this time, right?

I’ve already started compiling my “things I must remember to pack” list – and hoping I will find a way to make everything (plus a wheelchair) fit in our minivan (we are removing one seat).

I’d love to hear from you about your favorite travel products and must-haves when on vacation, as well as your suggestions for things you must have when traveling.

We’ll be blogging, tweeting, and posting on Facebook and Google about our journey – sharing amazing pictures of everything from Pike’s Peak to Mount Rushmore – and talking about the travel gear and products that make it easier to travel with two kids and an adult disabled child who relies on a wheelchair for mobility.

The countdown is on…we leave in less than 10 weeks.

Keep your fingers crossed that the gas prices don’t get much higher.

(For those of you who might think, wow, she’s advertising to the whole world that her house will be empty for a month, it won’t be. Our dear friends from Florida will be escaping the summer heat and making good use of the house in our absence!)

Comment below with your favorite travel tips, and you’ll be entered to win a copy of the book, “Bed & Breakfast and Country Inns” which includes a certificate for a second night free at one of more than 1,400 participating bed & breakfast and country inns in the U.S.

Princess Masks and Stomach Pills – A Day in a Mom’s Life

Getting Real With Mary Swan-Bell

Lily, my five-year-old whirlwind, loves to hone her fashion designing skills. Unfortunately, sometimes her materials of choice leave something to be desired. Let me be more specific: Two of her favorite textiles are tissues and plastic bags. Ugghhhhhh. Whenever she begins one of these endeavors, I immediately develop an ulcer.

Obviously, given the disposable nature of these materials, the end result is NEVER what she has envisioned in her idealistic little mind. Hence, as the project comes to fruition, frustration leads to anger, which ultimately leads to tears and occasional door slamming. Lily usually gets pretty upset too.

So what is a trying-to-be-good mom supposed to do under these circumstances? I certainly don’t want to squelch her blossoming talents, but I absolutely know how it’s going to end. “Oh, that’s a great idea, honey, but I’m not sure if taping the tissue to your head is going to result in the Arabian princess mask look you want.”


“Hmmmm, for starters, the tape probably won’t stick too well. And then, if it does, it will probably pull your hair out when you take it off.”

“Can I cut this hair off?”

“That’s probably not a good idea.”



“Because when the hair starts growing back, it will stick out and look funny and we won’t be able to put your hair in ponies.”

“I don’t care.”

And that is when the ulcer starts to bleed.

I’m not really well known for my patience. Especially with Lily, who definitely should have been born first when I was young and naïve and had more energy. But here she is, keeping my brain young and my stomach in knots. So, I make a few additional helpful suggestions: “Wanna play memory?” “Would you like a cookie?” “If you scrap this idea, I’ll take you to DisneyWorld!” Alas, nothing distracts her from her ultimate goal, and she pipes up with, “I’ll just use string instead of tape!” Excellent idea. Have you ever tried to tie string to a tissue? It’s a rocking good time.

But we manage to do it, she dons her Jasmine mask and twirls around happy and satisfied with her creation. I smile at her, take her picture, swallow a few stomach pills and then I’m happy too.