Book Club Picks: Themes on Motherhood



Book Club Picks | Twin Cities Mom CollectiveSince becoming a mother, I’ve shelved a lot of hobbies that used to consume vast stretches of my pre-kid time: dabbling in oil painting, hitting the tennis courts after work, playing in a community orchestra, to name a few. But I also picked up a few new hobbies. Deep-diving into how-to materials about every aspect of parenting and Googling every horrific medical condition that could plague a two-month-old, for example.

Also, reading. Midnight newborn feedings are much easier with a good book in hand to look forward to — and a good group of friends to discuss it with.

Here are some of my latest favorites:

  1. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

If you grew up in the 90s in the suburban Midwest, you’ll feel like this book is a return home. It’s a nostalgic exploration of origins told through the lens of contrasting families. Mother-daughter relationships are at the heart of the novel. There’s Mia, a single mom, and her teenage daughter Pearl. They’re nomads who scrape by on minimum-wage jobs and Goodwill finds. All they have is each other, and there’s beauty in that simplicity. 

Their landlords, the Richardsons, are rich in material ways but shallow and empty when it comes to meaningful relationships. Their already fragile family connections start to crumble when the community is faced with a moral conundrum involving adoption. And when Mrs. Richardson starts digging into Mia’s mysterious past, those conundrums take on a deeper meaning. 

An absorbing read, the novel explores difficult questions about what makes us mothers. Is motherly love enough? Should love trump blood? What role should biology play? While the ending gives us one answer, it’s not posed as the only answer, and there is plenty of room for thoughtful discussion.

  1. White Oleander by Janet Finch

This poignant coming-of-age story centers on an intense mother-daughter relationship fractured by addiction, poverty and mental illness. Twelve-year-old Astrid’s manipulative and catastrophically unstable mother ends up in prison for murder. Abandoned to the California foster care system, Astrid struggles to find her place in the world without a single healthy role model to guide her. She’s let down by one adult after another. Eventually, she lands in a stable home with an endearing sister/mother figure — a touching relationship that once again ends in heartbreak.

You won’t readily forget this novel. It’s well worth the 400-plus-page investment.

  1. Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott 

If you haven’t yet experienced the joy of Anne Lamott, you’re in for a treat. This memoir chronicles her dive into single motherhood following an unexpected pregnancy. It perfectly captures the roller-coaster ride of becoming a parent, depicting moments of wonder and beauty alongside deep despair and self-doubt (along with a generous dose of laugh-out-loud humor). 

Years after reading this book for the first of many times, I’m still reminded of it whenever I endure the “bovine humiliation” of the ol’ breast pump. Lamott’s good-natured horror at her resulting six-inch-long “purple slug” nipples gets me giggling every time.

  1. Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

This book reminds me of Little Fires Everywhere with its suburban setting and teenage cast of characters. However, the mother in this novel is much more relatable (and likable), and the focus isn’t so much on contrasting pictures of motherhood but rather surviving tragedy. I won’t give anything away, but the event that the title references splits the book (and the characters’ lives) into “before” and “after.” It’s a compelling read that explores how to rebuild a life when the worst-case scenario comes to pass, and how our identities as mothers remain such a vital part of us, even when our children are grown up and gone.

  1. Room by Emma Donoghue

The premise of this novel is loosely based on a true story: A young woman is kidnapped and held captive by a sexual predator. While there, she gives birth to his child. The story is told from the perspective of the now five-year-old boy. Their one-room prison is all he’s known. Yet the narrow confines of his existence are surpassed by his far-reaching imagination.

The novel starts off a bit slow, painting a detailed picture of mother and son’s life together in “Room.” Yet that foundation is necessary for the un-put-downable developments that follow. You’ll find yourself tearing up more than once over the poignant mother-son relationship. The story also compellingly depicts the boy’s beautiful relationship with his grandmother and step-grandfather. 

The 2015 movie adaptation is definitely worth watching, but I’d read the novel first. Have tissues ready for both.

  1. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

I hesitate to include this one since the angle on motherhood is more negative than positive. Still, it’s a rich read with much fodder for discussion. The story follows the titular Eleanor, who blossoms from troubled wallflower into empowered woman. By the end, she’s finally secure in her own shoes (and more fashionable ones, at that). The plot centers on a key event in her past — and her courage in finally confronting that past — and the unfolding mystery keeps you turning pages. It’s an impactful read that will linger with you for a long time.

  1. And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready by Meaghan O’Connell

An unforgettable read (despite the utterly forgettable title), this memoir is essentially an updated Millenial take on Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions. The author chronicles her rocky road to motherhood following a surprise pregnancy. She covers all of the challenges new mothers face: balancing career ambitions with raising children, dealing with the incredible weight of this new responsibility and struggling with the crippling cloud of postpartum depression. Nothing is sugar-coated here. It’s a raw look at the earth-shattering transitions that all mothers go through, no matter how they get there.

  1. The Poisonwood Bible by Barabara Kingsolver

Despite being an avid reader, I never got around to this one until a few months ago. It blew me away. 

The haunting story of a missionary family in the Congo, narrated in turns by three teenaged daughters and their mother, is impactful on so many levels: morally, politically, theologically, and of course emotionally. The mother’s heartbreak unfolds like a punch to the gut. It’s the kind of book that yields endless discussion opportunities — and one you’ll want to reread over and over.

So tell me… What are you reading currently? Let’s add to this list to take us not just through midnight nursing, but maybe through afternoon nap time too.

Terribly Terrific Twos


Terribly Terrific Twos | Twin Cities Mom CollectiveMy daughter will have her second birthday this month. Every single day is something new and wonderful, and her dad and I are beyond excited for these next few years. Yes, we’ve heard of “terrible twos” and “threenagers,” but I’m not buying it. No, I don’t have the one child who keeps her cool constantly as her brain is developing at a rapid speed and she experiences a mind-blowing number of feelings and thoughts for the first time ever. I don’t doubt that it will be challenging to guide, assist, and witness. In fact, just because she’s not officially two yet doesn’t mean we’re not already experiencing the ups and downs of raising a child. I see tears in both of our futures, but that doesn’t mean it’s worth calling this coming year terrible.

Admittedly, I can’t tell you when she’ll wake up from her nap or how the rest of this day will go, let alone what the next few years hold. But what I do get to decide is how I approach these preschool years. Coming at them from a place of embracing and celebration (terrific) just sounds like a better plan than fear and dread (terrible). I know parents of older children have the best intentions, but when I hear, “Uh oh, get ready!” it really makes me think they’ve forgotten all about the baby challenges, and the bonuses toddler-hood brings.

Here are a handful of things year two will bring, and these are just a start… In fact, the most fun and exciting things in raising her so far have been the surprises (Lip syncing?! Saying “come here!” when she wants a hug?!), I’m in. So bring on this next year. 

Terribly Terrific Twos | Twin Cities Mom Collective

Will I have to chase her around the blueberry farm, yes, but I won’t have to carry her on my back!

Potty Training

Poop on the floor? Great! Extra laundry for a while? Sounds good! You know why? Because NO DIAPERS, that’s why! I don’t know what it’s like to have a kid not wearing diapers, but it looks heavenly. As lovely looking and smelling as diaper pails are, I’m pretty excited to chuck that thing into storage until the (hopeful) next baby.

No diapers also means:

  • Not buying giant boxes of diapers and wipes, or for cloth diaper folks, all of what that entails.
  • Her pants fitting better.
  • Ditching the diaper bag for something smaller.
  • No more diaper rash.
  • No more swim diapers.
  • No more awful changing tables (when they do exist), and trying to find a discreet spot (when they don’t).
  • Letting her have more bodily autonomy. I respect my daughter’s wishes for her body and I hate when I have to go against those to change her diaper as she’s yelling “No!…” She’s really sensitive to rashes and I just can’t let her sit in it because she simply doesn’t want to have it changed – and she never wants to. It sucks for everyone. The sooner that’s over the better.

Emotions AND Communication

You know what’s worse than a toddler crying over something “silly”? A baby crying for an unknown reason. If my daughter cries and screams because she wanted a blue balloon and they only had red, I can deal with that. I can try to reason and be empathetic with her, or hold space for her to work it out when that doesn’t help. At least I’ll know she’s not in pain or that there’s something in her shoe. I took an 11-month-old to the urgent care on a road trip because I couldn’t decipher her crying and got an official diagnosis of “fussy baby.” I’m so ready for her to tell me what’s wrong, no matter what it is.

That said, just last night a communication issue had all three of us quite frustrated, her especially. When we figured out the word she was trying to get us to understand was “umbrella” though? Well, that kind of rejoicing easily erases the tears.

Terribly Terrific Twos | Twin Cities Mom Collective

She’ll probably be a little better at not running into strangers’ tennis games. Maybe.

Run, Girl, Run!

My husband and I are fast walkers. We went to New York when I was pregnant and still had to pass people on the sidewalk. When friends told us that things got harder after their toddlers started walking, we respectfully couldn’t believe them. And for us, we were right. Her walking and running has been nothing but fun.

Now she’s picking up speed, agility, and accuracy. It’ll be a scary few years as she learns about crossing roads with adults, what’s safe to climb, and how to look where she’s going. Honestly though, I’d rather watch her like a hawk sometimes than carry my 99th percentile baby, or deal with a stroller everywhere we go. We’re already able to get places faster when she wants to walk “myself” with two magic words: “Race you!”

Plus, all of the other things I know are coming this year:

  • Arts and crafts
  • Games
  • Bigger books
  • Picking out clothes
  • Helping with chores, cooking, and cleaning up toys (and not just making it worse)
  • Getting excited for events coming up
  • Friends
  • Telling us who and what she likes
  • Riding bikes and other wheeled things
  • Waterslides
  • Bigger and better playgrounds
  • Independent play
  • Jokes
  • Easier road trips
  • Singing
  • Saying her age in years instead of months
  • Saying her own age!
  • Innumerable incredible things I can’t predict

Terribly Terrific Twos | Twin Cities Mom Collective

Museums will hold her interest even longer!

To be honest, I’m making this list for myself for when we’re having a rough day. I know I’ll forget that there were plenty of struggles before and wish for a simpler time that really didn’t exist. Hopefully I’m also making this list for other moms who are approaching two and maybe taking the warnings too much to heart. No one knows what it’ll be like for you. Maybe it’ll be easier, maybe it’ll be harder, but it will definitely be worth it.

All I know is that labeling it “terrible” before you even get there will set everyone up for an experience that’s not as good as it could be. Personally, I’m leaving room for it to be terrific.

Developing Character in Young Children: The Value of a Virtues Education

As we begin a new year, our friends at Bloom Early Learning & Child Care in Plymouth remind us that success in school and life begins on the inside. Teaching virtues helps establish the pillars of character, building capable kids from the inside out! Bloom, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is committed to providing outstanding early learning opportunities (and virtues education) to all children with up to half of its enrollment receiving scholarship assistance.

Developing Character in Young Children: The Value of a Virtues Education | Twin Cities Mom Collective“Who you are inside is what helps you make and do everything in life.”

~Fred Rogers

Preparing young children to be successful in school and life requires much more than teaching ABCs and 1-2-3s. Successful students demonstrate emotional intelligence; they have well-developed social skills that enable them to fully participate in their classroom environments. Early childhood programs with dedicated character building curriculum prepare the whole child to navigate the world beyond pre-K.

When asked what they had learned in preschool, last year’s graduates of Bloom’s pre-K class shared:

“I learned my numbers and letters.“

“I learned to write my name.”

And, “I learned cooperation.”

The latter is not something you might expect to hear from a five-year-old, but it is a direct result of the program’s vision to build character and responsibility alongside academic skills.

Bloom uses The Virtues Project TM, which was developed to empower educators to create caring and high performing learning communities and to equip parents to raise children of compassion and integrity. The Virtues Project was honored by the United Nations during the Year of the Family as a “model global program for families of all cultures.” Virtues are taught to the children at Bloom Early Learning through stories, activities and puppet shows while being modeled to them by their teachers. Each month, a different virtue, such as cooperation, is introduced. Among the others are:

  • Patience
  • Honesty
  • Respect
  • Gentleness
  • Generosity
  • Courtesy
  • Trust
  • Assertiveness
  • Flexibility
  • Tolerance
  • Love
  • Orderliness

“Virtues education not only shows young children what these positive character traits look like,” said Mary Olsen, Center Director at Bloom, “it also builds their vocabulary to help them better express their feelings and understand how their actions impact others.”

When children develop an understanding of the language of virtues, educators are able to build on it and guide, acknowledge and correct behavior. The outcome sets children up to be joyful learners who can more easily adjust in a variety of settings.

The value of virtues education is not limited to school. Families that embrace it discover that it helps their children at home and in social settings:

“Hmmm… it looks like we may need to be flexible and choose something else from the menu,” commented one young father to his preschool children, who were chanting for their typical go-to, chicken tenders, at a local restaurant. “So that can be a good thing,” he continued. “We get to try something new and that will be fun!” 

Not only did the dad successfully redirect his children using virtues vocabulary, he also praised the children for being flexible when they went on to make an alternative choice.

Early childhood programs and families that teach and model virtues establish the pillars of character in young children that are the foundation for successful lives. In the words of Mister Rogers, “Who you are inside helps you make and do everything in life.”

At Bloom Early Learning & Child Care, we value virtues education for young children and strive to build character every day! Find out more by visiting #WhyChooseBloom

Six Months Home

I spent the better half of a decade always drifting off to sleep the same way: imagining how I would decorate a future home. Sometimes it was a made-up floor plan I’d imagine room by room, other times it was a house of a friend or family member, sometimes it was a previous apartment. It was always the same thinking, my own version of counting sheep, I would begin at the front step and work my way inside. A welcome mat here, a row of hooks for coats and hats there. I would be asleep before I got too far, drifting off in whatever temporary apartment I lived in on a slightly sad, but still sort of comfortable mattress.

My apartments became my domains, a place where I had control and clarity, peace and stillness. During a time in my life when I greatly lacked both, once I stepped outside of my door. I loved creating interesting DIYs from thrift store and sometimes curbside treasures. I was insanely skilled at making my tiny budget not an excuse for having an ugly home. As I grew my business and moved again, this time to an apartment in St. Paul, I considered thinking about buying. A home was so much a part of my dream for my life, but mostly a family to fill it.

I felt inclined to pause. While charming and light and airy in all the stylish ways, my building had problems. The company that owned it was large, spanning properties in both Minneapolis and St. Paul. I had been wary to sign the lease, knowing the pitfalls of renting from bigger leasing companies. I was drawn in though, by the siren’s call of the art deco tile, the quiet tenants, and the dreamy garage—finally, no more cleaning off my car on freezing winter mornings! Sometimes the washing and drying machines shut off for days without plans for repair. The family I nannied for insisted I bring my laundry to their house. The plumbing was notoriously poor—sometimes water would shut off for no reason, I’d be left freezing and with a prayer, covered in suds hoping it would turn back on. It took almost an hour to draw a tub.

Finally, I was exhausted of making requests through the repair channel. I found the phone number of the owner and threatened to call the news if he didn’t fix our water. Within a week a plumber was out replacing every pipe. When he got to my apartment, he said to me that he hadn’t seen plumbing so bad.

Eventually I left that apartment to move in with my boyfriend who owned a condo across the river in Minneapolis. There I felt strange, I was on his turf and his décor felt odd and foreign to me. While my previous apartments had been shabby chic with white paint, Seth’s home was a curated bachelor pad befit with blacks and grays, and a giant pool table. Which, incidentally about a year later we’d place our daughter’s bassinet on and I’d fold piles of new mama laundry. I didn’t think downtown was a neighborhood, I was disoriented. The other, mostly retired owners in the building hated our dog, having the property manager send us incident reports and letters about him. For the first time in my life, despite moving to a significantly upscale place, I had packages stolen. Once we learned our daughter was on her way we began the home searching process which brought all sorts of twists and turns, as I’ve learned it has a tendency to do.

On a May afternoon Seth sent me a link to a stunning, Gothic Victorian. Our patio door was open, the best part of living in Minneapolis happening all around us, and our daughter sat happily playing on a rug with stacking toys. This home was in Stillwater, which felt doable to me, but still a stretch. I was drawn in by the house. The house! It was beautiful and reminded me of a Victorian home coloring book I’d had on a summer road trip as a kid. Within a month we were preparing to move. It felt surreal and wonderful, all the while I felt like an emotional wreck leaving the city. I cried on the day before our closing, to a confused and bewildered Seth.

Six Months Home | Twin Cities Mom Collective

Photography by Foto Film Studios

Our first morning in the house we woke up, all three of us well rested with very sparse furniture and many boxes to unpack. My friend Jess came to capture photos of this magical moment for us. I couldn’t believe it; we were now living in a home. Our home.

The emotions I still feel about this are very complex and deep, hard to even articulate. I know how special it is to have a home, to find such a unique one, and for Priscilla to grow up in such a beautiful space. I know every day the stories and struggles many face in attempting access to fair housing, our city’s history of racial covenants especially in desirable Southwest Minneapolis, the destruction of Rondo so I-94 could be built, and the isolation of the Northside.

Sometimes people drive by and take photos of our home. I wave at them. For weeks after moving I felt like we just worked here, not that it was ours. This house was built in 1872, just a handful of years after the end of the Civil War. I’m astounded, that myself, a descendant of slaves and coal miners, is raising a family in a home like this.

Six Months Home | Twin Cities Mom Collective

Photography by Foto Film Studios

On Christmas I realized we had lived in our house for six months. We’re just putting down roots, deciding on paint colors, and talking about making space for this second baby set to arrive this June, which will beautifully mark a year here. I spend most of my time at home, these freezing weeks at the beginning of the year with illnesses making the rounds. I love watching Priscilla take tentative steps across the wide, dark wood floors. I look forward to watching the sunrise after pulling back the curtains in her nursery. I love ending the evening sitting in front of the fireplace with Seth. I hope this home will be a happy and joyful place for our children to live and grow. We are grateful.

So tell me… what is “home” to you?

Six Months Home | Twin Cities Mom Collective

Photography by Foto Film Studios

Refreshed and Renewed: Vacation Bound


Refreshed and Renewed: Vacation Bound | Twin Cities Mom CollectiveDear Mamas,

“Refreshed and renewed” are the first words I wrote in my journal on January 3rd, 2020, as I sat looking out at a perfect view of the ocean.

Earlier this month, my husband and I went for a long weekend away to Anna Maria Island. All I wanted was for the two of us to step away from our busy lives and the demands society puts on us. To relax and be carefree for just a few days. I knew we needed this as a couple, but was unaware of how badly my heart and soul needed it too.

Upon arrival, my sweet guy surprised me with a convertible. He wanted us to feel the sun and warmth on our skin. My first response was from No Fun Janna, “Oh I don’t want my hair to get messy.” But then I pulled out the fun and carefree version of myself and said, “Take it down, who cares!” And the top was down pretty much the whole rest of the trip.

With air streaming through my hair as we drove down the road, we hit up a couple of shops for snacks and beverages before making our way to the condo. As we pulled up, I was expecting a simple bed and a view of the ocean. But when we opened the door, it was this beautiful space just for us. A full kitchen, nice bathroom and living space. I walked to the curtains and opened them, and was blown away by the view. Mere footsteps from a breathtaking beach. My heart was singing.

When researching our trip, we were told that Bean Point was a great spot to check out the sunset and to have an adult beverage. (Because… we had no kids with us!) We enjoyed drinks overlooking the point before we walked in the water and talked. I searched for shells along the beach while people surfed in front of us. The sun was setting and it was a moment that touched me so deeply. There was beauty surrounding us.

And it hit me. Why do I wait to experience a sunset or a sunrise only in a place like this? Why don’t I carve out time to do this at home with my family? In that moment, we stood still and simply hugged each other. Holding on for a little while. Before we set off to explore the nightlife of the island.

Refreshed and Renewed: Vacation Bound | Twin Cities Mom CollectiveThe next day, my hubby got up super early to fish with a long time friend who lives near our vacation spot. My plans? Nothing. I got to sleep in. And yes, sleeping until 9:30 felt like a dream. I opened the curtains and door to the beach. The waves were crashing as I made coffee and had a little breakfast all by myself. I grabbed that coffee, my books and journal, and I was out the door. I sat down at peace and ready to just fill up my emotional bucket. I closed my eyes and listened to what the earth was telling me.

Refreshed and Renewed: Vacation Bound | Twin Cities Mom CollectiveAnd that’s when I heard it telling me, “Look what I have provided for you take in. Don’t forget me.” Tears rolled down my cheeks and I opened my eyes. I took my journal out and started to write. Refreshed and renewed is how I felt. I love to write and sometimes the words come out easily, while other times I jut sit with my pencil and nothing happens. But not today, I couldn’t stop as it just flowed from me.

This moment may seem like nothing to some, but to me it was everything. Because it was exactly the refreshment I needed. As a mom, as a wife, as a friend, as a person…

The rest of the day was spent walking, sleeping and reading. A dreamy day for a stay at home mom with 3 kiddos. When my husband returned, I was thrilled to hear about his day, and excited to share with him that I did nothing and yet everything.

Ultimately, our trip was filled with uninterrupted time together. Watching the sunsets, listening to the waves and allowing ourselves to just be. We smiled at each other, we held hands, we snuggled and it was perfect. Refreshing and renewing.

Now, I know getting away is hard for all of us. Some of us have the means to take a vacation and others don’t. But truly, a vacation doesn’t have to be a trip to the beach to renew yourself. It could be just carving out that time alone with yourself or the one you love.

One of my long time friends and her husband used talk about the importance of this. They would work hard to find deals on hotel stays or a Groupon for a local restaurant. And as they had no family close to help with childcare, they would get help from friends and neighbors to get some time away. At that point in my life, I didn’t understand the sheer effort they would put in, because I had no children.

But now? I understand needing that time. The time for you or for the two of you. So my encouragement today is to take that time. Whatever it may be. After all, it’s food for your soul.

Lots of Love,

Mama Janna

P.S. While I highly recommend Anna Maria Island for a getaway with your partner or your entire family, tell me… Where do you love to escape to get refreshed and renewed?

Belly Breathing With Your Babies

Our partners at YWCA Minneapolis share how they are dedicated to helping kids slow down and learn how to better manage stress and anxiety through mindfulness practices they incorporate within their classrooms. Read all about these programs and the benefits they can have for your child.

Belly Breathing With Your Baby | Twin Cities Mom Collective

As our world continues to speed up, it’s more important than ever to help your child slow down. That’s why mindfulness practices are incorporated in every one of YWCA Minneapolis Early Childhood Education classrooms. From infant to school age, we are dedicated to helping kids slow down and learn how to better manage stress and anxiety.

So, what do we mean by mindfulness practices? For the children in our classrooms, we focus on belly breathing, creating calm spaces and encouraging stress-reducing activities like blowing bubbles or playing with lavender-scented play-dough.

Belly Breathing With Your Baby | Twin Cities Mom Collective

Belly Breathing

Belly breathing works with kids of all ages. It helps children calm down, learn to relax, improve their attention spans and lower their stress levels. While you can’t tell an infant to belly breathe, you can create a sense of calm through your own breathing. Our caregivers have found that matching the infant’s energy is important. A technique used in our classrooms involves placing a hand on the infant’s tummy while placing your other hand on your own tummy. Then take 10 deep breaths.

For toddlers, our caregivers encourage belly breathing with a favorite stuffed animal. It helps toddlers manage their emotions. As they get older, we practice guided meditation through storytelling and deep breathing.

Creating Calm Spaces

In every classroom, we have a designated calming corner. When a child needs a break or some time to calm down, the calming corner is set up with pillows, stuffed animals, books and other inviting items.

Belly Breathing With Your Baby | Twin Cities Mom Collective

Stress-Reducing Activities

A simple way to help a child relax in the classroom is simply by blowing bubbles. Whether actively interacting or watching them float around, bubbles are a magical way to help kids enjoy the present moment.

A fun craft exercise we do is making rain sticks. The gentle sound created from turning the rain stick over helps kids relax. We also make our own play-dough filled with lavender or other soothing essential oils. Squeezing and forming the play-dough is a great stress reliever.

Creating Well-Rounded Children

We help prepare all Minnesotan children to thrive — creating a sense of belonging in the classroom while focusing on mindfulness so our children can learn coping skills for today’s stressors. Our early learning programs are NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children)-accredited and Four-Star Parent Aware rated designed to build children’s social-emotional, cognitive, physical and cultural development. And, YWCA Minneapolis has been named one of the nation’s top 10 for “exemplary programs” for family engagement by NAEYC. Making a difference. That’s the difference.™ We look forward to teaching your child.

A New Mom in a New Country: What TCMC Did For Me

A New Mom in a New Country: What TCMC Did For Me | Twin Cities Mom Collective

With our 6th birthday here at Twin Cities Mom Collective on the horizon, we are talking all things celebration this week! Join us right here as we commemorate this incredible, inspiring and thriving community of moms in the Twin Cities.
Let’s celebrate!

“It takes a village to raise a child.”

What if you left your village behind and moved to a whole different country?

What if you are unable to create your own village in the new place?

What if you had to find the village in yourself?

In today’s cultural times, most parents seek and reach out to the internet first – for everything. And that is what I did when I found myself a new mom in a new country! In that process I came across tons of parenting groups on social media. Which is what eventually led me to Twin Cities Mom Collective (TCMC) – previously Twin Cities Moms Blog.

I gradually was becoming a huge fan of the website. If not regularly, I used to follow it as often as I could. Finding myself more often on Instagram, I made sure to keep up with them as I learned what they were all about.

I was this new mommy in this new city (country, actually) feeling totally lost. I did not get this place – the culture, the people… anything. Back at home, I had the ability to travel with public transport, which I found to be very much limited here. I had to depend on my husband even for grocery shopping. I found myself feeling very different from the other mothers in my son’s ECFE parenting session. And, to be honest, I did not know it was normal to feel this way. I was beating myself up for knowing nothing and being a bad parent.

But then I found TCMC. Unlike several other blogs I had tried, within the space of TCMC I found a variety of parenting styles. That’s how I realized as long as you have a healthy and happy family, whatever you do is perfect.

I was struggling with what felt like the extended breastfeeding of my older kid, who was then 18 months old and was still so dependent on nursing to fall asleep (and even to stay asleep at times). I was trying to wean him with so much pressure and guilt surrounding me, that it made it difficult for me. But then, I felt all the guilt start to recede once I started to read the series of posts for Breastfeeding Week in August of that year. And a couple of months later, we were able to wean him without an overwhelming amount of stress or guilt.

There are so many instances where I found TCMC to be an invaluable resource to me as a new mom in a new city. For example, instead of staying inside the whole winter, we started to get out and explore the city with the winter activity guides as a starting point. We started to travel and take trips with our 2-year-old. And the best thing of all, my fear of having a second kid and doing everything all over again began to change. Slowly. Seeing all these wonderful moms and their journeys with multiple kids instilled hope in me as I read their stories. It gave me the strength and confidence to grow our family.

And it did not stop there. Because my fear found its way back once I saw those two pink lines. I had no family living with us, or nearby. I was not sure if I would be able to navigate this entire pregnancy with an active 3-year-old. Again, I went through a period of taking one step at a time. During that time, there were many posts on TCMC about how to prepare yourself and your family to welcome a new kid. There were posts from moms who shared their birthing experiences. They all boosted me up and helped me bring my baby into this world with a whole lot of confidence.

Then, just as I felt I was on top of everything and doing a great job raising two kids in a foreign country with very minimal support, came this opportunity to be a part of their writing team. I had just started my own personal blog at that point in time, where I did not post very frequently. I was not sure if I should even apply as I am not of Twin Cities origin. But I did give it a try. And a couple of months later I found myself taking my headshots in a studio with a group of these amazing writers.

I am so humbled and proud to be a part of such an amazing community of women. TCMC has encouraged me to come up with posts of my own story that is so very different from many people around here. Since being active on Instagram, it also got me to be a part of a couple of collaborations as an influencer.

All these opportunities for community have brought out a new person in me. It has helped me explore and do many new things. We travel more often as a family now. I give myself time to think and ponder about my parenting decisions, and to write them down. I love taking time off to sit down and write. From being a depressed, less confident mom of one kid to being a mom of two kids who is always on the go, I have come so far. I can tell you with so much joy that TCMC has been a huge influence in this entire journey of mine and it will continue to be.

It is a dream for every mom who moves into a new city with kids to find her village. Twin Cities Mom Collective is doing an amazing job of bringing moms together. So let’s be mom friends. Because it really does take a village. 

Resolving to be “Fully Dressed” in 2020

Katherine M. Bell, DMD, a pediatric dentist with our partner Camp Smile Pediatric Dentistry, shares about the power of a smile.

Resolving to be “Fully Dressed” in 2020 | Twin Cities Mom Collective“You’re never fully dressed without a smile…” I started singing to myself.

It was my senior year of high school, and I was making (or so it seemed at the time) one of the biggest decisions I would make that year. No, I was not submitting a letter of intent or finalizing my post-secondary plans. I was selecting my senior quotes and felt the weight of the world on my shoulders.

Was I being a bit too dramatic and placing too much pressure on myself to pick the quote by which my successors would remember me? Definitely. Was it still important? Of course.

Growing up, I frequently was told that I was always smiling. In fact, I had friends who found a challenge in trying to make me frown.

Initially, I did not know whether to acknowledge these comments from teachers, friends, and strangers by responding with appreciation or by pursing my lips to create an image of indifference. For those who knew (and know) me best, neither indifference nor apathy was in my vocabulary. Ultimately, however, I truly believed that I was “never fully dressed without a smile.” Aside from the dancing and singing, something in Annie resonated with me. While I was blessed to be surrounded by family who encouraged me to lift up others around me through my words, actions, and expressions, I realized others may not have had similar situations. At an early age, I resolved to use the accessory that was always with me–my smile–to serve others in a simple way. By smiling, I felt I could encourage others to do the same.

Fred McFeely Rogers, host of the beloved television series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, once said, “From the time you were very little, you’ve had people who have smiled you into smiling, people who have talked you into talking, sung you into singing, loved you into loving.”

Can you think of individuals in your life who have “smiled you into smiling?” How did they make you feel at the time? Have you had someone who has “loved you into loving?” Wouldn’t you like to do the same?  Have you told these individuals how much you appreciate them?

If you truly think about it, smiling comes at no real cost and presents a high return on investment–both personally and for those “receiving” the smile. While a recent meta-analysis in Psychological Bulletin reports a “small” effect of facial feedback, it notes the effect of such feedback to be “significant” (Coles and Larsen, 2019). It may be inferred from the facial feedback hypothesis (FFH) that our own facial expressions will affect our emotions (Davis and et al., 2009). Various theories and studies suggest that smiling can be the stimulus for more positive feelings. For even the most altruistic individuals seeking to use their smiles for the good of those around them, there are personal benefits that should not be minimized.

As 2020 begins, let us resolve to be individuals who use our smiles to lift up others in this simple manner. There’s a great chance you’ll reap the benefits for your overall mood, too. Finally, don’t forget to take pride in the ways your smile is unique and differs from those around you. To borrow from one of my favorite Broadway musicals again, “[i]t’s what you wear from ear to ear [a]nd not from head to toe [t]hat matters.” Although we may forget to put on a smile, thank goodness it’s pretty difficult to leave a smile at home!


  1. Coles, N.A., & Larsen, J.T. (2019). A meta-analysis of the facial feedback literature: effects of facial feedback on emotional experience are small and variable. Psychological Bulletin, 145(6), p. 610-51.
  2. Davis, J.I., Senghas, A., & Oschsner, K.N. (2009). How does facial feedback modulate emotional experience? Journal of Research in Personality, 43(5), p. 822–29.

A Reverse Bucket List Birthday Tradition


A Reverse Bucket List Birthday Tradition | Twin Cities Mom Collective

With our 6th birthday here at Twin Cities Mom Collective on the horizon, we are talking all things celebration this week! Join us right here as we commemorate this incredible, inspiring and thriving community of moms in the Twin Cities.
Let’s celebrate!

If I tried hard enough I could tell you many things I do right with parenting.

But instead, I will tell you one big failure.

I have zero baby books for my children.

(I can hear the gasp of my mother from across two states.)

I do own one. I purchased it in one of those third trimester insomnia driven nights during my first pregnancy, after serious research (read: Amazon review scouring). It arrived just in time for me to throw it in the nursery with the other things someone on the internet told me I would need. Days later in one ambitious afternoon while my newborn took an unusually long nap I finally cracked it open. I only got through the introductory pages before her alarm cries tore me away from the task. “Finish baby book” sat on my to-do lists more times than I can count. The book is currently living in the attic inside a box labeled “must keep but will never look at until the child has a home of their own and we can leave it in their attic.”

I am a baby book failure.

But that doesn’t mean the memories are lost. I can tell you when she took her first steps. I can tell you when she first slept through the night. I can tell you about the first time she smiled, and the first word she learned to sign.

I can tell you all of this not because I have an incredible memory (the amount of times I have forgotten to start the dishwasher after filling it will tell you otherwise) but because I have a milestone book my mother never owned. And this book isn’t found on Amazon Prime.

It’s on my phone.

With a simple dial up to my google photos app I can show you each milestone we celebrated with a click of a button. Logging into my social media accounts I can show you those proud moments shared through image and word with a time stamp right next to it. While we could argue forever about the digital footprint we are leaving for our children (I’ll save that argument for another day) I can tell you the internet has saved me from this baby book failure.

My mother has a baby book, for all three children in fact. Looking through mine, I can see all the remarkable milestones I accomplished in my first eighteen years. But shortly after the graduation party, the brag book ended. I know my mom is still wildly proud of all of my accomplishments, but I can’t say that she continues to keep track of them the way she did when I was young.

Is this one of those tasks we must relegate to the adulting list? Does the milestone keeping fall into our own hands once our mother stops recording in a book?

In today’s day and age, we excel at goal creating and bucket list achieving. If you have been on the internet for 5 minutes in the past month you surely saw plenty of announcements of big plans for this new big decade ahead of us. The idea of 20 in 2020 certainly tempts me.

The challenge with goal lists, though, is once you write them, you have to do them. (I know. Revolutionary.) Some years though, there just isn’t enough margin for big goals and great plans. Some seasons require so much of us that the checklists optimistically penned on January 1 inevitably take their place alongside the baby books we never got to come mid winter. Which is why I have decided, it is in these years that an unplanned approach to the new year is the better option. Let the year go by quietly, ordinarily, on its own terms.

But don’t let it go by unnoticed. There is still time for celebration.

And that’s what birthdays are for.

This past April when I celebrated my 37th birthday, I escaped for a day just to myself. In between coffee shop lingering and book store browsing and day time champagne drinking (it was my birthday after all), I took some time to reflect on my last year of life. All I needed was a notebook, pen, and the photo roll or social media grid on my phone.

Like my very own baby book, I scrolled through it all, from the images and words shared on the internet to the photos left on the cutting room floor (why it requires 43 photos to get one good one of my children I’ll never know). From this I gathered 36 things worth noting at 36. Some were thought driven, others fun, but all offered a time capsule of my life in this very moment.

These moments gathered became my Reverse Bucket List—a list of all the things I accomplished, learned, and discovered, each one representing growth over my last year of life.

This birthday tradition was such a success, and one I plan on continuing year after year. It not only becomes a goal list with 100 percent success rate, it also teaches me a valuable lesson on finding the positive narrative to my life. It’s an opportunity to reframe the narrative, just like I have done with the lack of baby books.

Would you like to join along? If so, here are a few questions to ask yourself as you sit down to scroll through your past year:

  • What was hard?
  • What did you hide from others?

Even if the moment arouses negative feelings, such as something hard or something you kept to yourself, the goal is the simple act of noticing. For example, let’s say you have 13 pictures in your phone of your toddler throwing a tantrum over too funny not to document circumstances, not that I know ANYTHING about this. The bucket list item then could be “Allow toddler to feel all the feelings.” Or “Learn NOT to go grocery shopping at 5:00 PM.” Seem trivial? It’s not. Every lesson learned or hard thing done deserves celebration.

  • What made you smile seeing the image again?
  • What are you proud of?
  • What do you want more of?

Noticing what brings you joy, peace, or pride shines light on what we want to add more to your life.

  • What did you forget about? And why, do you think?

Sometimes moments go forgotten throughout the year, lost behind the memories that shine brighter or bigger. This becomes a gentle reminder to pay better attention next time.

  • What do you see now that you didn’t notice before?

I also think it is important to note that sometimes you have to look behind the picture to the parts unseen. Maybe you tried with 27 images to grab a quality, post-able Mother’s Day picture, but the images left you with nothing but shenanigans. I imagine this frustrated you at the time. But now, with distance, you see laughter, you see silly sibling relationships, you see personalities alive and happy. There is your bucket list item–more happiness.

From this list, flag the pictures that answer or trigger any of these questions. Pick a number to focus on. Maybe 5? 10? If you are feeling especially ambitious you could choose the birthday age. Whatever feels right; the number doesn’t matter. Take each picture and journal what you learned based on these questions. Then, take this lesson and turn it into an action item.

Pictures of that family vacation. You remember it being exhausting, but in the photos you see nothing but smiles.

  • Go on a family vacation.

The gym selfie you took at the beginning of a long exercise hiatus.

  • Exercise!

A photo of the pretty plate of food you spent three days preparing and the family spent seven minutes eating, if even at all, so you vowed to stick to macaroni and cheese after that.

  • Try a new recipe.

Write it down. You did that thing. Good for you. It belongs on your list.

So this year on your birthday, instead of worrying about the signs of aging or the too quickly passing of time, reframe the narrative. Take a moment to reflect on your last year. Celebrate your birthday in the way you do your children. Make a list of every win and lesson and joy that came your way in the last year. Then make a toast to yourself for all that awaits you in the year to come.

Happy Birthday to YOU!

Guide to Twin Cities Sledding Hills

Bundle up and hit the slopes! Find your location below and check out all the sledding hills in your area!

Brooklyn Center

Lion’s Park: 5501 Russell Ave N, Brooklyn Center, MN 55430

Brooklyn Park

Central Park: 8440 Regent Ave N, Brooklyn Park, MN 55443

Columbia Heights

Keyes Park: 4500 Reservoir Blvd, Columbia Heights, Minnesota 55421

Maple Grove

Elm Creek Park: 12400 James Deane Pkwy, Maple Grove, MN 55369


Parkview Center School: 701 County B Rd W, Roseville, MN 55113


Vadnais-Snail Lakes Regional Park: 4191 Snail Lake Boulevard, Shoreview, MN 55126

White Bear Lake

Manitou Ridge: 3200 McKnight Road N, White Bear Lake, MN 55110

Cottage Grove

Woodridge Park: 9000 90th St S, Cottage Grove, MN 55016

Lake Elmo

Green Acres Recreation: 8989 55th St N, Lake Elmo, MN 55042 *Admission fee required.

Tablyn Park: 8735 Stillwater Boulevard, Lake Elmo, MN 55042


Oakdale Discovery Center: 4444 Hadley Ave N, St Paul, MN 55128


Middleton Elementary School: 9105 Lake Rd, Woodbury, MN 55125

Woodbury Elementary School: 1251 School Dr, Woodbury, MN 55125

Woodbury Lake Middle School: 3133 Pioneer Dr, Woodbury, MN 55125

Apple Valley

Apple Valley East Park: 15335 Dunbar Avenue, Apple Valley, MN 55124

Farquhar Park: 13266 Pilot Knob Rd, Apple Valley, MN 55124

Longridge Park: 8530 160th St. W, Apple Valley, MN 55124

Scott Park: 14125 Galaxie Ave, Apple Valley, MN 55124


Buck Hill: 15400 Buck Hill Rd, Burnsville, MN 55306 *Admission fee required.

Neill Park: 13501 Upton Ave, Burnsville, MN 55337


Blue Cross Blue Shield Building: 3535 Blue Cross Road, Eagan 55122

Deerwood Elementary: 1480 Deerwood Dr, Eagan, MN 55122

Lebanon Hills: 860 Cliff Road, Eagan, MN 55123

Northview Elementary: 965 Diffley Rd, Eagan, MN 55123

Trapp Farm Park Tubing Hill: 841 Wilderness Run Rd, Eagan, MN 55123 *Admission fee required.

Walnut Park Hill: 999 Wilderness Run Rd, Eagan, MN 55123


Daisy Knoll Park: 18640 Esquire Way, Farmington, MN 55024

Hillview Park: 5978 183rd Street West, Farmington MN 55024

Whitetail Woods Regional Park: 17100 Station Trail, Farmington, MN 55044

Inver Grove Heights

South Valley Park: 2810 70th St. (70th St. & Cahill), Inver Grove Heights, MN


All Saints Church: 19795 Holyoke Ave, Lakeville, MN 55044

Crystal Lake Education Center: 16250 Ipava Ave, Lakeville, MN 55044

Prior Lake

Lakefront Park: 5000 Kop Pkwy, Prior Lake, MN 55372


Rosemount High School: 3335 142nd St W, Rosemount, MN 55068

West Saint Paul

Marthaler Park: 1625 Humboldt Ave, West Saint Paul, MN 55118


Hyland Park: 10145 Bush Lake Rd., Bloomington, MN 55438

Eden Prairie

Staring Lake Park: 14800 Pioneer Trail, Eden Prairie, MN 55344


Arneson Acres: 4711 W 70th St, Edina, MN 55435

Golden Valley

Valley View Park (Sunset Hill): 3401 Manor Drive, Golden Valley, MN 55422


Hilltop Park: 2020 4th St. N., Hopkins

Maple Plain 

Baker Park Reserve: 2309 Baker Park Road, Maple Plain, MN 55359


French Regional Park: 12605 Rockford Rd, Plymouth, MN 55441


Adams Hill Park: 7200 Washburn Ave South, Richfield, MN 55423

Christian Park: 6900 Bloomington Ave, Richfield MN 55423

St. Louis Park

Aquila Park: 3110 Xylon Ave S, St. Louis, MN 55426

Browndale Park:  4900 Morningside Rd, St Louis Park, MN 55416

Minikahda Vista Park: 3940 France Ave S, St. Louis Park, MN 55416

Oak Hill Park: 3201 Rhode Island Ave S, St Louis Park, MN 55426


7025 Victoria Dr, Victoria, MN 55386


Waconia Sledding Hill: 8170 Paradise Lane, Waconia, MN 55387

Beard’s Plaisance: 4525 Upton Ave. S, Minneapolis, MN 55410

Columbia Park & Golf Club: 3300 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418

Fuller Park: 4800 Grand Ave. S, Minneapolis, MN 55419

Lyndale Farmstead Park (Kings Hill): 3900 Bryant Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55409

Matthews Park: 2318 29th Ave. S, Minneapolis, MN 55406

Minnehaha Park: 4801 S Minnehaha Drive, Minneapolis, MN 55417

Powderhorn Park: 3400 15th Ave. S, Minneapolis, MN 55407

St. Anthony Park (May Mountain): 425 Jefferson St. NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413

Theodore Wirth Winter Recreation Area: 1301 Theodore Wirth Parkway, Minneapolis, MN 55422

Arlington Arkwright Park: 400 Arlington Ave E, St Paul, MN 55130

Baker Park:  209 Page St W, St Paul, MN 55107

Battle Creek Recreation Center: 75 Winthrop St. S., Saint Paul, MN 55119

Como Park Golf Course: Corner of N. Chelsea and W. Arlington Ave, Saint Paul, MN

Griggs Field: 1188 Hubbard Ave, St Paul, MN 55104

Frogtown Park & Farm: 946 Minnehaha Ave. W., Saint Paul, MN 55104

Frost Lake Park: 1421 Hoyt Ave E, St Paul, MN 55106

Highland Park: 1200 Montreal Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55116

Margaret Park: 1109 Margaret St., Saint Paul, MN 55106

Merriam Park Recreation Center: 2000 St Anthony Ave, St Paul, MN 55104

McDonough Park Preserve: 1600 Saint Paul Ave., Saint Paul, MN 55117

McMurray Fields: 1155 Jessamine Ave W, St Paul, MN 55108

Orchard Field: 875 W Orchard Ave, St Paul, MN 55103

Prosperity Park: 1371 Kennard St., Saint Paul, MN 55106

Celebrating 6 Years of Authentic Posts from Local Moms | 2019 Top Ten

Birthday 2020

Happy New Year to you and Happy Birthday to us! And that US includes YOU. Today marks six years since the launch of Twin Cities Moms Blog. In the past year, we’ve held events, gathered neighborhood group mama together, published countless articles and guides and shared community. With a fresh rebrand under our belt, the Twin Cities Mom Collective team is excited about a week of celebration, reflection and, of course, giveaways, so be sure to keep an eye on our Facebook page and on Instagram – we’re doing giveaways in both places!

Whether you’re laughing alongside one of our writers as you read her words, or crying and nodding through a post that hits your heart, knowing this gal gets you, we hope you come here to find your people.

It’s our tradition to gather the top 10 posts of the previous year and share them on our birthday. These are all articles written by local moms and we hope you find something that resonates with your journey in one of the posts below. 2020 – a new decade and a new start in so many ways. We can’t wait to see what it brings. Cheers mama!

birthday post feature images

“The harsh truth is that I didn’t even really know you. I didn’t get to know your favorite color or if you even liked LEGOLAND, or pancakes or riding bikes. I like to dream about who you might have been but in reality, I don’t know anything. Everything was so fast and the end came so quickly. But if you had turned 5 it would have been the best day. It would have been a great day.”

Mother with her baby at home. Mother changing diaper her little baby on the bed.

“Now, let me be completely honest – during diaper blowout situations, I often started out singing it sarcastically, but by the time I had sung it through a few times and the mess was getting better, I did mean it. If I’m being honest about that, I also need to share that a few times I started the song off by singing it through clenched teeth with lots of eye rolls. But again, by the end, I did sincerely mean it.”

birthday post feature images (1)

“I look at my friends struggling with their newborns and selfishly just want a little baby again. Not a toddler who can talk back, but one who wakes up because all they need is their momma to cuddle with. Not a four-year old who has night terrors and now gives us back aches from kicking us so hard all night because we are too tired to fight them to bed to do it all over again… and just give up and in to letting him sleep with us.”


“Life has certainly handed me an assortment of disasters and losing my daughter Audrina, was just one of them. In all of the chaos, I cling to these four words, “Thy will be done.” When there’s nothing else I can do and nothing is in my control, I let go of all expectation and surrender my hopes, dreams and plans over to him.”

My Husband Got a Vasectomy and Survived

“After a week he was back to normal and cleared to start his, um, homework. Twenty practice sessions over a month and then a final exam at a lab to ensure that the procedure was effective. Then we can resume our usual schedule of sleeping chastely side by side without extra protection.”

birthday post feature images (2)

“This mom in the waiting room began digging in her bag. She produced a piece of clothing, gave it to her daughter, and then gestured toward me. The daughter walked over and gave me a polo shirt the exact size my son wore. I hesitated. I didn’t know how I would return it to her. I didn’t want to take her extra outfit – after all, she had thought ahead – I didn’t. And what if she needed it later? What if they were admitted? Who was I to accept this kindness?”

A mom buckles her infant son safely into a rear facing car seat as they get ready to drive somewhere in their vehicle.  The baby's mouth is visible with a big smile.  Sunlight shines in from behind.  Horizontal with copy space.

“If you want to crush a working mom’s spirit, tell her these things when she goes to pick up her sweet baby at the end of a long day at work. These conversations were getting harder and harder for me, and I was beginning to worry that one day they’d just tell me he wasn’t welcome anymore. I could tell caring for him was becoming stressful and all the red flags in my mommy gut started going off.”

Farewell, Nap Time | Twin Cities Mom Collective

“When my twins stopped napping I remember casually mentioning it while at a friend’s house. I still recall where I was standing in her white kitchen, kids underfoot, with a whole group of moms for a playdate. I let the words leave my mouth, “The twins are dropping their nap” and every single mom present gave a collective, horrified gasp.”

“So, here goes:
Once upon a time, in the land of 10,000 lakes, a princess met her prince.  They attended royal college, had a stately wedding, purchased a castle in the suburbs and had two royal babies.  And they lived happily ever after.
(Record scratch)
Let’s start again.”

birthday post feature images (3)

“There is a hole where my first grader is supposed to be, and some of you are walking with that hole too, whether it’s first or kinder, middle school even. A place your person was supposed to be. So you let the water run down your back. And sometimes, you kneel down and even put you head in your hands and just let the water run. The trouble with being there, and anywhere else is that once you’re down you don’t know if you can get back up.”

Our most popular articles are local event guides, which we’ve kept out of our Top Ten, but we couldn’t help but share a few here!

Twin Cities Birthday Party Guide | Twin Cities Mom Collective

Bestie Birthday Bash: Make it Top Notch


Bestie Birthday Bash: Make it Top Notch | Twin Cities Mom Collective

With our 6th birthday here at Twin Cities Mom Collective on the horizon, we are talking all things celebration this week! Join us right here as we commemorate this incredible, inspiring and thriving community of moms in the Twin Cities.
Let’s celebrate!

It’s Twin Cities Mom Collective’s birthday month! And I, for one, am down to celebrate it all month long.There’s nothing like a good party and, in my opinion, there’s nothing like HOSTING a great party. I seriously love to host: holidays, showers, The Masters, the Super Bowl, and of course, birthdays! If there’s a reason to celebrate (which there always is), I’m on it!

I had a large group over for a holiday gathering right before Christmas. My friend asked me, “Isn’t this totally overwhelming for you?” My response was simply, “No way, I love doing this! I just make it really easy on myself.”

And that’s the key, make it super simple. You should have only two goals for a great party: Make sure your guests have a great time, and make sure you can enjoy it too.

Here’s how…

Know Your Audience

Planning for a fellow mom can be tough. You need to understand what phase of life she and the other guests are in. Does she have a baby who won’t take a bottle and can’t be away from her for more than a couple hours? Does she like to be home to help with a bedtime routine? Is she desperately exhausted and not going to make it past 8pm? Is she ready to take a night off and let loose? Everyone handles the phases of motherhood differently, so make sure you’re thoughtful about what phase she’s in. Pick a time that works for her whether that be brunch, happy hour, dinner, or late night drinks.

Pick a Meaningful Theme

I’m not talking about unicorns or princesses here like you’re planning for some five year old. I’m saying pick a general theme to center your food and drink selection around. My old roommate just brought a group of us together to celebrate her birthday with a sushi-making night, just like when we lived together. You may have celebrated many a taco Tuesday with your bestie and that might be the route you choose. Cheese and wine may be more your friendship’s style, or maybe mimosas and brunch. Whatever your special thing has been, stick with it! It’s always fun to give a nod to the way things used to be pre-kids.

Set the Menu (or make a reservation)

More of an organizer and less of a hostess?  No problem! Make a reservation somewhere fabulous and organize transportation. Maybe you gals want to whoop it up – consider making it a full on girls’ night and getting a hotel somewhere near your favorite bar scene.

If you’re the hostess with the mostest type, now’s where you plan a menu that looks elaborate but is really easy to execute. Think dishes that you can prep ahead of time. This may be a charcuterie board where everything is cut up the morning or day before and all you need to do is assemble before guests arrive. It may be a soup and salad bar. A make-ahead egg bake and fruit and yogurt bar. Or one of my favorites, a taco bar. Instant pots and slow cookers are your friend – prep things ahead of time so all you need to do is pop it in the oven to reheat it when guests arrive. Oh, and don’t forget a signature drink/cocktail and dessert!

Maybe making all the food is totally overwhelming to you or you’re looking for a way to get everyone involved. Then my old roommate’s idea of a DIY sushi* night (*insert whatever food is appealing to your guest of honor) is the ticket. A make your own flatbread night would be great for this type of thing too! All you need to do is acquire the ingredients and tools (or make a reservation for a cooking class), and then all of your guests can grab a drink and have a fun time pitching in!

Plan Ahead

This may be the most important tip for a successful party: DO EVERYTHING YOU CAN BEFORE THE DAY OF. Seriously. Anything and everything you can possibly do before hand, just do it. Clean the house, set the table, chop/prep ingredients, lay out serving-ware (consider options that make clean-up a breeze like compostable plates/silverware), plan the music, set-up a photo station, get guest rooms ready if people are crashing… all of it.

The day of the party you just want to be taking care of some finishing touches, setting out food and drinks (bar cart style so guests can grab their own drinks), and enjoying time with your guests.

And Finally…

Chill Out

Just don’t sweat it. When push comes to shove, remember what it’s all about – celebrating your friend. If you’re a stressed out hostess, everyone else is going to feel uncomfortable too. Plan ahead, let go of things that don’t come together how you planned, and just focus on the guest of honor and making her feel well-loved. She won’t remember the fancy decorative details, or that the meal was over-done, but she will remember the belly-laughs and the feeling of someone else taking care of her for a change.

2020 Minneapolis WinterSkate Guide

We're thrilled to be partnering with the mpls downtown council to provide this guide for families. Minneapolis WinterSkate is the ultimate skating experience for the whole family that you can enjoy all winter long!

Winter is officially upon us and what better way to get out & enjoy it than to go ice skating? Wells Fargo Mpls WinterSkate is back in Loring Park this winter and is the ultimate place to take your family skating! This outdoor rink is completely refrigerated, meaning you can enjoy skating under the skyline in the heart of the city whether it’s 0 or 50 degrees! With free family friendly events, complimentary skate rental, a warming house, and more, it’s sure to be a place where you can make some great memories this winter. We have all the info you need to navigate WinterSkate here!

Minneapolis WinterSkate Guide 2020

Cost: Skating is completely FREE!

Hours: WinterSkate is open daily now through March 1!

Location: The ice rink is located in Loring Park (1382 Willow Street, Minneapolis).

Skate Rental: Complimentary skates are available during warming house hours. These are on a first come, first served basis. Sizes and quantities vary, so bring your own skates if you have them!

Warming House Hours: The warming house is open Monday-Friday: 3pm-9pm, Saturday: 9am-9pm, and Sunday: 10am-6pm.

***Mpls WinterSkate will be open 12-9 pm on Minneapolis Public School release dates: Jan. 17 & 20, Feb. 17-18

Post on social media and you could win big!

Share your experiences at the Wells Fargo Mpls WinterSkate and you could win Minnesota Wild tickets sponsored by Wells Fargo!  Tag your photos or videos using “@wellsfargo #mplswinterskate” for a chance to win a pair of tickets to sit in the Wells Fargo center-ice suite during the Minnesota Wild’s matchup with the Buffalo Sabres on March 28, 2020. Winners will be chosen to receive two tickets each throughout the winter. Winners are randomly selected by the mpls downtown council.

Minneapolis WinterSkate Guide 2020

The Wells Fargo Mpls WinterSkate will have free programming taking place throughout the winter. Come down and skate on your own, or enjoy a great collection of activities through March! Here are a few of the types of programming you’ll enjoy:

Take FREE skating lessons each Saturday in January & February

The Figure Skating Club of Mpls will be hosting free skating lessons each Saturday at 3 pm in January and February. Join us in Loring Park on Jan. 18 & 25 and Feb. 1, 8, 15, 22 & 29!

Test your endurance + win big at Fitness Skates

Each Tuesday in January and February, Wells Fargo Mpls WinterSkate will host fitness skates! Fitness Skates will include music each week, and anyone who participants and has never visited CorePower Yoga before will receive a one week free pass to CorePower Yoga. Plus, anyone who skates can register for a grand prize drawing of one month of free CorePower Yoga.

Movie skate nights

We welcome you to skate and enjoy a outdoor movie nights, including “The Mighty Ducks”—which was filmed right here in downtown mpls.

  • Friday, January 17: “The Mighty Ducks” | 6-8 pm
  • Friday, February 28: “The Princess & the Frog” | 6-8 pm

Special community skate days

Enjoy special skating activities on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Monday, January 20) and President’s Day (Monday, February 17) including music and hot cider on MLK Day and skating lessons and hot cider on President’s Day.

Freshly sharpened skates

The Wells Fargo Mpls WinterSkate’s complimentary skates in the Warming House courtesy of CenterPoint Energy are freshly sharpened. Bring your own, or use a pair while you’re here and enjoy your time on the ice.

Full Schedule:

Tuesday, January 14: Fitness Skate | 5-9 pm

Friday, January 17: Pre-movie party | 4-6 pm + “The Mighty Ducks” movie night | 6-8 pm

Saturday, January 18: Skating Lessons with Figures Skating Club of Mpls | 3-4 pm

Monday, January 20: Community Skate with music and hot cider | 12-3 pm

Tuesday, January 21: Fitness Skate | 5-9 pm

Saturday, January 25: Skating Lessons with Figures Skating Club of Mpls | 3-4 pm + Drag Queen Skate | 6-9 pm

Tuesday, January 28: Fitness Skate | 5-9 pm

Saturday, February 1: Skating Lessons with Figures Skating Club of Mpls | 3-4 pm

Tuesday, February 4: Fitness Skate | 5-9 pm

Friday, February 7: Silent Disco Skate | 6-9 pm

Saturday, February 8: Loring Park WinterFest | 1-3 pm + Skating Lessons with Figures Skating Club of Mpls | 3-4 pm

Tuesday, February 11: Fitness Skate | 5-9 pm

Saturday, February 15: Skating Lessons with Figures Skating Club of Mpls | 3-4 pm

Monday, February 17: President’s Day – Skating Lessons & Hot Cider | 12-3 pm

Tuesday, February 18: Fitness Skate | 5-9 pm

Friday, February 21: Drag Queen Skate | 6-9 pm

Saturday, February 22: Skating Lessons with Figures Skating Club of Mpls | 3-4 pm

Tuesday, February 25: Fitness Skate | 5-9 pm

Friday, February 28: Leap Day Party | 4-6 pm + “The Princess & the Frog” movie night | 6-8 pm

Friday, February 29: Skating Lessons with Figures Skating Club of Mpls | 3-4 pm

Sunday, March 1: Community Thank You Party | 1-3 pm

Minneapolis WinterSkate Guide 2020

Have fun at the rink and on social media!

Skaters at the Wells Fargo Mpls WinterSkate are encouraged to participate in an ongoing Instagram campaign throughout the winter. While you’re there, take a photo with the Wells Fargo Mpls WinterSkate frame and post on your social media account using the hashtag #MplsWinterSkate.

For a full list of events and programming, visit!

Mom Birthdays


Mom Birthdays | Twin Cities Mom Collective

With our 6th birthday here at Twin Cities Mom Collective on the horizon, we are talking all things celebration this week! Join us right here as we commemorate this incredible, inspiring and thriving community of moms in the Twin Cities.
Let’s celebrate!

I am thirty years, one hour and fourteen and a half minutes older than my firstborn. Had he been born on the west coast, we’d be sharing a birthday each year. But, instead, I spent my thirtieth birthday giving every bit of who I am for my baby boy. And in some ways, I’ve spent every birthday since in a similar way. 

It took me about five years before I realized or remembered that each year my son had a birthday, I did as well. In fact, just this weekend I had absolutely no idea of my actual age (to be honest, I don’t think my mom was even sure) and in looking for a relatively recent picture of myself on my birthday to add to this post, I found nothing. Of course, the people around me shower me each year with celebration and greetings on my birthday. I always feel so loved. But, my real love and celebration is always focused on my son and his upcoming special day. Present and party prep, blowing up balloons, doing whatever I can to make sure the next day is as special as can be. I go all in. 

And although it might sound a bit sad, please don’t feel bad for me! I love spending my day this way. In a kind of cheesy way, it’s always felt like a symbolic reminder of the birthday a few years ago that I spent preparing for his arrival (read: back labor for days). Bringing joy to others is my happy place. 

Mom Birthdays | Twin Cities Mom Collective

By nature, the Enneagram Type Two in me loves spending my “special day” like this. I am a helper and a nurturer and this mom stuff feels like the icing on the cake. But inside, the person who forgot she was even aging each year, is realizing she hardly blinked and her thirties are coming to an end. Something tells me this probably isn’t always the healthiest thing to do. 

While I do think it’s important to take care of myself and I am pretty aware of the parts of “me” that struggle to find a place since becoming a mom, I truly think that I am more alive and well now than I was before. I love this stage of motherhood and am okay having this be a big part of my identity. I’m guessing this will ebb and flow for the rest of my life. This is my nature and in many ways little-girl-me dreams are becoming real, and while I tend to cringe at all the self-care talk being thrown around us, I know it’s important to remember who I am.  

I should, at a minimum, know how old I am. 

So, I’m thinking, as a gift to myself, I will begin to look for ways to be both the mom who stays awake late blowing up balloons and the woman who will do something special for herself each year. Not in a way that will add more to my load, rather, in a way that acknowledges who I am.

And if I don’t plan a big getaway for my fortieth in a couple of years, at least I’ll do something to remember that even though my eyes don’t have crow’s feet yet, I am getting older and with that, have accomplished much that deserves to be celebrated.



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