Basic Pilates stretches are a great way to get a start on your day.
Sitting tall, cross your right leg over your left (as a lady crosses her legs). Take a deep breath and revolve your body into the right side. Alternate by crossing your left leg over your right.
Another great pose also involves sitting up tall. Pull your right knee up to your chest, maintaining a straight back. As you exhale, round your back and hug the right knee. Switch legs and repeat.
Also try standing behind your chair. Hold onto the chair's back, cross your right leg over your left. Lean slightly over the chair. Hold for five to eight counts, inhale and come back up. Switch legs and breathe deep.
All of these stretches engage your core muscles, which help with stability, posture and feeling good. Always alternate your motions when you are performing these stretches and don't forget to breathe.
Tips provided by Gloria Costa-Johnson, a former ballerina and current Pilates instructor at the Lakeshore Athletic Club in Streeterville.
What's the toughest thing about being a modern mom today?
"I think Chicago is a great city to raise a baby, but I am not without my gripes. The lack of chivalry on public transportation (when I was pregnant), on the streets and in stores when I push my son in a stroller drives me nuts. People do not move aside on sidewalks, do not stop for you at stop lights and do not hold doors open for you as you're trying to get into a door. For such a great Midwest city, I am always surprised at the lack of politeness as I meander the city."
Sara Fisher, Chicago
"The Modern Mom strives for perfection. As a modern mom, we must realize that we can't do it all. All we can do is our best and that is good enough. When your little one crawls into your arms, kisses you and says mama or something else so adorable...that's when you realize that nothing else matters."
Julia Jacobs-Sanford, Chicago
What's the toughest thing about being a modern mom today? In 100 words or less, share your tips and thoughts here on being a modern mom in Chicagoland. E-mail me at email@example.com.
Just a quick note
Nothing brings that warm, fuzzy feeling like a handwritten letter from a friend. I love opening my mailbox to find something other than bills. Today, it seems all the hustle and bustle of our lives has taken away the handwritten note. With Valentine's Day right around the corner, why not make a splurge to show your loved ones they can be your Valentine, too?
Perhaps Hallmark is a little too cheesy. And the cards you send to school with your children are most certainly not appropriate for your sassy city style. Jenny Sweeney Designs, based out of Libertyville, has designs-and tips-for you.
There have been times when writing a note becomes, well, a chore. I'm not sure what to write and know that if I start, I won't stop. Rather than saying, 'thank you for the great gift,' Jenny Sweeney, the company's namesake, suggests you "say something a little funny, quirky and silly; that makes it more memorable."
Find a cozy place to write your notes. "When you sit down to write a note on your special card, it makes you feel good," Sweeney says. "There is something really special about it. It makes somebody's day."
The cards sold at Jenny Sweeney Designs are created with women in mind. You can go online, www.jennysweeneydesigns.com, and design your own cards or pick one out from its extensive collection. One of my favorites is the "You are fabulous" card. What a fantastic way to let someone know you were thinking of them, in your own fabulous way.
That sweet, sweet aroma
No matter how old you are, how many children you have or where you live, your life will always be filled with things to do, places to go and people to see. Sometimes that means stress, tension and aggravation.
Aromatherapy, the use of special oils, can help you relax or act as a quick pick-me-up. "Aromatherapy is a signal to your brain that this is a special time to meditate," says Tedd Neenan, owner of Aroma Workshop, 2050 N. Halsted St., Chicago. According to Neenan, your body's receptors trigger memories, whether good or bad, as the natural chemical compounds in each aroma enters your system.
This can sound a little unnerving, but it's really not, Neenan says. "You think of the plant as the chemist-it's up to us to introduce those molecules, aromatic compounds to hit the receptors in certain places in your body, brain and nerves. They induce the body to release hormones to relax you by producing serotonin."
Lavender, atlas cedarwood, neroli (also known as orange blossom) and sage are just a few aromas that help your body relax. Neenan also suggests rubbing a little bit of diluted lavender essence oil on the bottoms of your feet before bed to help you sleep.
If you are in need of a good pick-me-up, instead of picking up that mug of coffee, try using some lemon or peppermint mist. Put a few drops of oil into a spray bottle and fill with water. Not only do you have a great air freshener, you can also use it under your chin for instant gratification. You can even create your own spa at home with a bottle of diluted eucalyptus.
A word of caution. Always do a little research before using any of these products directly on your skin because there are a few essences that can be harmful if not diluted properly.
And if candles aren't a safe option in your house, many apothecaries and specialty stores have started to carry scent sticks for aromatherapy. The sticks sit in little vials and bottles of your favorite aroma and last for about two months.
It is important to find time to relax. Take a few minutes to meditate, read a good book and enjoy a little bit of aroma.