Thrive, not just survive being a stay at home mom. Tips from the trenches.

Thrive, not just survive being a stay at home mom. Tips from the trenches.

The thought for this post came to me after I was struggling to put my screaming son into a cart at Costco. I haven’t always been a stay at home mom. Here’s my motherhood story in a nutshell. I had my oldest just 2 weeks before turning 21. A few years later, I was a divorced mom of 2 kids earning a degree in social work with no family support (they lived 8 hours away). Twelve years later and I was married with 2 more kids and I working full time as a social worker. I LOVED my job but like so many parents, I was finding less enjoyment in my career. My husband works between 50-65 hours a week and it was tough to be away. After a lot of discussion, we decided would stay at home. It’s been 3 years. Here is what I have learned (believe me, I am still learning and I do not claim to be an expert on this):

  1. Let go of any expectations. I had an idea in my head of how this would work. I would be put together, pristine house, happy children who adored their mother, warm meals, ample gym time, daily learning lessons for kids, outings, crafts and cooking. I am here to tell you, let it go girlfriend! Some days I am just surviving here, counting down the minutes until bed time and a glass of wine! It’s ok, it is. Some days I am in yoga pants, even pj’s until lunch. My kids fight, I am the “worst mommy ever” on occasion, meals are often leftovers or whatever can be scrounged up. Daily lessons… well that’s just not me, there’s preschool for that. That’s cool though, I know who I am and what I am good at. P.S. don’t stress over dust and various scattered toys……. let it go!
  2. Explore your weaknesses. I am the most unorganized person! I procrastinate and am usually struggling to find that permission slip wedged in some drawer somewhere. Be honest, figure out what areas you need to improve on and put strategies in place to help,Here are a few that help me. I make lists and use my planner on my phone. I have a small notebook I keep with me for random lists. I use my phone planner and it’s alerts for EVERYTHING! You’d be surprised how easy it is to forget an appointment when you are trying to get the laundry done, playing dress up, and refereeing sibling squabbles. Plus I find that often, my husband and I forget to communicate appointments and various events. I just add him to the planner events and he is alerted too.
  3. Talk to your significant other. Before taking the leap into stay at home parenting, sit down and have a discussion about what your expectations are. I honestly think my husband thought that the house would be close to spotless and he wouldn’t have to do much at home. It is very important, in order to avoid future fights or resentment, to honestly talk about what you both are expecting, and then revisit it after being home for a while once you have a chance to really experience this stay at home thing. You might think you can keep the house clean, make a from scratch meal nightly, play with your darlings, and get a workout in. However, once you are in the trenches, you might find that maybe you can’t do it all, or you are, but you are losing your mind in the process. I really believe that the working parent struggles most with the homemaking portion of having a significant other at home. So talk, be honest.
  4. Don’t lose yourself. I see so many at home parents lose sight of who they are. Continue to feed your brain, learn new things, explore hobbies.
  5. Take care of you! If you are going to take care of others, you need to be at your best. Do not feel guilty taking care of you! Workout, read ALONE (something non educational and maybe trashy), get a massage, whatever you need to stay in balance. When I am stressed, I have way less tolerance for my kids and husband.
  6. Find new friends. I found that my old work friends and I didn’t have much in common any more. They will always hold a special place in my heart, we were just in different worlds. I found some amazing friends while working out and running. I can text one when I am having a rough day and we can have an impromptu play date. We can visit each others houses and not have to explain the mess. Sometimes one or both of us are still in PJ’s!
  7. Date your spouse. Go on dates and have alone time with your spouse. Do not stay in the parent role all the time with your significant other. Get all gussied up and hit the town, find new hobbies to enjoy together (we might try tennis).
  8. You are important. This is a tough one. Especially if you left a career. I still find myself having to tell people that I’m not “just a stay at home mom”, that I have a degree an chose to leave my career. Whether you have a degree or not, what you do matters!
  9. Stay active. Do not just sit around all day and watch TV. I know that is a stereotype, but some people do. You are wasting your life by doing this. Being at home is not an excuse to be lazy. Be present in you child’s life, play, get out, workout. I say workout a lot, don’t I? It’s important to stay physically active to not only keep up with our little darlings, but to stay healthy. Get up and live the life that you chose!

BONUS: If you aren’t happy, go back to work! No one said this had to be permanent. Being at home isn’t for everyone and that’s ok.

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Soul running

Soul running

Today I did something that I’ve never done before, I ran without the music and without a partner. To anyone that knows me they know that this is something very unlike me. I’m the type of person that if I get to the gym and I don’t have music I turn around and go home. Today however, I decided to run without music and without a partner to see what would happen. I felt I needed more from my run today. I was curious about how my body would feel, how I would do, and if I could connect to my body somehow. As I started my run I instantly knew that this is something that I would have to start incorporating into my running schedule. A soul run. A run that has a sole purpose of connecting me to my body, my soul.

I had no expectations for this run. I took my sports watch to track my distance and time, since I had to be done by a certain time to get the kids. As I ran, I listened to my body. I ran as fast as my legs wanted me to go. I slowed as they wanted me to slow. I took in the scenery. Watched birds fly, squirrels and rabbits hop away blissfully. I listened as the breeze blew through the trees and past my ears. I meditated on the rhythm of my footsteps and my breathing. Sometimes my breath was a bit labored, sometimes it came with ease.

I allowed my mind to wander wherever it chose, only calling it back when the competitor began to speak. It would urge me to check my pace, that wouldn’t it be awesome to let go and run faster than I’ve ever run by shear “coincidence”. To push myself up a hill and take it on. I hushed that voice, that was not the purpose of this run. This run was to connect with nature and myself. This was a run for my soul and nothing more.

We all have a different “soul environment”. What I mean by that is that we all have different environments that speak to us, put us at ease, relaxes us. For me, it has always been water. I love a river, lake, the ocean. The waves or the ease of the flow. Since I was young, I have always pictured myself in my prime (retirement?), sitting on a deck sipping my morning coffee and overlooking a large body of water. I am connected to it somehow. We all have a different place that speaks to us. The desert, nature, the city, mountains- our souls all connect to a different environment. Where do you tend to vacation? Where do you feel most at ease, relaxed? This is your place.

It becomes so easy to get fixated on training for a race, or running faster, farther, speed work, tempo. There are so many labels that go along with running. It’s all ok, we need those runs. We need to train and run our long runs, our tempo runs. It all has a place. In that process though, we lose something. We become rigid and lose that mind and body connection. I strongly feel that we need to throw a run to connect our mind and body. I am not talking about a religious thing, although it could be. You can use this to connect to a higher power or to simply connect with yourself. The goal is to just let go.

If you would like to try to Soul Run here are my tips:

  • Run in an environment as close as you can to the one that you feel most at ease.
  • Run without music. Listen to your surrounding, your footsteps and breathing.
  • Run without a partner. You can begin a run together, but don’t run it all together. When you run with a partner one of you is running according to the other person. You lose yourself and the purpose.
  • Run as far or as little as you would like. Seven miles felt great today, but next time maybe only 2, or 10. Run according to your body.
  • Silence the competitor. Tell yourself to just feel the run. Don’t run at a certain pace. Just feel.

I would love to hear from you. Do you already run this way? If you try it, let me know how it goes. I will be tagging my soul runs with the tag #soulrunning Feel free to join in!! Thanks so much for reading!

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Holidays done healthy

Holidays done healthy

As temperatures cool and we begin to cover ourselves with more layers, it gets more and more difficult to stay motivated to keep fit. As if that wasn’t difficult enough, we have holidays that revolve around food bring in this season. We gain an average of 5 pounds during the holiday season and that doesn’t even count Haloween! You might think that I am posting this a bit early considering the “true” holiday season begins in another month. However, I really feel that we not only need to plan ahead, but as it begins to get colder, we find more and more excuses to skip that workout. We start to eat more comfort foods and grab some extra holiday lattes. So here are my biggest tips to not become an unhealthy statistic.

*find a motivator to keep you in check that doesn’t involving a bathing suit.
*remember how you feel when you eat crap and write it down. Put it some place you will see it. (Too much sugar gives me a headache, I feel bloated, sluggish, mad, etc)
*in the same fashion, write down how you feel after eating right and working out. Put this list right on your fridge.
*find a buddy who wants to stay on track, not someone that you always have to motivate.
*try a new class and make friends. You’ll be surprised how accountable you become when others notice when you missed a class.
*if you LOVE holiday baking but have no willpower, bake and take your treats to a nursing home, a favorite local store you frequent, donate to a homeless shelter.
*find healthy treat alternatives. There are plenty of healthy dessert type recipes out there.
*start a new tradition, find an alternative to baking, make holiday crafts instead.
*start your holiday morning with a workout but don’t use it as an excuse to eat more.
*eat a LITTLE bit of everything. I am that girl who will have a tiny sliver of each pie!
*find workouts you can do at home with little or no equipment.
*don’t give up, if you have a set back get right back on the wagon.
*develop a workout plan and write it down. (Ie Monday is upper body, Tues lower body, Wed is Zumba, Thur and Fri rest, Sat run…) whatever works for you
*find HEALTHY motivational people to follow on social media. Just make sure they keep you motivated and give you ideas, not make you feel bad.
*DO NOT MAKE UP FOR MISTAKES BY STARVING YOURSELF. That’s right, I shouted! Do not gorge yourself on Halloween candy and then starve yourself for the rest of the day and following day. Your body needs nutrients and enough calories to function. Eating a measly 1000 calories or less will only mess up your metabolism. DON’T DO IT, just don’t, please.
*find you community. Use apps or social media to challenge yourself. Many apps have you “compete” with its users. I love my Nike+.

So hopefully that gives you some ideas or sparks some of your own. How do you stay motivated when all you want to do is curl up under a blanket and drink a latte?

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Disney Cruise tips for families

Disney Cruise tips for families

rainbow to greet us

The laundry is done, luggage unpacked, and refrigerator is restocked. That is what follows a week long family vacation, back to real life. We just returned from our first Disney Cruise. We sailed on the Fantasy and went to Cozumel, Grand Cayman’s, Jamaica, and of course Disney’s own island Castaway Cay (pronounced key).  We have some pretty awesome memories, and some not so awesome memories. From our trip I think I have a few tips I would like to share with you all. I am not claiming to be a travel expert. I am just a mom and have a few tips that might make your vacation a bit smoother. I have a bit of a unique perspective, I think. I traveled with my teen daughter, two kids (4 and 6) as well as my in-laws, and hubby of course.I am not going to give you all the “save money” tips. If you search the web, you can find tons of them. I researched this trip like crazy and found some things while on the cruise I didn’t know that would have made life easier. So here is what I have for you.

  • Consider going to your port city (Port Canaveral for us) the day before. We flew down Friday morning and had half the day Friday to hang out on the beach in Cocoa Beach. It was relaxing and pretty stress free. There is A LOT of waiting while traveling- airport lines, on the plane, luggage, then at the port- TONS OF WAITING! So by traveling down the day before, you are breaking up the waiting for those “patient” kids. It’s 2 days of shorter bursts of waiting vs one long day full of waiting. Not the best way to start a vacation.
  • On that note, expect lines and have activities ready for kiddos. When you get to the check-in line at Disney, only one person from the party has to wait in line. Everyone has to be at the check-in counter, but if you have a cell phone the lucky kid free person in line can call you when they are close to the check-in counter.
  • Have an adult only dinner at Palo. The hubster and I both agree, hands down best dinner and service we have ever had. It’s $35/person extra for a full meal and you need to make reservations. We went at 6:00 and were able to watch the sun set over dinner. 
  • Download the Disney Cruiseline Navigator app before you leave for your trip. Our cell signals were crap once we boarded the ship and it took FOREVER to download for my in-laws. This app is awesome. You can see the menu for dinner, set reminders for events and even text each other. 
  • You can change your meal time. We were set for an 8:45 meal time- no go with littles. As soon as you get on, request a new time. Just an FYI, your table number will be different then marked on your Key to the World card, so be prepared.
  • The ship follows the time zone it is stopping (port). My hubby and I took a Carnival cruise several years ago, and the ship remained in the eastern time zone time no matter where we were. Disney does not. Just be prepared for that adjustment (more so with kids).
  • Decide ahead of time if you want to stay on the ship or get off at ports. I can not stress this enough!! We had decided not to book excursions and just to explore the ports thinking there would be lots to do. NOT! My teen was more than upset and so were we. Our first port, Cozumel was a complete bust. The port was dirty and there were only shops with pushy sales people. If you want to do more than shop, book an excursion, or stay on the ship. Research your ports prior to see if there is anything to do. We were able to take a shuttle in the Cayman’s to the beach, but were strongly advised not to do the same in Jamaica due to safety concerns.
  • Plan for poor weather and what you will do. The only port that had the highest chance of non excursion activities was Castaway Cay. We spent  a couple amazing hours on their beach and then the rain came. Not just the quick moving rain, HOURS of cold windy rain. 3/4 of the day was a bust. Not only that, but due to lightening, the pools on the ship were closed. We spent the afternoon pretty discouraged and stressed with unhappy kids. We ended up seeing a movie and exploring the ship (hubby took one to a movie, I took one to explore, and a teen threw a teen fit due to the trip not living up to what she thought it would be).
  • Ok, so this is an unlikely tip but here it is. There is a self serve soft ice cream stand with little cones stationed by the pools. Grab a cup from the beverage station and use that instead or as well (for messy kids). 
  • Bring fewer clothes than you think you’ll need. We over packed! Then had to get creative to fit in the costumes from the Bippity Boppity Boutique and various items purchased.We actually pretty much spent most of our time in bathing suits anyway (bring a few of those per person too- nothing like getting back into a wet suit!) There is a very confusing laundry mat on the ship, just use it. I only had 2 loads of laundry to do yesterday thanks to it.
  • Speaking about laundry- bring a hamper, the pop up kind. Makes life so much easier.
  • To avoid tins of weight gain, there are healthy options  the Cabanas eating area have shellfish and salads (among other things) for lunch and fresh fruit, eggs, yogurt and all kinds of healthy options for breakfast. Each meal also has lighter options. Dessert is always available- though I tried to only eat it at dinner. Take the stairs as often as you can (feel the burn!!!). I somehow managed to not gain anything, although I did run a few times. 
  • Triple check the disembark time. My husband and I thought we got off the ship at 11- who knows why. We spent 7 hours in a very boring airport, waiting for our 4:00 flight home.
  • Speaking of travel, if you are traveling with a large party, consider renting a private car or limo. After researching, we found that it was only $50 more for us to rent a limo to travel to and from the airport. There was no waiting and the kids thought it was totally cool.
  • Be mentally prepared for little alone time. We had it built up in our minds that the kids would go to the awesome kids area and the teen would go to the teen area and we could sit by the pool sipping a rum tropical drink. UMMMMM, NO! The youngest ones only went a few times for about 45 minutes at a time. The oldest thought the teen area was lame (she’s 16). We had the kids with us virtually the entire trip.
  • THE COFFEE! The coffee served at the beverage areas is made from coffee syrup. If you like a true, brewed cup of coffee, you have to pay extra and find a cafe’. However, they like to make lattes and aren’t real big on just an iced coffee with flavored syrup.

So, I hope this helps you a little. I may edit this as I think of new ideas. All in all, Disney puts on a great cruise. They pay attention to detail and really strive to make your trip magical. Do you have any tips or questions to share?

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Shed the Shirt

Shed the Shirt

#shedtheshirt

Have you ever had an A-Ha moment, like that light bulb not only went off, but it freaking exploded above your head? I had one! Let me set the scene for you. I was halfway through a 15 mile run with a friend of mine. It was HOT, like humid, sticky, clothes drenched, sweat pouring hot! I made the comment that it would be nice to just run in a sports bra, if only my abs were better. My friend agreed making a similar remark. It hit me, WTF, I was so afraid of someone seeing my less than perfect abs, that I was going to run in a shirt that was making me hot and very uncomfortable. I was going to allow some crazy standard that probably is mostly in my head dictate what I should wear on a run.

Let’s back up here a bit. I have very distinct memories of running through the park after having 4 kids and being passed by girls in college and high school running what appeared to be, care free in their sports bras. Abs beautifully toned and flat. No extra skin, no stretch marks, ahhhh, young abs! We all seem to have an obsession with abs lately. It’s all over social media. “Lose those love handles”, “get a six pack”, ab selfies, eating for abs, no carbs, fasted cardio, reach around skinny test (google that f’ed up test if you haven’t heard). We are OBSESSED with chiseled abs! We equate the level of fitness with the number of abdominal muscles that show.

So back to the run. After we both had commented that if we had better abs we would run in our sports bras and that bulb went off, I suggested to run in our sports bras, it would be empowering. It was too. As we ran the last of our 15 miles, we discussed our thoughts on what we were doing. We weren’t there to be oggled, honked at, cat called, or for the entertainment of anyone else. We weren’t trying to look sexy (oh believe me, our facial expressions were far from that!), we didn’t care if anyone was offended by our skin on display. It was ridiculous that fear of being judged, of looking less than perfect, was holding us back from being comfortable.

Shedding our shirts was a symbol, a symbol to embrace our bodies, to embrace who we are without fear of what others will think. To not focus on our cellulite, stretch marks, extra skin, funky belly button, whatever it is that we want to hide from the world. It’s to not let societies standard of beauty dictate how we look or dress.

When you get out there next time, run however you want. Wear that skirt, run in that sports bra, be you. You are not there to make someone else feel comfortable or excited. You are training, you are making your body strong, fit and healthy. You are working to smash your goals. Every sweaty, painful, happy, step you take. Whether you are a runner, crossfitter, yogi, dancer, zumba-er (is that a thing), whatever your goal, you be true to you, don’t let fear hold you back!

#shedtheshirt

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