5 Easy Tips to Exercise Consistently

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We know how important it is to exercise. Yet we still struggle to make it happen.

There are so many wonderful benefits to exercise! It not only helps us maintain a healthy weight which in turn prevents so many diseases, it also boosts our mood and gives us more energy. As a busy mom dancing to the rhythms of life, I can use all the energy I can get!

Here’s another great reason to exercise. As we get older our bone density decreases, meaning more brittle bones and more likely to break a hip from slipping on the ice. (Living in Duluth, MN I’m gonna slip on the ice.) Weight lifting improves the strength of our bones. So consistently lift at least twice a week and you’ll be a fierce force on that ice. Not to mention have beautifully defined muscles. Bare those gorgeous arms ladies!  

Still not amped to go workout? How about this one- exercise slows the aging process, making us appear more youthful. At 41 I’m totally cool with that! (My daughter says I look like I’m 20, but I’m pretty sure she’s lying.)

So really, why wouldn’t we exercise consistently?

Here are 5 easy tips to get your body moving and grooving consistently for even the busiest of moms.

Find an activity that you enjoy doing.

This may take a little time as you explore a variety of options, but that’s ok! You won’t know what clicks until you experiment. So go out and have fun! Try a little bit of everything and then settle on one thing. Or maybe two. Just to keep it fresh.

Not sure how to get started? Try Beachbody On Demand for 7 days. There are loads of different workouts to try from yoga, country line dancing, weight lifting, Pilates, boot camp, martial arts…You name it! You can even mix and match! All require minimal equipment and can be done in the gym or at home.

Find the right time of day to exercise.

Take into consideration the activity you’ve settled on, when it may or may not be offered, and the equipment needed.

I highly recommend exercising in the morning. You wake up, exercise, and BOOM you’re done. You’ve already started your day having accomplished something and feeling good. You can never go wrong there. No worries or excuses to avoid doing it later.

Get it done before your brain wakes up and realizes what’s happening.

Need help waking up? These suggestions are taking from Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning. (If you haven’t read the book yet, you most definitely want to. It’s a life changer.)

  • Lay out your workout clothes the night before. Or better yet, sleep in them!
  • Set your alarm and put it across the room.
  • Set a glass of water next to your alarm.
  • Before you fall asleep, repeat your intentions for the morning.
  • When the alarm goes off, turn on the light, drink the water, brush your teeth, get on your workout clothes and BOOM! You’re ready to work out.

This totally works. Try it.

Pick the frequency you’ll complete the activity.

Are you more likely to stick with it 3 times a week or do you need to do something every day?

Years ago I would exercise 3-4 days a week for 45 minutes a day. Nowadays, it’s much more difficult to fit in 45 minutes and for some reason it’s harder for me to be consistent if I take a day off. So I exercise every day for 30 minutes and use walks and yoga for my active recovery days.

Be flexible.

We have seasons in our life. Things change. You gotta be flexible enough to go with the flow and the changing season. If you feel you’re working just a bit too hard at something that was once your favorite activity, take a step back. Assess whether it fits at this moment in your life. Doesn’t mean you have to give it up forever. Just means it’s time to find something different. Be open to readjust and find your new fit.

Decide if you need an accountability partner.

Could be a friend you work out with or a challenge group.

Tell others what your goals are and ask them to keep you accountable. When I ran the marathon at age 40 for the first time, I strategically placed family members along the racecourse to ensure I’d finish. No way did I want to suffer teasing for voluntarily stepping off the course! I also wore a sign that said “Hi, I’m Ami. 1st marathon. Give me a push.” Fellow runners motivated me for 26.2 miles. Some even physically pushed me forward when I needed it!

The point is do what you need to do to succeed in making exercise a habit you enjoy doing.

Trust me. Do it long enough and you’ll feel so good, you won’t want to stop!

The Pendulum Diet

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The Pendulum diet. Where you lose weight. Find it and it’s friends. Ditch the weight. The crew finds you again. And it just keeps going and going and going.

Let me tell you a story.

Four years ago at age 38 I was the fittest I’d ever been in my life. I. Looked. Good. Like smokin’ hot in a bikini kinda good! My husband couldn’t keep his hands off me.

I got there by working out close to two hours most every day, weighing portions, counting calories, and not eating carbs after 12 p.m.

So basically my life consisted of exercise and eating chicken and vegetables.

Then my mother made the decision to stop dialysis and I began the long emotional journey of watching a loved one die and saying goodbye to my best friend.

I took a month off work to help care for her. During this time we watched lots of cooking shows together. I started trying recipes to pass the time and keep myself busy. (Disclaimer: these recipes would by no means fall under the category of healthy. Shocker. I know.)

I also stopped working out because I didn’t want to miss a minute with her.

By the time she passed two months later, I had gained 10+ pounds. I continued to gain weight as I attempted to eat my grief into nonexistence and continued not to exercise. I hadn’t even realized that I had gained so much weight.

Until I saw a picture of myself 6 months later.

That picture was the kickstart of my journey on the Pendulum diet. I worked viciously to get rid of the weight, then life would bump me slightly off track, and I would instead be completely derailed. Regaining all the weight lost plus some.

Other times, I just gave up and wallowed in defeat and self pity.

I counted calories, weighed and measured my food, and added up points. Each one worked in its own right. For a short time.

And then before you know it, I was treating myself to this and that. I’d feel guilt and shame for most of what I was eating. So I’d eat more in a weak attempt to drown out the guilt and shame. It became a vicious cycle.

And pretty soon the scale and my waist line were creeping up in numbers again.

I was so disappointed in myself. I constantly beat myself up because I knew better. I had been a personal trainer!  I had become my fittest self! Age age 38! I knew what to do! Yet now I struggled making consistent healthy choices.

What I didn’t give myself credit for was the fact that my life had changed drastically from when I had that hot bod.

Before mom died I’d leave the house at 7 a.m. to train and work out with clients in as a personal trainer and hiked. All before going to work at a youth program. I then spent the day running around with kids until getting home at 8 p.m. Just in time to say goodnight to my own kids.

After her death I went back to working an 8 – 5 desk job and spending more time with my little family. Once again I was there to help my kids with homework, take them to after school activities, and put them to bed. Which meant I didn’t have as much time to workout.

I compared myself to a version of me in a time and place that no longer existed. Which set me up for failing. When I wasn’t perfect in my food choices, I beat myself up by telling myself I might as well give up and go all out. It wouldn’t matter anyway. Like this was an all or nothing situation.

But it’s not.

Putting on underwear is all or nothing. But food choices? Those are lifetime choices. With the opportunity to choose to eat healthy every time I eat. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t. Either way I continue moving forward.

It took me a few years to realize this.

I now live by the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time I eat healthy; 20% of the time I give myself permission to have a treat or two. It offers flexibility when life gets chaotic and busy. The majority of the time I’m making healthy choices and sometimes I have pizza or ice cream, but I do so without guilt. And I no longer tell myself that I’ll start over tomorrow. No need to. I just pick up with the next meal!

To do this I needed to make an intentional mind shift. No more hit it hard, off limits foods for 30, 60, or 90 days.

I now think long into my future and break it down into smaller steps which become habits which accumulate into massive successes.

It will take me longer to lose the weight. But I’m ok with that. I’m no longer aiming for that smokin’ bod. I just want to be healthy so I can play soccer with my kids and hike. I just want to live til I’m a 100, movin’ and groovin’ the whole time. And all the while setting a positive example for my kids so they can avoid some of my hard learned lessons.

I don’t want results in 30 days. I want sustainable, healthy habits.

I’m in it for life.

How about you? Do you want to start taking small steps to succeed for a lifetime? Awesome! Here’s a few ideas to get you started.

Meal Swaps

I’ve tweaked some of my family’s favorite meals. They don’t notice a difference and we all get healthier. Like making sloppy joes and tacos with ground turkey instead of ground beef.

Mason jar salads are made ahead to divide as a side salad for dinner. Think dijon mustard mixed with olive oil, chicken, red grapes, spinach, and shaved parmesan cheese layered in that order.

I also try one new easy healthy recipe a week. It’s definitely good to introduce new things every once in awhile. And I love quick and easy. Many new recipes have become kid and husband approved!

Meal Prep

I’ve prepped work snacks and lunches for many years. I highly recommend it.  But now I’ve taken it to a new level. Super simple. Chop all the vegetables ahead of time. Cook all the ground turkey at once. Divide, freeze, and BOOM! Pull and mix dinners! (Funny. I never thought to do that before.)

Feeling super pumped? Put together a homemade pizza, tape baking instructions to the wrap, and freeze. Pull and bake. Just like Papa Murphy’s.

Got a crock pot? Fill it with chicken then freeze a few in individual baggies and some in meal amounts. Then pull and shred for salads or add to dinners. Want to come home to a home cooked meal? Put all the ingredients in the crockpot the night before, turn it on in the morning and voila! Dinner is served! Add a mason jar salad, some music, and candlelight and your rockin’ it! Your family will think it’s a special occasion and you barely broke a sweat.

Portions

Portion control is the hardest. Order food at a restaurant and there’s enough for 3 meals. But if you’re like me, you eat it in one.

So make it easy on yourself! Get containers that are divided into 3 areas. These are my favorite. Carb and protein in the smaller areas, then fill the larger area with your vegetables. Yes, that many vegetables. Use the same containers to portion your dinner.

For snacks, get tupperware containers and ziplock baggies that are snack size. Pre-portion your snacks, limit yourself to 2 – 3 snacks daily, and over time I guarantee you’ll notice a difference.

I won’t pretend. Eating healthy is not easy. At times it’s even inconvenient.

But it can be fun. And delicious.

These are just a few things to get you started. Tweak as you go and build upon your baby steps over time.

Most importantly give yourself a break. If you have a treat don’t beat yourself up over it. Be present in the moment, enjoy the treat, and pick right back up with healthy food choices at the next meal.

So what do you struggle with when it comes to eating healthy? Have your own tips for keeping meal time healthy? Share in the comments!

How to take Time for Yourself

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I’m gonna share a secret with you. I’m terrible at making time for myself. I’m great at making time for my kids, co-workers, and pretty much everyone else. Well… I could improve on making more time for my husband.

Fact is when my time conflicts with another’s, I’ll sacrifice my own time without thinking twice.

And that’s not ok. We as moms deserve to put our needs first.

I’m sure you’ve heard this analogy before, but I’m going to use it again because it’s so true. Consider when you’re traveling on a plane. You’re told that in the case of an emergency you put on your oxygen mask first, then your children’s. Makes perfect sense right? You can’t help them if you’re passed out on the floor.

The same is true in our lives! We can’t be there for our little family if we’re exhausted and stressed out! Our own self-care is just as important, if not more, as our family’s.

Yet when I want to take time for myself, it looks something like this:

I check the calendar to make sure there are no kid activity conflicts, make sure my husband will be home, either either feed them ahead of time or have the pantry and freezer stocked so they can make their own dinner, list on the whiteboard what needs to be done to prep for the next day – make lunch, take shower, get homework done, school papers set out, remind them when bedtime is… and on and on and on.

When my husband wants to go out? He does.

That’s it.

Why can’t I make it that easy? (Did you catch the whining?)

Aside from the fact that I have this annoying habit of having to be in control of everything, traditional views of husband and wife roles still run strong.

Nowadays being a stay at home mom is the exception not the rule. Which means most women are working. Often full time. Yet we’re still expected to maintain the house and cook the meals. And if we have kids most often we continue to be the primary caretaker. So no surprise that there’s little time to take for ourselves.

Now I understand there are exceptions. But they’re just that. Exceptions.

I love being there for others – to support, spend time with, and help. My default will always be to give to others.

But in order to really be there for them, I have to take care of myself first and foremost. And I have to be purposeful in doing so.

So what does that look like?

Have a conversation with your significant other to make the time available.

Come up with an agreed amount of time dedicated to you. Whether that be 2-3 nights a week or an hour every night. Figure it out together and commit.

While you’re at it. Talk about household and kid responsibilities and divvy them up. Consider what each of you likes and dislikes doing in relation to this. For example, maybe you enjoy mowing the lawn because you get fresh air, a workout, and time to think. Maybe he enjoys cooking.

If your kids are older, give them some responsibilities to free up your time. It’s good for them to learn to dust, do the dishes, even help cook. They’ll have to do it when they move out. Why not start now? You do plan on them moving out, right?

Oh and if you’re like me, work to diminish your perfectionism and controlling tendencies. The house will run different and that’s ok. There is more than one way to do things. No one will perish. The house and kids may be a bit messier, but no lives will be lost.

Set limits and boundaries

Make it clear to your family that this is your time. No phone calls, texts, or messages unless someone is bleeding profusely or dying. If they don’t need an ambulance, they don’t need you for the next 1-3 hours.

If you’re taking your time at home, put up a Do Not Disturb sign. Make it known that no one is to bother you upon fear of death or grounding until the sign comes down.

Schedule the time and stick with it.

No excuses. If you don’t commit to it and take it seriously, no one else will. You can’t expect others to take your time seriously if you don’t.

Make a plan ahead of time of what you’ll do with your time.

Right now start a list of everything you’d like to do. Seriously. Stop reading and go make your list. I’ll wait for you to come back.

Got it? Good, post it in the comments.

When you find unexpected time for yourself, take a look at that list and do what calls you at that moment.

On your own doing it all? Find the time:

  • Nap time is a great opportunity to relax and pamper yourself.
  • Put the kids to bed earlier. The extra sleep will do them good.
  • Get up before your household wakes. I’ll admit I struggle with this. But when I do drag myself out of bed early I’m always happier I did. I’ve never regretted it. The uninterrupted quiet allows me to get a lot done.

The key to following through? Set up your alarm across the room. When your alarm goes off, turn on the light, turn off your alarm, and immediately leave your bedroom. Don’t hesitate. Don’t even think! A coffee pot with a timer doesn’t hurt either.

  • Mornings just aren’t your thing? Then stay up later.

Challenge:

Here’s my challenge to you. Try out one of the tips mentioned. Then check in here and let me know how it went! What worked? What didn’t? How did you tweak it to work for you?

How to Stop Social Media from Taking Over Your Life

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Social media can be a lot like chocolate. It’s hard to have just a little.

Every time I say I’m going to check my emails quick or hop onto Facebook for a moment, it turns into hours unbeknownst to me. It’s like the Bermuda triangle for social media!

Did you know that the average person spends over two hours a day on social media? Two hours a day! That’s 14 hours a week!!

No wonder I feel like I have no time to get everything done. I’m wasting half my time on social media!

But cutting down my time on social media is not that easy. The attraction to check my email or Facebook is so alluring! I’m like a pitiful little bug drawn to the light. Only to realize that… ZAP! I’ve gone up in smoke. As much as I know I shouldn’t and I don’t need to, I can’t fight the temptation. It hypnotizes me and sucks me in.

And it’s not just email and Facebook. The other day I glanced at the social media apps on my phone and was overwhelmed at the amount of information in just one! I’ve subscribed to so many podcasts, I’ve used up all the storage space on my phone. I have Facebook friends, groups, and pages galore! Most posts get buried because I can’t keep up with them! Don’t even get me started on emails and Instagram!

So they sit and become one more thing I don’t have time to do. Every time I swipe open my phone, there they sit. Starring me in the face. Increasing my anxiety.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. I took back control of my time and life. So can you.

Here are a few tips to get you started. If you want a total cleanse, implement them in conjunction with each other. Or if going cold turkey freaks you out and just sent your anxiety soaring, take baby steps and implement one tip at a time. Build up to having  a total non-social media dependent life.

Schedule it

Check your social media at a specific time each day. Only check it then and once you’ve checked it your done for the day. No cheating.

Set a timer

Limit your social media usage to 15-30 minutes a day. Total. This includes checking email, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Set a timer, check, when the buzzer goes off, you’re done. Do this for 30 days and see what happens. Not only will you have more time to do the things you love, but you’ll also feel more peace and calmness than you have in a while.

Do a purge

Limit the number of social sites and apps that you use. Keep only those that will benefit you in your personal and work life. The rest are like tv: fun, entertaining, but not a good use of your time.

Go through your apps on your phone and delete the ones you haven’t used in the last 3 months. You don’t need them.  

Go through your podcast subscriptions. Pick the 5 you’ve listened to most recently and most often. Unsubscribe from the rest.

Delete Facebook

Delete the Facebook app from your phone. If you just had heart palpitations from this suggestion, then move the app to the last page on your phone so you’re not tempted to check it as often. After a couple months, delete it so you can only check Facebook on your computer.

Turn off notifications

Turn off notifications on all of your social media apps, email too.

All of these tips will help remove the temptation to check real “quick”. Get to the point that you only check social media for a specific reason. For instance, updated posts for a virtual book club you participate in. Or a niece’s wedding photos. Most often we check out of boredom. Ask yourself why you need to check before you open the app. If you can’t offer up a specific reason, then don’t check.

You’ll thank me for it.

Challenge

Try one or more of these tips for 30 days. Note how you feel at the end. Any different? Do you miss not being on social media constantly? Did you or the world burst into flames? No, no and no? Then don’t go back. But feel free to stop back here and let me know how it went.

5 Reasons Why Social Media is Good for Kids

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Kids on social media can be a scary thing.

Social media can be full of little gremlins looking to tear you down. It’s overridden with negativity. People are made to feel insignificant and worthless.

Internet predators lurk behind the screen. Stalking our children and capitalizing on poor self esteem. Seductively luring our children into their house made of candy.

Social media can be scary, but it also has its benefits.

Instant Feedback

At age 12 my daughter started her own YouTube channel to create and post challenge videos. Apparently it’s super popular to watch people put random food items into a blender and drink it. “How to” gaming videos are also another huge hit. So she wanted to bring laughter to the world with smoothie challenges and help the world master Minecraft and Ark Survival Evolved. 

Initially I dug my heels against her own YouTube channel. My reaction was primarily based on fear. Fear of the unfamiliar and unknown.  

What I discovered instead was that other YouTubers were leaving her positive feedback saying her video was good or that she came up with a great challenge. They also offered her tips and suggestions on how she could improve her videos.

This not only provided her opportunities to grow as a videographer, but also provided a community of support. It connected her with people doing similar things. She was also able to shoot out questions and get answers immediately.

Gain a new set of skills

Having her own YouTube channel also motivated her to research and try out different video editing apps. She’s learning what equipment works best and learning more about lighting and sound for the videos.

She’s also gaining experience that she’ll be able to include on a resume or school application. Now I know what you’re thinking. She’s 12. But starting in 6th grade our schools are pressuring our kids to decide on a career. She has friends who have already picked out their college! So helping her gain experience in areas she is passionate about and start discovering if it could be a career seems like a kind thing to do.

Besides, as a creative she is building her portfolio and created a landing page for others to view her work. In this day and age, we don’t tell people about our work, we show them.

Meet people different from us

Let’s be real. We surround ourselves with people who are similar to us. The communities we live in consist of people that look like us. Our friends have similar interests. The schools we select are made up of people like us and are staffed by people who think like us. So the reality is, we don’t provide ourselves much opportunity to experience diversity. When we do, we become socially awkward.

Our kids, however, get to interact with people on a daily basis who think differently, look differently, and live in different places all through social media. Through gaming, my daughter has met people from a variety of countries. They give each other tips on how to beat a level or just chat about their day. It’s also become the one and only opportunity for her outside of school to practice her Spanish since some of the players she’s connected with live in Mexico.

Practice problem solving

In Minecraft the players are given a clean slate. They then must figure out how to survive and stay safe. In battles and for basic necessities.

I’ve watched my kids and their friends create entire worlds on Minecraft from nothing. They’re designing buildings on land, in the water, and in the air using architectural concepts. They’re creating sustainable communities. Figuring out where to find animals, train them, and use them either for a mode of transportation or as a source of food. They’re also seeking out other food sources by creating gardens. They build shops, stock them, and trade supplies amongst each other.

Stay connected & strengthen relationships.

Throughout school friends move, change schools, and get involved in different interests. It gets harder and harder to spend time with them as everyone gets older. Yet social media allows them to stay connected.

Not just with friends but family too! It is much easier to build a relationship with a cousin that lives in a different area today than when I was growing up. We were completely dependent on our parents to physically bring us together. Now you can Skype, FaceTime or connect with Facebook or Messenger. 

They can even connect on games and play with each other. While in separate states!

Social media can be a bad thing or it can be a good thing. It’s all about how we choose to use it. But based on just the few reasons listed above, I truly believe it is good for our kids. The ability to gain feedback to improve and expand your skills, connect with different people and expand your knowledge of life, and strengthen new and existing relationships is invaluable.

Now that you know the benefits of social media for our kids, check out my tips on how to keep them safe while they use it!  

Be Brave. How to Overcome Tyrannical Cliques

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Cliques seem to pop up out of nowhere overnight!

My daughter discovered this within the first week of 6th grade. She was blindsided when a summer friend ignored her at school. She was even more shocked when this “friend”, along with others, teased and snubbed people over the silliest of things! She acted as if she were a queen on her throne addressing her peasants!

Kids who had been friends for months, even years, were now unexpectedly divided. Put downs, name calling, and rudeness prevailed. The pressure to fit in is stifling. Some kids resort to anything to do so.

Battle lines are drawn as kids fight to conform and fit into the “right” group in an attempt to survive.

So who decides who gets to be the authority to pick who’s cool and who’s not? How does that even occur? Was there a secret ballot?

And how do some kids manage to transcend the whole clique and popularity battle?

What’s even more frustrating is that there seems to be no rhyme or reason to how you get accepted into a clique. It’s subjective and can change on a dime. One who once held power can lose it in a blink of an eye, instantly abandoned and forgotten.

For the majority of middle school and high school I was definitely not in the popular crowd. Nor was I in the unpopular crowd. Somehow I managed to skate right in between. Except for one fleeting moment when I became golden.

For about a week.

I don’t know how or why I got in. But I was exiled the moment I chose to spend time with someone outside the clique.

Middle school is made up of a bunch of kids just trying to make it. Trying to figure out who they are. Who at their core just want to be loved, accepted, and feel valued.

So cliques are created to help them establish an identity. To be accepted and belong.

And yet cliques divide people because your determination of who you are is based on comparing yourself to others. Cliques are the evil side of acceptance and belonging. Of being valued. They make uniqueness a bad thing instead of something to celebrate.

So  at one the most important stages of their life, instead of creating unity, they’re creating divisions. Pitting each other against one another.

Popularity becomes based on status and power. A way to manipulate and ostracize others to appear better. It puts people into a pecking order.

Yet the standard is a moving target. Whether you’re popular or not could change any moment for any reason.  There’s no consistency. There’s no predictability. Though it may seem there’s some control in becoming popular – wear the right clothes, ostracize people – the reality is there’s not.

School then becomes a battleground for acceptance. An attempt to feel valued by one’s peers. And if you’re the unfortunate soul who may be deemed unpopular, you become untouchable. Soon you doubt yourself. It alters your reality. You begin to believe the lies. It becomes reality.

But it’s not reality. It’s a false lens placed before you by others.

So how do we help our preteens navigate this battlefield littered with mines?

Listen & be empathetic.

Sometimes our kids just need to vent. Sometimes they need help figuring out what to do. Don’t judge or push it off as a temporary phase. We know this is a temporary period in their life and in the grand scheme of things will be irrelevant. But they don’t. They’re in the midst of it and it’s their reality. It’s their current lens. Try to remember being their age and how you felt.

Point out their strengths.

Preteen is a time when kids are trying to figure out who they are and where they may fit. Help them figure that out by letting them know what they’re really good at. Let them know what interests you notice they get excited and passionate about. Provide opportunities for them to utilize these strengths and boost their confidence in themselves.

Don’t encourage they alter who they are just to fit in.

As tempting as it may be, this may not change anything. Buying expensive, brand name clothes is not the solution. That’s just reinforcing the belief that acceptance is based solely on appearance. A person should be accepted based on their personality and how they treat others. Not the label on their pants.

Do encourage they remain true to themselves and their values. Encourage them to develop friendships with those who are not only aligned with their interests but also their values. People who will support their uniqueness and lift them up as a person. Not constantly try to bring them down just so they can feel better for that instant gratification.

Give them tips on how to deal with difficult and rude people.

It might not always change the circumstances, but it will give them confidence in dealing with difficult people. Rude and disrespectful people can’t be avoided. So let’s allow our kids time to practice dealing with them early on when we can guide them and be a safety net. That way, once they’re adults it will be a little easier.

Here’s some things they can start doing now: always respond with kindness and respect. Regardless of what the person says, don’t give in to anger. The situation will only get out of hand. Ignore the snide comment. The person is often doing this to get a reaction. Don’t give them one. If ignoring doesn’t deter them, walk away, if possible.

Now obviously these tips won’t work in the case of bullying. In those cases our kids should seek out help from adults to protect themselves or others.

If it helps them, role play situations so they can get more comfortable responding.

Cliques are as old as time. They’re not going anywhere any time soon and may not be controlled. What we can control is how we respond to them. So when your preteen is in the midst of the battleground be sure to:

  1. Listen and be empathetic.
  2. Point out their strengths.
  3. Don’t encourage altering who they are just to fit in. Do encourage they remain true to themselves and their values.
  4. Do encourage they develop friendships with those who are also aligned with their values.
  5. Provide them with tips on how to deal with difficult and rude people.

So what have you found to work in helping your preteen deal with cliques? Share in the comments!

 

When You Doubt Your Parenting Abilities

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Lately I’ve been doing a lot of yelling. And my kids are the primary target. I didn’t even realize how much yelling I was doing until my son asked, “Mom, do you like yelling at me?”

Ouch.

Why do I yell?

I yell out of pure frustration. Frustration at repeating myself for the gazillionth time and having a premonition that I’ll be repeating myself again. Very soon.

Take cleaning up after themselves for example. I’m constantly reminding one to pick up his toys and the other to wipe up after cooking. Barking out orders like a dog at the arrival of the mailman.

One day I opened my mouth to bark, but to my surprise, my daughter cleaned up the scrambled eggs aftermath without me saying a word. And she did a great job! On another occasion I was about to bark at my son, but hesitated deciding to wait. Low and behold he put everything away without my saying a word. Wow.

Too often I don’t allow them the opportunity to show me they’re more responsible. I’m too busy jumping in wanting it done instantly. Instead, I need to pause and let them do it on their time. Within reason of course.

I yell because I’m stressed and overwhelmed juggling multiple obligations. Acting as career woman, personal assistant, chef, and chauffeur. And of course I crazily try to pursue my own interests when I can.

I yell because sometimes I’m tired of adulting.

I yell because I fear that I’m not a good parent because I can’t give them everything. At times only the bare minimum. And I feel guilty about it. I hate telling them it will have to wait or maybe someday knowing someday may never arrive. I’m afraid I’m disappointing them. 

I feel guilty for not being “perfect”.

Can you relate?

So I yell because let’s face it, I’m overwhelmed, out of control, and put too my pressure on myself. I have completely lost it. I seriously need a timeout.

Here’s how it all came to a head.

The other day the lens popped out of my daughter’s glasses and I couldn’t get it back in. It was the week before school started. I immediately did a run down of our calendar and when we could possibly fit in a trip to the eye doctor among soccer games, practices, lessons, and meetings. The list of activities and appointments scrolled through my head like a computer reading code.

I was getting overwhelmed trying to fit one more thing into the next few days.

“I’m not sure when we’ll be able to have these fixed,” I mentioned distracted as I squinted at the calendar.

“Great!” My daughter exclaimed irritated. “Now I’ll have to wait months before I can see again! Great start to the school year,” she muttered under her breath as she sulked into her room.

I instantly got offended that she felt her basic necessities weren’t a priority to me. So I exploded. “Unbelievable! I’m sorry that I can’t drop everything on a dime to get your glasses fixed! You’re not the only one in this house! We have to balance everyone’s life and I’m trying to do the best that I can.” (Not one of my better parenting moments.) As I stood there with fire shooting from my eyes and smoke billowing out of my ears, her words sink in extinguishing my temper. “Wait. Why do you think it will take months to get them fixed?”

“Because earlier you said we had to have an eye exam before we could replace these glasses.”

Oh. Yet again we’re on two different tracks of the mind. “Not to pop the lenses back in,” I reply.

“Oh.”

Here’s a little basic communication tips so that you can avoid the tantrum I just had. Stop. Listen. Don’t assume. Don’t jump to conclusions. And most importantly don’t leap to yelling.

Confession

I yell because for all the justifications and reasons why I yell, what it really comes down to is that I’m afraid that if my kids don’t do well it means I failed as a parent.

I worry I haven’t done enough for them. I worry I won’t have taught them everything they need to know. What if I missed something? What if I messed it all up?

Do you ever worry about this?

Truth is every parent has fears. We’re constantly doubting ourselves and our abilities.

There’s no instruction manual for this parenting thing. Closest one I ever found was Jo Frost’s Supernanny. Shame it only applies to kids birth to age 6.

The reality is my kids will fail sometimes. Just as I fail sometimes. However, it is a learning opportunity and not a reflection of me as a parent or person. We can’t be afraid of them failing. It’s important to allow them to fail and then be there to help them reflect on the experience and learn from it.

We’ve been placed in our child’s life because we are the best person to help them navigate life. It was no accident. No mistake.

So I’ve decided to make a greater effort to yell less and be quiet more. To listen more. To pause more. I will provide more opportunities for them to be responsible. And I will try to loosen my controlling tendencies and allow more independence, within reason, and be supportive if it doesn’t quite work out the way they planned.

In a society living in a facade of perfectionism, it’s hard not to second guess our abilities. It’s okay to doubt ourselves. What’s important is that we don’t buy into the false narratives.

Remember, we’re each doing the best we can with the experiences and resources we have.

Our kids are too.

How to get Comfortable being Uncomfortable

Photo by dan carlson on Unsplash

What do mom jeans, yoga pants, and sweats have in common? They’re comfortable, they’re settling for mediocre, and none are flattering to one’s figure.

Too often I get comfortable in my yoga pants and I LOVE my sweats. Problem is this settling leads to decline. My physical health declines and I stop growing as a person. I stop caring.

But what’s worse? When I care but I still don’t change.

Because I’m afraid of the unknown. I worry that whatever’s on the other side of change could be worse. Or I don’t want to bruise my ego by possibly failing.

And yet I get frustrated with my children when they put up a fight to try something new. I can see all the opportunities they may miss. I can see the possibilities for them to soar! To find a new passion! A new skill that will take them to places they never dreamed possible!

(Hmm…. Perhaps I should take my own words to heart…)

Let’s get back to my kids. We’ll analyze me later in this blog. Last summer my daughter played soccer for the first time. It took a while to convince her to even give it a try. She was nervous and scared because she hadn’t done it before. The unknown was frightening! What if she was terrible? What if she failed? The other girls on the team had played for a couple years together and had more experience. This experience and camaraderie intimidated her. But after much convincing she finally agreed to try soccer for one season. Not only did she fall in love with it, she discovered that she’s really good at it. And she enjoys her teammates.

So I pushed the envelope (because that’s what I do) and I suggested that she play on her school soccer team in the fall. She declined.

She had a variety of reasons not to play. Some were legit, most not so much. What it really came down to? Fear. It was new teammates, new environment, new experience. It was an unknown.

Too often we stay in our little boxes. It’s safe. Comfortable. Known. And therein lies the problem.

That’s when we miss out on amazing opportunities to do great things.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. (Told you we’d come back to analyzing me.) Too often I find myself terrified to try new things or meet new people. Even when I want to. But I’m starting to take small steps to make small changes.

For instance, I take a deep breath and force myself to meet one new person at every meeting I attend. For those of you who know me, you may be surprised by that. The thing is, I’m social on my terms. I’m great being social with a purpose. Sell people on a career? Done. Make a vague connection with someone at a networking event or meeting? Scary!

That deep breath I take before entering the room contains a small bit of courage to face my fear head on. I also don’t pause long enough to allow my brain to process what I’m about to do. Can’t let it catch on and talk me out of doing it!

The result? Fear simmers down and takes a backseat. After talking with one or two people it doesn’t seem so bad or so hard.

I keep doing this, stepping out of my comfort zone, and the successes from these baby steps drive bigger changes, which means bigger successes. It just keeps snowballing until I start coming up with crazy ideas and achieving them.

I can’t grow unless I get uncomfortable. So when I find myself comfortable, it’s a signal that it’s time to switch things up.

Let’s face it I am what I eat. I am who I hang with. I am who I surround myself with. Like-minded sticks with like-minded.

But back to my daughter. I explain to her that if she hangs out with people whose soccer skills are the same as hers, she won’t get any better because they can’t teach her anything new. They won’t challenge her to meet their level; she’s already reached it and in some cases surpassed it.  But if she spends time with people who have better soccer skills than herself, she’s going to improve her own skills. She’ll learn new things. She’ll be challenged to keep up and will push herself more. She was surprised by this because she hadn’t thought of it from that view.

Being the person that I am, I have to drive the point home with my own behavior. (My kids are also phenomenal at calling me out on any discrepancies in my behavior. Bless their little watchful souls.) So I started this blog to challenge myself. To consistently write and share that writing with others. To be vulnerable and real about the difficulties I encounter as a mother in hopes that others may find solace in knowing they’re not alone in this. Super scary! But I did it.

Now that I’ve started this blog, it’s time to seek out bloggers who are highly successful in doing this, introduce myself, and learn from them.

You know what? I’m terrified. But I’ll do it because I’ll grow from the experience. Even if it bombs. I’ll at least learn what not to do next time!

Now let me challenge you.

  1. Pick something that you want to learn, something you want to get better at, or want to change in your life.
  2. Find five people who are experts in it.
  3. Connect with them.
  4. See where it takes you and most importantly:

Have fun flying.

So? What’s your challenge for yourself? What area of your life do you want to grow in? Mention it in the comments below. Who knows you might even connect with someone that could help you meet your challenge!

A World Where Injustice is Entertainment

From age 1 to 5 we teach our kids not to call people names. To be nice. To share. And they do.

Until middle school.

Then all of a sudden they’re back to calling each other names. Being mean to each other. Refusing to share.

What happened?

Nowadays entertainment consists of hurting someone else either with names or by making them feel left out.

Popular YouTube videos center around this. Sitcoms and movies focus on this. Even cartoons!

When did it become acceptable to hurt one another let alone entertainment? Girls are already struggling with a deck stacked against them. The majority of kids in middle school are trying to figure out who they are. Now they have to deal with cruelty every time they turn around. In school, in their neighborhood, in social media, even amongst friends.

I’ve noticed lately that my daughter and her friends jokingly call each other names, insult each other, and put each other down. And then laugh about it. Laugh about it!

These girls struggle to find a place of belonging. To feel accepted and valued. And here they are adding to their struggle!

All of us want to feel valued and worthwhile. We struggle with this. Everywhere we turn we’re faced with comparisons. Marketing, media and society itself encourage this. We don’t need to add to it!

Words go deep. Whether or not we want to admit it or acknowledge it, words hurt.

There is enough darkness in this world. Our friendships should be a place where we can always find light.

Friends are confidants. People we can turn to in times of need. People who make us feel better. A friend should lift you up, encourage you, inspire you. Not rip you apart and tear you down.

I pulled my daughter and her friend aside and asked why they thought it was funny to insult each other. When did it become entertaining to tear each other down? I pointed out that there had been many days that each had gone home upset because someone had teased her or picked on her. And here they were doing the same thing to each other.

That got them thinking.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

So what do we do?

Scores of self-help books, self-improvement blogs, articles, and podcasts teach the simple trick to pay attention to the words you choose and replace the negative self talk with positive self talk.

We need to do the same in our interactions with others.

We need to catch ourselves when we say something negative to another person whether it’s a friend, a stranger, or a coworker. Replace it with something positive. Let’s be the person driving out the darkness with light. Let’s be the person that causes others to stop and say in awe, “Wow. You have a really positive disposition.”

I have always encouraged my daughter to be a positive influence. To pave the way to a better life by her own behavior. There are times when she takes a stand and her friends pushback. But in the end they respect her strength, courage, and perseverance to go against the norm. It gives them courage to follow her lead.

Both of my kids know that I expect them to lift people up. To make them feel valued. To have that person leave the interaction feeling better than when they arrived. I too follow this expectation. I’m not always successful. But when I’m not, I own it and try again.

I know I’m asking a lot of her at age 12. Especially now faced with cliques, peer pressure, and the struggles of discovering her true self. But I know she can handle it. How?

Because her actions over the years have proven it.

I was listening to Annie F. Downs on Jen Hatmaker’s podcast the other day and she was relating the game of Chutes and Ladders to life.  Pure randomness determines whether you climb up the ladder or slide down a chute. Annie mentioned that we often feel like this in real life. We see someone else getting ladder after ladder while we keep sliding down the chute.

This is our perception.

The reality is we are each playing a game of solitaire with our own deck of cards. Another person’s move on her deck has absolutely no effect on mine. Which means we don’t have to compete with each other as if there were hardly enough cards to go around. Instead we can help and encourage each other.

So let’s do just that! Let’s celebrate each other’s successes! Let’s share tips and tricks with each other to have more successes!

As women, let’s be a tribe that encourages each other, lifts each other up, and gives each other the power and permission to succeed. Get rid of the drama. Let’s be there for each other instead of against each other.

Let’s teach our kids to do the same.

How do we do that? We start with ourselves. By pointing out the positive in other women and other girls.

By stop comparing ourselves to those around us.

Encourage collaboration. Celebrate successes. And encourage many more.

Let’s leave people better than we found them.

The Secret to being Beautiful

Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

“Mirror, Mirror on the wall. Who’s the fairest of them all?”

Not me. Ever. So I’ve believed most of my life.

Growing up I was not considered pretty. I had a bad perm and acne. I also had extra weight on me. I was teased and rarely dated throughout high school and college. I grew up thinking I was ugly. I still struggle with thinking I’m ugly.

Until my daughter came along.

She is a beautiful girl. Often I wish I had her beauty.

Ironic, huh?

I have no problem seeing her beauty, yet struggle to see my own.

But how can I not? Everywhere I turn I see thin, beautiful females. Of all ages! On the covers of magazines. TV. In movies. On cartoons even!

Guys on the other hand are shown as fit or having a beer belly. They have a full head of hair or are balding or have a receding hairline. Doesn’t matter; all are acceptable. Show a size 14 woman and she’s labeled “large”. Show a woman with well-defined muscles and she’s “too muscular”.

As females we are surrounded by so many things that push us to be thin and beautiful. Diet products, exercise programs, beauty products galore!

I have to constantly try to avoid these traps from deteriorating my view of myself. Many times I fail. Now I also have to compete with it as I try to raise my daughter to have a healthy body image.

To counter this when she was little I was careful with the words I chose. I exercised not to lose weight, but to get stronger. I tried to avoid mentioning the number of pounds lost or that I wanted to get skinny. Foods I chose to eat were not to lose weight but to be healthy to give my body the nutrients it needs.

Yet I still failed.

My daughter has always been fit and strong. Physically and mentally. She is active and chooses healthy food on her own without fail.

Yet, at age 10, she asked me if I thought she was fat. My heart broke.

Now I’m not totally fit; I have a bit of cushion on me. I like my hot cheetos and chocolate. So I asked her, “Do you think I’m fat?”

Her eyes bugged out. “No!” She declared shocked I would ask such a thing.

“Then why do you think you’re fat?”

“Good point,” she responded a bit humbled.

Fast forward two years. The conversation finds its way back to us.

The other day she asks me, “Mom, do you think I’m fat?”

Surprised I exclaimed, “Why would you think that?”

“Well look,” she grabbed her stomach and pulled at the skin and then jiggled her thigh, “There’s fat.” Oh boy.

My now 12 year old daughter has biceps that could crush a can and quads and hamstrings that ooze pure strength and speed.

“Honey, it’s healthy to have some “fat” on your body. If you didn’t you would literally just be skin and bones. You’d be sick and frail. Not to mention fat also protects your organs.”

“Really?” She was completely surprised by this.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder

Let’s face it. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Which means there’s no constant. No similar form of measurement. To the fashion industry beauty is a size 0. How is that even a size? To a child it’s their mother, whatever shape or size she may be.

So what do we do? How do I help my daughter strengthen her self-image?

I strengthen my own self-image

Words are powerful and make an impression on one’s heart. We need to consciously create more impressions of love to bring light to ourselves and our precious girls and less darkness.

I look at how I treat myself and try to be more conscious about how I talk about myself and my image. Both in the presence of my kids and when I think they’re not listening. Trust me. They’re listening.

I talk more about being healthy. Longevity of life and what that means. I explain that what we do as kids to our bodies catches up to us when we get old. I stress that making healthy choices as a kid makes it so much easier to do so as an adult. When I turn down dessert I explain it’s not because I don’t want to get fat. It’s because I don’t have the opportunity to use up the energy like they do. At 41 I don’t need as much food as they might at 8 and 12 to keep going through the day.

I use close family members with health issues as examples of what we don’t want to do. Their health issues also serve as examples that our choices in our younger years impacts our older years. I ignore the “size” on clothing and go off whether or not it fits and is flattering.

It’s too easy to become immune to negative images and words. I’m guilty of it. So many times I think what can I do? I’m just one person fighting against sophisticated marketing schemes. What impact can I possibly have?

So here’s my crazy idea. I want to start a ripple effect.

I start by checking my own behavior. I am a firm believer that how you behave is what formulates people’s opinion of you. So I try to be thoughtful in the words I choose to describe myself. I aim for balance in all things, food included. And when my children call me out, which they never hesitate in doing, I accept it with grace and take steps to improve.

I help my daughter to view her body more positively, then hopefully she’ll pass it on to her friends. I point out the marketing schemes, biases, and double standards. I ask questions to get my kids thinking.

I catch and point out negative self talk. They now do the same to me. They’ll do the same to others. And in turn others might do the same in their other social circles.

Suddenly a ripple effect just became a wave.

And soon the waves start rolling in. Pounding the surf. Pounding against the marketing lies.

So have a conversation. Ask questions. Point things out. Challenge them. Challenge their views. Drops of water in a bucket quickly become a bucket full of water.

I have a confession.

I still have trouble seeing myself as beautiful. Thought processes are hard to change. But I am now comfortable in my own skin. And that is a beautiful thing.