if the news of the world is too much to bear

if the news of the world is too much to bear

If the news of the world is too much to bear,
turn it down, turn it off, take a break.
Get all of your news from the anchors at home,
Soak it up, breathe it in, come awake.

This just in: puppies still really cute.
Little kids still angelic in sleep.
Kisses fix boo-boos, hugs say hello,
children love fast and love deep.

Take it from kids, making new friends is easy.
Simply smile at someone you don’t know.
It does not even matter if you don’t catch their name
Just say “hi!” and then go with the flow.

Live from the news desk, a strange case develops:
“The case of the lone missing sock.”
We’re following leads, but they dryer’s not talking,
We have to go, so we’re fighting the clock.

In other news, moms and dads still bicker,
kids and teens still fight and whine.
But at the end of the day (or the week or the month),
everyone’s right back to “fine.”

After this break from the outside news,
return, it’s your duty to do.
And to fight for what’s right and teach your children the same,
It won’t always be easy, that’s true.

For the real world is hard, it is cold and unfair,
We don’t always find peace as we grow
But we cannot ignore it, not totally at least
It’s our job to let pure goodness show.

So let’s teach all our children that yes, life is hard —
But we know how to lighten the load.
Knowledge is power, friendliness can bring peace,
Be kind, and you’ll reap what you’ve sowed.

I don’t always know how to raise my kids now
In a world that seems so full of hate.
But I do know that hate cannot thrive on it’s own —

So we’ll love, and we’ll love, and we’ll love, and we’ll love
And we’ll love and we’ll make our own fate.

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My favorite news anchor, Jiminy Cricket.
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focus tips and focus tricks

Hello! Thanks so much for joining me into this look at childhood ADHD. If you’re here for the first time, welcome! This is the final installment of a series on childhood ADHD. If you want to catch up, you can find my personal experiences mothering a child with ADHD here: focus, part 1 and focus, part 2. You can also find a post on ADHD from the perspective of a pediatrician (and a dad) here: focus, md.

Today’s post comes largely from you, dear readers. I sent out requests on social media asking any of you with experience with ADHD (either for yourself or for a loved one) to answer two questions: When did you first suspect ADHD and what made you think it was a possibility, and What did you do to manage it? The responses from all of you were fantastic, so thank you so much for sharing! I’m keeping all of the submissions anonymous, but please know that just about all of these could have come directly from me (but they didn’t!). ADHD seems big and scary, but progress can be made and success can be found — especially in community.

A recent drawing of Boone’s. Intentionally upside-down. Appropriately so, I’d say, give our topic.


Thanks for being in this community.

Without further ado:

When did you first suspect ADHD? What made you think it was a possibility?

“When my son was in kindergarten, he would get completely wrapped up in a TV show, and we would have to physically block his view or remove him to get his attention. He was very impulsive. He has NEVER been a good sleeper, it could take hours sometimes to get him to sit still and relax enough to fall asleep.”

“I could watch my child read a whole book by herself and finish worksheets in no time flat by the time she was in kindergarten, but I could never get her to remember really simple things like bringing her jacket or lunchbox home.”

“When I was younger, I was at the top of my class, but focus was always a struggle. Looking back now, I am so thankful my parents had me tested because it taught me that my mind doesn’t work the same way everyone else’s does, and that’s not a bad thing.”

“My mom suggested she noticed some attention issues with my third grader for a while now, but I brushed it off until his teacher said she was concerned because he is so far behind and he really struggles to say seated and focused.”

“We suspected it at age five. Our child couldn’t do anything that wasn’t very plainly scheduled out. Free time was a disaster.”

“I was diagnosed around age ten. My parents had to remind me to stop, wait, count to ten, and reorient myself.”

“My adult son was diagnosed in seventh grade. He was always hyper as a child, so my husband and I suspected it as early as age three.”

What did you do to manage ADHD?

**Note: I’m not including medications in this list, though several people (almost everyone) included them in some way in their management plans. Medications can and do help, as I’ve mentioned already, but that’s a conversation you’ll need to have with a medical doctor.**

“Structure, organization, verbal rewards for good choices.”

“I needed to create a quiet work space without distractions for my daughter so she could focus on her schoolwork. She also does her school work at the same time each day.”

“Routine, no red dye, cognitive behavior therapy.”

“We would do homework in small increments and pause to literally run around the house a couple times and then back to homework. Also, working toward rewards would inspire him. He would also need detailed instructions. ‘Go clean up your room’ never got him anywhere. ‘Clothes off the floor and downstairs, bed made, vacuum…’”

“I found yelling and getting worked up did NOT help. As frustrated as I would get, I needed to talk to my daughter in a really calm and clear voice, giving simple but direct instructions once she was giving me eye contact. She needed really clear guidelines and structure.”

“We use a board in the morning to help him remember what he needs to do and I’ve started writing reminders on his hand on the key things to bring home from school everyday. L for Lunchbox, C for Coat, etc. We also have a 504 plan (Individualized Education Plan) at school so his teachers are aware of his struggles.”

“I think the best thing my parents ever did was always tell me that having ADHD did not mean I couldn’t do just as much and be just as successful as everyone else; it just meant I’d sometimes have to do things in a different way.”

If you have anything you’d like to add, please do so in the comments! I’m grateful for the dialogue and awesome notes I’ve received from so many of you. This concludes the Premeditated Mama ADHD series, but I’d always love to further the discussion with you one on one! If you aren’t already a member, join the “Premeditated Mama” page on facebook and let’s continue this journey together.

focus, md

This is the third part in a series about ADHD, especially as it pertains to children in elementary school. For the first two parts, see here and here.

Today’s post comes to you from my husband, who also happens to be a pediatrician. He’ll share his thoughts with ADHD as both doctor and dad. He’s graciously making himself available for questions, so leave a comment if you have anything to ask him!

 

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A father, a (then) three year old, a med school anatomy textbook… the usual.

 

And now, Dr. Jason:

First, a plug for a great resource online in case you haven’t come across this yet:
HealthyChildren.org. This is a website with great articles about many common childhood concerns from healthy eating to mental health issues. It is run by the American Academy of Pediatrics. I agree with the AAP on 99% of issues (happy to discuss the other 1%) and would definitely recommend this resource to all parents.

ADHD

So you’ve got a kid with “behavior” problems. This could be caused by a large list of issues. Poor sleep, from things like undertreated allergies, snoring, etc. can cause difficulties during the day. Learning difficulties, like dyslexia, can show up as problems in the classroom. When I was in first grade I had trouble completing my daily tasks, and was almost held back a year. Turns out that I needed glasses and couldn’t read the goals/tasks written on the chalkboard.

One thing that can cause behavior problems is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Here I’ll attempt to give a brief overview of what this is and how to recognize it.

What is ADHD?

Different parts of our brain are responsible for different tasks. At the very front of your brain (just behind your forehead) is the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that is in charge of attention, impulse control and planning. In kids with ADHD, this part of the brain is underactive, relative to the rest of the brain.
If you are on your way to pick up the laundry and get a notification on your phone, your prefrontal cortex says “You need to go get the dirty clothes before you stop and do something else.” If you have ADHD, this doesn’t happen. You get distracted and stop to check your phone. You may end up spending 25 minutes checking Facebook, Instagram and Flappy Bird (apparently no longer supported on iOS 11, RIP little bird.)

In school, kids with ADHD have trouble controlling their impulses; they may get out of their seats at inappropriate times. They have trouble switching their focus and attention and have a hard time changing tasks. They may, like my son did, get up and wander around the room for 10-15 minutes aimlessly.

Symptoms of ADHD

Kids with ADHD can have a variety of symptoms, with some kids having more issues in some areas than others. Hallmark symptoms of ADHD include impulsivity, inattention and hyperactivity. There used to be two separate diagnoses: ADD and ADHD. Currently it is all called ADHD, and is divided into categories such as ADHD inattentive type, or ADHD hyperactive type.

We all have times when our prefrontal cortex is “underperforming.” This is like when you are useless in the morning until you’ve had your coffee or Diet Coke. The difference with ADHD is that this occurs on a very regular basis and interferes with daily functioning.

Treatment of ADHD

It’s counterintuitive, but hyperactive, distractible kids are often treated with stimulants. The idea is to increase the activity in that prefrontal cortex, giving them the ability to focus and control impulses when it’s needed.

There are other groups of medicines that can also be used depending on the type of symptoms the child is having and the response to routine medications. Understanding these meds, how they work and when they should be used goes beyond the basic scope of this discussion. Just be aware that your pediatrician may suggest things outside of Ritalin/Concerta/etc.

Aside from just treating with pills, there is a lot that parents/teachers can do to help kids with ADHD. Primarily, understanding what the problem is and keeping that in mind is a big first step. If your child has ADHD and you keep yelling instructions at them, thinking they just aren’t listening, you could be making their struggle worse. I try to educate parents on how to help a child with ADHD focus and get a task done. Getting the teacher involved is also important. Sometimes an IEP (individualized education plan) is needed to lay out specific plans/goals/consequences.

So when should you try medications? It’s different with every child, but as a pediatrician I always use meds when the potential benefit outweighs the potential risk. This is the case for all medical problems such as ear infections, asthma and ADHD. Some kids are picky eaters and on the low end of the growth chart, so I might be slower to start a stimulant with them, as they can cause decreased appetite. On the other end of things, I’ve seen kids who have seriously needed treatment for mental health issues that parents refused to act on because of the stigma, and my heart breaks for them. So my advice is to be willing to have the discussion with your doctor about what non-pharmacological things you can try, but be open to the use of medication if needed.

Prognosis of ADHD

When recognized and addressed early, kids with ADHD tend to do pretty well. There may be a “transition” period while you figure out what interventions/strategies/meds are right for you. As kids grow up, some of them may outgrow their symptoms or form their career/lifestyle in a way that meds aren’t needed. Some may continue to need some medications as adults.

“When I was your age…”

I have heard many people say they think ADHD is over diagnosed and over treated these days. I don’t have a solid answer for these people. Are there some kids who are having different issues who just get thrown on medications? Absolutely. Are there some kids who struggle longer than they need to because people tend to neglect mental health in children? Absolutely.

What it comes down to is finding a good pediatrician or family physician that you feel comfortable bringing your concerns to, and that spends the time investigating the issue and explaining to you what they are thinking and why.

My experience with ADHD

From a relatively young age, around 3, I noticed my son excelled at many things like language and learning. In terms of gross and fine motor development, he was average. One area he was behind in was attention and focus. This is hard to define explicitly in a 3 year old. As he entered Kindergarten, I mentioned this in passing to his teacher. He was not a “wild child” and didn’t have big issues with hyperactivity, so from a teacher standpoint it wasn’t a big issue. Same thing starting 1st grade, I had my concerns but it wasn’t affecting his daily functioning. My wife, the Premeditated Mama, was maybe starting to see what I was seeing. Then we got an email from the teacher. “Wandering” was the subject. Basically, she was concerned that he often would get distracted and be unproductive.

I TOLD YOU SO

…This is what I silently said. In reality, what I said was “Oh yeah, why don’t we look into that more.”

After getting an evaluation from his actual pediatrician, we started him on a trial of the first-line meds for ADHD, a stimulant called Concerta. I will leave it to Premeditated Mama to describe our experience once we started treatment, both meds and behavioral, for ADHD.

focus, part 2

This is the second part of a two part series. If you haven’t read part one yet, you can read that here.

 

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Once we had Boone’s diagnosis and medication in hand, he and I sat down to chat. He had complained to me about having to do school work before, so I started with that. Our conversation went something like this:

“Hey Boone, you know how  you have trouble getting your work done at school?”
“Yep.”
“It turns out you have something called ADHD. Your brain has a difficult time focusing on things. So even though you know how to do your work, it’s harder for you than other kids to actually sit down and do it.”

Boone was quiet for a little bit after this. I didn’t know if it was just his trademark stoicism, but I didn’t want to let this conversation die. So I turned the tables and spoke about me.

“Boone, did you know I take medicine because I have something called Depression that makes my brain think I’m extra sad sometimes?”
He nodded.
“So it’s almost the same — you’ll take some medicine to help your brain focus, just like I take some to help my brain not be sad. Does that make sense?”
He nodded again, and since he looked like he was digesting this information, I gave him a minute. And then —

“Hey mom?”
I was sure we were about to have a hugely deep moment here. He’d ask tough questions, I’d give clear answers, we’d bond, we’d relate, we’d really share a moment–

“Hey mom, do any of those mosquitoes live in Michigan?”
OK, this is not what I expected. “Um.. what?”
“Those mosquitoes. YOU KNOW. THOSE MOSQUITOES.”
“Um, honey, I don’t know. There are mosquitoes here, but–”
“NO. MOM. The mosquitoes. The mosquitoes that make babies sick if they’re in their mom’s tummy.”

OK our conversation about ADHD somehow turned into one about Zika? What is even happening here?

“No, buddy, we don’t have those mosquitoes here.”
“So one didn’t bite you when I was in your tummy?”
“What? Honey, no.”
“So the mosquito didn’t make my focus not work?”

A part of me wishes I could say I fictionalized this conversation for the purposes of this blog, but I didn’t. My heart broke that he thought this diagnosis meant something was just plain wrong with him.

I told him ADHD doesn’t mean your body made some sort of mistake. It’s just means you’ll have to learn and do things differently than other people, but we’re all different in some way. This is one of the things that sets him apart. It’s not good or bad, it’s just different.

In the end, he agreed to try the medication, which I gave him the very next morning. Here’s where I’ll include that the week we tried the meds, he was in an afternoon camp at a nearby zoo. The first two days of the camp, before we’d started the Concerta, I’d said “Hey! What’d you do today?!” when I picked him up and he would, characteristically, mumble “I dunno.” But on this day, the third day of camp, the day he took medicine in the morning, he answered:

“Oh! It was great! I finished an art project I started yesterday, it’s SO cool, I can’t wait for you to see it. It’s drying. And we played a game called ‘Poison Dart Frog’ which was so fun, I want to teach Jonah how to play it. Except we probably need more people, so the next time we have all of our friends over for a bonfire, I’ll teach it to them. And we fed the budgies! It was a great day.”

And it was my turn to mumble a response.

The rest of the car ride was comfortably quiet, one of us asking or answering questions every now and again.

Since the start of this medication, for us, I’ve seen nothing but improvement. In addition to the medication, however, we have also implemented new methods for his continued success. He has very clear chores expected of him each day, he has a quiet space to work on homework, and for the most part, he stays on a very regular schedule. This is much easier to do in the school year, but that’s where we are, so we are sailing smoothly.

Before I go any further — we are a fortunate case. I have friends who have personally trialed several different medications and have yet to find the sweet spot. Our only negative side effect is that Boone occasionally has a hard time calming down for bedtime. This is still nothing compared to the hard bedtimes we had before medication, but it is noticed. That said, I have seen other kids have emotional breakdowns when they begin medications such as this. What works for one won’t always work for another — all I can share is what we have experienced.

Boone’s biggest accomplishment so far came in an email from his teacher. She wrote, in an email, that Boone was keeping up with his work at school. He brought home papers that were not only legible, they were completed far beyond the bare minimum. Just yesterday, he brought home his snack saying he didn’t want to stop what he was working on to take a break and eat it. THIS IS A BIG DEAL. However, I’m happy to report that he is also still bringing home his fair share of silly comics and drawings. He is still trying to play songs from The Legend of Zelda by ear in between piano practices. He is still our creative, inquisitive, intelligent boy, just with a little extra medicated help.

This makes me reflect on how I, as someone who has taken an antidepressant for three years, am calmer and more at peace in general, but can still unleash a lot of emotions at, say, a church worship set, or a particularly striking Hallmark commercial.

When used correctly, medicine can help us be our best self. It isn’t a crutch, or an “easy pill” — it is simply the missing puzzle piece. 

We are just at the start of this journey. I can’t speak to how middle school, high school, or even upper elementary will look. But right now, for at least a little while, I can see how second grade looks. And I like it.

If you or someone you love can identify with Boone (or me, for that matter), please speak to your doctor and see if there’s something that could help you. It might be exactly as simple as it was with Boone. It might be a heck of a lot harder to find something that works. But if you can have a similar payoff — if you can see this person that you love live their best life — it’s worth it. It’s very, very worth it.

Come back NEXT WEEK to hear from the resident Premeditated Pediatrician (I call him “husband”) who will give you the official doctor-y rundown on ADHD and what it means from the medical side. In TWO WEEKS you’ll find tips and tricks from parents JUST LIKE YOU. We’re all in this together. Share this post and grow our village!

focus, part 1

focus, part 1

When Boone was three, he had some awful bedtimes. During that three year old summer, he would be OK during the day, but as soon as the first hint of nighttime was in the air, it was like a switch would flip. His eyes got wide, his body went tense, and it was like he wasn’t in control of himself anymore.

It was rough. But, I theorized, he was THREE. And adjusting to a new baby brother. And one day, he’d grow out of it.

When Boone was four, the awful bedtimes continued. The same wide eyes and tense muscles, the same nightly stress for his mama. “He just needs to be in school full time,” I thought. “He’ll do much better when he gets worn out from learning all day.”

When Boone was five and started kindergarten, we had some bedtime peace. After school each day, I’d ask “what did you do?” And he would mumble something like “I don’t know” and shrug when I’d ask him where he left his lunch box. Or jacket. Or shoes.

But, clearly, this was an adjustment. He was still adapting, right? Adapting to a full time school day, to school rules, to… everything. I was noticing that other kids were telling their parents everything that happened throughout their day. Boone still wasn’t… but that was hardly anything to worry about, I decided. He was excelling at academics; one of his class’s top readers, top spellers, top workers.

When Boone was six and in first grade, his teacher said to me, “he’s clearly very smart, but his focus is not there.”

Umm… what?

WHOA.

WHOA.

My smart angel precious baby child wasn’t focusing well? At first I dove into some heavy denial (maybe she’s just remembering days he was kind of sick, maybe she’s confusing him with someone else?), but then I thought about the bedtimes. Then I thought about the times he couldn’t tell me what he did during a day of school. Then I thought about all of the lost lunch boxes and clothing items. Then I remembered when my husband Jason, the pediatrician, said, “you know, I think Boone has ADHD.”

I’m very open about my own mental health. Depression, anxiety, and meds are not topics I’ll shy away from.

When they’re about me.

But with Boone… I didn’t want him to bear labels and stigmas so young. He wasn’t at an age where he could “own a diagnosis,” or so I thought, and I did not want to push that on him. And besides, didn’t ADHD give kids unbridled energy? And if he had ADHD, could he do all of the things he does, like speed through novellas and ace spelling tests? In first grade he was doing multiplication worksheets, for crying out loud!

Too cool for school (and focus issues…)?

So, like any reasonable person would do, I cried and stressed out and ate chocolate and avoided making decisions for as long as possible.

But then I realized the problems weren’t going away, despite every “focus hack” I found online or in books. While Boone could sit and read an entire book, if he were told to do something he didn’t want to do, it was an epic battle of wills. It didn’t matter if he was capable of, say, practicing piano, or writing a short journal entry, if he didn’t want to do it, it was a struggle. And not just a little, tiny, let’s talk about it struggle. Nope. It was three year old bedtimes all over again.

So I made an appointment with our pediatrician (who is not Boone’s father, by the way, going for unbiased opinions here) and after some surveys with Boone’s teacher, Jason, and myself, it was clear: Boone’s focus needed help. We had an official diagnosis of ADHD and a plan to trial some low dose medication.

My questions still lingered. Where was all of his energy? Oh yeah… at bedtimes. How could he read so fast? Oh yeah… he was choosing the books he wanted to read. What about the multiplication?! Oh yeah… even though he could solve the problems, getting him to sit down to work on it was a chore, to put it mildly.

I had a little more research to do, but I was ready to help my son reach his full potential in any way I could. I filled a prescription for Concerta, said a prayer, and began to watch and wait.

For part two of this post, come back to this blog NEXT WEEK, Wednesday, September 27.

how to lose 0 pounds in 28 days! OR strong mama part 2

Here is the follow up to last week’s post, strong mama. It’s a deeper glimpse into my “diet” — by which I mean lifestyle change — and exercise plan. It is written by Dr. Jason, who you’ve seen mentioned in this blog before as “Jay,” because Dr. Jason is my husband. He’s a pediatric hospitalist, and while he focuses his practice on the under-18 set, his practical advice for general health and fitness can apply to anyone. You can read more of his doctor advice here: Doc Down the Street.

And now, without further ado: the magic solution to all of your weight and body problems! (Or something like that.)

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Throwback-whatever-day-you’re-reading-this: tiny John running in a Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Kid’s Race. 

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, this message is for you.

Stop trying to lose weight! Losing weight is a terrible goal. It’s a natural consequence of being healthy, but it’s a terrible goal. If you starve yourself for two weeks, dehydrate yourself and take a laxative every day, you will lose a few pounds. Your scale will tell you that you did a great job. Your scale is lying, you will not be any healthier! If you can throw away your scale or have someone hide it somewhere in the house, you will be banishing a source of constant negativity in your pursuit of being healthier.

If you make goals to live a healthier, stronger life, the weight will follow.

What it comes down to is that everyone has different barriers and weaknesses in their life. One of the biggest barriers is this message that in order to lose weight you need to cut calories and do lots of cardio. Have you ever tried something along these lines, spending 45 minutes on a treadmill and going home to have a healthy shake? How did that turn out for you? This is not a sustainable lifestyle. If you’ve done this, there’s a good chance you’ve burned out, had a bad week or two, and gained all that weight back.

So if weight isn’t the goal, what is?

Here are 5 tips/guidelines to get you started.

1) Most importantly, one step at a time! Don’t start your “new lifestyle” on Monday and go work out for two hours and eat a salad for lunch and throw out every piece of junk food in the house. By Friday you’re going to hate your lifestyle, and you will give up on it. Maybe if you are very strong-­willed you might make it a month before you give up. Instead, pick one goal, such as doing some strength training for 30 minutes 3 times a week. Focus on that goal. If you don’t make it that first week, keep that same goal for the next week. When that goal becomes part of your routine, add in a new goal. Expect to struggle some weeks more than others. If you get on the scale 3 times a week, you will only see failure after failure. If you pay attention to your goals, you will succeed!

Here’s the big decision you have to make: are you investing in the “you” 5 weeks from now, or the “you” 5 years from now?

2) Recognize what you’re up against. In your brain is an area called the hypothalamus. This is what is responsible for what we call “homeostasis,” basically maintaining the status quo in your body. If you are out in the winter, your hypothalamus makes you shiver to keep your temperature around 98.6. Your hypothalamus is also trying to maintain your weight. Losing weight should be about as difficult as standing outside in the winter and trying not to shiver. If you have two great weeks of working out making healthy choices, your body will crave calories. Your body will be very sneaky in making you feel tired, famished, unmotivated. Recognize it for what it is and tell your body to shut up!

3) Get strong! We aren’t talking about having ripped biceps here. Build up your core strength by focusing on your chest, back, abdomen, thighs and shoulders. If you have access to some weights, ask someone to show you some basic exercises such as squats, curls, dead lifts, etc. If you don’t, Google “core exercises” and find what works for you, such as planks, push ups, leg lifts, etc. If you haven’t done much strength training before, realize that it’s supposed to hurt a little, it’s what they call “the burn.” Finishing the exercises, pushing through the burn, is when the real strength training happens. This is basically you damaging your muscles a little bit, and when they heal they will be stronger.

4) Feed the body you’re building! Restricting calories can come a little later. Focus on making generally healthy choices (you already know that pizza doesn’t fall in this category). Don’t try to count every little calorie, but try to get a good amount of water, lean protein, fiber and whole grains balanced throughout the day.

5) Be intentional about eating! Again, this is not about restricting calories, it’s about keeping yourself accountable for what you’re eating. Need a little bit of chocolate? Don’t stand by the cupboard eating 1, 2, 3 brownies. Get out a plate, put a serving on it, and sit down at the dinner table to eat it. If you’re craving pizza, make yourself sit and drink some water and have fiber (carrots, broccoli, whatever). If 30 minutes later you’re still craving pizza then go for it.

These are some beginner’s guidelines, they aren’t necessarily tailored to your individual needs.When I started giving my wife fitness advice (only when asked, I’m not an idiot), I started by reviewing her current daily habits and schedule and finding ways to make it work for her. If you can afford an insurance copay once a month to visit with your doctor, review your goals and look for the best ways to improve, it will be worth it! If you’re not quite ready for that yet, start with these tips and see how you feel.

And stop checking your weight!

strong mama

I have done it. I am a weight loss success story!

How many pounds have I lost? I don’t know. How many inches smaller are my measurements? No idea. How many sizes have I dropped? Umm… it depends? Sizes are weird. No two clothing stores are alike.

What did you do?

This, I can answer.

Mamas, we do so much in a day. I developed a desperate plea of a mantra soon after Ev was born — once my boys were in bed, I’d look around at unwashed dishes, unfolded laundry, and dirty floors. I’d plop my soft and exhausted body onto the couch, and I’d say, “I kept two boys alive today.”

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Dear boys, ’twas me that kept you alive for this photo. You’re welcome.

This was enough. It was. It really, really was. And to be perfectly clear: it very much still is.

Eventually, though, I fell into a rhythm. I could keep the boys alive AND clean up after dinner. I could (kind of) stay on top of the laundry. I didn’t like the clothes I fit into, but I had clothes (clean ones at that), my boys had clothes, we had food in our bellies, and it felt wrong to complain about my size. It didn’t seem important, it didn’t seem right with all of the blessings we had.

And yet… I found myself on weak days longing to be skinnier. I knew I could stand to be healthier — I was tired constantly (hello, keeping two boys alive!) and it was so hard to be the mom/woman/human I wanted to be. I wanted more energy, more ambition, more motivation, but instead I had more wine. And naps.

Now I’d like to make something perfectly clear: I love wine. And naps. I’d never wine/nap shame.

After months of hearing me whine about waist sizes, my husband offered to help. He’d create individual goals for me and I’d do a weigh-in each week — except I couldn’t see the number on the scale. He’d look and write it down while I lived in darkness. The goal, he said, was my overall health and fitness, not a number on a scale.

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Feet to pavement. LET’S DO THIS. (Old pic. Man, I miss those shoes.)

I’m nothing if not good at homework, so I excelled at weekly challenges. Stop mindlessly snacking? Done (even if I was initially and am still occasionally crabby about it). Learn proper form for various exercises? Done. Learn how to eat in the way that works best for my body/ fitness? Done. Work out at least 60 minutes per day? Done. This was a doozy, but now I actually, willingly, work out longer than this. And meanwhile, even though I never knew the amount I was losing, I knew things were beginning to change.

  • My energy levels exploded.
  • I got strong — I can do so many real (on toes, not knees) push-ups.
  • All of my clothes got too big. All of ’em.
  • I didn’t have to nap (but I still could, if I wanted, because naps are great).
  • I was drinking a glass of wine once or twice a week instead of nightly — I didn’t need the “wine escape” anymore. Truthfully, and I realize this may be dorky, my workouts became the escape.

My workouts were(/are) a combination of weight training, core work, and cardio (specifically running), although I have also started playing tennis. With real people. Who also play tennis.

(THIS IS HUGE.)

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ALSO HUGE: full-length mirror selfie. Also dorky: thumbs up and grin.

I don’t have a program or some magic beans to sell you; I don’t even have a cute, artist-inspired image of buzzwords you can pin to your “time to get fit!” pinterest board. I have tried those things, and I’m not knocking them, because I know they work for some. If you, like me, struggled with finding a “fitness plan” that worked for you, stick around. Next week we’ll have a guest post from a doctor I know really well (because he’s my husband), and he’ll write about diet, exercise, and the way to get you from not healthy to healthy (which is incredibly different, I have learned, than the journey from not-skinny to skinny).

I have a gym membership, but this is simply not a requirement for you to become a strong mama. I have friends who wake up early to do fitness DVDs. I have friends who put their kids to bed and sacrifice time with their spouses to go for a run. You can do this. And you should, because it will make you a better parent, a better spouse, a better version of yourself. Looks may be a side effect of this journey, but the feels are what’s important.

Do it for the feels. Be strong, mamas.