hashtag mom life hacks

I love my babies.

Ooh, this fake snow with the consistency of soggy cotton balls was a great idea; good thinking, me.

You love yours too. I know this.

But sometimes… oh man, sometimes… the task of parenting is hard. There are certainly days when all I want to do is stay snuggled up in bed all day, totally alone, and yet, the kids need “breakfast” and “clothes” and whatnot. And so even though “stay in bed mom” is one of my favorite quotes from the cult classic Arrested Development,  I simply cannot adopt that lifestyle.

So here’s what I do when I am forced to maternally fake it ’til I make it.

BATH TIME

Sure. OK. Bath time can be a crazy splashy experience that leaves everyone feeling soggy and tired. BUT. When you do bath time at, say, 2 pm? You can let that sucker drag on until the water turns cold. If you need to, keep one eye on your child and the water cascading down the side of the bathtub and the other eye on your book/television show/website of choice. To extend the fun, throw glow sticks into the bath. Instead of making the bath the thing to get through before you can finally put your lovely little monsters to bed, take the power back and let the bath work for you.

PODCASTS

One of my favorite escapes is an earbud in one ear playing the podcast of my choosing. Thanks to my dear friend Leanne, that podcast is currently The Sword and the Scale, a true crime podcast that is incredibly dark and addicting. I think I like it so much not because it is wholesome and uplifting (NOPE) but because it really feels like the opposite of my everyday life. I can start a television show for my toddler and do the dishes while listening to people being totally, totally illegal. It’s a weird little macabre getaway, and I love it.

**NOTE: You can be less dark than I am and use music or happy podcasts in your ear too. I mean, you do you.

SPEAKING OF A SHOW FOR YOUR TODDLER…

Some days will have too much screen time. Some days will have none. Accept the fact that everything in life is moderation and don’t beat yourself up for a lazy, visually stimulating day, especially during winter in Michigan. Especially especially during winter in Michigan where there isn’t snow to go out and play in but it’s still too dang cold to easily go play outside. The warmth will come. Embrace the cold.

PAJAMA DAY

Self-explanatory. Love your jammies, love yourself.

GET OUT

This last one is a little controversial, even in my own mind. Some days I really don’t want to leave (especially if it’s a self-declared Pajama Day; see above). But sometimes — perhaps this is when your toddler has dumped out the same box of crayons for the fourth time in a row — you say, “NOPE!” and you run errands (made up if necessary), find an indoor park or museum, go to a movie theatre, visit a friend, get in the car and just drive… I’ve had great success digging my way out of a hard mom day by simply changing our location. Yes, sometimes this can be more stressful than just staying home and repeatedly cleaning up that *&%^ box of crayons. Use at your own risk.

Being a mom is truly the most amazing thing I’ve done with my life… but it’s hard, y’all. Let’s stop pretending like the hard days don’t happen. Let’s embrace the hot, crazy mess that is motherhood and survive it together, however we know how. What are your mom life hacks?

so you’re traveling to walt disney world!

If you’ve been following my Walt Disney World posts, you’ll know that I’ve written about a general overview to your Disney Parks vacation here and a more in depth look at the parks and the food here. Now that you have that Disney vacation in your sights, today’s posts will help make your travel and prep plans a little easier.

GETTING FROM POINT A (your house) to POINT B (Disney!)

What method of travel works best for you and your family? Car, plane, RV? Whatever method you choose, if you have kids in tow, entertainment is a must. Since we have, as a family, only traveled to WDW by plane, I’ll be focusing on this method. If you are getting there in a different way, however, you can adapt some of these travel tips so they work better for you.

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Boone’s first trip to WDW; yes, he was seven months old.

Our plane trip will consist of a two year old, a five year old, and two adults — along with the rest of the passengers on the plane. To make an attempt at peace, I’m working on “Plane Bags” — small backpacks/tote bags filled with quiet but entertaining plane activities. Some of the items will  be things we already own (Boone’s Kindle, for example), and some will be brand new (like a draw-your-own Pokemon book I found on zulily.com a couple of weeks ago). I’ll also include gum (for Boone) and suckers (for Jonah) to help with the flight ascent and descent. The kids will be given these bags at the airport and will know nothing about them ahead of time.

For that time when we just need some extra help, here are some free printables that I’ll be bringing along with us as well:

Traveling with Toddlers (Q’s to ask, BINGO)
Games to Play at the Airport

OF COURSE, despite your best efforts, kids will be kids. They’ll get bored. They’ll get hangry. (So might you.) I feel better going into a situation armed with goody bags and worksheets, because at my core I’m nothing if not premeditated (and I’m also a teacher).

WHAT TO PACK?!

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Pack stuffed animal friends, because you never know where they’ll end up after your room is cleaned…

There are a zabillion websites out there with tips on packing. Fit all of your belongings in a ziploc bag! Live exclusively out of your carry on! Literally hire movers to bring all of your earthly possessions to your resort for you!

…or something like that.

Look, if you’re here looking for things like “don’t forget clothes, a toothbrush, a bathing suit, shoes,” you’re out of luck. Except for that sentence right there. That one’s free. Instead, I’m throwing together a quick list of things that would be helpful to have at Disney that you may not think to bring. Ready? Here goes.

-Ponchos: Orlando is prone to frequent mid-day rainstorms, especially at specific times of the year. There are plenty of ponchos available at the parks, but they will cost you. The ones you can pick up at your local dollar store will work just fine (and you won’t feel too bad about wadding it up and throwing it away after you’ve used it, because I’ve never met one person who can actually refold a poncho to it’s original size). Bonus: people hide under awnings in rainstorms. Put on your $1 poncho and hit rides without waiting!

-Glow in the Dark stuff: You can buy this stuff EVERYWHERE — especially during fireworks shows — but they cost a lot and are quickly forgotten. Pick these up at the dollar store when you’re buying your ponchos.

-A spray bottle: Florida is hot. Grab one of these to mist yourself with coolness when the sun is showing no mercy. Also spray your kids. They love it.

-A refillable water bottle: Make use of the many drinking fountains around the parks and keep yourself hydrated without buying drinks (or using snack credits). In the past I’ve brought a Brita Water Bottle with its own filter to keep my water tasting the best.

-Breakfast bars: We usually eat breakfast in our room at the resort before hitting the parks because 1) it’s a time and money-saver and 2) some of us get hangry if we don’t eat within ten minutes or so of waking up (guilty).

THE WAITING…

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Truthfully, I don’t craft often, but when I do… it’s for Disney.

It’s the hardest part. I know. Believe me, I know. Once you’ve booked the trip and you’ve started making goody bags and stockpiling glow-in-the-dark bracelets, you will want to get moving! But unless you’ve booked a trip in the very near future, you’ll be waiting. And you’re still waiting now, because next week I’ll have some fun activities and crafts to help pass the Disney waiting time!

Sending nothing but magical wishes your way…

so you’re going to walt disney world!

Now that you’ve read all about my personal love affair with WDW and the nitty gritty details to planning your own vacation, now it’s time for the fun stuff (OK, you got me, it’s all fun stuff): PARKS and FOOD!

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You’ve got a friend in these three (brb weeping)

THE PARKS!

Walt Disney World is divided into four major theme parks: Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. Each of these parks is a world in and of itself; it will be impossible to see everything in each park in a day, or even a trip. I’ll take a little time to tell you about each park and the goodness it entails.

Magic Kingdom — this is the iconic land you think of when you hear “Disney World” (or Disneyland for that matter — the Magic Kingdom in Florida is modeled after the original park in California). From the main entrance, you walk down a nostalgic “Main Street” in the shadow of the majestic Cinderella’s Castle. The park splits off into several different themed areas with a variety of rides, shows, and shops. Fantasyland has recently expanded, and it, along with the semi-new Storybook Circus area, is wonderful for children of all ages (but especially littles!). Here you’ll find the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride, kid-sized roller coasters, and several kid-friendly characters. You may find the Magic Kingdom to be the busiest park depending on when you go because there is a general opinion that it is the best park for kids. While this is a great park for kids, so is…

EPCOT — or the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow. This is divided into two main sections, the World Showcase and Future World. Future World is science-themed, and kids will absolutely love experimenting at Innoventions or talking to Crush from Finding Nemo in the Living Seas. The World Showcase has food and customs from a variety of countries around the world. To make the most of Boone’s cultural experience on our next trip, we are asking him to meet a different cast member from each country and learn how to say “hello” in their native language and share one interesting fact about their country. When we visit (in September), the annual Food and Wine Festival will be taking place, so Jason and I will be eating and drinking our way around the world while Boone soaks up knowledge. Everybody wins!

Hollywood Studios — Although my answer changes by the minute, I think Hollywood Studios is my favorite park. It is themed with a vintage Hollywood vibe, and I love classic movies, so The Great Movie Ride, a ride that “drives you through” several iconic movies (including my personal favorite, The Wizard of Oz), is one of my favorites. There are also some Disney Junior shows here, and since I have little kids now, we’ll certainly be looking for some of our favorite characters. The fireworks show in this park is called Fantasmic! — and it is truly a spectacle. Fireworks, water works, animation, characters — this one has it all. It will keep even the sleepiest toddler (or mama) awake and happy at the end of the day.

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What can I say? Disney takes a lot out of you when you’re 2… or 30.

Animal Kingdom — This is the newest park, and it, along with Hollywood Studios, are generally my “one day” parks. I can usually see all I want to see in one solid day (note “all I want to see” and not “every tiny little thing”), whereas I may want to revisit Magic Kingdom or EPCOT to feel satisfied. The Animal Kingdom is NOT a zoo — but you will find many animals of all kinds here! There is a safari ride and several trails packed with interesting animals and lots of fun facts. Additionally, there is a dinosaur land (which is fantastic for my little dino-lovers!) and a truly spectacular roller coaster (Expedition Everest).

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I am never ashamed to admit that I love me some turkey leg.

THE FOOD!

Disney does many, many things well — and food is absolutely no exception. Snacks are available at almost any section of the parks, and unlike some theme parks, Disney does allow you to bring in your own food. (They’ll inspect your bags at the main entrance of each park, but they aren’t looking for your goldfish and graham crackers, fear not.)

For meals, if you want to eat in the parks (and you do!), your options are quick service or table service meals. The quick service are the WDW fast food option, and the prices are higher than your typical fast food — $10-$15 a meal. The portions are huge and easily shared, however. The table service meals can cost quite a bit more, but in the past we’ve only chosen one or two table service meals (because in addition to costing more, the “meal experience” takes longer than the quick service meals, and you generally leave feeling… quite full (and if not, congratulations on your restraint!).

One nice option for all of you planners is the Disney Dining Plan (DDP). You pay a set amount when you purchase your accommodations and tickets, and each member of your party has set meals or snacks for the day. So by the time you visit the parks, you aren’t shelling out cash for food — all of your meals are prepaid. There are different options here — the quick service plan has two quick service meals and a snack for each person in your party for the day. The standard plan has one quick service meal, one table service meal, and one snack for each person per day. The deluxe plan has three quick service OR table service meals as well as two snacks per day.

That is a lot of food. But no judgies.

I’d like to take a moment to point out that many “snacks” can serve as full meals (or at least a very filling pick-me-up) and that, as previously mentioned, portions are huge. When we are visiting in September, we are receiving the standard dining plan free with our stay (we chose to pay to upgrade from the free quick service plan, actually). I can already tell you we will leave WDW fuller than we were when we first arrived. This will also be our first trip wearing Fitbits, though… so I fully plan to let all of my Disney steps justify the eating.

MUCH more excellent food info can be found at www.disneyfoodblog.com. Just don’t visit the site hungry… you’ll see what I mean.

THE OTHER STUFF!

WDW has two water parks that I have personally never visited, but if you’re a water play fan, I’d encourage checking out Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. These parks are not included in your park hopper tickets; you’d have to specifically add the “water parks” option.

And for Disney fun without paying any sort of admission, check out Disney Springs (formally Downtown Disney)! There’s lots of shopping (including a year-round Christmas shop… I’m a fan) and restaurants as well as entertainment and performers. If you want a break from lines and rides but still want some Mickey Mouse in your day, Disney Springs is the place for you.

Whew! I hope today’s installment has helped your Disney-thoughts come together a bit more. While I’m not a “real expert,” I’d be happy to answer any Disney Q’s you may have (about traveling with little kids or not!). Leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks for reading! Next week — travel tips and what to pack!

field trip fridays (& some review)

Happy Summer!

We have finished the school year, so that means Boone is officially a first grader (YIKES). Jonah’s officially very two, which has nothing to do with the fact that school is done. It does explain why he’s frequently covered in food and/or without pants.

We kicked off summer in the purest, most innocent way possible… Boone had the stomach flu. Thankfully it truly was a “24 hour bug,” and he hasn’t been so kind as to share it with anyone else.

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Ah yes Jonah, a yogurt hair mask. How very pinteresty of you.

So our very first masterchef monday got off to somewhat of a rough start, as the chef-in-training was down for the count. He requested “goldfish and gatorade” for breakfast (which he barely touched), so we definitely weren’t going to push any sort of food prep. He drifted in and out of sleep and The Legend of Zelda on the couch. I was somehow able to convince him to do a math worksheet (“I’m really good at math, mama, even when I’m sick” — at least he’s modest), and he made his own breakfast today (fruit and yogurt parfait), so he’s certainly back on the upswing.

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Mathin’ it up on a messy summer counter.
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Eat your heart out, Gordon Ramsay.

Today was our first tech-free tuesday, and I’m pleased (and slightly afraid of jinxing it) to say that it was fantastic! When Boone first woke up he said, “hey, while you make breakfast can I watch — OH! Nevermind, it’s tech-free Tuesday!” (Woohoo!)

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Ink pen and notepad, my two trusty summer companions.

Jason was home so he and Boone had some one-on-one fun time which surely helped. I mentioned in an earlier post that Boone would have “screen time cards” to earn and use for screen time in the summer (with the exception of Tuesdays, of course). Boone decided these cards should absolutely be in the shape of rupees from the video game The Legend of Zelda. Thanks to Jason’s fantastic dad skills, Boone got his wish today.

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Painting some rupee-shaped screen time cards, like ya do.
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Not completely finished, but getting there.

If you’re a Zelda fan, you may enjoy knowing that the colors of these rupees correspond with the amounts they are worth on Skyward Sword. Blue are worth five minutes, red are worth twenty minutes, and there is one special silver rupee worth one hundred minutes that will be hidden away until mama has a really bad day.

(For real.)

If you’re not a Zelda fan, you’re welcome for that insight into our nerdy little lives.

Tomorrow will be our first wacky wednesday, followed by our first thinking thursday, which will bring us to the LAST POST in this premeditated summer series:

FIELD TRIP FRIDAYS!

I’m going to be honest here; I’m not going to print any specific worksheets for Fridays (or the weekends) and they are precisely as the name implies: days for field trips. Sometimes these trips will be very close to home and very simple:

The beach (we’re five minutes from Lake MI, so this is a no-brainer)
Splash Pads
The outdoor pool at our gym
Local trails, parks
The mall (because sometimes it’s gonna rain)
The children’s museum
The zoo
The Critter Barn
Dutch Village (what, you don’t have a Dutch-themed amusement park in your town? Too bad.)

Some of these trips will require a little bit of planning (and prayers no one gets sick)

Train ride to Chicago
Michigan’s Adventure
Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland (because who doesn’t LOVE Christmas in summer?!)
Sea Life Aquarium
Binder Park Zoo

We might think of more, but that’s what we’re starting with anyway. And yes, of course, we might go on “field trips” when it isn’t Friday. We might watch a movie on a Tuesday sometime. We may abandon all the plans at the end of July when we’re all hot and sweaty and sick of each other…

…but hopefully not.

Thanks for reading this series — feel free to pass it along! I’ll be back next week with the normal observations/humor/nerd jokes/life stuff.

 

 

wacky wednesdays

Welcome back to another rousing rendition of “what we’re doing this summer!” Summer is so very quickly approaching (8 school days left around here!) so if you, like me, need plans to keep you sane, read on.

(And if you want to catch up on what we’ll be doing on Mondays and Tuesdays during the summer, you can check out those posts here: masterchef mondays and tech-free tuesdays.)

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He’s ready to craft! Now excuse me, while I cry about how small my giant almost-done-with-kindergarten kid used to look.

Wednesdays are for arts and crafts. Now, I may be a caffeine-fueled mom with a solid pinterest addiction, like so many of us, but I am unfortunately NOT a crafter. That’s not to say I haven’t tried; oh, I’ve tried. I’ve made cards. I’ve sewn bedding. I’ve knit scarves. I’ve purchased paints and small canvasses with the intention of making something super ~shabby chic~. I have failed. I just don’t get any satisfaction from cutting and gluing or stitching and pearling or anything else that requires I sit and do instead of stand and move (or sit and not do).

I do like writing to-do lists while sitting. Does that count?

Here’s my arts and crafts plan for Summer 2016:

On the first Wednesday of summer break, I’ll be gifting my kiddos a $30 gift card to Hobby Lobby. We’ll go there with the specific intention of purchasing craft supplies, DIY kits, anything that catches our eye and fits our budget. This is our craft budget for the summer — period. If we want other items, we’ll get creative with our trash and recycling. It’s important to note I’m not looking to make museum-worthy pieces of art here — or even gift items — we’re looking to have some fun with some mostly temporary creative pieces.

True confessions time: my planning for our art projects will usually take place on Tuesdays after the kids are in bed. I’ll scroll pinterest and choose a project we already have materials for. But I’ll happily share with you a few of the favorites I’ve saved from preliminary pinterest searches…

LadyBugs vs Tadpoles Tic-Tac-Toe — ok, this is just cute. And it’s a game we can play later! We probably won’t use an actual piece of freshly cut-tree for the playing board (though my neighbors do have tree-cutting plans, so we’ll see), but we can totally paint rocks.

Kid Made Bird Feeders — I love a craft that serves a purpose, and I’ll happily hang kid-crafted bird feeders all over our yard. Prepare to feast, birds!

Beaded Snakes — this craft incorporates hand-eye coordination (which, to be honest, both the two year old and the five year old could stand to practice more) and the end result is a fun new toy.

Our school activities will focus on social studies for the big kid (I love the worksheets found here) and shapes and colors for the little kid (preschool pages found here).

And that wraps up Wednesdays! My husband did suggest “wine down Wednesdays” to give mom a break during the week, but I’m pretty sure the only thing that would accomplish is “ok everybody, it’s time to take a nap.” Which… now that I think about it…

Grab some wine (or not) and let’s craft, everybody. Happy Summer Wednesdays to you!

premeditated summer

I know this statement has the potential to cause offense, but I’m saying it anyway: I’ve never been a summer girl. Sure, there are summer activities I enjoy. Give me a week of summer, and I won’t complain. OK, five days and I won’t complain. As long as humidity stays low and I can stand to be outside. Is a cool breeze too much to ask?

But summer has its way of coming around. And it’s true that I probably wouldn’t cherish cozy nights under blankets in front of fireplaces if they happened 365 days a year. And so, I embrace you, summer. I embrace you like one embraces going to the doctor for an annual exam. It’s not too awful, it’s good for me, and it only comes around once a year.

Summer — as fun as a doctor visit.

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Maybe slightly more fun than a doctor visit.

But seriously, I am a lover of routine, and summer turns it upside down. I am a firm believer in “play time” and allowing kids to be bored, but as studies have shown, kids do well with structure. Mine do, at least. Wonder where they get that from…

And so, over the next five weeks, I’ll be sharing with you my plans for the summer. When John isn’t at summer camp (he has two week-long day camps and a couple other random “camp” days sprinkled in), we will be focusing our activities for the day based on a specific theme. Those themes are as follows:

Masterchef Mondays: the boys and I will pick new recipes to try, we’ll shop for ingredients, and we’ll cook them together. My hope is that each Monday, John (who is 5) will learn how to cook something independently.

Tech-Free Tuesdays: As the name implies… there will be no screen time on these days. Even for mama. I’ve taken the oath as well. My oath will end when the boys go to sleep, because Netflix. And I’ll still use my phone for calls/texts — just not excessively.

Wacky Wednesdays: We’re doing arts and crafts, and they’re going to be wacky! Mostly because I couldn’t think of another great W word for arts and crafts.

Thinking Thursdays: Science experiment day!

Field Trip Fridays: We are seriously blessed to live in such a cool town in such a cool state. Michigan has so many awesome things to offer, and we’ll spend our Fridays exploring them. We will usually stay pretty close to home, but we may drive (or take a train!) a bit as well.

In addition to our themed activities, the boys will have their normal chores (these are mostly John’s, but Ev is a great picker-upper): make beds, brush teeth, get dressed, clean up toys, etc. John will practice piano daily, and we’ll all be aiming for at least an hour of outside time if/when the weather allows. I’ll also be scouring the internet for summer school work; 1st grade readiness pages for John, and preschool pages for Ev.

And here’s the fun part (if you’re me) — I will be sharing all of this information with you! You can use it regardless of whether or not you want to follow our themed days plan, but it’ll be a place for links to worksheets and activities (and my hilarious commentary) that you can reference if you are in need of summer activities. Think of it like an annotated pinterest board tailor made for summer fun.

So stick around, because next week I’ll start with activities and ideas on how we’ll participate in Masterchef Mondays (and yes, some of those activities will be “watch old episodes of Masterchef Jr. on Hulu with your child,” because I am a realist).

Happy summer planning!

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!

what to say

For the last couple years, I have been a part time choir director for a local children’s choir. A few years prior, I was the music director at a church. Before kids, I taught choir full time at a public middle school. I have a bachelors and masters in vocal music education, so, given this background, my natural response when someone asks “what do you do?” has been, “I teach choir.”

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From my teaching days… let it be known, I never was incredibly inspired when it came to a bulletin board. (But I did love repping my undergraduate alma mater from several states away.)

But something has been gnawing at me for a while now… my babies are small, I have the freedom (that I do not take for granted) to be able to stay home, and especially since my husband has a shift-jumping, work-heavy schedule, I love being able to have my calendar completely open.

(I also love opting to spend the day in pajama pants, napping when the baby naps, and sometimes taking a sip of wine at 4:00 pm, but that’s incredibly beside the point.)

I grew up motivated and intelligent. I knew I would find some measure of success in higher education. This is not a brag, but an explanation. I did well in school. I did well as a teacher. I loved knowing that my hard work was paying off, but as soon as John was born and it worked best for our family to stay home, I found new hard work to absolutely love — I also found confusion.

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Shhhh, it’s cool. Mama doesn’t know what she’s doing, but she knows she likes it.

I had guilt for leaving behind the career I had just began, even though I had no desire to start it up again. “I stay home with this kid now, but I’m a choir teacher,” became my response to the many “what do you do” queries. As John got older, my response was occasionally, “oh I just stay at home with this guy,” and a shrug, a brush-off of the infinite parent responsibilities.

Part time choral opportunities arrived, and I thought I finally had an acceptable answer to the “what do you do.” I had an answer that proved I was smart, I was talented, I was so much more than a booger-wiper and kitchen-cleaner and laundry-folder. But I was distracted. I could never fall completely into the choral world, because I was thinking about playdates and snack foods.

IMPORTANT NOTE: this does not mean that all working moms fail at play dates and snacks. This does not mean that all working moms fail at their jobs. If you are a mom who works part or full time, in or out of the home, please know that we have different stories. I would not begin to presume our experiences are exactly the same.

So last week, I decided to stop the children’s choir. The mom I was when John was one month old would be so disappointed in me. “How will people know who you are?!” she would ask, totally rudely, before watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (which we were totally into while breastfeeding). I’m sure my answer to the “what do you do”s will occasionally be a shrug and an “I’m just a mom.” But I will smile, and the asker will see that I am content and proud to wear this constant and yet fleeting title.

And sometimes, if you ask me what I do, I might respond with “I clean up a lot of vomit. And my toddler loves to use his whale-shaped training urinal, but he’s crap with aim, so I also clean up a lot of pee.”

Hey, sometimes your work stories are boring, too.