A New Approach to Wellness & Weight Loss

New Year…New You? …Not so Fast!

If you are like millions of Americans, the past few weeks have been a mix of recovering from the merriment/madness of the holidays & contemplating change.

We all know the drill, January 1st rolls around & gets us thinking about what is and is not working in our lives. If only for a few days, making a commitment towards positive change seems like an obtainable goal.
For many, this positive change involves losing weight. Every January 1st, I leap onto the weight loss band wagon, only to be derailed at the first sight of cheese & wine.
So why is it so difficult to develop & maintain healthier habits? 

By now, the “how’ is no mystery. I’m no rocket scientist and I really really hate math, but I understand that my calories out have to be less than calories in. Nevertheless, study after study indicates that while many succeed in in losing some weight, the long term results are usually poor. Why is it so hard then to stick to a healthy eating plan and a reasonable exercise regime? I’m a mom, so I could give you a thousand reasons…stress, time, lack of planning, picky children, wine. If you are R.E.A.L. Tired Housewife, the reasons truly are endless.

So this year, I am taking a different approach to better health. It’s one that I actually know quite well but have never thought to apply to the areas of weight and wellness. (Talk about a light bulb moment!) It’s no secret that  I constantly sing the praises of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  I am so passionate about this approach to maintaining one’s mental health, that I use it as my primary strategy when working with clients of all ages.

Image result for quotes about changing yourself

So it stands to reason that if faulty thinking patterns contribute a host of mental health problems, it might also be the reason they remain unable to finally achieve the healthy lifestyle they  so desperately aspire to.

I would suspect that it is because knowing what to do & knowing how to get yourself to do it are entirely separate skills. Getting ourselves to create new habits depends largely on the silent conversation we have with ourselves: our thoughts. 

Since I would never ask a client to do something I would not be willing to do myself, the ideas that come next are going to be tested first and foremost on me. I’ll agree to be my own guinea pig.

Let me state for the record that I am not focusing on losing weight. I have wasted way too much of my precious life focusing on a number on a scale. No longer a slave to the scale, what matters to me most is how I feel on a daily basis. So the goal is: be a little less tired real housewife. 

  I’ll first work to identify destructive thoughts keeping me from  achieving my wellness goals. Once those are identified, I will develop strategies to actively challenge and change those thoughts into more helpful ones. I ask clients to do this all of the time and I am their accountability coach. You then, friends & readers, will be my accountability guide.

So what does this actually look like in real Mom Life?  I’ll create cards on a ring to record new, more helpful thoughts & keep these cards in a prominent place..i.e. kitchen, car, office, or any place where I tend to lose focus and motivation. If you have children, (that’s basically everywhere and anywhere). Think of it almost as a portable vision board of words!

Here are a few examples of thoughts I plan to tackle:

  • Old: I have tried eating healthier before and always fall back into my old patterns.

NEW: Changing my thoughts has led to great gains in mental health for me and this time I’m applying those techniques to wellness. 

  • Old: My family is full of picky eaters and they won’t be supportive of this new way of eating.

NEW: My family has supported my goals in the past and will be inspired when I succeed.

  • I will have to be much less social if I change my eating & drinking patterns, and being with friends is a huge part of my life that I am not willing to give up.

NEW: I can & will still go out with friends, but I can  plan what I will eat/drink in advance & not waiver from that. I will surround myself with people who have like-minded goals and bring out the best in me by supporting my positive changes.

Using note cards to keep it real & stay motivated..
I love this reminder that this journey is about progress not perfection.

 

As I say often, the goal is progress, not perfection. I know I won’t be perfect on this journey to wellness, but I promise to keep you posted on my progress and cheer you on if you too decide to make 2018 a year of change.

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9

Personal Reflections from 2017: Twelve Months and 12 Lessons Learned.


 This week has marked the beginning of a new year. 2018 is upon us and 2017 has forever left us. Sort of. It’s not like any year is completely done and over. We take with us all the happenings, good or bad, into the current new year.

There’s always so much talk about how we want to make the incoming year better, brighter, bolder, bigger; How we want to make it our best year ever! That’s some serious pressure right there. All while poor 2017 gets the shrug and middle finger as we walk hurriedly away. But you know, every year is wrought with both good and bad, highs and lows – it’s all in our perspective on what we choose to take from it.

As I started to reflect back on my 2017 I felt a well of emotion come up. I realized I’m actually sad to see it go. Not that anything is really different from yesterday to today, but the ending of it, just like the beginning of this new year, felt like that – an ending. I decided that before I get caught up in planning all my goals, hopes, and plans for the new year I ought to pay homage to what this past year brought me through some reflection and gratitude.  As I started recounting the months I became more and more in awe of how much change, growth, and wonder has been packed into these past twelve. In fact each month seemed to carry with it something significant and worth exploring. So here goes…

January: Accepting Mommy Imperfection (the beginning)

This first month of the year started out with the bang of announcing my pregnancy with baby #3. As I shared this exciting news I more silently was experiencing the fear and panic of “how the hell am I going to do this?” Searching for and finding support from fellow moms in the “large family” clan gave me solace in knowing I was not alone in feeling crazy, scared, and insane most days. I realized if I was going to do this with any real enjoyment I was going to have to be real in accepting that it wasn’t going to be perfect or even appear that way. Life was about to get messy(er).

February: Forgiveness

Month number two carried with it the sadness of my grandfather dying. I didn’t know him well, which was the saddest part of all. The light cast through this gave me the awareness that it was time to reconnect with my own father. Time to forgive and time to forge a new connection beginning with forgiveness that was hard fought for nearly 10 years. I’m grateful for the ability to do this and for the growth in this relationship that took place over the next 10 months forward.

March: Starting Again

Following a reconnection with my dad via phone in February, March was highlighted by his first visit back. I decided to approach this new beginning with openness, limited expectation, and honesty. These are areas I have to continually hold myself to as I can easily fall back into the pit of hiding, disappointment, and bitterness. The change from a parent/child  to adult/adult relationship is an awkward one at best. I’m working on it.

April: Happy Mind Happy Home is Born

There is so much to be said for this month and what this blog has done for me. To put it succinctly, I never anticipated how much vulnerability, fear, relief, acceptance, and pride I’d gain from publicly exploring my daily struggles. I have found a sense of peace and acceptance with who I am through this honesty which at the start seemed so terrifying. I am beyond grateful for this unexpected journey and what it has brought me in such a short amount of time.

May: Divorce and Dating

I forgot to mention that my mom and my step dad of 20 years divorced in January. Yes, that also happened. And here into April my mom began dating… this was weird. And hard. And messy. I had never experienced my mom dating. I had no idea who this new man, whomever he came to be, was supposed to be to me? Was he going to be like a new step dad? That didn’t seem right. I’m an adult no longer in need of this, so that didn’t fit. And what about the family I had known for most of my life? This ending was hard to process. Comprehending the way forward was very very strange. From this I learned, whether an adult or a child, divorce sucks. But, life does go on.

June: Trust and Marriage

From what I recall June was a pretty quiet month. Not such a bad thing. What I can say for June is gratitude for my husband. It is the month for husbands that are fathers, after all.  I have mad appreciation for my husband and his commitment to growth for himself, our marriage, and our children. He never misses an opportunity to challenge me, which admittedly might piss me off in the moment, but somehow allows me to trust him even more. I would say this very notion – trust – has grown for me this past year. I don’t think I even realized I wasn’t trusting him fully – something I imagine he brought to my attention as well – but as I opened up more and stepped forward into this trust, I can say our relationship has deepened, arguments have lessened, and my love for him has certainly grown. I’ll take that.

July: Growing Older

My birthday month! I turned 35 this year. I’ve heard it said that as you approach 40 you begin to worry less about what others think of you. Well, whether I recall this saying correctly or not, I can say I’m finding it true for me. I am sure it is a mixture of many things that took place this year, but all things combined I do feel more comfortable in my own skin than I can recall feeling since the age of approximately 8 years old. I am less preoccupied with what other people think of me, which honestly was a strange feeling until I got used to it. Feeling this confidence felt foreign. I had to intentionally stay with this feeling instead of reverting back to the familiar. This is still a new thing for me, a growing thing. Writing truths like this certainly help, I must say. I don’t know if I would be feeling this newness without choosing to show myself to the outside world. It has been and continues to be a risk well worth taking.

August: Babies, Kindergarten, and More

August, oh August. What’s not to be said for August. Had baby #3, celebrated my oldest child’s 5th birthday, sent oldest child to kindergarten, and found out my sister was pregnant with her first baby. A lot packed into a few short weeks. This month started the tailspin that would become my life for the remainder of this year (and into the present new year). Life has been forever changed by increasing our household number to 5, learning how to be a parent of en elementary age student, and all while not letting my middle child fall through the cracks. Who are we kidding, she’d never allow that to happen. To say it’s been busy is an understatement and I’m still learning how to catch up.

September: School Days

September was marked by the ill fated awareness that elementary school is about a lot more than lunch boxes, backpacks, recess, and early dismal on random Fridays. It is about my kid growing up and facing the harsh reality of peer influence and peer rejection. Figuring out how to not freak out has been a test in itself. What I’ve learned is that just because I’m concerned doesn’t mean there’s something to be concerned about. Me being worried doesn’t imply something is wrong. Mostly I’ve learned that I need to monitor my own fears and trust that my children are not as fragile as I may think they are. Keeping my own anxiety in check in not a situation fully resolved, let’s be honest, but at least I’ve got some awareness. I’m sure this topic will need further exploring…

October: Busy Gets Busier

October marked the month of returning to work following baby #3. My busy life just turned it up a notch, or three. I’d say I’m still not used to the new normal of rushing from place to place but I have found that the more I attempt to resist it, the more tension I experience: from myself and everyone else. I have learned from this new busy that I need to make time when there is no time. I do not work well under constant go, go, go. Maybe for a few days or a week I can go with it, but soon after I crash hard. I don’t have the time to crash anymore so I figured I needed to try something else. I’ve had to cut out somethings, enjoyable things sometimes, just so I can have the energy and focus to keep going. Saying no to things I want to do has been tough, but I have found solace in something a friend of mine said, “This is just a season.” This season, for me,  means being busy doing a lot of mom things. I feel comforted knowing there will be other seasons to come and hopefully they’ll include more sleep!

November: A Thanksgiving to Remember

With November comes Thanksgiving and our party of 5 successfully traveling 4 hours by car to visit family. What I learned from this is I can manage this clan of mine under tight quarters and in confined spaces. It was an adventure for sure having all of us in one hotel room. Especially when my oldest had a coughing fit that turned into a mini panic attack at 2:00 in the morning. Good thing we’re well versed in sleepless nights. What I take from this episode is that I am capable of getting us from point A to point B in one piece. Some days.

December: I’ll Bring the Chips.

Now this brings me to December. Another busy month, as it is for most, taught me that in this current “season” of my life I can handle very little extra without the threat of a meltdown hanging over me. I realized that the many things I want to do may not be things I can do (gracefully at least). I realized it is better to simplify and enjoy my life than it is to reach beyond my limits in effort to impress. From this I realized no one really cares if you bring the store bought hummus or the homemade. All they really care about is that you showed up. And if they do care, well, who gives a shit. Remember, this whole year has been about being real and accepting imperfection. If we’re being real, it’s all pretty messy even on the good days. You just have to roll with it.

So there’s my year in a nutshell. If you made it this far into the post, congratulations! It was a long one. I’m excited to see what lessons 2018 bring but I’m still enjoying and processing all these from 2017. Let us not always be in a hurry to rush too far forward.

I wish you all the best in this new year. My hope is you reflect back on the year last and feel gratitude for the challenges as well as the pleasures. It is all good.

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9

Controlling the Christmas Chaos

 I’m not sure if my Christmas anxiety is giving my everyday anxiety anxiety but I know for sure the Christmas chaos is here!

I know I am stressed when I find myself staring at my planner and making lists of lists. I get excited when I get to move into my new planner for the upcoming year so when I noticed my 2018 planner has this month in it I quickly did the switch. I also started laying out my bullet journal for 2018, which of course meant I needed a marker upgrade.

chaos control

All the planning in the world does not stop the Christmas Chaos from trying to steal your Christmas Cheer. So with Christmas Chaos swirling in the air I am reminding myself of ways to stay sane (aside from making lists of lists).

 I am Keeping it Simple.

Yes, after convincing hubby to help me get the 10+ Christmas trees and 10+ boxes of decorations out of the attic I found myself staring at it. I was overwhelmed. I didn’t want to win the “I have the most Christmas trees in my house” award this year. For the first time in over 10 years we are NOT hosting Christmas so even more reason to keep it simple. I decided to not even put up the “BIG” tree. Settling for a pencil tree in our living room, stockings hung on the mantle and our annual pictures with the Big Guy out to see.

After a slight panic when hubby questioned if I had “underdone it” I have concluded the keep it simple theory helps my sanity this year.

I am not subscribing to all the holiday “you have toos”

I do not have to come up with the “perfect” teacher gift, I know a gift card is many times preferred. I do not have to find the pajamas for my Chihuahua that matches my boy’s Christmas morning.  Disguising my Baileys as cream is my only goal on Christmas morning. And I don’t need my Christmas lights dancing to the music, I will settle for the Grinch trying to steal my lights.

I am not over committing

With all the Sign Up Geniuses landing in my inbox the last couple weeks I have taken a step back to ask myself what I really want to commit to and what I just don’t have time to do. Sure, I will buy skittles and marshmallows for the holiday party, but I am not baking 3 dozen homemade cookies for the teacher cookie exchange. Sorry, I cannot sell yo-yos at 7am on Tuesday and I will bring the snacks to the last game of the season (in January).

I am making sure to do my favorite traditions

Our multi family gingerbread decorating party, going to see the Big Guy at Northpark, donating gifts to the local toy drive, donating to the school angel program, sprinkling reindeer food out on Christmas Eve, baking Neimun Marcus Cookies to deliver to neighbors and dear friends, sending out the annual Johnson Christmas card, baking Jesus’s birthday cake and eating Hibachi after Christmas Eve Service.

christmas choas

I am saying No

I am saying “No” to the party I really have no desire to go to. I am saying “No” to the invite to go look at the same drab Christmas lights we have seen for years. I am saying “No” to overthinking gifts for everyone. I am saying yes to the events I want to genuinely go to like our friends fabulous Christmas pajama party (so my kind of party, in my PJs!) and holiday dinner with my close girl friends.

I will find Joy in the Pain

I am reminding myself what brings me joy during the holidays, being with the ones I love the most. This is going to be difficult this year because we have an empty seat at the table since my father’s passing. He is missed. His annual trip the John Deere dealership on Christmas Eve to let the boys pick out what ever they want, his perfectly cooked meat of choice and his snide comments and snickering leading to my mom to tell him to “hush.” Amidst his absence I will focus on the joy of my family, because without him my family would not be who we are.

Truth is many struggle with emotional pains of all kinds during what is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. I will have grace towards the crazy driver who almost hit me while picking up my dry cleaning today. I will have empathy for the lady in my way in the aisle at Target. I will have compassion for the new client on the couch who is dreading sitting across the dinner table from her mother who will never really know her.

My wish for you is to keep it simple, stay with your truth, and don’t over do it.

Remember the “Reason for the Season.”

Merry Christmas from my family to yours.

 

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9

R.E.A.L. Housewives

“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” – Charles Dickens

     

Good old Charles….He pretty much summed up motherhood while singlehandedly managing to write a classic tale of two cities.

I’ll be honest that lately mommin’ has just felt like the worst of times…I.e…Waking up with Shelf Elf Anxiety (It’s really a thing people!!!) & coming to grips with guilt over with my decision to honor the Bad Moms Christmas movie & not send Christmas cards this year (Sorry Mom… In advance.)

So when my BFF Shelly and I were invited to a Real Housewives Themed Bunco party, I was super stoked. This tired mama more than needed a night out!.

Full disclosure, I proudly claim The Real Housewives of Anywhere one of my most thrilling & yet equally embarrassing guilty pleasures.

The invite challenged us to embody either our favorite housewife or the housewife we most related to…

Which one? Which one? The possibilities were endless.

Luckily for me, there was a handy dandy quiz to help me find out.

  • Did I recently jet off to another state in search of a miniature pony? Um No.

     
     

  • Did I sell my 10 million dollar house, only to upsize to one with 15 bathrooms with a champagne bell conveniently located in the master closet? Not unless screaming at my husband from 3 rooms away to bring me a glass of wine counts? I’m guessing probably not.

 

  • Was my biggest stressor in life finding the perfect outfit to wear to my annual White party? (Nope again) I digress, but WHAT?

    Who in their right mind has a white party? Don’t people know how hard it is to get red wine stains out of clothing?? Strike 3.

After trudging through the extremely thoughtful yet super shallow & super depressing 5 questions, my results were in…..

Wait…WHAT?

UMNO!!!!!!!!

Turns out that the housewife I was most compatible with was not even on my radar, let alone one of my top 5 faves.

So when I called my sister from another mister to discuss my dismal quiz results & our equally dismal costume options, she had the perfect response…

“Do we really have to dress up? Can’t we just go as the real $%$^&&ing housewives we are? TIRED ONES!!!!REAL TIRED ONES!!!””

Yes!!! Yes!! I thought to myself. Instantly I felt a sense of relief (This is why Shelly is my ETERNAL ride or die-What would I do without her? )

Turns out, we didn’t even need a costume. We could just wear the yoga pants we’ve had on for 3 days straight.(Don’t be grossed out…We didn’t actually exercise in them.. WHO HAS TIME TO ACTUALLY EXERCISE?)

Part two of our costume could be our Tarje’ sweatshirts that sport our Coffee til Cocktails mantra. Truth be told, most days can’t we just skip straight to the cocktails???

So here’s to all of the REAL housewives out there!….R.E.A.L. tired ones. Not sure you qualify? Just take my handy dandy quiz!

Are you or have you ever been….

  • R….eady to shank anyone who messes with your kid?
  • E…specially irritable and easily annoyed (ALL the time by___(Anything & everything)?
  • A…lways broke from buying kid crap, sending your kid to summer camp, creating a wardrobe for your Elf on the Shelf? (Philosophical question: Does an Elf really NEED a motorcycle jacket?
  • L…ast but certainly not least…Literally on the verge of a nervous breakdown?

Well congrats …if you answered yes to even one of these questions…You are
a REAL HOUSEWIFE!!!

The quiz options are endless…

(R) running on empty?

(E) ating leftover goldfish randomly plucked from the center console of your mini-van or mid-sized S.U.V.?

(A)lways late!

(L)iking annoying people’s posts on FACEBOOK?…(YAY! I’m so freaking glad you just returned from a 2 week vaca in Greece whilst the most exciting place I ventured to this week was the Colleyville Post Office…ETERNAL EYE ROLL!

In a cruel twist of Charles Dickens like fate, after all of this costume planning & pondering, the long anticipated bunco party got canceled because …..

You guessed it….We were all too tired!!!!

Here’s to you REAL HOUSEWIVES everywhere!

Whether you are tossing tables, coordinating outfits for your hairless cats OR more likely, just trying to get through the day without killing someone who shares your D.N.A. , you will be ok. ..eventually anyway. It will all be ok-one of these days.

Just focus on getting through the next 10 minutes or do what my favorite author Glennon Melton Doyle says, ” Just do the next right thing.” Those 6 words have gotten me through many a mom-life crisis. Just do the next right REAL
thing. Thank you to all of the moms who help me remember that tired or not, we are all just “keeping it REAL!”

  

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9

How to Support Your College Student During Finals

Forward: Welcome Intern Karley Knight back for her continued perspective of a college student giving advice to novice college parents….if you missed her last post find it here with her sharing about the big transition from high school to college.

It’s that time of year again.

 The weather is getting cooler, people are digging out their favorite boots and jeans from the depths of their closets, everything is pumpkin spice flavored, and everyone is already counting down the days until Christmas. But as the leaves change colors and begin to disappear from the trees, so does the mental sanity of college students.

supporting your college student during finals

Finals Week!

Finals week is unique in the world of stress because it entails both a sense of urgency and a perpetual feeling of being unprepared. Even though your student studied for weeks, written copious amounts of colorful notes and highlighted every sentence in the book (because of course every sentence is a possible test question) in most cases the feeling of pure confidence is rare. As a parent who wants to protect their kid from such distress and dislikes seeing them in much turmoil, what are you to do? Sadly, there isn’t much you can do to take away the panic your child is feeling, but just because you can’t eliminate that stress doesn’t mean that you can’t alleviate it a little bit. Here are some suggestions to best support your frazzled college student as they prepare for hell (or finals) week:

Watch Your Communication

Whether you’ve been talking to your student twice a week since they’ve left or once a month, your communication dynamic is about to change. Conversations will now focus on the monstrous tests that loom in their future, how sleep deprived they are, and other things parents don’t want to hear. It is typical for you to want to check in on your child even more during finals season because you know it’s a difficult time for them, but I advise against this. Recognize that your student is probably immersed in studying and involved in study groups, so constantly calling will just add to their distress and distract them from studying.

Now this doesn’t mean that you should ignore them completely, but don’t helicopter them. Whenever your child explains their anxious feelings they aren’t expecting you to solve the problem, instead what they are seeking is comfort and reassurance from their loved ones. When you do talk to your student, make sure your interactions are positive and always end on a good note (“I love you” or “I’m sending you money” [a personal favorite]).

Encourage them to do their Best, not Be the Best

High school and college differ most in environment and grades. It’s easier to expect A’s and excellent academic performance in high school because the classes are much easier compared to what they take in college. In many classes, the score of the final exam has the power to dictate what the final grade of the course is, meaning that even if they ace all of the other assignments a poor final grade could tank the overall course grade. It’s VERY important to assure your student that you are expecting them to do the best they can do and put in as much effort as they can, but remind them that you’re not expecting them to be Einstein. Don’t make your child feel like they would be returning home as a failure if they don’t get a perfect score on their exams. Instead, whenever you’re having those positive conversations with your student, include how you will love them no matter what grade they get and that you believe in them. Fueling their self-esteem will make them feel more confident and competent going into their exams.

supporting your college student during finals

Remind them of the importance of Self-Care

It’s easy for students to get caught up in the hype of finals week and follow the bad examples set by their peers of not getting adequate rest, eating nutritious things, or even neglecting to keep up their personal hygiene (it happens and its gross). But even with less extreme cases, it’ still common for your student to develop bad habits while they’re preparing for finals because they’re too preoccupied with making their final grade a priority instead of taking a step back and taking care of themselves. What they don’t realize is that by neglecting to fulfill their needs and allowing their mind to recharge, their stress will only increase and their studying won’t be as effective. Remind them that while grades are important, it shouldn’t come at the cost of their own destruction. Taking care of your human is more important than taking care of your GPA- no matter what their college adviser says. Here are some basic reminders that I think all college students should be reminded of regarding personal care during finals week:

1. Pizza is not a food group.
2. Energy drinks are not a food group or a substitute for sleep. They’ll ultimately make you feel shaky and sick because you’ve been chugging 5 hour energy drinks (or whatever cheap gasoline-like energy fluid of choice) every day without eating
3. If you’re drinking more than 3 cups of coffee a day then you need to take a serious nap because that is also NOT okay
4. SHOWER. Non-negotiable
5. Indulge in small snacks and sweets every now and then to reward yourself, but don’t make that the only thing you’re eating.
6. Take a run or workout, the endorphins will make you feel better (and I like to think I’m literally running from my problems)

supporting your student during finals

Give them something to look forward to

One of the tools I find very effective in providing some emotional relief during such a taxing time is to give your student something to look forward to. If all they can see in their future is a dark, dreary raincloud of hard tests and potential failure, it can be very discouraging and puts your child at risk for depression. Putting a bright light and promise of greener pastures in their future creates a ‘finish line’ of sorts on finals to remind students that although it may not feel like it, finals season does not last forever. Whether it’s mentioning a fun winter vacation or just promising them that they’ll return home to nice home cooked meals again, getting them exciting about something will do wonders for their motivation. Adding an end date to a hard time makes surviving it much easier. It encourages your child to do well in the present in order to enjoy what they’re looking forward to in the future.

Don’t underestimate the power of a Care Package!

Every now and then my mom will send me a small package of goodies in the mail. Whether its a surprise or not, it never fails to bring me so much joy. Having someone send me a considerate ‘thinking of you’ gift from home makes me feel so supported and revives my spirit. I highly encourage parents to ship their student a box of goodies to send some love their way (if your student attends community college consider just surprising them with something). It can be filled with anything from gift cards, snacks, supplies, or even just a handwritten card. This will provide your student with so much comfort and will be much appreciated.

Check out our Pinterest board for ideas

happy mind happy home pinterest

Every student deals with stress differently and every college structures their finals week differently, so take my advice with a grain of salt. But even though finals week will differ amongst campuses, you can bet that the colder the weather gets, the stronger the student stress. This is an important time for you to reach out to your student and show them your support, I promise it will bring you closer together if you comfort them during this hellish time.

Good luck!

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9

How to Protect Your Kids (when you’re not there to protect them)

I have this ache, a pit in my stomach, a tightening in my throat as if I’m going to throw up or have to swallow hard to hold back…. Something like that. It’s a pain, a fear for my children, of my children feeling pain – their own pain. My pain. I wish I could protect them from it all but, I know I can’t and I hate this.


This school year has been an awakening in many ways. My son entering kindergarten has been more than an entry into tardy bells,  PTA meetings, last minute projects, car pool lines, and site words; it has been an introduction to the possibility of my kid being hurt, feeling hurt and me not being there to protect him. This, for me, is tough.


My kid and I are both used to spending a lot of time together. Up until the end of August 2017 he stayed home with me all but 3 days a week, and when he wasn’t with me he was at an innocent preschool with other innocent preschool kids. No one was mean there. Not that I knew of anyway. And even if there were mean kids, my kid was too young to notice. He was happy and free.

But it seems that something changes once those elementary doors open: more time away, more independence, more maturity (I use this word loosely), less protection, more exposure, more possibility of hurt to incur off my watch. I think the thing that irks me the most is that I don’t know what’s happening. I can’t even guarantee that my kid will tell me if something hurtful does occur. What if he forgets to tell me or doesn’t want to tell me? What if he decides to deal with it on his own?. .  This phrase sounds like curse words to me. I fear for my 5 year old to handle hurt feelings “on his own”. No, I want him to run home and tell me every detail of what happened at recess that day. What made him happy. What made him sad. What made him mad. What made him excited. What made him afraid. I want to hear it all. But, like most other parents I don’t hear much, and that scares me.

I can ask the right questions. I can try. I can be present at pickup and notice when he seems a little “off”. I can be curious and create opportunities for him to share about his day, every day. But, I can’t protect him from experiencing pain, hurt, ridicule, and heartache. Sucks but it’s true. So, I have to focus on the things I can do that will help him develop resilience, confidence, and strength when the inevitable occurs. In this situation where I find myself feeling somewhat helpless and terrified, I have a good cry then I pull up my mom panties and focus on what I can do:

1) Engage, engage, engage.

It would be so much easier if we knew everything that went on while we were away. Better still, if our kids told us themselves. But, this is not always the case. So asking questions that inspire a thoughtful response is key. Think open ended questions such as, “Who did you play with today?” Instead of “Did you play at recess today?” Or “Who was nice today?” versus “Was everyone nice today?” Even if your kid doesn’t have a specific response to these questions it opens the door to get a conversation going instead of being shut down by a one word answer.


2) “What do you think about that?”

This is my favorite. We as adults tend to think we know what’s best, and sometimes we do, but ultimately we want our kids to have the ability to trust themselves to make good choices and problem solve when faced with challenges. When we ask our kids what they think we show them that we not only value what they think but that we trust them to know and decide for themselves. I want my children to have a belief in themselves that they inherently know what is right, even when someone else is telling them it’s wrong. What I want my kid to hear in his own head when faced with this is, “Well I like who I am, so even if you don’t like me, I like me.” Yes! That is the ultimate win right there.

3) Believe in the power of resilience.

This one is hard for me, I have to admit. My fear wants me to believe that one painful moment could lead to a lifetime of suffering. I have to remind myself that there is no life that isn’t touched by some amount of pain, hurt, or sadness. My child will be no different. I cannot predict the future or try to prevent it. I can only do the thing I know to do which is to love my kid by being present; encouraging him; acknowledging his struggle and his accomplishment; listening to him; and reminding him that he has a whole family that’s got his back, so he knows that no matter what he’s faced with, he’s not alone.
 
This parenting thing is hard. Just when I think I’ve got a leg up, I trip and fall over something I didn’t see there before. It’s new road, new terrain. We are not in this alone. Just as we want our kids to know this, we need to know this. Expecting to do it all right and get it all right the first time is an impossible standard to meet. My hope is that by showing my kids that I struggle they will know that I’m here to support them, accept them, and walk with them through their own struggle. Knowing they are not alone is more powerful than any hurtful words said on the playground, that i can know for sure.

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How Adoption Has Changed My World

It’s hard to describe what the concept and the miracle of adoption means to me and to my family.

Sometimes you stumble upon something that grips your heart and your life. And without seeking it, it becomes you. Other times, your passions in life are because of the things that you pursue, and you work hard to get them. Ironically, adoption is a huge piece of my life both because we stumbled upon it and because we fought hard in seeking it.


This is a broad statement that I believe needs to be spoken at any adoption training, because adoption isn’t all rainbows and glitter. All adoption starts with unspeakably difficult losses for many involved. There isn’t an adoption that doesn’t start in this way, even though there are many happy, redeeming qualities to adoption. To ignore the loss is unwise and unfair. The visual of seeing an orphanage is life altering and not at all glossy coated and or manipulative in the way organizations that seek money portray these places. It is gritty. Every child without parents in any location anywhere in the world carries that loss in their eyes.


Many people will say that infant adoption is an exception to this because the child is so young that they don’t remember the loss. Of course they don’t remember, just like many toddlers won’t remember things that have occurred to them as they grow older. That doesn’t make it less traumatic for them, however. They’ve experienced a loss that should be acknowledged. And at different stages of life, they’ll need to process the loss differently, and they’ll most likely need their adoptive parents to help them flesh all of that out with them. They do not have the genetic makeup of their adoptive parents, and it is healthy for them to express sadness over that.


There are two types of memories: intrinsic and extrinsic. Extrinsic memories are the kind we usually talk about: we all have memories we talk about from childhood or know someone who has an amazing memory and can tell lots of stories from the past. Intrinsic memories, however, are memories that are locked into the body of a person, into their minds and emotions. For example, as infants begin to learn trust (versus mistrust), they figure out that the world is a safe place and that their parents will take care of them. If an infant hasn’t received that kind of basic love and nurture or has had inconsistency in caregivers, they get stuck in that stage and don’t learn trust as readily. Their bodies and emotions remember, even though their minds won’t recall the details. THAT is intrinsic memory.


I want to share a little bit about how parenting can look a little bit different when keeping attachment in mind. This can cause a little bit of loneliness in parenting unless you seek out other like-minded parents. Having other adoptive parents as friends has been life giving for us.


In everything we do as parents, we keep attachment in the back of our minds. Sometimes it’s in the forefront of our minds. There will never be a day that we say, “Okay, we are done with attachment work.” For us, it doesn’t work like that. Instead, we will forever be teaching our children that we are consistent, we are unconditional, we are forever, and we are an authority in their lives for their good. Depending on the child’s response to various situations they’ve faced, many times the ability to self soothe is less with a child who was adopted (especially with older child adoptions). We will give our kids the time and space to cool down, and we will give them the power and control to get a compromise sometimes when other parents wouldn’t do that.


We might let our kids do regressive things, like keeping a pacifier or a bottle later or rocking them to sleep for way longer than what is typical. We’ve missed those critical moments in their first years of life, you see, so we have to let them regress emotionally to those stages so that they can learn to trust. It looks different sometimes, but it is so much more than worth it, because we know the strength of the bonds we’ve forged by now in this family.


We won’t use physical punishment, and even our time outs will be different, because we won’t physically remove them from our presence. We will instead draw them near to us when they misbehave (using a time in), because we want them to know that even in their worst moments, we aren’t going anywhere. They have nothing to fear; we are forever, and our love doesn’t come and go with bad behavior (although they still will certainly have a consequence for any crime). Sometimes kids who have been through hard times as babies may have some sensory processing issues to work through or anxiety issues, maybe even night terrors.


Much like with anyone, we will give our kids grace as much as we possibly can (especially during vulnerable moments like meltdowns). We will be slow to judge others and just want others to do the same for us as parents. If your kids had the backgrounds our kids had, you’d want to probably do things this way for their benefit as well. I heard a presenter one time talk about how although we are not the biological parents, in so many ways, we do change our children’s biology. They’ve experienced trauma. We change their brains by teaching them to self soothe, by giving them love and receiving it, by teaching them to deal with anxiety, and by parenting with connection in mind in general. Our kids trust us and we trust them because we squat down low and speak in quiet voices (usually), and we make connection priority. We connect before we correct (when we are in our right minds and doing it well.)


So adoption is my passion, and it’s also my husband’s passion. Because without this miracle, we would be childless. We would not have these two little human beings forever in our families.

Our world is wonderful because of them; I know their grandparents would whole-heartedly agree. They laugh, and we experience joy like never before. Their unconditional love toward Mommy and Daddy is the best thing in the world. That love was fought for. Their sibling relationship blossoming has astounded me. We are completely smitten and taken with them, and we believe we were all meant for one another. Somehow on our marriage journey together, adoption both fell into our laps and we had to work hard for it all at the same time. Without our losses (ours being infertility and a miscarriage), we wouldn’t have this magical, blessed thing. We wouldn’t have been motivated to get through the mountains of paperwork and occasionally invasive home study. We can relate to the losses our kids experienced because we experienced a little bit of that ourselves on our journey to them. And we all four know that nothing in the whole world could separate us now. We are a team, and when one of us has a battle, we all fight it together. It is more than I could have ever asked for or imagined. I love my family. Love covers up so much that is wrong or broken in this world.

Adoption can sometimes be seen as second rate. For us, it was the glorious, miraculous story that unfolded despite our plans and after a season of heartbreak. It is not second rate, and we are so thankful that our first plans were thwarted. We are not hanging on to hope that we will now have ‘our own’ children (and what an offensive thing to say to us, so please don’t). These children are our own, don’t you see? This is our family, and we get to live this adventure! We cannot even believe how blessed we are.


Written by Amber Robinson for HappyMindHappyHome.com

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Frighteningly Affordable Party Decorating

In previous posts I have declared my undying love for the .99 Cent Store. Thus when you pair my favorite store with my favorite holiday, you can begin to imagine all of the creativity that ensues. This year was all the more fun because my son decided on a Nightmare Before Christmas Themed birthday party.

This declaration came as a pleasant surprise considering the fact that his previous party theme suggestion was an alien luau….(Yes…you read that correctly!) While he certainly gets 2 gold stars for creativity, my thoughts were… W.T.H??. and N.O.

As much as party planning makes me giddy, I was literally at a loss with that one. There aren’t enough dollar stores in the world to get that idea off the ground. Needless to say, I took the Nightmare theme and ran with it…straight to Hobby Lobby and the  .99 Cent Store.

I have included party pics below and a few tips for making .99 cents look like a million bucks.  All items shown were purchased at a dollar store, Hobby Lobby, Target Dollar spot or Ross with the exception of the Jack Skellington Stuffed centerpiece..He was a splurge!  

Happy Holidays from my family to yours!

Tip 1: Layer several place mats and dishes to add visual interest. These are dollar store place mats!

 

 

 


 

 

 

Tip 2: Tuck little surprises into unexpected places. This dollar store spider peeks out to greet little party guests at the front door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

      More dollar store finds!
Tip 3: DIY! This banner was a do it yourself craft from Hobby Lobby. I added some tissue paper poms & a furry friend.               
Tip 4: Think outside the cauldron & use items in ways other than what they were intended for. This chair cover is stuffed with a standard sized pillow to add comfort & fun to the outdoor seating area.

 

Dollar store hanging pumpkins work perfectly perched atop outdoor urns.

Tip 5: Use every day items you already have around your house to decorate. This table runner is actually just wrapping paper from Hobby Lobby.

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9

coming up for air

Today, I am just now coming up for air. Just now feel like I am getting my life back to normal. A new normal. After every storm there is a new normal. Whatever normal really means. 

After taking life one step at a time I am just now coming up for air. 

After being woken by the storm I am just now coming up for air. 

The last few months have been a blur of events that I am just now even beginning to process. While in the middle of the storm I was emotionally paralyzed by my efforts to stay strong and show up. Two things that being a mom has taught me are essential to keep from allowing the storms in life to sweep me completely off my feet.  

July 4th – I was awoken by a summer storm rolling in to discover my father was in ICU hundreds of miles away as me and my boys were on vacation. Within a few days the label of Stage 4 Metastatic Melanoma was cemented in my brain. FEAR, panic, bargaining, HOPE all set in at the same time. 

grieving my father

July 24th – I became an Aunt for the first time. I witnessed my sister’s life grow fuller as she held her first born. With new life comes HOPE, joy and endearing love. 

August 3rd – 19th – Aways a whirlwind in my home since both of my boys celebrate birthdays. I have 16 precious days with my Irish twins being the same age, this year both being 7 until my big boy hit 8. This means each getting their special family day to dictate where they want to celebrate. I am always relieved when they request family fun at any local establishment that comes with a side of Pinot Gorgio. Then comes the big friend party at whichever hot, stinky, germ invested party venue they choose. This year was another round at the local trampoline park topped off with a “Chill” cake and “poop” cupcakes. (the summer of Emojis for sure, is “poop” a feeling)

August 20th – My father peacefully went to heaven after being in my home for hospice for a short 48 hours. disbelief, shock, heartbreak, sadness, PEACE. 

August 21st – First day of school. 2nd & 3rd Grade here we come! relief, sadness, anxiety, excitement.  

This is where it all goes fuzzy like the old TV’s with the black and white static when no signal is read. This is where I slipped underwater into very unchartered territory. My father was gone. From feeling the ‘best‘ he has felt in a long time to “hitting the bed” as one doctor referred to him in just a matter of weeks. Typing this feels so unreal, its not true, there is no way. Typing this makes my heart race and that lump in my throat to pulse.

This is still so UNREAL.

grieving my father

The days that immediately followed were full of family and friends coming to our side. Great friends parading in with casseroles, muffins and hugs, oh…and wine. Friends I would have least expected called, texted, and showed up at my door with offerings of love. My home was filled with flowers, but the bed my Dad once lay in was now empty. Insert the frantic picture sorting and song picking that is requested by the local funeral home and a run to the mall for clothes suitable for a now 7 and 8 year old to wear to their Grandfather’s funeral.

He was gone. So UNREAL

grieving my father

There is no coming up for air when you feel like the waves are constantly engulfing you. There is no coming up for air when you are trying to keep your kids first week of school as normal as it can be while you read them “Grandpa Went to Heaven” for bedtime and console them as they are hit by the waves that Grandpa is not coming back. There is no coming up for air as you lay in bed staring at the clock as the nights tick away. There is no coming up for air when you are trying to hide the tears that uncontrollably pour from your eyes.  

There is no coming up for air when the strongest women you know just lost her husband of 45 years, your husband just lost the most of a father he has ever had, your children just lost one of the best man in their life, your days old nephew will never know how amazing his grandfather was.

grieving my father

What does coming up for air feel like? Surreal. What once was, is no longer. Family has all gone home, the casseroles have stopped coming, the flowers have been put on the curb. Surreal is just when your heart begins to ache there is a subtle reminder that he is still here. It is when guilt hits you because it has been a few hours too long you have not missed him, yet my heart tells me it is okay to refocus on what is before me. Surreal is when you hit quick dial in the morning to call him as you would while driving to work so you call your Bestie instead. Unreal is when you go to mom’s house and your mind wants you believe he will be home any minute. When you go to the Ranch, but he is not here.

Coming up for air is unchartered territory. You cannot prepare your self for your parent to pass away especially a daddy’s girl losing her father.

My life changed the day my Dad passed. My life will never be the same, I will never be the same, my family will never be the same. Now that we are starting to catch our breath we find small ways to talk about Papa as often as we can. Just a couple days ago as we saw a boat being pulled down the street Cooper asked when we can go to the lake again. Papa loved family day at the lake. Whenever we see a John Deere tractor we wave to Papa. When Papa’s dog proudly brought a dead rat to the back door we laughed knowing that Papa was snickering at his proud catch.

Coming up for air feels like I can breath again, yet moments still take the breath out of me. There are no clear definitions of how to grive so navigating this unchartered territory is scary without my Dad. There are no right ways, no certain time lines, no ending really. Grieving my father is now part of me as I try to keep breathing. Now I have more reason to live in such a way others see him in me.

cancer

I Love you Daddy.

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