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Mom of the Year…or Not.

Stressed? You’re not alone. Apparently 70 percent of U.S. moms say mothering is “incredibly stressful.” And 96 percent also feel that we are far more stressed than our own mothers were.

So what’s triggering Mommy Angst, circa 2017? (How much time do you have? LOL) It’s everything from financial insecurities, a more intensive parenting style and  higher expectations for our kids’ success to a lack of support, time famine, relationship demands, and concern that the world is more perilous for kid raising.

The best news is that you can try these tricks with your kids that will make you feel like “Mom of the Year” is right around the corner, which means everyone benefits by learning to manage stress.

1. Learn your stress signs

Common stress signs include: Rising blood pressure or spiked heart rate (which can make you feel a little dizzy). Speaking louder or yelling. Irritability, more impatient or experiencing lapses in judgment.

2. Take a break

You may not be able to avoid all the stress, but you can get away for just a few minutes to feel less overwhelmed. Giving yourself permission to take a brief “stress break” is often enough to decompress or just give a new perspective. This can include:

Taking a Mommy time out: Put up a “do not disturb” sign on your bedroom door. Listen to relaxing music or plant a picture in your mind of a soothing place. Take five minutes to decompress.

Give permission to “take ten”: Let everyone in your family know it’s OK to walk away until they can get back in control. Some families create a family signal such as using an umpire “Time Out” hand gesture that means that the person needs to decompress.

3. Create solutions for your “hot” times

Stress mounts for me at predictable times, such as in the morning when everyone is dashing to get out the door or at that dinner time witching hour. Identify when you are most irritable, and find a simple way to curb the friction during that “hot” time. For instance: If mornings are stressful because your kid can’t decide (or find) what to wear: lay clothes out the night before. If your car pool is frantic because you can’t find your keys, make an extra set.

4. Learn deep breathing or meditation

How to start:

Use slow, deep breaths.Inhale slowly to a count of five, pause for two counts, and then slowly breathe out the same way, again counting to five. Repeating the sequence creates maximum relaxation. (Using bubble blowers or pinwheels helps younger kids learn to take slow deep breaths to blow “meanies” away.)

5. Exercise together (My personal FAVORITE technique)

The research is growing that exercise keeps stress at bay whether it’s walking, bike riding, swimming, playing basketball or something else. The trick is finding the type you enjoy. Best yet, find a strategy to do with your kids so everyone benefits.

Just walk: Walk alone, with your kids or find one other mom to join for a short walk each day.

Ride off the tension: There is nothing like riding bikes with your kids.

Dance stress away: A ten-minute spontaneous dance session with your kids is a great tension reliever whether the music is a nursery rhyme or Coldplay.

6. Take time to laugh

Be spontaneous: Celebrate the dog’s birthday by baking him a cake. Eat dinner in reverse. Tape a dollar bill to the garbage can (and don’t say anything about it) to see who will take out the trash. Just have fun!

7. Find a support group

The truth is we devote so much time to our families, we forget to take time for our social needs, whether it’s our significant other or our girlfriends. Relationships help reduce our stress and restore balance.

Schedule date nights: The date doesn’t have to cost anything — a walk, going to the park, watching a rented movie, or sitting in the car in your driveway with wine and cheese. It’s just time alone with your significant other.

There’s a reason flight attendants remind us to put on our oxygen masks first, then on the kids. We can’t take care of our families unless we take time for ourselves, and Moms are notorious at putting ourselves on the backburner. Take time for yourself. Make sure to check your stress. After all, a happy, less-stressed mom makes happier, less-stressed kids. Always has. Always will.

What are your secrets for de-stressing?

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How to Become a Stay-At-Home Mommy on a Budget

One of the questions I get asked is “how do you afford to be a stay at home mom?” I never know exactly what to say because honestly, we don’t have an abundance of money just floating around. Staying home has meant that we don’t eat out very often, we give a lot of thought to what we purchase, and although we live a frugal life, we live a happy life.

Let’s be honest, affording to stay at home is not easy. It’s not something that was just magically bestowed on us although we do KNOW it’s a blessing. However, living on one income brings a new set of challenges and sacrifices.

My husband and I have always tried to be “smart spenders” and careful with our money even before having children so that definitely gave us an advantage once we had kids and more expenses. I continued working after my first daughter was born until she was about 18 months old. I then  transitioned to a stay at home mama. I always wanted to be a SAHM but didn’t think we could afford it.

So how do I afford to be a stay at home mom?!

Here are a few ways we save money so I can afford to be a stay at home mom. I think most people want to save money but often times it seems time-consuming and overwhelming to keep track of expenses and stick to a budget. I know as a busy mama, it’s not always easy to keep up with coupons or tracking every dollar in and out of the checking account. I actually need improvement on setting a budget but these are few easy ways that just keep us living within our means.

1. GROCERY SHOP SMARTLY & COOK MEALS AT HOME

With a house full of girls and daddy, our grocery bill is growing on a weekly basis. I try my best to plan out weekly groceries, even if it’s just a note I keep on my phone. While the grocery bill might increase, I’ve noticed that when I cook more at home, our monthly food bills are significantly lower than when we get take-out.

I do most of the shopping with the girls so it’s pretty common that I forget things since I’m always distracted in the stores with them. But, I’m going to try a new way of organizing separate lists for the 3 stores we mainly shop at. It frustrates me so much to go to a store one day and realize I need to go back in the same week!

I try to get most of our groceries at Aldi which really helps save on our grocery bill. It’s not always the most convenient place to shop when I have the girls since I have to bag the groceries but it is the cheapest!

2. BUY IN BULK

A huge money saver is buying in bulk! We love to buy household supplies like toilet paper, cleaning supplies, paper towels, diapers, and non-perishable food items in bulk every month. It’s a time and money saver and everyone is happy that we’re usually well stocked on all of our favorite snacks. I love that having a bulk supply of household goods means that I’m not making random trips to the store to pick up one or two things.

3. FOCUS ON ESSENTIALS

Of course, essentials are different in every family. We’re pretty good about distinguishing between our needs vs wants. We definitely splurge on the “wants” but that’s only if our budget allows it. So what do I mean? Well, we don’t have cable – seems like a staple in many households. We know it would be cool to have but we can’t afford all the “cool” things so we don’t. We have AppleTV and that’s our splurge.

I don’t often shop for new clothes for myself or the girls. When I do shop, I look for sales, shop end of season sales for the next season, and my youngest mostly wears big sister’s hand me downs.

Taking it a step further considering essentials we decided not to send my oldest to preschool this year. Instead, I home-schooled her to prepare her for kindergarten. Many families in this area, start children in preschool or a formal daycare setting pretty early so I felt a bit of pressure. But, the reality is that preschool is another expense. I was a teacher before staying home so we decided not to try and scrounge up the money for preschool and I incorporate learning time into our days.

Oh and treats like pedicures, manicures, and fancy coffees — well, those are treats for special occasions. It’s not to say that I won’t ever treat myself but I just think of how we could use that money instead so I enjoy my cup of coffee at home and paint my nails myself.

4. ENTERTAINMENT

We knew for this lifestyle to work we had to choose entertainment options carefully. 

The girls LOVE to get out of the house and enjoy activities but we mostly find activities that are free. We love exploring museums, libraries, parks, playgrounds, or inside playgrounds at Chick-Fil-A. Also, when we go places, we pack our own snacks and drinks. We make impromptu picnics just a part of the fun.

Another tip is to plan ahead and search for coupons. We wanted to take the girls to Disney World and when my hubby and I were searching for deals, we saw that Bass Pro offered a deal we couldn’t pass up. After much consideration, we took the plunge and were able to enjoy Disney for a fraction of the cost. I check for coupons for places like Chuck E Cheese and often we get more tokens for our money. Groupon has also been helpful for our family when dining out.

5. EARN MONEY AT HOME

There are many ways mamas try to earn money while staying home. I know finding the time and life balance can still be kinda tricky. But, I have many mama friends who supplement their income in various ways. I personally started health and fitness coaching with Beachbody when I transitioned to a stay-at-home mom. I loved having an outlet and something new to learn and challenge myself with.

I know there are no quick and easy solutions for a family to afford to live on one income. We have made sacrifices and sometimes I have a little worry about putting my career on hold and what that means for my professional future but I don’t have any regrets. I wish every mom who wanted to be a stay-at-home mom could be home. I remember the emotional stress I felt when I had to work every day when I had my first daughter. I enjoyed working but my heart just wanted to be home with her. I know I don’t have all the answers but I hope this gives some insight into how we make this life work!

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Pros and Cons to Finding Out the Sex of Your Unborn Child

 

When discussing whether or not to find out the gender of your unborn child, I have felt borderline bullied into keeping the sex of my baby a surprise when I was pregnant, but my husband and I decided to find out and were thrilled that we did. As soon as I discovered there was a little baby girl or boy in my belly, I felt our bond begin to grow.

But what was right for us isn’t necessarily right for everyone, and I firmly believe parents-to-be should ignore everyone’s two cents and follow their gut instinct. If all you can feel in your gut is last night’s burrito, perhaps these pros and cons will help you decide.

The pros of finding out baby’s sex

Other than sheer curiosity, here are some of the reasons parents cite for wanting to find out the sex of their baby:

  • It’s an amazing reward halfway through your pregnancy, especially if it’s been a difficult one.
  • The baby feels more ‘real’ and you start to develop a bond with it.
  • You have time to accept it if you had your heart set on the other gender.
  • You only have to agree on one name.
  • If you already have children, knowing whether they’ll have a little brother or sister can help them feel more connected and involved.
  • You can buy gender-specific nursery decorations and baby clothes.
  • Friends and family have an easier time buying gifts.

The cons of finding out baby’s sex

Some parents believe you should wait until the midwife or doctor yells out, “It’s a boy/girl!”. Here are a few reasons why:

  • The sex of your baby is one of life’s greatest surprises and you don’t want to spoil it by finding out ahead of time.
  • All that matters is having a healthy baby and you shouldn’t care about the sex.
  • You might start to develop expectations of your baby if you know its gender.
  • You’ll avoid receiving too many gender-specific clothes and toys.
  • You might not be able to find out the sex if the baby isn’t in the right position, so it’s best not to get your hopes up.
  • Ultrasounds aren’t 100 percent accurate in determining the sex, so you could prepare for one gender only to have the other.

 

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“Me Time” Indulgences

These days, I don’t get a lot of time to myself (unless I schedule it in) but when I do it’s kind of a big deal. As women and moms it’s imperative that we take care of ourselves. I had to learn that taking time for myself was a way that I could refill my love tank and give love to my family without feeling depleted or drained.

Here are some of my favorite indulgences that I like to do when I get a little time to myself.

EXERCISE!

I feel at my best when I have had an opportunity to get a good workout in. Working out gives me that natural high and energy boost I need to be the best version of myself for my kids and husband.

QUALITY TIME WITH FRIENDS!

Hanging with my girls fills my tank…and actually OVERFLOWS it! My friends have been my sounding board, my shoulder at times, and the best laughing buddy out there!

A RUN/WALK IN THE PARK!

I know I could tie this to exercise, but when I am in nature by myself (not my basement or gym), I am able to focus, pray and pour out to God the things going on in life.

READING!

It is rare that I have an opportunity to sit down and enjoy a good book. In fact, this is more of an item on my bucket list than an actual “Me Time” indulgence.

A HOT BUBBLE BATH!

Man can I feel stress leave my body after a hot…and I mean HOT bubble bath. This too is an opportunity for me to reflect on life, focus and pray.

DATE NIGHT!

My husband and I have committed to Date Night once a month. We pre-plan them months in advance so we don’t “forget” about nurturing our marriage relationship.

What are some of your “Me Time” indulgences?

Date Day…What’s That?!?

Ben: “I have a surprise for us!”

Me: “Good or bad?”

Isn’t that the truth…once you have kids and the honeymoon phase has long gone, you get into a rut and surprises may or may not be a good thing. Poor Benny…he tells me he has a surprise and I come back with, “Good or bad?” LOL

(He surprised me with a Date Day to Cedar Point!)

Fun times at Cedar Point on our "Date Day"

Fun times at Cedar Point on our “Date Day”

cedar point 2 cedar point 3 cedar point

Ben and I find it so difficult to get out of the house and enjoy each others company. We found that if we don’t make it intentional, it doesn’t happen. I have come up with a list of cheap date day/night ideas that will reignite the spark in something that may have dwindled.

CHEAP DATE NIGHT IDEAS:

*Go to an amusement park or arcade. It doesn’t have to be one of those fancy, expensive parks. Go without the kids and BE kids again. Do those silly arcade games like skee ball or whack-a-mole.

*Play a game from your childhood – croquet, badminton, hide and seek, miniature golf. Reminisce and be playful together.

*Pretend-You’re-a-Tourist date. Look around your city and do the things a tourist might do – go to an overlook, a quaint neighborhood, the botanical gardens, a museum, whatever is special about your hometown.

*Build something together – ice cream sundaes, a pizza with your favorite toppings, a tower of blocks.

*Plan a “Favorites Night” around your favorite food, clothes, games, sports, etc. Each spouse could choose a favorite activity which you then combine into one evening.

*Go to a cooking class and cook together or a wine tasting event.

*Look through old photo albums and tell each other stories of your childhood and families. If you feel really energetic, make it a time to put all those loose photos in albums or on a disc.

*Hang out at a bookstore. Browse through your favorite sections. Many bookstores have cozy reading spots or a café connected with them.

*Do something to nurture your spiritual life. Go to a church service together or volunteer in the community.

*Visit your local zoo. Spring is often an especially engaging time since your likely to see some endearing zoo babies and glorious flowers.

Ok so our Toledo Zoo trip wasn't exactly a "date" between the 2 of us...but it was FUN to go with the family and our Aunt Anita (not pictured)

Ok so our Toledo Zoo trip wasn’t exactly a “date” between the 2 of us…but it was FUN to go with the family and our Aunt Anita (not pictured)

toledo zoo 3 toledo zoo

*Try a theme date like one around “quarters.” Think of all the things you can do that use quarters like play a juke box, wash the car, take your picture together at a photo booth, play video games at an arcade.

*Thrift Store Date. Pick a spending limit (like $5 each) and see what crazy gift(s) you can put together for your sweetheart.

I know I plan on taking my advice and carving out time throughout the month to “date” my spouse again!

 

Date Night!

“I booked your mom this evening!”

“Um, for a date night?” I replied. “Eeeeekkkkk!!!!”

I was dressed with my hair in a bun, no makeup on, I was working on getting the laundry done, I had on an outfit that looked straight out of the 80’s and TIME WAS TICKING! I left the unfolded  laundry on the couch and tip-toe skipped (it was nap time and if you are a momma, no further explanation is needed) my way upstairs to get ready. It is amazing how fast you can get ready when you have a date night lingering over your head, but when you are home with the kids, we say we have no time to ourselves to get ready. Just thirty minutes later I was ready to walk out the door and drop the girls off to my mom…JUST.LIKE.THAT!

My AWESOME "Date Night" look!

My AWESOME “Date Night” look!

It is crazy to think that our last date night was well over 5 MONTHS AGO! How do we, as married couples with kids, allow ourselves to lose sight of something so important?!? Marriage takes work, dedication to stoking the fire to keep it burning, love and commitment to one another, your kids and most importantly commitment to continuing to build a solid relationship. We were well overdue and dinner out together was just what we needed (and what I needed because that meant I didn’t have to cook dinner…WOOTWOOT!).

There’s a big difference between going out for the evening and going out on a date. Date night is a night out with your sweetheart. It’s quick trip back to courtship, as opposed to an ordinary night out of the house.

I believe it is a state of mind more than an activity. It’s about the meaning you make of your time together, whatever you do. Whether simple or elaborate, eating a sandwich in the park, taking a walk on the beach, going out to the symphony, seeing a movie or just having coffee. Date night says, oh, right, we’re a “couple” when too often it can seem that you’re simply business partners or roommates or two people running day care…I know we have fallen into this category and I am sure we aren’t the only ones!

Date night is a chance to look across the table and see the person you married, the one you fell in love with, not the person who left the bed unmade or forgot to take out the trash.

Unless you’re going on a hike together or taking a yoga class, I suggest you dress up. This is a date, after all, a special occasion. Remember when you were first dating? The 80’s look was NOT the first choice you went for when getting ready for an evening out!

The BEST part…I LOVE that our girls see us place value on Mommy and Daddy time together! One day, when they are grown and married, my hope is that Annora and Delise place that same value on their marriage!

All dressed and ready for date night!