January 2017 Lifestyle Favorites

Lifestyle Favorites - January

2017 is already shaping up to be better than 2016. I’m already excited about what it has to hold. I know great things are in store for us. I have high hopes!

It’s so exciting when I find something or someway that makes my/our life a little easier, better, or more fun. I just thought I would share a few of my recent findings. So here are some awesome products/recipes/apps that I love.

        1. S’well Bottle
          My brother and sister-in-law got me this new water bottle for Christmas. I truly love it. I know S’well bottles are expensive but now that I have one, I totally understand why. I fill this puppy up every night (as well as multiple times during the day), put it on my bedside table, and when I wake up in the morning my water is still cold. It’s amazing and I love the color. It’s so fun and so pink which is amazing. But you can get almost any color or design if you prefer.
        2. Cuppow
          Another gift from my brother and sister-in-law. She gets me. 🙂 These are coffee style lids that go on top of mason jars and are then secured by the metal ring. They allow us to take drinks in the car or during family game night. (For some reason, cups and mugs seem to be ever more precarious during board games.)
        3. Minimalist Baker’s Peanut Butter Overnight Oats
          I am always looking for ways to streamline our routine. I love cooking, but I love even more when I find a way to make meals that are quick, easy, and kid-friendly. I love overnight oats because being able to toss a mason jar and spoon to my kids (and myself) makes mornings so much simpler. So when I found this recipe for overnight oats, I had to give it a try. We ALL loved it. My kids even said it tastes like peanut butter ice cream. I made it by the recipe (almost never do that!) and added bananas on top in the morning. It is absolutely superb!January Favorites - Overnight Oats
        4. Laser Tag
          I am always looking for ways to play together as a family – inexpensive and active ways especially. These galaxy blasters are especially great for that. My kids will happily grab one, toss one to someone else, and start firing without a thought for the TV at all. Of course, I enjoy being ridiculous because it makes it more fun for all of us. So run, hide, and roll around. They crack up and do it too. It makes us all laugh and hopefully creates some positive memories for them.
        5. App: Plant Nanny
          Plant Nanny is an app that my daughter found out about from one of her friends. Both of my kids have it downloaded on one of their devices. It’s an app that helps you to track your water consumption. When you drink water you record it on the app and the cute little plant grows. So they keep drinking water because they want to see their plant grow. After a while they will get sick of it, as they always do, but it’s nice that they become more conscious of their water consumption.

 

Have you found any new passions, strategies, or discoveries so far this year? How has January been for you?

* Mom is Such a Nerd is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. This is at no extra cost to you and I truly appreciate it!*

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Make Family Dinnertime Work for You

Family Dinnertime

We’ve all heard that kids who eat dinner with their families:

  • get better grades
  • are less likely to do drugs
  • have higher self esteem
  • have an increased chance of graduation
  • have a lower risk of childhood obesity
  • etc, etc.

It seems like everyone is always touting the benefits of family dinnertime. But you are busy! You work late. The kids have sports after school and play rehearsal in the evening. There’s hours of homework to be done and dishes in the sink. So how are you expected to do this whole family dinner thing too on top of it all?

Firstly, don’t stress over it and don’t beat yourself up. There are ways to make it work for everybody.

It doesn’t have to be dinner.

A lot of the benefits of family dinnertime come from the sense of togetherness it brings, not solely from the food.
So if you tried to find a day that would work for you but there just isn’t one try a different meal. Maybe in the morning everyone leaves at the same time, so you could plan to have breakfasts together. Or after Saturday morning soccer games everyone gets back home at thes same time so you could arrange to do Saturday lunches every week. If that doesn’t work either, try a snack time before bed.
Food is an easy excuse to gather a family around a table, but if there really is no way to schedule a meal together, any kind of regular family time that allows for or facilitates conversation and togetherness can provide many of the same benefits.

Keep it stress free with easy meals.

Dinner doesn’t have to be gourmet. Trying to create entire fancy meals can be daunting and stressful. If you are stressed out during mealtime, you and your loved ones will probably not receive the full benefits of being together. Make it easy.
That Taco Tuesday we mentioned? An easy meal to throw together. The kids can even help rip the lettuce or take toppings to the table. Another favorite of ours is simply veggie sandwiches or wraps with homemade fries. Baked potatoes with lentils, veggies, or even just broccoli are great. Soups are easy to make. Rice bowls are quick if you make the rice ahead of time. Know simple recipes that everyone likes and keep simple foods on hand.
Meal planning can also help with this. Make ahead meals, slow cooker meals, things that are ready for you when you walk in the door are wonderful. One way that I make meals easy when I know we have a crazy week coming up is by utilizing a meal delivery service. Purple Carrot is one I use and highly recommend. (Read my review here.)

Get everyone involved.

The kids can help cook. They can also help clean up. They can put their dishes in the sink at least if they are really little and the older ones can put them in the dishwasher. The more people pitch in the easier it becomes for all.FamilyFamily Dinner - Make it Work for You

Pick a day and schedule it.

If you can’t have family dinner everyday, find a day during the week that people are home or at least, less busy. Maybe your kids don’t have anything scheduled for a certain day or your spouse can come home early one day. Dedicate that day to family dinners and let everyone know they are expected at the table.

Make it an event.

My kids love the idea of Taco Tuesday. That is an event they would never miss.
Often, on Fridays, we have picnic night. In the winter, when we can’t go outside, we put blankets and a tablecloth on the floor and have an indoor picnic.
My cousin has 4 daughters and 6 grandkids. He loves to cook out so the whole family – kids, grandkids, husbands, and boyfriends all get together and have a big family dinner on the weekends. It’s such a beautiful event with so much love and energy in the air that everyone looks forward to it and can’t wait to get together.
Big or small, making an event of it makes it fun for everyone.

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How do you find time for family bonding?

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Break the Pattern! | Stress Management

break the pattern | stress management

“I dropped my cereal. I stepped in a puddle. My socks are wet. I don’t like these I didn’t have time to do my hair properly. And I can’t find a headband!” My daughter began to sob in my car as she began her Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day type of tirade. I felt like I was looking at the me from certain parts of my life in the past. I knew where this could be headed. So I had to do something about it.

Not many people know this but I’m a pretty big Tony Robbins fan. And in the recent documentary I Am Not Your Guru, he reiterates one of his techniques which is to “break the pattern.”

My daughter was creating a pattern in her head. She was looking for all of the bad things that happened to her that morning. And I was afraid that she would continue to look for the bad things that happened to her during the day and just be miserable.

So I thought I have to break the pattern but how?

Tony Robbins uses humor a lot and sometimes adult language among other methods (but for some reason that’s what popped into my head in the moment) neither of which would work in this situation. Mostly because, while I think I’m hilarious, my kids don’t always feel the same way.

So I said “Man that seems like a lot of bad stuff that happened already this morning. Now tell me something that happened good this morning.”

She got quiet. She had to change her thinking. I did it. I broke her pattern.

“Anything, even the littlest thing. The weather. Do you like the change in weather?”

“Meh.”

“Okay tell me something else then.”

“Well I wasn’t mad when I woke up.”

“You woke up on the right side of the bed. I’m happy for that!”

“No I didn’t. . . I woke up on the left side.” Humor! She had now broken her own pattern and was creating a new one. “I have three tests today.” I asked her if she knew what was going to be on the test and she said yes. “So you’re prepared!” I exclaimed. She agreed and continued to tell me about the tests and the classes. By the time we got to school, she hopped out of the car with a smile on her face and walked into school standing pretty darn tall.

Have you ever seen yourself or someone you love start that negativity spiral? Break it! Try to pull them out of that funk before it becomes a pattern that hangs over them like a dark cloud.

  • Use humor.

    Making someone laugh can begin to break through that negativity and open a door for further conversation.

  • Surprise!

    The element of surprise can change a person’s thinking by figuratively knocking them off balance. It has the power to stop people in their tracks. Then there’s the opportunity to change their focus.

  • Physical Activity.

    Movement, changing your body’s position in space can change your perspective both literally and figuratively. Go for a run. Do mountain climbers. Drop and give me 50. Or whatever. Exercise releases endorphins and dopamine – feel good chemicals. Plus when I finish exercising, I always feel slightly more accomplished. Like I can check something off of my to-do list or like I’m worth taking some time to take care of myself. This is also a great long term strategy. (See more below.)

There are also long term strategies to help you naturally improve your abilities to deal with stress.

  • Physical Activity.

    Regular physical activity can improve sleep, mood, concentration, and memory. It can help to handle stress and increase daytime energy. Over time, some studies even show that regular exercise could help symptoms of depressive and anxiety disorders. Just make sure to check with your doctor before you start an exercise program.

  • Practice Mindfulness.

    Mindfulness involves staying in the present, allowing things to happen without judgment. There is mindfulness meditation (see below), but you can also use mindfulness in your everyday tasks. Stay in the moment. If something bad happens. It’s okay to experience, to feel upset, but then let it go. Because right now is the only time you can experience right now. So why waste it worrying about the past or the future. (Of course that’s not to say you can’t mourn or grieve, that is important. Or do tasks that will improve your future – everything you do right now should be for a better future, but enjoy doing it, not fretting about it.)

  • Meditation.

    You can meditate. Trust me you can. So many people say that they can’t, but I don’t know anybody whose mind can be in so many different places at once as me. Seriously for months, I would sit down to meditate and write stories in my brain, my head would go as far as to make up my own songs or greeting cards. I would think about work, school, the kids, something funny. And of course the never ending to-do list was running like a loop in the background the whole time. It’s okay if it feels like you are just always thinking. (Kind of how I’ve always said I do my best writing in the shower. It’s a time when things slow down and my mind just feels free to roam.)When your mind has a mind of it’s own, it’s okay to observe that thought. But then let it go. Don’t judge it. Just release it. Bring your focus back to your breath or intention. It takes time. Start with something small like 5 or 10 minutes a day. It didn’t take long before I began to see a change in my ability to handle stress and to have internal happiness, not dependent on external forces. I learned to slow down and process where I was in the moment. I’m not perfect, but progress is progress.

  • Practice Self Care.

    It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. In fact it’s just the opposite. If you don’t take care of yourself and are already hanging on by a thread, one more stressor could make it snap. Take care of yourself. Build yourself up so no single event can knock you all the way down.

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3 Types of Journaling that have Changed my Life

Journaling life changing ways

As a writer (and long time aspiring writer), journaling is something I’ve always done. Even as a young child, I had journals to use as diaries, some to use just to make lists, some to write short stories in, and some to come up with ideas for exercises and choreography for dances, just to name a few. It was rare to find me walking around the house without a journal tucked under my arm. And my mom could never take me to the store without my begging for a pretty new journal I happened across. 

I stopped journaling sometime in college (because it wasn’t cool enough), but began again a year or two ago. Since then, I’ve changed my thinking and worked through different situations in my life. It helped me to tap into my creativity, find clarity, and sometimes just practice writing. There are many different ways to journal. I’ve tried, and still use, many versions of journaling. They all serve a purpose at different points in time. Three types of journaling that have really had an impact on my life include:

Stream of Consciousness

I began regular journaling again as an adult one summer on a family vacation. I still had the horrible habit of going to bed with a television. But the house we were staying in had only one television and it was in a communal seating area – not really conducive to sleep. So I pulled out my big journal I was using to just take notes, make lists, pull out paper, whatever. I put the date at the top of the page and began to write. That first day, I figured out where the problem in my budget was and ended up laying out a whole new one. The second day, I started to understand my relationship with certain people in my family and came up with ideas to try to begin to mend them. And on and on. (I now journal on a regular basis.)

Stream of consciousness writing simply means just that. Just pull out paper and start writing. Whatever comes to mind, put it on paper. Sometimes, you will find yourself writing gibberish and sometimes you will find yourself addressing major stressors in your life. Just the other day as I was journaling, I found myself doing just that. Venting, rephrasing the question, and brainstorming solutions.

The entry went something like:
“I love my kids so much. Why am I getting so frustrated and stressed out around the same time as when they get home from school? I don’t want to yell at them. I hate when I do that. What is wrong with me??? Wait no bad questions get bad answers, let me try again. What can I do to alleviate the stressful feelings I experience in the evenings?”
Then I started brainstorming solutions. The next day, I worked on implementing many of the ideas I came up with and now, I’m still not perfect, but I am much calmer.

Stream of consciousness journaling has allowed me to work through many issues in my life. It has given me so much clarity and allowed me to sleep so much better. I’m able to clear my thoughts and get everything out of my mind and onto paper. This is my #1 type of journaling that has had the most impact on me and my life.

Visualization

Visualization journaling involves picturing a future event or a future you and writing about it. You can write in any fashion or as broadly or as specifically as you would like. Picture your future – where you will be when you accomplish your life goals or doing the tasks that you need to do tomorrow (or today depending on the time of day you journal). You can write about how great you feel accomplishing your biggest dream (even if you haven’t yet). Or you can write about how good your morning routine will feel.

For example:
“The buzzing sound penetrated Valerie’s ear drum. She sat up and smiled knowing that today she would get one day closer to her goals. It was one more day to experience life. It was one more day to hug her kids and fill their hearts and her own with love. She plodded to the bathroom, put her hair up, and washed her face before beginning her morning workout…”

Visualization journaling helps to keep me on track and keep me motivated. It makes me excited for the future and for accomplishing my goals and dreams.

Gratitude

Gratitude journaling is simply writing down things you are grateful for. I did a post on it last year.  Simply get out a journal and write down 3 things you are grateful for. The first few days are easy. I was able to rattle off things like “my kids, my health, my kids’ health, etc” no problem. But I challenged myself to name 3 different things every time.

Gratitude journaling can easily be done at night or in the morning. I like to journal at night before bed. It calms me and puts me in a good mindset for calming sleep. Doing my gratitude journaling at night, slows me down, and gives me a chance to really think through my day, and all the beauty and happiness it has brought me. Some people (including Tony Robbins) advocate for gratitude in the morning because it is a good way to start the day off on the right foot. My opinion is that the best option is whatever works best for you. Either way, feeling grateful and feeling miserable cannot happen at the same time.

No matter what time of day it is, thinking about things you are grateful for will retrain your brain to search for the positive in any situation. I often find myself searching for the good in any given situation, not only because I’ll need something to write in my journal that night, but because my brain is now trained to find the good now.

Do You Journal?

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Resolutions that Stick – Part 3: Goal Setting

Resolutions Part 3

We’re back to the third, and final, part of Resolutions that Stick!

So you figured out your priorities in Part 1 and then figured out where you want to be with them in Part 2. If this is enough for you, then by all means stop there. Just doing those two steps changes how I approach days and situations. I remind myself of my priorities when I get sidetracked or am having trouble figuring out just what to do.

But to make real progress, weekly goals are where it’s at!

It’s also the fun part if you ask me!

Let’s start with a brainstorm, or brain dump if you will.

Get out the list you created in Part 2 and start breaking them down into weekly goals. Write down any and every task/tactic that can be done in a week to get you closer to where you want to you want to be in the next month/quarter.

The reason we do this is because it is too easy to start writing your goals for the week and suddenly realize you have now have 567 goals to accomplish in 5-7 days. I fell into that trap time and time again.

So to avoid overloading yourself immediately, just write down everything. Take a piece of paper and write down ALL the goals you can possibly come up with. Once you have them all out and on paper, it is easier to look at them and choose the ones you can focus on this week. Try to keep it to 10 or under if possible.

Your goals should be action oriented (use a verb!) and measurable.

(Example: Exercise 3 times this week. At the end of the week, you can definitively check off whether or not you accomplished this goal.)

When writing your to-do lists, consult your weekly goals. Make sure that you include activities that will help you achieve your goals. And then at the end of every week, review your goals. Did you accomplish them? Are they getting you closer to where you want to be? Then decide on the goals for the upcoming week using your brainstorm, making changes, or adding tasks/tactics you hadn’t thought about before.

If you continue to set quarterly (or monthly) and weekly goals, you will not only keep your resolutions but you will SMASH them!

Don’t forget to check out Parts 1 and 2 if you haven’t already!
Resolutions that Stick Part 1
Resolutions that Stick Part 2

Resolutions that Stick Part 3

For more information and inspiration on making goals check out:
The 12 Week Year – a great book and guide on breaking your year into 12 week “quarters” and setting weekly goals, it’s more from a business standpoint, but also includes examples with personal and familial goals
Money Saving Mom – weekly goal examples from Crystal Paine here
Making Sense of Sense – Michelle gives us all a monthly income report, looking back on her past month, and sets her plans (where she wants to be) for the upcoming month
I plan to share my goals in 2017 as well.

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Resolutions That Stick – Part 2

Ah, back to setting our 2017 resolutions! Now that we’ve set our priorities in Part 1, we need to break down our year.

I think that part of the reason New Year’s Resolutions are so easy to break is because we have a whole year to do them! If you wanted to get in shape, but you don’t today. That’s okay! Because you have a whole year to get in shape. But tomorrow, we can just say the same thing. And the day after too. And the day after until we realize the year is almost over.

So we break the year into smaller chunks before beginning to work on our resolutions. You can decide how you want to break down your year. It can be into quarters – or 12 weeks with 4 buffer weeks (as in Brian Moran’s 12 Week Year) or into months as I used to do. I find that the “12 week year,” gives me enough time to plan long term and short term, but at one point I needed to stay focused on the short term.

So maybe you want to experiment with this a little or maybe you already know which works better for you. This week we are going to break down our year and write our goals.

You are going to want to grab your list of priorities from last week, and then decide where you want to be after the first quarter, or month, of the year. These don’t necessarily have to be quantifiable goals yet. They can be. If you know you want to be making $xx, then by all means, write it now. But maybe you just know you want to be more patient with your children. And you’re not sure how to quantify that right now, it’s okay. That will fall into place next week.

So your challenge for this week is to:
– decide if you want to do quarterly or monthly goals
– using your priorities list, write out your goals for your time frame

Try not to make too many. 1 or 2 for each priority is probably plenty. Have fun!

Resolutions Pt 2
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Click here to read:
Resolutions that Stick Part 1
Resolutions that Stick Part 3

Example

Priority 1: My Children
1. Show more patience.
2. Maintain our new after-school routine.

Priority 2: My finances
3. $XX – Yup that was me in the example. 

Priority 3: My health and wellness
4. Maintain my morning and night routines.
5. Improve my meal planning system.

Priority 4: My Blog
6. Increase my reach.
7. Create a course and 2 pdf booklets.
8. I want to continue to grow my knowledge in my field and in the business field. Continue to update and get better.

 

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Resolutions That Stick – Part 1: Priorities

Did you know that January 17th is annual Ditch New Year’s Resolution Day. Kind of a shame, right? Some people get so frustrated that they declare they will never make another New Year’s Resolution. “There is no point!” they exclaim, “no one ever carries through with them anyway.”

But I happen to think there’s no bad reason to sit down and set goals. If New Year’s Day is the reason, then so be it. It’s not the day that causes people to fail, it’s that they need to take time to develop systems to maintain and and track progress.

First we need to make the right resolution by figuring out what our priorities are. This is something I learned while doing Crystal Paine’s Makeover Your Mornings course . One night we were challenged to figure out our priorities – our “big rocks”. That night as I was journaling, I began to list them. Just the simple process of writing down my priorities really put things in perspective for me.

When I am frustrated or at a loss, I think back on my priorities list. What is really important to me? How should I behave to show myself and others what is truly meaningful to me?

So this week, before we make our “resolutions” really think about what your priorities are for the upcoming year. These will serve as your jumping off point for your “resolutions” – your goals.

Ask yourself:

  • What is area of your life is most important to you?
  • What do you value the most?
  • What do you need to focus on to get your life to the next level (whatever that means to you)?
  • What area of your life have you been neglecting lately?
  • What will make you feel fulfilled every day and all year?

So get your priorities straight! But try to keep your list somewhere between 1 and 6 priorities. Six is still kind of a lot to keep track of, but if you must, you must. Some people may have laser focus for the year and truly only have one priority they want to focus on this year. Whatever works for you is what is best.

Your challenge for this week is to figure out your priorities for the upcoming year.

Click here to read:
Resolutions that Stick Part 2
Resolutions that Stick Part 3

 


Example

1. My Children
My kids are truly my top priority in life. I love them so much and want to give them every opportunity to succeed, to grow, to learn, and to become great humans. This past year, they haven’t had the attention that they really deserve. And I began to realize that they need to know they are my top priority.

2. My Finances
I lost my job when I was caring for my father. So at this point getting my finances and income on track is a big priority. I haven’t had the chance to work on it as I would’ve hoped, but I’m working on fitting it all in.

3. My Health and Well-being.
In order to care for other people (my children, my father, even my clients) – to pour into them, I have to fill myself up first. I want to and deserve to take care of myself this year, as I have put myself below last in the past.

4. My Blog
My blog is my expression of the things that are important to me and that I see so many others struggle with. It is my way of sharing my knowledge – some professional, some not so much. It is the perfect mesh of things I love – wellness coaching (and TR) and writing. It is something that makes me happy and that I would love to begin to learn more about and work on with more consistency.


resolutions - pt1

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