Posted in Encouragement, Mom Confessions, Motherhood, Own your Story, Self Care, Uncategorized

My 30’s suddenly got very Expensive (and why that’s ok)

I’ve always considered myself a pretty low maintenance girl. Except for a brief stint in my teens where I refused to leave the house without curling my bangs (the need for poof was real, folks), I’ve always been pretty comfortable with a minimalist beauty routine.

IMG_5419
“The Bangs” (I think I was 15 here)

My skin was perfect as a teenage (much to the chagrin of some of my girlfriends). I used plain water or makeup wipe to wash my face in the evenings (if I remember to do anything at all).

A pat of Covergirl foundation, a swipe of mascara, and chapstick completed my regular makeup routine. I felt like a million bucks.

Fast forward about 15 years. The bangs are gone, thank goodness (best decision of my entire Senior year in high school).

But my minimalist beauty routine was failing me–mostly because puberty decided to catch up with me in my early 30s.

After my fourth baby was born at the end of 2014, my skin started freaking out: acne, dry patches, oily patches– my face didn’t know what to do. Thank you, postpartum hormones.

I also started noticing that my hair wasn’t as silky and smooth as it used to be.

IMG_4853
Not the bangs, again! Thanks postpartum hair regrowth…

So this is it, I sighed, looking at the small forest of gray hair sprouting from my temples. There were too many to pull out any more. I’m getting old.

I don’t know if it was my postpartum hormones speaking, but I started to feel ugly.
Fatigue probably had a lot to do with it too. Sleep deprivation is not kind to one’s face…or self esteem.

IMG_4917
Photoshop, who?  This is real life, folks.

Are Moms supposed to be beautiful? I wondered. My husband assured me that I was.  I felt mollified but not content. I didn’t know who I was when I looked in the mirror any more. I was doing what I had always done but it wasn’t working anymore.

By the time my baby reached a year old, I was tired of waiting for my “postpartum hormone” to calm down.

I had to realize the truth: my body was changing. Though I am far from “old,” I am getting older.

So, although my frugal ways and pattern of minimal beauty habits screamed against it, I decided to start spending more money on self-care.

I threw out my bottle of $14.95 face lotion (that seemed “too expensive” when I bought it) and, at age 31, I purchased a full skin care regimen–my first ever cleanser, serum, lotion, eye cream, and night cream.

It cost about six times what I had paid for that tube of drug store lotion, and I felt super guilty about the purchase. Am I just being frivolous? I wondered.

But in the days and weeks of consistently taking time to wash and moisturize my face, I saw a huge difference–the dry patches and uneven skin tone were soothed, and the adult acne settled down too.

Using a quality product for my changing skin was actually a good thing (Imagine that).

A few months later, I crossed another boundary and bought shampoo and conditioner for $10 a bottle–each. I KNOW! Talk about guilt! Especially when I normally spent $3-4 on hair care products.

I justified the purchase by telling myself, “It’s okay. You only wash your hair every other day.”
I am a busy  mom of 4, after all.

And do you know what? The expensive stuff was amazing!  My hair wasn’t losing it’s luster! I had just been using crappy shampoo for years.

I’ve slowly branched out a bit more. I bought makeup that cost more than $5.95.

I’ve decided to invest in clothes that I love and are well-made, instead of talking myself into liking a garment just because it was on sale.

IMG_4919
A new haircut always helps (my baby was 9 months old before I “splurged” for this chop). See my silver? I’m embracing it!

All of these changes may seem kind of shallow.

But feeling bad about myself because my skin and hair were unhealthy just made me self-conscious, and ultimately made me feel shallow because I was thinking about looks all the time.

But when I decided to embrace that my 30s are going to require a bit more money and self-care, and started using products that help my body feel its best, I actually think about myself less because I’m not so self-conscious.

Beyond even the money issue though, I had to let go of my perceptions of what it means to get older, as well as what it means to be both a mom and a woman. I had to embrace these truths:

It’s okay to take care of your face and hair.
It’s okay to spend money on yourself.
It’s okay to want to feel beautiful.
You matter.

You are a woman first, not “just a mom.”

Taking care of myself is important. I’m glad that I feel like “me” again–older yes, but when I started take the time and money to care for myself, I feel more vibrant, confident, and beautiful.

What about you?
Did your 30s get really expensive?
How has self-care changed your self-esteem?
Share your story below!

I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in Encouragement, Expectations, Mom Confessions, Own your Story, Self Care, Special Needs, WAHM

7 Signs that you’re doing Too Much (and what to do about it)

So, how DO you know if you are doing too much? Sometimes it’s hard to tell where the line is between “I got this!” and “I’m going to have a mental breakdown.”

I am the Queen of “Doing Too Much.”

I have four sons, two of which are 3 and under, and two with special needs.

I have a husband and a house to care for.
11539035_10102113386324218_888264570455143371_oI also love to help people, volunteer, get together with friends, host parties, mentor college girls, and sew, read, write, and cook. Until very recently, I was a work at home mom (adjunct professor).

However, in the past six months, I have experienced major burnout and have had to cut back on non-essentials–and even some essentials–in order to regain some mental sanity, emotional peace, and physical health in my life.

If you’re flirting with that line, here are 7 signs you can look for to determine whether or not you are doing TOO MUCH in your life right now:

1. You start to forget things

We all forget things, especially as we get older…and especially when we add 1-2-3-4 (or more!) kids to the mix. For me, the tipping point was when I was was using my calendar to write down activities and appointments… and I was still forgetting them.

My brain was so full that it could not store any more information. I literally felt like I was losing my mind.

2. Little tasks feel overwhelming

For me, it’s the little things that put me over the edge. When my boys tell me that all their pants are in the laundry, something inside me just boils over. I am furious with myself–usually because we are already in a rush to get out the door, but mostly because I haven’t kept up with the laundry.

But on the jam-packed days, when I was juggling therapy appointments, grading papers, and evening volunteering, the sight of an overflowing laundry basket was just too much to tackle.
IMG_37813. You yell all the time

Our pastor once said during a sermon, “There’s always anger in hurry.” The truth of that statement has played out time and time again in my life.

When I’m too busy, I am constantly in this panicked state of “HURRY UP!” Doing too much caused me to slip into the habit of hurried anger.

4. You don’t have time to be kind

My “hurry up!” attitude was causing me to be unkind to my children on a regular basis. But even more than that, I was too exhausted and busy to be the loving person I wanted to be.

I love to cook for others, but my schedule was so full that I found myself saying “I just can’t” when I wanted to take a meal to a mom with a new baby, or have friends over for dinner.

5. You don’t have time to take care of yourself

In the blur of my busyness, I struggled to take care of myself on a basic level–remembering to drink water, brush my teeth twice a day,  wash my face in the evening, eat regular, healthy snacks.

Forget exercising and scheduling doctor’s appointments for myself!

6. You can’t rest when you’re tired

Well, to amend #6 a bit–I wouldn’t rest when I was tired because I had too much to do! The papers HAD to be graded. The laundry HAD to be washed (remember? no pants!). Dinner HAD to be made. Homework HAD to be supervised.
IMG_4854And if I wanted to spend very-needed time with my husband or friends, or fulfill my volunteering obligations (“I told them I would do it and I will!”), then there really was no time to rest or even go to bed at a decent hour.

7. You don’t have time to do the things that make you feel like “you”

Doing things for myself, like sewing, blogging, shopping, or reading always felt like a guilty luxury, one that I probably shouldn’t indulge in because, really, there was no time for that. But when I didn’t take time to do the things that brought me joy, I felt myself slipping into depression.

I was a big, hot mess. Something had to give.

In the past few months, I have taken several very important steps to regain my sanity, health, and happiness–because, do you know what? It really matters that I am a happy and healthy person.

Here are the steps I took when I felt like I was going to lose my ever-lovin’ mind.

1. Admit it

Saying the words, “I’m doing too much” can be life-changing.

2. Reduce (if you can)

Some seasons of life are just overwhelming, like when you have a new baby, or a family member has a health crisis and you are the primary caregiver. Sometimes you can’t reduce–you just have to ride it out (or see #3 below).

But sometimes, you can and should say “no”. It isn’t easy, but it’s needed. Last summer, I stepped down from an volunteer position that I loved. I didn’t want to, but I needed to let something go.

3. Ask for help

When I was in grad school, I had two college girls watch my twins and clean my house. It felt like a huge, guilty luxury but I really needed that help while I finished my master’s degree.

Lately, asking for help has looked like like enrolling my 3 year old in preschool last fall, teaching my older boys to load and unload the dishwasher, and coordinating with  my husband on busy grading weeks to let him know that I just couldn’t “do it all” when I had 50 papers to grade.
IMG_4619I hate asking for help (I think we all do) But admitting that I can’t do it all by myself lifts such a burden, even if I feel guilty at the time.

4. Ask yourself: Is this activity/responsibility helping me to be or become the best version of myself?

Recently, I’ve had to cut back even more, especially as Benji, my son with Autism, has started weekly therapy.

The stress of balancing marriage, four kids, house work, 4 appointments a week, and grading was starting to affect my mental, emotional, and physical health. So, I made the choice to stop teaching online so that I could focus more on being the type of mother that I wanted to be, instead of a yelling, stressed, “hurry-up,” angry, half-version of myself.

It’s been a few weeks since I wrote my resignation, and the other day, I asked my husband, “So, how has it been? Different?”

He nodded, “Yeah, it’s been better. You don’t seem as overwhelmed by little things. I mean, you weren’t bad before but…I can tell a difference. You’re getting better.”
DoingTooMuchI hate saying no to things I really want to do in my life, but at this unique season of small children with big needs, recognizing my own limitations has put me on the better path, one that leads to less stress and more rest.

Even more so, I’ve had the time do focus on the things that make me happy–like reading, blogging, making meals for people,  visiting with friends, and actually resting when I’m tired.

I’m getting better. I feel like I am becoming more “me.”

PS. When you can’t do it all, ask for help
Why you need to say “yes” more often
I quit my job (because I can’t do it all)

What is the “sign” that you are doing too much?
What are you actively doing (or not doing) in order to become the best version of yourself?

Share your story below!

I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in Encouragement, grief, Mom Confessions, Own your Story, Self Care, WAHM

I quit my job (because I can’t do it all)

I quit my job on Monday.

It was the right decision, but it didn’t make it an easy one.

I’ve been working from home, teaching University level English courses online, for the last three and a half years.
Since the day I started, I’ve had two babies, a grand total of four little men.

And I’ve kept plugging away at my work, at times teaching up to 4 classes in an 8 week term (usually 2). While some online professors have an easy (or easier) job, teaching English online is brutal. The University I worked for has a one-week turn around policy for grading papers. On the “off” weeks, I was giving copious notes on outlines and thesis statements. Add in answering hundreds of emails, grading discussion boards (on top of papers), and dealing with plagiarism on nearly every paper, let’s just say I didn’t have a lot of down time as a WAHM.
IMG_4619I felt like I was handling it all pretty well though…until last year, and especially last fall after Benji got his ASD diagnosis.

We added therapy to our weekly schedule and suddenly I was spending hours per week at the Autism Center, driving, scrambling to find babysitters, or on the phone with the insurance company.

The stress was overwhelming. It even started affecting my health, both physically and mentally.

I’d thought about quitting in December but still I wavered: I was so fortunate to be a mom who can work from home when there are so many women who are dying to be in my position. Didn’t I owe it to them to keep the “dream” alive, the dream that says, “Yes, 21st century modern woman: You may not be able to have the whole pie, but you can have a little slice of whatever you are determined to put on your plate!”
IMG_5028But here’s the conversation that put a knife in that “dream” and sealed my decision to quit.

I had just finished grading for B term and told my 8 year old twins, “Guess what, boys? No more papers! I’m all done!”
“Yea!” They cheered. “Now you can spend time with us!”

Ouch.

That was it. I knew I needed a change. I had been praying a lot, asking God to give me truth about the reality of my life, and here’s what He revealed:

I wasn’t being the mom or wife I wanted or needed to be.
I wasn’t even being a nice person.
I didn’t even like myself.

I was a mean person who was strung out, exhausted, and who yelled all the time. Plus if I graded just one more paper about “The Road Less Traveled,” I might just lose my mind (or what was left of it).

And as fortunate as I was to be working from home, it just wasn’t worth it anymore.

I can’t do it all. In fact, I didn’t want to do it all any more. I’m kind of over it.
IMG_4878
Yet, knowing myself, it feels weird to admit that.

I’ve eagerly been in school and/or working since my twins were 7 months old (they are 8.5 now).

I invested years of my life into my Masters degree and into teaching, both on campus and online. And I was a darn-good professor too.

But the truth is, I need to invest my life where my love is.

I love English, and I love helping students become better writers, but it’s hard to  keep loving something that doesn’t love you back. And honestly, as much as I tried to be a personable, relateable, likeable, genuine, caring online professor,  the thousands of students I’ve taught aren’t going to remember my name next week, much less 20 years from now.
I am a blip on their life-radar, and let’s be real: I will easily be replaced at the University I worked for.

But my kids only get one mom. I am not a blip to them; I am their whole world. And I need to move them back into the center of my world. I know this the right decision.

But not all good decisions are easy. Can I be really honest? I got a lot of warm fuzzies telling people that I taught at a University. I felt validated by raised eyebrows and the impressed tone of voice. It made me feel like I was more than “just a mom,” like I was an intelligent human being who was making a difference in the world.

So, as much as I am saying “Good riddance” to the horrific stress of being a WAHM, it comes with a bit of mourning too, a saying “goodbye” to that prideful little corner of my heart (not to mention the lost income. God will provide, right?).

But I’m ready to say “hello” to lots of Good Things too:
more “come in” and less “go away”
more “now” and less “later”
more self-care instead of self-denial
more energy and less exhaustion
more kindness and less irritation
more patience and less yelling

And more love, much more Love. 11539035_10102113386324218_888264570455143371_oBeing “just a mom” may wound my pride, but making the choice to be the mom that I want and need to be is the best decision I’ve made in a long time.

Did you quit your job to be more available to your kids (special needs or not)?
Was it a hard decision? Why or why not? (or both)
Share your story below!

I hope that our story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you.
TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 

You might also like: STOP saying “I don’t know how you do it!” and say this instead

Posted in ADHD, Autism, Benji's Story, kids, life, Mom Confessions, Self Care, Special Needs, twins, Uncategorized

Part 2: Should I medicate or NOT medicate my child’s ADHD? Answer: Yes

Yesterday I wrote about our experience of choosing to use medication to meet the needs of our son with ADHD.

Choosing medication was a good decision for Micah.

However, I have two sons with ADHD. Here’s the other half of the story.

IMG_7866-2594328906-O
Two adorable, sweet sillies!

Benji was diagnosed with high functioning Autism in October. Before the official diagnosis, we did a lot of tests, including tests for ADHD. We turned the forms into our doctor but they kind of got lost in the chaos of the Autism diagnosis and we decided to focus our attention on therapies to help Benji’s Autism challenges.

However, a few weeks ago, when we were in a therapy session, Benji’s counselor brought it up: “Have you considered that he might have ADHD?”

I nodded. “We did some tests for that but we never had a conversation. I would say he has ADHD–”

“–I would say so too.” She interjected, kindly.

“–but we kind of just let it lie.” I paused, thinking. “Micah’s on medication and it’s helping him.”

“I can’t make those decisions for you, but medication may help Benji, especially since some of his major frustrations come from not being able to communicate effectively.”

“Yeah, it’s like, when I talk to him, he has to process what I am saying. Then he has to think his response and then how to put that response into words. By the time he starts talking, sometimes he has forgotten what the original question was. It’s really frustrating for him.”

She agreed. “Talk to Dr. A. He’ll give you some advice.”

I thanked her but didn’t make the appointment for a few weeks. It was the same angst of “do we? don’t we?” all over again.

Medication was the right choice for Micah but it was a difficult decision. We did not make it flippantly or lightly. It wasn’t a cop out, or giving up on parenting. Medication doesn’t work like that.

The way ADHD medication works is to simulate the synaptic processes in the brain, the processes that are not firing in healthy patterns. It is a physical challenge that manifests itself through mental and behavioral avenues (The glory of the human body–it is all tied together).

But just because it works for Micah didn’t mean it would work for Benji. Different kid, different parenting, different solutions.

Aaron and I talked about it a lot. One of the reoccurring themes in our conversations about both Micah and Benji was this: We want to do what is best for our kids. We want to be good parents. If we actively deny our child something that could potential help them, does this make us bad parents?

But”Good” and “bad” aside: This decision ultimately wasn’t about US. It was about our son.

Ultimately though, I made the appointment.

I’m glad I did.

Dr. A. discussed the results of the initial ADHD behavior evaluation: “Yes, he definitely has ADHD.”

But, he did not recommend medication for Benji.

“Would it help his attention? Yes. But I don’t recommend this type of medication for kids with Autism because their brains and bodies work different. Anxiety is a big part of Benji’s every day experience. The medication would help him concentrate, and maybe even communicate, but it would up his anxiety. And then we would be in a worse place than where he is right now.”

It all made sense to me. I trust what Dr. A. said, as he is a developmental MD who is an expert in Autism, ADHD, and a many other challenges that kids face.

Even more than trusting an expert though, I trust my own observations about Benji.

Yes, he does have anxiety, sometime debilitating, and we we have a weekly therapy regimen and a bag of parenting tools to help with his anxiety (and many other challenges).

I don’t want to do anything to compromise his growth.
IMG_7939-2594342979-OSo, here’s the bottom line. I have identical twins who both have ADHD.
One is on medication
One is not.

Choosing medication to treat your child’s ADHD is not a one size fits all solution, even for two kids in the same family, even if they are twins.

Only you, and your team of supportive professionals, can decide what is best for your child, what will help him grow, thrive, and be the best version of himself, and ultimately what will help you both have the healthiest relationship together as parent and child.

So, the question is: Should I medicate or NOT medicate my child’s ADHD?

For us, the answer, not-so-simply, is Yes.

I hope that our story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. Please share your experiences below! I’d love to read a part of your story.

TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know? If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

 

Posted in ADHD, Autism, Benji's Story, boys, Mom Confessions, Parenting Ideas, Self Care, Special Needs, twins, Uncategorized

Should I medicate or NOT medicate my child’s ADHD? Answer: Yes

When we were going through the Child Study process and Autism diagnosis with Benji, one of the steps was to “test” for ADHD.

I put “test” in quotes because diagnosing ADHD is not a test, per se. Rather, the diagnosis is based on observations and meeting certain behavior criteria.

We got a Parent form and two Teacher forms from the developmental doctor at the Autism Center and my husband and I answered 55 questions. Here are a few examples:

Avoids, dislikes, or does not want to start tasks that require ongoing mental effort
Is forgetful in daily activities
Is “on the go” or often acts as if “driven by a motor”
Interrupts or intrudes in on others’ conversations and/or activities”
Is fearful, anxious or worried
Blames self for problems or feels guilty
Rate relationships with peers (1-5)

His regular ed and special ed teachers filled out these forms too.

We turned them in our doctor but they kind of got lost in the middle of the Autism diagnosis and we decided to focus our attention on therapies to help Benji’s Autism challenges.

But while we were going through the questionnaire for Benji, I turned to Aaron and said, “Seriously, Micah (Benji’s twin brother) seems to have more of these issues than Benji does.”
My husband agreed.

But we needed more “proof.” One of the criteria for diagnosing ADHD is that it has to manifest itself in two settings, like home and school. So I printed off a general list of “symptoms” from good ol’ Google and took it to our parent teacher conference at the beginning of the year.

We sat in small plastic chairs at a low table. I pushed the paper over to Micah’s teacher, a very experienced educator with a special education background. “I was wondering, are you seeing any of these behaviors in the classroom?”

She quickly perused the list, smiled a little, looked up at us and said, “Yes.” She then explained that she adored him as a person and loved him as her student. But we knew, as well as she did, that he was getting in trouble on a daily basis for impulsive behaviors.

IMG_4386
The day Micah got a Character Award at school

He would come home, crestfallen because he “lost another letter” that day at school. It became a daily announcement. When I would gently ask him what happened and why he acted the way he did, he just looked at me, wide-eyed and baffled at his own behavior, “I don’t know.”

So, I made an appointment with our pediatrician and we filled out the same forms for Micah that we had for Benji.

In addition to turning in the parent and teacher questionnaires, Micah also had a physical, a hearing test, and an eye test, just to rule out any physical challenges. He was healthy and could see and hear perfectly.

Our pediatrician agreed that Micah definitely showed strong tendencies of attention deficit disorder, as well as hyperactivity.

Next, we scheduled an hour-long, two parent consultation with our doctor about “options.”

The million dollar question was, of course, “How do you feel about medication?”

The whole diagnosis process took about a month, so I had been contemplating this question for about this long…in reality, probably longer.

For a long time, I didn’t really know how I felt about medication. Like a lot of people, I thought ADHD was primarily the combination of strong-willing (naughty?) kids and poor parenting.

And I “treated” my son…and myself accordingly.

But disciplining my son more or even trying creative and alternative approaches didn’t work.

So I looked for other solutions:

More exercise provided a momentary outlet but didn’t help his insatiable energy levels long term (I wished I had a recording of myself hollering “STOP WRESTLING GO RUN AROUND THE HOUSE!”).

IMG_7866-2594328906-O
Taking out artificial dyes and greatly reducing sugar in his diet didn’t do anything.

Essential oils helped him to focus on homework some days, but not on others.

Nothing helped him with other challenges:
Listening (I often wondered about his hearing!)
Following multi-step directions (sometimes completing one-step directions was impossible without 4-5 reminders)
Forgetfulness
An inability to play by himself
Ordering his thoughts and speech into coherent communication

These may seem like small issues but, when taken all together, every day, in simply trying to communicate simple directions (let alone having meaningful conversation) the impact was crushing because healthy communication often felt impossible.

But even more than all these exasperating behaviors was the fact that I knew that our relationship was suffering because I was so frustrated.

I confessed as much to our doctor, embarrassed and ashamed.

And his response hit me in the gut.

“Sometimes medicating ADHD is better than screaming at your child all the time.”

He’s right. I thought. Because that’s me.  What we’re doing is NOT working. Something needs to change.

I was trying to do all the right things. I was trying to be patient and loving and give him a healthy, happy childhood. But I had reached the end of myself.

Our relationship was failing. Not because I was a failure as a parent or because he was a failure as an 8 year old boy, but because we needed to address his very real mental challenges with new solutions.

So after much research, many conversations, prayer, consulting with our doctor, and considering what was the Best Thing for Micah and our relationship with him, we decided to fill the prescription.

I’m glad we did.

The medication didn’t turn him into a zombie or change his personality. Instead, it helps bring his state of being down a few notches: Instead of operating on a scale of 8-10 on a daily basis, the medication brings him down to a reasonable 5-7 range.

He and Benji still wrestle, but when I tell them to stop, they stop (most of the time). The manic I-must-slam-my-body-into-something-or-someone is tempered.

When Micah comes home from school every day, the first thing he tells me is this: “No letters lost today!” And he smiles, proudly.
IMG_4389The most significant aid the medication gives him is his ability to capture and order his thoughts and words, to listen and follow instructions, and to be able to attend to a conversation for a productive length of time.

I can actually tell when the medication is wearing off in the evenings (it wears off daily. It is not an addictive substance), mostly because his speech transforms into one non-sequitur after the other. His ability to follow directions (put your shoes away) crumbles too.

Other than a reduced appetite at lunch (at breakfast and dinner he is a hearty eater),  a few days of disrupted sleep the first week he took the meds, and a bit of evening moodiness every now and then, there have been no other side effects.

Medicating our son’s ADHD was not a simple or easy solution. In fact, the way our health insurance works right now, it is crazy-expensive (over $5 per day).

The medication doesn’t replace the discipline, training, redirecting, love and patience he needs every day. It doesn’t control my son or replace good parenting practices.

But treating my son’s ADHD with medication helps me to have a better relationship with him on a daily basis. The end result is more love for this precious boy I’ve been given.

And love is always worth it in the end.

This isn’t the end of the story. Remember those forms we filled out for Benji’s ADHD? We just revisited his diagnosis…with a very different decision.

To be continued…

 

I hope that our story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you.
TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know? If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in Expectations, goals, Humor, I hate exercising, Mom Confessions, Self Care, Uncategorized

How to {Accidentally} Exercise Every Day

I hate exercising.

I know some women love it. It’s like an escape to them…from their kids, house, stress, life. I admire these women; they inspire and baffle me.

Personally if I want to escape, it’s in a good book or netflix series curled under a squishy afghan with a glass of milk and a slice of chocolate cake.

That, my friends, is my definition of “escape.”

I am a really busy person. I have four kids. I have a house to take care of. I have meals to prepare. I have a mountain range of laundry to cross every week. Oh, and I also work 30+ hours a week from home as an online professor and freelance editor.

I have 6-8 exercise DVDs that I attempt to do every 9.5 months. Usually by the time I get half way through, one of my children is crying or pooping somewhere inappropriate.

So, what’s a busy mom to do? I decided that instead of trying to squeeze exercise in, I should take a backwards approach. I decided to look back at my day or week and see where I have accidentally exercised.

The Accidental Exercise Plan is simple. All you need is some creativity and a good memory (though once you add more than two children to your life, the later is hard to come by).

The only equipment required for the Accidental Exercise Plan is a house and children.

And the exercises are simple–you are probably doing them all every day! You just need to recognize them so you can give yourself a pat on the back at the end the day.

Tell me more, you say? Well, let’s begin! I’ve broken the Accidental Exercise Program down into Legs, Arms, Abs, and Cardio.

Legs:

The Basement Laundry Room
Do you have a basement laundry room? Lucky you! Don’t curse the cold concrete floors, the swinging lightbulb, and the spiders that freak the living daylights out of you! Thank your lucky stars that you get to “do stairs” every day!

Yes, every time you run up, run down, lug up, lug down, you are exercising, my dear. So do your laundry with PRIDE! Your thighs are thanking you.

IMG_4985
Work out gear

The Two Year Old
Do you have a two year old? Then you also have a personal trainer! The two year old will help you run every day. To take advantage of your two year old’s expertise, take him to a grocery store, Target, or any department store. Turn around for 1.2 seconds then turn back around. Your child will be 100 yards away and will be urging you to begin your Accidental Exercising for the day. Run, mama, run!
Mengs_51-1716401590-OArms:

Dinnertime Bicep Burn
It’s 6:00 at your house. That means dinner time prep. It also means Accidental Exercising! Don’t distract your clinging, crying baby with toys, wooden spoons, pot lids, goldfish, and a kitten! Hold that baby on your hip while you stir that pot!

Do you feel that burn? Ahh…your biceps are thanking you.

BONUS Workout: Have twins. Then you can do this:

IMG_2305
Why, yes! These ARE my work-out clothes!

Abs:

Midnight Maneuver
This Accidental Exercise technique takes some skill but most moms are already completing this move with dexterity.
First, pass out from exhaustion in your bed while your baby is curled up beside you.
Next, wake up. Realize that it is only 8:45pm and you are an adult who promised herself that she would have an grown-up conversation with her husband that night.
Next, hoist your baby over your stomach, cradling her body with your arms. Do not wake your baby!
Carefully sit up without using your arms or elbows to help you. Flail your legs if necessary–no one is watching.
Place your baby carefully in bed.
Pat yourself on the back for getting your baby to sleep AND doing a crazy-hard sit-up.
Repeat as necessary throughout the night.

The Squishy Belly Laugh
Did you know that laughing burns 1.3 calories per minute? To take advantage of the Squishy Belly Laugh Accidental Exercise, pull up your shirt so your belly is exposed. Let your baby squish all that postpartum goodness while you blow raspberries. Your baby will laugh. You will too…WHILE YOU BURN CALORIES!! WIN WIN!

Cardio:
They say the point of cardio is to elevate the heart rate to strengthen the heart muscles. Here are a few ways to integrate an elevated heart rate into your Accidental Exercise regimen.

The Crash
Go about your day as normal. Hum. Sing. Be happy and joyful and unassuming. CRASH!!! In the moments after The Crash (usually from your child’s bedroom), your heartbeat will elevate. If you hear the “bad cry,” RUN (bonus exercise!!!) to your child’s room. Your heart rate will continue to elevate until the crash and the “bad cry” are resolved.

“Cardio” accomplished.

The Daredevil
Is your child a daredevil? Lucky you! You get to experience Accidental Exercise cardio more than most!  To take advantage of your daredevil, look for ways to be scared out of your pants: jungle gyms, parking lots, bunk beds, knives in your dishwasher, etc.

Caution: a side effect of The Daredevil is gray hair.

Of course, you could always accidentally exercise by doing this too…

IMG_7917-2594339590-O
Lift and Kiss. Repeat as many times as desired.

So fellow mamas, if you are like me, let go of your guilt. Let the dust collect on those Jillian Michael’s DVDs. Plan some quality “escape” time in your day, because you know what?
IMG_2405
You already (accidentally) exercised today.

Do you Accidentally Exercise??? Share your tips below!!!

TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you, make you laugh, or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂 

 

 

Posted in Christianity, Encouragement, grief, Kelly Clarkson, miscarriage, Mom Confessions, Motherhood, Own your Story, Piece by Piece, Self Care, Uncategorized

Ladies, let’s stop aplogizing for our tears

I loved watching Kelly Clarkson sing “Piece by Piece” on American Idol earlier this month. It was a moving, emotional ballad; Kelly struggled with tears through the whole song, at times even losing her voice to tears as she pushed through to the end.

The audience—and America—wept with her, as she sang about how her father abandoned her as a child, but now that she is a mother, she knows that her children’s father will never leave their children…or her. Piece by piece, her husband’s love slowly put her heart and hope back together.

When Ryan came up to conclude the show with her, she apologized for crying over and over. “I’m really pregnant!” she laughed.

There was something profoundly familiar about her tears and her response. So often, our knee-jerk reaction as women to our own sudden tears is to say, “I’m sorry! I don’t know why I am so emotional!”
Our second response is to look for a scapegoat, usually a hormonal one:
“Stupid PMS!”
“Pregnancy hormones! They get you every time!”
We even use the hormonal excuse when there is no hormonal excuse:
“I don’t know why I am so emotional. It isn’t even that time of the month!”

We believe that our tears, sudden and uncomfortable, always need to be explained away. And if they can’t be easily excused, we make jokes about the emotional weakness of being a woman.

100_4647
I am smiling in this picture I vividly remember this day. I was going through a miscarriage and tears came unexpectedly and often.

The thing is, emotions or tears aren’t right or wrong. They simply are. It’s how we act in response to our feelings that is right or wrong.*

We shouldn’t have to apologize for feeling.
But so often, as women, we do.
I have a friend who is a passionate and vibrant person. She also cries very easily—about seeing her daughter learn and grow, about her passion to help women in our community, about the beauty in the world. Her tears and apologies flow freely.
Though I know she often is embarrassed by her strong emotions, I find her tears refreshing and honest.
Crying often expresses emotions in a way that words cannot.
It can reveal truth about our deeply felt experiences.
So instead of apologizing for our emotions,** what if we looked a little deeper and asked “Why am I crying?”

Hormones may be an easy answer but, the thing is, hormones don’t give us emotions; they simply highlight or emphasize emotions that are already there.  

Kelly’s song was deeply emotional on its own. It would have been difficult to sing even if she had not been pregnant and it had not been the final season of American Idol. Adding all that together made her performance even more impressive.  The reality is, her tears were what made the song even more beautiful, raw and relateable to listeners.

I wish she didn’t feel like she had to apologize for crying.

But if I were in her shoes, I would have done the same thing. Somehow it’s the socially acceptable thing to do as women.

It is a lot harder to simply let our tears be, without explaining them away (
It really is easier to blame our hormones, isn’t it?).

But owning our emotions is a part of embracing what it means to be a woman, a women who was created with God-given emotions, God-given hormones, and yes, even God-honored tears (Psalm 56:8).

When we stop apologizing and dismissing our tears, and start asking “Why?” about our emotional experiences, it helps us to build self-awareness. Owning our tears helps us to realize that our stories are real, valuable, and worth telling.

And when we can own our stories, we can more readily empathize with the emotional experiences of others.
We are able to “ Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep”  (Romans 12:15).
Tears
Our tears don’t need an apology or a hormonal explanation. Embracing our emotions and our tears is actually an act of love and respect. When we embrace our emotions as part of being a woman, we can more freely respect our own tears as healthy and normal.

And in loving and respecting ourselves, we can also more freely respond to the emotional needs of others with love and respect as well.

*Sadly, I often respond to my emotions with negative actions. When I choose to hurt others because I am angry or upset (or whatever), an apology is needed in order restore my relationships.

** I’ll admit, saying “I’m sorry!” is my first response when I cry unexpectedly! Instead of apologizing, here are a few suggestions for an alternative way to respond to our tears:

“Thank you for listening. I feel really emotional right now.”
“As you can see by my tears, I’m really passionate about this.”
“This always make me cry.”
“Hang on. I need a minute to collect myself.”
“I am so overwhelmingly happy!”
“This reminds me of my grandma. I miss her.”
“This makes me really sad/angry/upset/overwhelmed.”
“Darn you, Hallmark!”

Why do you think we feel the need to say “I’m sorry!” when we cry?

Why it is hard to accept our emotions, even our tearful ones?
What would we gain by accepting our tears as normal and part of “our story”?

TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know? If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in childhood dreams, Christianity, Expectations, goals, life, Mom Confessions, Self Care, Uncategorized, WAHM, Writing

I’m [NOT] writing a book: Saying No When you want to say Yes

I had this post all planned out a few weeks ago, the post where I would announce, “I’M WRITING A BOOK!”

But this is not that post.

The truth is, I want to write a book, but I’m not. At least not right now.

I’ve had an idea for a book for the better part of a year. Six weeks ago opened my file of notes and asked myself, “Why not now?
IMG_4878
I asked for feedback from friends.
 And they gave it: We love this idea!
I wrote a rough draft of a proposal.
I set up a meeting with a former professor who has published a few books.
I emailed another professor-friend who gave me encouragement and a sample of her last book proposal.
I listened to a podcast on how to write a proposal.
I got more great feedback and encouragement from friends and mentors.

I was thrilled, excited, ready to leap, and terrified all at the same time.

But I couldn’t jump.

Through all these weeks of excitement I was praying, asking God for his wisdom about my plans: Show me if this is the right time.

I got so much confirmation that this is a Good Thing, a Good Idea, a Good Plan. If I chose to go forward, it would be Right.

But as I tried to take care of my children, grade papers, spend time with my husband and the girls I mentor, blog, and move forward with the book, I realized I was being stretched so thin that I was starting to snap.
IMG_4993

I wasn’t loving the Little Things faithfully in all my plans for the Big.

I realized that I don’t have the time, energy or enough of me to do all the Good Things I want to do in my life right now.

So, despite all the whirlwind of excitement, the confirmations and support, and all the planning I put in, I know the answer to my prayers is this: Pull back. Not yet. Focus on what is going on around you right now. Be faithful.
IMG_5028

I tend to be very future-focused; I find a lot of passion and excitement in making plans and setting goals. I can see the big picture, way in the future. It’s a lot harder to put my binoculars down, stop gazing on dreams, and focus on steps that I need to take to actually make my goals a reality.

But what I really need right now is everyday faithfulness: taking care of my daily responsibilities, building relationships with my family and friends, learning more about blogging, building my audience, and writing regularly.

Writing the book right now could have been a Good Thing but it is not the Best Thing, both for my family and where I am right now as a writer.

There are so many big things in my life that I want to say “Yes” to, but sometimes, saying “No” is the best way to ultimately reach my goals.
IMG_4619
Sometimes the best “Yes” is “Not Yet.”

Have you had to say “No” to a Good Thing in your life?
How do you know when to say “yes” and when to say “no”?

TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! :

Posted in Mom Confessions, Self Care, Uncategorized

2 Self-Care habits I need to practice daily

I had an abnormally busy day on Thursday, so much so that I took pork chops out of the freezer on Wednesday night because I knew that I wouldn’t even have time to remember to defrost meat for dinner the next day.

But after getting 4 kids out the door to Benji’s IEP meeting at school at 8:15, an 11am meeting with a professor friend to discuss a book proposal idea I have (more coming soon on THIS exciting news!), taking Benji to Occupational Therapy at 2:30, and doing homework with my twins after school, my caffeine buzz had completely worn off and all I wanted to do was lay prostrate on the couch with an HGTV droning on the TV.

I was exhausted and and I still had to make dinner a few hours. Usually when I hit this level of tired, I am a total crank and yell at my family a whole lot while I push through the fatigue to get yet another meal on the table.

Then I feel like crap for the rest of the evening for subjecting my family to my bad-mood-fueled-by-exhaustion.

So in the late afternoon, I thought about the day I’d had.
I thought about how tired I was.
I thought about my patterns of mood and crankiness.
I thought about my family.
I thought about how I was not going to be a mean mommy and wife and how I was going to make dinner and be cheerful.

But I’m trying to bump self-care up a notch on my to-do list so I took two steps to help me take better care of both  myself and my family:

  1. I was honest about how I was really feeling. I tried to tell myself that I could push through, that I could find the cheerful and muscle my way into a pleasant evening. But I knew the truth. I was exhausted and cranky wasn’t far behind.
  2. I asked for help. I sent Aaron a text and asked if we could go out to eat.

FullSizeRender

I know that sending this type of text is normal for a lot of people but it is a big deal for me. I make plans (Two Week Menu, anyone?) and I keep them!

I don’t like feeling like I can’t follow through, that I can’t take care of my family in the way I planned for the day. I don’t like feeling like “I can’t.”

But I am trying to take better care of myself and listen to the levels of my own exhaustion and needs. So, yesterday, I said “I can’t.”

I was honest about how I was really feeling and I asked for help.

Why is self-care so hard?
What is one thing you asked for help with this week?

Posted in Autism, Learning Disabilities, Mom Confessions, Motherhood, Parenting Ideas, Self Care, Special Needs

You don’t have to enjoy every minute to be a good mom

When my twins were babies, I was consistently bludgeoned with this advice by well-meaning people: “Enjoy every minute.”

I hated this phrase…mostly because I was going through one of the most difficult experiences of my life. Just keeping up with the daily care of two infants was hard enough–and I was supposed to “enjoy every minute” too?

I felt like a failure.

One of my favorite bloggers, Modern Mrs. Darcy, wrote an article the other day about marriage, called “What makes a relationship work?”

This line stuck out to me:

…I’ve been warned by older and wiser friends not to panic if we hit a rough patch—strong marriages have bad weeks, months, even years

We seem to accept the truth that “strong marriages have bad weeks, months, even years” so why does this truth seem harder to swallow when applied to parenthood?

The thing is, our kids are people too, complete with little personalities, big attitudes, funny quirks, and loud opinions. And just like a strong marriage, our relationship with our kids requires work and daily maintenance.

In my seven+ years of parenting, I have come to realize that relationships with my children can and do go through difficult times that are frustrating, irritating, exhausting, even soul-crushing–trials of growth and times where I literally pull my hair out and think what-the-heck-am-I-doing?

There are so many times I have thought “I am a bad mom” or “I am not doing my best” when really, I was just going through one of these trials of growth. And growth is uncomfortable and painful and….not enjoyable.

The truth is, you don’t have to enjoy every minute to be a good mom, despite the little old lady in the grocery store who sighs “it-goes-by-so-fast,”  and the “soak-up-every moment / enjoy every stage / be-the-perfect-parent-today-or-screw-your-kids-up-for-tomorrow” social pressures that we are inundated with on a daily basis.

Parenting is hard because we are in relationship with tiny humans, and all good, lasting relationships have hard times. The key words there are “good” and “times,” because there are good times too–seconds, moments, days, and years that are good, and should be soaked up and enjoyed.

Those are the times where we feel like good parents.

But the reality is, whether in marriage, or friendship, or parenting, or any relationship, feelings can be fleeting. It’s the sticking through the hard times that spells commitment, the “I-will-do-my-best-no-matter-what-because-I-love-you” that is the true marker of a “good” mom.

Is motherhood enjoyable? I think the answer to that question depends on the mother and the moment you ask.

But if the litmus test of a “good mother” is how much we enjoy it, we will always be sentimentalizing the past or wishing ourselves in a less difficult parenting moment (naptime, anyone?).

We need to release the expectation of “enjoying motherhood” and focus on the reality of growing our relationships with our children, and all the good, bad, infuriatingly messy, ugly, and beautiful aspects that relationships with people bring to our lives.

I hope that this story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you.

Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂