Motherhood

When one door closes - Knowing when it's time to move on

Twelve years ago, I decided that I wanted to be a group fitness instructor. I had just become a stay at home mom to my first baby, but was still itching to do something to get myself out of the house and make my own money. I studied, I practiced and then took the exam. Know what happened? I didn’t pass! We ended up moving a short few months later and I set that dream aside for years. A few more moves and another child later, I started to feel the itch again to give instructing another go. Fitness had re-entered my life as a way for me to deal with some pretty harsh trials that had taken a toll on me in all aspects. It became my therapy and my outlet to deal with the pain and anxiety. And after seeing the impact it had on my life, I wanted to help do that for other people. And so, after we had moved for the 6th time in 9 years, I decided to try again. And this time, I passed! And then immediately found out I was pregnant the next day. So once again, my dreams to teach were put on hold. Fast forward two more years, I had another baby and we had just moved AGAIN, and I just walked into a gym and asked if they needed an instructor - my certification was still active and I figured why not just go for it. They took a chance on a new girl and thus fulfilled that goal I had set as a new mom.

At my peak, I was teaching 8 classes a week and loving every minute of it. But, about a year ago, I started to fill the urge to start cutting back. So, I cut back the number of classes to 5. And then I cut back to only teaching at one facility. And then I cut back to two classes a week. As I have stuck to those two classes the past two months, it still didn’t feel like I’d cut back enough. As much as I enjoy what I’ve been doing and the people I have met along the way, my heart is being pulled in another direction and my body is telling me it can’t keep up.

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So, today, I taught my final class. My son is half way done with middle school and I have hated that he comes home to an empty house several nights a week. My youngest seems to be sick more often than not. My own body is suffering from adrenal fatigue and will require me to completely slow down in order to heal. There are so many reasons why I know it’s time to move on. And while I know I am making the right decision, I will admit it has been an extremely emotional week and I’ve been in tears more than a handful of times as I think about closing out this door.

People keep asking me what comes next. For the first time in my life, I have no clue. This is the first time I don’t have a new path to pursue, no new big goal or dream I’m trying to fulfill or work toward. I have been searching for the inspiration, but honestly, I feel like what I’m supposed to do is lean in to the unknown and see what happens.

Closing this door is scary and humbling. I have learned some profound lessons - like sometimes reaching a goal can take several attempts and might not happen in the timeline we expected. Rather it will happen at the precise time I need it the most. I’ve also learned that I can multitask with the best of them. I have shown my kids that I can be their mom and still have time to do something I love. And as I close this door, I am showing them that I’m choosing them.

I regret nothing about this chapter of my life. I needed it, I met some amazing people, I felt like I served others, and I will always look back on this phase of life with nothing but joy. My friends, go after what you love if it makes your heart happy. But also know when it’s time to let go - even if it means stepping into the unknown.

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when one door closes

Gift Guide 2018 - Gifts That Give Back

I absolutely love this time of year and I especially love coming up with gifts for those I love that will be meaningful. Every year, one of the first things I do after making my list of who I want to give to, is to search for companies that are trying to be change-makers. I am fully on board with making purchases from companies who donate money or items to help make the world a better place. This year I stumbled across a few companies I had never heard of before, but who I am super excited to support.

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#1 - Cuddle and Kind became a favorite of mine last holiday season when my youngest was gifted Charlotte the Dog from her Gram. These dolls are SO darling, soft and snuggly, and heirloom quality. I fully expect my daughter to hang onto this doll and (hopefully) one day give it to her own child. Cuddle and Kind hires artisan women in Peru and provides them with sustainable, fair trade income. The company also provides 10 meals to children in need for every single doll purchased. They added a few new options this season and I cannot wait to purchase one for my other daughter!

#2 - Hand in Hand is a new find for me this year. They have lots of fun gift sets and scent options and stocking stuffers. I think these would make great gifts for teachers! The company is on a mission to increase sanitation and help provide clean water to the children of Haiti. 100% of their donations go to Haiti and they provide hand soap and repair water wells. Something I take for granted in the USA - the ability to wash my hands properly and find clean water.

#3 - BeeLove another new to me find this year. Sweet Beginnings is the founder and maker of the Bee Love products. The offer natural raw honey and products made from it. The company hires men and women returning from incarceration to develop stable work history and learn new skills as they rebuild their lives. Great stocking stuffer ideas here, too!

#4 - The Giving Keys sells handstamped, inspirational necklaces, bracelets, earrings and keychains. Through their sales they are able to hire and employ people transitioning out of homelessness. Through employment they are able to become self reliant. I just love this idea of teaching people skills that will help them be self sustainable. I am loving the Matte Black collection.

#5 - Presentlee is a mission born out of heartbreak. The family lost their daughter due to an accidental drowning. This shop came as the silver lining to their loss. They founded the Give Presentlee Foundation which donates a portion of every sale to serving or financially supporting grieving families. They also make regular donations to children’s hospitals and charities. Head on over to their shop to see all the fun things they offer. I am particularly eyeing a couple of their t-shirts.

#6 - S’well has been around for awhile, but I am always up for new water bottles and I absolutely love these ones. S’well was born out of a desire to reduce the world’s consumption of plastic water bottles (so so bad for the environment). They partner with non-profits such as UNICEF and (RED) to help provide access to clean drinking water to people around the globe. They have so many pretty designs and styles and I love that they fit easily into the cup holders in my car (not all bottles are do)! These are great gifts for anyone - I usually buy a new one for every member of my family each year.

#7 - Quietly Being Kind is another recent find, but has my whole heart. The darling postcards are drawn by Eden and packaging and shipping is done by her older brother Isaac. This sister and brother duo created these postcards to help raise awareness to stop bullying. A portion of all sales goes to charities helping children with special needs. To read more of this heartfelt story, go check out their website! I just purchased Eden’s Christmas pack for my daughter to hand out to her friends and teachers this holiday season.

#8 - Found My Animal is for all you pet owners and lovers. They sell super cute accessories for dogs and cats (and a couple horse items). Some day, when we adopt a dog, I fully intend to purchase a collar. The company promotes animal adoption and rescue by donating to various Animal Rescue organizations.

#9 - Sudara has some of the cutest pajamas, robes and lounge pants I’ve seen. I think my 12 year old will be getting a holiday pj set this year. Sudara works to provide skills and jobs for women in India who are at risk or rescued from sex trafficking. Again, nothing can compare to self reliance for building confidence and providing security. There’s something here for everyone on your list!

#10 - TOMS have been a long time favorite for my girls. I know many adults who love their shoes, as well. My youngest will definitely be getting some sparkly mary janes this year. For every pair of shoes purchased, TOMS donates a pair of shoes to a child in need. They have added new ways they give over the years and I am so impressed with their mission to make the world a better place. They have specific collections that donate to different need based organizations. Definitely worth checking them out!

#11 - Love Your Melon has the cutest keep you warm accessories. I’ve been eyeing their beanies and scarves for years now and I think this is the year I’ll finally make a purchase. The company gives 50% of all LYM sales to the LYM Fund which helps support research and care for families of children and children fighting their battle with cancer. If you’re in need of reading a heartwarming story, head to their website.

And there you have it! I know there are so many more companies out there doing amazing things. These are just a few of my favorites right now. We don’t all have the capacity to create products, but we can all participate by shopping with those who do. My hope for my own gift shopping this year is to only purchase items with a give back.

I’d love to know which company has your heart for giving back?

Fresh Face Friday - Ashley

Back for the second edition of Fresh Face Friday and I can’t wait for you to meet Ashley. This lady knows a thing or two about girls and today’s youth. And, I mean, how darling is she and her little miniature versions?!

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(1) Tell everyone a little bit about yourself and your family.

I’m a Utah native, married to a Michigan man for the past 11 years. We currently live in the greater Detroit Metro area with two girls, ages 4 and 2 with another girl on the way in March. I love doing anything that exercises my creative abilities whether it’s crafting, photography, design, or DIY home improvement projects. I am off beat in ever sense of the phrase.

(2) What do you most look forward to raising three daughters?

Matching clothes, girls’ trips, and having them be good friends.

(3) How do you plan to develop their confidence?

I have a three pronged answer to this. First and foremost, is to be an example, which for me is really hard. I can’t expect my girls to be brave, to put themselves out there, to not feel insecure about who they are or what they look life if I can’t do it myself. And believe me, I’m not very kind to myself. My husband even tells me I am brutal. But, I’ve worked hard this year to be my own friend. I also make it a point to not talk down about myself, especially when my girls are around, or to complain about how I look. I’m sure one day they will absorb negative messages about what girls should be from the world, but they will not get it from me. It would be a dream if they can look at their mom and say ‘Hey, Mom likes herself, I can too.’

Second and third is a balance between words of affirmation and providing chances for my girls to be challenged - out of their comfort zone. Both are so important. Kids need to know that they are loved and loved as they are right now, and they need to know their strengths. I also think that giving our children opportunities to stretch and grow. They need to know their confidence doesn’t come from getting things right all the time. It’s okay to fail, to not be perfect and things worthwhile are things to work hard at - even if it takes a really long time.

(4) What role do you hope family will play in their lives? What about friends?

I hope they will discover that family and friends are the many branches of love and they will make my kids feel like they are not in this world alone. There are lots of people rooting for them.

(5) Do you have a family motto or mission statement? Why did you choose what you did?

We have a couple. “When we know better, we do better.” This came from my oldest feeling bad and saying sorry for things she didn’t know were wrong or wasn’t supposed to do. I didn’t want her to apologize since she didn’t know, so I took this quote from Maya Angelou. It’s been a good one we use frequently. The second one is “By small and simple things, great things are brought to pass.” It’s kind of similar to the first, in that it’s about improvement. Even just a little bit at a time, small things can lead to amazing things.

(6) What are your biggest fears as your girls get older?

When they learn the world can be mean and harsh; and that people will be mean and can hurt them.

(7) Anything you hope to pass on from your childhood/teen years?

I want them to have tenacity and drive. I had an early morning paper route at the age of 12. I woke up at 6:30 every morning to deliver papers. I saved money and budgeted for things that I wanted at a young age. It helped set good habits for the rest of my life.

(8) What is your biggest piece of advice for other girl parents?

Teach them to be kind.

(9) What would you like to see change in the way girls are treated for the next generation? Any ideas for accomplishing this?

I hope that we embrace girls the way they are and not what we (or society) expects them to be. My girls couldn’t be more opposite; one is super girly and the other is tomboyish and I love them both for it and don’t want either one to feel like they need to be anything other than themselves. I feel like we are getting better at this, but we need to be better at not judging other women for who they are or what decisions they make. We need to lift each other up.

(10) I firmly believe that the rising generations will change the world for good - moreso than any before. How do we support and encourage them to speak up and let them know their voices matter?

I think the best thing we can do is to listen to them and take them seriously. Both my husband and I work with the youth in our church and we are always amazed by the ideas and thoughts they have.

(11) Favorite ways to build connection with your girls?

Personal and family anecdotes. For me, I like hearing relatable stories and I feel that there is power in them. Also, to get down on their level to make eye contact and hug things out.

(12) Any favorite resources?

Know How Mom Tips on Instagram and A Friendly Affair Blog

(13) What do you hope your daughters learn from your example? From your husband?

Just to work hard and to be genuine and authentic.

(14) Fun Facts:

Favorite way to unwind? Bubble baths or skincare stuff

Books or Movies? Both

Mountains or Beach? Beach

Favorite holiday movie? It’s a Wonderful Life and Christmas Vacation

What candy did you steal from your kids Halloween stash? All the Reese’s, Almond Joys and Kit Kats

Favorite Thanksgiving Pie? Apple a la mode…ALWAYS!

And now you all can love Ashley as much as I do! I have watched her in years past as she worked with the youth at church. She has a gift for relating to them and I think it is so fun watching her raise her own daughters. She’s wise, relatable, fun and beautiful.

Thanks Ashley!

Parenting Anxiety - Part Three - Child Anxiety Resources

I have been asked more than once for recommendations on my favorite resources for children with anxiety. Today I thought I’d share a few of my favorites.

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  1. Freeing Your Child From Anxiety by Tamar Chansky. I love this one because Dr Chansky covers such a wide range of disorders and potential challenges. You can find something on almost any type of anxiety, adhd, phobia you can think of. It is not a light read and it took me awhile to get through, but I find myself going back to this one quite often for tips or reminders.

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2. Differently Wired: Raising and Exceptional Child in a Conventional World by Deborah Reber. This one was actually a recent find and I first heard about this book on a podcast. I love that Reber has personal experience raising a differently wired child. She is not afraid to think outside the box and I put this one down feeling like she allowed me more freedom in my parenting. There is no one size fits all approach and I loved how she turns exceptional children into a positive.

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3. The Opposite of Worry by Lawrence J Cohen. I tend to steer more to the serious side and want proven, actionable strategies. This book opened my eyes to making things more fun for my kids. My oldest deals more with the fears and I found the ideas in this book to be really helpful for getting all of us to reframe things.

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4. Understanding Girls with ADHD by Kathleen Nadeau, Ellen Littman and Patricia Quinn. I was kind of taken by surprise with my middle child’s ADHD diagnosis. This book really helped me to see the signs I was missing. There are so many misconceptions that ADHD/ADD is a child bouncing off the walls, not staying on task, being disruptive in class. I needed this book and if you have a daughter dealing with any type of mental health issue, this is a good read. They go into depth on thought processes, emotions and just overall reactions of girls.

I also have some resources more specific to Selective Mutism, feel free to email me if you would like those!

There are also a few websites that I have found to have amazing resources.

5. Worry Wise Kids - This was actually created by Tamar Chansky (author of Freeing Your Child from Anxiety). She provides a lot of the same information from the book in a more condensed version. But, also links to other resources and access to workshops. Good website for parents.

6. Anxiety and Depression Association of America - This is a non-profit membership site, but you can also find some general information as well as a search option to find therapists and psychiatrists in your local area.

7. Coping Cat Parents - I LOVE this website. There is a section for parents, professionals but also a section FOR KIDS! You can also purchase an online program (I have not done this, so I can’t speak to what it’s like). So much good stuff and I highly recommend browsing around.

I spent so much time researching resources and have read more books than I can count. We’ve seen numerous psychiatrists and therapists. Every single one is different. My advice is to keep searching until you find the right fit. There have been several books I’ve just closed after the first chapter, therapists we’ve only met with one time and lots of trial and error at home. In the end, this is YOUR child and you are their advocate. If you don’t feel like something or someone is a good fit - look elsewhere! Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.