5 Tips to Make Traveling With Kids Less Stressful

Traveling with kids could be an Olympic sport.  If you’ve ever tried to calculate how many diapers to bring for a week’s timespan, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Fortunately, we are done with diapers and our kids travel much smoother now, but there are some things I like to do before and when we travel to make our trip as stress-free as possible. Traveling with kids

  1. Car trash can.  I have a plastic cereal container (similar to this) that I use a trash can for our van.  I simply line it with a grocery bag and put the lid back on.  Not complicated at all and the trash gets contained.  Before I placed this in our car though, I went over how to use it with my kids.  I know it sounds simple, but I also knew that if I didn’t go over that with them, they’d still leave sticker wrappers and scraps beside or in their seats and the car trash can would just become another thing in our car.  It also doubles as a barf bucket in case anyone were to get sick.  So far, we haven’t had to use it for this (knock on wood), but I know it’s ready and available if need be.  I’d just take the grocery bag of trash out of it, hand the kid the container without the lid, and wash it out as soon as we could stop.  I know it’s gross to think about, but it’s a lot grosser to think about NOT having that barf bucket if you are ever in a sick situation.
  2. Outfits in Ziploc bags.  I absolutely love this tip.  When we went to Disney World, we flew and decided to only pay for 2 checked suitcases between the 5 of us.  One thing that made this so much easier was putting all of my kids clothes in 1 suitcase and putting each day’s outfit for them in gallon sized Ziploc bags.  My kids could easily pull out a baggie, take their own clothes out, and get dressed.  There was no having to match outfits in the mornings or getting one kid’s clothes mixed up with another’s.  All of the dirty clothes went back into the suitcase unbagged and clean clothes were kept nice and fresh in their Ziploc bags.  At the end of the trip, I could easily keep the empty bags in the suitcase and reuse those bags for the next trip as to not waste bags.  Side tip: You could also keep a Ziploc outfit in your vehicle for emergencies.  Another side tip…  We keep wipes in the van at all times too for easy clean up.

    Suitcase
    This is 3 kids’ worth of clothes packed into 1 kids’ suitcase for our week long trip to Disney.  All of their outfits are in gallon Ziploc bags, (kid 1’s are all on the left, kid 2’s are in the middle, and kid 3’s are on the right.) Light jackets are on top and shoes are tucked underneath.  PJ’s and undies are in the top zippered compartment. 
  3. Kids’ Travel Packs. Often times before a trip, we’ll give each of our kids a small bag that they can bring fun stuff in.  We tell them that this stuff has to occupy them in the car or on the plane (depending on our method of travel) and that they are responsible for these items.  If we’re in the car, all items must be back in the bag once we arrive at our destination.  If we are on a plane, the items in the bag have to be appropriate for air travel.  We allow them each to pack a snack or gum in these bags as well.  It makes them excited to travel and helps to occupy them on long trips.

    Adia Travel
    Adia’s travel pack is on her back in this photo.  We were delayed for about an hour before we could get on our flight and she just grabbed her kindle and was completely content waiting.
  4. No drinks in the van.  I know this seems harsh, but if we happen to go on a long trip, we’ll stop for a meal and they get plenty to drink.  If the trip isn’t long (less than 5 hours), I know my kids can go without drinks for that period of time.  Drinks cause them to have to pee, and with 3 kids, that could mean stopping multiple times at various points of our trip, meaning MORE travel time.  Occasionally, I will allow them to bring a small bottle of water.  We choose water because none of my kids guzzle it and therefore won’t likely need to stop every 30 minutes to use the bathroom.  If I allowed my youngest or my middle child to bring juice or milk, it’d be gone before leaving the driveway and we’d be stopping to use the bathroom 3 times in an hour.  I  promise they are not deprived and we provide our kids with plenty of foods and drinks, and if they need to use the bathroom, we always stop as soon as we can.  😉
  5. Clean up before you get up.  Even if we are just driving to school, I always have my kids clean up anything surrounding them in the car.  If I don’t, our van will collect food scraps, tubes of chapstick, toys, cups, papers, etc. faster than you can say, “mom van.”  I always tell my kids to clean up before they get up and I check that they do it.  This keeps our van so much cleaner each day and it has become part of our expectation and therefore, part of our routine.

 

 

Make. It. Work.

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I’m not an athlete by nature.  I never excelled in any sports and I wouldn’t know my way around a gym to save my life.  I admire people who have skills on the court and stamina on the treadmill, but neither of those things have ever truly been a desire of mine.  However, being healthy yet balanced is a goal of mine.  In certain areas of my life, I tend to be all, “Go big or go home,” but in the arena of food and fitness, I’m working on being more mindful and balanced while also increasing my strength and enriching my health.  With all of that being said, here’s what has been working for me.  I think when we make a goal to be stronger or healthier, it’s tempting to look all around at others to see how they are getting those results.  We will often so desperately want to try to mimic them, but I think it’s important to remember that we are not them.  We can get results too, but the steps to get there have to be steps that make sense to us in our lives.  Below are some ways I make it work for me.

  1. I work out at home.  I knew that in order to gain strength and have a healthier lifestyle, I would need to exercise.  The problem is that I don’t always love to exercise.  When I look at others on social media, I see people going to Orange Theory, joining a gym, hiking outside, running 5k’s and marathons, doing Cross Fit, etc.  All of those things are great, but none of them are practical for me in the season of life I’m in currently.  I’m learning that what is ideal for someone else might not be ideal for me in my situation, and that’s totally ok.  It doesn’t have to keep me from reaching my goals.  My “gym” is my living room.  It’s ideal for me because I can throw in a load of laundry right before I work out and I don’t have to include travel time in to my daily workout time.  I researched a lot of different work outs to do at home and there are waaaaay more out now than ever, with great results to back them up.  I chose to do P90X3 in my home.  I don’t have to find childcare to get to a gym, I can work out in my ugliest, nastiest state and not a soul sees me, I don’t have to pay big money for a membership anywhere (I purchased P90X3 on eBay for around $25), and I like that the workout has variety.  The last time I did this, I followed the “Classic Schedule.”  I lost 20 pounds in 6 months with this combined with macro dieting.  Right now, I want to maintain (or even increase some of) my weight through building muscle.  I’m doing the “Mass Schedule” and I’m loving it.  I’m currently in week 3.
  2. I wake up early.  This one is going to be dependent on personality.  I have friends who love to run on their elliptical or treadmill while watching a show after their kids are in bed at night.  I have other friends who do group classes at a gym right after work.  For me, I don’t have the time to go to a gym consistently and my evenings are usually crazy.  Each week in the evenings, Ike has speech, Isla has gymnastics, Adia has dance, I teach both girls piano, I lead professional developments, I have faculty meetings, etc.  Add on top of that a full time job and you’ve got yourself a busy mom.  I can’t imagine being able to consistently fit in a workout each evening while still allowing time to make dinners, spend time with my kids and my husband, clean, and get ready for the next school day.  I also have no energy at night because I’m so tired from a full day’s work.  I find it difficult at times to wake up at 5:30 AM, but once I’m up and I’m doing it, I enjoy the peace and quiet.  I also get that workout knocked out early so that I don’t have to worry about when and where to squeeze it in to the rest of my day.  If waking up early is unimaginable for you, then when is your prime time?  I don’t suggest that we all wake up at 5:30 AM to exercise, but I do suggest finding your best time within your schedule and devoting that time to your own fitness and well-being.  I don’t think you will regret it and it does not have to be all or nothing.  Personally, I value progress over perfection.  A few years ago, I rarely worked out at all.  My body will never be perfect but I’ve had progress and that motivates me.  Just working out 3 times per week for 30 minutes a session is 78 HOURS of time you are committing in a whole year to take care of you.  78 hours is way better than 0.  (Look at that math!  I amaze myself!)
  3. I count macros.  I’ve talked about this before, but it’s the easiest and most efficient healthy eating I’ve ever been able to stick with long term.  I’ve done Paleo and though there were parts about it that I loved, I found it hard to navigate with so many foods having to be off the table.  I love counting macros because I can eat what my kids eat and I can eat whatever I want as long as it fits my macros.  A lot of people call this “Flexible Dieting,” and that’s exactly why I like it.  Most of the food I eat is really healthy, but I can enjoy a late night donut with my friends or a scoop of ice cream with my kids and maintain my weight and results.  I’ve just learned how to balance what I eat so that I CAN indulge at times.  The MyFitnessPal app makes it incredibly easy to adjust your macro percentages and then plug in the foods you eat each day to track how much protein, fat, and carbs you are consuming.  I have goals for each (protein, fat, and carbs) and I try to reach those goals by the end of the day.  I’ll link more about that here, but I highly suggest contacting Kim Waits to help get you started if it is something you are interested in doing.  I owe the bulk of my health and success to her wisdom and assistance.

So, there you have it.  3 tips for how I make it work for me.  Please understand that I’m not suggesting that everyone out there ditches their gym membership or wakes up at 5:30.  What I am suggesting is this: have a goal, decide on what behaviors you’re going to change/continue/or begin in order to meet that goal, and make some commitments so that you can actually do the behaviors you need to do in order to meet your goal.  Maybe you’re going to take a kickboxing class and you’re going to commit to plan out your schedule each week so you can attend.  Maybe you’re going to run a 5K and you’re going to commit to laying out your running clothes the night before and waking early to run.  Whatever it is, have a system and hold yourself accountable to your system.  Reflect on your system and do what you need to do to make it work.

Quick and Easy Macro Foods and Drinks

I wrote about my love for macro dieting here, but I’d love to jump in a little further and tell you some of my favorite really quick snacks, foods, and protein drink options that make counting macros a little easier and a lot more enjoyable for me.  None of the options below require anything more than a microwave or toaster and there’s no cooking or huge prep involved.  I’ve included the grams for the macros after each description (c = carbs, f = fat, p = protein).

  1. UMP Chocolate Protein Powder.  I seriously drink this stuff almost daily.  I have always hated protein powders.  If I don’t like the way something tastes or the way it makes me feel, then it’s extremely hard for me to continue or drinking it.  However, this stuff actually tastes awesome.  I usually just mix 1 scoop of the chocolate powder with 8 oz of cold water and some crunched up ice in my blender bottle.  4c, 3.5f, 20p (120 calories).
  2. Kodiak Cakes products.  My favorites are the waffle mix (we use this to make mini waffles at home or to make banana muffins) and the frozen vanilla buttermilk waffles.  I top it with Walden Farms syrup and I’m happy. Macros for 2 of the frozen waffles: 29c, 11f, 12p (260 calories)
  3. Danon Light&Fit Yogurt.  My absolute favorite flavor is banana cream, but it’s not a flavor my store typically carries so I buy the strawberry banana and it’s pretty good too. 9c, 0f, 12p (80 calories)
  4. Ole Xtreme Wellness Tortillas.  I love these for breakfast burritos and tacos.  My husband and kids eat these too and can’t tell the difference between these and the higher calorie options we’ve had in the past. 16c, 1.5f, 4p (50 calories)
  5. Protein Crisps.  You can eat SO many of these in a serving.  When you have that hankering for chips or something crispy, these are not a bad choice!  I love the barbecue flavor and the buffalo.  10c, 2.5f, 10p (90 calories)
  6. String Cheese.  I love buying these because they are affordable and everyone in my family can eat them.  When it’s about time for bed but I need a few more grams of protein, it isn’t uncommon for me to reach for one of these. 0.5c, 6f, 1p (80 calories)
  7. Bolthouse Farms Dressings – If you’re wanting to make a quick salad, use a marinade, or have a tasty dip for some veggies, try out these dressings.  It’s really easy to squirt some in a little container and take to work with a bag of veggies.  One of my favorites is the Sweet Heat Sriracha Yogurt flavor.  3c, 3f, 1p (45 calories)
  8. Rice Cakes.  I love the caramel ones and Aldi has their “Fit & Active” mini ones for really cheap.  Sometimes, I get a little sweet tooth and these are just enough to satisfy.  I will also eat a small handful sometimes right before a workout. 7 of the mini Fit & Actives = 1 serving.  13c, 0f, 1p (60 calories)
  9. Cottage Cheese.  I love cottage cheese just by itself, but a lot of people love it mixed with fruit.  It’s pretty high in protein and I actually love to dip veggies in it in place of ranch.  1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese is 4c, 2.5f, 14p (90 calories).
  10. Deli Meat. I’m talking about the good kind…  the kind you actually get from behind the deli.  Find your favorite and get it sliced however you like.  My favorite is the maple turkey sliced super thin.  If it’s this kind or another kind I truly like, I don’t miss the bread.  2 ounces of honey maple turkey is 2c, 0.5f, 14p (70 calories).

I’m sure I’m missing several things, but these are all things that help to add to quick meals or snacks without killing your macro counts for the day.  I hope you find this helpful!  I’ll put up some of my favorite macro recipes soon.

Monthly and Weekly Planning

This year, my word is “balance.”  I always have a lot of great intentions.  I intend to work out, to eat at home, to get the laundry done, to organize that one drawer, to spend quality time with my kids, to find coupons for groceries, etc.  However, if I don’t have any intentionality behind my intentions, I end up feeling defeated or overwhelmed when it all seems to pile up at once or the time passes and it’s not done. In order to have more balance in my life while still getting stuff accomplished, I decided this year to make a flexible plan.  Here’s what that looks like for us in our home.

  1. On the 1st of each month, we fill out a monthly goal plan.  This includes our physical, spiritual, career/learning, financial, and project plans.  This is broad and it doesn’t get into the nitty gritty at all.  For example, a spiritual goal of mine in January was to read the book called Messy Grace and to read the book of Matthew in the Bible.  My physical goal was to complete the first 3 weeks of P90X3 Mass edition, and my financial goal was to save enough money for some car updates and repairs.  Here’s an example of what it looks like for us filled out.  I do this with my husband, but you could do this individually or with your kids too, depending on their ages.  For us and our family, my husband and I decided we can do this together.  One day, we will likely involve the kids in the preplanning, but we aren’t there yet.  This doesn’t take us long at all and it’s simple.  It narrows our focus and helps us to not get distracted by the other 3 million things we feel the need to work on or complete.  We can’t do 3 million things, but we can do a few things really well if we are intentional.img_2915
  2. From there, I just look 1 week at a time and map out my week.  I make little mini goals for each day of the week that will lead us to achieving our overall monthly goals we’ve set.  I don’t always have something written in for each section, but the opportunity is there to write it in if I need to do so.  Here’s an example of what that looks like for us.  On each day, I make some commitments that I track and discuss with Micah in order to help hold myself accountable.  Some of those commitments are harder for me to keep than others. If they were easy, I wouldn’t have to track them or even state them because they would already be in place.  I don’t have to track how often I brush my teeth because I already do it all the time and it doesn’t require any extra motivation or reminders for me to do so, (although flossing is a completely different story….  Whoops.)  My point is that I’m not going to waste time tracking stuff that I already do naturally.  That’s just busy work. img_2917
  3. As the week goes along, I track my behaviors and my commitments and I reflect on my success at the end of the week.  On that next Sunday, I look back over the week with my husband and we talk about how it went and if we are on track to meet those monthly goals we’ve set.

 

I can’t be perfect and neither can you.  I also can’t do it all, no matter how hard I try, so my goal is never perfection.  My goal is learning and growing, so what I pay most attention to is my progress.  At the end of the week AND at the end of the month, we are asking ourselves what celebrations we have.  Did we spend more intentional time with our kids?  If so, how did that impact our relationships with them?  Did I work out harder? If so, am I stronger?  What are some areas where I (or we) can improve?   Is there anything we need to stop, start, or continue doing?  This leads to us creating our next weekly plan and it’s how we lead into our next monthly goal plan.  If you have a google account, you can click on this link to get a free copy of the monthly sheet and weekly plan I made.  You can edit this to tailor it to your own liking.  Take off the stuff you won’t use and add in things you want on there.  Feel free to print it off and see if it helps you make progress toward your goals.  If you do, I’d love some feedback.  This sheet isn’t perfect and I’m thinking of new ways to customize it even further for my own liking, but it’s helped me get off to a great start this year and I’d love to know if you find it helpful too!

Tea Parties

Before I ever had children, I imagined myself as a “boy mom.”  I don’t know why, but for some reason, I just always thought that if I was blessed enough to have children of my own, I’d have a house full of boys.  So, when I had two girls back to back (only 15 months apart in age), I was immersed in all things girl.  Though I never felt anything but immense love and gratitude for my daughters, there were moments when I felt a little too glittery and pink and floofy as I was quickly surrounded by dress up clothes and dolls.  My daughters (especially my oldest) love entering a room with a twirl and leaving nothing but glitter behind, which made this “non-cutesy” mom have a whole new perspective on appreciating my daughters for exactly who God created them to be.  I had to embrace the feather boas and adore the princess dresses as I watched their sweet imaginations blossom.  I never want my daughters to feel like they are better than anyone else or entitled, but I do want them to always feel like they are beautifully and wonderfully made, just like all of the other unique women God created so intricately.

Since my daughters love to dress up and feel fancy, I decided to start doing tea parties with them from time to time.  Tea parties are supposed to be fun, but they also have so much potential if we just look at them as an opportunity to help our daughters grow into strong, graceful women.  It also gives me the chance to soak up their innocence and embrace this sweet age.

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At our tea parties, we talk about the following:

  1. Women in our family: those who came before them and the ones who surround them now.  This is one of my favorite things to talk with them about and one of their very favorite things to hear about.  I tell them about my “Memom,” (my grandmother) who said, “ESTA!” when she’d sneeze and who loved UK basketball more than anyone I’d ever known.  I also tell them about how she served others, even in her times of grief and struggle.  I tell them about their great aunt Lori, who passed at the age of 36 and how the tea set we use came from her.  I tell them about her hilarious laugh and how she always made others feel special.  We talk about their aunts and grandmothers and they ask me to retell the same stories to them over and over again as we find inspiration in the grit and grace that came before us and still surrounds us today.
  2. Table manners and kindness.  We practice how to be polite at the table, how to look people in the eye when we have discussions, how to say, “Thank you,” and, “Please.” We also set the expectation so that our discussion with each other is always encouraging and uplifting with everyone at the tea party.
  3. Serving others.  Tea parties are a great opportunity to talk with them about how it brings me joy to get to serve them their tea and treats and I ask them to serve each other.  We talk about how doing so is not only kind to the others at the table, but how it makes us feel when we serve.

Here’s how we set up tea parties in our home to make them more than a party and less of a hassle.

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  1. The food is stuff I already have in my pantry.  I shop at Aldi and I purchase a few things that could double as something “fancy.”  Below are some items I’ve used before for our parties, but I’m sure you could use anything.  You could also use this as a time to get picky eaters to try something “new and fancy” you’ve been wanting  them to try.
    • Dried fruit (we love dried mango)
    • Fresh fruit
    • Toast with different type of jam
    • Cheese (I have ever taken string cheese and cut it into small pieces)
    • Salami slices
    • Muffins (I often buy the Garden Lite Muffins from Costco, which are full of veggies.  They are frozen and thaw quickly with the help of a microwave.)
    • Nuts
    • Pirouettes (these just seem soooo fancy to my girls)
  2. I make a small pot of tea, and when it’s gone, it’s gone.  I typically use decaf or a low caf green tea.
  3. Instead of using sugar for them to mix, I usually use sweetened liquid coffee creamer for them to pour.  It’s already sweet and it’s less of a mess, and they also love to pour things.
  4. The girls get to dress up.  Sometimes, they’ll ask me to fix their hair fancy or to paint their nails.  If time permits, I honestly love to do both because it’s extra time I get to spend with them.  But if dressing up isn’t your thing, then it’s not your thing.  On Christmas Eve morning, we do a tea party and we do it in our PJ’s.
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Fancied Up Tea Party
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Christmas Eve PJ Tea Party

Kid Chore/Responsibility Chart

Do you ever remember doing chores as a kid?  Or do you ever remember feeling like taking a shower was a punishment from Satan himself?  How dare your parents require you to bathe.  You swam today, dangit.  Didn’t your parents know that chlorine kills all the germs and that evenings were for playing, TGIF, and not putting the dishes away?  Then, it happened.  You grew up.  You got a job, a home, and kids of your own and all of a sudden, you realized why your parents not only needed a little help (sorry, Mom), but that they were really trying to instill in you the importance of taking care of your home, each other, and learning important skills you would one day need when you didn’t have Mom or Dad there to hound you to do it all.

But what if the evenings don’t have to come with nagging?  What if the activities leading up to bed put more ownership and responsibility on your kids and less stress on you after a busy day?  Well, it isn’t a perfect world, so I can’t guarantee your evenings will be stress free with a magical system, but I can tell you that coming up with a system has helped all of us in this house tremendously.  We aren’t perfect, and I still struggle inwardly when I look down the hallway and see my child playing with slime instead of brushing her hair, but I can tell you that I don’t yell at her for it anymore.  Instead, I let her fail.  She doesn’t beat her timer and then she’s a little down on herself.  That’s when we have a calm discussion – after the timer has gone off.  I go over her chart with her and I ask her to reflect on her behaviors.  It goes something like this:

Me: “Adia, I noticed you couldn’t circle your clock tonight.  What happened?”

Adia: “I don’t know.”

Me: “Let’s look at the behaviors you said you were going to try to commit to.  Were you silent?”

Adia: “Yes, but I played and it got me distracted, so I couldn’t beat my timer.”

Me: “How does that make you feel?”

Adia: “Sad.  I really wanted to beat my timer.”

Me: “What will you do next time so you can be happy when the timer goes off?”

Adia: “I’ll work harder during my chores so I can play later.”

I want my kids to see that their behaviors directly impact their success.  It’s a reflective habit that I want to help instill in them now, even with something as small as being efficient with a nightly routine.

The following were key for us:

  1. Know what your children are capable of.  They are capable of way more than what you’d think.  There are some things I KNOW they are capable of doing at these ages because I’ve modeled it for them, watched them do it correctly, and have given them praise for doing so.  For the things they have tried and haven’t done quite successfully yet, I still praise them for their effort and tell them we’ll keep working on some of those things together.  For example, Isla can’t vacuum on her own quite yet.  It’s still a little heavy for her and she struggles to work it correctly, so for now, we model it for her and let her have some tries each time we get it out.  For a list of some ideas to model with your kids, check out this link.
  2. Create a system that supports a no nagging policy.  When I made the chart below, I made it WITH Adia.  Prior to doing this, I set timers for my kids and they had a list of responsibilities to complete and check off, but they often times were not completing all of their responsibilities or we were constantly on them, which made it way more stressful for both us and them.  We decided to set a goal statement like this: “I will go from beating my night time timer on some nights to beating my night time timer every night.”  Then, we talked about behaviors that would help her meet her goal.  She named the behaviors below and we both agreed.  I told her when I gave her this chart that I would not give her any reminders (other than verbal time like, “10 minutes left”) and that I would not yell or raise my voice at all. I will be honest and say that this isn’t always easy, but it’s important.  I don’t want my kids to associate learning and hard work with feelings of inadequacy.

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*****Level 1 prizes are things such as stickers, glitter pens, glitter glue, fun pencils, etc.  Level 2 prizes are things like Dum Dum Suckers, a piece of gum, mints, small candies, etc.  Level 3 prizes are bath bombs, nail polish, my old makeup, lip glosses.  Star prizes are bigger things, but not necessarily expensive things.  They’re also things we often times do anyways, but it makes the kids feel pretty special to know they “earned” it…  stuff like making muffins with Mom, or Chick Fil a with Dad, or a spa day with me where I paint their nails and let them take bubble baths.  *****

3. Follow through.  If you show them that you value this process by reflecting on how they did with them each week and giving them the rewards they earn, AND you keep up with your end of the deal (no nagging, no reminders, etc.), they will learn to prioritize and value the system too.  Goals will be achieved when a successful system is in place.  If you have a goal that you aren’t achieving, whether it is with your kids or a personal goal of your own, you have to reflect on the system you’ve put in place.  If there isn’t a system, it likely won’t take off.  Systems require specific behaviors to take place, so we have to be willing to reflect on our actions.  For me, I view this responsibility chart as an opportunity to teach my kids about goal setting, learning from our mistakes, and trying to help them develop a growth mindset.  I don’t ever want them to feel like they aren’t good enough, but I do want them to celebrate their growth and always strive to keep growing.

Recently, I shared some about this on Instagram, which allowed some great questions to come my way.  I’ve decided to answer lots of those questions below.

Q: How old were they when they started their night time chores?

A: They have had night time chores for a couple of years and right now, they are 6 and 8, but we have only done it with this system for about the past 4-5 months.

Q: Does your son have any chores?

A: Our son is 3, and he does have some chores, but not like the girls.  He puts his dishes in the sink, trash from his meals in the trash can, carries his laundry upstairs, picks up his toys, etc. but he isn’t quite mature enough to do certain things on his own.

Q: How long do you set their timers?

A: Since part of the girls’ night time responsibilities includes showering, we set their timers for about 45 minutes to an hour depending on the volume of what they need to complete.

Q: Where did you come up with this?

A: I’m an educator, so I’ve done a ton with students with behavior charts, goal setting, and relationship building.  A lot of this comes from my teacher brain, trial and error, and some training on the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution, which is a great book all about how to achieve the goals you set.

Q: What if they beat the timer and the chores are not done well?

A: Prior to ever giving them this list, we modeled the chores for them, we did them together, and then we had them demonstrate the chore or responsibility for us.  I can’t expect them to do something to mastery if I’ve never taught them and allowed them to demonstrate their abilities to me (Hi there, Educator Mom).  For this reason, I know how to respond.  I know my daughter struggles to make her top bunk bed.  It’s hard to do.  Her level of ability (though not perfect at all) is ok.  I know she puts forth effort and I know how hard it is for me to make her bed, so I don’t expect it to look pristine.  However, I know she can clean off the kitchen table well.  There have been a couple of times when we’ve noticed that she didn’t clean it well or there were several crumbs left behind (even though we saw her wiping it off).  When she didn’t perform the task well, if the timer has not gone off and she tells us, “I beat my timer,” if we check and see that something is not done well or not completed, we will ask her to try again.  If she tries again successfully before the timer goes off, she can circle her timer on her chart.  If she doesn’t, or if we don’t notice until we check after the timer has gone off, we’ll ask her to clean it again and tell her she can’t circle her timer that night.

Q: What are their night time routines/chores?

A: Initially, we just made them a pictorial chart that we tucked inside of a page protector.  They would circle their chores as they did them with an Expo marker.  Eventually, it became so routine that they had them all memorized.  Our issue was just time and efficiency.  Here are their chores/routine:

  • Pick up all toys
  • Clean up their dishes after dinner
  • Clean the kitchen island and table
  • Help fold and put away all of their own laundry (including some of their bathroom towels)
  • Brush and floss teeth
  • Brush hair
  • Shower (every other night, but pretty much every night in the summer)
  • Put lotion on and get dressed
  • Clean the bathroom sink
  • Put dirty clothes in the hamper
  • Occasionally added: cleaning out ears, clipping nails, sweeping the kitchen floor, putting away dishes from the dishwasher, etc.

Macro Dieting

It’s January 1st, which is probably the most popular time of the year for people to begin setting goals.  I was at a training a few weeks ago for work where I heard a very obvious quote, but it stuck with me and I couldn’t get it out of my head.  Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling wrote a pretty powerful book called “The 4 Disciplines of Execution,” all about setting and achieving your goals.  In it, they write, “To achieve a goal you have never achieved before, you must start doing things you have never done before.”  Sounds pretty obvious, right?  However, I think so many of us have these big desires and we want to get to them, but our strategies to get there are often based on hope, chance, or uncertainty.  It’s also kind of the punch in the gut we need in order to stop making excuses and to change our behaviors.  Behaviors influence our success.  Period.  If our behaviors aren’t leading to success, (no matter what our goals are), we won’t reach our goals, meaning we have to change our behaviors.

Flash back to January of 2018.  The niece I had given birth to (yep, you read that right….  read about my surrogacy journey here) was 4 months old.  I had just quit pumping breast milk and the baby weight did not come off so easily this time.  That pregnancy was a huge blessing and growing period for me (both literally and figuratively), but I entered the new year ready to shift my focus from the health and nourishment of this sweet baby I birthed, to taking care of the body that carried her.  My word for the year was “stronger,” and I can tell you with 100% certainty that I became exactly that.

I set a goal.  My goal was to go from __________ pounds to __________ pounds by June 26, 2018 (which was my pre-baby weight.). I had to lose 20 pounds to meet my goal.  Here were my behaviors I knew I had to begin in order to reach my goal:

  1. Do P90X3 5-6 times per week.  I chose this because it’s only 30 minutes.  I bought it off of eBay, which was very budget friendly and the workouts had enough variety and the research to back up it effectiveness.  I chose to wake every weekday around 5:30 AM in order to get my workout done.  This was a huuuuge behavior change for me, but I knew that getting it done first thing in the day would set me up for success and I wouldn’t have to worry about it the rest of the day.
  2. Macro Dieting: I signed up through Kim Waits and gave her all of my info including my height and weight, my goal, etc.  She set my macros for me in order to set me up for success.

What is macro dieting?

Macros are carbs, fats, and protein.  Kim set my macros so that 40% of my diet was carbs, 30% was protein, and 30% was fats.  As for my calories, she set those for me too, but I don’t want to list that here simply because that is a number that needs to be very intentionally customized based on your height, weight, and goals.  This is why I think it’s so important to work with Kim.  She is the expert, and I am not.

How did I track all of that?

Easily and efficiently.  I work full time and I have 3 kids.  I don’t have time to count things constantly or do a ton of work to keep track of it all.  Fortunately, the myFitnessPal app does all of this for you.  For many foods, I could just scan the label on the package and it would go straight into my daily diary.  If I can figure it out and have time for it, then it must be easy and efficient!

How do I figure out my macros and calories?

Contact Kim Waits!  Click on this link. Her pricing is super affordable, and your health is worth the price.  You can also look up a lot of research on the benefits of macro dieting and how to set goals by doing a simple Pinterest search, but I would definitely recommend working with someone like Kim who can tailor a plan for you.  I initially tried doing the research myself and found that I had set my calorie intake too high.  I wasn’t gaining weight, but I wasn’t losing either, meaning I wasn’t going to meet my goal.

What are the benefits of macro dieting?

  1. Learning about food.  To me, this was the most impactful.  Prior to macro dieting, I didn’t realize how little protein I was actually consuming.  I thought I ate a lot of protein because I like meat and I thought I was being super healthy by eating a ton of fruits and vegetables.  What I learned was that I was too heavy on carbs, which I would burn and then get hungry again.  Even eating healthy foods in excess is still excess.  I was overeating and not getting enough protein to sustain me.  Once I learned about ways to get more protein, I was content and I wasn’t hungry all the time.  I also just felt better.  I didn’t eliminate carbs, but I learned how to use them to fuel me instead of comforting me.  I didn’t have to eliminate all sugar, I just had to learn how to balance out my foods so that I wasn’t overdoing it.  It taught me a ton about moderation.
  2. Nothing is off limits.  I still had Moonrise Donuts, I just preplanned and balanced the rest of my day so that I could have that treat in the evening with my family.  There’s not 1 thing I ever had to give up in order to do this.  I just had to be mindful and intentional about what I ate and when.  I never made separate meals for me and m family.  I just learned about proportions and balance.
  3. I can do it forever.  It’s a way of life and I don’t have to cut out bread for the rest of my life.  I can sustain.

So, how is it going now?

I met my goal weight in June and I have lost 2 pounds since then.  I’ve maintained that weight without tracking my macros in myFitnessPal, but I still apply what I’ve learned about macros daily.  Over the holidays, I ate what I wanted, just like I ate whatever I wanted on my cruise back in June.  I just get right back into the swing of things as soon as those holidays or vacations are over and I get right back to the weight I was before all of the excess fun.

I’m starting a new challenge to maintain my weight and have more muscle tone beginning this new year.  Over the past couple of months, I haven’t been diligent in my workouts and I can tell.  I’m excited to get back to it and to focus on my new word this year: BALANCE.

Here are some of my before and afters:

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