This article originally appeared on Mind, Body, Green January 20, 2014.
At times, growing up as an only child was hard for me. I used to get so bored playing all by myself. I'd gather my stuffed animals and play pretend school or I'd make mud pies outside. As I got a bit older, I decided I'd definitely have three kids so they'd always have a playmate.
In 2002, I had my daughter and then went through a divorce shortly afterward. Being a single mom with only one kid was definitely easier than having three, but it still brought up my childhood feelings of always longing for a sibling. I felt I had failed my daughter by being a single mom with her so young. The last thing I needed, or wanted, at that point was another child.
So I embraced the fact that my three-kid dreams were over and that I'd be absolutely content with just this one awesome daughter. Here are some tips that have made life fun for her:
1. Always have friends over.
Since my daughter was little, I always had my friends over (and, as she grew older, her friends). I set up playdates frequently so she could enjoy board games with someone besides me. (One mom can only take so many games of Candy Land before she wants to set it on fire!) Now that she's in middle school, we have kids in and out of the house all day, every day. They bring so much life into our world and it’s a great way for me to know my daughter on a deeper level.
2. Be fully present with your child.
The worst thing you can do is turn on the TV as a baby-sitter. While this works great sometimes, it’s not a good daily solution. Go get frozen yogurt or window-shop at the mall. Turn off your phone and just be with your child. You'll find this leads to deeper conversations as they get older and you'll cherish these times together.
3. Keep busy in the community.
I always check the newspaper for local events such as farmer’s markets, craft fairs, dinosaur exhibits at the park, etc. Anything that was free (or cheap), we'd make a day of it. Staying home was sure to cause us tension and boredom.
4. Hang out with other families.
Since my parents died, we were left short in the grandparent department, and we'd do Thanksgiving and Christmas with my friends and their families. Luckily, I have some amazing friends who took us in as their own.
5. Let the child help you as much as possible.
I'd get home from work exhausted, but found if I let my daughter “help” with dinner, she loved it. I got her a stool so she could reach the sink and even wash dishes.
6. Have a movie night in your adult bed and let them sleep with you.
We'd make quiet Friday nights fun by having popcorn while watching Dumbo for the 20th time. My daughter loved it and it was something special we shared together.
7. Pick an activity and sign up your child.
It helps to try one at a time so you don’t run yourself ragged trying to keep up with everything! For my daughter, we started with dance then moved onto gymnastics. Then she tried tennis and golf. When she was 8, I signed her up for volleyball at our local rec center. After the first season, she knew without a doubt that she wanted to continue and loved it more than anything else she had tried. She's now 12 and has made some amazing friends through the sport.
8. Bring one or two of her friends with us when we go out to do fun things.
I love hearing the kids sing in the backseat of the car and this is a great way to keep up with what's going on in their lives. Having a friend is sometimes more fun than just mom, especially when we're going places like a water park. It lets me relax a bit while the kids have a blast.
These are all things that have worked for me in raising a healthy, happy and well-rounded pre-teen. While I wish I could have had more kids, for us, our little family is filled with amazing friends and lots of laughter.
I wrote a quick "5 Things" for my daughter's middle school PTA newsletter and thought I would share it here as well. I might add, we are not perfect over here. Now in our 4th week of school we are finally getting the routine down and I have only had to make one trip up to school with a forgotten item. Which technically should have been avoided but I gave in to my daughter's argument that it was "just fine" to wear flip flops to school. No sooner had I dropped her off when my phone rings with her asking me to bring "closed-toe shoes" because it is required in her science class. Don't you wish our kids would just trust us sometimes???
Anyways, now onto the quick 5 things you can do to have healthy, happy kiddos:
Now that school is back in full swing, we have all hopefully settled into our new routines. This abrupt change in schedule from the relaxed weeks of summer can be stressful for the entire family and put kids at risk for getting sick. Starting a fresh year is a great time to implement healthier habits for our kids. Here are 5 things we can do as parents to keep our kids healthy and happy:
1. Plenty of sleep: For kids 12-18 years old, it is recommended they get at least 8-9 hours of sleep each night. Establish a nighttime routine and try to have lights out by 9 or 10pm to ensure they are well rested for the school day.
2. Healthy breakfast: When we sleep too late and rush out the door, it causes our kids to have anxiety and stress before getting into the classroom. Get up a bit earlier to make sure there is time for them to sit down and enjoy a healthy breakfast. Some suggested ideas are: Coconut yogurt with granola and fresh berries, apple slices with nut butter and toast, green smoothie, or even a burrito with black beans, eggs and salsa. Try to keep away from anything packaged as they are filled with preservatives and sugar.
3. Stay active: This is very important for the middle school years as our kids are developing habits they will take into high school and their adult years. Make sure as parents we are encouraging them to be involved in sports that interest them or even taking a family bike ride. If your child shows interest in something, do your best to allow them to explore new things. Team sports are a great way to stay active as well as meet new friends in the community.
4. Lay off the caffeine: Our children should not need caffeine to get through their days. Always make water the easiest and fastest drink for them when thirsty. Many kids are mildly dehydrated every day because they are consuming way more sugary drinks than water. Set the example as a parent and drink your share of water as well. If possible, don’t have
sodas and sugary juices at home. Save these as a treat when you go out or on the weekend.
5. Stay organized: I know this is difficult to do, but it takes the anxiety and stress off of everyone in the busy mornings. Have your student pick out their clothes and pack their backpacks the night before. Establishing this healthy routine will set our children up for success as adults by planning ahead. It will also mean less trips by parents to the school dropping off forgotten items.
Here’s to a great, healthy new school year!
I have always worked full-time since my daughter was born so I haven't had the chance to be a "PTA Mom." I was always willing to send in $20 for whatever the PTA needed, but I just didn't have the time to volunteer myself. This year, my daughter started middle school (6th Grade) and I decided that I would find time to be more involved. I am realizing how fast these years are flying by and want to make sure I don't miss anything. I also want to know what is going on with her and the school that she spends 8 hours at each day.
So when I saw there was an opening for the "Healthy Lifestyles Chair" I immediately signed up. I didn't give myself time to second guess it or list all the reasons why I couldn't do it. How could I not make time for something like this?
So tonight I am sitting here trying to put together my official Plan Of Work for this position that apparently has no history or guidelines to work from. I have been reading until my eyes are crossing about what other schools in Texas have done. What I am discovering is exactly why we need more health information in our schools.
Here are a few statistics that I came across that are really alarming:
Most kids, and lots of adults, naturally reach for a Coke or energy drink when they are thirsty or feeling tired. It has become a full blown habit. And we all know that habits are hard to break.
Every time we drink a sugary soda, we are consuming a huge amount of sugar and completely empty calories. So what do we do? What can I do with this position I have volunteered for? I think the answer is education. Many kids have no idea how bad these sodas and energy drinks are for them. Did you know that one 20 ounce can of Coke has 17.6 teaspoons of sugar? Drinking just one of these a day could contribute enough extra calories to equal 27 pounds a year. Now that is just crazy!
Here is what I propose for parents out there:
I still have to finish writing my POW for the PTA. I am not even sure where to start! But I am going to do my best to fulfill this position as best I can.
Having already watched my parents both die from cancer, my life has been altered drastically. It has been 10 years since my dad died and 4 for my mom. Every now and then my phone will ring and I will find myself thinking its her calling. I think of them every single day and am so thankful to have had them in my life for the time that I did. I learned a lot from these losses and wrote about it to hopefully help others that have been in my shoes. Life is fragile, make the most of it!
When my mom realized her cancer was terminal, she told me she wanted to have her funeral before she died. She didn't want everyone to show up after it was over, she wanted to see them while she still could. This photo to the left was taken that day. What an amazing time she had, even though she was very sick. I threw her the best pre-funeral in less than 10 days that I could and over 100 of our family and friends came to join us. What a blessing!
This article originally appeared on Mind, Body, Green July 31, 2013:
Death. It's a word many people don’t like to discuss. However, death is inevitable for each and every one of us, and it's something that should be discussed openly with loved ones. Unfortunately, I've had to witness quite a few deaths over the past decade, which has taught me many life lessons.
Here are some of them:
1. Life is not long enough to justify staying in situations that make you
After watching my dad die at the age of 61, it put my life into perspective. I was 29 at the time and a new mother. My dad had been the definition of health and somehow ended up with cancer that took his life within six months of diagnosis. Immediately after his death, I evaluated my own life and realized that my marriage wasn’t healthy for me. If he had not died, I probably would have stayed, miserable, for many more years.
2. Put family first.
My mom had breast cancer at age 54 and, after treatment, was considered cancer-free for five years. At the five-year mark, she found out that it had come back in her bones, lungs and other areas. The doctors told me that she was
terminal and had maybe a few months to live. Being an only child and not having my father for help, I had to make huge decisions about what to do. I was fortunate to be able to afford to quit my job and devote myself to my mother fully and help her through the process of dying. She ended up living for 13 months and those are months that I cherish and am so thankful to have had with her.
3. You must give yourself time and space to grieve.
I learned this the hard way. When my dad died, I had a one-year-old and was going through a divorce. In addition, my mom had extreme depression, and I had her move into an apartment with me and my daughter, so I could keep an eye on her. I was still in the caregiving role and wasn’t able to begin to process the magnitude of losing my dad. He had always been the strong one in our family, and without him there to guide me through the toughest time in my life, my solution was to not deal with it.
Fast forward ten years. My body forced me to deal with it and wouldn’t allow me to go another day without resolution. What I've learned is that the best thing is to deal with grief as quickly as possible, but also remember that everyone grieves in a different way and in different time frames. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t just “get over it” in what you feel is the right timeframe. You really don’t ever forget, but it does get easier as time passes. In order to deal with grief, you have to find what works best for you. There are lots of avenues including counseling and support groups.
4. Lean on friends and family for support, even if you think they won't understand.
I am blessed to have a few amazing close friends that I could have turned to after my parent’s death. In hindsight, I should have reached out more to my friends for help through such a difficult time. However, I didn’t want to bother anyone with my sadness, and I really felt as if they wouldn’t understand. I now know that even though they had not experienced such loss, they could have helped me cope during the hard days. Your close friends are there for
a reason: because they love you and care about you. Let them help you through times of grief and loss.
5. Tell your loved ones how you feel about them as much as possible.
I never thought in a million years that my dad would actually die. I knew he was sick with cancer, but I assumed he would beat it since he was so strong. So when the call came from my mom that he was being life-flighted to Houston and
might not live, it was a huge shock to me. By the time I saw them wheel him into the ICU, I realized that he was not going to make it much longer. I held his hand and told him that I loved him. That was all I had to say because I had told
him how much l loved and appreciated him my entire life. I didn’t need to tell him anything more, he already knew.
6. Even if your loved one isn’t responding, he is still there until the last breath.
My mom was at an in-patient hospice facility for 11 days. For eleven full days, I sat by her side and waited for her to die. I counted her breaths, I felt her feet, I watched for all the signs that she was in the final hours. But they never came. It was about Day 9 when the Hospice Chaplain came to me and told me that she was going to pass away on her own time. He said she wasn’t ready yet. He instructed me to go in and tell her that it was okay for her to let go. This was the hardest thing I have ever done. I held her hand, and touched her cheeks as I told her that she could go and that I was going to be
all right. After I said what I needed to say, a tear ran down her cheeks. I know she heard me. Even though she hadn’t been able to speak for almost two weeks, she was still with me and knew that she had my permission to get go. She took
her last breath the following day with me by her side.
7. The cliche is true: live each day like it were your last.
My dad was always saving money for retirement. He had huge plans for the golden years and saved accordingly. I remember he and my mom struggling financially and not taking the best trips because he was so busy saving for the
future. Well, the future never came for them, and neither one of them got to enjoy retirement. I've learned to find a balance between saving for retirement, but still taking that vacation you've been putting off. We have all heard that
saying about live each day like it were your last. You don’t have to go that extreme, but be aware that life is fragile and is a wonderful gift.
Choose to live life to the fullest!
Today was not a good day for my daughter. It is the day that she found out (finally) that Santa isn't real. In addition, she put two and two together and determined for herself that the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny are out as well. It wasn't my intention to do this, but in some way, I am finally glad to have this all out in the open.
See, my daughter is 11 and will be entering 6th grade which is Middle School here. I knew she believed in Santa and just haven't had the heart to tell her. Why would you want to spoil something like that? But I have been conflicted because ALL of her friends know the truth but she still believed. I even heard her having a heated debate with a friend once over the validity of the tooth fairy.
To be honest, doing the Santa thing gets much harder when your kids are older. And don't even get me started on the tooth fairy. Since its summer, she stays up later than me and it is darn near impossible to get that money under the pillow without setting an alarm to get up at 4 in the morning. That just seems a bit absurd. However, I have been playing along very well all these years.
Today I picked her up from her grandfather's house and she had a bag with her name on it. My husband said, "Where did you get that cute bag?" and I immediately said "Oh, I ordered it from Pottery Barn Kids a few years ago." And then I saw her face...OH EM GEE!!! She looked deflated and I couldn't figure out why. It's just a bag, what's the big deal? Then she told me that it was given to her by Santa and I immediately remembered this to be true.
See, its hard to keep in your mind what YOU gave the kid and what Santa left over the years. I have been doing this perfectly for eleven full years. In my mind, I think I did a pretty good job making it this long. I know many parents that were "outed" years ago.
After about an hour of processing all of this and not speaking to me, she seemed to come to terms with it in her own way. We had a family discussion about the importance of giving and receiving. We also talked about how Christmas is more about family and love than it is about getting presents. It was a good conversation and one I am glad we were able to have together.
I'm not going to lie, I am kind of excited that I don't have to struggle with hiding presents and sorting out the night before. But at the same time, I am realizing every day how fast she is growing up. Before I know it, she will be off to college and I will look back on these times fondly.
So to make up for my huge "mess-up" today, I told her to call a friend for a sleepover at our house tonight. In only the way children can do, she was immediately jumping up and down and I can promise you, that Santa was no longer on her mind.
Taking time out and "FOMO"
I didn't realize how badly that I needed to get away from everything until I was in the mountains of Arizona last week with my husband's family. As soon as I started to breathe in the fresh air and feel the cool breeze, I knew I was in the right place.
I have been going non-stop for several months now and felt like I was managing stress and my time wisely. But there is something about getting out of the house and going somewhere new. I was able to just enjoy being with family without the daily distractions of working 2 jobs, cooking, laundry, bills, etc. I actually had my cell phone off for most of the trip which felt amazing.
My husband's step-mom told me about something she read called "FOMO." Of course I had to know what this meant. She said it is "Fear of Missing Out." Many people are constantly on Facebook or social media and ignore all that is going on around them. She explained that these types of people are constantly checking their Facebook for fear that they might miss something important. I found this to be quite true as I see it all the time. Everywhere I turn people are on their phones while doing other things. Our society has taken multi-tasking to a whole new level...which can sometimes be unhealthy.
So for me, getting away to enjoy beautiful scenery and be fully present with my family was the most amazing vacation ever and exactly what I needed.
I arrived home with loads of laundry and things to do but just felt an overall sense of peace and just tackled things one at a time.
I encourage you to put the phone down, step away for the computer and just enjoy the moment you are in, the present.
My mission as a Certified Health Coach is to make the world a happier, healthier place, one person, one meal at a time, with love and gratitude. I work to inspire others to live a life of prevention and overall wellness!