10 ways to reward your kids that don’t involve cash, toys, or the Target dollar section

My kids have no concept of the cost of things. I could give them a $1 bill or a $100 bill and until recently, they would have meant the same thing to them. It helped me learn to start giving my nieces and nephews their birthday money in $1 bills because they feel so rich when they open their card!

So when I realized that my kids weren’t understanding the reward at the Target dollar section was different from a Roblox gift card or a new Lego kit, I knew I had to change up how we rewarded good behavior.

Here are my top ten ways to reward kids for little to no cost. A hint—they really just want our time.

  1. Staying up late. My kids have pretty strict bedtimes, and they’re pretty early. Partially because they are early risers and mostly because I just want time alone/with my partner at the end of the night. So when I let my kids stay up for an extra 30 or 60 minutes to watch extra tv, play a board game, or fidget trade with their sibling—it’s a hit.
  2. Movie Night. Similar to staying up late, but this one has a purpose! Family movie night is still a big hit in my house. Getting to pick the movie and know they can have popcorn on the couch while snuggling up with me goes a long way to encourage good behavior!
  3. Choose dinner. I do meal planning most of the time, and we don’t eat out often. So my kids would consider it a big treat to get to swap up the meal for a night (like order pizza or sushi) or get to choose the restaurant (especially because mine would choose McDonald’s, which makes me cringe and I never voluntarily take them there)
  4. Bring lunch to school (or milkshake to practice). With covid, this isn’t an option for me right now, but my kids used to love the special days when either myself or a grandparent would come for lunch and bring them something special to eat! Plus, just the time together and getting to sit at the special parents and guests table! If you can’t take things to school or your kid wouldn’t want you to come, try bringing them a treat to the end of sports practice or music lesson.
  5. Breakfast or coffee before school. Can you start your kid off on the right foot with special one-on-one time with you? Since the pandemic started, I’ve started using Starbucks as my treat, and my kids often ask for me to get them a milkshake (the creme frappuccino). And I always say no. This is mama’s treat. So when they earn a reward and get mama’s treat? Double win!
  6. Buy them something they need (shh!). Could your son use a new soccer ball for this season? Your daughter some new swimsuits? Or shorts for school? Think about something that would be exciting to them but also something they could use. I like this a lot with my new middle schooler. She’s overhauling her style and trying to figure out what’s cool to wear and that’s clearly no longer Cat & Jack from Target.
  7. Screen time! Maybe you have strict rules today for screens, and maybe you don’t. I’ve gone through waves of limiting time and then sometimes I don’t limit much at all. I am strict on apps they can use and their iPads have quiet time starting around 8 until 7 the next morning. It’s special when I increase their app limits, and this is a go-to that I use often! You want 2 hours extra of Roblox today? Ok, you need to clean your room and get the clothes in your drawers all folded nicely!
  8. Game night. My kids LOVE when we get to play games—probably because we don’t get to do them often because we have a 2 year old who prohibits a lot of organized play! But Pictionary Air is one of our favorites lately—you have a pen that connects to your tablet or phone, so someone is drawing in the air (not able to see what they are doing) and it shows up on someone’s phone/tablet. It’s hilarious!
  9. Sleepovers. Sleepovers with a friend, sleepovers with mom or dad, sleepovers with a sibling. All of these are big wins in my house. As a former single mom, my kids would often get nights of snuggling up in bed with me, so when they get the chance to do that now, they love it. Plus, my older two are still in a phase where they love to stay up later together and share a bed.
  10. When in doubt, dessert first. I don’t like to use sweets or junk food for a reward. But, I’m not above switching up the order of a meal. What kid wouldn’t want to have their cookies or bowl of ice cream before they’ve eaten their chicken and veggies? Especially if their brothers or sisters have to watch them eat the treat before they get it!

I hope you’ll try a few of these! And if you have other ideas, send them my way! I’m always looking for creative and new ways to recognize and thank my kids for doing great things!

My eye opening awakening into the privilege associated with 504 and IEP plans

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If any of you have seen your child struggle in school, you know the pain and frustration that comes with helping them succeed. My journey with this started when my oldest was in third grade, and this year she started middle school. I was a nervous wreck for this transition and I have to keep totally cool so she feels confident.

It was her teacher to helped us recognize that she had ADHD when she was 8. We were 3 weeks into third grade and she had all Ds. We had just started a new school so we reached out to her to meet and ask if we should drop her back a grade since she was new and no one knew her anyway. Her teacher talked us out of it, and she helped us navigate the IEP/504 process.

We FOUGHT for our kid to have 504 accommodations, and the school fought us tooth and nail for anything we asked for. It was infuriating. And even scarier, I have since learned that teachers are kind of afraid to speak up too. It took a long time to connect the dots, but thinking back—her teacher was always telling us she couldn’t put certain things in writing, only wanted to talk on the phone, and regularly told me that she “shouldn’t be telling” me this.

Still, even with 504 in hand, she continued to struggle. Her Ds moved to Bs and Cs, but her confidence kept falling. And then covid happened and seeing her struggle with virtual and screens was so apparent. This time, we didn’t have a teacher to support us through the system, so I fought like hell to get her the help she needed. We have close to ten 504 meetings during the school year last year, and while I fully understand that it’s hard for teachers to accommodate students, but this is what you signed up for. It is literally a teacher’s job to help their kids.

And still, it wasn’t enough. Push back. Lack of follow through. Infuriating.

This summer, I paid for outside testing that the school wasn’t willing to do. What she had done in third grade showed areas of weakness but nothing was “low enough” to warrant anything. But with outside testing, they can dive deep on areas of concern, and after five hours of testings, they uncovered a splattering of processing issues and dyslexia. My husband and I felt so much sadness and relief for her. All of these struggles, and the school couldn’t (wouldn’t?) help us get to the root of them.

We are beyond fortunate to have the means to go outside the school to make this happen, and it makes me so angry for all of the kids that don’t have this support. It makes me want to shout from the rooftops all I’m learning as we navigate this complicated system and it makes me want to push the schools to support EVERY kid who needs it. Not just the ones with parents down their throats all the time. Especially the kids without parents doing that.

I’m just now learning more about modifications that I need to advocate for, and my biggest advice is to look on Instagram and YouTube for people who are advocates, coaches, or supporters of special education. In just one night of prep, I learned more than I had for hours of researching formal sites online specific to the disabilities. There’s just more transparency with social channels, right?

A few key tips I’m learning:

  1. Advocate for what’s “appropriate” for your child, and never use the term what’s “best” for your child. Words matter. (I have found mine twisted and used against me more times than I care to admit!)
  2. Talk to others with IEP/504s. There are so many things I can ask for that I would never think of. Part of the benefit of paying over $1000 for outside testing is they will tell you exactly what to ask for. BUT, without that luxury, take some time talking to other moms or looking at others’ social accounts (I’ve been using @theiepmom this week). Did you know I can ask for a modified curriculum? A different style of testing? If a child has dysgraphia (like dyslexia, but for writing) then they spend so much physical and mental energy forming words with a pencil that it’s hard to complete work. You can ask for a SCRIBE to write out their thoughts. Or use a computer. Or ask for fill in the blank tests instead of writing sentences. ADHD? Ask for a printed copy of notes from the teacher so the child can focus on the content and not worry about losing the information before it even makes it to the paper.
  3. Don’t sign anything in the meeting. You can sign the attendance sheet, but that’s it. Make sure they know you mean business. Tell them you need time to review the proposal.

As I prepare for our meeting next month, I’ve also learned that we need to set SMART goals to show that the IEP/504 is working. This is the hardest part of the plan, and in my experience, we haven’t had a ton of support here. I’m hoping middle school is better! But here are a few I found from @theiepmom this week that I am going to tweak for our needs:

  • By the end of the 3rd quarter, given a 6th grade-level text, the student will support inferences with at least 3 pieces of text-based evidence with 90% accuracy on 3 out of 4 assignments. (what?!?! How good is that?)
  • By the end of the year, when given a list of words, the student will be able to decode 36/40 words correctly as measured by teacher records.
  • By the end of the school year, the student will read sixth grade-level text orally with accuracy, appropriate rate, and expression at 90 words per minute with 90% accuracy, as measured by teacher records on 3 out of 4 tries.

Even though we’ve had a 504 plan in place for almost three years and evolved it as needed, please consider this only the beginning of my understanding into the special education system. What is clear to me—schools are understaffed to support the needs of kids, and without significant push from parents, students are unlikely to receive the appropriate resources and accommodations.

What’s been your biggest lesson or tip with navigating 504s or IEPs? We’re just starting the IEP process with both kids and I don’t want to mess it up for them or miss something I should be advocating for. Email or DM me, please!

Another pandemic school year and how we’re setting goals to make it successful

Just because it didn’t work last time is no reason not to try again

Last year, I told you all about how my family went out to this “fancy” dinner and we set goals, taught the kids manners, yada, yada, yada.

My, oh my. We were so naive then about virtual school and Covid and just how hard the year would be. We made it through, but only just. I couldn’t stay on the kids about their goals because this was supposed to be about them and their growth, and each day with the Chromebooks was torture. I just didn’t have it in me to hound them. I only lasted about a month or two with mine, and I think my husband hit his goals with books he wanted to read. That was about it.

So how do we regroup this year, while we’re still in a weird in-between, delta variants threatening our newly vaccinated freedoms, and God help us all, a daughter starting middle school?

Well, I’ll tell you this. After 18 months in a pandemic, I am still worried about my kids academically. So there will be some goals around school. But I’m also so into our little family bubble and am currently obsessed with The Adventure Challenge books I bought on sale last month—so we’ll have some goals around doing things as a family. And, even after working out so consistently for 63 days and feeling on top of the world completing a full round of Insanity—I’ve let work and shuttling kids around get the best of my schedule and I’m back down to only a few days a week, so some fitness goals need to be written down again.

Here are the tips from last year that I can offer as you plan for your goals and your evening with the kiddos.

  1. Plan in advance: I let the kids know about a week in advance that we were going out to a fancy dinner to discuss our goals for the school year and everything they wanted to accomplish. Then each day I reminded them and asked them to be thinking about their goals. (This year, we are going to be doing our goal setting at the beach—hoping that some beautiful scenery inspires them and me!)
  2. Come prepared: I brought each person their own notepad and pen. My second grader has terrible penmanship and can’t spell, so I wrote his out myself, but he still got his own pad at the dinner table. 
  3. Provide guidance: What makes something a good goal? What is going to make them really proud at the end of the year? If the goal is to “read better” or “memorize math facts” then what does it take to do that? Be specific and measurable with their goals. 
  4. Set goals with them: My husband set a goal of spending 2 hours individually every week with each kid, and they could plan how to use that time. They were thrilled, and they’ll be sure to hold him to that one, which gives him the freedom to do the same with their goals. My daughter is always interested in going for morning runs with me, so we set a goal that she could come twice a week. That holds both of us accountable and gives us time together. 
  5. Keep them visible: As with any goal, if you don’t keep it top of mind, it won’t get met. Print them out, put them on posterboard, discuss them at dinner every weekend. Anything to keep it front and center for your kids and yourself. 
  6. And finally, have fun and add in some rewards. One of my daughter’s goals is around baking every week. She really wants a stand mixer like she’s seen on Nailed It. I told her that if she met her goal and showed me she really did love baking (by actually doing it for the next 9 months!) and she made Honor Roll this year, then we could get one.

I’m optimistic about the new school year, and I hope you are too. There’s no sense in dwelling on our worries. Really and truly—it doesn’t do any good but add stress to an already difficult time. We’re all in this together, right? So let’s root for our kids, ourselves, and our community. Let’s speak life into our little people and give them to confidence to go and do the damn thing.

If you’re looking for a good place to write your goals or journal about your progress, I’ll put in a plug for one that I published this past spring. It’s filled with lined pages and empowering quotes on every page.

You can follow along our family journeys over on Instagram.

Why Simone Biles can help us teach our kids how to look at mental health and strength

Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran, USA Today Sports

It took me more than 24 hours to realize that not everyone was proud of and in awe of Simone’s bravery to stand up for her mental health and safety at the Tokyo Olympics this week. Chalk it up to a positive example of “hanging out with people like you”—a feed full of mostly supportive, progressive, and empathetic women. So when I started seeing posts about “all the haters,” I was confused!

Last night, I asked my husband (a serial ESPN Radio guy in the car) what he was hearing from his circle and what he thought about Simone Biles pulling out of the team competition and the individual all-around.

“I don’t know.”

He said it was complex for him. As the father of a daughter, he would absolutely have wanted our daughter to pull out if she didn’t feel mentally focused and able to do what is expected of these athletes. But if it was himself or our sons… well, he felt differently. “I know that’s not fair,” he said, “but that’s how I feel.”

My husband is a good man, but he’s rooted in a lot of cultural norms of how men are supposed to behave, and since he’s been a part of my life and helped raise our daughter, I can see cracks in that bravado and his views shifting. But it’s slow. You can’t change ingrained beliefs overnight.

I noodled on his conflicted feelings and the comments I was now seeing and hearing from (mostly) men around the internet, and it reminded me of my job in customer marketing.

We use terms called “frontbook” and “backbook” to refer to our customers. A frontbook customer is basically a brand new customer. Someone who is new to your brand, the experience, and the culture of what we offer. A backbook customer has been around a while. They’re in a groove—may love us, may be apathetic, and even if we are offering the best upgrade imaginable to their product or service, they’ll never adopt it because they’re used to things as they are. It works for them.

These backbook customers are a lot like those resistant to change; the ones seeking out against Simone. I think this is the frustration so many of us feel today when we advocate for equality or simply for something to be different than it was in the past. Why won’t this person see reason? Why wouldn’t they want this better thing? How can they not see this is better for society?

Well, because we’ve all been raised a certain way. We all like what we like, and when you’re living in the status quo and things are relatively smooth for you, why would you want to mess that up? I see that. I can understand the apathy that exists in this population and why it takes subgroups to lead change. And why change is so often driven through younger generations—through our frontbook.

Before I even knew everyone wasn’t rallying behind Simone’s decision to put her health and safety ahead of our desire for a GOAT performance, I had my kids on the couch watching the coverage with me. I told them how brave Simone was for doing what she did and how much courage it must have taken to stand up for what she needed even though she knew it was going to disappoint the world. Could you imagine disappointing the world? No wonder she felt like she had the weight of the world on her shoulders. We were literally all sitting there waiting to watch her perform for our enjoyment.

The one comment I had back to my husband when he said I don’t know was this: is the answer different when a gymnast pulls out of competition versus another sport? I thought about my athletic days in swimming and volleyball. A lack of mental focus could mean a bad performance, yes. But it wasn’t going to impact my safety. I wasn’t going to suddenly forget how to swim and drown in the pool. I may trip and sprain an ankle on the court, but I wasn’t going to paralyze myself. Look at that photo at the top of the page. There is actual risk involved in every move she does, and if she isn’t 100% focused on it, then she risks serious injury. Who are we to put our entertainment ahead of her safety?

We’re not likely to change the minds of grown men who believe in toughness at all costs, and I don’t hate these people for believing what they do. It’s hard to retrain your own brain even if you question a belief. So while my husband may be saying he isn’t sure how he feels about Simone Biles’ decision, he happily stands alongside me as an ally while I demonstrate openly for our family how we should react to Simone and how she is a pillar of strength and hope and courage—not weak or a quitter.

This next generation is going to be more compassionate than the last. The women of this world are going to make it so. And love and hope and empathy is the best gift we can pass along to them.

You can follow me and our family on Instagram @theothersideofmotherhood.

The 7 people you need in your life when going through a divorce

Divorce can knock you off your game so fast. The emotional energy your body uses just to make it through the day can make it hard to do much else. Your mental energy is lowered. Kiss your physical energy goodbye too. Emotions, specifically anxiety and stress, are taking up a lot of your day. This is totally normal, so the best we can do is push through this phase—and I would argue it’s best to do that with the company of others. You’ve just lost your partner, the person who (for better or worse) was the person you spent more time with than anyone else during the course of your relationship. When that goes away, it can feel really scary.

In a nutshell, here are the people I’d start looking for as you’re going down this road. They will help lighten your load, decrease your anxiety, and put you on a pathway to healing.

1. Someone going through it. Needless to say, it can feel totally isolating and lonely when you’re going through a divorce and suddenly everywhere you look you start to notice rings on fingers, people blissfully holding hands, and doting husbands. It’s depressing, and you need someone to talk to who is in the thick of it too. You’ll find these people in unexpected ways. I found one through a random conversation I had at church, and a woman pulled me aside and asked if she could put me in touch with her friend who had a similar story to mine. Others I found through support groups. Those people were my lifeline and the only ones I could vent and complain to any time day or night.

2. Someone who has been through it. Hopefully you have lived as blissfully ignorant to divorce as I had. I didn’t have any divorced friends and didn’t know much about the process or what to expect. And going to the internet and Facebook can get a little intimidating sometimes. But if you can talk to someone who has been where you are, it’ll make the journey so much better. And if you can’t find someone, find resources. That’s the whole reason I wrote a book with the tips I collected along the way

3. Someone single. Were all of your friends a part of a couple? Now might be the time that friendships get a little awkward. Hopefully that’s temporary, but in the seam, make sure you’re getting out and spending time with other friends to unwind and gain connection.

4. Someone remarried. Isn’t it nice to see someone on the other side? Someone to give you hope that it’s going to be okay one day? It can sure feel like I’m going to be single forever, but when I see someone who has successfully remarried and living a healthy, beautiful marriage, I get butterflies and feel hopeful for my future again. 

5. A therapist / group. There may be some very obvious reasons that you’re going through a divorce, and there may be some not-so-obvious ones that you need to work through. My biggest advice to people going through a divorce is to heal. Not only heal from the pain and heartbreak of divorce, but to heal from whatever was a part of that marriage that may lead to similar challenges in a future relationship. If you aren’t ready or able to meet with a therapist just yet, I would highly suggest a divorce support group, like DivorceCare. Not only are you likely to find person #1 or #2, but you’re likely going to learn a lot about yourself, divorce, and the dynamics of others’ relationships. I think seeing and hearing that really helped me uncover things about myself that I may not have discovered otherwise. 

6. A good lawyer. Obviously. If you’re going through a divorce, you’ve got to set yourself and your family up for the best possible outcome. I pray that your situation is peaceful and using a mediator is easy and conflict-free. But the reality is that many turn ugly. When we both worry about money, possessions, or most importantly, our kids—we fight. Be ready with someone on your side to lighten your load. 

7. A good babysitter. You may have your kids all the time or almost none of the time. But either way, just remember that it’s your job to be the best parent you can be. And part of being a good parent is being mentally aware and able to take time to care for yourself when you need it. I had my kids 100% of the time, so they got used to sleepovers with my parents who lived close by. And they had a babysitter down the street to play with them when I was too drained. And they had neighbors who were willing to take them in for a movie while I napped or ran errands. 

Silly but true—it takes a village to raise kids. It also takes a village to get through a divorce. You’ve got this! And you can use me as your person #4 by following along to our family journey on Instagram. I wish you nothing but the best during this time, and remember that this won’t last forever.

You can read about my journey in my first book, The Other Side of the Door. And if you are looking for tips on getting through a divorce, I suggest Divorce: Easier Said Than Done and the companion journal.

5 ways to fit fitness into your day

The last time I was ready to get into a good fitness routine, I started setting my alarm at 5:30 so I could do it before anyone else woke up. About a week into this, my youngest started waking up earlier than normal and disrupted the whole plan.

Everyone in my house is an early bird except my husband. He can sleep through anything (convenient) and struggles to get up with his alarm. So while I may still be tired every morning when my alarm goes off, I usually still jump out of bed and face the day. My kids—10, 8, and 2—are the same.

With that level of energy so early in the morning (and with having the youngest who needs near-constant attention), it’s hard to get in a morning workout. And like many of you, my day just spirals from there with a million things to do, and by the end of the day when everyone is done with sports, dinner, and in bed—the last thing I want to go is get on a treadmill or do a workout video.

I work full-time, but for the last 18 months, I’ve been doing it from my home instead of driving into an office. That level of flexibility has made it so much easier to squeeze in movement throughout the day. So while these tips may be a tad harder to use if you are working outside the home for a full-time job, there should still be some good nuggets you can use!

Tip #1: Go for a walk

I was listening to a podcast this week, and the host was talking about how she was tired of working out with a trainer. She just wants to go for long walks, move her body, and appreciate life. What a novel idea. In fact, going for walks was one of the first COVID habits I picked up last year as the weather was getting nicer. I used almost every lunch hour to listen to a podcast and walk the trails/sidewalks through my neighborhood. I was hitting 10,000 steps a day consistently, and even though my eating habits were terrible, I wasn’t really gaining weight. If you have a dog, it may be easier to take the dog and break this into 2 or 3 shorter walks. If it’s hot in the summer, it may be easier to do this at 8am before you start your day but after you (hopefully) have your little ones off to daycare or camp. And if you’ve got some in-between ages like me, I’ve started leaving my 8-year-old home for short periods knowing he can FaceTime me from the iPad or even call me from the Alexa in our kitchen.

Tip #2 Find on-demand workouts

I hate cycling, so I haven’t joined the Peloton cult; however, I am a huge fan of on-demand workouts with a variety of trainers. My personal favorite has been the NEOU app. They have live classes and on-demand programming for almost any category you want, and you can stream to your tv, phone, or tablet. I’ve done 5 minute stretch classes and 45 minute HIIT workouts. Last Christmas, I did a 12 Days of Christmas Naughty and Nice workout with a Ukranian trainer who is so silly and his accent is everything. They have barre, dance, kickboxing, yoga—you name it! I’ve even done treadmill workouts that make me feel like I’m in an Orangetheory class! And since the workouts can be sorted by how much time you have, there’s no excuse! Get in a 15 minute strength or yoga session, and you don’t even need to break a sweat.

NEOU is only $35 for a full year of access and worth every penny

Tip #3 Play

Wouldn’t it be great if we could run around outside for hours on end in the summer like our kids, eat icees and chips and not have a care in the world? My daughter is phasing out of this, but my 8 year-old is elbow deep. He’s always tan and red-cheeked and asking for water. How much fun would you be to your kid if you ran around with them? Played tag or taught them Red Rover, Red Rover or Mother May I? 10 minutes of that will fill their emotional buckets for a whole week!

Tip #4 Family Walks or School Pick Ups

This is different than a solitary walk for yourself, with ear buds in or just the sounds of nature. This walk is time with your people. Depending on your family’s schedule, this may look like an after dinner walk to the playground or around your neighborhood. Someone pushes the stroller or the kids go ahead on their bikes. It’s leisurely but gets everyone moving, and gives you time to connect. Similarly, if you’re able to park near the school (eg. there is a neighborhood across the street or down the block), I’ve seen tons of parents start walking their kids to and from school instead of putting them on the bus. This was due to COVID and when we went back in person, the spacing requirements on the bus made it so that you were basically discouraged from taking it. So many families started walking. I’m hoping it’s a trend that keeps up this fall.

Tip #5 Stand

When I was in the office, I had a standing desk, and I loved it. Some days I was lazy and sat all day, but usually I would stand, and I even had a balance board like this one that I’d use on days that I felt ambitious. Just being on your feet instead of your butt is going to burn more calories and naturally have you working harder. And it definitely doesn’t feel like a workout!

So that’s it! You’ll notice only one of those tips includes actual workouts (2 if you count the long walk—which I definitely sweat and work hard on mine!) and the rest incorporates fun and movement into the day. I think the big switch we all need to make is to focus on the movement our bodies crave and less about the time spent on the treadmill or lifting weights. If you’re moving during the day and the tv is off, you’re probably okay.

Be sure to keep up with your annual physicals to be tracking your blood sugars, cholesterol, and more. These are great indicators of overall body health that don’t rely on what the scale says about your weight!

Want to keep up? Follow me on Instagram at TheOtherSideOfMotherhood

I survived 63 days of Beach Body Insanity and this is how I feel about it

So.Much.Jumping. I hope my ceiling doesn’t collapse one day!

One morning in April I woke up and stared at the unused DVD Player I’d bought my husband for our anniversary—because he said he wanted to get back in shape and do his old Insanity DVDs—and I rolled my eyes. Our anniversary was 4 months ago. He hadn’t so much as looked at the DVDs I’d strategically placed closer and closer to the edge of the dresser so he’d be forced to look at them when he walked into the closet.

So what did my passive aggressive self do? I printed out the calendar of the workouts and decided that would be Day 1. If you’re not familiar with Insanity, it’s a high intensity HIIT workout ranging anywhere for 30-ish minutes in month one all the way to 60 minutes in month two. They are grueling! The first day is a 20 minute fitness test that you repeat every two weeks for the entire series. I could barely finish that first test. And I could hardly move for the three days that followed! And yet, I continued the workouts.

I’d fallen off the fitness wagon in the couple of months leading up to this, and my muscle mass had taken a beating. I was ready for miracles—like fitting into my jeans, hitting my pre-pandemic weight in a matter of weeks, and still eating and drinking all my heart desired.

Swap “eat healthy” for exercise in my case!

Well guess what, at the end of 4 weeks, I hadn’t lost a pound.

Oh, but you gained so much muscle. You probably lost inches?

Nope. Not a one! I was so deflated. I started scouring old message boards and blogs (since Insanity is now over 10 years old and no longer the hot chick on the Beach Body block) and found that I wasn’t alone. But there was hope. Month one was just my “warm up.” All of that was just to prep my body for the hell that was to come in month two. Grrrreat. (fyi – month one was NOT easy or a warm up.)

It helped that just as I was in the middle of my recovery week (the “break” workouts you get between month one and two) I got an insane (pun intended) 24-hour norovirus that helped me drop 5 pounds, and 3 of that never came back.

When I finished my first day of month two (the 26 minute fitness test followed by the 60 minute circuit video—86 minutes of exhaustion), I told my husband that if I didn’t immediately drop 10 pounds from this nonsense that something was wrong with me. It was so hard.

I decided the warm ups are the worst part. There’s nothing I hate more than seeing the countdown clock and knowing I’m tired and haven’t even started the real workout yet.

I got in the habit of doing the workouts immediately after I woke up, so there was an incredible sense of accomplishment burning so many calories so early in the day and being DONE. I started wearing a Fitbit to track my calorie burn and decided I’d suck it up and track my calories too. That way, I’d know if I was in deficit and if I was earning the weight loss.

So here we are now at the end of 63 days. I did finally lose a couple of inches, but not nearly as much as I hoped (and I do have a pair of jeans that fit comfortably now). I lost 9 pounds overall, far fewer than I’d hoped. But when I look at these fitness test results, I’m really blown away by what my body learned to do over the last 9 weeks.

The fitness test really told a great story that wasn’t 100% reflected on the scale or in measurements.

My heart rate dropped from 60 bpm all the way to 52. More so, I’m now in a groove with morning workouts. It’s super hard to get it in with 3 kids at home, including a newly potty trained toddler, but we’re making it work (most days).

And guess what? About 5 weeks ago my husband started getting back on the treadmill! He’s lost almost 25 pounds. Baby steps, my friends.

I decided it’s too much to expect do a 60 minute workout six days a week long term, but it feels reasonable to drop down to 5 days and alternate some long workouts with some shorter ones. Prior to Insanity, I’d been using the NEOU app, which I really love for its variety, and I’d like to do more strength training. I think I’m going to incorporate some of those back in but keep some Shawn T in my life, so he can encourage me to DIG DEEPER.

I haven’t given up on pre-pandemic weight, and by the time the summer ends, I may actually get there!

Want to keep up and see if I follow through? Or be my accountability buddy? Follow me on Instagram @theothersideofmotherhood and we can knock it out together.

Planning the right things, not all the things, for your family’s next beach trip: 10 must haves to make it easier

That’s our Shibumi Shade towering over every other umbrella on the shore (Tip 4)

I am the ultimate planner, list-maker, early packer, you name it. So of course, I’ve married the man who pulls his suitcase down the night before we’re scheduled to go on a trip. It would probably be the morning of if I’d let him get in bed without showing me his suitcase that night.

I hate when yet another item hits my mental load, but I’m too much of a control freak to let go of the planning even if I could. I’d much rather be mad at myself than someone else for forgetting a critical item.

Two years ago, we bought a beach house in the Outer Banks (NC) that we rent out most of the time to cover the cost. Since then, I’ve learned a few things that have made it easier for our family to function on vacation. For reference, our kids are 2, 8, and 10.

Before you go:

  1. Make a clothing list for each person. Mark it off as you’ve packed it. Don’t forget extras of everything—and plan for how your kids normally act. Right now, my 8 year old wants nothing to do with PJs and likes to be “ready for the next day” when he goes to bed, so he sleeps in his shorts and t-shirt. At the beach, he’ll probably sleep in a bathing suit! So for him, I may pack a few extras.
  2. What can you send directly to the house or rental agency? This one is hit or miss at the beach, but if you can Prime beach toys, diapers, a baby gate—anything that takes up a lot of space, ask if it’s an option! Our house is not delivery-friendly, but the rental company is a mile up the road, and when you’re an in-season renter and paying a premium, you’re more likely to get what you want from these companies!
  3. Have your beach bag stocked before you go. You know what you never want to run out of at the beach? Sunscreen! It’s so expensive there! I’m always on the hunt for Costco’s promotions, and I recently found one on Amazon where you could get a BOGO deal, plus an additional 25% off by doing subscribe and save with it. (Remember, you can always cancel Subscribe and Save items after that initial purchase!) I’ve become a huge fan of the roll on sunscreen for their faces, and then I use a spray to quickly get the rest of the body. I also really like keeping baby powder in my bag to get sand off as we come inside. But if you’re nervous about talc, I recently learned about this Powder Pouch that uses corn starch instead.
  4. Bring your shade. Last year, I splurged and got the Shibumi Shade. If you’ve never seen one in person or have no clue what I’m talking about. Click on that link! This product is so easy to set up by yourself, stores compactly, and it provides all day shade with just a slight breeze (which is pretty much guaranteed when you’re on the beach). I know a lot of people love the canopy tents, and they work just fine. But if your family’s car is jam-packed like mine, then anything smaller I can bring is a win for me.
  5. Still using baby monitors? If you’re bringing someone small enough that you need a monitor, make sure you check with the rental on their inventory. Our house provides 2 Pack n Plays, a changing table, step stools, 2 high chairs, and a bunch of random baby toys and books. If you know these things before you go, you don’t need to pack them. Worried they won’t be there

When it’s time to hit the beach:

  1. Pack sand-safe snacks. Grapes can we wiped down, yogurt or apple sauce pouches are self-contained, and things like watermelon can drop on the ground and be instantly ruined by sand! While you’re at it, make sure those snacks are packed in individual bags.
  2. Baby under 2? Bring a baby bath tub. I loved bringing a baby bath tub to the beach so my little ones could enjoy some splashing in a controlled environment. And I used a light towel to cover them for a nap—my mom loves holding the little ones on the beach and they always fall asleep in her lap.
  3. Look for a mesh beach bag or sand friendly beach towels/mats. It really is game changer when you don’t have to shake down your towels and have sand fly into someone’s face. Even better, those beach towels take up so much less space!
  4. Freeze water bottles. We buy so much ice when we go to the beach, and have cases and cases of water. I recently heard this tip, and it’s so good! Freeze some of those water bottles before bed and use that as your ice for the cooler. As it melts, you’ll have refreshingly cold water on a hot summer day.
  5. Vinegar. Be ready for jellyfish stings. I bring vinegar and you can soak it in a towel to lay on the sting. Also bring a small first aid kit with bandaids, antibiotic ointment, and of course some hand sanitizer. (And some small bills for ice cream—either a cart that comes by or maybe it’s a walk to the pier.)

I feel like we learn new things every trip! Have some good tips I missed? Shoot me a message or DM.

It’s not just you, mama: We’re all feeling the emotions of our kids and struggling through it

What she feels, I feel. Turns out, I’m not alone in that.

Last month, my tween girl was subject to some bullying at school. Because of Covid, she couldn’t interact with those outside of her class, so she spent multiple days in a row by herself without anyone to play with or talk to. She was crying everyday, and even though I could keep it together in front of her and offer advice, I was dying inside. I remember how mean girls can be. Heck, I know how mean grown women can be! Meanwhile, my husband was barely phased by the emotional turmoil going on in our house. It was such a foreign concept to him.

I’ve always known I was an empath—someone who recognizes and internalizes the feelings of others, and usually I can go about life without any struggles. But this year, as my tween has started dealing with more ‘girl drama’ in her life, I’m finding it really hard to separate her feelings from mine. Surely, I thought this was just an empath problem, so I reached out to a mom Facebook group I’m in to ask for advice. Ladies—it wasn’t good. Turns out we’re pretty much all suffering along with our kids.

The drama at school was short-lived, so my sadness was too. But last week—more drama. This time, my daughter teased one of her good friends at a party. It was incredibly out of character for her, but she was acting as part of a group and is 100% guilty.

My daughter didn’t tell me about it initially. We were at the neighborhood pool two days later and a mother we don’t know (but who clearly knows the friend’s family) came up to my daughter while she was on her own and berated her for her actions at the party. Maybe she was kind about it. Maybe not. I only got the second hand version from my very traumatized 10 year old. Either way, I found this completely shocking and inappropriate. If you don’t know the child, you don’t have the right to talk to them. Period.

Now I’ll caveat that to say—it scared the shit out of her, and I’m hoping maybe it was enough for her to never want to hurt another kid and risk some adult coming and giving her a verbal spanking.

Of all my daughter’s friends, this one she hurt is one of my favorites. She’s sweet, shy, thoughtful, and has an awesome mom. So my empath feelings were taking over my life all week. I was crying every day; moody; frustrated I couldn’t solve it and make it better… The mother didn’t text me back for days, and I thought I’d lost that friendship too. Is it normal to stop being friends with the mom when the kids are no longer friends? I went back to good ole Facebook and ran a poll. Turns out, it is normal. Most felt like in the same situation, they’d be polite and friendly in public, but they’d no longer text and be friendly when it wasn’t socially required. That opinion changed depending on how deep the friendship had been, and in those cases, the moms tried to remain friends while still staying loyal to their own child.

So if all of us moms are feeling the pain, how can we survive these difficult years?

I talked to a child therapist about it, hoping for the magic pill to make raising girls easier. It may come as a disappointing surprise, but it turns out, there isn’t one! I know, I couldn’t believe the lack of resolution she offered.

While there’s no magic cure to make it easier on us moms raising girls, she gave me the most basic advice that we’d all do well to remember.

  1. Be there to listen. Offer advice. Counsel them. It may be hard for us to walk through the middle and high school years all over again, but remember how hard it was the first time? What a gift we can give our girls by walking along side them and guiding them through it.
  2. Rupture and repair. The therapist used this term with me. It’s basically how these kids are going to keep making mistakes, getting hurt, and struggling through challenges. And when that ‘rupture’ happens, we help them through the repair phase. We’re there with the support and advice. See step 1.
  3. I wish there was a third tip. There’s not. It’s our jobs to listen, support, and encourage the repair process each and every time they experience a rupture.

I will admit, one thing that helps me is finding an escape each day. I’ve been on a workout kick lately, and that hour helps me focus on myself and the needs of my own body. I’ve also heard that water is great for empaths—a bath with epsom salts or lavender, a swim in the pool, a quick 20 minutes in a hot tub.

Another thing I’m trying to remind myself is that these lessons are a part of growing up. My kid isn’t going to be perfect. She’s going to make bad decisions and face the consequences. She’s going to learn that what a group does isn’t always what’s right. And standing up for what is right is almost never the easy thing to do. But you’ll feel so much better doing what’s right than just doing what’s easy.

And mamas, we got through it once. We can do it again.

You can follow my daily battles of motherhood, being an empath, and keeping the house running over on Instagram. DM me with all the advice you’ve got for my journey ahead, so I can keep sharing what I’m learning along the way!

Here’s how those New Year’s Resolutions are going six months later. Am I still on track?

At the start of this year, I had a new approach to my New Year’s Resolutions, and it didn’t involve some grand plan to turn my life around. I wrote about it at the start of the year—instead of setting a goal like “lose 20 pounds” or “read 25 books,” I set mini goals to tackle each month.

So how did that approach work?

Well, I can tell you that I didn’t hit all of my goals. Not even close. But, I hit a lot of them—like writing and releasing my new book, even though it took an extra six weeks from what I’d planned for in my goals.

Similar to setting a resolution, I did much better earlier on than I am doing with my June goals.

When I set out to make monthly mini-goals, I did it for the first half of the year and then decided I would revisit in June for the back half of the year. And it’s a good thing I did! What I found is that many of my goals built upon the previous month. For example, in February I hired someone to format my book, and I was supposed to release the book in March by my birthday… but the guy I hired gave me a terrible end product and I had to PIVOT PIVOT PIVOT, which delayed a series of goals I’d laid out for the following three months.

I also found myself demotivated in a lot of areas where I’d planned to focus my creative energy because I was so drained from my kids struggling through such a crazy school year. Month-to-month was definitely the way to go, but as I go into the rest of the year, I’m going to revisit the goals a bit more strategically so I don’t fall behind or have a set of goals that no longer align to what’s interesting or possible.

This week, I’m reviewing the goals I didn’t get to in January through June. Are they still important? Did I focus on one area more than another? (spoiler: yes, I did!) What do I wish I’d done differently and how can I stay more well-rounded in the goals I pursue?

I found that due to my lower energy level, I focused on my one big audacious goal (releasing the new book) but if one of the goals was going to take a lot of mental or emotional energy, I fell flat about half the time. But here’s the good news, the other half of the time… I rocked it. I set goals for my relationship, my health, and my business that I may not have done if I hadn’t had the goal staring me in the face every day.

This approach really seemed to work for me, and I would absolutely recommend it to others. I printed out my goals and hung them in my closet—a place I see every single morning and night. So think about where that location could be for you. Seeing it and thinking about them everyday is key.

For a while, I fell off the fitness and health train really badly, but then one day (not even on my goals list!) I decided I was going to start the 60 day Insanity challenge from Beach Body, and I’m starting my LAST WEEK of it on Wednesday. My weight hasn’t dropped like I’d hoped, but it’s given me great perspective thanks to the bi-weekly fitness tests I have to do. And seeing the jumps from where I started are insane (excuse the pun)—and a reminder to me that there’s so much more to health than a number on the scale or even how my jeans are fitting.

A few things that I found helpful when setting goals:

  1. Align them to your key values (This is a great exercise to do if you never have.)
  2. Try to come up with two or three themes/big goals for the year (mine were: having an exceptional marriage, writing my second book, and working for myself)
  3. Once you have your themes, write down some things that could help you achieve those dreams or end goals. Just one or two a month in each area.

I found that it was hard to achieve goals tied to each area each month, but I really want to keep striving for that. I find that I’m more balanced if I am hitting on progress in multiple areas of my life, and I’m more likely to be happier day-to-day.

Thinking about giving it a try? Let me know! I’d love to hear about some of your goals and how the process works for you as you break them down.