My Top 7 Local Playgrounds!

(Endicott Park, Danvers MA)

I don’t know about you, but my kids have unlimited energy! I always say if I had just a slice of what they have at 7 pm at night, I would be good to go!  We often do outdoor activities because I believe childhood should be full of play and physical activity. We also love nature in general so any park that has a beach, hiking trail or place to explore is always a draw for me!   They explore with their bodies at this age and have an innate need to be in constant motion!  If we are at home, they are trying to climb the walls.  It helps them stay calm overall, and helps me stay calm too! A good dose of movement and nature can help increase attention and focus and help us relax later and sleep better too!  When I was a behavior specialist, I was a huge advocate for MORE outside time or at the very least, MORE time to MOVE!!    We go in almost all weather.   Here are a few of our favorite parks we frequent 2-3 times a week.

  1.  Winchester, MA Ginn Field (35 Waterfield Rd.)

This playground is fenced in!  It has baby swings, tire swing, slides, climbing structure, toddler area, riding toys, see saws, sandbox, and a little walking bridge over water (outside of playground area).  It’s also shady and my kids love it!  You can see the train go by here for added excitement!

2. Burlington, MA Simonds Park . (10 Bedford St, Burlington, MA 01803)

This playground is fenced in! There isn’t too much shade but outside the park there are bathrooms, and shaded picnic tables. There is a small structure, large structure, swings, and area to run around.  There is a paved walkway which was helpful for me when I had the baby carriage but wanted to be close to my toddler.

3.  Arlington,   Robbins Farm (61 Eastern Ave, Arlington, MA 02476)

This playground is not fenced in but set down away from the road. There are wooden structures, and lots of area to run. The selling point on this playground are two gorgeous slides built into a hill.  There are stairs going up the side that are safe (kids can’t fall off the edge).  There is a community garden there, lots of kites flying and a beautiful view of the skyline!  You will find picnic tables but no bathrooms.  I have seen a port-a-potty but not sure if that’s permanent.

4.   Arlington, Spy Pond Park (56 Pond Ln, Arlington, MA 02474)

This playground is fenced in! This one is right on the Arlington bike path and just a short walk to the Kickstand Cafe where you can grab some coffee and snacks. My kids love the sandbox with diggers and fun unique roller slide.  There is plenty of space but not a ton of shade.  There is a water view and area to walk down to visit the ducks and ride bikes.

5.  Woburn, Police Station Playground (25 Harrison Ave, Woburn, MA 01801)

This playground is not fenced in and my kids like to walk the perimeter even though there is plenty to play with!  The small structure looks like a train which is fun! There were diggers in the sandbox but I believe they are broken. There are tire swings and baby swings and lots of climbers.  The draw for this one is that it’s near the library (under construction now), and next to police station which makes me feel safe and provides a bathroom!

6.  Winchester, Sandy Beach Playground (4 Mystic Valley Parkway, Winchester)

I love this playground for many reasons but mostly because it’s sunken in which allows me to keep watch of the kids as they stay more contained!  The structure itself looks like a pirate ship which the kids love!   It also has a beach right over the hill with restrooms and a little walking path that leads to an opening where the kids can see boats!  This is one of their favorites!

7.  Stone Zoo (149 Pond St, Stoneham, MA 02180)
This playground is inside the Stone Zoo and can get very busy on packed zoo days.  It is fenced in and pretty safe in my eyes. There are bathrooms at the zoo which is helpful!  There is a small and large structure and a couple rock climbing walls my kids love!

 

 

 

 

 

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Runner’s Why


Running is my constant. I am just getting back to it after having 2 beautiful children.  When a friend asked me about doing a 10-mile run with her, I felt a chill of excitement come up from my toes to my head. I had plantar fasciitis, sciatica and pubic bone separation after having the kids and running was causing me pain. Instead of giving up, I built strength through my home fitness programs. It was like having a personal trainer in my living room and I got conditioned for cardio with Insanity, flexibility with Piyo and strength with Hammer and Chisel. I felt ready again! I’ve been on 3 training runs and only have about 2 months left to build mileage. I will do it! I am committed. Running is my jam.

My passion for running started around 10. I remember my father was on a fitness kick and I jogged with him around the neighborhood. I didn’t always know how to connect with him, but running alongside him and being part of what he was doing, felt good. When I was younger, I looked forward to mixing his drinks when he got home from work., so running around the neighborhood was at least a healthier way to relate. I don’t remember having conversation or how many times we actually ran, but we ran. I completed my first 5k race for a cause with my cousin when I was 12 and I loved the excitement, the free snacks and the random strangers who seemed so excited that we were the ones running and not them. The feeling of excitement and joy while willing your feet to keep moving one foot in front of the other has always sparked a deep sense of fulfillment in me and when it was paired with people I cared about and strangers who cheered for me, well it just became even more of my favorite thing. That feeling of crossing the finish line is like the cherry on top. Nothing like it!

In my junior high track years, I remember getting to the indoor track and seeing the workout for the day on the wall and dreading the long miles we had ahead of us whether they were indoor or outdoor. As soon as I started running, the dread faded out and happiness and joy seeped in. High school running left me with slightly different memories. I remember running the mile on the indoor track and when I crossed the finish line out of breath and exhausted, I would make a break for the bathroom and dry heave or actually get violently sick. I don’t know if I ever fueled my body right back then or even knew how to. It was an awful feeling, but when I recovered, I’d go check out my time, go back to the team and get excited to see if we won the meet and got excited for the next race. Runner’s high always set in, either during the run or right after. There is nothing like endorphins to brighten your mood. I will never forget one day when we got back on the bus and the coach called me the VIP of the meet because I placed 3rd in the mile and got a 6:13 time! Those few points I earned at the end took us into winning the meet! This was my fastest mile ever and I was proud beyond words. I’ll never forget the feeling of the one time I placed in track.  I have more memories of college cross country especially those group sprints or 5 am runs uphill (which I think was actually soccer practice).  I didn’t stay with cross-country throughout college but I still ran for enjoyment and exercise.

Over the years, I’ve run through trails, streets of Boston, Maine, Cape Cod, Nara, Japan, Spain, Mexico, Florida, Vegas and just about every other place I’ve visited. Running is an experience for me.  I take in all the sights and sounds around me at a higher level. I’m more present than ever when I’m running.  For me, it makes me feel at one with the earth, sky, and universe, and for that 10, 20, 45 minutes, my head clears and I’m on top of the world. When I finished a run this morning, I was brought back to all those times in my life where running was there. I thought of the timeline of my life and how I always came back to this no matter what was going on in my life.

In my running career, I have run 5 half marathons, 1 full marathon, a ton of 5ks and 10ks, 3 sprint triathlons, and 1 olympic triathlon all completed before having children. Last year, I did 2 Spartan and I loved how it incorporated strength, skill and I had a team to lean on and help out.   Half marathons are my favorite distance, but my most memorable run ever was the Seattle Rock and Roll Marathon. It was exactly how I imagined it and I felt awesome throughout the beautiful run with new bands at every mile.

If you ever have a goal in running, set up your training schedule, believe in yourself, trust in yourself and put one foot in front of the other! Find some music you love, and find some scenic spaces to visit.  I love running by the water. The breeze helps too!  Run with a friend whenever possible or at least stick to areas where other runners or people are around for safety.  If you’re interested in some programs that may help you get conditioned to start running and you want to do that at home, I can help you find something that works for you.  I also recommend Hal Higdon’s free training schedules for running. Couch to 5k is a great place to start, and get a great pair of sneakers you replace often! Happy trails!!

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Spicy Egg Roll Wrap

I love spicy food whether it’s Mexican, Thai, or Indian spice!  Just bring the heat to my plate and I’m happy!  The past couple of weeks, we have had celebrations, social events and trips/outings and I have overindulged.  My jeans do not lie.  I don’t beat myself up over that.  I enjoy myself!  I just know I need to start eating smaller meals designed to fuel and energize me and stay away from refined sugars and carbs again.  This is where I get off track. Pizza, tacos and margaritas are my weakness!  So I started day 1 of a new round of 21 Day Fix yesterday.  This always helps get me back on track.  I sometimes go a whole day without fruits or veggies but when I stick to the fix eating plan, I get PLENTY of fruits and veggies, and way less carbs.  I will STILL eat pizza, but less and I balance it out with some extra veggies!  It helps the kids too.  Yesterday, we all snacked on cucumbers and apples.  The kids ate two cucumbers and even pulled the cukes out of my water to eat those too.  Yikes!

Today when I had only a short time after teaching my fitness class and hopping on a call for my business, I whipped up lunch.  It was 11 am and I was hungry for eggs, but wanted veggies too.  I ended up adding some salsa to my eggs to make a spicy scramble!  I used one egg and two egg whites!  I then mixed cabbage slaw (same mix for cole slaw) with lowfat sour cream and sriracha sauce.  I SWEAR it’s good!!!  I loaded the egg scramble on top of a romaine lettuce leaf and added my crunchy, spicy sauce on top!  It was AMAZING!  The sour cream had 40 calories for 2 tablespooons.  The cabbage slaw was 25 calories for a cup and a half and I only used about 1 cup.  The salsa was about 20 calories.  A whole head of romaine is 108 calories and I used 2 leaves, so let’s say 20 for that!  One whole egg is 79 calories and egg whites are only 11!  I am watching my cholesterol so that’s why I’m using the whites.  That is how I got to about 190 calories TOTAL!  The eggs have the protein which should keep me pretty full but I’ll also have my shake around 1.  It’s a great idea to have multiple smaller meals every day instead of 3 larger meals to keep blood sugar steady!  Here’s the recipe again:

2 romaine lettuce leaves

1 whole egg and 2 egg whites

1 cup of cabbage slaw

2 tbs of low-fat or whole fat sour cream or Greek yogurt

2 tsp of Sriracha sauce

3 tbs of salsa

Coat pan with coconut oil.
Arrange 2 romaine lettuce leaves on plate.
Scramble eggs with salsa and cook until done.
Mix cabbage slaw with sour cream and sriracha.

Fix container equivalents= 1 red container, 1  1/2 green container, 1 teaspoon

(sriracha as with all spices are free foods)

Load lettuce leaves with eggs and top with cabbage mixture.  Fold and eat as a wrap!  Enjoy!!  If you try this recipe, please tell me what you think!  Leave a comment or shoot me a message!  If you love it, share away!

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Fun and games at Great Wolf Lodge New England!

This past week, I took my sisters and my two children to Great Wolf for a mid-week escape.  We had an amazing time!  There is something about that place that just feels warm and friendly and we have such a fun time when we go.  We have been 2 other times and we already booked another stay for a couple of months from now!   We usually find deals where the prices ranges from $119-$250. This past time we went, it was on the pricier side, but for what we get, it’s WORTH it!!  For the week leading up to our trip, you’d think we were headed to Disney if you talked to my 4 and 1/2 year old.  I picked him up a little early from school which was right before rest time (his most dreaded time because he hasn’t napped since 2!).  He was beyond thrilled!  Our 2-year-old could finally enjoy the whole experience as well!   I will share with you some of our experiences and what to expect if you decide to head there at some point!


When you walk into the check-in area, there is usually someone making balloon animals, and a large table at child’s height with some sort of activity going on- coloring, beading necklaces, etc.  The staff is always smiling and willing to go out of their way for each child. There is a large fire place with seating areas.  There is also a bar and a Dunkin’ Donuts about 10 steps away!  The elevators are right there so the check-in/finding your room process is super easy.
In the evenings, they have a story time with characters and they actually read a very large book to the kids.  They have yoga in the morning!

There are many places for food, but the main lodge restaurant is only open for certain meal times. They were giving out milk and juice to the kids for free all day, although I’m not sure it’s always the case.   It can get pretty busy so I advise you to get there early if you don’t want to wait.  We showed up right at 7:30 am for breakfast and there was a buffet with an omelette station and waffle bar with the fixings!  The kids both ate plenty of fruit as well and enough protein for many hours of waterslide fun.  Kids 3 and under are free! It got pricey for adults, but breakfast is my favorite meal and it was worth it!

If you do have to wait to sit, remember that there is plenty for the kids to do!  Down the hall from the sit-down restaruant in the game area is pizza, salads and ice cream but not very much seating.  In one of the water parks, you can get burgers, fried food, pretzels, snacks etc. Right next to that snack counter, there is a large bar with all of your favorite frozen drinks!  This food and drink can be expensive and is what you’d expect at a family attraction (Disney, carnival etc.) . There are meal packages, but we didn’t think any of them were worth it.  If you want to save money on food, bring your own and keep in your room.  Outside coolers aren’t allowed in the water park, but you can bring in water.  At least they didn’t stop us!  The drinking fountain wasn’t working but we did fill water by the drink fill station.  Of course, there are the frozen pina coladas and margaritas at the bar to keep the adults hydrated or at least to keep them happy!

There are so many activities going on and when you check in, they will give you a schedule of their character visits, storytime, parades etc.  At Halloween time, there was trick-or-treating! There were scavenger hunts and guess the jelly bean contests this time we went (Easter time).  Put it this way- the kids will NEVER be bored!  If you need a break from water, there is plenty to do!  There is also a game area similar to Chuck E. Cheese with cards, tickets and prizes. My son could only get candy with his 20 tickets but when I asked the worker if there was another option, he allowed him to choose prizes from the 100 ticket section!  They have also given him free tickets in the past and free mini-golf as well.

When you walk down pass the water parks, you’ll find indoor mini-golf, toddler/kiddie rides (ages 2-5),  bowling game, ropes course for toddlers and older children (complimentary) and a mining station where kids can mine for gems!  This section of the lodge is where the bigger themed rooms are located. These rooms have bedrooms with bunk beds that the kids love! Older kids like MagicQuest and the younger ones have the option to build a stuffed animal and go around the lodge on a scavenger hunt as well with clues and prizes!

There are two large water parks across the hall from each other.  Both sides have large water slides for older kids and adults.  There are a couple HUGE slides if you like the adrenaline rush!  One is a straight DROP!  The other looks like a tornado. Have fun with those!!  I went down a few of the bigger slides but didn’t try the crazy ones.  I usually like them but I couldn’t build up my nerve this time!!

Both sides have smaller water slides for kids.  My 2-year-old went on every water slide and LOVED them. She must have gone down about 100 times in the two days were were there!  There are a few shorter ones on one side with a splash park and shallow pool.  There is also a large wave pool and the waves come and go. There are water spouts on that side and the little ones seem to like splashing in that shallow water and running from the waves!

On the other side, there is a playground type structure with water that dumps at intervals and 2 tube water slides. There is a large pool with basketball hoops and balls on one side and an obstacle course with ropes and plastic “logs” for balancing on.  My son was determined to get over this and practiced MANY times until he almost mastered.  I did it myself a few times and my upper body is still sore!!  The water is pretty warm and the temp inside the park is warm as well, so you won’t find yourself shivering as you would at an outdoor park!  Lastly, there is a LARGE jacuzzi with an indoor and outdoor section.  The kids loved it here as well and the water wasn’t VERY hot.  It was more like a very warm bath.  The outdoor air was refreshing!  I didn’t take a TON of photos at the actual water park because I didn’t take the water camera this time!

Overall, our stay was great.  Like I mentioned before, staff is always helpful and generous.  I highly recommend a stay here if you haven’t been! Please feel free to comment, ask questions and share this blog if you found it helpful!  Thanks and have an amazing day!!

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Tie-Dye Cake Project

I love trying new recipes and foods, but I’m not much of a baker. My son, on the other hand LOVES baking so we try to do a project or two a month. I would like it to be more since he enjoys it so much but we pretty much pack our days with activity so we don’t always have a chance.  Since we have a rainbow-themed party coming up for my daughter’s 2nd birthday in another week, we thought the tie-dye cake would be fun and colorful!  When we bought the cake mix, we thought we were getting some unique mix of colored powder/cake batter.

 

 

 

It was actually white cake mix! We had fun making it anyway and it came with small packets of food coloring! The cake itself called for egg whites only which makes me think that it needed to be a different texture so the colors didn’t run together.  It actually came out pretty good!  The process was fun too!!!

 

Gavin is a high-energy child with lots of thoughts, feelings, and questions. He is constantly on-the-go and always rushing to the next thing. Hmmm, he may take after me!  When we come together and focus on something like baking, or exploring a sensory project, he slows down, engages, smiles, and gets more relaxed and easy-going.  It’s good for his soul I believe!

As for the cake, it came out pretty well! The red cake mix had been taken over with orange and yellow so it was hard to see. We went live on facebook cutting into the cake to see the colors and you can check that out here:  fb.com/corinne.genova.

 

We will try it again for Ms. Isla’s birthday and share how it comes out then!

 

 

If you’d like to pick up this mix, it’s called Duff Tie-Dye!

https://www.amazon.com/Duff-Decorating-Mix-Cake-Pack/dp/B00DOYV4Q8

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Find your fitness motivation!

Have you ever wanted to:

Feel better mentally or physically?
Lower your risk of disease?
Lose weight?
Sleep better?
Have more energy?
Avoid injuries?
Be able to keep up with your children or grandchildren?
I want to give you some tips on HOW to make fitness a priority and what you should focus on to make fitness a part of your life.  First, a little about my background with fitness….

 

I have considered myself an athlete for most of my life.  When I was young I ran track, played softball, street hockey, kickball, skateboarding, and any outdoor past time of the 80’s and 90’s!   I pretty much stayed outside afternoons and weekends feeling best when I was moving. Remember? Remember those days when we played and moved our bodies?? We walked a mile up hill to school every day!!!  Okay, I am turning into my grandfather here.  In college,  I played soccer and softball for a couple seasons and ran cross country for 2 seasons as well. In soccer, we had 2 hour morning sessions and I specifically remember sprinting up hills on 3-4 hours of sleep.  Ahhh, to be young again!   After college, I ran many 5ks, 10k, 5 half marathons, a full marathon, did triathlons, tried out surfing a bunch of times, rock climbing, and you get it- I cannot sit still!  Most will tease me and ask what I’m running from.  Seriously, when I have my ear buds in and some good tunes, I feel like Forrest Gump.  I could run for days when I’m in the zone!  Those endorphins really know how to lift my mood!  I truly enjoy challenging my body to move certain ways and sustain speed, demonstrate agility, and feel the thrill of events and races!

Fast forward to life now!  I have a 3 year old and a 1 year old and life is crazy busy!!!  I discovered that fitting in me time is challenging to say the least.  I focused my efforts on soaking in every minute with the children and actually left my job as a behavior specialist to stay home to be with my young children and spend more time on my passion with fitness as a team beachbody coach!   I have run a handful of 5ks in that time, and have tried out every fitness class from boxing to piloxing to Crossfit, but I have actually found that home workouts are so much more than I imagined!

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I have a true love for home fitness programs, with each one helping me crush my fitness goals with my own personal trainer in my living room.  Each program is designed to help an individual meet different goals.  If you want to get lean and build strength with your own body weight, Piyo is the answer!  If you want a quick 25 minute workout that torches calories and works your core- it’s T25 for you.  With these workouts, I have not had any knee pain. I have built strength I have never had before.  I have more flexibility than ever!  I connect with each trainer on the screen and have met each one in person at the events I’ve attended.  Each of them are experts in the fitness industry and day-to-day motivational leaders if you follow them on social media!

This year, I signed up for my first Spartan sprint!  I have a workout program that I enjoy and look forward to and it incorporates Hammer and Chisel, 22 Minute Hard Corps, running with 50 plus lbs (My kids in a stroller!!) and burpees (Insert disgusted emoticon here)!  Each day, I am truly inspired by my new fit family- those working to help others with fitness as instructors, facebook group leaders, Spartan athletes, and the people trying to add fitness into their life and sustain it!  For some, fitness is not a passion.  It is a nemesis.  It is something that they truly strive for, but aren’t able to follow through with.  People will want to start running, and never make it out the door.  They will feel great one day and sign up for a $100/month gym membership and never go.  As a behavior specialist, a KEY factor in most behavioral change is MOTIVATION. Let’s take a closer look at what that means.

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WHY POWER

Your WHY power is going to be what drives you in starting a new fitness program.  It’s not just why you want to start, but how DEEP is that why, how STRONG is that why, and what is behind it?  Many people miss this crucial step in writing down why they want things to change and what it truly means for them, their family, their life, and what it will look like when they get to the level of fitness they are striving for!  I encourage anyone wanting to start a program to envision what it will look like, feel like, be like to reach that fitness goal!

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ENJOYMENT

I am not saying that you are going to be dancing for joy every time you GET to workout each day, BUT you should not be dreading it or avoiding it.  Someone posted in a fitness group the other day that he really hated running, but he was doing it anyway and not giving up.  It was part of training for a race he was doing that involved running.  I get that, BUT I don’t recommend that mentality in general. Most people cannot will themselves to do something that is hurting their feelings to think about!  So, do not try to do a fitness program you do not like, that is too long, that is led by a person you want to punch in the face, or is just not up your alley.  When I work with people who want to start something, I always ask them what they like.  Yoga?  Cardio?  Weights?  Finding something that you actually like to do will definitely help you get it done each day!  It is human nature to avoid things we find aversive, so don’t decide to run if you the thought of your feet hitting the pavement, makes you want to vomit!  You WILL come up with excuses.  If you enjoy the workout even slightly, and you know WHY you started it you may schedule it in as part of your routine and make it an important event you won’t cancel.  Find a workout buddy!  Join a group/meet up or an online accountability group and connect with those people.  Surround yourself with others with similar goals and desires. Get an amazing song playlist together for motivation or listen to a motivational speaker as you get your workout in.  Very often, I turn down the sound on my workouts and listen to motivational speakers.  This will stimulate your mind and work your body at the same time.  There is no way you can have a bad day when you start it off that way!  Buy yourself a new workout outfit to get motivated.  As I write this, I think I need another one myself!

 

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PROMPTS

MOST people tend to follow through with things that require the least amount of response effort.  If your gym is across town and there are 500 million traffic lights getting there, you may talk yourself out of the workout and decide to go to the mall instead because you really NEED a new Lululemon top and THAT will positively motivate you.  If your gym is around the corner, or you have a beautiful area to walk/run nearby or you have set up your basement or garage as a workout space, you will decrease the likelihood of making up excuses.  Set yourself up for SUCCESS!  Set your clothes out the night before a workout OR wear them to bed!  Some of us actually do this!!  Keep your sneakers handy and have your gym bag ready to go.  Put it in front of the door so you can’t leave without it or store it in your car.

ROUTINE
Getting into a new routine can be hard.  Many of us truly fear change.  We are comfortable with how things are going.  We already wake up at 6:30 and do not want to lose that half hour of sleep in the morning.  We don’t have time to fit fitness in.  Well, who has time to be sick, tired, or injured? Not me!  Once we get home after work, we are tired and cannot think about going back out again.  The kids need to get to soccer and karate and dance and we become second priority.  Your health should be a priority.  How can we take care of others when we aren’t taking care of ourselves?  It’s not selfish to be strong physically and mentally.  When fitness become a routine, it gets done!  Put it into the schedule for every day at the same time with a day or two of rest.  Once it becomes habit, it’s second nature.  Find an accountability group or accountability partner and check in with them at the same time every day.  They will expect it and you will expect them to check in with you.  I cannot tell you how many people say they stuck with a program because they were held accountable toward it with a one-to-one coach.

 

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THINK POSITIVE THOUGHTS and JUST DO IT
There is a reason why the fit people are usually happy.  They are good at weeding out the negative from life. They are good at ignoring the voice that says “I can’t.”  “This won’t matter.”  “I can’t finish.” They believe in themselves.   They train themselves to focus on the good, acknowledge progress no matter how insignificant it seems and they set goals.  Goal setting can be a huge motivator.  It’s super rewarding to set a goal and reach it- even if it’s getting a workout in 3 days a week or being able to do a push up.  Start re-training your mind by focusing on the good and remember that having a body that you can move is a GIFT.  Your physical body is the only place you have to live so respect it, move it, and treat it with kindness and attention.  Anyone can change at any time.  When you feel in control of your life, you will start seeing the world in a new light.  Time to take back control!

PARTING WORDS (A compilation of cliche motivational quotes!)
No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everyone on the couch.  It doesn’t get easier, you get better.  It’s a lifestyle, train like there’s no finish line.  Exercise is the most underused anti-depressant.  You don’t have to be great to start, but you do have to start to be great!  Nothing will work unless you do.   Think about why you started!!!  Believe you can and you are halfway there!

 

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My top 5 stimulating and soothing toddler/preschooler activities

My 3-year-old has many interests and preferences and does not hesitate to let me know!  I have found that we are all much better off when he has been involved in activities that engage all of his senses and challenge him.  He has always been strong-willed, persistent, and quick to react emotionally when things don’t go his way.  Very typical for a 2 or 3-year-old!  At the same time, he is creative, imaginative, very social and fun!  When my daughter came along, Gavin was 2 and a half and activities were hard to organize and execute.  Many times, I found myself flipping on the tv and calling it what it was- survival mode!

These days, I’ve been trying to get it down to a science with balancing activities that hold his attention, stimulate his mind, and allow him to explore through his senses.  When he engages in these on a regular basis, I find his attention is better.  He communicates more.  His attitude is more upbeat and he is easier to redirect (another way to say that he is more flexible!)  When I was a behavior specialist, I would not want to a formal plan for a preschooler for behavior until I knew the child was getting things he/she needed including a good amount of movement, hands-on activities, things that made him/her smile.  Let’s face it, are any of us engaged with anything when we are not happy or stimulated by the activity itself!

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1.  Playground!  When we are at the playground, Gavin gets a chance to run, play, slide, jump and be imaginative.  He will climb to the top and confidently yelll “I did it!”  He will also pretend he’s driving a boat, or a car and the woodchips are the water.  Physical activity allows him to get his heart rate up and gets the endorphins flowing!  Just being outdoors can be soothing to the soul!  Trips to the zoo, beach, or even a walk at a local pond can be relaxing and fun!  Fresh air is a miracle in itself!  Did you know the recommendation is 60 minutes of activity EVERY day?
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2.  Music or dance party!  Music somehow soothes the soul, doesn’t it?  When I see Gavin getting a little anxious about something or a little on edge, I will play one of his favorite songs right from my phone.  This usually helps redirect.  We also have spontaneous dance parties and he and his sister love to dance around the room!  It changes his mood instantly!
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3.  Play-dough!  Yes, I know not everyone likes messy activities, but if you put down an old shower curtain or set rules about where play dough stays (on the table), this activity can be pretty neat.  I believe meal times are the messiest activity we have!  By providing sensory experiences we allow children to focus, relax and be present with an activity that can be quite calming!  We take play-dough out to restaurants, and Gavin has a blast squishing, rolling and making figures.  But you can make your own version of play dough that’s just as much fun to make as it is to play with. This recipe makes 3 1/2 cups of dough. 1. In a medium saucepan, mix together the flour, salt, vegetable oil, cream of tartar, and water.

 

And yes, sometimes it will end up on the floor and you will pray that it is JUST play-dough!
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4.  Baking!  I am not a huge baker.  I don’t like the science behind baking.  I actually love cooking where I can throw in ingredients and change the way things taste.  I like to take control when prepping food!  On the other hand, there is something rather comforting about the smell of homemade muffins!  Gavin loves helping me cook and will stay engaged the WHOLE time.  He absolutely loved these healthy muffins he helped me make and they were fairly easy too!  They are over on my facebook fitness page!  Here is an easy, healthy and no-bake recipe!  http://moneysavingmom.com/2012/05/4-weeks-to-fill-your-freezer-homemade-energy-bites-day-18.html

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5.  Shaving cream car wash!  Take out any toys that need to be washed, including cars, trucks, dolls etc. and have a cleaning party!  Get the sensitive skin shaving cream if you want to avoid the perfume smell, a bucket of water, some clean scrub brushes (dollar store or Target), a tub and some mats and towels.  Again, this is slightly messy, but it will hold your child’s attention and be stimulating to all of his/her senses!  If you don’t have shaving cream, sand or water table or even a trip to the beach are also great activities for the threenager!  Very stimulating and soothing at the same time!

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I hope you enjoyed these!  Please share this post if you feel that other parents could benefit from hearing about easy to prepare sensory stimulating activities!

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What do moms really want for Mother’s Day?

A fancy brunch? A family trip to the zoo? Diamond earrings???   No, no and no according to a poll I took in my absolute favorite moms’ group.  My ideal Mother’s day would be meeting up with these fabulous moms who have been an incredible support to me in my last 3 and a half years being a mom!  We would probably share a mimosa….or 3!!!
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So……this one is not a shocker!!!  Number 1 is SLEEP!!!!  This is such a hot topic in groups!  We RARELY get 5-7 hours of sleep and if we do, it’s so completely broken, we can just refer to it as a little “shut eye.”  When we aren’t talking about how our kids never sleep, we are thinking about it and if we aren’t thinking about it, we are probably nodding off into the baby’s high chair tray while feeding them smashed peas, or the computer screen where we should be working.  Lack of sleep is all consuming and it feels like we will never, ever sleep again.  Even when our eyes are shut at night, we are listening with our entire beings for a child falling out of bed, a cough or a hack, a baby forgetting to breathe and if all is quiet, we hear our husbands snoring!!!!   On the days that our kids aren’t teething, they are sick with fevers, colds, stomach bug, etc.  Poor babies.  Poor parents!  So, being able to sleep in an hour, two hours or all day would be PHENOMENAL!!!  Ideally, it would be uninterrupted and for as long as possible!  Heck, I was sick last week with the stomach bug and part of me was sort of excited about staying in bed getting to sleep even though I felt horrible.  Ahhhh…..precious, precious SLEEP!!!
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Number 2 is A DAY OFF, a night off, a weekend off, a vacation off, or at least a few hours off from mommy-ing!  We love it and we will shout it from the rooftops, but sometimes we get so lost and caught up in taking care of everyone else’s needs, that we slightly feel like we are losing our minds or our identities, and we don’t even remember to shower or get a chance to shower and if we do, we don’t get to dry our hair or complete a thought because we have little fingers under the door!  A few hours for a mani, or a pedi, a hair appointment, movie trip, spa day, beach day, shopping or a massage.  No texts to report a missing shoe, or sippy cup or to ask where the graham crackers are.  Just some down time.  Something, anything to help us relax, step back, breathe, and REFILL our own cup!  This is a mom’s dream.   One mom was planning a spa day AND a trip to the winery with her own mom.  AMAZING!!!!!!  We are better mommies and better people all around when we decompress!!!  Oh, and when we come home, we want a clean house too.  Asking too much?  We deserve it!!!!  <3
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Number 3 is a day of FUN!!!   Responsibility-free time to just ENJOY the family.  Other family members take over ALL responsibilities including cooking, cleaning, laundry, packing bags, etc. (or outsource these jobs to professionals!)  Mom gets to sit back, play, laugh, take it all in without stressing over details.  What a PERFECT way to be present with the family.   Having others do the dirty work, the behind the scenes work, the upkeep.  Mom gets to interact with the family in a stress-free environment!   Essentially, moms want to feel like a visitor in their own home!  Waited on without responsibility.  🙂
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Number 4 seems to be a CLEAN house.  Someone to come and clean the house that day or maybe a day in the week following.  There is something magical about having a clean house and not having to put in any elbow grease.   The people that have this luxury say that it is completely amazing and others who don’t seem to have this as a #lifegoal.  If you aren’t giving the gift of a clean house, check 1, 2, or 3.  🙂

Number 5 is breakfast, or brunch, or farmer’s market, or morning out with the family- something very light, but fun and the event should probably include MIMOSAS!!! 🙂

Number 6 is  just say no to the big challenges of parenthood.  We want a day of no diapers, no teething, no potty-training, no fighting, no one saying dinner is gross.  Just NO.  None of that!  Can we get them to sign a contract for this one??

Number 7  is chocolate- in the form of chocolate or cake .

Number 8 is wine- in the form of red wine.

Number 9 is wine- in the form of white wine.

Number 10 is appreciation.  A thank you, a card, a verbal acknowledgement or maybe a kid-made card or gift.  In my opinion, this should be paired with one of the above, but would be truly appreciated any way it comes.

On this Mother’s Day, think about the gift that’s good for Mom’s soul.  Do that.  If you’re unsure, just ask.  Most of us aren’t shy about what’s good for our soul.  We love our babies, but we also know we are better moms when we get the time and attention we need for self-care too.

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Father Forgets

“Father Forgets”, the Famous W. Livingston Larned poem featured in the classic Dale Carnegie book: How to Win Friends and Influence People,

I was listening to this audiobook during dinner and this poem struck a chord with me.  I put myself into this story.  How often am I correcting my children and forgetting to praise, encourage, lift up their young and beautiful souls.  This poem may have just changed my parenting as I plan to revisit it every so often.  It’s also true of anyone we speak to.  The world has enough critics.  We need more encouragers!

Below are the words of the beautiful poem “Father Forgets”:

Listen, son: I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your cheek and the blond curls stickily wet on your damp forehead. I have stolen into your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me. Guiltily I came to your bedside.

There are the things I was thinking, son: I had been cross to you. I scolded you as you were dressing for school because you gave your face merely a dab with a towel. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called out angrily when you threw some of your things on the floor.

At breakfast I found fault, too. You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread butter too thick on your bread. And as you started off to play and I made for my train, you turned and waved a hand and called, “Goodbye, Daddy!” and I frowned, and said in reply,

“Hold your shoulders back!”

Then it began all over again in the late afternoon. As I came up the road I spied you, down on your knees, playing marbles. There were holes in your stockings. I humiliated you before your boyfriends by marching you ahead of me to the house. Stockings were expensive‐and if you had to buy them you would be more careful! Imagine that, son, from a father!

Do you remember, later, when I was reading in the library, how you came in timidly, with a sort of hurt look in your eyes? When I glanced up over my paper, impatient at the interruption, you hesitated at the door. “What is it you want?” I snapped. You said nothing, but ran across in one tempestuous plunge, and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me, and your small arms tightened with an affection that God had set blooming in your heart and which even neglect could not wither.

And then you were gone, pattering up the stairs. Well, son, it was shortly afterwards that my paper slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. What has habit been doing to me?

The habit of finding fault, of reprimanding‐this was my reward to you for being a boy. It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected too much of youth. I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years.

And there was so much that was good and fine and true in your character. The little heart of you was as big as the dawn itself over the wide hills. This was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me good night. Nothing else matters tonight, son. I have come to your bedside in the darkness, and I have knelt there, ashamed!

It is feeble atonement; I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you during your waking hours. But tomorrow I will be a real daddy! I will chum with you, and suffer when you suffer, and laugh when you laugh. I will bite my tongue when impatient words come. I will keep saying as if it were a ritual: “He is nothing but a boy‐a little boy!”

I am afraid I have visualized you as a man. Yet as I see you now, son, crumpled and weary in your cot, I see that you are still a baby. Yesterday you were in your mother’s arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much, too much.

-W. Livingston Larned

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Always Remember to BREATHE

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It was a morning like many others.  Gavin woke up calling for me and Isla woke a little while later crying in her crib.  I got the kids diapers/pull ups changed, prepped breakfast for us all, dealt with a few tantrums over the wrong fork or the toy not doing what it’s supposed to.  Kids finished eating breakfast and started fighting over toys.  I looked around at the piles of laundry and although I was excited the dryer was fixed after a week without, we were quite backed up with dirty clothes.  I started picking up the house and decided to get the laundry started.  It was about 9 am and if I started now, it could be done by the time Derrick got home from work.  I opened the gate and let Gavin go upstairs.  He’s 3 and really good on the stairs.  I carried Isla up.  We have a steep hardwood staircase and she has only gone up and down the basement rugged stairs with help. She JUST turned 1 and she is so active and fast.  She walked at 8 months!  Now she climbs, and runs.  She moves furniture to get on things like the couch and it scares the living sh– out of me on a daily basis!  I had been teaching her to go down on her bottom so she would be safe.  I am the type who worries about everything and I am constantly picking up toys and moving furniture around to avoid bumps and bruises (for me too!). We have those cushions on all of the corners of our furniture.  Our babies are ACTIVE and super adventurous.  I don’t know where they get their energy!

I got them both upstairs into their bedroom.  We have a small cape, so at the top of the stairs, the bathroom is in front and there is a bedroom to the left (the kids’ room) and the right (our room). I shut the gate and they walked into their room where I read a few books to them.  They LOVE books.  They have probably over 500 books in their room and we have read ALL of them.  We get books from Gavin’s school and from the library  so we have new ones every week.  They both sat down on the floor flipping through books.  I went into my room and threw a ton of laundry down the stairs.  I went into the bathroom and got another pile and threw them down.  Then, I went back into the room with the kids and took the sheets off Gavin’s bed and threw those down.  By this time, the kids were walking around the room, playing with the blocks and Gavin’s train table. I noticed the floor had some smudges and it looks like milk had spilled on the hardwood where the rug didn’t cover.  Gross!   Everything was calm so I went to the bathroom and got some warm water and soap on a towel. Gavin was pushing a car and Isla was flipping through a board book.  I bent over and started scrubbing the floor.  That lasted about 45 seconds.  It was quiet all of a sudden.  I looked up.

What I heard next- a loud crash, sent pounding hammers to my head and my whole body felt like it was being crushed.  I jumped up with adrenaline and leapt the 2 feet between me and the bedroom door and 1 more to the top of the steps.  The gate was open and Isla began screaming at the bottom.  I FLEW down the stairs and grabbed her up.  HOW DID I LET THIS HAPPEN???

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I took this photo after the fire fighters left to remember the clothes she fell on. It gives me a little peace to know that there was some padding at the bottom.

She was crying and I looked her over and there was no blood and I just looked at her little limbs wondering if they were broken.   HOW???   She had fallen 16 steep stairs!!!  She fell onto the piles of clothes which spread from about stair 12-16.  Thank god for the broken dryer.  Gavin was standing there.  He had opened the gate and Isla followed him.  I didn’t even see them walk by me when I was scrubbing.  I began screaming hysterically and I COULD NOT catch my breath. I felt like the worst mother in the world.  How could I not keep my babies out of harm’s way?  This is my number 1 job!   I called 9-1-1 from my cell and they continuously told me to calm down.  I couldn’t breathe and just kept wheezing. I could only get out one word for each breath and they couldn’t understand me.  OH MY GOD.  I needed to speak so the ambulance can come and check her out.  I could feel my heart in my ears and my throat was closing as my head was spinning.  Is this really happening???  I was pacing while she screamed and Gavin followed me around.  I felt light headed like I would pass out.  I kept trying to breathe but I couldn’t find the air.   Suddenly, I heard the woman connecting me to a local fire dept. and I heard them “We can’t help your baby if we can’t hear you.”  My mind started clearing up. “My baby fell down the stairs!”  They asked me her age.  They told me to stay calm. They asked if she was breathing, if she was responsive, if she was crying.  Yes, yes, and yes.  My baby was OKAY.  She was actually okay and when I looked at her in my arms and really looked at her, she stopped crying and smiled.  My eyes were flooded with tears.  She needed her mama.  She needed me to be calm and be there for her.  She forgave me.  Now, could I only forgive myself?

The fire department came and they were amazing.  Three of them had little ones under 3 years old and they told me it was okay and they checked her out from head to toe.  She had a small red mark on her forehead but she was fine.  She was walking around, dancing and laughing.  She loved the attention.  I listened to their stories with more tears flowing and many of them were happy tears knowing she was okay.  They told me to take her to the pediatrician to make sure everything was okay and I did later that day.  I cried again when I called my husband and when I called my mom and when I was at the doctor.  I cried that night and the next day and had no voice from screaming that day.  The important thing was that she was okay.  She didn’t even have a bruise the next day and for that, I am forever grateful.

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Getting checked out later that day. She just kept going for the drawers and the door!

I learned many lessons that day and one is that, yes, I need to shut the door when we are upstairs, and that yes, we may need a stronger gate, but also that mistakes can happen and when events like this shake us to the core they sometimes make us truly aware of the indescribable support that is present every single day in our lives. I got so many messages from friends and family that truly helped and I cannot thank you all enough for that.

I never knew that babies are that resilient and that adults actually end up with more injuries on stair falls because we are heavier.  This was only last week so I am still a little shaky about it, but I slowly forgiving myself and know that being easy on myself is important for my children as well.  I want to teach them that we do make mistakes and it’s important to learn from those, forgive ourselves and move on.

We went to the fire station the next days to give them treats and they let Gavin in the fire truck!

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Oh and my husband agreed to hiring someone to help keep up with the cleaning at least in these early years while I have my business and our babies are gymnasts!

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