Help Plan The 2015 Young Moms Retreat!

I hear from so many mothers every day and we’re all saying the same thing: “I NEED A BREAK!”

But do we really take the time we need? Nope. We just go about our lives and wait until that day comes when we can give ourselves a breather. Well, I’m taking away your excuses today.

I’m planning…..**drumroll please** a young moms retreat in 2015! I’m envisioning a two-day retreat in which we get pampered, de-stress, and let our cares slip away in a beautiful, inviting setting.

This all sounds great but I’ve got to get you on board. So I crafted this survey so you can give me your input on everything: your preferred location, your budget, your must-have list for the retreat space — everything! Once I get everyone’s input, I’ll begin narrowing down locations and getting things in motion for what I hope will be one of the best weekends you’ve EVER had.

And remember – if you don’t submit your input, I won’t be able to plan with your particular needs in mind. So if you could use a break in 2015 and don’t want to be left out, fill out the form and stay tuned for more details!

The Definitive Self-Care Quiz: 30 Questions To Determine Whether You Know How To Take Care Of You

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be talking about emotional wellness. The first thing we need to do is help you grade yourself. How do you know where you need to improve if you don’t know where you stand? I’ve devised this self-care quiz based on common factors of self-care, and offer it as a non-scientific exploration of how well you’re treating yourself. Dive in:

Definitive Self-Care Quiz

True or False:

1) If someone graded you on how well you take care of yourself, they’d give you a B- or above.

2) The last time you went out with your friends was less than three months ago.

3) You usually get more than 6 hours of sleep per night.

4) It is easy for you to eat 5 servings of vegetables every day without even thinking about it.

5) When you are stressed, you know it’s not healthy to bottle it inside.

6) Your kids know when you are “in a mood” and know to leave you alone.

7) You generally enjoy parenting most days.

8) Your fingernails are not jagged or peeling or otherwise unsightly.

9) You find you often have enough energy to make it to the end of the day without getting cranky.

10) The mattress you sleep on is less than 8 years old.

11) You’ve been to the doctor within the past year for a general checkup.

12) You’ve been to the dentist within the past year for a cleaning.

13) You’ve been to the gynecologist within the past three years.

14) Your wardrobe is full of clothes you actually like to wear and think you look cute in.

15) You’re happy about your love life.

16) You feel challenged by the situations in your life, but not defeated.

17) You regularly make time for friends and family.

18) You generally exercise 2-3 times per week.

19) When people compliment you (on your appearance, accomplishments, etc), you accept it graciously.

20) You go to bed around the same time every day and wake up around the same time every day.

21) You laugh at least once most days.

22) You get fresh air daily and enjoy getting out of the house.

23) You have hobbies that keep you feeling energized and happy.

24) When you feel upset about something, you generally feel okay with letting people know.

25) When you have a tough day, you have healthy ways to cope with your stress.

26) You have time in your day to just….breathe, whether it’s an hour or just 15 minutes.

27) You avoid negative people and situations as much as you can.

28) When you go too long without a break, you make sure to pencil in time to focus on yourself.

29) When it comes to needing space away from your children, you have someone you can call to babysit (either for free or you can afford their rates).

30) When you are stressed or anxious about something, you are able to think of one or two people you could turn to for support.

Tally ‘em up! Here’s your scorecard:

Give yourself 1 point for every “True” answer.

Results:

Less than 10 points: Most likely, you are the woman that everyone leans on when they need help, or you are the one who keeps all the parts moving in your family. You’re busy and so focused on getting things done that you are not in tune with your own needs. Neglecting yourself, for any amount of time, is a quick road to burnout. Something has to change soon or you will crash. This is a wake up call. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Go directly to your bedroom and do not come out until you develop a plan to get to at least 15 points.

Between 10 to 20 points: You are most likely feeling “good” more days than not. You can handle your business, have a girls night out every now and then and generally feel happy with where you are in life. But there is always room for improvement. A happy woman can rule the world. A woman feeling so-so? Eh, not so much. Decide where you’d like to focus your energy over the next few weeks. Is it your wardrobe? Your career? Your relationships? Focus in on one area that could use a little more attention and develop your plan to help you get to the next level of happy.

20 points or more: Well, look at you, handling your business and taking care of yourself with some inspiring regularity. I’m impressed. There is not much to say here except keep up the good work. If you haven’t already, look at your schedule and pencil in some of those things you already do to feel good. Make sure your “me-time” is set in stone. And spread the love. Maybe you could invite a friend to the gym with you. If you know a woman who struggles to keep herself at the top of her priority list, be her inspiration. Nudge her along the path of self-love and see if you don’t witness her transformation.

Over the next few years (and rolling right in to 2015), we will be focusing on my favorite subject: YOU. More specifically, how to be happier. You deserve this, I know, and I want this year to be your best year yet. And I’m sure we can do it. Let’s walk this road together.

 

 

 

A Working Mom’s Snow Day Panic

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by Trudi Lebron

It’s early in the morning and I hear my phone ringing. I reach over, prepared to press the snooze button when I realize that it’s not the alarm, it’s a phone call…. At 5:23 a.m.

I recognize the 1-800 number instantly as the RoboCall number from my son’s school. They are calling to tell me that school is closed!

Panic set’s in.

How am I going to go to work? Despite the fact that I work in a school, my district only has a 2-hour delay. I will be expected in work. I don’t have any non-working family in the area, no non-working friends who can watch my son, and my fiancé is out of town. On top of that, I didn’t go to work yesterday because I took a personal day in order to tend to some appointments.

My options are to call out completely or to call in to let my supervisor know that I need to work from home. I am not confident in either of these options and immediately start picturing being called into the office to be spoken to about my supervisors concern regarding my availability. I decided to take the work-from-home option—an option that I am grateful to have—but all day I am afraid to miss a phone call or email. I worry that I haven’t accomplished enough, and that when I report on my to-do list for the day my supervisor will not be satisfied.

So here is the question:

Do all moms, single or not, feel bad about needing to take time off of work, or needing to work from home? Is this feeling job insecurity common among my fellow working mothers? How does this impact the way we feel about our jobs? Also, as a woman who is building a business, what can I do to make sure that my future employees don’t experience this fear?

Parenting Through Depression

Yesterday I took a mental health day because I needed it.

November was a very stressful month (my daughter’s asthma flared up quite a bit, we had the car accident, the Darren Wilson non-indictment, etc.). I am an highly sensitive, emotional person and it takes a lot of energy to keep myself upright and smiling most days. But yesterday I woke up and realized that I’m quite tired of plastering a smile on my face and pretending that everything is fine when in fact it isn’t.

I tried to pinpoint when exactly I began having these depressive episodes and realized that I can trace them with certainty back to my first pregnancy with my daughter. I have struggled with depression off and on for the past eight years and it is frustrating to think you finally have a hold on something and then BOOM! It knocks you on your ass.

What is most frustrating is how I try to hide my “sad days” from my children. When I’m parenting through depression, I summon all the energy I have to smile at them and ask how their day was and help them with homework and shower them with extra “I love you’s” and “I’m proud of you’s” to make up for the fact that Mommy isn’t really “present.” I’m existing in the same space as them, but I’m not really present.

As Alex said in her post on battling depression, it’s not something you want to broadcast and that comes with its own bit of shame:

I hid my depression and later my anxiety attacks from everyone. No one knew that I was leading a double life. I couldn’t let the truth escape because I didn’t want to show how vulnerable and scared I was. I didn’t want people to think I was a basket case. I wanted people to believe that I was fine, that everything was just great. That that smile I wore during the day carried on at home. I had to conceal the truth.

Most people (including my family and close friends) don’t know I’ve struggled (and continue to struggle) because to them, I’m active and thriving and I answer their phone calls and texts when they reach out to me. I have a successful business, I’m a pretty busy writer, and so everything must be fine, right?

Often it’s not fine, but I don’t share that. Everyone has their own burdens and problems and I’m sure mine wouldn’t even make the top 10 in most people’s lives. So I keep it to myself.

But I now realize that I have to care about myself just as much as I care about my children. I want to be strong for them, but also for myself. Being kind and giving myself the space to figure things out is not just smart, it’s crucial.

So when I took that mental health day, I meant it. I meditated, I watched animated movies, I fed my body healthy food. I danced to music that made me happy and I wrote down all my fears and anxieties to help me better understand what I’m up against.

I feel much better. Not 100% healed, but that’s what time is for. Now it’s just up to me to continue to pursue activities that make the “sad days” less frequent (therapy, exercise, etc.).

Thank you for giving me a safe place. *hugs*

#RaisingBrilliance: Teaching Your Children Empathy Can Make Them Better Students

A few weeks ago, as I was helping my kids get ready for bed, my son asked me a simple, silly question: “Mommy, can blind people talk?”

“Yes,” I said slowly. “Why do you ask?”

“I mean…can they ask questions?”

I realized then that my son assumed if people couldn’t see, they wouldn’t know if other people were standing nearby to be able to talk to them.

So I turned to Mommy’s best friend aka YouTube and pulled up a few videos about blind people so my son (and later, my daughter, when she came into the room) could see what life is like for the visually impaired. I found a ton of videos from Tommy Edison, a man who has been blind since birth. His videos are hilarious and they answer almost every question you could have about blindness, including some I didn’t think to ask (like, what do blind people dream about?).

His videos are great at showing the connection between sighted people and visually impaired people. His main point is that we are all the same! Blind people like to watch movies, they go to baseball games, they go out the dinner with friends, they like to cook!

We must have sat there and watched close to an hour of videos. During each video I’d pause it and ask my kids if they had ever considered what life would be like if they had to ____ with no vision. Take this video for instance:

My children take for granted that whole “look both ways” directive and didn’t stop to think of a blind man walking by himself. I could see the recognition wash over both of them as they realized that many people navigate the world differently than they do. It’s not about pity, but rather, looking at situations from another person’s perspective. I want my children to be able to not just see differences between themselves and others, but understand how those differences are worth celebrating and make us all better for having them.

So tell me – how do you teach your children empathy?

That Time We Got Hit By A Drunk Driver: A Personal PSA Against Drinking And Driving

This past weekend, my family and I were in a pretty bad car accident. We were on our way home from dinner and I was thinking about the leftover pumpkin pie we had in the frid—BAM!

A pick-up truck slammed into us and slammed us into the pick-up truck in front of us.

My first thought was, “What the hell just happened?”  The confusion quickly gave way to fear because all I heard was my children’s screams from the backseat. I turned around and saw both of them shaking and screaming and crying for help. My husband quickly unbuckled and got out of the car and into the backseat for my son. I unbuckled and reached into the backseat to grab my daughter, screaming for the other people involved in the accident to call 911. At that point, I had no idea whether either of my children were seriously injured.

hit by a drunk driver

My head was pounding. Suddenly, a police officer was at the scene, asking me if the children were okay. “I don’t know,” I stammered. “I don’t know.” We got the children checked out and miraculously, they didn’t have as much as a scratch on them.  I’m still thanking God. Over and over and over again.

The driver was arrested at the scene for driving while drunk and spent the weekend in jail. Good. However, he’s now out, awaiting his court date.

Now, a few days later, I’m still a little shaken up. At every red light I’m panicking. When I close my eyes, I can still feel the jolt from getting hit. I can still hear my kids screaming. My nightmares are upsetting and I am still scared.

I’ve spent this week indulging in self-care: baking, taking lots of naps and trying to do things to lift my spirits. I wanted to write a little about this, just so I can clear my head, as writing as always been the best way for me to sort through my feelings. Yes, a list might be the weakest way to present my thoughts here but this will have to do:

1) I really really love my children – This is the reason I am still shaking four days later. I am so thankful that they weren’t physically hurt, even as they are dealing with their fears of getting “kaboomed” again (their term for the crash).

2) Drunk driving is more common than I previously believed – the driver was stumbling around the crash scene, asking questions and apologizing but he wasn’t really making any sense. It was “only” 6:30 p.m., so who is out on the road, drunk at that time of day? But according to MADD, someone is injured in a drunk driving crash every two minutes. EVERY.TWO.MINUTES.

3) I have to allow myself to feel what I feel – When people have asked me how I’m doing, I smile and say, “I’m fine.” But really…I’m not. And I need to be okay with that and allow myself to go through the motions of getting back to normal.

4) Children are surprisingly resilient – After the crash, the ambulance took us to McDonald’s to wait for my parents to come drive us home after they towed the car away. My kids were running around playing and I was sitting there still in shock. I couldn’t believe they were laughing and playing. Healthy. Uninjured. Alive.

5) Material things seem much less important now – The car is totaled but I don’t care. (Also, shout out to Chevy engineers for keeping us safe in the interior. We went to go get our things out of the car at the impound lot and if you looked in the interior, you’d have no idea the car had been in an accident! I had been concerned when my husband came home with the Chevy Cruze, that it was such a small car. But ultimately, the salespeople were right – it was an incredible safe and well designed car.)

6) I am not in control of a damn thing – I am such a control freak and I keep running through my head what I could have done differently to avoid this situation. But there’s nothing. I am not in control of a damn thing and that’s kind of scary.

Please consider this my PSA: Do not drink and drive. It is not worth it. You might have a beer or two and think you’re okay, but don’t even take that chance. Have someone else drive or spend the night with a friend.

 

[Date Night] “Beyond The Lights” Brings Love Back To The Big Screen

I’m a sucker for a good love story.

Show me two people falling for one another, helping each other grow and evolve, and I’ll show you a woman who is swooning.

Gina Prince-Bythewood, director of both Love & Basketball and Disappearing Acts, knows how to write incredible love stories. So I knew I was going to go see her new film, Beyond the Lights, as soon as I saw a trailer earlier this year.

A lot of folks I know were underwhelmed by the trailer and I get it: In an industry where there are more superheroes, more car chases, more splash, more flash than ever, a good ol’ fashioned love story doesn’t stand out like it should.

But I saw Beyond the Lights at an advanced screening this week and I am a fan. Truly.

The movie has a lot of layers: biracial parenting, father-son legacies, sexualization of female artists in the music industry, mismatched love affairs and more. I left the theater feeling hopeful and a believer in real, powerful all-encompassing love again.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw (“Belle”) plays Noni, a troubled singer on the verge of a major breakthrough. She’s drowning in her hyper sex kitten persona and no one in her inner circle, including her ambitious momager Macy, seems to care long enough to get her the help she needs. When she tries to commit suicide by falling off a balcony, handsome LAPD officer Kaz Nicol (played by Nate Parker, “Red Tails”) is there in time to save her. The two connect and begin to explore what their lives would feel like if they were in this thing together.

This film is very sensual and be advised that if you are not happy about your love life, this flick will have you all in your feelings.

Prince-Bythewood began writing the screenplay six years ago after coming home from an Alicia Keys concert where she was mesmerized by the lyrics to Keys’ “Diary” and inspired to create a love story. But studios didn’t believe a movie about love (with two black leads!) could be successful.

“I’m not going to lie,” she said during a recent Reddit AMA. “There were days when it was tough to pick myself up, but this was a story that I was so passionate about and that fueled my fight. And the knowledge that I just needed one ‘yes.’ I’ve been here before. Everybody turned down Love & Basketball. So once you’ve made it through, you know you can do it again.”

So everyone, I’m urging you to go see it. Take your boo. Or your girlfriends. Or your cousins. Support female directors who consistently produce quality content!

Beyond the Lights is in theaters today. Find a showing near you here

Finding Beauty And Making Memories In Unexpected Places

I’m a Midwestern girl through and through. I grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, went to college 45 minutes away, and bought my first home 15 minutes away from my alma mater. When I say I love Northeast Ohio, I mean it. But as of late, life has gotten downright boring here in my little corner of the state. I felt like I’ve seen it all and done it all and I just want more to do.

But a recent trip to nearby Mansfield, Ohio, has convinced me that I have seen very little of the state I claim to love. In working with the Mansfield and Richland County Convention and Visitors Bureau, they helped arrange a fun little weekend getaway trip for my family, giving us a new perspective on life right outside our backdoor.

A mere two counties west from us was Mansfield, an older former industrial town that, much like the rest of the cities in the Rust Belt, used to be vibrant with blue-collar workers and booming factories. After a few decades of decline, these cities are bouncing back in a big way. I admit I didn’t know what to expect from Mansfield, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun we had in small town Ohio.

The Blueberry Patch

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Since we were visiting in the fall, we weren’t able to actually pick blueberries at the Blueberry Patch, which is the largest blueberry farm in Ohio. But we had an amazing time anyway. We got there around lunchtime, so we ate at Blossoms Cafe, right at the front of the farm. It’s called a cafe, but I was really impressed with the hearty selections and portions. My husband and I ordered the stuffed pepper soup (so good it inspired me to make my own recipe once we got home) and my son ordered pizza, with my daughter eating the chicken and apple salad.

The gift shop was good for browsing, with me looking at essential oils and specialty teas and my kids looking at anything that looked like a toy. We got to go out to the fields, even though the blueberries were already harvested and frozen for customers. But it was a beautiful fall day and we got “attacked” by ladybugs, which made my kids squeal.

I’m looking forward to going back in the summer, when the blueberries are ripe and ready to be picked. Blueberry pie, anyone?

Hours May Through End of Blueberry Season: Monday-Saturday 9 am-7 pm, Sunday 11 am-5 pm. Blossoms Cafe Open Daily till 4 pm

Little Buckeye Children’s Museum

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This is one of the best children’s museums I have ever been to. It is deceptively small from the street, but once you walk in, there’s two floors full of hands-on, interactive exhibits, all built to capture the imagination of children up to age 12. Admission is cheap at $7 for everyone ages 2 and up and there’s easily hours of fun inside.

Little Buckeye Children's Museum

Little Buckeye Children's Museum Mansfield

What I loved most was how dense the space was. I was a bit overwhelmed at the number of exhibits and “things to do” they packed into the space. They have a life-size building block room, water tables, tree house, grocery store, pretend dentistry room, and more. In talking with the executive director, I learned there is even more to come. My children especially loved the “Deconstruction Area,” where (with parent supervision) they can deconstruct electronics like computers and vacuums.  How cool is that?

Hours: Wed-Saturday 10am-6pm & Sundays 1pm-6pm

Admission: $7 for 2 and up.

Mansfield Fire Museum

I don’t know how excited my kids were to go to the fire museum, particularly since they don’t know what a fire museum is. (Do you?) But this museum gave us all an up-close look at how firefighting has evolved over the past couple of centuries, from the horse-drawn wagons toting buckets (and neighbors pitching in with their own) to the bright red trucks we know today, the Mansfield Fire Museum is a nice weekend visit to see the beauty and wonder of something we all take for granted.

Mansfield Fire Museum

They also have a “Safety House,” a replica of a two-bedroom house in order to teach children fire safety. The children go into one room and the hallways fill with “smoke.” They’re taught how to find the exit, where to go, and how to get there (get low, get out and stay out). It was an educational experience that I’m glad my children got the chance to see.

Hours: Mid May through mid-October, Saturday and Sunday, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Comfort Inn Splash Harbor

Again – WHO KNEW? My kids had a great time at the mini “splash park” located inside an unassuming Comfort Inn. With two hot tubs, a twisting water slide and splash pods, my kids swam and played for over an hour. For families traveling through the area, I highly recommend Comfort Inn Splash Harbor. It was clean, the front desk staff was amazingly friendly, the splash park was a wonderful bonus and it is right next door to the Der Dutchman Restaurant, which had some amazing down home food (the strawberry cheesecake was so good!). Follow them on Facebook to stay abreast of some great deals.

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Richland Carousel Park

Located in the Carousel District in downtown Mansfield is the Richland Carousel Park. I will say that I thought it was kind of pricey, at $1 per ride, but man, the ride is long! I sat and waited for my kids to get done…and waited…and waited. I see that they priced it high, but you get more bang for your buck. It is a four-season carousel, so you can come downtown in the winter and ride. But I bet it’s really spectacular in the summer, when they open the doors (kind of like garage doors) and let the wind in.

Richland Carousel Park Mansfield Ohio

Two Cousins Pizza

I’m not even going to use a bunch of words on this one. Just look at the pizza.

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Delicious and we had perfect service. Definitely stop by if you are in town.

 

Four Reasons You Should “Drop-In” On Your Kids At School

By Erica Hawthorne

Outside of eating lunch with your child every now and then and parent-teacher conferences, how often are you able to drop in at your child’s school? Probably not often, considering most of us are extremely busy with life. However, even if it’s just for an hour here or an hour there, doing drive-bys at your kids’ school is beneficial, and here’s why:

You Get To See What They Really Do At School

If you’re anything like me, at some point, part of your daily routine is asking your kids, “How was your day? What did you do at school today?” It has been my experience that asking such a broad question, particularly to younger kids, doesn’t yield the best results. I learned a couple things by going to their school:

  1. They do exercises in class every morning while they watch the school news. This is separate from what they do in gym class, and I think it’s awesome they start their days off with exercise!
  2. They do not go to the library as a class and since there are only four passes for the class, each kid may not be able to go every day.

I have three children in school and no one has ever mentioned these things to me!

You’re Able To Better Hold Them Accountable

My daughter and I went through a phase a couple months ago, where she claimed she hadn’t been taking AR (Accelerated Reading) Tests because “she just didn’t have time.” One day, to her surprise, I showed up in her classroom right after she had breakfast. I shadowed her as she went through her morning routine and we were both able to conclude that she has more than enough time to take AR Tests. Now that she knows I am holding her accountable for how she uses her time at school, she now finds the time to knock those tests out!

It Gives Them A Chance To Show Off!

Everyday your child is learning, learning, learning–being quizzed on what they’ve learned and you’re not usually there to see it.  But if you were, it would be like a show, and who better to have in the audience than your parents? I enjoy seeing my kids light up and put on an academic show for me when I’m in their class! They’re so eager to answer every question just to show their momma that they know their stuff. They’re proud, I’m proud…it’s a win-win situation.

Because You’re Part Of The Village

Once you become a regular visitor, you will get to know all the kids and they will get to know you. When I enter a classroom, all the kids rush up to give me a hug as if I’m their mom! Having a relationship with these kids makes it easier for me to intervene when I see kids doing or saying something they shouldn’t be! As a result, I feel that being an involved parent, lowers my kids’ (as well as other kids) chances of being bullied. Now I could be wrong, but I think I’m right. Teachers, as great as they are, cannot do it all on their own, and help from parents is always appreciated.

Erica Hawthorne is a single mom who lives in Georgia with her three kids. 

OPEN THREAD: Do You Need Your Partner To Show Their Love For You On Facebook?

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Yesterday was Wednesday and as such, folks were posting their #WCW (Woman Crush Wednesdays) photos. Three of my newly married friends got a shout out from their new husbands, with each saying something sweet like, “The only #WCW I need in my life. She is indeed a dream come true.”

So lovely, right?

So why, if I’m completely honest, was I a little jealous?

My husband does not use social media like most 30somethings do. He’s busy, he says. He will hop online to check out the Lakers’ score or see just how bad Kobe’s ankle is and maybe comment on a photo or two. He is the dude that had the same profile photo for three years in a row.

Most of my waking moments are spent in front of the computer. (Sad, but true.) As a digital entrepreneur, my life is intricately connected to what happens online. It is the main way I communicate with friends and my online life is pretty much a digital scrapbook of my most important moments (and stuff I feel like my friends should know). So I find it natural to occasionally shout out my husband for things he does. I can get mushy, but that’s just my personality. My husband on the other hand is a less sensitive guy. Whether I post something about him on Facebook or not, he doesn’t feel any differently.

But for more than a handful of woman I know, getting a shout out from their boo can lift their spirits. One of my friends told me last week that one of the main ways she likes to feel special and appreciated was for her husband to dedicate a Facebook post to her “on a non-special day.”

“So you mean not like on an anniversary or your birthday?” I asked.

“Exactly. It’s kind of like sending flowers to the office. Everyone knows your boo sent them and everyone gets to go, ‘Aw, how cute!’ But unlike flowers or a card, Facebook is free. See, I’m helping him out!”

Another friend told me she finds it weird when couples never ever mention each other on social media.

“I have this one friend,” she said, “who got married in 2012. She must post like 10 times a day but she never mentions her husband. Like….never. Isn’t that weird? I mean, you live with this person. Y’all have a kid together. You post about the baby all the time but never your husband. Is that some passive way to keep folks out your business?”

Where do you fall in this debate? Do you think it’s cool for couples to share their love online or is that something they should keep to themselves?