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Meet Fred!

He’s a loggerhead sea turtle weighing over 200 lbs, and I adopted him for my kids a few weeks ago. Fred has been a resident sea turtle at the Padre Island Sea Turtle Rescue center for a while now. He can’t be released again. He’s already been released 3 times, after the 3rd time a turtle is stranded at shore, the Sea Turtle Rescue center proclaims them a resident turtle. Fred is missing his front right flipper. When he was found the first time, a fisherman’s hook was so imbedded into his flipper and gangrene had set in, the only way to save his life was to amputate his flipper. He was released,  and returned stranded to shore hurt by predators two additional times over a course of 5 years.

Wondering why I adopted Fred? I have a daughter dying to be a marine biologist. She has always been fascinated by the ocean and the animals in it. I couldn’t be more proud, I have always been too. She’s 11, I realize she may change her mind a thousand times before she pursues any career. That’s fine with me. The more she changes, the more she’s growing. My thought was, if this is what she’s interested in, this is  the best chance to encourage her.  I do everything I can to show my girls that they can do anything they want to do. I felt like by adopting Fred, I not only showed her the value of her interests, I have shown Both my kids the value of preserving the world around us and taking care of it. My youngest is 5. Marine biology may be too complicated for her to understand, but she loves animals too. I felt like this would give both of them a chance to see first hand how we have to work together to save our environment. My kids don’t litter now, but I guarantee you neither of those kids will ever leave trash on a beach after adopting Fred. They know his story, and how he wound up in a tank to save his life.

It was defining moment in my life, and hopefully theirs,  when we returned to the car and I handed them the adoption folder for Fred. His certificate of adoption is now framed in the hallway between their rooms. They have received a letter, and can get online to see what he’s doing via webcam. They are so proud.  We continue to discuss marine biology and various aspects of the oceans.  They are often telling me where they’d like to visit the beach next. Fred comes up in conversation around here almost daily.  Sometimes I smile as those conversations end because I know they will always remember that I adopted Fred for them simply because I wanted to. It was my way of demonstrating to them that I support their interest. I would never say they can’t achieve something, and often kids have to see that rather than be told.

Of course,  when I called my best friend and told her I adopted him she replied,  “where are you going to put that?” Just the mere thought that me bringing home a sea turtle wouldn’t surprise her absolutely made me proud too. My sister was with me that day and she made me feel good too. She said “you always encourage them in the best ways”.  It takes a village parenting kids, it’s often nice to hear your dearest friends understand your efforts.

As for Fred’s adoption, my kids have shown everyone they know pictures of him. They have watched him with their friends and shared his story. Maybe all those kids will think twice before littering and causing any further harm to the animals.

Are tweens starving themselves to fit in? Eating disorders among Tweens.

perfect girl

Childhood obesity is something I have heard about for years.  It’s a hot topic, the subject of numerous debates, and even legislation. But what about the opposite ….childhood anorexia, bulimia, and fad diets?  It does exist. Drastic body changes are often ignored or shelved as puberty or “losing baby fat” but I believe eating disorders begin in the about 5th grade for many young girls.

My house is full of tween girls constantly. I refer to it as the “house of tweens” in a joking manner but to be honest…it’s ALWAYS  full of young girls. I live on a street with 6 girls, very close in age, they have grown up together, and they are in and out of here all day every day. Throw in a school friend coming over once in a while, or one of the tween boys in the neighborhood,  and you get the idea why I say “house of tweens”.

All this leads to the subject of this post: Tweens and their body image. I hear first-hand what’s on their minds. Social issues, school, parents, boys, trends, what they like and don’t…and lately, the word FAT!.. from all of them.  They are becoming aware of what is considered attractive. Often I hear them discussing weight and have witnessed them compare the sizes of their legs.

This is very personal to me. I began thinking the same thing at this age. I was always taller than my many of friends, so at a very young age, I equated tall with big.  I wanted to conform, be short and tiny like my friends. Looking back on my middle school pictures I wonder what was I thinking?? I already was smaller than most of them, being tall made me seem even smaller. However,  in my mind at that time, looking down on my friends to talk to them, I thought I was “big”.  I never spoke to my parents about it, or anyone really, I just began to feel that if I wasn’t ” super skinny” I would be seen as huge.  No one ever suspected that I had a flicker of doubt about myself either. Growing up, I was generally flamboyant and fully confident. Just this “one thing” made me self-conscious.  It was a real fear.  Just like these kids. Peer pressure begins at this age, and often molds the minds of kids. Middle school began my “skinny” mission, and I did so without eating.  I did this off and on for years, it was easy to say I ate a friend’s house, or I ate before they got home from work, we ate pizza at practice,  or whatever. My parents were hands on, great parents but I managed to get this by them. Most likely because they never suspected I would do such a thing.

I have a healthy relationship with food now and I have for years. It was created dramatically when I finally passed out on my parents in what was then called a “silent seizure” and rushed to the hospital.  Doctors ran test and couldn’t find any source. When they began testing me for brain tumors at the age of 15…I told my father I hadn’t eaten anything except orange juice in 5 days…(and had been maintaining such a pattern for months)…. I will never forget the look on his face. He immediately called the doctor back in. They decided to call off the test they had ordered and order other test. Twenty four  hours later, I had been diagnosed with a heart murmur, anorexia, anemia, and a multitude of other issues associated with starvation. My parents were so upset; I didn’t look like those extreme anorexic cases they had seen on TV. I was on the dance and softball teams, was very social, made excellent grades, and appeared healthy and fit…. so how did this happen?  My parents cried as we set there that morning listening to these reports. I felt horrible for letting them down. I honestly did not think at the time that I was doing any permanent damage to myself.  Feeling scared and ashamed, I agreed to stop this nonsense. I was put in counseling, nutrition classes, under doctor care,  and released. Six months later, I was a happy, healthy 15-year-old kid. It wasn’t easy. Thankfully,  I no longer had any of  the health issues I had been diagnosed with. I was lucky! Not all young girls who do such drastic things to themselves are able to recover fully. Considering I had participated in extreme fad diets for many years by the time this happened to me,  I am extremely blessed to not have permanent health issues.  The best part?  I wasn’t “fat” either. In fact, I looked  better after gaining some weight.  I have shared this story with all these kids. In part,  so they know I understand what they are going through, but mostly so they will see the dangers of what they are doing to themselves. This kind of “dieting” can easily go too far without young girls realizing it. I certainly never intended to go that far! Sadly, I had never been teased for fat, chubby or anything associated with weight.  I started wanting to be so tiny to make up for being tall.  At least I thought that’s how I would feel better.

I don’t want my kid, or her friends, to experience those years of self-doubt.  Over the past several months, I have been relentless in reading about the signs of childhood eating disorders, listening to these kids, reflecting back on my own experience, and making a conscious effort to build these kids up. Self esteem is the #1 life changing emotion to me. With it, you will take risks and challenge yourself everyday, without it…you will “get by”.  I want my girls to soar!

I have had random conversations with these kids about this. Listening intensely to their answers while bearing in mind that they are telling me what they think I want to hear. Overhearing their conversations in my living room has also added some insight.  A few weeks ago, I did an “interview” with them. Each one was told exactly what this was about, their answers were anonymous and all of it on a tween level. They took my survey voluntarily, it was a fun night, and I received very valuable information.  These young girls have been programmed to believe that if they have perfect bodies, their problems will be few and far between.  They have also shared stories with me about what their friends are doing to lose weight. One, only chews…never swallows it. Another, refuses to eat lunch or dinner. A third, is actively taking diet pills her mother bought for her!!  They are all in 5th or  6th grade..that’s alarming to me. Especially remembering that I did the same thing. I remember this very well. My peers and I did similar things. Ironically, I thought the world had come a long way since I was a tween… apparently I am wrong about that!

Parents who teach and promote healthy nutrition at home often don’t suspect that these kids are listening to their friends now. Tweens already have a life they don’t want mom or dad to know about.  Their separation is normal and healthy. As parents, we need to be aware that even though we’re thrilled they are not in need of constant attention, they need us. Their friends are their biggest influence at this age. What one “popular” kid is doing, they will all do.  Starving themselves and being on fad diets seems “cool”  at this age. It’s important to note this is not limited to young girls. Boys engage in the same fad diets.  Statistics show that tweens participate in this type of dieting more often than anyone is aware. It’s not only unhealthy to them physically, it is extremely unhealthy to their emotional well-being.

Happy and Healthy is Beautiful!! That’s the beauty I want for my kids. Not he falsehood that being perfectly skinny will make all their other problems go away. It’s a shame our society supports this mentality through advertisements, pop culture, and headline fashion news. Since we do, it’s up to parents to establish healthy boundaries with our kids. Teach them to be fit and respect their bodies. The best advice I ever received was in those nutrition classes I reluctantly took. “Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re satisfied. Your body is your clock, it will tell you when to eat and when to stop.”  Simple. Certainly simple enough for tweens for understand too.

Kids with high self-esteem are less effected by peer pressure, bullying, and poor self-image. A high regard for themselves will also deter them from following the crowd. In essence, kids with high self-esteem are less likely to be vulnerable. Self esteem can be the key to prevention of many social issues with tweens.

I have found some very good ideas on establishing self-esteem in young girls. Here’s a list:

1) praise your kids..find something to praise them about everyday
2) Be a role model. You have to eat right, exercise and feel good about yourself if you expect them to do it.
3) when they comment on girls on TV or friends at school that are so perfect, counter that with something perfect about them
4) show kids that you are vulnerable too. When I’m wrong, I will tell them so. When I don’t have the answer, I will tell them. My favorite phrase is “you don’t have to know all the answers, just be resourceful enough to find them”…she echoes this now, we look up things together all the time.
5) Teach kids the value of food. What vitamins and minerals they need and how to get them. Teach kids to read food labels and understand what “whole” foods are
6) Be approachable, it may be awkward for your kid to ask you something sometimes, but I would rather 5 mins of awkward than her get her advice from someone else.
7)  Watch the language you use. Instead of using words like “diet”, “skinny” , or “losing weight” when you talk about yourself or others. Use words like “fit”, “healthy”, or  “well-being”.  Use words with positive associations to them.
8) Let your kids experience disappointment!! Protecting our kids too much is causing adverse results. Kids who don’t know how to handle their own rejections, fears, and disappointments will be subject to peer pressure and long-term personal struggles. Sometimes you have to let your kids get hurt so that they grow.
Statistics show that kids between the ages of 9 and 14 are vulnerable to eating disorders and other socially driven misconceptions. They are strongly influenced by their peers. As they begin to pull away from their parents, they rely completely on advice from friends and social groups. They absolutely do have secrets from their parents, and they also don’t suspect that we realize that. They are by definition a group that is easily persuaded, heavily influenced, moody, and secretive.

Watch your kid for rapid weight loss, Binge eating, long periods of time without eating. Keep healthy snacks already cut up and in the fridge. They want quick, fast and easy. This era of “instant gratification” we live in is in fact the world they have been raised in.  They don’t have any concept of something not being readily available to them. Today’s tweens can process multiple information sources at once and their attention spans are very short. Keep this in mind when grocery shopping and preparing snacks. Talk to your kids about being healthy and fit. excercise with them or at least encourage that they do. It’s easy for me, I like the outdoors and have played outside with them always! If you don’t, find something that you like (yoga video, stretching, dance videos, stationary bikes, etc) and let your kids see you use them. Teaching kids to eat and be healthy starts with the role models that we display to them.

As I conclude this, I think of all the young girls (and boys) who may not have eaten anything today in a quest to be perfect. I hope just one of them reads this post! I hope that they realize there’s a better way, resources are available to help them, and I hope they know they are beautiful just the way they are!!

Moms, Get Your Swagger Back!

The beauty of letting go, getting your swagger back, and being you again

I realized today it’s been several months since I wrote here.  Ironically,  I started this blog as a pastime….Do you know why I haven’t written here in months? I don’t need a pastime. Life is busy, I wear alot of hats—-everyday—-and I like it.

Sound Familiar? I thought so! Which brings me to the reason for this post. Lately I have read what seems like a thousand tweets, statuses and posts about moms being overwhelmed and feeling like failures, beating themselves up over what isn’t done.   Well, ZAP THAT!! We have 24 hours in a day. Period.  It disheartens me to read such post, especially from women I know, love, and admire!

I’m not a failure and neither are you.  Is everything perfect? Of course not! It wouldn’t be any fun if it was anyway. Everyday is NOT fun either–and I’m OK with that too. These things I have accepted. I admit I was once in this group of overwhelmed “super moms”, my acceptance wasn’t overnight and was met with plenty of resistance. Learning to let go wasn’t easy. Once I did, it has been an incredible freedom from myself. Being your own worst enemy is poison to your mind, and your spirit. For me,  the smile returned, the feeling of wanting to do and explore more took over, the activities picked up,  and I began to think of what I could do next. That feeling keeps me on the go all the time now.  I took chances, without nets…a year ago I would not have even considered them. Currently, I have more “projects” than I have ever had.  I don’t think of any of them as overwhelming or depressing.

I DARE YOU to accept it too. Here’s 5 good reasons you should:

* Effort is not overrated. Bring your effort everyday and that is all you need.
* Happy, well-adjusted kids should be our #1 priority.
* You deserve time for yourself, and time to do what you enjoy…last I checked, we did not give up being human for being mom.
* Letting go of some things to accomplish others is a very powerful and rewarding feeling.
* Once you accept and display your value, others will to.

Best of all, I enjoy my kids more now. I know they are watching me and I’m proud of what they see.  I am confident they will remember these things:

 our childhood was happy…mom worked hard and played hard…mom didn’t succeed at everything she tried, but she tried again….Mom had fun, laughed alot and loved us beyond words…mom did the best she could… she wasn’t perfect and she wasn’t afraid to show us she wasn’t…mom taught us it was ok to be myself.

That is success!!…Forget the extra load of laundry!!

It’s still true, I am a borderline perfectionist. I say “borderline” sarcastically because those who know me, know I will still stay up to 2am to get the bathroom cleaned because that was on my to-do list for today, not tomorrow. I’m up at 3am writing this because I wanted to finish it today!  My kids will tell you, a sloppy house puts me in a bad mood, and I can’t stand when the back seat of my car is full of their junk.  Everyone has their peeves. I’ve just learned to accept mine, deal with it and move on. They no longer consume me. I have better things to do.

This blog has long represented my journey. Today, I re-read some old posts and both laughed and cried. I have come a long way in 2 years. I don’t know why I made it such a priority today after neglecting it for months, but I did, and it feels great. I will commit to it again.

I challenge you to take the baby steps needed to get your swagger back. Your family and friends want YOU…not a maid, nanny, gofer or frumpy has-been. Get up, get motivated…take it one day at a time! Start with your mind…STOP TELLING YOURSELF WHAT YOU DO NOT DO!! A rubber band works, put it around your wrist and pop yourself every time you are beating yourself up. Let go, the images of women are unrealistic. Work like a man, look like a little girl, cook like a master chef, dress like a goddess, and raise the fearless leaders of tomorrow… It’s unrealistic. More than that, it’s unfair.

Here’s 5 good ways to get started:

*Write down what you DID get done everyday
* Pick your battles with your kids, some are not worth fighting or getting upset over
* Keep a journal
* Get up and get dressed like you’re meeting your best client…even if you’re at home working alone… your confidence will soar
* Take time each day for you. One activity a day that means NOTHING to anyone else.

Ready, Set….GO!

Something Besides A Chocolate Bunny

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Easter is almost here and it’s time to fill baskets of goodies for your kids. Problem is now they’re gettling a little older and the bubble blow won’t excite them any longer. Maybe it’s your niece, nephew, friend, or grandkid and you don’t see them daily?  I received a call this morning from my mother in law asking for suggestions. That conversation sparked this post.

Here’s a few ideas for both girls and boys ages 9-13. I’ve heard these “I wants” first hand as I am constantly in ear shot of my daughter and her friends while they are hanging out at my house. Surprisingly, most are very simple and can easily make a great Easter basket treat.

Pattern Duck Tape: They use it to make bows, rings and bracelets. They add it to their skateboards for “better grip” and plain ole duct tape is not acceptable. I was asked to get zebra and pink camoflouge. Don’t be surprised if it is displayed at the toe of their basket ball shoes. Glow in the dark on converse shoes is funny…(oh and one of my neighbor boys made a cup holder for his bicycle out of neon green)

Why not a fish? Beta fish live with little care. There’s no big aquirium or equipment. Ours, Charlie, is happy as can be in his 1 gallon beta tank. He’ll be a year old soon. If you’re giving this as a gift, it’s nice to ask the parents first.

Here’s a few more ideas randomly selected for both boys and girls

glitter lotion, scented lotions and body wash, hair bows, a flat iron, skateboard, moon shoes, basketball, soccer ball, or ping pong set, bad mitton, football, itunes card, apple store gift card, gift certificate to for a favorite treat or game center, a kite, beach towels, tickets to the movies, magazines, nail polish, nail stickers, play tattoos, cell phone case, purse, earrings, baseball cap, flip flops, surf shirt, diary, fishing pole, sidewalk paint or chalk, graffic tshirt, notepads and pens, shell bead anklets or necklaces, finger paints, insulated water bottle, painted tumbler with their initial, mix matched sock, crazy straws, silly string.

Oh, they will still love the chocolate bunny, especially if he looks kind of quirky or has big ears.

Happy Easter.

Awww, Spring has Sprung

courtesy @AmySalterPhoto AmySalterPhotography.com

Welcome Spring, my favorite time of year.

Today, as we mark the first day of Spring, we’ve received 2+ inches of rain and a cool front. Rubber boots, an umbrella, and a light sweater make for a fun day. Wish we had more days like this.

Flowers are blooming and I’m so thankful my small cherry and lemon trees didn’t parish in the frost, they have bright green leaves coming out on those ugly twigs. Roses are beautiful and my garden is planted. A few added annuals to the flowerbed this weekend and I’m all set.

One of the best things about Spring is the renewal it brings. Sunny skies and increased energy. A feeling of hope and inspiration. Good bye Winter Blues, I’ll see you next year!!  I have a long list of things that need to be done before then. Spring cleaning the closets and garage are symbolic for clearing my mind and renewing my spirit. I’m looking forward to learning new things and meeting new challenges, thinking creatively. When the rain clears I just may move my office outside for the day.

Happy Spring!

Spring Break without Breaking Bank

Spring Break is scaring me this year. Honestly, there’s no way I can spend a few hundred dollars a day over Spring break. It seems everytime we get in the car and go anywhere, it costs more than $100/day.  Sometimes, it’s that just to get in the door. That being said, I’ve been brainstorming some fun thrills for spring break on a dime. Here’s my top 10.

* Load up and go to a local park. Take a picnic lunch and let the kids play. If your kids think they are too old for the usual park then find a nature trail, a skate park, go hiking, or have a scavenger hunt. (big kids can take roller blades, bicycles or skates and hit the sidewalks). We have a new skate park that is a huge hit. Lucky me, it has a playground for my little one also.

*Get kids involved in the community. Ask your kids what charity means the most to them. Take a day and visit their headquarters. Kids can collect items to donate and you can take them along with you. The bonus here is that you just might get your garage, their room,  or closet free of some of their clutter. (shhh…don’t tell them your counting on it)

*Go fishing. Baiting hooks isn’t exactly my idea of fun, but I have agreed to do it one day. (any volunteers wanting to do the dirty work are more than welcome to come along).  No one likes to fish? go to the lake and feed the ducks, take a walk for an hour or so. Take along a camera and let them be in charge of it as you walk along. You may be surprised what they enjoy taking pictures of.

*Give the kids a movie marathon day at home. We’re expecting rain for spring break (more than we’ve had all month).  Homemade tents, movies, games and popcorn will surely pass the rainy day.

*Tweens want Freedom. Hate to break the news to you but hanging with mom is no longer “cool”. Well, it’s also not cool for me to take my 10 year old and drop her off at the mall or movies and hope for the best. We’re working on “freedom issues” (a whole other blog post!) but I have managed a good idea. She’s having dance parties in my garage with a few girlfriends on Friday evenings. They bring their music, take out some drinks and snacks, I’ve set up a table they can “hang out at”, I back out the car and close the door. They promise not to play the music too loud. Those girls are out there for hours!  For spring break, she’s inviting a couple friends from school to come and join her and the neighborhood kids. After setting a few ground rules, this works wonders to give her freedom and me some peace of mind to know she’s safe. It’s a hit with the kids. I’m sure for spring break this will take place more often than just Friday night.

*We’re planting a garden together. Small, of course. It will be a fun outdoor day. Gardening is work but by giving them some control of what is planted and where you arrange things, they will help out and have a good day with you. You can have a container garden just the same. We planted herbs a few weeks ago from seeds, same idea.  It’s a fun project, they like to eat what they grow, so it’s another win-win!

*Go to the mall and make it a scavenger hunt. The buddy system must be in place. No kid is alone…ever! I am in the store while they go look at something else. She and her friends have a list of things to find and either snap a picture with their phone or buy but they can’t pay more than ____ for it. Text each other, meet up at the door and walk to the next store together. Kids love this. Time to eat? hit the food court!

*Have a spa day at home. Pedicures and manicures.  Bright colored polished. (lemon, lime green, orange, blue, pink, black, glitter polish, neon colors…they love those). Let them paint and design whatever they wish.  Add some more fun by having hair accessories and letting them play with styles. This is fun with a small group.

*Hit the craft store. I find things online that they can make, some supplies you can buy at the dollar store if you don’t already have at home. Set up the project inside or out and let them get to work. Homemade sand art? necklaces/bracelets/rings? building an ant farm? Making stepping stones? building a bird house? Painting? whatever their interest, they will enjoy this.

*Let them earn some extra money. Weather permitting, pay them to wash the car.  Throw out a few soaker balls while your’re at it. Playing in the water is the best day for kids.

One last suggestion: Ask them if they’d like to plan an activity? Give them a few boundaries and then go and do what they come up with. This is how I initially found our new skate park in the first place. Kids have a radar for what’s new and what their friends are doing for cheap fun.

Hope that you can enjoy some of these ideas and they help take the anxiety of money off your plate. I have found that times at home with projects like this are not only fun, they are a great bonding time with my children. During the course of day, the conversations that come up may surprise you. Relax and enjoy the week with them.

 

 

 

 

Help a girl out here will you?!?!

Party, Party, Party!!! I’m looking for your help here!

My little girl turns 4 next week. Her birthday is the day after Valentine’s day. It’s also in the middle of the week so her party won’t be until the weekend after.  Already scheduled to take cupcakes to school on her day and let’s not forget the Valentine’s preschool party either. Do you see where this is going? That’s right…Valentine’s Day, Birthday, then Birthday Party+ 2 school parties all in 3 days.  Wow! that’s alot of sugar!!

I can’t let her day go by without doing something! I’m looking for ideas to help celebrate without cake, cake, and more cake.  Ok, I have a confession….there must be cake at her party…and something with a candle in it on her actual birthday! Period. No options. But at the same time, I don’t want 2 birthday parties.

Suggestions please?!?! (some of you are VERY crafty, don’t hold back)  If I use your idea, I promise to blog about it and link back to your site with tweets and facebook mentions too!

Thanks!

Holly :)

PS. Did I tell you,  I love you for answering this post!!

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