Monday, January 31, 2011

Hello Mornings!

Have you ever noticed how much more you can accomplish in a day when you get up early?  I've been making an effort in the past few weeks to get up at the same time every day, and to get up early.  I started the habit when I was in college this past year and needed that early time to squeeze in some studying before I headed to classes and work.  When I finished finals, I started my semester off from school and starting getting up at different times.  I felt awful, so I went back to my old habits.

This past week, I read about the Hello Mornings challenge over at Inspired to Action.  You can click the button below to find out more...

I'm very excited about this challenge!  I think it's going to solidify my commitment to being an early riser, and help me carve out a little more time for exercise, which I haven't been able to add to my morning routine yet.  (I work out three times a week at the gym where I work, but I want to add more cardio at be more specific, more Zumba!)  I love the fact that I'll have accountability partners (via Twitter) to check in with each morning.

My plan is to get up at 5:45 a.m. (eventually 5:30 a.m.), which means that I'll need to be in bed by 10:30 every night.  That's going to be hard for me...I'm a night owl!  I'm also going to gather up what I need each night - Bible and notebook, Scripture commitment book, iPod, etc.  I'll find out who accountability partners are soon.  Finally, I've already picked my songs for my morning worship music: Speak to Me, Lord by Rebecca St. James, Beautiful, Beautiful by Franchesca Batestelli, and Alabaster Box by C.C. Winnans, along with a couple of awesome songs from a church that is part of a ministry in Haiti that we support.

I'm looking forward to what's going to happen in the coming weeks.  Anyone ready to join in with me?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Do I Make You Proud?

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you make them feel. - Maya Angelou

I'm amazed at the baggage that we, as women, so often carry.  I work with women every day, and I hear story after story of abuse, abandonment, failures and tragedies, but most of all, I hear stories of feeling inadequate.  I really think that all of us, to a certain extent, don't feel "good enough" - but for some women, it becomes a huge struggle and a lifelong attitude.

My job at a women's gym exposes that mentality even more.  As I train women and encourage them to meet their weight loss and health goals, I realize just how much their self-image has suffered over the years.  They have heard for so long, "You can't do it.  You'll just fail again.  You're not good enough."  I'll never forget the woman who told me when she joined, "I know I'm not pretty - I've always been told I'm ugly.  Even my mother told me that."  When I told her, "I don't think that at all - I think you're very pretty," she started crying.  I'm not sure if she had ever heard that before.

I want to help women lose weight.  I want to help them be healthier and look better.  But most of all, I want them to be proud of themselves.  When they walk in our doors, I want them to know that the people there are proud of them.  I want them to feel good about themselves.  I want them to know that this is one place where they won't be criticized, judged or put down. 

That's really my goal in a pastor's wife, as a mom, as a trainer, as a person, I want the people around me to know that someone cares, that someone is proud, that someone loves them.  Everyone needs that.  I hope that's the kind of legacy I'll leave behind, because if I do, then I'll feel like I've made a real difference in the world.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Take It Slow

Okay, so this wasn't a Wednesday post (I posted it yesterday) and it doesn't fit with any of the Working Mom Wednesday prompts, but I thought it was appropriate...

There are a million things I need to be doing...dishes, laundry, cleaning.  But priorities shift, if only for a few minutes, when my youngest wakes up and wants to cuddle on the couch.  I treasure it, knowing that, at five years old, he's not going to want to do this much longer.  Later, than night, I find myself sitting on that same couch, exhausted and discouraged after a long day, fighting back tears.  I've accomplished nothing, I've yelled at the kids, I've been too demanding...I need to slow down.

It's so hard.  Even with this semester off from college, I find myself feeling like I need to rush, to do more and be more and finish more, when what I really need is to slow down.  I need to focus, to be quiet, to pray, to sit in peace and solitude, to breathe, to rest.  Why is that so hard?

In a journal entry almost three years ago, as a newbie working mom, I wrote... "What I want to be is a Supermom. I want to be able to work and take care of my family. I want to be a loving mom, creative homeschool teacher and children’s church leader, great assistant manager, good housekeeper and good cook, and caring and available pastor’s wife. What I can’t figure out is how on earth to do it all. What I am is tired and defeated."
I think realizing that we can't do it all is one of the hardest parts of being a working mom.  As much as we all want to be Supermom, she doesn't exist.  So we have to learn to balance, juggling family, home, work, and more.  We learn that balance isn't the same for everyone, that it looks different day by day.  We learn to slow down, to appreciate the little things in life, to breathe and rest and relax.  We have to slow down so life doesn't slip by us while we chase an impossible dream.  We have to learn to love our life, no matter how crazy and complex it is.  And that can be one of the hardest lessons to learn.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Getting Organized with FlyLady

Last month I blogged about how I started using my Cozi calendar and the FlyLady system to get my home organized.  My goal is have my home running smoothly by the time I start dental hygiene school in July.  I promised an update each month as to my progress.  So here it goes...

The House Fairy didn't drop by, wave her magic wand, and clean my house for me.  (If anyone sees her, please send her my way...I'm hoping she just took a wrong turn.)  But things are definitely better.  There are still piles of laundry in our bedroom, but my kitchen is staying a lot cleaner.  The kids are helping more.  I'm beginning to see a change.  It's a gradual change, but it's change nonetheless.

One big change I'm making this week is introducing chore charts for my kids.  They already do chores, but I have to nag them to get them to do their everyday tasks, like brushing their teeth and putting their dirty clothes in the hamper.  I typed up a chore chart for each of them from Lisa Whelchel's website, and I'm going to put them in page protectors.  The boys can mark off their jobs with a dry erase marker when they're done.  I'm hoping this step will really us get the chaos reigned in.

My other goal is to start working on Mt. Laundry-Pileup every night for 10 to 15 minutes.  I know I can't get it all taken care of in one night, but within a few days, I should see a big difference.  That laundry is probably by biggest stressor right now, so tackling that will make me feel much more in control of the situation.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I Thought the Chaos Was Over...

I thought things would calm down after Christmas.  After all, I'm out of college for a few months, all of our Christmas activities and parties are over, and everything should be settling down.  I told myself I'd have time to read lots of books, deep clean and organize my house, start running again, and relax what happened?

January has been chaotic for us!  When you work at a gym, it has a tendency to be a busy month.  Pair that with a death in a co-workers family, switching over to a new software program, and adding even more new classes to our new Zumba workouts, and it's been totally insane.  It's a good kind of crazy - a "business is booming" kind of crazy - but crazy nonetheless.  I'm coming home from work every night exhausted.

Actually, I'm beginning to wonder how I did anything else when I was in college...I think that's because I'm scheduling all the appointments and errands I put off during college.  Long overdue appointments for the doctor and for new contacts and glasses, shopping for things we've needed for months, and generally playing catch-up on life.

I am trying to slow down and enjoy things a little more, though.  I'm playing Band Hero (a family Christmas gift) with my kids (and playing some mean lead guitar if I do say so myself!).  I have gotten a lot of reading done (when I should have been cleaning the house).  And of course, I'm catching up on all those appointments.  At least it keeps me occupied as I wait for those letters to go out from the dental hygiene program.  March seems so far away right now.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

10 Things I Believe About Life as a Mom

Welcome to Working Mom Wednesday!

Today's writing promts are...

#1. 10 things I believe in

#2. I trusted my gut when...

10 Things I Believe About Moms
  1. Motherhood is the hardest job in the world.
  2. Nothing can prepare you for being a mom.
  3. Sleep deprivation is a way of life.
  4. Dryers really do eat socks.
  5. Miracle Grow must be an additive in children's food.  (My oldest once grew through three shoe sizes in six months!)
  6. Cloning should be perfected and offered to every mom, because we all need several of us to get through the day sometimes.
  7. Being a mom teaches you more about God's love than you ever knew before having kids.
  8. We may not actually have "eyes in the back of our head," but we come awfully close.
  9. Moms are the closest thing on earth to real life superheroes.
  10. Being a mom is one of the best, most amazing and incredible things that has ever happened in my life.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Foot In Two Worlds

I was reading through some new-to-me blogs a few weeks ago on Working Mom Wednesday when I came across a great quote on The Working Homekeeper.  Mary Ellen described being a working mom as "having a foot in both worlds."  It's such a perfect description, because finding balance as a working mom is so hard!  We truly do have a foot in at least two worlds - sometimes more!  We have to balance our jobs outside the home with our jobs at home.  We balance full-time employment with full-time motherhood, trying to accomplish twice the work in the same 24 hour time period.  We're all chasing the dream of being Supermom.

I recently read an article from Working Mother magazine that said that although 2/3 of working moms are primary or co-breadwinners, they are still the ones who do most of the housework and most of the childcare.  That's a huge role to fill.

My typical day involves my job as a manager at a women's gym.  I love what I do, but it's not a low-stress job.  Most days, I'm on my feet the majority of my 6 to 8 hour day.  I come home late and tired to a hungry family, so I cook dinner and attempt to clean up afterward.  Sometimes I help with my kids with their work, or I grade and file tests and record scores for our homeschool.  Once I get them in bed, I do my own schoolwork.  The days when I have both college classes and work are even harder.  What makes my schedule even crazier is that my husband is a full time pastor.  Our church is almost large enough to start adding staff, but until we get there, I help him on my days off (Wednesdays and Saturdays).  I'm never home, so it's really hard to get things done.

The truth is, there aren't enough hours in a day.  All we can do is to do the best we can and know that God will use us, regardless of where we are in life.  I truly feel that I am making a difference at my job, one that I could not make if I didn't work outside the home.  Sure, there are days that I wish I could go back to being a SAHM, but I've found a lot of joy and a lot of amazing opportunities in my role as a working mom.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

20 Steps...

Mama's Losin' It

20 Things I Can Do To Make 2011 Better!
  1. Start each day with my Bible and a cup of coffee
  2. Stress less
  3. Worry less
  4. Eat dinner at the table with my family every night (or at least every night I don't work late)
  5. Exercise every day
  6. Watch less TV
  7. Drink more water
  8. Journal more
  9. Talk less
  10. Listen more
  11. Take more pictures
  12. Be all there - whether it's home, school, work, or church, be 100% where I am and what I'm doing
  13. Spend more time connecting with friends
  14. Keep a list of everything I'm thankful for
  15. Get a massage every month (Not going to happen, but a girl can dream can't she?)
  16. Get my home organized
  17. Follow FlyLady's plan to keep my house clean and CHAOS free
  18. Have more patience
  19. Prioritize
  20. Focus on my priorities

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Making a Habit is Hard

I'm struggling with forming my new habits.  I blogged a few days ago about my goals for the year and about making new habits.  Making a new habit is not an easy task.  I've set aside daily time to work toward my goals.  I've printed off a 100 days calendar from A Holy Experience to help me.  I know what I want to do...but it doesn't make it easy. 

I think the hardest part of making a new habit is breaking the old habit.  It takes discipline to wake up in the morning and focus on my Bible reading and Scripture memory.  There are days when, honestly, I want to curl up on the couch and watch TV while I drink my coffee, or when my to-do list is demanding my attention right away.  I don't always have my quiet time first thing...some days I have it later in the day...or not at all.

But, as I wrote last week, it takes I'm persisting.  If I miss a day, I forge ahead the next day.  I'm keeping my Scripture memory book in my DayPlanner - which goes everywhere with me - so I can pull it out whenever I have free time to review and study.  Starting today, I'm marking my 100 days calendar.  I can do this.  I will do this because the new habits will be well worth it.

All the Work

1. Do you (or is it appropriate to) talk about your kids/marriage/dirty laundry at work?

2. A favorite recipe

One of the things I love about my job is that it's very relationship-oriented.  Really, that's one thing that sets our gym apart from others - it's personal.  Our members form close friendships with the staff and each other.  Their time at the gym is for working out, but it's also for destressing, "girl talk," and getting things off their chest.  We often joke that it's not just a workout, but a therapy sesson, too, and for some members, our gym is the only place they get that time to talk with other women.

Because we are so close, we talk about our lives...a lot.  What it boils down to is that we're all in each other's business!  My boss and I were laughing just this week about how much we all know about each other.  With that kind of platform, I do share a lot about my life.  The members, and my coworkers, have been my cheerleaders through the ups and downs of returning to college.  A few ladies that I'm very close to have also been sounding boards and prayer partners for the situation with my parents that I'm dealing with.

That said, although we are very open, there are some things that are off limits.  I don't get too personal when it comes to my marriage - for instance, I don't walk in and tell them if I had a fight with my husband that morning.  I'm also closed when it comes to discussing church or work issues in any way.  I don't share a lot about that, just very, very general information.  As a rule, I try to stick with life in general, college, and my me, they provide many entertaining stories that keep the women at work almost rolling on the floor with laughter.

I think it really depends on where you an atmosphere like the one I work in, you're almost expected to share all your dirt.  In other places, it's totally inappropriate.  I'm really glad that work can be a sounding board for me.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fast and Healthy Chicken Nachos

This is one of my favorite healthy recipes!  It's so quick, really good, and only has about 400 calories, along with 45 grams of protein.  The first time I made it, my husband eyed my plate and said, "I thought you were on a diet!"
  • 12 corn tortilla chips
  • 4 oz. fully cooked chicken fajita meat
  • 1/2 c. chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 c. shredded low-fat cheddar cheese
Top tortilla chips with all ingredients and heat until cheese is melted, and serve with salsa for dipping.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Planning Ahead for a Healthy New Year

One of the goals I set and drug my husband into my husband and I set together is to be healthier this year - eat better, exercise more, and generally take better care of ourselves.  I spent this weekend planning and getting ready to help us start meeting those goals in the week ahead.

One of the things I've learned from my years of working in the fitness industry is that the first step to being healthy is simply planning ahead.  If I don't plan for lunch, I'm much more likely to run to the nearest drive-thru for a cheap, and ususally very unhealthy, meal.  If I don't plan ahead and bring water to work, I'm much more likely to end up at Sonic during Happy Hour.  (You know it's bad when the people at said drive-thru know your vehicle, your usual drink order, and the latest book you're reading...but for the record, my normal drink there is a Diet Dr. Pepper, so I'm not doing too bad.)

Planning ahead for a few simple changes can make all the difference - for instance...
  1. Stash a few Crystal Light packets in your purse and keep bottled water at your office.  Crystal Light really helped me break my addiction to Cokes a couple of years ago.  I find that I drink a lot more water if I add my favorite raspberry peach packets to a couple of bottles a day.
  2. Pack a healthy salad or sandwich for lunch instead of eating out.
  3. Keep snacks on hand.  Whether in your purse or at your office, keep snacks on hand so you won't be tempted to hit the vending machines.  Good choices include almonds, yogurt, high fiber granola bars, tuna salad kits, fruit, and string cheese.
  4. Swap out one or two items each week to make your meals healthier.  Use whole grain tortillas instead of flour; switch your normal loaf of bread to Oro-Wheat bread; trade your normal Starbucks latte for the Starbucks skinny vanilla latte.
  5. Make smart choices when it comes to fast food.  You can find some pretty healthy items at most fast food places now.  McDonald's has fantastic salads, along with fruit and yogurt parfaits and grilled chicken snack wraps.  Wendy's has a new line of salads, and Chick-Fil-A has amazing grilled chicken sandwiches and wraps.
Today my husband and I will be starting a diet to shed a few pounds.  Neither of us has a lot to lose, but once we hit our goals, we plan to stick to the healthy new eating habits we've established.  I'm looking forward to seeing the results of our new habits!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Teaching

Now that I've ended the fall semester of college and have a long break ahead of me, I've been able to spend a lot more time with my family.  I'm loving it...we all are.  We're playing Wii, watching movies, going out to eat, and just enjoying each other's company.  It's a much needed break for all of us.

One thing I've noticed lately is how much my husband is teaching our boys.  They boys stay with him while I work.  Robby pastors our church and homeschools the kids - yes, he's amazing.  But he's teaching them so much more than just their school lessons.  He's teaching them the Bible, life lessons, and so much more.  It amazes me how he takes everyday occurances and turns them into teaching opportunities.  And the boys are soaking it all in.  They love it, and they remember it.  I can see the impact their Daddy's teaching is making on their lives.

I was raised by my grandparents.  My grandmother was a Christian, but my grandfather, who was raised in a pastor's home, walked away from God at a young age.  (He is now a strong Christian - he gave his life back to God in 2003 and  has never looked back.)  It was hard growing up in a home where one person wasn't serving God.  I can't tell you how many nights I cried and prayed for his salvation.  It means so much to me that my husband is not only serving God, but leading our sons to do the same.  I pray that one day I have the opportunity to see our boys pass that same heritage on their children.

Making a Habit

I have a lot of new habits I want to create in the new year.  I have a lot of goals I want to accomplish.  One thing I have learned about creating habits is that it takes perseverance.

One of my goals is to spend daily quiet time in Bible study, prayer, Scripture memory, and stillness, listening to God.  I've done well with those goals before, but I tend to be sporadic, doing well for a while, then letting it drop off.  This year, I want to make it a habit that remains for life.

I've learned from other habits that I've created, the best way to make a habit is to just be persistent.  If you miss a day, start back the next day.  If you fall behind, do extra and catch up.  Don't get discouraged and quit.  A habit is created when something becomes so much a part of your day, your life, that your day doesn't feel right without it.

I'm slowly creating my habits.  I carry my Bible memory book (which was inspired by A Holy Experience) in my DayPlanner, so I can go over it every day.  I'm working on reading through the Bible in a year, and although I've already fallen a bit behind, I'm going to catch up today.  I'm working on finishing my prayer journal.  I'm not giving up.  I'm going to be persistent until my daily quiet time is something that I can't start my day without.  When my life is over, I want to leave my children a worn, marked up Bible; dog-eared books of Scriptures memorized; and a marked up prayer journal that was used daily.  I want to leave my children a legacy of faith lived out.

Facing The Challenges

#1. A Christmas memory... from this year or years past.
#2. Biggest challenge you face this year

I'm really excited about this year, but it will definitely have it's challenges....

One of the biggest challenges for me will be balance and priorities.  If I'm accepted into dental hygiene school this year, I'll be juggling school (just shy of full time) and work (just shy of full time), so it's going to be pretty crazy.  Keeping my priorities in line will be hard.  Making sure my family gets the time and attention they need, keeping the gym I manage running smoothly, taking care of myself with daily workouts and quiet time with God, keeping my grades up, and managing our home will be almost impossible.  It will be a daily juggling act, and I'm sure I will make a lot of mistakes, but I'll just have to keep trying until I figure it out.

Another major challenge is the one that I face with my parents.  I shared recently about my parents marriage problems and my mom's addictions.  It's one of the most challenging things I've ever faced, and I've really been struggling with it.  It seems that every time I start to wrap my mind and emotions around one thing that's happened, something new surfaces, and it throws me for a loop all over again.  I don't know what to believe anymore.  It's a daily battle for me, and it's something that I'm having to put into God's hands, little by little, day by day.  I never thought I would find myself or my family in a situation like this.  The words of the new Superchick song, Still Here, sum it up for me -

Still here, staggering on, through the impossible
We remain, I can breathe one more day,
Still here, still fighting on, all we have is today,
Find my way to the beauty of one more day,
Still here....

One thing I've learned throughout my life, though, is that God will be with me through it all.  Despite the challenges I know I'll face, I'm looking forward to 2011.  I know that I'll grow through the hard times, and I'll come out of it better.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Plantation Dinner

This is a recipe from my mom that makes a quick and easy one-dish dinner!  Just throw together a salad and some veggies on the side, and you're done.

• 1 lb. ground beef

• 1 small onion, diced
• 8 oz. cream cheese
• 1 cup milk
• 1 can golden mushroom soup
• 1 can whole kernel corn
• 1/2 cup water
• 1 (12 oz) package wide egg noodles, cooked and drained

1. Brown beef and onion; drain.
2. Add cream cheese, milk, soup, corn, and water - mixture should be fairly soupy.
3. Add egg noodles and cook until hot.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Best Smartphone Apps for Busy Moms!

Ok, I'll admit, I'm a technology junkie.  I keep up with the latest gadgets, and I could spend hours drooling over iPads and surround sound home entertainment systems at Best Buy.  When the Droid X hit the market, my hubby and I were elated!  We ordered them just weeks after they were released.  I love my phone, and I'm amazed at how much it has helped me get organized and save time.  (I could also tell you about the hours I've wasted playing Angry Birds, but that's another story...)  I've found some awesome apps, all of which are free.  Here are my favorites for busy moms:

I can't say enough about this app!  I've shared a lot about it recently.  Cozi is a free online calendar system that lets you color-code and coordinate everyone's calendars, to do lists, shopping lists and more.  Plus, Cozi has now teamed up with the FlyLady, allowing you to download her lists, routines and more directly into your calendar, and to access it all from your phone.  Get this app for everyone in your family!

Astrid Tasks
This is without a doubt the best to-do list I've found!  You can set reminders and timers, prioritize tasks, and even get "pep talk" reminders from your little coach, who kind of resembles the old Pac-Man ghosts.

My Fitness Pal
Track your daily diet with a food diary that automatically calculates your fat, calories, carbs, vitamins and more.  Even if you aren't dieting, keeping a food diary makes you much more consious of what you're putting into your body and helps you make healthier choices.  You can set this to the number of calories you need to lose, maintain, or gain weight.

Get current conditions, the local forecast, radar and more at your fingertips!  WeatherBug will also send you alerts on your phone in the event of severe weather in your area.  For a girl who grew up in tornado alley, that's a great feature to have.

Color Note
Quickly and easily take notes, and color-code them by category.  (Can you tell I like to color-code?)

Shop Savvy
This has got to be one of the coolest apps I've seen.  When you use Shop Savvy, your camera become a bar code scanner.  Scan the bar code of any item to find out other places in your area and online that have it, listed lowest to highest by price.  This is a bargain hunter's dream come true!  We've used this several times while shopping, and it's amazing!

White Noise Lite
Ever need some peace and quiet when there's none to be found?  With White Noise Lite, you can listen to soothing sounds like crickets, rain, or thunder. 

I was amazed when I downloaded my first Kindle book to my phone.  The quality is great - clear and easy to read.  If you're a reader, this is a must-have app!  Plus, with a Kindle account, you can access your books no matter what device you're using - iPhone, Android phone, iPad, Kindle, PC and more.

Countdown Widget
The Countdown Widget is just fun!  I've had a Christmas countdown up for months.  Whenever the kids asked how many more days it was, one glance told me.  You can set it to countdown to any event you choose, and you can have multiple countdown widgets on your phone at any time.
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