I’ve written a few blogs on why I meditate, as well as a great meditation app that I use. I appreciate the practice of meditation more and more each time I end my session and head to bed (read here about why I switched to meditating at night). With a clear head and a fully relaxed, tranquil body, I get to sleep faster and sleep more soundly than I have for years, and I’m so grateful for it!
Today, I was reminded why meditation can help so much with practicing (or whatever your line of work inside or outside the home may be). I started practicing my long tones like I do every morning, but it was a little rough. I had worked out using my favorite HIIT workout YouTube video and then followed that up with some upper body work (whew!), so I was pretty fatigued by the time I had my shower and started practicing. I didn’t think much of it once I took a little break and got some almond butter and some tea in me. But then while I was practicing technique work and still struggling a bit, those destructive inner thoughts started spiraling around in my head. Usually, I don’t even let those thoughts enter, but they found their way in. It was really hard to concentrate, as you can imagine. And even while I was attempting to chase them away, it didn’t work. I was nearly in tears – oh, how those thoughts are so destructive! But, then it dawned on me: I am not in the “here and now”; I’m in a nonsense land that doesn’t even exist! After I realized what was happening, I was able to stop completely, lower my flute, take a few deep, calming breaths, and clear my head. It felt easy and wonderful – all thought leaving my head like clouds drifting away, and I was free to be me and start fresh again.
I am convinced that it gets easier and easier to clear my head the more I practice meditation. It’s absolutely vital in stressful situations (like a performance) to be able to put myself in the “here and now” and focus on what I need to do and be my best.
So, when you have days where you are fatigued or your body is tired and you inadvertently let those nasty (and probably untrue) thoughts pervade your mind, you can stop, breathe, and let them float away. Start meditating tonight, and practice clearing your mind, chase the demons away, and put yourself back into alignment with your true self.
I really love sleep. That blissful drifting to dreamland and waking up renewed… I do love it when I can get it. Yes, I blogged several months ago about how I defeated the insomnia demon. And I really thought I had! I blissfully slept reliably for 7-8 hours each night for weeks on end, after struggling and struggling with too little sleep. However, I have let the busyness of my life and my children’s school and athletic life take over. Does this sound familiar? And, of course, what is the result? For me, it’s increased stress, disorganization, and dropped routines — not my children’s routines, mind you, but my own. Sadly, the first thing I dropped was mindfulness practice. Big mistake!
The benefits of mindfulness are vast. A quick google search will bring up a whole host of articles to read, of course, and I’ve blogged about my experience here. What were the natural results of dropping the practice for weeks on end? Loss of concentration, loss of mindful control, and, most significantly, loss of sleep. It took me a while to realize what was happening. It wasn’t until my son accidentally dropped and broke my phone, and I was retrieving all of my apps for my “new” (to me) phone that I realized I hadn’t opened my Calm app in quite a while. Then it hit me: I hadn’t been practicing mindfulness.
So, a few nights ago, I had decided to switch from meditating in the afternoon, when I am just too busy either teaching, practicing, or being a mom, to meditating just before I go to bed. That small change has made such a difference in my sleep, and I love it! It has helped my mind to wind down significantly. Since I have nowhere else to go but my bed and my children are silently asleep in their beds, my thoughts don’t start to drift to where I have to be next or what I have to do later, so I have a much easier time clearing my racing head as I lay down. Just after 10-12 minutes of peaceful, quiet meditation, I am more relaxed, my breathing is slower, and I am better prepared to fall asleep. In fact, I would say it is so much more effective, for me, just before bed than in the middle of the day. Don’t get me wrong; there are certainly benefits to pausing in the middle of the day to unload and rest yourself, but those benefits simply won’t present themselves for you if you forget or your phone decides not to remind you that day. So, if you are someone who does practice mindfulness during the day or even someone who is new to meditation, give it a try at night and see what you think. Clear those racing thoughts and sleep better!
We’ve just celebrated Thanksgiving. In my family, it’s not only a time when we celebrate being together and gathering around a giant meal that we have all helped to create, but it’s also a time when we celebrate being thankful for the blessings we have been given. As we begin eating, we go around the table one-by-one discussing the things, events, or people for which we are thankful. It’s a beautiful reminder that few things are guaranteed in life and how dependent we are on each other, even if it’s not always obvious in the busyness of life.
While Thanksgiving doesn’t happen every day, sadly, I still strive to continue this practice at home when I can. It’s one of many ways in which I work to teach gratitude to my children. When the kids are having a particularly bad day — maybe they are sad because their friends or classmates treated them unfairly, or they are jealous that a friend got a new gaming system — I find that having them list 3 or 4 things for which they are grateful (only when they are calm and not flooded with emotion) really does help to bring a smile back onto their sweet faces. This exercise also has the side benefit of teaching them how to help themselves see the bright side to things. I especially enjoy talking about things they are grateful for when they are in a particularly good mood. I tend to get a longer list that gets sillier as they go along, and it usually ends with a lot of laughter!
Another way I try to teach my children gratitude is by having them help around the house, so they can see the value what others do for them and to not take that for granted. Because of their school activities and sports schedules I have a hard time establishing a set schedule, but during the school week I do have them help put away their clean laundry and help bring up dishes from the table. I always have them clean up food or drink messes they make. On weekends I have them help in bigger ways, since we have a bit more time. Obviously, I’m not asking a lot from them, but I do want to teach them about being helpful and contributing to the work that must be done around the house. They see the value in this and, in turn, are far more grateful for when someone else comes along and helps them.
Raising grateful kids can be a journey with some bumps along the way, but it’s always worth that extra effort. Grateful people are happier people, and of course we want that for our children. If you aren’t in the habit of thinking about what you are grateful for, start today. List 3-5 things you are grateful for on your own every day, and have your kids join in when they are calm, like maybe during dinner. You can watch their little faces light up as they think about their favorite things and know that you are teaching them so much more than any textbook ever could.
The holiday season for us is a time for family gatherings, games, fun, and food. Lots of carb-heavy food. You know what I mean: mashed potatoes, casseroles, bread stuffing, and, of course, dessert. I will admit, after Thanksgiving I tend to just throw up my hands and eat whatever I have on-hand, which is usually leftovers of the rich, heavy nosh, or whatever simply sounds good. You probably don’t have to guess what sounds good on cloudy, chilly late-autumn, early-winter days: comfort food! After all, I felt like I earned it. I spent the whole year exercising regularly, eating incredibly healthy, and maintaining my healthy weight and slim figure. So, yes, I indulged. Every day. And here’s what I learned: except for that first day, it wasn’t as much fun and liberating as I thought it would be. Hear me out.
As the leftovers started pouring into the house after our first couple rounds of family Thanksgivings and the days were getting cold, the thought of my kale smoothies and salads stopped sounding appetizing (ok, kale smoothies don’t always sound appetizing. I get it!). I just went with the flow and ate what I wanted. But after a week or more of that, my body started feeling out-of-sorts. I felt weighed down, with less energy. Honestly, my body felt compromised. The sugar from the desserts was giving me headaches! While it was interesting, at first, to change up my diet, my body wasn’t having it. I started craving fresh, green food again, so I went out and bought lettuce and some greens from the farmers market. Since Christmas and New Year’s Eve/Day was coming, along with all of the parties and more extended family dinners that go with it, I decided to try to eat more salads on the off days. While it helped to ward off some of the extra weight I knew I was going to gain, it wasn’t enough to help me feel like myself again, especially given the heavy but delicious holiday meals I was all too happy to indulge myself with the next day.
Fast-forward to the second week of January. I am back into my regular healthy eating and working routine, I feel great again! I previously posted about my lower-carb diet (here), and now I realize why it works so well for me. I just feel light and healthy. I can really feel the nutrients from my fresh veggies and lean veggie proteins doing their work nourishing my body, and, in turn, my workouts are more effective, and I feel sharper and happier. While I am a firm believer in moderating one’s diet and “treating” yourself occasionally, I am more fully convinced that a veg-heavy, lower-carb diet is a great way to nourish the body and live healthier and happier! And, by making this a part of my lifestyle, I am showing my children healthy eating habits, as well. No, they aren’t convinced about kale yet (they’ll get there!), but they do eat their veggies now and, therefore, stand a greater chance of enjoying healthy eating into adulthood. While I didn’t set out to do a carb-heavy vs. low-carb, plant-based diet challenge intentionally, I am so glad I did! It was definitely an eye-opener. So, eat your veggies. Your body and your children will thank you for it!
When my husband and I moved back to the United States from living in England, we vowed that we would be back one day. That “one day” turned out to take a lot longer than we had anticipated. (Funny how having 3 babies within 46 months will do that!) But, we finally made it back just over a year ago, with all three kids in-tow. Never thought about taking kids overseas? If your children are in elementary school or older, it’s easier than you might think, and the educational value of the trip (not to mention all the eye-popping wonder and excitement) makes it so worth it. I’ll break down how we made it all work.
1. Flight miles. The very first step is to get a good flight miles card — one that earns at least 1.5x miles, but preferably 2x miles. The best flight-miles cards will come with annual fees, but your first free flight more than pays for that instantly. Don’t forget to pay in-full every month, so you don’t incur interest charges! We took our time collecting our miles, so we were able to fly our family of 5 out for not much out-of-pocket.
Backpack it. Yes, you read that correctly: backpack it. Why? Portability. We travelled all throughout England, from the southern coast up to the north using trains. There is a lot of walking involved, too, and there is nothing worse than lugging huge suitcases on and off trains and down old streets with uneven brick or pavement. Each person was responsible for his or her own backpack, and it was simple. We had each child bring their school backpacks, and we packed them with 3 changes of clothes only. Don’t fret, we had a way to wash our clothes (more on that below). The front pocket of each backpack held some mechanical pencils and their journal. Bringing journals was a great way to have them chronicle their experience while we were on a train or back at the flat, plus they liked to use them to draw in or play games. The grown-up backpacks carried our own clothes, of course, but they also carried our documents (only when we needed them) and a portable phone charger. The portable charger was essential, since I was using Google Maps and other GPS apps on my phone, along with my camera, all of which ate my battery. I kept my phone plugged into my charger in my backpack, which has a USB port, so I was never low on battery; I recharged the portable charger at night. Save buying your toiletries for when you get to your destination, and carry them in your shopping bag back to where you are staying. Just like at home!
3. Airbnb. If you want to keep costs down, I highly recommend using Airbnb, or another similar site. (We actually used HomeAway for most of our stay, which was a mistake, so I can’t recommend them for international travel.) I totally understand if you are skittish, and want to stay at hotels: they are predictable, offer loads of services, and you can always talk to a live person. But, if you want to keep costs down, I have to recommend arranging your lodging in a flat online. You usually can get the entire flat or apartment to yourself, so there is more privacy, you can feel like a local, you can cook your meals (saves a lot of money!), it can give you and your kids a feeling of having a home-away-from-home, and you can do your laundry at night. That last one was key for us! We specifically booked places that had en-suite laundry facilities, so we just did our laundry when we were in for the night. That helped to keep our packing light and portable.
4. Do your research at home, and try to buy as many of your experiences and train tickets online as possible before you leave. For example, we knew that while we were in London, we wanted to visit certain sites and take a ride on the London Eye. It is a giant time-saver to just sort out your trip itinerary and then book your experiences online before you leave. This helps you avoid long lines and frustration once you are there, and saves your kids from getting too cranky and frustrated themselves. Another thing to remember is that many museums are free or free-with-donation, so definitely seek those out, and be sure to plan for museums designed specifically for kids, which are great fun and educational! Also, if you are moving from city to city or country to country using trains, many offer ticket sales online. I would highly recommend you take advantage of this and order your tickets before you leave. Once you have your itinerary set, complete with your transportation and experiences details, save those on all of the devices you are taking with you (as a backup), and save all of your sales confirmation emails, and back those up as well. Finally, don’t forget to purchase a SIM card for your phone, if needed, so you can make local calls.
5. Locate playgrounds and take time for breaks. This was another biggie for us! I dubbed our trip to the UK a “Tour of Her Majesty’s Playgrounds.” Kids are kids no matter the circumstances, and they want to play. They need unstructured play to help them unwind and be themselves. So, you will do everyone a giant favor by using a maps app or Siri or Google to help you locate playgrounds near where you are. Even just 10-15 minutes of play will go a long way towards keeping your kids happy during your trip and less fussy. Another helpful tip is to make sure you take some breaks, too. We usually stopped for afternoon tea in a café and let them have juice and a snack. This gave everyone a chance to slow down, take in the experience, and recharge. Honestly, trying out all of the different cafés became one of the highlights of the trip for our kids!
Taking kids with you on international trips can be an amazing adventure and a sure way to create special moments they will never forget. By taking your time with saving flight miles, doing careful research, and doing a lot of planning ahead of time, you can have a great trip that is packed with fun, and have some restful moments, too! We already have another international trip in the works, and I can’t wait! What kind of exciting travel adventures would you love to give to your children?
Hey, everyone! Welcome to 2020. A new year; a new you, right? Maybe. For some of us, we may have fairly lofty new-year resolutions, and that’s great! For others of us, me included, we just want to keep improving on our current lifestyle, and that’s also fine, especially if we are happy where we are.
So, I have been vegetarian for 16 1/2 years now, and I love it! Yes, I do miss my mother and my grandmother’s traditional cooking, to be sure. But once I started seeing the effects of going plant-based and noticed how much happier my body seemed, I never looked back. Another happy side-effect of going veg is that my cooking is on a whole new colorful and creative level. It really became a source of inspiration for me, and I relished the change!
Another big change that I did make a few years is lowering my carbohydrates. I never really felt like I needed to go full keto with it, but I did want to reduce my dependence on grains for my energy, and instead focus on proteins for that need. The first two weeks of that change was really difficult, but after my body adjusted to it, I started feeling even better. I felt like my blood sugar was more stable during the day, and my muscle tone improved more quickly with my workouts. I am so much happier with how I feel. But I want to emphasize the low(ER) part of my lower-carb lifestyle. As vegetarians, some of our main sources of protein are also sources of complex carbohydrates — beans, quinoa, lentils — and I don’t want to exclude these from my diet. What this lifestyle has taught me to do is to be creative with incorporating more nuts and tofu into my diet, as well as eggs. More creative fun in the kitchen, right? So, if you are looking for a way to be more plant-based and to reduce your carb intake, I can tell you that (if you stick with it) you will love the results!
Below is a typical day of meals for me:
Morning: Eggs. Always. Snack (if I worked out that morning, skip otherwise): Protein smoothie Lunch: Kale smoothie if home, kale or romaine salad topped with protein, if not Snack: Avocado half, hard-boiled egg, cheese, apple, nut butter, or nut mix (or any two of these) Dinner: Protein, 2 veggie sides
So, it’s really that easy and accessible! The key is getting enough protein so you feel satisfied, and definitely replace your drinks (other than your tea or coffee) with water or seltzer water. I have really enjoyed this lifestyle, and I hope you do, too!
We’re nearly halfway through December, so I know I’m a little late with this blog, but I’m still excited about sharing this! I love all of the wonderful green possibilities that present themselves with having a real Christmas tree, not to mention the fun memories you create along the way. One of my favorite Christmas memories growing up is decorating our live tree and enjoying the amazing scent wafting from its branches. I know that pine trees do trigger allergies for many people, but if you are someone who can tolerate having live trees in your house, check out why it’s worth the extra time and extra bit of money to cut your own tree.
1. Tree farms, well, grow trees! We all know how vital trees are to our ecosystem. They absorb carbon dioxide and provide us with oxygen. Trees also help reduce air pollution. We depend on trees to survive, and by supporting tree farms, we contribute to the continuation of growing more trees than maybe we otherwise would. It’s also another way to support your local small farms, which we all know is important. A quick google search for your area will show you where the closest Christmas tree farms are located. These tree farmers do work all year long to maintain the quality of the trees, plant new trees, and maintain that signature shape of the tree. You help support their year-long effort when you buy your tree from them.
2. Turn your tree into mulch. Check with your city and see if this is an option where you live, but in many places, the city will collect your tree after Christmas and use it turn it into useable mulch. You can then pick it up and use for your garden, or the city may use for its own landscaping. You are really going full circle here, and nothing gets wasted or ends up in a landfill.
3. Create fun family memories! We love driving out to our local Christmas tree farm and choosing that perfect tree. It’s fun watching the children run around, playing a quick game of hide-and-seek, or marching around the other trees while my husband and I work on cutting down the tree. We sing Christmas carols on the way home, and it’s just a really great time all around! It’s so much fun sharing our favorite memories from the day.
There are so many great reasons to get your own tree! It does take a little bit more effort all around, but we have always felt that it is well worth it. I love watching Christmas movies and taking in the tree’s scent. It’s such a great feeling, and knowing that I’m helping small local business and our environment at the same time is even better!