health · kids · parenting

Turning off your thoughts: a guide for kids.

I teach sixth grade, and every day I share a thought for the day (a positive quote) with my students. Today’s thought was “One of the greatest addictions people have is the addiction to thought.” I talked to them about how when we think about addiction, we usually think about being addicted to video games or soda or TV, but thinking can also be an addition. In fact, these days most of us can find ourselves addicted to thinking, especially negative thoughts. I asked students if they ever have a hard time falling asleep because they can’t shut their brains off. In all four of my classes, every hand went up. I asked if they would like to know a way to stop it, and I had their full attention.

I had them do an experiment. I had them close their eyes and listen for a sound: the sound of the heating/air unit. It makes a soft white noise sound. Then I asked if they noticed that while they were listening, they weren’t thinking any other thoughts. They agreed that was true.

I explained they could practice that same process at home at night when they’re trying to go to sleep. I also used the word “meditation” at this point and several kids made faces at me. I asked them if when I said the word “meditation” they thought of sitting in a cross-legged position and saying “ohm” and they laughed. I explained that meditation isn’t really about that, that it’s quieting the mind.

Then I asked if anyone had a sound machine in their room. Some said yes, but most didn’t know what a sound machine was. I explained that sound machines can play ocean wave sounds (my favorite), white noise (and what that means), thunderstorms (my father-in-law’s favorite), and one with crickets and birds chirping, which I would personally find annoying. Some students shared that you can have Amazon Alexa play ocean or beach sounds too.

I encouraged them to try this and really focus on listening to and really focusing on whatever white noise sound they chose, then to let me know if it made a difference for them.

We also talked about how tapping in to any of the five senses can help bring you back to the present moment. You can feel the fabric of your jeans or shirt. Like when I’m driving, I will feel the texture of the steering wheel or the fabric of the seat and it will calm me and ground me. In my classroom, during cold weather months, I play a video of a fireplace during classwork time, and during warmer months, I play a video of ocean waves or beach scenery. Both of these are calming and students tell me they help them to be calm and to “turn their brain off” of whatever may be bothering them. Then they can refocus and get back to work.

Our brains tend to have so many tabs open and we can feel so overwhelmed that we don’t know where to start. By practicing mindfulness and having techniques to stop thought, we can turn off the tape playing in our minds of what has already happened or things that we may be anxious about happening in the future. We can be here. Now. In the moment. Namaste.

health · natural lifestyle

Young Living Lavender Lotion, How I Love Thee

I wanted to give a quick shout out to what is quite possibly my favorite Young Living product!

Do you know about Young Living’s Lavender Lotion? If you or anyone in your family is in search of that one product that will soothe your skin, look no further.

My sweet daughter now has perfectly soft, healthy skin. That was not her story six years ago, before I discovered this lotion. We had tried everything and nothing worked. Aquaphor and Eucerin were ok, but this Lavender Lotion completely soothed her skin like nothing else.

I’m a teacher, and had dry, cracked hands from frequent washing and using those rough brown school paper towels multiple times a day. And they were even worse in winter months, until I discovered this wonderful product.

Perhaps the best thing about this lotion is that it is all natural and COMPLETELY plant-based. And Young Living lavender fields are weeded BY HAND. This company blows me away with how pure of a product they are committed to provide.

Because it is all natural, it is FRAGRANCE FREE. Oh, it has the most beautiful lavender scent that you will fall in love with, but there is no ARTIFICIAL FRAGRANCE. Do you know why this matters so much? Did you know that due to trade secrets companies don’t have to tell you what is in fragrance when they scent their products artificially? They can get away with just putting “fragrance” on the label. That concerns me and it should concern you too. We banned Bath and Body from our home two years ago and never looked back.

“A 1986 report by the National Academy of Sciences noted that 95 percent of chemicals used in synthetic fragrances are derived from petroleum (yep, crude oil) and include benzene derivatives (carcinogenic), aldehydes, toluene, and many other known toxic chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, central nervous system …”

A simple Google search for “what is in artificial fragrance” will pull this up and a host of others!!!

I know some scoff and say, “well, you’re gonna die of something” or “Well, everyone else uses Bath and Body. I love my Bath and Body.” I’ll tell you what I tell my sixth graders: “everyone else is doing it” is the dumbest reason to do anything! (That’s actually a Joyce Meyer quote but I have totally stolen it.)

I want to give myself and my family the absolute best shot at a quality life as possible. When you know better, you do better.

Young Living’s fragrance free, plant-based products are things I would buy anyway, but YL gives me 24% back each month for being a loyal customer. Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, kids body wash, kids shampoo, lotion, toothpaste, and on and on.

I am willing to sacrifice new clothes and shoes for myself. I’m willing to sacrifice buying frivolous things I don’t need. But I have found I don’t need to make those sacrifices anymore. My oil habit is paid for because I share my passion for this lifestyle with others and the company rewards me for that. And you are able to do the same. You can learn more about Young Living, purchase essential oils, and natural products like Lavender Lotion here.

I invest in my family’s health because it matters. I hope you will join me.

Let’s all share with those we love that there is a better way. ❤️❤️❤️

If you love Lavender Lotion or any of Young Living’s other personal care products, please share in the comments.

introvert · personal development · Uncategorized · wisdom

Embracing Your Introverted Nature

For years, I tried pretending I was something I wasn’t. I was an introvert, but trying to represent myself as an extrovert because I desperately wanted friends. And I didn’t just want friends. I wanted everyone to like me and I wanted to please them all. It was exhausting. I always felt like I had to be “on.”

Then I read a ton of research on being an introvert and the advantages of being an introvert. I learned that being an introvert could actually be an asset. Then I decided to embrace my true nature and live life as me – a real introvert.

I’ve learned so much about myself in the past few years, and made life changes that I will most likely continue for the rest of my life. Seeking alone time each day, setting boundaries, and learning to say “no” are just a few of the changes that I will take with me.

By embracing my introverted nature, I have realized that I avoiding crowds, shopping early in the mornings, and taking lunches by myself are all things that recharge my battery. These are coping skills I’ve fine-tuned and plan to embrace my whole life. By giving myself space and alone time, I am energized and able to be a better friend and family member to those who mean most to me.

One of the most challenging skills I’ve refined is being in a conversation or group setting, having something to say, and being able to remain focused, present and still, but not need vocalize every thought in my head. I’ve learned to be comfortable remaining quiet. Before, I felt like I needed to have something to say, and being socially awkward, I would rehearse things I might say! Does that sound silly to you? Introverts struggle with jumping into the conversation because we don’t want to be rude and interrupt, and we aren’t as assertive about speaking our minds. I would find myself nervously waiting for my turn to speak instead of listening to what the other person was saying, only to find when I did speak, the other person was going to say what I was trying to say anyway, or saying the wrong thing altogether because of my social anxiety.

There have been so many things about my past year that were freeing, but I also found myself lonely. I went from feeling known and acknowledged by everyone I knew, to a life where I was alone and disconnected from everyone I had made so important. Looking back now, I can say that neither extreme is how I would choose to continue. I don’t care to go back to people pleasing and carrying on like I’m outgoing when I’m not, but I also know that living a life withdrawn from everyone else isn’t what I’m after either.

My goal going forward is to strike a balance. I know now that it’s ok to be quiet, and in the few years, I’ve had others tell me what a good listener I am more than any other period of my life. But I also know that it’s ok to take up space and speak my mind. I know that I have value and I have to remember that my voice has as much right to be heard as anyone else’s. I think that’s a pretty healthy space to be, especially for an introvert.

Check out my blog post 6 Healthy Ways to Process Emotions as an Introvert.

adventures with kids · travel with kids

This May Change the Way You Travel with Kids

There are three things our family does when we travel, that I find are a little different than the norm, but they serve us extremely well. Once you’ve given them a read through, I’d love to know your own ideas of things your family has done to make your vacation experience more enjoyable. Please share in the comments!

Set a goal of seeing the country, maybe even the world.

I was writing on the patio at Starbucks one day, and overheard two girls talking about their vacations. One was explaining that they went to Destin, Florida every year and that was where they were going. The other girl replied, “Why would you take the same vacation every year when there’s a whole world to see?”

That was a lightbulb moment for me, because at that point taking the same vacation every year was exactly what our family had been doing! Not anymore.

We have made it our intention to visit a new state each year, and we pass through other states on our way to our destination. Fifty states goal! It is my hope that my girls will see all 50 states before graduating from high school.

Be a traveler, not a tourist.

Chef Anthony Bourdain taught us to be travelers, not tourists, and changed the way we visit new cities.

So now, instead of focusing on the popular tourist attractions, we try to find places that cater to each family members’ interest when we travel. I love yoga, going to the beach, knitting and jewelry making, so I try to incorporate these into our trips. One of my daughters loves music, plays guitar and loves to read, so guitar shops, record shops and bookstores are on our itenerary. My younger daughter is an avid swimmer and loves ice cream, so pools and ice cream shops are a must. Both girls love visiting coffee shops and doing art so I research those too. My husband is a classically trained chef so I research the best grocery stores, butcher shops, farmers markets and seafood markets. Of course we make sure to get a rental with a kitchen so he can cook!

We all want to check out the food scene, so researching local favorites is imperative. But the best way to find the really best food is to talk to the locals. Ask someone who lives there for their recommendations!

Avoid the crowds

The saying, “Look at what other people are doing, and do the exact opposite,” serves us well on vacation. Most people go to the beach in the afternoon and stay til sunset, so instead we are willing to get up early and see the sunrise. Then we can stay at the beach until around lunch time, or even pack a picnic lunch. We find that as we leave the beach, it is just beginning to get crowded. Getting to the beach early also helps us with parking! Visiting popular venues on weekdays and studying peak times helps us visit when they are the least crowded.

Dare to be different.

There is no right or wrong when planning your family vacation, but I hope these ideas have helped stretched the scope of your imagination for what your next trip could look like. Whatever your plans may be, you know your family best and you’re the best person equipped to make it the best one ever for everyone.

health · parenting

Hey Mom! Want to Sled with Us?

I had my children a little later in life than most. I’m in my mid-forties, and have an 8-year-old and a 12-year-old. They REALLY want me to play and sled with them on snow days. And I really want to play with them.

As we get older, mentally we want to have fun and do the same things we did when we were younger, but in reality, our bodies have changed and we have to be more careful to make sure we don’t end up hurting ourselves.

There are three things I do to help prevent injury when I know I’ll be sledding with my kids and they work wonderfully:

  1. Take an Aleve beforehand. I’ve sledded without doing this and have paid the price. The last two snows where I had the forethought to take one before sledding, made a huge difference!
  2. Keep your abs and core tight as you sled. If I’m going to injure myself sledding, it’s going to more than likely be a back injury. I know from taking yoga and pilates, that when you tighten your core (in other words your abdominals, gluteal and back muscles) you are protecting your back! Not to mention, it’s a good core workout!
  3. Apply essential oils beforehand. If you have Young Living’s Panaway or Deep Relief blends, they have been the best that I have found. Ortho Sport or Ortho Ease (also Young Living) work great as well. I prefer Ortho Sport and Ortho Ease since they are already diluted. If you use Panaway, you may want to dilute with a carrier oil. I apply not only to my back, but also to my knees as a preventative measure. If you use other brands of essential oils, I recommend any blend with wintergreen and peppermint. If you would like to buy any of these life-changing oils, you can buy them here.

I was able to sled with my children again today, and can happily report I have no injuries whatsoever, had a great time, and my kids’ love watching me have fun too.

Uncategorized

Beach Hopping on North Shore Oahu

The Honolulu/Waikiki beaches may be more popular on Oahu, but you should definitely consider exploring the beaches in the North Shore part of the island.

Our family visited 4 beaches in one day, and each one was so unique. It’s amazing how just traveling a few miles along the coast can make such a difference in current, sand texture, types of trees, rocks, or mountain view.

Banzai Pipeline

The first beach we visited was the Banzai Pipeline, also known as Ehukai Beach. This was the most impressive to us because the waves were huge! We love seeing “pipeline” or barrel waves and watching how powerful they were as they crashed on the shore. Banzai pipeline is known for drawing world class surfers, and national surfing competitions are held here! My daughters and I had watched several surfing movies before coming to Hawaii so it was really fun to see some awesome surfers in real life. The sand here was soft, but there was a steeper slope down to the water than what we were used to due to the current. I didn’t let my kids get in the water here. We liked that there was a restroom and a place to rinse sand off your feet.

Papa’iloa Beach

This was my older daughter’s favorite. The sand was soft, and the view was stunning. To your right, palm trees, and to your left, mountains. The black rocks added more dynamic to an already picturesque landscape. We came to this beach in hopes of spotting sea turtles but never saw any. It is not as well known as some of the more popular ones for sea turtles so this is the one I was most excited about. I was hopeful we could spot turtles and have a really pleasant experience since it wouldn’t be as crowded. I wish we had talked to my friend who lived on Oahu before our trip – she shared after we returned that you can easily spot them under rocks or when snorkeling. I guess we were expecting to just spot them on the beach area. We should have looked more carefully!

You can find it by entering the name of the beach on your GPS, however, the parking lot is in a very nice neighborhood where you will see a “dead end” sign. But keep driving and you’ll see it on your left! The parking lot itself looked a little foreboding with a “lock your car, high theft area” sign and the cars in the lot were very old and run down looking. You couldn’t rinse off your feet here, so in hindsight, we would recommend bringing a jug of water on your visit.

Laniakea Beach

Laniakea Beach is a very popular beach known for spotting sea turtles. We drove by the day before we actually visited, and saw a huge group of people huddled together making videos with their cell phones, We assume it was to video the turtles. When we visited ourselves, there were many cars parked in the lot across the street but it was easy to find a spot close to the beach path. Be careful on your way down and along the beach. Some of the rocks are slippery. We even saw a girl slip and fall pretty hard while we were there. We didn’t see turtles, but as I explained with Papa’iloa Beach, they like to be near the rocks and we didn’t explore very long since my crew was tired from exploring the other three beaches. i would recommend allowing more time here and think we would have seen turtles if we had just stayed longer and looked more closely. I also read in a blog post that they are more easily spotted late afternoon, like after 3pm. Although there was high potential for spotting turtles, with it being so crowded and all the rocks (large and small), I wouldn’t recommend it for snorkeling.

adventures with kids

The Adventures of Oakley and Madeline on Oahu

On our vacation on Oahu, two cousins, Oakley and Madeline had the greatest adventures. You never knew what they would do next!

They had “kids’ meetings” (Madeline and Oak called them “keetings”) to discuss their plans, usually related to the cake they wanted to bake.

One day while they were swimming, Madeline was struggling for air and had gotten water up her nose. She came up and Oakley thought she needed to be saved. He grabbed her, and was reassuring that he was trying to help her. He really cares for his cousin!

Later on, Oakley decided to style Madeline’s hair, only something didn’t go quite as planned. He went to get his mom Emily, and told her he needed her help – he couldn’t get the brush out of her hair. Emily asked if Madeline was panicking and Oakley told her “no.” When his mom saw Madeline’s hair, she saw that the hair was so wound around the brush that the brush wasn’t even visible. She slowly untangled the hair. Oakley said, “Madeline I wish you could have seen your hair. It was so beautiful.” Madeline replied, “I do wish I could have seen it, Oakley.”

It was often a challenge to find the two in the large house we were staying in with many different rooms. One time, we found them in the guest house and Oakley was under the bed!

Thanks to Oakley’s mom, Madeline and Oak were able to make their cake! Oakley especially loves to cook. At first they planned for it to be a tropical cake with pineapple, but they decided the pineapple could make the cake soggy. They ended up making a vanilla cake with three layers! They took turns stirring and with other parts of the cake making process. They had thought about crumbling something to look like sand on top, but ended up crumbling oreos to look like lava rock and using ocean blue gummy candies to look like water.

Uncategorized

Oahu for Foodies: Best Grocery Stores

When our family travels, one of the things we research before visiting is where to find the best grocery shopping. Lovers of fresh fruit, shellfish, good steaks, poke and really foods of all kinds, it’s important to us to procure the best food available since we tend to cook a lot when we travel.

My husband is a classically trained chef, and on the rare occasions we’ve paid major bucks to eat out when we travel, my daughters and I will often feel that dad could have made the food better and we should have just eaten at home. Hence the importance of finding the best groceries!

We have a Foodland 3 minutes away from where we’re staying in North Shore, which is super convenient for staple items and interestingly, the best tuna poke. But when you’re on Oahu and looking to do the most of your shopping, you’re best bet is to go to Honolulu.

In Honolulu, we were delighted to find two of our absolute favorite grocery stores that we frequented often when we lived in San Francisco: Nijiya and Safeway.

Nijiya is a Japanese supermarket and an absolute gem. We love to grab ikura (salmon roe) and tekka maki (smaller sushi rolls, and we adore raw tuna). We can’t wait so we usually just consume in the car! Just do it! We have also appreciated finding some harder to find produce there such as daikon, and enoki mushrooms. I love their miso and edamame as well as sake.

Safeway is a wonderful and large grocery that we love for two reasons: It has just about everything you could possible think of and need so you can accomplish most of your shopping there, and it’s fairly affordable! There is plenty of parking on the lower level and the store itself is on the top level. They have an outdoor patio on the upper level where you could grab a bite at the deli and eat outdoors. but it was closed when we visited due to Covid. You will also need to wear a mask anywhere you venture indoors (as of the date of this post, July 2021).

I saved the best for last, Foodland Farms. I have heard Foodland Farms referred to as “the Hawaiian Whole Foods, and also as “Whole Foods on Steroids.” Unfortunately, it also shares higher prices as a characteristic of Whole Foods, and as a result, we only bought some specialized items there such as crab legs, shrimp (amazing!!), some fruits, and a few pantry items. The wine section was epic, and also wine can prove to be harder to find on North Shore since it is a dry county. So stock up here!

It is important to note that Hawaiians are huge on respect and the environment. You will want to purchase some reusable bags while you’re there as they frown on waste and you will bag your own groceries as well. They also are on island time, and view someone rushing around, impatient and in a hurry as rude. So just relax!

These three stores in combination are the reason my eyes light up each time I open up our fridge or look in our pantry. It’s so fun having this bounty of foods available to us that we can’t find back home.

adventures with kids · parenting

Enriching Your Children’s Lives with Experiences

When I was just starting out as a mom, I sought out a friend who had older children, and was the kind of mom I hoped to be one day. I asked her for advice and I will never forget it: fill your house with books and give them lots of experiences. Let these become your top priorities as a parent! What you won’t expect, what will delight you, is that by enriching your children’s lives with experiences, you will also be enriching your own.

Make it a priority as a parent that your children be cultured. Take them on annual vacations to the beach and to different parts of the country. Make sure they are knowledgable about arts, music, the theater and food – not just to know about them but to experience them! Find and follow other parents who share experiences that their families were privileged to do. This will help keep you aware and informed about the many experiences available to kids that are possible for you as well.

Dream and imagine how your children will have this kind of life! Daydream, create bucket lists and vision boards. Encourage your children to do the same. They will have all of these experiences! They will travel and explore. They will be knowledgable about foods and arts because they experienced them first-hand.

Unpopular outlook: Creating an enriched childhood for your children, does require a more open and flexible schedule. You should avoid over-scheduling them if you want to provide a rich life full of culture and variety. Consider choosing one extracurricular per season. If your children want to play sports, they can. If it turns out it’s not for them and you KNOW it, let them try something else next time. If they wanted to learn musical instruments they can, but if they decide it isn’t for them, they can move on.

The Arts

Most parents would agree that art is extremely important element in a child’s life. Expose them often and in a variety of ways. Take advantage and participate in opportunities locally, such as pottery classes and as well as painting pottery and canvases. If you live near a big city, or have a chance to travel to one, be sure to experience art museums, the symphony and the ballet. Some art museums allow you to purchase a membership which is a wonderful resource, especially if a children’s program is offered. When we travel, I try to make a point to book at least one artistic experience related to our artistic interests – this could be anything from a concert to a tie-dye experience! Investigate what is available and think outside the box.

Animals

Some of the most memorable experiences for your family involve animals. If your children are animal lovers, zoos, farms and other animal encounters should be high on your list. Whether you’re horseback riding, swimming with dolphins or volunteering at an animal shelter, these are bucket list items that your family will never forget. We are members at Nashville Zoo and love visiting the veterinary center to see what cute babies they have on a given day. Many of the books I’ve checked out for them have been related to the animals they are interested in currently.

Books

Many cities have amazing public libraries, and they are often an under-used resource. If it has a children’s library, you are especially fortunate. Often, the librarians are kind and knowledgable. Some libraries offer a program for children in the summer, with story time, fun themes, songs and dance.

If you have never been, you will need to start by signing up for a library card, typically best done in person. Every couple of weeks, get your children books that they request, or choose them based on their interests. They are never too young for the library. If you have a baby, they will love being read to. It’s such a special place!

When you are thinking about what books to check out, try to choose between 5 and 10 books per child each time you visit. When they are with me, they choose, but sometimes I pop in and choose books thinking about any one of the following criteria: chapter book series they like, characters they like, non-fiction books based on their interests or things they want to learn about, things they are learning about in school.

Food

Another way we have provided rich experiences for our children is through food. My husband is a classically trained chef, so the girls are naturally immersed in much richer food experience than I ever was. But surprisingly, one of them is an extremely picky eater!

However, that is where I feel I’m able to offer the most help. Most moms I talk to share that they also have a picky eater in the family. If you would like to know more and read about ideas for broadening your picky eaters culinary horizons, check out the blog post I wrote on this very topic.

Experiences Instead of Gifts

One of the greatest shifts I have made was deciding to gift experiences and items the children can use for these experiences, instead of toys which often end up being discarded after a week or so. When birthdays or Christmases roll around, consider your child’s interests and enroll them in a cooking class, basketball camp, or horseback riding lessons. Use the money you would have spent on unneeded gifts and use that money for a family trip or experience.

The Big Idea

The memories that you create from giving your child rich life experiences are priceless. Things come and go, but what children really want is your time: presence instead of presents. In this modern day and age where we are led to believe we need a certain gadget or brand of clothing to make us happy, what hasn’t changed over time is that those items lose value the moment we finally possess them, but the family adventures we experience together are treasured for a lifetime.

personal development · wisdom

You are who God says you are.

Life is challenging during a regular year, but especially during this past year; so many are struggling. Struggling with being the person they want to be, finding the friends they long to have, getting out and doing the things they wish they could do.

I’m reminded of the scene in Disney’s Moana where Moana approaches Te Kā the lava monster. Te Kā had her heart stolen and is blinded by rage and anger. Maybe we have lost heart and have become taken over with bitterness. Maybe we’ve shut others out and like Te Kā, we are blinded by our emotions. A turning point in the film happens when Moana reminds Te Kā, “They have stolen the heart from inside you. But this does not define you. This is not who you are. You know who you are.” We may need someone to remind us that we are off course and that we are not defined by what has happened to us or what has been done to us.

Maybe you’ve been hurt or isolated or unworthy. Perhaps you have felt betrayed, excluded, or written off. Maybe you have been misjudged, gossiped about or rejected. Or it could be that you have made legitimate mistakes and experienced guilt and condemnation. Whatever the case may be, you can let circumstances and misperceptions cloud your vision of the person you were put here to be. When this happens, more than any other time, we need God. We need to remember who he says we are and who he put us here to be:

God says you (yes you) are beautiful, unique, loved, special. You are created with a purpose. You are cared for, lovely, and precious. You are strong, important and forgiven. You are a new creation. You are protected and empowered. You are chosen. You are family and you are his.

God is God for all of us, no one is excluded. No one is written off or rejected by him.

If you struggle with seeing yourself irrationally through your own eyes, or make the common error of trying to see yourself through someone else’s eyes. Take a step back, and remember who you are in God’s eyes. That is the only perception that is 100% true and real.