Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Toy Rotation

My boys are almost 2 and five. Emmett, my little one, likes to take all the toys out of the bins and dump them. And then both boys decide to just throw them around. At which point Graham, my five-year-old, usually starts whining that he has nothing to do and nothing to play with.

We are moving out of state in less than two weeks. (Which partially explains my absence from blogging.) As I've been packing up my house, I've also been taking the opportunity to purge and organize. I really don't have all that much stuff and yet I feel like we have too much.

Comparatively, my kids have less toys then others that I know. And in that same vein, comparatively, my boys have more than they could ever possibly need.

Feeling at my wit's end just keeping the house picked up and keeping my boys entertained - especially as we were trying to sell the house. It has just about pushed me over the edge. So I started Google searching about ways to keep the kids engaged with their toys and encourage independent play. Enter the toy rotation.

After reading several other blogs about how too many toys can overwhelm a child as well as seeing the same toys daily can make a child grow weary of the toys, the toy rotation seems to be the winning approach to keeping mess at a minimum and keeping kids happy and engaged with their toys.

The basic philosophy is that you offer a small sampling of toys with which to play and then you rotate them daily, weekly or monthly, depending on your preferences. The children are not overwhelmed by choices and they get excited when they see a toy that they haven't seen for a while once it comes out of rotation.

So here's what I did:

I brought almost all the toys into one room and I grouped them by category. Here are the categories that I used:

  • Transportation
  • Building stuff  
  • Puzzles 
  • Sorting and Stacking
  • Miscellaneous
Step 1: Group Toys in Piles by Category
Next I lined up my storage bins. If you live in MI, you can get these bins for $5 at Meijer! Then I started putting toys from each category in front of each bin.

  • We have a boatload of matchbox cars, so I put a couple handfuls in gallon freezer bags and put one bag per bin. 
  • Each bin got a couple "mid sized" cars. 
  • Each bin got at least one large vehicle.
  • Each bin got a puzzle.
You get the idea.

Step 2: Put Toys from Each Category in front of Each Bin
Feeling pretty darn good but I'll admit to thinking there was no way all of those toys would fit into each bin. But then I started packing and low and behold, each bin has room to spare!

I already had the various blocks/building toys in bins so I decided each toy rotation would include 2 boxes: the big tote with the assortment of toys and the bin of building stuff.

I even made a list of what was going into each box which I'm going to tape on the outside of the box in case a kid just HAS to have a particular toy.
Step 3: Pack Bins and Create Contents Lists

So here's what I left out - and my rational -  and I'm wondering also needs to be in the rotation:
  • arts/crafts - currently in a separate room and in bins by type (paint, playdough, etc.). Do they only get one type of craft? Do I divide the activity books into bins, too? Hate to stifle creativity, but right now they use very little of it....
  • balls/sports - thinking all balls will go in the basement and be used during the winter when I need the boys to do something phsyical. I don't really want this stuff in a play space/living room.
  • small legos - these are kept in a closet now anyways because they are too small for Emmett. I'm thinking we might keep these in Graham's bedroom as a way for him to have some quiet time.
  • kitchen toys - obviously the big things like the play fridge/stove will stay out. But do I put just a few pieces of kitchen gear/play food in each bin or do they have access to all of it all of the time?
How do you keep your play space/living space organized AND keep your kids happy?

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Menus and Meal Plans

A few weeks ago I was invited to a freezer meal party run by Kim Speckman.  I went to a freezer meal party once before where we all chose one meal to make and prepare times as many people in attendance and then we all swapped. That was fun but some people made super elaborate meals and it felt a little stressful.

Kim runs a pretty cool business.  You pay a small amount for her to give you menus, some prep ahead instructions, and then she brings seasonings and other prep stuff the night of the party. You buy most of the groceries for just your meals and bring with you. It was totally worth it. I made a few substitutions to her menus to make things a little healthier, but otherwise I've been enjoying the meals that we made.

So the last few weeks, we've featured many of her main courses (pineapple lime chicken, black bean burgers, spice rubbed flank steak, chipotle chicken fajitas) coupled with some healthy side dishes. And we still have more in the freezer!

I've also made a few other dishes that have lasted for several meals:
-Veggie Pasta Bake (whole wheat pasta, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, spinach, ground turkey, marinara and a little cheese)
-Veggie Chili (black beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, zucchini, corn)

I think this week we're going to go with:
-Turkey Burgers with curried roasted broccoflower
-Pork tenderloin and roasted green bean salad
-Pineapple Lime Chicken with black bean salad
-Greek Turkey Tacos
-Feta and Leek Frittata
-Blackened Tilapia Tacos
-Black Bean burgers

Monday, May 9, 2016

Kale Cubes

Frozen cubes of fruit and veggies are good for more than just baby food. I really like adding a cube or 2 of frozen greens to my shakes. It has little impact on taste and texture, and great impact on nutrients! I recently added a cube of pureed carrot to a pineapple and vanilla Shakeology shake and it was delicious.

In case you didn't do the frozen cubes of a food for your babies, here's a quick tutorial using Kale. I bought a big bunch at the store.

First step: rip the leaves of the stem, rinse and put in a blender or food processor. Add a little water (I used boiling water to soften the leaves a smidge).

Pour/scrape the pureed kale into ice cube trays. Pour water of the the top if you didn't add much water to the processor.

Freeze. Then pop out of the tray and keep in a freezer bag. Pull a few out whenever you need them.

A couple notes:
  • Don't get fancy a buy an expensive baby food maker. Use what you've already got. 
  • You'll want to cook hard foods like carrots so that they blend better. Especially if you're using for actual baby food!
    • Although if your plan is to use in blended shakes, it might not matter if it's super smooth the first time around.
  • Steaming (versus boiling) means that less of the nutrients will be leached in the water. HOWEVER - if you plan to use the water to soften the puree, then go ahead and boil.

Failing to Plan

Lately I've noticed this trend of friends saying things like, "Yeah I want to work out and lose weight and feel better but I don't want someone to tell me how to do it." Or, "I don't want to follow a strict plan." Or, "I will just come up with my own plan."

Really? Will you?

I don't know - maybe you will. I mean I guess I did. It was crazy hard. And I'm a routine driven Type-A. But maybe you are too and you will be just fine.

But why go through all the work to come up with your own plan when there are programs out there - designed by trainers - that are intentional about working different muscle groups and providing active recovery??? It's so much easier to just look at the plan that has already been created. And if you stick to it, it will work.

And there are similar comments about diet. "I follow a [enter diet here] except I modify every part of it." "I don't need to follow a plan I'll just eat healthier." "I'm doing low-carb so I don't need to worry about anything else." 

Again - I've been there. I've counted the calories. I've learned how to eat healthy. And I'M STILL LEARNING! I think that it's ok to stray from the plan sometimes. But boy I sure do feel better when I'm actually sticking with it. I'm a foodie and I don't want to eat packaged food and I want to be able to have some say over the foods I'm eating. However, if there is a plan that helps me to easily determine the type and quantity of food that I'm eating daily, WHY MESS WITH IT?

The bottom line is that to be successful in creating a healthy lifestyle, whether improving nutrition, losing weight, gaining strength, building endurance... MUST BE CONSISTENT. And what better way to ensure that you are being consistent? FOLLOW A PLAN.

Beachbody has tons of fitness plans. There are loads of great recipes on their blog. And I've got a couple amazing support networks to help you stay accountable. Comment below or email me for more info!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Oh I've transformed

I'm a Beachbody Coach. I've been doing Beachbody workouts since January and I've gotten a few people started on their health and fitness journey since then as well. What I'm about to say sounds silly, but - I don't feel like I'm super successful in inspiring people to take action because people already knew me as someone who was fit.

That's because I made a very slow transformation in my body and my health starting about 10 years ago. It was a long and deliberate process of learning how to eat better and the much more difficult learning how to exercise.

If you knew me back when, you'd know that I was NOT an athlete. At all. I HATED exercise. I HATED sports. I HATED anything physical. I did half-assed workouts in college. And then I turned 25, got married, got a new job and hit my heaviest weight.

Listen up, I STRUGGLED through exercising for years. It's still hard. I mean - it should be hard. It's called a work out. Not a take it easy out. But for real - it took every ounce of courage and stamina I could muster to do workouts 3 days a week. I gradually got up to 4 days a week. And then a occasionally 5. I got stronger. I got faster. I got leaner. But I was quick with the excuse not to work out.

Enter Beachbody. I like that there is structure to each program. I love the online challenge/support groups. Sure, you can skip a workout because it's all on your own time at home. But then you'd feel guilty because you know that others are busting their butts getting it done.

I started exercising daily back in October and I have more energy than I've ever had in my life. And were it not for my kids and dog, I would sleep SOUNDLY each night. My body is thinner, leaner, faster, stronger.

I've transformed. It wasn't dramatic and it wasn't overnight. But the change is meaningful. And I'm still changing, both my physical body and my mind (more in another post).

Maybe you need some encouragement to kick your current routine up a notch. Or maybe you're starting from scratch and need people who can motivate you to simply try your best.  Let's talk.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Pyramid scheme vs. Multilevel Marketing

Yes the two are different. Related but different. If you want to read more, here are a couple articles:

Pyramid schemes require a significant monetary investment and then recruiting people for... Something. Usually just the promise of more money. As in, pay this money and then ask others to pay money with the promise that we all get rich - and then no one but the perpetrator of the scheme gets rich. Illegal. 

Multilevel marketing (aka. Direct market, network marketing) like that used by companies such as Tupperware, Jamberry, Amway, Beachbody, Beauty Counter, Rodin and Fields, Mary Kay (the list goes on) is legal because you are not investing money for the sake of investing money, you’re selling a product and you actually earn commission. Sure you hope that you’ll make lots of money but you only make money if you work at it. 

What is appealing about this approach is that you can work on your own schedule, hence the number of moms who participate in these companies. But to say that you will get rich quick with little effort is misleading. That’s what I’ve enjoyed about Beachbody. There is zero promise that you’ll earn money with little effort. In fact, there are constant reminders that it takes focus, disciple, dedication and commitment if you want to succeed. 

Networking marketing never appealed to me. I didn’t want to sell products. I still sometimes feel like the actual “sales” aspect of Beachbody is the hardest part for me. But I love the products because they are not items. The products are health and nutrition, two things about which I’ve become incredibly passionate. So I’m promoting healthy living and one of the ways to be healthy is to utilize the killer workouts that Beachbody offers, to tap into the online support networks that Beachbody coaches provide and to drink all of your vitamins and get breakfast at the same time. 

If you’re not excited about the opportunity to be engaged with a network marketing company, that’s cool. But don’t call it a pyramid scheme. Just say thanks but no thanks and know that hopefully the person who approached you about the opportunity will still be your friend. I know I will be!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Photo Shoot!

I had some photos done recently by a student at the college. I prefer outdoor photo shoots (as does she) but I'm pretty pleased with how these turned out! Although I'm so pasty that my arms blend into the white background - ha!

In this age of social media and image, it's important to hire a photographer for photos that you want to use on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. Casual selfies are great for daily posts. But hire a professional - or even an amatuer with a decent camera - especially if image is part of your business. Actually, doesn't even matter. If you are on LinkedIn and you have a profile picture, do not use a blurry selfie. Hire a student photographer who will usually charge less and will offer far better quality that what you can capture on your own.

Both in my Beachbody business and in my professional college admissions day job, I find myself needing professional headshots on a regular basis. I also find myself asking others for headshots to use in email and web communications. It's amazing how few people have nice photos of themselves. 

Don't be shy in front of the camera. You are beautiful. You are smart, intelligent and capable.  You are powerful. And if you don't feel all of these things, let's chat. Inner strength, physical strength, and outer confidence are all so intertwined and I can help you with all of these things!