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Counting Calories Isn’t Just About the Weight Loss

All my life, I’ve had a slightly unhealthy relationship with food. It wasn’t the quality, but yet the quantity and the [lack of] calories. I have always been the pro-healthy food type of person; introducing healthier choices to my loved ones and even kept my family on a no-processed-sugar diet the first five years of my kids’ life. I even have a healthy concept of portion sizes, but yet, there’s a struggle deeper that I never really understood that I have. I struggle with depression, this I knew, but my sense of not being worthy was carrying over to my diet. Many days I’d make breakfast and lunch for my toddlers, but neglect to make a third plate for myself.

“I’ll eat later” or “I’ll eat something else,” I’d tell myself and even the kids when they started to ask.

Keeping preoccupied with them and the housework around me, it would be nap time before I’d even realize I haven’t eaten anything for the day. “Well, I don’t need to dirty a dish on my account. I’ll start on a great dinner and just eat in a bit. I’m not even that hungry.” This is what I would tell myself every day. I would emotionally feel like it was a waste for me to eat food because my husband could take it for lunch or my kids would need a snack. I would just make endless excuses, all going back to the fact that I’m not in need and I don’t deserve it.

calories

Then dinner time would roll around, and I’d eat and could not stop.

The feeling of hunger never really came, but yet that empty feeling (as if this was my last meal) would overtake my body. I was starving myself through restriction and then binge eating. This cycle was so normal to me that I never could think of it as “unhealthy” or an “eating disorder.” Yet, years have gone by of this cycle and I’ve realized reoccurring health issues.

The type of issues that doctors just assumed had to do with me being overweight or a hormonal change since my kids. My adult acne has been embarrassing, my weight has never gone down since the kids (no matter how much or what type of exercise/food was taken in), and my mind seemed at a constant state of being spaced (something I blamed on “mom brain”). My menstrual cycles had almost stopped too; lasting as long as one day some months and not even coming on others.

Suggestions came from every angle. “You should do more cardio.” “It’d be interesting to see the calories your ingesting, it’s probably more than you think.” “This is normal after kids, your body is just a woman’s now.” I had become frustrated with my body and once again feeling inadequate. Why is my body not performing how it needs to? It’s not like I’m overloading it. I try to give it enough and I know I eat healthy/exercise enough. Never once did someone look at the habits of my diet and tell me that the “when” was impacting me just as much as the “how much.” Desperate, I listened to my doctor and started the dreaded task of counting my calories.

I hear how hard it is from others and honestly, the task seemed daunting. I just wanted to naturally be okay again without tracking or taking anything. Yet, I started to keep a journal (one of the “healthy new me” ones from Amazon). It tracked my sleep, my water intake, my meals and snacks. Within a few days of just journaling my habits, I saw the unhealthy pattern and realized just where my flaws where. I was only taking in 300-800 calories a day (almost completely at dinner time), fasting until dinner the next day, running on five hours of sleep, and drinking about 8 fluid ounces of water a day.

I did this to myself.

I deprived my body of the nutrients it needs to properly function and so it began to go into an emergency mode. Storing my fats and water in an attempt to not run out, leaving me feeling more bloated. Depleting my energy and not allowing my metabolism, my reproductive organs, immune system, or even my mind to work how it should. Just because I ate less, did not make me better.

Through this discovery, I decided to stick with this counting calories method. It was a struggle to retrain my body, but I can already feel a difference. With more water, I can feel the crisp refreshing feeling of my skin feeling hydrated. My acne has almost disappeared and my head doesn’t hurt as much (something I didn’t realize was even occurring until I started to drink more). With making sure I get from 300-450 calories a meal and two snacks of 75 calories, my body feels more energized. My period lasted for 3 days! And my weight you ask? I’m down four pounds and it’s only been eight days. I have even started to get hunger cues again. I haven’t heard my stomach growl in so long and it was incredibly welcoming!

I have a long way to go still and if I don’t track, then I slip into that restrict and binge state instantly again. It’s just not natural for me 100% yet, but nothing is until you get in a good routine. I strongly think that my ability to be self-aware and my own advocate has led me to find these solutions for my health. It hurts that I’ve had to go through years of people normalizing an eating disorder or not trusting me when I’ve told them that something was wrong. Even now, people assume because I’m a larger woman and counting calories that it is because I’ve been consuming too much for too long.

If you do not feel like your body is responding how it should, please don’t neglect yourself! Explore that further and gain that knowledge to better yourself, because no one else will. Eating disorders are real and really take a toll on your overall health. It’s not all about just throwing up what you eat and starving yourself. It’s all about how you think and treat yourself in association with your food.

You deserve it; the food, the rest, the happiness, and health. You deserve it all, momma!

3 Reasons Mommy is Getting Her Bachelor’s Degree

 

“Would it be crazy?” Me, literally asking my husband about going back to college.

“Nope,” he assured me. He never, ever told me I was crazy. He hates it when I doubt myself.

I had many reasons NOT to. I work full time, 40 hours a week. I’m a wife, a mommy, have a personal life, am a blog writer and I’m hugely active in my church. I hardly had time to breathe. I also enjoy rest, actually. I also enjoy time with my family. I knew that this would involve a lot of my time.

Excuses. Excuses. Excuses. I had plenty of them.

college

However, I had a HUGE itch to do more. To be more. To continue my education. Out of a wim one day, I applied to the University of Cincinnati ECE online program. I thought I wouldn’t be accepted… I would of been told I was absolutely bonkers. A few weeks later, I found out I was accepted. Holy cow.

Once the initial shock wore off, I filled out my FASTFA and all of the ducks quickly got into a row.

“Wow. I’m really doing this,” I thought to my self.

And here’s 3 reasons why:

1. Be an awesome role model for my daughter – I want to show my daughter that she doesn’t have to have everything figured out so quickly. Mommy wasn’t the normal college kid at 18-19 years old, and I don’t expect her to have her life figured out that young either.

I model to her constantly. She will sit and do her homework right next to me and it’s amazing. I study my developmental standards for my college courses, she goes over her spelling words.

2. To go for my dreams It is SO important for me to show my daughter that if she can dream it, she can do it. I want her to be whatever she puts her mind and heart to. I do not want her to grow up and just be. I want her to love what she does. For as long as I can remember, I have always loved children. I wanted to teach! I wanted to be like so many of the wonderful educators I grew up admiring. One day, I dream to walk into a classroom and for it to be mineIt’s a big dream! But, I can do it. 

3. I do not want to have regretWho wants to regret not trying? It’s funny when you start making steps, it’s like what you are supposed to do falls right into place. I wanted to go for it, with all my heart. 

I just finished my first semester at UC. I only took two classes, and I aced them both (humble brag)! I did it. I am currently on my winter break, looking forward to tackling the first of the year. I decided to try my hand at three classes next semester. I’m probably crazy for doing so, but I can be a little crazy.

Moms, if you feel like you need a change, make it. Do not wait. Just do it! Life is too short to be unhappy. Go for your dreams! We are never too old to do so either.

Mexico or Bust

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For those of you who are married and in the trenches of fighting for the right kind of fun and laughter together, I see you. 

My husband, Brett, and I have been married for 13 years and solo adventure these days with a 6/7/8-year-old are few and far between.

I remember the glorious, all-inclusive Mexico honeymoon where a week of sun saturation ushered the days and lingering moments of togetherness soothed the soul. This month, we were blessed with an incredible opportunity to embark on an all-inclusive adventure. But there are dire circumstances in our family that may prevent us from going.

marriage

As I was talking this out with a friend, the thought hit me that I cannot hold a “Mexico or bust” mentality with this quality time and that my marriage is not dependent on this focused time together because how I show up in today means even more than my beachside peaceful stance. 

Would I appreciate that place tremendously? ABSOLUTELY. But will we keep pressing on together if it does not happen? ABSOLUTELY. 

Marriage is investing in the daily. It is showing up to the grind of the mundane, wrapped in its weakest points and fighting in the trenches for those places to wield the strength to conquer them together. Love is about the moments in between, the ones that almost take your breath away, and the celebration of life lived together. 

As parents, time does not COME TO YOU and it is an intentional force of finding the right kinds of rhythm to sustain your mental strength. I am stepping toward Mexico and the thoughts of a FULL WEEK UNINTERRUPTED with a deep place of gratitude, but family hospice surrounds us as well and that presence bedside will trump any trip if need be. 

Sitting amidst this limbo of grief and of joy has reminded my spirit of a couple of marriage tips that I would like to share with you: 

  • Time will always distract you with what is negative first if you allow it. Set aside time to recognize the positive and give it space to speak to you as well.
  • A child gets sick. A work project takes longer. An unexpected cost hits you. A diagnosis is discovered.

And as you know, the list carries on… 

Since becoming parents, this would be the first long trip we have taken and yet, I look back to how our Sunday meetings have sustained us. 

No, we have not had a Mexico investment, but we have invested in weekly checkpoints together, discussing the moving schedule and how our yes/no fits in as a family. We have committed to the hard conversations that call forth blindspots and conflict and have labored in grace working through them with a steadfast pursuit. 

We dream of future fun times of travel together but we also build in those moments of laughter in the everyday life we travel here. When you live for what is facing you today, then your hearts get to keep on dreaming together for what your steps are leading you to. 

I do not know if Mexico is happening or not, but I do know that fighting for our relationship will keep on in the trenches regardless. 

If you keep waiting for that big trip to invest, then distractions or the unexpected could keep you distant for years. INVEST now. GIVE GRACE now. CHOOSE space together now. 

And when your “Mexico time” comes, let it be an overflow of celebration that you have already been investing together.

The Princesses on Plus

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me if I would let my child watch Cinderella and similar princess films on Disney+, Disney’s new streaming service. She feared the central “damsel in distress” theme might not hold up so well in today’s world. I understood her concerns but told her I still would let my child watch if he wanted to.

films

Putting the central theme aside for a moment, these films do provide some lessons. Cinderella and Snow White both have toxic family members and find themselves in tough situations, but they remain positive and strive towards a better life. As Cinderella said:

“No matter how youR heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true.”

Ariel from The Little Mermaid had to make the ultimate choice in the end as to where she wanted to spend her life. Yes, she left her family to live with the handsome prince, but whenever I see the end of that film, it still reminds me of all the choices I’ve had to make in my life. Where to go to college, where to move to for the best career opportunities, etc. Some of those decisions meant losing something else.

On the flip side, there are many aspects of those movies that are cringeworthy. Ariel gives up one of the most special things about her, her voice, just to be in the presence of a man. Cinderella relies on the prince to rescue her from a life of abuse. Both Sleeping Beauty and Snow White’s happy endings are because a man kissed them while they were in an unresponsive state. 

My son is a little too young to understand why parts of these films are troublesome in today’s world. When he is older, I plan to watch these films with him and use it as an opportunity for him to learn. My mother allowed me to a view variety of media throughout my childhood, but she always took the time to explain things to me and answer my questions. 

When most of these films were released, the world was a different place.

The media was different. Today, if a film is problematic, there are countless articles, Facebook posts, tweets, and YouTube videos where critics (both amateur and professional) can voice their opinion. That’s a good thing. When Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty were released, the only widely-received opinions were from film journalists who were mostly men at that time. Animated films have come a long way since then. They have much more dynamic and inspirational characters, but it did take time for them to be written that way.

These films are works of art. They were groundbreaking for the time they were released. The music is still timeless. They inspired the imaginations of children back then and still touch the hearts of kids (and adults) today. There is something to be said about that. We shouldn’t erase them because they don’t hold up as well today as they did back then. It might require a little extra time to provide context before and after watching these films, but for me, it’s worth it.  

Sleep First {#HealthBeforeFitness}

When you make out a list of goals, to-do items, or even health achievements, very few people write sleep first. But, I’m here to tell you why this SHOULD be a top priority – even before improving nutrition and exercise.

While it may not sound as “sexy” as getting a fit booty for your next trip or may not be as trendy as intermittent fasting or doing keto, prioritizing your sleep will help you to better implement your nutrition and exercise plans, which will allow your body to embrace the improvements and reduce your risk of illness.

The CDC shares that “insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic,” with 70% of Americans not getting enough sleep at least once a month and at least 10% not getting enough sleep nightly.

Why does this matter?

Approximately 20% of vehicle accidents are now being blamed on drowsy driving. And mother.ly reports that “mothers are sleep deprived for the first six years of parenthood.” So – when “they” say sleep when the baby sleeps, there’s a reason! Now, I have 3 kids – so don’t worry, I know this advice sucks because it’s impossible when you’re trying to have a normal life.

Sleep is literally a third of our life. When we don’t sleep, our body doesn’t have time to do things like recover, build muscles, and store memories. That little joke about “mom brain” isn’t so funny anymore – as it’s completely true. If it wasn’t for my photos, I wouldn’t remember most of my twins’ first year of life.

Research is telling us that when we are sleep deprived (which, is there ANY mother out there that isn’t?!), our body simply can’t perform as well as it would with rest. We feel tired faster, we don’t reach our highest fitness level when exercising, and ultimately give up sooner than we would. Thus, if you’ve tried to work on fitness goals and find yourself falling short, and not making it even to the second or third week, there’s a reason – your body is still too tired to make it work.

W. Christopher Winter, MD, from Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine stated:

“If you don’t sleep, you undermine your body.”

He wrote the book “The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken and How to Fix It,” and shares that it’s important to understand your own sleep patterns, and to create rituals that you stick with. Most important? Sticking with your schedule – wake up and go to bed at nearly the same time. Sound familiar? That’s because it’s what we do when we sleep train our kids – so why don’t we ever follow suit? Track your sleep for a week and see where you’re doing well and what you need to focus on. Then, set a time that’s reasonable for you.

Need other ideas for putting sleep first?

  • Make sure not to eat/drink much 3 hours prior to bed. This affects digestion and metabolism and for some of us, wakes us up for restroom breaks.
  • Clean your room. Marie Kondo it – as having a clean space can help you sleep.
  • Get a new mattress. If it’s not in the budget, maybe consider just a new mattress topper.
  • Get your phone and any other electronics OUT of the bedroom. This one is hard, as I know I use my phone for an alarm, and to keep me occupied when I can’t sleep, but that’s exactly why it shouldn’t be in the bedroom at all. OR – if it is your alarm, etc. – you can adjust settings to make it less interesting such as dimming the light, setting it to black and white or disabling apps during certain time frames that suit your schedule.

And guess what? Exercise can further enhance your sleep. Once you start to exercise, you’ll notice that your exercise patterns will further be enhanced, as exercise can help you regulate your Circadian Rhythm. But, it’s important not to do challenging workouts right before bed, as you can increase your heart rate, body temperature, and make it harder to fall asleep.

And, with healthy sleep, you’re more likely to better self-regulate your eating and need less caffeine. This is a win-win, as you’ll not feel hungry nor will you have as much of a challenge falling asleep at night. There is research that also shows that a lack of sleep and obesity are connected, and getting control directly helps to change behaviors that drive obesity such as late snacking and fatigue.

Mamas – we got this. I know it’s hard, but we’ve just got to get our sleep first.

This post is part of a series called #HealthBeforeFitness. While it’s important to address exercise and nutrition for a healthy lifestyle, it can be more important to prioritize other health behaviors before beginning a fitness routine or beginning the latest diet. I’ll share topics from the lens of being a mom while also having a Ph.D. in Health Education and a certification in Health Coaching, so I promise, the recommendations are legit.

Why I Still Attend Parent-Teacher Conferences

Once children reach high school, parent-teacher conferences seem to be reserved mostly for students with poor grades or behavior. When I show up for no apparent reason, teachers have asked me, “Why are you here?” So I will tell you. There are a few good reasons to schedule parent-teacher conferences even when your older student is doing just fine at school.

conferences

I want them to know I am still paying attention. Teens are working at separating from their parents, gaining independence, learning to take on adult tasks for themselves. But they aren’t quite there yet. While I fully support my teens in doing as much adulting as they are ready for, parent-teacher conferences are one way that I demonstrate my support to them. I am still here if you need me, even if you don’t need me at the moment. I care about what you are learning and who you spend your days with. Even though you are older, I am still interested in hearing about your skills and successes along with your struggles and challenges.

Teachers are a wealth of information. Even if a teacher and I do not need to discuss my student’s progress, we have plenty to talk about. Teachers know of extracurricular activities I have never heard about, as well as which ones might suit the strengths and interests of my teens. In my experience, they are more forthcoming with the details of your particular school’s inner workings than a school counselor might be. What is the difference between Calculus AB and Calculus BC? Would music theory be a good class if my child doesn’t know how to read music? Is taking a college class in the summer a good idea for a kid who doesn’t like this subject? Which AP classes are heavy on the homework, and which ones are not? Teachers are happy to share their knowledge with you if you just ask. They might even tell you about a side of your teen they see in class that is different from what you typically get at home.

Encouragement all around. Luckily, teachers usually have nice things to say about my kids. No matter how much I tell my kids how wonderful I think they are, it is different coming from a teacher. You know, someone who doesn’t have to adore them just because she gave birth to them. My kids love to hear what teachers say about them when I come home, and if they have worked hard, I am happy to share any encouragement I can with them. Yes, someone other than me notices that you are curious, kind, or hard-working. Good job, kid. Likewise, moms and teachers can use a few words of appreciation, too. I love to tell a teacher when my child enjoys their class. And of course, all those things teachers say about my kids encourage me, too. Parenting and teaching can both be thankless jobs so a conference is a perfect time to spread a little love where we can.

Conferences can be eye-opening and helpful for all types of students and parents. Most of us will have one more shot at parent-teacher conferences this school year since many schools hold one in the fall and another in late winter. I encourage you to take the opportunity to go, no matter the age of your child, no matter the grades on their report card.

Gluten-Free Grub in the Queen City

While out to dinner at a nice restaurant in celebration of my first Valentine’s Day with my now-husband, I asked our hostess for a gluten-free menu. The waiter soon approached the table with the menu in hand and a booming, gameshow-host voice that said, “Now, which one of YOU has celiac disease?!” I slouched down in my seat, wondering if I was destined to be a culinary pariah with my new dietary restriction.

Five years later, GF symbols are posted next to many of my favorite menu items, as restaurants are increasingly aware and accommodating of gluten sensitivities.

If there was ever a time to eat gluten-free, it’s now.

gluten-free

Those with celiac disease should do their research in advance because many restaurants label themselves as “gluten-friendly.” This means the food is prepared in a shared kitchen, and there could be cross-contamination.

But among those gluten-friendly establishments are delicious options for enjoying the foods you might’ve written off along with your diet change. I’ve broken it down by breakfast, Mexican, pizza, American, and fine dining.

Bonus: Most of these places are super kid-friendly, especially the breakfast locales. They accommodate the wiggliest of toddlers… from what I hear.

Have a hankering for breakfast?

Sleepy Bee is my go-to spot for gluten-free pancakes and other breakfast deliciousness. Their Bee Cakes aren’t just gluten-free, they are semi-healthy – made with almond milk, quinoa, and buckwheat flour. They also have gluten-free bread to make several of their sandwiches g-free, and they label the common allergens on their menu, including soy and tree nuts.

Le Peep is a newcomer in my rotation, and I’m so glad I found it. The owner of the Loveland Le Peep franchise is gluten-free herself, so she gets the struggle and includes numerous options that make you feel like you’re ordering from the normal menu. So far, I’ve enjoyed eggs benedict with an English muffin and yummy French toast, an item you don’t often find g-free in restaurants.

Mexican for the win.

This cuisine is one of the easiest to make gluten-free, in my opinion. My favorite local spot is Chilango in Loveland. They have a simple chalkboard menu that boasts fresh ingredients alongside gluten-free notations, of which there are several. I’ve enjoyed the cochinita, tinga and fish tacos, all on corn tortillas, and look forward to trying the enchiladas soon – a dish most places only offer with off-limits flour tortillas.

Chipotle is a convenient option that takes out the gluten-free guess work: order a burrito bowl or salad, pile on your favorite toppings and stay g-free.

Pizza is still on the table.

Pizza crust can be tough to do well gluten-free, and I often just view it as a vehicle for pizza toppings, cheese and sauce. Many of the chains offer the crust, making it easy for you to still indulge in a pizza party with friends.

Even the local places have jumped on the bandwagon, so you can support small businesses while enjoying the flavors you grew up with: LaRosa’s (select locations), Dewey’s, and The Works (my personal fave, thanks to a buttery crust).

All-American.

I’ve ordered many-a burger without a bun, but I get pretty jazzed when I spot a gluten-free bun option. Mac’s Pizza Pub has a burger bun and a hoagy bun, which allowed me to have my first gooey cheesesteak in years. Flipdaddy’s is another local favorite with a couple dozen specialty burgers you can enjoy with a safe bun (last I checked, they serve Omission g-free beer, too).

A lot of places that serve fries make them extra good and crispy with a wheat batter, which takes them out of the running for g-free folk. Even if they don’t coat the fries, they often don’t have a fryer separate from battered items like chicken fingers. Red Robin, Chick-Fil-A and Five Guys should be safe, as should a few of the major fast-food chains. If you have celiac disease, just ask about the frying situation.

Side note since we’re in the American food genre: deSha’s cornbread is gluten-free, and it’s served warm with a side of salted butter. Divine.

Fancy schmancy.

You have the babysitter, and the dressy clothes are dusted off – it must be date night. Good news for the gluten-free crowd: nice restaurants are the best at creating a g-free dining experience. The servers know how to make sure you still enjoy the most coveted and mouth-watering menu items.

If you call Nicola’s in advance to let them know you’re gluten-free, you will have a glorious basket of various breads waiting for you when you arrive. I might have taken a bite out of each one. Then they offer gluten-free pasta so you can enjoy their signature dishes. Sotto downtown and Pitrelli’s in Mason offer the same for Italian food lovers. Boca is similarly accommodating, and be sure to try the branzino if it’s on the menu this season.

Ok, one more: Brown Dog Café at Summit Park in Blue Ash offers options from salads to desserts that are labeled gluten-free (hello, crab cakes, poutine, and carrot cake!).

Yes, I live in Loveland, so my list has a bit of a location bias. But I’d love to hear your favorites in your corner of town! Share your best local spots in the comments. And if you’d rather just stay home, check out my tips for gluten-free baking.

Volunteering as a Family

Volunteering teaches children the value of self-efficacy, helps foster empathy, and aides them in developing new skills and exploring new interests. Service activities also encourage civic responsibility and teach the importance of investing in our community and the people who live in it. Research has shown that volunteering even has physical and mental rewards. Those who consistently act altruistically have been found to have reduced stress levels, more feelings of empowerment, and even strengthened immune systems.

There are a variety of organizations that serve our Cincinnati community and welcome children as volunteers.

Here are a few that can use your family’s help to make a difference!



Matthew 25 Ministries 

11060 Kenwood Rd., Blue Ash, Ohio 45242 (513) 793-6256

Matthew 25 is an international humanitarian aid and disaster relief organization. Volunteers will have the opportunity to sort and package donated goods. Kids 16 and under are welcome as long as they have an adult to child ratio match.

The CMC team takes our motley crew to volunteer quarterly.

Ronald McDonald House Charities 

350 Erkenbrecher Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45229 (513) 636-7642

The Ronald McDonald House houses families of children receiving life-saving medical care in Cincinnati. Families can help prepare and serve a meal to house guests or help with day to day operations.

Hope’s Closet 

332 Dayton St., Hamilton, OH 45011 (513) 7733-4018

Help organize the clothing closet, sort and inventory donations, or even host an event.

Hands Against Hunger 

A Child’s Hope International, 2430 E. Kemper Rd., Cincinnati OH 45241 (513) 771-2244 

This organization packages food, water, and supplies for needy children around the globe.  Saturday “packing sessions” are a great way to get the whole family involved in this worthwhile service organization.

Cincinnati Nature Center 

4949 Tealtown Rd, Milford, OH 45150 (513) 831-1711

Teens age 13-17 can participate in activities such as planting a native garden or helping with a river clean up, all while learning about conservation.

People volunteering picking up trash outside.
Time outside + Giving back = Win

Cincinnati Zoo 

3400 Vine St., Cincinnati, OH 45220 (513) 281-4700

Opportunities for families to participate in hands-on wildlife conservation efforts spearheaded by the zoo and their community partners. ZooTeens program also available.

The American Red Cross 

2111 Dana Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45207 (513) 579-3000

Help take action to be prepared for a disaster or raise funds to the support the Red Cross mission. Youth can start a Red Cross Club or join an existing organization. Per the website, they equip volunteers with materials, training, and support.  Youth will need to fill out an application and then will be paired will local volunteer opportunities.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital 

2111 Dana Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45207 (513) 579-3000

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is always looking for teen volunteers (9th grade and above). Medical requirements will need to be verified prior to volunteering.

Your Local Assisted Living Facility

Volunteer your time reading to seniors, playing board games,  create crafts, painting nails, etc.  When my daughter was younger, she loved to go to our local senior center and performing magic tricks and playing musical instruments for the residents.

Your Local Animal Shelter

Bake homemade dog treats to donate to the shelter, make and donate dog or cat toys, or volunteer to walk dogs alongside a responsible adult.

It’s a good idea to contact the organizations before planning to volunteer to verify age requirements, complete paperwork, and get days/times approved.



No matter which organization you choose, we know it will be a rewarding experience. 

What are your favorite places in Cincinnati to volunteer with kids?

Shifting My Resolution Perspective Helped Me Shed the Unwanted Weight

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Oftentimes resolutions become fleeting moments of good intentions. I decided to put a plan into place in 2019, and after 345 days, my scale and weight (and my life) reaped the rewards!

I’ve spent my whole life in some form or another of weight fluctuation. There have been big highs and rejuvenating lows, but in all honesty, it’s highs for the win when the days are tallied. This gives me a lot of experience losing weight, and unfortunately, a lot of experience gaining it back. It also gives me a pretty packed closet with a wide range of sizes.

weight

My Recent Journey

After being in some form of a foot brace or boot and feeling like I’d been sitting on the sidelines for the majority of 2018, I decided that 2019 needed to be my year. There were three main motivators that put this into perspective as January 2019 approached:

  1. My Family – With an active 6-year-old and two busy teens, I needed to be able to move and go, go, go. I wasn’t getting out there and experiencing enough with my kids or my husband. I wanted to be more physically present and engaged.
  2. My Health – Well, 48 is a time of meager metabolism and menopause. Weight and how it’s carried were going to be changing, and with an inactive status, that wasn’t going to be a positive change.
  3. My Closet – That bulging closet holds sizes 6-16, and I only live out of small sections of it at a time. I was ready to reclaim some of those single-digit favorites that I can never seem to let go of at purge time.

My perspective heading into the New Year to fuel my motivation was focused on these three factors. I had 60 pounds as the number that would get me down to the goal weight I was given the very first time I joined Weight Watchers about 20 years ago. By the way, I hit that goal and became a Lifetime Member… twice. Remember, I fluctuate…

After 30+ years of sliding up and down the scales, I took a long hard look at what I know to be true about myself and my mindset when I enter a weight loss journey. I needed to shift my perspective to what was going to work for me. I have lots of friends who do lots of different things, but one big thing I’ve realized is that weight loss and/or fitness journeys are personal. It’s not a cookie-cutter undertaking. I determined my “Big 3,” and I started my journey on Jan. 2, 2019, just three pounds shy of my highest weight ever.

I made sure my “Big 3” were in place, and it was go time!

This was/is my weight loss trifecta:

  1. Accountability – This is why Weight Watchers worked for me in the past, but with a busy family life, heading to meetings wasn’t an option. I did a fitness app. I log every meal and fitness activity every. single. day. I use My Fitness Pal, and the free version is all I need. I only input my weight when it drops, so sometimes it may take a month for a weight update, but I stick to it. I also log EVERY SINGLE THING that I eat. This is often enough to keep me from munching on poor choice items.
  2. Guilt-Free Workout Time – When I’m active, I make better nutritional choices because I don’t want to negate any workout gains with poor food options. I know that I’m not a gym person, so it’s my DVD player and my elliptical in the basement. We meet up six out of seven days of the week. I’ve realized that I’m a morning workout person because it fuels a good choice day. I’m also not taking time away from my family who are all still sleeping during a morning workout slot. I get up between 4-4:30 and do any one (or two) of my five to six go-to workout videos (PiYo, The Firm, Tae-Bo, Metabolic Renewal, etc.), and then jump on the elliptical to round out my workout time. Do I like getting up at the crack of dawn? Not particularly. Has my body gotten into the routine and shone me proven results? That would be 60 fewer pounds of yes.
  3. Food Plan – I LOVE food! Finding ways to still enjoy it in a non-binge and sans high-calorie fashion has been necessary. I have go-to choices for breakfast and lunch, and I’ve assembled a decent list of takeout and fast food options for when we are continually on the go. I DO eat a lot of salad and vegetables, and I DON’T eat whatever is left on my son’s plate. Having to log the food really makes a difference, and apps make it very easy to see which foods make for the best choices with calories, fat, and the like.

The New Year is a great time to focus on change and improvement. It happened to be the right timing for me, and it gave me a solid starting point. I had to put my motivation in the foreground and determine the “Big 3” that was going to help me not only get started, but also keep going. For 345 days, I kept going, and I’m not stopping!

I spent nearly a year developing and fine-tuning habits that allowed me to be more active with my family, improve my health, and get back into some old wardrobe favorites. If you see someone sporting a big smile and some slightly outdated fashion choices, it’s likely me. With a shift in resolution perspective and the establishment of a personalized “Big 3,” it could be you, too!

Trends and Trip-Hazards: 5 Design Trends That Work for Families

This post is part of a sponsored relationship with Jackie Barnes Design. We love supporting other local moms and sharing their expertise with you!


Have you ever really stopped to think about the design of your home? For many busy moms, it’s probably the last thing on the to-do list. After all, when our kids are little, our typical design style is Lego Chic or maybe Petrified Goldfish. Personally, I feel fancy when I manage to actually print and hang photos on my walls.

Home Trends you'll see in 2020
But design isn’t just about how our home looks. It’s about functionality and efficiency, too. Even the amount of light, color and available space to move about a room can elevate our moods. Not to mention, it’s much more fun to have family and friends visit when you’re pleased with the look of your abode!

The question is – Are there family-friendly design trends? And how can we incorporate them with children?

We turned to Jackie Barnes Design for a little help. Jackie is a designer, but she’s also a mom. She understands the struggles we face as moms who would like a nice house, but have little ones. As Jackie says, “While it is a challenge, I think it is still important to maintain a respectable level of style while accommodating sticky fingers and flying Nerf darts.”

Watch this video for her thoughts on how families can make design trends work for them.

According to Jackie, indulging in trends can make us feel a part of something new and exciting, but they also help guide us on how to spend our hard-earned money. With advances in technology and sustainable living options, they can also change the way we live.

Remember: it can take time to establish a layered, curated look. It’s likely not something that will happen all at once. Below are a few of Jackie’s personal favorite home trends going into 2020, and every one of them can be made family-friendly. Consider your faves and how they could help your personality shine!

Memphis Design

The Memphis design home trend features rounded corners and pops of color.
Memphis Design was developed in 1981 in Milan, Italy to counter-balance mid-century modern and 1970’s minimalist looks. Memphis design incorporates radical, sometimes funny, outrageous geometric figures using a pop-art color palette. You can bring this look into your home using wallpaper (another big trend right now!), and with furniture that bears rounded or exaggerated shapes. Incorporating art in your home is another great way to introduce the Memphis design style.


Practical ways to implement this trend with kiddos…

  • Rounded furniture – Stylish and extremely kid-friendly since it has no corners!
  • Toys! – What better way to incorporate the pop-art color palette than by building a few select toys into your design? If your kids are preschool age or older, teach them where those toys “live,” so they can put them away when they’re done playing.
  • Kid artwork – Clever way to incorporate color. Frame a few and switch out often.

Plants and Florals

Even those of us with brown thumbs can keep up with this family-friendly design trend. While Jackie generally steers toward live plants to bring clean air into the home, she knows that some of us can’t keep up with the maintenance required or have young children and pets at home that may prevent it. There are tons of online resources that can offer very authentic-looking faux plants! Or, mix faux and real together for the best of both worlds! A little greenery goes a long way toward making your home feel fresh and clean.


Practical ways to implement this trend with kiddos…

  • Live plants – Easy to find and easy to replace, live plants brighten up and freshen your space. Give each child a plant to care for and you might be surprised how well they do.
  • Plant crafts – Many local nurseries offer classes where you’ll go home with a potted arrangement. Some are kid-friendly and present a great opportunity for family time.
  • Fake it – It’s OK to fake it. Greenery is good, even if it’s plastic. Dusting the plants can be another job for the kiddos.

Sustainable Materials

This is a trend that is here to stay. Our social climate promotes sustainable living and personalized products. Buying local can help you achieve both! Consider introducing jute, fiber, or clay pieces. You can find fun items that tell a story at local craft markets, or on Etsy. And buying local, sustainable pieces establishes some sentimental value and tells a great story!


Practical ways to implement this trend with kiddos…

  • Repurpose – What a great chance to incorporate those creations the elementary-aged kids make in class. Is it a bowl? An ashtray? Who cares?! It’s art now! 😉
  • Shop local – Take the kids to a farmer’s market or craft fair and give them a mission. Older kids can learn about prices, budgets and prioritizing their spending while shopping.
  • Make it! – Do you enjoy crafting, but don’t make time for it? Maybe you should. Sign up for a class in pottery-making or working with fibers and create something for your home.

Mixing Metals

Mixing metals through accent pieces creates balance and adds definition in a room. Gold and brass pieces aren’t going anywhere. In fact, their popularity has only been increasing! Be careful when mixing more than two metals together in one room. Jackie advises avoiding the use of a third metal unless it’s used quite sparingly. If you are using two metals, go with a 70/30 mix; if using three, try a 60/30/10 division to balance the room.


Practical ways to implement this trend with kiddos…

  • Family heirlooms – Many of us have metallic pieces from our parents or grandparents tucked away. Grab those vintage items out of storage and give them new life
  • Chemistry class – No, we’re not suggesting you get out the test tubes, but using metals in your decor presents a chance to teach the kids the elements.
  • Balance – Chemistry and math and home decor? Winning! Have the kids practice their percentages and figure out the 70/30 balance.

Neutral Colors

Neutral colors and greenery are a classic home trend.

Again, this is a home trend that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Incorporating neutral colors in your home can make the space feel comfortable and open. Jackie always encourages 90% white and 10% color. So if you have a neutral living room, look for complementary colors and textures by adding lacquer finishes, leather, painted wood, and accents. You can confidently execute this trend by mixing a range of “whites”, such as off-white, cream, and very light, soft colors.


Practical ways to implement this trend with kiddos…

  • Paint – This one might best be done without the kids, depending on their ages. Giving a room a new coat of paint can make all the difference.
  • Build around your favorite items – Do you have a favorite vase or other piece of decor? Make that one of your accents and build the room around it.

It turns out that having kids doesn’t mean we have to live in a space with no form or function. In fact, there are plenty of family-friendly design trends out there! Maybe you need a multi-functional space updated or a master-bedroom escape, or maybe you don’t even know where to start. The important thing is to find what works for you and your family, and Jackie can help!


Jackie Barnes DesignAbout Jackie Barnes
Our overall well-being is impacted by the spaces in which we live. Our personal style should be reflected in our home, and that is what I would like to help you accomplish. Whether you are new to your first home, in the middle of raising a family, or simply ready to find style solutions to spaces in your home that you have been looking for, I’m your girl.

Home trends with Jackie Barnes Design

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