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lianaw | The Balanced Mom Magazine - Part 2

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Author Archives: lianaw

by Georgia Theodorou

It’s almost summer and the question is – Have you accomplished your goal of getting organized? Was this goal one of your New Year’s Resolutions? Do you still have one of those “How To” books on your table? Don’t worry. It’s not too late to get started and get going.

With today’s busy moms, life can get very hectic from balancing work and family obligations to juggling the kids’ school and outside activities. Just trying to find the time to relax is extremely challenging. The road to a more balanced life can be accomplished once your home, work and daily routines are in place and organized.

To be successful in getting and staying organized, you need to focus on three key themes: set up good habits, always follow up and stay consistent. Some of the key tips and techniques to help accomplish your goals include:

Start with Small Steps

If you find that you want to organize and declutter your home or business, don’t try to conquer everything all at once. Start with one room and a small section at a time. Maybe choose the top of your desk and once this is organized then look at your drawers. Set simple goals and work to accomplish these target areas. Believe me, this will help you eliminate the feelings of overwhelm and frustration.

Everything Should Have a Place

Remember when mom would tell us to put our things away as kids? Little did we know that she was preparing us to be organized. If you follow this concept, your life will be on the way to being organized and clutter free. How does this work? Every item you own should have a designated area or place. It should not be on the floor or on top of your desk or kitchen table. Take action and put all the items away as you go. This eliminates piles around the house.

Create Routines

The best way to keep your life organized is to create routines. We have routines for our children and as busy moms we need routines too. The same applies to organizing our homes and our lives. Set a routine for everything from laundry, bills, running errands, mail, household chores, cooking, work responsibilities and so on. Make sure to be consistent and to follow up with your routines. Have a daily or weekly list of things you need to get accomplished. If for some reason you can’t complete your task, make sure to follow up the next day. Don’t get behind because the more you have to do the more you feel overwhelmed and not do anything.

Put Things Away and Clean Now

Are you finished with something? Most of us will leave the item somewhere with the intention of putting it away later. But what happens in the meantime is that other items will stack on top and the pile becomes larger and too overwhelming to conquer. If you finished folding the laundry, put the clothes away now. The same applies for cleaning up. Develop a good practice of cleaning as you go. Don’t wait till the dishes pile up in the kitchen sink. Wash them right away. Trust me, it takes less time to clean as you go then to wait for things to pile up.

Simplify Your Filing System

One of the most basic ways to find papers when you need them is to retrieve the papers from an effective filing system. A good filing system will allow you to find what you are looking for with no problems. Most will utilize one or a combination of three basic filing systems: alphabetical, numerical or chronological (Jan, Feb, etc…). Use the system that works well and that you will follow to locate your documents quickly.

Share A Calendar

It doesn’t matter what type of calendar system you utilize, just as long it works for you and your family. Make sure to indicate all your activities from work, personal, kid’s school and extracurricular activities, birthdays, family obligations, and other activities to ensure follow up. Keep all of your family’s scheduling in one place. Google calendar is a great online tool that is quick and easy to use.

Tame Your Email and Mail

With today’s abundance of technology, I find that keeping a handle on email is a growing area of frustration and disorganization. Why? Most individuals will look at email and take action later. This approach turns into hundreds of emails and piles of mail. My advice… “Touch it and take action!” Read your mail and quickly sort all the bills in one place to be paid and read the rest and take action. This same theory applies to email. Reply to your emails and then create folders to put your emails that you want to save. Strive to have no old emails in your inbox. Your inbox should have the recent emails that you are following up. Don’t get behind in this area, it will get overwhelming and eventually out of control.

You can be organized by utilizing some of these essential ideas, however many individuals will have a difficult time continuing with these methods on a consistent basis. Give it a try—you have nothing to lose! You might even be surprised how easy life can be once you are organized. If you are still having a difficult time, please let me know. As a Professional Organizer, I evaluate each of my client’s needs and make suggestions to help implement effective and repeatable techniques. Whatever road you take, make sure to get organized and you will notice that your life will be more balanced and you will have additional time to enjoy the things that are most important in your life.

Georgia Theodorou

Georgia Theodorou is a Professional Organizer and founder of Organizational Concepts & Balance which specializes in residential and small business organizing. Georgia is committed to organizing and creating efficient households and effective businesses for the long term. Georgia has helped many clients from working professionals to stay at home Moms and today’s busy families. All of Georgia’s clients have one thing in common, they want to stop the chaos and find more time to enjoy life. The road to a more balanced and enjoyable life can easily be accomplished once your home, work and daily routines are in place and organized. Visit www.OCandB.com for more information.

by Kenia Cueto

Planning for the Unexpected Via an Education

Life is an unpredictable journey with a dose of unexpected curve balls at every corner. It is no wonder many moms find it difficult to return to college strapped with the multifaceted duties of home and work.

Most moms take on their role as parent and family supporter with pleasure and humility, leaving behind their personal needs. Raising their families comes first while their personal goals are set on the back burner. Instinctively, the thought of change or returning to college doesn’t cross their minds until the unexpected happens. Planning on starting an education shouldn’t take place during a life-changing event but, rather, planned strategically as a long-term goal.

Three Phases of Motherhood

When a young woman becomes a mom, she plans her life according to her new family. For most women, the transition into the three phases of motherhood comes naturally. The first phase of motherhood is somewhat of a rite of passage as she embraces adulthood and is forced to mature at a more rapid pace. The new assignments she takes on involve essential steps, which are the foundation for her family formation.

As years transpire, during the second phase, she finds that the ability to complete tasks and plan projects become second nature. What was once a scary or unfamiliar chore is completed without a sweat. Her family and those around her begin to rely on her expertise, her ability to multitask and her worldly experiences. In the third phase, the role of a “mom” exudes assurance, emanates power and the title “mom” is taken on with pride as she sees her family flourish.

Self-Awareness is Crucial

Attaining self-awareness of personal future needs during these three phases of life can prove to be a challenge. Moms find creative ways to balance family but tend to lose focus on planning for their personal future stability.

The strength moms possess are potential assets that can be utilized in the workplace should she return. Multitasking, organizational skills, time management and the willingness to get work done are amazing strengths moms can transfer into a work environment. Skills alone, however, are not sufficient without a degree in hand. Therefore, creating an academic plan based on the strengths one possesses can minimize many years of guessing. For example, if a mom finds joy in volunteering for her child’s school yearbook, she may want to look into a career in graphic design, journalism, communications, photography or marketing. A volunteer mom who spends most of her time volunteering in the school office may find pleasure in majoring in administration, education or counseling. Double dipping is a great way to utilize time wisely. Finding a degree that can benefit both at home and in the workplace will allow moms to feel less guilt or apprehension when investing time on herself.

The corporate world places little to no value on the time moms spend raising their children, fundraising or volunteering. Stay-at-home moms who return to the work-force struggle to be recognized as the competent, organized, strong women they have become. The devaluation of a stay-athome mom may not seem harsh during the healthy periods of life, however, the effects are felt when times get tough.

During a sudden life change, the mom must be prepared to take on the role of the breadwinner. Self-assessment at every phase in a mom’s life should take place with serious thought of what may occur in future years.

Where to Start When There is Fear & Anxiety

In recent years, women’s traditional roles as wives and mothers have been challenged. Educational opportunities for women are expanded as an increasing number of women are entering professional occupations.

With the advent of the internet and multimedia, college and university information is easily obtained. The online format for the non-traditional student was created predominately for the adult learner (moms) and their busy lifestyle. Online learning also created a more comforting format for the returning adult learner, as they no longer are required to feel the fear and anxiety of attending class with their younger counterparts or feel the pressures of matching their academic skills. According to Sallie Mae, the nation’s largest college student loan company, students 22 and older make up 58% of the college population. The choice to select online versus traditional format has been growing in leaps and bounds giving moms the opportunity to achieve their academic goals.

Due to the growing influx of returning adult students, the reputation of online schools no longer carry a negative connotation as its status has changed. Large universities, public and private, for-profit and nonprofit, have embraced these learning styles. Finding the proper, regionally accredited colleges, which assist and guide the non-traditional student toward success, is crucial. If needed, the moms must be willing to invest time in registering for foundational courses that will allow them to build self-esteem and prepare for more demanding course work. Finding a support system at home and with other similar students will also enhance scholastic performance. Fear and anxiety are normal feelings that can hinder academic success or propel the student to their final destination.

Mothers are their children’s first teacher therefore, her child will continue to learn as she steps into the academic world to become a leader and a living example of what a dedicated, focused and goal oriented student should aspire to become.

Kenia Cueto
Profession Education & Career

Kenia is an Education Counselor/Recruiter at Vanguard University of Southern California, School for Professional Studies. Read more about Kenia here.

True Purpose
As a busy mom, I know that how I manage my time, focus my energy and where I place my effort has a tremendous effect on how my family functions.

I discovered the best thing I can do for my family is spend some part of each day focused exclusively on me, serving my life’s purpose. Before I was clear about what my purpose was, I spent time focused on discovering it on a daily basis.

I know, at first this sounds counter intuitive. However, consider this list of benefits for your family.

Living your purpose:

1. Gives you energy
2. Has the naturally occurring by-product of inner peace
3. Sets a great example for your family

So, if you are not yet clear about your purpose, I suggest you immediately embark on a journey to find it.

I believe there are two major components to every person’s purpose.

The first is that it is creative. A word of caution here, I have found that somewhere in the identity forming process many people have rejected the idea that they are creative in any way. I want to be clear. I am not only talking about what would be traditionally referred to as the arts, music, drawing, painting, dancing, photography or even arts and crafts. Perhaps you are really good at creating relationships, beautiful spaces, organized living areas, balanced accounting, fun social experiences, cooking, writing cool stuff, or systems that make businesses run more smoothly. All that matters in being creative is that something new exists because of your focused time, effort and energy.

Still having trouble? Think about your life before kids and family. What did you do with your free time? Is there an activity that made you lose time? You know what I mean. You thought you had been working on something for about 30 minutes and suddenly you realized 5 hours had passed. I call that your God work. I believe that when you lose time while engaged in something creative, you are fulfilling your purpose.

The second aspect of identifying your purpose involves “the who.”

No, I am not talking about the band or the creatures from Whoville. Here is the thing. I have yet to meet anyone who has discovered that their purpose is selfserving. Every conversation I have had with someone who is either searching for their life’s purpose or believes they have discovered it, shares that their purpose involves serving others in some way. Although there is great personal benefit for the person serving his or her life’s purpose, the original intent is always about serving someone else.

There are many spiritual teachers who suggest that young children are more connected to spirit than adults. They say that as we grow to adulthood, we lose that connection. Try this – Is there someone who spent a significant amount of time with you when you were between the ages of 1 and 3? It could be a parent, someone else who raised you, or even an older sibling. Ask them what you liked to play when given time to indulge your imagination. If no one is available to ask, do your best to remember. That information will give you some clue about what your purpose might be. By the way, I have been a teacher since I was 3.

I get tired of hearing all the advice (probably really somebody trying to sell me something) that in just X number of minutes each day I can change my whole life and all my fantasies will come true.

So what I offer here are merely suggestions. Committing to one or many of these daily practices will put you well on your way to discovering your life’s purpose. Do what works for you and ditch what doesn’t.

1. Open yourself to new ideas – read, read, then read some more. You will be amazed at the difference in your life if you read just 10 pages, or for 10 minutes a day of a really good book. If you are not a reader – listen. You can get books in audio format, and listen while you are doing something else that doesn’t require your full attention like walking or folding laundry.
2. Spend 30 minutes of focused attention on your kids, husband or partner each day.
3. Create some quiet time in your day to be still. It is worth getting up early, or staying up just a little bit late.
4. Express gratitude as appreciation – you will find what you are looking for. If you spend your day noticing the things that bother you, that is precisely what you will find. The same is true on the flip side. So create a habit of searching for the positive, being grateful and expressing appreciation.
5. Put routines in place for the everyday stuff. Download “Routines to the Rescue” for free at www.connectedtoyourcore.com
6. Honor your intuition.
7. Let go of the busyness – focus your attention on the stuff that really matters.
8. Release the judgments that you have about others, for yourself or the ones you imagine others have about you.

* *A special note about #8 – Who cares what they think? You have no control over their opinion of you anyway. When you try to make everyone happy, no one is, least of all you. I’ll never forget when I realized I was working to make my affect match what I believed others expected of me. It was November of 2010. Earlier in the year, both my husband (in May) and my 12 year old nephew (in September) had passed away. I was getting ready to attend a family gathering, and I caught myself thinking, “I better not laugh too much today, people probably won’t think it is appropriate.” I challenged that thought and deemed it ridiculous. I decided to behave in a way that felt natural and no longer worry about what others may or may not be thinking. The craziest part, everyone was actually relieved to see I was doing okay.

Tiffany Kane

Health & Wellness
Tiffany Kane has worked in and around the world of education for more than 20 years. She has served as a preschool director, elementary and middle school classroom teacher, high school administrator, university teaching assistant and adult educator, coach and trainer. She has a Master of Science degree in Educational Leadership from Pepperdine University and successfully completed doctoral level course work in Educational Psychology at the University of Southern California. She is a mom and step mom who is concerned about the education of the next generation and their ability to thrive in a world that is changing faster than in any other time in history.

Inspiring Your Sensuality

“Mommy, I need to go potty!” “Hey Mom, can I stay after school with Joe?” “Mooooom, I am huuuuungry.” “Why can’t we stop and get French fries?” “Mom, I can’t find my glasses, oh, and I am out of lunch money.” “Ick, Mother do NOT do that in front of my friends. I mean seriously – ewww!” “Momma, I love you so much and I am giving you this worm as a present!” “Mom! The kitten pooped in my sneaker. Heeellllppp!! Mom! Where are you? I can’t wear my sneakers now!” “Where did Mom go? I think she might have locked herself in the bathroom again.”

From the moment you bring home your little bundle of joy, your role as a sexy and sensual woman seemed to take a back seat. The longer your feelings of sensuality and sexuality stay in the back seat, the easier it is to overlook them and it only becomes more difficult to reconnect with them. This has a major impact not only on your romantic relationship, but your relationship with YOU. So, how can you be a mom and be a sexy woman? Let’s count the ways, shall we.

Actually, these are just a few ways for you to revitalize your sensuality and rejuvenate your sexuality. Every woman is different. Every family has its own unique dynamics. Therefore, you, as an amazing unique woman, will likely resonate with some of the following suggestions, but not necessarily all of them. Take what feels right and use them. Leave the rest behind. This is about reconnecting with YOU.

Own Your Sensuality

You own your sensuality. No one else owns it or has control over it. It is up to you to enjoy and find pleasure in things through your senses. It is not up to someone else to create this for you nor is it for someone else to keep from you. It is, also, important to remember that sensuality is not necessarily related to sex. Sensuality can lead to sexual activity, but it does not have to. Sensuality is about gratifying your senses – taste, touch, sound, sight, smell, and intuition. So, relish the taste of a delicious meal. Enjoy the way certain clothes feel against your skin and how you look in them. Wear lotion or perfume that gratifies your sense of smell. Listen to a favorite song or the sweet sound of your children laughing. Be aware of your moments of inner knowing and your connection to the Divine or to the Universe. Be present in each moment and savor the sensations – whatever they are.

Be Guilt-Free

For you to live alive and feel sensual again, you need to reconnect with YOU and the things that light you up. It is common for moms to feel guilty or selfish if they spend time on themselves instead of focusing all of their attention on their family or work. Yet, when you lose touch with the core essence of yourself, you are actually doing a disservice to those around you let alone the disservice you are doing to yourself. You can only give to others what you have. If you are disconnected from you, if you are exhausted and lacking energy, if you have little to no love and compassion for yourself, then you can’t be at your best and you can’t shine your beautiful inner light upon those around you. Instead of feeling guilty about taking time for yourself, you need to realize that doing so is actually vital to your emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health and it will greatly benefit your loved ones, your friends, and your co-workers too.

Be Playful and Hands-On

Laugh, smile, goof around, be silly, and share jokes with friends, your kids, your lover/partner/spouse. Open up to the playful child inside of you. She is deeply connected to your soul. Not only will she bring you joy, but she will help you relieve some of the stress and tension that we all endure. But, laughter is only one connection to the playful inner child. Typically children enjoy hugs and snuggles. Bring that back into your adult life. Touch and hug throughout your day. Obviously, if you have co-workers or employees, you need to be conscientious about touching, but you should hug your kids often teaching them that loving, appropriate touch is wonderful. Are you in a romantic relationship? Touch your lover’s arm or hand whenever and wherever. Feel the warmth of his/ her skin against your skin. To take this a step further, pay attention when you touch your own skin. In fact, take a moment right now to simply run your palms down your thighs from your hips to your knees. Simply be aware of how it feels. Notice the warmth; notice the energy slightly vibrating after this motion. If you close your eyes as you do this, you can heighten the sensation.

Communication is Key

You have probably heard this a million times, but it really is true. Letting your friends, family, and sweetheart know what you like and dislike is key to maintaining and/or building a strong bond between you. Of course, there are powerful communication tools that can help you achieve this, but that isn’t what this article is about. This is about revitalizing your sensuality. Therefore, have you/do you communicate with yourself? Do you know what you like and dislike? Are you open to finding those things out in a loving and compassionate way? We are so often told to communicate verbally and non-verbally with others if we want to connect with them, but we are rarely told to communicate with ourselves. Yet, the real key is having powerful communication with yourself – with your true self, your soul. It is important to better understand your emotional self, your mental self, and your spiritual self. When you do this you will better be able to understand your physical self and once again enjoy the sensuality of your physical body.

Enjoy your body and the sensations it offers you. Be open to your sensuality throughout your day everyday. As mentioned above, you need to open lines of communication with yourself, become truly aware of your senses as often as possible, and let go of any potential guilt for connecting to you! And as you finish reading this article, stand up, slightly bend your knees (keep your weight even throughout your feet), and circle your hips or bounce them from side to side. If you are ready, then add the sensation of running your palms up and down your thighs at the same time. This can be sexy, but the point is for you to start moving the sensual energy through your body, feeling it and allowing it to flow. And, if you feel silly, then woo hoo! You have also tapped into your playfulness.

You deserve to feel sexy and you deserve to feel sensual. Open yourself to your playfulness, selfcommunication, freedom from guilt and take back your sensuality.

Janelle Alex

Revitalize
Dr. Janelle Alex, Ph.D., Soul Collaboration Guide and Sacred Sensual Teacher, is passionate about empowering
women and couples by teaching them how to reconnect with their souls and how to combine the sacred and
the sensual. She maintains a blog, Reconnect w/ Your Soul, and together with her husband/partner maintains
the Sexy Challenges’ blog, offers seminars and workshops and co-hosts the Sexy Challenge
Heartbeats podcast. Dr. Alex offers private coaching for female clients via the phone, Skype
or in-person. Sacred intimacy with yourself, your own soul, and with your sweetheart can
transform your relationships and transform your life. To read other articles and to learn
more visit www.inwardoasis.com.

I love the season of Spring because it signifies Alive-ness, Freshness, Starting Anew, bright colors and emerging out of “hibernation” to live life at a higher level than before. For me, it also means that we are closer to warm and hot days, which is my favorite type of weather. The warmth of the sun, the green grass and bright Spring flowers brings an energy around us that makes us want to accomplish more.

This is the perfect time to shift or refocus. No matter how busy life gets, make your #1 priority YOU – your wellness and life balance. I believe this to be the utmost importance. Why? When you take care of you and are aware of keeping your life-balance, you will be a more effective Mom, wife, business/career woman, friend, etc. On the other hand, if you leave yourself last and empty for too long, you will have nothing left to give. You can’t give out what you don’t have.

So, let’s make this Spring Time Promise that you put yourself first and you take into account your own well-being and life-balance. Do things that you love, laugh, be active, spend some quiet time, read inspiring things, take some cleansing deep breaths and spend your minutes and days on purpose. This will shift the tone in everything you do and with everyone in your life, especially your kids. Ultimately, they will learn the importance of self-care, treasuring their own spirit and loving themselves enough to take the time for their life-balance.

They learn this not be hearing your advice and life lessons, but by seeing the happiness in your eyes and feeling the love and peace that you bring into the home. They will FEEL it intrinsically.

So, let’s toast to the promise! May you all have a wonderful, renewed Spring season with peace, balance and many blessings for you and those you love.

Enjoy your Spring issue!

Article written by Shaila Saint

How should I feel about my children playing with weapons?”

This question, so commonly asked by concerned parents, has understandably gotten even more significant, given the multiple mass shooting tragedies of last year and the national conversation that has ensued.

It’s also been a central topic in my parenting classes, as families strive to understand their children’s timeless interest in “good guys” versus “bad guys”, determine what is developmentally appropriate and normal, and reflect upon their individual family values.

I remember when I took the boys to Disneyland a few months ago and saw firsthand this utter fascination with weaponry. Whether it was the mini Luke Skywalkers and Darth Vaders sparring with light sabers near Space Mountain, or the Captain Hook/ Jack Sparrows dueling with pistols and swords in the Pirates of the Caribbean store, I saw children (mostly boys) of all sizes delighting in any type of power weapon they could get their hands on. And this fascination seemed to transcend all ethnic, cultural and even generational barriers when I saw many Dads, Uncles, and even Grandpas joining in!

I know the first time I saw Conor, age 4, fashioning a gun out of a banana and yelling, “Pow, pow, you’re dead Mama!” I immediately had visions of a violent future and wondered where I had gone wrong!

Yet the first issue to remember is that a four-year old saying “Pow you’re dead” is not the same as an adult saying it. A four year-old has a preschool level understanding of what a gun or killing is (often when I asked Conor about the meaning of “kill” I got answers like, “you’re asleep, you’re a skeleton or you go away for a long time”). So it’s important to remember not to put an adult level of understanding of guns— that shooting people means they want to be violent and hurt people–on young children’s play.

In their book, Becoming the Parent You Want to Be, Laura Davis and Janis Keyser outline a number of reasons, both developmental and societal, that make this type of play so common in young boys. One of the primary reasons is the need to gain power. As children grow from toddlers into the preschool/school age years, their awareness of the world around them becomes bigger, but so does their realization of how little they control or understand it. So, as Janis and Laura state in the book, two of the underlying questions children often ask during gun play are, “How can I have power in this world?” and “How can I make things happen?”

That’s why this is also a common time to see other types of power research including physical aggression and exclusionary play emerging. Children at this age are also beginning to understand the power of language, so this is also a time where body and poop words, and sometimes even name calling and swearing surface.

Other reasons the book gives for gun play include trying to learn about our society’s deep interest in guns, trying to understand death (which is another awareness that becomes stronger at this age) and also seeing the cause and effect that gun play has on adults.

Of course, pre-teen and teenagers also have the need to feel powerful, and also have the added social need of impressing their peers. A great reference article from Family.com, describes the developmental needs of boys at this age, and what to observe in order to determine if their gun play (both with toy weapons and video games) is normal and when to be concerned: (http://family.go.com/parenting/pkg-tween/article-791794-war-games-and-preteen-boys/).

Overall, knowing the reasons behind gun play and putting it in a developmental perspective is a great start to feeling like you are not raising a violent child. And deciding how to handle it, gives you the opportunity to reflect upon your family vision and think about the values you want to teach your children during those moments.

For example, one of the fundamental values in our family are the ideas of compassion and empathy. This meant that in addition to trying to understand my children’s point of view (like why power play was so important) I also wanted them to hear my feelings around it. So to strike the balance, I began saying, “I can see you want to shoot, but I don’t like being shot. If you both want to play with each other, make sure that shooting is okay with both of you.” I also knew I didn’t want real looking guns in the house. A reallooking gun would always only be a gun, while a Lego or branch that was a gun one minute, could also be something else another. This rule about no real-looking guns also gave me the opportunity to talk with the boys about how we feel about guns and their impact in the world.

So next time your sweet, loving son (or daughter) raises their weapon of choice at you, don’t panic! Remember that it is normal and empowering for them and also another opportunity to clarify and teach the values that are most important to you and your family.

Shaila Saint

Mindful & Empowered Parenting
Intentional Parenting
Shaila is the founder of Mindful Parent and Mama Time, which provides a comfortable environment for parents to interact with each other. Read more about Shaila and her mission here.

Got Balance? by Jamie Leff
Moms wear many hats. They are not only moms, but wives, entrepreneurs, they play doctor, taxi driver, math tutor, they cook and clean. Moms basically run the show, making sure their families are well taken care of. But how often do they have time for themselves?

I work with a lot of moms, and it’s the same story: “I know I shouldn’t eat the chocolate, but I just can’t help myself. I see it and I have to have it. I just can’t stop.” One of the biggest struggles I see is that most women (moms especially), just can’t seem to curb the sweet tooth. It comforts them. It fills them up. Then they come to me full of frustration, wondering why they just can’t get it together and improve their diet. When I dig a little deeper, I discover that the problem rarely has anything to do with food. These women are burnt out! They run themselves ragged and have no balance in their lives. Food is the little pleasure they get out of their day, and often the one thing they feel they can control in the mass chaos that is their day. Once I bring this to light, we can start peeling back the onion, layer by layer, and try to figure out how to get things back on track. What can provide comfort instead of food? Why does she need comfort in the first place? What’s missing that food is trying to fill? What these moms really need is a little more balance!

Don’t you just love that word— balance? What does that even mean anyway? Can you really achieve balance? What balance really does is keep you sane and feeling on track. What allows you to take a pause and just breathe. When you are out of balance, it means that most of your focus is on one area of your life, but not enough on another. Being out of balance can effect so many different areas of your life: your health, your finances, the quality of your relationships, and your mental well being. Because I’m so so concerned about my client’s health, and because I find that tends to be the first to go when you’re out of balance, I decided to interview my friend who I think lives a very balanced life. She’s one of the busiest moms I know, yet she is also one of the healthiest.

Meet Patricia.

Patricia is a wife. She’s a mother of 3 kids under 5. She’s involved in her kids’ school, after school activities, birthday parties on the weekends, etc. Oh, and she works full time. Patricia is thin, fit and healthy. After picking her brain for a bit, here are some pearls of wisdom on how she manages to find balance and stay healthy. (I have included my thoughts on how you do this):

Anything is ok in moderation.

Don’t deprive yourself of anything, just enjoy it in small doses. If you absolutely must have a slice of cake at your son’s birthday party, take a tiny slice and enjoy every bite of it.

Get moving.

Staying active not only helps keep your body in shape, it provides mental relaxation as well. Working out is time away from the distractions of your kids, husband, work (i.e.. your life) and allows you time for you. Even if it’s only 10 minutes, that’s better than nothing. Plus, you can’t beat those feel good endorphins.

Snack smart.

When opting for a snack like chips or crackers, take one handful, close up the bag, and leave the room. Don’t bring the bag with you and mindlessly eat handful after handful until you finish the bag. This is particularly important for those who tend to stress eat!

Take a nap.

When feeling overwhelmed, take a time out. Lay down or sit still for 5, 10, 15 minutes and just relax. It may seem like there’s no time to slow down, even for 5 minutes, but I promise taking that 5 minutes now will pay off and actually save you time in the long run.

Make balanced choices.

Pick and choose things that you can and will avoid. For example, make it a principle not to eat fast food. Or if you know you’re going to want dessert with dinner, order a salad or something on the lighter side. When eating out, try to eat out only once or twice a week. Pack meals and healthy snacks to take on the road which can help you avoid temptation.

Stay sane by taking care of yourself.

Take some “me” time when you need it. Ask for help with the kids, but make yourself a priority. Find moments throughout the day or set aside time for a manicure or lunch with a girlfriend. Moms tend to be excellent at managing a schedule, so make sure that “me” time gets in there.

What are some ways that you can achieve some balance in your life as it pertains to your health? Do you see areas where you can improve? Can you try to incorporate one or two of Patricia’s tips into your week?

As I mentioned earlier, when trying to be healthy, lose weight or just simply improve your diet, sometimes diet actually has very little to do with it. If we can clean up other areas of your life, everything else seems to fall into place. Diet is actually the easy part. So look at where things are a little off balance. Maybe you eat right, but don’t exercise. Or maybe you give so much time to others, but you don’t have time for yourself. Start small. Look at a couple of areas where maybe you need more balance, make a few small changes, and suddenly, you’ll develop a momentum.

Need help? Head over to www.JamieLeffNutrition.com, take our assessment and set up a complimentary consultation to see where you could use a little improvement.

Jamie Leff

Health & Nutrition
Jamie is a registered dietician who hopes to inspire others to live a healthy lifestyle.
Read more about Jamie here
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Nicole Cavanaugh - Interior Designer
It’s no secret that our homes are extensions of ourselves. We begin and end our day here. We entertain friends here and enjoy special moments with family, creating memories along the way. But what does it take to be happy in your home?

At my very core, my whole outlook on interior design is ‘Believe in a Better Life by Design’, so I recently began thinking of what steps I take for clients to give them a better life in their home. Interior design is generally about ‘Out with the old, in with the new’. If you’re thinking about re-designing your home, you want something new and fresh, something that will make you feel alive, relaxed or happy and something with better function. We lose the feeling of happiness in our home because we end up tolerating things in our home that don’t support us. The New Year is a new opportunity to create a new home and a new you! I’ve found that a few tweaks to how you live can help you have a better life in your home, increase your productivity and overall, your happiness. Making just a few small adjustments can not only help you create happiness in your home, it can help you feel more in control of your surroundings.

» Here are a few tips:

1. Design your home with pieces that mean something to you and your family. Just recently, I added a photo to my desk of my mom and I playing on the beach on Cape Cod when I was just 6 years old. I found a beautiful frame for it and I feel happy and uplifted each time it catches my eye! I remember the happiness I felt at the time because my mom holds such a special place in my heart. It’s important to make the memories, then enjoy looking back on them, and if you surround yourself with things you love, your home will make you happy.

2. Give yourself the space you need to do what you want to do in life. Above all, our environment should support who we are and what we do. I know that seems basic, however it’s true. If you love music, create a space that supports you in playing or listening when the mood strikes you. If you love art, look into creating an environment where you can draw, paint or be creative on the computer, or arrange a gallery of collected pieces for yourself. We’re not just designing a home; we’re creating an environment for ourselves to grow, as well.

3. Touch it once. Clutter drives me crazy and I work to create design solutions for clients that reduce what I call their ‘clutter experience’. Clutter creates stress in our lives and it wastes time and energy, so I believe in making each room as ready as it can be when I leave. If you set something down in a room, set it down in its place. If this is difficult, take 2 to 4 minutes before leaving a room to put things back in drawers, close cabinets, hang up clothes or put them in the laundry hamper. A cleaner room will greet you when you return and will feel so much better. Trust me!

4. Make a statement where you enter your home. Whether it’s pictures of your children, a vase of fresh flowers, a beautiful lamp, wind chimes or even new wallpaper on one wall, take the time to put something at your front door or in your entry area that will make you happy. You’ll notice you’ll feel much differently when you look at these things than at a pile of shoes, the dog’s bed, a stack of laundry or a cluttered table.

5. Make your bed. When the bed is made, the bedroom looks infinitely better because the bed is the focal point. Also, statistics show that making your bed allows you to begin functioning in an organized way each day because you are accomplishing a goal first thing in the morning. Making our bed also sets a good example for our children and a neater child’s room definitely makes for a happier home for Mom and Dad!

Nicole Cavanaugh

Mind, Body + Home
Interior Design
Nicole is the founder of Cavanaugh Interior Design Group. Her goal is to provide people with functional designs of spaces. Read more about Nicole and her mission here.

Jocelyn Joiner - Cover Mom

As a mom of 2 beautiful girls, one with Down Syndrome and in remission from Leukemia, Jocelyn Joiner doesn’t skip a beat. With the foundation she started, she inspires inclusion and acceptance for children with special needs in schools.

Jocelyn candidly shares her journey that led her to launch her foundation, how she discovered that her younger daughter has Down Syndrome and how her experiences helped her live a more fulfilled and purposeful life.

Tell us about yourself and what you do.

First, I am a mom of my two girls. Alyssa is 3 and Kendall is 9 years old. I run my volunteer-based nonprofit foundation called SNAP, which stands for Special Needs and Abilities Project. I started SNAP in 2009 after Alyssa was born. She has Down Syndrome and was diagnosed with Leukemia. She inspired me to start this foundation.

We mostly work in the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) to facilitate the Best Buddies and the Best Friends Programs in as many schools as possible. We work for children with a wide range of special needs. I named it special needs and abilities so it will have a very broad range to include children who are experiencing medical, physical and mental issues.

I knew there was a need for programs that inspire people to be more accepting of children with special needs and to bring awareness to the belief of inclusion which brings them together in school classrooms instead of sending them to a different school or to the other side of the campus.

How do the Best Friends and Best Buddies Programs work?

The Best Friends Program takes the class of special needs children and they bring them into the class with the typical children. They have their buddies or partners and it is a one-onone program. They play games and do crafts together, build friendships, sing songs and/or go outside to the obstacle course. It’s mainly for the kids to get to know each other and reduce the fear that children feel about people with special needs. The program really develops their friendships and from their friendships, they become more accepting of each other. They discover they have more in common than different.

The Best Buddies Program was started by the Shriver family, Maria and her brother, Anthony Shriver. They do the same thing, but at the college level and it’s now in the high schools in LBUSD. However, they have their own counselors and programs. We just try to facilitate with them and bring more awareness to the program.

Share your journey to what led you to start your non profit.

When I was pregnant with Alyssa, I did not know she had Down Syndrome. I didn’t want to take any of the tests because of my age. I was over 35 years old. I knew about the risks, but I didn’t believe any diagnosis would change my mind. So I just thought I would wait and see. When Alyssa was born, I honestly didn’t know she had Down Syndrome. I couldn’t see it in her physically, probably because I was so exhausted from labor or just because I was filled with love for my newborn baby. The next morning, her pediatrition came in and she noticed certain physical characteristics. In addition, Alyssa had some issues with feeding and they ran some tests. After the results, she was diagnosed with Down Syndrome.

After her diagnosis, the responses I received from people were interesting. Instead of congratulating me, they felt bad for me and kept saying they were sorry. I thought to myself, that she was healthy and so beautiful and meant to be in our loving family. There’s no need to be sorry. I was confused by that. I see it as more of a gift for myself, my family and my older daughter. So then I started pondering on the reasons why people have this attitude, because I didn’t really see it as a problem.

Since I had past experience as a teacher for children with special needs, I was exposed to that world. That made me really think that I needed to do something to change people’s perception. There was so much in the special needs world to focus on, but I wanted to focus on acceptance and inclusion. Since the world of elementary school was the environment I knew, I contacted LBUSD and told them about SNAP. Once they were on board, I worked with the Best Buddies program to spread the word out to schools and parents.

The schools are so overwhelmed right now and class sizes have gone up along with the teacher caseloads. They love the idea of the programs, but it’s the workload involved that scares them. However, my vision is to help the teachers and facilitate the programs in the classroom and not make it a big ordeal like field trips and parties. It is a very simple philosophy. One-on-one during lunch period, playing games, making crafts, listening to music, etc. Simple.

We need volunteers that want to do projects or help at events, such as the silent auctions, security, selling tickets, helping the bands get on and off the stage. I love volunteers. I welcome anyone who wants to come and help.

What top advice would you give a mom who just found out they have a child with special needs ?

I think accepting help would be the first bit of advice. Also, to educate yourself on what the child’s rights are as far as getting them services and early intervention. Get in touch with their local Harbor Regional Centers as soon as possible to get their child evaluated. A lot of people want to get the tests done and the paperwork started for the necessary services such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and respite care starting from birth to three years old.

Lastly, maintain a positive attitude by speaking to other moms who can share with you their ideas and journeys or reading other people’s blogs or starting your own. There are a lot of great books out there. I read a book called Babies with Down Syndrome. It goes through the type of medical issues they may have, what to look for, what to monitor, doctors, physicians and centers you can go to for help.

What do you say to your older daughter or family members on how to handle other people’s perception of Alyssa?

I talk to Kendall a lot about other people’s perspections of Alyssa, because she has only seen the positive reactions. I tell her that some people might be afraid of Down Syndrome, because they really don’t understand it. Other people may act in a mean way towards Alyssa and that is when she will need to protect her in some ways. I also tell her that she may need to educate her friends and tell them that Alyssa has Down Syndrome, which means she is just like them except that she may look and talk different, but inside she is the same.

I have friends of mine with typical children who have told me they’re really happy that their child gets to grow up with Alyssa, because they won’t grow up being afraid or have that negative attitude when they see someone that may be different than themselves.

I think now it is better than when we were growing up, but I think in the special needs community there are still some fears or prejudices that people have. They don’t see with education, people with special needs can become so much more than what they have been labeled with. With Down Syndrome, just like Autism, the spectrum range is so huge. I have friends with children that have Down Syndrome who are not verbal and I also have others with children who are reading and writing and functioning just like a typical child.

One thing about Alyssa. She doesn’t have a problem having Down Syndrome, but a lot of other people have a problem. Alyssa has no issues with who she is. She is a very happy, confident and out going girl who is friendly to everyone.

When was Alyssa diagnosed with Leukemia?

When she was 18 months old. People with Down Syndrome have a higher probability of being diagnosed with Leukemia. Fortunately now with all the funding for research, people who have been diagnosed with Leukemia can live a lot longer. One of the doctors told me that when people were first treated with chemotherapy, they were afraid to try it with people who have Down Syndrome because they already had low immunity to begin with. They thought treating them with chemotherapy would kill them, because it is so hard on the body and it basically just wipes out any immunity that you have. Interestingly with the type of Leukemia Alyssia had, which is called AML, people with Down Syndrome do better during treatment, not necessarily with the outcome of survival, but during treatment they don’t’ have as many side effects. So when Alyssa was treated, she did lose her hair, but she was not nauseous, she had a good appetite and she was not physically wiped out. She was up at 6:30 in the morning until 6:30 at night with no nap. At that time, she was not interested in TV in the hospital. So it was 12 hours of providing continuous entertainment for her. She had a lot of energy.

Alyssa lived in Millers Children Hospital in Long Beach, CA for 6 months when she was treated for Leukemia and she had a great time there. She was surrounded by nurses, doctors, therapists and staff who were so positive and loving towards her. They were all phenomenal. Currently, Alyssa is in remission.

What is your biggest challenge as a mom of a child with special needs?

Time management is hard to balance with my older daughter’s activities which are swim team, dance and homework and the daily routine of preparing meals and the activities with Alyssa throughout the day and evening.

Another big challenge for me is keeping myself organized and not overbooking. I tend to take on too much. I do PTA for my older daughter’s school. Once a month I go to Miller Children’s Hospital to meet with a social worker for a foundation called, Parents Against Cancer where we meet with newly diagnosed families and talk to them about the experiences, because when your child is newly diagnosed your world as a parent changes in an instant. You are forced to make medical decisions and change your home life. A lot of times, a parent will come and live at the hospital with their child and if there is a second parent, that parent will need to run the household on their own.

So how has your perception on life changed because of Alyssa?

Huge. I think probably the biggest change for me was to not be so hard on myself as far as setting goals, achieving everything and trying to being the best at it all. I was so overwhelmed and lived in a state of hyperactivity by being constantly on the go. I have learned so much more from Alyssa than she could ever learn from me.

I have learned to be much more patient, kind, forgiving, honest, strong, sympathetic, apathetic, loving, affectionate and she has also given me the determination and confidence to start my foundation. She has opened my eyes to a new world and to see life from a different perspective. I am able to be more accepting of other people and see where they are coming from. I listen more and don’t judge people. I am so very lucky to have her and if I had a magic wand I wouldn’t use it because I wouldn’t want to change anything about her!

How do you stay balanced on a daily basis?

Talking with friends and family helps alot. I pray. I accept help. I try and find the little things in life that help me be more organized. I eat healthy and maintain a healthy lifestyle by going to the gym, walking to the park with Alyssa and getting a good night sleep. I have to have my sleep! I mostly like to read about health or education and to find the best ways my children can learn.

One of the most important things you can have to maintain your life is your faith, whatever that may be. Having faith in a higher power, something that is bigger than you that has good energy or vibrations can help tremendously.

When I went through my journey with Alyssa, I really felt that God gave her as a gift to me because he saw me heading in a path that was a little more egocentric and I was missing out on things that counted more.

Jocelyn Joiner - Cover Mom