Category: Family

Thoughts on Motherhood: Crossroads

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I had to have the first sex talk with my son when he was 4.

Call it divine inspiration but we had just had a lesson that day in Sunday School about how to teach our kids about morality. Coincidentally, that night at the dinner table, my son said something that blew both me and my husband totally out of the water. We looked at each other, I said a silent prayer, and I said, “Misa, we need to talk about that but not at the dinner table. We’ll discuss it later ok?”

He could probably tell by the look on my face that I was horrified by what he had just told me. He kind of sunk down in his chair and I said, “It’s ok buddy, I know you don’t understand all about that stuff and it’s ok because you’re still little. We’ll talk about it later tonight ok?” He said, “Ok.” 

After continually praying until “later” came, I finally sat down with him and explained a few things, obviously very basic. I tried to keep it at a 4-year-old level but really? Is there even a 4-year-old level when it comes to sex? From our little discussion I discovered a couple of things.

First, his friend who is barely a year older than him, is where a lot of this was coming from. 

Second, it was reinforced by things that he passively saw on TV.

Kids playing2The reason I bring up this story is because I want to point out some differences in parenting trends over the years. 

Recently I read a couple of blog posts about how parents are getting the raw end of the deal and how we are doing too much and worrying too much about our kids. While it’s a great read and I totally agree with most of the points, there are some things I want to point out.

If we compare how we parent to how we were parented, we can probably see a change in trends. Back in the day, even before my childhood days, children were to be seen and not heard. Most of them learned about life through the hard knocks and most of them turned out fine. Now our generation is being ripped apart because we’re all helicopter parents and we’re ruining our kids from becoming competent adults. We’re too soft and we shelter them too much.

I grew up with responsibility. I get it. This whole “entitlement” thing is definitely a problem. Helicopter parenting is definitely a problem. It’s kind of like we’ve swung from one side of the pendulum to the other. From letting our kids raise themselves to not allowing our kids to learn anything for themselves. The problem, I think, is in the extremes. 

The truth is, we can’t allow our kids to roam the streets all day with no idea of where they are or what they’re doing. The world isn’t the same as it was 30 years ago. We can’t allow our TV to play constantly as background noise and not pay attention to what it is teaching our kids.

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We can’t let our kids learn about sex from the media because I guarantee you, it will be a very warped version of it. Pornography and sex are everywhere. You don’t even have to look for it. If a 4-year-old, who was uncomfortably open with me, can be aroused by something as “innocent” as cable TV, then we have a problem folks. 

So no, we can’t parent old school. You know why? Because our world isn’t old school anymore. We have to learn and adapt, sometimes by trial and error. And that’s a painful process. 

I have this constant dilemma in my head about whether I’m doing enough or too much for my kids. Every situation is different and I try to be strategic about every teaching opportunity.

I’m still not cemented in my parenting approach because there absolutely is no “one size fits all” approach. Every situation is different, every season is different, and Heaven knows every child is completely different. 

However, I have found something that has given me a little direction and just “feels right” when it comes to how I want to approach parenting.

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He stood at the crossroads all alone, The sunlight in his face;
He had no thought for an evil course, He was set for a manly race.
But the road stretched east and the road stretched west,
And he did not know which road was the best;
So he took the wrong road and it lead him down,
And he lost the ace and the victor’s crown.
He was caught at last in an angry snare
Because no one stood at the crossroads there
To show him the better road.

Another day at the self-same place a boy with high hopes stood;
He, too, was set for a manly race; he was seeking the things that were good.
And one was there who the roads did know,
And that one showed him the way to go;
So he turned away from the road leading down,
And he won the race and the victor’s crown;
He walks today on the highways fair
Because one stood at the crossroads there
To show him a better road.

by Sadie Tiller Crawley

A leader in our congregation has shared this poem many times with us. He did it again a couple weeks ago and I saw it, for the first time, as it relates to parenting.

We don’t have to run the race with our kids. We don’t have to be there every step of the way, in fact, we can’t be. We don’t need to argue with the judge of the race if our child chooses the wrong path and loses.

But we certainly don’t have to sit at the finish line and just hope they make it there somehow. We can stand at those places where we know they might make the wrong choice, where maybe we made the wrong choice at some point in our life, and show them the better road. Then all we can do is hope they trust us enough to take it.

I vote for an involved style of parenting that still allows margin for our kids to grow. I vote for parents to be teachers. I vote for kids growing up with someone to guide them, not to do it for them, but also not to leave them alone to figure it all out for themselves.

My hope is that we can continue to evolve as parents and find a happy medium between doing everything for our kids and not doing anything. 

Times have changed my friends. We are parenting in a world our parents never even imagined possible. Heck, we never even imagined possible. I thought sex talks were for pre-teens getting ready to go through puberty, not 4-year-old boys who still wear batman capes.

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What is your opinion on the best approach to parenting?

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5 Lessons On Service I Learned From My Mother

Service SquareI’m not going to lie when I tell you that I have my mother on a pedestal. We have been through a lot together, both good and bad, and she is literally the best friend I’ve ever had. I know not everyone can say that about their mother and I feel overly blessed that I can. 

She has taught me more than any other single person in my life and I know it hasn’t been easy. Contrary to popular belief, I wasn’t always an angel. When people tell me about their difficult children, I feel like giving them my mom’s number. She needs to write the book on raising a strong-willed child.

Apart from channeling her strong-willed child’s determination into mostly positive outlets, she also taught me about service. My mother has never been across seas to do humanitarian work, she’s never opened her own non-profit or raised millions of dollars for a good cause. However, she has lived a life of consistent and selfless service to countless people and along the way, instilled that desire to serve in me. 

Here are 5 lessons she has taught me, without hardly saying a word.

1. It doesn’t matter your circumstances, you can always serve

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My mother has been single most of my life. She sometimes had to work 2 or 3 jobs to keep us fed and clothed and yet she was always serving in one way or another. She taught me from a very young age the importance of helping other people, no matter your own circumstances. 

It’s so easy to get caught up in our own problems and lack of finances. Whenever I feel a desire to serve but the logic in my brain tells me I don’t have enough money or time to spare, I try to think of my mom and her shining example of not having enough and doing it anyway. 

Since exiting her child-rearing years and becoming a little more financially stable, she has become even more generous. I often hear her say how she wishes she could help more, do more. Her personal goals have a lot to do with helping other people. Service is an attitude and she wears it every day. 

2. Anonymous service is the best kind

One Christmas, when we were still in elementary school, my mom told my brother and me about a little boy who probably wasn’t going to get much for Christmas that year. I don’t remember the specifics of the story or his situation but I do remember he lived up the street from us.

I remember the excitement we felt as my brother and I carried a big box full of food and presents and a bike to their front door. It was Christmas Eve and it was dark and cold but we were bursting with emotion as we left the box and the bike, rang the doorbell, and ran through the slippery ice and snow to hide. 

The amazement on the boy’s face was absolutely priceless and I remember we both cried when we saw how excited he was and how excited we were that we could help in such a small way.

All kinds of service are great but anonymous service is the most exciting because you get to keep a special secret. My mom provided many of these kinds of opportunities for us and still to this day, nothing gives me quite a rush like doing an anonymous service.

3. Giving service makes you appreciate receiving it more

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My mom was always on the lookout for a family to help, especially at Christmastime. However, because of some tough times we had experienced as a family, and the fact that my mom was struggling so much to make it raising her kids alone, we were sometimes the benefactors of others’ service. 

I will never forget the Christmas that we had during our short-lived move to Salt Lake City. We came from a small town to the big city in hopes to start over. I was in the second grade that year and by the end, I had been in 5 different classes. We moved a lot during those months.

My mom wasn’t used to all the extra expenses of living in the city and between daycare, high housing costs, and gas money to get from place to place, our finances were stretched to the absolute limit with no leeway at all.

One night, only a few days before Christmas, my mom snuck in my room of our small basement apartment. She woke me up and said, “You have to get up and come see what somebody brought us!” We ran into the kitchen and she showed me a beautiful basket full of gorgeous fruit. Then she pulled out an envelope, opened it, and immediately tears rolled down her face. She said it was money. Christmas money. 

By that time, I was old enough to understand our situation. Christmas would have been very sad for us that year had it not been for some generous people who, hardly knowing us, had been moved upon by God to help. It wasn’t just the fact that Santa could come that year, it was the fact that we were not alone and that God was aware of our circumstances. 

Because I had experience with helping people, I was so much more aware and sincerely grateful for the help we received. The experience has stuck with me my entire life. Other similar experiences have only fueled my fire to help even more.

4. Service isn’t only about Christmastime

Although many of the specific stories I am sharing had to do with Christmastime, that isn’t the only time my mother has served. She is the first one to raise her hand for almost any kind of volunteer opportunity.

If you come to her house in the evening, you will probably catch my mother crocheting. She rarely sits down but when she does, she is crocheting. Sometimes she makes dish rags and puts them in wedding gifts. She has been known to make gorgeous table cloths and baby blessing dresses. But she is famous for her baby blankets.

If you know my mom and have had a baby, you have most likely received one of her gorgeous baby blankets. She gives them to people she hardly knows. 

She gives wedding presents to people she hardly knows. She’s always giving gifts. No matter where she goes, she’s bringing back gifts for everybody. My mother is truly the best gift-giver I’ve ever known.

She pays for people’s groceries at the store and their meals in restaurants. She gives to every fundraiser or good cause that comes her way. She puts her name on almost every sign-up sheet that comes around at church to offer meals or other support to people going through a difficult time.

My mother inspires me, everyday, to look harder for ways to help people and to make them feel loved and important. This is her super power. 

5. Service is the best anecdote for getting through tough times

Best friends

We knew the first Christmas we brought my brother home from the hospital was going to be difficult. His girls were still only 9 and 11 years old and Christmas would never be the same for them. 

My mother was still adamant that we were going to help another family for Christmas. We picked some angels off the angel tree and went about buying small gifts, clothes and shoes to fit these kids. 

Christmas morning brought a hilarious surprise when the people who delivered the angel tree presents came to our house to deliver gifts! Apparently someone had put my nieces and nephew on the angel tree. My sister said, “I’m afraid I picked my own son off the tree!” 

Nothing could bring my brother completely back to us, like he was before, but turning our attention outward and looking to help other people made Christmas that year all the sweeter. 

I know there are many women out there like my mom who sacrifice every day to help other people. I don’t know if my mom was aware of the impact she was making in my life when she performed these acts of service. I don’t know if she was even thinking of me with the intention of teaching a lesson. My suspicion is that she did it without thinking of the example she was providing for her kids. She did it because it felt right and she knew how much she appreciated help when she needed it.

These lessons on service also apply to my role as a mother. When I look back and see all the sacrifices she made for us, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Motherhood is one big life of service. I learned from the best because she not only served us, she taught us how to serve others.

The Lord teaches that, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” What a beautiful thing to think about when it comes to a mother’s service. Happy Mother’s Day!

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What did your mother teach you about service? How are you teaching your own children?

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Thoughts on Motherhood: I Sometimes Forget I Have Dandelions in My Hair

DandelionsSquareMy kids love to bring me dandelions and there is no shortage of them in our yard. Despite the fact that they are ugly weeds, I always do my best to show my genuine gratitude that my kids are showing their love for me.

The other day, after a particularly plentiful dandelion gathering, I had probably 6 dandelions tucked behind my ears from both of my kids. We walked into the store and I saw an old guy friend from high school. I just smiled, waved and kept walking, totally ignoring the look on his face. It wasn’t until later, when a couple of the dandelions fell out that I even remembered they were there. I realized how ridiculous I must have looked to him with my wind-blown, sweaty hair filled with dandelions. And I promptly realized I didn’t care.

Becoming a mother has changed me in so many ways. I have become more assertive, more observant, and more grateful for tiny miracles. I have become less concerned with what people think of me and less critical of others. In short, I don’t care much for how the world sees me anymore. I care much more about how my children see me.

The dandelion incident is one of many where I was aware of how my children’s happiness and well-being was much more important than how anybody else saw me. 

When my daughter was still a baby we were on vacation in Texas and went to the zoo in Houston with a friend and her son. My kids were not used to the 90 degree weather and 100% humidity. The poor kids were dripping wet the entire day and we quickly realized it was a huge mistake to think we could enjoy ourselves at the zoo in the middle of June with the rest of the sweaty population.

When my daughter became fussy because she was hungry I found a quiet spot, as away from the multitudes as I could find, and began nursing her with my nursing cover on. It only took a second for me to realize this was not going to work. I was almost delirious with the heat and she was practically suffocating under there! She kept trying to rip it off and I finally took it off myself. 

Breastfeeding2

I had never nursed in public without a cover and you know what, in that moment I didn’t care. I did my best to cover up what I could but feeding my daughter became a higher priority than what other people thought. I knew my husband was uncomfortable, my friend was uncomfortable, and there were several people who walked by and shook their heads. It seemed ironic to me that there were several girls wearing bikini tops walking around with just as much, if not more, breast showing as me but nobody seemed to notice.

Before I had children, I would never dream of showing any amount of my breasts in public. I’ve always been a very modest person and frankly a little judgmental about women who nursed in public. But this day, I realized that sometimes you have to compromise in order to be a good mother.

When I’m running through the Walmart parking lot like a crazy person with a cartful of kids yelling, “Faster mommy, faster!” I don’t even look up to see what people’s reactions are to my immature behavior. When someone makes a comment about how weird it is that I let my kids kiss me on my mouth, I turn a deaf ear. When my kids spill their fruit snacks on the floor at church and then pick them up and eat them, I don’t pay attention to the people who I know are silently criticizing me. It’s just not worth it.

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Am I a perfect mother with no need of anyone else’s counsel or advice? Clearly not. Is it ok to let kids eat food off the filthy ground? Probably not. I’m trying to take this motherhood thing, which has turned out to be the most challenging role of my life, one day at a time. That means that I’m going to screw up. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m probably going to have to pay for my kids’ therapy one day to get over whatever I end up doing that screws them up emotionally.

Despite all my faults and screw-ups, I can honestly say that I love these little humans more than any other on this planet. The love I feel for them is unmatched and my desire to be a good mother for them runs deep. I hope they remember that I wore their dandelions in my hair with pride. And I do. In fact, sometimes I completely forget they’re there.

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What are some of your experiences where you realized your children’s happiness was more important than how other people saw you?

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5 Things I Learned from Cutting Ties With a Toxic Family Member

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I believe that the family is the most divine institution on the face of this Earth. It is through the trials that we endure with, and sometimes because of, our family members that we become more refined and more like the people our Father in Heaven intended us to be. Clearly, family means the world to me.

This is why I recently had to make one of the most painful decisions of my life when I decided to completely cut ties with a certain family member. It isn’t something I take lightly and it isn’t something that happened over night. 

On the contrary, it was something that built up from the time I was very small and didn’t actually come to a climax until I had my own children and realized that I was responsible for more than myself now. I had to pick a side, essentially. Was I going to continue to work toward making amends and trying to help this person, or was I going to protect my children? It sounds like an easy decision but letting go of a family member, no matter how toxic, is a very difficult process. 

I have learned a few things throughout this process. I am nowhere near an expert in this field and if anything, I’m probably the poster-child for what NOT to do when it comes to toxic family members. All of the mistakes I made throughout my life in respect to my relationship with this person have accumulated into a reservoir of thoughts and hopefully warnings for people who may be struggling with something similar. 

1. Recognize manipulation for what it is

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I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. I think most of us do. It’s easy to make excuses for someone if you love them. However, it’s important to know the warning signs of manipulation and not to excuse people for using these tactics to get what they want. 

Some common warning signs of a Master Manipulator include:

  1. They offer help with the intention of “holding it over your head.” They continually remind you of all they have done for you. This tactic is to guilt-trip you into complying and giving them what they want.
  2. They make you feel guilty for things they have done. Master manipulators are good at transferring blame and always being the victim.
  3. They’re only sorry when they believe it will get them what they want. If it doesn’t, their state of remorse quickly morphs into a fit of anger. 
  4. They completely lack accountability. It is never really their fault and they will find whatever way they can to convince you of that. Lying is second-nature to them to the point that they often genuinely convince themselves of their own false story. 
  5. Conversations often turn to their problems, amplifying their role as the victim at all times. They are always worse off than other people.
  6. If you find yourself apologizing to and/or for this person more often that you do for anyone else, you are most likely being manipulated. 
  7. If you go against your better judgement to help this person when you don’t feel good about it, you are most likely being manipulated. 

 2. Remember that your responsibility lies with your own family now

Growing up, I always felt responsible for this person. I felt like I was their only chance. The only one who would listen, help, or encourage them. I was sure I could convince this person to get help. Now I can see how I was manipulated into feeling that way. 

The truth is, if you are anyone’s last chance at a loving relationship, there’s a reason for that and it’s not your fault or your responsibility. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want help.

I finally realized that if I were to allow this person to be in our lives continually, I was putting my own children at risk for being manipulated just as I had been my entire life. Not only that, but I wasn’t emotionally able to handle the relationship which wasn’t allowing me to be the mother I wanted to be.

Before I had children, I vowed I would never allow this person to be part of their lives because I knew how much damage they had created in mine. However, manipulation can be very powerful and most of the time we don’t even know it is happening. 

My loyalty lies with my husband and my children now. I had to step back, with the help of my husband, to see how long I had allowed myself to be controlled by this person without even knowing it. Together, we made the decision that we were not going to allow our children to grow up the same way. 

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3. It’s much easier to prevent a relationship than to end it

Looking back, my biggest regret is allowing my children to become attached to this person. It is extremely difficult to explain to a child why someone they love might make really bad choices. How do you explain the dangers of manipulation? The emotional trauma that comes from being around unpredictable and volatile people?

I have to remember that no relationship is better than a bad one. Even if that relationship seems fine now, I know the inevitable damage that continually follows in the wake of this toxic person. My kids have plenty of good people in their lives, family members who love and adore them and would never put their own happiness or desires ahead of my children’s. 

4. You can forgive and still learn from the past

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My mother and I discuss this topic all of the time. How do you forgive someone who has caused so much heartache and pain in your life? She has much more warrant to hate this person than even I do. But we are taught to forgive and forget. Seventy times seven times. How do you do that and still prevent yourself from continually being hurt?

I believe more than anything, that this is a matter between you and God. I can’t tell you the cumulative hours I have spent throughout my life, on my knees with uncontrollable tears trying to forgive and forget what this person has done and continues to do. True mortal forgiveness rarely helps the perpetrator. I believe the healing magic of forgiveness is for the victim. 

I finally believe myself to be at a point where I don’t hate this person anymore. I feel more of a pity and sadness for them than anything. I can’t imagine waking up in the life this person has created and possibly finding a reason to get out of bed. It is sad, but it isn’t my fault or my responsibility. I put forth the effort I could to help this person and now have turned my energy and focus on raising my kids, not helping a grown adult find their way in life.

So I believe I can forgive without having to allow myself, or anyone else in my family, to be hurt anymore. It has been a matter of prayer and I feel good about the decision I have made. In fact, for the first time in my life, I have felt relief when it comes to my relationship with this person. We are probably both better people when we are apart. I could attend this person’s funeral someday with sincere sadness and grief even if I won’t allow him to be in my or my family’s presence. 

5. Seek legal and/or professional help when necessary

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If the toxic family member in your life has broken the law or tried to harm you or your family, it is vital that you seek out the proper authority to take care of the situation. I had to get over my embarrassment and guilt that I felt about this person’s behavior and go to my local authorities for help.

The other person may find a way to jump through hoops and avoid consequences. Even if you believe that will happen, do your part to get it documented. The more documentation you have of the potential harm this person can cause, the more protection you will receive. Save messages, voicemails, letters, and any other kinds of evidence. File police reports when necessary and if you need to get a restraining or protection order, find out what it will take.

You may also want to consider getting therapy to find out how you can break free from the years of manipulation of this person. 

Remember that you are not required by any law, both earthly or Heavenly, to allow people in your life who hurt you, even if that person is a family member. If a person is toxic to you, you have the choice to remove yourself from their circle of influence. It is easier said than done but it is vital that you recognize a damaging relationship when you see one and to protect your children from harm both physically and emotionally.

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Have you tried to cut ties with a toxic person? How did you do it?

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5 Ways to Workout With Your Kids

Workouts squareMaking exercise a priority when you have kids can be really difficult. Long gone are the days of heading to the gym whenever you wanted. You have meals, school pick ups and drop offs, naps, soccer, piano, and play dates to work around. Sometimes trying to fit in exercise just seems like more work than you can handle at this stage in your life.

Dedicating a precious hour of my day to solely working out gives me a little anxiety because I feel like I don’t have the time or the energy to compartmentalize my life like that. I know some of you are screaming through your computer screen at me, “but the benefits far outweigh the hassle!” I believe you. Which is why I have found a way to integrate my life as a mother and my fitness goals.

Enter my plan to work out with my kids. I know, most people use exercise as an escape and their time to decompress after being with the kids all day. However, I see some amazing benefits to working out with your kids.

  1. You can do it whenever you can fit it in (aka no excuses)
  2. Your kids learn that being active is important
  3. They see that being active can be fun
  4. They get to be your cheerleader
  5. You have your “why” staring at you in the face

If you want to develop healthy habits like daily exercise, you’ve got to have a “why.” My biggest one is my kids. I want to help them develop healthier habits than I did. I want to have the energy to play with them, teach them, and live out my energy-zapping role as a mother. So working out with them keeps that vision front and center.

I’ve found some fun and creative ways to workout with your kids that we have been loving lately. These workouts are totally customizable to your level of fitness, the amount of time you have, and how involved you want to get the kids. Another plus? They’re all totally free 

1. Dance

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Apart from the crazy dance sessions I have with my kids in the kitchen at any given moment, we also like to do YouTube Zumba or Dance videos. My kids love to dance around and try to follow along. It totally boosts your confidence when you don’t have to keep up with the slender, ripped, 19-year-old girl dancing circles around you in class. Your toddlers are just as lost as you are.

I make playlists on YouTube and it makes it easy to turn on my TV, go to YouTube, and directly to my playlists to do some dance workouts. Some of our favorite channels for zumba are: Live Love Party (if you can get past the guy in the tutu, really?!), Club Fitz, and Shine Dance Fitness. You can also just search for a song you like and add “zumba” to the end of your search.

2. Obstacle Course

Ok, I haven’t tried this yet but it just came to me and you can bet we’re going to try this today. Do you remember making obstacle courses with your friends when you were little? We used to make up these random courses with whatever was lying around the yard. Then somebody would choose how you were to go through the course and in what order. Then we raced to see who could do it the fastest.

Oh we are definitely trying this today.

 3. Playground

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I was pretty disappointed in myself last week when we went to the park and my son crossed the monkey bars without any help and then asked me to do it…Sadly enough, I couldn’t cross even one bar for fear the joints in my arms would be ripped clear to shreds 

Clearly, I am out of shape. Then I remembered I told myself I was going to try these playground workouts I saw once and thought they were genius. The trick is finding a time and place where you can be by yourself with your kids. Good thing the elementary school playgrounds are free during the summer 

4. Strength Training

Who needs a personal trainer when you have kids?! Just give your oldest a whistle and a timer and watch how motivated you are to impress your kids. 

I pick random videos on YouTube and turn them into a playlist for different kinds of workouts. My 5-year-old is an exceptional cheerleader and when I start slacking off he’ll say, “Mom, she’s still going, you can’t stop.” 

We’ve tried the Women’s Workout Channel, although I’m kind of tired of looking at all the butt shots. This one looks a little more promising and I think I’ll be trying it next. The truth is, YouTube is an amazing free resource where you can find pretty much any kind of workout you’re looking for. Some even use your kids as weights 

 5. Walk/Run

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Walking with my kids is just as fun for me as it is for them. I love to look at and admire old houses in our little town when I walk and my kids have picked up on it. Now my 2-year-old daughter will point at a house and say, “Mommy, I wuv that house.”

You can also kill two birds with one stone and ask a friend if she wants to go. You get your socializing with adults while you spend time with your kids and exercise! Wow…now that is multitasking.

If you’re a little ahead in the game, you may want to run. For me, at this point, it’s more of a joke. My kids will say, “Run mommy!” and I’ll run across the intersection only to be totally out of breath by the other side while they’re laughing uncontrollably. 

As a mom, I get so tired of thinking of ways to keep my kids entertained while I “get stuff done.” I don’t want exercise to be just another thing that takes away from quality time with my kids or even quality time with myself. Integrating exercise and involving your kids can bring boat loads of benefits for all of you.

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Have you tried working out with your kids? What’s your favorite activity to do?Signature Yellow2Workouts FB