Introducing Kids to Gardening

girl growing seedling

What kid doesn’t love playing in the dirt buy Netflix shares and getting messy? In addition to our family game nights, gardening is another activity I like to do with my kids. Gardening is an ideal activity for children, and has the benefits of being relaxing, having built-in rewards, and, if you are planning a vegetable garden, encouraging healthy eating when your kids eat the (literal) fruits of their labors.

Finding space for your garden
If you are fortunate enough to have a yard, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start tearing up a section! The ability to get outside and play in the dirt how to invest in Netflix shares isn’t just something kids love–it’s great for grownups and definitely makes me feel younger. If this is your first foray into gardening, start small so you don’t get overwhelmed. If you are a long-time gardener, mark off a plot that belongs to your child… and stay out of it! That part is theirs, and while they will appreciate some assistance and advice, allow them to tend it on their own. If you step in and take over, that sense of ownership will be gone, and they will lose interest.

If you live in an apartment, try your hand at some container gardening. You can place boxes and large pots out on the deck, and grow everything from hanging tomatoes Netflix shares price to miniature roses. If you are really short on space, a small herb garden in the windowsill will do just fine. This project has the added benefit of being available year-round.

watering can

Gardening tools especially for kids
Who doesn’t love getting new toys? Try to get your little gardener some tools of his or her own. Having something that is exclusively theirs will increase their enthusiasm for the project. Most gardening stores, including home improvement stores, sell kid-size tools in fun colors and designs, even featuring popular characters kids like. Put together a set with a watering can, trowel, and even gloves and clogs in kids’ sizes. A set like this would also make a great birthday or holiday gift.

Kids should have choices in their gardens
Allow kids to have some say in what they are planting. Visit the library and look at some books on gardening together to get some ideas. Make a list of plants they would like to try out and then take them to the nursery. Let them poke around a bit. Read the tags on the plants and talk about what kind of care would go into them. You may need to subtly steer them in the direction of plants that grow well in your climate, but allow them to decide. You may want to consider visiting a nursery that specializes in local plants to narrow the playing field a bit.

plants in pail

Harvesting the fruits of the garden

The most rewarding part of gardening is the harvest. If you are growing flowers, have the kids put together bouquets to give to family, friends, neighbors, teachers… whoever they can find. It will give them a sense of pride in their hard work. If you are growing fruits and vegetables, dig in! Eat your treats straight off the plant, toss tomatoes in salads, or serve strawberries with ice cream. You’ll be amazed by what a formerly picky eater will devour when she grows it herself.

Your kids will be delighted when new green shoots come up, when colorful blossoms emerge, and when bright berries are theirs for the picking. You will be amazed by the care and delicacy with which they treat their plants and they will develop an appreciation for the natural world.

Christmas Reflections

Christmas tree

Somehow, it will be Christmas in less than a week! I don’t know how it always sneaks up on me like that, but it does.

Around here, we’ve been full-speed ahead in the Christmas spirit. Last weekend was all about the Christmas concert and getting the tree set up. As if Mother Nature were right on cue, we also got our first snow of the season. It’s unusual for us to get several inches of snow in December (that usually holds off until February), but I guess real winter came early this year.

This weekend, the weather was a little better, so I braved the mall for a few family gifts. The crowds can be kind of mad at this time of year, but I actually enjoy the festivity of the mall. There’s Santa, of course, with a massive line of children waiting to see him. And our local mall sets up a carousel fantastically decorated with lights and poinsettias. Despite the hectic nature of things, it’s fun.

Christmas next week will bring all our family traditions. Christmas Eve means church and family time. We usually do a big dinner, but (funny enough) there’s a football game that the guys want to watch, so we’re opting for pizza. I think it will be fun and kind of the calm before the storm of Christmas Day. On Christmas morning, there will be presents followed by making Christmas cookies and a big dinner for the family to share. I’ll say to hell with my diet for the day and just enjoy the time with everyone.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas from my family to yours!

Chew Toys, a Pet Vacuum, and My New Love

golden retriever puppy

One thing I really want to work on (in addition to everything else—I’m a work in progress) is my anxiety and negative thinking. To that end, I’m finally giving into my son’s pleading and getting a puppy. So what’s the connection? Although they add some work, pets actually help with anxiety. We’re excited to add Ginger, our new golden retriever, to our family. I’ve bought some chew toys and the best pet vacuum we could find to deal with my allergies, and we’re good to go. I hope.

Taking the leap to add this new family member has been a bit of a journey. I’d be lying if I told you I was 100% certain about it, but I’m rarely 100% certain about anything. We’re already in love with her, but I’m hoping some of those promised benefits materialize.

Having a pet is supposed to help lower blood pressure and even ease pain. Even if some studies are less definitive than others, the CDC says having a pet as cute as Ginger can lower blood pressure, especially in high-risk people, because it reduces stress. It’s also supposed to help with chronic migraines for basically the same reason. I even read where one doctor compared it to Valium.

We’ve already seen that having Ginger is helping us socialize more and improving my mood. We walk her around the neighborhood but we’ve also gone to the local dog park a few times—it’s amazing how friendly dog people can be. She’s also a great ice breaker. Some neighbors that we never used to talk to have stopped just to chat and pet her. I had never expected that would be an effect of getting a dog. She’s so happy to see me when I come, too, that it’s impossible not to be happy. No wonder pets are recommended for veterans and people dealing with PTSD.

Along with being a bit more social, we’re getting out more thanks to the new pup. Not only is it fun, but it’s helping me meet one of my goals for a new me. We’ve been enjoying the park more and even bought a frisbee. I can see why the AHA recommends it—I might finally “work out” as much as I’m supposed to without actually feeling like I’m working out. If I can get my exercise in, I may not have to keep up with this hot yoga business for too long (although I know it would be best for me to do both).

Weirdly, getting a pet is supposed to help the kids with their allergies. I can’t say I ever would have expected that. I bought the vacuum because the pet dander drives me a bit crazy. So far I’m doing OK with it. Anyway, apparently the exposure can improve immunity because the dander is like immunotherapy for kids. There are actually peer-reviewed articles about it. Who knew?

The good news is that we love her no matter what.

Hot Yoga: Healthy or Hell?

person on yoga mat

I have to be honest—hot yoga has always kind of sounded like the eighth layer of Hell. I’ve tried yoga a few times and found it pretty darn difficult. Also, I am a sweater. So, to me, hot yoga isn’t exactly enticing. And yet, I’m considering it.

A few minutes from my house, there is a shopping center I go to frequently. This is mostly because it has a frozen yogurt shop and the place I like to get my nails done on the few occasions I make time for a pedicure. About 75% of the time I visit the shopping center, the parking lot is overflowing due to the presence of a yoga studio that’s recently moved in to the old Papa John’s space. The classes at this place are so popular, there’s usually nowhere to park. So, I decided to look into it (in accordance with my new goals). They specialize in hot yoga. Did I mention the bit about eighth layer of Hell?

Anyway, I’m trying to keep an open mind and do things that freak-me-the-heck-out. To that end, I’m exploring hot yoga. This isn’t to be undertaken lightly, though, so I’m learning a lot before I dip my toe in these boiling waters. Some things I’ve learned so far…

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drink plenty of water leading up to your first class. This is hard for me because I don’t do great with my water consumption, but I’m working on it. It’s also recommended to bring at least 32 oz to class with you. As I mentioned, I’m a sweater, so I’m basically bringing a case of water straight from Costco with me to make sure I don’t pass out.

Eat. You definitely don’t want to arrive at class feeling too full, but light, healthy and energized. I’m trying to keep in mind having enough electrolytes and salt content, too, because, I sweat like a mother…

Dress appropriately. I tend to go with t-shirts and sweatpants for exercise, but I hear that’s totally inappropriate for hot yoga. Everyone says shorts and tank tops or sports bras are the way to go. I contend that no one wants to see me like that, but it seems that the amount you (aka I) sweat makes sweatpants a really bad idea. OK. Lululemon, here I come.

Find out if there’s a “cool spot.” Most yoga studios have a cooler area near a door or a window. For a first timer, it’s advisable to set up here because it’s, well, cooler.

Bring cold towels. Freeze one or two wet towels and bring them with you to class in a bag with ice. I’ve never done it, but I believe this is everything.

Know your limits. It’s important not to push it too far during a first class. Some poses will be easier than others. Some may make you want to die. The heat may be (probably will be) overwhelming. Do everything you can, but don’t push too hard. When you need to take a break, take one.

Don’t get up too fast! Take your time standing, packing up, and leaving. You’ve just challenged yourself a lot, and leaving may be tough. No one wants to faint.

Aging Without Getting Old

Today is my husband’s birthday. Obviously, it’s a fun day with lots of celebrating where we eat our weight in chocolate (and there might be some gin involved, too). But it’s also a day that make me reflect a bit.

See, my husband is 4.5 years older than me. I’ve seen some signs lately that he’s getting older. Nothing crazy, a few more gray hairs, a few more age spots—that kind of thing. And it’s made me think a lot about getting older myself. I’m not ready, which is one reason I’m taking steps to improve my health.

But I also believe that much of age is a mindset. I tend to be kind of serious and can get bogged down in things, which isn’t a feature I love about myself. All this is a long way of saying that I was prompted to do some looking into how to stay young at heart. Here are a few of my favorites.

I read that you shouldn’t cut things out of your diet that you really enjoy like butter, alcohol, and chocolate. I’m not sure that’s going to help me with my diet goals, but I do love the advice. Hopefully I’ll get to this point one day.

Exercise every day
To balance out the above, make sure you move every day. That doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to go to the gym, but get outside, have a dance party, do something silly that moves your body.

Do something every day that scares you
It’s very easy to fall into routine and let life go a bit…stale. If you do things you’re not used to and that stretch your comfort zone, it helps keep things interesting. You don’t have to go skydiving all the time—sometimes it’s as simple as trying a new food or reaching out to an old friend that adds a bit of spice to life.

Worry about what you think
When’s the last time you saw a five-year-old wrapped up in what other people think? As we get older, we lose the sense of wonder and adventure and get caught up in what others think and how they perceive us.

Surround yourself with like-minded people
Find people with similar interests who also want to stay young at heart. Surrounding yourself with people who have a similar approach to things will make it easier for you.

Think positively
This one is hard for me, but thinking positively is an important component of staying young and light-hearted. Grumbling, complaining, and fixating on the negative is no good for anyone.

Treat and pamper yourself
OK, so this one Is hard for me, too, but taking care of yourself is really important. Assuming that your budget allows, buy the fancy coffee, book a massage, or buy that new top you’ve been eyeing. Taking care of your own needs sometimes just makes you feel better and makes it easier to be positive.

How to Start a Family Game Night

I won’t lie—I’ve been a little focused on me lately. But, as the mom of two, I fully subscribe to the “putting on your own oxygen mask first” idea, so I’ve been trying to focus on my diet and overall health. But it’s certainly—by no means—all about me. To that end, we’ve been instituting a family game night the last few weeks to bond a little more.

We had a lot of fun playing various board and card games while on vacation this summer, and we’re really looking forward to continuing that.

Here are a few simple steps to creating your own family game night:

Tune In and Turn Off
This seems simple, but one important key to family game night is turning off the TV. And, without question, all devices go away. This is a very important family opportunity to show your kids that email and Facebook don’t come before family time.

Keep the Schedule Consistent
Pick a night that works for everyone’s schedule. In our house, it’s Wednesday because it’s the only day that there are no sports, lessons, or other commitments. Keeping it on a regular schedule ensures that nothing gets in the way of game night.

Create House Rules
The whole family has to agree to a few rules to take part in game night. During the school year, all the kids’ homework must be done, but otherwise, all the stuff needs to be put up, showers taken, teeth brushed, etc. Games are also always played in the dining room, so we can spread out, if needed. Also, we rotate which family member chooses our weekly game. That keeps everyone involved and having fun.

Take Action
Even if everyone’s engaged, it can be possible for things to become a bit boring because everyone is sedentary. Our remedy is to get moving! Games like Twister are perfect because no one can be complacent while they’re trying not to fall down.

Have Fun
We look forward to family game night every week. There are lots of laughs, jokes, and silly times. It’s one of the precious moments when stress can melt away and we get to focus on just being us. We wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Contemplating a Ketogenic Diet

As part of my new health kick, I’ve been looking into the ketogenic diet. I first learned about ketosis when I was in middle school. A friend of mine had severe epilepsy and was hospitalized to go into ketosis as a possible treatment for her symptoms. It didn’t work for her, but I learned about ketosis in the process. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized ketosis was an actual diet and not just a treatment.

A ketogenic diet is known for being a low carb diet in which the body produces ketones to be used as energy. Essentially, it helps burn fat because your body isn’t making glucose because you’re not taking in sugars in the form of carbs. At least that’s how I understand it.

There are a number of different benefits to a ketogenic diet.

Weight Loss—The ketogenic diet uses body fat as an energy source, so you lose weight.
Control Blood Sugar—Keto lowers blood sugar levels due to what you’re eating, so it can help people who have pre-diabetes or who are diabetic.
Mental Focus—I’m not sure I totally buy this one, but ketones are supposedly brain food. When you decrease carb intake, you avoid blood sugar spikes, which helps improve focus.

Unfortunately for me, the ketogenic diet comes with a lot of foods on the “do not eat list” that are my favorites. Namely, you can’t have grains – no wheat, corn, or rice – or sugar in any form. Also not on the approved list is fruit or potatoes—essentially anything sugary or starchy. The good news is, you can eat most other things like meat, leafy greens, high fat dairy, and my favorite avocados. Still, not an easy plan to stick to.

Achieving ketosis isn’t easy, but it is straightforward. Essentially, you have to do the following:

Limit carbs. Try to stay below 35g of carbs per day.
Restrict your protein intake. Too much protein can lead to lower levels of ketosis.
Drink water. Try to drink a gallon of water a day. It helps with bodily functions and helps control hunger.
Exercise. Yep, there’s that again.

I haven’t decided yet whether I’m going to commit to the ketogenic diet. It’s appealing because the weight loss can be quick, and you get to eat some good foods. But the total restriction sounds hard. What do you think?

Commitment to a New Me

I recently got interested in the idea of cleanses. I’m not sure that I buy into the concept of “toxins” too much, but I do know that I (and everyone) could benefit from more whole foods and water and less sugar (including my glass of wine). I was intrigued, so I started doing some research. Frankly, cleanses have always sounded like a little bit of a nightmare, so I wanted to find out if they were all that way.

I found some great information on ways to improve health that were “detoxifying” and not really a cleanse, so I thought I’d start there instead. I’m committed to trying these five things, and I’ll be writing some about my journey here.

My Five Principles for Health

1. Choose Organic When Possible
One way to support your body’s detoxification process is to lighten its load. You can do that by decreasing the amount of chemicals you put into it. That means I’ve striving for less processed foods and more whole foods. At every opportunity, I’m going to try to ensure that those whole foods are organic. I know the switch may be a little pricey, so I’m going to focus on the worst offenders as I start my health journey.

2. Focus on My Diet
As a busy mom and teacher, I often put myself last. That means I have a terrible diet–I grab crap fast food or pick dinner off my kids’ plates. And, as I said, I do enjoy a glass or two of wine in the evening. I have to be more intentional about eating good, healthy food and limiting those things that are bad for me. Apparently, food like garlic, lemon, and raw vegetables aid in the detox process, so I’m also going to work on incorporating more of those.

3. Increase Water Consumption
I don’t know why, but I’ve never really liked water. I know that sounds insane to say, but there you go. I’ve focused on diet sodas instead, which I know I need to cut down on. I know that water is the best thing for your health and more improving diet, so I’m going to start with upping my consumption to 40 ounces a day. A girl’s gotta have goals!

4. Increase Exercise and Meditation
Back on the idea of putting myself last, I can’t tell you the last time I made it to the gym, even though I keep paying every month. That’s changing tomorrow (no, really). I’m also going to try to work mediation into my day, even if I can only start with a few minutes of quiet time.

5. Get More Fresh Air
Nature is a healing thing, and just being outdoors can make you feel better. I’m starting up a garden, so I hope to be able to spend more time outside.