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Everything Else is Just Gravy…

“Everything else is just gravy…”

I have used that phrase more times than I care to admit. I’m not sure if it’s southern thing or if it’s just a saying that has been used FOREVER, but it’s fun to use because it has such great meaning. To me, I think it refers to everything beyond what is required… or something that is above or beyond what is necessary. It’s always good though, DEFINITELY good. I mean, who can say anything bad about gravy?

We may need the meat and potatoes to make a meal, but the gravy on top is just the perfect addition to make it something special.

When I started using Isagenix, I kept telling people that I loved the product because it gave me a tremendous amount of energy, and “the weight loss is just gravy.” Then when I would enroll friends I would say, “I just want to get my products paid for… everything else is just gravy.” Once I started making money in the business, I started telling people that I have a full time job I love, but “my Isagenix income is just gravy.”

I have found that on top of all of the amazing physical changes in my life since starting Isagenix – energy out of the roof (but not nervous energy), weight loss (20 lbs), great sleep (waking up rested and energized), and beautiful skin – I have had some great emotional changes as well. I have noticed I am much calmer in everything I do now (dropped two medications out of my life) and my perspective in general has improved.

Now I know I have always been pretty much annoyingly optimistic…. but yeah, it has gotten even worse.

I passed this sign on my way to my parking garage yesterday and I just had to stop to take the picture, because I thought of writing this blog:

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Life is ALL GRAVY…….

It hit me immediately that lately I have still let the little things get to me. I’ve let inconsequential people hurt my feelings. I have talked incessantly about a wrong that I felt had been done to a loved one. I felt broken inside because my kids are spending every other week with their dad (like they do every summer). I had been convincing myself that I was fine, but I had forgotten something so important… I was making happiness in my life just gravy. I wasn’t making it the most important thing. Happiness had become a by-product of other things, but was not my focus anymore.

WHAT?

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I was so disappointed in myself. That one sign made me realize that LIFE is to be celebrated! We can’t just celebrate the little extras, but we need to focus on celebrating everything.

When I think about my dashingly handsome husband who regularly surprises me with sweet texts and flowers and tells me daily how I am the most beautiful woman in the world (God knew who I needed in my life after my first marriage and He found Joe)…

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or when I think about our kids and the happiness they bring me even when they are the spoiled rotten selfish teenage kids that they wholeheartedly are…

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or when I think about my beautiful parents and my brother and his family and how blessed I was to grow up in such a supportive, loving, and idyllic life…

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or when I think about the friends that God has blessed me with who are there for me regardless and always listen to me and who introduce me to (and let me introduce to them) this amazing nutritional cleansing system that helped me do this in 30 days (THANKS JULIE).

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I can’t help but remember that LIFE IS A BLESSING. And just like gravy, life is all of the amazing, saucy goodness. Sit down now and start counting your blessings. Your entire perspective will change and you may end up being that annoying woman who smiles all the time at the gym and weirds people out (at least that’s what my son told me). I can’t help it I smile all the time!!!! It certainly beats the alternative….

There is one thing for sure…. my life IS all gravy.

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My 30 Day Journey…

Let me preface this by saying this blog is really REAL. I’m being more honest than I would probably like to be on the Wide World Web, but here it goes…

Life has always had its ups and downs for me. Some people erroneously believe that just because I smile all of the time that it means I am happy all the time. That’s just wrong. Even yesterday as I was driving through one of the worst downpours I have ever driven through, my daughter said, “Why are you smiling?” It’s just what I do.

While things have indeed been pretty much idyllic since March of 2012 when Joe and I reconnected through Facebook, my life is far from smooth sailing. As I have said over and over, thankfully our relationship is solid and even through everything I encounter, Joe is always my beacon through the fog. However, nothing prepared me for last April when I pulled into my driveway and my son said, “Mom, can I talk to you about something?” My innocent reply was, “Of course you can, baby…”

He proceeded to explain to me the reasons why he felt he should go to high school where his dad lives and why he should spend more time with his dad. Needless to say I was blindsided and didn’t handle that moment with the grace and fruit of the spirit like I would have liked. After going to visit the school and sitting down with his dad, I did the most selfless thing I think I have ever done in my life and I said, “I’ll support whatever your decision is, but please know your father and I won’t judge you if you decide you didn’t make the right decision.”

Tears soon followed for me… and they were UGLY tears. I remember sitting on the side of my bed as I was supposed to be getting ready to go to dinner with Joe. I couldn’t stop crying. Just when I thought I had pulled myself together, I would sit back down and heave some more. I called my doctor the next day and he put me on Lexapro. It quickly turned everything around for me. I was able to handle the outside stress a lot better, but I unfortunately found out that with the happy feelings that had returned, I was also steadily gaining weight. Because I had knee surgery a few months prior (right after my 40th birthday!!), exercise was still a challenge.  Plus the Lexapro made me so sleepy. Or at least I thought it was the Lexapro. I went for my physical and discovered that my thyroid was underactive.

It was January when I started seeing old friends from high school who were having success on a Nutritional Cleansing System. I listened as one friend told me about it and I thought it was too good to be true and too expensive. I had done Weight Watchers online for a couple of months but had only continued to gain weight, so I went to see a Nutritionist so I could try to lose on my own without spending the money. We did a metabolic test and she told me that my metabolism is fast and that I actually burn more calories in a resting state than the average woman. She told me how many calories to have to lose weight and she guided me on my food choices. I thought for sure counting my calories and exercising would do the trick, but I admittedly was still adjusting my calories so I could have a couple of glasses of wine at night at dinner (my biggest meal of the day). The scale kept creeping up…

IMG_4747In March I decided enough was enough. My friend Julie, who I have not seen since high school, started telling me all about this system. It again sounded too good to be true, but the more we talked I found out that I knew a lot of people who were using Isagenix. They all looked great and sang praises on Facebook of how good they felt and how amazing the products were. I was SUCH A SKEPTIC! I told Julie that I felt like she was trying to make me join a cult. I honestly thought that I would enroll and they would give me pages of quotes to use and things to say because it just seemed impossible that everyone I know REALLY likes the products this much. She kept contacting me about it until I finally realized that 1) I am clearly having no success losing the weight on my own, 2) I’m tired of being tired, 3) I have nothing to lose since you can get a refund if you are not happy with the product anytime in the first 30 days.

So I ordered the 30 day system.  Best decision for me I have made in a long time…

I couldn’t wait to receive my order and it felt like Christmas when that huge box full of goodies arrived. Julie and I talked (because since she enrolled me, she is my “Coach”) and she walked me through the products and explained day by day what I would be doing. She asked if I would be interested in sharing the products with others and I told her point blank, “I WILL NOT share this with anyone unless I learn on my own it’s the real deal. If it indeed does everything that you say it does, then I will shout it from the Facebook mountaintop!!”

Day 1 went well. I LOVED the taste of the shakes and I liked how the Ionix Supreme made me forget that I was giving up two of my loves in life… COFFEE & WINE. I had 1/4 cup of raw almonds as a mid-morning snack and had a yummy 400-600 calorie snack of chicken, brown rice, and a side salad. For an afternoon snack I had some fruit and low fat cheese, then had another shake for dinner. I went to bed completely satisfied and feeling great. Day 2 was pretty rough due to caffeine withdrawals, but I made it through by drinking over 100 ounces of water (you must drink at least half of your weight in ounces of water, so I drank even more). Day 3 was also rough because I could barely keep my eyes open. I literally thought I was going to fall asleep while sitting straight up in front of my computer at work. Again, I drank a ton of water and went to bed early. Then the strangest thing happened… I woke up at 5:45am the next morning and felt ready for my day.

You need to understand that I do not usually like to see the light of day, well, before there is light… I have always required over 8 hours of sleep and it was a struggle DAILY to wake up before 7:15am. I also noticed that I was already losing weight and feeling leaner – in FOUR DAYS. I couldn’t believe it. By day 5 I realized that this stuff was like the magic elixir for all that had been ailing me!!!!  That’s when I decided I would start telling people about it.

Ten days in I was down 9 lbs and 7.5 inches. And it only continued to get better and better. Even though it’s not recommended that you weigh yourself regularly (actually a lot of people recommend throwing the scale away all together since it’s about transforming your body with lean muscle), I was so excited to see the scale going down every day. I couldn’t believe I had been so worried about the money when, on day 14, I decided to add up how much I spent on restaurants, wine, and groceries in the two weeks prior to starting Isagenix and how much I spent the two weeks since I started.  I had already saved $257 in two weeks! Not to mention that my friends were really seeing a difference and I had already starting enrolling friends to join in my journey. I signed up four friends and made enough money to cover the first 30 days. Not only was I eating for free, but I was SAVING money!!

The success continued and I started seeing that not only did I have more energy when I woke up around 6am every morning, but my workouts started improving drastically. I have even started running again! I saw my mom the other day for the first time in a couple of weeks and she couldn’t believe how radiant my skin looks. In addition to all of these amazing benefits, I have even noticed my lips seem plumper?!?!? WHAT?????

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I am proud to say that I have been proven wrong. This is not a cult… it is an amazing nutritional system that has truly changed my life. I am NOT starving. I am consuming between 1400-1500 calories a day between two snacks (sometimes three if my workout it hard or if I workout more than once) and one healthy meal. I feel like I can accomplish so much more because of the tremendous energy this system gives me (I have anxiety and am very sensitive to the jitters, so I can tell you that what I am experiencing is energy not nervousness). As of today, only 30 days after I started, I have lost 13 pounds and 15.5 inches. That’s fantastic since I didn’t have much to lose. And today, on day 30, I ran for 35 minutes with my daughter and even did 4 X 100m sprints!!!!

Due to my success and my belief in the products, I have decided to continue using Isagenix and am even getting my family to join the fun. That’s the beauty of these products, you can use them however you need to. I know people who are doing the program to lose weight. I know some who are doing it to gain weight. I have a friend who wants to do it because she feels like she doesn’t get proper nutrition since she is always chasing around her 1 year old. My kids are all athletes, so they can drink the shakes as extra protein after a workout. My husband has even decided to try it. Everyone close to me sees what a change it is making in my life and they want a part of it.

Not only am I continuing to use Isagenix, but I am able to enroll anyone who is interested. If you can convince two friends to sign up with you, then you can start out instantly making money. So not only are you getting healthy, but you are starting your own business which can be whatever you make it. This is not a pyramid scheme, it is network marketing with a well laid out compensation plan. It’s not about who gets in first, because you are able to earn more money that someone who came in a year before you if you dedicate yourself to sharing the product with others.

I am so excited about the changes Isagenix has brought into my life – the energy, the weight loss, the calm way I approach stressors now. I’m even in the process of weaning off my medicine so I can live medicine free! I haven’t even missed the other things that I had to give up and I have replaced them with such healthy habits. I have become so much smarter with my food choices. The kicker is that I went to see my Nutritionist the other day and following my appointment she sent me a recap which said, “Continue the Isagenix regimen.” I am excited to know that she is endorsing my lifestyle change!

Spicy shrimp on a sweet potato with brussels sprouts! I love planning my meals!!!

Spicy shrimp on a sweet potato with brussels sprouts! I love planning my meals!!!

If you are interested, there is a ton of info on the internet… While some of it may be negative, all I can say is that it is clearly working for me!!!! If you are interested in learning more, please email me at ournewpartyofsix@gmail.com and we can arrange a time to talk. My website is http://valeriedeloach.isagenix.com, but please talk to me to enroll to ensure you get the best deal in case there are any promotions!!!

YAY CHRISTMAS JAMMIES!!!

‘Tis the Season

Christmas is a holiday of extremes…

It is a holiday of extreme EATING. We have what is called the “12 Days of Christmas” at our office (as pictured below) where for the twelve business days leading up to our Christmas vacation time, different people bring a meal in for everyone to enjoy. My group is preparing brunch for the office next Friday. We eat and eat and eat throughout the holiday season and then vow to do whatever we can to get the weight off by bathing suit season. Stupid bathing suits…

EVERY DAY for 12 days...

Food, food, and more food…… EVERY DAY AT WORK.

For most the holiday season is a time of extreme SPENDING. Buying gifts for family and friends can be rather costly and some people go overboard… not to mention the expense of decorating the house (which I admittedly went overboard this year and am dreading taking everything down after Christmas!) and the high cost of pretty Christmas cards. It can be rather ridiculous how much we spend and then we have to work extra hard to save money in the new year.

Emotions run high during the holidays too and so the extremes there are either true happiness or true sadness. For some, the holidays remind them of lost love or the dissolution of their marriage. As I have written before, it is very hard for some who have to spend half of the holidays without their children. I have been divorced for ten years and it doesn’t ever get easier to not have my kids with me.

This Christmas has been different for me though.  I offered to have my office’s holiday party at my house this year. Because of that commitment, I started decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving. I put up three Christmas trees and decorated every available space as tastefully as possible. Most people said I was crazy to host 50+ people in my home less than two weeks before Christmas, but as an adult with ADD, I have THRIVED with this looming deadline!

I got to work early on decorations and even purchased as many Christmas presents as I could. Because I knew my time would be limited, I worked hard under the deadline and was SO HAPPY in the process. Rather than let it stress me out, I chose to embrace it and enjoy every second of it. The decorations bring joy to my heart as soon as I wake up in the morning until I walk around turning candles off in all the windows at night. It has caused me to be filled with the Christmas spirit, which is so easy to forget about when you are a divorced parent.

Yes, I even set up a fake little tree in my bedroom and am enjoying looking at it while sitting in bed writing this morning!

Yes, I even set up a fake little tree in my bedroom and am enjoying looking at it while sitting in bed writing this morning!

I am re-posting my Christmas Wish post from last Christmas, because it is a great reminder, but I also want to encourage you all to immerse yourself in Christmas this year. Focus on the holiday spirit and what it all means, even if it’s hard to do. It’s true that we are as happy as we make up our minds to be, so MAKE UP YOUR MIND TO BE HAPPY this Christmas!!! Wrap your kids up tonight and lay in the yard and look for shooting stars. Choose a charity to help this Christmas. The kids can learn from an early age how good it feels to give to those less fortunate. Go to a Christmas show with your kids. We have a family tradition of going to a Christmas show every year and this year we have gone to TWO!! I cheesily smile through the entire show. If you can’t afford tickets to a show, then look at all of the free Christmas activities in your area. I know around here there are places you can go look at Christmas lights and there are free festivals. Play Christmas music in the car or in your home while cooking dinner. Whatever you do, make sure you are focusing on your family and making memories for your kids. You don’t want them to suffer because you are “not feelin’ it this year.”

Here is my blog, My Christmas Wish List for Divorced Families, published on 12/22/13 by the Huffington Post.

My wish for you THIS Christmas is that you focus on the SPIRIT of Christmas and feel the JOY that goes along with that. If you aren’t feeling that joy, then try to figure out what you can do differently to try to find it. Remember the wonder you felt as a child at Christmastime? You can have that feeling again if you just BELIEVE.

Here are some pics of my house this Christmas to help get you started on this journey of extreme happiness this Christmas. ENJOY MY CHRISTMAS PICS!!!!

Stress Management For The Working Mother

Originally posted today on the Huffington Post… http://www.huffingtonpost.com/valerie-deloach/stress-management-for-the_b_6139470.html?utm_hp_ref=divorce&ir=Divorce

The compliment I receive the most about my writing is that I am honest (to a fault) and that I give my readers empathy. By reading my blog, you feel that you aren’t alone. Some of you even admit that I make you feel more normal because my crazy life makes you feel better about your own situation. So overall, I guess it’s my relatability to my readers that keeps a lot of you coming back for more.

With that being said, if you relate to what I am about to write, then I will apologize in advance. Wholeheartedly… I’m sorry.

Recently our office had a doctor come in to talk about “Stress Management.” It seems whenever someone talks to me about stress I think, “I don’t really have any major stress in my life.” Then reality punches me in the face when I think about everything I face on a daily basis. Sure I don’t have any MAJOR stressors in my life, but when you have ten million small stressors, then it begins to add up significantly.

Of course some may view this as stress… others of us just view it as another normal week for a working mom in a blended family.

We have four kids at four different schools with two different custody schedules. Not to mention piano, tutoring, soccer, cross country, basketball and two girls playing tennis. Two kids had school pictures last week, which meant haircuts. Plus the end of the month in my husband’s job is exceptionally busy. He and I both will probably spend at least eight hours in the car this week carpooling kids. Every week is tough logistically, but I am proud to say we are surviving.

Although lately I haven’t handled my anxiety well, I feel like I do have plenty of coping mechanisms in place to manage my stress. As a working mom, this is what I rely on to get through the week.

1) Get By With A Little Help From Your Friends

I usually feel like I have a firm grasp on my emotions, but the past two weeks has been tough. I am not proud of it, but I have not handled my emotions well. I have yelled, I have cried, and I have overall been VERY short tempered. I met a friend for a margarita the other night and I filled her in on all of the crazy in my life the past two weeks and she said, “Val, no wonder you are struggling! That’s a lot!” Just talking everything out with her made me feel so much better. Having friends who validate you can be just what you need.

On Friday, I came home to a present at my back door:

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After hearing about my week, my sister-in-law was sweet enough to leave me a “just because” gift. When we have friends who constantly remind us of our worth, then we are rich indeed.

2) PLAN, PLAN, & PLAN SOME MORE

IMG_1941Many working moms cause themselves unnecessary stress by not being prepared for the week. As a result, they are frantically running around last minute just trying to get by. I admit I am a freak when it comes to planning, but it helps me keep my sanity!

Each week I email my babysitters a detailed email about where they need to be and when with the kids. I then copy the same email and add (in red ink) exactly where my husband Joe needs to be and when. On his email I add the weekly menu and what I will need him to do. It is truly an act of team work, but when everyone knows where they need to be, then I don’t have to worry about it.

I also suggest that you include the kids by putting a detailed calendar on the wall in your kitchen (or other centrally located place). You can even involve the other parents by creating and sharing a Google calendar. My ex-husband, his wife, my husband, our kids, and I all share a Google calendar. We can all access the calendar on our cell phones and know all important information regarding the children, even when they are not with us.

3) Allow Extra Time To Avoid Being Late IMG_1975

One of the most stressful feelings is leaving your house knowing that there is no way you will get where you are going on time. It’s that sweaty, heart racing feeling that your child may be late for an important rehearsal or practice, but there is really NOTHING you can do about it and as the parent is it COMPLETELY your fault. We can blame the kids for not being ready or for not having their bags packed, but as the adults it all falls back on us. Make sure the kids pack up their bags the night before and put them by the door. Get up earlier if you must to make sure you can leave a few minutes early.

If you are like me, then you are probably used to being right on time. I am usually not early, but I am usually on time. The problem is, if you don’t allow extra time, then traffic can wreak havoc on an otherwise well planned day. It certainly can’t hurt for your child to get to practice early. It eases stress for everyone in the car.

4) Make Time For Yourself

I know personally that it is tough for me to get up and I’m immediately plunged into “mom mode.” Two mornings a week I have to leave home at 6:15 a.m. to drive 40 minutes to drop my son off at school in another county, turn around and drive back to drop off my daughter. Then I race to work to work eight hours in my “office job.” Then it’s straight back to “mom mode” with piano lessons and basketball games and soccer games and choral performances and homework and dinner and showers. Then the kids go to bed and I shift into “wife mode” when I try to connect with my husband. Did you see what was missing?

If I went seven days a week without any “me time” then I would go absolutely insane! Because of this, it is imperative that you find some time for yourself. Whether it’s working out or reading or meeting friends for drinks. Carving out time for yourself can feel selfish, but as a working mother it is important for survival. I’m so thankful that I have a husband who understands that. He recently sent a group of my girlfriends and me to the beach for the weekend as part of my birthday present. I came back from that weekend renewed and ready to get back into the swing of my chaotic schedule.

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So lean on your friends (and even ask for help if needed), schedule religiously, add time to give yourself a buffer when going somewhere, and look out for yourself every once in a while. Working mothers juggle a ton of balls at once (especially in a blended family), so you have to find out what works for you because a happy mom makes for a happy family!

 

Shake It Off…

With four kids between the ages of 11 and 15, we hear a lot of “he said/she said” drama. In the day of Instagram and Facebook and SnapChat, our kids are constantly looking for ways to embarrass each other (and me). I always have to be on my game because at any given time one of them may snap a pic of me to send to 10 of their friends just to be funny. I’ve gotten so good at turning away quickly that there are probably millions of pictures floating around in the internet cloud of “deleted SnapChat pics” (sure… they just disappear into thin air, never to be seen again…) that look just like this:

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This need for kids to embarrass others is a common theme that we see throughout adolescence. A girl may be upset that the boy she likes doesn’t like her… but likes one of her friends. She then goes to their other friends and tells lies and ugly secrets about that friend to get the other girls not to like her and in hopes that the boy will hear the gossip and not like her too. I could give about twenty-five examples from my own childhood of that scenario playing out play by play. The friend who the boy liked gets rejected and ridiculed by all of the girls for no reason whatsoever except that she was unfortunate enough to be liked by the wrong boy.

My favorite thing to tell our kids when I hear about this kind of situation is “SHAKE IT OFF.” I can turn on the Taylor Swift song below and we can dance until we forget what was upsetting.

That seems to work for them (for now) although I realize that as the girls get into their teens it will be a lot more hurtful and harder to move past. The alienation that can happen with teenaged girls can be devastating. I have a couple of friends who still talk about that alienation and how it affected them for years.

Yesterday I heard some gossip about me that was absolute lies. I called one of my best friends who is the best sounding board of reason that I know and I said, “I know I shouldn’t care, but I am so upset that a lot of people may hear this and it is just so far from the truth! What if people believe it and don’t like me??” She said, “If you know in your heart that you have done nothing wrong, then you have to move on. If you did do something wrong, then you have to own it and apologize and then move on.” She added that real friends will talk to me before coming to any conclusions. While I know that is true, why is it so hard to swallow?

How can we teach our children to move on after having their feelings hurt when it’s almost impossible to do as an adult??? Even when we know in our hearts that we have done nothing wrong?

I saw this on another friend’s Facebook page this morning and I knew I had to include it:

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The whole world would be a better place if we all truly tried to get along rather than hold grudges and try to make others look bad. It’s not healthy for anyone to be in a war. If you know in your heart that you are saying things that are true and right and just, then you are on the right path. As Shel Silverstein said above, when we are all happy and silly and love each other, then EVERYONE WINS.

My favorite Bible verse says,

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

My goal is to shake off the gossip and focus on my amazing family. I have a husband who is not perfect, but he is perfect for me and I love him with all of my heart. I’m so proud of the communication we share and the dedication he shows to our relationship and to our family. There is not doubt we will have the best time growing old together. Most importantly, I am proud of the Christian man he is and what a good role model and father he is to our kids. We have four funny, beautiful, smart kids who make us so proud every single day. I have some of the best friends a girl could ask for who know that I would never be malicious and unkind. I have the most supportive and loving family who is always behind me 100%.

The next time my girls come to me about unkind words being said about them, I am going to encourage them to think of all of the excellent and praiseworthy things in their lives. Make a list if they need to, and pray over everything on the list. When we focus on what we have to be thankful for, then everything else is petty and insignificant.

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Triangle Style Magazine – Best Hometown Blogs

I am honored to be able to share that my blog has been featured in the newest Fall Edition of Triangle Style Magazine as one of the BEST LOCAL BLOGS!

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Triangle Style is a great magazine, so go find one today and check out my excerpt.  Thank you to Triangle Style for including me! This accolade has encouraged me to branch out a little and blog about more than just parenting issues… I am working on one right now about some of my favorite restaurants!

Click on HERE to read Triangle Style Magazine or you can click on the pics below to see the specific pages where I am mentioned. Thank you all for your support!!!!! Val

TS2  TS3

 

Anxiety and the Brain: 25 Routes to Safety

ournewpartyofsix:

As someone who struggles with anxiety, I LOVE THIS POST. There are so many helpful tools in here for anyone who deals with this beast on a regular basis. BOOKMARK IT! Val

Originally posted on Alternative Shrink (td):

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I CAN’T DO IT!!! I JUST CAN’T GO!!!” She sobs mournfully while gasping for breath. “My heart is racing, my chest feels like an elephant is sitting on it, and I can’t breathe! I think I’m having a heart attack!” “Sweetie, everything is gonna be alright. Remember your breathing exercises. You are healthy and strong, and this is your anxiety.” “You don’t understand!!!” She screams angrily “You just don’t understand!!! I am gonna die!!! I am so scared!!!

Anxiety is the sensation of fear in the absence of a real threat. Our brain responds to both fear and anxiety in the same way. In fact, all negative emotions shift the brain into survival mode, creating the illusion that our life is in danger, and then our brain prompts us to fight, run away, or mentally check out until the threat…

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If You Were A GOOD Mom, You Would Be Sad…

At the beginning of every summer I feel such a loss in my heart when the “summer schedule” begins because the kids spend every other week with their dad. As you all know, I thrive on schedules and I feel comfort in predictability, so the change is tough on me. That first week (or even two) when the kids are gone, I withdraw. Everything makes me sad and I crave to talk to them nonstop. At the beginning of this summer, I was driving alone down the road listening to my Broadway Show Tunes (as “ALWAYSSSSS” the kids say) and the song “Learn To Live Without” came on. Although it is written about divorce, I fell all to pieces. Here’s the song:

Sadly, the sentiments are the same for me in the summer… I have to learn to live without.

The funny part of it is that I don’t just miss the good stuff about the kids… I also miss the not-so-great stuff. Sure, I come home to an empty house without 5 gabillion plates and cups in the sink, but it doesn’t bring happiness to see the shiny silver at the bottom of the sink (I know?!?! I didn’t know it was shiny silver either!!!!). I miss the smell of Axe body spray in an attempt to cover up that someone REALLY needs a shower. I miss the piles of dirty clothes (even the inside-out Nike Elite socks that I have to reach my hands into to turn right side out). I miss walking up the stairs and feeling a little panic at the overwhelming smell of nail polish remover.

My first few weeks of summer are spent in mourning. I don’t know why I let the change affect me like I do, but it just happens. I have no control over it and all I can say is, “BLESS JOE’S SWEET HEART” for having to deal with me.

Then something changes.

I come home one day to an empty sink and rather than feel an emptiness, I smile. Not in a “I wish life was like this every single day!” kind of way, but in a “I can handle having no real worries for short periods at a time.”  My life goes from learning to live without them to hopping in the car on a Friday and heading out of town while knowing the kids are all taken care of.

Picture me riding down the road singing this song (bizarre video, but the song is amazing):

Last week, I received an email from a reader who is also in a blended family. Her letter said:

Hey lady!!! I have a good idea for a blog…. Hopefully I’m not the only one who feels this way. We have had all 5 kids for over a week together straight. Which we love every second of it! Then today when they all went to different homes, the feeling was such relief. Even though I miss them terribly it’s wonderful to sit down and eat without dealing with teenagers or take a walk, etc. Just wondered if that feeling was just me…. Am I alone with this?? Now I always miss them but….. It is a positive to having another house for your children to go to!

And she is right! There is a sense of relief when you come home to an empty, CLEAN house. There is peace in knowing that when you walk in the door from work you won’t be bombarded with questions – “Can we go to the mall?” “What time will dinner be ready?” “If I finish my homework, can I go fishing?” “Can we paint?” “I’m starving, can I have a bowl of cereal since dinner isn’t ready?” For me, I like that I don’t have to rush home from work, so I can go do things that make me happy. While the kids were gone last week, I went to dinner with my sister-in-law at my favorite restaurant, then went to the library and walked around looking at books until they closed. (I must be maturing if I am closing down a library instead of a bar!) It’s just nice to be able to do what you love without having to worry about the kids.

BUT THEN THE GUILT HITS.

My friend’s email hinted on this “Mother’s Guilt.” It is real. We have been trained (and our kids encourage this way of thinking) to think that we should be home and feel sad when our kids aren’t around. Joe and I went to the beach a couple of weeks ago without the kids and one of them said, “Why do you always go to the beach without us?” IT WAS OUR FIRST TRIP OF THE SUMMER WITHOUT THEM, but that one question made me feel guilty for going without them.

Let me say it loudly, YOU SHOULD NOT FEEL GUILTY FOR ENJOYING YOUR TIME WITHOUT THE KIDS WHEN THEY ARE WITH THEIR OTHER PARENT!!!! Being a mother is tough, so if you want to spend the entire Saturday in bed reading a book while your kids are at their dad’s house, then DO IT.  If you want to take a trip with your husband to New York, then DO IT.  I feel strongly that if you focus all of your energy on your children while they are with you, then you have earned the right to live your life to the fullest when they are not with you.

To stave off the guilt, I make sure to focus 100% on my kids when they are with me. When one of them speaks to me, I make sure to turn toward them and look them straight in the face. We wonder why kids always have their noses in their electronics… it’s because that’s what they see their parents doing! I also make sure to work extra hours when they are away so that I don’t have to work as much when they are with me. I understand mothers who feel guilt if they are always doing their own thing when the kids are gone, so then they have to work nonstop while the kids are with them. They don’t get to spend any quality time with their kids! That would make me feel horribly guilty too! If you do everything in your power so the kids know, wholeheartedly, that they are your priority, then you can feel free to enjoy a little quiet time away from them.

You don’t have to be sad to be a good mom. Don’t let that mother’s guilt fool you into thinking that way.

Plus, we all know that in another couple of days…. THINGS WILL BE RIGHT BACK TO NORMAL.

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Five Delicious Flavors For Summer

It is widely known that I am a stress-cooker. Not a stress-eater per se, but a stress-cooker. It is highly relaxing for me to turn up music in the kitchen and just create.

Our custody schedule switches to week on/week off in the summer, so it seems that every summer I struggle terribly the first week or two that the kids are away.  Add to that the fact that we were without my stepkids for two weeks straight too and you can understand why I have been cooking like a mad woman!  For some reason, this summer has been harder on me than normal. I have struggled emotionally with schedule changes that have kept me away from my children much more than normal.

The kids are getting to an age where they want to do fun things with friends and go to camps, but if those fun things are to take place, then I have to give up my custodial time for them to happen. I hate to give up my time, but I want them to be able to have summers they will always remember while doing fun things with their friends.

So I have been cooking… a lot.

I wanted to share five of my favorite recipes that are perfect for summer. We keep these in the fridge all summer long and they provide many meals for our family. The two things that almost made the cut were pimento cheese (if you have never tried it, please make the Magnolia’s Pimento Cheese… trust me) and chicken salad (I don’t use a recipe, but my family adores it!).

IMG_15801) Barefoot Contessa’s Orzo with Roasted Vegetables – This is summery and light. I made it this past time with fat free feta cheese and it tasted just as good. The pine nuts and basil make the dish! If you do Weight Watchers, then each serving is probably about 4 points per half a cup. It’s great with a grilled chicken caesar wrap or a turkey sandwich.

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2) Blackbean & Corn Salad with Chipotle-Honey Vinaigrette – O.M.G. There are no words to describe this.  I saw the recipe on Pinterest and thought it was worth a try.  I had no idea how I would crave this… It is THAT good.  The only thing I do that is not described in the instructions is I scraped the seeds out of the chipotle peppers first because I didn’t want the heat to be too intense for our kids. It is perfect!

3) Sassy Salsa – This is a recipe I got out of the Raleigh Junior League cookbook years ago and I use it religiously. It’s better than any salsa you can buy in the grocery store and is great on southwestern salads, blended with ranch for a tasty dressing, or as an added flavor for your scrambled eggs. It’s a simple recipe and the only thing I do differently is I use the entire small can of V-8 because I like the salsa to be more red than pink!

IMG_15794) Grilled Chicken Pasta Salad – I have shared this recipe numerous times before, but it is one of our absolute favorites!  My children would eat this every meal if I would let them. Sure there is a lot of oil and cheese, but at least it’s olive oil! I try to stay positive. I keep this in the refrigerator as often as possible because it makes an easy and quick dinner or a simple after-school snack. I have been making this recipe for so many years that I am not even sure where it originated.

5) Frozen Peach Pie – I am not sure where this recipe originally came from either but it is HEAVENLY. I remember my mom making it when I was in high school so I asked her for her recipe and made it a few weeks ago. PERFECTION. It’s perfect to make a few when it’s peach season and then whenever someone you know has a death in the family or a new baby or something, you can pull one out and WOW them!! Thoughtful and yummy.

I hope you all enjoy my favorite summer recipes. I would love to hear what your favorites are for the summer!

“YOU Are My Priority!” – Words Every Child Deserves To Hear

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We live in Raleigh, but two kids go to school in Wake Forest. One goes to school in Raleigh. One goes to school in Wendell.  I work in downtown Raleigh and Joe works in Cary. Whew….

I ordered my first Mom Agenda yesterday and I am now anxiously wishing away July so I can start using it daily.  With four kids, I have exhausted all ideas on how to keep my calendar organized.  I have used first initials and I have color codes.  I have tried online calendars and paper calendars.  I have found that I do much better with a paper calendar where I can see everything laid out at once.  I still use my shared Google calendar so that my ex, his wife, Joe and I can all be on the same page, but I am hoping this Mom Agenda will dramatically change my life!  It has been tough enough with four kids in general, but this school year is bringing about massive change for our party of six.

Two kids are in year-round schools, so they started back this week.  One is in high school and one is in middle school.   The other two are on a traditional calendar, so they will go back at the end of August.  Our life will be rocked at that time… because all four kids will be at different schools.

Yes, you read that right… four kids at four different schools.  Schools located in three different cities/towns.  I’m wondering how Joe and I will be able to keep our jobs and still get kids to and from school every day.  Not to mention all of the activities that two high schoolers and two middle schoolers have. (Why have I chosen at this time to quit drinking?)

People ask me on a regular basis how in the world we do it with four kids and different custody schedules.  I usually can answer them easily because we have just made it work.  I have got NO WORDS right now.

Until the school years are both in full swing, I am completely unsure how we will get everything done.  Hiring help is usually easy, but not when you live in Raleigh and you are asking them to drive out to Wake Forest and Zebulon.  That’s not an appealing job prospect for a college girl.  Our last sitter leased her car, so that extra mileage was a big deal.

This should be an interesting year and I am honestly tired just thinking about it, but THIS IS IT!  THIS IS LIFE!!!  Our boys only have four years left before they head out of our nest for college.  The girls will be following shortly behind them.

I want to remember every second of this.  We know we are blessed beyond measure to have found each other after all of these years and even more so because our children all love each other so much.  Not everyone gets the chance that we have to spend the rest of our lives with the true love of our life.  So until that day, when the last child hugs us goodbye and walks to her packed car, our focus is on loving our kids and making them our #1 priority in life.

I said that to Crawford while we were on our family vacation to Disney World.  She was feeling sick and so we went to sit down while the rest of the kids rode rides with Joe.  She said, “I’m sorry you are missing the ride because of me” and I replied, “Honey, you are my priority.”  The look on her face said it all.  THAT is what our kids need to hear.  They need to know that THEY are our priority.

Joe will be driving forty minutes to Wake Forest to get the kids to two different schools three days a week and then driving another forty minutes to get to work.  I will be driving thirty minutes out to Johnston County to take one child to school and then driving back in to Raleigh to take the other child to school before driving to work.  Not to mention Warren’s basketball and workouts, Will’s cross country and basketball, Hattie’s soccer and horseback riding, and Crawford’s track, piano, and basketball.

Joe and I will be driving all over Wake/Johnston counties for the next four years, but we will be doing it with a heart full of love and a smile on our faces.  The next four plus years our babies are our PRIORITY.   Does anything else really matter?  No.