Lawn Spots, Marshmallows and the Art of Patience

Self Control and Delayed Gratificationdelayed gratification

Earlier this summer, a revelation struck me while I was out in my yard attempting to grow grass. Because the grass I was trying to grow was in spots all over (102 dog piss spots to be exact), it was quite the undertaking. I took this picture right after I mowed the first time after planting the grass seed. To protect the seed and keep it damp, we chose to mow around as many of them as we could while the grass took off. I laughed out loud as I thought about how this grass growing adventure is all about delayed gratification. I have no choice but to be patient, keep watering it, add more grass seed as necessary, and wait. Then wait some more. Pray for sun. Keep on watering. And wait. I also knew I’d have to deal with my lawn looking like this for some time as improvements weren’t going to happen overnight. In fact, I knew there would be progress occurring under the surface that might take weeks for me to see. I started pondering why I found this whole task so frustrating and then I remembered; I’m not a naturally patient person.

There are many sayings that glorify the idea of delayed gratification. “Patience is a virtue.” “Good things come to those who wait.” “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”

Ask anyone who knows me well and they’ll tell you that I’m not the most patient person. When I decide I want something, I generally want it yesterday. Every time we’ve moved into a different house (and we’ve had 5 of them since we’ve been married), within a week of moving it, you’d think we’d lived there for years. I’m a typical impulse buyer because when I see something I want, I WANT it. This could largely explain my inability to clean up my diet. I see chocolate. I eat it.

You get the picture.

I am, however, a mother. I’ve potty-trained one kid and am in the midst of working with my second. I’ve tried to get my youngest son to stop biting. I attempted to nurse babies. I’ve taken pacifiers away. We’ve battled ear infections, fevers and teething. Motherhood has handed me a big ol’ pile of situations where it didn’t really matter what I wanted, I had to wait it out to see improvements.

There are things right now I’m dealing with that force me to exercise patience and self-control, even if it’s against my nature. I cut my hair short last year and I’m now growing it back out. Patience. I’m pregnant. I mean, really?!?! Patience. We’re trying to get our house ready for arrival of this child and my husband would much rather golf than tackle my amazing list. Patience. (Just for the record, he’s been pretty incredible lately. There. I gave him a genuine and heartfelt compliment. I even made it public.)

As I was out in my yard thinking about delayed gratification, I couldn’t help but think of the one area of my life though that continues to tap my patience meter: my professional life. And by professional life, I’m referring to my own businesses, not just How Mommy Got Her Groove Back but also my network marketing business. I want results. I want success. I want to help people. And I want it yesterday.

Here’s the good news: there is hope for me. And you too, if you struggle with exercising patience and self-control. We can actually learn how to stretch our ‘patience muscle’. With practice and focus, we can become better at both self-control and the intended result of delayed gratification.

To test my thoughts on this, I reenacted an experiment often referred to as the Marshmallow Experiment that was conducted by Stanford professor of psychology, Walter Mischel, in the late 1960s, early 1970s. The intent of the experiment was to test the self-control and patience of the test subjects along with their ability to delay gratification.

My test subjects were my kids, Andrew (5) and Carter (very nearly 3). In this experiment, you tell the subjects they have two choices. 1) When you leave the room, they can eat one marshmallow, which you leave on the table. OR 2) If they don’t eat the first one, when you return after a set amount of time, which in my case, was about 3 minutes, (in the original experiment they were gone for 15 minutes, but with Carter’s attention span, I doubt he still would have been at the table), they could have 2 marshmallows.

In the original Stanford experiment, they found that some kids naturally just gobbled up the first marshmallow without so much as a thought and others were able to exercise self-control and wait for the bigger reward. They then followed the journey of these children and discovered that those who were able to delay gratification did better overall in life, including achieving higher SAT scores. It’s true that one’s ability to exercise self-control, think beyond the moment and make good choices considering the long-term consequences is certainly helpful in life. It’s at the root of what allows us to reach goals, make smart choices, avoid temptations and stick to commitments.

(Note: I’m not a researcher so please don’t get yourself in a tizzy about how I didn’t choose the right variables, didn’t properly set up my controls, etc., etc. I did this simply to test my own preconceptions about patience and self-control. Plus, this video is funny. I mean really, I giggle each time I watch it.)

Watch the video below to see our experiment:

Here are my takeaways from this little experiment and what I think we can all learn as we’re pushing to achieve long-term goals.

Keep the larger goal in front of you.

In the video, you notice that I actually chose to leave both marshmallows on the table. Leaving it in their presence reminded them of what they were waiting for. At 2:36, you can hear Andrew say, “Oh, I really want one right now…” and he puts his head down on the table. Having BOTH marshmallows in front of him was the reminder that he could forgo eating the one in order to get two.

This is why I recommend a vision board. Get your goal in front of you so when you have a crappy day, you are visually reminded of the goal. It reminds you WHY you should choose delayed gratification, especially when you’re having a tough day and taking a shortcut starts to tempt you.

For me, it looks like this: I call someone I believe would be perfect for my business and they don’t see it or flat out reject what I say. People fail to show up to a meeting or a phone appointment. I get absolutely zero response on a blog post or some other work that I believe to be brilliant. I feel the fear of doing what I know I should do, so I make excuses or allow myself to be distracted by things that won’t bring me success. I start saying the following things to myself: “It would be easier to just quit.” “I wish I could just have a boss to tell me what to do next.” “I’m tired of people judging me for choosing this business.” “I’d rather watch TV than attend that event, watch that webinar, make that phone call, etc., etc.”

On days like this, I look to my vision board and I remind myself that this is just one moment. One day. The long-term goal is still there and is still worthy of pursuit. Basically, having the goal right there reminds me that this is MY goal. I have to take responsibility for it and my choices alone will dictate the outcome.

Who you surround yourself with DOES matter.

I am fully convinced that had little Carter been alone at that table, he would have snarfed up both marshmallows the second I exited the room. Throughout the video, Andrew reminded him what he’d miss out on if he ate the first one. THIS is the type of support we need around us. Someone to lovingly remind us that we’re about to do something that will derail the longer term plan. Someone to tell you the truth. Someone to encourage you. Big goals require big support.

Who is on your team? Who is your tribe? FIND THEM. You may need them at times when you’re feeling weak, uncertain or want to quit.

Get busy and you’ll forget what you’re missing out on.

I love the point in the video where the boys simply distract each other by being silly. In my business, I will find myself daydreaming about my vision, about that glorious day in the future when it all seems easy, business is great and I’m living my purpose. I have to constantly remind myself that I’m always living my purpose and when I take inspired action, my goals will come to fruition. When we simply ‘get busy’, we can often forget that we’re sacrificing anything in the short-term because inspired action feels good. And good feelings create flow. Getting busy is one of the easiest ways to thwart the negative thoughts that are standing between you and your goal.

Ensure you’re working in an environment where you trust people to do what they say they’ll do.

This idea is based on new research around the marshmallow experiment. A researcher named Celeste Kidd, a cognitive science graduate student at the University of Rochester, is the author of this new body of work. She suggests the way the kids respond is more about whether they inherently trust not just the adult that’s giving the directions, but adults in general. For example, children from backgrounds of neglect or abuse would most certainly eat the marshmallow and it ties little to their self-control.

This certainly makes sense to me and is a thought to be considered. In my network marketing business, I work for a company that I truly believe in. I believe that if I do what they show me to do, take action every day, that I’ll see the results I want to see. The environment is one that I trust.

It’s why more and more people are leaving typical jobs to pursue their own thing. There seems at times, to be little trust in management and the standard corporate structure. Companies can no longer promise that if you work 40 years at the same place, you’ll be rewarded. Those days are past.

So as you’re working toward your big goal and you feel like you’re making short-term sacrifices for long-term gains, be sure you’re working in an environment that warrants your patience.

I may always struggle a bit with patience, but while I think ‘ good things come to those who wait’, I more emphatically believe good things come to those who get clear on what they want, write a vision to get it and surround themselves with people who support those dreams. Whether it’s a business pursuit, becoming a healthier person or just all-around personal development, these goals/visions are a journey. And if you’re a mom, and you feel like you could use some guidance with this, check out Project You: Finding Yourself in the Chaos of Motherhood. It’s designed to help you get after those dreams by following a plan.

What about you? What are areas of your life where you’re not as patient as you need to be or struggle with a lack of self-control? As always, please tell me your thoughts by sharing in the comments section or on Facebook! I’ll be ‘patiently’ waiting to hear from you…

Lean Out

There’s More Than One Way to Lean

Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In” caused quite a ruckus when it was published in 2013. I’m not doing a review of that book here. You can find those anywhere on the internet. I do want to share my perspective, not so much on the book itself, but on another route that women can take to become successful and fulfill positions of leadership.

faviconI call it Leaning Out.

I believe Sheryl genuinely wants women all over the world to step into their power and she and I are in complete agreement on that. But as I read the book, I felt a bit of a defiance against it. Almost a defensiveness building up inside me that was unnerving at the time. Those feelings stem from the fact that I believe I’m perfectly capable of taking a leadership position within a company and I have. The reason I’m not still there has nothing to do with my feelings that I couldn’t be both a good mom and be a good leader. It had everything to do with the environment.

(Quick sidebar on the book: I really struggled with her view on the “partner” in your life. She claimed that in order to be a top leader, you’d need an equal partner at home. That may be perfectly true…if you’re in a corporate environment. But again, what does that mean for someone like me? I’m married to a farmer. He’s not even CLOSE to an equal partner on the homefront. I don’t believe that means I’m doomed in the leadership department unless I leave him. Which I seriously wasn’t planning on doing…at least not today.)

This past weekend, I caught a relatively new TEDtalk from the infamous Simon Sinek. His most popular TEDtalk on the topic of starting with why is not to be missed. Catch it here.

This new talk caught my attention for a few reasons: 1) I LOVE talking about leadership. It has nothing to do with titles and everything to do with influence. 2) He mentioned feelings. I often find that we are reticent to talk about feelings when discussing leadership and they are the key to awakening the capacity within people. 3) I am passionate about helping moms/women realize they can do whatever they want to do. Motherhood and work success are not mutually exclusive. It’s a both/and proposition, not an either/or. This talk reaffirmed some of the reasons I chose to ‘lean out’. While Sheryl Sandberg is encouraging women of America and beyond to lean in, I’m as much (and truthfully, if not more) in support of helping women lean out.

This TEDtalk reminded me of a children’s movie. (Happens all the time. After all, I’m a mom, right?!) It reminded me of Dreamworks “The Croods”. In the movie “The Croods”, the father, Grug, instills a belief in his family that anything new is bad. Curiosity is bad. And along with that belief, is the one that if they don’t follow the rules, they will inevitably die, so they leave their cave only to find food. They hide from the world.

thecroods

His wild and curious daughter, Eep, feels an internal struggle against this philosophy. She yearns to explore, live outside their cave and try new things.

Enter Guy. He shows their family throughout the movie that the world will continue to threaten their existence and their old ways of warding off these threats won’t continue to work. The world will change and they will have to adapt to survive.

Once they stop being so fearful and Grug starts leading his family based on trust and respect rather than fear, each of their natural gifts start to emerge. They begin to thrive instead of survive. My favorite line of the movie is from Eep, as she openly defies her father when he suggests they find another cave to live in, “That wasn’t living. That was just not dying.

OK, so stick with me here. This has EVERYTHING to do with leaning out.

I am Eep. Every leader I’ve ever worked for is Grug. We were a work unit. A team. A company. Whenever the leader’s plans or ideas, values or beliefs conflicted with mine, I felt a rebellion against it. I wanted to try new things, explore new paths and many times, I worked for people that wanted to do things ‘the way they’d always done it’.

I was being paid to do these jobs, even the work itself was fulfilling and dare I say it, I was good at it. I certainly wasn’t dying. But because I was limiting myself, hiding my gifts, not fulfilling my potential as a person and forgetting to pursue my dreams, I sure as hell wasn’t living either.

Success Requires a Tribe

Dangers are constant and they are not going away.familyfillcircle

We are not the Croods. While our literal existence may not be in danger, the uncertainty of the economy is a significant danger/threat for most people right now. Even the most ‘secure’ of jobs are being eliminated, layoffs are commonplace and restructuring is still the order of the day. Competition is a daily threat to businesses.

We cannot eliminate the threats. They are out of our control and they are scary. To ward off the threats, you become a part of a group. (Check out Grug’s Family Kill Circle on the right.)

If Done Right, Everyone Can Succeed (Not Just the Leader)

If you get the environment right, every single one of us has the capacity to do remarkable things, and more importantly, others have that capacity, too.

Simon Sinek opens this talk sharing that in times when he’s witnessed extreme acts of leadership, he always assumed they were better people. Just wired for service. That theory would suggest that there are there are two classifications of people. The haves and have-nots of success.

The truth is, we are ALL wired for success. Our success largely depends on the environment we chose to be a part of. It’s about the companies we join, the teams we’re a part of and the overall safety we feel in that group. This is where the choice to lean out becomes all the more enticing. Keep on reading…I’m getting there.

You Can’t Demand Trust

Trust and cooperation are feelings; Not instructions.

We can’t make people trust us. We can’t snap our fingers and demand cooperation. These feelings (and they ARE feelings) stem from a deep abiding belief that our leader and our co-workers have our backs. Calling your work group a tribe implies something more than just working together. It’s sharing, living, supporting, encouraging and ultimately, protecting one another. This doesn’t happen overnight or without effort, and this idea of a tribe is sorely missing from most work environments.

As the Leader, You Go First

The leader sets the tone.

As the leader of my home, I set the tone for how safe and secure my family feels. In a work group, the leader does the same. If as a leader, you have zero tolerance for mistakes, are quick to blame, or just flat out refuse to walk your own talk, you are giving people reason to mistrust you. Once they mistrust you, they start to mistrust each other and seek out support of others that feel as they do, creating factions and divisions among your organization.

People Thrive When They Can Be Themselves

If the conditions are wrong, we are forced to spend our own time and energy protecting ourselves from each other. When we feel safe inside our organization, we will naturally combine our talents and strengths and work tirelessly to face the dangers and seize new opportunities…together.

This point simply reaffirms my choice to stop working for other people. There have been several times in my employment history it became clear to me that I couldn’t/shouldn’t trust the leadership. I became a different person when I had to start thinking hard about what I said, how I said it, who I could trust, who liked me, who didn’t, who had my team’s best intentions in mind, etc., etc. All of that spent energy on just mere survival does not create an environment where people can thrive.

But, on the flip side, when we feel safe, ‘people naturally combine their talents and strengths’. There is no need to force it. It happens organically. They work together, they appreciate one another and they accomplish BIG things. Do they still face threats? Sure. But they face them together, working as a group, instead of in divided factions or silos.

Catch the full TEDtalk here:

As women, we have more business choices today than ever before. If climbing the corporate ladder is your aim, more power to you, friend. If you’re working for a company (and I know they DO exist) where you have a safe, trusting environment that allows your gifts/talents to shine, that’s awesome. (Shameless plug: If you’re a leader of a company who wants this environment and doesn’t have it, we should connect. Through my work with Dale Carnegie Training, we provide solutions to culture challenges just like this.)

But, if you’re like me, and you have a deep drive to accomplish something more and you feel like it needs to be on your own terms, just know that there are options. You too, can lean out.

I am a blogger. I am an online business owner. I am a virtual franchise owner. I am also a contracted employee for a global company. I make choices about what I do, how I do it and with whom I do it. The most important thing is that all the work I do is now in alignment with who I am. I get to just be Rebecca. I love the people I work with and I get to choose who they are. We leverage each person’s strengths and as a team, are better for it.

Since starting this blog, I can’t tell you the number of women who have reached out and told me they feel this way. I welcome those phone calls and discussions. I want to help women realize you can be a great mom and still be a driven, bright, and successful business woman. And you can find a place where you get to be you. Authentically, genuinely, beautifully you. You just need to be in the right place with the right people. (Second shameless plug: Let’s chat. I’d be thrilled to discuss opportunities with you.)

There’s never been a better time to do it. If you feel like you’ve been dying to do something like this, just do it. Take the leap. Lean out.

What do you think? What freaks you out about leaning out? This topic is such a passion of mine. I want to dialogue about this. Comment here or jump on over to the Facebook page and let’s get to chatting about it.

Here’s to your groove, whichever way you may lean!

 

 

 

2, 4, 6, 8…Who do YOU Appreciate?

Join me in the Penny Challenge!

Who couldn’t use a little more kindness and genuine appreciation in their life?

I’d like to invite you to join me in doing the penny challenge. Here’s how it works: Put 5 pennies, marbles, paper clips, etc. in your pocket at the beginning of the day. Each time you share specific appreciation with someone, move one of the objects to the opposite pocket. By the end of the day, your goal is to move all of the objects to the opposite pocket. My personal goal is to do this challenge for 30 straight days. I was inspired to do this for several reasons.

penniesI believe we’re an appreciation challenged society.

We see things we like, admire and even value, but rarely do we open our mouths to give voice to it. The people in our lives are craving it. (Even if they claim they don’t need it.)

People want to be valued for who they are, not just what they do.

After I had a few days to cool down after my mom meltdown, I was able to articulate to my husband that I often feel like I’m just a sum of the roles I play, i.e. wife, cook, gardener, nanny, housekeeper, etc. I told him that since he could hire those jobs to be done by someone else entirely, it gives me no understanding of what he actually appreciates about me. I needed to know what it is about me specifically that makes him love/value/respect me. That’s exactly what other people in our lives deserve as well. So, articulate it.

Gratitude IS an attitude and one that needs practicing.

On most given days, there are many, many things to admire/appreciate. And yes, while you’re on the floor in a puddle, you may not see much, but on an average day, there’s gotta be something. This challenge reminds you to look for it. The physical presence of the pennies reminds you to be watching. If you find you’re not moving them, perhaps you’re focusing on what’s not working or what people are doing wrong. This clearly helps us stay out of judgement of others as well.

Appreciation allows for connection.

One of the hardest things about being a mom is the loneliness we all feel at times. Working in an office setting, this challenge should be relatively easy. You’re surrounded by people, whether they are co-workers, clients, vendors, suppliers, etc. Taking the time to honor someone for who they are is an instant means of connection with that person. For me, this simple act can combat the loneliness I feel working from home. This can help the stay-at-home mommies, too. You can give appreciation over Facebook, email or text, if you won’t physically see them. The point is that you’re on the lookout for the good. And I mean, really?? Our kids can’t be ALL bad, right? One or two of those pennies could be moved just for them.

I would love to hear what you think about this and if you’re doing the challenge, give me a shout on my Facebook page every now and then! I’ll occasionally post how I’m doing, too. Some unnamed quote has floated around Facebook and while I can’t attribute it to a specific person, I can and will share it: Kindness is free. Sprinkle that shit everywhere. :-) Happy sprinkling!

Why I’ve Been MIA

My Mom Meltdown and What it Taught Me About Shame

I haven’t posted a blog update in a couple of weeks, which isn’t typical for me. I blog to invite you into my life and heart. There are several reasons for this: 1. There’s a catharsis for me in writing. It cleanses me of my thoughts and since I work from home and don’t interact with people as much as I’d like, it gives me a way to connect with others. 2. I want to help people. I especially want to help moms. If something I write can make them feel just a little less batshit crazy, then I feel like I’ve accomplished something worthwhile. 3. We NEED each other. This motherhood road is far too treacherous to try and navigate alone. I learn something every day from the women who read this blog.

So, what does a person do when they don’t feel they have anything to offer? How do you put something on paper when you’re feeling so dark and down about your current situation that you can’t imagine sharing it with anyone else? Well, that’s what happened to me this past Saturday. I had a nuclear breakdown of epic proportions. The couple of weeks leading up to it and what happened that day are what I’m going to share today. The only purpose of this post is to remind you that shame only remains shame when it’s kept in the dark. So, bring on the light.

Spring is always a very difficult time for my family. My husband is a farmer and he sells seed. While I would never claim to understand what a military spouse or single mother have to contend with, I do believe that many of us have faced times when we had to be mom, dad, plumber, carpenter, cook, gardener, etc., etc., etc. How long this lasts isn’t the issue. It sucks even if it’s a day. My world becomes that every spring. This was the hardest spring on record since moving here with the exception of the year we had Andrew in the spring and I suffered postpartum depression.

I just didn’t feel like I could manage it all. Every day, I felt like I ran around taking care of the yard, making plans for the new baby room that needs to be built, just keeping my two boys alive and of course, working on my 3 businesses in the midst of it all. I like being busy, so it wasn’t really the work. It was that I had NO ONE to share it with. NO ONE to bounce ideas off of. NO ONE to just talk to. Working from home doesn’t allow me to physically see many people. And frankly, my kids don’t count. Sorry, they just don’t. With a lack of people to share the burden with, life starts to become really heavy. And truthfully, this isn’t anyone’s fault. The yuckier I felt, the more I started to feel myself retreating from the people that were there. It was last Saturday that the weight of it all nearly broke me.

lonelinessI woke up and it was raining. That was exciting! I knew I’d get time with Jeremiah to sit and visit with him about all the things I’d been thinking about and needed his input on. He was really tired so he slept late. I got this kids up, like I always do, got them breakfast and we played for a while. It was late in the morning when I finally went in to visit with him. Well, let’s just say it didn’t go well. He was annoyed that I was bombarding him with questions, which in turn, made me annoyed that he couldn’t see how desperately I needed to talk to him. All my pent-up feelings and let’s be honest, resentment, bubbled over and I started to cry. He looked at me and said, “There’s no reason to cry about this. Just quit fretting about this stuff.” Hmm…not exactly what a hormonal, emotionally spent mom needs to hear. I walked to our bathroom, closed the door, left the light off and bawled on the floor for a LONG time. As I laid there in a puddle of tears, snot, sweat, resentment, guilt, shame, fear and unworthiness, here are the thoughts that ran through my mind, in no particular order:

I don’t want to be a farmer’s wife anymore. I don’t want THIS life anymore. I can’t bring another baby into this world. This chaos. This mess. I obviously can’t handle what I’ve got. I take care of EVERYTHING around here. What the hell does he even value about me and how can he tell me to not cry and not fret? Is this all there is….really?? Why can’t I get my shit together? The other women I know in this community don’t have nervous breakdowns every spring, so what’s wrong with me? Why do I have to be so Type-A? Why can’t I just relax and let things slide a little? I bring a lot of this on myself by being such a perfectionist. I shouldn’t be feeling this way. I should be grateful. I have so much to be thankful for, why am I struggling to see it? I need to leave. Maybe I should just run, but where would I go? Where can I go? I need to talk to someone, but who I can trust with all of this? Who can I turn to that won’t judge me and tell me to suck it up. I wish I could have a drink. I understand why people drink and use drugs to numb the feelings. These feelings SUCK. Some f’ing role model I am. Why would people want to work with someone who doesn’t have it together? I’m a fraud. I’m trying to encourage and support other moms and look at me. I’m worse than a hot mess. How Mommy Got Her Groove Back, really, Rebecca? I’m 100% groove-less. I couldn’t see my groove if it smacked me in the forehead. I’m a pregnant, snotty, pile of crap on the floor. If people knew how screwed up I am, they’d never read another word I write or buy another minute of time with me. I am a FAILURE.

Pretty gross, right? I laid there thinking these things and I knew I had to talk to someone. The problem is the list of people I would trust with this kind of ugly is a short one. I went in and told Jeremiah that I was leaving. (I have to admit, I got a slight shot of satisfaction when he looked a bit terrified, because I said leaving like I wasn’t coming back.) I told him I just needed to go for a drive. He tried to get me to stay and I just pulled away and walked out. I called one of my friends from Fargo. I was bawling so hard that I could barely speak, but she listened, told me it was OK, told me I wasn’t alone and let me just ‘be’. It was exactly what I needed. I came back home and carried on.

Now that some time has passed, I have given a lot of thought to writing this post. I feel naked and vulnerable sharing my innermost thoughts. But, I know that true connection requires vulnerability. In fact, it demands it. So, I want to share the biggest takeaways I had from this past 6 weeks. I’m sharing them to remind you that no matter how much we grow as people, there will always be times when we just want to hide from the world. And that’s OK.

No one has their shit completely together.

We are human. We screw up. We feel. We feel really ugly, nasty thoughts. We have dark private moments that we swear we’ll take to the grave with us. Unfortunately, we also live in a world where putting on a good face and pretending everything is OK is the expected thing to do. We tell ourselves that to be fully accepted, we need to be smiling, happy-go-lucky women who only praise the blessings of motherhood. And this is the root of shame. It reminds me of the lyrics from Miranda Lambert’s song, “Run and hide your crazy and start acting like a lady. ‘Cuz I raised you better, gotta keep it together, even when you fall apart…” I know that was my family’s approach. Buck up. Be strong. Don’t dwell on it. When we force ourselves to keep it together, the shame, guilt and resentment we’re feeling threaten to overtake our lives. We can’t possibly move through that pain without facing it directly and sharing the weight with someone.

There is nothing that we ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ do.

The meltdown thought that nearly broke me is: I should be grateful. The problem with this should’ing all over ourselves is that we aren’t honoring our feelings when we deny them or attempt to not claim them. This becomes our guilt. There’s almost nothing worse than feeling bad about feeling bad. We HAVE to acknowledge and honor the feelings we have if we want to move through them. The best way to do that is to find a person who will let you feel it and not pass one ounce of judgment when you’re down in the pit.

You NEED a person. Who’s YOUR person?

You need at least one person in your life that you can be completely ugly in front of. The following are the biggest fears I had when trying to decide who I could share my darkness with:

  • Hearing the words, “Well, at least”….(insert other lesser situation here), i.e. “Well, at least you have a husband”, or “Well, at least you can have children”. All of these ‘at leasts’ can be taken to a ridiculous degree to where you should feel guilty about drinking bottled water because there are people on the planet that don’t have access to clean drinking water. Big picture? Yes. I am blessed beyond what I deserve. But in my own dark moments, the last thing I need is to be reminded that someone has it worse because it only adds to the darkness by piling on guilt.
  • Reading on her face that she couldn’t relate at all. Seeing that lack of understanding or empathy would shut me right back down.
  • That whoever I shared it with, especially if I shared it with someone right here in my town, would assume my marriage was on the rocks and rumors would start to spread that I wanted to divorce my husband. Now, in the end, does this really matter? No, it doesn’t, but the fact that the thought even entered my mind was enough for me to choose someone who didn’t live right here.
  • That the person would try to ‘fix’ me. You can’t fix a situation like that. You just need to listen. And perhaps offer a hug.

There are just a few of the things that I considered as I reviewed my short list of confidantes. You need to have someone. Everybody needs someone.

You are not a fraud.

You can be a fantastic PTA mom and a terrible cook at the same time. You can pride yourself on having a clean home and pay to have a housekeeper. You can stick to a rigid immunization schedule and still feed your kids chicken nuggets 4 times a week. I can be a personal/professional development coach and still have an epic breakdown in my bathroom. All at the same time. You know why? Because there is no one right way to be. As a mom. As a woman. As a human. We are supposed to be a big ol’ mess of contradictions. We were designed that way. We are saint and sinner. We are lover and fighter. Embracing these contradictions doesn’t make you or I a fraud. It makes us beautiful. Authentic. Relatable. Whole. Never, ever tell yourself you’re not worthy because of an apparent contradiction. Those of us that don’t seem to have them, are simply hiding them.

Refusal = Pain

In your darkest moments, pain is going to come whether you like it or not. Refusing to accept who you are or trying to resist what you feel, makes the pain almost unbearable. When we accept that life will not be rosy (and it won’t) and that our feelings won’t always be pleasant (and they won’t) and that we are just fine the way we are, Type-A perfectionists included, (and we are), life won’t seem quite as daunting. Whenever I have those thoughts of Why do I have to be this way?, I remind myself that this is just who I am. I am a feeler. And I mean, a BIG feeler. I couldn’t change that if I tried. I like order and I dislike chaos. Sometimes this serves me, sometimes it doesn’t. If you’re struggling with how you behave or the choices you makes, that’s a different story. We can be intentional about making changes towards doing better. But, it’s to important to accept your God-given being. He created you just the way you are to be just that. You. And, from my vantage point as a Christian, God believes I’m worth the price He paid for me. Who am I to disagree with Him?

The last takeaway I want to share is something I’ve shared in several ways and through several mediums, but I actually thought about her words while I was shaking on the floor last week. Brené Brown’s TED talk “The Power of Vulnerability” has helped me through some yucky situations and truthfully, it gave me the courage to write this blog. Just set aside 20 minutes and watch it. There’s no way as a human being, you won’t find some comfort in it. Listen for the segment on selective numbing. That’s why we have to allow ourselves to feel the full spectrum. We can’t actually choose what to feel and what not to feel. Watch it below:

Secondly, I highly recommend her book. “The Gifts of Imperfection”. Clearly, I need a re-read but it’s one that really affirms the power of being you. And embracing the fact that none of us has it all together.

From my heart to yours, just know that I want to see you. The real, unkept, hot-mess you. Because who you are is beautiful, loveable and worthy of belonging. As always, comment here or share it with others. Let’s continue to shed some light on this stuff. It only remains shame when we keep it in the dark.

Things I’m Thinking About Now That I’m Having a Girl…

Having a Girl…

FinalRevealTo our utter delight and undeniable shock, we discovered last week at our 22 week ultrasound that we are in fact, having a baby GIRL!! Not only did I burst into tears of joy, gratitude and again, shock, but I took a moment to revel in the peace I felt knowing that God, of course, had a plan for our family and this little miss was meant to be a part of it.

While I’m completely thrilled with this discovery, I also started feeling some serious trepidation. This isn’t even just the typical “girls are sassier” and “they won’t even like you for a large chunk of their youth” kind of anxiety. This anxiety was of the serious nature that I spend time researching, coaching others towards, and basically, devoting my life to. The most important thing I want my baby girl to know is this: She is enough.

So, this got me to thinking. It’s always great when you have to put your money where your mouth is, right? With boys, I still believe my modeling sets the ultimate example for them, but truthfully, I always felt a little ‘off the hook’ because my husband will be the one they’ll more likely model themselves after. (Please note: this is in no way meant to diminish mine or any other mom’s role in the lives of our little dudes…this is just a fact in my home.)

I wanted to share the things that I currently struggle with and what changes I believe I’ll need to make in order to set the best example for her.

I don’t always love my outer appearance.

I’m going to have to quit with the “thunder thighs” talk and bitching that my boobs aren’t big enough. I’m going to have to start practicing the art of being thankful for what this body of mine has done for me. And learn to accept it as it is and consider it beautiful. Those little messages make for BIG impressions on little girls. The last thing I want is a 5 year old telling me she shouldn’t have a piece of chocolate because she’s watching her weight.

I’m entirely too hard on myself.

I find myself being so self-critical when I screw up. That’s right…the perfectionist gene is strong in me. I don’t want my little girl to not take risks for fear of looking stupid or “making a mistake”. As we all know, mistakes are the best way to learn. I want to show her the value in trying all sorts of new things while also realizing that it’s OK to not be awesome at everything.

I care way too much about what others think of me.

This has plagued me for most of my life and while I’m working through it, I feel compelled now that I’m carrying a daughter to keep those crappy feelings at bay. I can already hear myself saying, “What other people think of you is none of your business, honey.” Then, she’ll roll her eyes and tell me I’m lame.

I hate being thought of as bitchy, bossy, etc., etc…

And yet, I aim to be a confident woman and when women are, we are often misdiagnosed as those things and then some. Chances are, my little girl will have a fire in her spirit. I’d find it cosmically unlikely for her to be any other way. All the time I was growing up, these things were said about me and likely, they still are. I really am not sure how to teach a young woman to be OK with it, either. It doesn’t feel good to be labeled like that, but living a lesser life than you’re capable of surely doesn’t either. So, we’ll be bitchy together. And dramatic. And probably, a little bossy. But, the goal is to show her to be confident and proud of the choices she makes and the person she is.

I still feel like a “less than” woman at times.

Granted, none of us reaches a point when we’re done. And by done, I mean a finished and completed project. We will all keep learning and growing. I just have a long way to go towards self-compassion with my flaws. We all have them and we all struggle with the things we perceive to be our shortcomings. I still get stuck in comparison mode in which I think about how awesome other moms are and wish I could be more like them. This is one of the LAST things I want to pass on to my daughter. We’re only competing against the person we were yesterday. Again, we might be working through this one together.

I’m sure some of you are questioning what kind of psycho thinks about things like this when their baby is only 23 weeks old. And I guess, a psycho like me. My whole energy has shifted now that I know it’s a girl. And I will continue to take these things seriously as I will now be that little girl’s person.

For all you moms of girls out there, I’d love to hear if your energy shifted or your feeling of responsibility increased when you found out you were having a girl? All I know at this point is, our home will never be the same. And while yes, I have fears about screwing her up, we truly couldn’t be more excited about her arrival this September.

 

Love Notes for Moms This Mother’s Day

Love Notes for Moms This Mother’s Day

You know, in case there’s no one to tell you, or the people that should, won’t.

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MomLoveNotes

  • You are not fat. In fact, your ass looks amazing in your yoga pants.
  • Showering every day is optional. A little perfume and a hat go a long way.
  • It’s totally acceptable to buy treats instead of making them from scratch for damn near any occasion.
  • It’s OK to holler. At least sometimes.
  • Bribery works, therefore, it’s often required.
  • You can disregard any advice given to you by nearly anyone. Especially when said advice was entirely unsolicited.
  • Don’t take it personally; Your kids will be naughtier, rowdier and whinier for you. Because you’re the mom.
  • It’s not only allowable, but straight-up pragmatic to only shave the parts of your legs that show. Full leg shaving can be reserved for anniversaries.
  • If you’ve ever wished you could get in your car and drive far away, never to return, you’re in good company. And it’s OK to say it out loud.
  • You’re normal for questioning if you’re really cut out for this job.
  • If your kids wake up before you’re ready for them to be, you can allow them to entertain themselves with an iPad or other device. Sleep is crucial for survival.
  • You’re doing a great job.
  • The kids hail from two sets of genes – blame the other party for the irritating traits.
  • A drink a day has proven health benefits…just imagine the benefits to having several?
  • You’re a better mom than you think you are.

No matter how you feel, the choices you make, the rules you set or the rules you break, this whole mom can get pretty rough; Just do your best. You are enough.

Happy Mother’s Day from this mommy to you! May your day be filled with lots of reminders that you are an amazing mom!

Should I Jump? How To Know When It’s Time to Leave Your Full-Time Job

Are You Really Ready to Leave Your Full-Time Job?

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I am always curious what people who read my blog want to know about me. Today, I received yet another email from someone asking me this question, so I figured it was high time I address it already. The question is this:

How did you know it was the right time to jump into your business and leave your full-time job?

While this question will be answered by every entrepreneur differently, I’d be happy to share how I went about my process and what led up to me taking the plunge and leaving my comfy, full-time, salaried job with benefits.

I’ll write this like a timeline and include what I was doing, how I knew I needed the shift, etc.

1 Year Before:

  • I knew I needed to leave. An entire year out. I didn’t know what I was going to do for sure and I didn’t know what it would look like, but it was this far out when I started really feeling like I needed to make a change.

9 Months Before:

  • I joined my network marketing company to do alongside my full-time job. Initially, balancing it was tough, but I managed it by deciding how much I was going to to commit to doing each each week (in terms of hours) and stuck with it. This didn’t provide me with replacement income that was on scale with what I was earning at my job, but it got me into a different mindset, introduced me to other people who have a bend for entrepreneurship and got me back into dreaming about what I really want again. I personally believe every person on the planet can benefit from being involved in network marketing. (That’s a blog post for a future date.)

4 Months Before:

  • I rejoined my team at Dale Carnegie. I started teaching courses in the evenings, after my full-time responsibilities. In terms of balance, this became a bit trickier. I was definitely spending less time with my family than I wanted, but again, I was making steps in the right direction because even then, my groove was starting to return.
  • I started laying the groundwork for what How Mommy Got Her Groove Back might look like. I started journaling daily and writing rough business plans.

The Month Before:

  • Nothing was really changing in my life at this point, other than I felt literally unable to move forward with my business ideas. I had WAY too much on my plate and truthfully, I didn’t have the mental space left over to make any real plans.
  • I resented my work and the brainpower it took to accomplish it.
  • I felt stuck and held back from using my full range of talents and potential.
  • I found myself unable to dream beyond what I had in front of me.
  • Money concerns started really creeping in and I started having self-doubts.
  • I cried on my way to my full-time job. (Several times.)

It. Was. Time.

Primary considerations:

I never wanted to be a person wearing ‘golden handcuffs’ and that’s exactly what I’d become. The paycheck was so good that the idea of leaving it was very daunting. Here’s what I had to get in order before making the leap along with other thoughts/questions I considered.

  1. Financial: We upgraded our home. A great home had come up for sale so this wasn’t in the immediate plan, but it was important for me to keep my salaried job so we could secure decent financing. The payment was never the issue but securing the best financing with the best rate possible may have been. For you, this may look different, like paying off a specific bill, saving a specific amount, etc.
  2. Benefits: I explored our options for medical insurance. This didn’t prove to be as hard as I originally thought. Bottom line is that we have catastrophic coverage in place in the event of something, well, catastrophic. (We chose Medica. They are located in Minnesota and through all the changes I’ve seen since being with them for the past year, they have been phenomenal to work with.) I figured giving up the 401(k) would be tough, but investing in myself seemed like a better proposition overall.
  3. Budgeting: I looked at our monthly budget. I actually took the time to write the entire thing down. I found over $700 worth of expenses that could be eliminated, one of which was an extra day of daycare for my kids. They are now home with me on Fridays and that has been just awesome. (It’s also important for me to mention that this wasn’t the first time I had been self-employed. I was ‘going back’ not really ‘jumping in’. Not to say that it was easier, but to some degree, it was, because I’d already lived it.)
  4. Worst-Case Scenarios: The most important question for me to ask about the entire situation financially was: What’s the worst that can happen? If I give this a year and I fail, am I unemployable? No, I’m not. Will I be able to find another job? Sure. The perfect one? Maybe, maybe not. But I’ll find SOMETHING. I’d do whatever it took to make sure my family was secure.
  5. Support System: It’s also really important to consider who you’re bouncing the ideas off of when making this decision. I have some extremely risk-averse people in my life. Asking them what they think wouldn’t have served me at all. So, make sure you’re not sharing your dilemma with everyone because you’ll get so many opinions, you won’t be able to process the input. Besides this, there a lot of people out there who would never leave a great job with great pay and great benefits. The security of these ‘stable’ jobs can often be an illusion anyway, and I deep down believe that some of us are just wired to do our own thing.
  6. Time Management: Have a plan for how you’ll structure your day. Having complete freedom over your schedule sounds like the most wonderful thing imaginable but if you’ve always had someone telling you what to do, the complete freedom can completely overwhelm and derail you.
  7. Exchanges: Be aware of other exchanges you’ll have to make. (This is different from sacrifices in that they aren’t permanently given up, just exchanged in the short term.) In our case, we weren’t all that attentive to our monthly budget. Now, I am more intentional about buying things on sale and I question new items in our home more than I did before. Truthfully, the simplicity of it all has been a welcome change.
  8. Tax Planning: Ensure you have a good accountant who can start you off on the right foot to ensure you’re setting your business up appropriately and that you start immediately keeping the proper documentation so your life is easier when you sit down to do your taxes. I love Expensify for keeping receipts, mileage logs, etc. I reconcile everything monthly and make notes as to what my meetings were for. At tax time, I simply go into the account and print out the reports. Super easy. My accountant is pleased as well.
  9. Perfectionism: This might be the one thing that is holding most people back. When we focus on being perfect at everything, we aren’t allowing for the unknown surprises to bless us. You’ll NEVER have it all figured out. That’s part of the journey and the awesome thing is that you figure it out as you go. The entire focus of How Mommy Got Her Groove Back has shifted since I started the blog in October of 2013. You have to be open to change and adapt to what people want.
  10. Resources: I want to share all the sites I frequent for advice on running a successful online business, along with a little bit about why I love them. Truthfully, running a business can be brutally overwhelming, especially if like me, you’ll be doing all the heavy lifting yourself. But, there are tremendous resources out there and here are the ones I appreciate.
  • Pat Flynn at Smart Passive Income: He actually posts his monthly earnings statement from his online businesses so he’s the real deal. He has a great blog with tons of archives and he does a podcast. He’s just a normal guy trying to help the rest of find our genius.
  • The guys over at Fizzle: Not only are they witty and snarky, they know their stuff and they make their audience feel as though we can be successful by building a small following. It’s a slightly different twist than the typical ‘build your list, build your list’ cheers you hear from other online marketing gurus.
  • Michale Hyatt: He, too, has built a coaching business helping others become successful online. His stuff is also real and relatable.
  • Natalie MacNeil at She Takes on the World: Natalie’s young and spunky so she’s fun to listen to. She leverages other successful mentors to bring real value to her audience.
  • Marie Forleo: Also young, vibrant and her videos at Marie TV make you feel like she’s your girlfriend. You’ll love her stuff as well!
    • The one side note I want to make regarding these few resources is that none of them are mothers. This is one of the reasons I felt compelled to start my business. Being a mom is a full-time job in itself, but I believe when people have a vision for their lives they believe in, the right support system and a realistic expectation that this will be a marathon and not a sprint, moms all over the world can create a life they want, being unconventional and forging their own path.

After I officially left, I spent countless hours planning for the launch of my business. The time and devotion it took for me to launch could not have been done while working full-time. This was the primary realization that led to me jumping before I felt I was ‘ready’. Are there still days that freak me out? Sure. But overall, I haven’t regretted my decision a single day since. I’m still involved in all 3 businesses and while managing our household can be a challenge, they all bring me joy and all serve to fulfill my vision for myself and allow me to make the impact on others that I feel I was put here to do.

Ultimately, make sure you know what you’re after. Write a vision statement. Here are two links to previous blog videos I created to help you: Video #1 and Video #2. Think about what your ideal work looks like, who’s being impacted by it and what does that impact look like? How will you feel doing that work? If after doing that, you look at your current job and realize there’s NO WAY it will allow you to achieve your vision for your life, maybe it’s time to make a change.

I’d love to hear more from you! What other concerns/questions do you have about starting your own thing?

In the end, we’ve all heard that we only regret the chances we didn’t take. I, personally, am not much of a fan of wondering. Jump in. The water’s beautiful.

Blessings From My “Fun Dad”

Blessings From My “Fun Dad”

20140424_154152This Monday, the man who I affectionately referred to as my “Fun Dad” left this world to be with his Lord. Lyle was so many things to so many people and as I’ve spent this week reflecting on the blessings I came to know from his presence in my life, I decided to honor his memory by sharing a few of them.

Lyle was a man of great faith. We say that about a lot of people and while I’m sure that’s true, what I loved the most about him is he actually lived that faith out loud. In particular, the following Bible verses are the ones I believe he reflected in his daily life.

Ephesians 6:2 – “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”

Lyle set an incredible example of what it means to honor his parents. Raising his own family right next door to his parents, I really think this had a huge influence on his own boys. His kids and eventually, his grandchildren. saw the reverence he had for his own parents and in turn, respected him the same.

Matthew 19: 5-6 – “For this reason a man shall leave his mother and father and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

As much as Lyle was devoted to his parents, his first devotion after being married was to his wife. For me, this is probably one of the greatest blessings the two of them bestowed on the world. They had the most connected, holy and sacred relationship I’d ever had the privilege to witness. I’m sure they still had their moments like every couple does, but the deep love they shared was evident to everyone that knew them.

Some of my favorite things about them as a couple were simple things, like the fact that he liked it when they outfits matched. (My husband has actually changed his shirt before church if it was in the same color family as mine.) He liked to shop for her. He liked picking things out for her to wear, including shoes. And the best part was how proud she was to wear them because she knew her man had chosen them special for her.

20140424_154216Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, 4 – “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven; a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot; a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

Hard work is something that was a way of life to Lyle and his family. While raising animals and taking care of a farm is certainly hard work, he also knew how to relax and enjoy small moments with people he loved. Lyle had the single best sense of humor of anyone I’ve known or will likely know again. He could be serious when the moment called for it, but luckily for us, most moments didn’t and we got to experience the bizarre humor only he could bring. He worked hard, played hard and just lived hard.

1 Corinthians 6:19 – “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”

Honoring the Lord with our bodies is not something that we see too much of today. Lyle was an advocate for health and took pride in caring for the gift of his physical body. His commitment to his health didn’t stem from vanity but rather from a respect that this body is the only one we’re given.

Proverbs 3:5 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

When things were tough for their family, Lyle turned to God in prayer. Their home was a household of faith and together, they served the Lord in good times and in bad. This is also the verse that continues to grant us peace as we mourn the loss of this great man. We won’t always understand why things happen the way they do, but we trust that God has a plan and through that plan, we will be blessed.

Because Lyle lived in his life in such lockstep with God’s plan for us as people, it’s easy to see the blessings that I, and others, received from having him in our lives.

What’s not so easy to remember, until of course, something like this happens, are the simple things we can do to make the most of life. Here is a quick list of to-do items that I’ve been reflecting on lately:

  1. Be grateful for your health. And do what you can to preserve it.
  2. Quit waiting for “someday”. Whether its a trip you want to take or a memory you want to make, don’t make excuses. Make it happen. As it’s said, “There are 7 days in a week, and someday is not one of them.”
  3. Hold your loved ones close and say what you need to say. If there’s someone you need to forgive, get on with it already. If there’s someone deserving of an apology, don’t waste another minute hesitating. Say the ‘I love yous’ and give the hugs freely.
  4. Quit worrying about what others think about you and be the person you want to be. You know the people who love you and will support you unconditionally. They matter. Everyone else are just bystanders and don’t deserve a role in your life.
  5. Laugh more. Life is funnier than you realize. And if you’re not laughing enough, take stock of who you’re spending time with and find some uplifting people to be around.

There’s no post I could ever write that would sum up how I feel about Lyle. I called him my “Fun Dad” because he was as important to me as a dad, but he didn’t have to deal with raising me so he didn’t get frustrated with me like my actual parents did. I was a dramatic and rambunctious girl and he thought it was great. He always made me feel valued and loved and that’s the memory I’ll cherish.

My hope is that this post will serve as a gentle reminder to us all that as we live, others are being influenced. It’s up to each of us what that influence will be so choose to be a good one. Focus on what matters. Live as if there is no tomorrow.

Until we meet again, Fun Dad…

Letting Go of the How

Letting Go of The How

In this video post, I share the 6-step process for affirming your vision from “Thoughts Become Things”, a video from Mike Dooley, founder of www.tut.com. I highly encourage folks to sign up for his inspirational “Notes from the Universe” and check out his other material, too. He’s a good one!

My favorite part of the 6-step process is in step 6, which includes releasing yourself from the how or as Mike calls it, the “cursed how”. I get entirely too hung up on which path to take and after watching this video, I felt a peace and calm about not having to have all the answers. It reminds me of Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will direct your path.”

Being the control freak I am, this is a very comforting passage, in particular, the “lean not on your own understanding” part. I am involved in 3 businesses and they are all richly blessing my life. What tends to happen is that I spend all my time trying to determine the “how” of my businesses. If I try to direct my own path by questioning which to focus on, I limit my ability to be blessed by all 3. Clearly, these opportunities came to me for a reason and taking inspired action that feels good, right and aligned with who I am is all I am asked to do. Watch the video below and please feel free to comment!

I hope you find this information valuable and if so, please share it with others! If you have other tips for affirming your vision that have worked for you, I’d love to hear them. From my home to yours, I hope you have a blessed Easter.

 

I Survived My First “Friend” Birthday Party

Surviving the “Friend” Birthday Party

Andrew turns 5 today. This was the year when a lot of his little friends starting having him over for birthday parties. Naturally, this led him to ask if he, too, could have a few friends over for his. So, in talking with one of my neighbors, whom I admire as a mom of 5 and has been through this many times, she shared that they’d let their kids have the number of friends over that equaled the number of years they were turning. So in our case, 5 friends for 5 years. That seemed reasonable to me, so I asked Andrew who he wanted over and it turned out, there were exactly 5 little dudes on the list.

This past Friday, I had said dudes over at my house. I picked them up right after preschool at 11:30 and kept them until between 4 and 5. Now, yes, this may have been my first mistake, but I felt confident as a trainer who manages a classroom of adults that I could handle this. As it turns out, I may not be a Pinterest party planning mom, but I’m pretty good at organizing games. I wasn’t going to share this post but then, like some sort of omen, this article popped up on Facebook today: http://www.scarymommy.com/birthday-parties-suck/. Apparently, we all struggle a bit when it comes to party planning. I’m going to share my thoughts on this article, point by point, but also what I did for Andrew. If this blog can help one mom feel less stressed over party planning, then I’ll feel like I accomplished something today.

First off, please realize that the snarky tone of this article is generally right up my alley. As I read through it though, all I see are the typical comparison issues cropping up. We lose sight of the who the party is for and we get stuck in ‘one-upper’ mode. It just doesn’t have to be that way.

  1. I don’t think parties need to be extravagant. I think it’s possible to set limits. The biggest reason we struDSCN4460ggle with the money issue is that we don’t want our kids to have parties that are more lame than their friends. If we’d stop comparing and set boundaries with our kids, I don’t think this would be an issue.
  2. I generally hate the goody bag, too, but for this party, I gave them things that Andrew actually likes. And, I put one item in there solely for the purpose of this cute picture. I mean really, little dudes with mustaches? How can you hate on that?
  3. I loved all the kids that were here and I love their families, too. Again, I feel we are in control of this one. If you think your kids’ friends are assholes, this sounds like a different and potentially much larger issue altogether.
  4. If I had planned a bigger party and had to deal with the RSVP, I’d fully agree with this.
  5. The only comment I have regarding this is that I chose cupcakes for my little guy’s party and one his friends flat out told me he would have preferred cake. That just added to the comedy factor for the day.
  6. I, myself, suffer from Pinterest envy. I have just come to terms with the fact that the food and decor ideas found there are not in alignment with my gift areas.
  7. I did a game with balloons that was actually really fun. I can see where they’d go awry if you’re giving them out to kids to keep.
  8. Pizza. 6 kids total. Boom.
  9. Andrew loved all the gifts he got and truthfully, because they were all toys of various types, it made me feel less guilty about giving him just a crap-ton of clothes from us.
  10. I just finished writing the thank-yous on which he’ll sign his name. Yes, they aren’t fun, but the idea that these moms (or dads, maybe?) went out, picked out a gift and spent their money, I feel like the least we can do is write them a note. I want Andrew to be grateful and this is an easy way to show him how.

OK, so like I said, I totally get where this mom’s coming from. But seriously, can’t we keep these things simple? I’m a control-freak mom who is pregnant with my third kid so I couldn’t even enjoy the adult beverages to which she refers in the article. If I can handle it, anyone can. Here’s what I did for Andrew.

I had 3 rules in mind for games for this party:

  1. They had to be indoor appropriate.
  2. They couldn’t involve an enormous mess; for the obvious reasons, such as me being a neat-freak, but also because we were having the family birthday shindig the next day and I wouldn’t have time to deal with cleanup.
  3. They could not involve competition. I just think 5 is too young to play games that have losers. I didn’t need tears at this party that were brought on by my choices.

So, with that criteria, I took to the internet to find some ideas. Here’s what I landed on and the results. (Measured very scientifically by the overall reaction from the kids…)

Monster Bowling

We actually had this game at our house already and I was pleasantly surprised by how much the kids enjoyed it. Here’s a link to the game: http://www.melissaanddoug.com/monster-bowling-set

Reaction: they each played the equivalent of 3 frames, so it kept their attention pretty well and they even watched each other take turns. Good one overall.

Pin theDSCN4416 Tail on the Donkey

In our case, it was “place the belt buckle on Megazord.” I just bought this game at Party City because it was cheap and it went with his Power Ranger theme.

Reaction: they just didn’t love this and I’m not sure why. I’d probably not do this one again.

Hot and Cold

One person went into Andrew’s room, while the other kids hid a Power Ranger action figure. Then they helped him find it only using the words hot and cold.

Reaction: this kept them engaged for quite a while. It’s just really important to limit the space they can hide the object in and make darn sure everyone who wants a turn playing both roles, gets a turn. Also, it could so easily be adapted to any theme. (And by theme, please realize I mean what I have put on the cake from the grocery store, along with the characters on the paper plates, cups, tablecloth and any decor I might buy. I don’t do themes if they can’t be bought.)

Find the Candy

I hid 20 Tootsie Rolls in our upstairs living room and 20 in the basement living room. I gave each kid a small paper bag and split them in 2 groups to find all 20 in each room. Once each group was done, they all dumped out their bags, counted their loot first to make sure the 20 had been found, and then I evened out the bags so they all got the same.

Reaction: kids love candy and they love to find things. They also love to count and enjoyed figuring out how many each kid needed to get the amount they were supposed to have. This was good and super simple. The paper bag became the “goody bag” for the other items they took home, too.

TwisterDSCN4453

This was risky business as I know Andrew doesn’t know his right from left. But all the same, they rolled with it and gave it a solid effort.

Reaction: some liked it and some didn’t but I love this game and we can grow into it, so it didn’t feel like a waste to me.

DSCN4457

Ping Pong Shoot

This is just like the classic carnival game. I set up 3 buckets and gave them each 4 balls. I laid down a piece of tape to stand behind and had them shoot from about 10 feet away. Each took a turn and then I kept moving the buckets closer. It took me moving up 3 times before the first kid shot one in. I told them as soon as they made a shot, they’d get their goody bag.

Reaction: they really liked this. It involved a little competition but no matter what, I’d have kept moving until every kid made it in. I also cheer really loudly for kids which always makes them feel good.

Balloon BustDSCN4435

I blew up 18 balloons and put a small piece of paper inside each one with a “challenge” on it. The only rule was that the kids couldn’t use their hands or teeth to bust the balloons. (They took to using knees and butts.) I gave each of them one at a time, let them pop it and then everyone did whatever their paper said to do.

Reaction: this was the best game of the day. The only setback is that one little guy was averse to loud noises, but he loved the challenges, so I just asked him if he was OK and as long as he covered his ears, he was fine with the game. Here’s the list of challenges I used, too. (I think a little girl party with this would be fun, but I don’t know it they’d love popping the balloons like the boys did…they went NUTS for it!)

Hug your friends.   Pretend you’re asleep.   Jump up and down.   Act like a cowboy.  Do 3 somersaults.  Sing Andrew’s favorite song.   High five everyone.   Walk backwards around the couch.   Play follow the leader. You’re the leader.   Act like a ninja.   Hop on one foot.   Do 15 jumping jacks.   March upstairs around the island and back down.   Sing your favorite song.   Act like a cat.   Make a chain and see how far you can stretch.   Pretend you’re a dog.   In teams of two, toss a balloon in the air and keep it from touching the ground.

My favorite part of this game was just how hilarious kids are. All I had to do was read the challenge and they went crazy with it. Being a corporate trainer and working so hard to get adults out of their comfort zones, it was utterly refreshing to see how uninhibited these little guys were.

We also had time set aside for opening gifts and then naturally, opening each gift and playing with them all. Add in eating lunch, eating cupcakes and just a quick 1/2 hour show to calm them down after the balloon bust game and we were good to go for over 4 hours!

The entire point of this post is to help out my fellow moms. To me, the most important thing is that your kid enjoys him or herself and you do it out of love. No one said we HAVE to throw parties…there are lots of ways to show our kids love. If the idea of a party stresses you out too much, then choose a different path. I’d love to hear your thoughts! What are the best and the worst parts of birthday parties you’ve attended or thrown in the past?