When I first became a mother 9 years ago, me-time went to the bottom of the long list of things to do. What felt like a gain in time quickly turned into a cost of patience and energy. With experience I learned that putting myself last would eventually catch up with me, and it made me prioritize my health because finding time for me gives me an outlet to let off the stress of the day.
When it comes to self-care, it can be a real challenge with 4 young boys! My concept of me-time has definitely changed since I became a mother, but I’ve learned that it doesn’t always have to be accomplished alone. Finding time for fitness within the demands of parenthood for me has meant working out at home or on the go with my boys. In addition to making time for fitness, I’ve also learned to squeeze in me-time with little treats at home. Although I enjoy going to the spa when I can, it's not a regular part of my schedule. As a result, I have found that simple steps at home can make a big difference in feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on the day. I recently tried Trefiel hydromasks to find out what they were like, how they worked, and to see if they would help me dedicate more time to self-care.
I have very little experience with facial masks, in fact I have never done one quite like this. First, you open the package to find two halves of a black lacy mask that are covered and dripping with ingredients like Vitamin E, aloe, and hyaluronic acid. Next, you peel off the two halves of the mask and place them on your face for 30 minutes. My boys were definitely entertained by my mask once it was on, but I certainly fit right in with all of them in their costumes!
I tried 4 different types of Trefiel hydromasks:
Moisturizing: Designed to give skin a youthful glow, hydrate dry and dull skin, and fill fine lines and wrinkles. This mask contains aloe, vitamin E, and rose extract.
Firming: Designed to leave skin smooth and supple, lift, firm and tighten skin, and improve skin elasticity. This mask contains hyaluronic acid, hydrolyzed collagen, and grape seed extract.
Repairing: Designed to reduce redness and blemishes, nourish and cleanse irritated skin, and fights fine lines and wrinkles. This mask contains chamomile, aloe, and witch hazel extracts.
Brightening: Designed to give skin a natural radiant glow, improve skin texture and tone, and brighten dull and lifeless skin. This mask contains vitamin C, licorice root, and pomegranate extracts.
After each mask I noticed my skin felt smoother for that day, and I was excited to try the next one. In recent years, I have developed some dry skin, and I noticed an improvement after wearing the masks. Although the mask would move around at times on my face, I was still able to enjoy a glass of wine, do activities including yoga, and even a little workout with my boys! What I love about the Trefiel hydromasks even more is that they symbolize 30 minutes of me-time.
“In the end, I'm the only one that can give my children a happy mother who loves life.” ~ Janene Wolsey Baadsgaard
As a mother it isn’t easy to make time for self-care, but I have learned that it is a necessity to be the best Mama I can be. Whether it be with my husband, my kids, my girlfriends, or even on my own, me-time means I’m making my health and wellness a priority, and that is a big step.
As a mother of four young boys, I am always on a mission for my family to be healthy with an active lifestyle and to eat a balanced diet. Some simple ideas that encourage healthy eating in our house include:
1. Eat a rainbow - We aim to eat 3 colors of fruits and vegetables at each meal.
2. Fill half your plate with fruit and veggies.
3. One meal for everyone - Once I had my second son I realized there was no time for being a short order chef.
4. Eat to be strong like a superhero!
Including a variety of fruits and vegetables provides the body with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and each color food has a different role in the body. Team Exos recommends a goal of eating 3 colors of fruits and vegetables at each meal (Verstegen, 2008).
When it comes to eating like a superhero, my husband and I have often find ourselves telling our boys what Superman, Ironman, and Spiderman eat. Superheroes always eat their vegetables, of course!
Finding creative ways to get more vegetables into our diets is something I am always interested in because let’s face it, many days my boys aren’t as eager to finish that half of their plate! Therefore, I was excited to try Sneakz Organic milkshakes because they “sneak” vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, spinach, and beets into their flavored shakes without including artificial sweeteners. In our home we do not drink juice regularly because it often contains so much sugar without much else, but the idea of sneaking in vegetables into a milkshake seems like one that would not only be a good way to increase the amount of vegetables my boys are getting, but also one my boys would enjoy!
There are three Sneakz Organic milkshake flavors and each include a half serving of vegetables. Each box includes 4-5 vegetables in the form of a veggie puree blend.
Chocolate includes carrots, caulifower, sweet potatoes, beets, and spinach.
Vanilla includes carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, and cauliflower.
Strawberry includes carrots, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and beets.
What did my boys think?
All of my boys were very excited to try the milkshakes, and they immediately decided that chocolate and strawberry were their favorite flavors. The vanilla flavor was a bit too sweet for them. All of this drinks do contain organic cane sugar, which add to their sweet flavor.
Besides the milkshakes including a half serving of veggies in them, I like that they do not require refrigeration, which works well for our on-the-go lifestyle. We enjoyed the milkshakes at the pool, on a walk to a playground, and on a road trip!
Becoming a Mama has made me want to be healthier and model good eating habits. I remember well when my oldest was only one year old, and it felt like all he wanted to eat was bread and fruit. With time and exposure, I am happy to say his palate has grown, and he is open to trying new foods and motivated by the idea of eating healthy choices that will make his body stronger like a super hero. I’m a big believer in small steps to bring change, and even if my boys don’t finish all of their fruits and veggies today, they are learning about a healthy lifestyle, and that is a wonderful step!
Verstegen, M. (2008). Eat a Rainbow. Retrieved from http://www.coreperformance.com/daily/nutrition/eat-a-rainbow.html
I heard the Tian Tan Buddha, also known as the Big Buddha, on Ngong Ping Lantau Island was an amazing place to visit. This popular sightseeing location is a statue that symbolizes the harmonious relationship between man, nature, people, and faith. When I researched information about this site, multiple websites recommended going on a clear day to enjoy the incredible view from this beautiful location. Therefore, when we saw it was a pretty morning last weekend, we packed some snacks and water bottles and set off for an adventure!
There are three options to get to the Big Buddha, a bus that we read travels a very windy road and drives quite fast, a hike to the Big Buddha, or a cable car ride with the option of choosing one with a glass bottom to take in the spectacular view. When I saw this cable car option, I immediately wanted to try it. It costs a bit more than a standard cable car ride, but I suspected it would be worth it!
As we waited to board our crystal cabin cable car, we could see that groups of about 10 people were boarding each gondola. I told my husband that I felt bad for the people that had to ride with us because I was convinced at least one of our boys, if not more, would be crying the whole way based on our experience with some Disneyland rides! Another group of 3 joined our party of 6 as we boarded our crystal cabin, and it turns out to my surprise that the glass bottom was only freaking me out the entire ride!
The view from the cable car was absolutely amazing, and my boys had absolutely no problem sitting on the glass bottom and taking in the unbelievable vantage point. But I, on the other hand, gave my husband the camera to take pictures and had to look away. It was such a spectacular view, but I felt myself grabbing for the railing because the sensation was a bit overwhelming seeing through the bottom!
As we got off the cable car, I told my husband to make me sit on the glass floor on the way back. I wanted to do it, but knew I needed the push. I really didn’t expect to be scared of the glass floor or being so high up. As someone who has skydiving on my bucket list, it appears I have some work to do before taking the big jump!
As we entered the adorable little town at the top of the beautiful mountain, Ngong Ping Village, I was delighted to see it filled with small restaurants, souvenir stores, and a tea shop. We stopped to eat lunch, and then took off to find the stairs to the Big Buddha.
The Big Buddha sits at the top of 268 stairs, although my youngest, Gavin, kept telling me there was only 10. The boys were very excited to conquer the climb and see the Giant Buddha up close. Gavin made it half way up the stairs, passing many adults taking breaks along the way. Then he needed to be held the rest of the climb, giving me a good workout!
Once you reach the top of the stairs, you will also notice six smaller statues facing the Giant Buddha. These statues, known as The Offering of the Six Devas, are kneeling in front of the Big Buddha offering flowers, fruits, incense, music, ointment, and light. These are symbols that represent patience, morality, wisdom, generosity, zeal, and meditation. We decided to stop and take a rest in front of one of the six statues. Can you tell this adventure wore my boys out?!
After we walked around the entire Big Buddha and took in the magnificent view, we headed back down the stairs to the cable car just in time for sunset. It was absolutely breath taking, not only for the view, but for facing my fear of sitting on the glass cable car bottom. I still had butterflies the entire ride, but I loved every minute of it!
Earlier this year my family and I moved from Baku, Azerbaijan to Hong Kong for my husband’s work, and after a very busy summer visiting family and friends in California, my running workouts were no longer apart of my weekly routine! When we arrived in Hong Kong at the beginning of August I was determined to get back on track with my running, but the weather was incredibly hot and humid, and I needed some serious time to acclimate to the intense heat. Now that it’s December the weather is absolutely perfect for running, and I’m ready to build up my endurance. I love running for its ability to clear my mind from stress, give me inspiration, and provide me with endorphins that keep me coming back for more! I haven’t completed a running race in quite awhile, and there’s nothing like a race on the calendar to get me motivated, so I’m considering a race at the Great Wall of China. Doesn’t that sound amazing? Talk about an incredible place for a race, and now that we live so close, I think we just may need to make that happen!
As I work on building up my running endurance I decided to try Lily Trotters compression socks. Recently my husband started wearing compression socks to help improve his running performance and recovery, and he has become a big fan. This encouraged me to give them a try as well!
Why Compression Socks?
It’s often hard to find a consensus on athletic aids regarding their benefits to training, performance, and recovery. While compression socks are no different, there is a growing body of evidence that demonstrates the use of compression socks has health and fitness benefits (Barone, 2016). Research shows that compression socks stimulate blood flow and reduce lactic acid build up, which both aid in legs recovering faster after a run (Dupont, 2016). Since compression socks increase circulation, they are helpful for people that sit or stand for long periods of time, and they are also beneficial during air travel. Due to the ability of compression socks to increase circulation, they can improve the appearance of varicose veins and delay the onset of them as well. In addition, they are often recommended for pregnant women who suffer from swollen legs and feet, which is definitely something I could have benefited from at the end of my four pregnancies!
When I first tried the Lily Trotters compression socks, they reminded me a bit of putting on tights because they go on easiest if you scrunch them up and start with just the toe section. Once your toes are in the socks, then the rest is easy! Although they are fitted, they are comfortable, and when I took them out for a run I forgot I was wearing them.
The many benefits of compression socks were enough to make me give them a try, and Lily Trotters provides a variety of styles that are cute and stylish. They are a fun addition to my activewear!
Have you tried compression socks before? I’d love to hear what your experiences have been with them! If you are looking to try some, I recommend checking out Lily Trotters compression socks!
Barone, J., (2016). Compression Stockings: A Guide. Retrieved from http://www.berkeleywellness.com/self-care/over-counter-products/article/rough-guide-compression-stockings
Dupont, D (2016). Compression Socks Improve Recovery in Marathon Runners. Retrieved from https://breakingmuscle.com/learn/compression-socks-improve-recovery-in-marathon-runners
I have mixed feelings about potty training this time around. Honestly, I have had mixed feelings every time I have potty trained one of my boys, but this time is different. In the other three times, I had an infant to care for as well. In the past, whenever I gave birth, the next oldest would go from being the baby in the family to suddenly looking like a giant! This overnight transformation, along with the overwhelming process of changing two sets of diapers, would make me realize it was time to potty train.
Potty training the fourth time around I possibly know too much now. It’s a very time consuming process that includes sitting in the bathroom with your child, checking for accidents, finding accidents, and talking about using the potty constantly. A couple of weeks ago, Gavin was very interested in using the potty during breakfast, a very hectic time on a school day. He ended up going pee in the potty, and I was thrilled. After celebrating his success, my husband and I were in the kitchen starting to clean everything and everyone up from breakfast, when Gavin asked me to come back to the bathroom to sit with him while he was on the potty. I kept saying I was coming, but I was distracted by the numerous things going on, and Gavin while waiting for me went on the floor. I felt so bad because what I should have done was drop everything and go with him, especially at this early stage of potty training, but I didn’t. As I cleaned up the floor, I sent my oldest upstairs to grab another pair of underwear and Gavin tagged along with him. As they came down the stairs, Gavin went again. Now I was cleaning the downstairs and the upstairs from accidents all while trying to clean up breakfast and get my boys out the door. Yes, it was chaotic, but I took a deep breath and reminded myself that we will get through this crazy time. I had done it before, and I could do it again.
I remember potty training my oldest very well. I was always nervous for the next milestone. While it was wonderful to see him grow, it seemed that just when I started to figure life out, it was time for a new stage and I would be back to the drawing board trying to find some order to things again.
I did a lot of preparation the first time around with potty training and most of the items and things I used then I still use today. One of the most important things I learned the first time around is that the process can be a long road. I don’t say this to discourage anyone, but I think it’s helpful to be aware of what is involved. A book our pediatrician recommended when I was first learning about potty training, Toilet Training in Less Than a Day: A Tested Method for Teaching Your Child Quickly and Happily, could give false hope if judged by its title alone. This book is an excellent source of information on a research-based method for how to potty train that includes step-by-step information, which the first time around is always helpful. This method dedicates half of a day to just potty training that includes rewarding successes with snack treats, repeated practice for accidents, and lays a strong foundation for the weeks and months to come. With all of my boys I have started potty training once they were two, but in my experience, being completely potty trained, including night time independent success, takes years.
I think it is also helpful to keep in mind that just like many other milestones, there will be regression. As an expat, we move around every couple of years and have the opportunity to visit a lot of wonderful countries. With these trips and moves, whatever progress has been made with potty training typically goes out the door, at least for a short period of time. Be prepared and pack the diapers or pull-ups for any trips to avoid the headaches of accidents in new locations.
Although it is a lot of work, I think deep down the real mix of emotions for me over this milestone is realizing my youngest, the baby, is growing up to be a bigger boy and there’s no baby to take that place. This is a new milestone for me.
As time consuming as this process can be, once you start seeing success, the benefits far outweigh the time and energy needed to begin. When you stop needing to change numerous diapers, it is incredibly freeing and a great success for your child.
There are perks to having older children in the house. Besides having done this before, I have wonderful helpers that encourage Gavin with this process. They can also take a shift at hanging with him in the bathroom and read him books about potty training!
Now you know some things to consider to determine if you feel ready, but how do you know if your child is ready?
Signs of readiness:
- Age: Children usually start showing some interest in potty training around 18 months. Research has shown that children over 26 months typically train faster than younger children (Azrin & Foxx, 1974).
- Bladder Control: Your child can go longer stretches of time staying dry (The Academy of Pediatrics, 2009).
- Coordination: Your child can help with getting dressed (The Academy of Pediatrics, 2009).
- Awareness: Your child seems to be aware of needing to go, having gone, or starts requesting a diaper change (Azrin & Foxx, 1974).
If your child is showing these signs of readiness, there are some steps you can take before diving in. Start by having your child practice dressing and undressing himself. Allow your child to watch family members use the toilet. In addition, teach basic potty vocabulary i.e., dry, wet, wipe, flush, and wash. You can also get a potty chair and start talking about how it works.
Setting the Stage for Success:
After potty training a few times, I have some go-to items. These are a few of my favorite things!
When my boys have turned 18 months, I have put a potty chair in the bathroom and started conversations about what it is for and how they will use it once they are older. I absolutely love the potty chairs by Baby Bjorn. As you can see there are several styles we have used. My preference is for the big one. It is more comfortable, but when we travel the smaller one is easier to pack. The potty topper is great for once my boys have become more proficient in the bathroom, but still are a bit small for the regular toilet.
Once I’m ready to dive into the potty training process, I put a basket of books next to the potty chair. We have had these two books since my oldest started learning to use the potty, and my youngest is in love with them today.
When it comes to underwear, it is great to have options your child likes and is motivated to wear. In the very beginning when you can expect accidents, I like to use thicker underwear that offers a bit more protection for accidents to lesson the clean-up required.
Potty Scotty is a doll that wets and can be used to demonstrate how to use the potty. My boys have all loved using Potty Scotty in the beginning of potty training. They have enjoyed having him drink from a bottle and then having him “run” to the potty and see him have success. It is an excellent way to demonstrate what not to do by having the doll wet his underwear and discussing what should have happened instead. There is also a girl version, Potty Patty, available. It may sound a bit strange, but is a great teaching tool.
My boys have all loved this Potty Power video. Be prepared to watch this over & over and get songs like “I’m proud to wear my underwear” and “Wipe your bottom” stuck in your head. It’s a glamorous time!
These are the things that have worked for my children and me, but like anything with parenting you should do what works best for you and your child. Every milestone with your children can be a roller coaster of emotions including excitement, frustration, exhaustion, and pride. Reward the successes, stick with it, and remember to take it one moment at a time.
Azrin, N.H, & Foxx, R. M. (1974). Toilet training in less than a day: A tested method for teaching your child quickly and happily. New York, NY: Pocket Books.
The American Academy of Pediatrics. (2009). Caring for your baby and young child, 5th edition: Birth to Age 5. Location: Bantam Books.