Category Archives: guest post

How to Be a More Present Mom: living on purpose in the middle of the chaos

The baby needs a snack, the seven-year-old needs to do her homework, the toddler is screaming from the bathroom. He needs to be wiped. Fun.

The five year old has been asking me to play Mario with him for the last hour and I keep forgetting, the laundry timer is buzzing, the dishes are calling my name, my husband is running late for dinner, and there are so many crumbs on the kitchen floor I forget what the tile looks like.

Motherhood. The season of everyone smiling and telling you to “enjoy every minute!” when you’re counting down the minutes till bedtime. It’s total chaos, and anyone who says otherwise is a liar and should be deprived of coffee. I’m kidding. I wouldn’t wish that sentence on my worst enemy. But seriously, how are we as moms supposed to soak up the moments that are so fleeting, that we will desperately miss when our kids are grown, when we can’t even remember if we showered today?

As a mom of four kids all born within six years and a husband with some crazy work hours, I’ve had to learn to be a steady statue in the storm. I found myself living every day in survival mode a few years ago, and after my fifty-sixth meltdown from behind my locked closet door, I realized that wasn’t how I wanted to be remembered; it wasn’t how I wanted to spend my child-raising years, and I knew something had to change. Through trial and error, I figured a few things out that shed some light on the pit I was trapped in, and if you can believe it, I’m now able to be a mom who plays, who sits (yes, actually sits down!). I’m able to make memories and soak up those messy kisses and sticky hand-holds because I put the chaos in its place.

Here’s the thing – chaos isn’t going anywhere unless you tell it to. So if you’re tired of living every day in survival mode, tired of being tired, and feeling totally overwhelmed, here are my very best tips for a mom life well lived.

Take it moment-by-moment. Chaos is just what it sounds like – a total disaster zone. It’s hard to be in the moment when things get out of control, but it’s a skill you can train yourself to have, and let me tell you- it’s worth it- your motherhood and your kids’ memories are worth it!

Take one step at a time. Toddler screaming? Get down at his level and smile, pick him up and see what’s wrong. More often than not, that’s all they want from us. Laundry buzzing at the same time as the dishes are taking over your sink and your five-year-old is begging for some time with you? Breathe. Involve your little guy in the chores. Talk to him about his favorite thing while the two of you fold the laundry, then sit and play a round of Candy Land with him. I know not everything can wait, but not everything can get done either. So prioritize, right there in the heat of the moment. Take control of your mind and teach yourself to roll with the punches with a smile on your face. You’re a mama! And you can do this.

Get rid of your stuff. I know this point seems like it doesn’t belong here, but this is so very helpful if you want to be a freer, more present mom! We Americans have a nasty habit of buying, storing, and hoarding far too many things that we don’t need. Our problem is so big that the storage industry is one of millions per year! Think about that – we have so much stuff we can’t fit it in our homes, so most of us have purchased even more space to store it all. For what? It doesn’t make any sense, really.

I’ve found that if something is taking up space in your home, then it’s taking up space in your mind, and it’s taking up your energy and time too. “Out of sight, out of mind” is a myth. If something is in your house, odds are it comes out of its place pretty often (especially with kids who get into everything), so you’re spending time picking it up and putting it away over and over and over again. You buy new bins, you spring clean, you re-organize, and at some point, it’s all back on your floor, or your dining room table, or wherever you don’t want it, and there you are spending your precious time picking it up yet again.

Three years ago I got rid of the stuff in my house that I didn’t need and you know what? My house was nearly empty, and I was suddenly a very free person. I was a lot happier too. There’s something to the idea of less.

Consider the toys, my friend. This goes hand-in-hand with the above point. I mentioned that three years ago I got rid of most of our stuff; I started with the toys. We had a giant play room full of colorful bins that were overflowing with toys. My kids were wandering into that room, getting overwhelmed, and coming out whiny and bored, so I figured what was the point? I donated almost all of them. What happened next was we became a family who spent time together.

My kids’ bond with one another grew incredibly close and has stayed that way, and I find myself spending much more time with them. I’m not saying you have to throw away all your kids toys, but consider the point of them, and how you want your kids to grow up remembering you. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have less distracting them and you? Wouldn’t some purposeful time together each day make for a beautiful childhood? When you think about it, toys and electronics really do get in the way of intentional living.

Make a weird tradition. In our house we have dance parties. Every couple of nights, we get our little bluetooth speaker out, blast some Taylor Swift and cut the rug right in the middle of the living room. The kids love it, I get a workout, and we make some memories that will last forever. You could make it a nightly habit to take a walk around the block, or initiate Friday game nights, or start a new Netflix series as a family- whatever floats your boat! The point is to set up some regular, wholesome family time where memory making is the point.

Remember, they’re kids. Being a mom is no easy gig. It’s so easy to get frustrated and caught up in our own bad day and forget that it’s their day too. We expect our kids to tag along and be quiet and not be hungry when it’s inconvenient and act the way we want at the times we need them to- it’s a lot for them. They’re just little people, and your days are their childhood.

So get down on your knees, look in their eyes, be warm and kind, understand them, smile at them, pick them up and twirl with them. Be the mom you always wanted to be; it’s up to you how this thing goes. Sometimes all you need to do is step back and fill your motherhood with a little intention and purpose.

About the Author

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Allie Casazza is a blogger, author and inspirational speaker. Her passion is helping her fellow women find hope and light when chaos has stolen their motherhood, and infusing them with the truth and purpose. She believes motherhood and humor should always go hand-in-hand, otherwise you’ll never get through it.

Allie is the wife of Brian, her seventh grade algebra partner turned sweetheart. They have four small kids who were born in five years, and they’re SoCal natives living in the beautiful Northwest corner of Arkansas. You can find Allie writing and producing live workshops at her blog, The Purposeful Housewife.

Spotlight Feature - Dogwood Canyon Nature Park

Dogwood Canyon Nature Park is a 10,000-acre slice of alluring Ozarks paradise that has largely been left untouched since its earliest settlers.

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Since Johnny Morris began acquiring parcels of Dogwood Canyon in 1990, conservation education combined with family fun has become the cornerstone for development of this authentic wilderness experience.

Big Cedar Lodge Trail Rides in Dogwood Canyon

The natural beauty of the park includes towering bluffs, waterfalls, creek beds, hand-crafted bridges and wildlife such as bison, elk and whitetail deer. Dogwood Canyon Nature Park offers hiking and biking, Segway tours, park tours via tram or private jeep, horseback riding, and trout fishing.

Big Cedar Lodge Father and son fishing for lunker trout in Dogwood Canyon

Dogwood Canyon Nature Park recently received its largest renovation to date, and will open a fully-functioning mill, restaurant, education, and bike barn this spring.

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The park has also added a treehouse built by Animal Planet’s Treehouse Masters and a new stables facility with a rider’s lounge.

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Call or visit the website to start planning your exploration!
1-800-225-6343 | dogwoodcanyon.org

A Mentoring Story

Happy January, National Mentoring Month, and the perfect time to learn about Big Brothers Big Sisters, the oldest and largest youth mentoring organization in the country! Since 1993, BBBS has been in Northwest Arkansas, forming over 1,900 mentoring matches in Washington and Benton counties. These one-to-one mentoring relationships between caring adults (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”) have documented positive outcomes for the children. Survey results show that Littles have improved school attendance, healthier peer relationships, enhanced self-confidence and outlook for their future, and are less likely to use drugs or alcohol, or get into fights. In 2015, BBBS NWA volunteers gave over 19,000 mentoring hours to help 260 children.

In order to be a Little, the child typically either lives below the poverty level, has a parent in jail, or comes from a single parent home, and often a child qualifies on all three accounts. As child safety is a primary concern, there is structured protocol that all chapters follow regarding the recruitment and interviews of the Bigs, the Littles and their families; the matching process; and then the monthly monitoring by the program staff. It costs about $1,000 to set-up and monitor a match for the first year. All programs and services are provided free to the Little, their family and the Big. Littles joining the program are 6 to 14 years old, and then age out at 18 years old. Many Littles and Bigs are lifelong friends.

We have a significant need for Big Brothers and Big Sisters in Northwest Arkansas, as well as Big Couples and Big Families (where the entire family can enjoy being with the Little.) In fact, putting a child with a Big Family is a great way for that child to experience healthy family dynamics and, in the case of a Little who is an only child, provide him or her with virtual siblings. Participating families have remarked that their family time together actually improves when a Little is around as the family is often more focused on doing an activity together instead of scattering in different directions! There are 40 children on the waiting list right now, many of whom are boys.

Match activities don’t need to be fancy or expensive; it is all about spending time with the child. Activities can include going to the park, visiting a museum, baking cookies or tossing a football in the backyard! And yet, what a difference this attention from a caring and encouraging adult can make in the life of a child.

Here is one of the success stories…

Zayne and his Big, Jeff Young, were matched in 2014 when Zayne was nine years old and going into fifth grade. His counselor recommended to his mother that Zayne might enjoy having a Big Brother. Zayne lives with his mother Melissa and sister, and his parents are divorced. Melissa strongly felt that Zayne would benefit from a having a kind, caring and positive male role model, particularly one that could model how to positively express and control one’s emotions, as at times Zayne would get angry and lash out. She felt the Big Brother would need to be fairly energetic and athletic to keep up with Zayne, and hoped he would be a good leader, exhibit a strong work ethic and be willing to have fun and try new things. Melissa is quite pleased with the match, reports that Zayne is having a wonderful time with Jeff, and is so appreciative of the time and attention he devotes to her son.

Match Day

Match Day

Since Jeff and Zayne both adore sports, much of their time together is spent participating in or watching sporting events (an activity that Mrs. Young is just as happy to miss!) Together, they have enjoyed going to Razorback football and basketball games, watching Naturals baseball, volleyball and other assorted teams. Jeff has also cheered on Zayne at his wrestling matches and baseball games. Together, they have participated in two of the Razorback football practice visits that Big Brothers Big Sisters matches get invited to watch, both in 2014 and 2015, where they were lucky enough to meet Coach Bielema and get autographs from the football team members.

Coach and Zayne and Jeff Young 2014

Meeting Coach Bielema

Zayne also enjoys spending time with Jeff’s family including daughter Rachel, a Razorback cheerleader, and RHS Mountie football playing son Jay, and Jeff will jokingly tease that Zayne prefers spending time with his kids rather than him. Zayne has also benefited from some extra one-on-one reading help from Mrs. Young, and has significantly increased his reading score at school. Zayne has gone to church with the Youngs, and now is interested in getting baptized.

Hog Game with Rachel

Hog Game with Rachel

Jeff and Zayne took part in the inaugural NWA Lemonade Day in 2015 where the two studied the 14 lessons of entrepreneurship, culminating in having a lemonade stand in Rogers on the first Saturday in May. There, Zayne exhibited his salesman skills and sold $150 of lemonade.

A more typical visit includes them throwing the football in the backyard and then going out for some pizza, or maybe out for a fun activity like a quick trip to the trampoline park or golf course. On their first day together, they ended up going to Casey’s for a slice of pizza and a soda, and that quickly evolved into “their spot” to just hangout and talk. According to Jeff, they spend quiet time talking about life, how to handle challenges, school, God, and of course, girls (a thought that sends Zayne into giggles). Jeff says that Zayne is caring and kind, fun and funny, and over their time together, he has seen Zayne grow from a quiet and shy boy to one who is confident and comfortable with whom he is.

First Outing

First Outing

To learn how you can become a mentor, contact us at bbbsnwa.org or (479) 966-4366.

Sarah Van Vleck
Development Director
Big Brothers Big Sisters of NWA

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Finding Diamonds in NWA

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Arkansas is known as the Natural State as well as the Diamond State. Well, let me tell you, we found an Arkansas diamond this summer – a diamond in the rough!! My family likes to go on adventures and explore hiking trails. We don’t get to do it as often as we’d like, but we had time to do some exploring this past Fourth of July weekend. So we set out to find a hiking trail to a waterfall. We Googled, we surfed, but we really couldn’t find anything with an, “Easy” trail and a waterfall. Our next option was to try an adventure app, and I found this cool app called, “All Trails”. It’s free in the Apple App Store, so I started searching their database and found Kings River Falls. It’s southeast of Huntsville and about a one hour 45 minute drive from Bentonville. It sounded interesting, and we knew from the app that there was a waterfall, so we loaded up and headed to Kings River Falls.

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After arriving at the trail head (and I use that term loosely), we ate a quick picnic lunch before heading down the trail. The hike itself takes about 20 to 30 minutes, but what we found was something so unexpected – not only a waterfall but an amazing swimming hole, too!! It felt like we stumbled upon God’s hidden water park; although, we weren’t the only ones fortunate enough to check out this place that day. We weren’t prepared to get wet, but that didn’t stop us. The kids swam in their shorts, and we used our best Bear Grylls skills to dry off when we got back to the car.

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10517669_1212570492092977_616992401031374854_oThis spur-of-the-moment trip was so worth it, and we’ll definitely be going back next summer if not sooner!! Things to remember for our next trip include swimsuits, towels, more food, and maybe a football. Next time, we’ll picnic at the swimming hole. If you have found a similar, “Diamond” in our Natural State, let us know – we want to check it out! ☺

Blog & pictures provided by Nicole Pawlaczyk, Capture Me Photography by Nicole www.cmpbynicole.com or  facebook.com/capturemephotographybynicole

Monday Mom~ "Just Start" by Lynn Hancock

So, who has started doing something to become more active this month as we have focused on Health and Wellness? If you haven’t, READ THIS! 2 years ago, Lynn Hancock, left her great corporate career to teach yoga and be a personal trainer. She wanted nothing more than to make an impact in someone’s life. She has not only impacted one person but MANY and is an integral part of our local fitness community. Today she shares with us some inspiring words about overcoming your obstacles and getting started on your health and wellness journey. Enjoy!

One of the most common obstacles that I hear from people regarding their health and well-being is, “I don’t have time.” If being healthier and increasing your level of fitness is a goal you are falling short of, the obstacle is not that you don’t have time. The obstacle is not managing your time and energy. If all your time and energy is going to your work, the only passion in your life is work (and we know that’s not your only passion!). If all your time is going into your family, then your only passion is family. None of these things alone are “bad.” But your family life will suffer if all your energy is sucked into work. Just as your health will suffer if no energy or time is devoted to it. Don’t make yourself a victim to “I don’t have time.” Your energy will flow to where intention goes.  Learn to say no to things that are sucking up precious energy – it’s one of the hardest things you’ll learn how to do!  Saying yes is so easy!  But if those asks are not part of your priorities or are taking time from a goal you just can’t seem to accomplish – redirect!  Just like a child who is focusing energy on a temper tantrum or something they cannot have – redirect!

Don’t know where to start?  If you don’t know what to do to start your health & fitness journey, the second most common obstacle I hear, enlist help!  A friend or a trainer who will hold you accountable – not someone who will let you skip workouts!  A support system is one of the key items to hitting a goal.  Explain to those around you that your goal is important to you and as key people in your life, you need their support to help you meet your goal.  If you don’t find support with those close to you, enlist someone that it is their job to keep you accountable.  

Some of my most successful clients are the ones who made the time, changed their habits over periods of time, and had friends and family to support their journey.

Above all, just start! Start somewhere, anywhere. You are worth it. You are so worth it.  

Thanks, Lynn, for your contribution!

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For more inspiration you can follow Lynn on
her Facebook page, Small but Fierce Yoga and Fitness.

 

Monday Mom~ Adventures in the Ozarks

To continue our focus on Health and Wellness during the month of September, we are excited to share some great family fall outdoor activities to get you out and moving. Jessie Koller, is a local homeschool mom of two boys and an Ozark adventure blogger. We can’t wait to start incorporating some of her great fall ideas with our families! Enjoy!

As a mom of two boys, I have always put a lot of emphasis on keeping my family physically active, and I certainly feel blessed to live in an area where there is never a lack of options for fun outdoor activities! Every Fall, we sit down and make a fall bucket list of things we’d like to do before Winter arrives such as camping, s’mores, pumpkin carvings, bonfires, and jumping in big piles of leaves. I’d like to share with you some other ways our family stays active:

  1. “The Greening Hour”: We have always been an outdoor loving family, but a few years ago I started to incorporate what I call, “the greening hour,” into our daily life Familywhich is simply a commitment to spending at least an hour outside together each day. I fully believe in the power of nature and both the cognitive and physical benefits of spending time outdoors- whether that’s in our own backyard, hiking, going to a local event, or spending time at one of our local parks. This commitment has definitely benefitted our family and has led to some wonderful explorations of Northwest Arkansas as well!
  2. Geocaching: In case you’ve never heard of this fun outdoor pastime, Geocaching is a fun and FREE outdoor activity that the whole family can enjoy! It’s basically a real Geocachingworld outdoor treasure hunt in which you use your phone’s GPS to seek and find hidden containers or special locations at specific coordinates all over the world! There are millions hidden around the world and hundreds of Geocaches hidden in Northwest Arkansas. These containers usually contain a log book, and small trinkets such as stickers, toys, geo coins, etc. My boys have so much fun finding these and it’s a great outdoor activity to encourage teamwork as a family! Visit www.geocaching.com to learn more and start treasure hunting!
  3. Cobblestone Farm in Fayetteville: Cobblestone Farm is a Cobblestone Project Initiative that focuses on hunger relief in NWA. This farm is largely driven by Cobblestone Farm
    community volunteers and the food they grow there is distributed to local shelters, soup kitchens, Habitat for Humanity, etc. You can spend your time there as a volunteer farmer with many different opportunities to help around the farm. Fall is an especially fun time to volunteer at the farm because it’s harvest time! We started volunteering at Cobblestone last year as I was seeking an outdoor volunteer activity that the whole family would love. It quickly became a place near and dear to our hearts. To learn more about Cobblestone Farm and how you and your family can become volunteers, visit www.cobblestoneproject.org.
  4. SWEPCO Eagle Watch Nature Trail in Gentry: Most people in NWA will associate Gentry with it’s most popular attraction, the Wild Wilderness Drive Through Safari Eagle Watch Nature TrailZoo, and while we certainly love it there it’s also home to one of our favorite kid and stroller friendly trails- the Eagle Watch Nature Trail. This trail will take you on a leisurely, but very pretty stroll leading to an observation deck overlooking SWEPCO Lake. The trail has a great little climbing tree, and in the Fall the trail is littered with Osage Oranges, or “horseapples,” which my kids always love to find (and we usually end up taking home a few-or dozen!), but it’s most notable feature is the reason behind it’s name-it is a very popular Fall and Winter destination spot for Bald Eagles! There are picnic tables at the observation deck, so you could bring some sack lunches and binoculars and spend some time looking for Eagles. If you don’t see an Eagle, there are plenty of water fowl, and other wildlife to spot at the lake and along the trail. For more information and directions to the trail, visit http://www.adventuresintheozarks.com/2013/07/swepco-eagle-watch-nature-trail-in.html
  5. Fish Hatchery: The Ozarks are home to a few really great fish hatcheries which we have always found to be great outdoor family fun with little to no expense! Apart from the fun of watching and feeding the trout, most hatcheries have an indoor nature Roaring River Fish Hatchery-2exhibit as well. The Charlie Craig Fish Hatchery located in Centerton contains 16 large ponds on their vast 116 acres which you can drive through or walk around to see at your leisure. The hatchery’s gates are open to the public 7 days a week from daylight to dusk. It’s a beautiful place and you’re sure to see lots of wildlife! Visiting in the Fall can be especially fun because the hatchery is a temporary home to many migratory birds! Another wonderful hatchery is located at Roaring River State Park in Cassville Missouri, just about an hour north of Bentonville. Also free of charge, the expansive outdoor facility is stocked full of trout which you can walk around to view in cement troughs. Bring some quarters for feed for even more fun! At Roaring River you can also visit the nature center, hike one of the many trails, and in the Fall it is a very likely place to spot a Bald Eagle. In fact, every time we have visited Roaring River in the Fall and Winter months, we have seen Eagles!

Thanks, Jessie, for sharing! For more ideas for fun family adventures around NWA and the Ozarks, visit Jessie’s blog at www.adventuresintheozarks.com!

 

 

 

 

Healthy Eating Tips from Dr. McCord

Dr. McCord invited us into her kitchen to share some healthy eating tips she uses with her family that includes Kate, age 6; Reed, age 3; and her husband Blake.

  • Start children early on a good variety of nutritious foods like vegetables, fruits, and fish. If you start children on healthy foods when they are toddlers, they will crave these foods instead of chicken nuggets and junk food.
  •  I make one meal for my family and don’t prepare a separate meal for the children. I encourage everyone to eat the same thing and don’t give them another option.
  • We only have milk or water at our house. I limit juice and soda sparingly. Soda adds tons of sugar to a child’s diet.
  •  If I want my children to eat healthy, I have to lead by example. I‘ve given up diet coke and don’t bring junk food into the house on a regular basis. If candy or chips are in the house, I will eat them! I don’t expect my children to have more self-control than me.
  •  When my children were toddlers, I would puree vegetables like squash, pumpkin and beets and add them to their favorite foods! Some good foods to hide veggies are spaghetti sauce, yogurt, mac and cheese, and pancakes. There are a lot of recipes in Jessica Sienfield’s book “Deceptively Delicious”
  • Fresh food can be expensive. I like to buy in bulk and either freeze it or put food in smaller containers. Fresh fruits and vegetables are best, but frozen is good too and lasts longer.
  • How did I get my kids to eat fish? I started with fish sticks, then breaded tilapia, now they eat broiled fish fillets, crab legs, and all kinds of fish. (Tip: Store bought bread crumbs have all kinds of added ingredients. Keep the heels of your bread in the freezer and make your own bread crumbs by pulsing in the food processor for a few seconds).
  • Like most busy families, I need my food to be convenient. On Sunday, my down day, I chop all of our vegetables for the week and put them in separate containers. I buy large containers of plain yogurt and hummus and split them into individual serving containers with fruit or veggies. I also boil eggs and sometimes grill a chicken to add to our salads. I keep cheese sticks and ham rolls in individual containers for the children.