Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Great Debate: How I plan to Limit Screen Time This Summer

It's been almost FOUR MONTHS since I have sat down to write. Wow. So much for my New Year's Resolutions (or revolutions as Turtle calls them). 

So much has happened in that time. Here are the highlights:

I did a little traveling to celebrate the marriage of two of my beautiful friends, and got to spend time with some of the best people I know 

Mom and Walter visited and we celebrated Mother's Day and the following weekend Pap visited!

Turtle finished 1st grade. Yikes.

I got really serious about working out and keeping a food journal. I am beginning to see my Muffin Top melt away. And while I've only lost 8 pounds, my muscle mass has increased and I am feeling better than I've felt since I was a teenager.

My phone kicked the bucket. I have been without a phone for 3 weeks. And other than missing out on my "JMU Ladies" and "The Fam"group texts, and daily phone calls with my mom, it has been wonderful being (somewhat) disconnected from the real world.

There was a flash-flood.  Luckily the house wasn't ruined-but Steven's car is currently at the shop getting estimated for flood damage. Awesome

I think that about sums it up.  

I guess I have just felt a little uninspired to write.  I have been dealing with some pretty heavy work stuff, and in order to get myself back into writing, I first had to take care of my basic needs.  Now that I feel like I have (at least began to) manage my feelings surrounding the stuff at work, I feel that I can write again; and that feels good.

Earlier this week I had to spend a day away from jail.  Because of the flood last night and Steven being carless, I had to stay home and take care of my family and some stuff around here.  Being home was great, but with everyone home and the two dogs, sometimes the house feels like a cardboard box.  After about 6 hours of constant noise and chaos, I was about ready to scream.  And then Turtle came in our room. He started messing with the dogs, asking questions and upsetting our dog Kayo with all the noise, I literally didn't think I could make it another minute and so I decided to do what so many parents do; I reached for the electronic babysitter. Once again bending my strict rules about electronics and screen time, just for a few minutes of silence.

Now, I said bending, not breaking.  I couldn't let him get away that easy with free time on the Kindle. He had to do SOMETHING to earn it. Or at least something to teach him something.  He saw the Kindle in my hands and his mouth hushed as his infectious smile crossed his face.  As I handed Turtle the Kindle I explained to him about dogs and their body language.  I explained to him that all the noise was upsetting Kayo and that Kayo was showing him with his body.  I told him that he would be using his Kindle but only to research dog body language.

 As I expected a smart remark about how "it's not fair" or "do I have toooooo?" I was absolutely shocked when instead he said, "Awesome!"then quickly went to work.

The house was quiet and I sat down to check my email, and do some of the work I was missing because of the flood.  Before I knew it 20 minutes had gone by when I heard, "EMILY!" being yelled from downstairs. At just a little less than 2 years into motherhood, I have finally learned that your name being screamed does not necessarily  mean an emergency. So I took my time and went downstairs.  No emergency-shocking.  Instead Turtle  wanted to give me a report about dog behavior. 

And this my friends, is when I developed my new way to encourage learning over the summer.

Here Are the Rules:

  • Each day Turtle will pick a topic out of a list of "Cool Topics" supplied by Mom
  • Turtle must READ something about cool topic for at least 15 minutes, after that he may READ or WATCH something educational about cool topic
  • Upon completion (no time limit on when it has to be completed, just as long as it's before electronics/screen time) Turtle will give a brief report to Emily and/or Dad
  • Emily and/or Dad will "grade" report on a pass/fail rating
    •  to pass the Turtle must teach Emily/Dad something-it doesn't have to be something new
  • If report is passing, Turtle will have access to electronics and screen time
  • If report is failing, Turtle will have one chance to redo the report. If he passes the second time he will have access to electronics and screen time
  •  If the second report is failing, Turtle will not have access to electronics or screen time

So this may be a little flawed. I came up with it in about 10 minutes.  With that being said, I was able to work on other stuff and write this within 40 minutes, all the while Turtle working on his report.  At one point I got up to tell Steven something and asked Turtle, "How's it goin?"  He grunted in reply. I can only try and interpret it and I think it means, "I'm learning!" And indeed, he was. 

He did a wonderful report about dogs and their body language.  But of course, I am not the best with technology, and accidentally deleted his video.  Oops.  So instead, here is his most recent video with his report on trees in our neighborhood.

I would love to hear any ideas you guys may have in limiting screen time.  It is no secret that it is a constant debate in our house.  I am okay with screen time but feel like it should be for educational purposes, at least for Turtle. I see now that, that isn't fair, and that I am a hypocrite. I have spent so much time with my nose in the phone instead of really spending time with my family.  I am hoping that this new family rule will not only help Turtle learn, but will inspire me to put the phone or computer down and really enjoy the time I have with my loved ones.  How does your family limit screen time both for kids and adults?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Muffin Top Meltdown

I couldn't find anything to wear. All of my favorite work pants were in the dirty clothes pile. I once again had neglected my own laundry for the never-ending mound of school and play clothes, pjs, and Avengers undies in Turtle's hamper; I was forced to look in the closet where my "least often worn" clothes were folded on the wire shelf which ran the length of our tiny closet. 

I pulled a pair of jeans off the top of the pile, slid them over my feet and pulled them up.  They felt a little snug in my legs, but I was pretty sure that was from an accidental drying; a mishap of Steven managing the laundry the week before.  Wrong.  I couldn't get the zipper up or the button fastened without laying on my back.  When I stood up a full blown, pale, tattooed muffin top glared at me from the full-length mirror ahead of me. 
I couldn't have possibly gotten the jeans off any faster. 

When had these jeans gotten so small?!?! As I stared in the mirror in my underwear, horrified, tears were in my eyes.  I couldn't fit into my favorite jeans; well at least not without looking like the newest batch of cupcakes fresh out of the oven.  I plopped on my bed. Petting Sunny and Kayo I resigned myself  to the fact I was going to be a few minutes late for work. 

How many of us as women have felt fat? I know that my entire life I have struggled with feeling uncomfortable in my body.  And this morning as I lived the story I shared above, I felt the fattest I have felt in years.  All day I was self conscious.  I was sure that people were laughing at me. That they thought I was pregnant, or spending my days eating Little Debbie's and watching Lifetime movies. To put things in perspective for you-I spent my day feeling uncomfortable about my appearance in front of inmates who aren't allowed to wear bras and forced to wear whatever jumpsuit best fits them, which normally means either 2 sizes two big or too small.

Although I was pretty sure I wouldn't, I made it through the day at work without anyone asking me, "What is wrong?".  I made it home, and before I could get up the stairs and into a pair of oversized sweatpants, I heard Steven.  Before I had a chance to say anything he started telling me about his day.  To be honest, I don't quite remember all that was said.  But what I do remember was that he called me "gorgeous" somewhere during the conversation.  My insecurities melted away and I was reminded that my appearance is only a very small part of who I am.  I am more than what size pants I wear.  I am a strong, beautiful woman who gives of herself daily.  I am a mother.  I am a daughter, granddaughter, sister, aunt and friend.  I am a partner. And most importantly, I am me and I am loved.

If ever you are having a day when you feel fat or ugly, or like everyone is laughing at you, I hope you think of this post.  I hope you remember that you are more than what size pants you wear.  That as insecure as you feel, you have beauty shining out of you in the things you do.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Playground Workout Fills Up the Happiness Tank

It's obvious that I haven't done a good job with the blogging part of my New Year's Resolution, but the good news is that I have been working on my other resolutions including increasing my workouts, managing my sweet tooth, organizing the house, moving closer to being a licensed independent social worker and in my own way, saying goodbye to Gram.  Since I haven't been doing a great job with my blogging resolution, my mom has been nagging me (thanks, Mom) to sit down and write a post.  After a week of ignoring her nagging, I have decided to finally give in and listen to her.

It's easy to get consumed in the daily grind, and I have noticed that since becoming a mom to Turtle, it has become even easier to lose track of things that are important to me, putting that sweet little seven year old's needs before my own.  That is all fine and dandy, until I recognize myself becoming resentful and irritable; snipping at the boys and dogs over the littlest things.  I am recognizing it even more as I am sitting here typing, and realize now more than ever that it is important to care for me, so that I can in turn care for those I love.  And so, I have allowed Turtle to play on his 3DS so that I can take some time and write, and fill up my "Happiness Tank", that keeps me running.

Before I go any further, I want to explain the Happiness Tank concept.  I am sure that some of you already understand what I mean, but even though I say I understand the concept of a Happiness Tank, I am guilty of forgetting daily to fill up.  In my work with client's I have always talked to them about their "Happiness Tank" and filling themselves up with things they enjoy and love so that when they give to others, they are able to continue running.  It may sound silly, or even cliché, but think of your car. If you don't put gas in it, what happens?  It will only be a matter of time before you are stranded on the side of the road, hoping that someone is nice enough to stop and help you get going again.  And since people may have ulterior motives in stopping to help, it is even more important that we learn to keep our own tanks filled.

One way in addition to writing that I keep my tank full is through spending time working out.  While Steven may argue with me about whether I enjoy working out due to my cussing, complaining and huffing and puffing while he puts me through a workout, it is really something I do enjoy.  There is something so satisfying about saying, "I just burnt 500 calories" or being able to squat a few pounds more than you did the day before.  Sure, soreness is a bitch, and I know better than anyone that having wobbly legs makes nearly every task impossible (Facebook Friends, you may remember a status about me falling out of the tub the other day?), but burning those calories, challenging myself and getting some of those feel good chemicals pumping through my body, helps me to keep my Happiness Tank full.

According to The Mayo Clinic there are seven benefits of working out.  (I would argue that there are more, but since the Mayo Clinic is a legitimate resource, and I am just someone who gets tortured by daily workouts with her boyfriend, I thought I would defer to their expertise).  Some of the benefits are obvious; weight management and reduced risk and/or management of certain health conditions are two of the positives to working out that probably everyone knows.  The other five benefits that the Mayo Clinic names are increased mood, increased energy, better sleep, a better sex life (sorry, Mom) and my favorite, exercise can be fun.

Since Steven is a personal trainer and my boyfriend, I have gotten a built in workout partner.  Between me cussing at him and telling him that "there is no way I can do one more" we spend a lot of our time working out together laughing and having fun.  One of our favorite workouts to do together is at the park.  We are able to modify the workouts so we are both being challenged, using the different playground equipment and some of our own supplies to get a full body workout, all while Turtle is able to entertain himself playing with other children or exploring the playground.

This would be the place where I would like to include a full routine for you to try at the playground to get your workout on, and fill up your Happiness Tank. But since Steven isn't here, I am just going to include some clips of us working out to give you a little idea.  If you are interested in more information about playground workouts, please email us at and we will be happy to provide you with more information. Also, please keep in mind that Steven is a personal trainer, and that you should never try any physical activity without checking with your doctor.  Also, if trying something new, please make sure you have the appropriate workout partner to help you.  (If you live in Charleston, I have a recommendation!)

As you can see, we are able to use the playground to get a workout in, and have fun.   All the while, filling up our Happiness Tanks.  Whether it's writing or working out, or just curling up with a good book, please make sure for your sanity, and the sanity of those who love you that you keep your Happiness Tank at least most of the way full!  That way you can make sure you have the energy to keep running, and to live your life its fullest.

Turtle's Five Facts

This morning I was working on a post that I am hoping to share with you later on today.  Turtle was hovering, and instead of letting it get to me, I asked if he wanted to write a post as a "guest blogger".
He got so excited he started singing, and dancing."I'm gonna write a blog! I'm gonna write a bl-ogggg!"  Of course some editing was done by your's truly, but here is the final result of Turtle's post.

I am Turtle (my mom and dad have changed my name for this story) and I am the son of Steven and Emily.  I am 7 years old.  Here is my video,"5 facts that are good about working out".

Those are 5 facts that are good about working out. So there it is the story of exercise. The End   

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Steven's Superfoods!

Steven finally sat down and wrote a post for you all about some of the foods we like to keep in our house. These are some of his suggestions and the justification for why he likes to keep them on hand:

I often have clients ask me what foods they should eat, or keep in their fridge and pantry that contain high levels of vitamins. They also ask which foods will give them energy, power, endurance, and aid in muscle recovery and growth. Here are a list of my favorites as well as the favorites of most high intensity athletes:

Top 4 for proteins are: 

1. Whole eggs or egg whites

2. Super lean meats including poultry and game; organic free range beef, free range and grain fed chicken, deer or bison. 

3. Fatty fish - like wild salmon (Try to stay away from farm raised salmon; wild salmon has half the fat, fewer calories and it has a higher content of potassium and zinc.)

4. Fermented soy such as tempeh, natto and miso. Why? Because it helps to reduce the hazard of disease like cancer. Do not confuse with non-fermented soy like soy milk.

Top 2 for legumes are:

1. Beans (Not the kind in a can, people! Instead choose dry beans that needs to sit over night in water to be rehydrated. The more variety the better-Black beans, white beans, navy beans, pinto beans, lima beans, etc.)

2. Lentils ( brown lentils, green lentils or beluga lentils- black) Why are lentils so awesome you ask? They are high in protein and low in fat. Need I say more?

Top six fruits and vegetables are:

1. Tomatoes: Why? They are high in vitamins A and C as well as calcium, potassium, and lycopene which all help to fight heart disease and cancer.

2. Spinach: Why? Dark greens are good for skin, hair and bones. It lowers the risk of cancer and helps to improve and maintain overall health. Just ask your boy, Dr Oz.

3. Organic Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and brussels sprouts. These are known as super veggies because they contain disease fighting phytochemical. 

4. Avocados: Why? Avocados work as a anti-inflamatant. They are high in monounsaturated fat which reduces bad levels of cholesterol. They are also an excellent meat substitute. 

5. Citrus such as oranges or grapefruit. Why, you ask? Um duh, we should of learned about these fruits in kindergarten people. 

6. Berries: Why? They are full of nutrients and antioxidants. The top berries I would suggest are Goji, blueberries and Acai. Berries are a great energy booster and you should eat them everyday. 

Top three starches and whole grains:

1. Sweet potatoes (no yams in a can people) Why? Because they are packed with minerals like folate, copper, magnesium, and iron. Plus they are inexpensive!

2. Quinoa: why? Quinoa is very high in protein and riboflavin which is good for the brain and helps with migraines. It is also low in calories and gluten free.

3. Amaranth: Why? Because it is also very high in protein (26 grams per cup), can aid in natural weight loss and it is gluten free. 

Top three source of good fats:

1. Nuts and nut butters- like cashews, almonds, pecans, peanuts are filled with heart healthy fats, a great source of protein and are a great in between meal snack.

2. Seeds, like flax, hemp, and chia are high in good fats like omega 3 and a great source of energy

3. Olive oil helps to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. It is also great for diabetics because it helps to regulate sugar levels in the blood 

Top two drinks:

1. Water: Why? Well, just to name a few reasons, it prevents dehydration, curves appetite, promotes high energy levels, flushes out toxins in the body, improves the skin, promotes regularity (helps you to poop),improves mood, and great for preventing headaches. 

2. Green tea: Why? It improves metabolism, lowers blood pressure, reduces the formation of plaque and it increases the amount of catechin which is an antioxidant that promotes healthy cell growth. 

The basis of maintaining a healthy life style is knowing what to put in your body that promotes a healthy mind and healthy body. These power foods are loaded with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that promote muscle growth, recovery and cardiovascular endurance so you can heal and to continue to develop a strong, lean and healthy body. When you are in the grocery stores, try to stay out of the aisle and rather, shop outside of them. Stay away from the boxed and canned goods; instead, eat seasonal produce and learn how to properly prepare your vegetables so you get the most out of them. I wish you the best on your journey to becoming and maintain a healthy and happy lifestyle. 

Checkout more of Steven's tips at

Friday, January 2, 2015

Trying to Say Goodbye with Grace

It has been exactly one year since I said goodbye to my Gram.  For those of you who don't know, my Gram was an integral part of my life.  She and Pap helped raise me, taking place of an absent, alcoholic father. They made sure my brother and I felt loved and special, even though the demons planted in my soul by my father fought to tell me differently.  They took us on vacations, and fostered my love and appreciation for culture, history and learning.  My Gram taught me several lessons of life and love over the 28 years together.  But most importantly,  my Gram taught me what a good grandmother, mother, wife and friend is supposed to look like; she taught me grace.

Everyone who knows me, knows that I don't fit the picture society paints of grace.  Well put together, classy, polite at every moment-that is definitely not me.  But what society doesn't show us is the true meaning of grace. Loving every person we come into contact with despite their faults, character flaws and indiscretions toward us. This lesson Gram taught me has led me to become a wonderful social worker, and a person I am proud to be on a daily basis.  Without this lesson, I do not know where I would be.  I fear that I would not be in a job that I love, attempting to fill the lives of the most hopeless and unlovable people with a glimmer of hope lit by my acceptance of their flaws.

Even though I am able to be thankful for these lessons, and carry Gram with me on a daily basis, it wouldn't be fair of me to say that I am okay with her death.  Or that I have completely grieved the loss of one of the most beautiful souls I have had the privilege of knowing.  In fact, I would say the complete opposite.  And as I write this I begin to think that maybe I am not the epitome of the grace that was taught by Gram, and perhaps I am the opposite.  I am still angry that a routine procedure turned into over 2 weeks on life support.  I still want to scream when I think of the countless mistakes that were made in Gram's care that led her to living her last days kept alive by machines.  I want to tear into the doctor who looked me in the eyes and lied to me telling me that, "she is going to recover from this" rather than being a man and shooting it straight to me-after I begged him for honesty.  I am angry, and there is no doubting this lack of acceptance would not be considered graceful by Gram.

With 3 years under my belt as a hospice social worker, I thought I would move quickly through the Stages of Grief that I would venture to say every individual passes through. However, I seem to be stuck in the Anger stage, angry with everyone including God, the doctors, and even myself for not letting my Gram know every single day how much she meant and continues to mean to me, even after her untimely death.  I hate that I am stuck in this phase, and even though I know grief is individual and everyone's journey is like a rollercoaster filled with highs and lows, I am exceptionally hard on myself for being stuck in anger. 

I think that part of the reason I have found myself stuck in the anger stage is due to my lack of allowing myself to feel all of the feelings I have about Gram's death.  It is so much easier to be mad at everyone and everything about losing one of my best friends, than to feel sadness. And it is even harder yet to accept that I will never see her face or hear her sweet angelic voice ever again.  So instead I allow my blood to boil thinking of that doctor I mentioned before, or the fact that we were mislead about treatment and therefore kept Gram alive much longer than we would have if given the truth about her condition and the ultimate outcome.

So where do I go from here? I guess if I go back to what I wrote about in my New Year's post, I should try to figure out a way to make the next year less angry, and more graceful and accepting; like Gram would want.  I also guess this means I need to add to my list of resolutions and goals for 2015 and allow myself to move through the grieving process.  I am not sure what that means exactly, but I know that something needs to change or I will live the rest of my life being angry about Gram being taken away from me.  And that is not what she would want.  She would want me to move forward, to think of her and accept her death, and to have nothing but happy thoughts about the times we had together; the lessons she taught.

The lessons Gram taught me helped me counsel so many people through the grief process helping them to reach ultimate acceptance.  However, I am not sure which direction to tell myself to venture down this path.  I have encouraged people to write letters, go to counseling, and to talk openly about the memories they have of their loved one; but none of this seems right to me.  I am kind of lost on this one, and maybe that is not a good thing to "admit" in a blog dedicated to helping people become a better version of themselves; but it is honest.  Incredibly honest. And how can I help others if I don't admit my own weaknesses and faults?

This honesty was taught by Gram, and I believe as I write this post to share with you is the first step to my ability to accept her death.  If I use this honesty, I am able to see the senselessness in my anger.  Wanting to rip a doctor's head off won't bring Gram back, and it sure as hell won't make me move forward in accepting her death.  And since I am being honest, I don't know where I will start.  I don't know what the first step is, and I honestly continue to feel stuck. 

While I am still stuck, this post has been cathartic and I hope that maybe, just maybe this is the first step.  As I journey into this New Year, I hope to find my way through the peaks and valleys of grief and on my road to acceptance.  As angry as I continue to be, I know that Gram is watching over me and will help me along my way.  I will continue this path with Gram and grace in my heart, and hopefully by this time next year, I will be able to tell you that I have reached acceptance and will be filled with less anger and more happiness as we remember my Gram on the anniversary of her death.

In Memory of
Marian Louise Fischer Yatsko


New Year, New Post

It's no secret that I have "fallen off the wagon" when it comes to writing posts.  Life has been so busy over the past few months. Between my brother's wedding,
the holidays
and trying to keep my house running in some kind of fashion,
I have let sitting down to write take a back seat.  I have been feeling guilty about this but have continued to put it off.  Maybe because I figure, "who wants to follow a blog where the author writes maybe once a month" or maybe because at the end of the day when I finally feel like I have time, all I want to do is catch up on the newest episodes of my favorite shows available on Netflix.  Either way, I have decided today, on the first day of the New Year, to make time to sit down and write; and to continue doing so at least once a week for the next year. 

Maybe this is a little bit ambitious, but isn't that what New Year is about?  Setting goals that we hope to achieve and if we don't we restart them the following year?  I know that for myself I more or less set the same resolutions every year. And every year, I do great for the first 6 months or so and then life takes precedent and my goals are quickly forgotten.  So, this year, I am hoping to do things a little different.  It has been proven that setting goals that are achievable and time sensitive help us to reach them.  And doesn't it feel much better to set attainable goals and complete them?  There is such a sense of pride that comes from being able to say "I did it!".   Additionally, I have found both with my personal life and the work I do with my clients that if there is someone to be accountable to the goal is much more likely to be reached.  Therefore, I am putting my readers in the position of holding me accountable, and am sharing my top 5 goals with you today.


New Year's Resolutions

  1. Live a healthier lifestyle-less wine, more workouts. Less junk, more clean eating.  Even though I do well with this most of the year, the past few weeks I have definitely gained what I call "The Holiday 5" by eating handfuls of Chex Mix, Cookies and anything else I could indulge myself in.  I am not going to say, "I am going to lose 15 pounds" because I don't know if that will happen.  But I will say that I am going to make better choices, and hope to be able to share with you my journey as my body begins to thank me for giving it what it wants and needs rather than what I want and think I need.
  2. Finish my LISW.  For those of you who don't know, I have been working on completing this next level of licensure in Social Work for a little over 2 years. The doors that will open with having an independent license will be phenomenal and therefore I am making it a point to complete this license this year. 
  3. ORGANIZE my house.  It feels like every time I get something organized, there are 858492893 other things that need the same attention.  I plan to knock this all out within the first 3 months of 2015, room by room.  I will also be getting rid of a lot of stuff that I don't need to hang on to.  I will let you all know what I will be getting rid of, in case you want any of said stuff.
  4. Write recipes.  Everyone knows that we cook in my house.  Normally Steven is in charge, and that makes it hard for me to write and share recipes with you.  Therefore, I am proposing (without Steven's knowledge) more joint cooking, and more recipe writing.  Even if we have to video tape ourselves and write the recipe after, I think it will be worth it.
  5. Number 4 led me to this last top 5 goal, which is share more of our tips with you, my readers.  We will be posting videos, recipes and more blog posts about what I think are helpful topics.  And hopefully through doing so will be able to get Let's Be Wellness off and running.
So maybe these goals aren't written as time sensitive and specific, but I didn't want bore you with all of the "I will do this by this date to make this goal happen".   But they do give you the idea of what Steven, my family and I will be working on to make this year, the best year possible.  
I hope that all of you have set some achievable goals for the year, and I look forward to watching us all grow during 2015.  Here is to a wonderful year filled with happiness, love, progress and wellness for our minds, bodies and souls. Let's Be Happy, Let's Be Healthy, Let's Be Wellness! 
© Let's Be Wellness!.Maira Gall.