Isa Mama

I’ve always been a smaller person, but I’ve also struggled with confidence and self-perception my whole life. I was very skinny as a little one, but then as I got older I was a cheerleader and started to bulk up and become muscular. It was never enough for me though. I felt “too fat” or “didn’t even big enough boobs.” My legs felt too big and then my stomach felt fluffy, etc. Cheerleading in college was exceptionally hard, especially because I was the one they would throw in the air. It was such a hard position to be in because I felt like I constantly needed to lose weight, all while being in college. Thankfully, I was never a big drinker, but I loved my Ramen Noodles and More Than Pizza (those of you who went to Southern know what’s up).

Fast forward and I am out of college and grad school. I am done cheerleading and I actually felt like I was thinning out because I was losing muscle. When you just get out of college in the real world, there are still things that are hard to understand- like it’s better to have muscle than not have muscle, that being skinny isn’t sexy and that strong is, etc. I decided to take up some running, but really sucked at it. I worked at a group home and landed my first professional teaching job at an outpatient hospital for kids with severe emotional disturbances. I really didn’t have time to work out or eat healthy so I started to really lose my self-image. I also had a really tough break up, that my heart is still recovering from today, so that just threw me in a loop- poor self-esteem, feeling depressed, emotional eating, etc.

I met my husband in 2009 and I was probably at my worst. I wasn’t huge, but I wasn’t happy and I would rather be fat and happy than not and miserable. Howie met me at my most vulnerable state in life and I was trudging my way through life trying to find a job, a purpose, and a direction.

I would say around 2012 is when my life started to turn around and I started feeling like me again. II think I really found myself in college, but as they say, you often lose yourself and then find yourself again through experiences- good and bad. Howie and I got married, bought a house, I became a zumba instructor and I got pregnant with my first child all within 2-3 years. In the middle of it all, 2014, I discovered ISAGENIX, a nutritional cleansing program that is designed for losing weight and ridding toxins in your body. The program offers a different range of products depending on your goal- primarily focusing on healthy weight loss, increasing muscle, increasing energy levels, and improving your overall health. Like everything else, I was skeptical because everything is a multi-level marketing scam that gets you to buy all these products and then you go back to the way you were if your willpower sucks. I discovered this amazing woman named Tara Romano who is also a zumba instructor and I started using some of her choreography in my zumba classes. I fell in love with her and immediately felt connected to her when I reached out to her about Isagenix. I tried the program and LOVED my results, but more importantly, LOVED how I felt. I actually loved myself.


I got married and felt beautiful. I’m not saying I looked horrible before because some people would say that the picture to the left looks healthier, but ME?! I felt more beautiful and healthy in the right. It is 2018 and I never got back to the left picture.

In 2018, post 2 babies, I decided to jump back on the Isagenix bandwagon. I love the community and I love the products and results. I am in no way or shape trying to sell the program because let’s be honest, there are a million, but this one worked for me. I am currently on day 25 and lost a total of 6 lbs and 8 inches. I haven’t been able to cleanse because my chunky boy still has a strong nursing game and if you cleanse during nursing, the toxins can be released through the milk. At this point in my life, I am not looking to lose a ton of weight, but I want to feel better, more energized and feel less tired (even though I only sleep a grand total of 4-5 hours a night #babiesandtoddlers). The most important thing I learned about this program is that it’s not just 30 days, but it’s a lifestyle. I have become more conscious of healthy choices, my caloric intake (for a smaller girl I can inhale food, especially sweets), more confident, I have increased my running pace, and I have improved my overall mood. Between running being my anti-anxiety medication and now putting nutrient dense foods into my body, I could conquer the world!

Starting a diet or buying a new shade of lipstick won’t put you on a path to freedom. It might make you feel good on the outside, which is a natural part of your womanhood, but the change must begin with the transformation by the Spirit- the renewing of our minds. -Candace Cameron

I will say, change is so hard, especially when you are already stuck in a routine. I was eating Costco ancient grain granola with unsweetened almond milk every morning, drinking decaf coffees, but with TONS of creamer (1 tbsp= 5g of sugar!), going to Dunkin’ EVERY day for a medium iced coffee with caramel swirl and cream (the swirl itself is almost 30g of sugar and carbs), 2-3 snacks before lunch because I am hungry every hour- most snacks were empty snacks. For lunch I was eating almost 2 meals including a quest protein bar. Then I would come home and would snack on all my kids snacks until dinner. Then I would eat a snack before bed, sometimes 2 and let me tell you, I would eat until I felt like I was going to puke. Cue to my stomach hurting and feeling bloated all the time. Most of the time I just blamed it on breastfeeding and thought I could eat whatever I wanted since I was running too.

Starting Isageni was hard for me- it was a mind game. I had to change my whole lifestyle and renew my willpower. I had to be ready in my mind before jumping into such a big change. The 30 day program is about $350 and then you buy your products as needed per month. When you pay $22,000 per year in daycare, $350 SUCKS. But my health is way more important. Happy wife, happy life. Happy mom, happy family. The 30 day consists of 4 protein shakes- French vanilla, dutch chocolate, strawberry, or chocolate mint (you can mix and match). It also comes with 2 bottles of cleanse for life for deep cleansing or daily cleanse, ionix supreme (which tastes gross), which is a nutrient-rich tonic with adaptogens designed to protect against stress, 4 packets of amped hydrate (like a healthy powder Gatorade), a natural accelerator (a metabolism pill with cayenne pepper, apple cider vinegar, etc), isaflush (pill to take at night to help with regularity), isasnacks (wafers to help with cleanse days), and my favorite, isadelights (dark or milk chocolate infused with green tea for cleanse days). This is the 30 day product review in a nutshell.

As far as the program goes, ideally, you would take all your before pictures the night before and take all your measurements. Take an isaflush at bedtime and you are ready to start day 1. Day 1-5 starts with 1 oz. of ionix supreme, 2 oz of daily cleanse (which I do because I can’t deep cleanse due to nursing), 8 oz of water blended with a shake, and a natural accelerator. Then about 2-3 hours later, you can have a healthy snack before lunch.

Here is my daily routine-

My snacks of choice are the Kirkland egg whites microwaved for 2 min with garlic, pepper, and salt, a green apple sliced with cinnamon, 1/2 IsaLean bar or 1/2 quest bar (I love the Kirkland protein bars), a slice of Ezekiel bread with almond butter, cucumber with lemon garlic salad dressing (high in good fat, low carb, no sugar), or strawberries/blueberries. For lunch, I LOVE myself a good hearty salad- I love getting the chicken skewers from Costco and cutting them into little pieces for the week, spring mix salad, 1/2 avocado, and lemon garlic dressing by chosen foods. SO YUMMY!!! I will usually have 1 isadelight for my chocolate fix right after lunch. When I get home from work, I will try to bang out a 2-3 miles on the treadmill alone while the kids are at daycare and I watch Friends, The Bachelor/Bachelorette, Grey’s, or This is Us on Netflix/Hulu- Running after work is NOT EASY at all! But remember, it takes about 10 days to create a habit. After my run, I try to eat some good carbs and my FAVORITE thing lately is cutting sweet potatoes into chunks and putting them in the oven at 400 degrees sprinkled with olive oil, cinnamon, Himalayan salt, and pepper for about 45 minutes. OMG YUM!!!! Sometimes I will have a frowned upon treat and have my own homemade decaf iced coffee with Coffeemate sugar-free French vanilla creamer and 1 stevia. I find that it fills me up until dinner. For dinner, I always cook a veggie with a protein. I love the organic steerable bags of Brussel sprouts with olive oil and Himalayan salt. I also love steamed broccoli, sweet potatoes, spaghetti squash, and cucumbers for veggies.

Some of my favorite dinners-

  • Roasted spaghetti squash with low sugar tomato sauce and ground turkey with seasoning
  • Ground turkey with low sodium taco seasoning, shredded lettuce, avocado, organic Kirkland medium salsa, 1 cup black beans
  • Quinoa Taco Bake
  • Grilled steak and broccoli with garlic
  • Zucchini noodles with shrimp and Kirkland pesto sauce
  • Grilled chicken thighs with lemon garlic dressing and a veggie of your choice
  • Ground turkey with steak seasoning, broccoli, and riced cauliflower
  • Egg whites with Aidell’s chicken apple sausage, broccoli and tomatoes
  • Brown rice with Aidell’s Habanero apple sausage
  • Cauliflower fried rice with tons of veggies and low sodium soy sauce
  • Cauliflower Pizza with Veggies
  • Roasted spaghetti squash with Alfredo sauce and broccoli
  • Chicken burgers with sautéed mushrooms and avocado
  • Salad with grilled chicken, avocado, cucumbers, high fat low carb dressing (I love the Costco chicken skewers listed above)
  • Mexican Cauliflower Fried Rice
  • Ground Turkey Sweet Potato Skillet
  • LOVE LOVE cutting sweet potatoes into chunks and baking at 400 for 40 minutes sprinkled with olive oil, cinnamon, pink salt and pepper- this is the perfect side dish
  • ** dessert alert- Avocado Brownies (Melted isa delights or dark chocolate, coconut sugar or swerve, coconut oil, avocado, 4 eggs, vanilla extract, isagenix chocolate protein or raw cocao powder, almond powder)

These are just some of my faves, but they are easy for mom’s and so yummy. If you can’t tell I LOVE this program.

I also made a Costco shopping list that coincides with Isagenix. It’s also a clean eating list to help you get started on the path of lifestyle change and happiness-

  • Granny Smith apples (lowest in sugar for fruits)
  • Kirkland egg whites
  • Eggs (to make boiled eggs)
  • Thermoflask water bottles (so good for keeping track with water consumption)
  • Spring Mix/Romaine lettuce/Spinach (too much spinach personally makes my stomach hurt)
  • Organic ground turkey
  • Himalayan salt
  • Taco seasoning
  • Steamable bags Brussel sprouts
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Avocadoes
  • Lemon garlic dressing/greek vinaigrette (primal kitchen)
  • Chicken thighs
  • Amylu Chicken burgers
  • Aidell’s chicken sausage (any flavor)
  • Kirkland protein bars
  • Kirkland cashew clusters or coconut clusters
  • Raw almonds
  • Black beans
  • English cucumbers
  • Brita water and filters
  • Brocoli (frozen or refrigerated)
  • Riced cauliflower
  • Kirkland pesto sauce
  • Edamame spaghetti
  • Strawberries, blueberries
  • Mary’s Gone Crackers
  • Kirkland almond butter
  • Shrimp
  • Coconut oil
  • Kirkland olive oil

By no means am I trying to push Isagenix on anyone, but this blog is simply just explaining the in’s and out’s of Isagenix, but also showing that different things work for different people. I am a firm believe that if you are ready in your heart, mind and soul to make a change, you will. Even if it’s in small steps. Do it for you. In a world with a million choices and all these money stealing scams, find what works for you and go all in.





Dear Last Baby

Dear Baby Boy,

You are one year old today. I can’t really explain how much love my heart can actually hold. I remember carrying you in my belly for almost 9 months and I had no idea who you were- if you were a boy or a girl. I remember obsessing over wondering if you were a boy or a girl, but Dada and I decided not to find out because we wanted it to be a surprise.

I remember driving to the hospital going back and forth with Dada about what your name would be. Then, you were here and it was the most amazing moment of my life. It was love at first sight. Til this day, I will close my eyes and relive that moment over and over again. The midwife who delivered you yelled, “It’s a boy!” And at that moment, my heart melted into a million pieces. I never ever knew how much I could love. I remember being scared to share you with your sister and I was scared my heart wouldn’t be able to multiply the love, but my God I was wrong. You shimmied up to me and cuddled right under my chin. In that moment, I have never been happier or more complete. It was such an emotional day because I knew you had completed our little family.

When everyone came to meet you, the room filled with joy. It was the best surprise for everyone. You are the sweetest, most curious, chunkiest, loving, baby boy in the universe. You started out so calm. You slept through the night from the womb up until about 8 months (in the rock n’ play). You were NEVER cranky or colicky and you loved to cuddle against my chest in my shirt. You were my chill baby and you slept all the time.

At around 8 months, you became curious about the world and you’ve never stopped. Today, you are feisty, won’t sit still for us to change your diaper, you love to laugh at your sister, you love being outside, you don’t want to cuddle mama anymore and when you do, you usually try to fly out of my arms, you are chunky and sweet, you love Koko’s dog food and water, you love baths, and you love to cuddle in mama’s armpit all night long. You aren’t a cranky babe, but when your teeth come through, you are not a happy camper. I wish I could protect you from any pain.

Dear last baby, I love you and I pray that you continue to have this zest for life. I can see you riding dirt bikes and playing in the mud, but I hope you always want your mama. I pray you know how much I love you unconditionally. I pray you live your best life. I pray your heart stays the same as it is now- innocent and pure. This is a hard time for mama because you are my last baby. Because even through the sleepless nights and nap strikes, I would do this all over again because you NEED me and soon enough, in a couple years, I have to let you go into the world where I can’t keep you cuddled up in my armpit safe and sound from the harsh and scary world. Because you I love and hate this phase of life and I don’t want to say goodbye to this amazing chapter; the chapter that made me a mama of 2. Because I know you will conquer the world, but right now I can protect you and in a few years when you are independent and free (like your sister), I can’t always keep you safe and warm. I love you baby boy. Don’t ever change.


How I Potty Trained My Toddler

This past week, I potty trained my daughter. I was off for April vacation and decided that we were both ready. Tip #1- Make sure you are both ready. Last summer she was just turning 2 and she started to show interest in the potty so I had her naked for most of the summer outside on the deck. I put a little musical potty outside and rewarded her every time she went. Keep in mind I also had a newborn. The problem was that she wouldn’t use the potty if she had undies on, only if she was naked. Anytime we would go out I put her in a diaper because we didn’t master using the potty at home and I wasn’t ready for accidents with a toddler and a newborn in tow. The summer flew by and it was time for me to go back to work and both babes went back to daycare. I kiboshed the potty training and realized we weren’t ready. I also read some articles about how potty training too soon can backfire quickly and also cause UTI’s.

Tip #2- Be patient and don’t rush the process. Now mind you, we have “potty trained” a few times and then pushed back because it just wasn’t the right time. Disclaimer- there really is no RIGHT time. Fast forward to this past week. I was off and ready to dedicate the whole week to her. She has been using the potty for a while now, but very inconsistently and only when we are at home. There are a million books on “how to potty train in 3 days” or how to potty train blah blah blah, but I don’t have time to read those!!! I was nervous, but for once I felt like I could let go and just let it happen when it was supposed to. Monday, the first day of our break, we went to Target, of course, and she picked out some PJ Masks undies. We already have princess ones, but we had to stock up in case of accidents. Tip #3- Be prepared for accidents. Stock up on their favorite undies.


Tip #4- Ditch the diapers. Some people would argue to ditch the pull-ups too, but for me, I wanted night-time pull-ups because I don’t know how to potty train at night. That is on hold for now. I can’t get up all night long for her to use the potty while Hudson is still waking up through the night. Hell, I wish I could wear a diaper at night hahaha!

Tip #5- Get rid of all distractors and make sure the potty is easily accessible. It’s funny, she loves her music potty, but hates the big potty. On our Target trip, I also got a stool for her to be able to use the big potty.

Tip #6- Ask them every 5-10 minutes if they need to use the bathroom. This might not work for everyone. Some babes need to just sit on the potty with a preferred activity. Some of my friends used the iPad while they potty trained and it worked wonders! For Juliana, asking her every 10 minutes while she was engaged in a preferred activity outside the bathroom worked. But for one of my mom friends, they had to have their babe sit on the potty while on the iPad and that worked too.

Tip #7- Positive Reinforcement- Whether it’s new undies, iPad time, lollipops- line em’ up! Every time Juliana used the potty, I immediately rewarded her with a lollipop and/or fruit snacks. It’s crazy because since she was already familiar with the potty, she started using it independently without me even asking her every 10 minutes. We started out with every 10 minutes on Monday and then Tuesday she was ready.

Tip #8- After somewhat mastering the potty at home, even if you have to remind them every minute, venture out for a trip and see how they do. Lower your expectations, but have confidence in them. We went to Target (we actually live there) and before we went shopping, we all went in to use the bathroom. Little did I know (because I never tried), she was PETRIFIED of the public toilet. Not sure if it was because she didn’t have her stool or because she was actually really scared of it. It was a shit show because Hudson was crying and wanted to be held, meanwhile I am trying to pull down Juliana’s pants and put her on the potty while she was screaming her head off. Thank you to the mama who saw me struggling and offered to help me. I love moms helping moms!

Tip #9- Let go of the control and your expectations. Expect some obstacles and be okay with it. Don’t beat yourself up. Needless to say, our Target trip was cut short and we went home to use the potty. I didn’t bring her potty with us because it’s bulky and since I am usually solo on my Target trips, I can’t carry Hudson, the stroller, Juliana’s hand, the diaper bag, AND the potty. After she used the potty (AND held it all the way home), I rewarded her with a lollipop and we ventured back out to Target. This time, I brought a collapsible stool and shoved it in the diaper bag. This potty training shit is exhausting. Beware!

Tip #10- Be prepared. Even though this goes without saying, try your best to be prepared…for a pee on the floor, for your other kiddo (especially if they are almost 1) to try to climb in the potty, for accidents in undies when you are out, for them being scared to use the public potty, etc. If you are out for a long trip, bring a collapsible potty in case you need to pull over. Jules, Hudson, and I were driving home from church this weekend (which was a shit show and we had to leave). She was too nervous to use the potty at church and Hudson ended up falling asleep so we were driving around. I was afraid for her to fall asleep for a nap because she wasn’t in a pull-up and this whole potty training thing when they are sleeping baffles me. While we were driving, she started yelling that her pee was coming and she had to go. Needless to say, I had to stop on the side of the road so she could use her potty that I thankfully brought with me. The potty we have is bulky and not collapsible, so I recommend a collapsible one. We recently went to Supercross and our new TRAVEL potty I just purchased on amazon is AMAZING!!!! It saved us from any accidents and thank goodness we brought it because the toilets at the stadium turned black from a sewage issue and let me tell you, it was “gusting.” I may or may not have used her potty.


Tip #11- Don’t go to back diapers! As much as you want to for convenience, don’t do it! Pull-ups at night work for us and I’m not sorry about it.

These are just SOME tips that worked for US and our process. It is different for everyone. Make sure you both are ready and you can begin the process. You may need to start and stop a few times and that’s okay. I also compiled a list of things you need before you start-

  1. A portable or collapsible potty- The travel potty we use
  2. The potty we use at home
  3. Stools are versatile!
  4. Motivators for your little ones
  5. Invest in a million wipes!



Dear Tired Mama


Dear Tired, Exhausted, Overworked, Overwhelmed, Sore, Lonely Mama,

Tired is too weak of a word to use in the exhaustion of motherhood. You wake up early with a 3 page to-do list, pack lunches, get your kids ready for school or daycare, forget to brush your hair, go to work, pick them back up, look at that 3 page to-do list, do laundry, make dinner, bicker with your husband, try to clean the house, pack for the next day, nurse your little one to sleep/let them cry it out in their own crib/get them more water/intervene nightmares…by the time it’s time for you to go to bed, it’s 10pm and you haven’t even showered yet. “They need you. They won’t go to sleep without you,” says your lovely husband. You are entitled to a breakdown every now and then. And guess what?

You are not alone. You are a good mom. You are worth it. You deserve to recharge and self-love. It’s okay to feel depressed. It’s okay to feel like you have no more energy left to give to your kids. Embrace the feeling and stop feeling guilty. You are not expected to be turned on every single day. Allow yourself permission to shut down and ask for help at times. Allow yourself to do nothing. Stop obsessing over the dishes and the chores that need to be done. Unfortunately, those things won’t go away. You can do them later. It’s okay if you need to lock yourself in the bathroom and breathe.

Stop apologizing. Stop feeling guilty. Just be. We know you love your kids. We know you know time is precious. Your kids will love you unconditionally no matter what mood you are in. Teach them you are human. You are okay. You can do this. You will do this. This too shall pass. I don’t need to tell you that you will miss this. We all get that they are only this little for so long. And soon enough they won’t “need” you anymore. But it’s also hard AF. This phase is hard right now and you can acknowledge that.

Keep on going mama and give yourself some credit. Rest. Breathe. Let all your expectations go for today.


Live a healthy lifestyle and be happy…stay sane

You always hear excuses from people- “I am too busy. I have more than one kid. I’m too tired, my baby was up all night. I have a headache. I don’t have time.” MAKE time for you. If you don’t make time for you, you will get burnt out and to be a mama, you need a full gas tank. I’m not saying go out there and take boot camp, but get your heart pumping. Let those endorphins run wild. Feel it.


Endorphins are a group of hormones and once they’re released in the brain and nervous system, there’s a physiological effect. The effects include but are not limited to: pain relief, positivity, energy improved sleep cycles, and reduced anxiety, stress and depression.

Here are some tips to help you live a healthy lifestyle and be happy/ AKA stay sane:

  1. Eat mindfully- I’m not saying give up all sweets and treats, but be mindful of what you are eating. I am so guilty of eating on the go, rushing while I eat, and sometimes even eating while I am working or on my phone or computer. When you are rushing to eat your food, you really can’t tell if you are full or not. It’s so hard to be a full-time working mama and eat mindfully, but try sitting down with your kids, your students, your significant other and eat slowly.- engage in conversation. Enjoy your food. Put down the phone and work and just eat.
  2. Try some HIIT programs- I LOVE HIIT workouts. I used to be involved in a HIIT class at the gym on Tuesday nights and I loved it! HIIT means high interval intensity training consisting of bursts of intense exercise followed by short periods of rest. Research shows that HIIT workouts help build endurance, burn more calories, and boost your metabolism. My favorite HIIT workout is on the treadmill.


3. Set goals- For me, I LOVE to run, but I was never really a runner. I wanted to    challenge myself and decided to run my first half marathon in 2014…I actually ran 2. I became addicted and set a goal to run a half marathon every year (unless I was pregnant). I’m not saying go out and run a half marathon or a full marathon, but set some goals and smash them! Some great ideas: Commit to yoga once a week, drink more water, join a team or class, commit to walking or running 3x a week…those are just some examples!

4.  Meditate- I love the app Insight Timer- they have guided mediations for everything from anxiety to sleep. I also think yoga is a great escape! Even if you meditate or take yoga once a week, it does wonders for the mind, body, and soul. Remember, just breathe.

5.  Weights- Don’t be afraid to lift weights. Benefits of weight lifting include losing body fat, gaining strength WITHOUT bulking if you do it properly, reducing risk of injuries (especially good if you have chunky babies hahah), burns more calories, can help improve posture and back pain, and enhances mood and reduces stress. I personally love  weight challenges like the push-up challenge, wall-sit challenge, and even some Pinterest weight workouts. I love to aim for doing 50 pushups a day (like tip #3). My toddler loves to join me in these challenges =) Strong is the new sexy.

6.  Drink more water- Aim for 64 oz. per day! Water helps the skin, organs, and just overall health. Add some lemon and have a sunshiny day!

7.  Stop comparing yourself to everyone else- BE YOU, no one else. Who cares if the next person can run a mile faster than you? Who cares if he or she has a 6 pack. You are you for a reason. Be in competition with yourself. Like I said in a few blogs before this, social media paints a picture that everyone is perfect and when they pose they are skinny with an 8 pack…but reality is, who cares. More power to ya if you do- I have posted pictures of myself because I worked pretty damn hard setting goals and I like to try to inspire other moms. I have learned to look in the mirror and appreciate every single flaw I have. They are who I am. When I plank, I have loose skin that shrivels up protrudes out. But when I stand up and have correct posture, it looks like I have some muscle. It doesn’t come easy- especially with kids, but strive to be a better you.



Disciplining a Toddler


It is so so so important that when you are disciplining a toddler that you and your partner are on the same page. If you are not on the same page, toddlers totally know that and will start manipulating one of you. And then in return, this usually results in a fight between mom and dad. I really wish they had classes on behavior and disciplining toddlers because this is the shit that can break up marriages and make you go off the deep end. Everyone can have an opinion, but the first step really is to be on the same page as your partner. Toddlers are like dogs, they can sniff out the weaker link. The whole disciplining a toddler thing is difficult because it is sometimes on the fly- you have to learn your toddlers temperament, what makes them tick, what are they motivated by, do they even understand consequences yet, are they extroverted/introverted, how old are they, are they socially motivated, are they easy-going or strong-willed (we all know what Juliana is), etc.  There are so many questions and things to consider when disciplining a toddler!

Toddlerhood is a particularly vexing time for parents because this is the age at which children start to become more independent and discover themselves as individuals. BUT they still have a limited ability to communicate and reason, so discipline can become dicey. Here are some tips that have helped me, but also being a behavior specialist, I have used these tactics on my students as well.

  1. Be on the same page as your partner (which I talked about above)
  2. Be consistent. Toddlers, especially strong-willed ones, need routine and order! For example, bed time should be around the same time every night. I totally get that you can’t always have a bedtime routine, especially when you have more than one kiddo, but at least aim for the same time every night. I had to sleep train Juliana and since we went hard with the training before our second was born, I was able to give 100% and be 100% consistent on putting her to bed at the same time. Research shows that toddlers respond very well to consistency in rules, routines, mealtimes, and schedules because then they know what to expect. Even naps…don’t skip a nap if you know they will be terrors. BUT also, don’t beat yourself up if they don’t nap for you, but will nap for daycare..(hmmm, wonder who that is)
  3. Prep, prep, prep- It can be helpful to prep your toddler for change or the future. For example, if Auntie Erin is babysitting, it can help ease the transition for your toddler if you explain what is happening. Juliana totally gets language and can understand, even if she may not always be able to retrieve the appropriate words, she can understand me. When I prep her for dance class, bed time, going to Nana and Papa’s or Mimi and Papa’s, etc., it seems to help her transition without behaviors.
  4. Try really hard to avoid stressful situations/meltdowns- Meltdowns are inevitable in toddlers. They will happen and they may even happen multiple times a day- with little things like when you tell them to put their puzzle away. Yikes, it can a while to get out of the meltdown, but if you know what triggers them, see if you can avoid it. For example, if you know that mornings are tough for all of you, pack lunch and outfits the night before. Or if you know that going to the grocery store will cause meltdowns because he/she wants to walk around the store independently and may take off, maybe that iPad or YouTube kids will come in handy. You are not a bad mom for that. Do what works for YOUR kids. But if you know what gets them upset, see if you can proactively fix that.
  5. Set rules & set a precedent– Set rules from day one. Maybe they can earn a special something that they don’t normally do, but set rules and stick to them, especially when it has to do with safety. Make sure everyone in the family is on board as well because again, toddlers thrive on consistency and structure. For example, Juliana learned at a young age to always stay with an adult when we go out. We practice this all the time, but I will be honest. I also instilled a little fear in her- My mom’s friend’s baby was almost taken by a stranger and I had to explain to Juliana that some people are mean and can take you. She never gives me a hard time when we are out now. Also, at daycare, they learned to yell, “Cars coming” and go to the door if a car pulls in the driveway. Whenever we are in a parking lot or out, she knows to always hold my hand and looks both ways. Now that she’s 2.5 going on 17, if there is a new rule, she plays with the boundaries and tests her limits so new rules are totally different stories. For new rules, it’s a good idea to practice these rules and make them part of bedtime routine or make them into a story.
  6. Distract, distract, distract- The art of distraction works wonders for toddlers. We all know that toddlers can go from 0-60 in a matter of a second, so always try to distract first. Start with their interests or random stuff. The thing that works the best for me as a mom and a special education teacher is something SO random. If Jules is in the middle of a meltdown, I will pretend I see a bug or something weird. 90% of the time she will stop in her tracks and ask why a million times and then we start having a 10 minute conversation about bugs or princesses.
  7. Time in or time out? Know what is best for your child and remember time out isn’t always the best option. At work, time out doesn’t usually work. We have something in our classroom called vacation station (you can also name it Cozy Corner, Chill Zone, Relaxi Taxi). However, Juliana responds well to time out, but a very specific kind. You can’t ask her to go in the corner and think about what she did because she will run away in 2 seconds laughing. We used to have to put her in her high chair at one point, but she would try to escape. Howie and I really struggled with this, because if she hit Noah or Hudson and really hurt them, there needed to be a big enough consequence for her to understand that she can’t do that again. We talked to our pediatrician at length about consequences for a strong-willed and hyper kiddo. Time outs, but holding her in the time out. It wasn’t fun at first, but we have a designated area in our house where she needs to sit while mommy or daddy hold her/hug her for 2 minutes. It sucked at first because she was scream and cry and try to bang her head in my chest. We never talk to her during the brief time out, but what I found was that she totally needed it. She calmed right away and then apologized to whoever she needed to. It was about a 5 minute ordeal and we moved on to the next thing. Don’t talk about it after it happened. Just move on and breathe. Time outs and time ins are always hard for the parent.
  8. Extinction is the withdrawal of all attention after a child engages in an undesirable behavior.  (It is a tough method to use at first and bystanders may be shocked if they aren’t prepared.)  Children live for attention and they love exaggerated emotional responses. Attention is stimulation.  Whether that attention is good or bad, it is stimulating and they like it.  The idea behind extinction is that you do not reinforce undesirable behavior by giving the child a reward for their bad behaviors — the reward being attention and an exaggerated emotional response.

This is also known as planned ignoring. This is a difficult strategy, but it can work for things such as screaming, throwing, tantrumming, but not safety. You should never ignore anything that pertains to safety. Juliana tends to try to hit her brother, but ignoring it could obviously hurt him. She also just started hitting the dog, which of course is hard to ignore. Again, make sure everyone is on the same page.

9. Stay calm, cool, and collected- Toddlers are very sensitive to highly charged emotions. Stay even keel because when toddlers see that you can keep your cool, chances are, they will too. We all know there’s no calm tantrums, but if they learn to react calmly, chances are they will when they are older too. Research shows if you yell or hit your child because you are upset with them, it can cause depression, tempers, anger issues, anxiety, increased aggression, and low self-esteem. It is SO normal to be upset with your toddler and wants to lose your temper or scream, but take a step back, take a deep breathe, and assess the situation. Will you do more harm or good when disciplining? There are some days I really want to run away and/or I lose my shit- like yelling, slamming doors, lose my shit…because my kids don’t like to sleep. I also lost my shit once when Jules hit Hudson and Noah in the head. I felt like I lost all control, but I kept hearing those mama demons saying- take a step back and breathe. These little babes love us so much and when we get yelled at by big people it can hurt or intimidate us- now imagine how they must feel.

10. Keep a bag of tricks- Dolls, barbies, iPad, puzzles, gadget toys, non toys (because babies love anything that isn’t a real toy) anything they like! Keep it on hand in case of emergencies- Target runs, car rides, plane rides, etc.

11. Praise ALL the good behaviors- I love it when you’re such a good big sister/brother. Great job helping me. You are so good at helping Mommy with chores. This goes along way. In the ABA world, we call it shaping.

12. Make sure consequences are tied to the behavior so they can relate and have a better understanding what consequences are. Examples- if your toddler hits, remove them from that situation immediately and explain why. I usually do a timeout where I am holding her for 2 minutes then have her apologize. That works for us. Toddlers don’t have concept of time quite yet so if you are “punishing” them after the fact, they probably won’t understand why.



Tips on Surviving Motherhood

Let’s be real. Sometimes motherhood is just about surviving. I am no expert, but I consider myself a veteran with a toddler and an almost 1 year old. Everyday is a rollercoaster of emotions for me, but I wouldn’t trade any moment for the world. I made a list of some tips I thought I could have used when I became a new mom:

  1. Have an outlet– Everyone needs an outlet, kids or no kids. Every mom needs an outlet without their kids. My outlet is running, even if it’s downstairs on my treadmill for 30 minutes between getting out of work and picking the kids up at daycare. I have many outlets, but running is my go-to to shake off the anxiety or negative energy. When I run, I feel accomplished.
  2. Schedule time for yourself/Prioritize yourself– IMG_0261
    Everyone needs to take care of themselves, whether it’s getting a massage, going to the gym, getting a pedicure, taking a bath, going grocery shopping alone, etc. SCHEDULE time for yourself to recharge. I usually try to schedule the big things in advance- like getting a massage, getting my hair done, ME time….but the little things like taking a jacuzzi or watching mindless TV happens when my babes go to bed. It’s always nice to have something to look forward to. I teach my students to “fill their buckets.” Do something nice for yourself every so often, fill your bucket =)
  3. Ask for help– Designate a babysitter. Grandparents are amazing, but they don’t want to babysit everyday and aren’t available all the time, rightfully so. Find a fun and reliable babysitter who you know and knows your kids. Thank you Erin! Thank God for Mimi and Nana for always helping around our house- folding laundry, washing dishes– when they are over here. It is SO helpful. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help!
  4. Join support groups– Facebook has some great groups (Mommywood, Moms Supporting Moms, Breastfeeding Mamas, CT Moms Club, etc). There are great blogs and Instagram profiles that are awesome to follow. Support groups in person are also great, but for me personally, they just don’t work because it involves more work to find someone for the kids, or then if I bring the kids, it’s harder to be involved in the group because I’m so worried about what they’re doing.
  5. Take tons of pictures and videos– And don’t feel bad about it. When you want to scream, when your kids do something for the first time, when you go places…take as many pictures and videos as you can. I LOVE Shutterfly for storing all photos. I take so many videos on my phone, but I never had a good place to store it. I just downloaded DropBox for storing all my videos and I love it. Videos are so important to me and I never want to lose them!
  6. Be Present– No matter how many dishes need to be washed or how busy you might seem, it can wait. The clothes don’t need to be folded right away. I am so OCD, that I feel like I have to get everything DONE before I enjoy time with my kids. I want the laundry to be done, the dishes loaded or unloaded in the dishwasher and the house clean before I lay down and play with the kids. Let’s be honest, it’s not realistic or then I would never spend time with the kids. Also, put the phone down. I am so guilty of constantly checking facebook and scrolling through Instagram while I am with my kids because I want to shut my brain off. I don’t want my kids growing up with the reality of a phone always being in our face. Pictures and videos, yes, social media no. We are so addicted ugh! IMG_0257.jpg
  7. Forgive yourself and your kids– There are going to be so many times you feel like a failure or that you’re mad at your kids. You will snap or feel like snapping and just know that you are entitled to feel that way. Accept those feelings and know this time will go by quickly. Someday we will look back and think that potty training and being up at night was the hardest thing, but compared to the teenage years, it was cake.
  8. Let it all go and just dance in the kitchen with your kids– Like I said before, the chores can wait. Blast on some dance music and just dance. These are the moments they will remember.
  9. Set goals- And smash them! I have always wanted to run a full marathon. I have 3 half marathons and every time my time has gotten faster. I ran my fastest half 6 months postpartum- and 2 kids later. Make that outlet/time for you part of that goal.  When you set goals for yourself, you start to re-establish yourself a little more. It’s so easy to lose yourself in the chaos of motherhood that you tend to forget about yourself- AKA brushing your hair, personal hygiene, appearance, etc. When you set a goal and accomplish them, you start to
  10. Give your kids compliments ALL the time/Build their confidence– Along the same lines, don’t bash yourself. Everyday when I’m getting ready with Juliana, I tell her she’s beautiful and I’m beautiful. Every night before bed, I ask her who’s beautiful and she says, “Me and you, mama.” Even when my toddler is in the most terrible, cranky, and defiant spot in her day, I explain how I love how she is such a good big sister or she does puzzles so well. Even when they are tiny tiny babies, remind them how much you love them. Talk positive. I know it’s hard to do this all the time, but try so hard to be cognizant. I know when Howie and I have a dumb fight, I try so hard to be careful with my words because kids internalize everything.
  11. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, especially “the perfect moms”- Be the best mom YOU can be. Your kids are your kids, not anyone else’s. Social media paints a picture that all these moms have their shit together all the time, but truthfully, they only do sometimes. Every mom experiences the motherhood storm and we all need to stick together. Let those perfect moms with perfect hair, a perfect family, and a perfect Instagram be perfect. In reality, they probably aren’t and have had hot mess days. Embrace those hot mess days and stop comparing!