The Benefits of a Small Space

In a previous post, I talked about How to Live in a Small Space with Kids. The drawbacks to this might be obvious (noise, privacy, blah blah blah), but there are some surprising benefits. Why live in a small space?

  1. It’s easy to know what the kids are up to – it’s easier to watch kids when they can’t get very far! You have better control over their environment and can keep them safe.
  2. Kids learn more – kids learn not by what you say, but by what you do. From cooking, to working and everything in between, they see you doing more in a small space.
  3. Everyone learns to be considerate – it becomes crucial to learn to be quiet when someone’s on the phone, or the baby’s sleeping (or when mom needs quiet time!)
  4. A healthy, low stress, lifestyle – living small often means less financial stress, so you have the flexibility to do more of what you like and what’s good for you (better sleep, regular exercise, eating better etc.)
  5. Kids learn responsibility – in a small space a little mess is a BIG mess! So you definitely need everyone to pitch in and help tidy up after themselves.
  6. Kids learn to live with less stuff – they understand at a young age what they really like and what they can live without – an important life lesson!
  7. We learn to be cooperative – want to get along with someone quickly, live in a small space! It`s true for families too.


Lessons From My Mother – Part 1: The Weekly Set Meal Plan

My mother is an amazing woman. A typical working mother – and busy with 3 kids, she made the time and effort for a different home-cooked meal every night of the week. And it was consistent every week.

We loved the routine and the anticipation of Wednesday night pizza, where we all had our own little jobs. My sister still proudly proclaims that she was the cheese shredder-er! I still remember she had a thick, cardboard grocery list that she always had in her purse – her “master list” because it was the same every week. She defined and eliminated one of her biggest nightmares as a parent, and what many moms struggle with – deciding what to cook! She didn’t have to think about it, it was all there on her master list. She didn’t have to fight anyone to eat, because it was Thursday and Thursday means chicken and noodle stirfry. She took our suggestions and we were more keen on eating the meal we helped make. Being an amazing cook doesn’t hurt either!

I’ve tried to implement a set weekly meal plan with my own family several times, and have always failed, either because I cook too much and we have to eat the same thing all week, or I’m not consistent and go with what I feel like cooking, or what’s on sale. But I’ve known that like most great things, this is a process, it doesn’t happen overnight, and will take time. And I’m happy to go along this journey of highs and lows in hopes that one day I will attain the ever-elusive set meal schedule!

My goal for this week: pick and plan for 3 meals. I had a focused grocery trip and put the menu on our chalkboard for us all to see (especially me). And was able to follow through with some help from my fabulous hubby. I even included a pizza night for the kids, and for my nostalgia (sorry sis – I got the pre-shredded cheese!)

Does it take time? Yes, initially. Is it worth it? Absolutely – I’ll save time and money long-term. Not to mention all the memories we’ll make as a family in the kitchen and around the table for many years to come.

How to make your Resolutions Stick

The number one resolution people make in January is to improve health and fitness. And you definitely see it – the gym suddenly gets busier, we see fellow moms meeting up in their running shoes, “gluten-free” is plastered all over the place. But often by March or February the gyms empty out again, and our hopes and dreams are dashed. We give up. And sadly, it happens every year. What can you do differently this year? How can 2014 be the Year of Fitness?

    1. Set a specific goal If you set your goal to “feel better,” after a couple weeks you will feel better, and then feel justified in throwing in the towel. Instead decide how many pounds you’d like to lose or how many push-ups you’d like to be able to do. And be realistic about this – aim for 5 or 10 pounds instead of 50! Once you reach your smaller goal, you’ll be motivated to keep going.
    2. Schedule it in Look at your calendar every week and mark down when you’re doing what. If you don’t schedule it, it just won’t happen! Things come up and moms are really busy, so if you want to get in 3 weight training sessions a week, then plan for it every week. And make it a priority.
    3. Log your activity You want to see if you’re actually doing what you intend to. I suggest a simple table like this one: Exercise Log and checking off the days that you workout or eat well. It has the same effect as list-making – you feel like you’re getting there (and you are!) and that’s motivating!! It’s also great to have a record of what you’ve done when you make progress, so you know what caused it, and can do more of it.
    4. Give yourself a deadline Set a date to reach your goal and put it in your calendar. If it’s to lose 10 lbs in 3 months, then you know your mini-goal is to lose about 1 lb a week. And you can better track your progress.
    5. Follow a mostly good diet Don’t over-do it with a strict diet. Pick small, sustainable changes that you can do easily. And aim for a mostly good diet, focusing on protein, vegetables and some fruits and whole grains. Say yes to the occasional, but small, treat! Otherwise you’ll feel deprived, crave all kinds of junk, not to mention being crabby!
    6. Find a gym buddy Working out with someone with similar goals can keep you on track and will definitely help get you out of bed at 6 am instead of hitting that snooze button! Just make sure your workouts are focused and intense enough to get you both to your goals.
    7. Allow some setbacks Don’t strive for perfection. You’re a busy mom and things will come up. Just allow for a bad week here or there, and then by all means get back on track as soon as you can! As Zig Ziglar says, “It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you respond to what happens to you that makes all the difference.” That’s why we plan every week to succeed.

And I’m sure if you follow these simple steps, you will succeed in making this year the best one yet! Happy Fit ’14!!

How to Live in a Small Space with Kids

Most people think having a family means needing more space – often a home. My family has proven this to be untrue. We comfortably live in a small condo downtown – 5 of us in a 500 square foot apartment! And we make it work well for us. Owning a home is great for some people. But if you’re like us and cringe at having a monster mortgage and the constant up-keep that a house can entail, then I want you to know that there are other options. It is possible – great even, to live small, even with a kids. How do we do it? Here are My Family’s Golden Rules for Living Small

  1. Don’t buy things we don’t need or love Sounds simple, but in a small space, you really have to be selective about what you bring in. Really think about if it will make your life better or just add stress.
  2. Constantly reduce things we aren’t using If you haven’t used it in the last 6 months (or year for seasonal things) then get rid it.
  3. Buy furniture that serves double duty Our couch is a pull-out bed. Our kitchen island serves as a dining table and desk for the kids.
  4. Limit kids toys – and constantly reduce Kids constantly get gifts and lost interest frequently. You’ll need to go through them from time to time to see what should stay and what should go. It’ll keep tidy up time quick too.
  5. Don’t buy kids specific furniture You don’t really need a change table, crib or toddler bed. We used an existing table, a co-sleeper and a regular bed
  6. Make the most of vertical space Outfit your closets with stackable bins or shelvig that goes all the way up, to make the most of your storage.
  7. Don’t have a baby shower! People will buy you things you don’t need or want and you’ll feel like you need the space to keep it all. It’s much better to buy what you need yourself and what is right for your small space.

In order to be a great parent, you have to be happy. And I believe that it starts with how you chose to live your life. If you want a low-stress lifestyle, live small. We do it and so can you!

Parenting Lessons from Laryngitis

So I had the fun experience of taking care of my kids through laryngitis, where I lost my voice completely! Don’t worry it’s no longer contagious over the Internet! As there are sometimes good things that come out of bad situations, it made me realize a few things:

  1. You don’t need to yell at your kids If you like yelling, then go ahead! No one’s going to judge you (unless they see you of course.) 🙂 But yelling often just makes us angrier and only escalates the problem. By yelling at our kids, we teach them that raising your voices gets you your way – not a nice lesson. Try lowering your voice instead and see what happens. It kind of freaks them out! Pretty hilarious to see. They’re really wondering what they’ve done! It makes them listen very carefully. And they keep their voices down as well (a bonus).
  2. Action is better than words Speaking less means more action. Like moving them instead of repeatedly asking them to stop jumping on the bed. They don’t get the attention they’re seeking through behaving badly. And they learn quickly what behaviours are ok through the consequence of their choice.
  3. It’s hard not being able to say what you want This one goes out to all you toddlers out there (you know who you are!) The ones who know what you want, but can’t express it. I’ve felt your pain. And yes, It’s very frustrating! If you experience the loss of your voice, you’ll see that it’s not easy being a small person (a very nice lesson indeed for us big people). I hope being fed and carried around make up for it.
  4. Speaking fewer words makes them more meaningful When you have to pick and chose what you say, it cuts out all the unnecessary stuff we say. And there’s a surprising amount of it! It also makes you a better conversationalist by both being a better listener and providing a more thoughtful response.

In conclusion, thank you very much laryngitis. You’ve somehow made my life a little better.

Top 10 Reasons Why Moms Need Yoga

I’m a strong believer in everyone doing yoga, but especially moms (and soon-to-be moms.) I practiced yoga during both of my pregnancies (and afterwards) and experienced several benefits. Here are my top 10:

  1. Being mentally and physically stronger Yoga’s a total body workout. And it’s not easy – you may even sweat a little! By getting through something challenging physically, you’re making yourself strong mentally as well.
  2. Improving flexibility You prepare your hips for the stretching necessary during birth. Life with kids is also easier if you can bend and pick them up with ease.
  3. Developing a deeper connection to your body You start to listen and trust what your body tells you, which really helps with giving birth.
  4. Eating better You’re not gonna wanna eat a burger after yoga! Studies have shown that people who exercise regularly have better eating habits. And the decreased stress levels associated with yoga make you less prone to eat emotionally.
  5. Practicing for birth Yoga teaches you to breathe through discomfort, which will help you get through contractions when giving birth. And possibly reduce your need for interventions.
  6. Being able to exercise late in pregnancy As long as your doctor says it’s ok and you modify where needed, yoga can be practiced right up until you deliver.
  7. Being able to workout sooner after delivering You don’t have to wait the 6 weeks for you doctors ok to start some simple, gentle stretches after birth when you feel ready.
  8. Less back aches and leg cramps during pregnancy Yoga improves your circulation and keeps your muscles strong. Stretching your back and calf muscles regularly decreases these common discomforts of pregnancy.
  9. Teaching yourself to relax and be gentle with yourself Being pregnant can be an anxious experience and is definitely a time that we need to be gentle with ourselves. Yoga teaches us to relax, which will calm you during pregnancy and will help you to relax in between contractions during delivery. New moms also need time to slow down and relax, as well as be gentle and patient with our new bodies as we regain strength.
  10. Releasing tension in neck and shoulders from breastfeeding Nursing is tough on our bodies and with the loss of strong core muscles during pregnancy, we are often hunching over, causing more strain in the neck and shoulders. Yoga releases all of these tensions and helps build back a stronger core.

I know that’s 10 reasons, but I still have 2 more (and they’re probably the best ones!):

  • You feel amazing How awesome is that during pregnancy, to actually feel good? And even more important when you’re a mom.
  • Time just for you You need time to remember that you’re more than a mom. And that you need to to take care of yourself too.

I hope that encourages you to do more yoga, or try it if you haven’t yet.