A Homeschooling Story

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“Ok Vanessa, you can do this!
You were homeschooled, sure it was like 20+years ago when you were in 1st grade and you were a kid so you weren’t taking notes from your mom, and you had no idea how much pressure you’d feel being completely responsible for the intellectual formation of one of the human beings you love most in the entire world, but it’s 1st grade…how hard can it be?”

Just a little pep talk I gave myself at the beginning of the year.

When we started this year of homeschooling I felt like it was my first “real” year. I had to officially send in our letter of intent to the State of Florida, letting them know – we are DOING this. I will be taking FULL responsibility of the education of my son this year, thank you very much.

Fhew! Totally scary. Not going to lie.

I had a newborn at the beginning of the year, so I kept thing VERY simple. We would do Phonics, Math, History and Bible. No frills, no co-ops, no involved science experiments, no Latin or science fairs. I know other moms who did all of the above (and more) and some even gave birth and had newborns during this school year – I just knew my capacity and went with that.

I was anticipating a crazy year of homeschooling (in addition to my newborn, I also had a VERY energetic and attention needing three year old, a sweet five year old and then my first grader) but what I was not anticipating, was a child who did not want to learn to read.

Nope. He was not having it. We tried several different approaches, four reading curriculums, prizes, songs, games, threats, rewards – anything I could think of and yet – to no avail.FullSizeRender

Apparently, if a child does not WANT to learn, you cannot MAKE them learn! What a concept!

And I was faced with a very difficult inner dialogue.

“What if this isn’t the best way to educate? What if I’m not a good teacher? We keep butting heads. This isn’t working. I thought education at this age is supposed to be fun. I must be doing this wrong.”

Yup, one year in and this girl who LOVES school, was homeschooled herself, has been looking forward to this for YEARS, was ready to throw in the towel.

Thankfully I have been surrounded by an amazing community of more seasoned moms – moms who remind me that the goal of homeschooling isn’t for the child to master a certain skill set by a certain date. We are creating LIFE-LONG learners. We are investing in character as well as intellect and it is as much MY character that is being built as his.

Throughout the year I have seen a change in my heart – from one of despair, discouragement and failure, to one of hope, trust in God and patience.

I am called to be faithful, to teach daily, to model hard work and a love for learning. (Now if only I can remember that at the end of every lesson gone wrong!)

I have seen myself changing from the mom sitting two inches from my child’s face, pointing at each word saying “what’s this word, sound it out, sound it out, what is that letter? Common, you know this, read the word.” Veins popping out, stressed, striving. To the mom who prays before EVERY lesson, encourages every small victory, has set aside the reading curriculum for now, and simply enjoys reading stories aloud IMG_5328together, focusing more on the areas he DOES love to learn in – math and history. Spending lots of time outside, exploring the world and talking about what we observe.

For a goal-oriented, book loving, first time, “am I doing this right?!” mom, this has been my biggest victory. My homeschooling story is a humbling story. It’s certainly not the story I thought I would have, but it’s OUR story and I’m thankful for it.

Congratulations to my sweet children for enduring their crazy mama this year!
Congratulations to my son for completing the first grade and my daughter for gracefully completing kindergarten.
Congratulations to my three year old for always needing to poop RIGHT when we are at the most crucial moment in our lesson.
Congratulations to my sweet 10 month old baby, for nursing and sleeping anywhere and everywhere this year.
Congratulations to my husband for supporting me EVERY day, listening to my fears and wiping my tears.

One year down. 18(ish) to go!

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Slow Days Ahead

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Hey friends!!!
Gosh, I haven’t had this long of a hiatus from blogging since starting, over three years ago.

The reason for it was simple, I felt the Lord pressing on my heart: “Do less, be more present. Be fiercely devoted to your priorities and do away with all that is secondary.”

My poor sweet little blog, although massively important to me, and always will be a part of my life, needed to take a back seat for a bit. But, in the past few weeks I’ve felt the need to get back to it – content ideas stirring up inside – excitement to get writing again….and there’s also a new chapter in our life that may be fun to document.

You see, in addition to my blog taking a back seat, my husband and I have been having many – many long, late night talks about our life. How do we want to live? What kind of priorities do we have as a couple and are we honoring those priorities? How can we live more slowly, more intentionally and prepare now for future ministry?

We threw around several ideas, and some of them had potential, but none of them fit 100%. You see, our goals in life, as we prayed and talked and prayed some more, seemed to always revolve around these core thing:

– A desire to live for MORE than the status quo and the “American Dream”.
– A rejection of the accumulation of THINGS and debt and being a consumer of entertainment and addicted to comfort.
– A desire to be a strong, stable family, emotionally, spiritually and financially, so our home can be a place of ministry.

Living abroad with our family kept coming up as something we would like to do in the next 5 years. It just seemed to fit with all of our goals and vision.

And then, we both had a crazy idea (we actually came up with the idea SEPARATELY on the same day, and when I told Fernando I needed to talk to him about something, he said, “Me too!” and it was absolutely INSANE when we both had the same idea, same country and all…)- why not try it out this summer?

My husband is a teacher and has the summers off, we’ve ALWAYS wanted to travel with the kids during the summer but I was either pregnant, giving birth or we were broke.

I can’t believe this is really  happening, but….the tickets have been purchased, the AirBnB is reserved, we will be spending one month this summer in Mérida Mexico.

We truly have no connections to this place, no family, friends or churches that we know, but surprisingly almost everyone I’ve spoken to about this knows someone who lives or has lived there, and we’ve got several great people over there that we are talking to and a little community waiting to receive us and give us tips and help.

Mérida is a historic and beautiful city, from what we gather, and we are thrilled Merida07to get to take our kids out of the country, live with the locals, improve our Spanish and bond together as a family unit.

Who knows what the next 5 years may hold, and if we end up living long term out of the country at some point. These summer travel plans and these principals around which we are building our lives may not be popular or understood by most, but there’s something SO freeing to take action on a big decision and KNOW that it lines up PERFECTLY with your core beliefs and values.

It’s literally a dream come true and to think that this is only possible because of the flexibility I have to build my business ANYWHERE and the amazing income to support us while we are there!

Something in my bones tells me this trip will be pivotal in our family’s history – I can’t wait to go (trials and all, because I know there will be bumps along the road).

Mexico – here we come!!

FitMom Tip #1 – Believe You Can (and ditch the excuses)

If you don’t know already, I love – LOVE learning, growing and sharing that knowledge with others. It’s kind of my obsession. So, I am thrilled to indroduce you to my latest project: FitMom Tips. They are quick, informative and the perfect little pep-talk for busy moms who need to be reminded to keep their health a priority.

I know that none of us has a lot of time, but sometimes even just the smallest reminder or tip can make a world of difference in our day – so here is FitMom Tip #1 and it’s all about belief. If you are constantly telling yourself you can’t, and rehearsing all the reasons why it won’t work for you – you are guaranteeing it won’t. If you have ANY desire whatsoever to get healthier, change bad habits and establish good ones – you’ve got to silence the excuses in your head (because there is ALWAYS a way) and BELIEVE.

A Letter to Myself – three kids ago

Dear First Time Mommy Vanessa,

I know you are scared. I know you are waking up all throughout the night to make sure the baby is still breathing. I know you are tracking every single feeding, diaper and nap on that baby app. I know you are doing it out of love.

You want that baby to thrive. You’ve never done anything this BIG before. Another human’s LIFE depends on you now and that scares the shit out of you.

I also know how much you love hate advice, but I’m going to give it to you anyway.

  1. Another life depends on you now.
    So don’t forget about yourself. Don’t forget to shower, sleep, eat well, get outside, enjoy time with friends. I know it seems like a lot of unnecessary work to brush your hair and put on a fresh pair of clothes, but YOU are the center of this little life’s world. You need to be strong, positive, happy, vibrant and focused – that only happens if you take your eyes off the baby, put him down for a few minutes and do a little self-care.
  2. Listen to your instincts.
    Ya, I know you read all those books and you understand baby sleeping patterns now, but those books don’t know YOU or your baby. You do. You are his mama for a reason. He and you are inexplicably connected and you will understand things deep in your soul that no expert can tell you. Your motherly instincts and good and true – stop doubting yourself and looking to others to validate what you know deep inside. If it feels right to pick him up, pick him up. If he seems hungry – even though he ate one hour ago – feed him. Babies are people, and people aren’t robots.
  3. Parenting is about love, everything else is gravy
    How you feed him. Where he sleeps. What he wears. These things seem monumentally important, and they are somewhat – but the main factor between children who struggle and children who thrive is LOVE. Nothing else, nothing more. Love him and show him how you love Jesus and how you love your husband and how you love yourself and the rest is just gravy. Stop stressing about doing parenting “right” and look into those beautiful baby eyes and tell him how much you love him. Look into your Bible and strengthen your marriage. Focus on LOVE and the rest will fall into place.
  4. Enjoy this time
    Oh wait, I remember  – you totally did. Even with all the extra stressing and tracking and making yourself crazy trying to follow the advice of books and others you did a pretty good job of enjoying that first baby. Smelling his sweet smell, tickling his soft, round belly and chubby thighs. I guess that’s something we both have in common, no matter how many worries you had with the first, or how much craziness I have now with the fourth, we know that this stage won’t last forever and we are doing all we can to soak it in.

Cheers! first time mommy Vanessa – you probably won’t  believe me, but this motherhood thing actually gets sweeter and sweeter as the years go by and these kiddos are some of the most brilliant, funny, kind and amazing humans you’ll ever meet.

Maya Isabel’s Birth Story

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This birth story, as most are, is a love story mixed with a war story. It was a battle that was hard fought, emotional and beautiful.

I knew this time around, after many conversations with other moms, I wanted to share – in real time – what I was going through. I wanted to show – as best I could – what it was really like to go through a contraction without the drama of the hospital. I feel like my experience is so rare – a peaceful, unmedicated, birth center birth – that I wanted to share how beautiful and supportive it was. I decided to share on Snapchat (van_fernan) but felt a little embarrassed when I started telling everyone I was going in to labor on Monday June 27th, only to find it was a false alarm – ahhh well! It happens.

On July 2nd, a sleepy Saturday morning, I woke up and started waddling around the house, getting breakfast ready for everyone. When I finally sat down to eat MY breakfast, I felt a gush. It wasn’t a lot, but it was definitely not pee and it felt like my water had broken. Still no contractions, but constant cramping in my lower back.

After going to the bathroom and seeing a lot of fluid and my mucus plug I suspected that today might be the day! But I was cautious in my suspicion because of the previous false alarm. We were planning to head out to the beach that day to enjoy the holiday weekend a bit, but after more gushes and a few contractions starting up I told my husband: “I don’t think we are going to the beach today!”

With my second and third births, once I started getting strong contractions it was not very long before I met my baby! Just four hours with my second and just 45 minutes with my third. So I was a little anxious. I knew the strong contractions hadn’t hit yet, but once they did, I didn’t want to be too far from the birthing center.

My dad came over to take the kiddos and Fernando and I headed over to the birthing center around 11:30am. When she checked me, I was only about 3cm and not very effaced. She told us to walk around the mall, get a good lunch in my belly and come back at 3pm. So we decided to make it a date! It was SO funny to be walking around the mall – in early stages of labor – breathing through contractions while eating my Thai Chicken Lettuce Wrap on the Cheesecake Factory patio. This one lady approached me at H&M (after a fashion emergency forced us to grab a new pair of shorts for Fernando) and said, “You look like you’re about to pop!” and I replied, “That’s because I am! I’m in labor right now.” Needless to say she was quite surprised.

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Finally we got back to the birthing center and I got checked again, 4cm only and contractions were still at about a 5 pain-wise. I tried using the breast pump for a bit, but it didn’t help much and hurt like crazy so I decided to take a nap instead. During that time as I laid in silence (my mom, sister, Fernando and the birth photographer Bianca, were all chatting quietly in the next room) the contractions started getting stronger and I started to feel afraid. I started to remember the pain that lay ahead of me. I started to wonder if this time I would be able to handle it. I wondered if this time would end in the same happy, healthy delivery as the previous three had. It shook me.

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My sister came in after a while and having her and the rest of my family helped to distract me but as I sat up and started chatting with everyone the contractions stopped again. Not being in control of the process is probably my LEAST favorite part of natural childbirth (that and the pain).

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Finally I got up and decided to walk around the birthing center grounds. I needed to get outside, it was a hot but beautiful day and the birthing center is covered in large, lush tropical trees. I walked with Fernando, praying and clearing my head. I confessed to him my fears and felt a renewed sense of strength as he reassured me that HE believed in me and that God would be with me as well.

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This time the contractions finally kicked in and picked up. It was about 5pm. My mother in law, sister in law, both sisters, mom and Fernando were all there – everyone chatting and I enjoyed the company. I would retreat to a quiet corner of the room to breathe through a contraction and then things got stronger.

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I retreated to the birth room, leaning over a birthing ball and moaning through each contraction. It was my way of working through the pain. Every wave felt more powerful than the last but at least I could feel her moving down, I could feel my body opening up – it was painful, but I focused on what that pain MEANT. It meant she was getting closer to me.

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Through it all I just kept thinking of that moment when her slippery, chubby, soft sweet body would be in arms. It was all that got me through.

After one particularly body rocking contraction I told my midwife to fill up the tub. It was getting close, I could feel it! But after laboring all day, starting at 8am, by this time I was *exhausted*. I was worried I just wouldn’t have what it took to push her out at the end. I got in the tub and as soon as I did it all came back. All the memories of my previous three (who had also been water births) the sensation of pushing the pain and the joy. Here we go – I thought – here we go.

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It is hard to describe the last few contractions before pushing. Mentally I go to another place. Nothing else exists, just the job ahead of me, enduring the pain and seeing my baby. My body was SO tired I asked Fernando to hold my head up because it felt so heavy and like too much work to even hold my head up during a contraction. Finally it came, the pushing – I tried not to push too much – I didn’t want to tear, but the sensation was there, she was coming out. After that I had to change positions in the tub, leaning forward and on my knees, my hands gripped the handle at the front of the tub, I closed my eyes as every muscle in my body prepared to push. I could feel her head moving down, I didn’t know how close she was, but I knew she was close. Then I heard my midwife say “the head is out.” I opened my eyes and put my hand down to feel. The contraction was still going and with her being so close I decided to give it one more good push – I wanted her in my arms. We were so close, why wait for another contraction?

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I gave it everything I had left, screaming from deep within and out she came.

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I burst into tears as I held her in my arms, her little cry was the best sound in the world. She was SO beautiful and chubby and perfect. Sitting there, soaking in the moment, feeling the relief, realizing that I DID IT. I know this was my fourth time around and I should have been the most confident, but I struggled with so much fear this time and the relief and joy of having her in my arms was powerful.

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These past three days with her have been amazing. Peaceful, restful, beautiful. She is a sweet baby who LOVES to be cuddled, kissed, talked to and held. Here siblings are in love with her – we all are. It was a birth I could not have predicted, but absolutely perfect and I am thankful for the gift to have been able to bring her into this world, strong and healthy and surrounded by love and family.

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(All pictures captured by my amazing birth photographer Bianca Valentim)

Meal Plan and Grocery List for Week 1 of the 21 Day Fix

IMG_7573I am so excited for this round of the 21 Day Fix. I am doing it in the last 21 days of my pregnancy and honestly this will be a REALLY challenging time for me – husband out of town, my son’s birthday, oh and I’m about to give birth – but I know when I am following this program I feel AMAZING, so instead of letting those things be an excuse for me to slack off, I am actually letting them be a MOTIVATION for me to dial in and make this happen, because if there is ANY time that I need extra energy, stress relief and strength – it’s in these last few weeks!

Here is my meal plan for the first week and when I went shopping at Aldi I came in around $83 for everything, so I am sharing that shopping list as well! If you are interested in this program but feel intimidated to try it, shoot me a message! I’d be happy to encourage you, share meal plans, hook you up with a discount on the IMG_7528program and include you in my private groups on facebook where I offer coaching and daily motivation.

Ok, let’s get to the good stuff! Here is my meal plan for the week! With my pregnancy
weight and not calculating for a “weight loss” (not my goal right now!) I am in the third bracket of the 21 Day Fix eating plan (which is a heck of a lot of food!!!)

Monday
Breakfast: 2 Eggs scrambled with spinach, watermelon, whole wheat toast
Snack 1: Peach & Gluten Free Crackers
Lunch: Tuna on Salad with Quinoa and Cheese
Snack 2: Celery with Peanut Butter
Snack 3: Shakeology with 1/2 Banana
Dinner: Chicken Breasts, green beans, sweet potatoes

Tuesday
Breakfast: Turkey Bacon, Green Juice (spinach or kale blended with 1 fruit), Oatmeal
Snack 1: Sweet Peppers with Hummus
Lunch: 2 Hard boiled eggs, Sandwich thin, Spinach
Snack 2: Shakeology with 1/2 Banana and Kale
Dinner: Turkey Meatballs, red sauce, whole wheat pasta, side salad
Snack 3: Homemade all-fruit popsicles (for those late night sweet cravings!)

Wednesday
Breakfast: 2 Eggs scrambled with spinach, watermelon, whole wheat toast
Snack 1: Peach & Gluten Free Crackers
Lunch: Tuna on Salad with Quinoa and Cheese
Snack 2: Celery with Peanut Butter
Snack 3: Shakeology with 1/2 Banana
Dinner: Thai Turkey, Peppers and Mushroom sauteè, Brown Rice

Thursday
Breakfast: Turkey Bacon, Green Juice (spinach or kale blended with 1 fruit), Oatmeal
Snack 1: Sweet Peppers with Hummus
Lunch: 2 Hard boiled eggs, Sandwich thin, Spinach
Snack 2: Shakeology with 1/2 Banana and Kale
Dinner: Taco Salad (ground turkey over a large green salad), Chips and Salsa

Friday
Breakfast: 2 Eggs scrambled with spinach, watermelon, whole wheat toast
Snack 1: Peach & Gluten Free Crackers
Lunch: Tuna on Salad with Quinoa and Cheese
Snack 2: Celery with Peanut Butter
Snack 3: Shakeology with 1/2 Banana
Dinner: DAY OFF! Kids get pizza and I just have my Shakeology for dinner on this night! (mama needs a break every so often!!)

Saturday
Breakfast: Turkey Bacon, Green Juice (spinach or kale blended with 1 fruit), Oatmeal
Snack 1: Sweet Peppers with Hummus
Lunch: 2 Hard boiled eggs, Sandwich thin, Spinach
Snack 2: Shakeology with 1/2 Banana and Kale
Dinner: Turkey Sausage with peppers and onions and sweet potatoes
Snack 3: Homemade all-fruit popsicles

Sunday
Breakfast: 2 Eggs scrambled with spinach, watermelon, whole wheat toast
Snack 1: Peach & Gluten Free Crackers
Lunch: Tuna on Salad with Quinoa and Cheese
Snack 2: Celery with Peanut Butter
Snack 3: Shakeology with 1/2 Banana
Dinner: Salad with Chicken Breasts and Brown Rice

IMG_7552As you can see, I simply rotate my breakfast, lunch and snacks every other day and my dinners are the only things that stay unique throughout the week. This is just my way of simplifying things!!

Now onto my grocery list!!

Dairy:
3 Dozen large eggs – $2.37 (they were $0.79 each!)
Butter – $2.99
3 32oz containers of yogurt (for the kid’s breakfast) – $0.75 (they were $0.25 each!)
Sharp Cheddar – $1.69
Organic Whole Milk – $2.95

Produce:
Mushrooms – $1.29
Peaches – $2.79
Baby Carrots – $0.99
Celery – $1.39
Yellow Onions – $1.69
Bananas – $1.76
9 Multi-colored Peppers – $4.47
Organic Grape Tomatoes – $1.29
Organic Kale – $3.48
Flat Leaf Spinach – $1.79
Watermelon: $2.99
2 containers Strawberries – $2.60
Red Grapes – $1.78
Blueberries – $1.29

Meat:
2lbs Ground Turkey – $3.78
Boneless Chicken Breasts – $5.49
Turkey Sausage – $4.00
Turkey Bacon – $1.89

Grains:
Gluten Free crackers – $2.98
Brown Rice – $2.79
Granola (for kid’s breakfast) – $1.99
Old Fashioned Oats – $2.39
Wheat Bread – $1.79

Misc:
Frozen Pizzas (for the kids) – $8.00
Hummus – $1.99
Toilet Paper – $1.99
Coffee – $5.29

Total – $82.33

Obviously there were some amazing deals this week (Eggs, Yogurt, Fruit) but beyond that this is what I typically pay for groceries. I try to feed our family of five for under $100 a week! Hope this helps as you are planning your own healthy menu!

If you are interested in following my 21 Day Fix journey you will find every day documented on my facebook page!
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The Angel Who Took us to Chick-fil-a

“Today is going to be different!” I thought, as I woke up, 5:30am. I dove into my morning routine, reading scripture, reading a good book, getting to work on my fitness coaching business – feeling productive and proud of myself.

I had just come off of a difficult three days and I was determined to end that stressed/exhausted/discouraged streak that I was on. So far, the morning looked promising!

Then the first of my babies came into my room.

He was cranky from the get-go. Two years old is a tough age to be apparently. I tried to be sweet and positive and loving, but he wasn’t having it.

“I want watch a show!” He demanded, eye boogers still in his eyes.

“No, sweetie, we aren’t going to watch any shows this morning – we just woke up! Let’s get dressed for the day and make some breakfast!!” I said in my most convincing, cheerful voice. He wasn’t having it. Cue tantrum #1 for the day.

By the time 9:30am rolled around we had repeated this formula over and over (toddler makes unreasonable request, mommy says no kindly, toddler throws a tantrum, mommy prays for patience!) not to mention a few spills, a few accidental bumps and bruises, it was just one of those mornings!

By the time we stared our homeschool routine I was already at the edge of my patience, the house was a wreck and I felt like everyone was in the grumpiest of moods (including mommy).

Suddenly there was a knock at the door. “CRAP!” I thought, I forgot my neighbor had asked me about coming over this morning! I took a deep breath, looked helplessly at the piles of laundry all over the couch and the crumbs on the floor and opened the door. She came in and I could tell was immediately aware I was not at my best.

Not five seconds after her coming in the house, then my two year old jumps on a sharp object which gets stuck in his foot causing a semi-freak out moment for me, and screams from him. Once everyone was calmed down and band-aids and kisses administered, we sat and chatted a bit and then she asked if there was any way she could help me. I blame the pregnancy hormones completely but I couldn’t stop the waterworks. I just had to cry.

Immediately everything came out – how tired I was, how I felt like I was failing as a mom, a wife, a friend, a coach (dramatic I know, but that’s how I felt). She wrapped me in a hug and said: “Let’s go to Chick-fil-a! Common! You need to get out of the house! How does that sound kids?”

Cue the chorus of excited children screams and the bustling of getting shoes on and tromping out the door.

I told her later that I felt like God sent an angel to my doorstep this morning. A friend who, ready or not, was exposed to my weakness and trials and responded with love, prayer and a trip to Chick-fil-a.

There is no point to this post, no tips, tricks, recipes or insights.
Maybe tomorrow, but today, I’m just grateful, weak, but grateful that no matter how hard I try to do it alone, I’m given moments of forced neediness.

Homeschooling: a Different Objective

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I have been asked to share a little bit about my homeschool routine. I find this humorous because I am JUST finishing up our Kindergarten year with my 5 year old and the other two are just absorbing whatever they can (which, surprisingly is a lot!).

However, before I begin sharing WHAT I am doing I think it’s important for me to share my objective as a homeschooling mom, because it is significantly different than a public school system’s objective and once it is clear what my objective is in homeschooling, my methods will make much more sense!

I am in no way critiquing the public school system with this post (or any of my homeschooling posts), my husband is a public school teacher and we live in a city where MANY children are children of immigrants and without an English speaking public education system, they would never have the opportunities and experiences as they do. But I think it goes without saying that there are definite flaws in our countries education system.

This system was originally designed to create more educated workers for the country. Factories were popping up all over the place, the “work force” was moving from small scale, family-based businesses to larger companies and industry. We as a country needed an employable workforce who could read and write and understand basic math skills. And so the public school system was created.

My objective as a home educator however, is not to create an employable factory worker (or office worker), my objective is to create a free-thinking, independent citizen who LOVES to learn and never stops in their pursuit of personal and educational growth. My objective is to create individuals who can understand logic, craft intelligent arguments and have a moral compass to guide their every decision. I don’t want to tell my kids what to think, I want to teach them HOW to think. I don’t want my kids to graduate high school with a uniform set of facts but with the tools and work ethic and passion to learn ANYTHING they want to.

Because of this objective I am not really worried about “keeping up with the class”. I think many times homeschooling moms are so nervous that because they aren’t trained teachers, that they aren’t going to do a good job, and because of that we are constantly looking to societal norms to make us feel better (at least, that’s how it was for me!). The problem with this is that if I am trying to teach my kindergartener how to tell time for example (because I saw it on some list) and it’s just not clicking for him, I can be tempted (and trust me, I’ve done this!!) to go over it and over it and try to FORCE him to learn it and we’re not stopping until he gets at least one right! Before you know it, I’m frustrated, he’s in tears and “school” is something that he dreads.

It has been SO helpful for me to see education as a marathon and not a sprint. If I am able to give my child a LOVE of learning, tap into that natural curiosity and excitement that children already have, then my child will NEVER stop learning. I will gladly sacrifice his/her ability to tell time for another year if that means that school keeps it’s joy and enjoyment, because if my child loves learning, they will eventually learn how to tell time. If I get anal about checking every single “subject” or topic off a list and because of that turn school into a nightmare, as soon as school is over or graduation day comes, my child will stop learning, or even worse, they will see “education” and information as something you only hold on to to get a certain number on a test to please mom and dad. <— This is my greatest fear and what I am TRYING to avoid, but this is exactly what public schools are trying to achieve.

I believe that if I make it a habit to expose my children to an academically rich environment and let their curiosity lead the way, and have FUN learning and make it a natural part of our every day lives, they will be very well educated.IMG_6357

This doesn’t mean I don’t have a plan, or curriculum or I’m not ever going to give my kids tests. All it means is that if we are doing something and they are having trouble understanding the concept (ESPECIALLY in kindergarten – or before) I am not going to stress out or push the subject. I will stop and move on to something else, and then bring it back a few days later and re-explain and try again, and be patient with my child, because I KNOW sometimes I don’t always get things the first time and I appreciate others having patience with me.

Knowing what my objective is helps me to not feel pressure to PACK our day with school work from morning until night, but instead leave plenty of empty pockets in our day and just listen and be attentive to my children and seize every opportunity to satisfy and pique their curiosity.

For example, going to the park and having play time and one of my kids trips over a tree root. After consoling him I ask him if he knows what these are. He says no. I tell him they are roots and they bring water and nutrients into the tree, all the way up the trunk, out through the branches and to the leaves. We pick a leaf and look closely at the little veins in the leaf where the water and nutrients get exposed to light and photosynthesis occurs. He is completely in AWE and captured by our little lesson. Later, on the way home I stop by the store to grab some celery and we fill a glass with food colored water and in a few hours we can see the water traveling up the veins of the celery and into the leaves.

He didn’t even realize it, but we just did “school” and I didn’t plan for it but I took advantage of the moment, of their natural curiosity and explained in far more detail that he probably understood, but I’m exposing him to it. The concepts, the words. In a few years, when we study it “for real” it won’t be the very first time he is hearing these words or being introduced to this concept.

IMG_6087To me, homeschooling in Kindergarten is all about having a simple plan, not letting another person’s “schedule” dictate what my child ‘SHOULD’ know, making space for play and imagination and being present and intentional with every moment, having deep conversations and asking the second and third question to make learning an ongoing activity and a natural part of life.

If you’d like to read more on this theory and approach of education I highly recommend reading A Thomas Jefferson Education. Stay tuned for my next installment where I will show you what a typical day looks like for us and how I keep things simple and fun with our kindergarten education.

My Secret to a Healthy Pregnancy

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As a workout from home addict, when I became pregnant I wasn’t quite sure how this was all going to work! Beachbody on Demand (which is basically like Netflix for workouts, and one of my favorite things of all time!) only had one maternity workout per trimester and I knew my variety-loving self would get bored of that in no time, but I just LOVED the convenience of accessing my workouts from my laptop, phone or ipad and getting them done in the morning before my kids were up, or at the park or in the living room while they watched a show or ate lunch – seriously, Beachbody on Demand took away ALL my excuses and just made it SO incredibly convenient to get workouts done every day.

So I decided to dive a little deeper into the Beachbody on Demand’s library and see if there were some programs that I could still do while pregnant and I was amazed at the variety I found and very pleased to have TONS of pregnancy friendly options! I have been mindful through this entire pregnancy to apply some modifications to these workouts, but most of them require very little! To read more of how I modify while pregnant I have a blog post on it here. 

I’ve been doing these other workouts 4-5 days a week for the first 30 weeks of my pregnancy and plan to continue for the last 10!

In addition to my at home workouts I was also a daily Shakeology drinker and wondered if that would be ok to continue – after taking it to my midwife I got a GLOWING review from here and am actually taking it instead of my pre-natal vitamin (NOTE: I do take a folic acid supplement because that is the only nutrient Shakeology is missing).

Some things I have noticed while drinking Shakeology and being pregnant:
1) It was a LIFE-SAVER in the first trimester. I was super nauseous and had trouble keeping a lot down and did not have an appetite. I did however still love drinking my shakes – my midwife said cold things like popsicles and smoothies are usually easier for nauseous, pregnant women to stomach, and boy was she right. Because I have three other small children at home, I HAD to keep up my energy even in those difficult early months and Shakeology helped me do that! It has protein, and super foods – it’s like eating 7 salads, so my body responded REALLY well to the shakes.

2) Shakeology also has adaptogens in it which regulate how the body handles stress and hormonal imbalance. HELLO!! This has been HUGE for me, and honestly when people ask me what the biggest difference between this pregnancy and my other three, I have said: “Emotional stability”. I was an emotional WRECK with my other pregnancies, and it was especially difficult when I was pregnant with my third because I had two toddlers to deal with and I was CONSTANTLY loosing my temper with them, crying, it was bad. I am INCREDIBLY thankful for Shakeology helping me stay stable because I don’t want to be Momzilla for 9 months towards my three beautiful babies.

3) Nutrient absorption. Because all of the nutrients and vitamins and probiotics and adaptogens are from WHOLE – FOODS my body is absorbing them so much better in Shakeology than it would from a pill.

4) Food cravings. I don’t know about other pregnant moms, but when I get pregnant, and the nausea subsides I get cravings like WHOA! and it’s not usually for the most nutritious things! (CHEESEBURGERS!) Because my midwife is AWESOME and wants to help me have another healthy, amazing, un-medicated birth, she is always talking to me about good nutrition – but Shakeology helps me PRACTICALLY by flooding my body with good nutrition and probiotics, all which help my sugar and carb cravings be manageable.
IMG_6189So, that’s what I’ve been doing this pregnancy – It’s been working WONDERFULLY for me! If you are a pregnant mom, I’ve created a FREE month-long pregnancy workout guide
containing all of my favorite workouts from the Beachbody on Demand library!

To get your copy fill out this form and I would LOVE to send it to you! Don’t have access to Beachbody on Demand yet? No worries! I can help you get either a free 30 day trial or a free 3 month subscription! (who loves ya?!)

Can’t wait to hear from you and share my pregnancy workout schedule with you!

If you are looking for one of my pregnancy meal plans I blogged a high-protien meal plan here. 
I’ve also shared some things I’m doing to prepare my body for it’s fourth natural birth here.
I’ve also got a quick pregnancy workout circuit on my YouTube channel that is based off of one of the Beachbody on Demand workouts I do if you are wanting to get your body moving now!!

If there’s ANY way I can support you in your healthy pregnancy journey or you have questions – I would truly LOVE to hear from you – I read and respond to EACH and every email <3 Message me!

The Self-Confidence of a Mother

I don’t know about you, but when I became a mom the whole world as I knew it drastically shifted.
It was like entering an alternate universe where there were familiar things around me, but everything looked different.

I didn’t recognize my body – yup, that was still my face, but below it – ?????
I didn’t recognize days of the week any more, I didn’t even have a sense for what time it was.
My world was reduced to the three to four hour cycles between feedings.

I was up at night, I would sleep during the day.IMG_3794
I was disoriented as to who I was supposed to be now. Should I loose myself to this child? Should my every thought and moment be consumed with researching things about taking care of babies, feeding babies and making things for babies? I couldn’t help it at first, but beyond those first few weeks – WHO WAS I NOW?

I knew one thing…the straight A student who always had a great group of friends, always picked up new things relatively quickly and was always busy and working and involved in events and projects was GONE. Now, it seemed I couldn’t do anything right. I’d follow the instructions of one book and my baby would cry at me for hours. I would give in and nurse him to sleep and feel like a failure for raising a “spoiled” child – I was already giving into his demands at 2 weeks old! What kind of mother was I going to be? What kind of baby was I going to raise? I felt frustrated and then he would smile and I’d be amazingly happy and at peace and then a few minutes later bored and then just the thought of trying to clean something or do something had me feeling utterly exhausted.

I wanted to never let my baby out of my arms one moment and I wanted to just get away from it all the next. I felt immensely fulfilled and bored to tears all in the same day. It was confusing to say the least.

But more than just being confusing, it shook my confidence. Pregnancy and motherhood don’t just throw off your body confidence, they throw off your self-confidence entirely. Still to this day, I second guess my decisions as a mother. Am I being too strict, am I being too lenient, am I doing what’s best for my kid’s education, am I doing what’s best for their health and nutrition? There’s no way to escape parenthood without a major knock to your confidence, and that’s where I found myself when I was presented with the opportunity to be a fitness coach.

I remember asking myself – “If I can barely keep up with laundry, get in a shower and keep my kids alive without losing my sanity – how in the world am I going to be a good coach?”

I let my insecurities and perceived “failures” as a Pinterest mom to knock my confidence down so low that I didn’t think I could do something like this. I know I’m not alone, because I talk to so MANY women in my same situation. They reach out to me, desperate for help to get healthy again, to feel good again and be strong and as we talk I learn about some financial need, or how they are struggling to find time to do something for themselves and I ask them if they would be interested in coaching? The immediate response is: “I just don’t think I can handle anything more right now. I can’t be there for others – when I barely feel like I can be there for myself.”

I totally get it of course, but what I know that they don’t (yet) is how much coaching GIVES to me and how little it takes. What I know is that beneath that struggling, exhausted mom is an AMAZING woman who is capable of more than she gives herself credit for.

It saddens me to think of how many moms put themselves on the sidelines because taking a shower is such a difficult thing to accomplish so they think they are no longer capable of accomplishing anything. Let me tell you something – most days, coaching is the EASIEST thing to get done – yes, even easier than getting a shower.

Being a coach got me healthy – kept me going on my fitness journey when I wanted to give up – it GIVES me the fuel I need not just to coach, but to be the present, totally imperfect mom I want to be. It GIVES me the financial freedom to pay a babysitter for date nights and get some rejuvenating time with my husband and away from my kids. It GIVES me an identity and mission outside of my kids, it is mentally challenging and I look forward to it after 3 hours of building the same block tower and knocking it down again. It GIVES me friendships and community with ambitious, funny, sweet and amazing women – without having to leave my house or getting judged at the mom’s group for what kind of stroller I have or the snacks I give my kids (Sorry, maybe that’s just a Miami mom thing…). It GIVES me the opportunity to just care for and love on other women who were just like me, lacking confidence, energy, purpose or focus in their lives.

If you are a mom and you feel like something is missing in your life. You love your kids, but need something in the midst of the crazy you can call your own. That push to be healthier and at the same time the opportunity to bring in supplemental income – then coaching is for you. I don’t care how far your confidence has fallen, trust me – deep inside that yoga pants wearing, three days since a shower, surviving off the leftovers of your kid’s lunch heart of yours is an AMAZING, kick-ass woman who would be an INCREDIBLE coach – I believe in you.

Click here for an application for my next mentorship program or just to let me know you are curious to learn more.