Stop and give me 15 — easy self-care in fifteen minutes (or less)

Holding down a part time job, while homeschooling three kids, keeping house, and taking care of a dog doesn’t leave me with loads of time to sit back and think about me, me, me. But, when things start to get really stressful, I need to set aside even the smallest bit of time for me, or I start to feel like that lady in the Calgon commercials of yesteryear. And while a nice, long luxurious bubble bath sounds nice, I know I’d spend the entire time up to my neck in bubbles, thinking about everything I need to do.

Instead, I have a few quick tricks up my sleeve that take less than 15 minutes but leave me feeling like I did something good for myself. And I tell myself that someday, maybe when the kids are all at college, I’ll be able to take that bath.

Go out for a walk
I’ve always loved walking places when I lived in more urban areas, though I’ve grown more sedentary in suburbia where nothing is really “within walking distance”. This is where having a big black lab is a plus: She definitely needs to work off her doggie energy, and I can cover quite a bit of ground in 15 minutes. Since my kids are old enough to watch themselves (and I’m not going too far in such a short amount of time), I get to spend that time alone with my thoughts in the fresh air. For those of you without dogs, lace up your shoes anyway and hit the pavement for a little power walk—with or without the kids in a stroller. It really does feel great, even when the weather isn’t ideal.

I’m not a meditating kind of person, but after reading Mommy Niri and Lisa Johnson’s posts about their experiences with meditation, I’ve given it a shot. Just sitting quietly for a few minutes with my breath, telling my brain to s-l-o-w down feels really good. This is best done when the kids are still asleep in the morning, or when they are engrossed in a project downstairs, since angrily yelling, “Leave me alone! I’m meditating!” kind of defeats the purpose.

Spa Lite
I can’t ask the kids to sit tight while I run off for a massage at the local spa, but I can leave them downstairs while I spend 15 minutes taking care of my skin with a yummy smelling face mask and some heavy-duty, wrinkle-avoiding cream. Or, another trick I’ve done for years is to rub gobs of hand moisturizer on my hands and then plunge them into little disposable rubber gloves. Sure, I get really weird looks if the UPS guy comes to the front door, and–boy–do my hands get hot, but the reward is super-soft hands, especially if I can stand to wear them for a good long time (bedtime is good too).

Ten-minute tidy
Housecleaning isn’t often mentioned in pampering lists, but, since a messy house ruins my mood like nothing else, I swear by this trick: I set the oven timer for ten minutes, put on some great music, and the kids and I run around the house, putting away toys, clothes, papers, dishes. . .No I can’t clean my house in ten minutes (I wish!) but when the timer goes off, we all can see a big difference—and, if I’m lucky, the kids ask if they can “keep cleaning a little longer“—-er, OK kids. . .go crazy! I’m going to lie on the couch.

Pump Iron
In the perfect world, I’d have a gym membership and, after a nice long run or aerobics class, I’d have another hour to work on my chiseled arms and six-pack abs. In reality, I know any gym membership will go unused, as will big complicated home programs that require expensive equipment or an hour of time. But since gravity doesn’t seem to be giving me a break, I’ve decided to fight back. I grab the little 5-pound hands weights I keep in the family room, and do arm exercises for 10-15 minutes. Bicep curls, triceps push, deltoid squeezes, upright rows. . .It’s pretty amazing how many I can do in those few short minutes. I won’t have “Madonna-arms” doing this, but at least I can help tone things up a wee bit.

When all else fails. . .
I hide in my walk-in closet with a really, really good piece of dark chocolate and eat it v-e-r-y slowly.

Do you have any quick tricks for taking care of yourself during the day?

ScreenShot2012-09-27at74056AMThis is my second of three sponsored posts with Harvard Pilgrim (the first one is here!) All the thoughts, opinions, and advice expressed are my very own. Want to find even more ways to be well? Check out 

Have we always been so cruel?

I know it is in our nature to look for an explanation for tragedy: Is it “God’s will?”, or “the evil of man?”,  or “that terrible rock-n-roll music?”

But, it still takes my breath away when we blame the victim(s) in an accident.

For instance, I just left my 11-and-8-year-olds downstairs making scrambled eggs so I could help my 9-year-old with the shower. If one of my children is terribly burned, how quickly will someone blame me for leaving them alone? (“She left her babies near a stove?!?!”)

After I stopped working to become a stay-at-home homeschooling parent, I’d hear comments like, “I could never let a stranger raise my children” every now and then. I always wondered, “Do they know that I let strangers “raise” my child three days a week so I could work an hour away?”

Do they know that I’d left my kids with a babysitter for a much-needed night out with my husband, only to find out later that this person was in no shape to be watching my very-young children. . .so much so that her mother called me afterward to say that her daughter was not “well” enough to do any more babysitting?

Do they think about all the children who get on a school bus each morning, or get dropped off at preschool, or go behind the doors of a gymnastics class. . .how vulnerable they are every day? Or do they tuck their children under their arms and take them everywhere, never letting them out of their sight?

I read last night’s horrific story about a nanny killing two young children with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. That this poor mother returned from taking her 3-year-old daughter to swim lessons to find her other two children bleeding in a bathtub is one of the worst things I’ve ever read. I dare you to read a news article about the screams the neighbors heard coming from that apartment and not be haunted by them.

Except some people weren’t haunted. They wanted to blame someone. And while the nanny seems like the likely person to blame, some blame the mother. How dare she have a nanny and “let someone else raise her children”? Serves her right for being wealthy and leaving her kids with a “stranger”?  Some even make this a political point as if this is a debate topic.

I realize the internet allows for a certain amount of anonymity so people feel “free” to make comments they would never have the guts to make to a person’s face. They may even feel they are raising important “issues”.

Though, make no mistake, they are not making some grand statement that needs to be heard: People who say this kind of stuff are assholes.

Have we always been so cruel? I suppose we have been. . .it just used to be easier to stay away from people like this. Now, with the internet, they seem to be everywhere.


My heart goes out to the shattered Krim family. 

A walk in our woods

We’ve been in our home for just over a dozen years, and I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never gone very far into the thicket behind our house. Sure, I’ve walked directly behind our house, but the low branches, the pricker bushes everywhere, and my overactive imagination (is that a coyote?) keep my feet more firmly planted on the green grass of our backyard.

To my kids however, this is The Wilderness. It is where they can have a fort made of sticks. Where they can get their feet muddy in a stream when they fall off the “bridge” they’ve constructed. Where they can hide and make up elaborate stories.

It reminds me of the woods behind my childhood neighborhood. Those woods held such imposing hills as “Big Suicide” and “Little Suicide” (shortened to Big Sewey and Little Sewey which is decidedly less imposing, though now seems appropriate since these “mountains” were really just slight inclines). There was the rusted old car decaying in those woods whose demise was the subject of many tall tales. There was a large fallen tree that the brave kids would climb (e.g., not me). We’d stay in those woods until dark when we’d run out as fast as we could because woods + dark = SCARY. Sadly, those woods are long gone, having become a housing development sometimes in the 90’s.

But the space behind our house cannot be developed due to zoning laws. I love it because it gives us privacy.My kids love it for many reasons. And yesterday, when the kids and a friend asked me to visit their secret space, I tromped and clomped through the brambles, low branches, and uneven ground to see what is so fascinating to them.


Leading the way


Hiding in their fort


So close to our house, so far away in their minds


The bridge to the other side


I’ve never given much thought to this “open space” behind our property, but now that I’ve seen it, I’m so glad it’s there. And I’m thankful there is no Big Suicide Hill—that was scary.