December 2, 2016

The difference between Hearing and Listening

Earlier this year I gave a presentation to a group of teenagers. After deliberating the best way to teach them how to communicate, I decided to take an alternate route by teaching them how to listen. After all, if you listen ineffectively, you’ll communicate ineffectively. The quote “we have two ears and one mouth for a wise purpose” comes to mind – because it’s true! We should spend more time hearing others than running our own mouths. Truly listening (which I’ll explain further down this post as hearing) can bind broken hearts, solve problems, and keep relationships strong. The teenagers at my presentation learned the difference between hearing and listening, and I hope you can learn that skill after reading this blog post too.

Merely Listening

“Are you even listening to me?”
“Did you listen to me earlier?”
"You just don't get it."

How often do you hear these phrases in your relationships? Either a task was not completed, a response was off-base, or a message was not received correctly when these phrases are uttered. You see, listening is simply the physical sensation of sound ringing in your eardrums. Everybody listens. Soundwaves travel; we hear a sound. But with mere listening, the message is not always understood. 

Think of the childhood game of Telephone, where someone tries to send a message down a row of giggling kids. Usually the message is altered in some way before it reaches the end of the line, and the initial message of “Hi, my name is Nicci, and I really love to dance in the rain,” becomes the awkward “Hi, Mamie, Nicci really wants to see acid rain?”

The reason the Telephone game is famous for hilariously failing is because people always listen, but they seldom hear. I define hearing as “listening with the intent to understand.” Hearing is the conscious choice to direct your attention to a noise. Merely listening with the head bobble of “uh-huh” while our kids chatter on about dinosaurs and rocket ships is unhelpful communication. Hearing is more involved. Hearing means you actually take note of the dinosaur species, plus you know which planet the rockets are flying to visit. See the difference? Hearing also means the cell phones are put away, the TV is turned off, and the speaker has your full attention.


“I felt understood.”
“You get it!”

Hearing is the skill everyone needs to develop. Hearing goes beyond simply regurgitating the words back in the same sequence, but it involves genuine concern and a desire to understand. Hearing your children talk about dinosaurs allows you to grow closer in your relationships, as it is hearing that leads you to say helpful phrases like, "Wow, you've really been paying attention at school to remember all those dinosaur names. I'm so proud of you." As you hear, you can respond in ways that build up a conversation and the people you communicate with. Through genuine hearing, you understand the speaker and their topics. You might discover the source of your kiddo's rocket ship fascination, or pick up on hints for birthday presents for your spouse, or hear the underlying tone under your wife's statement of "I'm fine." (Because we all know that when your wife says she's "fine," that's a lie.)

The consistent pattern of compassionate hearing allows you to really know someone. You'll hear their words, but you'll also see their body language and facial expressions. You'll notice changes in their tone of voice or if they are fighting back tears. Hearing someone is more work than merely listening to words, but you'll gain so much from the person you choose to hear.

How does hearing build relationships?

Hearing people means you want to understand them. Everybody likes to feel heard and validated. You'd be amazed at the power that focused listening has on a person! One of the most common complaints in couples counseling is a lack of helpful communication. I teach couples how to hear with the intent to understand, rather than with the intent to respond. Hearing is a valuable tool for combating conflict. Think how your heated conversations would have been different had you stepped out of your own thoughts of how you were going to respond with the perfect argument as soon as the other person takes a breath - and instead listened to the message they were saying. What words did they use? How was their posture? What emotions are they describing? As you hear them, you'll recognize the bigger picture of their message. Having love and compassion on them enhances relationships. Seeking to understand others is a hearing trait. Quickly responding to secure your opinion is a listening trait.

May we listen twice as much as we speak, and may we hear their whole message so we can truly understand. 

November 21, 2016

Time for Gratitude 2016

It's that time of year when we reflect on the things we're grateful to have. There is beauty all around us, and making a gratitude list helps me realize all the countless ways I have been very blessed. My wise cousin, Cambri, also wrote on her blog about keeping a "beauty book." For people that fight against anxiety, simply focusing on the present beauties around you can be more helpful than listing out blessings. Whichever method works to lift your spirits, I hope you have time this Thanksgiving season to refresh your soul (and your tummies!)

1. My patient and devoted husband. I really can't brag about him enough, and I'm very lucky.
2. My kids' hugs and smiles and kisses and drawings and the flowers they pick from the yard for me.
3. Air conditioning and indoor heating.
4. Indoor plumbing.
5. Basically all the home conveniences we have in the 21st century!
6. A genealogy line that kept journals. I love reading about their joys and struggles. I love finding pictures of their families and even their homes from centuries ago. There's a sense of pride and comfort in feeling connected to ages past.
7. Knowing that there is a God in Heaven, and He loves us. And His son, Jesus Christ, made it possible for us to find an eternal happiness and live in Heaven again someday. My soul rejoices.
8. Friends that love me (on my no-makeup days, on my hyper days, on my quiet days, on my supermom days, and my lazy days).
9. A very patient mother and father. Thanks Mom and Dad.
10. Soft beds and pillows. Nap time is awesome.
Bonus: homemade pumpkin pie!!

What are you thankful for? And how do you refresh your spirit?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

November 14, 2016

Self-Care with a Plantable Wish Kit

Recently, my Dad has begun gardening. He dug out a section of the fence and tilled the soil for carrots, tomatoes, peppers, and more. My mom jokes that one of his new mottos is, "Gardening is cheaper than therapy, and you get tomatoes." Which is funny considering his daughter is a therapist. . .
 I've written before about the family benefits to gardening, but there are personal benefits too! For example, I believe that gardening helps me develop perspective and patience. Whether your preference is flowers, fruits, or vegetables, nurturing a garden is a form of self-care.

Self-care frequently comes up in my counseling sessions, and together my clients and I analyze the time they spend nurturing their own souls. A sense of fulfilling self-care looks different for everyone: it could be a relaxing bath once a week, or playing golf once a month, or disconnecting from electronics everyday for half an hour. It's self-care, and it's personal.

If you need help in the self-care department of your life, visit UnCommonGoods, the online store with amazing hand-crafted and unique gifts. I recommend the Self Growth Wish Kit from BloomIn. This self-care kit allows you to write a wish or burden or goal down on seed paper and then watch it grow! This idea is simple, but the effects can be profound.

Metaphors are a powerful form of human communication, for children and adults. Sometimes emotions are easier to manage with a physical outlet. For example, for someone that struggles with anxiety, cleaning the house is a tangible substitute for internal chaos. A clean home has visible results you can see and touch, whereas emotional anxiety is more complex to soothe.

That's why I love the idea of these plantable wish seeds! They are the perfect metaphor for growth and change over time. As you nurture the seeds, you are symbolically caring for your desire on the card. This self-care wish kit would be a great stocking stuffer for your insightful teenagers or your best friend. Wishes can bloom true!

On one card, I wrote that I want to be a better mom: more creative, more patient, and more joyful. As I water the seeds I can ask myself, did I listen to my children today? Did I color with them? Did I dance around the room with them? What do I need to do before bedtime to show them love? As I diligent nurture my goal, I will see the fulfillment grow before my eyes as a small garden of flowers. Hopefully I will also see myself as a better Mom because of my new behaviors.

The wish kit also encourages you to tell others about your seed card. This allows them to help facilitate your growth and change too. Just like a helpful neighbor waters your lawn during vacation, a helpful friend can visibly "check-in" on your growth process.

UnCommonGoods carries many other unique gifts for birthdays and Christmastime. Their artisan crafted items are frequently made in the USA, and UnCommonGoods donates to charities, such as Reach Out & Read, which benefits young children's literacy skills. You can feel good about supporting UnCommonGoods. Visit their website to find the perfect gift for yourself or someone you love.

Disclaimer: I  had the opportunity to choose a gift from UnCommonGoods at no cost in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own and were not influenced by the company.

Decorating with a Porch Wall

Pinterest and Front Door Decor.
Just like chocolate and marshmallow.
Or cheese and crackers.
They just go together!

Every house has a front door, but not every house has a door that is decorate-able. Our front door has a metal screen door, so hanging things on the outside is hard. For years I've hung wreaths on the actual wooden door, but they just get squished up against the screen when the door closes. Bummer. Pinterest also makes me a crave a front porch that can hold pumpkins or hay bales or miniature Christmas trees. But our porch is a small area just in front of the door. So again, my house and my decorating dreams struggle to co-exist. #PinterestProblems

Last month I imagined a solution - I needed a porch wall!
If I could utilize the giant brick wall adjacent to my front door, then I would have a decorating space! I could hang pictures and signs and finally have that seasonal decorating space I'd hoped for. I stained a large piece of lumber to match our front door, added 3 coats of spar varnish, and added the knobs. FYI: a trip to Hobby Lobby with a newborn, a 1 year old, and a 3 year old is rough, but I got my knobs. When it was finally finished I was so excited to show Johnny! I love showing off the things I create with his power tools. (Although he helped me drill into the brick to hang the board. I wasn't brave enough to try that.)

 Thus, I give you my "porch wall."

I love that I can finally show seasonal cuteness outside, and it's not smashed by the screen door.

These door tags were another project I cut out by myself, although Johnny helped me shape the final cut. I attached the vinyl wording and brushed on spar varnish. (I love this lettering font; it's called Mitre Square.) The wood was leftover thin plywood from our kitchen remodeling projects.

Remember when I was feeling crafty a few months ago?
Here's the pumpkin sign I created. I love the colors in my pumpkin!

Fall decorating stirs up feelings of gratitude in my heart. I'm glad I had this project finished in time for Halloween and Thanksgiving. Plus, how fun will it be to show more outdoor Christmas spirit next month? So fun! Yea!!

November 9, 2016

Christmas Gift Ideas for Families

Looking for a gift to please an entire family this Christmas?
Maybe your brother's family, or your favorite co-worker's family?
Or for your own family?
I'd like to share three amazing gift ideas for a family dear to your heart. These ideas come from UnCommonGoods, and they are uniquely special items. If you haven't heard of UnCommonGoods, take some time this holiday season to browse their selection of artisan crafted gifts.

Idea Number One:
If the family you are purchasing a gift for loves to play games together, check out this amazing board game that encourages random acts of kindness and spreads that goodness all over the world with Boom Boom Cards! The description at UnCommonGoods sums this game up perfectly, "The coolest thing about Boom Boom! cards is that you can create a chain reaction of covert kindness that could theoretically travel around the world." As you complete an act of kindness, you give the card away to a friend. Hopefully that friend also completes the challenge because the card has a tracking code, which allows you to read stories about every act of service that specific card inspires. Awesome, right? What a great way to teach a family about service and its positive impact in the lives of other people.

As "agents of altruism," Johnny and I have started our game board. Our first challenge is already underway, and I'm excited to then give our Boom Boom card to another family. My life has been positively impacted by small acts of service, and I'm excited to be a part of that goodness for someone else. Reading their stories on the online tracker will be humbling and inspiring. By ordering the Random Acts of Kindness kit as a Christmas gift, you're essentially saying, "Goodness to all, and to all a good night!"

Idea Number Two:
If your you need a gift for a family that enjoys conversations together, consider the ReMemory game from Storymatic, available at UnCommonGoods. Rememory is a deck of cards designed to elicit memories from each player. There are three decks of cards, each with random word prompts. A player draws three cards and proceeds to tell a memory based on those words. Last weekend, my husband and I went camping with his brother's family. After the kids finally went to sleep in the tent, the adults played Rememory around the campfire. I enjoyed hearing about my sister-in-law's childhood in Alaska and her adventures as a flight attendant. I learned more about my husband's relationship with his grandparents. I talked about my summer jobs as a door-to-door salesman and travels in college. 

The game does allow for customized rules, such as guessing someone's memory. You can also use the cards alone in order to expand your journal writing. However you play the game, there is a sense of grounding that's both peaceful and fun at the same time. It's just a cool game! These cards would be the perfect family reunion game. They'd also be helpful when interviewing grandparents. Reminisce with Rememory.

Idea Number Three:
As Thanksgiving inches closer, the word gratitude becomes a common part of everyone's vocabulary. Once a year it's the season of gratefulness, and our lives are enriched by focusing on the blessings we enjoy. But, what if something existed that made gratitude a part of our life all year long? What if that focus on gratitude came in a cute little box with cards and a gratitude journal? Such a gift does exist, and it's called "A Year of Gratitude." Imagine the bonding that would happen as the family decides who to send a card to each week.

The Year of Gratitude encourages a person (or family) to express thanks for the quiet moments of joy experienced every week. Those life enriching moments may come from a friend at school, a co-worker, a mailman, or a grocery store clerk. As you and your family begin to appreciate the positive impact left on your hearts, then "deep heartfelt gratitude seems the only appropriate reply." This gratitude activity kit includes 52 cards (one for each week of the year) and a journal where you can document your journey of "ever-increasing joy and wonder." The journal offers advice for writing genuine thank you notes, and allows you to document whom you've mailed cards to so you can choose new people every week. I have officially logged my first thank you card, and I'm excited to begin a weekly tradition of expressing thanks.

I am grateful that UnCommonGoods offers such unique Christmas gifts from talented artisans in a variety of categories. Plus, many of their products are handcrafted with an innovative dedication to eco-friendly design. For example, the Boom Boom card game is made with recycled materials! UnCommonGoods also spreads "good" around the world through charitable giving to organizations like American Forests and the International Rescue Committee. Ordering family Christmas gifts from UnCommonGoods ensures you are supporting artisans and spreading Christmas cheer to more people in need.

Disclosure: I received my choice of items for review purposes from UnCommonGoods in exchange for this review. My opinions are my own and were not influenced by the company in any way.

November 7, 2016

Family Pictures 2016

Growing up, my family always crammed onto the photo table at WalMart or JCPenney for family pictures. It was an odd balance game of trying to get everyone into the picture without knocking the little kids off the table. Plus, my siblings and I probably had arguments about which cool background to display in the photo. If I remember correctly, I usually wanted the scenic fake tree photo and my brothers liked the patterned background.

Luckily, most photographers do outdoor photos now, which is great for families. (And I get my tree backgrounds with actual, real-live trees!) There is room for families to spread out and natural lighting. I love photography's shift away from studio work. To celebrate becoming a family of six, we drove up to North Austin to take some outdoor photos with my talented friend, Victoria. A couple months ago, she held a contest to win a photo-shoot, and we were the lucky winners! Find Victoria on Facebook here or visit the official website for Victoria Anne Photography here.

This was our favorite photo - as Victoria said, "This sums up your life right now." When you have four kids ages five and under, there is a healthy amount of crying, boogers, and not-listening. But even in our crazy moments, Johnny and I love our kiddos. After the tantrums come the hugs, and after the screams come the "I love you Moms." And then everything feels okay again.

The kids got suckers as a reward for their good behavior during the photos.
They were patient as long as they could be for their ages. 

That rock was our attempt to get Ruby to smile at the camera.

Happy family photo season! Christmas cards are right around the corner!

November 3, 2016

Gifts for Hyper Kids

With four kids ages 5 and under, we know about the wiggles.
Kids wiggle and squirm and poke and play - which is great if the family is chilling at home, but not so great in quiet places like church, the doctor's office, or assemblies. Sometimes a little extra quiet time at home can be appreciated too! So, if you need gift ideas for hyper kids that keep their hands busy (and off each other) I have two suggestions for you from UnCommonGoods: one for home and one for outings.

For wiggly kids at home, check out this amazing homemade butter churner. Simply churning your own butter in less than 20 minutes is cool enough, but this device works with hyper kids too! Our three oldest kids kept taking turns churning the butter because they loved it so much. We had to supervise the 2 year old closely so she didn't tip the jar over, but the older kids could use it just fine. Plus, they get wiggles out cranking the gears! The churner is well made, with sturdy handles and seals. The device is super easy to clean and fits nicely in the cupboard for storage.
On our first attempt to make butter, we tried standard whipping cream, which sadly turned into whipped cream. Fail. But we were successful on the second try using heavy whipping cream. How delicious! Our homemade butter tasted exactly like our store-bought butter, but with the self-pride of having done it ourselves. I hope to make butter churning a regular activity to get the wiggles out for our kiddos. The butter churner also comes with recipes for flavored butters. Yum!

For wiggly kids out and about, UnCommonGoods also sells Thinking Putty. My older brother introduced me to Thinking Putty this summer. This special putty is perfect for fidgety kid hands (and adult hands). You can squish it, tear it, mold it, do practically anything with it, and then put it back into the carton when you're done. It'll melt back into putty. Our kids have played with Thinking Putty during church the last two weeks, and it has been so helpful in maintaining quiet reverence. Instead of getting bored and poking each other, the kids can tear and poke the putty! One carton was enough to keep the hands of three hyper kids busy, plus it is clearly colored so I didn't have to worry about stains on clothes or furniture. This amazing putty doesn't lose its stick, and it doesn't leave goo all over your hands. I don't have to worry about the kids touching me and gooing me up after play time. It's a perfect gift for hyper kids and their parents.

If you haven't browsed their website before, it's definitely worth your time. UnCommonGoods picks their merchandise from skilled and creative artisans, with a flair for innovative and sustainable products. You can view their Christmas gift guide here and choose the perfect artisan gift for your loved one. They even have categories to help you narrow your search, such as unique learning toys for kids and customizable baby items. There are so many cute items to choose from!

Depending on the activity and wiggly level of your kids, you're bound to find something amazing from UnCommonGoods. Plus, by supporting small business artisans, you're ensuring a future for quality and creative items, many of which are made here in the USA. Go you! Not only does UnCommonGoods support artisans, but they donate to multiple charities, including Reach Out & Read. You can feel confident that your gifts help spread cheer around the world.

Disclaimer: I received my choice of items from UnCommonGoods at no cost in exchange for this review, but all opinions are my own and were not influenced by the company.

November 1, 2016

Little girl loves to Hook 'Em Horns

We're a family who loves the University of Texas.
Hook 'Em Horns all the way!

This summer, our daughter Grace learned how to make her hands into the Hook 'Em sign, and she was so excited to show everyone at my family reunion. Everyone "oohed" and "aaaahed" at her cuteness, except for Uncle Tommy. Apparently my younger brother is Red Raiders fan. While Grace was flashing her Hook 'Ems, he kept trying to get her to make Tech's sign. But to no avail. She is forever a Longhorns fan. #HookEm

UT plays Tech this weekend - Go Longhorns! Go, fight, win!

October 27, 2016

Don't Get Fooled Into the Blame Game

Blame is "deceitfully liberating."

"I'm done apologizing."
"She needs to get over herself and apologize to me."
"He needs to stop this foolishness and forgive everyone."
"The world doesn't revolve around her. She needs to get over it."
"I've already apologized; I'm not going to do it again."

Aww, the blame game. Sound familiar?

I've written about this topic before as it relates to couples counseling, but it applies to so many areas of life. Many years ago I was involved in a friendship struggle. Futile drama. As the silent treatment from this other lady lasted for months, I started to blame her for life's inconveniences. It got so bad that I even suspected that she was paying a neighborhood kid to knock on the nursery window and wake up my baby in the middle of the night. Crazy? Yes. I was being over-dramatic. But I was so hurt by her actions from years past that it was too easy in my sleep-deprived, new mom mind to blame her somehow. Blame is easy, and it reduces self-responsibility. That is what makes blame so dangerous.

In friendships and families, the blame game can be even more destructive. It's too easy to think how advice can apply to other people - blaming them instead of seeing the big picture. How often have we listened to a sermon at church and thought, "I hope Bobby is listening to this talk. He totally needs this advice" instead of applying the words to ourselves?

Blame is "deceitfully liberating."
Blame allows you a precarious freedom.
Blame is a counterfeit feeling of release.
It's all the other person's fault, right?
You can wash your hands of it, because there's nothing more you can do, right?
The frustration you feel is not due to your own guilt, right?
It's clearly the result of the other person's fault, right?

Not true.
Blaming others merely stokes your ability to rationalize your fault away, especially in regards to relationships! Friendships, co-worker relationships, neighborhood ties, familial bonds - they all require more than one person. Relationships are improved and deteriorated by both sides.

Can people be mean? Of course they can. Do people purposely try to hurt us? Sometimes.
Does that mean you can blame them for the relationship turning sour? Not really. You played a role in the big picture too. Your deeds along the way built up to this moment.

But you can let go of blame. You can learn to love.

Years ago, as a waitress, there was a fellow waiter that I despised. I hated working shifts with Jorrell. One day, we had a fight across the restaurant, and I ended up in tears. My wise manager explained to me that just because Jorrell did things differently, it didn't mean either of us was wrong or right. We simply completed our staff chores differently. The manager encouraged us both to see the good in each other. A few months later, Jorrell moved away, and I was happy. We had only learned to tolerate each other. As luck would have it, one year later Jorrell came back to the restaurant. Something had changed, and we got along great! We even joked with each other about our rocky past. It seemed as if time allowed us both to see the positive sides of each other. I really enjoyed working with Jorrell this time. I learned to love his talents and quirks.

Love can eventually overcome blame, but it takes time.
1. First, you have to replace the blame with self-awareness. Own your part of the problem in relationships. Own up to your mistakes.

2. Develop empathy by pondering about the other person. How was their opinion formed over time? In what areas are they right? How have you contributed to their suffering, whether intentional or not? "When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it," writes Stephen R. Covey.

2. Apologize. But know that an apology is more than saying, "I'm sorry." There are lots of ways to ruin an apology by casting unapologetic blame, such as apologizing that the person “feels” a certain way. The common statement, "I'm sorry you feel angry," is not an apology. It is actually kind of a mockery. He or she is allowed to have feelings. Instead, apologize for your own behavior. Try not to use an apology as a way to justify yourself. Sending a note that further explains why "you are right, and they are wrong" is unhelpful. Remember, the apology should come from love - not justification.

Don't get fooled into playing the Blame Game.
If blame has disrupted your relationships, open your heart. Listen to the other party. Hear their heartbreak. Apologize where you can, and show love. Overcome blame with love and self-awareness. Allow other people to heal on their own timeline.

Again, please don't finish reading this post thinking, "Sally needs to read this so she'll get over our disagreement." Apply these words to yourself, and enjoy more vibrant loving relationships.

October 22, 2016

Losing the Baby Weight

I love my babies.
When my kiddo is soundly sleeping in my arms, I feel like the best mom ever. Baby snuggles are the best. And those first smiles - most precious moments in the world!
Babies are pretty amazing.

You know what's not amazing?
Rather, the pregnancy weight.

Those of you who know me in real life would probably roll your eyes at me with the amount of weight I gained in my fourth pregnancy. I know, I know, I was lucky to only gain 25 pounds the fourth time. I've been lucky enough to gain less weight with each successive pregnancy; usually women gain more weight each time. Please don't assume that I'm bragging about the poundage. I've been on the opposite end of the spectrum as well. I gained 50 pounds in my first pregnancy, more than any of the other first-time mommies in my social circle. I didn't lose that weight through breastfeeding either. It was a long nine months before I finally lost the baby weight.

When it comes to baby weight, most medical professionals would agree that it's important to lose some (if not all) of the extra weight. Obesity is a growing challenge in America. However, medical professionals disagree on how quickly those pounds need to come off. Some recommend losing the weight within a few months through diet and exercise. Some suggest taking an entire year to slowly lose the weight. Oftentimes the mantra is, "It took nine months to gain the weight, it'll take nine months to lose the weight."

Jaime Arruda, MD wisely states, "Probably the most important thing to remember about this is that everyone gains their weight and loses their weight differently in pregnancy, and that it’s not a competition as to how quickly you can lose your postpartum weight."

As a counselor, a friend, and a mom, I see women struggle with things other than the number on the scale. Self-esteem. Self-confidence. Self-image. Most women just want to feel good about their bodies after childbirth. Moms not only sacrifice their time and emotions to raise children, they sacrifice their very bodies. Our skin bears stretch marks, our abdominal muscles flab, our chests never look the same again. Even our feet can permanently change! The number on the scale may get down to your wedding day weight, but your wedding dress may still not fit because your rib-cage expanded during pregnancy.

Pregnancy affects all women differently, and so does postpartum weight loss.
Don't fight to look like a supermodel.
Fight to simply feel good in the skin you have left, scars and all.

I'll say that again:
Fight to feel good in your new skin.

How do you win the battle of new mom self-confidence?
Answer these questions:
What makes you feel beautiful?
What makes you feel strong and capable?
Over the last few weeks, when did you feel the most confident in yourself?
And on that occasion, what were you doing, wearing, and thinking?
Think about the last time that you felt "like your old self" again.
In that moment, what were you doing, wearing, thinking?
How will you know when you have reached the moment where you accept yourself?
What will you say to yourself when you are good with yourself?

Ponder over your answers.
And tell those kind words to yourself now. Smile at yourself now.

Allow yourself to be human and imperfect. Be patient with yourself while making a game plan to get feeling good again. If that means losing some baby weight, then make a plan towards that goal. (Check with your doctor if you have medical concerns.) If feeling good means updating your wardrobe, then get to it. Feeling good about your body can also involve daily positive affirmations, volunteer service, or frequent self-care time where you relax from stress. When I see counseling clients struggling with self-image, their weight is usually connected to anxious eating habits. Under-eating and overeating are common stress relievers, and neither are healthy habits. Every mom experiences stress. Analyze within yourself if you are coping with stress in a healthy way. Are other stressors affecting your ability to love yourself?

Sometimes, even as you fight to feel good, your results will not be "perfect." I know amazing moms who can't seem to lose every pound of baby weight despite their conscious eating and exercising. Sometimes abdominal muscles stay separated. Sometimes chest sizes shrink even more. Sometimes scar lines don't fade but remain bright purple. We cannot control the unexpected, but we can control whether or not we try to reach our goals. If you have tried honestly and sincerely, than you have not failed. Don't withhold kindness from yourself. Don't withhold smiles from yourself. Do your best, and love your effort.

No matter the number on the scale, fight to feel good.
No matter your deflated bra size, fight to feel good.
Remind yourself about your inner strength and beauty. Tell yourself compliments. Work on your goals for physical and mental wellness. Kick those nay-saying, negative thoughts to the curb.
Eat healthy. Run around after your kids for exercise. Breathe fresh air. Smile at yourself in the mirror. Express gratitude to your loved ones often and to your God for the blessings of family. 

Write love letters to yourself. Praise your efforts to be healthy for your family. Accept compliments from others with a "thank you" instead of "oh, thanks, but I still (insert self-degrading comment.)" Replace negative self-talk with a loop of received compliments. Whatever stage you are in, whether gaining baby weight or losing baby weight, simply love yourself and fight to feel good.

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