What I’m reading—May 2019

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. Some of the books that I’ve read so far this year include:

  • Atomic Habits
  • The Passion Paradox
  • The Simple Path to Wealth
  • When:
  • Show Your Work by Austin Kleon
  • The Alchemist:

And while I typically read multiple books at a time, one book has me sucked in deep.

I got Becoming Brilliant not long after having Riley and I started reading it, but the message of the book didn’t really hit me till I started reading it again.

Why read it now

It’s relevant now that Riley is about to be of school age and we’re trying to figure out the best place for him to go to elementary (or primary) school. You see the schools around where I live aren’t that great. There are only a few good public schools and the norm for upper middle class families is to send their kids to private school.

It’s an option for us, but it’s one we’d rather not have to explore. For one there’s the cost…private school can cost anywhere from $6,000 – $25,000 per year per child depending on the type of school you choose. And you don’t quite know how to vet the quality of the education your child is getting from a private institution because they don’t have the same reporting requirements that public schools are.

The other reason we’d like our children to go to public school is that there is way more diversity in the public school system than you’d encounter at most private schools around here. There are resources available at public schools that may not be available at private schools like social workers on site.

What I’m excited about with this book

There’s a lot we don’t know, so we’ve been turning to books and resources that are available through work benefits to help us navigate the school system around here.

I’m excited about this book because of the expectations they set at the beginning e.g. to:

  • help us figure out what our children should be learning in school
  • understand the skills they need to thrive and get a gauge for when the age is appropriate to introduce them or expect them to emerge
  • show examples of how these skills show up in the workplace and in life in general

It’s been eye-opening how some of the daily interactions we have with the kids help build these skills that’ll help them thrive.

Here are some of the skills I’m hoping to pass on

For the longest time, I’ve been interested in using project-based learning to afterschool the kids and reading the chapter on Collaboration gave me some ideas on how to structure that aspect of their learning…here are some of the notes I took:

  • Encourage them to have independent projects, but also joint projects that incorporate what they’re both learning in school.
  • To ensure Riley (my older one) is always challenged, joint projects would need to be coordinated to where there’s an older child as part of the group or one of us adults is working the project with them.
  • The idea behind this is to simulate the real world where you always have a boss (whether it’s a customer or an actual manager).
  • When we collaborate this way, I see them learning valuable skills that’ll challenge to the real world:
    • You’re never too young to lead i.e. Sofia (my younger) will model that for Riley by taking the lead on some aspects of the project and Riley would model that for the older kids that he works with or the adult. It’s amazing how much watching the kids interact helps me be better at work.
    • You’re never too old to learn i.e. Sofia learning from younger kids and Riley learning from Sofia.
    • Your ideas can be made better by working with others.
    • Don’t spend all your time refining your ideas and forget to ship your ideas or at least prepare them for shipment. This is why projects will have deadlines so they don’t fall into perfectionist all-or-nothing thinking.
    • Experiment your way forward to ship, but anticipate what could happen downstream if failures happen so you can fix them.

These are great lessons for us adults to keep learning as well and I’m excited to see what I can learn to help me level up my own skills.

What books are you reading right now?

Making almond milk

Homemade almond milk

Me and hubby have been having green smoothies for our weekday breakfast since January of this year and it’s been going great…but for one thing, packaging. We switched to making our green smoothie with almond milk and we go through a lot of it—it takes 4 cups of milk to make enough smoothie to feed the two of us.

When we shopped at Trader Joe’s, that’s 5 cartons of almond milk…and now that we shop at Walmart, that’s 3 cartons of milk. Considering that our area doesn’t have a recycling program, that’s a lot of cartons to be throwing in landfills every year (152 — 208 cartons to be exact).

Now that I think about it, we were still using a lot of packaging with regular milk, but it became much more obvious when we switched to almond. So this last week, I decided to experiment with making my own almond milk.

It’s not a completely foreign concept for me as my mom made our soy milk back in the day and I didn’t remember it being too complicated. Here’s how my little experiment went.

Step 1: I googled how to make almond milk

I found this helpful article from The Kitchn that made me feel confident that I could make my own milk.

I also found this article that helped me see that I could get more out of each cup of nuts by using 4 cups of water instead of 2. This made the economics (more on that next) make more sense.

Step 2: I crunched some numbers

When I choose to make something I can easily buy at the store, my motivations usually center around keeping the food budget in check, but that’s not the case here.

Depending on where you get your raw almonds from, making your own milk can cost more. Raw almonds from the bulk bins at whole foods cost $6.99 – $11.49 per pound depending on whether it’s organic or not. On Friday, I swung by Trader Joe’s and scored some for $4.99 a pound. This means that the milk costs a little bit more than the cost of buying it at the store if I don’t account for the cost of gear that I bought below.

Quick math shows that the milk is about $1 more expensive per jug assuming I can get 4 cups of almonds out of a 1 lb bag…that’s not always the case. And let’s not forget my time.

Again, knowing that I was throwing one less thing in a landfill was good enough for me but it was good to know the economics of it

Step 3: I bought some gear

I got supplies from Amazon:

Step 4: I bought some almonds and got making

The recipe…here’s what I noticed with the recipes I found:

  1. There was not one consistent soaking time. Some recipes called for up to 48 hours while others said no more than 12 hours or even as low as 6 hours. I went with 12 hours because that’s what the nut milk bag I got recommended for almonds.
  2. The only consistent thing was to rinse thoroughly after soaking.
  3. There were some good recommendations for additives, but I stuck with salt and no sweetener.

Step 4: We enjoyed

The final result was so good that my daughter Sofia actually took a sip. This is remarkable because this child turned her nose up at store bought almond milk and would not drink it for crap even when she woke up hungry. So the fact that she took a sip was a vote of confidence. Hubby said it was aiight 😀.

It didn’t take long at all to get it done, so I’m going to be rolling milk-making to my evening activities…plus I’m planning to make something good with the leftover pulp and can’t wait to share that with you.

xoEJ

How to inspire kids to help around the house

Cleaning kids

Raising two kids has been huge in teaching me who I want to be in the world…as a mom, as a wife, and as a human. And my biggest lesson has been that discipline is teaching. They don’t come out knowing how to behave or how to do what we want them to, we have to teach them.

And this takes patience, a trait that I don’t have a lot of.

One of the things we’ve started doing with our older one, who is 4, is involving him in chores. At this age, he always wants to help and I don’t always let him. But the I read this article on NPR on How to Get Kids to Do Chores (without Resenting it).

According to the author:


Toddlers are born assistants. Need help sweeping up the kitchen? Rinsing a dish? Or cracking an egg? No worries. Toddlers Inc. will be there on the double.

How to Get Kids to Do Chores (without Resenting It)

And the crux of what I got out of the article is that we don’t like to have toddlers help because it takes more time to involve them than if we just did it ourselves. But as one of the moms said, it’s an investment.

I put this into action by reserving one chore for young Riley to do…for example, I cleaned downstairs today and it’s the living room dining room and kitchen. I cleaned everything but the kitchen floors and this evening, Riley and I cleaned the floor together. At some point he’s like “I got this mommy” and he turned it into a game “more steam, more steam” (we were using a steam mop).

It was so stinking cute…and left me with clean floors 😍.

Do you have little ones who help out around the house? How do you inspire action?

P.S. Have you gotten your copy of the book yet?

I wrote Weight Loss for High Achievers to be your guide to lose weight with a healthy lifestyle. You’ll get a simple breakdown of the basics of healthy eating complete with the tools you need to get the results you want using a healthy lifestyle.

Get the book

On daily exercise

Is daily exercise possible?

Daily exercise is something I’ve always wanted to do. In my mind it’s what fit people do. The reality of the benefits of exercise is you don’t have to do it daily to get what you need out of it. But I want to exercise daily.

I was able to workout daily for all 31 days in January and most of April. But for the most part, I’ve been working out 3 days a week for years. This has worked for me to get lean, get pregnant twice, have two babies, and recover twice.

But what I want is to have a sustainable daily workout habit. I attempted it in the month of April…but it was so hard. First, I came down with bronchitis and each time I would try to workout, I would cough so hard that it’ll feel like my lungs were about to exit my body. I took a few days off and broke my streak.

But I’m still trying at it.

Here’s the strategy that I’m going to try for the month of May…it’s one that I heard author Greg McKeown talk about on Matt D’Avella’s podcast The Ground Up Show.

I paraphrase but here’s what he said:

When building a habit, set limits. For example, if you want to write in your journal every day you can set limits of no less than 1 sentence and no more than 5 sentences.

Greg McKeown via The Ground Up Show

What this does is it makes it easier for you to win. Sticking with the journaling example, on days that you are tired, you can remind yourself that all you need to write is one sentence and head to bed. And on days that you’re revving to go, you write your five sentence and know that you’re done.

I’m going to try that strategy in the month of May to see how it works for me. Here are my limits and why:

  • No less than 15 minutes: It’s a great amount of time, and it’s the least amount of exercise that I need to do for my Apple watch to register it as a workout.
  • No more than 60 minutes: Honestly, I’d rather select 30 minutes for my upper limit. But, with the nice warm weather is back and we take a walk as a family on weekends that lasts about an hour.

So far, I’m 3 for 3 on this and we’ll see how far this goes.

Do you exercise daily? If so, how do you keep the motivation to keep showing up and how do you stay healthy.

xoEJ

Wading through murky feelings

Handling murky feelings

There are days when murky feelings don’t seem to to want to go away. Nothing is going all the way wrong, but things don’t feel quite right either.

Today was one of those days for me. On the one hand, I wonder if it’s because my baby girl keeps waking up at ungodly hours of the morning (shouldn’t we be past this by now?). On the other hand, I think I’m just stressed out.

While it was a “murky” day, there was a difference. There was an intentionality behind how I handled the murkiness of it. I didn’t reach for my purse and head to the vending machine for a bag of cookies or a chocolate bar and I didn’t let it color the interactions that I had with other people. And the only way that happened was that I paused.

I walked over to a window seat at the office with my journal and pen in hand and wrote out how I was feeling. In that moment, here’s what I realized what was different about this time:

  • When feeling murky, it’s worth taking a beat. Breathe, write, close my eyes, walk, stare at the ceiling. Don’t ignore the feelings and soldier on even if it feels like the thing to do. Ignoring the stirring of murky feelings is like ignoring an important call from your heart and soul to stop and nurture myself.
  • Accolades, recognition, money, and power mean nothing if I’m not living my definition of a good life. But I need to answer the question “what’s a good life for me?” That’s my job to define.
  • I never win when I compare myself to anyone else, no matter how great they are.

How do you wade through murky feelings?

xoEJ

P.S. Today I write about the work I’m doing to be a good human while raising two lovely humans of my own, but I once wrote a book about weight loss…check it out.

I wrote Weight Loss for High Achievers to be your guide to lose weight with a healthy lifestyle. You’ll get a simple breakdown of the basics of healthy eating complete with the tools you need to get the results you want using a healthy lifestyle.

Get the book

Learning forward

Learning my way forward

Happy New Month!

What are you doing to push yourself this month? Here’s what I’m doing…I’m planning to write every single day this month.

You see…since having my daughter, I’ve been taking things easier with writing, blogging, and coaching. With two kids, a full-time job, and a client-based business…I had to be intentional with how I spent my time and writing moved to the bottom of my priority list.

As baby girl grows and big boy gets more independent, I’ve been thinking about what comes next for mama.

I love coaching

…it requires me to bring my best to the table to support the women I hold space for. I still enjoy writing, but my interests have shifted. I’ve written over 200 articles and a whole book on losing weight in a sustainable way and now, I’m more interested in reading and writing about:

  • saving up and investing enough money to consider us financially independent as a family. Having this type of money gives us options.
  • figuring out how to raise my lovely Gen Alpha kids to be good and successful humans.
  • learning and leaning into motherhood and what it means to be a working mom with dreams of being a writer.

Moving forward, most of what I anticipate that I’ll write would be unrelated to weight loss. You’ll still hear about some of the experiments/tweaks I’m doing like:

  • cooking tomorrow’s dinner tonight to save time
  • making my own almond milk because we use a ton of it for our smoothies and I don’t like wasting all that packaging

I’m super excited about writing more

Heck, I plan to join a local writers group focused on sci-fi/horror/fantasy.

This is not going to be me being the expert. I’m going to be bumbling my way through something somewhat new and I’m thrilled for a multitude of reasons.

xoEJ

Parenting and vulnerability

“Vulnerability is not about winning, it’s not about losing. It’s having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome.” ~ Brene Brown, A Call To Courage

I’ve bought every single book Brene Brown has written and I’m a huge fan of her work. So it’s no surprise that when her Netflix special, A Call to Courage, was released, I was right there on the couch to watch it while folding laundry.

The quote that I shared at the beginning of today’s article is her definition of vulnerability and right now it feels like the definition of what parenting is for me. There’s no winning or losing…there’s only walking into the arena and doing my best without guarantees that the results of my parenting efforts will turn out to be what I want them to be.

Right now I have a 4 year-old who knows his own mind and a 1 year-old who looks like she’s going to give her brother a run for his money. And most nights I go to bed with a long list of “I really shouldn’t have lost it there”, or “I should have done that instead” or the timeless “oh crap am I doing right by my kids?”

Parenting is hard. It’s harder on a control freak/recovering perfectionist like me, but thankfully the recovering part of me is there to remind me in these moments of late night worry that:

  • Kids are incredibly resilient and all they need is to know that they are loved…and I don’t need to be perfect to show them that I love them everyday.
  • If they are really hungry, they’ll eat. Parents of picky eaters will feel me on this one.
  • I’ll make mistakes as a parent and I need to focus on learning forward…there isn’t a parenting manual and we get to be better parents to our kids by showing up and learning with them every day.

And with that in mind, I lay my pretty head to sleep knowing that tomorrow will be a better day as far as I show up and love these two little humans…the outcome will be what it will be.

What’s your “pencil?”

“What’s your pencil? What is the one tool that feeds your creativity and is so essential that without it you feel naked or unprepared? ~ Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit

While my son built a robot out of plastic parts in a kit and my daughter played with a plastic screw driver, I decided to pick up The Creative Habit from the shelf.

Picking up a book from the shelf is a new habit that has come with having a playroom. I don’t like to hover while the kids are playing and having a book to read gives me something to do.

In reading the book, this exercise came up in Chapter 2 and it took me a hot minute to come up with an answer that I felt halfway comfortable with.

My answer…my journal. Regardless of whether I write in it or not, I always have a journal with me. In my diaper bag, purse, work laptop bag…it doesn’t matter, it’s always there so I know that a new quote or an errant thought that feels poignant enough to record doesn’t get forgotten.

Second to my journal is Trello. I have boards for everything to help me;

  • Plan our weekly menus
  • Plan my daily work at the day job
  • Write out quotes and thoughts from the books I read, podcasts I listen to, and videos I watch

I like it because it’s a searchable journal that allows me to capture to many things I’m interested in or working on at one time. The only downside of using it is that I always feel like it could be more organized, but otherwise it’s a near perfect tool.

What is your own pencil.