Category Archives: Family

Enhancing family love

9 Ways to Enhance Family Love

These days, it seems like everyone in the family is busy with something. After school activities, extra hours at work or maybe just that next game of Candy Crush. And while we’re together, are any of us really embracing quality time anymore? When I noticed last year that my family was all in the same room physically, but on completely different planets mentally, I knew something had to give. So, we stepped up our game with a few key changes.

  1. Technology-free Dinner!

Often, families gather around the TV, plates in hand, with hardly a word passed between them the whole mealtime. As simple as it sounds, having your family sit around the table at dinnertime – sans phones – is an amazing way to connect after a long day. Your kids may be reluctant at first, but opening up by just talking about your day, sharing things with them, and taking a genuine interest in their lives, can go a long way.

  1. Asking Open-Ended Questions

Think about it. When you ask someone if they had a good day at work or school, you’re inviting one of two answers: yes or no. What if, instead, you asked them, “What happened at school today?” Asking questions in this open way invites their opinions, observations, and reactions to the day’s events. You’d be surprised how much open-ended questions improve all of your relationships, which brings me to my next point…

  1. Ask Three Key Questions Before Bed

For years, my family and I have asked each other the following three questions before bed:

  • What went well for you today?
  • What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
  • What do you want to dream about tonight?

Asking these three questions each night has brought me closer to my family in ways I didn’t anticipate. Encouraging this exchange is not only a great way to reflect on the day, it also provides fantastic insight into what’s going on in someone’s life. Sometimes, the only good part of your kid’s day could be getting off the bus and coming home. And that’s okay. Checking in like this each night is an excellent exercise in gratitude that will give you a glance into what your teenager, husband, or elementary-schooler is thinking.

  1. Remember – You Were a Kid Once, Too!

As adults, it’s all too easy to forget that we once made the same impulsive choices, had the same overflow of feelings, and thought seemingly inane things were the end of the world. Take a step back. If your child or teen seems distraught, don’t roll your eyes at what they’re experiencing. Instead, recognize that – although something is no big deal to you – it is meaningful to them. Use those open-ended questions to help them navigate what they’re going through. While you’re remembering that you were a kid once, too…

  1. Share Stories with your Family

One of the best ways to remind your kids that you are, after all, a human being is to share honest stories of your childhood/teen years with them. Growing up, my mom always shared stories – embarrassing, painful, or hilarious – with me about her own life when she was my age. Hearing these stories made it easier for me to see her as a human being, and easier to trust her when it came time for me to seek advice about the big stuff. Letting your kids in on your own flaws makes it easier for them to share their own mistakes with you, too.

  1. Give Genuine Compliments

Acknowledging what your family does that brings joy to your life is one of the simplest things you can do to make the people you love happy. Has your husband been picking up his old guitar more recently? Is your daughter always telling jokes that crack you up? Let them know. Something as simple as telling your daughter she’s funny can go a long way. And who knows? Maybe telling your husband you enjoy hearing him play will inspire him to go to an open mic night and share what he loves doing with others.

  1. Learn About What Interests Each Other

An easy, but often-overlooked, way to promote love is through being interested in what interests your family. If your children have been hooked on a certain musician, ask them to send you some songs. Read an article about what they’re into, or watch TV shows that they’ve been watching. Too often, children’s and teens’ interests aren’t validated by their parents. Letting them know that what interests them is important to you can empower them and encourage them to share. Growing up, I was always encouraged to share music with my parents, and in return, I was receptive to their music. It was one of our best topics of conversation, and I am grateful for continuing this tradition with my own family today.

  1. Stay Open Minded

Being open to whatever new idea, political thought, or perspective your children bring to the table is the best way to foster communication, trust, and love. Listen to your children. You may be surprised, inspired, and moved by what they have to say.

  1. Say “I Love You”

The simplest, easiest way to promote love is just by saying it! Let your family know you love them. Tell them why. And – most importantly – say it when there’s nothing big going on. Not to end an argument, or to give reasoning for something. Tell your husband that as he makes pizza sauce. Tell your daughter that when she’s doing her homework. Those three words hold more power than any other in the English language.

Now, I’m curious about what you do to encourage your family to love each other. What ideas do you have for promoting family love? Let me know in the comments below!

Testing Out the Spotify Family Offering

My family loves to listen to music. A lot. It seems like somebody’s always singing: my husband and I belting 90s jams in the car; my thirteen-year-old daughter half-yelling, half-singing “Moana” songs in the shower; my fourteen-year-old whispering the words to different pop songs in her room. Sometimes it feels like just about the only time we aren’t singing is when we’re asleep.

So when I got Spotify Premium, it seemed like the next logical step for my music-loving household. It looked like a good deal – about $10 monthly to listen to whatever I wanted – what could go wrong?

Within the first day of Spotify Premium, my husband had my password. I work from home, he works at the office, I thought it would be great for us to enjoy Spotify’s benefits. What I didn’t realize is that when they say only one listener at a time, they mean it. There I was, enjoying a soothing round of Nicolas Jaar’s 2011 album Space is Only Noise when it happened. Right as the music swelled, it stopped. At first I thought it was just frozen – my internet does lag – but everything else seemed to be working fine. No matter what I did, I kept being told my device was paused! It took me several minutes to realize what was going on. I called my husband, who was rocking out to White Snake on my Spotify account, and explained what the deal – only one of us could be online at a time! Since it was my Premium, we agreed he would ask me whenever he wanted to use my Spotify, to check in if I was listening first.

Crisis averted.

Until two days later, when my daughters got my password too – I know, I’m helpless! I love fostering their love of music, and I thought giving it to them was harmless. After the girls got home from school they retreated to my youngest’s room to hang out. How sweet, I thought, they’re spending quality time together!

…and then my music abruptly cut out of my headphones and I heard Justin Bieber streaming out from my kid’s room. I stuck with it, trying to work through the catchy songs, but let me tell you, trying to blog while Bieber’s music pounds in your ears? Not possible. Not unless you’re trying to write an article on pop music.

There had to be something else I could do besides dishing out $40 so my family could each have their own plan. Then, I remembered that I’d heard something about a family plan on Spotify, and I set to googling. I saw that Spotify’s Family plan was only $15 a month, $5 more than I was paying for just one account. I’d already tasted boundless listening before I’d relinquished my password to my family. I had to have it!

When I brought it up at the dinner table that night, everyone was pumped, especially our kids. Having their own accounts let them feel very grown up, but because it’s a family plan, I can set their ages on the account so they’re only listening to music that’s age-appropriate.

We set it up together that night. No more listening to Justin Bieber while I’m trying to write. No more getting cut off from my ambient music for my husband’s hair metal habits. My girls each already have their own mini bluetooth speaker – including a shower one, so they can jam anytime. That way, while they’re playing music in their rooms, I can get lost in my headphones and concentrate on work.

After a few days, my whole family was hooked. It’s been really fun to share playlists with each other, and I’m surprised by what a nice way it is to connect with my daughters about their expanding music tastes. We can recommend things to each other, or even listen to the same mixes, and we don’t have to worry about them listening to music with content we find too questionable.

I’ve also loved the Spotify Family plan because you can have up to six people on one account. Although you’re technically supposed to all be living in the same house, it’s not heavily enforced. It’s been nice to finally give my sister something back in return for all those years on her Netflix account. Even though she lives in Louisiana, she’s on my family plan too.

All in all, it’s been such a worthwhile investment for my family. $15 per month is really not a lot to ask for in exchange for a wide variety of music that we can all get into. We’ve worked it into our monthly budget so that we can all get to enjoy what we want, when we want. Possibly the nicest perk has been using Spotify in my car with the auxiliary jack. We listen to some new family favorites together – Solange’s A Seat at the Table is one we’re all four very into right now. It makes longer commutes and bad traffic more fun when we’re not endlessly flipping channels or cycling through the same music on our phones over and over.

At first I wasn’t sure if Spotify would work out for my family, but it’s been a lot of fun. I really enjoy having it for all of us, but honestly, even if it were just me and my husband, I’d still be down. It’s fun to get into the music my girls like, and show them what I’m into as well. All I need now is for them to move on past Justin Bieber.

Why I am Passionate About Flexible Work

My IM/IT consulting career started in one of the big firms where I learned a lot about process and methodology, gained a lot of experience working with individuals and teams, and met many amazing folks. I loved it, loved the people, loved the projects, loved the travel, and loved the non-stop challenges.

Life Change #1

And then…life changed and I didn’t love parts of it anymore. I didn’t love the hours, the 7-days/week schedule, the lack of control of my personal time. So…I took a deep breath, took back control, and set out on my own, this time as an independent contractor providing services through a small consulting boutique.

In that phase of my career, life was more balanced. With some careful schedule management and prioritization, I could take on enough work so that I was fulfilled and challenged, but not so much work that it would interfere with the rest of my life. To me, the balance was perfect.

Life Change #2

Enter – the birth of my son.

“They” say it changes you, and it did. Sleepless nights aside, it changed my view of career and the role it plays in my life. I returned to work after six months (when 12 months is the cultural norm) and found work and roles that allowed me to balance time at home with time in the office and also gave me enough flexibility to attend my son’s activities and appointments when I wanted. For me, the balance worked.

Looking around at one of my peer groups – professional women with young families – I know that many were not able to find a balance that worked for them. Some asked their employers for flexible arrangements and were denied, forcing them to make a decision about what to do. Options that they reviewed included returning to the same role and same circumstances, not returning at all, or returning to a different role with more flexibility (sometimes in a different organization). Some of the factors that were frequently under consideration were: cost of child care, ability to spend time with their family, income, opportunity to use their experience/education, and their ability to stay in a job they considered meaningful. At the end of the day, the decisions were very important, extremely personal and often very stressful.

Work Evolution

After discussing this with friend after friend, colleague after colleague, and hearing story after story, I decided to take matters into my own hands and started to craft the idea that would eventually become Work Evolution.

I firmly believe that work-life balance is critical both to individuals and to organizations. My goal for Work Evolution is to help organizations hire professionals in flexible jobs. This means helping organizations recognize the value of flexible work and what opportunities may exist within their organization for professionals. It also means helping professionals learn about and discover flexible jobs, while building a strong community of flex-working professionals.

This is important to me and it is in alignment with my own values. Care to join me?

Family Outing Ideas for 2018

With another year behind us, January is a time for new beginnings, open possibilities, and enriching habits for your family. Here are a few beautiful – and cheap – ways to bond in 2018.

Cook Something New

One fun way to spend time with your family is to get creative in the kitchen by making homemade versions of foods you love. Are Girl Scout cookies a staple in your house that only come once a year? How about a Chinese food joint you always order takeout from? Learning to make these things at home will delight your children, spark an interest in cooking, and save you quite a bit of money. When I was growing up, my family fostered my cooking projects, and having them participate with me strengthened my love for homemade that continues to this day! As an adult, pizza from scratch (down to the sauce!) is a weekly meal for my family – and a great thing to put in lunches the next day.

Explore a New Town

I don’t know about you, but everywhere I’ve ever lived has had a quaint town with historic storefronts and antique shops within an hour’s drive. Some of my warmest childhood memories are of my mom taking my siblings and I to Havana, Florida, just outside of Tallahassee. We wandered antique stores together for hours, marveling in treasures from the past. It was always fodder for conversation for the next week, and instilled an appreciation for the present moment, history, and family time that I carry with me to this day. Find the nearest historic town, pack a lunch, and get exploring!

Start a Container Garden

Regardless of the season, it’s always a good time to get planting with a family container garden! I’ve had great success with them, growing everything – kale, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, herbs! You name it, it can be grown in a container. And it doesn’t have to be expensive. For my veggies, I bought an old popcorn tin from a thrift store, poked some holes in the bottom, and filled it with soil! Here’s a simple how-to on making one yourself. Children are thrilled to watch a plant grow, and there’s nothing quite like harvesting food that they’ve grown themselves – plus, it’s a great way to encourage them to eat their veggies!

Watch a TV Series Together

Remember when we were kids and a show would come out one episode per week? My parents and I ordered pizza every Thursday and watched the latest episode of a sci-fi series. Nowadays, everything can be streamed and binged. Instilling family loyalty to watch a TV show one episode at a time embraces the technology your kids are glued to, turning it into something that the whole family can enjoy. There’s nothing like speculating around the dinner table about what will happen next!

Visit an Animal Sanctuary

Across the U.S., animal sanctuaries house abused and rescued animals. While some are stricter than others, almost all allow visitors to come and meet the animals in a natural, peaceful environment. Visiting these tigers, gorillas, and wolves that have been given a chance at happiness is a wonderful way to engage in meaningful discussions with your children about compassion and the environment while seeing something remarkable.

Geocaching

This one is another way to embrace modern technology while spending time with the family. If you’re looking to explore more, see new things, and uncover secrets, Geocaching is one of the greatest apps of all time! Self-described as “the world’s largest treasure hunt”, it’s exactly that: people hide things all around the world for you to find. Check out their website to see what’s in your area! While this app isn’t free (try $10/month), it’s worth every penny. Geocaching is an excellent way to get walking with your family, explore a new part of town together, or make road trips more exciting. Happy hunting!

Learn a New Skill Together

There’s nothing quite like your kid’s satisfaction when they’ve made something themselves. Tap into that joy by learning to make something together! From lip balms to chocolates, the internet is a wellspring of DIY projects waiting to be done with your family. Look up anything that you use together often or have talked about, get the materials, and start making.

Go on Factory Tours

Check out how yarn, chocolate, tea – basically anything – is made at a local factory! Tours are often free and always fascinating. Learning the ins and outs of how something is made is a fun way to spark conversation with your kids about where things come from. Extra bonus: tours almost always give you freebies, like the one at Celestial Seasonings, where you enjoy unlimited tea before and after their (free) tour.

Game Night!

Step aside, Monopoly. With games like Phase 10, Codenames – even a card version of The Oregon Trail computer game – tabletop games are making a comeback. My family and I play Codenames, Uno, or strategy games often. As a kid, my mom and aunt taught me and my cousins how to play Texas Hold ‘Em. We never played for money, but simply having a thrifted poker set and a deck of cards kept us busy for hours! Instilling a game night in your family brings you together in camaraderie and competition that your kids will treasure as lifelong memories.

Explore Nature

Go on a nature walk with your family. Get into the forest and get to know your local flora. There are an abundance of apps out there to help you ID plants and get to know what’s around you. Your children will be able to integrate technology with the great outdoors in a way that is meaningful and educational. Walking through the woods, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your own inner child emerges. Marvel at what is right outside your door, and get your kids out of the house!

There are so many meaningful ways to make this new year magical and expansive for your family, so get up early and tackle one this weekend. What are some things you resolve to do to get your family engaged in new things together?

 

Is Walmart’s Family Mobile a Good Deal?

Dealing with a phone plan can be a huge hassle. From the year (or longer) commitments, to the hidden fees, it seems a lot easier to go the prepaid route. I, for one, spent years flitting between AT&T Prepaid (formerly called GoPhone) and Boost Mobile before finally getting absorbed into my husband’s family’s plan. I used to spend a year at a time living outside of the U.S., and return for about two months during the summer to visit friends and family.

I used AT&T’s most basic prepaid plan at the time for only $23 monthly, and it was perfect for my needs. It was simple to pay as you go, although buying a phone outright was much more expensive, so I opted for one that had only the basics: talk and text. I loved it.

Over the past few years, Walmart’s Family Mobile plan has emerged onto the prepaid scene as a contender. While it’s one of the cheapest options on the market, there has been a lot of recent negative feedback since they were bought up by TracFone in 2016. Let’s see what all they offer, and why this “newer” carrier born out of two megaliths is being received so poorly by the public.

The Plans

First, let’s take a look at the plans themselves. With four tiers, the plans range from only 1GB of data to unlimited at 4G LTE. The fact that they’re all month-to-month plans gives greater flexibility. If you travel out of the country often, or have unreliable income, month-to-month plans are an ideal fit.

Their cheapest plan starts at around $25. For that much, you can get a phone with unlimited talk and text, plus 1GB data at 4G LTE speed. All data you use afterward will run at 2G speed, which is almost comically slow in this era of high-speed apps, GIFs, and social media.

The second tier is only $5 more, and offers the same unlimited talk and text, plus 3GB of data at 4G LTE speed. Again, after this amount is used, it downgrades to 2GB. This is a lot more data, but considering that Instagram alone uses 720 MB per hour – and if you’re the kind of person who streams shows from your phone, the default streaming rate for Netflix is 1GB per hour – this amount of data won’t get you through the month like it may have a few years ago.

The next tier clocks in at $40 per month, and with that comes 9GB of data at 4G LTE speed. This seems like their most reasonable plan. $40 is a good deal, and with that much data, you can stream music – or even Netflix on a low setting – without worrying too much about eating all of your data in the first two weeks of the month.

However, if you aren’t the sort of person who can compromise on video quality, and your mobile device is your primary method of streaming music and videos, or if you are frequently on Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat, their most expensive plan is the “Truly Unlimited” one at 4G LTE for any amount of data, for around $50.

What’s the Catch?

Sounds sublime? Not so fast. I’ll admit, I was intrigued by these deals. When AT&T’s unlimited plan is $10 more a month, these options were starting to look better and better.

Then I dug a little further. There is no real in-house service for Walmart Family Mobile Plan, meaning virtually all the advice or assistance you need is either on the phone or online, or at the Walmart Customer Service Desk. There is no brick-and-mortar storefront with employees dedicated solely to the ins and outs of your phone service, just employees who are juggling several duties at once: doing returns or exchanges, assisting in money transfers, and finally, helping you with your phone service.

Busy with so many other tasks, these employees aren’t expertly trained to help you with your service. The other option is assistance over the phone, and Walmart Family Mobile is not best known for their stellar phone service. Most of the time, upgrading your phone, trouble shooting, or just asking for advice comparing plans is best face-to-face. That human experience really makes a difference in smoothing out any kinks in your phone plan.

And this lack of a dedicated storefront or employee base is showing. As of this month, the website Consumer Affairs has received over 150 reviews in 2017, and Walmart Family Mobile has a staggering 1 out of 5 stars for consumer satisfaction. The most common complaint? The customer service.

It seems that lacking a true, dedicated storefront shows. Many people have reported their account information going missing, being put on hold for over thirty minutes, and being transferred from place to place with no real answers. Earlier this month, Charisse, a verified customer of Walmart Family Mobile from Utah, said that she had service only one week out of the month before her phone line was abruptly canceled.

And she wasn’t the only person with a story like this. Another verified customer called Walmart Family Mobile’s customer service “a time-consuming nightmare”. According to the majority of these reviews, they feel the problem in customer service and reception began with their switch to TracFone.

The Skinny

Despite the allure of saving $10 monthly, I would say the resounding headache of customer service should be enough to keep consumers away from Walmart Family Mobile. Unless they shift their business model to make customer service a priority, this venture will not continue to be a viable one for them.

There are several other prepaid plans out there with brick-and-mortar storefronts and face-to-face customer service. Walmart can keep their purported savings – reliable customer support and knowledgeable employees are worth a few extra dollars, anytime.

See many other related topics on Family Fitness Food, especially our new travel locations category.

Inner Peace

Telling someone to be happy doesn’t make it so. We all have struggles in our lives, stresses, phobias, certain things that set us off. Being happy and content takes work. We have to work at getting what we want in life, getting away from what we don’t want, as well. Our relationships with our family and friends, co-workers and strangers, all matter and need to continually worked at. Our relationships with food is just as important.

How we see food, our relationship with food is a deep and complex matter. We find comfort in certain foods, its flavor or texture, or maybe just the aroma can evoke such deep memories for us, it manages to take us back to a happier, more carefree time. Eating our fears, our emotions, our dread, it’s all very real and needs to be worked at all the time.

The word ‘diet’ is one of the worst four-letter words there is. It conjures up such images of carrot sticks and dry bland rice cakes. It also has a heavy feeling of deprivation. You’ve heard the saying, ‘diets don’t work’. It’s mostly true. If you need to lose ten pounds to fit into your fancy dress for the Christmas party, then depriving yourself from eating for a week or two may well get you into the dress. But are you happy? Maybe for the evening, yes, but beyond that? No.

Eating what you want must obviously have limitations but indulging ourselves now and then is fine. A proper diet means not depriving yourself from foods you like but creating a lifestyle that allows you to eat good, healthy food and get away from processed and manufactured or prepackaged foods that are full of things we don’t want in our bodies.

Understanding why you eat will go a long way in understanding what you eat. Our lives are short and meant to be enjoyed. Don’t over eat to the point of obesity, but if you want potato chips or ice cream, just have them. There are always healthy choices for junk food, so live and stop worrying about how big your thighs are. Someone already loves you just the way you ar