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Welcome to The Smart Mom Manual. I'm Winnie Yu, mom blogger at CompletelyYou.com. My daughters, Samantha and Annie, are 14 and 12. Like most moms, I'm still trying to perfect the balancing act that we all know as motherhood in the modern world. Please don't hesitate to write to me as you read my blog. You can also tweet me @Completely_You. I look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Taming the Mess

By Winnie Yu for Completely You

Quick, look around your house. What’s lying around? Here on my kitchen table, I see an open newspaper, a lunchbox, a pen, a pencil and a set of ear buds. On the kitchen counter, there are two credit card solicitations, a magazine, a box of cereal, a plate and four SpongeBob toys. Our dog’s food is sprinkled around its dish, and one of my daughters has left a coat hanging on the chair. And that’s just the kitchen.

Other rooms are no better. I find textbooks on the dining room floor, shoes strewn about in the foyer and sheet music on the living room couch. I don’t even dare look in my daughters’ bedrooms or the library. There simply isn’t enough space on this blog to write down all the stuff that’s out of place in those rooms.

I like to tell my family that we’d have an immaculate house if only we could adhere to these two simple sayings: “Give everything a home” and “Put everything away and you never have to clean up.”

Reality however, is another story. Most days, I’m flitting from one activity to another. I put down the mail so I can start dinner. I toss the bills on my desk so I can get to work. I throw clean laundry on my bed so I can get to the gym. Everyone else here does the same thing.

The result? I’ve become the resident picker-upper, scooping up everything from stray shoes to cookie crumbs.

I don’t like this aspect of motherhood, this picking up after the family business. On my lazy days, I let it all slide. So what if there’s stuff lying around? Isn’t it more important that I meet my deadlines, go to the gym and walk my dog?

But on my productive, I-should-have-a-cleaner-house days, I become a whirling dervish, tearing through the house and picking up everything that’s out of place and tossing it or putting it away. Sadly, it doesn’t happen often, and it eats up half my day.

A better solution has been to put things away the minute I’m done with them. As in now. Unwanted mail goes directly to recycling. Receipts are filed away as soon as I come home. Laundry is folded the moment I empty the dryer.

Being a do-it-now picker-upper spares me the trouble of picking everything up later, when it could take hours to put everything away. Now I just need my family to do the same.

How do you get your family to pitch in and keep the house neat? Share below or tweet me @Completely_You

For more great health and lifestyle content, visit the parent site of my blog,
Completely You!

Winnie Yu is Completely You’s mom blogger. She has two daughters and is the author of seven books, including New Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding and What to Eat for What Ails You. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Woman’s Day, AARP Bulletin, Prevention and WebMD. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Power of Meal Planning

By Winnie Yu for Completely You

Nothing is worse than realizing at 5 o’clock in the afternoon that you’ve made no plans for dinner. That’s what happened to me one day: I had nothing in mind to feed my family. Nothing. Nada. Zilcho. Now what? I asked myself. Do I call the local pizzeria? Order Chinese? Heat up some canned soups?

OK, we weren’t exactly going to go hungry. My pantry is always packed with food, and my freezer is so full that waffles and frozen chicken land at my feet whenever I open the door. But it’s not as if anything comes together to form a real meal. (It’s a bit like my closet, which is full of vibrant clothes, few of which form great outfits.)

At that point, I understood why my more organized friends touted the idea of meal planning on Sunday. It not only eliminates unnecessary trips to the supermarket -- and saves money -- but also spares you the trouble of figuring out one more thing on days when life is already too busy.

So now, on Sunday afternoons, I sit down and look at my week. On nights when we’re heading out for music lessons, basketball games and yoga class, I know to keep dinner simple. That’s when crockpots come in handy. On nights when we’re home, I can make a more complicated meal (e.g., a Chinese dinner with multiple dishes, or a new recipe that allows for some adventure). And by the end of the week, I’m certain to enjoy what I call “Leftovers Night.” That’s when everyone forages the fridge and eats whatever they can find. (As you might imagine, I love Leftovers Night.)

So after a bit of planning, I hit the grocery store with a list of items I need for the week, complete with coupons and a pen to tick off the items as I put them in my cart. Neat, right?

Planning my meals ahead of time has made life so much easier. I shop only once or twice a week -- the second trip is usually for restocking produce and milk -- and I never have to pull together a last-minute meal that is typically less healthy and often less tasty. Planning helps me avoid health hazards like eating too many meals with cheese or red meat. Good planning also allows me to use what I buy in a timely fashion: pork chops on one day often leads to a stir-fry with slices of pork the next.

Creating a weekly menu makes it easier to accommodate everyone’s taste buds too. While Samantha favors pizza and other cheesy meals, Annie prefers vegetables and Asian food. Sound planning means everyone’s palates -- including my own -- are taken into consideration during the week, and we never go all-Italian for Samantha or stick to a strictly Asian lineup for Annie.

Now I just have to figure out a better way to plan my wardrobe.

What are your favorite recipes? Share below or tweet me @Completely_You
For more great health & lifestyle content, visit the parent site of my blog, Completely You!

Winnie Yu is Completely You’s mom blogger. She has two daughters and is the author of seven books, including New Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding and What to Eat for What Ails You. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Woman’s Day, AARP Bulletin, Prevention and WebMD.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Awaken Your Inner Diva

By Winnie Yu for Completely You

When you’re a mom, it’s easy to let yourself go, to slip into a pair of high-waist jeans, throw on a sweatshirt and be on your way. After all, that’s what moms do -- especially if we don’t need to get dressed up for work.

But sometimes it’s fun to awaken the inner diva, the one that lurks inside most women. She’s the one your husband may have first met, the one who used to go out dancing with the gal pals. She’s the one who went to fabulous parties, nightclubs and fancy dinners before life was filled with kid parties, wholesale food clubs and crockpot dinners.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to recall my more glamorous days -- trust me, they were short-lived, and frankly, not that glamorous -- when I was asked to model in a fundraising fashion show for a local community and school foundation. It was the second year in a row that I’d done it, and I welcomed the opportunity to break free from my daily existence to become someone different. Totally different.

For those few hours, it was all about me. My hair. My makeup. My clothes. A hair and makeup artist who once worked in Hollywood spent almost an hour turning my hair into a spiky do and pinning an equally spiky hairpiece onto the back of my head. Then he decorated my face with more makeup than I wear in a month.

Walking the catwalk is not something I do every day, as you might imagine. But soon, there I was, strutting, pivoting and posing in a pair of impossibly high silver heels. I only had a minute to do a complete change between each of the three outfits I wore, going from an elegant Escada two-piece dress reminiscent of Jackie O to a floor-length evening dress to a casual blazer and sweater over suede pants. (It was considerably tamer than the leather dress and black boots I wore the year before.)

“What did you think?” I asked my daughters as they studied my makeup and dress.

“That was not you,” Annie said sternly.

And then the ball was over. I gave back the hairpiece, the dress and the silver heels. I slipped back into my jeans and got into my car. Cinderella was heading home, and the glamour was gone.

Practically speaking, it isn’t easy to free your inner diva. After all, where do you wear 3-inch heels these days? And who has the time to put on all that makeup or to style her hair? Still, it’s fun to release that playful spirit that hibernates within most of us moms, to take the time to take a long shower, to really style our hair even if we’re just headed out to the supermarket and to indulge in a special outfit for no real reason except we like it. It reminds us of what we were before we became mothers and wives, chauffeurs and cooks. And it helps us remember that beneath all the responsibilities we shoulder lies a joyful soul that still sometimes wants to come out and play.

What are your favorite ways to release your inner diva? Share below or tweet me @Completely_You
For more great health and lifestyle info, visit the parent site of my blog,
Completely You

Winnie Yu is Completely You’s mom blogger. She has two daughters and is the author of seven books, including New Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding and What to Eat for What Ails You. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Woman’s Day, AARP Bulletin, Prevention and WebMD.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Toughest Talk You'll Ever Have

Think chatting about the birds and the bees is difficult? It’s nothing compared to this subject.

For a few years -- OK, maybe more than a few -- I worried that my daughter Samantha was getting fat. After all, she was consistently in the 95th percentile for her weight, and I knew that a BMI (body mass index) between the 85th and 95th percentile meant a child was at risk for being too heavy.

It’s easy for women to get a little crazy about their weight, so it’s no wonder that we become a bit unhinged when it comes to our kids. Our pediatrician reassured me that she was fine because she’d been in the 95th percentile since she was a toddler and had a naturally muscular build. And today, at 14, her BMI is normal, so perhaps he was right.

Still, I couldn’t help but be concerned -- especially when I saw her chomping down her fourth slice of pizza or noshing on candy with reckless abandon. Telling her I was worried about her weight felt cruel, a remark that could spawn body image issues and trigger an eating disorder. But staying silent seemed equally wrong, as if I were giving her permission to pack on the pounds.

Clearly, being appropriately concerned yet not overly neurotic was going to take some restraint. Turns out I’m not the only parent who feels uncomfortable discussing these matters. A recent survey found that most parents would prefer to talk about sex, drugs and alcohol than chat up their kids about weight.

So rather than get embroiled in a complicated conversation about BMI and calories, I chose to keep it simple and focus on one thing: good health. And rather than zero in on Samantha, I made these weighty discussions a family affair that included her thin-as-a-rail sister, Annie. We talked about trying to log an hour of exercise every day, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and limiting -- but not necessarily omitting -- junk food from our diets. My friend did the same thing with her three boys.

Teaching my kids portion control was a little trickier. To rein in their temptation to overeat -- the root of the nation’s weight problem, I think -- I told them to try putting off until tomorrow the second helping you want today. “After all,” I said, borrowing a line from Scarlett O’Hara, “Tomorrow is another day.”

It was a simple lesson -- one that my kids got right away. “Guess what, Mom?” Samantha said to me one day. “I didn’t take the second cupcake today because I remembered what you said about there always being another time.”

Inside I cheered. But will these lessons stick? Will they succumb to the freshman 15? Will they keep it off as adults? Only time will tell.

What’s the toughest talk you’ve had with your kids? Share below or tweet me @Completely_You

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Healthy Eating Made Easy

Follow this simple healthy eating formula from the Nemours Health & Prevention Services healthy eating formula from the Nemours Health & Prevention Services. Your kids will be healthier -- and so will you!

Like this post? Connect with me @Completely_You

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Michelle Obama Said It

We can all agree that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, all children should have the basic nutrition they need to learn and grow and to pursue their dreams, because in the end, nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our children."
-- Michelle Obama

Like this post? Connect with me @Completely_You

Monday, January 9, 2012

How to Talk to Kids About Weight

Listen in as the hosts of “The Talk” share their views on how to talk to kids about weight, with help from a book called Maggie Goes on a Diet.

Friday, January 6, 2012

What, Me Worry?!

A little anxiety comes with the mommy turf. It’s how you manage it that matters.

The other night, I awoke as I often do at 3 a.m., my mind racing with questions. Should my girls get a flu shot next week? Will we be able to afford college? Do they eat too much candy?

Let’s face it: We all get a case of OCD and anxiety when we become moms. We want everything to go well for our children, be it the food they eat, the friends they make or the grades they get.  So we invest hours into preparing perfect meals. We create extravagant birthday parties. We spend days pondering the virtues of swim lessons versus music lessons. The whole thing can leave us pretty stressed and exhausted.
My neuroticism was even worse early on. Like many type As, I wanted things to be perfect. I also wanted to be both a working mother and a stay-at-home mother, which anyone who has tried it knows is like being the head chef and a waitress at the same time.
Fortunately, time and experience have a way of making us all a little wiser and a lot calmer. I’ve learned that an occasional sleepover isn’t going to make them sick (grumpy the next day maybe, but not ill). Their social lives aren’t ruined because one kid doesn’t like them. And the rare splurge at Halloween isn’t going to rot their teeth.

One thing is for sure: All the worrying certainly doesn’t do anybody any good. So we need to find ways to resolve problems, simplify our lives and better manage our time. Most important, we must create ways to remain centered and balanced without losing ourselves in the worries that come with motherhood.
Of course, releasing your worries doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot for moms to mull over. Even if I’m not quite as OCD and anxious as I was when I first embarked on this journey, I still have plenty of things to ponder. After all, these are our babies we’re talking about.
That’s where this blog comes in. Here I’ll share the many ways moms try to stay balanced, happy and whole, even as we try to juggle families, careers and all the things that life throws our way, things that sometimes cost us some shut-eye and give us a few gray hairs. Ultimately, we’re all just trying to do the best we can. I hope that as you read my posts, you’ll find nuggets that enlighten, entertain and nourish you. I hope you’ll realize that you’re not alone in this adventure we call motherhood. And I’d love to hear what’s on your mind too.

What’s on your mind? Share below or tweet hello to me @Completely_You
Or visit my blog's parent site, Completely You!