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Aaaahhhh…screen shot from White Noise App

What do you do to relieve stress? I, for one, have a tendency to blow off the fact that I’m stressed, thinking it’s not a big deal, until it becomes a problem. Or I do something dumb, like drink more coffee, to get myself through the day. (Getting even more wired—not a good idea!) So lately, I’ve been looking for some healthier (and easy) ways to get my stress level under control. Technology to the rescue! Did you know that the App Store is well-stocked with relaxation apps? And, there’s no need to get stressed trying to figure out which app to download. I’ve done some research and some testing so you don’t have to! My top five stress-busting apps for iOS are listed below.

If you feel stressed at times, you’re not alone. According to the 2013 American Psychological Association Stress in America study, approximately seven in 10 Americans report experiencing symptoms of stress such as irritability or anger, fatigue, feeling overwhelmed and changes in sleeping habits. And, women consistently report higher stress levels than men.

Left unchecked, stress—from your job (even if your job is “just” parenting), your thoughts, life events or your living environment—can build up and cause health problems over time. But you can prevent stress from becoming a big deal if you do a little bit to manage it every day. Creating a regular stress management routine can really improve your health and happiness. By putting stress relief tools right on your phone or iPad, stress-busting apps let you de-stress anywhere and anytime. No excuses!

Here are those five apps I promised. Check them out. They can put relief, literally, right into your hands.

BellyBio Interactive Breathing App (by Relaxline, FREE). Deep breathing is a great starting point for stress relief. Many of us go around holding our breath when we’re stressed. If you have never practiced deep breathing, you’ll be amazed at how it helps relax your entire body. This “biofeedback” app is fun to use. You place your phone on your belly and the app gives you visual and/or sound feedback as you breathe, helping you to slow your respiration into a deep belly breath. (more…)

Kids’ Summer Chores: What Works!

July 22nd, 2013 | Posted by Dawn Bertuca in Conscious Parenting | Good Ideas - (Comments Off on Kids’ Summer Chores: What Works!)

Well, it’s mid-July, and for many of us that means four to six more weeks of kids home from school.  By now you know whether your summer routine is “working” or not. You’re either blissfully enjoying the rewards of the season with your offspring, or grimly counting down the days until school starts. Or probably, like me, you’re somewhere in between.Untitled

I think most parents want their kids to have a great summer. And by “great,” we don’t mean “sitting in the house playing video games and watching the Disney Channel 24/7.” No, we envision some sort of ideal, fulfilling summer involving bicycles, lemonade stands, tennis, beaches, roasted marshmallows and sidewalk chalk. Well, the problem with this vision is that it doesn’t just become reality all by itself.  You, the parent, need to help it along a little, while still going to work (inside or outside the home), folding laundry and getting meals on the table. Enter the summer routine (sometimes known as a chore chart). Nobody likes to be a taskmaster, but we all can benefit from a little structure. Or as I like to say, “Get your chores done so you can have fun!”

Since my kids were little, I’ve had some sort of summer routine for them to follow. Our summer routine has evolved as the kids got older and I discovered what worked and didn’t. I’ve generally used chore charts throughout the year as well, with limited success. Kids hate chores, right? Not (so much) anymore! This summer seems to be the best ever for us, and I wanted to share what’s working. I’d really love to hear what’s working for you, too!

What’s On the Chart?

Screen Shot 2013-07-22 at 1.37.59 PMAlthough I already had an existing summer routine chart that I simply tweaked to reflect some new ideas, those tweaks made all the difference! I credit the Power of Moms “Summer Camp Kit” with the inspiration for this year’s summer routine. Their idea of having “must-do” activity categories was a breakthrough for me!  Definitely check it out, purchase their kit, and save yourself a lot of work. Here are my kids’ must-do activities for each day: Bible time, 5-10 minutes; wash, brush teeth, and get dressed; feed the dog (either a.m. or p.m.); dispose of clean and dirty laundry in their rooms; pick up their stuff around the house, tidy their rooms (twice a week), contribute to the household (see “choice” below); do a mealtime chore; play with the dog 30 minutes (alternating days); be active outside for 30 minutes; practice something (see “choice” below); and read 30 minutes.  The rest of the day is free to hang with friends, go to the pool, whatever.

What’s Working This Year

Unlike previous years’ charts, this year’s chart is actually getting used, without much complaint. Here’s what I think is working:

Screen Limits The first summer rule we ever had was “No TV Before 3” (meaning 3:00 p.m.).  I figured that was a good way to get the kids involved with something else before the TV monster took over. Many days, once they got started with something fun, they never even wanted to turn on the TV. Now, we still have the 3:00 rule, but we have to say “no screens” to encompass iPods, computers, etc. If screens are involved in a kids’ project, as they so often are these days, then we make an exception to the rule. However, charts must be done before screens can be used.

Choice Choice! What a concept! Let your child choose how he or she contributes to the household. This works so well, I can’t even believe it. Our charts say, “Contribute to the household.” On the back, this is explained: “Do a substantial and needed chore such as: take out the garbage, fold a load of laundry, sweep the kitchen floor, (the list goes on).” The only requirement is that it must be a needed chore. In other words, if the garbage doesn’t need to be taken out, you can’t use that as your contribution for the day. Mealtime chores are similar, just related to mealtime (empty dishwasher, wipe down table, etc.). For “practice something,” kids just need to work at and get better at something, whether it’s juggling, piano, algebra, dance, Spanish, or baseball. With choices, kids can’t get tired of doing the same thing every day or claim to hate a particular activity. After all, it’s their choice!

Earning Potential First of all, I am a firm believer that rewards don’t work. I’d much rather have my kids be intrinsically motivated to do things. However, earning some spending cash is a pretty good motivator! Earning money is a real-world skill and that’s part of the point of doing these summer chores. In summers past, I had an all-or-nothing philosophy. Kids had to complete their entire chart to earn their weekly allowance. Well, that was a dismal failure. I guess the concept of having to check every box was overwhelming. And, life does sometimes get in the way. So this year, we are going with a pay-per-square approach. Each square they check off is worth 15 cents. That doesn’t sound like much, but it can add up to around $10 a week if everything is completed, plus a bonus for a completed chart. It’s working: My kids are actually volunteering to do chores, and that is music to my ears.

What About the Fun Part?

I highly recommend putting some structure to the fun part of your summer, too. There are many lists on the internet of fun summer activities. I have captured several of them on my Pinterest page. I’d love to hear all of your suggestions, comments, and feedback. Please leave a comment!

 

Pinterest for Personal and Social Good

February 19th, 2013 | Posted by Dawn Bertuca in Good Ideas | Living On Purpose | Social Media - (Comments Off on Pinterest for Personal and Social Good)

Beautiful use of Pinterest for social good: www.pinterest.com/personalink

One of the things I love about social media site Pinterest is that it’s so positive. This deceptively simple platform is based on a “virtual pin board” concept. Users post beautiful images, useful ideas and inspirational messages to “boards”, collecting the things they love in a virtual space; then, other pinners can repin, comment or share. Snark is minimal. Most people I know use Pinterest to find recipes, decorating ideas, fashion tips, or craft instructions, or to browse and collect funny/inspirational sayings, but the potential for even greater uses is huge. I’m really excited about how some pioneers are using Pinterest for social good. Below are some tips and examples on how to “pin” for your own personal or group success.  

Powerful, Simple, Collaborative

Even though Pinterest has been criticized for being the domain of suburban housewives,  inspiring “craft envy”, and  encouraging over-the-top domestic exploits, it’s also being used for more meaningful pursuits.  And why not? It’s an easy-to-use, powerful tool that enables users to quickly collect images and their related click-through links. Here are some creative ways to take Pinterest’s super-effective functionality and put it to work for your favorite personal project or good cause:

Personal Vision Boards can be set to private or “secret.”

1. Create a personal vision board. Pinterest was intended to be a “virtual pin board.” With the recent introduction of  “secret” (or private) pin boards, you can create more personal pin boards that don’t necessarily have to be shared. Why not use this functionality to create a digital “vision board” that gathers images of your goals, ideals, and visions for the future? (more…)

Tradition: The February Kindness Tree

January 22nd, 2013 | Posted by Dawn Bertuca in Conscious Parenting | Good Ideas | Living On Purpose | Traditions - (Comments Off on Tradition: The February Kindness Tree)

This kindness tree from 2007 uses a posterboard and construction paper. Looks like we didn’t get very many hearts on the tree this year, but hey, at least we tried!

Cleaning out my office the other day, I came across these old “kindness trees” I made with the kids when they were very small. It was our February family tradition to go beyond the hearts and candy of Valentine’s Day and instill the love of doing good in our kids. For some reason, we stopped doing it in recent years. But, I’ve decided to resurrect the kindness tree this year. It’s been almost a decade since the first kindness tree, and we’re much busier now with school, sports and activities. It will be interesting to see if we can take time out of our busy days to intentionally do something kind, or if we can notice some naturally occurring opportunities for kindness in our days.

How to do it

The concept is very simple. It is similar to creating a “Thankful tree” at Thanksgiving time (another tradition we really enjoy), but this time, we bring the family’s focus to kindness.

1. Make a tree of cardboard, paper, or real branches. Our first year, we used some scrap cardboard for the background and construction paper for the tree. This year, I’m upgrading a bit with a metal photo-holder tree from Pier One. (more…)