United You Stand

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

parenting togetherWhen there is more than one person caring for a child there are bound to be disagreements. It can come down to personal preference or may actually be differing values based on how your were raised. But the disagreement itself is rarely the problem; it is how that disagreement is dealt with.

Communication is key when raising a child, and can perhaps be even more crucial when in a blended family. When Dave and I first married, Kira was norotrious for asking first me, then her dad about doing something and then taking whichever answer she liked best. It left us wondering what happened, and often frustrated with each other because we each thought the other had undermined our authority. Yeah, Kira was a sneaky one, but it taught us a lot about having a united front.

We started to realize that we had to talk to each other when the question was asked. We would tell each other, Kira just asked me about going to the park, but I said no because she hasn’t finished her homework. Then, when she went to the other parent to ask the same question, she’d get the same answer – and we were able to address with her the innapropriateness of trying to pull a fast one by being so sneaky.

Before we worked out the need to have such open communication, we would end up frustrated with each other in front of the kids. The disagreements only fueled the motivation of the kids to take advantage. They weren’t being bad; they were just being kids. It wasn’t their fault; it was our need to improve. We learned quickly how unpleasant it is to have your opinion undermined in front of a child, even if the other person does have a point. It doesn’t encourage respect and breeds dissatisfaction in relationships.

Dave and I learned to talk about our disagreements about discipline in private. It gave us time to listen to and respect what the other was saying without an audience. We could work out differences and come to a consensus and feel good about it, while also demonstrating to our kids that we were a team.

It didn’t take long for Kira to realize her approach would no longer work, and it forced Dave and I to confront and overcome some of the differences in our parenting styles. As we realized that we were both operating from a place of love and concern, disagreements about what to let the kids do or what kind of house rules we would have became minimal.

Sugar High

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASugary treats are fun. I have a hard enough time saying no to ice cream for myself, so imagine how hard it is when the kids want it. Dave and I could give in each time the kids want some sort of dessert but it’s really not the message we want to send. We try to restrict treats for all our sakes, because it’s definitely not the healthy choice.

Too much sugar is not good for you or your kids. Cavities are a huge risk with a high-sugar diet. Childhood obesity and other health complications have been directly linked to sugar consumption.  Worst of all, the habits your kids form now will likely influence their health and habits as adults.

The easiest way to limit sugar is to keep it limited inside and outside the house. Set the right example, and show your kids how to have balance. A couple of cookies after a healthy dinner? Sure. A whole package of oreos for an after school snack? No way.

It’s all about moderation and balance, teaching our kids to make healthy choices most of the time so that a treat is a treat and not a habit.

Something to Fear

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

pebThere are rational and irrational fears. Children especially can be fearful because there is so much they don’t know. As a parent it can seem silly, but not taking a child’s fear seriously can make things much worse.

Your child might be scared of the dark, a stuffed animal, loud noises, swimming, or the color of peanut butter. As a parent, you don’t want your child to be upset or scared. Your first instinct might be to turn the lights off or toss them into a pool to show them that nothing’s wrong. Well-meaning, but forcing your child into an uncomfortable situation can potentially be traumatic.

Solving a problem always starts with a conversation. Find out why your child is frightened and discuss ways to either lessen their fear or at least work around it. A nightlight could make a huge difference and “special” goggles might make the pool approachable. See what your child is willing to try and the problem might fix itself. You are their safety net and you always them to think of you that way. If that means an extra check under the bed every night, then why not. There’s no harm in it.

Other Mothers: Our Own Worst Enemy

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce
Like the bodies that make the babies, motherhood itself comes in all shapes and sizes. And it really doesn’t matter what kind of mom you are; you’ll end up facing criticism. If you work while parenting, you aren’t there for your kids. If you stay at home, you don’t understand how to balance work and family. If you’re a single mom, you’re depriving your child of a father. If you’re a married mom, you have no idea how hard it is to do it alone. Don’t breastfeed? Don’t tell anyone – you obviously don’t love your child as much as nursing moms. Only have one kid? You can’t possibly call yourself a real parent.

Wanna know what’s worse?

It’s not dads or society doing the finger pointing, blaming, and labeling. It’s other mothers.

Perhaps it’s deeply seated in our own insecurities, but many of the harshest critics of the way we all mother is other mothers. Us. We look at another mom and don’t understand her choices, lifestyle, or parenting methods. And rather than extending her any understanding or even an open mind, we judge, quickly and harshly. Many of the issues over which mothers disagree have no clear cut answers. Every mother does the best she can with the experience and unique understanding of her own child that she has.

I’m guilty of this judging.

As a mother of five, I’ve often joked that you’re not a “real” mom if you only have one child…even though many of the most lovely women and mothers I know and are friends with do only have one child. Honestly, it’s more a reflection of my own jealousy or frustration, because with five kids, we couldn’t afford every event and dance lesson our kids wanted that my friend with only one child always could. Or I was frustrated at one more sibling argument that my friends with only one child would not experience.  Suffer with me! That’s what I wanted.

As a stepmom, I was also quick to pass judgement on other stepmoms who complained more about their situation or blamed their husband for the troubles they had. It took a lot of time talking to other stepmoms (and a little growing up) to realize that my situation was the one that fell outside of the norm, with far less baggage and frustration from bio mom than most had dealth with. And now that I regularly work with stepmoms and talk to them about their experiences, I have been humbled by how many struggles they’ve had to endure but still keep loving with all their heart and soul.

Mothers have a hard job, whether they have one kid or many, work outside the home or in it, breastfeed or don’t, have a partner or don’t. It’s time for all of us (me) to be more understanding and supportive of every mother and how she chooses to raise her kids.

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Should Your Kids Have Facebook?

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

social mediaSocial media is everywhere.

And especially in our house, where my husband and I run a niche marketing firm that focuses in part on social media strategy and content marketing, social media is prolific.

But does your child need to have Facebook? As a parent, letting your kids venture into the world of social media can be a little scary. How do you protect your child from the entire world that they now have access too? Where do you draw the line? (We draw the line at snapchat).

We’ve allowed the kids their Facebook pages on a few conditions:

  1. We get to be friends. There is no way they get an online profile without our ability to monitor it.
  2. They are not allowed to accept friends without our approval first.
  3. We know the password.

And of course this privilege comes with a talk about safety, privacy, and a touch of common sense that we hope to instill.

You’ll be able to decide at what point you think your child is mature enough for a social media profile. Just remember that it might be better to allow controlled access with your approval and guidance than to refuse completely. The internet can be accessed anywhere and your child might create an account secretly (something Kira pulled when MySpace was popular), so keep an eye out.

We also allow our kids to have their own webpages and manage their own Facebook pages and Twitter accounts (following the same rules).

We have found that it is better to educate our kids about online behavior and etiquette than shield them from it completely.


I Am Sleepy, Puffy-Eyed Frankenstein Mom

Getting Real With Jana Jeffery

Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror for the first time in the day, at 3pm, and realized that you didn’t just forget to put makeup on one eye, which happens more often than is comfortable to admit in mixed company, you forgot to put it on … all together? Hello sleepy, puffy-eyed Frankenstein mom!

I don’t usually wear a lot of makeup. A small amount of eye shadow and eyeliner is as far as it usually goes, time permitting. My eyelids are generally in a perpetual state of red and puffy. Plus, I have almond shaped eyes that shrink to slits when I smile. So if I forget to put on this minimal amount of makeup, like I have the past two days, all I hear is, “you look so tired” and “are you coming down with something?” Of course I respond in the most subtly indignant tone that I can muster: “no, no I’m not, this is me au naturel…”


The truth is, I’ve been waking up late in the morning. Which is most likely because I’ve been staying up a little too late and taking Nyquil – “the nighttime, sniffling, sneezing, aching, coughing, stuffy-head, fever, so you can rest [and sleep through your alarm] medicine.”

Jana and her youngest daughter, Hannah

I take half the recommended dose for my evening stuffiness; violently crush the crowing rooster alarm ringtone when it goes off at 6am; and fall blissfully back to sleep. Did I mention that I have two school-age kids and that I’m married? Well, I am, and my husband will let me sleep through it all. Then, he’ll send one of them in to wake me up. Oh how they love to wake up mommy. It’s more like, make fun of mommy for doing the thing they get so much hell for: getting up to their alarm. Being taunted awake by your children is so much fun, and such a great way to start the day (insert sarcasm.)

Honestly, I barely have time to feed the dogs, get dressed, pack our lunch, finish getting the last kid ready, and then brush my teeth and hair before we’re racing out the door by 720ish. Taking a few minutes to put on a dash of makeup is simply time that I don’t have.

Fast-forward 7.5 hrs and there I am, standing in the ladies room at the office, taking stock of my appearance. Ticking off the checklist of things I forgot to do that morning… tweeze my eyebrows, put on makeup (or at least cover up), put in the other earring (yep, that happened), wear matching shoes… sadly the list goes on. I’ll spare you. But, I resolve to the fact that it’s 3 o’clock; I’ve already seen almost everybody I’m going to see today. Screw it, better luck tomorrow.

Then, tomorrow comes: rinse, repeat.

Why don’t I stop taking the Nyquil you ask? Well, I would, but I’m pretty sure sleepy, puffy-eyed Frankenstein is better than the drooling zombie walker.


A Month of Health Articles – on a Mom Site?

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

I am participating in National Health Blog Post Month. We write about health a lot on MomsGetReal, even though it’s not a health or medical site. Why? Because moms have the power to set the example for their kids, and because moms are the best at helping other moms. From body image to living a healthy lifestyle, it all begins at home. It is important to talk about.

Writing about my health allows me to share some of my struggles – from weight loss issues to early menopause from having a hysterectomy at 37 to making healthy lifestyle changes – and encourage others to make small changes that have a big impact.

I hope you’ll check in each day to see what we’re talking about…and if you’d like to contribute your own health article to MomsGetReal, we’ll be accepting submissions all month!

I’m grateful to WEGO Health for encouraging a dedicated focus on health!

What are your health goals?

3 Components of Weight Loss Success

Does losing weight feel like mission impossible? You’ve tried fasting, cutting back on carbs, eating more dairy, going gluten-free (because you heard it was “the new thing” to do) and reading endless amounts of information—which may or may not have been helpful.

Instead of taking the “let’s try it and see” approach, you could follow three simple guidelines to weight loss and weight management. When nutrition, aerobic activity and strength training are all put into action, you shouldn’t feel like you’re starving or spinning in circles. Now, grab your calendar and start planning how to incorporate these factors into your day – every day:

  1. Nutrition – Eating to lose weight does not have to leave you feeling deprived. But, nutrition should be a major focus in your weight-loss journey. One of the best things you can do for yourself is write down everything you eat and how you feel afterward. Did that candy bar at 4 p.m. give you energy or slow you down? Take note and tune into your body’s needs – when you’re hungry, thirsty, fatigued or full. This doesn’t mean charting graphs and following formulas (unless you like that sort of thing). Just by being mindful of what, how much and why you are eating will go a long way. Food is fuel – we can’t function without it.
  2. Aerobic activity – The mere thought of “cardio” may wear you out, but because aerobic activity burns calories, it is an important element to weight-loss success. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes per day for five days each week. That is a total of 150 minutes each week at a moderate pace (walking fast, pushing a lawn mower or riding a bike on level ground) for overall health benefits. To shed pounds, though, you’ll need to increase the intensity and/or duration for optimal results. Not a runner? No problem. Find an aerobic activity you enjoy, such as Latin dance, cardio kickboxing or a recreational sport.
  3. Strength training – Don’t be intimidated by big muscle guys at the gym; everyone is welcome in the weight room. Lifting weights translates to more muscle mass, which leads to a higher metabolism. According to the CDC, strength training can increase metabolic rate by as much as 15 percent. Are you afraid of bulking up? It requires very specific training to achieve a bodybuilding stature – and it doesn’t happen overnight. Incorporate basic strength training into your workouts at least two or three days a week. You can do this on your cardio days, or on alternating days. It may be helpful to seek advice from a personal trainer, even for a short period of time. Learning proper form and getting exercise ideas from a professional is always the safest and most effective option if you’re just starting.

By: +Elizabeth Lotts writer for Vitacost.com. Vitacost.com has been selling discount vitamins since 1994. Since then it’s grown into one of the biggest online marketplaces for healthy living essentials-with vitamins and supplements being just one of their many helpful categories! Want to read about coconut oil benefits or just buy raspberry ketones, you can at Vitacost.com. Get the best price on vitamins such as vitamin B12, nutritional supplements, whole foods and diet products. Vitacost.com’s customers mean the world to them, and it’s their goal to provide you with the best nutritional supplements, natural foods and sports nutrition to help with your health and wellness. Vitacost.com is not affiliated with this blog, and isn’t responsible for content outside of this article.

Road Trip 2012 Reflections

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

We’ve been home for 10 days now from our amazing road trip and starting to settle back into the routine of things. We’ve been dealing with doctor appointments and refilling prescriptions and grocery shopping and getting back into the swing of things with work…and thinking about all the people and places we got to see. We’ve already decided that at least once more while the kids are home we will do another major road trip. We’ve contemplated selling everything and going on the road full time; we’ve thought about moving West again to be closer to family. Most of all, though, we’ve just enjoyed reliving the memories of the experience.

We want to make sure the kids remember the trip, so we talk to them about different moments. We took hundreds of pictures and we loaded many of them onto a digital frame so that there is a slideshow of the month-long trip replaying for the kids. We chat about favorite moments each night when we tuck the kids into bed.

What has really made me happy, though, is the connection the kids have made with their cousins. They are emailing back and forth to each other, connecting on Facebook with each other, and remaining a part of each others’ lives. I know when school starts everyone will get back to their own lives, but I hope I will be able to continue encouraging the connection and the thought that family matters.

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Home from Our Travels, but Life Went On Without Us

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

While we were gone for 35 days, life went on without us. The Mourning Dove that nests above our back door hatched another set of baby birds that have already left the nest.

Our guppies had not one but two sets of babies (I’m wondering at what point the tank will be too small to support them all!)

The flowers grew and bloomed (and so did the weeds).

Now that we’re home, we’re having a bit of trouble adjusting to life as normal, but we have been enjoying watching the fish and birds, having delicious home-cooked meals, and not being stuck in the car for hours on end. It’s as important to help kids transition back to normal after travel as it is to prep them for a long trip.

School doesn’t begin here until after Labor Day, so they still have a month off. While we will go see their sister at the end of the month when she returns to college, the rest of our summer will likely be quiet compared to what they’ve been used to on the road for a month.Our kids felt a letdown at being home and we’d planned ahead to anticipate that, taking them to a movie Friday and for a short outing Saturday to ease them back into typical summer boredom. The downtime is nice, but a little part of us dreams of selling everything, buying a big bus-like RV, homeschooling the kids, and staying on the road.