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The US Navy is tripling its paid maternity leave to 18 weeks

Excellent news for USN families!

Quartz

The US Navy announced on July 2 that paid maternity leave for women in the Navy and Marine Corps will be tripled to 18 weeks. The policy, effective immediately, also retroactively applies to women who have given birth since January 1, 2015.

The change may come as part of a larger strategy to recruit more women to the Navy. In the press release, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus stated, “We have incredibly talented women who want to serve, and they also want to be mothers and have the time to fulfill that important role the right way. We can do that for them.”

“Meaningful maternity leave when it matters most is one of the best ways that we can support the women who serve our county.”

The Navy’s previous maternity leave was six weeks (which is what working moms still receive for maternity leave in the US Army and Air Force.) In 2014…

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Rainy Day Activities for Kids – Part 2

Rainy Day Activities for Kids

   Rainy Day Activities for Kids – Plastic Cup Ornament

Most of the rainy day activities for kids are crafts or activities that can be done with basic items laying around the house.

This specific rainy day activity requires the following items:

  • A white or clear plastic cup
  • Colored markers for decorating the cup
  • Scissors (for the adult).

Let your child simply use the markers to color the cup any way they wish. When they are done, the adult supervisor should cut the top rim off of the cup, then turn it upside down (so the bottom is facing upward), and place on a lined cookie sheet (parchment paper should work). WIth the oven on 350 degrees, simply place the cookie sheet inside and watch the cups melt down into ornament disks!

Be sure to keep an eye on them – this whole process takes less than 10 minutes (in my oven, anyway – yours may be different). Here is the finished product:

Finished Plastic Cup Ornament

                 Finished Plastic Cup Ornament

Once your ornament is finished, you may want to cut a small hole (adults only, please!) in the very top so you can slip some string or ribbon through, tie it off, and Whaaaah Laaaah! You now have your kiddo’s personalized plastic ornament. Give it a try and share how yours turned out in the comments below!

Rainy Day Activities for Kids – Part 1

Rainy Day Activities for the Kids - Foam Suds!

Rainy Day Activities for the Kids – Foam Suds!

Did I mention that today is actually amazingly sunny, there isn’t a single cloud in sight, and it’s a beautiful 70-something degrees outside? So, it does seem a bit silly to be writing about rainy day activities for kids when the weather is about as perfect as I could hope it would be – I know! But the truth is, today I’m just lazy, and I simply don’t feel like taking my kids outside. Before you judge me, realize that I’ve been sick the past two weeks, and today is the first day I am starting to get back to feeling “normal” again. So, instead of taking my kids outside like I probably should (insert guilty face here), I decided to give myself a bit of a break by coming up with some indoor activities. Still a win-win, see? I’m not such a bad person, really!

I know how mentally draining it can be to constantly be “creative” for your kids, but I’m going to share some super simple ideas with household items that kept my kiddos entertained for hours! Yes, HOURS (can I get an “Amen”?!). I’m going to roll them out to you in a series, so watch for the other parts as I gather up my images and write them all up for you to use!

Part 1: Rainy Day Activities for Kids = Making Foamy Suds. Here’s what you’ll need…

What you'll need (washable paint is optional - but makes it more fun!)

What you’ll need (washable paint is optional)

And to be more basic – the washable paint is optional, but.. if you DO use the paint, I’m warning you now to make sure it’s the washable kind! I’ve done my due diligence warning – the rest is all on you (smile)!

I probably don’t even need to tell you what to do next – this is THAT simple. Okay, just in case, I’ll tell you anyway! Simply dump the water and dish soap into the blender, and blend away until it forms into suds! If you want to add some color, add a dolop or two of the washable paint, then pour it into a small container for your kids to play! We made two distinct colors, placed them side-by-side and my youngest thought just rubbing his hands to feel it was pretty fun.

FullSizeRender2

Almost looks edible, doesn’t it?

Once the kids were bored with “just the suds”, we added a bucket of “rinse water” and turned the suds into a car wash for their hot wheels (this could work for dolls, people toys, whatever!).

Car Wash

… At the Car Wash, Yeahhhhh!

Once the cars were all “washed”, we placed them on the towel to dry, and about an hour later my youngest son was already asking me “Mommy, when can we have another car wash”? SUCCESS!

Your turn! What else could I do with these suds? Share your ideas so we can help each other out and keep our kids, grand kids, and spouses (who are also just kids in grow ups bodies, no?) busy! And if you enjoyed this post, please share the love by sharing this post with others who might find it handy and helpful – or both. “Happy rainy day activities for kids” day – or in my case, lazy mom stays indoors day!

overcome fear

4 Ways to Conquer Fear

Fear can be an amazingly powerful thing! It can be powerful enough to cripple your entire life, and for many, it has. It can bring grown adults to tears – and often does! But how do you stop the fear from getting the best of you? The only way I know is to tackle it HEAD ON. But don’t worry, when you’re on a journey to improve or enhance the beautiful you that you ALREADY are, there are several ways to throw fear right in our face, and then stomp through it like a champ. Why would you want to do that, you ask?

Well… there are several reasons, but the most significant one is that once you successfully pass through the hands of fear and come out on the other side, you feel CONFIDENT and ready to take on ANYTHING (like improving your life, for example – follow me?). Here are four ways you can tackle fear head-on, that seem incredibly silly (that’s the point, after all), but if you do them, you will prove what a rock you are and that NOTHING gets in your way when you have a mindset to be BETTER, to DO better. Period. So, check out each of these four options – you only need to do one, but if you want to put your fear conquering mode on overdrive, do them all!

  1. Take yourself out to eat. Sounds simple enough, but this option comes with rules. Because, on THIS date with yourself, you cannot use ANY “clutch” devices to hide behind – such as your smart phone, a book, or anything else. Just YOU, your wallet, and a restaurant.
  1. Take a backward elevator ride. You know how pretty much anyone who gets on an elevator, first walks in, then stops, and immediately turns around to face the door? Well, YOU are going to STAY facing the back during the ENTIRE elevator ride. The more crowded the elevator, the better, because it means really putting yourself out there! You’ll feel the discomfort not only in yourself, but also from those around you!
  1. Sing a song, WITH Lyrics (we’re not just talking about a quiet, low-key hum, here) in a public area while waiting in line. You don’t have to belt it out, either, but it does have to be loud enough for others to hear you if they are standing nearby. You’ll get funny looks, sure, but don’t stop – conquer your fear and just KEEP GOING.
  1. Take a picture with a complete stranger. AppSumo came up with this one, but I thought it was perfectly clever. You need to print out THIS SIGN, then walk up to a complete stranger and ask them to hold the sign and take a picture with you. You’ll probably be turned down a few times before someone comes around to agreeing to do this, but once they do, you will have proven to YOURSELF that you are a BEAST! The real deal! Don’t let yourself down – these are SUPPOSED to be challenging, otherwise the impact wouldn’t be great enough for you to overcome your fears!

Pick any one of the four things, then comment below which of the four you choose, and a quick summary of how it went!

How to Overcome Social Anxiety

anxiety_FinalWhat does an anxiety attack feel like? Have you ever wondered if you were having an anxiety attack? If you have never had one, it can be really hard to relate to what someone is going through who might be experiencing one. As a parent, I have witnessed anxiety in many forms – all made me feel helpful in witnessed the actual angst being felt. Worse yet, none were easy for me to fully understand enough to be as helpful as I might have been, had I been more informed. And, honestly, nothing hurts more than being a helpless mom when a loved one is having an all-out panic attack and needs you most!

For us, it was thunderstorms. The sound of thunder alone would be enough to make my son visibly shake from anxiety. I’m not talking loud, powerful roars of house-shaking thunder, either. Any thunder – even a light rumble, would send him into pure panic mode, and there was little I could do to reassure him of his safety. It didn’t stop there, though. Then it was the sound of fire alarms. Yes, the ones that must be tested each month while the kids are in school – those fire alarms. Even though they were just a “test” – and he knew they were – the loud sounds would set him off. It wasn’t the fear of possible fire, either. It was the fear of that loud alarm that would go straight through his spine and cause his entire body to shake, break out in a cold sweat, and result in an upset stomach and sometimes even a headache. How could this poor child learn with these kinds of distractions thrown at him at any given moment, throughout each day? How could he focus on anything at all – let alone school? As his mom, I had to figure it out, and learn more about ways I could help him through it all. I researched, bought and read a ton of books, talked to the school counselors and teachers, psychologists, and then researched some more. His constant worry and anxiety needed to be acknowledged, and together we needed to work through it.

What I learned was that my son wasn’t alone, and that anxiety disorder was much more common that I realized. I also learned that it affected adults and kids alike, and that many of the strategies offered for adults, also worked on kids (and vice versa). I instinctively (and thankfully) was compassionate to know that everyone’s feelings are “real”, no matter how much we do or do not understand them. Feelings are just that – how you FEEL. Nobody has the right to tell you that your feelings are WRONG. So, all I knew to do was to hug and hold my son in his times of need. And of course, that helped some – but what about the times I wasn’t there? The times he was at school, and would have to figure it out without me?

I worked hard explore ways that would specifically help him out. More importantly, I need to find ways to help him help himself, so that he would be able to self-comfort when I wasn’t around! I found some really great articles with sound and simple advice on how to help my son – and others, overcome anxiety. Over time, I realized that my son’s anxiety transcended other areas – beyond just loud noise. They would occur in social situations, too. While most of what I learned was applicable to any panic-laden situation, social anxiety was something that you could actually prepare for in advance, and an area I have blogged about before. Panic can come in other areas, too. Chaotic environments or areas of disorganization can cause anxiety. Areas of overwhelm often stem from a lack of organization or structure, so putting simple structures in place can really help prevent stress and anxiety in the first place. Even doing something as simple as theming your days can help you get organized, create more focus and prevent an otherwise would-be panic attack.

In summary, anxiety attacks are very real, and very much occur in everyday life, at any time, and at any age. Recognizing them, validating the fact that the person experiencing them isn’t “broken”, and doing what you can to help comfort them during their time of crisis is crucial. Once you’re aware of the potential for anxiety attacks, it’s important to prepare and explore preventative measures, such as being socially prepared BEFORE any social situation occurs, or being organized to prevent chaos and overwhelm before it even happens!

If you know anyone that might benefit from this information, please share this information. Why? Because you can’t apply knowledge that you don’t otherwise have!

Stress and Anxiety

5 Ways to Get a Grip on Social Stress and Anxiety

Sometimes social situations can be scary. When people are placed in situations where they are uncomfortable, such as a large conference or room of people full of complete strangers – whether a social function or business – it can cause a bit of social stress and anxiety. Now, I’m not a professional psychologist by any means, but I have been in hundreds of social situations, large and small, for fun and business, and I’ve learned ways to break the ice and feel better about entering these kinds of situations. I am no longer fearful of them, but instead, often look forward to them! By sharing these 5 ways to deal with the scary feelings that can come from social stress anxiety, I hope you can learn to love being placed in social situations – even if only once in a while!

1. The best way to feel comfortable around a group of strangers is by getting to know them. Ask them lots of questions! Everyone likes to talk about themselves, so give them the opportunity to do just that, get to know them at the same time, and ease your nerves – all simultaneously! If you know your audience in advance, do a little research ahead of time so you can ask them more targeted and relevant questions. Here are a few questions that can help get your started:

  • What do you do for a living?
  • What do you love most about what you do for a living?
  • How long have you worked there?
  • What is your biggest challenge in your line of work?
  • What is it like working there?
  • Where do you work?
  • How long have you been in that line of business?
  • How did you learn to do such and such?
  • Do you have any mentors? How did you find meet them?
  • Do you work every day? What are your workdays like?
  • How many people do you work with?
  • How do you handle your work/life balance?

2. Give out genuine compliments. Everyone loves a compliment, so find ways to compliment people – but only genuine compliments! People can spot a snake from a mile away – be honest and genuine in your compliment, and they’ll appreciate it and be more likely to remember you. You can easily do this by looking at those people nearest you, searching for ways to compliment them. Better yet, you can compliment them AND ask a question all at the same time (double bonus!). To get your started, because I’m good like that, here are some examples:

  • Wow, that suit is amazing!
  • Where do you get your hair done? It looks incredible!
  • You’re a really great speaker/presenter!
  • Wow, this is a great business card!
  • Your kids are so well-mannered!
  • Your ideas are brilliant, how do you think so quick on your feet like that?
  • This event / party / dinner is so organized, your event planning skills are flawless!

3. Do the uncomfortable more often. I know, this sounds counter intuitive, doesn’t it? The idea here is that, the more you put yourself into these uncomfortable situations, the better you’ll become at dealing with them. I know this works because I’ve done it myself! When I was a kid in elementary school, I was so completely afraid of public speaking that I’d shake (literally) from nerves just at the thought of my teacher calling on me in the classroom in front of all the other kids in class. It didn’t matter if I knew the answer or not – I didn’t want to have to SAY it in front of all those other kids! It was absolutely terrifying to me! Fast forward to my early college days, when I was a completely broke college student who joined the Army National Guard to help me pay for my schooling. During basic training, I was given the reigns of “platoon guide”. What this meant was that not only did I have to stand in front of the entire platoon each day (about 40 people) and report – IN FRONT OF ALL OF THEM – on the status to my drill sergeant, I also had to march the entire platoon places, and – get this, SING CADENCES while running in step with them. I had to stand to their left side, while they were all able to stand in columns and rows nicely and neatly. I stood out – something I did NOT ever like to do! I preferred to blend in and never to be really “noticed”, because I had some social stress and anxiety going on! But you know what? I did it! And after my 8 weeks of Army basic training, I was a flippin’ rock star! Ok, maybe that’s taking it too far – but I sure FELT like a rock star. My confidence was through the roof because I was forced to face my fear every. single. day. And to do that for 8 weeks straight? It completely worked! I now speak in front of crowds of hundreds and am FINE with it! Pretty cool, right? If I can do it, you can do it, too – heck, probably even better than me!

4. Use the power of positive thinking to counteract those negative and scary feelings! Before you head into a socially stressful situation, use positive self-talk to get your head in a better place. Let’s face it, most of the reasons we have social stress and anxiety stem from our fears of what others will think of us. We worry about how our looks will be perceived by others, how we speak in front of others, and ultimately – whether we’ll be accepted or rejected by others. But if you think long and hard about all the social situations you’ve ever been in, I bet you’ll realize that those who walk around with the most confidence are the ones that are admired most – regardless of what they are wearing or how they look! Don’t get me wrong, study after study indicates that “first impressions” are a BIG deal (especially in business situations), so your business convention might not be the right tine to try out those new leopard leggings you bought, but if you wanted to try them out in a fun social settting – go for it! Just be sure you walk around with loads of confidence – even if you have to FAKE it! You can do this, too, and it really does work – I’m living proof! I have done this (minus the leopard leggings), where I psyched myself up in a positive thinking way ahead of time, and really talked myself into an “even if they DON’T like me – who cares? It isn’t the end of the world” mindset. Then, I applied many of the principles I’m telling you about here, and it worked out just fine. Really! I am actually still completely alive and well – I have survived every single social situation I’ve ever been in! Yep, it’s true. Amazing, right?!

5. Relieving stress ahead of time can really help, too! For me, one of the biggest relievers of stress is to lift heavy weights. Really! If I can go to the gym and get even a solid 30 minute workout in (not just a walk on the treadmill kind of workout – for me, it has to be solid weights!), my entire body relaxes afterwards! For you, maybe the key is yoga, or a run. Whatever you do, make sure that your stress release is a healthy one – don’t chug a bottle of rum beforehand, that’s all I’m saying. Eat healthy, get plenty of rest, and do something that allows your entire body to relax! You’ll be setting yourself up to be in the best mindset possible, and you’ll walk into your upcoming social situation surprising even yourself with how well you will handle it!

What are some of the scariest social situations you have ever had to face? I’d love to hear about them, and to know if they happen more as an adult, or more as a child!