The Music Mom: Eileen Carey

It’s officially that time of year again. You know, the days when you actually use yoga pants for yoga and your family is fully committed to trying new (i.e. greener) things at dinner time. But instead of vowing once again to start working out or going on some unrealistic diet, I want to share with you 7 resolutions that I believe every mom really should be making. And sticking to, of course. Good luck, and happy new year!

Actively seek the positive wherever you can find it. There are days that are going to stink. But even on those most annoying days, there are highlights: The extra minutes you get to spend with your kids during breakfast, the way they laugh with each other as they walk down the hall together, or the look on your daughter’s face when she sees you at school dropping off her forgotten lunch. If we’re somehow able to find a few of those moments each day, I believe we should call it a win. After all, there are very few perfect days as a parent.

Master the fine art of saying no. This year I hope you’ll reject the notion that you must be all things to all people all the time. Repeat after me: No, I can’t volunteer then. No, I can’t drive the kids to practice. No, I won’t be able to bake those last minute brownies. I’m sorry, but no. Trust me: you can do it.

Spend one on one time with each of your kids. It’s amazing how much less challenging a kid can be without having to compete with their siblings for attention. Take the time when and where you can get it — even if it’s a sick day, a trip to the grocery store, or a stroll around the neighborhood to walk the dog. The outing doesn’t have to be complicated to make it special.

Forget about competing with other moms. No, their handmade cookies don’t make your store-bought brownies any less desirable, and they definitely don’t make you an inferior mom. Spend less time in the coming year comparing yourself to other mothers, and spend more time celebrating what makes you unique as a parent.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Are a few crumbs on the rug really worth losing your cool over? No. Does it really matter if your son wears the same hoodie every single day for a month? Nope. Are you ever going to see the bottom of the laundry basket? Probably not. Save the worry for things that really matter.

Laugh as much as you possibly can. At your children. At your spouse. And at yourself, of course. Laughing is much, much better than crying, after all. So laugh as much as you can this coming year. It’s good for you.

Be very intentional about embracing your creative side. As creative moms, we gotta plan on maximizing our creativity, right? The best way to make sure you do this is by being very intentional as it pertains to your creative side. Set aside specific times on your calendar when you’ll be free to write, paint, or play your favorite instrument.

As we get ready to gather around the table and reflect on all that we’re grateful for, I thought I’d encourage the gratitude by sharing some of my favorite songs about love, family, friendship, and the many things in life we should appreciate. From Kelly Clarkson to Queen to Earth, Wind & Fire, I’ve included several genres that I hope will encourage some musical moments of thanks for the big things, the little things, and everything in between. Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

“What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong

“Thank You” by Led Zeppelin

“In My Life” by The Beatles

“Your Song” by Elton John

“Kind and Generous” by Natalie Merchant

“You’re My Best Friend” by Queen

“A Moment Like This” by Kelly Clarkson

“Gratitude” by Earth, Wind, and Fire

“Thank You” by Dido

“Give Thanks and Praises” by Bob Marley

“Thank you, Friends” by Big Star

“Coat of Many Colors” by Dolly Parton

“Song for My Father” by Sarah McLachlan

“Thank U” by Alanis Morissette

“Thank You” by Boyz II Men

“Thank You for Being a Friend” by Andrew Gold

“I Want to Thank You” by Otis Redding

“We Are Family” by Sister Sledge

“That’s What Friends Are For” by Dionne Warwick

“Thank You for the Music” by ABBA

Hey, Mom: Looking for a fall activity that is fun and educational? Most zoos are open nearly every day of the year, but I’m convinced that autumn is the absolute perfect time to visit our fantastically furry friends. Keep reading to discover why.

The scenery and fall colors are as amazing as they’re going to be all year. Wooded paths, colorful hillsides, and plenty of fall flowers lead to stunning backdrops for photos throughout the zoo. Get a nice brisk walk in while exploring all the amazing colors.

Animals are way more active during the fall. The zoo’s animals really respond to the seasonal changes currently happening. When it’s no longer 90 degrees all day, most of the zoo’s animals become more active. Some of them even thrive in the colder weather. Talking to you, penguins.

Temperatures are cooler, so you won’t sweat. You know how uncomfortable it can get during a July visit to the zoo. By going this time of year, things should be significantly cooler and more pleasant. Less sweat is always a good thing, right?

On the other hand, it’s always 80 degrees in a rainforest. If, however, you’re already of the cold where you live, the zoo offers you the chance to spend a few hours in a tropical setting. The rain forest is always a balmy 80 degrees, which can feel like air conditioning during a hot July afternoon or nice and toasty during a chilly fall (or freezing winter) day. Sounds lovely, eh?

You can do a ton of early (and easy) holiday shopping. The zoo’s gift shop offers plenty of fun gifts for everyone on your list. And if you’re a member, you’ll often receive some type of discount on regular-priced items. I’m all for anything that makes holiday shopping easier – and when the theme is animals, I’m all in.

You pretty much get your own zoo. Have a day off during an autumn week? You’ll feel like you have the entire zoo to yourself. Many families visit the zoo during summer break, so it’s often crowded then. Take advantage of the small crowds by spending time at the zoo during its “off-season.” You and your kids won’t be disappointed.

Somehow, some way, school is once again upon us. Thankfully, I’ve been thinking a lot about what all you moms need right about now: reliable survival tips for the new school year. I hope these tried and true suggestions help you kick off your family’s best school year ever.

1. Get to know your kid’s teacher.

We suggest sending an email if you have a question or concern, or simply if you want to introduce yourself. Ask them what you can do to support classroom learning at home, and find out if you can help the teacher by volunteering in some form within the classroom.

2. Become familiar with your kid’s friends.

Even if it’s for just a couple of hours, organize a weekend get-together with your kid’s buddies. Don’t let them sneak away downstairs or up into your kid’s room. Make them a snack, play a game together, and get to know these friends. Your goal should be to observe how everyone interacts with each other.

3. Eat at least two dinners together each week.

With band lessons, soccer practices, and your insane work schedule, this can be quite difficult. But chowing down as a family is a tried and true way to grow healthier kids, happier families, and stronger family bonds. This is an excellent opportunity to chat about what everyone did during the day. It’s also a chance to enjoy each other’s company before your smaller kids move onto their own families.

4. Create a structured time and place for homework.

For some kids, it’s best for them to work on homework immediately after walking in the door. For others, homework is best when done after dinner. It doesn’t matter when your kids do it – just decide on a time and stick with it. Everyone does better when they have routines, so establish one for homework as soon as possible.

5. Make yourself known at school.

As soon as you can, introduce yourself to your kid’s school administrators. Greet the secretaries and be extra nice to them, as they have a tough job. Don’t expect these busy people to remember your name right away, but use their names when addressing them. If you can, join the PTA. If you can’t, worry not: there are many other ways you can help.

6. Get your kids involved in at least one extracurricular activity.

Even if it’s one thing that gives your kids the chance to interact with other kids and burn off some steam, participating in an extracurricular activity is always worth it. Whether it’s a club, a community sport, or a youth group, participating in something extra will help your kids thrive. After all, all kids need something to call their own.

All too often we assume that kids are either born with a superior level of intelligence or they’re not. This assumption leads many folks to believe that there’s simply not much parents can do to influence how brainy their kids end up.

The truth? Research actually shows that intelligence is pretty much a 50/50 split when it comes to nature vs. nurture. This means that parental influence really can have a huge impact – not just on how smart kids think they are, but also on how intelligent they actually are.

This doesn’t mean you need to overwhelm your young ones with a multitude of math drills and foreign language courses before they’re even walking. Instead, focus on specific behaviors that foster a developing mind and intellect, rather than praising a kid’s natural skills.

Here are some simple everyday things you can do to raise a kid who is intellectually curious:

  • Talk to them before they even know what you’re saying.
  • Let them hear you engage in meaningful discussions with other people.
  • Introduce them to books as soon as you possibly can.
  • Use your surroundings to encourage curiosity and exploration.
  • Encourage them to actively seek out solutions to a wide variety of problems.
  • Consistently praise their efforts, instead of focusing solely on their natural abilities.
  • Actively look for teachable moments in everyday life in which you can build their knowledge and thinking skills.
  • Teach them what it means to have a growth mindset – and then model for them how to consistently display one.

Parenting often features exhausting loads of responsibility and very few accolades. Every day, we as moms make sure that our kids are fed, well-rested, and generally taken care of. But this concern for our kids often comes at our own expense. The result? As the emotional anchor of her family, a mom who ignores her own personal care (physical and mental) reduces her ability to parent with the joy and confidence she needs to succeed.

Beyond the obvious health benefits, exercise offers a tangible psychological boost. The rewards are far-reaching and well worth your time and effort. As proof, here are six benefits of exercise that I’m convinced will make you an even better mom than you are right this second.

  1. You become a healthy role model. It’s one thing to tell your kids to exercise and eat well. It’s a whole other thing if you actually do it yourself. Showing a sense of self-care through exercise sends the clear message that you take your health seriously and that they should, as well. Demonstrate healthy exercise habits today, and watch as your kids mimic them on their own tomorrow.
  2. You’re able to blow off steam. As moms, we sure as heck don’t earn any badges for showing patience, but we are well aware of how awful we feel when we lose our temper. Moments of chaos, confusion, and loss of control should be expected when raising kids. Being able to release that negative energy and shift your focus can help you calm down and gain a much needed sense of perspective. I even recommend investing in a punching bag and gloves, as it’s a great workout and can feel incredibly satisfying.
  3. You gain an increased sense of accomplishment. It’s important to take each day one at a time and as you move through it, pat yourself on the back for small and large accomplishments. For moms, kids are an unreliable source of that sense of accomplishment. It’s pretty much expected that you be a good mom, so rewards are usually few and far between. Sticking to an exercise regime, however, will leave you feeling proud of yourself. Each and every workout has the potential to bring about self-improvement and a genuine sense of accomplishment.
  4. You reduce your anxiety while improving your mood. Consistent exercise reduces our chance of developing stroke, diabetes, and heart disease. It also releases chemicals that reduce anxiety and improve our mood. And as you know, there are oh so many sources of stress that come from being a mom. Exercising can counteract the unavoidable stresses of parenting.
  5. You experience an increase in optimism. Exercise has the ability to change your self-perception, and can provide a positive sense of personal mastery. It also has the ability to lessen negative thinking. An optimistic outlook improves health and well-being – and it’s even known to lengthen life expectancy.
  6. You reduce your chances of experiencing depression. Researchers are discovering that exercise works at least as well against mild-to-moderate depression as other forms of treatment. It may be an alternative to current forms of treatment – even in severe cases. Too many moms face depression due to identity shifts, sleep deprivation, and the typical demands of motherhood. Exercise just might be the thing that staves off depression and fosters joy. That’s definitely a win-win in my book.

While many moms feel lonely in their personal experience of anxiety, it’s so much more common than we tend to admit. More than 30% of adults will experience anxiety at some point during their lifetime – and that’s the ones who actually feel comfortable revealing it. There’s probably a much higher number of folks who struggle with anxiety.

If you’ve experienced anxiety, you know how much it can interfere with your daily life. From your career to your personal relationships, anxiety tends to overshadow everything that’s important to us. That’s why we need to learn how to manage anxiety when it appears.

With that in mind, here are 6 tried and true ways to manage your anxiety so that you can be the mentally healthy woman you want (and need) to be:

1. Completely re-shift your focus.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by anxiety, I recommend completely switching gears by trying to do something you enjoy. It could be working out, making a healthy meal, watching a favorite film, or spending time outside with Mother Nature (one of my favorites). Anything that helps take your mind off the source of your anxiety is a good thing. You’ll find that this new sense of perspective is actually quite necessary when trying to figure out how to deal with your source of anxiety.

2. Actively work to become more mindful.

Becoming more mindful is not as difficult as it sounds. For example, when you’re feeling anxious, take a deep breath, make a mental note of what’s causing your anxiety, and then gently place it to the side with the intention of coming back to it later.

3. Find ways to become more physically active than you’ve been. 

Physical activity can be an effective way to work off the tension that comes with anxiety. Endorphins released during exercise help you feel more relaxed and clear-headed. I am a big fan of getting in some high-level activities when I start to feel the anxiety coming on. It really does help.

4. Limit your caffeine intake and avoid other not-so-healthy substances. 

Caffeine increases your heart rate and can make anxiety worse. If you love the taste of coffee, try drinking decaf instead. If you use alcohol to unwind, remember that alcohol can increase anxiety within a few hours of consumption. And while a substance like marijuana might bring feelings of relaxation in the short-term, it usually ends up making things worse. In short, don’t mask your anxiety with the type of temporary relief that alcohol and other substances sometimes provide. 

5. Focus more on the things you can change.

Sometimes anxiety stems from worrying about things in the future. Yes, the things that haven’t even happened yet. It’s important to remember that even though unpredictable things will happen, you control how you react to those unexpected challenges. Try taking on a mindset of gratitude as you reflect on the people and things you already have. 

6. Openly discuss your anxiety with folks you trust. 

Whatever is causing your anxiety, it’s important to discuss it with someone. This can be a friend, a family member, or a colleague. The reason is that simply bottling things up will not benefit you in the long run. Plus, you’ll find that sometimes merely talking about the anxiety-producing things in your life will help alleviate your anxiety.

I have found that in order for musicians to maintain an acceptable level of productivity, it is essential that they keep their creativity flowing. The problem is that, as with other artistic fields, it’s oh so easy to suddenly find yourself in a musical rut in which the creative well has run completely dry.

If you find yourself in this most unfortunate situation, fear not: There is hope. And it all stems from these four tips that’ll have you writing, singing, and playing in no time.

Detach by stepping away for a bit.

There will be times when you feel incredibly frustrated, but you stay locked in and intent on still working. Forcing yourself through a songwriting session without taking a legit break can become counter-productive. Breaks are 100% necessary to recharge your creative juices. So whether it’s twenty minutes, a day, or a week, take some time away from the creative process to clear your head and forget about music. Take a breather and then jump back on the horse when you feel ready to work productively.

Actively seek inspiration wherever you can find it.

If you’re feeling stuck with your current project, look for inspiration in other works of art that you admire. Listen to a new album. Check out a previously unheard of playlist. Read a memoir by an artist who inspires you. It may feel like a waste of time, but trust me, this is time well spent. Sitting with your guitar in frustration or staring at an empty page in your lyric book while trying to squeeze out some creativity is a gigantic waste of time. In contrast, exposing yourself to interesting forms of creativity in any form is a great way to foster inspiration and enhance creativity.

Collaborate with someone you trust.

One of the greatest things about writing music is its collaborative nature. When your inspiration is stalling, bring other folks into the mix. Working with someone else can be an effective way to discover brand new ideas. By gaining insight into how other people work, you might rethink your methods enough that it leads to the breaking of the creative dam.

Record every single idea you come up with.

Whether it’s taking notes of ideas for lyrics or humming a tune into your phone recorder, it’s always a good idea to be armed and ready to document those moments when inspiration hits. By doing this, you’ll always have at least a starting point to get things rolling. Recording many of your ideas keeps you organized and helps you be more productive in your work. Once you’re in the habit of documenting your flashes of inspiration, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how often you’re struck with an idea for a lyric or melody as you go about your regular routine.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the many life lessons we hear every day. It seems like there’s a constant influx of well-intentioned advice given by others. Some of it gold, some not so much.

With that in mind, I’m excited to share with you the most impactful life lessons I’ve learned over the past few years. I hope they inspire you and lead to success in all aspects of your life.

  1. Dreams can and often do come true – and if you’re willing to work hard, you’ve significantly upped your chances of it happening.
  2. You can be anything you want, and you can do it anytime and anywhere you want.
  3. You’re amazing, but the world will never revolve around you.
  4. Living fearlessly doesn’t mean you live a life without fear. It means you’re 100% willing to do what you have to in order to conquer your fears.
  5. There is often a funny or lighter side to things, and it’s completely worth the effort to find it.
  6. Doing to others what you want done to you isn’t just a right way to live; it’s also a tried and true formula for inviting success and happiness into your life.
  7. The present is the only thing you can control, so be here now. Always.
  8. It really is the thought that counts. Show thoughtfulness at all times and in all things.
  9. Life’s not fair, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be.
  10. There’s always someone who has it worse than you, but some days you might have it better than anyone in the world.
  11. Your real friends will reveal themselves over time, so don’t stress over that part of life.
  12. Money’s highest value comes from how it can prevent certain stresses and help bring about some of life’s most rewarding experiences. Aside from that, it means nothing.
  13. When you believe in magic, you see it everywhere. And when you don’t believe in it, well, it’s nowhere to be found.
  14. Folks might hear what you say, but they’ll definitely listen to what you do.
  15. Experiences will always be more meaningful than things, so plan your life accordingly.

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned when I was young enough to actually appreciate and apply them. The funny thing about wisdom, though, is that it’s often learned in retrospect, waaay after we need it. 

The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned. You know, people such as our kids. Hence, here are some of the most important lessons that I think are worth sharing with the younger folks in your life:

  1. Love is so much more than a pleasant feeling – it’s a daily choice.
  2. Money is nice to have and will solve some problems, but there are some problems it will never solve.
  3. Pleasing everyone is impossible, so don’t bother.
  4. There are times when you should really dive into things, but pacing yourself is often better for you than going full blast.
  5. Your physical and mental health are two of the most important things you have, so try to take very good care of them.
  6. You kind of already knew this, but this entire life experience is not all about you.
  7. It’s more than okay to not know everything all the time. 
  8. Your comfort zone is your enemy, so learn how to fight it.
  9. The early bird really does catch the worm, so be a step ahead of everyone else. 
  10. There is never a better time than right now. Never was, and never will be.
  11. A healthy work-life balance is the secret ingredient to having healthy relationships with your loved ones. 
  12. Life is seldom truly fair, but worry not: Justice eventually prevails. 
  13. There is perhaps nothing as freeing as the moment you genuinely forgive someone.
  14. Helping people who don’t ask for it is good for your soul, and will often come back to you. 
  15. Unless you have reason to do otherwise, choose action over inaction.

As you’ve likely noticed, way too many kids nowadays are overweight or obese. The good news is that a healthy and more active lifestyle can make a difference by helping maintain weight. Even better, it can also prevent health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Since kids tend to imitate their parents, it’s up to you to set the best possible example.

So what are some things you can do to ensure a healthier and happier lifestyle for you and your favorite folks? Here are just some of the ways by which everyone in your clan will be feeling better before you know it:

– Kick off each day with a healthy breakfast. Doing so refuels the body and gives you energy for the entire day.

– Eat a bunch more vegetables and fresh fruits. Your goal should be a total of 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables every single day.

– Eat more whole grains. Some things to chow down on include oats, brown rice, and whole-wheat pasta. Aim for at least 3 ounces of whole grains each day.

– Drink a ton of fluids. Water should always be your first option, but you can also settle for low-fat or nonfat milk, as well as low-calorie beverages.

– Move, move, move! I recommend getting at least 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity each day. And that’s just to start.

– Include physical activity in your daily routine. Walk as a family before or after meals. The more routine you make it, the better.

– Make playtime with your family fun. Be active by running around, shooting hoops, or playing tag.

– When you start planning your next fun vacation, be sure to include activities such as hiking or biking in your plans. Get out there and discover nature, and you and your family will enjoy your special time away more than ever before.

Keeping your entire family healthy and happy doesn’t have to be a constant struggle. By using the simple tips described above, you’ll be making some relatively small changes to your diet and lifestyle that’ll inevitably lead to the type of physical and mental health you and your loved ones deserve.

Many parents admit that they yell at their kids. Parents say they do this because they want their kids to listen, but they’re used to getting little to no cooperation. When threats, promises, and pleas don’t work, yelling can feel like the only option.

The reality? Yelling at kids doesn’t help them focus on what you’re saying or what you want them to do. The truth is that it has quite an opposite effect.

Kids seem to be able to naturally tune out yelling. They might grumble, yell back at you, or even laugh in response (yeah, I hate that too), but they aren’t soaking in your message. Even worse, frequent yelling often leads to a cycle of miscommunication and overall negative vibes. This unpleasant pattern sometimes feels impossible to break.

With all that in mind, here are 6 tried and true strategies you should use if you want to yell less and be listened to more:

Listen a bit more. As with pretty much every other behavior, your child will learn how to listen by following the example you set. If you consistently listen to your child when he or she speaks, they’ll be much more inclined to listen to you when you talk to them.

Speak in a whisper. Typically speaking, when our frustration level rises, so does our voice. When you lower your voice to a whisper, it’s exactly the opposite of what your kid expects to hear. This can lead to a pleasant sense of surprise. Not only that, but when you whisper, your kid has no choice but to lean in. They are literally closer to you. This will likely make them feel more obligated to listen.

Stop talking so much. We parents tend to talk too much. Kids can receive as many as 200 instructions each day. If that sounds like a lot, well, it is. And since kids typically retain a mere 25 percent of those directives, perhaps we need to be a bit more thoughtful regarding what we tell them to do.

Find out exactly why they’re not doing what you say. Some questions to consider include: Are you asking them to do something that’s too difficult? Are they struggling to do something because they’re tired? Think on these things before jumping to the conclusion that your kid is being purposely defiant or disrespectful. The answer might be more innocent than you think.

Change the mood by adding some fun to things. Sometimes it can feel as though you and your kid are engaged in a constant battle of wills. That’s why you should change the entire dynamic by lightening things up a bit. For example, if you’re frustrated by your kid taking his time getting ready for school, whip out a timer to see who can win a race to the door. The key is to use your imagination (and your wit) to encourage his cooperation. I’ve found that it works better than merely making demands.

Try to see things eye to eye (literally). Go ahead and get down on your child’s level and ask her to look directly at you while you both are speaking. This is a great way to make sure you have your child’s full attention and to teach them the type of good manners you want them to have.