Family Time

by Jodie Lynn

Which sign up list came first, winter or spring? Who cares! All I know is that the extracurricular activity sign up sheets for winter and spring come home at around the same time, and as most moms, I feel like screaming.

As I sit gazing at all of the possible options offered to my kids, my head begins to swim and my eyes begin to glaze over as I prepare to throw caution to the wind and make a snap decision on which activity to sign them up for first.

Which activity will be first? That is the all-important question of the day. As if this is not exasperating enough, now that most of the household budget is going to be shot on the cost of the activities, uniforms and multitude of "must-have" gear, I sit silently wondering how in the heck I'm going to keep my family fed on less money for the next few weeks and who is going to help me with meals and schedules during this hectic and maddening time?

Here are some options that have worked for me in the past.

Action speaks louder than words. Stop trying to win your kids over with tons of toys, games and books. While some are certainly worthwhile, most kids want and desperately need your time and attention, which are both totally free. Get things rolling right away with an in-house exercise program that includes the kids.

Rent an exercise video and get going. There are multitudes of exercise videos out on the market today. In the beginning, select one with a basic exercise regiment. However, you must be realistic; do not ask your kids to exercise for more than 30 minutes. Keep this in mind when buying or renting a DVD or VHS tape. Since most kids like adult music, if you find one with a good beat, no one will grow tired of it. The library is a good resource in checking out which ones might be best for your family.

Implement your own workout routine. After watching and exercising to a taped program, implement some of your own moves. Include some creative twists and turns from the kids. Kids love to help create bizarre, action-packed dances, exercises and bouncing routines. Let each child introduce one exercise once a week. Include the routine into the 30-minute work out session four or more times, then move on to a new one.

Remember, this is supposed to be fun, so do not pressure them into coming up with new things. Also, make sure and remember that exercising is supposed to burn and not hurt. If the child creates a move that causes pain for you or anyone else, then don't perform it. Exercise is incredibly important and healthy, but it can be a bad thing if done incorrectly.

Keep a regular sized worn out towel handy and place it on top of the carpet. This prevents carpet burns due to on the floor exercise. That's why I say to never throw out semi worn out towels, or anything else for that matter.

Keep their ideas in the spotlight. As long as you keep their latest and greatest inspirational idea on exercise in the spotlight from time to time, it will hold their interest. In fact, you can use a poster board with their names on it, and after an idea for a new exercise is introduced, add the name of the exercise and a star by that child's name.

Reward the kids for better motivation. When the kids introduce a new routine and after they reach ten stars on the chart, they can choose a family outing, such as going to their favorite restaurant, a movie, ice skating, an arcade, etc. Keep it simple by offering them a group of choices that you are comfortable with and can afford.

Talk it up. Saying "thank you" and "wow" is a great way to express your feelings of appreciation. To keep your fitness program going, talk it up to the neighbors, friends and relatives. Kids love to know that their contributions have really made a difference and measure it by what we tell others. Compliments are free, are amazing at building self-esteem in literally everyone, and work especially well with kids.

Eating right is essential to success. Following through on a fitness plan also means paying close attention to what your kids are eating. Eating right and exercise go hand-in-hand for true success. Send a note to the teacher and let her know of the new fitness goals for which your family is striving. Encourage the kids to bypass snack machines at school by offering them two extra stars on the exercise chart.

Plan meals and snacks carefully at home. Try to serve smaller, healthier portions. Planning meals one week at a time is the best way to help your family stay on track with eating healthy. Cooking meals or entrees in large quantities and freezing them makes life much easier during the week. Divide the food into family sized containers to be easily pulled out of the freezer. There are always tons of awesome plastic freezing containers at garage and yard sales. They are usually sold for pennies and yet will last a lifetime.

Here's a brief warning. Regardless of what anyone tells you, allow your kids to have a gooey, wonderful dessert occasionally. If you do not, your child will get it one way or another from a friend's house, grocery store, snack machine or food court at the mall, etc., and then feel guilty about doing it. This may lead to unhealthy stress. This stress could possibly lead to additional sneaking of food that generates even more guilt and a bad cycle begins.

Have fun. Above all, you must have fun, get fit and cherish this time in your life with your kids. If you ever feel that your fitness program is not fun, it might be time to make a few changes. Don't forget to ask the kids for their ideas. Getting your kids involved in your life is free and is one of the very best values to be passed down for years to their own family.

Jodie Lynn is an internationally syndicated parenting/family/health columnist. Her latest paperback book is Mommy-CEO: 5 Golden Rules, 2001 revised edition, which covers family and health tips. Check out the new Mom, CEO totes, cups and T-shirts at and order yours today. All moms are working moms and are the real CEOs in life. Jodie Lynn originated the terms, Mommy CEO, Mom CEO and CEO Mom and all implications in "honoring balance in the life of moms/women," in 1989 and in print since 1996. Preorder her newest book, Mom CEO: Avoiding the Distressed Housewife Syndrome and Winning at Motherhood soon! Copyright Jodie Lynn

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