Taking Care of Mom

Best FREE Meditation App for iPad (4 of them!)

Taking time out of your day to practice mindfulness can seem daunting, but a FREE Meditation App can really help!
Mom Improvement Presents: Best FREE Meditation App for iPad (4 of them!)

Taking Time for Meditation

I started meditating, off-and-on, about two years ago.  My anxiety was getting difficult to control and I was having trouble falling asleep.  Using a Meditation App was a great way for me to get started without feeling silly or like I was doing it “wrong”.

Just to clarify, I’m not using meditation to fall asleep.  I’m using it to quiet my mind.  It’s a good way to practice mindfulness.  At night, my brain is often in overdrive.  Sometimes I struggle with controlling negative, unhappy and anxious thoughts.

These are the best meditation apps I have found (I use them on my iPad but I will indicate whether they are available only on iOS or also for Android).  If you want to try them, you can click on the title of the app and it will take you to the apple store so you can download!  (These are NOT affiliate links, I’m just recommending them because I use them and like them).

Best Meditation App to Use to Learn:

4 Great FREE Meditation apps for iPad!
Photo Credit: Headspace Available only for iOS

Headspace

This is the first meditation app I tried.  It is phenomenal.  The beginner’s series is the perfect place to start if you’ve never meditated before.  It consists of 10 guided meditations that are the perfect building blocks.  These meditations are free, and you can listen to them as many times as you want.

The only downside is, if you want to continue your meditation journey, this app gets very expensive, very quickly.  After the first 10 free meditations, you have to subscribe to either a monthly or yearly plan.

The upside to a subscription is that you gain access to an extraordinary library of meditations on lots of subjects.  I subscribed to this app briefly and continued the beginner’s meditation series.  But eventually, I decided I didn’t want to have to pay for the content, no matter how good it was.  It was a monthly expense that I couldn’t justify with our tight budget.

  • Upsides: great for beginners who don’t know where to start.  High quality content and easy-to-use interface.
  • Downsides: content is not as “customizable” as some of the other apps (no timers, varying lengths, etc.), expensive after free content is completed.

Best App for Specific Guided Meditations

4 Great FREE Meditation apps
photo credit: breethe
available for iOS and Android

breethe

breethe is another terrific Meditation App.  It also includes a 7-day “Getting Started” series, which is very good.

Another great thing about breethe is that many meditations come in a few different lengths- for example, 12, 14, or 20 minutes.  This is really convenient if you want to include it in a specific part of your day- naptime, right when you wake up, etc.

While you meditate, the app has absolutely gorgeous landscapes you can look at on your screen.  The recordings are super high-quality.  The amount of free content is slightly limited, and the subscriptions are wildly expensive, but every meditation I have tried has been stellar.  A great variety of lengths and content.

This is a terrific app for people who enjoy meditation and want to continue with some guidance, as well as try meditating on a few different subjects.

  • Upsides: Varying lengths of meditations, great sound quality, beautiful graphics, variety of topics.  Good for beginning-intermediate meditating.
  • Downsides: VERY expensive to access paid content.

Best “Quickie” Meditation App:

Great FREE Meditation App (4 of them!)
Photo Credit: Aura
Available for iOS and Android

Aura

Aura is a decent Meditation App, but it does not compare to Headspace or breethe.  I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect that people can upload their own recordings of meditations to the app.  I say this because the sound quality between the different meditations varies from good to not-so-good.

The free material consists of a daily 3-minute-long meditation (I am doing the “learn mindfulness” series right now).  However, if you want a break from your “scheduled” meditation, you can click the “I’m feeling” button, and the app will select a different meditation for you based on the feeling you choose.

Great FREE Meditation App (4 of them!)
“I’m Feeling…”

I tried this once when I was feeling particularly anxious, and the meditation I was given was perfect to help me feel better.  Another time, I tried the same thing and the meditation that played was totally useless, so it seems to be a bit of luck of the draw.

Great FREE Meditation App (4 of them!)
“How Are You Feeling?”

I love using Aura when I want to do a quick meditation.  The 3-minute length is do-able no matter how tired I am or how crappy my day has been.

Added Bonus: Gratitude Journal

I also love it because I am able to keep a “gratitude journal”; a section of the app on which I can record what I am grateful for that day.  It has been really valuable for me.

What I’m not as thrilled with is the opportunity to “respond” to a meditation after I’ve taken it.  It feels a little too much like homework.  There is a “Community” element to the Aura app that I have not explored at all.

  • Upsides: Great for busy people who want to take a quick breather in their day, easy to use, gratitude journal.
  • Downsides: “Busy work” meditation responses, sometimes very poor sound quality, random element of the “I’m Feeling” library.  
  • Unknown Upside or Downside: Ability to connect with the community of users.  Could be great, could be not-so-great.

Best App for Unguided Meditations

Great FREE Meditation App (4 of them!)
Photo Credit: Relax Meditation
Available for iOS and Android

Relax Meditation

This Meditation App has an awesome ambient sounds library.  There is also a library of guided meditations.  I will freely admit, I haven’t explored much of it.

This app was a little frustrating at first, because the first time I opened it, it immediately launched into the “Introduction to Meditation” program.  I had no idea how to change what I was listening to, or how to work any of the customizable options for sounds, etc.  I was instantly totally overwhelmed.

Luckily, after listening to the first guided meditation, I was able to access the rest of the app content and figure out how to work everything.

If you don’t like guided meditations but have trouble focusing on your thoughts, I think the many different ambient sounds could be really helpful for you.  You could listen to the sounds and make that part of your meditation.   Or try focusing on your own breath and use the sounds to “drown out” any distracting noises.  Honestly, you can just use the ambient sounds to help you fall asleep after you’ve meditated!

  • Upsides: Fantastic library of free ambient sounds, another good app for beginners who have never tried meditating.  Also good for more advanced users looking for a new experience.
  • Downsides: Could be initially overwhelming until the interface is mastered, meditations feel long and could be boring for more experienced users.

What is Your Biggest Obstacle?

What prevents you from practicing daily mindfulness, meditation, or gratitude?  My anxiety can spiral out of control quite easily, and meditating is something that has really helped me stay on top of a healthy mind and attitude.  Write to me and tell me what’s holding you back, or if you decide to try one of these apps, let me know which ones!

5-Minute Face Makeup Routine For Busy Moms

This awesomely easy 5-Minute Face is perfect for busy moms who love makeup!
Mom Improvement Presents: 5-Minute Face Routine

I love makeup.  I love playing with it, I love buying it, I love trying new looks and watching tutorials.  But having time to “make myself up” with two kids underfoot is pretty darn near impossible these days.  So I came up with a 5-Minute face routine that even I have time to do.  I hope it’ll help you, too!  Plus, most of these products that I use are super cheap!

Mindfulness and a 5-Minute Face:

I like to wear makeup because it makes me feel put together and more professional.  If I have makeup on, I am more productive that day, because I feel prepared to work.  This is entirely personal preference, but it also fits in with my mindfulness goals because I view doing my makeup as practicing self-care.  If you are like me, and you think makeup is fun, and you use it as an opportunity to treat yourself with kindness, then this is for you!

An important note before we start:

This post contains a couple affiliate links, so if you clicked on them, I would make a small commission (not paid by you, paid by the affiliate).  I promise, I am only telling you about products that I really like, and like to use, I would never recommend anything I wasn’t totally in love with!  Because I also recommend a few products in here that aren’t affiliate links, I am notating all my affiliate links with the $ sign, to be totally open and honest with you.  Feel free to refer to my disclaimer, privacy policy, and terms of service for more information.

A 5-Minute Face requires the right preparation!

Before you start your 5-Minute Face, it is highly advisable to wash your face and use moisturizer*.  I’m not going to lecture you, but honestly, just putting makeup on your face won’t really help you much.  It’ll probably just sink into any fine lines or wrinkles or big pores.  Also, it probably won’t “conceal” anything or look very smooth or well-blended.  So, take two minutes, wash your face and moisturize.  While that’s setting on my face, I like to apply lip balm, such as Smith’s Rosebud Salve$.

Easy 5-Minute Face makeup routine for Busy Moms!
The Next Step: Foundation

The key, for me, to a 5-minute face routine, is a thin layer of mineral foundation*.  I like to use mineral foundation because it goes on very quickly!  I use a flat head kabuki brush (this is my favorite makeup brush of all time) to apply.

It evens out my skin tone and helps conceal redness, but it does not conceal my acne scars.  I am OK with that.  Mineral foundation is quite lightweight, so I can’t even feel it.  I don’t like to wear a lot of makeup anymore, I feel like I am too old (which is silly) but it’s true!

A super quick 5-Minute Face routine!
Next Step: Eyebrows and Eyeshadow

Next in my 5-Minute Face, I fill in my eyebrows with the powder from this eyebrow kit$.  I don’t do a full eyebrow routine**, which is very bad makeup etiquette!  Oh well!  #Momlife?

Then, I will sweep on some lightly shimmery eyeshadow with a flat eyeshadow brush.  From the inner corner of my eye all the way across the lid.

I have deep set eyes (see that link for definition**- make sure to scroll down), so I don’t like to put a dark eyeshadow color in my eye crease.  It makes me look older and more tired.  If you have a different eye shape (this video will help you figure out which one you have**), you can do a darker matte color or your bronzer in your crease instead, this will help define your eye shape and look very natural!

Quick and Easy 5-Minute Face Routine!
The Last Step: Mascara!

Mascara!  I love mascara.  If I felt I could get away with it, I would have a bare face and just use mascara and lip gloss.  After I have a coat of mascara on my lashes, I like to separate them with the wand because I like to look like I have a lot of eyelashes (without using fake ones!).

I am using this mascara right now, it was only $2 and I think it works wonderfully for being so cheap!  I am picky about mascara.  The last one I tried was by Rimmel London and it was absolutely horrendous.  So if you’re in need of a good, cheap mascara, give that one a shot- and that’s not an affiliate link!

So, that’s my look!  Foundation, eyebrows, eyeshadow and mascara!   A 5-minute face- I set a timer to make sure!  If you want me to clarify any of the steps or even just do a quick video, I can definitely do that if it would help!

A few final notes…

*A quick explanation of this asterisk; I used to be a Mary Kay consultant, so I’m still using a lot of the products.  I loved them, that’s why I sold them (obviously) but I feel that it would be unfair for me to try to recommend them to you, so I didn’t want to link to or promote them in any way.

** the blog and videos that I linked to above are from the absolutely amazing Sineady Cady of themakeupchair.  She is an incredible author and vlogger and basically everything I know about makeup I have learned from watching her videos.  If you haven’t checked her out, I can’t recommend her highly enough.  She is a wealth of knowledge, and she has a gorgeous Irish accent, which is very soothing to listen to!

Try this out and then let me know if you like it!

 

Pick Your Priorities: De-clutter Your Daily Routine!

I'm so excited to practice mindfulness and find some new ways to re-priorities and achieve my goals!
Mom Improvement Presents: Pick Your Priorities: De-Clutter Your Daily Routine!

When I really started to “melt down” as a mom, I lost sight of something important.  I forgot that the key to an organized day is a basic routine.  Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t running amok or something, but with the exception of meals (kids have to eat at regular intervals or they get hangry), we never did anything regularly.  We didn’t have any structure.  I didn’t have any priorities!  As a result, the days felt impossibly long and boring.  There was way too much TV watching.  I didn’t schedule any play dates, or outings, because I was trying to save money.  I felt like the world’s crappiest mother because I had no idea what to do with myself (or the kids!).

Mindfulness

Give yourself the chance to take some time for yourself! Mindfulness can help!
Mindfulness

I’ve been in therapy for almost 4 years now!  My therapist has always stressed to me the importance of mindfulness.  I’m not an expert on that subject, but the basic definition of mindfulness, to me, is trying to focus on one thing at a time.  If you have multiple kids you are probably rolling your eyes right now.  I feel you, I really do.  Having more than one kid means you literally can’t ever focus on one thing at a time, because you have at least two things that always need your attention.

However, there are still ways to practice mindfulness, even with a bunch of kids running around.  Let me give you the best example I have- making a meal.  When I am in the kitchen, if I don’t force myself to slow down, I will try to do all these things at the same time:

  1. Make food for my kids and myself
  2. Empty or load the dishwasher
  3. Clean a sink, countertop or other kitchen item
  4. Put my coffee in the microwave to warm up (guess how many times I remembered to take it out of the microwave when it was done?  I will give you a hint, the answer has a zero in it).
  5. Etc., etc., etc.

Multi-tasking on top of multi-tasking isn’t helpful to you.  It’s probably not even good for you!  My mental state, my ability to remember things, and my ability to focus on the task at hand have increased by so much since I stopped trying to do everything at once.  There will still be times when you have to do more than one thing at once.  But reducing the situations in which you are forcing yourself to multi-task will bring you so much peace and reduce your stress level.  I guarantee it.

There are easy ways to meet your top daily tasks without extending the already over-extended to do list!
Top Priorities List

What are your top priorities?

To put it simply, for right now, your day is going to contain three priorities for each “time phase”.  Three priorities in the morning, three priorities in the afternoon, and three priorities in the evening.  We are not building a full daily routine yet.  That would be too much stress and too big of an undertaking.  We’re simply dividing your day into three basic time periods, and picking three things you want to do within those time periods.

How is this different from a 28 day goal?

The three things you choose should not be big goals.  They should not be big projects.  Ask yourself, “what three things do you want to get done between the hours of 7-noon, noon-5, and 5-bedtime?”  I have made you a freebie to build your list!

What should I pick?

This is my filled out worksheet, to give you an idea of my three priorities for each time period.

As you can see, I am not doing anything strenuous or trying to shoehorn a big DIY project into my time periods.  I am picking three things that I would be doing anyway (well, OK, the yoga is the hardest one for me to fit into my schedule but I try to do it every day because it’s really good for mindfulness).  But here is why my days are so much more successful: I have basic priorities.  I have the things on my list that are going to keep my household running.  I also have a few simple “pick me ups” (I love coffee!) included to make me feel like I am taking time for myself each day.

Keep your day simple with a trimmed-down task list!
Simple is Beautiful!

Stick to the basics

When you are choosing your priorities, stick to the basics.  If you have trouble remembering to feed yourself because you’re busy feeding the kids, make it a priority.  It doesn’t need to be a gourmet meal.  If you’re not great about breakfast, make yourself have a small bowl of cheerios while the kids eat their breakfast.

If you are picking a household or cleaning task for one of your priorities, pick a quick one.  Unload the dishwasher, shake out the entryway rug, take out a garbage.  We will do a lot more work on creating a household cleaning routine.  For now, your priority should be something small that, if you get behind on it, really drags you down.  If I don’t bring a load of laundry all the way downstairs to the laundry room each day, it sits in a huge pile at the bottom of one of my staircases.  This looks awful!

Do Something for You

Make sure to pick at least one thing that makes you feel better about yourself.  It can be anything.  I picked washing my face because it’s something that I rarely used to do for myself, which made me feel terrible and lazy.  Also, I really love how I feel after I wash my face.  It makes me feel like I am taking care of myself.  That’s so important for us as moms.  We take care of other people all day.  We don’t have the time we need to take to really give ourselves the loving self-care we deserve.  The only remedy in the short term is to find those small daily “hacks” that give us back little pieces of ourselves.  It can be an enormous benefit.

Strategize some
Find your Time!

Find Your Time

Now, you have to commit to yourself.  You’ve chosen your priorities, now when are you going to do these things?  This will be the hardest part, and you may have to continually revise your strategy.  I find my best “sneak times” are at the very end of meal times, right away when I wake up in the morning (before I get my littlest out of his crib), and nap time (my oldest is in preschool for a few hours 4 days a week, this is when my younger son naps).  But if you already have a million and one things you try to fit into nap time, then don’t try to squeeze in anything more.  You will have to find another time.  You may have to get a little creative, but find your time.

Sometimes perfecting the to-do list requires some re-writing!
How many priorities did you check off your list?

After day ONE, re-evaluate

How did your first day go?  Which tasks did you do easily?  Were there any that you had trouble fitting in?  Any that you didn’t get to altogether?

Re-strategize for the next day.  Did you find an extra “sneak time” that you didn’t know you had?  Do you need to find a little extra time somewhere?  Wake up five minutes earlier?  Do a little bit of problem-solving and try again the next day.  If you are really, really having trouble getting three tasks into each time period, then you have a couple choices:

  1. You could pick a different small priority, if you had trouble choosing between a couple and think something else might fit more easily into your day.  OR-
  2. You could go down to only 2 small priorities each time period.  If you have a bunch of kids, they all nap at different times, or you are shuttling kids back and forth to a lot of classes, schools, activities, doctors appointments, etc., then by all means, trim your list.

If you decide to do this, then I highly recommend you do not choose any cleaning tasks for this particular priority list.  These things should be things you do for yourself, to give yourself a small bit of extra TLC.  Cleaning, while highly important in the daily routine, does not count for self-care.

Give yourself the gift of mindfulness- time and patience and a trimmed-down to-do list!
A small gift… to yourself!

Give these little gifts to yourself

You’re at a point in your mom journey in which you need to be replenishing your soul, little bit by little bit.  If you are having trouble coming up with small things that you can use to really help yourself feel better, I highly recommend searching Pinterest, YouTube or the iTunes store for short meditation routines, or breathing exercises.  These are things you can do anywhere, at any time, when you have a spare second.  In line at Target, in the car, right before you fall asleep.  Give yourself the gift of a little bit of love.  You deserve it!

Just the beginning…

This is the first step to a fully built and customized daily routine but you have to start small so you don’t overreach and get overwhelmed.  We are still not adding things to the to-do list, that’s why you need to edit and re-evaluate if you didn’t pick the right tasks.  You shouldn’t feel like you’ve given yourself more work.  You should just feel like you’re slowing your day down and taking a little extra time for yourself.  It probably won’t be an overnight transformation, and that’s totally OK.  The goal is for you to feel like you are working towards some much-needed inner peace.  Any small step that gets you towards that finish line is a step in the right direction!

Don’t forget to download my freebie and then leave a comment or send me a message!  Tell me what your priorities are!  I want to hear what you’re doing to take back your day!  Good luck!

Mom Improvement: How to become your best mom (Life Change Starts Here)!

I love the way Julie Powell started her blog so I’m gonna try to copy her… I’m just going to jump right into the narrative. All you need to know about me will be revealed in time….)

First, let me just welcome you to my life

Mom Improvement: I want to be a better, happier mom! Here's what I'm trying!
Welcome to My Life!

I’m not afraid to admit, a few months ago, I was a #hotmess.  Before I started slowing down, I was multitasking to the point that I was double-scheduling myself for things repeatedly.  I’m a stay-at-home-mom.  I have a lot of free hours in the day in which to schedule things!  But here I was, finding myself week-after-week, having to call someone and say, “I messed up, can we change that thing?”  I felt, among many other things, like a total failure and pretty stupid.  It had to stop.  I couldn’t keep going the way I was because I was going to go crazy.  If that’s how you feel too, you’re in the right place.

It’s time for a change.

My plan of execution is very simple: a combination of mindfulness, (light) exercise, meditation, 28-day goals, habit tracking and a potpourri of other things, too!  This isn’t a paleo-diet, train for a marathon, give up your possessions and become a minimalist type of blog.  That’s not what we need.

We need MOM Improvement!

That’s where the title of my blog comes in!  To get back to the life we want to live, we have to start at the very beginning.  We’re going to make Mom Improvements: to improve as moms, we need to rebuild and re-structure the way we live our days.  “MOM”, in the business world, means “month-over-month” growth.  That’s apt for us as well!  We’ll tackle 1 to 2 habits each month, and track our growth!

Mom Improvement: I want to be a better, happier mom! Here's what I'm trying!
Happy Mom and Baby!

Mom Improvement- I want to be a better, happier mom! Here's what I'm trying!Let’s create our best days, so we can be better, happier moms!

This is not about packing more and more things into our lives.  We’re not adding to the already overwhelming To Do List.  Just the opposite- we’re going to subtract things.  We will do less each day.  But we are going to focus more; have more positivity, more intention.  We’re going to ask ourselves what we really want, what really brings meaning, and what are our true priorities.  I’ll be offering a neat freebie in my next post to help get us started.

Mom Improvement- I'm starting a journey to being a better mom!
Mom Improvement Journey Begins!

Ready to go?

It’ll be a long path, but I’m so excited to share this process with you!  I know you’ll be able to do it, too.  So, if you’re feeling like life has spun out of your control, like it’s just not going to ever stop being complete chaos… or worse, if you’re just not feeling like yourself and you don’t know when you lost you… I’m here for you.  I lost myself, too.  The awesome news is: a happier, more content, less messy, more confident and less stressed version of us is just waiting to be found.  Let’s go find our best life together!