Courtney Ahroon
Author Archives: Courtney Ahroon

Kids Stink

Babies smell wonderful... but after a while they really start to stink.

The New Normal

Figuring out a new normal after Matt moved out is turning out to be easier than I thought, but that doesn't mean it's easy.

Getting Your Tonsils Out As an Adult

Tonsils Out As An Adult

In case anyone hasn’t mentioned it, getting your tonsils out as an adult is agony. I couldn’t eat for at least a week, which actually helped me lose a few pounds, but that’s hardly the best way to go about losing weight.

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Home Renovations! New House, New Floor, New Kitchen.

First day of School – 2018

Know What We Did Last Summer?

So… We’re moving!

Eating Our Way Through New York City

Stupid Grief

No. A Bubble Bath is Not a Way to Reward Yourself.

This morning I kicked off my 8 Weeks to Awesome weight loss challenge.  As I was creating the meal plan printable for the week, I did a quick google search to find common ways my participants could reward themselves for meeting their goals.

And the more I read, the more annoyed I got.  At the top of the list were things like bubble bath, enjoy your lunch outdoors, call a friend, go to bed early, read a book, and shave your legs and put on clean sheets.

That last one may have made me throw up a little.

Really?  Is this what the world has come to?  Are our priorities so out of balance that we use shaving our legs as a dangling carrot?  No wonder I can’t lose weight!  How is the promise of shaved legs going to get me through an ice cream craving or nudge me out the door when I don’t really want to go on my run?

I’m the mother to six children.  Sometimes I go days without exercising, eating a meal while sitting down, or even taking a shower.  Bubble baths and cleans sheets are not rewards for doing something hard.  Bubble baths and clean sheets are things I deserve to have in my life because I’m a human being and have every right to feel fresh.

Do you know what else isn’t a reward?  Clothing that fits.  My closet is full of clothing that I hate.  I don’t wear them but I won’t get rid of them.  And I can’t replace them because I have them and that would be a waste of money.  I keep my crappy, frumpy clothes “just in case”.  Just in case what?? Just in case my feeling fat and ugly is going to serve me well one day? Just in case the world would be a better place by my feeling like a whale in dirty workout clothes?

Exercise?  Also, not a reward.  I love to run, but it’s hard.  It’s work.

Grocery shopping without the kids?  Hell, no!  NOT a freaking reward!  In fact, there is no context in which a mother of six should say “kid free time” is a “reward”.  Kid free time is something I need to be able to put together a coherent thought, not a way to treat myself when I’ve hit my exercise goal for the week.

I’m sorry.  No.  This has to stop.

I am a beautiful, creative, powerful, and dynamic being.  These so-called “rewards” are not things that I use to treat myself when earn it.  These are things I need to be incorporating into my daily life because I deserve to feel beautiful, confident, creative, and powerful!  Sure, it would be nice if I could feel that way on a regular basis without any prompting, but life is hard and sometimes I need a little external stimuli to remind me of how awesome I am.

No one should have to “earn” the right to feel good about themselves.  I have battled depression, anxiety, and self-loathing for much of my adult life.  There are times when it’s easy to chase those negative thoughts away and there are times when it’s almost impossible.  I’m not going to pretend that I have a magic formula for mental health, but I do know it’s a lot easier to confront and defeat the downward spiral when I’ve done my hair and put on my favorite lipstick.

Every day I see women who ignore their own needs for months and years on end, then wonder why they feel worn out and ready to give up on life.  And I’m no different!  We all carry the weight of the world on our shoulders then wonder why we can’t sleep or why we find comfort in a pint of ice cream.  We continually put ourselves last, and then wonder why everyone else in our lives ignores us.  We dangle the promise of buying ourselves a bouquet of flowers if we reach our weight loss goals, and then wonder why we can’t seem to keep our heads out of the trough.

Stop it.

We are not doing anyone any favors by playing small, especially not ourselves.  And I am never going to be the woman I really want to be if I don’t treat myself as if I’m already her.  A small bowl of my favorite ice cream, or pretty flowers, or an inexpensive outfit that makes me feel pretty aren’t the carrots I need to dangle in front of me to reach my goals.  Those are the things I need to give me strength to keep chasing that carrot, even when I’m tired and the journey seems too hard.

Self-care isn’t selfish.  It’s not something you only get when you’ve crossed everything off your to-do list or have been “good” all day long.

Women need to stop prioritizing everything else above our own health and emotional well-being.  This life isn’t a game of “last martyr standing”.  We don’t win a price for neglecting ourselves.  We can take care of ourselves without neglecting the important things and people in our life.  We can surround ourselves with beauty and people that uplift us without “earning” it.

The Best Diet and Exercise for Your Personality Type

I’ve been a runner for more than 20 years.  I love running.  I’m not even very good, but I still love going out for a nice, hard run in the morning.

But, after 20+ years, all the articles I read about the dangers of running and the importance of cross training got to me.  Eventually I got to the point where I would mix weight lifting, spinning, and other activities in with the running.  I was religious about my workouts.

Just kidding.

I would put together an awesome, 6-day plan for a “well balanced” workout, tape it to my wall, do one or two days, skip a week, binge eat, and “start again on Monday”.

I have heard all sorts of wonderful things about HIIT, Cross-fit, P90X, Insanity, walking, weight training, Zumba, and every other workout regime out there.  And since other people clearly know what’s better for me than I do, I stopped running and tried them all.

Then I cried and went on a run.

The same is true for dieting.  Whole 30, Real Food Revolution, Keto, Weight Watchers, blah, blah, blah.

I’ve heard it all.  I’ve tried it all.  Cried all the cries.

I remember when I did Whole 30 a few years ago.  Actually, it was more like “Whole 8” because that’s as long as I lasted.  I was in one of the many Facebook groups and forums dedicated to the cause, when an argument broke out about whether buying non-organic or grass-fed beef was equivalent to injecting high fructose corn syrup straight into you veins.

I hightailed it out of there (since the pizza was ready), and started counting calories again.  I’m not always consistent, but it works when I do it and it doesn’t make me cry.

It was about that time when I realized at everyone was full of it.  And I discovered the very best diet and exercise plan ever invented.

Ready?

The one I will do.

Yup.  It’s that simple.

The most effective, nutritious, and earth friendly plan out there won’t do me a lick of good if I don’t do it.  So, I don’t care if Jillian Michaels scoffs when I put my favorite ice cream in my grocery cart.  As long as I have the calories in my bank, and only have one serving, I’ll still lose weight.  And also I’ll be happy because of the magical ingredients in that ice cream.

The variety of diet and exercise plans available doesn’t need to confuse or discourage us.  This isn’t a tug of war for our eternal souls.  It’s a potluck of ideas.  Just take the ones that work for you, and leave the rest.

There is no “right” way.  Just the most effective way for YOU!

The best diet for me is calorie counting (I try to keep it around 1200-1500 a day) because if Mama doesn’t get her ice cream and pizza, Mama gets cranky.  So I eat whatever I want!  I just eat less of it.  I’m a grown woman.  I CAN stop.

The best type of exercise for me is running, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and Muay Thai (don’t you dare ask me to lift weights or do lunges).

What kind of exercise do you like?

  • running
  • BJJ
  • Muay Thai
  • videos
  • yoga
  • walking
  • swimming
  • weight lifting
  • mountain biking
  • road biking
  • spinning
  • dancing
  • aerobics
  • HIIT
  • Crossfit
  • hula hoop
  • calisthenics
  • P90X
  • Insanity
  • Tabata
  • kettle bell
  • strap a donut to your kid’s back and chase after them!

And way more!  Surely you can find ONE kind of exercise that you enjoy!  If you haven’t found one yet, keep looking.  Keep trying new things.  Keep finding new ways to do it.

I love BJJ.  It looked fun and after trying it for a few weeks I realized I liked it as much as (if not more) than running.  Same with Muay Thai.  Not only are they a KILLER workout, but they reduce and anxiety stress like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.  It’s good for me and makes me feel strong.  So I found the time and money to do it.  I never would have realized I had this passion in me if I hadn’t tried it.

So, keep trying new things.  You may hate it, but you may LOVE it!  And it may change your life.

But Courtney, I don’t have time!  I have little kids at home and I just don’t have time/money/energy.

Sorry, Honey.  I’m going to call you out on this one.  I know what it’s like to have a ton of kids home with you all the time, but I promise you still have options.  You don’t do it because it’s not a priority.

And there is NOTHING wrong with that!  It’s totally ok to say, “you know what, this is not the time nor the season to worry about losing weight”.  I’ve done it myself on occasion.  But intentionally choosing to prioritize other things is not the same as not having the resources to do something.

If you are in a time in your life where you have more important things to worry about, then that is totally cool!  But if you dread exercising or “clean” eating, it’s not because of your situation.  It’s because you haven’t found something you love to do yet.  So that is your challenge.  Find something you love that IS within your means and I promise you will MAKE the time to do it!  BTW, I totally dread clean eating.

Monday morning I am starting an 8 Weeks to Awesome Challenge and I’d LOVE for you to join me.  It’s just a bunch of cool people, doing their own thing, trying to lose weight and be healthier and cheer each other along during the process.  Click below to sign up and you’ll get a free diet/exercise plan (one that I made up), and be part of this amazing community of ladies (plus one dude so far).

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3 Tips for a Killer Self-Portrait

I love self-portraits. Actually, I love most pictures of me. Weird, right? It’s like I’m a six-year-old.  I must have some sort of crazy self-confidence and think that the camera absolutely loves me.

Um, no. I’m ridiculously insecure, I hate my chin and nose, my six kids and 3 c-sections have left me with a belly that just won’t stop jiggling, my skin is super freckly, and I have acne. Yes. I’m 36 years old and I still get zits.

Stupid zits.

But I really love seeing myself in pictures!

So, am I a narcissist? Maybe, but that’s not why I love my pictures either.

I love pictures of myself because I have discovered the magical formula to a killer self-portrait.

The key to an awesome self-portrait has nothing to do with lighting, posing, minimizing “problem areas”, or your expression. If you are going to LOVE your self-portrait you only need to do one thing:

Adjust your expectations.

I have taken hundreds and hundreds of self-portraits, and have come up with 3 tips that consistently help me make pictures of myself that I like seeing.

1. Take a buttload of pictures.

This is the biggest one.  Take a lot of pictures.  Like, a LOT, a lot. Take pictures of yourself every day. Take selfies with your phone, set up the timer on your fancy camera and let it fly, hand your camera to your kid and show them how to take a picture.

We hate pictures of ourselves for the same reasons we get upset at our kids, our spouses, or anything else in our lives. We have this idea in our head about the way things should be, and when it doesn’t measure up to those expectations, we are disappointed. The same is true for our pictures.

Up until recently, whenever I saw a picture of myself, I would get so upset. What?? How am I not as thin as I was in high school? Why isn’t my hair fuller and more luxurious? Why aren’t my boobs bigger? How are my eyes not BLUE??

Ok, I’m joking about the blue eyes, but I’m totally serious on the boobs thing. For some reason, I expected to see gorgeous, feminine curves, and was seriously disappointed at seeing my barely A cup completely overpowered by my ample backside filling the frame.

Honestly though, it’s not about how I look.  It’s about the fact that 99% of the time I see myself, I’m looking in my bathroom mirror. I see myself straight on, from the chest up. No wonder I didn’t recognize the rest of me! I literally DIDN’T RECOGNIZE my body or face from any other angle or perspective!

Find ways to get in front of the camera more often and learn to see yourself as you really are! Beautiful and real.

We all like to make fun of the selfies that teenagers take these days, but you can’t argue with their confidence!  It is not self-indulgent or narcissistic to want pictures of yourself.  Especially since we are usually the ones behind the camera.  I want proof that I existed!

Get on the selfie train!  Take a million pictures of yourself. Pick your favorites and share them with the world! Let everyone see you in all your beautiful glory (including yourself)!  The more you see yourself, the more you will like seeing yourself.

2. Show Emotion

This isn’t going to be much of a surprise to you. I try to show or evoke emotion in every picture I make. So, it doesn’t make much sense for me to abandon that principle in favor of “smile and say cheese” just because I’m the one in front of the camera.

When I make a self-portrait, I always try to create an environment in which I am showing emotion.

Happy

One of the best ways for a woman to look good in a picture is to actually be happy. In this image, I set my camera on the counter and shot some video of one of my favorite things to do with the kids – Dance party. It takes very little time to forget about the camera (mostly) and just enjoy being in the moment and enjoy my children. This isn’t a fake smile. This isn’t forced emotion. This isn’t a posed moment. This is a real memory. Real laughter. Real connection.

After I finished filming, I grabbed a screen shot of the video for the picture.

Sad

Life sucks sometimes. Sometimes our kids frustrate us. Sometimes our spouses break our hearts. Sometimes our friends are insensitive. Sometimes we do stupid things and feel ashamed of ourselves. Celebrate it.

This is certainly not the most attractive picture of me. But I love it. I love the honesty. I love the vulnerability. And I love that I was brave enough to share it.

3. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Sometimes we need to have a beautiful picture made for us. Sometimes we need headshots for work, or just want to feel exquisite. I believe every woman should have pictures that make her feel beautiful. Please hire someone to make those pictures for you. If you want to look like a million bucks and like you belong in a magazine, leave it to the pros (like me).

This frees you up to be yourself! If you aren’t trying to be beautiful, you can be silly, make faces, and do whatever else you need to in order to feel comfortable in front of that camera.

Self-portraits aren’t going to win you any awards or beauty contests.  They are for you.  If you need to stick your tongue out to feel comfortable in front of the camera, do it.  Don’t pretend to be someone you aren’t just because you’re taking a picture.  Have fun.

Look, I know what I’m doing. I know how to get the light just right for what I’m going for, I know how to expose correctly, I know how to pose myself, and I know how to tilt my chin, just so… and I still feel like a freaking moron every time I take a self-portrait. So, why fight it?

I’d rather have fun. Unless you have a specific emotion or message you are trying to share (like the suffering and vulnerability in my earlier image), don’t over think it.

Have fun. You’ll like your pictures much more if you do.

 

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Homeschool to Public School

I never thought I’d write a post about going from homeschool to public school.  For the first time in eight years, I’ll be joining the rest of the world in it’s “Back to School” celebrations.  It’s surreal.

Homeschooling my kids was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  And putting my kids in public school was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Just before Christmas, I enrolled Emma, Spencer and Jack in public school.  Lucy chose to enroll a few months later.

Why?

After eight years and countless refrains of “I’ll NEVER…” you may be wondering what happened.  Why the about face?  A few months ago I shared a deeply personal reason, but none of that was actually in my thought process at the time.

So what was going through my head?

First and foremost, I wasn’t happy anymore.  Homeschooling, which had brought me such joy, experience, and fulfillment for so long, had become a terrible, world crushing burden.

Secondly, I was tired.  So tired.  Only other women and mothers can understand magnitude of the physical and emotional demands put on us.  I was exhausted mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

Next, I felt I was spinning my wheels.  With six crazy kids, I was putting out fires ALL day long.  I couldn’t catch a break, couldn’t get ahead, couldn’t relax for a second.  Everything was slipping (the house, their education, my health, my sanity) because I was expected to take on too much.

Lastly, I just had a feeling.

What Feeling?

A year and a half ago I told Matt I wanted to be a professional photographer.  I didn’t know why, but I had a feeling that it was important for me to be in a position to support our family.  It felt like God was giving me a clear instruction and I needed to follow it.

Needless to say, Matt was shocked.  He’s always been supportive of my hobbies and ideas, but he has never put any pressure on me to earn an income from any of them.  We didn’t need it.

As time went on, the feeling of needing to be able to financially support my family grew, and the “need” to homeschool dissipated.  I kept doing it because that’s what I’ve always done, but my heart wasn’t in it anymore.  Looking back I can see that God was clearly leading me somewhere else.

But I kept holding on, and it was making me miserable.

The Breaking Point

I remember calling my sister in desperate tears, finally admitting to someone (out loud) for the first time that I wanted to put my kids in public school.  I needed her to tell me that by doing so, I wasn’t a bad mom, I wasn’t abandoning them, I wasn’t giving my children away, and I wasn’t throwing them to the wolves.

For eight years, I had identified myself as a homeschooling mom.  I started homeschooling because I didn’t like my kids and wanted to be a better mom.  I (not everyone, but I), NEEDED to homeschool to be the mom I wanted to be.  So if I gave that up… didn’t that mean I was choosing something else over my kids?

The Struggle is Real

There are a million moms out there who will laugh at me, think I’m stupid, and just brush me off when I say this decision has probably been the HARDEST and most painful decision of my entire life.  But I know every other mom out there who has made this decision knows what I’m talking about.

I cried for weeks.

When I finally admitted the pain of keeping them home had become more (a lot more) than sending them to school, I knew it was time.

It Wasn’t About My Kids

I know, with 100% certainty, that I was supposed to homeschool my kids when I did.  I also know that, at some point over the last eight years, homeschooling no longer became necessary, but fine.  After that, it became counterproductive.  Looking back, I should have put them in school (at least the boys) when we moved to Jersey.

So why did I hold on for so long?  My pride.

My identity and self worth was entirely wrapped up in the fact that I was a “homeschooling mom”.  If I didn’t homeschool, who was I?  If I didn’t homeschool, could I still be the mom I wanted to be?  After all, that’s the only reason why I was a good mom to begin with.

If you’ve read my story, you know that homeschooling has been my saving grace.  How could I abandon it?  How could I turn my back on everything I had done over the last eight years?

Stupid, huh?

It took a LONG time for me to realize that my worth as a mother was not tied to my identity as a homeschooler.  I am a wonderful mother.  And for years, homeschooling was an essential tool for me to function in that capacity.  I relied on that tool for too long and had allowed myself to think it was some sort of magic wand.  But it wasn’t and it was starting to get in the way of what God wants for my family.

And I don’t need it to be a good mom.  Not anymore.

So that’s why we all piled in the car last week to do some back to school shopping.  It’s why we are having a blast during summer vacation.  It’s why I am counting the days until my house is quiet and I can do fun things with just Henry and Alice again.

Things Change

I’ve always said, “do what works until it stops working”.  Homeschooling has stopped working for us.  Things change.  And it’s ok.  I thought homeschooling was a one time decision, but it’s not.  It’s ok for me to change my mind.  It doesn’t mean I was wrong back then, and it doesn’t mean I’m throwing anything away.

Do you have big changes in your life that need to happen?  Do you need to turn your world upside down?  It’s ok!  Do it!  If it’s not illegal, immoral, or physically or emotionally harmful to you or another person, DO IT!

If you feel like you need to put your kids in public school (some or all), DO IT!

If you feel like you need to pull them out and educate them at home, DO IT!

If you feel like you need to quit your job and start your own roadside pickle stand, (gross) read Quitter, get your ducks in a row, and then DO IT!

YOU are in charge of your life.  You don’t need anyone else’s permission to do what you feel is the right thing for you and your family.  Even if it’s weird, even if it’s unorthodox, even if it scares you a little.

Just do it.

And I love ya!

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Changing the Exposure on Your iPhone

I used to hate taking pictures with my phone.  I could compose a great image, but the exposure was always WAY off.  It was either too bring or too dark.  Until one day, an angel from heaven showed me how to take control and tell my iPhone what to do!

How to Change the Exposure on your iPhone

iPhone instructions:

1. Open your camera app.
2. Tap the screen where you want to focus.
3. You’ll see a little yellow box pop up on your subject and a little yellow to the right of that box.
4. Before the box disappears, place your finger on the screen and drag it up or down based on whether you think the image is over or under exposed.
5. Press the shutter button to take your picture

Wasn’t that easy?? Your iPhone pictures will never be the same again!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADxRdq8xguc]For those of you using an Android, this article breaks it down for you.

1. Swipe from the left to reveal the camera mode menu.
2. Tap the Settings icon in the bottom right of the screen.
3. Tap Advanced.
4. Enable the Manual exposure switch.
5. Return to the camera.
6. Tap the three-dots menu button while in the viewfinder.
7. On the far left, tap the +/- button to manually adjust exposure up or down. Other smartphone cameras should have similar functions.

Just google “how to change exposure for ______”. And you should be able to pull up a video or article explaining how to do it.

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