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The holiday season is here, whether we are ready or not. Some of us may have our shopping done and others may still be putting away the Halloween decorations. One thing we all have in common, is that no matter how joyous this time of year is, there's also a lot of potential to reach the overwhelm.

The overwhelm can come out of nowhere. The parties- the events- the school functions- the shopping- the lists- the baking- the decorating- the wrapping- the elf (enough said). While it feels like we should be doing all the things- it's impossible to do all the things, care for our families and care for ourselves well. Somethings got to give. And if it's you that has to give- then there's not going to be much joy in the holiday season.

How do we remain sane? The following ideas may not be a perfect recipe for success- but they can help.

1) Start by making a WHAT'S IMPORTANT LIST- Family? Church? Friends? Before the season starts- take a second to remember what's most important to you. Remember this list as we will be revisiting it in steps to come.

2) YOUR KIDS- YOUR SCHEDULE- here's the deal. No one knows your kids like you do. Some kids can handle schedule changes and late nights. Some can't. You know. There may be some family function that everyone wants your kids to be at, but you know that if you get them off their schedule, even for a couple hours, YOU are going to be the one to pay. Keeping my kids up late only means they are going to wake up earlier! No thanks.

3) Along the lines of #2- IT'S OK TO SAY NO!- You 100% do not need to do all the things. Say no. How do you know what to say no to? Where does the event fall on your importance list- if it's not high up- then maybe someone else can cover it or attend. Maybe there's somewhere else you need to be. Maybe you just need to be at home. The world will keep turning if you don't make every event and every RSVP. You do you.

4) Speaking of YOU- you need to take care of you. Yeah yeah, the big buzzword- SELF-CARE. It's no joke. Here's the deal though- self-care looks different for everyone! I'm an extrovert so sometimes I thrive off of being in a crowd... but at the same time... sometimes I know I need to just be at home. It's important to listen to yourself and your body- no guilt! Maybe it's a warm bath- maybe its a book- maybe it's going dancing- maybe it's sleeping in or watching a Hallmark Movie Marathon. It's SELF care- so no one can tell you what that looks like but you. How do you know it's self-care? When it leaves you feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, revitalized, content and HAPPY!

5) MOVE- workout. Take a walk. Go to a class. Working out creates endorphins- endorphins make you happy and feel good. You will better able to handle stress, make decisions, sleep better, and feel better about yourself. Plus- that LBD on NYE will look especially fantastic. No excuses- you can find 3-5 hours a week to workout, and the benefits far outweigh anything else.

6) PLAN- This can mean properly planning for events and gatherings, but also planning for the day to day. Relieve the stress- plan your meals. One of the best things you can do is sit down with your partner and/or family sometime on Sunday. Maybe you and your partner wake up early on Sunday and enjoy some time together- go over the week ahead regarding events or anything out of the norm, and also meal plan. Plan your dinners. If you know you are going to be busy one day- plan a crockpot meal. Maybe make extra so you have lunches. Meal planning will help with (a) Budget- because you will know exactly what you need to purchase and stick to the list and not over buy (b) stress- every morning you will wake up knowing what's for dinner, no last minute throw together meals (c) eating healthy- meal planning will help you make food at home- more whole foods- less take out or eating out. Seems like a win win win win to me.

There you have it- 6 semi-easy steps to help stay sane this Holiday season. Best of luck and Happy Holidays.

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-Hometown: Waynesboro, GA

-Fit4Mom Member since: June 2019

-Members of your Family: Myself, Jeff, fur baby Sofi and soon to be son ~ Wyatt due December 8th!

-Current/Previous Career:

Homemaker and soon to be SAHM, previous Marketing Director

-How did you find Fit4Mom? I was searching local Facebook groups for a place to fit in and get some early pregnancy fitness in, and Fit4Moms was a continuously mentioned and suggested place to call “my village!”

-What has Fit4Mom done for you (or meant to you)? I can not put a value on this Fit4Mom Family! I finally found my people! As a transplant here from the South, I did not know too many people locally- and I was all of a sudden surrounded by amazing women from so MANY different places in life and motherhood! It felt so great to be able to see all of these women thriving off of and helping one another to get along! It has been invaluable to me and it is my absolute favorite place to get out and go! I have never once left a class or meeting without feeling invigorated and appreciated for my individual traits! I have met women whom I call my friends and I love seeing everyone’s families thrive and grow in the classes and in the group! I have learned from all of these women in the different experiences of pregnancy, new moms, experienced mamma bears, and even the great grandmas in the group! Everyone adds their own color and spice to the group and I just love it so much!

-What was your childhood ambition? I wanted to be a photographer for the National Geographic Calendars and travel to take pictures of wild animals. Then I got older and realized that the majority of the calendars are from submissions and it is incredibly rare to actually be a staffed photographer for NatGeo.

-What does motherhood mean to you? Oh goodness....so much and at the same time this is my first so I realize that I cannot even fathom what it will mean to me going forward. We struggled with infertility; and that,alongside having wanted to be a mother from a very young age, it is the epitome of fulfillment. It means being able to pour my entire heart and soul into shaping the heart and mind of another. I feel like it is my life’s purpose and I cannot wait to have this little boy overflow and break my heart over and over. It means watching my little boy grow into a man and watch him fulfil his greatest potential. It means so much, too much for one question!

-What is your favorite exercise?

I LOVE the Body Ignite classes because I always feel like a rockstar afterwards! My favorite excercise though is probably a basic hang clean or deadlift - unless it is one of Dana’s 6 count hang cleans! Those make me feel like I may not live to see the end of class!

-What is your proudest moment? Watching my stepson graduate the Navy Submarine program with honors. I had a large hand in helping him along in choosing his path and to see him fulfill his potential has without a doubt been my proudest moment thus far

-What are three of your favorite things (besides your family)?

COFFEE!!!

New friends!!!

Fishing!

-If we asked your partner what they think your best qualities are, what would they say? Jeff’s response ~ “Well it would be your heart...so let me think about what that means. You are the most genuinely caring and nurturing person I know to me, and those you care about. You are extremely reliable and trustworthy, you’re honest and just very loving. And a good cook! “

-Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us:

I think I come across as very spontaneous and sarcastic- but I put soooo much thought into people behind the scenes. If I have ever expressed caring about you or being concerned for you, you can bet it was sincere and I am rooting for you silently. I think people who have only interacted with me in class might think I am just a happy/funny/laid back chick- but I am ALWAYS truly honored to meet you at your lowest and be your silent (or loud!) cheerleader until we get you back right side up and feeling good! I guess that might be surprising?

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One of the beautiful things about living in the Chicago area is being able to experience all 4 seasons. While winter can be cold and frigid, it can also be a time to see some of the best sights and events Chicago has to offer. It's never too late to start new family traditions and experience this magical time of the year through your children's eyes. Not sure where to start? We have compiled a list of some of our favorites...

Local

Oswego Christmas Walk

Phillips Park Zoo Lights

Blackberry Farm Grinch Storytime

Blackberry Farm Holiday Express

Acquaviva Breakfast with Santa (no dates posted yet)

Yuletide Fest- Naper Settlement

Naperville Parade of Lights

Snow Tubing

Larsen Light Show

Bass Pro Shop Santa

Chicago area

Brookfield Zoo Lights

Lincoln Park Zoo Lights

Ice Skating- Maggie Daley Park

Morton Arboretum- Illumination

Polar Express

Christkindlemarket- Chicago

Navy Pier's Winter Festival

A Christmas Carol at Goodman Theater

Chicago Art Museum

Christmas Around the World- Museum of Science and Industry

Lightscape at Chicago Botanical Garden

Christmas Displays/Walnut Room at Macy's

Mag Mile Lights

Arlington Racetrack Art Fair (first weekend of December)

Lilacia Park Lights- Lombard

Other

Happy Holiday Railway - Union, IL

Holiday Lighting Ceremony/Gingerbread House Competition at Grand Geneva

Whatever you decide, we hope this holiday season fills you with love and time with your family.

As a bonus- here's a fun article about how to increase your sled speed!! https://www.popsci.com/increase-sled-speed/

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-Hometown: Hammond, Louisiana

-Fit4Mom Member since: June 2019

-Members of your Family:

husband - Scott

2 boys - randy 3 and hank 15mon

Dog - bucket

-Current/Previous Career: I am a stay at home mom but was a billing supervisor for an OBGYN office before

-How did you find Fit4Mom? Plainfield moms Facebook group

-What has Fit4Mom done for you (or meant to you)? Fit4mom welcomed me and my family with open arms. I have never once felt out of place since we moved here from Louisiana. We have moved a lot in the last few years and this move has by far been on of the easiest because of fit4mom!

-What was your childhood ambition? To be a paleontologist or teacher

-What does motherhood mean to you? It is fun, hard and unpredictable all at the same time! It is being loved and loving unconditionally. And crying and laughing a lot.

-What is your favorite exercise? I like strides 360 as a whole but I really like Going to Kentucky! Or I’m gonna get you during Stroller Strides.

-What is your proudest moment? Deciding to get healthy. 6 months ago I made the decision to lose weight, be more active and change my eating habits. I am happy and healthy and that makes me a better mom and wife and I am proud of myself for doing it!

-What are three of your favorite things (besides your family)? Reading, Country music and chips and queso

-If we asked your partner what they think your best qualities are, what would they say? Sense of humor or being organized.

-Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us: I can be painfully shy.

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-Hometown: I have lived in Oswego for the last 25 years.

-Fit4Mom Member Since: I joined Fit4Mom last summer.

-Members of your Family: I have 4 talented, wonderful, supportive children, Meagan, Erin, Brittany and Dougan. I am a widow of 7 years. I reconnected with my high school boyfriend and we have been together 4 years.

-Current/Previous Career: I am the Corporate Director of Human Resources for a manufacturing company.

-How did you find Fit4Mom? I found Fit4Mom through a good friend, Kara. I told her I was too old to go and she and Lisa convinced me to go.

-What has Fit4 Mom done for you (or meant to you)? Classes have been great for me. I was falling into a sedentary lifestyle and wanted to get moving. I have not looked back. Its not just the classes but the instructors and all the Moms. I have met so many great women. I always feel encouraged even though I am the old lady in class.

-What does motherhood mean to you? I love being a mom and seeing how wonderful my children have grown up. I couldn't be prouder.

-What is your favorite exercise? My favorite exercise? I can think of my least favorite!!!

-What is your proudest moment? My proudest moment was watching my 4th child graduate college

-What are three of your favorite things (besides your family)? My favorite 3 things are the Jersey Shore, reading a book with a cup of coffee and floating in a pool with a cocktail!

-If we asked your partner what they think your best qualities are, what would they say? He would say I have endless energy and that I like caring for others.

-Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us: I don't think anything about me is surprising. What you see is what you get.

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There's a baby on the way... not only is that overwhelming enough- but then there's the hospital bag. What do you back for you? What do you pack for baby? What about your partner? No fear- the FIT4MOM village is here with our top responses.

After asking all the moms I could possibly ask, including the ones in our FIT4MOM Village, I’ve compiled the ultimate hospital bag packing list. I’m not going to lie, I looked at a few of these and thought, “you don’t need that.” But every mom is different, with different needs.

If you see a ⭐️, that indicates a top pick item by yours truly.

Slippers with traction.

Extra long phone charger, ⭐️ because your bed is no close to a wall.

chapstick- ⭐️ hospitals can be extremely dry.

Baby Book- ⭐️ to record exact information before you get home and forget.

Dry Shampoo- ⭐️ depending on your delivery, how you’re feeling and a variety of other reasons, a shower might not be an option right away.

Face wash

Zip up hoodie- if it’s cold in the hospital, this is easier to put on over your gown or while breast feeding.

Your own pillow- and I suggest a pillowcase that’s not white so it doesn’t get lost in the hospital.

Bluetooth speaker- for your tunes.

Snacks- ⭐️ if you go into labor in the middle of the night and the kitchen is closed, you’ll be glad you packed these.

Flameless candles- ⭐️ I had never thought of this, but they’re calming and relaxing. They also offer just enough light for late night feedings and for the nurses to check you/baby without turning on the bright lights.

Nursing pillow

Diffusor and oils- check with your hospital first to be sure they allow this.

Fresh PJs- ⭐️ you deserve some new, comfy (button up) pjs. After all, you just created a tiny human!

Your usual toiletries- ⭐️ travel sizes if possible, but bring the products YOU like.

Nice outfit and make up (if you’re a makeup person) if you plan to be in pictures- ⭐️ Bella Baby or other photographers will offer photos. I didn’t think of this so our hospital pictures are just of my son. Kind of sad

Nursing nightgown/jammies ⭐️

Shower flip-flops

Comfy robe ⭐️

Comfy pants in case you have a c-section (baggy sweatpants)- you never know.

Toothbrush

Clothes for baby, ⭐️ but don't go overboard. They may not fit and the hospital will give you onsies and shirts.

“Going Home” outfit for baby

Depends or maxi pads-⭐️ I brought my own pads (Always) they were more comfortable than the ones at the hospital.

Noise Machine- to drown out the hospital sounds.

Eye mask- for day naps.

Nursing Bras ⭐️ if you plan to breastfeed

Stroller Fan- it'll keep you cool and comfy and you can use it later on for your little one.

Notebook- ⭐️ to jot down info the doctor/nurses give you, or anything else you don't want to forget in the moment.

Peppermint essential oil- can help with nausea during labor

Face wipes- ⭐️⭐️⭐️sweat, oil, left over makeup. You want these.

Headphones- if no one else wants to hear your jams.

Nursing tops/tanks ⭐️

Roll of quarters for the vending machine- ⭐️ This is a good one! If you deliver in the middle of the night and they aren't currently serving food, you can still get something to snack on.

Mints- ⭐️ if you're like me, epidurals make you nauseous, and by nauseous I mean vomit uncontrollably for HOURS. You might want a mint, or gum.

Your own hospital gown- If you want to look a little more fancy than the traditional gowns. You can order these on Amazon or from other sites, but they have to have all the snaps and everything for the hospital to allow it.

Your “Going Home” outfit- ⭐️ just remember, your old clothes will not fit right away and there not supposed to! You just created a tiny human! Plus, you spent money on those maternity clothes, you might as well get some extra use out of them.

My last little tip is to bring an empty, or almost empty bag, and use it to bring home all the things the hospital gives you. They will provide diapers, baby hats, witch hazel pads, maxi pads, mesh underwear, and other things depending on the hospital. You’ll want a way to get them home.

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The warm weather is here; grass is turning green, the sun is shining, and it is TIME TO GET OUTSIDE!!! We are SO lucky to have so many amazing parks close by- which makes deciding which one to go to even more difficult! So the moms of FIT4MOM Oswego, Plainfield, Shorewood and Yorkville have put together a list of THEIR favorite parks. These are the best of the best and parks that you will definitely want to check out this summer with the kiddos and their friends! Park hopping may be a fun way to get everyone outside and preventing the "I'm bored"'s of the summer!

OSWEGO PARKS:

  • Townsend Park in Prescott Mill-413 Devoe Dr: No mulch, sandpit, and great for kids of all ages
  • Lakeview Park- 541 Lakeview Dr: Toddler Park!
  • Hudson Crossing Park- S Harrison St: Mister, sand pit and crawfish catching in the summer!

PLAINFIELD PARKS:

  • Settler's Park- 24401 Lockport St.: Outdoor Amphitheater, Playground, Tot Spot, Walking Trails2
  • Northwest Community Park- off of 127th: Turf Ground and perfect for all ages
  • Village Green- 24121 W. Chicago St.: Park and Splash Pad!
  • Van Horn Woods (West)- Zip Line

SHOREWOOD PARKS:

  • Westshore Park- 701 Westshore Dr.: So much nature and a fun playground!
  • Country West Park- Greendfield Rd: all ages with a rock wall for big kids

YORKVILLE PARKS:

  • Raintree Park B- 872 Prairie Crossing Dr: Has play areas for younger and older children
  • Rotary Park in Grande Park-2775 Grand Trail: ZIPLINE!
  • Green's Filling Station Park- Autumn Creek Blvd: Bring your bikes and follow the play roads and street signals!

PARKS OUTSIDE OF OUR AREA

  • "Owens" Park- Downer's Grove at Hillcrest Elementary
  • Arboretum Park- Lisle
  • Country Lakes Park- Naperville
  • Ninja Warrior Park- West Chicago
  • Village Park/Deer Crossing Park- Romeoville
  • Bison's Bluff Nature Park- Schaumburg
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My first ever real taste of the infertility world happened this week last year. I thought I had a taste when I was probed and prodded through the IUI process. I thought I knew what it meant to be infertile when we stimmed for IVF. I thought I had a clue when I’m laying on a table, legs wide with 4 nurses and a doctor transferring an embryo into my uterus.

Boy was I wrong.

We transferred our first embryo early March of 2018. It. Went. Perfect. My numbers doubled. The sac was growing, we saw the heartbeat and even heard it at 9 weeks. After 7 years of suffering, I honesty never thought I would be in this position. At this moment in time, our first ever double lined pregnancy test was the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Until National Infertility Awareness Week of 2018. I had some cramping and went to the ER expecting to be told to lay low. What I didn’t expect at 9 weeks 3 days was my baby no longer had a heartbeat.

On April 23, 2018 I had my first taste of real hard infertility. I’m not saying that having a loss is the only way to feel those feelings, I’m saying that for me, it was the icing on the cake. I went in that day to have my D&C.

We were always public about our journey and that meant we were going to be public for our loss. What came next surprised me. The outpouring of love and support and more food than the two of us could eat.

We got back on the horse in August and we were ready to try this again. Failed. No implant. Great. So we tried again in September. On my birthday I found out we were pregnant! We saw the heartbeat and on my next checkup at 7 weeks 3 days, we lost that baby too.

We tried for 7 years at this point. To be nowhere. All while my friends were on their second, or third child. I watched helplessly while I wished for a miracle to happen. After all this, money..time..tears..I wasn’t sure it would ever happen.

We tried again and I’m currently 22 weeks. We step so cautiously every day. We hover on a line between excited, anxious and nervous. I’m obsessed with rainbow items and can’t wait for our little ducks arrival.

I found FIT4MOM through a friend and did BodyBack while trying to lose weight before IVF. Even though I wasn’t a mom, I already had so many cheerleaders in my corner. During IVF stims and transfer, I did FIT4BABY. Although it was a struggle to be “okay” being the only one there technically not pregnant, I quickly learned it didn’t matter. This tribe that was built isn’t built because we are all moms, but because we will all support each other. It didn’t matter what stage of life I was in compared to others.

I’m now staying active during this pregnancy with FIT4BABY and Stroller Strides. I don’t even have a stroller to use yet and I love the workout. The cute kids in class make the time go by quickly. I learn so much from these moms. The most important is to love each other as a person, an individual, and not just a mom.

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It takes a village.

That phrase always bothered me...I am this baby’s mama, I can do it myself, it's my job to make her happy! Those first months I was resistant to help, and often times took simple advice from well-meaning family members and friends as criticism.

January 2017, it was the coldest, darkest days of winter which meant there wasn't much to do with a six month old baby, but I was itching for more out of motherhood and just to get out of the house and have meaningful adult interaction. During late night feedings, I saw post after post about these fitness classes for moms, and I would just say it wasn’t for me and scroll on. But one day I saw a post about these fitness classes for moms that were at 6 months postpartum. It was for an 8 week workout session, I had nothing to lose, so I signed up blindly...before I grabbed my calendar to try to figure out how to make 2 workout classes a week not interfere with my schedule as a NICU nurse or my husbands crazy work and school schedule.

This “mom's group” is fit4mom, and in a moment when I had nothing to lose, I joined something completely different from my “norm” and totally outside of my comfort zone. I joined a Body Back transformation session that was 2 workouts a week, nutrition coaching, and guided meditation at the end of each class. It was the turning point for getting me out of the house during these cold Midwestern winter months. A week later I tried a Stroller Strides class with my six month old daughter in tow and fell in love. I didn't have to worry about schedules for those classes because I got to bring my baby with me to workout!

At every class, I saw all different types of moms, and not a single one of them was judgmental or critical of where I was as a mom, as someone trying to get a piece of her sanity back, and as someone working hard to try to feel comfortable in my skin again. Conversations were about lack of sleep, or teething, the first time “aunt flow” visits after a baby. It was fun. It was a village. It was something I needed. Motherhood can feel so isolating at times, and this group of authentic women was the sunshine I needed to brighten my mommy spirits, inspire me, and push me out of my comfort zone. This is my village and so many of the beautiful moms that are a part of that village have become life long friends.

I also fortunate to have another village, I didn’t think it was possible to be a part of multiple villages but it is, and for some of us is a necessity! My other village is built of mothers of all ages and backgrounds. These are my co-workers. The doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and staff of the NICU at the hospital where I work part-time in Chicago. We are surrounded by babies, the tiniest and mightiest babies around. What amazes me about this mom (and dad) tribe is our compassion and support in and out of work.

It is a hard transition to come back to work, to leave our babies behind, and focus on caring for our patients. It’s also incredibly overwhelming in such a fragile environment to schedule time to pump for your baby at home. It is the work friend who leaves you a note or sends a quick text, the coworker that asks if you want to grab lunch together that helps make the transition bearable. This group raises each other up through the good times and bad. Not all of my coworkers have small children, some have grandchildren, some have children that have graduated from college and some are expecting their first. It’s wonderful to have support as a mother and a healthcare professional. It's so important to have people that understand the work/life balance that allows me to be there for the babies that need me at work when my babies are at home.

Mama, it takes a village. Let the grandparents play and laugh with your kids so you can organize a closet or have lunch with your husband. Schedule a play date for them so you can run to Target alone. Ask for help. None of this makes you less of a mom or incapable of caring for your babies. Motherhood is messy and beautiful and overwhelming at times, and no one should feel alone. If you need to text your friend that POTTY TRAINING SUCKS, she will send you the best text back because she's been elbow deep in poop too.

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-Hometown: Joliet

-Fit4Mom Member since: February 2017

-Members of your Family: My husband Bill, and three girls: Maddie (11), Liz (3), and Abby (1).

-Current/Previous Career: I worked at the Defense Contract Audit Agency for 14 years, first as an Auditor and then a Quality Assistant.

-How did you find Fit4Mom? I saw the stroller strides demo at the Troy WBO kids fest and talked to Kit at the booth. I will forever be grateful for stepping out of my comfort zone and walking into that first class.

-What has Fit4Mom done for you (or meant to you)? Fit4Mom gave me a much needed outlet to work out WITH my kids. It has given me the energy to keep up with 3 rambunctious girls. Plus, Liz and I have made some amazing friends and Abby already has baby BFF, even if she doesn't realize it yet!

-What was your childhood ambition? To be an accountant

-What does motherhood mean to you? Making memories and messes, being totally exhausted yet utterly in love, and seeing the wonderment of every day life through tiny eyes.

-What is your favorite exercise? Wall sits

-What is your proudest moment? Completing my MBA while on bed rest with Maddie. I didn't get to walk in the ceremony but I got the degree!

-What are three of your favorite things (besides your family)? Reading, checking out Breweries, and finding new parks to play at with the girls.

-If we asked your partner what they think your best qualities are, what would they say? Bill's response was "Oh my goodness, what kind of trap question is that?" And that is the type of answer you get after being together for 20 years

-Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us: I happened to be at a work conference in Conneticut during the first game of the 2013 World Series. So a few coworkers and I bought tickets and drove out to Boston. It was an amazing experience to get to attend a game at Fenway and a World Series game at that!

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Sadly, Postpartum Depression is an incredibly common issue that occurs more often than our society wants to recognize. I didn't recognize it in myself at first. Many of us don't.

I was a new mom. I had the easiest, most comfortable pregnancy I had heard of. Labor was... unpleasant, but I survived and all was fine. I had a few issues shortly after my son was born, but other than that, I was recovering and learning how to care for an infant. My husband and I were both getting into a rhythm between night time feedings, diaper changes, and laundry (don't ask me why, but the increase in laundry was surprising). And just when I thought I had things under control, I had to back to work. I was lucky too. I was off for 17 weeks.

At that time, I was a Reading Specialist at an elementary school. I enjoyed my work, I loved my students, and my coworkers were some of my best friends, but I cried every day on my way to work, and felt nothing but AWFUL all day long. Even writing this now, I'm a little teary. I refused to stay after school, like I did before having my son. I would pack up quickly, take my work with me, and rush home to my baby. I felt like I missed something every day without him. After being back to work for 3 days, my husband was working on something in the basement, my son was asleep, and I was sobbing uncontrollably. I couldn't even explain why. My husband tried to console me, but "there's no consoling the crazy." That's what I thought. I thought I was crazy. I thought I was weak. I thought I was doing something wrong, because none of my friends ever felt like this (wrong). I couldn't possibly have PPD!

I cried all night. I couldn't stop myself. That was when I knew it wasn't me. It wasn't my fault. I had had anxiety before, so I decided a phone call to the doctor would be a good idea. Luckily for me, they were able to see me right away.

Upon walking into the office, everyone knew there was something wrong me (or so I thought). The nurse and doctor both mentioned PPD, but I denied it. That label sounded terrifying. I wasn't depressed. I just had anxiety. Turns out, the two go hand in hand, and just like no two kids are exactly alike, no two moms with PPD are exactly alike either. It might begin right after giving birth. It might start a month later, or even a year. Every mom is different. For me, and now I know for a few other moms, it was at 4 months postpartum.

When the doctor recommended medication, I was open to it. When she recommended talking to someone about it, I was dismissive. "No one else knows what this feels like." "I don't want my friends/my sisters/my mom to think I'm crazy." The thing that made the most impact that day was when the doctor told me to talk to my mom and see if she experienced anything similarly. So I did, and she did. I wasn't alone. I wasn't crazy. Hey, if I was crazy, so was my mom and she's the most sane person I know. Then I confided in a close friend who had a three year old. She could relate as well. Then, I found this amazing village of women, many of whom I had just met, and when this topic came up, I don't think there was a single mom who didn't understand "the crazy."

Was I crazy? Absolutely not! Is PPD common? Yes, it is. Is it treatable? Absolutely! Medication worked for me until I made some more serious changes in my life. Is it appropriate for everyone? No, but that should be determined by a doctor. The bottom line is, help is available, when you know you have a problem. If you don't know, or try to ignore it like I did, then what? Well, you have to be open to the possibility, and you have to listen to those around you. When I first saw a doctor about anxiety, it was because my parents recommended it. I never would have otherwise. I think that's the only reason I asked for help this time around.

Most importantly, know that you're not alone.

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1.Who are the members of your family?

I've been married to my husband Todd for 10 1/2 years. We have one daughter, Alivia, who is 5.

2. Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in OPSY?

I'm originally from Michigan (Go BLUE!). I moved to Illinois in 2006-first Naperville, then DeKalb. We moved to Oswego in 2012 (I think!).

3. What do you do for our FIT4MOM OPSY village?

I currently teach drop-in Body Back classes for Fit4Mom OPSY-which I absolutely love doing!! I have also taught Fit4Baby!

4. Tell us your story about how/why you became an instructor for FIT4MOM OPSY.

I was curious about being an instructor when I first did a transformation. It seemed fun and like a great way to help others. Brianne was very kind, patient, and helpful--a great inspiration. I had also been doing 21 day fix and learning more about nutrition and working out. I also teach Culinary Arts as part of my full time job. Being a workout instructor seemed like a great addition to my teaching. Then, when Kat mentioned becoming one, I decided to as well. We pursue lots of adventures together!

5. What is your favorite memory from instructing?

Oh my goodness! There are sooo many great memories from instructing. The friendships. The laughs. The embarrassing stories. The themed classes. One of my favorite moments was seeing our 4th of July photos shared by Fit4Mom HQ! We're famous!

6. What is the BEST thing about being an instructor?

I LOVE being an instructor. I love the moms. I love connecting with them. I love sharing personal struggles and triumphs. It's so fun having this group of women who come together to help and encourage one another. I love getting to help facilitate that!

I love learning about health, nutrition and exercise and sharing that with moms.

I really just love it all!

7. What is your WHY? Why do you keep doing what you do?

My why. My biggest reason for doing what I do is for me and my family. It is important for me to be healthy, physically and mentally, for my family. I know that I can't be there for them if I don't care for myself. Fit4Mom allows me to push myself to be a better person--teaching, eating better, workout out, making friends, etc. so I can be a better wife and mom at home.

I also do it because I love teaching. Fit4Mom allows me to teach while doing things I enjoy that also allow me to share my knowledge with others. It really helps me to be me. To push myself to try new things, to do what I love, to be happy.

8. What is one of your current wellness goals?

I have several current wellness goals. One is to work on meal planning. I need to be better at preparing more meals at home but finding delicious ways to do so. Another is to spend more time outside with my daughter. She loves it and I think it'd be a good way for us to be healthier and spend time together. A third is to read more. I love reading. It relaxes me and allows me to escape reality. I'm also training for a half marathon . My goal is to run the whole thing.

9. What is a fun fact that many may not know about you?

I'm an open book. There's not much I won't share if asked...but, as members of Our Village have recently learned, I have 6 brothers and sisters, but am still kind of an only child. I have a crazy, messed up family. I can also touch my nose with my tongue. 10. I kind of want to have my own business. I'd love to have a wedding attire boutique or be an interior designer!

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St. Patrick’s Day Crafts!

In my opinion, holiday crafts are some of the most fun activities to do with my kiddos. They LOVE learning about each holiday and marking off the days until the special day we celebrate each month. St. Patricks Day is no exception! There are many different ways to celebrate this holiday and a craft for every “skill level.” I am going to offer a few ideas and share one of our family’s traditions.

Lets start with simple. Coloring pages! These can range from leprechauns to rainbows to Celtic crosses. Coloring pages can also be a great tool for explaining the history of the holiday. If you want a simple and quick craft, print off a bunch of coloring pages, grab every shade of green crayon you have and let the kids go crazy!

Next, we have paintings. My current favorite is the hand print four-leaf clover. Again, simple and quick with the added benefit of your child thinking they are getting away with something as they dip their little hand into that gooey paint. I recommend keeping some wipes close by to catch their hand before it wanders off and decorates your couch or walls. (No, I’m not speaking from experience… Why do you ask? What paint on my couches?)

Now, my favorite St. Patrick’s Day craft is a little more complicated. This has been a tradition in my family for as long as I can remember and it got pretty competitive. I’m talking, of course, about leprechaun traps. OHHHHYEEESSSS. These things got more and more complex as we got older and smarter. I wish I had pictures of some of the traps we came up with. Lucky for you, I remember the key details and will now share with you how to make said trap.

Okay kids, for the most effective trap, you will need:

- a shoe box

- string

- tape

- a stick

- Lucky Charms (obviously)

I’m sure you can see where this is going. You start by cutting the pieces of string and taping them across the opening of the shoebox, like a spiders web. You can also punch holes in the box to thread the string that way. Next, you pick the location best suited for leprechaun trapping. We always picked right by the front door, but that is up to your best judgment. If you live somewhere warm, a nice clover patch may be a better choice. Once you find the perfect trapping spot, prop your box up, string side down, using your stick. How will the leprechaun know this little box is for him? Lucky Charms! Everyone knows that these delicious little marshmallows (not the cereal part. Your trap will fail if you leave the cereal part) are a leprechauns FAVORITE snack. So, add a little pile right under your box and add a little trail leading to the box. Perfect! Your trap is set and guaranteed to work. HAVE FUN!

Ok… are the kids gone? This is the super secret “adults only” part. Once your trap is set and your kid is in bed for the night, your job is to make it look like that leprechaun was simply too smart for their carefully made trap. This can be done in any number of ways. First step, clean up those marshmallows before some critter gets them. Ain’t NOBODY got time to deal with an ant problem this early in the year. Next, you will need some gold coins (chocolate is also acceptable). Remove the stick from the trap and place your treat of choice inside the box (in a small baggie, decorated with a sharpie for a little flare), under all of the string. You can even go as far as writing a note saying “better luck next time.” This all depends on the age of your kid and what they will believe. That is what this is really all about, keeping that magic alive in their eyes. That moment of “what if this is really real!” You will see that joy and know they will always remember this silly tradition you started.

Hopefully this gives you a few ideas on how to get creative with your kids! Enjoy the time spent together and make memories! Time goes by too fast to let these magical moments pass you by.

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-Hometown: I grew up on the Southside of Chicago, now in Oswego

-Fit4Mom Member since: January 2018

-Members of your Family: husband Jonathan, Dominic is 4, and Carmela is almost 2.

-Current/Previous Career: Stay at home mom and I work at Lou Malnatis 2 nights a week.

-How did you find Fit4Mom? I found Fit4mom on Facebook and I’m so glad I showed up for my first class. (I was so nervous, but when I left, I couldn’t wait for my next class)

-What has Fit4Mom done for you (or meant to you)? Wow, where do I begin? Best decision I’ve made. I was in need of some physical activity and some mom friends. It has taken me out of my comfort zone and pushed me to be healthier for myself and my family. I haven’t felt this good about myself in years. I’ve met some amazing mamas, and good friends. We are all there to support each other and that’s a beautiful thing.

-What was your childhood ambition? I wanted to be a teacher.

-What does motherhood mean to you? For me motherhood is beyond what I thought it would ever be. It’s overloaded amounts of love, I never knew was possible. It’s laughter, happy tears, sad tears, stress and smiles. It’s learning new things every single day. Good days, bad days. It’s a bond with other moms who just get it.

-What is your favorite exercise? Squats, squats, and more squats.

-What is your proudest moment? Besides my kids, I’d say running my first 5k with the Run club. I went from never running a single day in my life to crossing the finish line.

-What are three of your favorite things (besides your family)? Wine, working out, and time with friends.

-If we asked your partner what they think your best qualities are, what would they say? I think he’d say I’m funny, I’m honest, and I’m ambitious.

-Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us: I have a Fashion Design degree and would love to open my own boutique one day.

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Mama, you have a BIG belly!

Words that no one wants to hear. Especially me at 8 months postpartum while trying to be active, trying to set a good example for my two girls, and trying not to dwell on the 8 -10 pounds of baby weight I’m holding on to while nursing.

I said silently to myself that “2019 is the year for me” as I registered for 3 races… a 5k, a10k, and a half-marathon. I do not consider myself a runner, but I knew I could do it for me, for my girls, and for my sanity. Running is going to be my alone time. My other mantra for 2019 is self-love and positive body talk. So when my sweet blue eyed, curly haired two year old came running at me on a chilly January morning as I was getting dressed and said, “Mama you have a BIG belly!” it stung. I smiled sweetly and tousled her hair. My response was light, “No silly, it’s not big.” Fumbling with my shirt making sure to hide whatever she saw. Catching a glance of myself in the mirror, yes my belly is softer; there are some stretch marks too. I grabbed my kids and went on with my day. Those words sitting in the back of my mind “You have a BIG belly.”

When my husband came home from work that evening I probably sounded like a whiny teenager. “Guess what L said about me! “ His response after I told him, “She is two years old, you are 33, you are seriously going to listen to a two year old. You look great babe.”

The phrase popped out of my daughter’s mouth a few more times and I could feel my insides cringe. BIG BELLY… ugh! I was trying to eat the salads and fit the workouts in, but I am also still breastfeeding my 8 month old while trying to justify the way I look. Then one day my silly 2 year old lifted her shirt when we were playing and said. “ I have a little belly and baby sister has a baby belly, and you have a BIG MAMA BELLY!” she squealed with delight. I laughed, I laughed so hard. I said, “Yes I have a BIG MAMA BELLY!” and grabbed my sweet girl and kissed her. In that moment I realized that I was the one twisting my innocent two year olds words, I was the one internalizing the meaning behind the word. My daughter was being matter of fact. I am big she is small and her baby sister is smaller than her. I made the word ugly; I have done that before while scrolling through photos on my phone focusing on my body and the little nuances that no one else is looking at. Deleting perfectly good photos of my family and me because I didn’t fit the specific mold of beauty, because I saw imperfections and not the joy of the children in my arms.

My daughter’s comment that chilly day in January taught me a valuable lesson. She sees me as her Mama, the one who will dance with her and play make believe, the one who rocks her sister to sleep and sings songs and rubs her head at night. She is not looking at my softer belly, or even my gray hair. Yes I will try to achieve my goals this year. Train hard and continue to be strong for me, and my girls. Strength comes in all shapes and sizes, I have grown two beautiful children in my belly, I am stronger than I ever knew possible, and that is something worth celebrating everyday.

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1. Who are the members of your family?

We're a family of 4 soon to be 5. Husband David, Zoey is 9, Remington will be 3 in April and we're due in July!

2. Where are you from originally an d how long have you lived in OPSY?

I've lived in Oswego since '94. In fact, my parents still live in the same house I pretty much grew up in. We recently moved to Yorkville but I still consider that "the area".

3. What do you do for our FIT4MOM OPSY village?

I am one of the Body Back instructors and yoga instructor. I've only been a body back instructor for less than a year but have been teaching yoga for 7 years now.

4.Tell us your story about how/why you became an instructor for Fit 4Mom OPSY.

I was teaching just yoga at the Oswego studio when Lisa was running a new transformation series, while starting that Lisa had mentioned she was in need of instructors and I wanted to step outside of just the yoga realm. Never did I imagine the impact and inspiration it would bring, once I started actually teaching and connecting with all the Mom's that come into the studio!

5. What is your favorite memory from instructing?

Favorite memory without a doubt is the laughter and stories that we all share with each other. From just telling stories about our children to asking advice about life situations. I really feel connected to all the woman that take class with me!

6. What is the BEST thing about being an instructor?

The inspiration that I feel after a class is over! These woman really inspire me, from my early morning Mom's trying to get their workout in before their day starts to my night Mom's trying to get their workouts in after a full day of adulting! It amazes and inspires me to see them take the time out for themselves!

7. What is your WHY? Why do you keep doing what you do?

See above. Lol this is why I keep doing this! I love the sense of community and support that I witness on the daily with this group of woman!

8. What is one of your current wellness goals?

A current wellness goal of mine is to practice what I preach! I eat well, but not perfect and I'm perfectly fine with that. But what I'd really like to focus on is taking time for myself on a daily basis and get back to me. Being pregnant again, is a great reminder that we have to take care of ourselves in order to care of the ones we love. .:More Self love:. ♥️

9. What is a fun fact that many may not know about you?

In 7 years, I have taught over 2,000 hours of yoga!

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Motivation: the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.

Motivation is a tricky topic for me and probably for most of us. We ask ourselves, or we ask others, what is your motivation? Some of us have a very clear and distinct motivator like an unhealthy lifestyle that we DO NOT want for ourselves or our families, health related issues that can be improved by changing diet and adding exercise, or simply wanting to look and feel better in the skin we live in. This last one is mine. I want to feel strong, I want to feel confident and I want to feel like I can do anything. This comes from pushing myself to do strength and cardio related things that I know will make me feel powerful.

What ever your motivation is, it will likely change over time. Right now, my motivation is keeping up with the women in my Body Back Transformation group. When I say keeping up, it's not about doing as many squats or push-ups as some of them (well, maybe it is a little), but it's also about keeping up with their healthy choices and healthy alternatives where in the past, this is where I have faltered. I'm still not perfect, no one is, but I like being motivated by these smart, strong, healthy women who are teaching me what staying motivated for the long run, for our life, can look like.

We are all on this 8 week journey together, but we definitely all joined in from different starting lines and we all have different motivators for getting us through this program and beyond. If you struggle with your motivation, that's ok. If your motivation changes as you grow and change in this life, that's ok. Find your motivation and use it up! There will never be a shortage on motivators for you as you go through this life.

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Ok, ladies. Nutrition is tricky. I'm in my third week of my Body Back Transformation and I've never been so watchful of what I'm eating. Well, that's not true. Being pregnant had me counting ounces of water and checking that I had balanced meals planned for months.

Almost 7 years after I had my second child, I am in a new world of food here. As I get older, I'm having to (gasp!) watch what I eat and drink. This has made me take a hard look at what food and snacks I'm bringing in to my home, not just for myself, but for my children and husband.

Being a part of Body Back has given me a foundation upon which to build a lifestyle of healthy eating. The recipe book, filled with easy and tasty meal ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks that you get when you sign up for class, is a wealth of healthy food knowledge. The kind of knowledge that will go with me for the long haul.

Eating healthy isn't scary or unreachable anymore. It's right at my fingertips and on my plate. The women who are a part of my Body Back group have also been so supportive and helpful as we all navigate this new healthy terrain together. You should join us, too!

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Ok, my first week of Body Back is behind me and it isn't quite what I was expecting it to be.

Here's what I expected: two workouts a week with a group of moms who, like me, wanted to work hard to get their bodies back to a place that we maybe haven't seen in a while. Having arms that were more toned, having bellies that didn't jiggle when we jumped, having the energy and stamina to make it through the day, what ever that day looked like.

Here's what I didn't expect: the immediate sisterhood that comes from a small group of women who are going through this journey with me, every single step of the way. The online and social support that we are giving each other every day via Facebook groups, texting and the sweat sessions that are our workouts. The personal shoutouts, the confidence building, the meal planning ideas, the motivation to try a new workout video because you actually want to since the other women said they really liked working out to it, too.

I also didn't expect the discipline required to stick to the meal planning and healthy (and thankfully) tasty recipes FIT4MOM provides. This part caught me off guard. It's not terrible that I am asked to do these things, don't get me wrong. I just really thought we'd workout together, get some recipes to try if we wanted and yeah, that was it. Strict meal planning and food journaling are not things I am well versed in at all. For the majority of my life, I have been lucky enough to be able to eat almost whatever I want. Then my mid 30's hit and my metabolism has become like the fabled tortoise. I didn't know it a year ago, I didn't know it 6 months ago and I didn't know it 3 weeks ago, but I know it now. I needed this push (ok, shove) into being aware of what I'm cooking and making a healthy plan and sticking to it. I need to be held accountable by my Body Back team for what I'm eating and the choices I'm making for myself.

Here's what I'm excited about: this transformation journey that I have set out on will be one that I'm never going to regret. The team support is something I didn't know I needed so badly. The kick-butt workouts will do their job and give me my body back. This doesn't mean I'm hoping to look like I did when I was 20. That's never going to happen; I've had 2 children. What it does mean is that I will take my body back during these classes. I will learn to treat my body well and treat it often with food that makes me feel and look good. I will enjoy my time working out and see it as a time for me to find my strength, my soul, find me again.

This opportunity couldn't have come at a better time for me. Body Back is everything I didn't know I was looking for. I'm excited for these next 7 weeks.

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This month, we are honored to have Robin Riley as our Mom of the Month! Robin is one of the strongest moms we know and anybody who does a class with her knows what an inspiration she is to always push yourself to do your best. She has a huge smile, positive attitude and welcoming spirit. We absolutely love having you in our village, Robin!

Enjoy learning more about this amazing mom of the month!

-Hometown: I grew up in Central Illinois in a very small town just north of Springfield, called Athens. I have lived in the Chicagoland area for the last 15 years.

-Fit4Mom Member since: September 2017

-Members of your Family: My husband Aaron who is a police officer and our 3 boys, Liam (8), Landon (6), Hunter (3)

-Current/Previous Career: I have worked at Rush Copley for the past 13 years as a Pathologists’ Assistant. I am responsible for the gross examination and dissection of anatomic pathology specimens as well as assisting with postmortem examinations.

-How did you find Fit4Mom? I discovered Fit4Mom as I sat across the street eating donuts from My Sisters Lil’ donut shoppe and drinking coffee from the Village Grind with my kids and husband over the summer. It was an awakening to finally make a change and get back on track with my fitness. I immediately looked into it, gave Lisa a call and started the fall Transformation classes. One of the best decisions I have made.

-What has Fit4Mom done for you (or meant to you)? Through Fit4Mom, I have formed new friendships, found a village of fun & supportive moms and most importantly, found time for myself. I am so grateful for Fit4Mom because it has helped me get healthier in both mind & body, which in turn has made me a better wife and mother.

-What was your childhood ambition? To swim in the Olympics! I started swimming at a very young age. I loved being in the pool and I loved competing.

-What does motherhood mean to you? Motherhood is a never ending adventure where you get to watch your children grow and learn new things as they transform into independent amazing little humans! Motherhood is leading by example, learning new things, always listening, laughing out loud, loving unconditionally, and living in the moment!

-What is your favorite exercise? I love the HIIT workouts at Fit4Mom. It’s a lot of fun! I love anything that challenges me.

-What is your proudest moment? Becoming a Boy Mom x 3.

-What are three of your favorite things (besides your family)? Going to concerts with my husband, watching Greys Anatomy, and shopping for everything Farmhouse!

-If we asked your partner what they think your best qualities are, what would they say? My husband would say that I am strong, independent, organized & the best Mom to our boys.

-Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us: I have never been to Disney and hope that some day I can experience the magic with my husband and our 3 boys.

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Get to know one of our awesome Instructors, Kit Alvear!

We have an amazing, dedicated and talented team of moms here at Fit4Mom OPSY and we want you to get to know a little more about each one of them! Today we our spotlighting Stroller Strides, Body Back and Fit4Baby instructor Kit Alvear!

Enjoy learning more about Kit!

1. Who are the members of your family? Jason, Eleanor (2.5 years old) & Henry (8 months)

2. Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in OPSY? I grew up in Westmont, IL (attended high school in Downers Grove and college in Lisle). We moved to the Joliet/Plainfield area in July 2016.

3. What do you do for our FIT4MOM OPSY village? I am currently teaching a little bit of everything: Fit4Baby, Stroller Strides & Body Back. I also organize the Meal Trains for the mamas in Our Village who may need a few weeks of cooked meals to make their lives easier after baby arrives or post-surgery.

4. Tell us your story about how/why you became an instructor for Fit4Mom OPSY? I have always had FOMO (fear of missing out), so once I found out how much I loved F4M, I knew I had to be an instructor to know what was going on behind the scenes. The job has turned more into a passion and so I have continued to add different classes to my teaching schedule.

5. What are your favorite memories from instructing? I have so many memories from teaching over the past year and a half! I think my favorite memory thus far has to be watching Eleanor mimic the workout routines she learned to certain songs in Stroller Strides, for the first time. I love seeing a 2 year old do wall sit with such enthusiasm!

6. What is the BEST thing about being an instructor? Hearing a mom tell me that she feels stronger, or is fitting into her clothes better, is the BEST thing, and it inspires me to continue teaching. I am so proud of each one of these ladies and honored that they continue to come to me to help them through their health journeys.

7. Why do you keep doing what you do? Going to teach a class is my reason to get out of the house (even on days when it’s been a tough morning)! I love connecting with the moms and relating to the difficulties of motherhood.

8. What is one of your current wellness goals? I’m signing up for a couple 5ks this spring & hope to get back to running more often.

9. What is a fun fact that many may not know about you? I use to work in a brewery, have brewed beer & will gladly talk about all things beer if you let me!

10. Anything else you'd like Our Village to know? My door is always open! I am here for all of the mamas in Our Village – whether you need a shoulder to cry on, want to vent about anything & everything, or if you need a companion to day drink mimosas – don’t ever be afraid to ask me for something!

Kit, thank you so much for your dedication to our village! We are so lucky to have you!

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March 2, 2018

Meet our March Mom of the Month - Megan Pedersen! Megan has been a member of Our Village since March 2016. Hard working, inspiring and determined, Megan has been killing it at both Body Back and Stroller Strides classes. Her beautiful smile and passion for wellness is contagious and we cannot imagine Our Village without her. Congrats, Megan!

-Hometown: Grant Park, IL but Plainfield since 2003

-Fit4Mom Member since: March 2016

-Members of your Family: Husband Elliot, daughter Amesley 26 months and one due Sept 6.

-Current/Previous Career: currently a Certified Veterinary Technician since 2006

-How did you find Fit4Mom? Facebook :)

-What has Fit4Mom done for you (or meant to you)? It has really been a life saver to find other women in the same stage of life.

-What was your childhood ambition? To work with animals!

-What does motherhood mean to you? It’s the best thing I’ve done in life!

-What is your favorite exercise? Arm strength and core

-What is your proudest moment? Graduating from vet tech school, giving birth and surviving the first year :)

-What are three of your favorite things (besides your family)? Visiting my brother and sister in law in Colorado, doing outdoor activities, craft breweries and restaurants.

-If we asked your partner what they think your best qualities are, what would they say? Megan's best qualities - she has: An inspiring drive toward accomplishment; A selfless compassion towards those in need; And excellent husband finding abilities ;) among many more awesome qualities.

-Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us:I met my husband when I did a police ride along and I was a volunteer member of the Plainfield Emergency Management Agency for 8 years.

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February 1, 2018

We are excited to introduce Katie Worek as our February Mom of the Month! Katie is a dedicated Body Back member and has reaped so many amazing benefits from adding strength exercises from Body Back classes into her cardio routine. She is an awesome person who is a wonderful example of health, strength and a positive attitude to other mamas. We are so happy you found Our Village, Katie! Congratulations!

-Hometown: Shorewood

-Fit4Mom Member since: July 2017

-Members of your Family: Brad (husband), Olivia (4), Avery (2)

-Current/Previous Career: Financial Controller

-How did you find Fit4Mom? Kellie Schumacher is my best friend and has been a member since Lisa started the Oswego location. She talked me into signing up and I'm soooo glad that I did!

-What has Fit4Mom done for you (or meant to you)? I was a runner before starting Fit4Mom and never realized all the other benefits I could reap from adding some strength exercises into my routine. I'm the strongest I've ever been in my life and it makes me feel so good about myself.

-What was your childhood ambition? To be a mom. :)

-What does motherhood mean to you? It's every second of everyday. I'm a mom before I'm anything else and my kids are always on my mind. Its so very fulfilling and I'm so blessed to be able to raise these kiddos. All that being said; it's also so very tiring and has taught me countless lessons in patience, kindness and not sweating the small stuff.

-What is your favorite exercise? I love core especially lateral bends, in & outs and monkeys.

-What is your proudest moment? When my girls were born

-What are three of your favorite things (besides your family)? Working out, Girls night out, going to a fun new restaurant.

-If we asked your partner what they think your best qualities are, what would they say? -Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us: I actually asked him this recently. :) I get things done that I say I will do and I'm a great mom. Something that might surprise people/weird personality quirk- I'm very particular about the sheets on my bed and cannot handle when my husband has the sheets pulled out from under the bottom of the mattress.

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We are so excited to introduce Ashley Kooima as our January Mom of the Month! Ashley is a dedicated Stroller Strides attendee, where her adorable son Holden always warms our hearts with his smiles. Ashley is always an uplifting and encouraging mama that we love to see in class. She has a huge smile, positive attitude and welcoming spirit. We are so happy that you found Our Village, Ashley! Congratulations!

-Hometown: Bolingbrook, IL

-Fit4Mom Member since: 2016

-Members of your Family: Ben, myself, Holden (who will be two on January 22nd), and our two cats: Van and Scout. My husband named Van after the shoe brand when he was a teenager, and I named Scout after a character in a book. Holden is also named after a character in a book (or an automotive company in Australia, if you ask my husband).

-Current/Previous Career: Kindergarten Teacher

-How did you find Fit4Mom? I believe I found you guys on Facebook.

-What has Fit4Mom done for you (or meant to you)? Oh, boy. Fit4mom has been absolutely vital to our family. Up until a couple months ago, Fit4Mom was a great place to go workout, go to play dates, and talk to other moms. That changed drastically in November when I developed severe anxiety, and I mean crippling anxiety, as an adverse side effect from a medication I took. I was struggling to put it lightly. I started going to stroller strides every day, committed to the monthly membership, and fit4mom quickly became my greatest tool to combat it. It was a dark time in my life, and going to stroller strides and talking to other moms, changed my course. I honestly, can’t begin to express my gratitude for fit4mom and my instructors: Kit, Heather, Kelly, and Julie. Thank you guys so much!

-What was your childhood ambition? Since before I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.

-What does motherhood mean to you? Motherhood to me, has been the most amazing, yet challenging roles I’ve ever taken on. It’s forced me to stop rushing, embrace the craziness, and to just go with the flow. I love looking at the world through Holden’s eyes, and laughing with him over nonsensical things. He’s taught me so much about myself and pushes me constantly to be a better, more patient, and fun mom.

-What is your favorite exercise? Child’s pose. Oh, did you mean like ‘real exercise’? I love anything that strengthens my arms and core, since those are my weakest muscle groups.

-What is your proudest moment? My proudest moment was graduating from college. I know that sounds cheesy, but I worked three jobs to get through it, and it was tough.

-What are three of your favorite things (besides your family)? I love crafting, reading, and organizing. My house is a disaster majority of the time, but every single item has a place and a label.

-If we asked your partner what they think your best qualities are, what would they say?Ben said that I’m “compassionate” and “giving”.

-Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us:I went to Africa in college to help child refugees, and a month after I got back to the States, I developed a condition called Cold Induced Urticaria, which is essentially a fancy way of saying that I get hives from the cold. Ironically, my hives are way worse on days when it’s raining. I think because of the cold water staying on the skin? Regardless, it’s a lot less severe than it was initially, but it still gets me out of shoveling and going to outdoor festivities.

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June 19, 2018

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This month we are honored to have Gail as our Mom of the Month. Gail is one of the sweetest people you will ever meet and helps make everyone feel welcome when they walk into class. Gail has been an inspiration to many other ladies in Body Back and we are so lucky to have her! Enjoy learning more about Gail!

Me? December Mom of the Month for Fit4Mom OPSY? You must be kidding!

We built our dream house in Plainfield 14 years ago when our two daughters were in college. You might recognize my daughter Amy in this picture; she convinced me to start BB in the Fall of 2016. I worked in school libraries for 18 years before retiring to watch my first grandson, who is now in Kindergarten.

I’ve been married for 40 years, have two beautiful daughters, two incredible sons-in-law and three adorable grandchildren. How blessed am I?

I’ve always wanted to be the kind of person who had a yoga mat in her Jeep. Before BB, I would have thought a Russian twist was a drink I’d like to try. Honestly, I didn’t know what a plank was and would have been embarrassed by a burpee. I have learned so much from Brianne who has given me tools for a healthier life. My favorite exercise is a donkey kick with weights.

Answers to your questions:

-What was your childhood ambition? My childhood ambition was to be a teacher, but only because they have a lot of paper. I still have an obsession with paper (www.etsy/shop/afounddimepaperie.com).

-What does motherhood mean to you? I know I am preaching to the choir when I say our legacy will be motherhood. Could it be any more important today? Imagine how different the news would be if all mothers were doing their jobs.

-What is your proudest moment? A compliment from a really smart professor about my writing when we ran into her at a garden shop.

-What are three of your favorite things? Besides my family, my three favorite things are: wine, wine, paper.

-If we asked your partner what they think your best qualities are, what would they say? My husband thinks I “make everything beautiful” (Sleepless in Seattle), knows I’m the one “getting this all down on paper” and appreciates that I’m a devoted Mom/Grandmother.

Thanks, Fit4Mom! Happy Holidays and be strong, Mommas. -Gail

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November 1, 2017

-Hometown: Plainfield, IL

-Fit4Mom Member since: January 2015

-Members of your Family: Me, my husband Vince, and our sons Vincent (3) and Camden (3 months)

-Current/Previous Career: I previously worked as a mother/baby nurse. I currently stay at home with my boys.

-How did you find Fit4Mom? We had just moved from Chicago back to Plainfield and I wanted to find something to do since we were stuck inside a lot during the winter. I wanted to workout, but bring him with, or find some kind of mom/baby class to keep us busy. I found Fit4Mom after a Google search!

-What has Fit4Mom done for you (or meant to you)? I initially joined Fit4Mom for the purpose of working out and feeling good again after having my first baby. I had no idea that I needed a "mom village". But I quickly realized how wonderful it was for us to have a support system of awesome moms and kids. I love starting my day off with a great workout and being able to socialize after class, while the kids get a chance to play together and socialize as well. It has given us something to look forward to during the week, and it has kept my fitness on track. I have grown close to many wonderful moms in our village that have inspired and helped me through my motherhood journey.

-What was your childhood ambition? To read books and play barbies all day. I still read lots of books, but my barbies have changed to superheroes :)

-What does motherhood mean to you? I could describe motherhood in a million ways, but it is truly an amazing, unpredictable adventure. It is the most challenging, rewarding, and beautiful journey, and I have never felt so fufilled (and exhausted)!

-What is your favorite exercise? Lunges and squats!

-What is your proudest moment? Having my littles :) and pre-kids would have to be finishing nursing school.

-What are three of your favorite things (besides your family)? Traveling (or researching future travel), reading, and creating and eating healthy recipes!

-If we asked your partner what they think your best qualities are, what would they say? That I "always try to find the positives in a situation and am an amazing mother to our boys".

-Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us: I have been skydiving twice!

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October 1, 2017

-Hometown: Grew up in Orland Park and currently resides in Yorkville.

-Fit4Mom Member since: October 2016

-Members of your Family: My husband, Matt, daughters Kaitlyn(2 1/2) and Ashlyn(15mos) and soon to be son, Brycen due end of October.

-Current/Previous Career: Previous career was a financial assistant in Chicago, but now I am a stay at home mom.

-How did you find Fit4Mom? Through my friend. I first tried it out in Geneva and loved the concept of it.

-What has Fit4Mom done for you (or meant to you)? It has empowered me to be a better and stronger mom. It gets me motivated in the mornings to leave my house. I love that I am able to workout, even with the kiddos.

-What was your childhood ambition? To work in the fashion industry and become a mother.

-What does motherhood mean to you? Motherhood is truly a remarkable gift and a privilege that I hold very close to my heart. To me, being a mother means to be fearless, to be a positive role model, to be a continuous cheerleader for every milestone my children will experience, to demonstrate the abundance of an unconditional love that has no end and to cherish countless memories that will last forever.

-What is your favorite exercise? I love anything to do with strength training.

-What is your proudest moment? Giving birth to my children. It's definitely a miracle.

-What are three of your favorite things (besides your family)? Shopping, fall and wine!!

-If we asked your partner what they think your best qualities are, what would they say? I think he would say that my best qualities are being a mother, the patience I have and the love I have for my children.

-Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us: I struggled with this one and can't think of anything good. I would have to say that the most surprising thing about me is that I've never been out of the country except for Canada and Mexico.

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September 17, 2017

-Hometown: Elm Grove, WI

-Fit4Mom Member since: May 2017

-Members of your Family: My husband, Tyler, 6 month old, Ruby, and myself :)

-Current/Previous Career: Pediatric Occupational Therapist

-How did you find Fit4Mom? A friend recommended one of the play dates

-What has Fit4Mom done for you (or meant to you)? Fit4Mom has allowed me to meet other mommas and form new friendships. I continue to build my physical and emotional strength at Stroller Strides with the work outs and support.

-What was your childhood ambition? To be a teacher or in some other career that helped people.

-What does motherhood mean to you? A truly wonderful gift with unconditional love.

-What is your favorite exercise? Strengthening exercises.

-What is your proudest moment? Becoming a mom!

-What are three of your favorite things (besides your family)? Trying out new restaurants, any type of craft, and snuggling up to a good movie

-If we asked your partner what they think your best qualities are, what would they say? Loving, nurturing

-Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us: I love to shop. I was an "extreme couponer" before Ruby was born

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Hometown: Plainfield

Fit4 Mom member since: March

Current Career: Medical office administration

How did I find Fit4mom: Shay!

What has it done for me: It has made me stronger physically and mentally. I can do a lot of things that I never thought possible before. It has also given me the opportunity to push myself and really hold myself accountable...things I generally struggled with before Fit4Mom.

Childhood ambition: teacher

What does motherhood mean: It means being a parent and a friend at the same time. I smile every second I look at my girls, but also have to find the balance to keep them safe and teach them things. It also means setting a good example for my children in every way possible, especially through exercise and good eating habits!

Favorite exercise: hmm that's a tough one...I'd have to say russian twists, planks, or wall sits!

Proudest moment: Besides having both of my daughters, I would have to say it would be finding the balance between kids, husband, working full time, and still having the time to do Fit4mom and focus on my health. It's certainly a work in progress, and always will be.

3 favorite things (besides family): Relaxing with a good book and a glass of wine, being outdoors getting exercise, and watching the Cubs!

Best qualities according to my partner: Good mother and caregiver, committed, driven, and energetic.

Something that would surprise you: I don't know how to french braid and I have 2 daughters! Poor girls!!