Conscious Nutrition for Kids (and Adults)

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“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”Ann Wigmore

We recently moved abroad*, and moving from a home we had lived in for three years, in a country we were both raised in, to a country we knew very little about, made our basic needs a more immediate priority. Instead of worrying about finding fun places to go for weekend outings and finding time to schedule dinner with friends, we were back down to worrying about our basic needs for nutrition and sustenance. While three of our family of four are more adventurous eaters, open to new things, my 23-month-old son, a picky eater at home, began to refuse anything I offered him, even things he previously ate at home. Desperate to find ways to keep him healthy and thriving in our new environment, I pulled out a few of my Healthy Momma tricks and to my great relief, they worked. Tweaking a few of my recipes from home to the ingredients we could find here (and a few we packed for the move), I have been able to keep my son’s nutrient intake high, while we work to find more local (and imported) food that he will eat happily on his own.

Here are three of my nutrition packed recipes if you are concerned about your little one’s eating habits.

Nutrition Packed “Pop-Pops”

My go-to staple for easy nutrition for kids is what my daughter long ago christened a “pop-pop,” which is basically a frozen smoothie. The recipe may change from week to week depending on what I have on hand, but the result is always the same – a sweet, healthy treat that my kids ask for on a daily basis. For the base, I typically combine yogurt (or Greek yogurt), Almond/Soy/Milk, orange juice and a banana. I then throw in whatever fresh or frozen fruit I have on hand – berries, peaches, pears, plums, pineapple, mango, melon, etc. Once that is all blended, I throw in some previously blanched and frozen kale (prepared this way, they’ll never even notice it in the final product!). Finally, I add chia seeds (for their high nutritional content) and a few scoops of green super food powder. I mix everything in a blender and then pour it into plastic popsicle molds. An hour later, I have children clamoring for my super healthy “dessert” and I couldn’t be happier.

Healthy Banana Pancakes

Pancakes are often another favorite of childhood and are another great place to “hide” lots of healthy ingredients (unfortunately this one isn’t gluten free – but it could probably be made with gluten free ingredients). I typically put honey (or you could use Stevia) into our pancakes, so they don’t need an additional sweet topping, but again, this recipe is open to interpretation and can be made, and enjoyed, in a variety of ways. The pancake base is typically the same – whole wheat flour, wheat germ, flax seed, hemp hearts, oats and almond/soy/milk. Then I add thinly sliced bananas, crushed walnuts and a few squirts (or teaspoons) of honey. It takes some experimentation with the ingredients to ensure a firm, well-cooked pancake, but my rule of thumb is typically 1/2 flour to 1/2 (all other ingredients – with the exception of the bananas and walnuts). Once everything mixed together, you can cook them like regular pancakes and either enjoy them hot, or freeze them to re-heat later for a quick, healthy breakfast or snack.

Versatile Vegetable Broth

We used to have a big back yard with a small corner set aside for a compost pile and a small garden plot to use it in. When we moved to a neighborhood with communal green space, we lost our compost avenue and I found myself feeling wasteful every time I peeled a carrot. One day I decided to start saving all of the peels, ends and other veggie parts that we didn’t eat and cooking them up in a big pot of broth. From there, the broth went into my ice cube trays (a cup of broth makes seven cubes) and then into freezer bags for easy use. Once I realized how easy it was to make vegetable broth, I started throwing “veggie cubes” into everything. When I cooked beans, lentils, rice, quinoa or anything else that required water, I would throw in a few for a little added nutrition. And of course, they are great for making soups that call for broth as well.

If you are interested in reading more, here is another post on “sneaky” ways to add nutrition to your family’s diet.

Thanks for reading!

What about you? Do you have any healthy child-friendly recipes that are enjoyed in your family?

*I apologize for any confusion with recent posts. I am keeping a separate blog for family members about our life abroad and a few of those posts have been mistakenly posted here. Sorry for the confusion. I will be more conscious about where I publish my posts in the future!

Sharon, Author, “The Conscious Parenting Notebook

Conscious Parenting – Preparing Children for the First Day of School

“There are only two lasting bequests we an hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings” – Hodding Carter.

As a mother of an intense, high-needs, sensory-sensitive preschooler (with transition issues), you would think that I would have prepared better for her transition into her second year of preschool this year, but one week into her school year and it is very obviously apparent that I did not. I knew enough to request to meet the teacher and tour the school ahead of time. I told her a few stories about a little girl with her name going to preschool in a new school for the first time. I bought her a new lunch box and packed it full of her favorite treats. But for my little one, this was not enough, probably, or maybe especially, because her new school is in a new country on the other side of the world from the one she knows….

So given our current reality, and this “back-to-school” time of year, I thought I’d explore back-to-school transitions from a Conscious Parenting point-of-view.

Consciously Prepare for the End of Summer and the Beginning of the School Year 

Traci of A Loving Way, talks about the importance of giving closure to the summer. Perhaps starting a ritual that celebrates the end of summer and the beginning of a new season. These could involve putting away summer things and bringing out fall toys and clothes, taking a nature walk and collecting items representing each season to put on a collage, or other rituals that have meaning for your family.

Validate Your Child’s Feelings

Rather than glossing over your child’s feelings with cheery banter about how much fun they will have at school, Traci talks about the importance of talking with your children about their feelings and validating their fears or concerns about starting, or going back to, school. With younger children, reading stories about the first day of school and talking about how they might feel may help. Sharing your own stories, or stories of family or friends, who were scared, can help children to normalize their feelings. For my daughter, hearing that her new teacher cried for the first week of school when she was little, made her feel better about her own tears.

Minimize Activities in the Beginning

On her blog, Traci cautions parents to take things slow at the beginning, to avoid overwhelming children with activities in addition to the transition to a long, work or play filled school day. Enrolling children in after school or weekend activities during the first week of school can fill up precious down time that their bodies need to adjust to the demands of their new school schedule.

Prepare as Much as Possible Ahead of Time

Sarah of Left Brain Buddha talks about the importance of preparing as much as you can the night or days before – lunches, snacks, backpacks, outfit, anything that can be done ahead of time. Having things prepared ahead of time helps to reduce the stress of running around in the mornings, and allows for more time connecting with, and reassuring, your little ones that getting ready for, and going to, school is just another fun thing they “get” to do every day. Routine charts with pictures cut from magazines or pictures of your child performing each activity can help some children develop more independence in the mornings getting ready for school.

Prepare Children Early for their Morning Routine

On a guest post on Intentional Conscious Parenting, Robert Nickell (aka Daddy Nickell) reinforces the importance of setting up a morning routine with your children and practicing it ahead of time, to help them be ready for their big first day. Turning morning school drills into a game can help you see where you might run into trouble and plan ways to address those areas ahead of time.

Familiarize Children with their School, Teacher and Classmates

Dr. Laura Markham of AHA Parenting suggests facilitate bonding with your child’s teacher, classmates and school environment before the first week of school. Most preschools have a day set aside before school starts to allow students to meet their teacher and classmates before the first day of school. Having some familiarity with their surroundings and classmates, can help children feel more comfortable when they begin school.

Start the Day off with Connection

Dr. Laura also gives some ideas of games to things to do and play to connect with your child in the mornings before they go off to school to leave them feeling loved and connected, such as an early morning snuggle as you wake them up or taking time to bond with them in the morning through play. Our morning routine has changed from my complicated yoga / morning intention routine, to a simple wake up routine where I greet and kiss each body part (“Good morning, Mr. Nose; Good Morning, Miss. Elbow”) that allows my daughter to wake up slowly and start the morning with happy giggles. Taking time to connect in the morning before school, can help ease their sense of lost connection when they say good-bye to you for the day.

Find a Way to Stay Connect During the Day

Dr. Laura also talks about the importance of giving your child a way to stay connected with you during the day, by providing them with a token, such as a picture or other meaningful object that they can keep in their pocket or bag. For some children, a tangible object can help them to feel less alone in those first weeks.

Reassure Your Child at Drop Off

Dr. Laura suggests creating a special good-bye routine to mark the transition to school in the morning. In our family, we use an idea from the Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, in which each person kisses the palm of the other’s hand as we’re saying good-bye, with the understanding that throughout the day, when we’re missing each other, all we have to do is put our hands to our face to “feel” their love through our “kissing hand.” Dr. Laura also suggests asking the teacher to give your child a special job to do first thing in the morning to give them something to distract them from what might otherwise be a long, tearful goodbye.

The Ultimate Goal

All of the above should, in theory, lead to a smoother, happier separation on weekday mornings. However, because separation from beloved parents can be hard for young children, especially those starting a new school or starting school for the first time, saying goodbye may still be difficult. It is in these moments, that the often heard advice of teachers all over the world, that of – “They will be fine in time” – may be the most useful for parents to remember. Words that, thankfully, rang true in our family this week.

This morning, when I had to leave my teary preschooler at school, I was flooded with doubt. “Is preschool really that important? What about home-schooling? Unschooling? Am I undoing all of my work to create a positive connection? Will she ever trust me again?” My mothering instincts urged me to scoop her up and run out of the building and never look back, but my less-sentimental, realist side reminded me that my active, curious, social daughter needs the stimulation and socialization that preschool provides just as much as I need time alone and time to spend with her younger brother during the day. With those competing thoughts, I asked a staff member to check on her before I left the building, only leaving when I knew she was happily involved with her class. 

This afternoon when I arrived at school to pick her up, I was greeted at the door by a beautiful, little smiling face, followed by her teacher who greeted me with those five magical words that melted my worries like the afternoon sun, “She had a great day!”

To all you conscious parents out there with little ones starting school soon, may you too be greeted in the afternoon by happy smiles and those five magical words, “S/he had a great day!”

Thanks for reading!

What about you? Do any of you veteran parents have any conscious parenting tips for easing the back-to-school transition? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

Sharon, Author, “The Conscious Parenting Notebook.

Conscious Parenting Inspirations – July 2014

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“Simple practices like conscious breathing and smiling are very important. They can change our civilization.” Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace is Every Step

Our lives have changed drastically in the past month, as we moved from suburban Maryland to urban Myanmar (Burma). My parenting this month went from distracted, during planning, packing, travel and moving to hyper-vigilant, worrying about how much they are eating, sleeping and trying to keep them safe in our new environment. I’ve also tried to be mindful of the affect of the stress of the move on their behavior and respond to their needs for a sense of security, familiarity and connection during this time of transition. As an international move is stressful for everyone involved, I haven’t always been successful at this, but I’m trying to be more conscious now that things have settled down and we are in the adjustment phase of our new lives abroad.

Pause

In an previous post on an interview with Alanis Morissette on Parenting Passionately as part of the Parenting with Presence Summit, I wrote about her advice that when tensions or stress levels are high, it is best to remember the mantra, “Do No Harm,” and just sit with your children offering your quiet presence, rather than yelling or lecturing. I have used this method a few times (although not as much as I should have) during this stressful time and it has allowed me an interesting insight on my daughter’s behavior. My 4-year-old has always had a short fuse and typically her explosions sweep me right along with her, but lately I’ve been trying to pause before reacting and just watch the scene play out without my (often negative) input. In this way, I’ve allowed her to work through her own frustrations, after which she either comes to me for solace, or simply moves on to something else. By watching without reacting, I am able to see that my input is often not necessary and sometimes even detrimental. 

Routines – Realizing Need for Change

I mentioned in a previous post how I had begun a morning routine with my daughter to give some consistency to our lives during the upheaval and to allow us time to connect before the day was off and running. For a month, my routine worked well. We both enjoyed it, it helped us connect and gave me time to share my love of yoga and to help her practice self-regulation through deep breathing. However, in the past week, the routine has either led to frustrated outbursts from her (which often involved me taking deep breaths to remain calm, her yelling, “Mommy, Stop Breathing!” which led to my amusement and her increased frustration – not the happy, calming vibe I was hoping for) or has gotten lost in busy mornings with scheduled events. So I have decided to change the morning routine to something shorter and more focused on loving, playful connection, something else that has gotten lost in the stress of the move. I hope that this change will be positive, but if not, as long as I continue to be conscious of her needs, hopefully I’ll eventually find something that works.

Quality Time – With Both Parents (When/If Possible)

In the past, my husband and I have taken time to spend one-on-one quality time with both of our children, but with two little ones, most of their time is spend together, either with one parent or both parents. Rare was time for either one with our joint undivided attention – something I hadn’t even realized was missing until we actually had time for it. 
 
As the reality of jet-lag settled over our family like a cozy fog during the day and a midnight buzz in the evenings, there were times we found ourselves in a group of three while the fourth slept like a log in another room. As we played with our 22 month-old son on our bed, I thought, “When was the last time we did this?” As we followed our four-year-old’s lead in a game of “keep-the-balloon-in-the-air,” I watched her joyful smiles as she basked in the joint attention of both of her parents. With nothing else to do, awake in the middle of the night, we reveled in these moments.
 
Other families may already do this all of the time, but in our family when one parent was involved with a child, the other would rush off to clean the kitchen, check email or attend to some other task. We rarely took the opportunity to bond as a group of three. Yet in the past week these rare, precious moments have left me thinking about how we need to consciously create them in the future. There is so much encouragement for parents to spend one-on-one quality time with children, but I have not yet come across advice for two-on-one quality time, something that, while often the state of affairs in single child families, may not always be common in multiple child families. I realize that this is not always possible for families in which both parents are not available, but if there is an opportunity for some two-on-one quality time, try it and see how your child reacts. Hopefully, you will be rewarded with the same joy that we were this week.
 
What about you? Have you come across any new Conscious Parenting insights or resources this month? If so, I’d love to hear them.

 

Conscious Parenting Notebook – Introduction

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We are the windows through which our children first see the world. Let us be conscious of the view. – Katrina Kenison

As many of you know from reading A More Conscious Life, one of my areas of focus is on being a more conscious parent. As with the rest of my life, when I am more conscious of my thoughts and feelings throughout the day, I much kinder, gentler and more responsive to my self and my children. But parenting consciously isn’t easy. For me to parenting this way, I need a lot of help.

Since I have been a parent, I have read as many parenting books as I could get my hands on, enrolled in online parenting courses, listened to parenting webinars and subscribed to parenting blogs. My parenting philosophy has always had a positive, attachment leaning, so I looked for insight and advice in the areas of positive, mindful and conscious parenting. I found tips and tools to use to help us through difficult times or read inspirational mantras that I was determined to use when I most needed them. Yet, once a book, blog post or interview was finished, I would promptly forget most of what I heard or read. The book might come up in a conversation online or be recommended by a friend and I would remember that I had read it and liked it, but I hadn’t absorbed, or utilized, the information like I had hoped.

When I realized what was happening, I began taking notes. I dog-eared pages, I highlighted text, I filled pages of notebooks with ideas, mantras and inspirations. Once I had gathered a lot of useful information, I compiled it into a small notebook where it was more accessible when I really needed it. As I returned to my parenting notebook, it became more and more unique to my daughter. In using it, I found myself more aware of who she was as a child and what parenting techniques worked best, not in general, but for my unique child. I was finally really learning, applying what I learned and modifying it until it became my own – and I watched my relationship with my daughter blossom. The more I became consciously aware of what I needed as a parent and what my daughter needed as the unique being she is, the more I became the parent I really wanted to be, for the child that I have.

Being part of online forums for spirited children or positive-parenting-leaning parents, made me realize that what was working for me, with my daughter, might help other parents. In lives that can be increasingly busy and disconnected, I thought that my research could be a resource to help others feel more attuned to their children and their own needs as parents. I knew that the books I read and the advice I highlighted wouldn’t be the same that other parents would, but that perhaps they could use the same framework to create a unique parenting guide for their family. And so I created The Conscious Parenting Notebook.

There are a lot of wonderful resources available on Conscious or Mindful Parenting. The Conscious Parenting Notebook is not meant to join them as an equal, but more of a companion on the journey. It isn’t a book of advice, but rather a compilation of exercises, stories, prompts, and useful links to help you create your own unique conscious parenting resource to reflect the history, culture, values and realities of your unique family. I have found that, what is most important on the journey towards being a more conscious parent is a desire to be conscious and a regular reflection and awareness of your thoughts, feelings, words and actions and the impacts they have on yourself and  your family. The Conscious Parenting Notebook is a space for you to do just that.

To learn more, purchase your own copy or view a sample selection, please visit The Conscious Parenting Notebook page. I’m looking forward to sharing The Conscious Parenting Notebook with others and hearing if it was as useful and inspiration to you as it continues to be for me.

Thanks for reading!

Conscious Parenting Inspirations – June 2014

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“We need to remind ourselves that many pleasurable moments exist each day in our life. Understanding this, we make a decision to start noticing them. We take a few seconds here, a moment there, to stop and appreciate the small joys and beauty in our lives. And far from it being a chore, we find ourselves refreshed by this simple practice.”
- John Kehoe, The Practice of Happiness
 
 
This month has been another busy month in our lives: the end of the school year, the beginning of summer and summer travel, a move from our home and the beginning of a transition overseas. With so much going on, I’ve been less active on the blog and less conscious in my every day, including in my parenting. However, as the month came to a close, I finally slowed down saw the stress of the change in our environment as a wake up call to return to a more conscious state.
 
 
Morning and Evening Rituals
With most of our belongings packed up or packed away and our home bases changing every week, I decided that it might be helpful to add a few daily consciousness rituals to our routine to give our days on the road a bit more structure and intention. I’ve started a mini yoga practice with my daughter in the morning, to wake us up and start our mornings off calmly and connected. After our yoga, we both choose a “word for the day” (intention being a bit too complicated for a four-year-old) that we want to keep with us throughout the day. So far she’s enjoyed this and brought up our words at various points to apply them to things we’ve been doing. So far we’ve used “loving, happy, appreciative, “pause,” and “listen.” With inspiration from Left Brain Buddha, our evening routine now includes, our three favorite things from the day and a loving kindness meditation.
 
 
Conscious Parenting Resources
Speaking of Left Brain Buddha… I was so excited to find this blog this month. The blog is written by Sarah Rudell Beach, a mother, teacher and blogger. On Left Brain Buddha she shares her ideas and thoughts on mindful parenting, meditation, motherhood, joyful living and spirituality. Her posts are informative and inspiring.
 
I also recently read an older, but still relevant, descriptive, informational article on conscious parenting in practice in Psychology today called Imperfect Mothers. In the article, author Andrea Fox describes a specific encounter with her daughter in which she used conscious parenting practices, as well describing the “Three Fs” process (Focus, Find and Forgive) for conscious parenting in-the-moment.
 
Blog Overview
Something I realized this month is that I really need to read this blog. I am inspired when I write posts on conscious parenting, but I don’t always continue to incorporate my ideas and practices in my day-to-day parenting. So this month, I decided to read over my previous posts and make a bullet list of what I most want to utilize in my interactions with my children over the next month. Please forgive the “inspirations” for not being all that inspiring this month; hopefully my practice this month will be more fruitful!
 
  • Pause Before Reacting – Use the Pause to ask “What does my child need from me in this moment?”
  • When you feel your frustration or anxiety levels rising, notice the color of the child’s eyes; something that anchors you to that moment with your child, to bring yourself back to the present moment.
  • OR When you feel your frustration or anxiety levels rising, take three deep breaths – One for yourself, one for your child and one for what to do next.
  • After an interaction with your child, ask yourself, “What did they just conclude about themselves from that interaction?” Do they feel loved? Heard? Validated? Or unimportant?
  • Lead with Intention – Begin each interaction with your child with a conscious intention
  • Accept What Is – When you hear yourself thinking or saying “should,” Accept and Address What Actually Is. Practice saying, “Okay here we are. My child is doing _______ or feeling _________ . I am feeling ___________. What do I need to do?”
  • Assume Positive Intent – Instead of rushing in an imposing punishment or yelling, assume your child did not mean to cause harm and try to address need or feeling instead of / or before behavior.
  • When you catch yourself mentally or verbally complaining, switch to gratitude mode

Thanks for reading! Wish me luck!

What about you? Have you come across any inspiring sources of information on Conscious Parenting that you would like to share?

Conscious Living – Daily Consciousness Rituals

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“When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love …” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Our family is in a period of transition. We are leaving our home of three years and moving overseas. In the month we have in between leaving our current home and settling in our new home, we are visiting friends and family in three different states, staying in three different “temporary homes.” As a mother, I am aware of the importance of routines for children during transitions, yet even as an adult I find myself craving a daily routine – something to give structure to the chaos and a reminder to be present. Something to help me to celebrate each day, rather than losing them all in a whirlwind of activity.

In their book Gifts of the Spirit, Philip Zalensi and Paul Kaufman, talk about the importance given to the day and the passage of time in various religious traditions. In early traditional cultures, the sun was often worshiped as a god that brought light and took it away at the end of each day. Quotes such as “Carpe Diem” and “Live each day as if it were your last” are well known in popular culture. Yet all too often, we find ourselves rushing through our days and wondering where they’ve gone or wishing them away until some future time. One way to prevent this is through Daily Consciousness Rituals. Daily Consciousness Rituals can help to give structure to your days and allow you to give priority and awareness to what matters most in your life.

In our often busy, over-scheduled lives, it can be hard to incorporate, or even fathom incorporating another “task” in our schedules. However, many consciousness rituals take 5 minutes or less, but can add so much more than they take away in terms of your perspective and feelings of peace and control over your day.

Following are some Daily Consciousness Ritual suggestions for various times throughout the day, although many routines can be done at any time that works best for you. Additionally, many daily consciousness routines can be done with children.

Morning Rituals

Afternoon Rituals

  • Mid-Day Check-In
  • Savoring Tea and a Healthy Snack
  • Walking or Stretching

Evening Rituals

  • A Gratitude Journal Entry
  • Journal Reflection of Your Day
  • Three Good Things Exercise
  • Conscious Preparation for the Next Day
  • Evening Self-Care Rituals
  • Un-Plugging 30 Minutes Before Bedtime
  • Family Connection Rituals
  • Meditation

Read more about daily consciousness routines at A Happy Simple Life,  Rachael Campbell‘s Personal Coaching Pages or at Healthy Living Rituals.

Thanks for reading!

What about you? Do you have any daily consciousness rituals that help you maintain consciousness throughout your day?

Conscious Parenting Inspirations – May 2014

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“You can’t wake a person who is pretending to be asleep.”
~ Navajo Proverb

This has been a rough month. We experienced the loss of a loved one. Our computer died and took all of our files with it. My wallet and camera were stolen. With the school year winding down and the summer around the corner, we are simultaneously planning our summer travels culminating in an overseas move and saying good-bye to our home and friends of the past three years. And in the midst of all of this, I’ve been less than conscious of my desire to be conscious. My mind has been clouded with thoughts and emotions. I’ve been short with my daughter and our relationship has suffered. I’ve been less attentive to the other members of my family. In short, I haven’t been living as I want to, consciously and authentically. I’ve been allowing myself to be hijacked by my emotions and overwhelmed by my thoughts.

What does any of this have to do with Conscious Parenting, or Inspirations, you ask? Everything. Because the destruction caused by the rolling clouds of unconsciousness shows how important it is to be on this journey. When I don’t stay conscious of my desire for A More Conscious Life by using mantras, practicing consciousness habits or reflecting on and researching posts for this blog, I very easily fall back down the slippery slope into the abyss of unconscious thinking. So in the last few days of this month, I decided to try to turn things around.

“Just Be Kind”

First, I returned to my most basic of all mantras, “Just Be Kind,” which you would think would be unnecessary, but it helps to keep me on track when my four-year-old screams in my 19 month old’s face for trying to tickle her, something she’d been doing to him a moment before. Or when she decides that a well placed kick is an appropriate outlet for her anger. “Just Be Kind,” helps to bring me down from my instinctual “Fight” reaction and back to a place I can respond more calmly.

Give Choices

Then I started on repairing the fractured relationship I’d been cultivating with my daughter, who had responded to my lack of consciousness with even greater intractability, bossiness and negativity. I realized that in order to maintain a sense of personal control when daily events seemed to be spiraling out of my grasp, I’d become more controlling towards my children and my daughter had responded by ratcheting up her own controlling behavior – directed at her more placid younger brother. I began by practicing the basic positive parenting technique of offering choices to allow her more of a sense of control and release her from the grip of my own controlling behavior. As I started offering her choices throughout the day (“Do you want to hold my hand as we walk to the car, or hold on to my belt?” “Do you want to leave in five minutes or two minutes?” “Do you want to walk home the long way or the short way?”), I found that she responded more positively and I also realized how often I had been trying to impose a choice when there really was a lot of room for flexibility.

Challenge All-or-Nothing Thinking

As my unconscious behavior translated into my daughter’s unhappiness, I found myself wondering why she “always” wakes up angry, or why she “always” has to take her anger and frustration out on her brother, or why we “always” struggle to have pleasant mornings. Once I noticed my all-or-nothing thinking, with the use of “always” to describe a situation that really doesn’t happen every day (just more often when I live unconsciously), I decided to challenge my thinking and try to remember times when she doesn’t wake up angry, take her frustration out on her brother or contribute to less-than-pleasant mornings. As I took the time to consider our morning routines and my daughter’s needs, I realized that she has always needed a little time to wake up slowly and before her brother was born, her mornings would start with a long snuggle and a lot of one-on-one quality time. However, since she has become a big sister and started going to school, I have depended on her growing independence to get her through some of the morning routine that I used to assist with, such as waking up and getting dressed. I realized that her mood, probably had to do with the same needs she had always had, that were no longer being met when she was faced with a busy mom, with a baby in one arm and a cereal bowl in the other.

Once I realized all this, I sat down with my daughter and had a talk with her. I told her that I know that neither of us had been happy with the way our mornings had been going lately and that I thought I knew why. I explained my thoughts and she agreed that she would probably be happier with a little more time to wake up and connect with me before coming out of her room to meet an eager-to-play toddler. We even devised a “secret” knock she could use on her bedroom door when she wanted me to come in.

This morning, as soon as I heard the knock, I made sure my son was safe with this father and went in to greet my daughter. She spent a few minutes snuggling and talking in my lap. Once she was fully awake, she asked me to read her a story. After her story, I left to make breakfast and served her breakfast in her room when she said she wasn’t quite ready to play. After a lot of back and forth parenting between two rooms, my efforts paid off when my daughter, her reserves of quality time replenished, came out and was able to play happily with her brother while I finished packing her lunch and ushered everyone out the door.

I hope some of this month’s parenting inspirations have resonated with you. If so, I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Conscious Spring Cleaning (and Conscious Consuming)

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Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. —William Morris

With Spring here, it is yard sale season in the Eastern US. Yard sale season always gives me the opportunity to clear out the things we no longer need and pick up the things that we do at rock bottom prices. One of the things I appreciate about living here is the myriad of opportunities we have to recycle and reuse items that we, or others, no longer want or need. In a culture with so much desire for, and access to, stuff, there is a lot of opportunity for waste. So when I have a chance to sell or donate something or to buy it used, I always choose those options over buying things new or throwing things away.

This year’s clearing out has a new dimension, in that my family and I are moving abroad for the forseeable future and are working to pare down our “stuff” to a few suitcases and a few boxes to be stored in a friendly garage. As I went through each closet and cabinet, I tried to be as unsentimental and practical as possible. Winter clothes – Donate. Big toys – Donate. Wine glasses – Donate. But when I got to my children’s books or their “Big Bear,” a big stuffed bear in their room, the memories attached to these items gave me pause and made me realize how easily “things” can become infused with memories and how downsizing “stuff” can also mean downsizing cherished memories. But on the other hand, six years ago, when I packed up for another move abroad, I packed things in boxes, put them in storage and haven’t looked at them since. So the practically of removing sentiment from the process is reinforced by the knowledge that most of what we don’t encounter on a regular basis can become relegated to the attic of our minds and easily forgotten. And of course, we can always take pictures to keep the memories alive.

The benefits of decluttering, conscious consumerism and conscious recycling (whether giving away, selling or recycling in the most common definition) are numerous. For many people, clearing clutter not only opens space in their homes and offices, but can also create space in their minds and their days (with less time devoting to cleaning, organizing and finding “stuff”). Buying or finding used items and selling, donating or recycling old items keeps them out of our landfills and benefits our environment (and often, your bank account).

There are many posts on the process and benefits of simplifying the “stuff” in your life. Zen Habits – as you now know as my go-to blog for advice on life – has posts specifically on Decluttering and another on more broadly Simplifying Your Life. For the more sentimental among us, Barrie Davenport of Live Bold and Bloom has a post on How to Simplify When You Really Love Your Stuff.

The following links are opportunities for recycling, donating or buying used in your communities:

Freecycle is an online forum for users to ask for or donate wanted items in their local communities. It started in the US, but has expanded across the world. Check the link to see if there is a group in your community.

Craigslist is a free online classifieds site which provides opportunities to post wanted items or donate or sell unwanted items. Craigslist also has a section for posting yard / garage / boot sales. Also started in the US, this service has expanded worldwide. Check the link to see if there is a group in your community. When using either of these sites, please take necessary precautions to protect yourself and your family, such as meeting in public areas and taking a friend along.

Miss Minimalist provides an extensive list of donation sites for specific goods for readers in the US. Other sites are listed on a post on Apartment Therapy.

Happy Spring Cleaning and Thanks for reading!

What about you? Do you have any great go-to sites for free-cycling, donating or buying used?

(Photo Credit https://www.flickr.com/photos/paulr_42/501104089/)