Tuesday, 29 January 2013

One Little Word

For the fourth year I am participating in One Little Word. I have been living with my word, gratitude, for almost a month now, and I think it is my favourite One Little Word so far.

On and off in 2012 I kept a daily gratitude on my iPhone, and I do believe that it made a difference for me personally. Finding something that I was grateful for each day, even on those days that just need to end, definitely did turn things around in my mind. I said that I would do something with my list, but after emailing it to myself it languished in my in box and I may have even deleted it by accident. But I suppose it is the thinking that is important, not the documenting.

Including my family in a daily gratitude is part of my 2013 intentions list. It is all too easy to complain about how the day went, the mishaps and unfortunate things that happen. I want my daughters to be resilient in the face of hardship because life does not go smoothly for very long; things always happen. I don't want my girls to have their steps backward overshadow their steps forward. Or even better, I want them to see that the backward steps in life are perhaps just nudging us toward a different path. And if I want them to believe this, I must also believe it. Yikes!

Instead of losing my cool (which I never do, by the way) on a particularly trying day in late December, I had a flash to do a family daily gratitude. I made a gratitude box (because pretty things are motivating) and announced to my family that every night, after dinner together, everyone has to write one thing for which they are grateful, then put it into the gratitude box. I never said anything about sharing, but this is sometimes part of the routine now. Surprisingly everyone (including my husband) agreed. In fact, my daughters were very excited. Pat on the back for me!

We haven't written a daily gratitude every night, because occasionally we are busy and don't all sit down together for a family meal at the end of the day. But because I leave the gratitude box on the kitchen table it is a visual reminder for us all and we do it the majority of nights.
This is a random sampling of some of our daily gratitude writing. I love my husband's:
"I am grateful that the NHL is back", and my daughter Ella's: "I am grateful for my loud screaming voice."

It hasn't been a full month yet, but I can already see some positive spin offs:

  • My five year old is sometimes so excited to write her gratitude that she does hers before dinner. A few times she has even said part way through the day that she knows what she wants to write for her gratitude, or if another thing comes along she asks if she can write two for the day! 

  • If someone has a stinker of a day we have fun guessing what they are going to be grateful for; sometimes it lightens the mood because we make up funny ones for each other. 

  • Once or twice my daughters have said that they have nothing to be grateful for that day, and I appreciate the discussions we have had about their lives and others they know. This has been good for my five year old, who naturally seems to be more of a glass half empty sort. I worry about this and I'm glad that doing a daily gratitude forces her to think of positive things. 

  • My almost three year old was in emergency last week with a sore leg and we were all worried it was broken (thank goodness it wasn't!). My older daughters were quite anxious about this so our discussion for the daily gratitude expanded from this into the importance of health. I find that this is hard for young children because unless they have had direct experience with someone who has been seriously ill or died, it doesn't resonate with them. They think in terms of catching a cold or the flu and because they always get better they don't think to be grateful for good health.

  • I am grateful that my eight year old is starting to understand that our deepest gratitude should come from non-tangible things in life. Happiness does not come from stuff. 

  • I love how doing the daily gratitude makes my girls write more. My eight year old is starting to discover journaling and making personal lists and so independently seeks opportunities to write at home, but my five year old is an emergent writer. When she has to write her gratitude she asks us lots of questions about sounds in words and I love the invented spelling she does on her own. Yay for motivation!

I don't know what I'm going to do with all the slips of paper in the gratitude box at the end of the year. Perhaps they can be glued into a scrapbook? Or put into envelopes by month and into a scrapbook? I'm open to suggestions. 

I am grateful for my One Little Word.


Gratitude Box D.I.Y.

To decorate my gratitude box I used a shoe box, scraps of decorative paper from my scrapbooking stash, chipboard letters (magazine letters or letters cut from paper could be used as well) and modge podge (I don't like the glossy look for this project so I used matte modge podge).

First I carefully measured the paper to fit on the five visible sides of my shoe box.

Then I applied a thick layer of modge podge to one side and carefully placed the piece of paper to top.

After slowly smoothing the paper to remove any air bubbles or wrinkles, I applied a layer of modge podge on top of the paper and smoothed the paper with my fingers one more time. *

I repeated this for each side of the box (excluding the bottom - I don't need it covered).

* Immediately after applying the layer of modge podge to the top of the box I placed the chipboard letters directly on top, then added one more layer of modge podge over the letters.

Friday, 18 January 2013

{this moment}

{this moment} - Inspired by Amanda Blake Soule, one of my favourite authors who blogs at http://www.soulemama.typepad.com/  

"A Friday ritual. A single photo... capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."

Monday, 14 January 2013

The Java Monkey On My Back

Welcome to the January 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Recovering from the Holidays This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about how their families get back to normal after the holidays are over. ***

Losing weight, detoxing, getting more exercise, or some other goal of getting healthy are typical new year resolutions after the hedonistic holiday season in December. We eat too much rich food, we drink too many adult beverages and we stay up too late.

I would love to have the time and energy to do another restrictive detox like I followed for almost a year when I was in my late twenties. I felt great, weighed less and was healthy. But I also couldn't go out for meals with friends, had to explain dietary restrictions for family meals and spent a great deal of my time planning, prepping and cooking meals.

I do need to get back into a regular exercise routine. I hope to complete another Sun Run in April, which means that I need to get back into a training schedule.

I sorely need yoga and meditation to ground my body and quiet my mind.

But for the new year, the one thing that I am going to do to feel healthier is try to restrict or gradually eliminate my caffeine intake.

I love pretty much everything about coffee. I love the morning ritual of making a pot of coffee; I love the smell of the beans as they are being ground and brewed. I have been drinking coffee, on and off, since my last year of high school when I was preparing for my grade 12 provincial exams. I began drinking coffee, black, to help me with my late hour studying and essay writing. Through my university years it was pretty much a necessity for survival, along with the culture of coffee. It seemed very adult to sit down with a cup of coffee and chat with friends.

After a variety of health issues I went to a naturopathic doctor and had food allergy testing done. I was told that I was intolerant to corn, sugar, dairy, chocolate and yes, coffee. As mentioned above, I followed a very restrictive candida detox to heal my body. The withdrawal symptoms from caffeine were quite painful; headaches, body aches, lethargy, moodiness - basically I felt like I had the flu for about five days. I vowed I would never go through that again, so I was coffee-free for eight years. After a particularly bad spell of sleep deprivation after my second daughter was born, however, I had a cup of coffee to help me cope. And the rest, as they say, is history.

My favourite organic, fair trade coffee: ethical bean coffee
a local company that makes me feel good about buying their product.

I now feel like I am a prisoner to coffee, rather than just enjoying my morning cuppa joe (or two or three). It is well known how our bodies build up a tolerance to caffeine and require more and more to have the same effect, and I am no exception. Over the past five years I have brewed stronger and stronger coffee, although I can no longer drink it black (I love making my faux lattes with a milk frother). The end result is that I can no longer function in the morning until I have had my first cup of the day. I make my poor family drive around to find the nearest coffee place when we are on vacation and I don't have access to a coffee pot where we are staying. Basically I don't like being controlled by my addiction, so it is time to stop.

What clinched the deal for me is reading more and more about the negative health effects of an acidic diet. Eating too many overly acidic foods not only depletes calcium from our bones but is linked to a variety of health concerns, including cancer. I'm not good at explaining information about this because I am not a nutritionist or naturopath. This video explains some health problems related to pH and our diet:

I realize that coffee is just one of the offending acidic foods that I consume on a daily basis but I am starting small with this one and picking on the number one drink in the world because of the grief it is causing me.
Even my students know about my coffee addiction. 
This lanyard for my keys and whistle was a gift from 
a group of students a few years ago.

Cutting out coffee will mean that I can reduce the milk and cream that I consume (which currently is fairly minimal). As I've mentioned, I have an intolerance to dairy products (which is not surprising as being lactose tolerant is a genetic mutation in humans - mammals don't consume milk from their mothers past weaning). This will eliminate another acidic food. I'm already motivated to start incorporating more whole foods into my diet as a result of this, which will increase alkaline foods in my diet.
In my humble opinion this is the best latte in town, from 
my favourite coffee shop, Bean and Beyond in Steveston, 
just a short walk from my home. 

There's just one problem: I need to replace coffee with something else in the morning, for the short term at least. I like the ritual of sitting down with a hot drink, but I'm not a tea drinker. I do enjoy some herbal teas like liquorice root, chamomile, lemon and mint but I definitely do not like green tea.
On the morning walk to school 
with my daughters, the ever present 
coffee in hand.

So my plan is to continue cutting back on the amount of coffee I drink each morning to avoid the withdrawal symptoms I experienced in the past (which I cannot go through again, especially with three young daughters). The headaches alone were torture and made we want to drive a railway spike into my skull. As I continue to reduce my caffeine intake I am going to experiment with other morning drinks. I tried this tea, made with lemon, cinnamon and cayenne, but I had to add a spoonful of honey to make it drinkable. I will continue to experiment with it (perhaps adding ginger?) to see if it lives up to its promise of staving off cravings and helping to detox.
From a tea party with my grandma and my daughters.

I am an all or nothing kind of person, but this time I think I'm going to go easy on myself. While completely eliminating coffee would be a good thing, I do truly enjoy drinking it and if I take a break from drinking java for a while I may come back. Or not. We shall see.


So much for going easy on myself; I either do something or I don't, there is no in-between. I was anxious to get going with this coffee detox thing so I skipped ahead to eliminating coffee sooner than I had planned. I'm currently on day six of no coffee with only a medium-sized headache on day three. I have noticed that I am quite fatigued in the afternoon (on my days off this past week I've had a little nap) and falling asleep earlier in the evening (sometimes sleeping on the couch until 2:00 am!). I haven't had the same energy to do things (crafts, baking) in the evening, which could also be due to the fact that I'm back at work after the winter break. I'm noticing that I'm hungrier too, so I have to make sure that I have healthy snacks readily available (Friday after work I wolfed down half a large bag of potato chips... oops). Time to try some of the healthy, whole food snacks I've pinned on Pinterest. One of the more obvious withdrawal symptoms, to my family at least, is my short temper and lack of coping ability. Sorry family! It will get better, I promise.

But I do miss coffee today. I miss sitting down and smelling it before I take a sip. I miss the false energy I get from it (everything is more difficult today). I know I'll come out of this soon, but I'm licking my wounds today.

Something interesting that I've noticed, when talking to people about quitting coffee, is that most people cannot understand why I would want to do this. I am not one to proselytize and so I have generally avoided going into food pH other health concerns. They see no problem with building up a tolerance to caffeine and they say that I should just drink more. Perhaps I should just keep my plans to myself (and then write them here instead).

I have found a delicious tea, through a work colleague, to replace my coffee intake. It has cinnamon, roasted carob and chicory, cardamom and ginger (the tea may be increasing my appetite). A side effect benefit of drinking three to four mugs of tea a day is that I'm increasing the amount of water I drink, which is always a good thing, and will hasten the detox. Yay!

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting this March!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Pinterest Inspiration for Easier Winter Holidays Shannon, writing at Natural Parents Network, shares inspiration for having more relaxed winter holidays from their Handmade Holidays Pinterest board.
  • Seven Recipes for Beans - Post Holiday Cleaning — Destany at They Are All of Me shares her favorite bean recipes that she hopes will help her body recover from overindulging her sweet tooth during the holidays.
  • The Recovery in the Change — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen made changes in her life and attitude throughout 2012 and was pleasantly surprised at how those changes impacted her holiday recovery!
  • Could this question change your life for ever? — To get your new year off on the right footing, Mrs Green of Little Green Blog is challenging us all to love ourselves with commitment and discipline. She asks you to focus on a simple question which might just bring you back in balance...
  • Holiday Recovery — Meegs at A New Day talks about how the holidays can be overwhelming for a toddler, and how she's helping her 3 year old recover.
  • 5 Ways to Detox After the Holidays — Brittany at The Pistachio Project gives a few ways to help you detox and get back on track after the holiday season has passed.
  • 3 Simple Ways to Establishing Rhythm After the Holidays or Any Time — Sheila at A Living Family shares 3 simple ways to reestablish a rhythm of connection and calm in your family after holidays, visitors, travel or any time.
  • Gemstones For Holiday Hangoverss — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama delves into the power of gemstones as an often overlooked means of dealing with the holiday letdown.
  • Getting back to Healthy — Bess at A Warrior Mom talks about the struggle of getting young ones back to eating healthy after several days to weeks of getting more candy and sweets than normal for the holidays and gives some suggestions on how to get them back to eating healthy in the new year.
  • Post Christmas Juice Feast — Sam at Love Parenting explains why she has created a new tradition of juice feasting, and how she includes her toddler when detoxing.
  • The Java Monkey On My Back — Christy at Eco Journey in the Burbs realizes it is time to kick her cup of Joe habit as a first step toward detoxing.
  • Minimalist Holidays — Jorje of Momma Jorje doesn't find much need for recovery after her minimalist version of the holidays.
  • Do something for you — Lauren at Hobo Mama urges you to find a silly and indulgent reward of me-time — and she has hers.
  • do we recover? — Kenna at Million Tiny Things wonders what recovery really means in the context of the tragedies of this past holiday season.
  • 37 Easy Ways to Save Money — Shannon at GrowingSlower is sharing these money-saving tips to help get your budget back on track after the holidays.
  • A Two Year Old's ResolutionsThat Mama Gretchen is putting the holidays behind her with a spin on traditional resolutions — New Year's goals for her two-year-old! Sound crazy? Read on for an explanation!
  • How to Find Balance after the Holidays — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells her favorite ways to start a new year with hope and calmness.
  • Fresh Awakening — For Luschka at Diary of a First Child, the new year has coincided with a return to restful nights. With sleep, she's found new directions in life, but while she can't make too many changes to her life right now, she's inspired and excited about the future.
  • Learning to slow down after a busy Festive Season Stoneageparent describes the joys and lows of this year's festive season, as well as her New Year's resolutions.
  • Detoxing' Your Toddler After the Holidays — Does your family suffer side effects from the holidays? Join Christine from African Babies Don't Cry to learn how she detoxed herself and her toddler off the treats and festivities of the season.
  • Scheduling is OK! — Jaye Anne at Wide Awake, Half Asleep explores the possibilities of the — SCHEDULE!!
  • We're Saving their First Christmas for Next Time — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot takes it easy after moving with her husband and new babies to Scotland.
  • A Vacation from the World — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children retreats with her family at the end of every year in order to recuperate and enjoy one another.
  • On the Road to Recovery — Dionna at Code Name: Mama isn't just recovering from the holidays, she's recovering from a lifestyle.
  • We Never Left the GrindErika Gebhardt compares a typical day pre-holidays and post-holidays.
  • Remembering and Recovering from the Holidays (One day at a time) — Emily at S.A.H.M i AM is recovering from holidays slowly--taking one day at a time--while trying to remember all the sweet moments that passed too quickly.
  • 5 a Day — To get back on track Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy needed a simple system to help her family learn new values.
  • Holiday Detox & Healing: Bieler Broth — Megan at The Boho Mama shares her secret for a gentle, whole-foods-based post-holiday detox: Bieler Broth!
  • I'm Mama Not Supermom — After a year filled with changes Angela at EarthMamas World has to remind herself that she does not have to be supermom while recovering from the holiday chaos.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

New Year Intentions

At the end of the year I wrote about how I am proud of myself in what I accomplished in 2012, as a highlight reel for the year. Now that it is the new year people tend to look at the year ahead and plan what they hope to accomplish. I'm not big on making new year resolutions because we all know how those turn out, don't we? Instead, I will be participating, unofficially, in Ali Edward's One Little Word for 2013, as a guiding principal for the year, as something that I want to remember to guide my actions.

For now, however, I want to list some intentions I have for 2013. Or perhaps these things I want to learn are for the next two, five or ten years, because I'm not into beating myself up if I don't accomplish them. That would be too much like resolutions, and once resolutions are broken it is too easy to give up and forget about them.

Here are my intentions:

1. Learn about canning: we no longer have BPA in water bottles in Canada, but for some reason it is ok to still have BPA lining cans of soup and tomatoes. I want to learn how to can so I can have yummy home cooked meals with tomatoes that I know are free from BPA.

2. Learn how to use my sewing machine: I promised myself that I would do this in 2012, but alas it did not happen. Perhaps it is from high school trauma in sewing class when I almost failed home economics because the hem on my apron didn't line up evenly. My mother has known for a while that I wanted to overcome this as she gave me my sewing machine quite a few years ago, but she has used it more than me. I have this notion that I must sew one Hallowe'en costume for my children before they grow up because my own mother always made the most amazing outfits for me and my brother. There are so many eco projects I want to do that require sewing so I am determined to do this one in 2013. Ooops, this sounds eerily like a resolution.

3. Continue with my biking goal, as discussed here and here.
Biking in the summer with my wee one in the bike trailer. 

4. Expand my abilities with knitting and crocheting: I made infinity scarves for Christmas presents this past Christmas. I also gave my older daughters knitting needles and they are currently enjoying learning how to knit. After posting my 2012 Highlight Reel on Facebook, a friend, who is an amazing knitter, offered her services as a teacher/mentor. I look forward to taking her up on this!
A butterfly dish cloth and gnome knitted project I recently completed.

5. Try geocaching: I enjoy getting outside for fresh air and exercise, and just for the joy of being outside, but sometimes it is hard to get kids to go outside as reward in itself on less than perfect days. I know several people who love geocaching and they say their kids love it so I'm wondering if this might be the hook to get them outside with me. I've downloaded a beginner geocaching app for my iPhone but haven't started using it yet.

6. Learn about winter gardening: I am slowly learning about backyard vegetable gardens but I was too late to have a winter garden this year. I purchased a winter gardening guide at the UBC Botanical Garden this past summer when we tried out their rainforest canopy walk for the first time (I highly recommend it - my girls loved it) and I am going to read it again and be prepared mid summer to organize and prep a winter garden.
Some reading to keep me busy over the winter.

7. Make more whole food meals: When I became a mother I lost my cooking mojo. Perhaps it was because I was up every one to three hours feeding a newborn. Or maybe it is because my children are very fussy and would not eat all the delicious whole food meals that I used to enjoy cooking. I want to reduce the amount of processed, quick foods that we have had around our house to help us cope with being tired from long days (and nights) and busy schedules. I need to remember that we are literally what we eat and food is the best medicine. I also know how time consuming preparing whole food meals can be; before having children I was on a very restrictive candida diet that eliminated all processed foods and I was able to spend a large portion of time each day preparing meals (especially on my summers off). I can no longer devote that amount of time to prepping and cooking meals. I also know that it will take time for my girls to be receptive to trying new foods.
Delicious quinoa salad with avocado, cucumbers, carrots, sprouted beans, chickpeas, 
sunflower seeds and amazing  organic thyme garlic vinegar made by the Sharing Farm.

8. Mediate: Before children I used to mediate on a regular basis (perhaps not daily but certainly weekly). I felt more grounded and at peace when I did this and I am missing it. I know this will be difficult because finding even five minutes to myself in a home with three young children and a husband who works from home is close to impossible. But if something is important I should find the time for it.

9. Cut back on, or eliminate, coffee: I love almost everything about coffee. I love the smell of freshly ground and brewing coffee. I love the ritual of brewing coffee. I love the social aspect of sitting down to chat over a coffee. But I don't love how I have become a prisoner of coffee. I am no longer a functioning person until I have that first mug each morning and I am noticing that I have built up a tolerance to the effects of coffee. I don't like feeling like something controls me as coffee does. For a number of years I eliminated coffee from my life and I didn't miss it. Knowing I am an all or nothing person I think I need to cut out coffee for a while, then make it an occasional drink rather than a daily drink.

10. Be grateful: Resilience is the one of the new buzz words in parenting and education circles and resilience helps people carry on and even thrive in the face of adversity. One of the ways to help develop resilience is to have a sense of gratitude for what one has. Even though something unfortunate, or even tragic, has occurred, we still be happy because of all the good in our life. Research shows that people who have a well-developed sense of gratitude are happier in life. Over the past year intermittently, I kept a daily gratitude list. I would like to continue this for myself and expand this to my family.
Our family gratitude box -  after dinner each member of
our family writes one thing we are grateful for that day.

11. Find natural and eco alternatives to disposable and commercial goods: I want to reduce the need to recycle things by making reusable wax food coverings instead of plastic wrap (which I have almost eliminated the need for) and cloth bags instead of plastic baggies. I want to learn how to make my own washing machine detergent, dishwasher detergent and toothpaste.  As a family we are seeking ways to reduce our toxic load in our personal care products, such as make up and shaving cream.