Sugar Free Kids


When Ezekiel was a baby I was adamant that he would not eat candy or processed sugar.  Most people thought I was nuts, extreme and unrealistic (and still do to some extent!).  I received so many comments and questions when I would talk about our (mostly my) decision to not introduce sugar into Ezekiel’s diet and those comments and questions were not always positive.  Regardless (and maybe in spite of those people) I maintained Ezekiel’s sugar free diet for a long time.  I would make him treats at home that were made with honey, maple syrup or coconut sugar.  At parties my friends always had healthier options and those are what I would offer to him to eat (before he could really understand what cake/candy was). Sometimes they would even have a whole section just for Ezekiel with dried fruit and nuts – yes I do have the best friends ever!

Over the last couple years sugar and treats slowly entered into our house and Ezekiel’s diet.  It started with my husband bringing home “treats” or buying Ezekiel treats when they went out together and those treats always involved sugar.  Then he would bring home bags of treats (gummy bears, marshmallows etc) and I began allowing a treat a day after quiet time.  These past 3-4 months it started to become an expectation in Ezekiel’s brain that he needed a treat and instead of correct that expectation we just gave into it.  When we were out he would start to demand a treat, when my husband would come home the first question Ezekiel had was if he had brought home a treat.  Then a few weeks ago Ezekiel started waking much earlier than he had ever woke, he started having trouble calming down for quiet time, his behaviour though not awful was out of character for him.

None of these things are inherently bad and can easily be explained away by Ezekiel getting older and hitting different stages of life but I had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that something else was happening.  Two weeks ago I just got fed up with the constant questioning for treats, with the inability to listen to my instructions, with the lack of awareness of his behaviour and really just his expectation that he deserved a treat.  He was beginning to act entitled and that was REALLY bothering me.  It probably bothered me the most because I was the person to blame for that behaviour.  In some ways I felt helpless to change it.  I wasn’t sure how I could correct that behaviour through my parenting in a way that Ezekiel would understand.  Then one day I had a lightbulb moment – maybe sugar was to blame for some of this behaviour!

It’s no secret that sugar is bad for us – and I’m not talking about fruit or naturally occurring sugars but those sugars that are added to all our foods, those manmade sugars that tell our brain we need MORE MORE MORE. I could sit and read and write about the impact of sugar on our bodies all day – the topic is complex and has so many variables to it but the bottom line is that too much sugar has negative effects on our bodies in many ways.  Of course our bodies do need sugar to function and as a form of energy but the sugar that is added to packaged food and that is made by “man” is probably not going to do anything good for your body.

So, arming myself with this knowledge and allowing my frustration with myself and our situation with Ezekiel to be known I sat down with my husband and just said no more sugar – don’t bring treats, and start saying no more often and let’s see how this helps our situation. Now let me be clear that if you were to spend a day with us and observe Ezekiel you probably would not have picked up on the subtle little behaviours.  Overall he was still a very well behaved child because that’s his demeanour.  His nature has always been calm, he has always had an inclination to be obedient, he has always been very rational and for that I am eternally grateful.  Regardless, I knew that something was off and I knew that I needed to try my hardest to correct it now rather than wait.  So we completely cut out sugar about two weeks ago and I’m telling you the change has been drastic for us!

I sat down with him and we talked about his behaviour and about how sugar in certain treats can be bad for us by making us act in a way that isn’t the best.  We talked about how we were going to stop eating treats but that we could bake something that he would like using something sweet that wasn’t as bad for us.  We talked about balance and food and growing big and strong by eating food that would give our bodies the things it needed.  These were all conversations we had been having with him for a couple years but I took it one step farther by saying we were getting rid of all treats (for now).  He grasped the main concepts and for about a week we continued the conversation as he processed it.  The way he processes is by thinking about it and then bringing up little things that he’s been thinking about several times over a period of time.

The first couple days he asked for treats, then he stopped asking for treats and began asking for a muffin, then he stopped asking for anything sugar related at all.  This in and of itself was a HUGE win but it wasn’t the only change we’ve seen.  He started to say please and thank you unprompted, he started to offer to help in every situation (did you spill mom? Let me clean that up for you).  Although he still has energy and loves to bounce around, play and sing, he’s not so out of control when he’s running around playing.  Quiet times are now just that, instead of jumping up and down and roughing housing with toys he’s sitting quietly reading books or building with his blocks and sometimes even falling asleep again.

Perhaps the most surprising for me because I didn’t attribute this behaviour to sugar is that he is far less anxious about being alone on any level of our house.  For quite a few months he’s been crazy about always needing someone on the same level as him.  He would refuse to go up and down the stairs unless there was someone with him. It was something that was incredibly frustrating for us because he would desperately want something from a different level we were on but refuse to go alone to get it and then if we were busy and couldn’t help him he would have an emotional meltdown.  Even if you started to go down the stairs before him he would burst into tears – no exaggeration – the moment you stepped on that first stair.  It was bizarre and I kept blaming my husband because he used to play hide and seek with Ezekiel and then jump out and scare him (something I actually enjoy doing to my husband lol).  When we stopped sugar he began going upstairs and playing by himself for BIG chunks of time – praise the LORD! When I go down the stairs he’ll stay upstairs and play.  When Eden needs to be fed or changed in the middle of our meal he is 100% OK to stay and finish eating while I take care of Eden.  It is truly incredible and has really solidified my belief that sugar and kids are a bad idea.

Now, is it totally sustainable? I know that’s a question people are going to ask and going to challenge because it’s one I’ve been confronted with before.

Here’s my answer.

When you can connect actions with behaviours in a way that is easy to understand your child can begin to grasp consequences.  We’ve been talking about food with Ezekiel for a long time, it’s something we deeply value and so it’s a constant conversation in our house.  I think because of this constant discussion Ezekiel finds it easier to grasp the concept that there are foods that are really good for us and there are foods that are not so good for us.  He understands that we try and eat the majority of good food and rarely eat the food that isn’t as good.  I also believe that this constant ongoing discussion will help Ezekiel to make good decisions for himself when we are not with him as he grows older.

We’ve already seen this in action.  The other day Ezekiel was looking in the freezer to get some frozen mango – his treat of choice lately – and found a stray gummy bear that fell from the top of the fridge before I threw them away.  He asked if he could eat it and in a moment of weakness (I really didn’t want to have an argument in that moment) I agreed.  The resulting behaviour over the next 2-3 hours was crazy.  In a period of 20 minutes he had burst into tears 4 times! I sat down with him and we talked about how sugar was making him feel and he was able to grasp the concept a little bit more than before.

So, will we be a strict 100% no sugar, no candy family?

No we won’t, but those instances will be few and far between and they will be reserved for very special occasions.  When Ezekiel asks for candy in a store we will stop and talk about how candy makes us feel and brainstorm something else we might like to eat instead that will nourish our bodies and minds.

It won’t be perfect – life never is, but I will strive to provide my kids with the best possible food so that their bodies can be as healthy as possible.

Motherhood – The Secret To Success


Every morning I wake up between 5 and 530.

Yep it’s early but when I wake up (sometimes by my own internal clock and others by my babies hungry cries) I look forward to going down the stairs, pouring my hot cup of coffee, making my bowl of yogurt and granola and sitting on the couch with the fire going in silence and most importantly – alone.

I need that time, desperately need that time.  It doesn’t matter how many times I had to wake up in the night to give the baby her soother or feed her (typically it’s only twice but sometimes 3 or 4 times).  It doesn’t matter how tired I am, replacing that morning ritual with more sleep inevitably leads to my patience only lasting until 8 am instead of 6 pm.

It’s amazing to me how much I need that time in the morning.  That start to my day is the cornerstone of my sanity as a mother.

Sure there’s the odd day every so often, maybe once a month or once every 6 weeks, that the kids wake up abnormally early (6 am instead of 7 or 8) and I miss out on my morning time but we make it through those days.  I do a lot of deep breathing, a lot of reviewing my thoughts before they become words, maybe we watch an extra episode of a favourite show or maybe we just go out and have some fun instead of the doing the housework that was on the agenda.  Regardless, when the day is done so am I and I pray for more time the next morning to refill my introverted gas tank.

I often get asked how I do so many things, how am I so motivated?

This is my secret – I make sure I have some time alone, to recharge, to reflect, to journal, to read, to write, to listen, to pray, to meditate.  I start the day by setting my intentions and I end the day by reviewing how it went and what I can do better tomorrow.

Some people don’t thrive like this, they don’t crave an orderly, organized, routined environment, that helps them accomplish tasks at home.  Those people have different secrets to their motherhood successes and their successes are usually much different than mine.  Usually they are out on adventures, doing crafts, running errands and looking perfect while doing it.

The truth is they look at me and wish they could accomplish more at home and I look at them and wish I could provide more carefree adventures for my children (and look good doing it).

The other truth is even if both of us were granted our wishes we would feel no less fulfilled or happy, in fact we would probably feel frazzled and very unsatisfied.

Still more truth: though our lives look different we are both amazing mothers doing the best we can. 

The secret to every mothers success?

Mothering from the deepest parts of who we are and being true to that person, forgetting about every voice that tries to push us down and make us feel guilty for who we are or what we don’t accomplish that day.  Our success lies in the ability to understand that we are who we are and we were created to be the mother of these tiny little miracles.

Post Partum Body

Hi Friends.

Posts are few and far between around here (what’s new right?).  I was hoping to have a bit more consistency on my year (plus 4 months) off but it turns out that having a newborn in the spring makes life pretty crazy.  If I’m not holding, rocking, or feeding the baby, then I’m probably playing with a toddler in the yard and/or doing yard work and planting the garden, and if I’m still not doing that, then most likely I’m cleaning the house or sleeping.  So – life, it’s a bit hectic right now but I wouldn’t change a thing.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my postpartum body and I figured I’d write out a few thoughts.  This is a hot topic for anyone who’s been pregnant, is currently pregnant or thinking about/trying to get pregnant.  Some people will tell you while you’re pregnant that you should eat clean and stay fit no matter what.  Others will tell you to take it easy and eat what you want, don’t stress.  Then you have the baby and you begin to notice everyone else who has had a baby recently and the age old game of comparison begins.  On top of that you have people giving advice – don’t worry about your body, just enjoy your baby OR you should be working out 6 weeks after having your baby GET YOUR BODY BACK!

It’s an exhausting mind game and one that I wish I could say I didn’t participate in – but I do.  Still, I think there’s some validity to entering into the conversation.  I want to  break it down to solid truths for myself and by writing it out I hope that you can glean some truths for you as well, not only if you are a postpartum momma (regardless of how long it’s been!) but also if you are just a person that struggles with this topic in general.

Here’s the facts for us birth momma’s:

  1. You grew a human.
  2. That human changed you as a person – physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally.
  3. You will quite literally never be the same again.

Think about it – you nourished a rapidly growing person for 40 weeks (give or take some weeks), and if you are breastfeeding you are continuing to be the only source of nutrition for that person.

INCREDIBLE. MIRACULOUS. AWE-SOME. MIND-BLOWING.

I’ll never ever ever stop believing that being able to give life to another human is less than this.  I truly think it’s a sacrifice worth giving and if it wasn’t possibly life threatening for me I would hands down want to do it again.

Here’s some more truth:

Growing a human is HARD.  Even if you had the most amazing pregnancy ever, your body had to work unbelievably hard to do that.

When I think back on my pregnancy I know I’ll never forget the crazy amount of hard that it was and because of that I want nothing more than to HONOUR my body.

The truth is that to honour my body I must nourish it, move it and treat it with respect.  I must listen intently to what it is saying.  I must take time each day to understand what it needs that day and also understand that it’s needs are going to change each day.

 To honour my body I must work towards my healthiest self – physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally.

Will that take me down a road of weight loss? Truthfully, I hope so but it’s no longer my goal. My goal is health and your goal should be health as well.

Not a size zero? No one cares and neither should you!

Be confident and radiant in who you are right now in this moment.  Take steps towards a healthy you and eventually the number on the scale isn’t going to matter to you anymore.

As you nourished your child (and maybe still do) honour your body by nourishing it as well.  How can you give something to another person that you don’t possess yourself? If you are unhealthy physically, mentally, spiritually or emotionally then how can you expect to nourish healthy human beings? Even if you didn’t grow a human and even if you aren’t breastfeeding, you are still nourishing those around you by what you give.  Are you giving the best of you?  If you aren’t giving the best to yourself then I would argue that it’s not possible to give the best to those around you.

More than anything I need to focus on me so that what I pour out to those around me (especially my children) is healthy and nourishing for them.

Here’s some practical ways I’m putting this into practice:

  1. Eating mostly whole “real” foods and very little processed food
  2. Listening to my body when it tells me that gluten is bad (even when I desperately want a pastry)
  3. Engaging in a hobby (hello garden!)
  4. Making time each day for me (hello early mornings!)
  5. Praying
  6. Allowing myself to feel all the feels and be honest about feeling them
  7. Being realistic about my to-do lists (bye bye spring cleaning wishes)
  8. Talking to people frequently and being intentional in relationships

I had a much different post planned out in my head when I started this, but as is the case so often I let my hands do the talking for my brain and it’s usually exactly what I needed to hear.

So here’s to letting go of postpartum body expectations and to embracing a healthy new me.  Here’s to letting go of the numbers.  Here’s to honouring my body so that I can honour those around me.

 

On Doing “It All”

I get a lot of comments about how I look like I’m able to do it all, how I’m able to get so much accomplished, how I can keep my house so clean.  I get so many comments that sometimes I start to feel bad.  If you go on Instagram and browse through some feeds of mothers, a common theme will be “keeping it honest” and making sure that everyone knows you are not perfect.  Then you get pictures of piled high laundry, toys everywhere, dishes in the sink with a caption about how you should leave it all and just play with your kids.  Instead of relieve me of need to clean it just makes me feel guilty for needing to clean instead of play.  I chose the word “need” intentionally because friends, if I don’t clean and keep my house clean then I am a moody mess of a mom and definitely no fun to play with.

Even as “clean” as my house looks there are a lot of things that are filthy! I’m really good at keeping my house tidy and orderly, keeping the floors clean and the bathrooms scrubbed.  I’m really really not good at things like cleaning windows, baseboards or walls.  So while it may look like I accomplish it all let me assure you that for every one thing I do accomplish there is a list of 5 that I don’t.

Yesterday morning I woke up later than normal but with a lot of motivation to get my house spotless and get a lot of my spring cleaning list completed (prime example of my “list of 5”).  Sunday I spent the day relaxing and honestly doing nothing.  My husband even made me supper and brought it to me in bed.  Due to my “day off” I neglected a lot of my daily rituals that make me sane and keep my house looking presentable.  I went to bed aware that my house was a “disaster” but vowing to get it cleaned up today.  Yet when I went downstairs this morning I was overwhelmed with just how much there was to do and how much I wanted to accomplish.  I quickly realized that my expectations of the day were unrealistic, but it took me a few hours to really let go of those expectations.  During those few hours I was annoyed more than I was joyful, I was overwhelmed and anxious about the state of my house and about the gardening that wasn’t getting done and supper that I hadn’t planned or thought of and preschool for Ezekiel that I haven’t started and the list goes on and on and on.  On top of that Eden’s reflux flared up pretty bad and she was irritable, Ezekiel was going on and on about going for a walk and I was quickly losing patience.  My expectations were driving me crazy and so while I was feeding and rocking Eden I closed my eyes took some deep breaths and released them.  I adjusted my expectations and I let go of my need to “get it all done.”  I became OK with getting done what I could and letting go of the rest.

Once I did that it was incredible what I was actually able to accomplish and how joyful I became.  At the end of the day I couldn’t believe how I was able to turn my day from a very bad day going worse to a great day – it’s usually the other way around.  The only reason that happened is because I focused on one task at a time instead of focussing on my never ending list of tasks.  I was even able to check off a few items on my spring cleaning list.  As I went about the day I reflected on why it is that I am usually able to keep my house clean and organized and why I’m not usually overwhelmed by it – it came down to 2 words:

Discipline and routine.

That’s really it.

Every day I have a variation of a routine I follow, it’s constantly being tweaked to fit our lives better and to try and fit more into a day (think walks, park play, craft time etc.) and it’s revised daily to fit the needs of a baby with an awry routine but it works.  The only reason it works? Discipline.  There are a lot of days I just don’t want to put the dishes away, water the plants, pick up after my family, do the laundry, sweep the floors or tidy the things that have been left laying around but if I don’t I know the next day is going to be an uphill battle for me mentally.  This is how I keep my mental stability intact always but especially in my postpartum days.  A screaming baby is much less irritating to me when I’m walking around my house trying to calm her if my house is clean and orderly.  An inquisitive and whining 3 yr old is a little more tolerable if I’m not staring at a disaster that I’m trying to clean up.  My routines and disciplines didn’t happen overnight though, they were slowly incorporated into my day.

So as a response to those wondering why it looks like I’m always getting things accomplished I thought I’d give you a glimpse into my routine. Maybe you can pick up a habit or two and overtime feel like you aren’t drowning in trying to get your house to a tidy state, or maybe you are truly ok with leaving it the way it is – that is JUST FINE.  Honestly – you do you, but I have to do me for the sake of my mental health and relationships with my family.

MORNINGS

I’ve always been an early to rise early to bed girl so my mornings are a huge part of my sanity.  I despise waking up with everyone else and have to work really hard to be in a good mood if it happens.  Thankfully Eden has been sleeping long stretches (6-8 hours) at night and will wake up in the early morning for a feed before going back to sleep for another 3-4 hours, this is my wake up call.  I change her and feed her and then shower and get ready for the day after putting her back to bed.  It’s never a specific time but if she wakes up anytime later than 4:30 then that’s when I get up.  I have found it much harder to shower and get ready if I don’t do this.

After that I go down and get coffee, take my medications, put away any lingering dishes, wipe off counters, tidy anything that wasn’t tidied the night before.  I also do a quick check on the plants and water them if they need it.  I prepare breakfast for Ezekiel and I and have it on the table for when he wakes up – it varies from eggs to cold cereal depending on what I feel like.  He’s not a picky eater so this works for us and he gets very very hangry if he doesn’t eat.  I’ve found that if I don’t have it prepared we both get distracted and it gets very difficult to get him to eat anything.  Then after doing all that I sit down with my coffee and usually browse social media (or write a blog!) until one of the kids wakes up.

After everyone wakes up honestly the day takes shape as it goes.  I usually have some sort of plan for the mornings – whether that be a coffee/playdate, the zoo, cleaning the house, a long walk but aside from cleaning day I try to get out in the morning.  Ezekiel is an outdoors kid, and he’s also a kid that wants me to be with him and play with him always so if I don’t do something fun for him in the morning he gets super annoying with asking to do something and wanting me by his side always.  Eden is still able to go with the flow and doesn’t have a set schedule so for now we use Ezekiel’s schedule to plan the day.  Eventually two mornings a week will be dedicated to school for Ezekiel – that will start in the next couple weeks.

Lunch is around 12:30 and this is when I am able to do a tidy of the house and kitchen in particular because I eat a lot faster than Ezekiel.  While he’s finishing his meal I’m checking off tasks (sweep the kitchen, fold the laundry, start supper prep, do the dishes etc.), I get as many as I can off the list.  Then we all go upstairs and Ezekiel gets to watch one Netflix episode – if Eden is content this is another time I can do a quick tidy upstairs which usually includes putting away clothes, picking up whatever has been left behind in our various trips up and down the stairs.

Nap time is usually 1:30 or 2 and thankfully it’s almost always nap time for them both so I get a bit of a break.  I always take 30-60 minutes just to sit, sometimes I read, sometimes I watch a TV episode but it’s usually with a coffee in hand.  After taking time for myself I start to get supper prepped – marinate meat, chop veggies etc. so it’s easy to actually prepare when it’s supper time.  If I’m lucky I’ll get to do a “one off task” like mow the grass or bake some muffins and I base that on what I feel like doing that day or what desperately needs to get done.

Ezekiel will wake up around 4:30 or 5 and I make sure he has a small snack and we usually check in on the greenhouse at this time.  I sit outside with him if Eden is sleeping and it’s nice out, or we’ll read books.

Supper is around 6 or 6:30, we eat, clean up, tidy the downstairs and head upstairs for bedtime.  Ezekiel will watch one more Netflix show, both the kids will have a bath, we get them dressed, give meds and put us all to sleep.

Throughout the day I do a lot of 30 second tidies and that’s the key to my house being kept clean.  I should mention that Ezekiel is always responsible for his own tidying so he does a lot of 30 second tidies as well.  I also always do at least one load of laundry a day – it keeps it manageable and less intimidating, it also ensures that the clothes get washed and put away instead of just washed.

What I struggle with and what I want to start incorporating into my day is the spring cleaning tasks.  I usually look at it as a huge thing that needs a tonne of time to get done and I just don’t have big chunks of time anymore.  I can’t take a day or two and just dedicate it to spring cleaning because I have two small children who would not cooperate with that plan – as I learned yesterday.  If I start to add a task or two to my days my list would be done in no time and I wouldn’t be so overwhelmed by it and then if I kept up with it – like spot cleaning walls, wiping down baseboards every few months etc. it wouldn’t have to be “spring cleaning” because those things would just be done always.  So that’s what I’m going to do – start adding one or two tasks a day and hopefully that motivates me to keep those things cleaner than they are now.

Whew – that was a long post but honestly this is how I “do it.”  I’m so far from perfect though guys, there are definitely days that nothing gets done and that breakfast, lunch and supper are a variation of baking, fruit and veggies and that’s OK.  We need grace daily to get through the day and we need to remember that we are human – imperfect and flawed. No one will ever accomplish it all, where they excel in one thing they’ll lack in another.  So instead of focusing on where you lack focus on where you excel and just let go of the rest.  Your sanity will thank you.

 

It’s a GIRL!

Well, we made it! We actually truly made it to our scheduled C-section date of March 17, 2017! I’ll save the full birth story for another day but I wanted to do an announcement post for all you out there that follow along on our crazy journey.

Eden Bonandje (bon-an-jay)
March 17, 2017 @ 0938
7lb 8oz
20 inches

My entire life I’ve always been quite vocal that I would love to be a boy mom and wouldn’t mind if I never had a girl.  Regardless I was never curious enough or cared enough to find out the genders of my babies because in the end what really mattered to me was that I had a baby.  Early on in this pregnancy I had a strong feeling that I was carrying a girl, but by the second trimester I was back to the “who knows” mentality.  Still I often found myself referring to the baby as a girl in my mind.  I think there might have only been one person who guessed that the baby was a boy and the rest – even complete strangers – were convinced baby was a girl.  Ezekiel was beyond adamant that he was going to have a baby sister and you could not even try to entertain the idea that it just MIGHT be a boy.  My husband  really really really wanted a daughter and thought that since my pregnancy was so riddled with excitement that it had to be a girl because boys just don’t demand that kind of attention :).  I just continued on in the mindset that either way I would be happy.

When they pulled her out and announced excitedly that she was a GIRL the joy and pure happiness that flowed through me took me by surprise.  A girl, a daughter, my last baby is my baby girl.  I still tear up thinking about it and probably will for years to come.  I didn’t know how deeply my soul needed this girl.  She is pure perfection and we are completely smitten.  I find myself dreaming of raising her, of the values I want her to grow up with.  The fears I had about raising a girl were swept away when I looked at her and replaced with the joy I’m feeling at the privilege I have of being able to raise a strong, confident, capable and wonderful woman.

I’m so happy to have been blessed with something I had no idea I needed so badly.

 

 

 

 

Nature vs Nurture

This post has been swirling around in my brain for a couple weeks but I just couldn’t figure out how I would write it.  Then today I opened my Instagram and found out that today is “Pink Shirt” day – also known as Anti-Bullying Day and I knew that today was the day I needed to write this.

It starts with my last hospital admission and a conversation I had with one of my nurses.  She was an older more experienced nurse and we were having a conversation about raising kids.  I mentioned that we don’t have TV in our house and I’ve loved everything about that.  She replied with something about how if kids go to school not knowing what’s “cool” they are at a higher risk of being bullied.  Basically she was implying that Ezekiel would be bullied at school because he doesn’t watch TV or play with an iPad.  Instantly my Momma heart was torn and conflicted.  I started to question all my parenting decisions and convictions.  Was this true? Was I really putting my child at risk of being bullied? Should we watch TV?

The other part of the conversation revolved around “nature vs nurture.”  I’m sure all of you reading this are at least vaguely aware of this debate.  Does a child turn out “good” or “bad” because of nature or the way we as parents nurture them.  I don’t have a set answer on this but during my conversation with this nurse she mentioned that she had boy/girl twins and they were completely opposites which made her lean towards the nature part of the debate.  Instantly I was able to define my own parenting philosophy – I desire to nurture my children’s nature.

The more I have thought about this conversation – and it’s been daily, sometimes several times a day – the more confident I become in my parenting decisions.  I truly believe there is no one right way to raise children and that’s because every single child and person on this earth is different.  There are no two exactly alike and so our parenting must bend and curve and ebb and flow to accommodate each child’s unique personality and nature.  There is only one aspect of parenting I believe every single parent should do – and that is simply to take the time to KNOW your child.  Try and understand their uniqueness and your parenting decisions and strategies will flow with that.

When I was first pregnant I had a lot of ideals and ideas that I thought were absolutely essential to parenting children “right.”  I was on the side of black and white decision making, there was no in between.  Then I became a parent and that completely got thrown out the window.  Ezekiel has been such an excellent teacher for me in this whole parenting gig.  Right from day one he’s shown me that he’s actually in charge of his life – he will do things and transition through all his milestones in his own way and in his own time.  My job is to gently guide him through this life teaching him how best to manage these transitions with grace and humility.  His personality and nature takes front seat in our relationship and you know what? My own personality and nature also sits up there in the front seat, together we navigate life.  In some things I’m very strict with very little bend in my decisions, in other things I’m more in the grey area and my decision may be different from day to day.

In no way do I think I have this parenting thing all figured out and soon I’ll be adding yet another little person who has their own nature and personality to our family.  Here’s what I do know – if I spend the time and energy really getting to know and understand this little person we are going to be OK.

I think this is the way we can raise children to be kind always and to love in all circumstances regardless if they know who every character of Paw Patrol is.  We can raise children to be unique and different, to go against the grain and be proud of it.  We can raise children to understand that bullying is not OK, to know how to respond to a bully and to know that other peoples opinions of them do not define their worth.  We can raise children to be honest and open with us, to talk through issues and articulate their feelings in difficult situations.  We can create homes that are full of love, understanding and kindness, that are always welcoming of conversation.  We can raise children that are curious about the world and aren’t afraid to ask questions or take their own stance in situations.  We can raise children who are not shamed into conforming to society but who are proud to forge their own path.

So regardless of how you end up parenting your child.  What decisions you make along the way.  If you can raise your child to know and show love and kindness I think we can raise a generation where bullies are no longer an issue.

Transitioning to Quiet Time

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about our struggles with Ezekiel since I’ve been on modified rest.  The biggest challenge has been his nap times.  He’s historically and famously been the best napper, sometimes napping 3-4 hours at a time and really he needs these naps.  He also sleeps 12-13 hours at night which is a big sign to me that he still needs the naps.  When I was admitted to the hospital he began having trouble napping and also wasn’t sleeping as long at night waking up super early.  His behaviour suffered in his lack of sleep and my patience was wearing very thin.  I had no idea what to do.  I thought maybe I needed to start a quiet time routine but had no idea how to do that.  I learned early on in Ezekiel’s life that he was the leader in when he was going to be ready for certain transitions.  Any time I tried to get him to do something when he wasn’t ready I got frustrated and he got frustrated – things like rolling, sitting, walking, talking – you name the milestone and he was ready later than most kids but when he was ready he just started doing it and never stopped.

So a couple weeks ago I really had to evaluate if it was time to start a quiet time routine.  I was very resistant because I really really value nap time.  It’s a time that I get to recharge my batteries and when he wakes up we are both ready to take on the evening.  Part of the transition to quiet time (a big part really) was my own mindset – I had to accept that nap time is not always going to happen anymore and I had to become ok with that.  At the same time I had to come up with a compromise, something that was going to help me recharge and help Ezekiel because although he won’t always nap he is absolutely always tired in the afternoon.  Something else I’ve learned over the years is that I don’t do well at listening to the advice of books and blogs – I have to lean on my own understanding of my child and trust my momma’s instinct.  So our nap time routine is just something I came up with and has worked wonders for us.

The routine actually starts at lunch time.  We wind down and sit at the table having a quiet meal and quiet conversation.  I try to keep it as calm as possible.  At the end of lunch Ezekiel chooses which sippy cup he would like to have his quiet time milk in.  Then he heads upstairs, usually without cuing and I follow.  He goes potty and then we get him into comfy clothes (because who wants to relax in jeans and a button up??), and a diaper (he’s not night time/nap time trained because he’s still in a  crib and can’t get out to go to the bathroom on his own).  We close his curtains and then settle into the rocking chair with a blanket and his milk.  We rock until he’s done his milk and then we say our nap time quotes that we’ve been doing forever “I love you” “have a good sleep” “see you when you wake up” – we alternate words and Ezekiel LOVES this part.  Then he gets into his crib with the help of a stool (because I can’t lift him) and he cuddles up with his polar bear and ducky and his favourite blanket and I leave his room.

Typically he’s very quiet for about 20-30 minutes but if he can’t fall asleep in that time he’ll start talking and playing with his stuffed animals.  Typically he’s been falling asleep every 3rd or 4th day.  Between 45-60 minutes if he’s still awake he usually calls me because he needs to go potty so I go upstairs and help him get out and go potty.  At this point I know that it hasn’t been enough quiet time for him and so we’ve implemented another hour of independent quiet playtime in his room.  We open his curtains and I shut the door and go back downstairs.  He’s come to a good understanding of this time and he will read books, play with blocks and generally just use his imagination to no end.  He usually destroys his room and has everything off his shelves and out of his drawers.  He doesn’t have all his toys in his room just blocks, a car, and books so there’s not a tonne to destroy but somehow he seems to make a bigger mess each day – something that I’ve also had to become ok with!  To my amazement he actually stays and plays quietly for 45-60 minutes before he calls down saying he’s done.

The last rule to quiet time is that he has to clean up his room before he can come downstairs.  He definitely needs help but I encourage him to spend about 10 minutes by himself cleaning up his room.  Generally he’s pretty good about this but after about 10 minutes asks if I will help him and so I go up and help with the last things.

Something else that I’ve implemented is that if he’s very good during quiet time and doesn’t yell, scream or cry then he’s allowed a treat when he comes back downstairs.  Treats in our house are a bit different than some houses – right now he’s on a chocolate chip kick so he gets about 10 chocolate chips along with something else like a nut mix, or a little piece of baking that I’ve done.  The baking that I make as treats I try to make as healthy as possible so they always have nutritional value and very little sugar (no refined sugar).

The changes I’ve seen in him since implementing this new routine has been amazing.  I think a big part of our success has been the fact that I kept our original routine in the beginning and then accepted that I cannot force him to do something that he can’t do.  I know that he does try to nap but I think he’s in such a big transition in life that he’s finding it hard to shut off his brain – I totally get that!  In the beginning we had long talks daily about the importance of quiet time, the reasons we need quiet time and how being quiet is a big part of quiet time.  Ezekiel is incredibly rational for a 3 year old and processes well through words and conversation so this worked for us and after about 4 days we didn’t need to have the conversation he just picked it up and ran with it.  His outbursts and inability to process and calm his emotions has left and he’s back to his very sweet, calm rational self and I am feeling so grateful!  He’s still incredibly tired on the days he doesn’t nap and will space out frequently but he doesn’t become a little three year old monster and that is worth it! Something else that has been amazing about the new routine is that he’s learning how to play by himself and be a bit more independent with play.  He hasn’t been independent in the past, he always wants to be beside someone and play and would prefer if you joined in with his play.  He always wants help with whatever he’s doing  and usually only plays alone for short amounts of time.  If I’m preoccupied with something else and can’t play he’ll just try and join me in what I’m doing instead of playing.  Implementing the last hour of quiet play alone and has really helped him to be able to use his imagination alone and find ways to play independently.  He’s also learning how important it is to have some downtime in the afternoon, we have conversations about how his behaviour is so much better and he understands the change.  All in all this has been such a good transition for us, one that I’ve been dreading for months but that I’m pleasantly surprised with.

Do you have any quiet time transition stories?  I’m thinking of getting him some more quiet time activities in his room that would enhance his learning and independence – any suggestions??