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.

Rest First


When I imagined this maternity leave I had ideas that it would be similar to my last maternity leave.  My first maternity leave I ended up focusing on being healthy, and it was the first time I had felt healthy since high school.  It was like a body reset and I learned a lot about myself and my health that year.  I’ve mentioned several times that when I went back to work I really lost that feeling of being healthy due to stress and all that comes with that.  When I dreamt of this maternity leave I dreamt of losing all the weight by the 6 month mark.  I dreamt of loving being in the kitchen and inventing good healthy food.  I dreamt of walking every day and being super active and busy.

However, this maternity leave has been so much different.  I still have 15 pounds of weight to lose to get to pre-pregnancy weight and 15 more to lose to get to my ideal weight.  I can count on two hands how many walks I’ve been on in the last 3-4 months and my husband can attest that I’m not cooking like I used to.

Reflecting on how different these past six months are compared to what I thought they would be it’s easy to think I let myself down, that I didn’t motivate myself enough, that I was lazy.  All these thoughts try their hardest to creep in and bring me down but the truth is that I’ve been listening to my body and I’ve been honouring what it’s telling me.

REST

I’m giving myself time to rest and heal and that’s looking a lot different than I thought.  Honestly I thought that healing would mean exercising and building physical strength but my body has been showing me that healing first starts with resting.  This last week I’ve been feeling a rhythm start to our days, my body has been allowing for that to happen.  Up until recently I had no idea what I would be waking up to – would it be an Ashley full of energy or an Ashley unable to move much at all.  The past couple weeks my energy has been fairly consistent – even with Eden having VERY unpredictable nights.  So I can see how beneficial it’s been to listen to my body, to go to bed early, to stay home when I needed to, to relax when I was feeling run down.  With each passing week and month I gain a little bit more endurance and strength to just get a little bit more done each day.  Of course having a baby that is growing and maturing also helps with this but I can also feel the change in my body.  In August I barely had the ability to clean my whole house one day and be up moving a lot the next.  I couldn’t stand for longer than an hour doing things in the kitchen because my body just hurt all over and didn’t have the endurance.  This past month I’ve been up the majority of days canning, cleaning and just keeping busy and my body feels pretty good! Not awesome, but not awful and that’s a happy medium that I gladly welcome after a couple years of feeling terrible.

One thing I’ve been incorporating that last couple months is taking Sundays off.  That means that mentally I allow myself the space to not have a list of to-do’s.  If I wake up and have some energy to do a couple things I will, but I put zero pressure on myself to accomplish anything.  I sleep in an extra hour or two (which means up at 6 or 7 instead of 5), I rarely clean anything, I don’t do laundry, and my husband usually does the cooking.  This allows me to read a few more books to Ezekiel, to sit on the floor a little more with Eden, to write and read a bit more and maybe even spend some time on a hobby – which, with the changing of the weather means knitting!

Lots of lessons have been learned this year and resting is definitely one of the biggest.

Do you force yourself to rest? Is it hard or do you welcome it with arms wide open?

Becoming Oily


I’ve been wanting to start writing a lot more about my journey with essential oils – why I love them, how I got started, and how we are using them.  As always I don’t really write unless I get a spark of inspiration and today that inspiration is coming from my husband jumping on my oily band wagon! So before the inspiration fades I’m going to just hammer out a post in true “Ashley” fashion.

I’ve been using essential oils for about 3.5 years now – ever since Ezekiel was a baby.  I’ve written before about how I really started to focus on wellness when he was a baby.  I’ve been back and forth on this wellness journey – one step forward a couple back, two steps forward one back and it goes on and on.  I’ve found beauty in this journey and I have no shame about my set backs because each one has taught me something new.  So anyways, when Ezekiel was a baby I ordered a starter kit from Young Living.  I chose Young Living after researching other companies and realizing that their Seed to Seal process was and is far superior to any other company out there.  I guess the gardener/farmer in me just really resonates with planting a seed, growing that seed and preserving the amazing product that comes from that, but I don’t think you need to be a farmer or gardener to appreciate knowing EXACTLY where the product is coming from and how it got there.

After receiving my starter kit I basically only used my oils for diffusing in replacement of candles as well as for all my own cleaning products.  I didn’t dive any deeper into the science of the oils or how they could really support our bodies and our health.  My main purpose in using them was to eliminate some toxins in our home, to have cleaning products that I could use while my small son could be right beside me helping and I wasn’t worried about him putting anything in his mouth or touching the products.

Fast forward to this past year, and specifically the last few months and I’ve been diving deep into the health portion of essential oils and I am BLOWN AWAY at just how incredible these little bottles are and how they are changing our lives.  I’m not going to share all of the ways here right now – that post would be far too long.  Here’s the thing: there is actual science behind these oils.  They may not be researched much in western medicine (but we are getting there!) but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t true science in the oils.  I used to think they were a bit “hokey” but since starting to learn the actual science I’m 100% a believer in these oils.  The same science that applies to any drug also applies to oils but oils are FAR superior!

Please don’t get me wrong – I am in no way saying we should all ditch the drugs we are on and use only essential oils.  I am currently taking two prescription medications and I will not be replacing those with essential oils but I WILL be supporting my body and all it’s systems with essential oils especially my immune system.  My husband is hoping to reduce the amount of prescription drugs he is taking by starting to eat healthier and use essential oils to support his body as well because the drugs he is currently taking definitely can be reduced by lifestyle changes.

So don’t think that just because I’m a bit more crunchy than before that I’m swearing off western medicine – not true and I don’t think that will ever be true of me.  What I am saying is that the less toxins and man made and manufactured things we put into our bodies the healthier we will be.  I’m so excited to be on this journey and the more changes I see in myself and my family the more I want to share!

If you have ANY questions at all PLEASE connect with me, I have so much more to share and I’ll be doing that on the blog from time to time but I really love a good one on one chat!

You can find me on Facebook or Instagram (m_l_ashley) or E-mail me at joyofsimplicityblog@gmail.com

Are you currently an oil user? Have they changed your life like they have changed mine??

Garden Update August 5, 2017

I wrote this post sitting in a  car, driving to my parents.  It’s a long drive and an even longer one with two kids – one being 4 months old.  I figured it was a good time to post another update! We are enjoying our very short trip and I’m really hoping the garden is still doing well when we return! That’s the downside of gardening – travelling is hard to do unless you have someone to tend to the gardens. 

It’s been a busy week around here but I still managed to get some gardening done.  I finally have all the tomatoes supported, including catching up on the big gardens tomato weave – the pictures I have were taken on Tuesday before I finished the weave.  The greenhouse tomatoes have almost grown taller than their supports and still look awesome.  The outside potted tomatoes don’t look amazing but they’ve all been fertilized now so hopefully they perk up.  The garden peppers seemed to have liked the fertilizer, there are lots of peppers popping up now and they look a lot greener and healthier.  We are eating a zucchini a day and I think I’ll be making a lot of zucchini baked goods.  I put up a garden net securing it to the garden box and then to the fence for the butternut squash, watermelon, and cucumbers to climb.  I haven’t had any flowers or fruit on any of those yet – next year I definitely have to start them early in the greenhouse.  

I think that’s it for updates this week.  Seemed like the tomatoes are all getting ready to start ripening – then the fun begins! 

Disclaimer: you are about to see my yard in its truest form – always cluttered with various things Ezekiel drags around.  I did clean it right after these pictures but in the spirit of keeping it real didn’t retake them! 


That’s it for this week! Happy gardening friends! 

Garden Update July 24, 2017

Another weeks gone by and it was incredibly busy for us, full of baby showers, play dates and medical appointments.  I found it hard to keep up with the housework so gardening was not happening.  The most I got done was making sure everything was watered and the greenhouse tomato plants fertilized.  Thankfully the gardens are at the point where a week of neglect isn’t too bad and barely noticeable.  I will say that I’ve basically given up on pruning the tomatoes.  I do some here and there but keeping up with 91 plants is just too much! 

Anyways the garden seems to be doing well! I ate my first tomato – Amish paste variety, it was tasty! The tomatoes are all growing like crazy, I’m especially happy with how the greenhouse plants are doing, the shade cloth has proved to be a great purchase.  The greenhouse peppers are also doing amazing, the peppers in the garden however are still not doing awesome.  I’m going to try a bit of fertilizer but I actually think it’s too much sun.  There are a couple plants being shaded by the zucchini and they are green and amazing, so maybe I need to get another shade cloth and rig it up somehow.  Also a lot of the peppers are splitting, I thought maybe the hail we got before had damaged some but now there are more.  From what I read online it’s probably due to inconsistent watering – which makes sense, so I guess I’ll try to be more consistent with the peppers. The greens, carrots, and onions are status quo.  We ate our first half zucchini last night from Ezekiel’s little garden and he’s getting a couple pea pods to munch on per day which makes him happy.  I  cut our first dill harvest today, made some dill potatoes and froze the rest.  

So here’s the garden in pictures! 


Tomatoes like crazy! 


The pictures make the peppers look happier than they are.


Despite them not looking happy there are still some peppers growing.


I can’t wait to dig up those heads of lettuce! 


Zucchinis are taking off!


Ezekiel’s garden goods.


Loving having an herb garden! 


The greenhouse is just so much fun this year! 

That’s it for this week! I’m predicting that I’m going to be incredibly busy with tomatoes in the next three weeks.  I’m mentally gearing up the busyness of canning in the fall.  I think I’ll be doing a lot of baby wearing 🙂

Garden Update July 16,2017

Look at me go, an actual week update! 

It’s been a bit of crazy weather around here and it’s kept me on my toes hoping the garden survives! We’ve had a heat wave but with heat waves come storms.  I’ve thought we were going to get hail a few times and we did get hail once.  I watched and hoped it didn’t ruin everything and thankfully we had no complete casualties although there was some damage.  There were a lot of damaged leaves to the tomatoes and peppers, a couple peppers that were growing ended up ruined, the greens were pelted pretty bad but there’s still lots left to grow and eat.  The watermelon, cucumbers, squash, pumpkin and zucchini all had damage, the most being to the watermelon and cucumbers – I don’t think we’ll get any harvest from either of them anyways.  The other damage was to the flower gardens, they are now laying down and leaning everywhere so I’m going to try and hold them up somehow. 

Otherwise, this week I’ve been working away at getting the tomatoes all supported, pruned and fertilized – still not done, and never will be I’m assuming. I also hung the shade cloth in the greenhouse with some trial and error, but it’s hanging! The plants seem to love the shade, it still gets smoking hot in there but the sun isn’t scorching them.  I got all the peppers either potted up or planted in the garden.  I’ve now realized my big mistake with all the peppers in the garden – I didn’t bother to harden them off. See, I haven’t hardened off the tomatoes at all and they’ve done well so I didn’t even think about gardening off the peppers! So they’ll survive I’m sure but their growth won’t be nearly as good as it would have been had I taken the time to harden them off.  I’ve also thinned out all the carrots and we’ve been munching on the babies.  

Whew – when I write it all out I realize how much I’ve actually done! Sometimes it feels like I’m just spinning my wheels and getting nowhere.  That’s another reason I like doing these updates, to remind myself that although some days (right now it feels like all days) seem like all I do is feed kids, put kids to bed and clean up all the messes that I am actually able to accomplish much more than that. 

So here’s what the garden looks like:


The herbs are flourishing! I can’t wait to use these in my cooking soon! The fill definitely needs to be harvested, I’ll be using it in a lot of roasted/BBQ potatoes. 


Ezekiel’s gardens are doing pretty well! I think the carrots and peas are going to be great! 


The potted tomatoes seem to be doing great! I’ll need to fertilize these ones real soon. 


You can see the greens, carrots and onions had some hail damage but I think they’re bouncing back. 


The squash, zucchini and pumpkins are taking off but the cucumbers and watermelons suck.  



The peppers! So many of them! Some days I look at them and think “they’re doing so well!” Then the next I look and think “they look so sad!” Despite that all, there are quite a few peppers growing and lots of flowers so hopefully we’ll get a good harvest. 


The tomatoes….. allllllll the tomatoes.  One is going to be ripe soon, and I can’t wait to eat it! The tomatillos are going nuts, I seriously under estimated how much room they would need, unlike most of my tomato varieties which growing like a vine and are easily contained – they grow up and way out! They are really pretty though. 


The potatoes look like they’re growing well. It’s always a nice surprise at the end of the season to see what’s underneath the green! 


I love these gardens more and more each day. 


The greenhouse is doing fantastic, and I love it more this year than last.  

Well, that’s it for this week.  Always lots and lots to do, but it’s slower work and I can do a tiny bit each day.  It’s been nice to slow down before the craziness of harvest comes and I’m drowning in tomatoes. 

Ciao friends! Happy Gardening!

Garden Update July 8,2017

I’d really love to make these updates more regulated – like say – make an update every Sunday.  Yet this time in my life and motherhood journey I’m learning to be ok with “good enough” for most things.  So I take pictures regularly (confession: currently I have more garden pictures on my phone than kiddo pictures) and when I have some time to sit on my phone (and not scroll Instagram) I’ll write out a post.  Right now my baby needs some momma snuggles while sleeping so I have Jessica Jones on Netflix (my husband and I have recently become obsessed with all the Netflix original Marvel shows) and a post to write.

Since I last wrote I’ve actually gotten quite a lot accomplished in the garden.  I have all the tomatoes potted up, the tomatoes in the garden are pruned, supported and fertilized.  I harvested A LOT of greens and we’ve been enjoying salads daily.  The garden is growing amazingly, the wildflowers are blooming more and more each day, the herbs are coming along well, the tomatoes are mostly all flowering and many have tomatoes, and the peppers are finally starting to perk up and we already have a few growing. 

This next week there’s a couple “have to” items on my list: hang up a shade cloth in the greenhouse and pot up the rest of the peppers.  Along with those two things I’m going to try and work through the rest of the potted tomatoes – prune them, stake them and fertilize them.  Lots and lots to do around here! 

So here’s the last while in pictures:

Now, here’s the garden today: