Unplug to Reconnect

I have been unplugged from social media for over a week now. One full week. It was never my intention, but after two getaways with my family where I didn’t use my phone for anything other than texting, I came to a sad realization. We, as a society (myself included), spend far too much time on our phones. We get so caught up in the lives of others or documenting our own, that we forget to just LIVE. I would feel the urge to grab my phone and browse to see what everyone was up to or I’d get anxious about the emails that I needed to respond to. It made me think back to what my life was like before social media. Years ago, before I got sucked into the online world of Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, blogs and Googling everything, my life was very different. I used to spend more time reading, writing, creating, exercising and simply being more present in the moment. Since Willow was just a few months old, I began writing in a journal to her every night. I realized just how much things had changed when I opened her journal one night and saw that it had been two weeks since I wrote anything. But that wasn’t the only thing that changed.

Unplug to Reconnect

After returning from our camping getaway, you might remember me saying how I felt overwhelmed. During our two days away, I had my phone off and out of sight. I didn’t get distracted by incoming texts, notifications from IG or Pinterest and I had no idea how many unread emails I had…until I turned it back on. Those two days were incredibly freeing. I found I was more present and mindful as a mother and wife. There was more eye contact, deeper conversations and just an overall increase in engaging interactions. Turning my phone back on immediately brought about anxiety with all the things I felt “needed” to be done. Then my overnight getaway to Seattle with Josh for the Trader Joe’s party opened my eyes even more. I was spending far too much time on my phone after Willow fell asleep that I was missing out on quality spouse time. After Willow fell asleep, we were doing our own things – he would read, play video games or fall asleep early, while I spent hours catching up online.

Before Willow was born, Josh and I did everything together. Not because we felt we had to – we genuinely enjoy one another’s company. We’d go grocery shopping together, cook together, watch movies together and just spend time together. When we became parents, our focus and priority became Willow – her health, happiness and well-being takes the top spot. We soak up all the precious time with her, but my time with Josh is just as precious. You see, Josh works 50+ hours a week and not your typical Monday-Friday 9-5 gig. His work week starts on Friday (12pm-10pm) and ends on Tuesday (4am-2pm). Hours are all over the place with long work days.The recent trip to Seattle made me realize just how important it is to have that time together. I was reminded of all the little things we take for granted, such as an uninterrupted conversation or cuddling up on the couch together to watch an episode or two of a series.

When i was smacked in the face with the realization that I was spending too much time on my phone, something had to be done. So, I unplugged. I turned off push notifications, told myself I wasn’t allowed to open the IG app, and only checked my email once a day (I would have cut it out all together, but emails are how I get notified of an Etsy sale). As the days went by, I found myself becoming less stressed and overwhelmed and more calm and mindful. I could feel creativity creeping back in and far less distracted. My days were filled with more joy, smiles, laughter and adventure because I was less worried about catching up. It was honestly freeing. Rather than reaching for my phone excessively to capture photos of food or something that Willow was doing, I was learning to just live in the moment and ENJOY.

Unplug to Reconnect

I highly recommend clicking on this link HERE – you’ll see some photos that show you just how much our society is heavily dependent on their phones, along with some pretty great quotes.

Here are some observations I’ve made, as well as things I’ve noticed within myself. If any of the following signs hit home, you might want to unplug for a bit. I honestly feel that all of us could benefit from unplugging, even if it’s for a day or two.

10 Signs you Need to Unplug:

  1. When you wake up, you instantly reach for your phone to check your online profiles – who “liked” or commented on your posts, who started following you or browse your Facebook/IG feed. I’ve been guilty of this. I used to be so good about saying affirmations or just taking a few deep breaths before greeting the day. Lately I find that some mornings I am too quick to grab for my phone to see what I missed. Most mornings I sleep in with Willow and don’t have time to even bother with my phone. I now realize that whatever I “missed” can wait. Unless it’s an urgent voicemail or text message, it can all wait.
  2. You can’t go a few hours or an entire day without checking your feed and/or online profiles. Really pay attention to just how often you’re reaching for your phone.    
  3. Your child has to repeatedly say, “look at me!” or has to repeatedly call for your attention because you’re too busy on your phone. I’m generally pretty good about staying off my phone while Willow is awake. I’ll occasionally text someone back, post a quick photo on Instagram or glance at emails, but I stopped browsing IG a long time ago and wait until Willow is asleep. Why? It hit me one day that I want Willow to look over at me and see me looking back at her. She shouldn’t have to hear the words, “Hold on” or “One minute.”  I don’t want her to know me as the mom who is glued to her phone. I want her to know that she is far more important than online profiles and the number of followers I have. I’ll never forget this awful play date we had last year. The mom had her phone in her hand the entire time – I think we made eye contact once during the few hours we spent at her house. She was consumed with replying to emails, texts and who knows what else. What saddened me most was her son’s behavior and how she reacted to him. He was screaming, throwing himself on the floor and clearly in need of attention. Rather than talking with him and figuring out what was going on, she took him up to his room for a “time out” and left him there for a good 20 minutes. Willow and I sat there awkwardly playing while she resumed whatever she was doing on her phone. That was the one and only play date we had with that family.
  4. You find your mood being negatively affected after time spent online. I will be the first to admit this has happened to me. Whether it was a hurtful comment, judgmental post or people unfollowing me, I no longer take it personal. There will always be haters and the amount of followers you have does not dictate your value or importance. Within the last month or so, I stopped looking at the numbers and post whatever I feel like. I tried running two separate accounts on IG, but it was time-consuming and I realized I’d rather attract people who were interested in all aspects of what I post. This works for me, but I can understand why people keep it professional. Along those lines though, when your online profile begins to feel more like a chore and less fun, that is a clear sign that something needs to change…or you need a break.
  5. You spend more time on Facebook/IG (etc.) rather than spending real quality time with the people in your life. I already discussed this earlier in the post.
  6. A large portion of your day/night is spent replying to emails, comments on posts or browsing the web. We co-sleep with Willow and after she has fallen asleep in my arms or on top of me, I reach for my phone and catch up. I had no idea just how much time I was spending on my phone until I timed it one night. Responding back to individual comments, questions, direct messages on Instagram and then browsing/catching up with what others were up to….are you ready for it…three hours. THREE HOURS. It was then that I realized that I can no longer use the “excuse” I don’t have time. Those few hours could have been spent meditating, doing yoga, exercising, writing, reading and a long list of other things I struggle with finding the time to do. Limit usage, for example, allow yourself to spend an hour to browse or respond to comments. Remember, it can wait – so don’t feel like it all has to be done in one sitting.
  7. Your phone joins you at meal time(s). I know many of you are guilty of this one. Josh and I don’t use the phone during meal times together, but I’m guilty of snapping photos of our meal before eating. I’ll be eating dinner with my family and in my head I’m planning out the caption to go with the photo. Rather than being present at dinner and spending REAL time together, my mind is elsewhere. Such a sad thing to admit.
  8. You feel the need to document everything online (what you ate, what you’re wearing, what you’re doing) – in other words, if you’re posting excessively. I’d like to think that I’m not one to post excessively. I try to limit myself to one or two posts a day, if that. Ask yourself, “Who am I posting this for?” and “Why?” Are you trying to impress someone or gain popularity? Think of social media as a way to inspire – a tool to spread knowledge or ideas. I recently unfollowed a page that was posting six or seven times a day….every day. It all felt repetitive and this person was sending the message that he/she spent ALL day on there.
  9. You feel the urge or need to respond to every comment or email right away. Guilty. When I started receiving more comments on my posts, I felt the need to rush to respond back. I know it’s not expected of me, but I like to respond to each comment individually. To let the person know that I read and acknowledged their comment/question. I later realized that it can wait. I can’t do it all – no one can.
  10. Your sleep is suffering. Are you going to bed too late and waking up exhausted? I was. There were a few nights where I was up until 1:00 am responding to IG notifications and/or emails and then waking up wiped out. Willow typically sleeps through the night, but sometimes she wakes up needing me. So, on those mornings, I was extra exhausted which lead to me feeling lazy, sluggish, grumpy and stressed. I’ve heard some people say that they charge their phone outside of the bedroom so as not to be tempted to check it so frequently OR spend the last hour before you go to bed phone-free. Use that time to meditate, journal or read a book.

I will be the first to admit that finding balance is hard. My struggle is that I can’t do things half-heartedly…for me, I put all my focus and energy into whatever it is that I’m doing. Trying to do that across the board meant spreading myself thin. I could literally feel myself breaking apart. When I begin to feel overwhelmed or too anxious, I pull back from just about everything. Everything but being a mom. Making the decision to be a parent is a HUGE responsibility and it was MY decision…not Willow’s. I think as parents, we need to be more mindful and remember that WE brought our children into this world, that they deserve our undivided attention. I feel happiest when Willow is happy. When I know that I did the best I could, that I soaked up the moments with her. We’ve also made the decision to unschool, so over this last week, it has been a lot of fun being 100% focused on following Willow’s lead. Her passion for learning is strong and that’s something I want (and need) to keep feeding. I’ve done a lot of reading on mindfulness over the years and here’s a short list of ways to be more mindful as a parent…which is deeply connected to unplugging from technology.

Unplug to Reconnect

How to be a More Mindful, Present Parent:

  1. Put your phone away and spend actual time WITH your child.
  2. Turn off push notifications for social media, emails, etc.
  3. Turn off the TV.
  4. Let go of the To-Do lists.
  5. Always make eye contact while talking with your child.
  6. Get down on their level – play on the floor, sit next to them.
  7. Be a “YES” parent.
  8. Involve your child in day-to-day activities.
  9. Put yourself in their shoes.
  10. Forgive yourself.

I’m not saying that you can’t use your phone at all during your child’s awake time, but most definitely put a limit on your use. If you’re one to check your phone every 20 minutes, try limiting it to every hour or two. If you feel the need to carry your phone in your back pocket, don’t. You’re a parent and the people who know you, know that. Don’t feel like you have to respond to every text immediately or rush to the phone with every beep, or vibration. If it’s important, they’ll call you! Let go of expectations – rather than being consumed with all that “needs” to be done, realize that none of it is going anywhere…it will be there later. If you have deadlines to meet or feel pressure, don’t hesitate to ask for help – whether from your significant other, a close friend or family. Don’t use the TV as a babysitter. When you are spending time with your child, get down on the ground and play with them! Whether it’s doing a floor puzzle, building with Legos or digging in the dirt – they appreciate you joining in with them. Willow’s face lights up every time I grab crayons to color with her or when we build a tall tower of blocks together just to knock them all down. I do believe that independent play is important, but if they ask you to do something with them, don’t deprive them of that.

Unplug to Reconnect

Our little nature girl.

I was in Target the other day and the number of times I heard this mom say, “no” to her child was ridiculous. I’m not saying that we should spoil our kids and say “yes” to everything, but what’s the harm in a $1 pack of note cards or post-its? Avoid the power struggles and learn to pick your battles. I always think to myself, “how would it feel if that were said or done to me?” I’m pretty sure I would feel defeated if everything I brought up was greeted with a “NO.”

The one thing in the list above that was a bit hard for me at first, but definitely an important one, is to include your child in day-to-day activities. I am a perfectionist and sometimes I’d rather do something myself so it gets done in a timely fashion. As Willow has gotten older, I realize that everything is a learning opportunity, a chance to teach responsibility or new experiences. A meal that would take me 20-30 minutes to put together will now take an hour or longer, but Willow LOVES to help and it is all worth it to see the smile on her face. Same goes for when we started involving her in feeding our dog, Abbey. Willow runs to help and does it proudly. What used to be a quick 30 minute workout, now takes a good bit longer because I’m either teaching Willow a new move or we’re rolling on the ground laughing.

Unplug to Reconnect

Excuse the poor quality of this photo and our mess of a kitchen, but here’s our sweet girl focused hard on helping with dinner.

I am far from being a perfect mom or wife, but I learn from mistakes and greet each day as another chance to do better. When you find yourself juggling a lot of tasks or responsibilities, it is important to find that balance. Don’t let the stress of it all get the best of you. There is absolutely NO shame in taking a step back, a break or unplugging from it all for a bit. For me, I needed to unplug from almost all of it to center my soul and reconnect with the people I love. If you’ve never disconnected from your phone before, do it. You might be surprised by what you learn.

Thanks for stopping by!

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Beverly Beach {Oregon Coast}

***If you have zero interest in reading about our actual adventure and only care to see what we packed (along with tips), please scroll to the end.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015:

Most parents would opt for backyard camping or close enough to home for their first outing with a three-year old (and a neurotic rescue dog), but not us. Nope. Instead we chose to drive 3.5 hours to the Oregon Coast. Both Josh and I grew up camping with our families and I can’t thank them enough for exposing us at an early age because I truly believe that’s where our love for the outdoors began. So, we had a lot of faith that Willow would enjoy it just as much as us. We also started a little family tradition the year Willow was born…after Labor Day, we spend a couple of days at Beverly Beach. This time, we decided to camp and I have to say, it was the best idea ever.

Preparing and leaving for our trip had a few hiccups. First, Willow had a ROUGH week leading up to Tuesday. A handful of sleep deprived nights, lots of meltdowns, tears from all, patience being tested and pretty much sheer exhaustion. Which is why I failed to make the meals I had hoped to for the trip. So, instead of homemade chili, I bought a refrigerated container, instead of homemade soup, I picked up a carton of low-sodium organic tomato soup (could be worse) and I forgot to pack the chickpea flour to make chickpea “eggs” for breakfast. Oh, well. Life happens, we still ate some pretty fantastic food (which I’ll share below) and everyone was content…almost.

The second hiccup was that Josh had hoped to get out of work at noon the day we were leaving. Instead, he got out a few hours later and we didn’t hit the road until just after 3:30pm – which would have been fine if we didn’t have a good drive ahead of us. Speaking of the drive…I got carsick. Didn’t actually vomit, but got pretty close to it. I forgot about the LONG stretch of winding roads…lots of sharp curves. We pulled over a couple of times, I even drove part of the way hoping that would relieve the nausea.

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Ok, so the final hiccup of that day…when we finally arrived and picked out our site, it was dark! It took me about a half hour to finally get a text delivered to my parents to let them know we arrived safely and then I turned my phone off (no cell service meant we were completely unplugged)! We hadn’t eaten dinner yet and obviously still needed to set up the tent. I think it’s safe to say that we were all a bit hangry and tired, BUT we managed and went to bed happy. Well, almost. The unhappy being in our group was Abbey, our neurotic rescue dog. She completely freaked out when we zipped the tent up for the night. I had her bed set up next to my sleeping bag and she could not get comfortable. She was shaking so bad that I could literally hear her teeth chattering. She was pacing and obviously scared. So, I sat up with her until she calmed down and eventually she found comfort on top of my legs, on my sleeping bag. If it meant she would sleep, I was 100% ok with that! Willow on the other hand, was so tired that first night that she fell asleep almost instantly, without me reading a single page.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015:

I woke up first, to the sound of all the birds and then again to Willow asking to cuddle in my sleeping bag…a typical morning routine at our house (but minus the sleeping bag).

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Nothing better than waking up to this kid every morning!

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As you can see, I didn’t have much room to stretch my legs!

There is something about sleeping surrounded by trees, outside in fresh, clean air that brings about a sense of peace and rejuvenation. We took our time getting out from under the blankets since it was cozy and the air was cool. But we were super excited to start the day! No real agenda, just to walk to the beach and relax. I managed to make granola the night before we left, so our first morning we enjoyed The Vegan 8’s Double Chocolate Molasses Granola with some Kite Hill Vanilla Yogurt. Josh used our percolator for the first time ever and made a semi decent cup of coffee, but we didn’t bring enough ground coffee to make more the next morning.

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

The Vegan 8’s Double Chocolate Molasses Granola and Kite Hill Vanilla Yogurt.

After breakfast, we got dressed, packed a bag with towels, snacks, water and the camera, then walked to the beach! It was incredibly foggy when we first arrived, but so beautiful. Willow was in heaven with sand between her toes, water to splash in, room to run and rocks to throw.

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

All the moisture/humidity in the air made Willow’s hair a lot curlier and a good few inches shorter!

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Willow was soaked and since it was on the chilly side, we wanted to get her into some dry clothes and also grab lunch so, we walked back to our campsite. Josh cooked up some super simple quesadillas using mini organic corn tortillas and vegan cheese. We also had some crackers and hummus before packing up to head back to the beach. This time we remembered to grab Willow’s buckets and shovel. The fog had burned off for the most part, but the winds picked up so, we cut our visit short after Willow got sand in her eyes.

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Willow made me bring this hat and I’m SO glad she did because it was super windy…and not showering for a couple days covered up my messy hair.

Me: “Willow! Can you please take a picture of mama and dada?”

Willow: “Sure, sure!”

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

I think she got distracted by the ocean! Haha!!

When we got back to the campsite, we just bummed around – Willow did some digging in the dirt and running around while Abbey continued her neurotic ways and didn’t eat for 24 hours. This dog just doesn’t know the meaning of relax! Lots of pacing and any movement on our part made her sit up. Not to mention all the birds and squirrels drove her nuts!

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Sipping on some Humm kombucha!

Dinner that evening was:

While I got dinner started, Josh worked on getting the campfire going. FYI, Willow is NOT a fan of fire. Not one bit. We were able to distract her enough during dinner, but as soon as dinner was done, she wanted to hang out in the tent.

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

This happens every time I ask her to smile for me…cracks me up!

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Do you see that Abbey actually has her eyes closed?!?! A rare moment captured on film.

I very rarely drink, but Josh found these pretty fantastic kombucha beers by Unity Vibration. Made with organic ingredients, raw, gluten-free AND vegan. You know my love for kombucha – one sip and I was sold. It’s pretty much kombucha with a bite. We’ve tried the Triple Goddess Raspberry and Triple Goddess Ginger…I’d have to say I prefer the ginger one, but the raspberry was delicious, too! Not gonna lie, they’re expensive, but this was a special occasion. We found them at Whole Foods in the beer department.

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Klean Kanteen filled with water (and a Herbivore Clothing sticker); In the bowl – rice, chili, cheeze sauce, guacamole.

Willow and I relaxed in the tent while Josh sat by the fire and finished reading his book. Abbey couldn’t make up her mind what she wanted to do. Sometime after the sun set, Willow asked me to read her a book and passed out not long after. I’m beginning to think we should just live in a tent out in the woods! If you were to ask Willow, I’m sure she’d agree…or maybe she was a fan of the later bedtime.

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Thursday, September 10, 2015:

After a second smooth night, we had a quiet breakfast and took our time packing things up. Willow ate her favorite cereal – Love Grown Foods Chocolate Power O’s and also had some apple slices. Josh and I had some granola and a slice of Happy Campers Cravin’ Raisin Cinnamon Spice Bread (got it on sale at Natural Grocers) that we quickly “toasted” using our camping grill.

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

We made some adjustments packing-wise for the way home because the way to the campsite was incredibly cramped and I didn’t secure the bungee cords very well…which meant things toppled over onto poor Abbey in the very back. So, we set up a cozy area for Abbey on the other side of Willow and loaded the back of the car and front seat with everything else. I can always be found riding next to Willow in the backseat – been doing that since she was born and it works for us…makes for super smooth car rides.

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

It worked out much better for all of us when we moved Abbey to the backseat next to Willow.

On the way home we had to make a stop in Newport at the Gluten Free Place to pick up a couple of treats. The baker there makes everything soy-free and always has a few vegan options. We grabbed a couple of Almond Joy Scones and some amazing chocolate chip cookies. I failed to take a photo because the camera was packed away and my phone was dead. But trust me, it was delicious! The trip home went fast with one stop to use the bathroom. Back in Bend it was 90 degrees and when I turned my phone on I saw that I had over 200 unread emails….and was reminded of all the projects I had to work on. I quickly sent my parents a text and shut it off. I immediately wanted to go back on vacation where the only responsibility I had was being a mom! Coming back from a vacation, no matter how short, is always hard. But we’re getting back into the swing of things, tackling one load of laundry at a time and slowly chipping away at all the emails.

Tips and what we learned:

For those who haven’t been camping before, or haven’t tackled the adventure yet with a toddler, I thought I’d share our essentials and what helped us! Along with what we will pack for next time. This campsite was at a state park, which meant we had bathrooms with toilets that flushed and running water. So, your essentials list will vary depending on where you camp. Some sites might even have electricity…ours did not. Beverly Beach State Park was clean, decently quiet and was $21/night for tent camping.

What we packed for our Essentials: {For 2 nights}: Our families did a great job stocking us up with some awesome camping equipment for a wedding gift six years ago so, the only thing we had to run out and buy last minute was a lantern. I highly recommend grabbing a big Rubbermaid bin to store the “kitchen” things.

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Going clockwise: Large cooler; Coleman Camp Grill; Battery operated lantern, one of our large hydroflasks full of water, percolator; Large Rubbermaid bin with “kitchen” items, such as plates, bowls, cups, pots, pans, paper towels, etc.

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Our cooler was filled with apples, kombucha, granola, gluten-free bread, hummus, celery, chili, cheeze sauce, guacamole, unsweetened almond milk, yogurt, tortillas, cheeze and the photo on the right is peanut butter and maple syrup (rather than bringing along entire containers/jars, pack smaller portions with just what you need).

  • A large cooler (we have an awesome 5-day one that kept everything super cold for the duration of our stay)
  • Ice/Ice packs. We froze some water in empty sparkling water bottles and they stayed frozen the entire time, which kept our cooler super cold.
  • Plenty of water (we filled all of our Hydroflasks, Klean Kanteens along with grabbing six large Trader Joe’s bottled waters).
  • A lantern
  • Flashlights/headlamps
  • Spare batteries (for the lantern and Willow’s light up octopus)
  • Pocket knife
  • Matches or a lighter
  • Tent and poles (I joke about this because one year my Dad forgot the tent poles while we were camping…we ended up sleeping in the truck).
  • Ground cover to place between the tent and ground to help with wetness/moisture
  • Sleeping bags
  • Pillows
  • Extra blankets
  • Towels (we packed beach towels, wash cloths and dish towels)
  • Toilet paper (you never know! thankfully they were really great about keeping the bathrooms stocked).
  • Camp stove/propane (you could easily cook directly over the campfire, but since we knew Willow wasn’t a fan of fire, we brought the stove).
  • pots/pans
  • cooking utensils
  • bowls, plates, cups, silverware
  • Small cutting board and knife
  • Paper towels
  • Garbage bags/recycling bags
  • Honest Company baby wipes (came in handy for quick wipe downs at the end of the day)
  • hand soap
  • dish soap (we ended up not using it. Instead we just rinsed, wiped and dried)
  • Plenty of extra clothes…especially for your child!

Food/snacks we brought:

  • Apples
  • Celery sticks
  • Peanut butter
  • maple syrup
  • Homemade granola
  • Unsweetened almond milk
  • Yogurt
  • Hummus
  • Tortillas
  • Chili
  • Tomato Soup
  • Leftover (cooked) rice
  • Veggie burgers
  • Follow your Heart Provolone Slices
  • Love Grown Chocolate Power O’s
  • Silver Hills Chia Bread and Happy Campers Cravin’ Raisin Cinnamon Spice Bread
  • GoMacro bars
  • Gopal’s Power Wraps (curry)
  • Sweet potato crackers
  • Organic raisins
  • Unsweetened banana chips
  • Numi tea bags

How to camp with a toddler:

Simple. Bring a little bit of home with you. For Willow that meant a few favorite bedtime books, blankets, lovies and her light up octopus. I brought some crayons and coloring books, but we didn’t need them at all. Since Willow is a huge fan of being outdoors and we spend a lot of time hiking and exploring, this wasn’t a huge adjustment. Let them have their own flashlight. Kids love feeling like they’re in charge of something. Also, get them their own sleeping bag! For Christmas, Josh’s sister got Willow this awesome sleeping bag with her name sewn on it…she thinks it’s the best thing ever and it made her feel independent, like a big girl. We packed the Ergo because that is Willow’s comfort. She likes to be close to me so, this came in handy walking to and from the beach. Lastly, let them be a kid and get dirty! This is where the plenty of  extra clothes comes into play.

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

(Left): Willow’s headlamp, Ergo carrier and I reused an empty container of face wash and filled it with non-toxic/vegan hand soap. I actually always bring a travel size container of hand soap when we travel anywhere because I don’t trust soaps in hotels (etc.) especially because it’s usually anti-bacterial soap…not safe for you at all! (Right): A few Willow essentials – dinosaur book, blanket, light up octopus and her favorite lovie (Sandy the turtle).

Camping with a dog:

Every dog is different and from what I’ve learned, not every dog is a camping kinda dog! We brought an extra long leash to attach to the picnic table (or tree) to allow for more “freedom” to walk and roam while also being safe within our sight. You have to adhere to leash laws and in this case, I’m glad we had to have her on leash because I’m 100% positive Abbey would have chased after every single squirrel. Bring their food/water dishes and some treats; we also brought a towel for her in case she needed to be rinsed off. Kind of like camping with a kid, bring a little bit of home with them, too. In this case, we brought her bed…which she didn’t use as she preferred sleeping on me on my sleeping bag. Finally, poop bags and lots of patience!

What we would pack for next time:

You live and learn, right? Well, in this case, we camped and realized a short list of things we’d bring for our next trip. We will invest in some camping/sleeping pads to provide some extra cushion between the sleeping bag and ground – we have an air mattress, but it’s not big enough to hold all three of us comfortably. A hatchet to chop the fire wood (help create some kindling), ropes to secure our camping hammock, calming essential oils, Abbey’s Rescue Remedy (she clearly needed some help calming her anxiety), more ground coffee, we’ll pack our French press for a better cup of coffee (or learn how to properly use the percolator) and definitely invest in a rooftop car carrier to help provide more room inside the car.

If any of you camping pros can provide any other tips or tricks, please share in a comment below!

Thanks for stopping by!

Motherhood Truth: “Picky Eaters”

Since becoming a mother, I have faced more criticism in these last three years than my entire 36 years combined. From our parenting style, to lifestyle choices and what we feed our child.  Social media has a way of distorting reality – more often than not, unrealistic pictures are painted leaving some of us more open and honest moms feeling a bit sub par. I started noticing comments on my posts (and others) making snap judgments, placing blame and using that freedom of speech a bit too much. Being a mom is constant learning process and I don’t see that slowing down any time soon. We’re all doing the best we can with what we have. Yes, mistakes will be made along the way, but WE ARE HUMAN. I think it’s important to find a support network of other mothers who will make you feel empowered, provide guidance without judgment and have an open line of communication. That is why I have decided to start a series of “Motherhood Truth” topics where we share tips, tricks and ideas that might be able to help any other mothers out there who might be facing the same struggle. So, stop comparing your “imperfections” with those who appear to be perfect…I’ll fill you in on a little secret…most people do not openly share struggles and only share the good, positive moments (clean house, well-groomed child, good behavior, etc.). This series will be somewhat of a journal – a very candid, honest look at some mama truths.

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Today we’re talking about “Picky Eaters” – I honestly don’t really like that word, picky, I prefer “selective.” Maybe it’s because I do in fact have a current “picky” eater. It wasn’t always that way. When Willow was first introduced to solids, she ate anything and everything we put in front of her! Mashed peas, carrots, cauliflower, avocado, squash….the list goes on. As time went by, she learned what she loved and wanted nothing else. Growing up, and I know my mom will confirm, I was a picky eater. I would be left at the dinner table crying because I didn’t want my veggies. Me! The kid who at age 12 announced she was going vegetarian. Our preferences and tastes change – we all go through phases of foods we just can’t get enough of and foods we could really do without. I used to hate mushrooms, was afraid of Brussels sprouts, I still have a strange relationship with peas, and used to be terrified of trying anything new. Today, I absolutely LOVE veggies! There is hope for you and your “picky eater” and as one of my IG friends told me, “Miracles do happen!”

She LOVED all foods in the beginning!

strawberry love

Motherhood Truth: Picky Eaters // Be Sol-Ful

She tried some cantaloupe, but didn’t like it! It’s hit or miss with this fruit!

I’ll never forget when I shared a bit on Instagram about my battle with picky eating. Most of the feedback was reassuring and encouraging, but some people placed the blame on me as a parent for Willow’s finicky ways. I realize that I open myself up for criticism when I share some truth, but I do it with the hope that someone else will say, “No way?! Me, too!” I believe in being honest and real – never pretending that struggles don’t exist.

Before we dive into some tips and tricks, below I have provided a short list of blogs (my go-to sites) that have some great kid-friendly recipes!

http://thevegan8.com

http://vedgedout.com

http://www.veggiesdontbite.com

http://crueltyfreefamily.com/

http://vegetariangastronomy.com

http://plantpoweredkitchen.com

http://ohsheglows.com

http://minimalistbaker.com

http://kblog.lunchboxbunch.com

chia girl

Here our some tips and tricks that help in working with our selective eater:

  • We have the most success at breakfast time (mostly because she’s often times not hungry come dinnertime) so we take advantage and pack in as many fruits & veggies – usually in the form of a smoothie. We’re able to add in spinach or kale, spirulina (and other superfoods), carrots, and various fruits. Lately, Willow is the one requesting a green smoothie – makes me feel like I’m succeeding a bit!
  • Make food FUN! Turn fruits, veggies, pancakes, sandwiches and more into fun shapes! Cookie cutters of all sizes can help make meal times more appealing. Also, incorporate a lot of color.
  • We DO NOT force Willow to eat something she’s not interested in and we most definitely do not force her to clear her plate. We do, however, do our best to encourage her to try new things. Along the same lines as not forcing, we just let her be at dinner – we have found that focusing more on what’s in front of us (on our plates) and not what she is or isn’t eating, allows her to discover for herself. She DOES NOT like us to watch her eat.
  • Don’t freak out if she doesn’t want to eat – realize that kids will tell you when they’re hungry.
  • Willow isn’t a fan of certain textures, so we keep that in mind – we’ll puree veggie soups as opposed to leaving them chunky – which also allows us to sneak in extra veggies that she wouldn’t ordinarily eat.
  • We also keep in mind the foods that she DOES love and play on that. One of her favorite meals is mac n cheeze with my homemade cheeze sauce – it has hidden veggies in it such as carrots, onions, sweet potatoes, but sometimes we change it up and use the usual cashew base and add in red bell pepper or recently spinach.
  • Continue to talk about the importance of vegetables – they keep us healthy, help us grow strong. Be honest about ingredients.
  • Be the example and eat our veggies/fruits – also dramatically emphasize how delicious something is…tends to peak her interest which leads her to take a bite or at least smell foods.
  • Provide dips/sauces for veggies and new foods.
  • Involve her in grocery shopping and food prep – all the while discussing what each ingredient is and their benefits.
  • Make things bite size or smaller and we tell her that we made it “Willow size” – just for her. She gets really excited!
  • Limit her snacks – less snacking means eating more at meal times…also increasing our chances of her trying new foods.
  • Praise her for trying new foods and/or eating well.
  • This last one doesn’t always work, but there’s an episode of Daniel Tiger that she really likes: Be a Vegetable Taster/Daniel Tries a New Food – and within that episode is a strategy song and we occasionally remind her, “Try new food, it might taste good.” Sometimes she’ll actually take a bite and try it.
Motherhood Truth: Picky Eaters // Be Sol-Ful

Smoothies are our go-to way of packing in all the nutrients. This one here has lots of blueberries and spinach.

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Here are some tips and tricks from a few of my favorite Instagram mamas!

Tara (@unschooling_mama):

“As a mother of 4 children, picky eaters is a topic I’ve struggled with often. Like everything, sometimes I handle it with grace and acceptance, while other times it drives me crazy. But mostly these days I’m pretty calm about what my girls eat (or don’t eat).
I also remember being a very picky eater as a child and that feeling of being bullied and abused into eating food still hurts and has formed poor eating habits (that I have worked to overcome) as an adult. So I really try hard to be respectful of my girls and honour their spirits by not coercing, punishing, or forcing eating.

Here is what is currently working for me:

– raw veggies: almost Every lunch and dinner in my house includes a side of cut up raw veggies. I know my girls will always eat carrots, cucumber, broccoli, avocado, and celery. So if I’m making casserole (that I know they will likely not eat) I feel good knowing they at least ate some veggies.

-“build your own” dinners: We do this with salads, rice bowls, burritos, sandwiches, pizza. I prepare everything separate and arrange it on plates on the counter and allow my girls to each make their own dish. It’s fun and gives them a chance to feel like they are in charge if making healthy choices.

– try once: I put a small amount of a disliked or new food on my girls plate, and I nicely ask them to try at least one bite. But I don’t force or bribe them, if they say no I just let it go. It seems to work best, and sometimes these once hated foods become new favourites. I don’t engage in food battles and try to stay zen 😉 ”

Jeni (@jteel7):

“I always find the number one way to get my daughter to try something new is to let her make it herself. And also, I keep the ingredients to a very short list. Too many flavors at once will send her taste buds into overload! And most of all, I’ve learned to pick and choose my battles and tend to just give in and make her the same thing again and again…I just really feel that if she is fed, healthy and happy, then ultimately, I’ve done my job! My go to website for fun and healthy kid meals is weelicious.com! Her vlogs are hilarious! ❤️ ”

Jaime (@happy_fit_vegan_mama):

“So, luckily my kids are fairly good eaters for the most part, but then again maybe it isn’t luck at all…?
I’ve always fed them a fairly diverse array of food, including lots of veggies, fruit, legumes, whole grains etc. I’ve also always tried to make things/recipes healthier by adding extra ingredients like hemp hearts, hemp protein, chia seeds, flax seeds, nuts, coconut oil etc into baking and such.
There have definitely been spurts of pickiness along the way, and I used to really stress about it, but I’ve realized that it’s pretty normal and  kids tend to go through this from time to time. I just keep offering the healthy stuff, but let them choose what they want to eat. They have always come back around. If it’s just peanut butter sandwiches and apples for a couple of days, no big deal.
My oldest was a pretty big fan of green smoothies, so that always made me feel a little less stressed about his diet. My second never liked smoothies, so that kind of stressed me out a bit, but I gave discovered that he really likes the Vega One Nutritional shake, so we do that a few times a week.
I try to make a lot of stuff from scratch and try to avoid the sugar and preservative laden pre-packaged food. Of course this isn’t always possible, but at least I know that the majority of their diet it nutritionally sound.
My sister’s son is very, very picky, and will only eat white buns, vanilla yogurt, cheese, apples and a couple other things. From what i can see, she basically just gave up trying to feed him different things, and gave in to his pickiness. I think maybe that has contributed to his continuing pickiness. My feeling is that we should keep offering the healthy options, but not force them. And obviously be a good role model as parents be eating the healthy stuff, and kids will often follow suit. Also, I think that we need to tune into our kids a little more. Just as everyone learns differently, I feel that everyone eats differently. Pay attention to what they like and dislike (the way a food is prepared, whether food is touching on a plate, whether they like casserole type foods or eating more plain foods etc), and keep that in mind when preparing them food. Offer new things, but always have something you know they’ll like as well.”

Somer (@somermccowan):

Somer provided a great link to an article about picky eating…please check it out!

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/7139710

Molly (@mcoope34):

“The most important goal is: to get the toddler to eat what is necessary for their daily intake of all the different food groups/recommended totals. What that means is that I always provide a grain (typically brown rice or quinoa), a vegetable (either steamed or roasted), and a protein (this could be anything from tofu to beans, anything soy, or even nuts/seeds – so a pbj totally works). Fruit is optional because he always has fruit type snacks (like apple and pb) thru the day. I get creative.. sometimes we make the beans or chickpeas into a dip or hummus… he likes really simple flavors. It’s hard because I refuse to cook him a separate meal, but I know he’s picky… so I just prepare. While I’m cooking, he snacks on veggies, cold beans, and other things.. He likes things that are simple and have a little sea salt on them.. when flavors get complex or food is all mixed together.. he doesn’t like it. So here’s my secret… if I’m making something that has a sauce (like general tao’s tofu or roasted bbq chickpeas), I just give him that protein without the sauce (so I separate it out before I mix it all together). It’s much easier to give him everything separate before anything is mixed! Since I know Liam isn’t a big fan of change or flavor I’ll then take the beans (whatever kind) and flavor them with cumin, garlic, and sea salt – that’s his go-to protein. If it’s tofu, I’ll give him raw tofu or just baked with a little salt/pepper on silicone mats.. so I don’t even use oil. We don’t do a lot of soy, so we focus a lot on beans/quinoa. 
 
Here’s another tip… give food in an order… I know Liam will always eat his protein (that’s his favorite part), so he gets his veggie first– he prefers to eat all veggies raw, so that’s what he normally will have, if steamed he gets a tad of sea salt… then his grain, then his protein.. followed usually with frozen blueberries if he eats his plate. I give him the correct portions (I measure all of our food out… ex brown rice – we all get 1/2 cup).
 
One last time… determine how many bites at the beginning of the meal. He usually has to take 5 to 10 bites of everything. If it’s new, he just has to have one bite and then more depending on if he likes it. Texture is HUGE for toddlers and I find it has a lot to do with the picky eaters. 
 
So all in all, simple flavors and keep it as raw or unseasoned as possible. I never started him on sauces and I think that’s why he isn’t a huge fan. Also, reward with healthy foods (ex frozen blueberries, a few tortilla chips, or a green smoothie made to taste like chocolate milk). Never bribe with candy/typical desserts. 
 
I think parents get into big trouble trying to change it up. We get bored and want to explore… but that does NOT mean your toddler does. It’s easy to get frustrated and just start giving the kid processed junk because they’ll eat it. Just stick to what you know and things will go much smoother.”
Corey (@consciousnonblonde):
“When they are toddlers, allow them to be in the kitchen while you are cooking and let them taste from a spoon or fork while cooking. For some reason it really worked with Makenna – she thought she was “big” and giving her opinion on the taste before she had to sit down and eat it. Also, we would let them and still do pick out a fruit or vegetable at the grocery store to fix for the whole family. Now that she is seven, she has her own cookbook and we pick one night a week, usually Thursday, and she selects a recipe and we make it together. I should also note that being in the kitchen with me, she has said it’s her favorite thing to do. Mama felt special when she wrote that in her book.”
Jenna (@breathofayogi):
 “I have had an extremely picky eater since his birth just over three years ago. At first I panicked, then I realized it was just a matter of patience and persistence, and understanding/learning what he did like and why he didn’t like everything else. For him a large part of the problem was texture. He would gag at all skins, loose pieces of food, and moosh, which made the initial “baby foods” out of the question. Once he began eating solids things did improve, but also because I had learned him better. Even today we have issues—daily—but I don’t react. I keep offering and I accept if he takes even one bite. I simply give him what he does like and supplement the nutrients I don’t feel he’s consuming enough of in his selective diet. Beyond that it’s, again, about having patience and remembering that all of life for them is a phase. It will pass, improve, continue to change. It’s also about getting CREATIVE with a picky eater. You give them different variations of each food until you find one they like. My son will tell you he hates potatoes because I served him mashed once; not a good idea and I should have known better. We had to avoid all forms of potatoes for quite a while. Now I avoid mashed and I only serve him oven or pan roasted without skins (to avoid texture and gagging that will surely turn him off once more). Veggies are very much the same way, I’ve tricked him a couple of times by putting them under the broiler, but lately that has only been a success with green beans. Bottom line: time, patience, and finding a balance between creativity and consistency in the kitchen. And smoothies for veggie supplementation whenever possible.”
Patricia (@drsmg16):

“1. Explain to them what the ingredients are but not in a fairytale way. I.e. I wanted my daughter to try curry rice so we told her a bit about how it was a traditional Indian dish and some of its roots. Or other interesting herbs for example that come from remote areas. I’m not a fan however of telling them magical stories that the beans come from Santa Claus 😉 who knows though, maybe that works for some! Also different ingredients help their bodies. I.e. the iron in spinach and it’s role in helping their blood or protein for building their muscles.

2. We have a Dr Seuss “try it try it and you may” rule. It’s from his story Green Eggs and Ham. I always use that phrase and reinforce that the kids should always try something, if they really don’t like it I won’t force them to eat it.

3. If I make something I know they like but they don’t want to eat it, I won’t force them to eat it but they can’t have any snacks until the next meal unless they finish it.

4. I try to involve them as much as possible, from picking the groceries, the recipes, cutting ingredients, blending, table setting, anything.

5. No one leaves the table till we are all done eating. This is easier said than done lol, but we try.”

Thank you to all who contributed! I hope this post helps some of you or at least helps you feel less alone.

If you have a picky eater, what are some of YOUR tips/tricks?! Feel free to comment below!

Thanks for stopping by!

Love, Strength and Learning

On the night you were born,

the moon smiled with such wonder

that the stars peeked in to see you

and the night wind whispered,

“Life will never be the same.”

Because there had never been anyone like you…

ever in the world.

{{On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman}}

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

These last few years have been nothing short of amazing – they’ve also been filled with unexpected growth and strength. Becoming a mom is easily the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I have always wanted to be a mom and dreamed of the day I would have a child of my own – sometimes it still feels surreal. Today is my daughter’s THIRD birthday. Three. I remember the day of her birth so vividly – like it happened yesterday. The very first time I looked into her eyes, I instantly knew that this little being was going to change everything for the better. Three years later, that’s exactly what’s happened.

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

Our sweet Willow Rayne came earthside on April 15, 2012 at 7:52 PM measuring at a healthy 8lbs 3oz and 21 inches long.

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

The days leading up to Willow’s birthday have been emotional, for so many reasons. It feels like just yesterday we were celebrating her first birthday and now she’s this little independent being who has developed quite the personality. I look at her and I no longer see my baby girl, but rather a child with determination and strength. How did we get to three so fast? Sometimes I miss the baby stage – the constant cuddling her in my arms and being able to fully protect her. But you know what? I love the toddler stage! Good grief, it’s filled with anxiety and stress as they discover new fun ways to get into trouble, but it is by far my favorite stage yet. I still get to cuddle her every day and night, but now she’s the one to initiate. Out of the blue she will run over for a hug and it is the best feeling in the world. I will take all the hugs and kisses from this kid while I can. Hearing her talk, watching her run and witnessing her thirst for knowledge brings so much joy.

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We have watched her develop, not only physically, but in personality, too. She has gained confidence through finding her voice and is not afraid to use it. Being able to tell us what she does and doesn’t want, asking for help and saying, “I love you.” Words that I patiently waited to hear for a very long time.

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

Willow on her First Birthday!

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

Future vegan chef?

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

Shortly after her Second Birthday! Our little fashionista.

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

Never a dull moment.

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

She hates anything in her hair, but here is a rare moment full of hair clips!

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I’ve learned a lot over these last few years and grown so much more than I ever imagined. Like anyone else, I’ve had my fair share of challenges, tears and disappointment, but I’m a better person because of it all. I won’t bore you with all the details of what I’ve learned over these last three years, but I will share some of it.

What I’ve learned:

  • The importance of patience.

Discipline is helping a child solve a problem. Punishment is making a child suffer for having a problem. To raise problem solvers, focus on solutions not retribution.

~ L.R. Knost

Age two was a true test. Countless meltdowns, screaming, declaring her independence and finding her voice. As many of you already know, we believe in gentle parenting – being engaged, empathetic, respectful, listen, supportive, respectful and loving. There’s no harsh punishment in our house, just gentle discipline – rather than reacting in an angry way to an outburst and sending her to her room, we choose to talk it out – let her feel the emotions that she’s feeling and always end with a hug. When you scold a child for being upset, you’re teaching them that they “shouldn’t” feel a certain way. I certainly wouldn’t want someone telling me not to cry when I’m sad or upset. Kids are learning to express themselves; they’re learning to communicate. Crying, tantrums and meltdowns are their way of communicating. It’s certainly not always easy, but we take a breath, stay calm and patient and work with her to figure out what’s going on. Just like adults feel stress, anxiety, sadness and anger, children do, too. By adopting a more patient, gentle approach, we’re providing her with a sense of security and it paves the way to effective communication and problem solving. We followed our hearts to this approach and reading The Gentle Parent by L.R. Knost sealed the deal. I realize that this way of parenting doesn’t work for everyone, but if you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommend visiting her website: http://www.littleheartsbooks.com/

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

Fresh air + a long hike = nap time

  • Love. Unconditional LOVE.

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

I thought I knew love, but becoming a parent brings about a whole new meaning. Never in a million years would I have imagined a bond or the ability to feel a love so deeply. This little girl has my heart – she makes the days brighter and everything worth it. I have also learned the importance of showing love, not just saying, “I love you.” I truly believe that all of the love this kid receives (not just from me) has taught her, not only how to be a loving, caring and kind human being, but also confidence in herself. Kids learn by example. She knows that she is loved through all of the hugs, kisses, cuddles and verbal affection. No matter how upset I may feel, my love for this child is ever-present. Unconditional.

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

LOVE

  • No one is perfect.

We learn through trial and error. You can read a million books about how to parent, but the best way to learn is through experience. Yes, you’re going to make mistakes…we all do, but we learn from those mistakes and move on. We also all have our bad days and probably could have handled a situation differently, but make a mental note and move on. Ignore those on social media who post “perfect” photos – a spotless house, a gourmet meal, clean/presentable kids, well dressed and hair combed…truth is, there are times when I don’t get a shower for a couple of days or we ate frozen veggie burgers for dinner. My time is better spent playing with my daughter and enjoying every moment of our time together rather than fussing over a clean and organized house. If you are so busy striving to be the “perfect” parent, you’re going to miss out on what’s right in front of you.

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  •  Embrace differences.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned since becoming a mom, is that everyone grows & develops at different rates and that there is not some magical one way to parent. Milestones happen in due time. Never compare your child with another. Willow may have been “late” to crawl, walk and talk, but she is a happy, healthy and smart little girl. The world would be very boring if we all looked, talked, and acted the same. Differences are what makes us all unique and special. Rather than wishing to be like everyone else, be proud of who you are. Don’t compare yourself as a mother – we’re all doing the best we can.

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  • Self love.

I’m an imperfect human raising an imperfect human in an imperfect world, and that’s perfectly okay! ~ L.R. Knost

Oh, this has been such a battle for me since I was a teenager. Shortly after I published my story of her birth, I felt the need to reach out and get support from other like-minded moms and connect with women who had been through similar experiences. At the time I felt very alone and was still, in a sense, grieving. That sounds silly to some because we had (and have) a perfectly healthy baby girl, but I struggled for quite some time regaining love and acceptance of the body that I felt let me down. After years of battling body image issues and anorexia, not being able to have a “natural” birth caused quite a bit of inner conflict. I grew to hate my body – not for the size, but for being unable to function as it should. I found a few groups through Facebook during the first year – natural parenting, natural birth, vegan mom groups. When I say “natural” I’m referring to a more holistic, gentle approach. I remember being excited and even connected with a few women who brought a sense of normalcy back. Unfortunately, not everyone in those groups were as open-minded and respectful as I had hoped. I was ridiculed, shamed and criticized for having a cesarean and not being able to breastfeed. I heard everything from “all cesareans are unnecessary” to “you just didn’t try hard enough.” Obviously, I left all of those groups and deleted Facebook.

A few weeks ago, I got up enough courage to finally watch a video about a cesarean delivery. Having skipped over all the chapters in the books I read, I was clueless as to what was involved. I never thought it would apply to me. While looking through the “explore” or “search” page of Instagram, I stumbled upon a photo discussing cesarean and the comments were beautiful – women lifting each other up and others expressing an overwhelming sense of emotions after watching a video. I knew right then that I needed to see it for myself and it was exactly what I needed. Watching the process, what the body endures and the beautiful baby that comes from that major surgery. I used to look at that five-inch scar where the incision was made and cry – not because I wanted it gone, but because I was reminded of the sadness of not having the birth I envisioned. Today, I run my fingers along the scar and smile. That video left me feeling strong and empowered. I may not have pushed a baby out the “natural” way, but my scar is a reminder of survival, strength and love. I no longer look at my body in disappointment, but instead I am proud. My body was a home, a warm place that provided nourishment to a healthy baby. I’m wearing this scar proudly now. I am grateful for the doctors and nurses that acted quickly and delivered my sweet Willow. My daughter is a constant reminder of strength. I look at my daughter and want her to grow up with a healthy body image and self-esteem. I don’t want her to go through the battle I did, so I made a change within to love myself – to appreciate my body and what it is capable of.

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So, today we celebrate love, strength and learning. Happy Birthday to our Willow Rayne – our bookworm, dinosaur obsessed, Lego building, car loving kid! Here’s to the little girl who has brought about endless smiles, joy and laughter. You will forever be my baby girl. I’m looking forward to what’s in store.

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

Willow Essentials (baby and toddler)

**This post has been updated August 1, 2016 as we have changed a lot of our essentials.

Hello!! Along with inquiries about what we eat, I also receive quite a few questions about products we use for Willow…so I figured this would be a great way to share with those who might be interested.

We are HUGE fans of The Honest Company and have been getting bundles delivered each month, right to our doorstep, since Willow was just a couple of months old. Not only do they use organic ingredients, but EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database gives them an excellent rating. Target and Whole Foods has started carrying a nice selection of their products, but the best deal is when you order a bundle directly from The Honest Company. We pay $35/month for the Essentials Bundle and choose five products to be delivered – ranging from dish soap to laundry pods and shampoo to dish towels. We love this company because they’re committed to creating non-toxic, sustainable products and they pay it forward to the community. They also provide organic products at a reasonable price! We have also been using Honest Company diapers since Willow was a baby.

Here are the Honest Company products we purchase regularly for Willow:

  • Shampoo + Body Wash
  • Conditioner
  • Bubble Bath
  • Bar Soap
  • Conditioning Detangler
  • Body Lotion

**We recently cancelled our bundle subscription since we no longer use all of the products – if we are in a pinch, we can find Honest Co. products at Target or Natural Grocers for reasonable prices.

Willow Essentials (baby and toddler) // Be Sol-Ful

When Willow was just a baby, we used this Hip Peas hairbrush as it contained no animal bristles…vegan + cruelty-free. The bristles are incredibly soft and gentle on cradle cap. When her hair started getting increasingly curlier, we switched over to a hair pick (currently on the hunt for a more sustainable option) and the detangler is a MUST! Not only does it smell amazing (like a creamsicle), but it makes combing her hair so much easier. We do our best to remember to apply this Honest Company lotion after her baths – we love how it’s unscented and not greasy. Josh and I use it, too!

**We no longer use Honest Co. face + body lotion or detangler – we all use my homemade body butter and herbal homemade hair detangler.

Willow Essentials (baby and toddler) // Be Sol-Ful

Ever since we started brushing Willow’s teeth, we’ve been using Jack ‘N’ Jill toothpaste and these toddler Radius toothbrushes. We order both through Amazon – the toothpaste comes in a two-pack (you get to choose the flavors, but these two get the best rating on EWG at a ‘0’ rating) and the toothbrushes come in a three-pack. There are other brands of toothbrushes, but we have found this one to be of the highest quality and they last a LONG time. Josh and I use the adult Radius toothbrushes, too.

**Willow has been using an electric toothbrush to brush her teeth and continues to use a small soft brush for her gums (either Radius or one of the bamboo options on the market). We no longer use this toothpaste – ever since early spring we made the switch to using Living Libations Wild Child Happy Gum Drops. Can be purchased through Living Libations, The Raw Food World, or Amazon. 

Willow Essentials (baby and toddler) // Be Sol-Ful

Willow Essentials (baby and toddler) // Be Sol-Ful

Jack ‘N’ Jill toothpaste in Black Currant & Blueberry flavors. Natural and organic.

While I believe the sun is our friend and it’s the ideal way to get your Vitamin D, I also know that you should protect yourself during longer periods outdoors. The sun is powerful and skin damage (or cancer) is a very real thing. If we’re only going to be outside for 20-30 minutes, I personally do not bother with sunscreen. When we’re going out for a long hike or an adventure at the coast, we make sure to pack our non-toxic sunscreen. After a lot of research and reading tons of labels, this is the brand we chose for Willow last summer. I always refer to EWG for sunscreen updates – here is a link to their 2014 guide to sunscreens – their 2015 guide should be available soon. We chose All Good by Elemental Herbs because it didn’t have a high SPF, it didn’t contain oxybenzone or retinyl palmitate, it contained non-nanoparticle zinc oxide, it was GMO-free, gluten-free, vegan, NO parabens or phthalates and it was a “broad spectrum” sunscreen – meaning it protects against UVB and UVA radiation. EWG goes into more detail in their guide about what to avoid in a sunscreen, so please visit the link above.

http://www.elementalherbs.com/all-good-sunscreen/

Willow Essentials (baby and toddler) // Be Sol-Ful

 

Now this isn’t an actual “essential” but it’s something we love and it comes in handy for travel…we’re hoping to use it this summer for camping. Josh and I bought To-Go Ware utensils many years ago while at the Green Festival in Chicago and we LOVE them. They’re made from bamboo and are extremely durable. We take them on picnics, hikes, road trips and general travel. I’m trying to make a better habit of keeping my set in my purse. According to the To-Go Ware website:

  • “Each year, Americans toss out enough single use plastic utensils to circle the equator 300 times.”
  • “Plastic cutlery is non-biodegradable. Worldcentric.org estimates 40 billion plastic utensils are used in just the United States. The majority of these are thrown out after just one use.”
  • “The world produces about 225 million tons of plastic annually and nearly every piece of plastic ever made still exists today.”

This past Christmas, we ordered Willow a set of her own (which doesn’t include chopsticks like the adult set does) and it includes a small spoon, fork and “knife” – the case/holder comes in a variety of colors, but we chose pink. You can find these sets at Whole Foods, Natural Grocers and various online stores – we got ours through Herbivore Clothing while we were ordering other gifts. I love this company for a number of reasons, but here is their “Product Commitment”:

BPA-FREE & PHTHALATE-FREE

NONALLERGENIC

REUSABLE & PORTABLE

SUSTAINABLE MATERIALS

ZERO WASTE

To learn more about To-Go Ware, please visit the link above!

Willow Essentials (baby and toddler) // Be Sol-Ful

Willow Essentials (baby and toddler) // Be Sol-Ful

I know some people will disagree, but we firmly believe in giving Willow a multivitamin. If your child eats well, gets all of his/her vitamins through food, then I applaud you! Willow is down right finicky. When we first started her on solid foods, she ate whatever we put in front of her – it was amazing. Sadly, that changed as she got older and now she is very particular with the foods she eats. We make sure to always provide options, but do not believe in forcing her to eat her veggies, as that will only make matters worse. So, we started using Dr. Fuhrman’s Pixie Vites a couple of years ago. We would add one little scoop into her smoothies and she would get her daily dose of vitamins. When we hit the colder months, smoothies were less frequent and it was harder to “sneak” those vitamins in. After lots of research, I decided to buy Garden of Life’s Vitamin Code Kids (chewable multivitamin). The serving says two bears, but we give her one a day.

Here is why we chose both the Pixie Vites and Vitamin Code vitamins:

  • No synthetic folic acid – both use REAL folate from food.
  • No vitamin A or Beta-carotene.
  • No vitamin E
  • No selenium
  • No iron and copper
  • No added sugar
  • Free from common allergens: soy, gluten, dairy, eggs, wheat, corn, nuts.
  • No synthetic dyes.
  • No artificial flavoring.

For more information on ingredients to avoid and why, please visit the link below:

http://www.drfuhrman.com/library/mulitvitamins-ingredients-to-avoid.aspx

Willow Essentials (baby and toddler) // Be Sol-Ful

Some other items that we found helpful and used regularly were:

  • EcoJarz lid and straw – great for our morning smoothies
  • GaiaKids Sniffle Support Herbal Drops – for congestion during allergy season.
  • Amber necklace – Willow has been wearing one 24/7 since she was four months old. It has helped tremendously with teething pain.
  • Lavender essential oil – we use a few drops in her bath on occasion, diffuse it at bedtime, or apply it directly to help calm a fussy mood.
  • Inglesina Table Chair – we used this for about a year and loved it! Great for travel and Willow enjoyed it because she was sitting right at the table with us. It took up very little space compared to the bulky high chairs. We stopped using it several months ago as she now sits in a regular chair.

I’m positive that I’m forgetting something, so I’ll be sure to update this post when I think of other items. I hope this was helpful to some of you!

Thanks for stopping by!

TIPS: Keeping a Budget & Menu Planning

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Keeping her babies close!

I have been meaning to sit down and write this post for months, but life has been somewhat chaotic lately with the holidays and a sleep deprived toddler. I’ve received some questions via Instagram regarding meal planning and budgeting, so I hope this helps some of you! For almost three years now, Josh and I have been menu planning together; we sit down at the end of the week and write out meals for the following week and get our grocery lists together. We’ll look through cookbooks, my Pinterest boards, blogs and make room for our own experiments. This works for us, and here’s why:

  1. Saves money
  2. Keeps us organized
  3. Saves us unnecessary trips to the store
  4. We don’t waste food
  5. It keeps us from buying a lot of pre-packaged, processed food
  6. Reduces stress

We used to just fly by the seat of our pants and that evening scramble to figure out dinner. Trips to the grocery store would be multiple times a week (at least 3-4), we’d buy things we didn’t need and end up wasting food…which meant we were also throwing away money. We were both appalled at what we were spending weekly – which forced us to look at our overall budget. There were weeks when we were spending $250/week on groceries alone for just two people!

We rented apartments and townhouses for years, which was also in a sense throwing money away. We wanted to have a baby and buy a house, but with all the bills (student loans, utilities, car payments, etc.) we just weren’t able to save any money. After reviewing what we paid each month for the various bills, we were able to create a grocery budget. It took some adjusting and tweaking, but we figured out an amount that worked for us.

Every Sunday, we run to the ATM and take out $220 ($240 every other week) and divide the cash into fixed amounts among the following:

  • Grocery
  • Date (I’ll be honest, we’ve been on two dates since having Willow and they were lunch dates…so we use that money for either going out to eat as a family, save for a special occasion or a coffee/tea date)
  • Household (any odds and ends we may need, such as trash bags, light bulbs, toothbrushes, shampoo, etc.)
  • Miscellaneous (buffer in case we need to buy a gift for a birthday or a random item)
  • Bi-weekly allowance – Josh gets paid every other week and we each get $10. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but it forces us to really think about making a purchase and live a simpler life…is it something we really want? Or we might put it towards something we’re saving for, a bigger purchase.

Keeping a Budget & Menu Planning // Be Sol-Ful

Keeping a Budget & Menu Planning

We bought a small expandable file folder with dividers (from Target for $3.99), which we use to keep the money organized and to hold receipts. We have a section for “Online Purchases” – for example, let’s say we order toothpaste for Willow, we would then take money from the “Household” section and move it to “Online Purchases” – the following week, we would take the money that is in the “Online Purchases” file and let’s say there’s $40 dollars in there, we would take out $40 less from the bank for the week and disperse it among “Grocery” or “Household.”

Any grocery money we don’t use, gets moved into the “Grocery Surplus” file – that is for items we don’t buy often, such as maple syrup, superfoods, coconut oil, rice, coffee – they’re pricier items, which keeps us from depleting our actual grocery budget.

Back to menu planning….

Planning ahead has saved us! Life just flows and has made our days easier. Having meals lined out for us takes the stress away, not to mention that either one of us can jump in the kitchen and get dinner going. Willow is a mama’s girl, so it has helped tremendously to have Josh be able to just open the cookbook or find the blog post to follow a recipe while I spend quality time with our sweet girl. It’s been great to try new recipes and discover favorites – often times, I get inspired when I make a new recipe. Most of what we eat is homemade, but we do pick up the occasional carton of organic tomato soup or Luke’s crackers for Willow because she loves them. It’s nice to have the quick and convenient option, but we don’t make a habit of it. Cooking in bulk ensures that we have leftovers as the “convenient” option.

The cash method keeps us honest and we only buy what we need…often times eliminating that impulse buy. Most grocery trips, I’ll keep a running tab of the total in my head and if I do happen upon a treat or something not on the list, I make sure we have the cash for it before adding it to the shopping cart.

So, here’s how we do it:

  1. We take inventory of what we already have (ingredients) in our kitchen and first choose recipes based on that. Then we look through our cookbooks and online – picking recipes that don’t require too many additional ingredients….that’s not to say we don’t occasionally experiment with a more complex recipe. Tuesdays will always be taco night and Fridays are usually leftovers since Josh works really late and I can’t spend too much time in the kitchen. We very rarely plan breakfast or lunch, but rather keep the basic staples on hand (fruit, oats, buckwheat, Silver Hills gf bread, nut/seed butters, hummus, etc.) along with leftovers as an option.
  2. We decide which day to prepare each recipe and write out grocery lists – Josh does the Trader Joe’s shopping since he works there, while Willow and I go to Natural Grocers and Whole Foods. Mondays are our grocery shopping days.
  3. We write the meals out on our little white board in the kitchen so it’s in plain sight.
  4. Eat good food and enjoy the week!

*** I apologize for the old photos below, but I wanted to be sure you at least get the idea of the process.

Keeping a Budget & Menu Planning

Keeping a Budget & Menu Planning // Be Sol-Ful

Keeping a Budget & Menu Planning

I’m not saying this method will work for everyone, but I’m hoping you might be able to take away some ideas and incorporate them into your household. Living with a set budget and meal planning has helped us pay off one of the cars, we have zero credit card debt (only use in emergencies), Josh’s student loans are almost paid off, we were able to buy our first house (also have my parents to thank for giving us a place to live for 8mo) and not live paycheck to paycheck. Most importantly, we opened a savings account for Willow when she was born and have been able to continue depositing $100 a month into it, which has allowed us to get a pretty nice cushion going for her.

Other ways we save money:

  • We don’t have cable, instead we pay $9/mo for Netflix…which is our only form of television options.
  • Buy used whenever possible (thrift stores, consignment shops).
  • We used to buy books like they were going out of style, now we borrow more from the library and limit what we do buy.
  • Shop clearance racks.
  • Buy some things in bulk, such as dried beans, rice, spices, coconut oil (to make our body care products).
  • Make our own products (toothpaste, deodorant, lip balm, body butter, cleaning products, baby wipes, etc.)
  • I am fortunate to be able to be a stay-at-home mom, which means we don’t pay for daycare or a babysitter.
  • When the weather gets a little nicer, Josh will be riding his bike to work more…thus saving on gas.
  • We don’t use credit cards and if we do, we use them with the intention of paying it off immediately.
  • We research and hunt for the best price before buying, whether it’s online or in an actual store.
  • We limit how often we eat out or order in – using it as a special treat instead.
  • Our “diet” and lifestyle keeps us healthy, which means no extra trips to the doctor or prescription meds.
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Homemade body butter…hope to one day have this in my Etsy shop.

What are ways that YOU save money? Do you meal plan?

Thanks for stopping by!

YOU are Beautiful

I am 5’4″ and 120lbs. I’ve been called fat, big-boned and thick…and during my unhealthy, sick years, I was called all the opposite – a walking skeleton, a rail, skin and bones. Why am I telling you this? All of those words did damage to my body image. Our society’s concept, or definition of what’s considered “beautiful” is sad. Women are starving themselves for a thigh gap or flat abs; they’re covering up their curves and hiding behind makeup. I’m also sharing this with you to be honest with myself, to embrace the body I was given and to work on self-love.

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While I personally do not use or support Dove products, I can get behind the message they’re trying to send. According to their research, only 4% of women worldwide consider themselves beautiful and the saddest part, only 11% of girls globally are comfortable describing themselves as ‘beautiful’.  As a woman who struggles with self-esteem and positive body image, I am working hard to be a better person for my daughter. From the moment Willow was born, I vowed never to use the words “fat” or “skinny” and to be more confident with who I am and what I look like. To focus more on health, happiness and well-being and less on the numbers on the scale or the size of my jeans.

The other night I stumbled upon Dove’s Legacy video and it really hit home. I’m sure Willow has seen me make awful glares in the mirror or even heard me say something negative about my body under my breath…that all stops now. I’m sharing this with you because I think it’s so important that we raise girls to be more confident, to look in the mirror and smile – be proud of who they are. Words can be so damaging. So, mamas, please be positive; be a role model for your sweet girls. Love your body and treat it right – teach your girls to do the same. Most importantly, teach them that beauty is more than just a pretty face.

“The way a girl feels about her beauty starts with how you feel about yours.”

So, from this day forward, NO MORE negative self-talk or thoughts. YOU are beautiful. In fact, I say we all need to make a list of what we like about our bodies, not what we hate. Write it down and be proud. We influence our children, even when we don’t think we are.

You can read more about Dove’s social mission HERE

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Thanks for stopping by!