A Year in Gratitude (part I)

I dedicate this post to my soul sister “weirdo” – may we always live a life filled with gratitude and find joy in the simple things. Thank you for waking me up, Karina. xo

I’m also dedicating this post to Tonya – you taught me about the beauty of unlikely friendships and to have faith. xo

Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for. ~ Zig Ziglar

Come January 1, 2018, Willow and I will have completed our first 365 days of writing in a gratitude journal together and if I continue down the path I’ve been on, January 1st will also mark 81 consecutive days of meditation for me. Two things that have helped me tremendously. This past year has been full of ups and downs, joy and sadness, love and loss. But more than anything, these last few months have been filled with positive growth, learning, and freedom. I honestly feel like a new person or as if I have been reunited with my soul…that I have become the very person I have aspired to be.

A Year in Gratitude // Be Sol-Ful Living

Those who know me well, know that I have always struggled with balance. Whether it’s biting off more than I can chew, spreading myself thin, or feeling like a failure, the one consistent thing was that I was exhausted in every sense of the word and felt like something was missing. Today, all I feel is immense gratitude and love. Love for life, love for where I’m at, love for the simple things, and a deeper love for family and close friends.

Our favorite kombucha from 2017 even fit with this post…Living in Gratitude from GT’S. Not only is the flavor incredible, but the bottle itself is beautiful. Especially this quote found on the bottle:

“When we root ourselves in gratitude, our joy grows and blossoms. It reaches up and branches out until a forest blankets the earth and fills the whole sky.”

A Year in Gratitude // Be Sol-Ful Living

That quote on the kombucha bottle couldn’t be more accurate. I have found that when I am living in a state of gratitude (and not dwelling on the could haves, should haves, or negatives), my entire presence is overcome with joy…and my joy spreads onto others and vice versa. Which is why I have spent my last few months surrounding myself with those who live in gratitude and in the moment. Joy and gratitude are contagious.

We live in a very fast paced, go-go-go society and sadly, many of us have lost the beauty of stillness and being present. Falling into the habit of journaling with Willow, along with meditating, has taught me just how magical and necessary it is to be mindful. Both have taught me to slow down and appreciate what is right in front of me.

The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become. ~ Robert Holden

Every night, before we cuddle down to read and fall asleep, Willow and I sit down together in bed to share three things we’re grateful for. There were days where I wanted to hit a reset button or fast forward through due to the amount of meltdowns or challenges, but every single night had us focusing on the positives – the joys and things we felt incredibly blessed for. And every night, our heads hit the pillow with the rough day behind us. No longer upset or sad, but rather happy and at peace.

The other day, Willow asked to read through some of our earlier entries in the gratitude journal and a few things happened:

  1. We laughed…a lot.
  2. I noticed over time how Willow’s entries grew to be more meaningful and heartfelt.
  3. Lastly, I recognized some recurrent things that we were grateful for.

The things that came up repeatedly (and almost daily) were the little things, which in reality, were the big things: spending time with family; doing things together (reading, drawing, painting, dancing, hiking, etc.); good health; supportive + loving family and friends – both near and far. I am so incredibly grateful for my family and for the genuine friends in my life who have been with me every step of the way. I really am blessed to have relationships that feel equal and not one sided. This year I let go of those where I felt like a person of convenience and embraced those who lifted me up. Where the love and care came from both parties and not just me.

A Year in Gratitude // Be Sol-Ful Living

Our first entry in the gratitude journal. Willow cracks me up with her replies the first few weeks. All about animals!

A Year in Gratitude // Be Sol-Ful Living

The theme throughout our journal was family and there was one big challenge we faced that really taught us just how important it is to stick together. Over the summer, we decided as a family that it would be best to find a new home for our dog Abbey. I saw the signs early on, but refused to face them because I loved her and selfishly wanted to keep her with us. Abbey was here for Willow’s first spoken words, when she learned to ride her tricycle (and bike with training wheels), Willow’s first camping trip, and when she started homeschool cohort. I associate a lot of memories with Abbey so this decision was definitely not an easy one. We weren’t just going to drop her off at a shelter or anything like that because despite our decision, she was part of our family. We adopted Abbey when she was 10 years old and I knew how hard it was to rehome senior animals – so after a lot of research, I found Senior Dog Rescue of Oregon. Which, as you can guess, was a group who found homes for senior dogs.

A Year in Gratitude // Be Sol-Ful Living

I reached out to them via email and telephone and we began the process. I helped to write up a bio about Abbey, sent them some photos, and then we scheduled an appointment for a checkup for her with our vet. Here is when things got really rocky and stressful. We took her in for what should have been a routine dental cleaning, but we received a call about an hour after dropping her off that her liver levels were elevated. So they couldn’t do the dental – instead, we were sent home with several prescriptions and had to postpone the cleaning for another month. Throughout this process, I kept the rescue organization in the loop and they began to grow concerned about moving forward.

I prayed and envisioned Abbey in a loving home where she could live out her remaining life in peace and no longer shaking out of fear with all of the loud noises and commotion in our house (between two cats and a busy five-year-old). She deserved better and I would do everything in my power to see this through.

A few days later, I received a phone call letting me know that there was a woman interested in adopting Abbey and that she lived in a house on a few acres of land (fully fenced in). In the bio I helped to write, I mentioned that Abbey needed to be in a home without children, cats, or small dogs. This woman met the first two requirements, but I was told she had a black Labrador Retriever – so clearly not a small dog, but we’d need to see if they got along.

Well, we brought Abbey in a month later for attempt number two at a dental cleaning and just like the first try, we received a call saying that her liver levels were double or triple what they should be. I broke down. Why was this happening? Was this a sign to halt trying to find her a new home? Who would be willing to take her on with health issues and numerous prescriptions?

I prayed again and told myself that whatever happens, things will work out the way they were meant to. If that meant keeping Abbey in our home and making some major adjustments or waiting for the right new home to come along, we needed to be patient and have faith.

Sure enough, I got a call saying that the woman who was interested was still willing to give her a new home and that the liver issue and prescriptions weren’t a deal breaker. I cried a mix of happy and sad tears. Happy that Abbey would be moving on to a better suited home, but sad because it meant we were going to have to say goodbye. I couldn’t believe this was really happening.

So we set a date in September to drive to Corvallis to meet – For us to meet Tonya (the potential adopter) and her black Lab Milly. The drive there was filled with heightened emotions and I began doubting our decision…and I seriously hated myself. I remember asking for a sign to tell me that we were making the right decision and not even 20 minutes later, a beautiful rainbow appeared. I remember my heart breaking while crying tears of peace. Since we had Willow in the car, I had a lot of internal conversations going on because I didn’t want to make things harder than they were for her. I told myself that if I didn’t like Tonya’s energy, we wouldn’t go through with it. And to be honest, a part of me wanted things to fall through – I was hoping to not like her so that we could drive back home and be the family I wanted to be. Sad, right? Like I said, I hated myself.

When we arrived at our meeting spot, I lost it. Tears couldn’t be stopped and I kept hugging and telling Abbey just how much we loved her. That just because we were letting go of her didn’t mean that the love wasn’t there – it was because we loved her that we recognized she deserved better. We ended up really connecting with Tonya and I could just feel the love she has for animals. She is very passionate and her dogs are her babies. Abbey warmed up immediately to both Tonya and her dog, Milly, so I knew that this was us saying goodbye to Abbey.

The next couple of weeks were some of the hardest that we faced as a family. I thought we broke Willow. Daily meltdowns, anger, and I felt like I didn’t recognize who she was anymore. Everything was a fight – getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating, leaving the house, cleaning up. All battles that I just didn’t have the strength to fight. So there were quite a few days of staying home in pjs in tears. Most days I beat myself up for being a failure to Abbey and for breaking my daughter’s heart.

What got me through? Josh listening to us cry about how much we missed Abbey and allowing us to fully process and grieve. Recognizing that we were all hurting and struggling meant that it was so important to be there for one another. To be an ear for words that needed to be spoken, a shoulder to cry on, and provide an embrace when the words wouldn’t come out. The biggest light was Tonya. We connected really well at the meeting that we exchanged phone numbers. She would text us daily with updates – letting us know how Abbey was adjusting along with an occasional photo. As the weeks went on, we really got a sense of how well Abbey was doing – as if she was thriving and getting to be the dog she was meant to be. She was exploring the land, becoming good buddies with Milly, and being spoiled by Tonya and her husband with lots of car rides, walks, and treats. One evening Tonya and I spoke on the phone for over an hour and that was when my heart was filled with tremendous peace. I knew we made the right decision and that Abbey was incredibly lucky to be with Tonya. All we ever wanted was for her to be a happy dog and Tonya has been able to make that happen. Every now and then I’ll get hit with a wave of “why couldn’t we be that home?” but more than anything I am grateful for the way things ended up. Abbey in a perfect home and Tonya gaining another baby AND I gained a friend. While it took us quite some time to fully process all of this, there were too many signs pointing to the Universe aligning our paths – that everything happened exactly as it was supposed to.

{Little similarities that made it all the more obvious our paths were supposed to cross: Tonya’s black Lab’s name is Milly….growing up, I had a black Lab named Milly. Tonya’s previous dog was named Maggie…my first dog’s name (the one before Milly) was named Maggie. And our shared love for dogs – they aren’t just a creature who walks on four legs, but rather, they have our hearts. They are family.}

From September to present day, I found myself mentioning Abbey and Tonya in our gratitude journal pretty regularly. Tonya set me free from the thoughts of being a failure and showed me that we tried all that we could to be a home for Abbey. Joy has replaced my previous feelings of sadness and pain – when I close my eyes, I can almost see Abbey’s energy and see a dog at peace – she is where she is supposed to be. And for that I am GRATEFUL.

GRATITUDE. GRATITUDE. GRATITUDE.

This year has taught me a lot. To find magic in the little things. To be be more aware and in tune. To recognize just how incredibly blessed I am. These last few months have been filled with so much beauty and joy and I can without a doubt say that going to bed with a heart full of gratitude has aided in that shift. I wake up with a grateful heart, which is how each day should be greeted. Now I see that there is SO much to be grateful for…that listing just three things each night has become difficult because I could easily write a full page. I highly recommend grabbing a notebook to start this daily/nightly habit. Just a few minutes out of your day can create big changes in your life and mindset.

I have really enjoyed watching Willow grow throughout this journey and seeing her recognize just how lucky she is has been amazing. I can see the light in her eyes when she talks about the things she is grateful for and that makes me a proud mom.

I recently asked Willow, “What do you think about writing in the gratitude journal? Do you like it?”

Her response: “I want to keep doing it when I’m 18 and 20!”

A Year in Gratitude // Be Sol-Ful Living

I’m looking forward to the next year spent in gratitude. What were some things you were grateful for in 2017?

Stay tuned for part two where I discuss meditation, mindfulness, and presence.

Thanks for stopping by! Wishing you all the very best in 2018!

There’s More to Health than What You Eat…

I debated long and hard about writing this post, probably lots of overthinking, but when I realized that sharing my journey is not only what this blog is all about, there’s also a chance it could help someone else. I had a big wake-up call this summer and knowing that all of it could have been prevented is what pushed me to share this with all of you.

So grab a cup of tea, a snack, and get comfortable as I’m about to share a rather lengthy personal journey…


If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been absent almost all summer. I’ve been known to take a break here and there, but never for more than a few weeks. It all started when I met a friend for tea back in June and we got to talking about social media. She one day decided to completely delete her IG account to be more present in real life. We talked about our frustrations with the lack of authenticity, how everything appears to be perfectly staged, and how time consuming social media is. After we parted ways that day, I decided I really needed some time away from all of it. I noticed how I would get anxious about even opening the  app because that meant having to respond to all of the comments and catch up on everyone else’s pages. It felt overwhelming and I was struggling with balance. I also struggled with the behavior and energy received while on IG. The whole “follow for follow,” “like for like,” “comment for comment,” was unappealing, not to mention being a smaller page and blog, I allowed myself to feel unworthy. Unimportant.

But please know that IG was just a small portion of my stress.

In July, I started to notice that I wasn’t feeling or acting like my usual self. Everything felt off and I hated it, so rather than pushing down all of the feelings, I reached out to our naturopath. When I met with her the first time (mid-August), I rattled off my symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Poor digestion (bloating, pain, inflammation)
  • Irritability
  • High anxiety and stress
  • Hair loss
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in usual things

She took a small blood sample and we looked at it under the microscope together. It showed heart, adrenal, and colon stress. Wow. She had a pretty good idea as to what was going on, but ordered a full blood work up to get an accurate reading. What I found out shocked me and took several days to process it. Here’s what the results showed:

  • Adrenal fatigue
  • Chronic viral infection
  • Signs of hyperthyroid
  • Low stomach acid
  • Malabsorption of Vitamin D, zinc, and protein

What? How can that be?! I’ll tell you why….

STRESS.

All of the stress had caused adrenal fatigue and since my adrenals were so overworked, my thyroid stepped up in an attempt to balance everything. This just goes to show how amazing our bodies are – they work very hard to protect us. My gut also needs some serious love and with low stomach acid, it’s causing quite a bit of discomfort with a lot of foods.

I’m not going to go into detail about how I allowed the stress of several situations get the better of me and to be quite honest, after discussing all of it with my naturopath, this could go back years. Factor in the key element of me being an empath, I’ve endured many, many years of stress and being affected by others emotions and energies.

So what now? How do I heal?

My naturopath put me on a supplement schedule since my body isn’t absorbing it from whole foods and I have been going back to check in with her – we’ll do another blood work up in a couple of months. Along with supplements, I was told to take time for ME. That has meant asking for help – with Willow and things around the house. My Mom is helping out one day a week with watching Willow so that I can do something for me…and that does NOT mean running errands or cleaning. This means anything that will help my well-being: yoga without Willow climbing all over me or calling for me, writing, reading, or even taking a nap. I have learned that the healing process for adrenal fatigue could take up to a year (depending on the person and lifestyle changes made).

I struggled so much to share this with anyone because I thought I was healthy because I ate healthy. When I received the results, I instantly felt like I had failed, like I was a fraud. Here’s the thing, there is SO much more to health than what we eat. Outside factors can greatly impact our health – lack of sleep, pushing yourself too hard, working too much, lack of quiet/down time, toxic relationships, etc. Yes, diet plays a huge role in health, but if you are stressed, you run the risk of very serious issues.

Did you know that chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death (heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide)? And that 75-90 percent of doctor’s visits are stress related? That just goes to show not only how serious stress is, but also how prevalent it is. I feel incredibly grateful to be in tune with my body and recognize early signs, as opposed to running my body completely down and facing a far more serious diagnosis.

For me, my battle is feeling like I have to do it all. What I’m learning is that I can’t and that our bodies aren’t designed to undergo that kind of thinking. I kept getting myself in that trap by seeing posts on IG of other moms who appear to be doing it all (exercise, work, household chores, parenting, etc.) when in reality I need (and YOU) to remember that you only get a snapshot on social media…you don’t get the full picture and often times things are edited or just not shared. So we need to stop comparing what we think others are doing and just BE. Do what feels right to you and if that means moving at a slower pace, taking a break, or posting “imperfect” photos, do it.

 

Just like each individual is different,  each one of us will react and handle stress in different ways. One person’s method may not work for the next person. Life would be so much easier if there was a universal way, a way that fit everyone. The key is finding ways to help YOU. It may take some time, lots of patience, and testing out various methods to fine tune your personal way(s) of coping.

There's More to Health than What You EatThere's More to Health than What You Eat
Here are some tips & methods that have been working for me and also for those close to me…

TIPS TO REDUCE STRESS:

  • Quit the caffeine (coffee, soda, caffeinated tea). I loved drinking coffee, but cut it out of my diet back in March and never looked back. I drink a cup or two of herbal tea a day as it relaxes me and contains beneficial ingredients. Coffee actually promotes stress hormones – It may be difficult to let go of, but your body will thank you.
  • Meditate. I have gotten back into the habit of daily meditation and it has done wonders for my health and well-being. If you find you’re one to be easily distracted and can’t sit still, there are wonderful apps and podcasts that have guided meditations. I use Headspace and Calm – both are free to download via iTunes and offer sessions as short as 10 minutes!
  • Breathe. An obvious one, but sometimes when you’re in the midst of a stressful situation, you tense up and either hold your breath or breathing becomes erratic. Take a few really deep breaths and try to focus on just that. *PLEASE do not ever tell a stressed out person to just breathe or calm down…trust me, it makes matters worse.*
  • Get in the habit of journaling and doing free-writing. Take a moment out of your day to sit and write – don’t think about it too much and just let the pen take off. Write about whatever comes to mind. I like to do this just before bed (usually before meditating) so that I can go to bed with a clear head, I’ve emptied my thoughts and can hit the pillow completely relaxed.
  • Sleep. Sounds silly, but how many hours of sleep are you getting a night? If we’re being honest here, I was only getting 4-5 hours a night because I would be catching up on Instagram after Willow fell asleep and then try and read before finally going to bed around 1-2am. Now, most nights I’m not far behind Willow – I fall asleep between 9:30-10:30 and get a full nights sleep (unless Willow wakes up in the middle of the night). They actually recommend for anyone with adrenal fatigue to go to bed no later than 10:30pm.
  • Get outside! Go for a walk, a hike, a run, or meditate in the grass. The fresh air and sunshine will do wonders. Not to mention getting some vitamin D!
  • Yoga. There are several YouTube channels for yoga or head over to Amazon to purchase some DVDs.  Doing yoga and stretching helps to keep you in the present moment while releasing any tension in the body. Below are the videos I enjoy (I’ve been using the Kundalini yoga dvd for several years and love it)…Willow and I occasionally do yoga together and her DVDs are a huge stress reliever as they’re silly and fun!

There's More to Health than What You Eat

  • Exercise. If you have adrenal fatigue, ignore this tip. I was told to stick with yoga, but for the typical person, exercise (running, cardio, etc.) can be a wonderful way to release stress.
  • Limit your screen time (TV, computer) and gadget/technology time (phone, iPad, Kindle, etc.) – especially before bed. In her recent post, Heather of Yum Universe suggested charging your phone in the kitchen and leaving it there…don’t bring it upstairs with you when you go to bed. I have drastically reduced the time I spend on my phone and I stop using it at least an hour before going to bed. If this is a struggle for you, I recommend putting your phone on airplane mode or turning off notifications at night. This helps to resist the urge to check it.
  • Find activities that create a sense of peace and calming within. For me, that is coloring, doing zentangles, reading, and listening to music. When Willow wants to color, I grab my coloring books and join her – it’s actually become quite the family activity these days.

  • Clean house. Both literally and figuratively. Declutter your home and let go of anything that no longer serves a purpose in your life – let go of the things that no longer bring you joy. This is not easy to do and sometimes this could include toxic relationships – those who either don’t support you, criticize, or hold you back from being happy.
  • Ask for help. If you’re like me, this is easier said than done, BUT absolutely necessary. Recognize those who support you and do not hesitate to lean on them during times of imbalance.
  • Talk about it! Reach out to your good friends and family – be open about your struggles – more often than not, you’re going to find out that you are NOT alone. Everyone is struggling with something and talking about it is therapeutic. In talking about it with those close to me, I found out that two other people happen to be in very similar situations health wise…all due to stress as well.
  • Know your limits and learn how to say no. Remember that you are human, one human, and can’t do it all. Only take on as much as you feel comfortable with. I think it’s great to step outside of your comfort zone and challenge yourself, but if you are susceptible to stress or anxiety, know your body’s capacity and DO NOT allow yourself to reach a breaking point.
  • Let go of the idea that everything needs to be checked off your to-do list before bed. Do you make to-do lists? Mentally or physically on paper? I do. I’m kind of obsessed with lists because it helps my mama brain keep track of things – even little things like sweeping the floor. I’ve learned that lists are great, but they don’t need to be done in a day. My house might be a bit messier, but my stress level is down…and I’m learning to be OK with that.
  • Let go of the past and don’t worry about the future…put your focus on being present. I know how difficult this can be and that is why meditation is key. Being mindful of the here and now is what truly matters.
  • Be kind to yourself. Be patient. Have faith.

I can already hear some of you saying, “I don’t have time to…” And here’s the reality: We ALL HAVE TIME. We just choose to spend it differently. You will have to make adjustments in your life or put other things on the back burner and that’s OK! Pick up the phone and actually talk with a friend – not a rushed text. If you haven’t read a book in forever, start reading a chapter or two of a book that’s been on your list – instead of spending time doing things you think need to be done. I think you get the idea 🙂

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So what does this mean for me? This blog? Social media?


I’m taking things day by day and putting sleep + rest as a priority. I’m making meditation a daily habit and surrounding myself with all the good energy I can. I’ve realized that with Josh’s work schedule, I absolutely NEED to ask my Mom for help more…being a full-time, stay-at-home mom can be challenging, especially since I’ve also taken on the role as homeschooler.

•••

As for the blog…I am very passionate about this blog and while I know it lacks good photography, it is my therapeutic outlet…even if only a handful of people read a post. I enjoy it and the people I connect with here. I am a casual “blogger” in that I get posts up when I feel like and it’s more of a hobby than a career – so I’ve also stopped comparing my little blog with others. I do what I can and I’m at peace with that.

Since I’m also playing around with my diet and making some adjustments, there might be either a lack of recipes here or recipes out of the norm…but always vegan! I will absolutely NOT stray away from being plant-based. I’ve been nut-free for a week now and feel better than I’ve felt in months – I’m also experimenting with AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) – which means no grains, nightshades, beans, nuts + seeds, and certain spices….which is super hard, but if it means healing, I’m all about it. Thank goodness for my cousin (she introduced me to AIP) and all of the crafty people out there creating recipes to fit that diet! My energy is at an all time high and my mood has drastically changed…not to mention my gut loves me!

A sneak peek of what’s coming to the blog soon…


•••

Hmmm. As for social media, I haven’t really decided. I deeply miss many of the people on Instagram, but I’m also enjoying being more present and building stronger connections with those close to me. During this absence, I’ve had several reach out to me via email and/or text with the very same complaints about social media – that it’s a comparison trap and feels like a competition. I truly LOVE the connections that I have made there and if I do return, I will be limiting my time on there during this healing process. To some of you all of this might sound over dramatic or way off base and that might be because you’ve got your stress under control or you stand confidently in your place – for that I genuinely applaud you.

I am a work in progress. I am forever learning and growing. I am healing.

To those reading this, if you’re struggling, please know that you are NOT alone. You are worthy of love and healing. We all are. Please reach out for help if you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed. Do not put your health on the back burner like I did.

If you’re reading this and you know someone who is struggling, offer help or an ear. Never minimize their struggles or tell them that they’re overreacting because in their mind, it’s a huge deal. Be supportive and patient.
Thank you so much to all who took the time to read my rambles here.

Love and light.

❤️

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!

FRIDAY FEATURE: Interview with AlisaMarie of @alisamariefitness

Happy Friday, everyone!! Today we’re getting to know AlisaMarie of @alisamariefitness – a hardworking, strong, inspiring mama of two. I honestly think of her as a warrior – someone who has fought hard to get where she is today – she is truly admirable. She has two Instagram pages, one that shares her fitness journey & vegan food and the other one is filled with beautiful photography (including adorable pics of her family). So, be sure to check them both out!

INTERVIEW WITH ALISAMARIE:

FRIDAY FEATURE: Interview with AlisaMarie of @alisamariefitness

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I am the mother of two boys. I like yoga, working out, taking photos and getting tattooed. 

When did you go vegan? What was your “Aha” moment?

My first “aha” moment to go vegetarian came after watching Food Inc. Levi was almost the age that we were going to start introducing solid foods and I really wanted to be educated on what we fed him. I don’t know why but it just hit me. It was the first time I ever really stopped to think about meat and what I was eating. I had just eaten McDonald’s right before watching it. And that was the last meal including meat that I ever ate (5.5 years ago).

Going vegan took more time. I went vegan about 6-8 months after going vegetarian and then ate some dairy and eggs when I got pregnant with my second son (everyone convinced me I needed it) but soon after I realized it was making me MORE sick. And I watched Forks Over Knives and learned about how addictive dairy is and the fact that I was so addicted and felt like I “NEEDED” it freaked me out. I remember sitting in bed thinking about it and I hated that feeling. So I made the decision to cut it out for good.

What is the hardest part about being vegan?

At first the hardest thing for me was cutting out cheese. Especially since cheese alternatives just don’t taste the same. I had to quit trying to replace cheese. I didn’t eat ANY vegan cheeses for a while and then when I tried some again (Daiya) I didn’t look at it like a cheese replacement, just as a yummy addition to my food. That helped.

Honestly, nothing else is that hard about it. Going gluten-free (in addition to being vegan) was MUCH harder.

What does natural health mean to you?

Natural health, to me, is to be observant about the health of your body and mind and to avoid medical interventions as much as possible. I believe there is a time and place for western medicine. But first, I will do everything I can do go the natural route first. I want to fuel my body (and mind) with whole foods and positivity (which includes no dead animals).

Tell us about your blog!

I have had a few different blogs over the years. But I’m not currently keeping up on it. However, I do have my favorite recipes over at www.alisamariefitness.com

What is your favorite cruelty-free product (cleaning, beauty, etc.) and why?

Manic Panic hair dye 🙂 Because we love dying our hair fun colors and Manic Panic is easy and 100% vegan.

Who or what inspires you?

My kids inspire me to be the best I can. I felt guilt for living the life I did before going vegan and being more natural minded. But I had to remember “when you know better, you do better”. So now that is what inspires me. I think its important for us to be educated and act on that.

A kitchen gadget you cannot live without?

Hands down, Vitamix. We use it at least 3x a day.

What is your favorite meal?

This is tough. Right now I’m really loving avocado wraps with the Wrawp (raw wraps) and smoothie bowls.

Some of our family’s favorites are Cashew Mac and Cheese, Quinoa Chili (my FIRST vegan recipe that I came up with) and the greatest GF/V Waffles EVER (from Babycakes)

Three of your favorite cooking ingredients.

I like Raw Coconut Aminos, nutrition yeast and garlic for extra flavor in my cooking. Pretty much every cooked meal I eat includes one of those. But I have been trying to eat more raw so in that case, I LOVE using dates in my raw desserts.

Favorite resources regarding a plant-based lifestyle?

Documentaries: Food Inc, Forks Over Knives, Meet Your Meat, Vegucated, Fat sick & Nearly Dead.

Books: Skinny Bitch.

Cookbooks: BabyCakes, Vegan Cookies Invade your Cookie Jar (not gluten-free), Oh She Glows

Any tips or words of advice to anyone considering a plant-based lifestyle?

You CAN do it. I know its easy to believe “oh I could NEVER give up meat or dairy”. I know because I used to say it. I used to mock vegans. Do your research. It’s important to know what you are eating (and especially what you’re feeding your children).

There are vegan alternatives to almost everything and they are healthier and animals werent harmed in the process. There are tons of books and blogs out there so you have support.

Favorite quote.

“To continue to climb mountains, one must continually descend back into the valleys.”

“Be brave with your life”.

“The things you are passionate about are not random. They are your calling.”

Three words to describe you.

Passionate, straightforward, complicated 😉

I asked Levi and he said “great, cute, good”

Where can we find you via social media? IG, FB, blog address, etc.

@alisamariefitness

@alisaonanadventure

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.

trust_issues-11

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.

little helper

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

Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it…or at least have the facts…

I just got my baby girl down for bed and rather than spending more time on Pinterest than I should be, I figured I’d do something a bit more productive…write. The other day I finally got to sit down and look through our kiwi magazines and on the cover of the September issue was, “Would you eat your placenta?” Now, I had no intention on sitting down to share my opinion on this matter, but figured that since 15 (yes, 15!) of my friends are expecting, I figured, what the heck? Why not share my personal story on this topic…I’m sure I will completely gross some…ok, most of my friends or family out, but there just might be a few of you that might look at it as purely beneficial.

Ok, I gotta say, if you were to ask me that question five years ago, I would have said, NO WAY! I’ve heard of people sitting down and eating it with a knife and fork – like a steak dinner…sorry, but I just couldn’t do it. It wasn’t until after I got pregnant that I started reading about placenta encapsulation – and then our doula taught us even more, and we learned all the benefits. So, what is placenta encapsulation? Encapsulation is the process of cooking, dehydrating, and blending the placenta and then putting it into capsules. So, I was still on the fence about this, but after doing further research and reading testimonials from mamas who did this – I decided it could only help!

For a few years I struggled with depression and knowing that 80% of women, on some level, face postpartum depression or baby blues – I did not want to risk it. The placenta retains YOUR hormones and can help you have a happier and easier postpartum. Here are some of the other benefits of the placenta:

  • Increase milk production
  • Increase energy
  • Balance hormones
  • Shorter duration of lochia (bleeding postnatally)
  • Decreased anemia
  • Decreased postpartum depression
  • Regulated sleep cycles
  • Speed up the return of the uterus to its pre-pregnancy state

To learn more about the benefits, I encourage you to browse http://placentabenefits.info/ . There are other great sites and articles – just Google placenta benefits or placenta encapsulation.

The placenta is composed of healing chemicals.
The known ingredients that give the placenta its healing properties are:
Gonadotrophin: the precursor to estrogen, progesterone and testosterone,
Prolactin: promotes lactation,
Oxytocin: for pain and bonding; produced during breastfeeding to facilitate bonding of mother and infant. In pharmaceutical form this is a very addictive drug because it promotes a feeling of connectedness with others,
Thyroid stimulating hormone: boosts energy and helps recovery from stressful events,
Cortisone: combats stress and unlocks energy stores,
Interferon: stimulates the immune system to protect against infections,
Prostaglandins: anti-inflammatory,
Hemoglobin: replenishes iron deficiency and anemia, a common postpartum condition,
Urokinase inhibiting factor and factor XIII: stops bleeding and enhances wound healing,
Gammaglobulin: immune booster that helps protect against postpartum infections.  (http://www.placentabakery.com/#%21 )

Our doula did the encapsulation for us – so I never saw or handled the placenta itself…not sure I would have been able to take the capsules had I actually seen it! So, thank you, Sarah Larson!!! In my research, I found that placenta encapsulation will cost you somewhere between $150-$300….worth it considering all the benefits. My placenta produced 159 capsules (some women get as little as 50 and as many as 200 capsules). So…did it help?!? In my opinion, YES! As you may have read in one of my previous posts, the birth of our sweet Willow happened much differently than we had anticipated. I cried a little every day, but not because I was depressed – I was somewhat traumatized by the birthing experience – that combined with the fact that I was unable to produce breast milk. Not a day went by that I didn’t squeeze my sweet babe and my love for her is never ending…our bond was immediate and strong. So I did not experience PPD or the baby blues – I was very fortunate. I believe my placenta also helped shorten the postnatal bleeding – 3 weeks. I’ve heard horror stories of some women who bled for 6-9 weeks! Yikes! I also believe that by taking the capsules, my incision from the c-section healed fast with no complications. It’s hard to say if the capsules helped with energy and sleep because with a newborn, sleep deprivation comes with the territory!

image from: http://www.motherrisingbirth.com/2012/07/placenta-encapsulation-photos.html

So, there you have it! I’m all for placenta encapsulation and I hope I’ve opened your mind just a bit to the idea of it. 🙂

If you live in the Bend, OR area, I highly recommend Sarah Larson as a doula. Here’s a link to learn more: http://www.learning2birth.com/