Category Archives: New Parents

30 Jun

4 Ways to Make Cooking for the Family Easier for New Parents

New Parents 1. Utilize Your Partner and Family as a Resource! 

I read about a mom who was struggling with cooking dinner every night for her family after a long day at work. We as parents each have areas of strength and areas we need support with. It’s our job to ask for help when needed. Especially for moms and/or single parents who manage so much, adding one task to the list can be one too many at the end of a long day. This family’s solution was to put dad in charge of meals one night per week. He’s not a cook, but really wanted to help, so they decided on Thursday nights, when he came home he would fix soup and sandwiches for the family so mom could have a night off from cooking. Be creative and supportive of your spouse. Many times they want to help but just don’t know how to. And be patient. We are all doing our level best.

I recently met a family whose mother (the grandmother) comes out to visit each time after the baby is born and cooks up a storm and freezes everything for the family. Another family I know has a “fend for yourself” night where every member is responsible for getting their own dinner. They also frequently have a “breakfast for dinner night” because breakfasts can be cheap, quick and easy to make, even at 6pm in the evening! It also changes things up a bit, which is fun for the kids. Sometimes I offer my children desert first before dinner, and it gets them fired up about eating dinner together.

When my kids were toddler age, my sister would come up for a visit and take them to McDonalds to get French fries for breakfast. Initially I was horrified but my kids were over the moon with this activity because we never ate there and we sure never had French fries for breakfast. Family members can help and offer support in unusual ways sometimes! Meals with aunties and uncles are still special treats for my kids. They love this ritual.

Try take out:
I know, in this day of eating healthy, it’s not the healthiest, but the priority is ease and effort for you, the person that spends the most time in the kitchen. This might be a temporary solution. This could be for someone is recovering from surgery, or for a family bringing home a baby, for a single parent, or for busy families where both parents are going back to work. This could also apply to a parent who is taking care of their aging parent while also their young children. It’s ok to offer yourself (and your spouse) a night off and a break in the routine. Order take out one night per week. If you’re on a tight budget, try the “take and bake” pizza chain stores or products in the grocery store. Or pick a favorite place and indulge. Take that money out of the grocery shop budget if you need to and eat scrambled eggs one night instead of steak. Be creative.

Gift cards, by the way, can be a great way to give or receive $ for food so you don’t have to cook. I put my gift cards away so when I find them they are a nice surprise. It’s like finding money. I’ve also recently heard about these companies that you can order meals from and they deliver the food to your doorstep. All you do is unpack the ingredients and cook it. There are all sorts of options out there to try.

2. Plan Meals for the Week
Create a list of meals for the week, some to eat earlier in the week and some to freeze for later in the week. Some websites like Good Housekeeping offer examples of meal planning calendars that show how one meal can be utilized for more meals later in the week (i.e. make chicken one night and then use the leftovers to make a chicken casserole or chicken sandwiches later in the week).

I know a mom that does her shopping and cooking all day on Sunday for the upcoming week. She prepares every meal for the week thru Friday, and then puts all items in Tupperware in her fridge so she can grab and go on the days she works. She’ll buy a watermelon, cut it up and put it in 5 small Tupperware for grab and go. She’ll cook a bunch of veggies and portion them out for different types of servings during the week, like carrot salad, steamed veggies etc. She’ll cook a roast and use that for a hot dinner, then sandwiches etc., On the days she works, she grabs her coffee in the am, then gets her lunch bag fills it with breakfast and lunch items from the fridge and she’s out the door. If she is working 2 jobs that day, dinner goes in the lunch box too.

Try different ways out and find what works for you and your family. Be creative and resourceful.

3. Cook and Freeze Meals
If you have the energy, double the portion of a meal you cook and freeze half of it for a second or third meal later. This works great with soups and casseroles. This also works great for spouses that are traveling or working late. My husband was always so impressed that I could “whip up” a meal for him late in the evening. Finally I told him how I was doing it. He was still very appreciative after a long day or long trip. It’s nice to come home to warm meal.

I know families that buy organic veggies and then when those are gone (usually by mid week), move to an assortment of frozen veggies for the rest of the week.

This was written with idea of cooking meals and freezing meals, but buying some frozen food might work too. About buying frozen food: I would say don’t live on frozen food permanently because so many products have extra calories, chemicals and high amounts of salt that are way beyond what required or healthy intake for people. But to use frozen food as a tool to ease the amount of work for you seems very reasonable. I was raised with a hot meal on the table every night, so I tried for a long time to recreate that. Finally when I went back to work, I had to surrender to 5 cooked fresh meals which I make, one night of take out and one night of frozen. It makes meal preparation very reasonable. You can have a night where you can just pop something frozen in the oven and be done with cooking for the night. My children love these chick strips that are in the shape of dinosaurs. I use them as a “back-up” meal and pile a bunch on a plate with carrots and chips for an easy meal night when I am working late. This is your family, talk to other parents, look at magazines or websites, follow a chef on Twitter or a TV show and have fun with it! It can give you an added feeling of success and organization.

Read More of June New Parent Series!

This is Part 4 of a four-part series for new parents.

 

27 Jun

5 Things That can Change When You Bring a Baby Home

 

Parenting - labor and delivery1. Change in Structure and Routine

As couples we can get used to things being done a certain way around the house or our partner taking care of certain things. But things can change when baby comes home. It’s easier if, at least, some of these areas are addressed before the new arrival. Who will be getting up for feedings? Running to the grocery store, taking the dog out? Making meals? Dialoguing and seeing what your partner is willing to help out with can be a great way to start this transition.

2. Adjustment Time

We all need time to adjust, even the dog! Everyone knows the baby is coming home with you, but that doesn’t mean knowing it will make things easier while making the transition. Each of us has our own rhythm for adjusting to things. What is yours? Your partner’s? The cat’s? Seriously, pets often need extra TLC during this time.

3. Identity Changes

It’s normal to go through changes in your identity when going from career woman/dad to the stay-at-home figure. What tasks or habits can you recreate at home to give yourself a similar feeling of success and satisfaction like you had at your work outside the home?

4. It’s no Longer About You

Obviously, but I was surprised at how focused other adults became on my baby, family and strangers alike. Babies bring out qualities in others you may never have seen before, like their fantasies, wishes, and aspirations. That is not about you. It’s OK to ask a stranger to not touch your belly when you’re standing pregnant in the grocery store and it’s OK to ask your mother to come over and sit with the baby so you can take a shower or get a decent nap in!

5. Hello to Other’s Parenting Styles

Family and friends often have a different way of parenting. Flexibility can go along way during this time when you and your partner are adjusting to being new parents and someone comes in with their own ideas about what should happen. It’s OK to say “yes, AND, this is a concern for me as a new mother” or “thank you so much for all of your parenting suggestions, we will definitely take them into consideration”. Starting good boundaries and dialogues now could save you time and energy down the road. Just remember, those that are in your life want to support and help, even if they have a funny way of showing it. It often makes others feel better when they express what they feel they are good at. Sometimes giving advice makes others feel more comfortable. Be sure to ask for what you need and communicate clearly and effectively. This is your family.

 

Read More of June New Parent Series!

This is Part 3 of a four-part series for new parents.

15 Jun

5 Tips for the Right Labor Mindset

Parenting - labor and delivery5 Tips to get the right frame of mind for labor and delivery:

 

1. Get your support system in place
2. Be prepared
3. Bring items to help relax you
4. Allow the birthing to happen, don’t fight it
5. Visualize a good experience, look forward towards a positive outcome

Some things happen regularly. The sun rises and sets daily, and there’s usually a really good team that wins the Super Bowl. In this digital age where there is so much knowledge out there, I see parents inundated with information, and questioning themselves; so much that they begin to question everything they do in the realm of parenting. Because of this, I’ll name two other givens I know: babies are born every day. AND our bodies already know how to deliver a baby. Sure there are amazing doctors and resources out and lots of classes to take, things to learn, experts to listen to and books to read, but women’s bodies were designed to carry and deliver babies. Babies were delivered at home and out in nature for thousands of years before doctors, technology and hospitals were created. This is what we do. This is our jam!

I can offer tips but what I really want to do is empower you. I want to say: trust your instincts and what you need. Your experience will be different than others because you and your baby are unique. You know your body and your baby better than anyone. There are a few tips listed here, but at the end of the day, you will be the one to decide what works for you and what you and your baby truly need. I’m only really here to support your process.

When looking back on my first pregnancy, I can say that as organized as I was, I didn’t expect to have so many emotions about the labor and delivery. On the day of the delivery of my first born, I was surrounded by people. It was nice, we were all together getting ready. There was a rhythm and smooth flow of events. We had just checked in, things were on track. And then everyone left the room. I had just gotten into my gown, had my first few contractions, my husband ran down to park the car, the nurses went to check on other patients and suddenly I was all alone in a hospital room. Of course, at this moment, from the down the hall this woman started screaming. You could hear her through the entire floor she was so loud. And it was bloody murder screaming. The nurse came into my room, saw the look on my face and immediately said “that woman is fighting her labor and delivery, she doesn’t’ want to be here”.

Too late! As logical as that sounded, her screaming terrified me. Even being “prepared”, I was genuinely scared. I second-guessed myself, perhaps I had no idea what I was really getting myself into. I was afraid of the pain. I was afraid of something unexpected happening. I was afraid of something being wrong with the baby. I was afraid I would end up screaming like her. There seemed to be so many unknowns.

And then something shifted. The contractions started and I went into a totally different mindset. I went into performance mode and started blocking things out, like noise. Looking back, it was because I prepared myself for the actual process I was frightened about. My husband and I had spent time in advance working together to address my fears. We had dialogued about it, I journaled about it, and I discussed it with my doctor, and talked with other expecting moms. Then we took a birthing class and I bought a few books to prepare myself for bringing home a baby. I was prepared as I could be, and it helped a lot when the time came.

We had invited a support system into the room with us, including my mother, which grounded me; things to help, like an overnight bag and a camera. And I brought visualization exercises, which I printed out and used during the delivery. The screaming down the hall eventually subsided, everyone was back in action in the room and suddenly I felt ready to perform. I turned my focus to the delivery and contractions, breathing and visualizing. I kept reminding myself about the beautiful baby waiting to arrive during the long hours of labor. I knew why I was there, I knew there was a baby counting on me, and I knew what I had to do and that became all of my focus. The fear was gone.

Out of all the “things” we brought, the visualization list was the biggest resource for me to get into the right mindset for delivery. It was concrete information I could use in the moment as I was going through the labor pains.

I practiced during the last trimester, finding phrases that applied to that phase of the pregnancy, like “this part of the pregnancy will be smooth and uneventful”. When in the delivery room, I used phrases as mantras and sometimes pictured images with them. Some were simple like: “I can do this” to more specific like: “the labor will be easy and effortless”.

Other examples:

Breath into the contraction and say “I can manage this pain” (you can picture in your mind/imagine a lotus flower gently opening during each contraction)

“I invite this child into the world and embrace my labor and delivery” (I pictured the baby’s head coming down the birth canal)

“I invite you (name of child) to join us and come into the world!” (I imagined my husband and I holding our baby)

Here are three websites that offer visualization tools:

Labor and delivery breathing bxercises & visualization on Beaumont.edu

Visualizing childbirth on NaturalBirthandBabyCare.com

5 Prenatal Meditation Techniques on FitPregnancy.com

I was not the screaming woman you could hear down the hall. Turns out it wasn’t half as traumatic as I thought it would be, nor as painful as I imagined. Even after 17 hours in labor, I delivered a beautiful 10lb, 6oz baby boy and could not have been happier. And I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Women have been doing this for thousands of years. Your body and your baby know what to do. Embrace your body’s wisdom and trust the process. You’ve got this! I can offer all sorts of tips but the real question is: What do you need to get yourself in the right frame of mind for labor and delivery?

Resources for Labor and Delivery

Fav Book and Website
My favorite book and website on pregnancy and labor is What To Expect.

Labor and Delivery Info From the Experts
WhattoExpect.com has a great section of resources specifically about Labor and Delivery.

Reducing Labor Pain
There is a great article from VeryWell.com about how Using Different Positions Helps Labor Pain.

Breathing Exercises
Dr. Weil is well known and has some great thoughts and exercises.

Dr. Weil’s 4-7-8 breath demonstration video.

Creative Visualization
Check out Shakti Gawain for creative visualization exercises and more about her books and cd’s (She has a great meditation cd I use regularly :^)

Affirmation Cards
Louise Hay from Hay House Publishing also has some great affirmation cards.

General Information
Parenting.com is a great resource for general parenting info.

Read More of the June New Parent Series!

This is Part 2 of a four-part series for new parents.

06 Jun

6 Ways To Enjoy Your Pregnancy

New ParentsThere are plenty of ways to nourish your body and your baby during your journey together. Here are a few that might help you along the way.

1. Be Open to Change

Yep, this is about mindset. Today we know from studying the mind that the way a person reacts and adjusts to changes makes all the difference in the world. The task here is to develop a mindset that “things are in a state of change” right now. The fact of the matter is that the learning curve can be steep for new parents, whether it’s fertility issues, carrying to term, leaving a career (and income), family adjustments to the new one arriving, moving houses. Things might not always go the way they were planned and can be an adjustment for a woman, a couple and a family. If you can get used to the fact that things are going to happen, some you plan for and some you don’t see coming, it could make the process much easier. And although it may feel that you need to know what you are doing, you don’t have to have all the answers right now. Many of us learn along the way. Welcome to parenting!

2. Expect the Unexpected

This goes hand-in-hand with being open to change. When I reflect back on where my husband and I were before we had children and where we were shortly after having two children, I think the most amount of changes happened during the pregnancies and the month following. And things happened we didn’t expect. Because other lives are involved besides yours, there are more variables in play, like fertility, the way your body can carry a baby, shifts in the areas of income, shifts in the marriage, changes in the family system, housing and career, changes in identity, role changes, changes in responsibilities. Some things will happen that you plan and some that you won’t expect. What I can say is that this happens to all families. We all go through adjustments and transitions we didn’t plan for. The questions to ask yourself are: how do you respond to surprises? How do you manage your feelings about unexpected changes? And what can you do to make it easier on yourself so you feel supported and able to maneuver through these unexpected things that come up? This is a great exercise for parents because the changes will continue as you move down the parenting path. Kids are full of surprises, sometimes good, and sometimes not so good. Getting to know yourself in this area could be a survival skill you need!

3. Celebrate your body!

I know, it sounds like an oxymoron during a pregnancy because our bodies go through so many changes. (Oh yes, I remember clearly identifying with the beached whale metaphor before the deliveries). And I can also say, I loved being pregnant and enjoyed my pregnancies, every minute. So I do know from personal experience that it’s possible to actually enjoy it. Part of it was mindset. It took us years to conceive so both my husband and I were grateful for the opportunity to parent. I still am. We get to bring little human beings into this life and have them as our charges. That’s amazing. American culture puts so much pressure on women to look a certain way or adhere to certain lifestyle, or even for children to perform certain ways, it’s easy to beat ourselves up or feel like we are not doing it correctly. Even while pregnant, it’s easy to feel like you’re not doing it “the right way”. So I’m here to tell you are. Your way is the “right way”. Human beings have been bearing and raising children for thousands of years. When you start to feel that anxiety, just remember that you know your body, your child and your family better than anyone. My question is: how can you add to the feeling of success and positivity during this time? There are lots of ways to eat healthy, exercise, and incorporate healthy life style changes. And there are lots of people you can get support from. For right now, how can you make a small change in your routine or lifestyle to increase your feeling of success as a new mother?

Suggestion: Get to know your body: try some meditation and breathing exercises. Try a prenatal yoga class or DVD. With doctor’s recommendation and support of course. YouTube has a ton of videos out there also for free. These kind of things can be become a habit and immensely helpful with mild contractions, pain management and general stress.

4. Find a few of your favorite things

We all need nourishment. Caring for our selves is the best way to actually care for others. What ever your instincts are during this time, it’s ok to indulge them and you. These 9 months are critical time that you won’t get back, so it’s ok to pay a little extra attention to you and your baby. Have a craving? Need to get the baby’s room ready? Naps are now a necessity? You’re a mom now, jump in and enjoy the ride! Many moms enjoy prenatal massages, taking walks, keeping up with a moderated exercise plan, eating healthy, joining online forums, spending more time with family, nesting, decorating, shopping, falling in love with their spouse again! It’s all a natural part of pregnancy. Make things as comfortable for yourself as you can!

5. Manage things like the pro you are!

As mothers and wives, we are (traditionally speaking) often cast into the role of manager. We end up taking care of a lot. Believe me, I get it. So we naturally and easily can take on a lot of things while pregnant also. I can’t explain how a mother’s mind set is during a pregnancy (and it isn’t true for everyone) but I can say that I went through it and so did many mothers I know. Certain things just have to happen before the baby arrives. Especially during the 3rd trimester, the nesting instinct can become intense! And combine that with hormones, it can be fierce. So I’m just going to say this, as wrong as it sounds: it’s ok if things don’t go the way you are expecting! You’ve got this; you can adjust and realign to address this as things that come up. Are you delegating? Does it really all have to get done right now?

6. Think positive thoughts about your baby and yourself!

Sometimes we get going with our lists and tasks and we forget how we are getting there. How are you feeling about having a baby? Are your thoughts about your pregnancy and baby negative or positive? Does it feel like you’re in a cycle of constant complaining or is it fairly easy for you? Are you overwhelmed or feeling pretty good about everything? Do you nourish your body to take care of both of you or do you take it for granted? Or are you counting the days until delivery and can’t wait for it to be over? Everyone has his or her own experiences and history that has led them to their pregnancy, to this moment. Your experience is just as valid and real as the next person’s. Is there a way you can think about things that might make it easier for yourself and your child? What can you celebrate? Who can you celebrate?

 

Resources

Breathing exercises

Dr. Weil is well known and has some great thoughts and exercises. And he has a  demonstration video of breathing exercises.

Creative visualization

A good basic article and example of visualizing from Real Simple.

Also, you can check out ShaktiGawain.com for creative visualization exercises and more about her books and cd’s (She has a great meditation cd I use regularly :^)

Affirmation cards

Louise Hays from Hay House Publishing also has some great affirmation cards.

Relaxation tips

See my blog for ideas and resources on relaxation tips.

Reading

Two of my favorite authors are listed below:

William and Martha Sears: The Baby Book

T Berry Brazelton: Touchpoints: Birth to Three

App

Seems like there is an app for everything nowadays! Here’s one I like called My Pregnancy & Baby Today by BabyCenter .

 

Read More of June New Parent Series!

This is Part 1 of a four-part series for new parents.

11 Apr

12 Ways to Relieve Anxiety and Stress

12 forms of anxiety and stress relief to care for ourselves.

Prayer

The beauty about prayer is that you can do this anytime, anywhere. To me, having anxiety while having faith is one of the truest paradoxes of being human. So talk it out. Ask for what you need. Have faith that someone is listening!

If you don’t believe in a higher power, know that your thoughts and prayers are not wasted, they are clearing the way to set your true intention, which is one of the steps that leads to taking action, taking your power back and achieving your dreams.

Deep Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises help lower heart rate, decrease stress and calm the mind and body. (Meditation exercises also incorporate breathing exercises, which often include the act of focusing on your breath).

Deep Breathing resource:
Example of exercises from Dr. Weil

Also called “relaxation exercises”, this name implies a task which becomes a repeated pattern of behavior. To see and feel results, I recommend trying this for 14 days minimum. They say it takes 21 days to change behavior, so 21 days is also recommended. Incorporate it into your morning exercise routine, or while on a break at work.

Relaxation Exercises resource:
For more information about relaxation exercises, see the Mayo Clinic’s recommends in Relaxation Technique 

Life Coaching

A great way to get support, develop a better understanding of yourself and achieve your goals.

Life Coaching resource:
Check out my website for more information about life coaching.

Meditation

Meditation is a great way to slow things down. Similar to relaxation exercises, studies have shown that a regular pattern of meditation (which includes deep breathing!) can literally change the synaptic functions in the brain. This translates to better use of logic and problem solving skills, and possibly a better outlook on life! It is also a great way to access the wisdom that is inside each of us. You don’t have to be a spiritual guru or someone seeking enlightenment to meditate. You simply just have to have the desire and willingness to try! How much meditation is defined by what is right for your mind, body and life style. Remember, it’s not quantity but quality that counts.

Meditation resources:
A great website that talks about this process is How to Meditate.

Another good read is 5 Reason’s to Meditate by Pema Chodron [PDF Download]

A great book is How to Meditate by Pema Chodron :

Journaling

Talking about what is happening in a safe forum is a great way to relax, think about what is happening, and validate how you are feeling.

Journaling resource:
Life Hack has a great article on how 6 Ways Journaling can Change your Life.

Aromatherapy

I think this name makes the experience and process sound much more formal than it really is. Also called “alternative medicine”, I thought you had to take a class in it to be versed but what I found out was that basically you can light a scented candle and you are practicing aromatherapy, lol! Phew! It’s anything that offers scents and healing, for mind, body and spirit. Buy some scented oils or a peppermint foot scrub and you’re on your way!

To this industry’s credit, there are many ways to offer healing and relaxation for the body, as well as many professionals trained in this area. How would it feel to promise yourself a warm bubble bath with lavender scented bubbles in candle light with soft music in the background? What are you waiting for? You deserve it!

Aromatherapy resource:
Find out more on Aromatherapy.com.

Counseling

Our culture has developed a stigma about counseling, but you don’t have to have something “wrong” with you to see a counselor.

Freud actually started working with clients simply to bring the unconscious into consciousness. Some of the clients he wrote about had a certain pathology that happened to interest him, which became more well known. But they were not all of his clientele.

Therapists now-a-days offer a myriad of short and long term therapy options to offer support. It’s ok to learn about yourself and better your life.

Good therapy can help relieve anxiety, and address the negative impact stress and anxiety can bring about on the mind and body. It’s wear and tear you don’t need. If you are suffering from ongoing and/or severe anxiety, therapy is a great way to help yourself. You can get ongoing support and resources to relieve the symptoms and keep them at bay!

Many insurance carriers cover therapy costs now (often with a copay). You won’t know if it works until you try!

Exercise

I think we all know the benefits of exercise on the mind and body, ad naseum. Yes, it’s good for the heart, as well as, the mind! AND how quickly we can let this practice go, only to be replaced by our love of eating and watching tv . . . or making excuses. As the old Nike ad used to say “Just Do It!”

Perhaps it’s time to find a new form of exercise. And if you can get outside to do it, even better! Researchers are now studying the positive effects of nature on the brain. Go meditate with a tree! Or by a tree . . . or hug a tree . . .

An yoga/walking exercise resource:
For those that can’t turn their thoughts off while they walk, try a Walking Meditation:

Creative Visualization

One of my favorite authors is Shakti Gawain. Her book on “Creative Visualization” is one probably one of my top 5 favorite books of all time, that I frequently recommend to people. The idea of focusing on intention and visualizing what you want is paramount to achieving your goals. Visualizing is an active mind exercise that helps you clarify what your goal is. This is the primary tool (next to prayer and meditation) I use to help me better understand myself, get clear about my goals and manifest them into physical form. I can’t recommend this book enough.

Creative Visualization resources:
Find out more about the author, Shakti Gawain on her website.

Read more about the author and her other well known book in this Huffington Post article by BJ Gallagher.

Hobbies and Interests

When was the last time you sat down and focused on something fun?

One of the tasks when doing meditation or relaxation exercises is to be present in the moment. In this moment now. A great way to do that is to focus your thoughts and energies on a hobby or interest. One preferably that does not include media (easy to get distracted!).

Things like gardening, sports, reading, flying a plane, making a sculpture, cooking a meal, etc are the things that interest you and can provide a break from that nagging in your mind.

Literally, the medicine here is to get your mind off of it! You know yourself the best. What interests you?

Get a Hug!

Some day I would like to create a foundation and call it “the Hug Foundation” and I will get all the people around the world that like to give hugs moving into action giving hugs. Wouldn’t that be glorious? Think of all the healing that could happen! In the meantime, take a small step for yourself or for someone else, ask for a hug!

Connect with a Friend

When was the last time you went out lunch with a friend?A business lunch doesn’t count (unless you’re using it as a tax ride off :^)

As humans, we need to connect, we need to talk, express ourselves, hear what’s going in with others, tell our stories, laugh and have fun. We not only require that to live, but to live a balanced life.

The most successful people I know frequently talk about their relationships, not only because it’s valued support which has helped them get them where they are, but good healthy relationships bring a balance into our every day living.

Take your partner out to dinner. Go for a walk with a friend. Ask for time with your child. Go have coffee with an in-law. Put the phone away and connect.

The internet is filled with creative souls who have put together published lists of ideas for things to do! Some of these lists have saved me as a parent countless times!

For an example here’s a great list of 50 Things to do for Free or Cheap.

01 Mar

3 Tips to Help Nourish the Family

As families, we are busy in today’s world. Between work schedules, school schedules and extracurricular activities along with hobbies, church, and family commitments, I often wonder how families keep the rhythm of the family going while keeping everyone connected and happy! It would be easy to be ships passing in the night.

Experts say it’s not about quantity of time, but rather the quality of time spent with children that impact their happiness. Researchers have found that even 5-10 minutes a day of reading or playing with children can have a profound impact on the child’s feeling of connectedness with their parent(s) and their developing self-esteem. A researcher also found this is true especially for adolescents. In other words, spending time with your loved ones matters.

Here are a few easy ways to do that:

1. Cook with your kids and family.
You’re going to be in the kitchen anyways right? Pick meals together, grocery shop or cook together. Make it a big deal if this is an unusual thing for your family. If the kids won’t set foot in the kitchen let alone be seen with you, try it with your spouse. In other words, do something different, go back to a spending a short amount of quality time together. Even 10 minutes of talking while driving to the grocery store can be quality time spent together.

2. Share a meal together.
Set up a routine to have a meal together once a week. Make it special. And turn off the all media!

Letting go of distractions and just being together can be a nurturing experience not only for the family system but also for the soul. It also models for your children how we as a culture maintain our relationships, by spending time together and showing a genuine interest in each other.

Parents: Don’t take it personally if the kids complain or don’t want to participate. Stay the course and keep the routine going. It’s still modeling. And they’ll remember this. I am guessing for some families, this will sound like I am asking you to jump over the moon. It’s not about the task; it’s about the intention. Add the intention to have the family together into the meal and bring it to the table. If you don’t have anything to talk about, talk about food! Everyone loves food. Ask what someone else likes, why they like that, and talk about likes, dislikes, favorite dishes etc.

3. Get outside and play!
Play is one of the healthiest things for children (and I would argue for adults too!).

This is not just about playing a sport; this is designated time away from the regular routine, commitments and demands. It’s shared free time together, unscheduled, random, open time. (Yeh, I know, remember what that is?)

Don’t plan during this time, except for the time itself. Turn off devices and be together. See what comes to mind, ask your children what they would like to do, or come up with some creative ideas together about how to spend your family time.

Walks are great, games are fun, maybe there’s a project that needs family attention and would be more fun to do together. Have each person take weigh in or take turns providing suggestions. Make it fun, then sit back, relax and enjoy your time with your family. You deserve it!


References:

The Right Way to Do Family Time by Jennifer Breheny Wallace, WSJ.com, April 3, 2015

Making time for kids? Study says quality trumps quantity. by Brigid Schulte, WashingtonPost.com, March 28, 2015

Quantity Time Begets Quality Time, and Parents Spend Enough of Both by KJ Dell’Antonia, Motherlode blog on NYTimes.com, MARCH 31, 2015

02 Feb

Recommended Read: Eat This Not That, Supermarket Survival Guide

“I am not a glutton – I am an explorer of food”
― Erma Bombeck

Whenever I head down a food isle and see a variety of new items, I wonder first if I should try them, and then I either go into denial about how bad that food is actually going to be (fat, sugar, salt, or general consumption wise) or I become concerned about possible ingredients I either can’t sound out or that might be food allergens for my children. I almost never find products that are healthy, good for you and something we will eat.

Then the next hardest step comes; I have to try to disseminate the words on the packaging to see if they are true to their meaning or what they imply. In other words translate and interpret the packaging. When something says “healthy”, I laugh. Have you ever seen a product’s packaging that says “really unhealthy but so good you’ll eat it anyways”? When something says “healthy grains” for example, I immediately know that means they are not going to mention the amount of sugar they have added to make the “healthy grains” refined enough to come in the shape and taste they now are. Which most likely means they are no longer “really healthy”. At this point I turn over the package to look at the ingredients, knowing I will most likely not like what I see. (Sigh here).

Who has time to read the labels of ingredients on food packaging? I do a full grocery shop for the family in an hour. I tend to buy the same products mostly based on my children’s palates and their food allergies. If I had to read the ingredients of all the products I buy, it could easily double my time. And after all that, there is still the concern about all ingredients I can’t pronounce and what they mean too.

I recently discovered (I know I’m probably late to the party) a great book I can take with me to the grocery store when I shop now. It’s an easy reference guide, and a step towards healthier eating and understanding the ingredients of the food you put into you body.

Eat This Not That, Supermarket Survival Guide

I still have to decide if I’m going to buy the packaged process foods or cook from scratch, but at least I can have a better understanding about what it is I am buying for my family. After reading this, it’s easy to see that cutting calories, sodium or sugar by buying a variety of different products will lower that intake significantly over a period of time. I think this is a newer Americana version of healthier eating. This is especially useful information if you look at the Glycemic index.

As a culture, we are still very much grocery store and pre-made food dependent. But that topic is for another blog day . . .

The power is in the knowledge and in the choice. This book offers light education about fruits and vegetables, meat and poultry, and also offers a comparison of similar types of packaged pre-made foods. The back of the book offers some recipes. A great reference guide and staple for a cook’s shelf whether you are just the person doing the shopping or a health conscious eater.

I still think the farm to the table idea is the healthiest way to eat (see IanKneur.com or his cooking show “The Farm” on PBS for an example of this type of cooking and living) but for now “Eat This Not That” will have to for those of us that are urban sprawlers.

20 Nov

Compassion

It’s hard to write about joy or other positive feelings after the recent attacks on Paris and Beirut. I didn’t know anyone in the attacks. I wasn’t nearby, I didn’t have serendipity in my story in which I was supposed to be one place and ended up in another and a tragedy ensued. I don’t have a logical reason to feel anything about these tragedies, yet I have felt deep sadness and sorrow about what happened. And, my heart aches.

A young woman recently said to me she couldn’t understand why so many people were upset by the attacks. I wanted to say – when we grieve for others, we also grieve for ourselves. I wanted to say “it’s called compassion. It’s called empathy. It’s called love, and having a genuine regard for other human beings. You have to access that part of yourself to feel it”. But I didn’t. I know when she is ready she will receive that insight and knowledge and discover she too is filled with compassion, empathy and heartfelt sorrow. For now, like so many of us she is struggling to understand in her own way.

As a mother, it worries me to think my children are being raised in a war torn world so full of hatred and injustices. It’s turned into a world where value systems seem to continually clash, where greed and power in many countries predominate over people’s basic needs. Where the spoils of war in many countries circumvent duty and responsibility for the greater good. And that’s all in addition to the other global issues we are now facing including the extinction of species, climate change and the depleting of resources. It can seem pretty dismal at times. I feel myself getting cynical. So now I have to tell my children about crazy men who bomb people for some inexplicable reason?

I usually try to have compassion for those that injure along with those that are injured. But right now I can’t seem to find it. I’m angry for what has been done regardless of their history, their stories or their reasons. It will take time but eventually I will feel compassion and forgiveness. They always follow, just a little later.

I do feel a deep sorrow for those in the attacks, who can no longer be with their loved ones. I do know what that feeling is like. The pain feels insurmountable, like it will never end. And nothing can console it. It’s difficult to find understanding in these moments, make sense of what has happened, or find some kind of resolution. So I give it to God. He who has a sense of purpose and meaning, the one who knows every hair on our head and every thought we think. I tell myself this is only one small piece of a much bigger picture, one we may never fully know or understand. Making sense of it simply isn’t our job. But maybe having compassion is. And maybe having a little faith. I seek, not to understand what has happened but understand what God wants me to understand. To acknowledge simply what I know in this moment.

“No longer forward, nor behind

I look in hope or fear;

But, grateful, take the good I find,

The best of now and here”

John Greenleaf Whittier

“Prayers for Healing”

When 9/11 happened, one my instructors was traveling overseas and woke up to find the entire village where she was staying praying for America. She said it was a powerful moment. They did not ask or explain, they simply came together and prayed. Candles lit, all were in silence. There is a lot of healing in the world. There is also a lot of love and compassion. And there are more of these moments coming, we just have to be open and embrace them.

 

PRAYER: “Remember, O Lord, you’re unfailing love and compassion, which you have shown from long ages past”.  Psalms 25:6

 

Recommended readings:

Prayers for Healing: 365 Blessings, poems, & Meditations from Around the World Edited by Maggie Oman

The Path to Tranquility: Daily Wisdom(Compass) by Renuka Singh and His Holiness The Dalai Lama

28 Oct

Small moments of joy

“Joy – A deep feeling of happiness or contentment, an outward show of pleasure”
Dictionary.com

My sons laugh a lot. I like it. We’ve had a lot of loss recently, so it’s a nice change. In those brief moments, I feel like I’m doing something right as a parent. When I hear their laughter, I know that they are at peace and their souls are free. We were at the park the other day and I could hear their laughter all the way across the parking lot. It was like the wind carried it through the air for everyone to hear. I’m not sure any one else heard it, but it felt like the laughter was lingering in the air. When children laugh, they are not hindered by sadness, worry, or the stresses of work. They are not worrying about their homework, or how they did at their game or if someone likes them or not. They are not in pain, or fighting (oh yes, we have those moments too!). They are simply enjoying life. They have created a moment and are responding to something that is joyful.

I think we under value the importance of laughter and joy. Our culture has become one of taking care of business and staying busy. Rushing from here to there, getting the things we think we are supposed to have, doing one thing after another, like everyone else, not stopping to think if we are happy or if we even find any joy in what we are doing.

Sometimes I laugh with my boys. Sometimes they feel like little alien creatures to me when they say things I don’t understand or act goofy. I don’t get it and I wonder if they are really related to me. So I try to find the kid in me. I try to get into their world, see what they are watching on TV, what topics they are talking about, who they are texting with. I take a genuine interest. We share, as a family, the pictures they post on their Instagram accounts. We go to the sporting events as a family. They ask me to watch their TV shows with them. (Granted, I may have limited patience or interest during these times) I love that they ask me to share their world with them. Even 10 minutes together gives me a feeling of joy as a parent. And often in these moments, we find humor together, in that funny show or in those silly animal pictures they find to post.

I don’t say this lightly because I know not all parents feel the same way, but one reason why my children are able to laugh, and why I feel so much joy being with them and laughing with them, is because I also really like my children. I love their little souls. It’s a blessing to me that I get to parent these kids. It’s not always fun in our house and we’re definitely no happy 24/7, believe me, we all have our moments, but I enjoy their company. I’m invested in their well being. It’s all connected. They know, because of how I respond to them, that I want to be with them. They know I want to be with them, engaged with them, involved, sharing things with them. And they know as a result, that they are important and that they are loved. They know we are a family and that is grounding for them. It’s an integral part of parenting and keeping a family together. In these moments, we create space for our family. Often times as a parent I find the burden is on me to create these opportunities, offer suggestions, create the space for those moments to develop. Or the burden is on me to accept the invitation. “Yes I’d love to watch that TV show (again . . .)

Sometimes my boys discover something funny while goofing around with each other. It’s usually right before bedtime and usually about something I can’t see the humour in. Sometimes it is something funny they discover with their friends. They get each other all wound up, in this wild frenzy of laughter and goofiness and can’t slow it down, which makes them laugh even more. I usually push for these moments to happen outside, so they can be free to yell and scream and run it off. When they are outside in those moments, and not in our home, it brings me immense joy. Nothing is getting broken in the house, no one is getting injured and I don’t have to contain the energy, but can still monitor what’s happening from near by. We each have to find a way to enjoy the moment. It’s a small moment, yet simple and easy.

I think laughter is one of the most joyful sounds on the planet. Imagine children laughing all over the world. That’s a lot of laughter and joy. There are all kinds of joyful, funny crazy moments just waiting to be discovered. We just have to be open to the opportunity to discover them. And be willing to invite our children to find them. How often do we stop to assess where we are at and if what we have is enough? Or if we are happy? Or if any of the things we are so busy doing or getting bring us joy?

“We are shaped by our thoughts. We become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves”.
The Dharmapada

A wonderful book that I recommend:
Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy

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