Lessons in Motherhood and Practicing Parenting

Lessons in Motherhood and Practicing Parenting

Last month in my “Lessons in Motherhood” post, I confessed that I have been having a hard time dealing with parenting my four little ones. I have been increasingly grumpy and short-tempered, getting easily annoyed and upset at my kids, and then feel terrible and guilt-ridden over it. So I was trying out a more positive approach to parenting using rewards instead of consequences.

Well, I’m back to say that I’m throwing out everything I said in my last post and starting fresh with a new perspective on parenting.

[You can read Lessons in Motherhood and rewarding good behavior if you want to know exactly what I am NOT going to be doing going forward.]

But FIRST, a recap of our “outdoor hours” for October.

[I modified my New Years resolutions in my Q3 Update to include 30 hours outside each month for the rest of the year.]

It was quite a month…

On October 1st, we spent the day at the pumpkin farm, enjoying beautiful 80Β° weather.

And on October 31st, we built our first snowman and went trick-or-treating in the snow – the first time I can ever remember having snow on Halloween [though it probably happened at some point].

In between, we managed to squeeze 30 hours of playing at parks, visiting zoos, picnicking on the back deck, riding bikes, walking Evangeline to school, and playing in the backyard.

Just for fun, here are some photo highlights:

Ok, so back to my parenting problems…

A story all parents can relate to…

A few days ago, around dinner time, my five-month-old woke up screaming and inconsolable after only ten minutes of sleep, while the timer started going off to take dinner out of the oven, and at the same time, my two-year-old locked herself in my bedroom.

There I was, trying to explain to a toddler how to unlock the door, while holding a screaming baby and letting dinner burn, when my three-year-old son began screaming from the bathroom for me to wipe his butt.

In that moment, I wished I was the one locked in the bedroom.

Not every day is like that, thank god, but there are definitely a lot of rough days when I am so tired and frustrated that I wonder, what am I doing with my life?

And yet, I always wake up with a new resolve to have a better day, to be a better parent, to find a better way.

Now Say This

And that’s what led me to Now Say This by Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright.

I read [or rather listened to] this book last year when we were having trouble helping my son process his “big feelings” and it was so helpful for me to see that his outbursts, which would have ordinarily been punished in a typical parenting model, were the result of him trying to learn a new skill: to process big emotions and channel them appropriately. So rather than giving him consequences, we provided a “calm down” space for him to go to process his big feelings of disappointment, sadness, or anger. And sure enough, the episodes became less frequent as he learned to ride the waves of emotions.

I mean, let’s be real, I don’t always handle my emotions very well, and I’ve been alive for thirty-two years. How can I expect my two-year-old to already possess this important life skill?

So, anyway, I’m back to this book again to learn what I can and hopefully become a better parent.

[Side note: it is easy to wish for better kids, but I think often the problem is that I need to be a better parent.]

After reading just the intro and first chapter, I’m already remembering a lot of the advice I had forgotten and I realized that I’ve [once again] been going about it all wrong.

What I WON’T do

So I will not be trying to control my kids’ behavior through punishments OR rewards [aka, threatening or bribing].

As I said in my last “Motherhood” post, my first reaction to a behavioral issue is to threatening with a consequence [“if you hit your brother, you will have a time out”] or bribe with a reward [“if you eat all of your dinner, you can have a treat”] in order to get them to behave. That’s how I was raised. That’s how I thought it was supposed to be done. Good behavior equals good things. Bad behavior equals bad things. But this type of parenting doesn’t teach my kids morality, it teaches them compliance out of fear. It doesn’t teach them to choose right from wrong, it teaches them to do what will be of the most benefit to themselves. And what I’m most afraid of is that it will cause them to hide things from me, suppress their feelings, and worst of all, lose their ability to think and behave autonomously.

I want my kids to CHOOSE to do the right thing because it’s the right thing and even more importantly because they believe it is the right thing – not because it’s what I tell them to do and certainly not because of the reward or consequence they may receive.

However, this does not mean that I am going to let my kids walk all over me or give them whatever they want. Absolutely not. [I’m just as afraid of sending selfish, lazy, or entitled children into the world as any parent.]

What I WILL Do

First, I will read this book on repeat until I can master this empathetic, loving, intuitive method of raising kids.

It is foreign to me because I was not raised this way and I have never witnessed parenting done this way. But after reading it last year, I started following the recommendations and saw a big difference not only in my kids, but in my own reactions to them. This book teaches how to empathize with your child’s feelings while still holding the limit and finding a solution together. Unfortunately, over time, I went back to old parenting habits.

Practice Makes Perfect

Honestly, I always knew I wouldn’t be a perfect parent, but I kind of assumed I could just do my best and “wing it” and that would be enough. But I am realizing now, five years into this, that parenting is like any other skill in life. It requires hard work and patience and humility. It requires practice.

So, after this very, very long ramble, I’ve gotten around to the point.

Parenting takes practice. So, I went to the library when I picked up Now Say This and got a whole stack of parenting books. And I am trying to make improving my parenting skills a priority going forward. Some of these things are so foreign to me or go against the habits I’ve spent the last five years creating that it will literally require focus and intention and apologizing and course-correcting for the rest of my parenting years to get it right.

But that’s what I’m committing to.

πŸ’— πŸ’— πŸ’—

Karis

Resolutions Update Q3

Resolutions Update Q3

Time to revisit the New Years resolutions and see how I’m doing.

😬

Everything was rolling along very nicely until I had my baby in June. At that point, the train basically went off the rails entirely. I’ve completely ignored all of my resolutions while in “baby-mode.” I guess I forgot when I made these goals that having a newborn is very time-consuming and exhausting.

But now that my baby is almost four months old [what?!?], she is not quite so demanding and I’ve gained back most of my energy now that she is sleeping through the night [for the most part].

So, I want to go back and evaluate and possible adjust these goals for the last three months of the year.

My original resolutions for the year are posted here.

Health-wise, I want to practice yoga. I did great with this during my pregnancy, but I have no done yoga once since I gave birth. Updated resolution: Add one yoga workout per week to my personal workout schedule [which will be harder than you might think since I already exercise several times a day]. I am also going to do simple yoga poses with the kids in the morning before Eva leaves for school so that we can all benefit from this practice.

Oh, and floss daily. Again, I was going great, but dental hygiene has also gone by the wayside. Updated resolution: Floss every day with my convenient and low-waste water flosser.

New skill is knitting. I haven’t knitted anything since January, and I think I’ve kind of lost interest in it altogether. Updated resolution: Find a new home for the knitting needles and let it go.

At home, I want to start making my own cleaning products. I am now making homemade dish soap and homemade deodorizer and homemade multi purpose cleaner. πŸ‘πŸ» I think that’s really all the homemade cleaners I need as I don’t use homemade detergents.

I hope to reduce our trash [and recycling] even more. After a brief relapse after the baby was born, the trash is back down to a small grocery bag per week. Recycling is also down. I’ve been making a lot more from scratch and our CSA really helps to reduce our waste. πŸ‘πŸ»

Personally, I would like to read two books per month: one fiction and one non-fiction. Until last month I was reading way more than two books a month, but now that my exercise schedule is so demanding, I don’t have as much time to read. I tried listening to audiobooks while exercising, but it’s too distracting for me to have fully effective workouts. Updated resolution: Read one book per month for the last three months by reading a chapter before bed.

For my family, I want to spend more time outside. Unfortunately, it’s a lot harder to get out with so many kids at such young ages, but now that the baby is older and is happy in a baby carrier [for the most part], I am hoping to spend a lot of time outside with the kids. Updated resolution: Spend 30 hours outside each month for the next three months.

We started out October by spending three hours at the pumpkin farm.

I’m so excited for fall!!! And, for getting back to normal life.

πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»

Karis

The birth of my baby [and the end of an era]

The birth of my baby [and the end of an era]

On June 7th, I gave birth to my fourth baby – a beautiful girl. We named her Eleanor.

She was born in our living room surrounded by family and friends.

It was the perfect conclusion to my childbearing years. The most precious part of the experience was having my first born there to witness her sister enter the world.

I still can hardly believe that five years ago I gave birth to my first baby and now I’ve given birth to my fourth and last baby [knock on wood].

I feel as though I’ve been pregnant for five years straight – and, in fact, I pretty much have been, since I became pregnant for the first time in October of 2013 and I haven’t experienced a full calendar year without being pregnant since.

As wonderful as my children are, I’ve never enjoyed being pregnant so I couldn’t be happier to leave all the morning sickness and swollen ankles and weight gain and hip pain and not being able to eat sushi or drink wine BEHIND ME AT LAST.

Anyway, all that to say that I haven’t been posting because I’ve been fully consumed with newborn life – nursing around the clock, rocking the baby for hours on end, and changing what feels like a gazillion diapers. All in addition to the job of caring for three other toddlers.

Sheesh.

But I intend to be back. I may not be writing, but I’m still busy zero-wasting and making everything for scratch and rethinking how we shop, etc. If nothing else, having another baby [my first since going green] has shown me how much the zero waste movement is missing resources for parents and children.

But more on that some other day.

I think there’s a diaper I need to go change…

🀱🏼🀱🏼🀱🏼

Karis

Plastic Free July 2019: My Commitments

Plastic Free July 2019: My Commitments

Plastic Free July is here and [of course] I’m participating! I’ve already been avoiding single-use plastics for a year and have made my stainless steel water bottle, cotton produce bags, and reusable shopping bags a normal habit…but I still have struggled with avoiding the plastic that comes with take out, fast-food, and even dine-in meals.

So these are my three commitments to reduce my single-use plastic waste this month [and hopefully forever]:

Refuse plastic straws and disposable beverage cups. Even though I really hate plastic straws, I do occasionally end up with them in my [or my kids’] drinks. So this month, I am committed to not buying beverages out at all. We will just bring our reusable water bottles and drink water when we go to restaurants. [It is healthier anyway!]

Bring my own reusable container for restaurant leftovers. I have yet to bring my own container to a restaurant for the leftovers – and with four little kids, we ALWAYS have leftovers. So, this month, I will keep a reusable container [or two] in my car for this purpose.

Buy ONLY plastic-free groceries. I’m pretty good about this, but not perfect. I never use the plastic produce bags and I always choose the loose produce over the bagged options – but not all foods can be found package free at my grocery store. My kids love grapes and they always come in a plastic bag. I love berries, but I can’t find them without plastic packaging either. I often end up compromising on some of these items. So, this month, I am committed to doing without any food that I can’t find plastic-free. But it won’t be much of a hardship because I LOVE pineapples and apples and watermelons.

I hope you are joining the cause this month!

What are your commitments?

Let’s save the oceans together!

🌊 🌊 🌊

Karis

Happy [Belated] Birthday to my Blog πŸ₯³

Happy [Belated] Birthday to my Blog πŸ₯³

On May 28th, this blog turned 1 – on the same day that I turned 32. This past year has been the most transformative that I have experienced in my adult life. This blog has been a place for me to share how my family and I have changed our views, values, and lifestyle in favor of simplicity and authenticity.

Maya Angelou once said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

This has become my life’s motto. And this past year has been all about learning more so I know better, so I can do better.

So, in honor of the blog’s first birthday, I wanted to recap all the changes [to our lifestyle and also our perspective] that my family and I have been working on over the past year.

Minimalism

The changes we have made started with an interest in minimalism. I had grown tired of chasing the “American dream” of wealth and success, which seemed to equate to bigger homes and fancier cars and more stuff, while meaningful relationships, time with family, concern for the less fortunate and other social/environmental causes are ignored. I was anxious for a simpler, more intentional life. I was wanting our life to be about a greater purpose than satisfying our own desires for more.

So, minimalism taught us to purge what we own down to things that are essential or truly appreciated AND to refuse all the excess that society is constantly telling us we “need.” We played the 30-day minimalism game and between Brett and I, removed 930 items from our home.

Mindful Consumerism

My interest in minimalism lead me to Cait Flanders’ book, The Year of Less, which was so impactful that after reading it, I started this blog to document all the ways I intended to end my own mindless consumption.

I began asking myself whether I really needed something before buying it. I continued to purge our stuff without replacing any of it. I committed to first do without, then use what I have, then buy used – and only when all else failed, to buy new.

Slow Fashion

Around this time, I watched the documentary, The True Cost, which describes the fast fashion industry and how the American demand for cheaper and faster clothing is wreaking havoc around the world. I couldn’t believe that I had never considered the wastefulness of my own clothing habits before or how harmful my “take and toss” mentality truly was to the environment and to people around the world.

As a working middle class American, I had always prioritized buying cheap clothing as a way to “manage my money wisely” and thought of myself as some sort of martyr for never buying expensive brands and always shopping the clearance rack in the service of frugality.

Wow, I was so wrong. I am happy to say that I have finally learned to appreciate my belongings enough to spend what they are worth – and I now care enough about my fellow humans, no matter how far away they live, to pay whatever it costs to protect their rights.

Zero Waste

From there, I stumbled upon the zero waste movement, which I had never heard of previously. On a whim I picked up the book, Zero Waste, by Shia Su from the library. I had no idea how significantly this book would change my life.

This book gave me confidence to reduce my waste [it really is so easy!] and opened my eyes to yet another sad side affect of our constant consumption: waste.

Seriously, the waste problem in America is huge. I don’t know why more people aren’t concerned.

So I started trying to reduce my family’s waste. We began recycling, composting, and bulk shopping. This became a passion [bordering on obsession] for me that led to so many other important changes for my family like eliminating processed foods, making most of our food from scratch, and purchasing our first CSA share. It has been a process, and we still are not storing our trash in a mason jar [that is not a realistic goal for us anyway], but we have made HUGE improvements. We only take out one 4 gallon trash bag per week and we have even reduced the amount that we recycle significantly, needing trash and recycling pick up only monthly [or even possibly quarterly] now.

Ethical Shopping

Next, I committed to ethical shopping by supporting brands that are concerned about sustainability and fair, ethical treatment of all members within the supply chain [animals included].

This one is tougher because it is hard to know whether a company is ethical or not and requires research which requires time, but it’s not so bad because we don’t buy very many things, so purchases can be thoughtfully and intentionally made with our values in mind.

Yes, I am boycotting Wendy’s. Yes, I pay more for Fair Trade coffee and chocolate and bananas. Yes, I adore Patagonia.

Simple Living

Then I began to focus on eliminating some of the distractions that caused me to always feel like I never had enough time. We moved our only television into the lower level. I started using the “screen time” feature on my iPhone to limit my time on certain apps. I turned off all notifications on my phone. ALL of them. If you call me and I don’t physically have my phone in my hand, I won’t know it until I actually open my phone app…which I do every couple days. I’m harder to reach, but by responding to texts and calls and emails on my own time, I am no longer a slave to my phone.

The kids and I began spending more time outside after I read the inspiring book, There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather, by Linda Γ…keson McGurk.

We started having a Monday movie night with the kids as their only screen time for the week. I simplified my cleaning routine to improve efficiency so I don’t have to spend a lot of time cleaning. We purged A TON of toys [with the kids’ help], which cut back on the chaos of living with three toddlers.

I also read Slow by Brooke McAlary which was full of inspiration for living a more intentional and less frantic life.

Giving Back to the World

Last, but most importantly, we rearranged our finances to prioritize giving to charities that we believe are doing good around the world. I wish I could be the one doing the good myself, but at this stage in my life, I am chasing toddlers all day and working part-time, so I am prioritizing what I can do, which is give money to those who will use it to help people. I look forward to volunteering regularly and giving back in other ways in the future, as I believe that this is one of our most important purposes on this earth – not to merely look out for our own interests and our family’s well-being, but to care for the less fortunate and fight for a better world.

But, more on that another day.

I am looking forward to improving in all of these areas and more over the next year.

Karis

8 Zero Waste Swaps that Won’t Break the Bank

8 Zero Waste Swaps that Won’t Break the Bank

If you’ve mastered the 6 free zero waste swaps [which I talked about in 6 Zero Waste Swaps You Can Make Right Now without Spending a Penny], then its time to move on to the advanced course.

But I warn you, these next swaps will start to make you look like a real deal zero waster, and chances are, you will start to enjoy your new zero waste supplies so much, you might actually consider attempting to store your trash in a mason jar…

[Please know that it is not necessary to run out and buy a bunch of fancy stuff in order to be “zero waste.” In fact, it’s best to make do with what you have and see if you actually need to buy an alternative. I waited on many of these swaps til I had used up my current supplies or until I found it absolutely necessary.]

This list is not exhaustive. It is just my personal favorites because they are easy to swap and [relatively] inexpensive. So, here we go.

1. Beeswax wraps instead of plastic wrap.

I ADORE my beeswax wraps. I actually still have a partial roll of plastic wrap in my cupboard that I have absolutely no use for now. I use the beeswax wraps for wrapping everything from half a cantaloupe to my kids’ snacks to bowls and plates. [I wrote more about the beeswax wraps in this post: Zero Waste: Beeswax Wraps.]

2. Cloth napkins instead of paper napkins.

Technically you don’t need to buy cloth napkins if you are handy with a sewing machine – which I am not. There are plenty of tutorials online that tell you how to make your own. I chose to buy a set. This was one of the very first swaps I made, and while I would probably do things differently now, I love my napkins.

3. Handkerchiefs instead of tissues. I remember my grandpa using a “hankie” when I was little. My father used to play a game with us kids called “hide the hankie” – which is pretty gross now that I think about it… but handkerchiefs in general don’t have to be disgusting. Just because we are used to the convenience of paper tissues doesn’t mean that we can’t go back to the handkerchief. I haven’t actually made this swap yet, but I have asked a sewing-savvy girlfriend if I could pay her to make me some. And usually, when my kids get colds, I use our cloth baby wipes instead of tissues because they are softer on their noses. But I’m anxious to have a set of hankies for the family.

4. Bar Soap, Shampoo, & Conditioner instead of liquids.

I wrote about our switch to bar shampoo and conditioner recently [Zero Waste: Shampoo Bars], which is maybe slightly more expensive than buying traditional shampoo and conditioner in the plastic bottles. But while you’re at it, you might as well ditch all the plastic bottles and buy all bar soap. We’ve switched to bar soap for all of our washing needs. I even make my own dishwashing soap using grated bar soap. It is easy to find bar soap without packaging nowadays at nearly any grocery store. Bar soaps are often cheaper than the little plastic pump bottles and last much longer. As always, go for the palm-oil free variety, such as Kirk’s Castile Soap Bars.

5. Wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets and fabric softener.

I was lucky to receive these as a gift early on in my zero waste journey. I gave up fabric softener and dryer sheets years ago when I first had kids, and dryer balls are the perfect alternative that I never knew existed. In addition, there are plenty of zero waste ways to make your clothes smell good too – I use essential oils on a damp wash cloth and throw it into the dryer.

6. Reusable straws instead of disposable straws.

By now, we’ve all heard how terrible plastic straws are for the environment – BUT we need to remember that the straws are very important for those with disabilities. As I see it, if you don’t need to use one, find an alternative. Some people actually have a real need for flexible straws and so the rest of us should cut back on our convenience habit so that millions of them don’t wind up in the ecosystem. So, get reusable straws [or simply do without]. I have a set of stainless steel straws that I use for the kids when we are out – but I try to always have their reusable water bottles with us.

7. Bamboo toothbrushes instead of plastic.

The hardest thing about this swap, for me, is turning down the free toothbrushes that the dentist always gives you after your visit. This one costs money because before I paid nothing for toothbrushes. However, considering every plastic toothbrush I have ever used in my life is still out there somewhere – I think a biodegradable alternative is worth the money.

BONUS for the ladies:

8. Menstrual cup instead of tampons.

I made this swap last year, shortly before I became pregnant again and since I’ve been pregnant for the last eight months now, it hasn’t gotten much use – BUT a menstrual cup was just a no-brained for me. They don’t need to be changed as frequently, they are comfortable, and they last for years. That being said, they aren’t exactly cheap. So, do your research, get the right size, and be patient [they take some practice]. In the long run, though, they will be a savings – for you and the planet.

I know there are a lot more inexpensive swaps, but these have been most helpful for me.

What are your favorite zero waste swaps?

πŸ™ŒπŸ»

Karis

Homemade [Low Sugar, No Pectin] Strawberry Jam

Homemade [Low Sugar, No Pectin] Strawberry Jam

Two years ago, I read a small sidebar – maybe three or four sentences – in Martha Stewart Living Magazine about how she makes a pectin-free strawberry jam. It sounded so simple that I immediately bought some strawberries and gave it a try. I’ve been happily making my own jam ever since.

[Thanks, Martha!]

Since then, I’ve experimented with reducing the sugar and adjusting the steps to suit my time constraints and personal preferences until I can now say that I have created an even simpler and healthier way of making strawberry jam!

[Sorry, Martha, it’s true.]

So, here’s all you need to do.

1. Hull and rinse strawberries. [I usually quarter them, but that is not necessary.]

2. Put berries in a big bowl and mix with half a cup of sugar per one pound of strawberries [Martha’s recipe called for double the sugar] and juice of one lemon.

Side note: I’ve tried even less sugar and even no sugar recipes but the jam always tastes really tart and doesn’t thicken the way this version does.

3. Cover and refrigerate overnight. [Martha never specified how many hours to refrigerate them so I just make the jam sometime the next day.]

4. Heat on the stove in a big stock pot until sugar is dissolved. This doesn’t take long – maybe 10 minutes.

5. Remove the berries and boil the remaining juice until it reaches 221Β°. This takes longer – maybe 40 minutes to one hour, depending on how much jam you are making.

6. Blend [or mash] berries and add back to the juice. [You could also leave the strawberries whole.] Boil for five more minutes.

7. Pour into sterilized jars. Let cool on the counter then refrigerate or freeze.

The jam thickens as it cools and even more once it’s in the fridge, but it never gets as thick as a jam made with pectin. Still, it works perfectly for PBJ or as a sauce for dessert [like cheesecake or angel food cake or vanilla ice cream] or a topping for toast.

To keep the cost down, I only make jam when strawberries are on sale. Today, I used seven pounds of strawberries and three cups of sugar and made roughly two quarts of jam – for about $7.

I’m not sure if that’s a savings, but it is zero waste AND zero high fructose corn syrup!

So, that’s a win in my book.

πŸ“ πŸ“ πŸ“

Karis