Putting the Phone Down – Unintended Repercussions & Bittersweet Perks

Putting the Phone Down – Unintended Repercussions & Bittersweet Perks

I wasn’t able to focus on the things that mattered most.

I’ve been trying to stay off my phone lately, social media and the like. My reasoning is largely because I find myself unable to focus on certain tasks as long as I’d like. I also wasn’t making time for some of the more time-consuming interests I’ve collected (reading, gardening, herbalism, etc.) I don’t think I was overly consumed by social media or anything (I post only intermittently at best), but I did often find myself mindlessly scrolling when I had a few minutes of down-time. Down-time with three kids?! Ok so…it was likely due to escapism that any true “free time”. We all need a break at times, and it’s all too easy to just grab the nearest device and tune out.

We all need a break at times, and it’s all too easy to just grab the nearest device and tune out.

So, cut to the past week where I deleted all my social media apps and have occasionally caught myself scrolling through the app store in my “idle” time. Maybe I was slightly more addicted to the scrolling than I thought. One thing I’ve noticed so far (it’s only been a week, we’re not moving mountains yet) is that I have more time to think. More often than not, this amounts to thinking about all the things I want to do…but I’ve also found myself applying some of my newfound reading and learning to my daily life. This has been slightly more productive than my previous strategy of saying, “Hm, that sounds worth doing.” and then never getting to it.

I’ve also had more time to watch what’s going on around me. Whether it’s enjoying the gorgeous spring day we had yesterday or spending today indoors with our rambunctious kids and watching their various antics. Both days were fairly task-filled (some much needed pruning and planting yesterday, even more necessary meal-prep and cooking today), but the kids were sometimes helping or off doing their own thing (with various needs of refereeing).

Throughout the day there were moments where I wish I had my phone in hand to capture something, but I didn’t. It was completely bittersweet. The few seconds the 2-year-old’s eyes lit up when he remembered the punch line of a joke (and then recited it non-stop for the next 20 minutes), the 4-year-old when she grabbed my ear buds and tucked the end into her back pocket and danced around as if listening to music, the 6-year-old when she came in from outside flushed with the chill wind, what seemed like thousands of footwear changes the day before (girls man, was I seriously like that?!)…the moments just kept hitting me. In between cutting onions, making quiches and attempting not to skewer myself with thorns as we pulled snarls of overgrown shrubs into a pile, these snapshots just kept piling up.

Life is just busy.

I’ve been conscious (even before this recent bought of phone-free living) that we haven’t been capturing as many moments in photos and videos. Life is just busy. But we also weren’t enjoying those moments very thoroughly either. We often let these moments slip by without pausing to smile or just bask in the hilarity of it all. So many moments for connection and family building just fly by. Part of this is just the nature of raising kids, you can’t make time for it all. But it’s nice being a bit more conscious in enjoying these times while the kids are still small and still want to hang out with us (most of the time).

While I did yearn to memorialize these seconds, minutes, hours against the vague and hazy memories they will soon become…I also lived those moments more intensely. I gave myself space to just be.

So, it’s a bittersweet end to a productive and exhausting weekend. We don’t have much to show for it yet, but we firmly believe we’re playing the long game. These miniscule moments in life, the small steps we take at rewilding our garden…these are the things that will pay off big someday. That’s the intention, anyway. Check back in about 15 years…

Confused about Organic Food? Truth vs. Misconceptions

Confused about Organic Food? Truth vs. Misconceptions

In recent years there’s been a huge increase in the number of organic products available. I’m as guilty as the next person for grabbing organic over conventional products, but does the label actually mean it’s better for you? When I make my food choices, I like to be informed but also spend wisely.

Produce: Organic, Local, Big Agg…

Many of us believe that organic means fewer chemicals and pesticides. As we learn more about the giant cogs that make up the agricultural industry, it’s becoming clear that this isn’t always the case. There are many chemicals that are approved for use on organic produce and large-scale farms often use them liberally. Other farms that aren’t labeled organic might be pesticide-free, yet because they use a minimal amount of non-organic chemical in very small amounts, they don’t qualify for the organic label.


Farmer’s markets and local growers are other great sources for sustainable and ethically grown produce and sometimes they can be much cheaper than store bought. Better yet, you have access to the people who actually grow the food and they have a local interest in keeping their livelihood. Most likely, they’ll have a vested interest in using as few chemicals as possible with an eye to a sustainable and healthy outcome for their customers. Talk to your local farmers and even if they’re not labeled “organic” find out what chemicals they do use and why.

The best option if you have the time and space is to grow your own food! Start small with a few pots and herbs on your windowsill, or make a little space for a raised garden bed. We’ve been amazed at how much we are able and willing to keep up with as we continually add to our garden. Our kids have taken a huge interest and as a result eat so many fruits and veggies right off the plant. It’s an amazing way to have onstructive and creative conversations about how to fuel our bodies with wholesome and nutritious food.

Keep in mind, most produce can be washed before eating which eliminates a large percentage of many pesticides before they’re consumed. However, there are a number of chemicals that are absorbed by the plants and can not be removed by washing and peeling. If you keep an eye on the Dirty Dozen list, you’ll get a sense of which items are best purchased organic when possible.

5 Ways to Choose the best Produce! 1. Visit your farmer’s markets & talk to the farmers. 2. Wash your produce. 3. Grow your own! 4. Keep an eye on the Dirty Dozen list. 5. Choose organic if it’s available and not too costly for you.

Processed Foods: Beyond the Health Claims

Organic does NOT mean healthy! Organic sugar is still added sugar and doesn’t necessarily mean a product is fair game for a healthy diet.

Let’s face it, we’re all trying to raise families and do our best to keep them happy and healthy. Many times that means choosing between a home cooked meal and pizza on the way to volleyball practice because you’ve got piles of laundry, homework to oversee and a work project that needs some finishing touches before tomorrow. We all need shortcuts, sometimes major game-changers and this is where processed and packaged foods save the day.

When deciding which options are best, take a look at the label and stick to things with legible ingredients (real food, imagine that!) and only 5-6 items. It’s also a good sign if sugar (or one of its many variants) are not listed or are near the end of the list. The first few items are the ones that appear in the highest quantity. Some day soon, added sugars will be more obvious on food lables which will make things a bit easier.

Every family has their tipping point, so find what works for you. With our tendencies for eczema, we’ve found that organic wheat products (or gluten free) have a major correlation with how our skin reacts.

The Bottom Line: Don’t be afraid to grab an apple over a stack of cookies…

If you can’t afford or can’t find organic options, don’t let that stop you!  Making an effort to eat whole foods is always a better option than grabbing something full of sugar or highly processed. Grab that apple from Starbucks or the non-organic asparagus (because it’s HALF the price) if it will ensure you get those much-needed nutrients into your family!

The food we eat can have far-reaching affects, so it’s important to take it day by day and try to listen to what our bodies are telling us. Feeling bloated after downing three slices of meat lover’s pizza? Maybe add a few greens to that plate. Still peckish after that monster salad that was mostly greens? Maybe some beans or healthy carbs or protein would help balance it out. Feeling sluggish and a bit achy? Make sure you’re drinking enough water!

Back to School is Bittersweet: Start the year off with goals

Back to School is Bittersweet: Start the year off with goals

It’s funny, but I didn’t really get emotional about my oldest starting Kindergarten this year. She’s ready, I’m ready. She’s going to do great.

Am I worried about how she’ll fit in, what she’ll learn and what bad habits she might bring home? Sure. But I’m a person who learns best by tackling new things head on, and I think she is too. So at the end of the day, week, year…we’ll figure it out together. Hopefully…

Raising kids and worrying about their futures is a long game, every change or milestone brings new challenges and frustrations.

 

My girls have both been in daycare since they were 3 months old, so this is no strange thing for them. Last year, we had a rough transition with both of them as they moved to a new daycare/preschool and it seemed like we’d never get through it. A year later, as with all things, we’re in a totally different place. We are not contending with a new baby in the house, so things seem a lot more structured and certain for the older kids. Our middle child is attending the same preschool with familiar friends and teachers. They know what to expect and so does she. Our eldest was excited to start her new school all year and spent the entire summer talking about it. She knows a few teachers, a few classmates from preschool and her cousin just moved up to 1st grade. She’s got this.

Raising kids and worrying about their futures is a long game, every change or milestone brings new challenges and frustrations. I’m just taking it one day at a time and not stressing about the stuff I cannot change. The world is changing every day, it’s incredibly frightening to raise children who will one day have to make their place in it.

My goals for this school year:

  1. Enact change – Find ways to help others and make the world brighter. Hold a door, wave someone into traffic, donate used items, volunteer to help those who need it. Smile more. Big or small, find ways to counteract the negativity around us.
  2. Don’t stress the small stuff – There are plenty of things to worry about. Try to take a step back and ask yourself how much this “thing” matters. Sort the “things” into BIG STUFF or small stuff. Discard the small stuff.
  3. Learn – Life can get stagnant if you don’t push yourself to try new things or strive to learn something new. Don’t dwell on frustration/negativity/the daily grind. Read a book, write to loved ones (like an actual letter), try a new recipe, pursue a goal, take a class, attend a seminar…grow your brain!

A happier you means a happier spouse, and happier kids. They learn by watching, and you’re their biggest role model.

 

If you need me, I’ll be scraping the (almost) 1 year-old off the floor. He’s suddenly decided he can walk everywhere…

Backyard Vegetable Garden Must Haves

Backyard Vegetable Garden Must Haves

So, we’ve been doing this whole backyard garden thing for a while now. Every year we add a little more ground or another raised bed to expand our already, rather large vegetable garden. Along the way, we’ve picked up some great tools and even made a few of our own to help keep the work to a minimum so we an sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Here are some of our most loved (read old and decrepit) tools and favorite purchases (affiliate links are for products we have used and loved. Not just a random recomendation!):

a spade – Essential for shoveling soil and helping to move large amounts of topsoil or chicken poop.

drip watering system – This was a gift for my husband last year during a VERY dry summer. We didn’t want to run sprinklers all the time, nor was it good for the plants. Having strategic water on the plants when they needed it literally saved our bacon (or veggies).

Tomatoes as decoration works right? terra-cotta pots – We inherited most of ours from friends and family, but nothing can beat them for growing tomatoes and herbs. We’ve actually stopped planting seasonal flowers and coopted them all for vegetables. Is that taking it a step too far?

The lovely Ginger, exploring her new enclosure.chicken poop – Easy to source since we have our own flock of dirty birds, but seriously…this makes a great addition as compost! Having some great compost is life-changing if you plant your vegetable garden in the same area every year.

wine barrel – No explanation needed? Sadly, this one is retired from its wine making days, but will Don't mind the red chalk "paint" done by the girls.continue its life as a rain barrel. We’re also pretty stoked that we’ll be a bit more conservative about our water supply.

weed barrier – The squash plants always seem to overtake our raised beds, so we’ve been planting them directly in the ground these days. The week barrier makes a huge difference in keeping the weeds controlled while the young plants gain traction.
Next up, we’ll be working on our greenhouse so I’m sure I’ll be adding to this list as time goes on! What are some of your must have gardening items?

How to Curb Parenting Frustration and Find More Patience

How to Curb Parenting Frustration and Find More Patience

Parenting frustration is real and it’s here to stay. We can only work on how we cope with it. How many times have you gotten crazy frustrated with your kids lately? Have they asked the same question incessantly? Have they pushed your buttons one too many times? Are they poking and prodding endlessly about the same topic? Do you wonder how they forgot your instructions from 30 seconds before?

It’s a common story and a huge point of frustration in parenting, especially of small children. You are not alone! We love our kids, even at their most annoying. We are incredibly busy with work and home lives and just trying to get through the day unscathed can seem like a monumental task.

Putting all that aside for a moment, take a little journey with me. I’d say “close your eyes” but that would be problematic. Imagine for a few minutes, that you’re on vacation in a totally unfamiliar country where you don’t speak the language. You somehow got separated from the people you’re traveling with and find yourself in a part of the city you’ve never been before. It is amazing and beautiful and you are completely enamored. Walking onward, you try to keep your eyes open for something familiar as you explore, hoping to spot a restaurant or store where you could ask for a phone. Everything from the customs, the food, the clothing, the buildings are completely unfamiliar and you don’t even know where to begin. Hunger begins to make itself known as you walk onward, night is falling. Do you have that anxious feeling creeping into your belly? A stranger approaches and starts speaking rapidly to you, seemingly alarmed and anxious, gesticulating in an incomprehensible fashion. Looking around for assistance, you see only disapproving and unfriendly stares. You attempt to speak calmly and mime that you are lost and need help. But your every effort is met with more disapproval and confusion. You attempt all familiar ways to communicate but are rebuffed at every turn. Clearly, your efforts to be appeasing are only adding to the stranger’s negative view of you. That anxious feeling is quickly mounting into panic as the stranger begins to get angry and moves toward you. How do you feel now? Are you thinking clearly?

“If I could wish for one thing for my children, it’s patience.”Tweet This!

Ok, I get that this is an extreme example but is it so different from how young children see the world? They are bombarded from all sides with new information, rules, experiences, and sensations that they are attempting to process. Even when they begin to find understanding, inevitably, the circumstances change or a new element forces them back to the beginning. As they grow and learn, we are imposing new layers of rules and expectations upon them. We are by nature, contrary and inconsistent. It stands to reason that we don’t always correct, encourage or guide our children in the exact same way every time. There are also hugely varied circumstances that can affect our interactions with our children, yet we often expect them to read between the lines or understand us to an exacting degree. The cues and expressions we rely upon as adults to assess a situation are completely foreign to our children. They haven’t yet built up their knowledge bank of clues that they can draw upon.

Can you think of a time when you were in unfamiliar territory and suddenly grasped something that made sense? What was your first instinct? Most likely, it was to repeat that action over and over and over again until something new clicked. Then we repeat the next action ad nauseum until we find something else that works. This should some incredibly familiar if you think about it in relation to your children’s actions.

There is no miracle method or proven strategy for moving this process along and creating better listeners who don’t annoy us so often. What we are witnessing is a miracle of self discovery and self worth. We are instrumental in shaping their view of this world and while completely overwhelming, that’s an awesome responsibility. I mean awesome in its true sense, not the overused off-hand way we usually apply it. These kids are getting up every day with a huge sense of optimism, hope, love and energy that they are just aching to send into the world. They fail thousands of times, every day. With barely a blink, they get back up ready to try another thousand times. Their capacity for learning is incredible and they are using every second of their existence to make an impression on their surrounding and the people around them.

“Children fail thousands of times, every day. With barely a blink, they get back up ready to try another thousand times.” Tweet This!

So while parents are frustrated and exhausted by the world in all its mundanity, I challenge you to try to walk a minute in your child’s shoes. Take even a few seconds to look at the world in wonder and awe. Remember that they’re still developing their bearings on EVERYTHING and while they are certainly learning to manipulate us, it doesn’t often come from a place of deliberate disobedience. More often than not, they’re simply looking for love, reassurance and structure. They want to know the rules to this game we’re all playing and they want to excel at it! I realize this is an idealistic expectation, but even if we can put this in action once in a day that’s a huge accomplishment! More often than not, we’ll still find ourselves in that place of frustration but it is worth the effort to invest in ourselves and in our children.

If I could wish for one thing for my children, it’s patience. Modern life has this way of pushing us along at a furious pace and our gut reaction is to race along without question. But what are we rushing toward? I see people all around me from various walks of life, varying ages and backgrounds. Is any one group happier than the next? Does any one person have all the answers? The more I learn and understand, the more I am certain that what matters most is today. THIS moment in time. THIS experience. I have friends of all income brackets with the exact same insecurities everyone else has. I see baby boomers FINALLY getting to retire and then wondering, what now? Their health isn’t the best or they’re so stuck in “work” mode that they can’t or won’t relearn how to just live and enjoy being present.

This is nothing new or revolutionary. Many others have explained this more eloquently and more powerfully than I can. Yet, I think it too important to not repeat from my own perspective in hopes that it might strike a chord with someone. Even one person. Our children are embracing this very concept even as they race ahead into the school years, the teen years and soon adulthood. If we can’t enjoy life as much as possible in the now, then what’s the point?

“Find joy in the details.”Tweet This!

Life is made to be lived, in all its mundane and boring detail. Find joy in the details.

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