With the start of the New Year there’s a large increase in healthy eating, which usually means more people are working on healthy habits. As a family, this is a goal we’ve been working on for some time though we still have a long way to go. Looking back over the past year, I can say that I’m really surprised at how far we’ve come.
The whole journey started after our 2nd child was born in November of 2013. We weren’t happy with our health, our energy levels or our eating habits. With a toddler in the house that was regularly fed a very balanced diet, we were forced to realize that our own diets weren’t quite so balanced or nutritious. As our inquisitive toddler was sure to see the dichotomy here, we made a commitment to improve our own eating and exercise habits in order to set the best example possible.
Over the next few months, we made small and gradual changes that we pushed ourselves to make into healthy habits. We exercised more, took time to cook healthy meals, invested our time in learning more about how to improve our eating habits, made small changes in our home and schedules to accommodate our new goals and so on. It’s actually difficult to pinpoint what each step was because they were small and the process felt gradual and is still evolving to this day. I can vividly remember looking at a few of the sites I regularly use today (for recipes and advice) thinking, that’s way too hardcore for us. Fast forward to a few months later, and those same websites are my current staples.
Beyond food, we’ve been exercising more and took steps to make that a priority. Sure, there are days and weeks when we slip up or life gets in the way. I took almost a month off in December due to all the family gatherings and our crazy schedule. Could I have made time for it? Yes!! Did I feel as good as I have for most of last year? Nope! Lesson learned. It can be really difficult to keep something going (even when you know the results are worth it) when it requires extra work on your part. Getting up at 5:30 am is HARD! Especially when the sky is pitch black, your bed is cozy and warm, the baby was up during the night and you know you have a million other things to do later that day. Despite my laziness, I can honestly say that starting back up was no picnic at first, but now I’m back in gear and loving the benefits once again. It’s worth the extra effort to keep those healthy habits going, even on the worst days!
It’s pretty amazing how much our lives have changed in the past year. We’ve gone from having a new house, a toddler new baby and a sluggish and unhealthy lifestyle to having a toddler and a pre-schooler, much healthier habits, a new love for cooking as a family and a huge increase in energy. All those things have made us more productive in our daily lives too. We’ve taken time to pursue personal and family goals and plan for our future. It can be so frustrating at times because you feel like you’re making all of these positive changes but not really seeing any results. I’m here to tell you, the results are coming! Even now, they’re not big changes but I can definitely see how far we’ve come and can only imagine on how those changes will start to affect our lives exponentially. It’s a work in progress and will be for some time to come. but we’re moving in the right direction.
**Be sure to contact me directly if I can answer any questions or help you pursue your goals this year.**
It’s been a whirlwind these past few weeks, chock full of family gatherings, last-minute shopping, teething babies, tantrums, get-togethers with friends that have been put off far too long and the list goes on. We’re exhausted!
While the interruptions to our routine have been fun, they’ve also added a whole new dynamic of behavior issues…especially with the 3-year-old. We’ve always been very flexible with our routine, but she needs a certain amount of down-time to stay on the straight and narrow. It will be a relief when things start to settle back to normal.
Despite all the angst, we look forward to this time of year for months! We love the anticipation and the joy of spending time with friends and relatives we don’t see very often. We remember fondly last years promises to see each other more often, yet life inevitably gets in the way. These moments are precious and we’d pay for them in sweat and tears a million times over. Not everyone is so fortunate and we know that we are blessed.
So from our sleep deprived and tumultuous household to yours, we wish you a blessed Christmas and hope the rosy glow continues long after the holidays have ended. Whether you have little ones or not, we hope a little Christmas magic finds its way into your heart.
With the craze of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the deluge of Christmas decorations, advertisements and hype, it seems impossible to teach gratitude and show kids what the Season should really be all about. My goal this year is to turn the conversation around from “What do you want this Christmas?” to “How do you want to give back this Christmas?”.
We are extremely fortunate as a family. We have a house, loving family, food in our bellies and good jobs to help pay the bills. There are many things we would like to change for the better and we have to save our pennies for those future plans, but we have everything we need….and then some. Sure, we have to pick and choose where to spend this month but we are careful not to spend beyond our means. Not only because we don’t want to be in debt but more significantly, because we want to show our children that this season isn’t about satisfying material wants. More than anything, we want our kids to understand that we should appreciate each other, all that we have and help provide for someone less fortunate than ourselves.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the chaos of shopping and preparing for family and friends that we seem to run out of time and energy before we begin. But now, more than ever is when we want to think beyond our selves. I want our family to find joy in bringing smiles to other people’s faces, to spread happiness not as an obligation but because it teaches us something about humanity. The simple pleasure we find in giving and caring for others should fuel conversation and a willingness to keep giving back all year through
Here are some ways we plan to learn about gratitude this year:
1. Donate food and gently used clothing.
2. Pack up and donate gently used toys to a Toy Drive.
3. Participate in a “Giving Tree” from our local school.
4. Limit our Christmas list and ask for something that’s not for ourselves.
5. Have the kids participate in making gifts for family and friends.
Here are some ideas for older kids:
1. Donating your time at a Soup kitchen. Real people encourages real compassion.
2. Set a grocery budget (a less fortunate family might have) and have the kids shop for a meal. Make a list together beforehand and let them understand the compromises that will have to be made.
3. Help a local organization make Christmas baskets. Actively participate in giving back and show the spirit of giving.
What else would you add to our list?
We’ve been having an ongoing battle with morning wake up times in our house, going on a year now since our youngest was born. Far from the easy sleep her sister was, the little one took us on a merry dance of multiple wake ups per night. Her sister, was sleeping through by three months. Not so for this little charmer! Fast forward to about 9 months and the little one was still waking occasionally due to teething, colds etc.
Throughout this time of early rising and too few hours of parent sleep, the three-year-old would spring out of bed at the slightest noise (usually thanks to the rugrat) and put up a huge fight if told it was too early. The crazy part was, she seemed wide awake and happy to go about her day. A few days into this and the fatigue would begin to show in crankiness and general irritability. Not to mention, my own morning routine was thrown for a chaotic loop when I never knew when or even if I could find a minute to shower or attempt to exercise. My husband is usually out the door pretty darn early so corralling the minions was up to me.
We started with a two-pronged defense. We allowed the three-year old to stay up a slight bit later at night in hopes that a consistent delay in bedtime would help alter her time clock slightly. We also purchased a toddler “alarm clock” that has a picture on the front. One portion of the picture shows an awake scene and one shows a bedtime scene. If she stays in bed until the bunny is “awake” she’s allowed a reward of some sort in the morning. We had recently gotten her a LeapPad for her birthday so 10 minutes of “computer” time was a powerful motivator. That said, it took a few weeks of consistency (and lots of crying and pleading on her part) before the behavior began to sink in.
We were careful not to punish her when she didn’t succeed. We’d just patiently explain why she wasn’t getting the reward (multiple times if necessary). Many times, she’ll still wake up before she’s allowed out of bed, but we’ve successfully kept her from getting up before her allotted time. Now, she’ll pick up a book or play with her animals in bed until she can get up. That’s fine by me since I know where she is and am not worried about her waking her sister. She had been getting up between 5:30 and 5:45 so I started with 6 am and have gradually added 10 minutes to that every so often. Now she is allowed up at 6:30 and boy does that make a HUGE difference in my sanity.
As for the babe, the methodology for dealing with her frequent wake ups was more along the “grin and bear it” variety. When she wakes it’s always something significant, be it soaking wet diaper, an objection to the temperature, gas, teething, what have you. She is very difficult to get back to sleep without a bottle, but if it’s still the middle of the night I make her one and quickly settle her. I’ve tried rocking and soothing for over an hour and trust me when I say, it does nothing. She’ll lie there and coo at me for hours if I let her. In the morning, I’ve made a conscious effort not to allow her early wake ups to alter my routine. Unless she’s crying with real distress, I let her whinge in her crib. If it’s before 6 or 6: 30, most often she’ll fall back to sleep. At almost a year old, she rarely wakes during the night now and again, only for significant reasons. I’ll cope with that.
Now, if only I could train Daddy to hear those nighttime wakings and get the bottle before I have to elbow him in the ribs…
1. Figure out the root of the problem (in our case, crazy early wake-up time).
2. Brainstorm a few ways to solve the problem (toddler clock, later bed-time, reward system).
3. Come up with some new rules to tackle the problem (explained thoroughly and repeatedly to toddler).
4. Sleep on it a few days, make sure you’re happy with the plan (heck, ask the toddler for input if you like).
5. Enforce the plan (again, with copious amounts of explanation to the toddler.)
6. Remember, the behaviors will escalate before they change.
7. Re-assess and make minor tweaks if necessary (large changes and you’ll be starting over completely!)
8. Consistency will win out in the end (though your sanity will be sorely tried).
9. Enjoy your hard-won success. Everyone will be happier for it.
I was the kid who’d stay up to all hours with a flashlight under the covers, reading books. Our oldest is now three and she is well on her way to being exactly the same! She’s allowed to “read” in bed at night and we often have to tell her, multiple times, to put the books away and go to sleep. I’ve gone in to get her up in the morning only to find her burrowed into a teeny space on her bed with books covering every other spare inch. She’ll sit for hours at a time looking through books or being read to, she’s insatiable and I love every second of it!
It all started when she was a few months old and my husband starting reading to her every night before bed. It was a long road to get her to sit still. She’d squirm, pull at the pages, snap the book closed and do just about anything except sit still. When she got a bit older, she’d start pointing to things if you directed her to them. With immense patience we kept at it, and soon, pointing out pictures as we read aloud became an interactive journey. She began to make connections with the story and it was amazing to see. Eventually, we started to swap out the simple baby books for stories with more content and more intricate story lines. Now, she craves long, involved stories and will bring us an endless stream of her favorite books if we let her.
Here are a few of our favorite books to read aloud:
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle – A classic and a favorite, this one never gets old. From the early days this has been a favorite because of the vivid pictures. From learning about colors, numbers, food and eating the right things to help us grow…there are endless learning possibilities.
Martha Speaks by Susan Meddaugh – She gets very anxious about the “bad guy” but loves that the dog saves the day. This one usually involves lots of discussion during the story as it’s a bit less obvious and the story is more involved.
Steam Train, Dream Train by Sheri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld – Just a sweet story with beautiful illustrations, this one is another that just begs questions to be asked at every turn of the page. Great for budding imaginations.
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury and Michael Rosen – The repetitive language and onomatopoeia is such fun and amazing for language learning. We constantly act out this story as we go for walks, play at home or cavort in the yard. We’re still waiting to catch a BIG one!
Anything Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser – Witty, funny, chock full of great words and often just as full of great learning opportunities. These books generate a million and one questions and breed curiosity. Such a fun set of stories to read with girls of all ages as they learn about the world around them.
What are some favorite books you’d add to this list?