self-care

Switch Off Sundays

Switch Off Sundays is a phrase I first heard from Leonie Dawson and it resonated with me.  A day free of social media, emails, and other technology.  A day to connect to what truly matters.  Our society used to and some religions still observe a sabbath.  A sabbatical to connect to myself.  Tune out to turn in with the intent to be present for my family and free from distraction as possible.

I know childhood is so temporary.  Children seem to be in a rush to do what big kids do.  I don’t want to miss out on my kids’ childhood for a second.  Social media and emails do not have priority over my real day-to-day life.  I am responsible for their childhood memories.  It’s a daunting task, and one I take seriously.  And the best and easiest thing I can do is ditch the technology for one day.  I know the emails will still be in my inbox come Monday morning.  And I delete more than half of them most days anyhow.

Instead of deleting emails or catching up with a latest post, I will talk to my family.  I marvel at what new words my 17-month old has discovered.  She loves books and has us read the same story over and over.  She can touch her knees and toes when I sing “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”  She’s learning about her face and can say “Eye” so clearly when she pokes her stuffed kitty cat’s eye.

I can take in my five-year old’s enthusiasm as she explains with energy and her whole being about an activity she’s done or looking forward to doing.  She has a zest for life.  She shares with joy in all of our family’s experiences.  Last week after a doctor’s appointment, I took her out and I said, “I love our together time, just you and me.”  And she said, “You know what I call it when it’s just me and daddy together time?  Love.”

My 13-year old stepdaughter has the most insightful conversations.  Her vocabulary and maturity leave me in awe.  And I can chat with my husband.  I love our long, uninterrupted talks about life, our home, and our future goals.  This is my real life.  I choose to focus on today.

My five-year old calls weekends “Home Days.”  And I couldn’t agree more.

self-care

When liquid gold isn’t so golden

My 16-month old toddler has a soy allergy. As a vegan, soy was always a big part of my diet.  I’d have soymilk in my daily coffee, in cold cereal, in my smoothies, and in any recipe that called for milk.  I’ve been fortunate to successfully breastfeed my baby for well over a year.  But that soy I was eating was in my breastmilk.

The baby always seemed to have a rash on her face. She’d rub her chin fiercely on her crib sheets and against my shoulder.  She always seemed to be teething.  She also had eczema behind her knees, behind her elbows, ankles, wrist, and sometimes even her armpits.  Even her older sister gets eczema.  I attributed the rash to her fair skin, teething, and genetics.

At her 12-month checkup, they had to draw blood to check for lead paint. My husband and I asked if they could do an allergy test too, since they were already pricking her with a needle.  The test results showed a mild to moderate allergy to soy.  It also showed very low levels to oat, wheat, and peanut.

But it all came down to the soy. Since I was still nursing, I eliminated soy completely from my diet.  I found a creamy almond milk I loved (Califa) and started to read labels even more closely.  We met with an allergist who said she could eat products with soybean oil or soy lecithin (which appears to be in everything).  My toddler’s face cleared up.  She was no longer rubbing and scratching her chin.  When I stopped pumping, I replaced the breastmilk with fortified coconut milk for her at daycare.

Last week, she needed more coconut milk at school. I still had frozen breastmilk in our freezer, so I sent that to school instead.  Well, by the end of the school day, she had her rash back.  She rubbed her chin so hard that it was bleeding.  And she had small hives on her back.  The breastmilk I sent to school was from before we knew about her allergy when I was regularly consuming soy.

Breastmilk has been described as “liquid gold.” And I’ve spent quite a substantial amount of time pumping and saving breastmilk for my baby. I had a vested interest in using it.  But after her latest allergic reaction, it is inevitable.  All my frozen breastmilk has to be tossed.

Now I can be upset or sad at all that wasted time and effort I took in pumping and saving the breastmilk. But I’ve decided to make peace with my decision to get rid of it.  It’s not worth keeping and using if it’s going to hurt my toddler.  And I forgive myself for feeding her food that she was allergic to.  I didn’t know she had the allergy at the time.  So I’m not going to carry around resentment or guilt.  I was doing what I felt was best for her at that moment.

Is there something you’ve made peace with that you want to share? I’d love to hear your comments below.

self-care

I am not my mood

All this weekend, my 16 month old was driving me crazy. Changing her diaper had become a wrestling match.  I would pin her down across her waist to stop her from rolling over and off the changing table, while she protested, “No! No! No!”  You’re only 16 months old.  You’re not supposed to be telling me “No” yet.

She’s a happy, content, cuddly baby most of the time. Now it seems like she thinks she’s a big kid, wanting to be like her older siblings.  She almost climbed up the ladder to the top of the bunk bed within seconds of leaving the girls’ bedroom door open.  I was exhausted from chasing her.  I kept repeating to myself, “This kid’s gonna be the death of me.  I’m going bonkers, bring me to Butler.” Not in all seriousness all the time, but the thought was ever present.

Last night around 4:30 a.m., my baby was crying. Not the usual, I’m half asleep whimper to a cry.  This was full-blown hysterical crying.  My husband brought her to our bed and she just sobbed and sobbed for a good thirty minutes.  She slung her body across my chest, almost like she had me pinned down, with her face close to mine.  I rubbed her back and took deep breaths to silently demonstrate calm breathing.

The crazy making self-talk melted as I held my sobbing child. I realized I was the only one making myself crazy.  She needed me to be there for her, to make her feel safe and loved.  She had me pinned down. And while I held her, my heart widened to that truth.

self-care

How my family ditched paper towels

I always believe that buying in bulk saves money. We used to buy the biggest package of paper towels with eight or ten rolls, so big that I had to store them in the basement.  Our paper towels had a use for everything you can imagine: wiping up spills, cleaning counters and the table, drying off produce, and of course, they were our napkins of choice.  It seemed like every time I went into the kitchen, I’d be ripping a paper towel off the roll for some purpose.  We probably went through a roll a week and it always seemed to be on our shopping list.

A few years back, we bought reusable napkins. They were dark green and some had a pretty print.  My husband always wanted us to use those instead of paper towels.  But they were stashed in a drawer for years and forgotten.

Finally this past January, he declared, “No more paper towels.” He folded the napkins into a basket and placed it on the table.  We began to use those napkins to wipe our faces and kitchen towels to clean up spills.  Despite my protests in the beginning – we are a family with young children who make a lot of messes – it has worked for us.

Now I reach into the basket and enjoy the feeling of wiping my mouth with a piece of cloth. I don’t miss the chemical smell and roughness of a paper towel on my lips.  I’ve thought about the money and trees we’ve saved with this one switch.  There’s been an empty roll in our paper towel holder ever since, and it won’t be replaced any time soon.

What have you been wanting to ditch or switch in your life?  Let me know in the comments below.