Teaching Gratitude Through Food Growing

Gratitude Through Food Growing by plentyofsimple.com

 

HAPPY CANADIAN THANKSGIVING!

Thanksgiving comes as a suprise every year here in Canada because we are still weaning off from the long sunny days of our summer. The leaves are just staring to changes colour and things are still relatively green in the Pacific Northwest, but a visit to a pumpkin patch will set autumn into high gear.

There is a sense of quieting down,  yet whatever is now harvesting is just bursting like a fireworks’ finale. I cannot help but feel the abundance myself and blessed that my family gets to be on the receiving end of the work from our community’s noble hardworking farmers.

Being able to expose our boys to this kind of simple abundance is truly a dream come true. In contrast to the place where I grew up in Hong Kong, where not a blade of grass was in sight let alone having the kind of expansive spacial experience such as a farm and fresh clean air, where we are now is truly heavenly.

To have available to me the freedom to navigate their childhood experiences and seeing how it really translate into their character development, I am beyond grateful to have this opportunity to parent outside of the mainstream expectations. It is by no means easy to swim upstream from convention but I am given only one chance to set the foundation of these boys and I will not forsake it.

PUMPKIN PATCH VISIT

A few days ago, I took the boys to visit a beautiful yet simple local farm with a small pumpkin patch. I wanted to find one that is not to too commercial so they would not get distracted by all the bells and whistles and be able to experience what actually grows there.

Due to the flexibility of a homeschooling schedule, I decided to visit this farm on what looked like the last sunny dry day for while. It was a Thursday morning, with most people either at school or at work,  we pretty much had to whole farm to ourselves to explore. We got to frolic in the field of pumpkins and experience first hand all the different varieties, shapes, sizes and colours pumpkins come in. It was simple yet magical. They both picked a favourite pumpkin/gourd, one looked like a goose and one looked like a starfish. It has been a few days now but they are still relishing in the experience and have been playing caretakers to their new “animal” pumpkin friends and more ways I can imagine possible.


TEACHING GRATITUDE THROUGH FOOD GROWING

Aside from all the obvious benefits of supporting your local farmers and farming community, to me it is one of the best and simplist way to demonstrate a deep sense of gratitude to young children.

After every visit to the farms and/or famer’s markets, during every meal or snack time, there comes a great opportunity to talk about how amazing the farmers are (especially when they have met them) and how hard they work in order for us to enjoy such deliciousness.

By taking them to buy directly from the farm or farmers, the benefits are many folds:

1. They get to go on an adventure to experience something of substance.
2. They get to meet the person that is actually responsible for the food that ends up on their table and in their bodies.
3. They get to see what hardworking looks like.
4. They get to understand where food actually comes from.
5. They get to see up close all the cool gadgets, tools and machinery.
6. They get to experience generosity because most of the time, the farmers will hand them something yummy to chew on.
7. Last but not least, they get to feel a sense of wonder and actually experience true miracles before their eyes. I mean really, isnt’ it a miracle how an ity bitty seed can grow into something so interesting looking and such diverse flavours?!

This autumn, see if you can find a farmer for your children to get to know and develop a relationship with them. By doing so, it is actually an act of living sustainably because you will be part of helping a hard working farmer to feel appreciated and in return they will put more love into the food they grow. Full circle.

Much warmth and blessings,
Grace

Finding Our Own Special Tooth Fairy

PlentyOfSimpleToothFairy

LOOSING OUR FIRST TOOTH

Leland, our 5.5 year old boy woke me up in the wee early morning hour last Saturday with a tooth in his hand.

I was in a bit of a shock for it was only a couple of weeks ago that he mentioned a tooth was loose. Both my husband and I were in a bit of denial at the time for we both lost our first tooth much later – more closer to 7 years old.  I thought I had some time before I needed to figure out what to do with this part of our parenting journey.

I was not prepared. I did not grow up with a tooth fairy.  It was not the Chinese way.  At least it was not in my family.  We did not have much folklore and magic around these things.   We had bible stories and a few Chinese telling tales behind some of the traditional festivals.  Most of the time it was told in a very pragmatic linear fashion.

Now it is my turn to decide how my children experience these significant childhood milestones.  For both my husband and I, we feel that loosing one’s milk teeth, especially your first one is exceptionally important.   It should be celebrated in a way that is magical.  We wanted to create a tradition that all of us will look back with fondness.

We did not want our tooth fairy to give money.  We wanted something that magical and poetic, something that is also fun with an element of surprise for the whole family to enjoy together.

Since I could not  improvise from my own childhood experience, I gently took his little tooth and said I will look after it until bedtime.  After breakfast, my husband took both boys out and left me with the rest of the day to figure this out.  So here is a rundown of how it all came together:

SEARCHING FOR OUR SPECIAL TOOTH FAIRY

First, I sent out an “Calling Emergency Tooth Fairy Help!” email out to the wonderful Waldorf Homelearners email group to solicit advice from more like-minded parents for help.

Then I searched for: “Waldorf tooth fairy stories”.  After a few quick website hops around, I came across a beautiful poem about a Tooth Fairy that I felt we all would resonate with.  It is a poem about how the tooth fairy takes the child’s tooth to a Gnome in which he turns it into a crystal.

Here it is (my apologies for not being able to find the original author or this poem). If you know who the author is please let me know!  I also have attached HERE a PDF version for you to download and print out (for your own personal use only of course).

” This night it is a special night
As fairies dance upon the roof.
All the fairies must alight,
For _______ just lost a tooth!

The Fairy Queen gives her commands-
Twelve bright fairies must join hands
Then together in a circle stands
To guard _____ while s/he sleeps.

The Tooth Fairy into the circle leaps
The hidden tooth she takes
Ah, but has far to go
Before ______ awakes.

Three times around the world she flies
Over valleys deep and mountains high;
Skirts the storm clouds thick with thunder,
Wings over waves all wild with wonder.

Deep within their earthly homes
Finally she finds the gnomes,
Who upon the tooth must work
Never once their duty shirk.

Some are hammering, hammering, hammering,
Some the bellows blow
Others sweat at the sweltering forge
And then cry out, “Heigh Ho!”

The tooth’s been turned to a shining stone,
A glimmering, glowing gem
The tooth Fairy takes the gnomes’ good gift,
And bows (curtsies) to all of them.
Before the sun’s first rays are shown,
She returns to _____’s bed,
And then – – – away she’s flown!”

DOWNLOAD PDF PRINT-READY OF THIS POEM >

 

GATHERING THE DETAILS

I looked up the closest gemstone shop and off I went.  Luckily, it turned out to be a large establishment filled with a plethora of all things gems and stones related.   Where do I begin?   I asked the clerk to see if there are any animal stones.  Yes, she said and lead me to this little bin full of tiny little stone animal pendants.  Jackpot!  And I started to dig in.

In a sea of little stone creatures, a beautiful Plume Jasper Dolphin surfaced and I knew it was the one for his favourite stuffy is a dolphine. I also inquired about  what stone is a symbol for this time of year.  A Carnelian is what she said.  I looked up the meaning/representation of it: courage.  Oh how appropriate for this occasion!

The Carnelian and the Plume Jasper Dolphin

The Carnelian and the Plume Jasper Dolphin

I had no idea of what I was going to do with these two pieces of gemstones, but I knew I will figure it out.

As bedtime story hour rolled around, I had made a small orange pillow out of recycled orange wool felt and teeny felt pocket to hold his little tooth in, and the poem ready to present to him.

Tooth Fair Pillow made with recycled wool felt.

Tooth Fair Pillow made with recycled wool felt.

He loved every little detail and went to sleep with the deepest kind of ernest anticipation only a little boy can have.

After our boys went to sleep, my husband and I were giddy preparing for our family’s tooth fairy “offerings”.  We decided that since it is his very first tooth, we will mark it with a special memento for the occasion.  He is going to get both the Carnelian stone and the Plume Jasper Dolphin pendant.  One is going to be from the Gnome and one is going to be from the tooth fairy.

We each wrote out a little note, one “from Gnome” about how he had turned his little tooth into a Carnelian and that it is also a symbol for courage, and the other note “from Tooth Fairy” on marking the significance of this first tooth.

We wrapped each one with a leaf and slipped it into the pocket of his tooth pillow.  I went to sleep that night relieved to have found our family’s special tooth fairy.  Now we can really have fun with helping both our boys build a special Teeth Crystal Collection that they can enjoy.

 

the Plume Jasper Dolphin pendant on a red hemp rope.

the Plume Jasper Dolphin pendant on a red hemp rope.

the two mementos for our boy's first tooth

the two mementos for our boy’s first tooth

 

It is such a great feeling to know that we can help carve out some of the childhood magic for our little boys and that the four of us will grow up having the same memories for these special occasions.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER – A SUMMARY

Here a quick recap of the components to create our tooth fairy, in case you may want to create something similar for your family:

1. Find a special little rock crystal (s) from your lock gem shop.  They are usually under $2 for such small size.  Note:  I would start finding them NOW if your kids have yet to loose their teeth.  You never know when they fall out on you.

2.  Sew up a simple pillow, I made Leland’s out of recycled wool felt and a little remnant piece of cotton print fabric, and wool stuffing.

3. I took a piece of wool cutout, folded up the sides and sewed it together to make a little pouch for the actual tooth.  I took the pouch and wrote the date on it and stored it in a little box in my own special secret cupboard.

4. A leaf from the garden for wrapping – no need for paper or tape!

5. Some hemp string for tying.

What was your tooth fairy like?  Did you come up with something different from your childhood?   I’d love to hear your story for I am so curious to know how others celebrate their children’s teeth.

Until next time.

Much warmth,
Grace

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Storytelling While Knitting

robinseggs

A sincere spring and Easter greeting from our home to yours.

Here is a photo of these Robin’s Eggs I’ve been knitting in the last few weeks.  I call this my lunch time storytelling project.  Since I would usually finish my portion of the meal sooner than my boys, I would pull out the small little size 2 double pointed needles and a leftover ball of sock yarn and would start knitting this simple little pattern.

As I knit, the boys would ask me questions that would prompt a story about spring, birds, eggs (in this case), my childhood, stories about their grandparents, their friends, and much more.  These little eggs are so fast to finish, it is a nice way for them to see me start and finish a project before them.  They would sometimes count how many I’ve made so far and would decide which one of their friends we should give these eggs to as little spring presents.

I find that these little mama craft projects are a great teaching tool for little ones.  It had always lead to great conversations and storytelling opportunities.

Here is the pattern that I have found from one of my favourite crafting resource The Purl Bee.

Enjoy the week!

Much warmth,
Grace

How I Fell Off the Zen Mama Wagon and Wanted to Break Up with My 5 Year Old

Falling Off The Zen Mama Wagon

 

A few weeks ago, the words “I want to break up with him” came to mind about my relationship with my oldest boy.  It was the first time that happened since I became a mother 5 years ago.

This will not be easy to write about because I will be confessing on how poorly I had treated my sweet little boys.  Especially when I love them both so dearly.

It had been a couple of weeks in the brewing. He must have been going through a major developmental shift and I know this because he is usually great to hang out with, until a developmental milestone is in the works then the “pings” (as Kim John Payne will say) will happen.
(Here is the summary of the lecture on discipline  – by Root Parenting Blog – I went to a few years back)

This time around the emotional tornados was hitting us hard from the moment he opens his eyes in the morning and would continue throughout the day.  It was starting to wear my strength down and my grounding was starting to waiver.

With all the hard work of conscious, respectful and attachment parenting I’ve been learning and practicing throughout the years, deep anger and resentment was brewing inside me.  The usual healthy doses of self awareness and consistent inner work was not holding me up this time around.

A week of this had gone by and by Saturday morning it all fell apart for me and I yelled and screamed at him for yelling and screaming at me.  I had completely lost control of my temper to a point where I didn’t really recognize myself.  It was awful.  When I saw the scared look on both our boys’ faces, my heart broke into pieces but I could not stop until after I had used physical force to get my 5 year old into the car.

It was traumatic for all of us.

It was one of the most awful position to be in. I knew very well that it was my responsibility to show my child how to handle strong emotions and yet I showed him exactly how NOT to be. This was not something I had imagine witnessing.  This scared me.

The monster in me (one that I had not seen in a long long time) came out and my kids witnessed it all.  It was not pretty.

 

THE SCENARIO:

We were getting ready for both boys to their first dentist appointment. My husband and I had been carefully planning this for months now. We would purposely schedule multiple short dental appointments for ourselves and would bring them with us to get acquainted with both the dentist, the equipment and the environment. We’ve made all efforts to have all those experience positive and light-hearted.

As we were getting ready to go, my 5 year old boy started to have a tantrum.  The kind that was physically violent.  He refused to get dressed.  I couldn’t take it anymore.  I saw red and it sucked me right in.

I needed to win. I needed to prove to him that we had principles and that we do what we set out to do. I forced him to get dressed and into the car. And by the time we got to the dental office we were both exhausted. More me than him.

After all that work to get there, we found out the receptionist had screwed up the time of our session and we never got to see the dentist.

So much for trying to prove a point.

In hind sight, my brilliant and sensitive 5 year old was just trying to do everything he could to resist going because he was scared and needed empathy from us. He had always been the kid that resisted strongly to anything new. I know this very well about him and I should have known better. But I fell into the vortex of reacting to those big feelings and made the situation worse than it already was.

 

THE AFTERMATH:

I became deflated and useless. I fell into a deep dark hole of sadness and guilt. I had to be in the car by myself when my husband took the kids to have lunch at a coffee shop for I could not keep the tears in.

I cried and cried and cried. It was a rainy drab day so that helped in terms of letting the tears flow.

After we put the kids to nap, my husband said: “You need to get out of here and go do something that does not require any problem solving. Go shopping. Go get a massage. Go drive and listen to podcasts (one of my favourite things to do). Go be good to yourself.”

Gosh darn.  Can I be more blessed?! With a husband like that I owe it to him and our kids to go find a way to get myself back.

Not knowing what to do or where to go (because I had planned to spend the day with the family), I packed my bag with my usual alone-time gear: laptop, planner, a book, workout clothes, a towel and jumped into the car.

As I sat in the quiet car, I didn’t know where to go. Thank goodness for technology, I checked into the schedule of my acupuncturist and there was an opening in 30 mins! Jackpot, I booked it and headed out.

 

THE REVELATION:

After giving my acupuncturist the short version of my head-spinning morning, she smiled and said she is going to give me one of the most nourishing treatment I have ever received.  Just hearing that had made me feel much better already.

During my session as I lay on the therapist’s bed, it became clear to me that I was just about to get my period and that my out-of-character melt down could be due to the hormone shift of PMS.  Now I have never been one to loose my mind over PMS throughout the years of menstrual cycles (maybe a little bit when I was a teen).  But I realized that the biggest difference with my current state may be due to the fact that it had been 5 months since I had stopped nursing.

Laying there on the massage table with needles punctuating various meridian points throughout my body, the calming effect of the treatment had allowed my tension to soften, assisting my rational brain to surface and started to consider this:

that the hormone levels in my body today would be quite different than it had been the past 6 years.  Since our boys are 2.5 years apart, and I’ve nursed both passed 2 years old, most likely I had been producing much higher levels of oestrogen, progesterone and others in the past 6 years than what I am living on now.

Realizing this imbalance in addition to a winter of a few rounds of the flu, I could not be as diligent as I needed to be in the self-care department (ie. regular exercising and proper me time etc.).  All that plus new levels of hormones circulating my veins, I had burnt out and didn’t realize it.

Note to all mothers: If you have yet to try acupuncture, please do.   For in my humble opinion that it is one of the fastest form of therapy to get your bearings back from falling off a cliff into a calm state.  The fastest way to the first stage of zen so to speak, the physical state at least,  for there is a lot more work involved to get to the bottom of this anger that came up for me.  Nonetheless I highly recommend all others to have the number of an acupuncturist on speed dial.

After my therapy session, I took the rest of the afternoon as slow as I could.  I had to stop myself from thinking about running errands and letting go of being home to get dinner ready and putting the boys to bed.

I took a long hot shower at the therapy studio, then got in the car and drove aimlessly while I asked myself where I’d like to take myself to have dinner.  What to eat?  Where to go?  These questions all felt a bit foreign to me.

As I felt aimless, the need to find some kind of connection with more experienced mothers was strong.  So far to date, all of my same-time-zone-mama-friends are all in the same parenting stage we are in – the early years = busy and tired, so I know it would be hard to find a spontaneous shoulder to cry on.

Thank God for Podcasts!  I dug out some old favourites and found some amazing new ones that spoke directly to what I needed to hear that day and started driving. (Which got me thinking about starting my own podcast! Ooo a scary yet exciting thought.)

Something about be alone in the car and driving while listening to great insights really help me find the grounding that I needed at the time.

 

THE PLAN OF ACTION:

Ok, so here is the list of what I had come up with during this much needed long-ish stretch of alone time:

1.  I need to keep and eye out for my hormone level changes in the next little while.  Try booking those self-care appointments ahead of time.

2.  Need to go consult my Naturopath and chat about how I can manage these new levels with a deeper look at my current diet, exercise and supplements.

3.  Since I am now a homeschooling mom AND working part-time (when the boys are asleep), I need to plan for one day out of every two weeks (still not sure about possibilities of the recurrence of this) where I can have an afternoon off that would not require me to run errands and come home to prepare dinner and do bedtime routine.  Basically do something that is shear fun for me.  Note to self:  write out a “mama-only fun list”.

4.  I need to slowly rebuild the broken connection with my boys by elevating the quality of our one-on-one time together.  By doing what exactly?  I’m not sure yet but I’m trusting that my intuitions, intentions, keeping my eyes and ears more open and they will let me know what they will need from me and I will be ready to give.

5.  Together with the boys we will get outside even more than usual and do more forest-y, beach-y and picnics than we had been over the winter months.  Thank goodness its Spring!!

6.  Keeping my husband informed of when I really need a break and not hesitate to ask for it.

7.  Sleep more. Ok. this one I’m writing down to just make myself sound like I will actually do that 🙂

8.  Remind myself that these years go by fast and that they are in their golden years of adorable-ness and keeping the gratitude attitude in check.

9.  Continuously finding and adjusting ways of nurturing myself so I can go nurture the heck out of the beautiful family that I am working so hard for.

10. Most important: to work on the self discovering of the what and why I was triggered so badly this time around.  I will report back on this one.

 

QUESTION FOR MY DEAR READERS:

Do you have a scary parenting-related burn out story?

Please share your burn out stories if you will.  I want to hear from you, especially when things are going tough.  We all know that this parenting journey is not always a bed of roses (or my favourite flower – ranunculus) and I know for a fact that some of you may be in the middle of having a challenging time with parenting.

I want to somehow connect with you when you are having a hard day or phase, or maybe share a story of how you have overcome a difficult patch.   Email me privately if you don’t wont to share here on the comments section.  I would love to hear from you.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Until next time…

Much sincerity, love and blessings,
Grace

It’s Been a While

It’s been a while since I last posted.  I have not abandoned this, if anything I cannot stop thinking about all the things I want to write here and it can be overwhelming.

I needed to take some time to re-access the direction I would like to take on with this blog.  There is so much to share to the point I had started to feel disorganized.  The voice in my head would remind me that I needed to continue to share what i’ve been learning because this parenting journey had been so enriching, educational, inspiring and rewarding that it would be selfish to keep to myself.

One of the biggest decision we’ve made recently was that we would like to try on the journey of homeschooling our boys.  This endeavour had been most exhilarating and overwhelming to me since like most people, I grew up going through the traditional school system.  Especially in the culture I grew up in (Chinese), the homeschooling concept does not exist – at least not in the last hundred years.

So here I am, again finding myself yet at another juncture where a decision is made for the development of our family culture that requires swimming up yet another stream with our current society.  Thankfully, when I started to dig around I discovered that there is a really sweet and supportive homeschooling group in our area and furthermore the support over the internet is astounding!  Many people have homeschooled and many more are starting to as well.  Knowing this, I am feeling quite safe and encouraged to give this all my efforts.

So diving into deep research and learning mode I went and here I am coming up for a little air to say hello and want to update on what type of things I will be sharing in the next little while.

Through my research on homeschooling, so far I’ve learned to deepen my rhythm at home as well as gained much new insight on how we all really learn as human beings, from both a scientific and emotional standpoint.  In a way, I’m actually homeschooling myself on homeschooling and the journey had been fun and eye-opening.

For instance, I just finished a workshop in the past weekend on the introduction to Anthroposophic Medicine and learned all about how to help my family to “Thrive through Illness” with the incomporable and gifted Trish Mcphee, and ER nurse practitioner from Grass Valley CA.  My mind and soul are so content with all this new knowledge on how to really facilitate my little boys, husband and friends during times of illness that I am looking forward practicing what I’ve learn the next time they are sick as well as sharing these experiences here.

Also, I’m working on a little e-guide on helping expecting mothers weave through all the baby consumer material minutiae that comes towards you as soon as you find out that you are pregnant.  I want to help these mothers-to-be to consider a simple and clutter-free first year into motherhood so they can focus on their connection with their new baby.

Until the next post, here is a wonderful essay on some of the things we should be aware of saying to our little ones:
10 Things to Stop Saying to Your Kids (and What to Say Instead)

I hope this winter had been good to you and your family so far and that you were able to find some time to do some reflecting and renewing after the business of the holiday season.  I am excited to connect and share more with you soon.

With warmth and love,
Grace

Our little Nasturtium seedlings that we planted on Imbolc/Candlemas (Groundhog Day).

Our little Nasturtium seedlings that we planted on Imbolc/Candlemas (Groundhog Day).

Implementing Rhythm in Our Home Changed Our Lives, Kept Our Sanity and Improved Our Relationships

Do you live with rhythm in your home?  I didn’t because I didn’t even know what that meant.   After I learned about it and started to really implement it, my family and my life had been completely transformed.  Here is the story of how it all started…

I was brought up in a home that did not have much structure.  We had meals at mealtimes but not always together, especially breakfast, it was often eaten standing up and completely rushed.   A lot of times packing it with me to eat on route to school or an event.  Sunday church was the only thing that was non negotiable.  Other than that, most family activities were off the cuff.  Of course I did not see anything wrong with this picture.  I turned out “fine”, as most people have.

My adult life before kids were just things that happen to me and all decisions were based on the result of how comfortable I would or would not be.  No one would realize and see how self indulgent one is until you become a parent, no matter how giving you think you have been. Don’t feel bad about this if you don’t have kids. It is only natural that you would want to be good yourself.

Parenthood will bring out the dark stuff, from the inside out.  What you do with these feelings/emotions/realizations and whether you want to learn from it is entirely part of your path.  To me it is a choice, you either choose to ignore/bury it or you face it head on.  If you choose to face it then it will probably be the most uncomfortable, self inflicted hard core (pun intended) decision you would have to make.  The worse part is, there are so many layers and once you go in, it is hard to come out unscathed.  The layers are extremely overwhelming.  It takes courage and guts to face this darkness.  To me, this is actually THE hardest part about parenting – dealing with your own crap.

Most new parents talk about how hard it is to take care of highly emotional infant/toddler set, about how to deal with their tantrums, asking around for tricks and tips on discipline, seeking for the best methods to getting them to sleep through the night…the list goes on.  The truth is, when your kids are “acting out”,  it is actually them asking you to look into yourself.  And if you want things to change, you have to change yourself first.  In the world of kids, words are cheap especially in the early years.  I have learned that one has to model the behaviour you want your kids to have.  THAT to me is why parenting is not easy, the smelly diapers and the tantrums do not come close to the difficulty of inner work.

There is light at the end of this blog post/tunnel.  I worked hard on my own crap and I got rewarded.  Let me tell you how it happened.  Lets get back to the topic of rhythm.

From the beginning of my parenting journey, I thrived on the attachment parenting philosophy of how to be attuned and keeping close awareness of your child’s needs.  I was that mother who “wore” her baby everywhere.  First slings then wraps and then the Ergo carrier.  The used McClaren stroller we purchased via craigslist the day before he arrived collected dust.  I was into keeping my baby close to my body as much as I can and as close to my face and head as I can.  He and I definitely bonded.  I was happy and he was happy (so I thought).  I was breastfeeding on demand and I was okay with him needing to feed throughout the night (and day).  He could sleep when he falls asleep and eat when I sensed he was hungry.  I would prepare meals for him first, feed him and then think about what we’d eat AFTER he falls asleep – a lot of times that is after 10pm.  This baby-led lifestyle was working for us – so I thought.  I remember even commenting to myself on how “rigid” this mother was when I learned that she would put her 6 month old to nap and sleep for the night everyday at the same time.  I remember thinking: “Kids would sleep when they are tired.”

Wow, did I have something to learn.  Enters my own unhealthy connection to sleep.  I grew up not having a set time to sleep.  I was allowed to sleep as late as I wanted throughout my childhood (a lot of times, pass 11pm).  I never recall on having to nap or being asked if I needed one.  I slept because I was exhausted, not because it was bedtime.  I was always tired during the day and would crash out in the library on a desk while trying to do homework after school.  As a result, when I got older I had insomnia and would stay up two days or more in a row during exam times throughout university.  I did not know how to self regulate.  That was my normal.  Yeah.

Here I am, totally “handling” my sleep-deprived life like a pro.  As this lifestyle continued, I was starting to fall apart and not realize it.  I would have trouble keeping up with housework, I couldn’t take a shower without thinking that I would wake the baby up, I was also working part-time.  I thought I had a handle on it.  I thought this stressful, surviving-by-a-thread mode was normal and that was what parenting a young child is like.   I accepted it and both my husband and I were game for the challenge.  Until one day I came across the Waldorf School and their child development philosophies while researching for schooling around my community.

Enters a WHOLE NEW WORLD. Total and absolute epiphany.  What an eye opening experience.  This was the first time I had encountered the words rhythm, home and family in the same sentence.  Rudolf Steiner?  Who is that?!  (I’ll have to take a rain check on the elaboration of Mr. Steiner.  What I have learned from his philosophies are many a blog posts to come.  Stay tuned.  In the meantime, here is the link to his wiki world to make it easier for you know now )

From the moment I “walked-in” to this new-to-me world of Waldorf Education and its philosophies on child development, I knew I had found something I can really sink my teeth into.  No one, and I mean NO ONE I knew throughout my diverse life experiences had ever talked to me about the existence of this philosophy. It felt like I was censored from it my whole life and all of a sudden the curtain was lifted.  Eyes wide open I went in head first into the deep end of this fascinating new pool.  I may as well have just discovered a new planet.

I am a really fast learner.  I’m even faster if I feel a fire in my belly about something.  Well, my stomach was burning alright.  I only had to read a few of books and articles out of the milieu of teachings for me to change our family’s way of life 180 degrees.  Of course I have the best partner who was in complete support to this new research and was so on-board with trying anything new if it has to do with improving our family life.  So we went out there, worked our butts off in making changes within ourselves and got us some rhythm in our home.  Here is what it looks like (please keep in mind that we have pre-school age kids, this will change as they grow of course) :

  1.  7am: We have an epic un-rushed breakfast before father goes to work.  When I said epic, i mean we all eat together sitting down, with table set, no cereal in a bowl of milk but instead fresh fruits, yogurt, eggs cooked in different ways in different seasons, sometimes bacon or sausages and toast.  On weekends and special occasions we take it even slower and grander, doing pancakes or french toast etc.
  2. 8:30am: After breakfast activity (for the ages from infant to around 6/7) consist in the form of a walk around the neighbourhood visiting cats, saying hi to the postman, chatting with neighbours, pick berries and throw rocks in the river or a short hike in the forest, then back home for a bit of circle time – singing, stories and snacks then free uninstructed play while I prepare lunch.
  3. 11:45am:  Lunch time happens in the same time frame everyday, again together, no matter where we are.
  4. 12:30pm:  2 to 3 hours of nap/quiet time in a room where there is a bed – no sleeping in the stroller, in the car seat or in a carrier.
  5. 3pm: After nap activity would be similar to after breakfast and 2 days out of a week, we make get in the car and go explore somewhere a bit further.
  6. 6pm: Dinner time happens in around the same time frame, and dad would do everything in his power to be present for this meal – even meaning having to work a bit in the evening.
  7. 6:45pm: Bath, story and a song – for the first 3 years we didn’t even read books.  We would all lay in bed in the dark and tell stories that would pertain to our boys’ day/life.
  8. 7:30pm:  Lights out.

So this is what the basics framework of what our rhythm looks like.   Of course it gets flexed with the ebb and flows of the seasons and developmental milestones.  In general,  everyday of our lives now looks more or less like this ever since I’ve discovered this way of organizing our days, yes even on weekends!

It may seem boring or its just a time schedule if you look at it at face value but the kind of discipline and creativity it takes to sustain this EVERYDAY takes a lot of hard work, especially when you have never experienced this throughout your life.  We have been at this for over 3.5 years now and we are constantly refining the details and making it even better.

Every since we got rhythm, both my husband and I been rewarded with quality “me and us” time every night starting from 7:30pm.  The boys sleeps through the night.  I get to have a bonus 2 hours of quiet uninterrupted time in the middle of my day where I can recharge.  But the real reward is how the kids are.  They both feel secure and joyful knowing their day is predictable, they are well rested therefore able to absorb new things with much focus and ease, well feed with regular timed meals and snacks to keep energy levels even-keeled, the pro list is very long. Ultimately they are genuinely happy, physically thriving and has an overall great sense of peace about them.

What I really want to say to all the struggling, sleep deprived parents out there, is that you CAN keep your sanity, have time for yourself and your relationships even with very young children in your home.  Two years ago when our second boy came into our lives and into this developed rhythm of ours, his ability to self-regulate from the very beginning never cease to amaze us.  So yes, you can have rhythm in your home from day one.

I strongly urge all families to try this out.  There are lots of trails and errors that we’ve worked through and ironed out throughout this journey and we know with every developmental change, there will be a new shift in the details of our rhythm.  I will be writing more on these shifts and changes in many posts to come for if I can inspire one family to develop a peaceful fulfilling home life, I would be more than happy to share our stories.

To learn more about how to set rhythm in your home, here are some great resources to dig deeper into:

Carrie, one of my biggest parenting inspiration from The Parenting Passageway,  has many many amazing insightful posts on this topic, this one is a good one to start with:  Eight facets of a family culture: Rhythm (Part One).

Helle Heckmann, renowned Waldorf Kindergarden teacher and author of books like Slow Parenting wrote an in-depth and detailed article on how to create rhythm in the home.  It is called Daily Rhythm at Home and its Lifelong Relevance.

These two articles alone will open the door wide into looking at parenting from a different perspective than what we are mostly exposed these days.  It is truly inspiring to know that there are such great resources out there and I feel so grateful to have stumbled onto this for it has changed my life significantly and continuing to do so.

Please feel free to leave a comment or sent me and email if you want to discuss more about this, especially if you are thinking of making this change.

With much warmth and love,

GracePlenty of Simple

Our simple yet epic breakfast

Our simple yet epic breakfast

Raising Babies and Toddlers without TVs & iPads is Totally Possible

It is true.  Both our boys (4.5 & 2 yrs) have not watched a second of television in our home.  They have not looked at or played with my iPhone/iPad, and have not been played back a digital movie recorded of them from all our cameras.  They are completely screen-free.

Almost every person that discovers this about our kids has the same reaction.

1.  They are shocked, eyes opened a little wider and followed by saying “like, none at all?  Not even a little cartoon on YouTube?”  NO, not even a 30 sec non-speaking-French/Japanese-produced-award-winning-short-anime on You Tube.

2. “Not even the iPhone?”  Nope.

3.  Then they will say:  ” Wow, ok.”

4.  Then silence.

5.  Then they would take a long look at our boys and would say:  “Maybe that is why they play so well on their own?”

Maybe, maybe not.  Time will tell, I tell them.  But in my heart, I truly believe that this is why we have such peaceful, joyful and engaging little boys.

How is that for simplifying?!  Yes simplifying does not mean it is easy.  In our modern environment surrounding us with so much technology and immediate information, deciding on no-screen-time AT ALL takes discipline and a very clear conviction on our part.

To give you some clarity, both my husband and I do not hate technology and we do not think television and computers are evil.  In fact we are total geeks when it comes to computers and technology.  I love movies, I was even in the film business as an art director for a while.   I love my iPhone to bits, mostly because of the camera.  I love Instagram.  I design eCommerce websites for companies.   When the boys are in bed, we both just go all-in on our daily fix of tech time.  Mainly the web and the occasional movie or TV show.

Screen time for young children is proven to hinder their development, and I don’t want to spend time here to count out the negatives.   There are many other obvious reasons why we’ve decided to do this and I will go into more details about this on other posts –  but the most simple answer is (sorry for using this word so often but then after all this IS what this blog is about):

WHY NOT!!

Think about it.  We only have one chance to parent these kids at this age.  We know very clearly the magnitude of how absolutely paramount the early years are.  As the Chinese would say: “By the time you are 3, your character is set for life”.  When we think about it this way it was so easy for us to commit to the No-Screen house rule, for the early years anyway.  What have our boys got to loose by not watch television, thumbing through apps on the iPad or iPhone?!

Nada.  If anything it has everything that is positive that comes with this no-screen discipline.  It forces us to work on our engagement and our presence with these amazing little beings.  They need our eye contact and our solid attention when we are around them.  You may think, if that is the case then we would have to hover over them all day long.  NOPE!  In fact it is the opposite.  You won’t believe me if you haven’t tried this, but it is true, screen-free kids don’t need to be helicopter-ed and we haven’t felt the need to do so.

Whenever I think of how I can simplify, I always do a “simplicity check-in” as I think about my mother’s childhood (over sixty years ago).  She grew up in Southern China without any modern technology.  She did not have toys and she did not have television.  She and her siblings ( all FIVE of them) grew up to be intelligent, engaging, funny, successful and adventurous people.  I would think about the stories she told me about her childhood and they were always funny and exciting – climbing plum trees, getting diarerhea from eating too many plums, taking care of the chicken (they only had one until it was eaten and then they would get another one ), hilarious stories about their fights over the most simple things,  and how happy they all were even though they were poor.

Life with kids without screen-time for us had been really peaceful.  I strongly urge parents to try it, especially if your kids are young, it is much easier to enforce.  They will not miss what they don’t have.  So what do you do with them all day long you ask?!  Oh the list of fun is long and I will talk more about our daily rhythms in future posts.

In the meantime, I am working on writing about the time we went to visit family in Hong Kong last December, on a 12-hour direct flight (there and back), stayed there for 10 days WITHOUT any screen time?!   Yes Hong Kong is one of the most media-driven, highly stimulating cities in the world and yes we did it. Yes it was not easy and no, no-one was hurt.  Nobody died.

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