A Letter to New Mothers

Hello there, I can’t believe this will be my 6th post in a row this week.  If you have not been following, I am almost at the end of a creative habits challenge – to post everyday for one week called the #YourTurnChallenge.

Instead of going with a plan, I have decided to release some of the many many things that I had wanted to write about but had placed in the back burner of my mind for reasons like:  “Oh I’ll need to take beautiful photos for this topic, or will people actually be confused because this has nothing to do with parenting even thought I feel a strong urge to share, or oh I need to fix this theme up because the font is driving me nuts,  (I am a designer, I can’t help but find a need to make everything and anything look and feel better) basically your typical perfectionist way to thinking.

This week I have committed to letting it go and to free myself from all the things that had been holding me back from sharing and not caring what other people may think, I feel empowered.

Today I want to send out some love and big hugs to all the new mothers out there struggling to make it through the day/night.  Ones with hearts that are frightened but also filled with love for their newborns yet still physically a mess from recovering from just having birthed a human.  Hello there, this post is for you.

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ITS ALL A BLUR ISN’T IT

My heart goes out to you.  There is nothing easy or simple about being a mother for the first time.  For me, it felt like being out there all alone like of the story of Jesus out in the desert for 40 days but instead of being tested with temptations, it was my strength and resolve that was up for questioning.

Yes of course everybody wants to help you, that is our society’s instinct to welcome and help new mothers and babies but are they really helping you in a way that you felt you needed to be helped?  That is questionable because you probably don’t even know what kind of help to ask for yourself.

Outside of the trivial things like food, laundry, changing diapers, holding the baby while you go to the bathroom/shower, not one person can truly help you get more sleep or nurse your baby.  You and your boobs are up for bat for what feels like never ending and technically, this all is physically abusive in my opinion.

Yes you can be in bliss but feel like crap at the same time!

I can safely say that this first newborn business is the most overwhelming feeling that one can ever experience.  No one can prepare you for this.  You can read all the books you want, buy all the things you think you need, none of it will help you feel less overwhelmed and that is the truth.

So today I want to acknowledge to all those that are feeling bogged down and tired with some encouraging words:

  • wrap yourself in a protective bubble for the next 3 months and feel as bad and good as you need to feel.  Cry with your baby.  Keep only the people you feel you can be vulnerable with around you for the first 40 days (minimum), and if that person is not your mother, she can only stay for short visits.  I know this may sound harsh but it is the time to kick start and unleash your mama bear instincts.  Protect your family at all costs, even if you may offend somebody close to you.
  • there will be a lot of opinions but know that your gut instinct will always win.  This is your baby, one that had been with you and not any other person for 9 months, you know him/her the best as he/she know you as well.
  • remember to let people know if you are feeling sad or scared and go for a walk to get fresh air even though the baby may be crying non-stop because they need a mother that knows when to say no and be good to herself.
  • drink lots of soup!  Like all day everyday for the 6 months (at least!!) if you can.  I know it may sound crazy if you are not Chinese but since now Bone Broths are so hip and trendy, I don’t feel like I have to prove my point as much as I used to.  Which brings me to another great blog post idea – to share with you all my go-to easy-as-hell postpartum (or not, for I still make/drink/eat today) soups.  I truly believe it can be a huge asset against PPD (postpartum depression).  Here is one recipe I found that is quite good to get you started with.
  • sleep WITH your baby.  Please I beg you to let go of all the fears and scary “incidences” portrayed in the media about co-sleeping.  Cribs are a first world modern invention, in my opinion, just something extra you have to spend money on.  Enjoy cuddling up to your precious gift this most fleeting time.  Soak up all that amazingly intoxicatingly sweet baby smell.  Treasure and devour this time with gusto.We never had a crib.  There was really no need.  If you have a high bed, just lower it and live like this for a few years.  You and your family will live. (and later on, if you need more room in your bed, add a little cotton futon next the bed on the floor, put a nice wool blanket (you can get one of those well used one from the thrift stores, get it cleaned and use that is a mattress protector, and put the sheets on top.  Voila, you have an all natural, non-toxic baby bed that also fits you and there will be no smells or mess if pee goes all over it, just wash the sheets and hang dry the wool blanket and start all over again.  (Oh gosh, I just realize I have to write a whole post on why wool is THE BEST for baby bedding!!)
  • keep your sleeping quarters really dim and as low light as possible.  Your baby had been living in total darkness since conception, the harshness of daylight in itself would be so uncomfortable, let alone bright interior lights.  We had dimmers put on most of our interior lights for this reason.  This will help with the quality of your sleep (if you do get to sleep).
  • Embrace the heck out of the dirty messy-ness of your baby, even if it gets all over you.  Have lots of thing towels around for wipe ups.  There are much dirtier and smellier things in this world than baby poop and urine.
  • in keeping with the theme of this blog of keeping things simple, most people do not believe us when we tell them that we have never used baby wipes. ( I always thought about my mother and what she had used when my brother and I were young, just soap and water and not a drop of cream)I rather you spend the money for baby wipes on pampering your own skin!
  • read this amazing post on my #1 favourite parenting blog.  Just scour her archives when you are up in the middle of the night.  I owe so much to Carrie Dentler’s words.  She is a serious inspiration and I owe her for helping me feel right about my parenting direction and choices.  Oh and of course THIS post.
  • I LOVED the sling mostly because I love being hands free.  Spend some time looking up tutorials (here is one for ring sling, this one is with a wrap, which I loved using especially when I wanted to cook ) on how to nurse your baby hands free.  Work with your baby and practice finding that special position that works for you both.  This will really help you get out of the feeling of feeling “trapped” with a baby 24/7.
  • Do not forget about your partner.  He or she is most likely feeling just as scared and overwhelmed as you are.  Stay close and keep the conversation inclusive.  Keep them in the loop.  Empower them because they are the most important part of raising this new baby, besides your boobs.
  • Last but not least, when the crying is relentless, and baby is fed, pooped, diapers changed, hold them close and as they cry, close your eyes, breathe deeply and visualize yourself as a rock in a running river as the water moves through you and you, the rock, does not waiver.  This was inspired by a written piece I was given by a Waldorf educator, which helped me figure out how to weather the ebbs and flows of a rapidly growing and changing little human.  When I find the article, I will post it here.

I’d love to hear from you if you happen to be reading this (maybe in the middle of the night and feeling desperate to connect, please drop me email (grace at plentyofsimple.com) or comment below.  Let me know if you have any questions or just get the fear out be writing about it.  I want to lend a helping ear.

Until tomorrow.

Much love and warmth,
Grace

 

 

 

 

MISSING: Purposeful Work for Young Children

Hey there, its the 5 day in a row posting here!  This writing a post for 7 consecutive day from the #YourTurnChallenge is quite the regimen to behold.

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Today I want to share with you a topic that really changed my way of seeing children and therefore it has change my life.

Before kids came into my life I was not really interested in them.  I never babysat.  I might hold an infant for about 10 minutes but I always thought I did not habour natural nurturing instincts like other girl friends I knew.  I was always very content with the idea of not having children and just enjoy being a modern working woman.

The story of how I got here, not only a mother to two boys but a homeschooling mama to boot (gasp!) should be written in another post for I want to focus on sharing with you one of the biggest lightbulb moments my my parenting journey.

“Young children from infancy do not need to be entertained.”

Yes that was the message I got – and really needed to hear from a “professional” – on the first day I walked into a Waldorf parent and tot class, nineteen months into motherhood.  While before that day, I was fortunate enough to have encountered some amazing resources (oh I will share those!) that had lead me to find “Waldorf” and the philosophies of Dr. Rudolf Steiner.

Well, if children do not need to be entertained, then what do we do with them at home all day long?! (That is if you are at home with them).  That was the question that came up right after that statement from this amazing Waldorf early childhood educator.

“Young children need to do purposeful work, this is how you help them build their true will and their sense of self.”

Now please note that the “true will” is different than “willful”.  If anything a willful child is actually a child that lacks true will.  This topic was so well explained to me when I went to a lecture by Kim John Payne – the author of the game-changer book Simplicity Parenting.  (I think this is a must read for all parents)  Sorry, I digress so…

The big question:

What is it that we do with children if we are not to entertain them or find them something to be entertained by?

The big answer:

We engage them in doing purposeful work.

What is purposeful work we ask?

Well, isn’t that what is really missing in our modern culture today, especially in first world countries where knowledge and winning trumps everything?

Purposeful work is in my opinion the hallmark work of building true character with strength, values and empathy in our children–and for the rest of their lives– without having to actually verbally teach it.  That is the glorious beauty of engaging your young ones in purposeful, meaningful work.

What actually is meaningful work one would ask.  Here is a list of example of what it may be:

  • washing dishes
  • cleaning the floor
  • laundering clothes
  • ironing (yes! tell me who irons these days?  Who do you know has the patience to do this job today? Ironically – no pun intended – ironing actually is one of the best activity to develop focus, patience, hand-eye coordination, and last but not least something that most people complain about our youth today for not having: followthrough.  Yes ironing is actually something that can build character!!  Oh but it is so hot and it is too dangerous, I will not let me kid touch an iron.  Well of course you are not going to let a baby or 3 year old actually iron but if you actually do ironing in front of them on a regular basis as part of your weekly rhythm, out of the blue one day when they are 4.5 years old, they will ask if they can use the actual iron and be able to iron and fold napkins better than your grandmother.  True story. )
  • cleaning windows with newspaper (with vinegar diluted in water)
  • taking care of the garden ie. pulling weeds, raking leaves, mixing soil etc.
  • grow food (yes you can do this even if you don’t have a garden or balcony)
  • caring for pets – everything from grooming, taking them for walks, feeding them.
  • setting the table
  • help prepare meals.

Oh the list can go on.  I’ve been asked about how one can make an infant, preschooler actually do purposeful work?  The answer is that YOU actually are doing this purposeful work in front of them while they are by your side shadowing you while they…the drum roll…PLAY ON THEIR OWN!!! (Refer to my post on letting kids be bored and here as well.)

Of course the icing on top would be that you sing while you do these “chores”, but that is asking for a lot isn’t it?!  Okay one lightbulb moment at a time.

I would love to elaborate more on this for I love talking and helping people figure out how to be purposeful at home with young children but it is Friday evening and I am going to celebrate the end of a hard working week hanging out with my love.  Yes the kids are sound asleep and peace has reigned in our home.

Until tomorrow.

Much love and warmth,
Grace

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Feeding Your Kids Boredom, Another Cornerstone of NOFOMO Living

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Here it goes, day 2 of my #YourTurnChallenge
(I am challenging myself to post everyday this week – so bare with me, very little editing is done.  Apologize in advance the spelling and grammatical errors.  I really want to practice the “just ship” discipline. )

Many people would not believe me when I first tell them our boys do have not watched a day of television, a lick of computer time and played with my phone, let alone a learning app on the iPad.

But when our friends and family experience them in person, (they are six and three and a half years old) they do feel there is something quite different with the way they interact with the world and mostly they cannot put a finger as to why that is.

This is not a post bragging about how amazing my children is. This is a post on our experience and objective observation on the effects of our No Media discipline.

I too had my doubts. For a long time I just chalked up my first born as one of those rare kids that is naturally good at playing on his own, by chance. We lucked out.

But when the second boy came along, I began to realize soon after his birth that this is not the case OR that I have won the lottery twice.

After six years into this discipline, I feel I can safely say that the No Media Policy (for the kids only, we do use our mobile devices but rarely in their faces, and watch movies when they are asleep) that our commitment to trying is out is paying off in thousand folds.

Most people don’t see how it can be different, they think that kids are kids, and like candy, they just have to experience it somehow, somewhere. Such is life.

I am speaking merely to the early childhood phase of course. I know things will change as they get older but during these foundation years, this kind of discipline we are upholding really does play a huge part on our children’s overall development.

Here is what we have learned and observed:

1. They can keep their attention span for a long time on any given subject of interest. From watching someone cook, to a construction worker working on the siding, to a person playing the violin on the street.

2. Their imagination is pure and dreamy. I would know that almost everything that they express is authentic to their character coming forth.

3. Their speech is clear and articulate. They don’t talk like a cartoon characters.

4. On a scientific level, boredom will help with a young child in the enrichment of the wiring of their brains, their neural plasticity.

Specifically from new born up to 4 (approx), the most optimal way to protect and aid in the synaptic refinement to their full potential is to keeping their environment as serene as possible.

In other words, less is really much more than we think, especially for a young child, contrary to how our modern society pushes the more is more philosophy.

In Dr. Lise Eliot’s book “ What’s Going On In There?, she mentioned :

“ The initial wiring of a particular brain region (the period of synapse overproduction) marks the onset of a particular ability, such as vision in the first few months and language in the second year. But it is the prolonged pruning period that fixes the overall quality of that ability, because this is when experience –translated into neural activity–decides which connections will be preserved and, consequently, how the brain will be permanently wired for certain ways of thinking, perceiving, and acting.

As long as an excess number of synapses are present, the brain remains maximally plastic and can develop in a variety of ways. But once those excess synapses are gone, the critical period is over, and it must make do with its existing circuitry; there is no trading up for a faster computer.”

So the next time your little kid is looking bored and staring out the window or in “space”, know that there is a WHOLE LOT going on in there and please do not “snap” them out of it.

5. Through boredom, we are giving them a gift of the space to rise above it and come up with new ideas on their own. Hence, in no time, especially when you are not afraid of “letting them be bored” from an early age, they will be come so skilled in playing on their own.

6. Last but not least. I have yet to teach our boys the actual word “bored”. So in many ways, they have yet to experiece it cognitively therefore they have never nagged and whined about being bored. In other words, what you don’t know won’t hinder you.

Now imagine how nice it is to be able to be in the same room as 2 toddlers and we are all doing our own thing together without the television on? Well, I really want to share with those of you who do not think it is possible that it is. It just takes the vision and the willingness to try out this discipline for at least a week. I can guarantee that peace will reign upon your household, and much longer than a tv program to say the least!

Go on and unplug that TV and iDevices. Just like weening off anything, the first few days will be tough but have the faith and know that in doing so, you will see a difference in the overall energy in your household and you will not want to turn it back on again…until they turn ten years old, maybe.

Much warmth,
Grace

The Big Picture

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The fact is our parenting journey goes by so fast.  During the early years, the days may feel so long but the years are short.  Now that we are a little over four years into this phase of our lives, we are finding time is speeding by faster than ever before.  We just blinked and our first boy will be five this year.

Recently, I stumbled upon this Podcast by Jack Petrash, an author, a parent/teacher educator, a master Waldorf Teacher and the founder and director of the Nova Institute.  This Podcast was a talk he did a few years ago about the basic overview of his book Navigating the Terrain of Childhood” – A Guidebook for Meaningful Parenting and Heartfelt Discipline.  His talk was one of the most beautiful rendition of the big picture of the parenting journey that I’ve ever heard in less than 60 minutes.  It was so simple, earnest and heartfelt as well as moving and exquisitely descriptive using the metaphor of a road trip through the United States, starting in the east coast from North Carolina to the west coast ending in California.

My heart was so full by the end his talk, my eyes were filled with tears that streamed down with overwhelming knowledge these beautiful years of wonderment with our boys will just fly by.  It is not like we don’t know this – that children will grow up fast – but it was how he told this story, almost like a fairytale that made this talk so different than all the other ways it had been presented to me before.  It was so moving and most of all inspiring.  It has inspired me to become even more conscious that I feel I already am, and to live in the present with even more conviction that I will not take ANY moment with my boys for granted.  I want to be able to be real and truthful with them with as much clarity as I possibly can.  I just want to be there, with eyes wide open.   I’m not here just to serve them and help them grow, I am doing this for Vince and myself too!

I’m not sure who will stumble upon this post, but if you are reading this and you have children then I would strongly recommend listening to this wonderful gem.  It will open your heart and your mind to see the humanity of all our journeys, it will add some more depth to the way you see the world and your children and most of all, yourself.

I would love to hear your feedback and listen to your thoughts on this.

With much affection,

Grace

A technical note on the Podcast:  It is divided into 11 Segments and they are not arranged in chronological order, so you will need to select each one as you go along.  Also, the time stamp of these segments are incorrect, each Segment is only about 5 minutes long so don’t be taken that this is going to be a long drawn-out lecture.  

Speaking Less as More

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Parenting with less words.

One of the main shift in paradigm for me after becoming a parent is to truly understand the importance of not talking too much to a young child.

I was under the impression that I will need to “teach” many things to my child and tell them all about their world and surroundings.  It is such a common thing in our society when talking to very young persons is to ask about what is their favourite,  ask them to name an object or colour and mostly sentences will start is the word “What”.

What is your favourite colour?

What is your favourite animal?

What would you like to eat?

What would you like? This? or That?

This is usually how we adults think to engage in a conversation with kids.

My husband and I don’t do that anymore.  It was not an easy habit to break but after understanding how questions can actually stress and pressure a young child’s development, we simply cannot  continue as “normal”.  The normal in our household now is to listen and observe more.  We comment and ask much less.  Ever since we’ve become conscience of this, we have noticed a significant change in the overall energy in our environment.  It is much more peaceful and the day goes by with more harmony.

Some days, I get commented on the gentle and calmness of  our little boys’ dispositions.  Our society’s expectation of the behaviour of boys is usually loud, physical and rambunctious to name a few.  As if gentleness and calm are something so rarely “natural” in children (especially boys) and that we must have won the lottery (twice!).   Most people are in awe at how observant and engaging they are.

Since I usually do not talk about parenting unless when asked, I just make a mental note to myself that I know I have found one of the secrets to parenting that will result in overall serenity:

In speaking less to your child, they will blossom (even more) before your eyes.

I’m sure I will be writing more on this topic…

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Reset Days

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Today was a day of utmost simplicity.  After a wonderful 3 day weekend filled with quality family gatherings and outings, hosting out -of-town guests, and closing it with a birthday party at a friend’s house, we are all over played.

I was so looking forward to today where I know will be a day of tranquility and I am so glad it turned out to be just that.  Both our boys (4 and 1.5 years old) woke up to a day of reset and we were all delighted to know that there was no agenda to abide to except for our simple yet solid rhythm of meals, free play and rest.

I wanted to set the tone by not speaking too much, not asking questions and keeping requests, tasks and activities to a minimum.  Both boys took to this quiet energy like a warm blanket on a cold winter’s day.  They just nestled into their imagery worlds with a knowing that they will not be interrupted.  I was just a facilitator and a recorder of their unconscious little selves, being as free and as relaxed as they needed to be.

These are the days I feel so good about choosing to be at home with them.   The quietness of today allowed me to witness the unfolding special-ness of a childhood.  It makes me breathe deeper and cherish my role as a stay-at-home mother that much more.