Month: January 2015

Actions Speak

“How can I know who I am until I see what I do? How can I know what I value until I see where I walk?”

~Karl Weick

I watched a wonderful TED Talk last night about how our actions impact our mindset, regardless of intent.  It is clear that what we are thinking or feeling at any given time affects our actions, but the scientist in the video set about looking at how our body’s actions can change the way our brain functions. I think intrinsically I knew this, based on how different I feel when I’m up and moving versus sitting at the computer for too long I just hadn’t expanded this thought to include all that I do with my physical body.

The study was of people who were asked to take on a ‘power pose’ (think superhero or a CEO with feet up on a desk).    What they found was that testosterone rose and cortisol levels decreased when a ‘power pose’ was held for just two minutes.  Similar to how holding a pencil between your teeth without letting your lips touch it replicates a smile and can improve your mood despite lacking the intent of an actual smile, the ‘power poses’ changed brain functioning at a chemical level to give the gift of confidence.  If you look to nature, even amongst different species of animals, certain body postures are common across the board.  Crossed and huddled postures denote shyness or withdrawing, while wide open and tall postures exude confidence.  They extended the experiment to have people go through a  fabricated job interview with and without first ‘power posing.’  It was all done blindly, so the researchers at the end didn’t know what conditions they were judging, meaning who had posed/not posed.  100% of the time, the people who had done the ‘power poses’  were chosen for ‘hire.’  Amazing.

So what conclusions did they draw?  The researcher summed it up with the euphemism, “Fake it ’til you make it!”  But she took it one step further.  After she started taking her own advice, she realized that she had become what she had wanted to be; a confident public speaker.  So she changed the saying to “Fake it ’till you become it.”

I’m still thinking through the implications of this information but for now, I’ll be posing.

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Raw in Winter

We have some wonderful friends who eat an exclusively raw diet.  They came over for dinner a couple weeks back, so I was inspired to get out our favourite raw cookbook, Rainbow Green Live-Food Cuisine by Gabriel Cousens, M.D..  I am always so pleased with what I make when it comes from this book.

A common misconception about raw eating is that everything has to be cold.  This is not the case, and infact Ayurveda suggests we need warm foods in the winter.  The idea with raw is to not heat anything beyond 115 F so that the living organisms stay in tact.

So, with company coming, I prepared my first raw soup!  I was able to use some of the frozen tomatoes from our garden that are supposed to some how turn into pasta sauce in our slower months.  Remind me again when to expect those?!  The soup was so simple and quick to make, and the result was fantastic.  Here is the recipe:

Pine Nut Cream of Tomato Soup

4 tomatoes

3 stalks of celery

1 cup water

3/4 cup pine nuts

2 TBSP lemon juice

1 tsp basil

1 tsp oregano

2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp freely ground black pepper

1/4 tsp cinnamon

Directions:  Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.

Advice from my raw eating friends:  Heat on the stove on LOW, stirring constantly until soup reaches 115 degrees (we used my candy thermometer to be sure, although my friend who does this often now knows the ‘feel’ of it).  You can also heat things in a dehydrator, although this isn’t as practical for soups.  They also suggested adding some sprouted rice or mung beans just before serving to make it more hearty.

The Snowsuit

My eldest son is growing too tall for his current snowsuit.  In an effort to secure something for him before he has to bare his stomach in the winter weather, I posted a ‘want ad’ on kijiji (an online garage sale of sorts) asking if anyone had a snowsuit in the correct size that they no longer needed.  I received a reply straight away with the exact thing I was looking for.  The following day, I packed all three children into the van to head into the city to pick it up.  I tried it on my son, and found that it was too large.  Apparently there is another size between his current jacket, and the one I had placed the ad for.  In an effort not to offend the person I was purchasing from, I bought it and brought it home.  The whole way home, I was so disappointed with myself for buying it anyway.  We were not in need of it yet.  Not only that, but when I got home, I found I had another coat already on my basement rack that is about the same size!  I was embarrassed at my haste, and how I hadn’t prepared myself by visualizing beforehand what I would do if it wasn’t the right thing, which I do to help myself avoid making unnecessary purchases.

I posted another ad, this time with the correct size listing.  I received two replies to my new ad, both telling me of stores that have snowsuits on clearance at this time of year in the price range of what I was willing to pay for a used one.  Upon hearing of these ‘deals’ that were quick to disappear, I decided that getting the snowsuit purchased and sorted out would be the best choice.  So, I headed to the shops.  I looked.  There was nothing left.  So I headed to another location…still nothing.  Everything closed for the evening, so I went home with a wall hook to hang the children’s brooms.   Disappointed and frustrated, I became a bit obsessed, shall we say, about the snowsuit.

The following day, we decided to take the family to see a local professional clarinet quartet performance of “The Three Musical Pigs and the Wolf.”  The production was on the other side of the city, just before lunch.  I packed the boys each a ‘bento box’ for them to eat in the car on the way home, and shoved some chopped avocado and cheese in a cup for the baby.  In my mind, I had decided that we should leave early to stop at yet another location of this store which happened to be near where we would be for the concert, in search of ‘the snowsuit.’  As I saw it, it was a case of stacking functions!

My husband is extremely busy right now getting ready for an upcoming four day organic conference where he will be a vendor.  Needless to say, adding one more thing to our already heaping to do list was not a great way to be supportive of his need to get work done at home.  After raising my idea of one last chance at the snowsuit, and having it ill received (for what are now obvious reasons), we entered into an emotionally charged conversation.  After I lost my ability to think straight and shouted, “I know I’m not being rational,” we calmed ourselves down and went through a bunch of reasons why the snowsuit was such an important issue for me.  The list went something like this:

I wanted to get the ‘right thing’ for my son and felt guilty that he doesn’t have what he needs, I felt guilty for purchasing the wrong size the previous week, I felt anxiety over not wanting to miss the ‘deal’ and pressure to rush out to buy ‘the last one,’ and I felt a strong urge of selfishness to have a bit of time to pursue (what I falsely perceived to be) my own desires.

Usually my issues of inner transition are not at all logical!  They are wrought with emotion and carry with them a lot of baggage from my past.  It is for this very reason that they are my issues of transition; they cannot be easily solved.  I had not realized just how many issues I would need to confront in order to give up the idea of stopping at the store.  Sometimes it’s just so much easier to avoid holding up a mirror to our darker side, opting instead to blindly carry on with the ‘business as usual’ mentality.  After some fretting and much teary discussion (from my end), we headed out to the concert with the idea that perhaps we could stop on the way home depending on time.  I feel so blessed to have a partner who fully supports and cares for the wildly swinging pendulum I call my life.

We ended up going to the store after the concert.  Everyone waited in the car eating their food while I ran inside.  There were no snowsuits.

Pushing out Processed Food

We have been on a journey to reduce the amount of processed food in our lives for quite some time now.  I have found that I have food sensitivities to just about everything processed (namely corn, wheat, sugar, and preservatives like sulphites or citric acid – which oddly enough is usually sourced from corn).  Because of my own journey to find a way to eat which supports my dietary requirements, our family has already come quite far along the spectrum toward consuming only whole foods.  We do have a few vices which have remained in our diet.  A few examples of these foods that still linger for us are chips, cliff bars, and one particular brand of gluten free cracker.

I want to be able to resist the urge to buy things in packages.  Unfortunately we’re not self-reliant enough yet to squirrel away enough of our own food to last the winter months. But besides that, even whole foods come wrapped in a sheath of plastic.  I feel a pang of discomfort when I look in my garbage can and see it shoved full of plastic.  I don’t know what else I expected to be in there.  We try to reduce the amount of plastic that passes through our home, including toys, food, dishes, you name it!  We consider our use of plastics carefully!  I try really hard not to buy things with excessive packaging, and to reuse what we can.   For example, I have started to buy individual avocados for the baby so that I can avoid the plastic mesh bag that encapsulates the package of five, despite paying more for the fruit.  I buy the frozen organic vegetables that come in the resealable bags so we wash them for reuse in harvest season.  I buy only items in glass jars for reuse in our home or for recycling (plastic recycling can only be reused for throwaway products, whereas glass can be reused indefinitely for the same purposes).  But still, there are so many things I want to change…because there are still too many plastics finding their way into my garbage can!

Here I struggle with what’s best…to allow myself some convenience, or to push ourselves harder to move away from all food in packaging.  I have to remind myself that life is a balancing act, and inner transition is all about slow sustainable change.  I know the season I’m in right now is a busy one, with three children age four and under, but I also know that I have a responsibility to the planet.  Each plastic item that makes its way into my home has a hefty price tag: production, consumption, recycling, waste.  So where does that leave me?  Wanting to be somewhere I’m not quite ready to be…ready to make commitments that are not quite feasible yet.  So, I shall carry on, making one more small change at a time.

I had begun this blog entry before reading this post by Zero Waste Chef, which provides 7 wonderful tips for how to eliminate waste in your kitchen. When I read it, I was reassured that this process is a slow one.  I also felt encouraged to be already incorporating a few of her suggestions.  I have gained some wonderful ideas for next steps, and will continue to push toward less and less plastic in my garbage can.  For now I am going to try and take notice of what types of items are there, looking for ways to eliminate them.

Getting Out of the Way

I often feel I am my own worst enemy when it comes to parenting my children.  My latest feat is to try and learn to keep my mouth shut.  Usually if I can hang back a bit and let my children sort things out for themselves when the situation is safe, they will come to good conclusions on their own.  When I speak for them, or jump in with my own ideas on how to solve the problem, I am eliminating the opportunity for them to think for themselves.  They miss the chance to gain some experience self-regulating because I’m regulating for them.  They can’t observe and interact because I’m chiming in with what I feel to be an appropriate solution.  I find myself bound by what I think I need to do in order to teach my children, when in fact what I need to do is be a good role model and mind my own business!

I have been a teacher for over 10 years.  In the environment of a classroom, where rules are tantamount, there is a definite benefit to reducing certain aspects of students free-thought.  With a classroom of 30 students, you don’t particularly want them questioning you on every rule…as an example, imagine a classroom without the one about raising your hand to speak during lessons?!  I have a lot of practice reinforcing children’s behaviour to conform to my ideals.  But this is not the way I want to parent my children.  It is also one of many reasons we want to keep our children out of ‘the system.’  I have a lot of baggage when it comes to discipline and ‘teaching,’  which is proving so very difficult for me to unlearn.

I often end up chattering on about things they already know, or could easily learn by just carrying on.  An example here would be when my son had piled a laundry basket over the top with boxes.  They were teetering and I warned that they would likely fall when he picked up the basket.  Such a seemingly innocent comment is so loaded, it is staggering.  My intervention was so unnecessary.  He would have learned that lesson when he picked up the basket, which he did end up doing, despite my warning.  What I did succeed in doing was to show him that I think ‘mommy knows everything,’ which is clearly not true and a most unintentional subversive message.  I was also cluttering his headspace with ideals of him listening to what I’m telling him to do.  But much to my detriment, by requiring this when it isn’t necessary, I’m in fact watering down this request for the times in the future when I actually will need him to listen!  Another underlying message was, ‘you are silly for trying this, when clearly it won’t work.’  This is how stories of self-defeat are born.  By continuing my chatter of judgements, I am not helping them grow into the resilient people I want them to be.  I am passing on the very things I’m fighting to rid myself of.  It hurts  to watch it all unfurl from my lips.  I want to save them from myself!

I think the future of our planet requires empathetic, creative thinkers.  These people are not products of conformist ideals.  I’m trying to raise competent people who can think for themselves and are resilient problem solvers.  I see no better way to do that than to encourage them to develop this skill as early as possible…if I can only get out of their way.  My approach has been to try to not feed them the answers, but rather ask them the questions and then walk away.  My favourite is, “How would you feel if you were in his position?  What would you want to happen to make it right?”

My current goal is to build trust.  I want them to trust that I will keep them safe, and often tell them that is my job.  I also want them to trust themselves and their own abilities to solve problems, so I can’t let my solutions be the only ‘right’ ones.  There are always multiple solutions to a problem.  Making myself the centre of everything that happens in this home isn’t helping anyone.  When I do create this vortex around myself, I just end up with everyone’s problems to solve – martyr mom in action!  I also have to build my trust in my children’s abilities and autonomy, knowing that they have the capacity to figure out their own solutions.  I reassure myself often that nature doesn’t make mistakes and it is not my responsibility to dictate the learning process for my children.  I need to trust that I have laid enough ground work, modelled enough, made enough suggestions of possible resolutions.  Trust.  And when it turns out to no be the case, step in with some gentle guidance to keep things growing.  I feel this interaction is rather like planting a seed beneath mulch, waiting, trusting that something is happening and that one day the effort of planting and mulching and caring will keep the seed safe enough to flourish.

Listening for Results

My four year old child asked several times the other night if he could paint his wooden train craft.  I was busy making dinner for the family, and the question kept coming.  The answer was always the same, ‘No, not right now,’ but was spelled out in a myriad of ways.  Not realizing how absent I appeared to him, I couldn’t understand why my answer was not being received.  He was unable to accept my answer until I called him over to me, got down on my knees, looked him in the eyes while gently holding his hand and said, “Do you feel like I’m not hearing you ask to paint your train?”  To which he replied, “Yes.”  I explained that I was hearing him, and recalled my reasoning for delaying the craft.  I then said very clearly, “The answer is no, and will remain no until tomorrow.”  He didn’t ask again.

What made the difference?  Connection.  Tenderness.  Presence.

Mother nature needs the same presence as my son.  I see the Earth asking the same requests of us over and over again but in different ways.  Humans answer back, without stopping to engage in listening.  Her story is not really being heard.  I want to take the time to listen with my whole self.

Elimination Communication

I spend a lot of my time dealing with the toiling of my little ones.  We still have 3 in diapers; my four year old wears one at night, the two year old is hit and miss during the day, sometimes opting for a diaper, sometimes underpants, and the baby is always in one, but thankfully has slowed in the number of diapers she’ll use in a day.  We cloth diaper our children, because as I see it, there is no other option.  The amount of waste created by disposables is mind boggling, and not something we’re willing to participate in.

Cleaning diaper laundry isn’t the most fulfilling job in the world, to say the least.  Thankfully, Rob is excellent at staying on top of it.  We have a routine.  Every other night, diapers are washed using two cycles.  The first cycle we run cold with no soap and as much water as possible to rinse them well, then we set the second cycle to hot and run it overnight with natural detergent or soap nuts.  I hang the diapers out to dry in the morning…or sometime the next day.

The worst part of diaper laundry is cleaning feces off of diapers.  When my first was born, we purchased a diaper sprayer to attach to our toilet.  It was the best investment we made.  We would spray the poop off right into the toilet.  Due to constant use, it began to leak.  We tried to fix it, as this is always our first response to any problem in our home, but to no avail.  The sprayer was cheaply made with plastic parts that could not be replaced.  We didn’t want to invest in another ‘throw away’ product, so to replace it, I headed into the city for a visit to a specialty plumbing store.  They sold me a ‘T’ shaped joint to attach to my toilet water intake that had an on/off valve.  To that we attached a kitchen sprayer tap.  It works just as well as our first model, except its better, because the parts are good quality and independently replaceable.

The best thing we’ve done to mitigate diaper cleaning is to teach our children to use the potty from an early age.  Before my first son was born, Rob learned of something called Elimination Communication (often referred to as EC and sometimes called ‘infant potty training’).  It sounded strange, and yet too good to be true!  The idea is to teach the child to eliminate when they hear a cuing sound.  As a new mom, wanting to ‘get it all right,’ yet feeling overwhelmed in my first few weeks with my bundle of joy, I started ‘potty training’ him at 2 weeks of age.  I would cradle his torso along my forearms while I held onto his thighs with is bum pointed into the shower.  I read a few books that discussed the strategy and the process was fairly straight forward.  The books suggested to do a day of ‘diaper free’ time, making the cuing sound when you notice the child going.  We use the cuing sound ‘psssst’ for both pee and poo, although some people separate the two, using a grunt for poo.  I have used this on occasion when I’m trying to refocus my child while on the potty.  For my first, it took only one day to get our first ‘catch’ (EC’ers use this term when you successfully get a pee/poo in the potty – or in our case, the shower!).  I was amazed at how quickly my child responded and how much easier it was to clean him up after…I never looked back.  I would take him to the ‘potty’ and make the cueing noise each time I did a diaper change during the day.  Some people will take their children throughout the night, but I found this to be too disruptive to our sleep.  I began by holding him in a reclined position with his bum pointed into the shower, then when he resisted being held in arms by trying to sit himself up and arching his back, I started to put him on a little potty.  By 5 months of age, he no longer pooped in his diapers.

With my second, it was not as easy to be consistent with taking him to the potty and he took until 6 months to consistently go on the potty for poop.  My third was trained by about 8 months.  I think there are a few reasons.  I believe it was in part because I didn’t start with her until she was about 2 months old and even then I was quite erratic with trips to the potty due to other demands on my time.  She also did not like to be held in arms in the shower.  Once I started to support her while she sat on the small potty we have, we started to make progress.  I can say that it was a real benefit to have my first two trained for the potty before the 6 month mark, when babies usually start solid foods.

EC has not trained our children to be out of diapers early, but it has saved us hours of hosing out poopy diapers!   I recently took my 9 month old to the doctor for her checkup.  When asked to undress her to put her on the scale, the doctor requested she keep her diaper on.  I said “We practice EC so that should help,” to which he replied, “There is no evidence to prove that it works and I’ve been peed on by enough babies who are apparently potty trained to know the research is sound.”  Well, my research shows it does work…for poo at least!

Want more information?

Cloth diapers we use: Peachy Baby (the best because there is no ‘stuffing’), Bum Genius (with snap closures, our velcro ones wore out!), FuzziBunz

Detergent we love: Laundry Tarts, Soap Nuts

Books I read (I recommend borrowing them from the library, since the information is not too detailed):  Diaper Free Baby and Infant Potty Training