Toddler tantrums – what’s your strategy?

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My forray into parenting has been exciting, terrifying, shocking, super fun and interesting. Each stage with my now 20 month old toddler has come with new joys, exciting moments, laughter and of course a few challenges here and there. That brings me to today’s topic. Tantrums!

Thank goodness it seems like they are happening fewer and further in between, but toddlers are definitely a different breed of human. I remember hearing the analogy that toddlers are like night watchmen who are always checking around to make sure that everything is alright. It’s so true. No matter how well my son knows the rules of what he is allowed to touch and where he is allowed to go he will always look right at me and do the exact thing he knows he isn’t supposed to be doing. Sometimes it’s aggravating and sometimes it’s hard not to burst out laughing depending on what he’s doing at any given moment.

As for the tantrums. The tantrums started randomly sometime around age 18 or 19 months. My son has strong opinions and when he isn’t allowed to do something that he wants to do he definitely hasn’t developed the coping skills to deal with the rush of frustration he  experiences. So what did a typical tantrum look like in my house? Well it started out with him expressing his frustration vocally by yelling, screaming or crying. Then over time it began escalating to him smacking us (my personal favorite), throwing things or hitting the walls. And the absolute worst tantrums have involved him banging his head on the floor, although that tends to happen as a form of protest once I started implementing discipline.

We have been managing his not-so-delightful behaviour in a few different ways:

Distraction – especially when he was several months younger distraction was an awesome way to catch him before his frustration bubbled out of control to help him to focus on something else. We would do this by giving him something interesting to play with or sometimes I would sing his favorite song to help distract him. Anything I could think of in the moment to catch his attention really. I have made up so many songs on the fly especially since the advent of the tantrum! One of his favorites is the “cool down” song – cool down, cool down, it’s time to cool down…

Redirection – we do some form of this on a daily basis. I think of it more as teaching him the way. When he does something that isn’t appropriate I get down to his level, look him in the eyes and tell him that he’s not allowed to do that. Then I give him options of what he can do instead. For example, when my little one threw his fork on the ground at dinner this evening to let us know he wanted to get out of his high chair, I picked up the fork, gave it back to him, asked him to hand it to daddy nicely, and asked him to say “all done” when he is finished dinner and ready to come down. The thing with redirection, as with all things parenting, is that it involves a ridiculous amount of patience and repetition. The great thing is that I have seen so many improvements over time. He knows what he’s allowed to do, but he tests the water a few times each day just to make sure the rules haven’t changed.

Toy be-gone – one of the things that I do to deal with the issue of my son throwing things is just take the toy away. Baby boy has a habit of throwing his toys when he wants some attention, or hitting the wall with his toys. I will get down to his level and give him a warning like “if you hit the wall one more time it’s gone”. If he does it again I swiftly take it away. Then I usually ask him “what are you going to play with now?” and I encourage him to occupy himself with something different in an appropriate way.

Time-outs – so apparently there is some debate as to when time-outs should be used with toddlers. In my house, they started around 18-19 months. I knew it was time to start creating consequences with my son when the redirection stopped working with certain things. When I started to feel like I was talking and talking and warning and warning and he had realized that nothing would happen if he did it anyways. I had to draw the line with the hitting. Baby boy started hitting me when he was frustrated. If I told him he couldn’t do or have something, or if I told him he had to get into his car seat before he was “ready” I was getting slapped. He knew he wasn’t allowed to do it, and even though we had many redirection conversations about being “gentle” the hitting ensued. So I implemented the time-out. It definitely didn’t go smoothly the first few times

I created “house rules” which are pretty basic. No hitting, yelling, biting or throwing things. If he smacked me or made the motion to smack me I’d give him a warning. “If you hit mommy (or if you hit mommy again), you’ll have to sit in time out”. Then he’d smack me (again), and I put him in time out. I would sit him down on the bottom of the stairs in the house, get down to his level and tell him that he is in time out because he hit mommy, and he has to sit quietly for 1 min.

Holy patience. The first time-out took 2 hours and I probably put him back on the “naughty” step 200 times. And I’m not exaggerating. He was screaming and crying and getting up every time I put him back. I was sweating, my arms were sore for 3 days, and it took every last drop of patience to continue putting him back in the spot without saying anything, let alone not raising my voice. My strategy was just to keep putting him back on the spot until he chose to stay without any additional verbal instructions. He acted out and that’s when he had the full on tantrums (head banging on the floor and such) when he realized that I was serious and he wasn’t in control of the situation. I remained calm to the best of my ability and just picked him up and put him back in the spot. OVER AND OVER AGAIN. It was crazymaking!

It was a battle of wills. I felt like I was at war, but I decided to steer the course because he has to learn that it’s not okay to hit mommy or anyone else. In the end he did sit. I put down my iphone on the floor in front of him with the timer on for 1 min after several prior attempts, and somewhere between his stubbornness and my perseverance he stayed in the spot until the timer went off. After following through on 2-3 separate occasions the process has become more streamlined. He knows that he has to sit, and that doesn’t mean that I don’t have to put him back in the spot a few times, but putting him back a few times is more manageable than the insane 2 hour marathon process I went through the first 2 times I enforced a time-out with him.

Time-outs are not a daily thing in my house, and they are not the first go-to, but for certain behaviours, especially hitting, they definitely have their place. The great thing is that by establishing boundaries and consequences with him, we have curbed the hitting. He knows what happens when he hits mommy or daddy, and as a result you can see the little wheels turning in his head when he gets frustrated. Often his hand will stop in mid air because he knows that if he goes ahead and hits one of us there will be a consequence.

I joked with some of my friends who are also parents of toddlers that the tantrums were a part of my initiation as a parent. Each stage comes with so many different challenges and so much joy and excitement. Of course this post focused on one of the major challenges I faced but that’s not to say that being a mom hasn’t been one of the most fun and fulfilling journeys to date in my life.

I’d love to hear about the adventures you have had raising toddlers! Am I alone here? I sure hope not!

 

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Career choices

Do you have a career that you absolutely love? Do you jump out of bed in the mornings truly excited to go to work? I did once a really long time ago.

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Then I moved to a new city, found an entry level job in a company that I really wanted to work for, but now find myself feeling stuck in that same position that I despise several years later, and in spite of my attempts (5 years in, over 75 resumes submitted to various opportunities, and at least 20-25 job interviews later) I am in the same place I started from.

So as a new mommy who is planning to have another baby or two over the next few years I think that it makes better sense on paper to stay put instead of branching out and finding a new job. I would love to know if other moms have found themselves in a similar predicaments. Search for a new job now when you know you’re planning to have a baby soon or wait it out and start the search for a new job after returning from mat leave?

Choosing to stay in a job that I hate is clearly a fear-based decision instead of doing what is actually best for me. The thing I should do is cut my losses, quit my job and force myself to find a new gig elsewhere, or find a way to start my own gig. Of course quitting my job won’t help with those mortgage payments, so I have yet  to seriously consider quitting.

Having a baby has put my life choices into severe and drastic perspective. If I’m spending time away from my son it has to be worthwhile both financially and emotionally. Going to a job that I can’t stand day after day affects my mood and I know he picks up on it.

It’s also bad for my soul. I moved from a booming economy where there were lots of jobs and people generally aren’t out of work for long to a place where jobs are harder to come by and there is significantly more competition for jobs due to the larger population size in my new hood. I moved for love and to start a family so I am embracing my new home, and in doing so I know it’s time to be more intentional about my career and my life.

I know it’s time to design my life the way I want it to be and continue to search for better career opportunities in spite of my mounting collection of rejected resumes. I often catch myself wishing I had known more about different career choices and life paths when I was in my 20s. Wishing I had had it all figured out back then so that I could be in a better position now. But lately I have stopped myself from lamenting about what could have been so that I can focus on what I know NOW, and what I can do with that knowledge.

Having a precious little one to take care of has led me to question not only the job that I currently have that I despise, but the whole notion of working for others. The inflexibility of a full-time 9-5 job is at odds with my new found needs as a mother. I am longing for flexible hours, the option to work from home to avoid the rush hour traffic jams, working part-time instead of full-time, and the possibility of creating passive income streams to free up my time and energy so that I can live a more fulfilling life and have more free time to spend with my family.

I am longing to be creative and engage in meaningful work that I believe in. I long to make a difference in the world, by doing work that will have a powerful and positive impact.

Until I returned to work after having my son I was suffering from the delusion that I would just go back to work and work at the same capacity as I did before. As if nothing had changed. However, everything had changed. I missed more work in my first 4 months back than I did in the previous 2 years. I can’t keep walking around like nothing happened. I had a child for crying out loud. Things have changed. For me at least.

What I want are better choices for my family. I want more freedom, and ultimately I want to earn an income independent of the 9-5 corporate world. I want to have my cake and eat it too. I want to be a mother with a great career that has endless flexibility, and I want for the time that I spend away from my son to be spent engaged in work that I love doing.

Now to ditch the 9-5.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress! I’m thinking it will be an interesting journey.

 

5 things nobody tells you about going back to work after you have a baby

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My baby boy is 19 months old now, so that means I’ve been back to work for 7 months already. The time flew by and since I’ve been back at work I’ve definitely gone through an adjustment period, so here goes! The 5 things nobody tells you about going back to work after having a baby:

1. You’ll be in a fog for the first few days.

After going through the most rewarding, challenging and all-consuming experience of having a baby returning to work felt a little weird. I felt like everything at work was exactly the way I left it. The people were the same, the work was the same, but I was different. I felt like I was the only thing that had changed. It was a bit isolating. Sure everyone was asking about the baby and it was nice chatting with everyone again, but part of me didn’t really care because I just missed my kid. After the first week or two I felt more normal, but it took a few days to re-adjust.

2. Keeping up with the housework is like an extreme sport

Before I went on mat leave I had these ideas about how I would balance my time and structure my schedule when I returned to work, but that was before I entered motherhood. Fitting an entire day into 2-3 hours in the evenings after work is insane. Coming home from work in the late afternoon, prepping dinner, cleaning up and trying to catch up on everything is a task in and of itself. With time it gets better. I think of it as a skill, and as time goes by I get better at it. With that said I  choose my battles.  The level of tidiness at any given time in my house has definitely declined since baby arrived.

3. You’ll become more productive than you ever imagined.

You won’t feel that way though because there is no end to the work. The crazy thing is that I accomplish SO MUCH MORE in a day than I ever did before having a baby, but of course now that life is so different I never actually finish everything I want to do. Balancing all of the baby tasks, with work related things, house maintenance and taking care of the husband is a bit ridiculous. There are the same number of hours in the day that there were before, but if you take a moment to think about the sheer number of things you accomplish each day you have to admit it…you’re a ninja now. Even though you don’t check everything off that thousand item to-do list, it is crazy what you are able to do in a day once you have a little one to take care of.

4. Having a toddler is SO MUCH FUN

Yes there is work and tantrums and discipline issues and fussiness. But everyone tells you that. What they DON’T tell you is how much pure silly fun you’ll have with your little person. Everything is new, and they are so curious and playful. There are so many giggles, cuddles, kisses, jokes, and other silly fun times to be had with your baby that your heart will beam with joy and love each and every day. Not all day everyday, but for me I feel this amazing and wonderful amount of love each day. I actually love spending time with my baby because he’s awesome, and I have SO MUCH FUN playing around with him. It needs to be said, because everyone seems to focus on the negative aspects of parenting.

5. You will question your work – even if you like what you do

Work is now equated with time away from your baby. Your time is so much more valuable now. When I’m forced to sit in a meeting for 2 hours doing nothing productive I think about the massive amount of work I could have accomplished in 2 hours at home, or the fun I could have had hanging out with the baby instead. With the new found perspective that you develop after becoming a parent many things that you once thought were super important barely fall on your radar anymore. You are forever changed, and this means that at some point, even if it is only temporary, you’ll question your work. You may not change the situation, but so many women use that creative energy to create businesses or find ways to achieve balance between working and taking care of family business. My ideal situation at the moment would involve part-time work. I find the dual role of full time work and mom challenging, but when I have even one extra day off during a week miracles happen.

The low down on cloth diapering a toddler

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So 19 months in and I’m still going strong with the cloth diapers. I have to say though that my diaper management strategy has changed significantly over the past several months.

When my baby boy was a newborn managing his diapers was easy as pie. I was using my $7.00 diaper pail (re-purposed ‘trash can’) lined with a cloth pail liner. I threw everything in the pail throughout the days and washed the diapers every other day. No soaking, no pre-washing, nothing. I used the sanitize cycle and a pre-wash and had absolutely no issues at all. The diapers came out clean with no additional work other than the occasional crazy blow out. In the event of said blowout I would just throw the diaper in the wash again and it would come out clean the second time around.

Then my baby boy turned one. Somewhere between the 1 year mark and now (the 19 month mark) his pee and poo have started smelling the same as an adult’s, and the volume of pee (aka how soaked the diaper is when I change it) has also increased significantly.

Don’t get me wrong, I still absolutely love my cloth diapers. The cost savings can’t be understated. Up to this point I have saved at least $1,500 – $2,000 between diapers, wipes and those crazy expensive diaper genie replacement bags. But with that said, it is a different beast now.

I realized that my method wasn’t working anymore when I started noticing that the diapers would hold a smell after washing. Even if I washed them twice or three times they would still hold the pee smell. I researched articles on how to strip cloth diapers and I tried using dawn dish soap in the wash as well as a bit of bleach, and it helped a little but didn’t really solve the problem.

So what am I doing now? Well, I have the type of diapers that have 2 parts – the waterproof cover and the inserts that go inside. So I take the inserts and put them in a pail with hot water and rinse them several times until the water runs clear. Then I fill the pail again and put in a small splash of bleach (maybe 1 tsp) and some laundry detergent. I rinse the diaper covers separately and soak them aswell. I soak them separately because the inserts hold all the pee, so they need to be rinsed 5 times or more to get out all of that lovely toddler pee. 

One good thing is that I’m not washing diapers every other day anymore. I’m down to once or twice a week now. In the meantime they soak, and I change the water every day or two until I’m ready to wash them. When there is poo in the diaper that sticks to the diaper and diaper liner (and I can’t just plop it into the toilet), then I bite the bullet and rinse the poopy diaper in a pail of hot water several times until the water runs clear and all the the floaties have washed away. Not to fond of this part….it’s pretty gross.

So all in all it definitely feels like more work at this stage due to the soaking and the pre-rinsing, but on the other hand it is nice not to have to wash diapers every other day. I suppose it’s a trade off. Fortunately when I decided I was going to cloth diaper my baby I purchased about 70 diapers from this fantastic company so I only fold and put away diapers once per week and I still have enough to last me through the week.

I wanted to share a bit of the reality of the situation. Yes it has definitely morphed into more work than it was initially especially when I have to find creative ways to scrape adult like toddler poo off of a diaper from time to time. There is definitely work involved, but for me the benefits still outweigh the challenges.

I’ve had so many people comment that they wouldn’t dare try cloth diapering because they don’t want to have to touch the poo. All I can say is that when I became a parent, I underestimated how intimately my experiences with various bodily secretions would be. Bottom line is cloth diapers or not, you will end up dealing with poo, pee, vomit, snot, and other aspects of life that you didn’t even think of. So from my perspective it’s just a part of it while my little ones are in diapers.

After having washed my sons diapers hundreds of times over the past year and a half I do have a much stronger appreciation of the environmental impact that throwing out diapers has on the world. The thought of the mountain of diapers I would have had to throw away over the past 19 months is truly overwhelming for me. It’s a crazy thing if you think about it because it all has to go somewhere.

With all of that said I am definitely looking forward to life after potty training!  I will very much appreciate the extra time that I won’t be spending rinsing and folding diapers!

 

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/s_v_p/2235208244/”>Lynda Giddens</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

My healing journey – vitiligo

I’m not sure exactly when or why it started, but sometime around the beginning of the year I started noticing light spots on my face near both sides of my mouth. At first I didn’t really pay much attention, being so busy with my little one I don’t spend much time looking in the mirror these days, but the spots gradually became lighter and lighter to the point where it began to scare me.

When I went to my Naturopath she recommended that I take Tyrosine which I did. Although it seemed to slow the progression of the depigmentation process the spots were still there and they didn’t seem to be filling in.

I was diagnosed with hypothyroid several years ago, but I recently learned that my thyroid condition is an autoimmune disorder after my naturopath tested me for thyroid antibodies. The positive test results drove me to research as much as I can about addressing the root causes of autoimmune disease. From what I have read about vitiligo, it is considered an autoimmune disease also and it is often associated with thyroid disorders. I saw this amazing Ted Talk by Dr Terry Wahls who discusses how she made specific changes to her diet that resulted in a reversal of her multiple sclerosis symptoms, and the way I saw it there was no risk or down side to eating more vegetables and incorporating organ meats into my diet. Especially after the profound improvements she experienced.

Armed with this information I did a number of things to improve my health overall and I am very happy to report that the pigmentation on my face has filled back in completely. I feel very fortunate that I was able to work on this issue in the early stages and stop the progression!

In no way do I want to imply that this was an easy path. The dietary changes that I implemented below are the things that I have been doing consistently for several months now. I have been eating liver and making soup with bone broth every week over the last 5-6 months. The changes happened gradually. It took 3-4 months of incorporating these dietary changes before I started seeing improvement.

So here’s what I did:

1. Lots and lots of liver

Based on some of the research I had done about autoimmune disease and vitiligo I found that vitiligo is often associated with vitamin and mineral deficiencies. According to this article patients with vitiligo are often deficient in vitamin B12, copper, folate, and zinc. And this study showed that introducing oral vitamin B12 and folic acid along with sun exposure lead to re-pigmentation in 52 out of 100 patients and the spread of vitiligo stopped in 63% of the patients. Inspired by the Terry Wahls Ted Talk, and my own preference to get my nutrients from food sources, I decided to rely on liver instead of taking vitamins especially for vitamin B12 and folate.

Fortunately liver is extraordinarily high in these micro nutrients as well as many others including iron, vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, niacin, and many others. I found a local meat shop that sources local hormone free meats raised on pasture, and I have been incorporating beef, chicken and lamb liver into my diet every week. I have discovered that my favorite way to eat liver is liver pate, but I also incorporate ground liver into soup, lasagna, and chili from time to time. My B12 levels are awesome now. Unfortunately I did not ever have my B12 levels checked previously so I have no reference point for comparison.

That being said, my iron levels have been in the toilet for years. The highest my iron ever was in the last 10 years was 30. I believe this is the bottom of the “normal” range, and this was with me taking iron pills on a regular basis. The last test I did showed that my iron was 79. The magnitude of this change can’t be overstated. 10 years of taking iron pills had no effect, but 5 months of eating liver and my iron has more than doubled. Liver is nature’s multivitamin, and it will forever be a staple in my diet.

2. Hello Bone Broth!
From what I learned about autoimmune disorders there is a leaky gut component involved. Bone broth has many gut healing properties including reducing inflammation, aiding in digestion and helping to rebuild the gut lining. In addition to these properties, bone broth contains minerals like magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and sulfur, amino acids like glycine, proline and arginine, as well as gelatin which helps to improve digestion.

I have been making a big pot of bone broth every week using bones from the previous week’s dinners. Usually a whole chicken carcass, chicken bones, I have recently experimented with beef marrow bones, bison bones, and fish broth. I use the bone broth to make a huge pot of soup that usually lasts for the week and sometimes I use the broth instead of water to make rice.

3. Fermented foods and probiotics

Since autoimmune disorders have been found to have a leaky gut component, a big part of my strategy has been healing my gut. This is a two part mission, with part one being consuming bone broth on a regular basis to help heal and seal the gut. Part two involves repopulating my gut with good bacteria. I have done this by making home made sauerkraut and eating it regularly, taking probiotics, eating organic whole milk kefir, and making an occasional batch of beet kvass.

4. Bye bye gluten

One of the first things my Naturopath recommended I do when the tests revealed that I had antibodies to my thyroid was to stop eating gluten containing foods. She explained to me that gluten can get into the blood stream via a leaky gut, and when it does it looks similar to your thyroid.  When this happens your immune system may unleash an attack on your thyroid. Then I saw this video which is a lecture by William Davis, author of Wheat Belly, which is a book that discusses all of the scary harmful properties associated with modern wheat. He makes a compelling argument against wheat in general due to it’s ability to raise blood sugar, damage the gut lining, and contribute to numerous illnesses. In his practice when his patients stop eating wheat they tend to experience health improvements that go way beyond loosing a little weight.

I have been avoiding wheat for about 3-4 months and I haven’t found it to be that difficult when I cook my food at home. However, when I go out to eat or am at a friend’s house it is more challenging because wheat is in everything. Just a few days ago I had a handful of Miss Vickie’s salt and vinegar chips just to discover that they contain wheat! Why the heck is it necessary to put wheat in chips? Ridiculous! But with that said, I have been vigilant in avoiding gluten and have eliminated it from my diet. I have done this largely by avoiding most processed foods and making all of our family meals from scratch the vast majority of the time.

5. Eating REAL food and lots of green vegetables

I have always eaten lots of veggies, but now I make a specific point of eating a big salad each day, making a green juice, or just piling on the vegetables at dinner time. I eat lots of cooked cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli and cabbage. In addition to cooking almost all of our meals from scratch, using healthy fats for cooking like coconut oil and organic butter, I also stay away from most processed foods (I love chips and dark chocolate so there is no perfection here).

6. Sunshine!

After several months of eating copious amounts organ meets and green veggies spring finally came and that meant  more sunshine. I noticed the most significant changes start to happen after I started to get more sun exposure. I went for walks outside, took my son to the park on sunny days and just made a point of spending time outside whenever the sun is out. I think that all of the months leading up to spring eating a nutrient  dense  diet provided my body with all of the tools it needed to heal itself once I started getting that much needed sunshine!

7. Staying positive…aka not freaking out

One of the things I focused on doing from the start was not freaking out. I did not allow myself to consider the worst case scenario of potentially losing my pigmentation. As a woman of color this is one of the most difficult and devastating prospects of this condition. I focused on the positive by replacing fearful thoughts with the mindset that I am a healthy person who is getting better each day. It might sound a little out there, but our thoughts create the life we have and I wanted to make sure that I was focusing my energy on healing instead of fear and chaos.

I hope this information is helpful to anyone out there struggling with vitaligo. I am no doctor, just someone who experienced the terrifying experience of those first patches of depigmentation. I decided to take it upon myself to research anything that could help to reverse it, and fortunately I was able to take action and see significant improvements. I believe that if my story can help even one person I should share it.

Life Lessons from Traffic

 

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If I actually take the time to think about it, I spend a lot of time in traffic. My commute to work isn’t that bad i guess, but generally it takes me about 30 minutes each way to travel to and from work each day. Add that up and it equals about 5 hours per week and multiply that by about 48 weeks per year (minus my holidays) and that amounts to about 240 hours or 10 full 24 hour days each year. Geez….just doing the math made me cringe. Until I wrote this down I didn’t even realize how much time I spend in traffic! Given those staggering numbers, and considering I am always driving with thousands of my “closest friends” i.e. other commuters each time I get on the road I’m sure others can relate.

With the amount of time I have spent driving throughout my life it’s no wonder I have come up with a few valuable lessons that I have learned from my travels.

There are always opportunities even if you don’t see them at the moment

If you really want to get somewhere an opportunity will always open up for you; even if you can’t see it now. When I am driving I have learned to be confident that a space will open for me. If I am merging or changing lanes I have found that with a little patience and preparedness I always get where I need to go. The key is to stay alert and aware of everything that is going on around me. I figure if I am always ready for it then when an opportunity opens up I can quickly jump in and get where I’m going. I have also found that everytime I want to get in somewhere provided that I am confident that I will get in, I do. Everytime. Without fail. I feel that this lesson is an important lesson in life as well, because if I think back, everything that I have ever really put my mind to in life I have achieved. Whenever I put my mind to something an opportunity does open up. Not always at the exact moment that I would like it to, but inevitably opportunities always arise when I am looking for them. I believe in the sentiment that ‘if you always stay ready you never have to get ready’. If I want something in life I have to be focused on my goal and continually pay attention to what is happening around me so that when opportunities arise I am ready to jump in and capitalize on them.  

Pay attention! If you hesitate someone else will jump in if you’re not ready

Don’t you hate it when you’ve been waiting for a spot to open up so you can switch lanes, and your favorite song comes on the radio so you look down to turn up the volume, but when you look up someone has already swooped into the spot that was just opening up?! Drives me nuts! Or if you look up to realize that someone has just cut in front of you? I have always thought of this as a metaphor for life. If you don’t pay attention someone else will swoop in and take advantage of the opportunity that you wanted. Whether it is for a job, an opening in a day care for your child, or entrance into a university program, you always have to be paying attention or when opportunities arise someone else will jump in and benefit from them instead of you!

Stay away from the crazies

I live in a busy city with lots of aggressive and impatient drivers. Every day or two I witness someone weaving in and out of traffic at speeds well over 150km/hr slamming their breaks every few moments when they get too close to the other cars. One thing I have learned is the further I am from these people the safer I feel, so I make it a habit to either let them pass or drive in a different lane. With that said when people are driving well below the speed limit or are constantly pressing their brakes even when there is no one in front of them I apply the same principle and either pass them or drive in a different lane. The life lesson I take from this is to choose the people I surround myself with wisely. If you surround yourself with people who pull you down by putting the breaks on everytime you try to elevate yourself then it’s time to switch lanes (love the cheesy puns). Also if you surround yourself with people who make bad choices or even dangerous ones you are also at risk for the negative consequences of their actions. Find your own path in life and stear clear of those who are holding you back from reaching your ultimate destination.

Don’t follow the crowd

Chart your own course. Have you ever been in heavy traffic with 3 out of 4 lanes totally backed up and not moving, but there is a third lane totally free that no one is taking? I have been in situations where I’ll move out a little to check what is going on and it turns out that the lane is free (and it doesn’t end ahead), but since everyone is just following the pack, no one moves over and drives in the free lane. Needless to say I’ll jump right in there and find my way. Also, there are often several routes I can take to reach the same destination, so if one way doesn’t look appealing then I will create my own path. The life lesson here is obvious, but simply stated it is important to use your brain, create your own path and follow it. If you live life mindlessly following what other people are doing then there will be times that you miss out on important opportunities, experiences, and shortcuts because you were just following the course that was laid out for you by the ‘crowd’.

8 things I’ll be doing differently next pregnancy

When my husband and I decided to start trying to have a baby we did the basic common-sense things like not drinking alcohol and I made sure to take my pre-natal vitamins. We ate a pretty healthy diet overall. Home cooked meals most of the time and lots of fruits & veggies. The rest of our focus was on taking prenatal courses, preparing the baby room and making sure we had all the baby gear we needed. I took pre-natal yoga, tried to exercise regularly by taking lots of walks. I drank lots of water and stopped eating sushi. Looking back, I’m glad that I did those things, but now I know that I could have done so much more to prepare my body for pregnancy before we even started trying to nourish my growing baby both during and after pregnancy. So here it is! The top 8 things I’ll be doing differently next time around:

1. Eating organic fruit and veggies

One of the things I didn’t do when I was pregnant was focus on eating organic fruits and veggies. I did eat lots of fruits and veggies but I don’t think I bought anything organic. I knew that pesticides were used in the growing process to some extent, but I wasn’t really thinking of the impact those chemicals would have on my growing baby. I think the lesson I learned here is that it is important to reduce my overall exposure to taoxic chemicals. As stated in this article all pestacides are poisonous to some extent and studies have shown that high levels of exposure to pestacides may contribute to miscarriage and birth defects.

2. Saying goodbye to processed foods!

I have significantly cleaned up our diet in the past year. I ate lots of pizza, chips and candy when I was pregnant. Not the end of the world, but definitely not the building blocks of a healthy baby. I don’t know why it took actually having a baby for me to realize that the saying you are what you eat is actually true. Everything I put into my body is what my body has to use to grow the baby. With that in mind I have been focusing on eating actual food. Food that had to be grown in the ground, animals that were raised humanely without the use of hormones or antibiotics, and nothing that has an extended shelf life. So now when I make meals for my family I use real ingredients like fresh or frozen veggies, fruit, free range eggs, and healthy meats that were raised without hormones or antibiotics. No more processed food in boxes or in plastic wrappers for the most part. With that being said, you’ll always find a bar or two of dark chocolate in my pantry!

3. Incorporating more saturated fat on purpose

I’ve never had an issue with eating fat. I love the taste of full fat yogurt, butter, eggs and ever since I was a kid I didn’t like eating low fat foods because I thought they tasted gross. With that said, I didn’t realize how important healthy fats are for hormone balancing, to provide the building blocks for a healthy baby, and also to improve the quality of breastmilk if and when breastfeeding. Cholesterol is found in every cell of the body, and cholesterol is necessary for your body to make hormones like progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, cortisol and even vitamin D (source). Breast milk contains high levels of cholesterol naturally, and cholesterol plays an important role in the brain development of a growing baby (source). I wasn’t purposely making sure I ate enough healthy saturated fats  before, but these days I make sure that I incorporate lots of healthy saturated fats into my diet each day by using coconut oil and butter for cooking, and eating eggs, cheese, full fat yogurt and kefir regularly.

4. Eating organ meats every week

Yep….organ meats! Specifically liver, heart, kidneys, and I even cooked up a beef tongue for the first time the other day. I grew up eating liver and kidneys on occasion so it isn’t a completely foreign concept to me, and I actually like the taste so in my case it didn’t take much adjusting. I source my meats locally to make sure I am getting grass-fed, hormone free cuts. The reason behind this shift is to increase the nutrient density of my family’s diet overall. Like many women I was diligently taking my multivitamins and folic acid pills even before I was pregnant, but I didn’t stop to think about where I could get the same vitamins from food sources. It turns out that liver is rich in B vitamins like B12 and Folate, as well as iron, choline, vitamin A, D, E, K and many other nutrients. Also, liver has these nutrients in concentrations that are way higher than you’d find in fruits, vegetables and other muscle meats (source). After going through the experience of having my son and nursing him (still going strong at 16 months), there were times when I felt so tired and drained. When I started pumping it gave me the visual of just how much milk is coming out of me every day. Where does it all come from? The way I look at it is that I’m still eating for two, and I need to find ways to replenish all of the nutrients that were utilized during my pregnancy and continue to be used as I breastfeed; especially knowing that I plan on getting pregnant again in the next year or two. This time I’d like to purposely give my body the best nutrition I can way before we even start trying.

5. Eating more fish for the Omega 3s

For the record I love fish. All kinds of fish. I could eat fish every day and be perfectly content, but given all of the focus on mercury in fish when I got pregnant I significantly reduced my fish intake. Unfortunately I didn’t realize how integral the fatty acids from fish are for proper brain and eye development in growing babies (source). I always made sure to eat lots of flax seeds and chia seeds for Omega 3s which are good, but I didn’t know that there are different types of Omega 3 fatty acids. The DHA in fish oil is different to the ALA in flax oil. In order for your body to use the fatty acids in flax seeds your body has to convert it to DHA, so in order to get sufficient amounts of these essential fatty acids you have to actually eat fish. As for the mercury, this article explains that the selenium content in most ocean and fresh water fish protects against mercury toxicity. The exceptions to this rule are whale, marlin, swordfish, tarpon and certain species of shark (source). Next time around I will make sure to keep eating fish on a weekly basis.

6. Taking cod liver oil

The first thing I received from the public health nurse who came to visit me after I had my son was vitamin D drops. I made sure that my son took his daily drop of vitamin D, however I didn’t consider that there may be a better option than synthetic D drops. Cod liver oil is a natural source of vitamin D, but because it is a food source it is also rich in several other fat soluble vitamins including vitam in A, K2, E and DHA (source). Cod liver oil has also been stated to stop cavities from forming and even heal them once they have started (here and here). I only wish I had known how beneficial regular consumption of cod liver oil is for your health in general, let alone during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Needless to say I will be taking my cod liver oil next time around!

7. Getting enough quality sleep

Why did it take having a baby for me to discover the joys of getting enough good quality sleep at night? I have been a night owl since I can remember. I don’t think I had a bed time when I was growing up, and I never really went to bed before 11 or 12 as an adult. But then I became a parent. The first 4 months of sleep deprivation gave me a new found deep appreciation for sleep…8 hours of continuous sleep at night (to be specific). I started to feel a bit crazy after months of broken sleep when my son was born. I have since put up black out blinds in our room and the baby’s room so we can sleep in complete darkness, and my goal has been to be in my bed by 10pm each night. I am getting much better at making sleep a prioity and I notice a huge difference in my energy levels, my sugar cravings have gone way down, and I haven’t been getting sick as often either. This article talks more about some of the importance of getting enough sleep!

8. Relaxing more

When I was pregnant with my son I had no concept of slowing down and taking time to relax. I was working lots of extra hours at work, I was going to bed late, and I was basically acting the same as I would if I wasn’t pregnant. I didn’t consider the amazing feat that my body was performing and take enough time to take a step back from my busy schedule to relax. Luckily I took a yoga course so I did have a bit of relaxation time each week. Life is busy with a toddler, but what I will be doing differently is making a point of not putting too many things on my plate. I aim to be more realistic about what I can handle so that I don’t run myself into the ground next time around.