Cooking with Your Toddler

cooking with your toddlerI love to cook! It’s a huge part of what I do as a holistic health counselor and it’s been a huge part of my life since I moved out of my parents’ house when I was 18. When I was working full time out of my home I had to get creative on making time to cook. It wasn’t something I was willing to compromise on, and after being away from each other all day my daughter wanted my full attention and of course I also wanted to spend quality time with her too. So I figured out ways to make cooking fun for us to do together.

That’s how I discovered the “Learning Tower”. I’ve had it for over 3 years now and I will say it is worth every penny I spent on it. You could surely use a step stool if your child is tall enough or even other versions of the same thing. The key is to have them at counter level so that they can actually help you do things. Yes, it might be a little messier and take a little longer to have them help, but it’s so much fun for them and it’s such a great learning experience for them to see first hand how meals are actually prepared. I’ve also found that kids are much more open to trying new things when they’re helped prepare them!

Make sure you have a chore to keep them entertained. Some great things to help keep them entertained that are actually helpful are: tasking them to get things off low shelves, mixing ingredients together in a large bowl (if the bowl is too small you’re just asking for a big mess!), adding premeasured ingredients into a bowl, pressing the button on the food processor, rinsing vegetables, adding toppings, rolling out pizza dough, scooping batter into muffin tins, or greasing pans. The more time you spend with your child in the kitchen the more ways you’ll find to incorporate their help.

If you’re looking for some kid friendly cookbooks that can give you ideas and make it even more fun for the kids, Fork and Bottle has reviews on quite a few cookbooks that are specifically for kids. One that we have particularly enjoyed is Eat like a Dinosaur by the Paleo Parents. The recipes are kid friendly, delicious, and they have specific tasks in each recipe for kids to do which gives you one less thing to worry about. Toss out your fears of getting messy and get into the kitchen!

Jacqueline Banks is a certified Holistic Health Counselor and online fitness coach. She works with women in all stages of motherhood, from mothers struggling with conception to those trying to get their grove back after pregnancy to ensure the best health and nutrition for both mom and baby.

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Let’s Ditch the Mom Guilt

ditching the mom guiltFirst of all, let me just tell you that I’ve always been a person who struggles with feeling guilty. As a teenager and young adult, I can remember agonizing over someone being upset with me or hurting someone’s feelings. I once went through a break-up that I knew was the right thing, but I still felt so guilty choosing happiness for myself. Since becoming a mom, this guilty feeling has only grown. I often call my best friend, Ali, and tell her I have “guilt gut.” This is a term we have coined for that feeling when you just feel guilty.

Here are some things I have felt guilty for today:

  • Not being the boss of my 3-year-old when she’s up for the day before dawn
  • Feeding my young toddler a pop tart- with frosting
  • Letting my kids eat salty snacks at 10 a.m.
  • Not fixing my hair better so I look more attractive for my husband
  • Going through the car wash with my kids even when I know someone is terrified

Sadly, I could go on. Anyone relate? When we become mothers, we are blessed with a new responsibility. We are in charge of young life. When our kids are young, we are literally the ones who keep them living. This is a big responsibility. Sadly, we don’t always measure up to our expectations. Why? I think it’s because we set the bar way too high.

So, moms, I want to encourage you today to ditch the mommy guilt. Let’s get rid of the “guilt gut” that plagues our days. Let’s spend our time being joyful, not pitiful.

I’ve decided I want to try to embrace mommy grace. Yes, I’m going to screw up. I’m going to yell. I will probably feed my kids pop tarts again this week, but I want to embrace grace. There is no reason to condemn ourselves for not measuring up. We are doing the best we can, and we are all in this together.

In order to ditch the mommy guilt, I am going to have to be proactive in embracing joy. When things go crazy, I am going to have to laugh. When snacks and milk fall to the ground, I want to spend the time teaching not scolding. Other mom friends are vital to ditching mommy guilt. I have five ladies who I love dearly who I know I could vent to any day about my mommy guilt. No shame. They’ve been there.  They are there to lift me up and encourage me. Do you have these amazing women in your life, too? If not, find them. Go to moms groups, foster friendships at preschool, church, work, wherever life takes you.

Let’s be real, though. There will always be the supermom persona. I know I will see a mom feeding her kids organic, beautifully dressed, and her kids may be way ahead of mine academically. And, that’s okay. My kids are okay. I’m okay. We are all doing the best we can. So let’s be the best, beautiful version of ourselves and not feel guilty about it.

Karyn Meyerhoff is a mom of two in Northeast Indiana where she lives, writes, and loves her kids.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016
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My Pregnancy: Week 37

One subject I’ve not shied away from is my experience with two cesarean births and this birth planned the same. I don’t want to make light of the seriousness of major surgery,Week 37 but I find myself sharing pieces of my story because I see the shame surrounding cesareans, and I don’t think that benefits expectant mamas or those who have experienced the operating table for birth. It took time to be at peace with that first cesarean birth.

I was induced based on borderline high blood pressure and a “trace” of protein in my urine. It was the day before a major holiday during America’s longest holiday season. Though I originally opted for a natural birth plan, 6 hours in I had an epidural. My labor never progressed. After 19 hours my child remained at negative three station (very high), my cervix dilated only to 3 cm, and I developed a fever while baby’s heart rate began to decelerate. A borderline emergency cesarean birth resulted. Baby went to NICU and I saw him 18 hours later (and for about a minute after delivery).

Afterward I felt like I failed, like I was weak for asking for the epidural at all. I felt embarrassed that I was so in pain that I moaned and groaned so desperately in front of my husband (he didn’t care) until I finally received an epidural. I was alienated from the doctor from her hard bedside manner, not to mention indignant at the seemingly convenient, baseless induction to avoid the chance of my birth happening on a holiday. I felt enraged at the nurses for not trying harder to encourage nursing, instead opting to force feed my son formula (to avoid potential blood sugar issues related to a large baby). I felt despair at being so far from my son in the NICU, seemingly powerless to be there with him. Though about one month later baby became exclusively breastfed, every feeding that first month just brought back up these feelings, made more punishing by my exhaustion and hormones.

I hid all these feelings because people insisted that it didn’t matter how baby arrived, just that we were all healthy. Sure, yes. Then I felt discounted like my feelings and hopes were entirely disregarded, seemingly cancelled out by the healthy child that eventually made it to my arms. Now I somehow felt selfish to be disappointed in my experience when the doctor potentially “saved our lives,” as one said.

Healing finally came as I began to observe the culture through others’ experiences. When I saw other mamas talk of their struggles (mostly online in a cloth diaper group), I saw the pressures, the shame seething under the surface of comments. Sometimes these comments looked helpful, discouraging induction if at all possible (good advice really, but discounting of some women’s medical need for induction). The horror stories just seemed to amplify the fear and darkness surrounding cesarean birth. People regularly bring up the extra healing and risk though many mamas, I’ve learned through hearing stories and my own experience, get through the recovery with just a little extra effort.

This helped me shed the shame and feelings of less than. Time (and a change to an awesome doctor) helped me to process the many emotions of the birth, where deep down I felt an overwhelming lack of control. I had to account for myself as well. I never took the time to learn about cesarean birth. I think a lot of my feelings would have been less severe had I not been so blindsided by the unknown. I could have had a birth plan in place. I also may have opted for a C-section earlier had I realized the likelihood of my son going to the NICU due to my fever, but I never took the time to learn about why one might even need surgical birth.

I also never invested in classes for childbirth. Due to our busy schedules, I read a book on the Bradley Method but assumed that was enough. I was ill-prepared for labor. I didn’t even think to get out of the bed at any point in the six hours of labor before my epidural to move around. None of this may have mattered, but I realized I gave up much of my autonomy far before the day of induction. Certainly my doctor failed me in preparing me, but part of my healing came from an honest evaluation of what part I played in my labor experience. These things—getting up during labor, knowing about C-sections, more practice of focusing through pain, etc.—may have made no difference in the end result, but I judged myself for failing when I needed to offer myself more grace for being human.

Last, I hold out the possibility that my doctor kept baby and me safe. She and a nurse reported to me that the baby was angled into my pelvic bone instead of my cervix. It’s entirely possible that my son would have never dropped and had no chance of coming out vaginally either at all or without significant effort and risk by the doctor. In all of this I have found comfort in choosing a cesarean for my subsequent births. I face the operating room with grace and courage instead of fear and dread. It may be cold and sterile but it holds the opportunity to birth my child with just as much joy and excitement as any other variation of birth experience.

Annie is a mom of two boys, ages two and four. She enjoys the finer things in life, like compression socks and a full night’s rest.

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Healing Lower Back Pain After Pregnancy

low back pain

Lower back pain is a really common issue, no matter your age or gender. I started having an achy lower back at a young age, largely due to my posture and spinal curvature, and it was exacerbated by certain activities (longer distance running is one, and sitting at a computer for long periods is another).

As many pregnant or once-pregnant women can attest to, pregnancy is not kind to the low back. Even women with zero prior history can experience this as their tummies grow. Like many pregnancy-related ailments though, it’s supposed to go away when you’re done being pregnant. Except, for many women it doesn’t.

Babies don’t sit at eye level with you, and now you have a gorgeous little creature that needs 24/7 care, and you are constantly bending and lifting while changing diapers, bathing the baby, etc. Nursing mothers in particular can experience back (and neck) pain.

If you’ve experienced lower back pain, you probably know some of the causes. A lot of sitting, poor posture and/or poor muscle tone and core strength are often the issue. How can you fix it? Well, for starters, use common sense. If you think you need to see a medical doctor, please do so. Not all back problems are ones that can be fixed at home.

For starters, try to stay mindful of your posture. When you’re standing, think about your shoulders. Are they squared back? Is your butt in line with and directly underneath your shoulders? Are you holding a lot of tension in your shoulders and hunching them (nursing moms in particular can get knotty here)? Back up against a wall and see how straight you’re standing. A mirror or a selfie can also help you adjust, and if you feel you need, you can set reminders in your phone to do a self-check through the day. Likewise, when your baby is hungry, it’s easy to breastfeed wherever you happen to be. It may be in your back’s best interest, however, to try and get to a glider chair or other supportive seat and be mindful of your posture while your baby nurses as well.

Core strength is the root of many lower back issues. The pelvic floor muscles, which act as the inner core (versus your outer core, which are the muscles you see when you see a six-pack), take a major beating during pregnancy and delivery. When they are weak or dysfunctional, your whole body suffers (this is true for everybody, from sedentary people all the way to athletes). YouTube has a lot of content like this set of exercises that can help you get those muscles back into shape. Planks are also a great total core workout, and can be done literally anywhere, even with your kids crawling around. Different sports are also good for building core strength; paddling and rowing are terrific for your core, and there are tons of dragon boat, outrigger and crew clubs across the U.S. and Canada for adults, no experience necessary.

Before starting any abdominal strengthening exercises though, you need to be aware of diastasis recti, a separation of the abdominal muscles that is caused by pregnancy. If you think you have this condition, you should not be doing abdominal work without consulting a doctor and probably a physical therapist as well. This is a tough condition to heal and will take some time and effort to do so.

Meaghan Howard is currently a stay-at-home mom and enjoying living overseas with her husband and two young children. She enjoys traveling, running, and the most excellent sport of all time, dragon boat.

 

 

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How to Organize to Encourage Toddler Independence

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 8.59.42 AMIt’s time to let go and give your toddler the freedom to do more on their own! Trust me, I know how hard it can be to relinquish the control and let your toddler do more for themselves–especially since it can take them so much longer to complete a task that you could do in seconds–but it’s worth it. As a former Pre-K teacher, I’ve seen the difference in children that have had the independence to do for themselves at an early age and it only improves as they get older. There are a few different areas in the house that you can increase their independence. Here are some tips on how to do it.

The Kitchen
Designate a drawer or lower cabinet for their dishes. This will be where you keep all of their dishes. When they’re able to reach something on their own, it’s easier to get them to hand you something and be a part of the process. If they want a snack, first have them get themselves a plate or a bowl to put it in. As they get older you can even keep a small pitcher of water on a table that is their height with a cup so they can pour their own water.

Snack boxes have also been a wonderful tool that helps not only with independence but also helps to avoid fights over snacks. All you need is a plastic bucket in the pantry at a height they can reach and another one in the fridge, also at a height that they can reach on their own or with the help of a step stool. The trick here is to keep only foods that you want them to eat in there. If you have healthy snacks in their snack boxes, they’re much less likely to complain about the snack simply because they got to pick which of the snacks they wanted.

In the Closet

Investing in a shower curtain rod that you can put at their level is worth every penny. Another great thing to do is to have plastic buckets on the floor with the rest of their clothes. Having everything at their level not only gives them the independence to start dressing themselves but also makes it a good way to transition them into helping put away their own laundry. Sure, you may have to re-fold everything in there but just getting them used to doing it on their own is worth the extra work.

Around the House
Make a note of other places you can make things more accessible around the house. For example, make sure that they can easily reach some of their toys and can put them away. Or maybe you can give them their own shelf on a bookshelf so they can grab their own books without your help. Even little things that allow them the freedom to do things on their own will help them develop independence and also make it easier for them to help with chores–like putting away their laundry and dishes!

Jacqueline Banks is a certified Holistic Health Counselor and online fitness coach. She works with women in all stages of motherhood, from mothers struggling with conception to those trying to get their grove back after pregnancy to ensure the best health and nutrition for both mom and baby.

 

 

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