What can we do for our families?

In this blog series, we’re taking the blinders off and taking action for a better future for our families.

The blinders are off, and we’ve decided to empower ourselves, and our families.  So, what’s next?

How do we give our kids this best chance for health and happiness given the world that we now live in?

 The good news is that there are MANY things that we can do. 

  • We can ensure that their bodies are being fueled by the best nutrition – clean, whole foods.
  • Identify and take away those foods which are doing them more harm than good.
  • Recognize the many sources of toxins (in food, clothing, cleansers, personal care products, and the environment), and reduce their exposure.
  • Boost their immune systems so they don’t get sick as often, and learn ways to support and heal them when they do get minor illnesses.
  • Learn to use food as medicine, and natural remedies, rather than turning to harsh pharmaceuticals.
  • Spend time outside, planting gardens, playing in the dirt, soaking up the sunshine, and connecting with nature.
  • Give them tools like meditation and mindfulness to help lower their stress levels and help them cope with life’s daily challenges.

But how do we know which “facts” to believe?  How do we decipher all of this information?

Where *do* we start to make positive changes?   How do we make that crucial first step?

It can be overwhelming and confusing (hence the knee jerk reaction to resort to options 1 or 2!)

The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone. 

I *did*.  And trust me, you don’t want to!  I created my business (Fresh Start Family Wellness), to help other families make their own “fresh start”.  Minus the confusion and overwhelm.

How can we work together?  

Children holding hands

There are a few different ways that I can guide you on your journey.

For ongoing tips, guidance, and recipes, keep an eye on my Facebook page. 

If you’re looking for your wellness ‘village’, please join us over at the Empowered Moms, Nourished Families Facebook group.

And when you’re ready to take the leap and want some customized, judgment-free, compassionate guidance to help you on your way, let’s chat.

My coaching packages are designed to give parents the hand-hold that they need to successfully integrate positive changes into their daily lives.  I can take away the confusion and the fear, and replace it with power, confidence and satisfaction.  I work one-on-one with you to answer all of your questions, and support your family’s unique priorities and needs. 

Together, we create new family wellness traditions that will empower you, and your children, for life.

 

The blinders are off, now what?

In Part 1 of this blog series, we talked about why it isn’t in our best interest to stick with the status quo, and follow the ‘herd’.

 So, now that we’re aware of the (scary) truth, what do we do about it?

As a parent, we have 3 choices.  We can…

  1. Stick our heads in the sand. Ignore the stats, deny the truth.  Stick with the status quo.
  1. Live in fear and a constant state of anxiety. Realize that something is amiss, and then spin in circles, trying to figure out what to do, and not knowing where to start.

Before we move on to option #3, let’s first take a look at the first two options.

Stick our heads in the sand.head in sand

Yes, this takes a load off our shoulders.  But in our state of denial, we are doing a disservice to our kids.  With our without our help, they are still facing the same challenges.

 

anxious momLive in fear.

So, we’ve taken the first step, and recognizing that there is a problem.  But now we are adding to it, by feeling fearful and stressed.  Fear is a negative emotion…a toxic emotion.  And it can make us, and our kids even sicker!  Awareness is excellent: indeed, let’s take off the blinders.  AND then let’s take some positive action.

 

Which brings us to option #3.

  1. We empower ourselves.

We open our minds to the truth, and educate ourselves.  And then we take action.
We make that first move, and then take it one step at a time.  Not only will this put us on the path towards that goal of health and happiness, but it will help to teach and empower our children, so that they can keep the momentum going in their own lives, and the lives of their families.

super mom

So we’ve donned our capes and are ready to take action. What do we do now?

Stay tuned for the next blog post!

Why do we need to shift our patterns and stray from the herd?

“You did XYZ as a kid, and you turned out fine”

As a parent attempting to forge a new path for her family, this is a phrase that I hear often.  It is repeated by our own parents, our peers, our doctors, and perhaps even our partners.

But once the blinders started to come off, once I decided to listen to my intuition rather than media, once I decided to ask questions and research alternatives rather than following the herd…

Once that awareness begins, blanket statements like these no longer sit well.

And they certainly do not provide a strong enough justification for us to tune out those important instincts and fall back in line with the status quo.

What’s wrong with the status quo?

Why should we take that ‘road less travelled’ for our families?

Because the stark reality is that today’s kids are growing up in a world that is *very* different to the one that we grew up in.  And one that is light years away from the world that our grandparents and great grandparents grew up in.

The food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink are all vastly different now.

pesticides   gmo2  chickens junk food

Instead of playing outside, in the dirt, we’re staying inside, and slathering ourselves in hand sanitizer.  And the ‘good bacteria’ in our guts is suffering the consequences.

antibacterial

Kids have less down-time, and more activities and screens.

screens    overscheduled child

Harsh chemicals surround us, in our cleansers, personal care products, clothes, and mattresses.

toxic bottles  gloves

Rather than resting and listening to our bodies, commercials try to convince us to take their medicine so that we can suppress our symptoms and get back to work/school/activities sooner.

dayquil

And why do these things matter?

Because we’re stressed, we’re sick, and we’re overwhelmed.

Rates of childhood illness are on the rise:

  • ADHD: 1 in 10
  • Asthma: 1 in 10
  • Allergies: 1 in 4
  • Autism: 1 in 50
  • Obesity: tripled in last 25 years, 31% overweight/obese
  • Steady increase in anxiety and depression in children
  • Increased incidence of childhood cancer

Eye-opening, isn’t it?

So what do we do about it?

Stay tuned for the next blog post, when we’ll talk about next steps to consider.

(or, if you’re impatient and ready to take action, send me a message and we’ll get started ASAP!)

The tantrum hangover

Today I’ve got what I call a ‘tantrum hangover’.              

Little B (age 4) had a rough time yesterday. What started as fun time stomping through the icy snow, turned into a full-blown, 45 minute long tantrum.  The topic of the tantrum shifted many times, as it wasn’t really *about* anything, it was just a lot of pent up feelings, and physical discomfort looking for an outlet.

The timing was less than ideal. I had to carry a thrashing, snowsuit-clad kid home through the deep snow, and then do my best to be present with him and accommodate his ever-changing needs…*while* cooking dinner and getting my older son ready for his Dad to pick him up. The rest of the evening was a write-off, and I surrendered and went to sleep with Little B at 7:30pm.

As a result, this it what my kitchen looks like today.

20161221_135322

So, I will follow Little B’s lead, and shift gears today.  Tonight, we’ll stay home instead of going to a much anticipated event.  Well, *I* have been anticipating this event.  I didn’t tell the kids about it yet, since I didn’t know yet if the stars would align for us to go…and I didn’t want my sensitive little kiddo to be burdened with guilt that it was ‘his fault’.  Because, truly, he has no ‘off switch’ for these tantrums.  He feels remorseful afterwards, and has trouble understanding why Mommy is tired and emotional and doesn’t have much energy left to play.  But this isn’t his fault.

And so, I am taking a step back today, and trying to reset things.  Shifting his vitamin protocol a bit.  Removing the gingerbread cookies from sight, so they won’t be so tempting.  Scheduling some quiet family time to fill his emotional tank.

 And being easy on myself too.  Tonight’s dinner will be simple.  We’ll lay low tonight, play a boardgame, and watch a Christmas show while cuddled on the couch.  I’ll refill *my* tank too, so that I can be prepared if another tantrum is brewing.

And yes, the kitchen might look like this for a couple more days.  And that’s okay.

My little Rockstar

This is Little B, the rockstar.  This morning, I came out of the shower to find him standing on a makeshift stage (stepstool from the bathroom), with his radio on FULL blast, tuned into some hard rock station.  He was doing a combination of air guitar (using the guitar on his t-shirt as a fill-in) and air drums, his little bum shaking in time to the heavy beat.

Little B's behaviours and a search for a root cause

This kid lives life out loud.

He brings so much joy to the house, and to those around him.  He is full of energy, has a wacky sense of humour, and is amazingly curious and bright. When he is happy, he is SO happy – giving endless cuddles and kisses, singing and dancing, doing silly voices to make his brother and I laugh.

And then there are the other times.  The times when that pendulum of extreme emotions is swinging in the other direction.

The joy is replaced with an intense frustration.  The silly voice is now an angry one that asks the same question over and over and over again, not truly listening to the answer.  The dancing has switched to the flailing limbs.

Every child experiences a scope of emotions.  And most kids move in and out of these emotional extremes fairly quickly, and a trigger (hunger, exhaustion, frustration, jealousy) can usually be pinpointed as the root cause.

For Little B, I believe that his root cause is a bit more complex.  My Mother’s Intuition tells me that there’s something else going on.  Something deeper, at a physiological level.  Something that needs to be addressed and healed.

What is that root cause?

That’s a mystery that I’m still working to solve.    I know it’s linked to his food sensitivities, as well as his ‘leaky gut’, dysbiosis, and his bizarre skin condition.  There are likely some environmental triggers, and some underlying genetic predisposition.  I am working to join the dots, and am grateful for my education and experiences, both in the Pharmaceutical world and as a Holistic Nutritionist.  I am also blessed to have a team of holistic practitioners by my side, and an MD that is open-minded and curious.

It’s a long, overwhelming journey, but it’s a journey that I’d like to share with you.  It is my hope that our challenges, and our learnings, can help others who are facing similar hurdles.

With much love and empathy,

Anne

The Gingerbread Fiasco

Growing up, our holiday celebrations included many food traditions.  Platters of Christmas cookies, a homemade gingerbread village, hot chocolate with marshmallows and a candy cane stir stick.  So many great memories…and traditions that I would love to share with my own kids.

But when you have a child with food sensitivities, navigating day-to-day meals is challenging enough.  Holidays?  Unfortunately, it is easy for some of the joy to be bulldozed by stress and guilt.  Sorry, kids, we can’t go to the family gathering because the menu would be too tempting to a carb-loving (and carb-sensitive) 3 year old.  Hot chocolate?  No Timmie’s drive-through; it has to be made at home, with dairy-free mix and almond milk.  The cookie that our friend gave you?  Yes, it’s beautiful…and oh-so-tempting.  But if you ate it, you’d be sick for days.   Social gatherings are chosen carefully, and usually require food to be brought from home.

I’m not sure what nudged me to take a risk last week.  I don’t recall if it was a childhood memory that surfaced, a Facebook photo that flashed by, or maybe a display in the grocery store.  But the guilt hit: my youngest had never joined in the tradition of making a gingerbread house.  Being sensitive to dairy and gluten, the store-bought kits wouldn’t fly.  So, breaking our grain-free streak, I bought gluten-free graham crackers.  Carefully carving them with a knife, I stuck them together to form a makeshift house with dairy-free icing.  I had already planned on using some ‘weird, my-Mom-is-a-Nutritionist’ toppings like raisins and dried cranberries.  But the guilt, combined with my love of food, convinced me to buy a few candies as well.  Off to the bulk store I went, to get a tiny sampling of some dairy-free treats.  There.  Now things seemed more traditional, and the guilt was momentarily eased.

The boys had a blast decorating the houses; it was such a joy to watch their faces.  Memories and photos?  Check.

gingerbread house

 

And then came the aftermath.

Little B had sampled a few of the candies, and munched on one wall of the house.  Within a half hour, complete chaos hit our house.  He was spinning in circles, fidgeting non-stop.  Talking so quickly that he was interrupting himself, often with pure nonsense, rather than words.  He would be happily laughing and singing one minute; the next he was lying on the floor in a full-blown tantrum.  This continued until he finally collapsed into a restless sleep, an hour later than his usual bedtime.

And…food dyes are now added to the list of forbidden foods.

It broke my heart to see him reacting so strongly like that.  And my heart broke again the next day when he repeatedly asked why he couldn’t have any more of his beloved gingerbread house (which, by then, had been tucked out of sight in the compost bin).

Cancelling get-togethers, avoiding restaurants, spending a small fortune on speciality flours and ingredients, and altering family food traditions.  I admit, it can be easy to get stuck in a “woe is me” cycle.   It is very easy to feel overwhelmed and isolated.

Knowing that these emotions will easily fester if I let them, I remind myself to breathe and release the self-pity, guilt, and frustration.  To look at my son’s sweet face and remind myself why I go to this extra effort.

Time to brainstorm a *new* family tradition.  A creation made from fruit?  A hand-painted cardboard gingerbread house big enough to play in?  I’m not sure yet exactly what next year’s celebrations will entail.  But I do know that with some extra effort, a little creativity, and lots of love…we can create a family celebration that allows *all* of us to focus on the joy of the season.  Do I miss all of the treats?  Honestly, yes.  And, I also know that, even for this foodie, a smile on my (healthy, pain-free) child’s face is much more delicious than any edible treat.

Happy Holidays, everyone.

The Man with the Violin

As I strive to be more mindful, it becomes obvious that kids don’t need any reminders to live in the moment….they are already there. Unfortunately, they are pulled out of that precious moment far too often, as we rush them from place to place, and activity to activity.

We have a beautiful book from the library right now: The Man with the Violin, by Kathy Stinson. It’s based on the real-life experiment in which famous violinist Joshua Bell performed, anonymously, in a busy Metro station. Sadly, the only people that really paid attention were the kids. And sadder still…their caregivers were pulling them away in a hurry, rather than following their lead and stopping to soak up the gorgeous music.

This illustration, from the book, is SUCH a great visual of mindfulness in action. The upper (blank) stripe is the mother’s vision. And the lower (colourful) stripe is the child’s vision.

Mindulness - The Man with the Violin www.freshstartfamilywellness.com

Life is busy.

AND, we can still live mindfully in that busy life.

First, let’s take an honest look at our schedules, our children’s extra curricular activities, our huge To Do lists.  Let’s see if we can’t whittle it down to the essentials, and let some things GO.

Perhaps one day I’ll be brave enough to post a picture of the main floor of my house.  It is perpetually cluttered. Lovingly lived-in. 😉  It used to stress me out, and I used to be embarrassed to have people over.  Not anymore.  Now, I’m almost proud of it.  I know that I’m making a conscious choice to spend more time down on the floor playing with my kids, or outside, exploring the forest.  I’m making the choice to soak up those little moments that fly by so quickly.

Today, try to leave some time for spontaneity.  Make some pockets of time for wonder and joy.  Try to give your kids the time, space, and flexibility to linger a moment longer and appreciate the world around them.  And then follow their oh-so-wise lead and join them.  Live through the eyes of a child, and see how your mind calms and your heart opens.

Let’s take a deep breath, and aim to switch our field of view from blank, to colourful