Somewhat Successfully Raising Minimalist-ish Kids

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For several days now, we’ve had a problem. With our toy box. Specifically the lid and how it won’t shut because toys are starting to mound up.

How?

How does this happen? 

HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN?

*twitch*

Regardless… we deemed it a Clear Out Day, and we ended up with a tote full of “givers” and a few broken things that needed to go.  I want to share our methods of tempering the chaos that naturally ensues when small children are about and how we successfully destash TOYS without everyone losing their ever lovin’ minds.

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Family Table or Battlefield?

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I did a search this morning for blog posts about picky eaters.

And now I feel compelled to write a blog post about picky eaters.

I came across sooo many shared experiences, so many opinions and tactics.  Some of them inspired me, some made me laugh, some made me sigh in solidarity, and some of them disturbed me quite deeply.

A few of the thoughts I found include…

“Picky eaters are spoiled kids.”

“They’re manipulating the parent.”

“As the parent, I will win this fight.”

If you hadn’t already guessed, these are a few of the thoughts that I’ve personally come to find unsettling and potentially harmful.  (See this post I wrote about fighting battles with your kids)  But…as a mom of a picky eater (and a mom of a kid that will Hoover down anything you offer), I understand the immense frustration that comes with a “selective eater” in the family.

So, here we go with links, data, research, and my own experiences and opinions!


Let’s start with a few of the different types of picky eating.

This article by Scientific American outlines the differences.

Sensory-dependent eaters reject a food because of its texture or smell (“Yuck, slimy!”).

Preferential eaters shun new or mixed foods.

General perfectionists have specific needs, such as foods not touching one another.

Behavioral responders may cringe or gag when right is not “right” (“Ham and cheese should be on white bread, not brown!”) or may refuse to come to the table before they even know what’s for dinner.

It’s not always about how a food tastes.  Appearance, routine, personality type, mood, energy level, etc…  They all play a roll.  Your child might not be eating because they’re hungry and feeling tired, weak, or just bummed out.  Consider all of these things, not just the number or forkfuls going into the kid’s mouth.


Could it be simple biology?

Children are born with natural, even reflexive, aversions to potential dangers.  This article by Parenting Science explains this idea really well.

Bitterness is a signal of potential toxicity, and kids—with their smaller bodies and less-developed capacities for detoxification—are more vulnerable to the effects of toxins.

It wouldn’t surprise me if natural selection has equipped children with an extra-sensitive system for rejecting bitter tastes (Glenndinning 1994).


There’s also a possible genetic cause.

The researchers found that kids who possessed at least one copy of the bitter-sensitive allele were more likely to detect bitterness at low concentrations. In addition, these kids reported preferences for sweeter drinks and cereals with higher sugar content. They were also less likely to name milk or water as a favorite beverage.


Understand that picky eating is not always just about food and stubbornness.

About 20% of the children were picky eaters, meaning they either ate only a restricted number of foods or could not eat with others because of their limited range of food preferences. Only about 3% fell into the latter category of severe selective eaters. Those children were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression or social anxiety. Even children in the moderately picky eating group were more likely to show symptoms of depression, social anxiety or attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder compared to children who weren’t picky eaters.

http://time.com/3981050/picky-eating-health-risks/

Picky eating may seem insignificant, but it deserves (needs) to be handled appropriately with measured and thoughtful methods.

One also can’t help but wonder if these disorders are a correlation, caused by nutrition issues, or a result of emotional, mental, and physical stress stemming from unhealthy methods and situations. (e.g., forced eating)


Understand that picky eating is often a perceived problem rather than an actual problem.

The majority of children between one and five years of age who are brought in by their parents for refusing to eat are healthy and have an appetite that is appropriate for their age and growth rate. Unrealistic parental expectations may result in unnecessary concern, and inappropriate threats or punishments may aggravate a child’s refusal to eat.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3474391/

Parental efforts to make small eaters eat more may have the opposite effect. Caregivers may pressure children to eat without appreciating the physiological decrease in appetite that occurs between one and five years of age (4). Children’s appetites tend to be erratic during these years. Although toddlers and preschoolers vary considerably in their intakes at meals during the day, their total daily energy intake remains fairly constant (6). Healthy children have a remarkable capacity to maintain their energy balance over time when offered an assortment of nutritious foods (6). Parents who believe that their child is abnormally small or nutritionally at risk are more likely to overreact to variations in the child’s appetite (7).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3474391/


And then there are all these factors…

  • Kids and babies go through growth spurts and periods of decreased appetites.  The medical field is well aware that weight gain slows and appetite decreases in children of a certain age.  This is normal.
  • All animals are born knowing  when they are hungry and when they are full.  Forcing a child to eat when they aren’t hungry and denying foods when they are hungry teaches the child to ignore their body’s natural cues and creates unhealthy eating standards during their most formative years.
  • Children who are heavily pressured to eat foods actually eat less.  Source
  • Adding conflict, anger, frustration, feelings of defeat and marginalization, and fear do not make for a healthy eater.
  •  Some children have legitimate, sometimes severe, sensory processing disorders that can make mealtime an anxiety ridden experience full of mental turmoil and physical discomfort due to their brain’s inability to process what their senses are experiencing.

Here’s what you can do

  • Present new foods as standalone items.  For example, offer just peas rather than peas & carrots or peas inside a casserole.
  • Present new foods over and over.  The general consensus is that most people, children included, need to be exposed to a new food about ten times before developing a taste for it.
  • Offer new, even unfavorable foods alongside other preferred foods.  Hate broccoli but love carrots?  Serve both.
  • Include children in food preparations.
  • Accept a child’s preferences and experiences as legitimate, just as you would an adult’s.
  • Model good eating habits and behaviors.
  • Make meals an enjoyable and positive family time.
  • Treat eating as you would any other learning experience.  The brain power and dexterity to tie shoes doesn’t develop overnight.  The ability to process and enjoy spinach may not come overnight either.
  • Never force foods, especially with the “clean your plate or else” method.

As I said… I have a picky eater.  The kid that hates trying new foods, the kid that is adamant she doesn’t like a certain food even though she’s only seen it once on a Food Network show.  The kid that will spend an hour saying, “I’m still eating!” even though nothing has been touched on her plate.

My experience has taught me that choosing to fight this battle is what creates and perpetuates the battle.

“Winning” and having your sobbing child finally swallow that last bite of chicken before they slump out of their chair and run away to find a comforting toy while you toss dishes into the sink because it’s 9PM, and this is absolutely friggin ridiculous…  It’s not worth it.  

You didn’t win.  You once again cemented the child’s feeling that dinner time sucks and food makes people feel bad.

I feel like I can say these things, even though some may find it to be a little harsh, because I’ve done it too.  I’m now in repair and recovery mode with my child, and I want to spare other families from enduring the “just three more bites” game yet again.

Take everything you think you know about picky eaters and dump it.  Parent your child.  Look at them, not the plate.  Be the encourager, the sympathizer, the example, the helper. Let’s lead our children to victory instead of demanding victory over them.


I’d love to hear some other thoughts and experiences.  What’s worked for you?  What’s failed miserably?  What were your experiences at mealtimes as a child?

Protein Balls, Breastfeeding Cookies, Breakfast of Champions

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If you haven’t already found these things on Pinterest, let me go ahead and enlighten you. These are crazy easy and nom-worthy snacks everyone will love, including your budget. You need to make these. Like, today.

These yummies can be relatively healthy or SUPAH healthy depending on your ingredient choices.  For example, I try to avoid nut butters with extra ingredients (added sugars or oils) to ensure my kids don’t go berserk after eating a mini mound of these things.  I also like to add in some ground chia seeds for a little nutrient boost and use local, raw honey for allergy protection.  The great thing about these goodies is that ALL of the ingredients are either pantry staples or have multiple uses.  If you have a local store that sells bulk items by weight (lucky you), you can save a few dollars by only buying a handful of each of your add-ins.

There are recipes out there, but I prefer to wing it. So here are my instructions for how you can wing it too 😉

You need this.

The basic ingredients are

  • rolled oats
  • nut butter
  • honey

I do about a half a cup of peanut butter and maybe a third of a cup of honey with probably a little over a cup of oats. Add and tweak to get a solid mixture.

I love recipes that aren’t even real recipes.

You can customize your cookies with all sorts of awesomeness.

  • dried fruits
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • chocolate chips
  • cocoa nibs
  • toasted coconut
  • cinnamon
  • vanilla
  • brewer’s yeast for the milky moms
  • whatever you have in the cupboard

Chop or pulse these ingredients in a processor so they’re relatively small but still retain their unique textures.

Now do this.

Toss everything into a large bowl and stir together.  You’re aiming for a spackle consistency. No loose, dry oats sitting in the bowl. No soupy goopiness.

Once you’ve got it all mixed together (and you’ve taste tested one or seven spoonfuls) you can roll into balls, flatten into cookies, or freeze into bar shapes. Lightly oil or wet your hands before handling the mixture. I like to refrigerate mine, but all the ingredients are suitable for storing on the counter. Just keep them covered and relatively un-warm.

I toss a few of these at my kids in the mornings because I CAN’T EVEN when it comes to food preparation first thing in the A.M.. And what kid says no to cookies? (weird ones)  I love to grab one (LOLONE?!LOL) when my sweet tooth starts raging.

I’d love to hear your favorite combos or special ideas for these!

Happy January, y’all!

Minimizing the Little Southern Girl’s Closet

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In my last post, I shared that I had destashed two garbage bags of kid’s clothes. Today while doing laundry, I had a moment. My daughter’s closet has been PACKED since before she ever came earthside. I’ve been buying packages of hangers monthly. Even with consistent and frequent destashes, it was still jammed and I’d have to shove stuff to the side just to squeeze in a few more clean items.

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A poor quality photo.  Poor quality because I was in such a state of URGENCY here.  Look at it.  There is literally a kitchen sink in there.  (although this is actually *the best* space for our kitchen playset…  It keeps it out of sight and saves space in the bedroom.)  But this is where we stood AFTER my purge last week.  This is not minimal.  This is not peaceful.

Getting dressed and choosing clothes is always a headache. My husband simply refuses to help pick clothes because of the absolute chaos in the closet. Things that don’t fit yet, things that are super cute but kinda don’t fit yet, things that are cute and fit great but, as my girl says, have “scratchy lines inside.” (shirred fabrics) A giant mound of hand-me-downs, too-big items, or out of season things added to all that as well.

Today I decided I’m over it.

Completely and utterly EXHAUSTED by it.

You know you’re in a terrible state of excess, and dare I say ungratefulness, when clothing is a BURDEN.

Behold.

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Poor quality photo.

Superb quality destash.

This is everything except socks and undergarments.

I now have almost 100 empty child’s hangers in my laundry room.

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I’m still blown away by this.

I want to share how I went about it and to encourage you to take the plunge yourself. It took me about two hours (one nap time), and it feels WONDERFUL! I’ll go ahead and say that I kind of lucked out with a kid that despises most pants. She has maybe three pairs of pants she will wear. I’ve always been frustrated by that. No longer!

YOU CAN DO THIS!

Step One – The Absolutes

First, I pulled out everything I knew was a 110% keeper. For my daughter, that included “puppy shirt,” “Ariel dress,” and “the red shirt.” She is the ultimate minimalist. I pulled out a couple brand new, unworn things and then used the following criteria to complete this first step.

  • It must fit right now
  • It must be something we all really, really like
  • It must be seasonally appropriate

I ended up with about a dozen things in this first sorting.

Step Two – The Basics

Next, I went through and pulled out the “staples” that we liked.  Basically, things that make life easy.

  • Things suitable for everyday wear at home or quick outings
  • A few nicer things for church
  • Things that could pull double duty (shirts that layer well, cute outfits that work for any and every occasion, etc)

Step Three – The Unnecessary

The third step was to pull out the fer-shurr no’s.

  • Things that either one or both of us disliked
  • Things that didn’t fit nicely
  • Summer clothes
  • General “bleh” items.

Anything either of us didn’t care for went into the destash bucket. Bleh items went in there as well along with anything on the verge of being too small. Anything too big was judged and sorted based on “Will this summer item fit six months from now?” and “Do we even like it?” and most importantly “Does it have itchy lines inside?”

Step Four – The Assessment

At this point I still had several things hanging in the closest that I was unsure about. They fit most of my keeper criteria, but I was having commitment issues.  So I sorted my keeper items from steps one and two into these categories.

  • Short sleeve shirts/outfits.
  • Long sleeve shirts/outfits.
  • Everyday dresses.
  • Church dresses.

Looking at my definite keepers made it easier to decide on the items I was feeling unsure about.  I could see that I had plenty of this and maybe needed a few more of that.  Basing my choices on what I wanted to KEEP rather than what I wanted to get rid of made this purge much easier for me.

I finally had an empty closet..

Step Five – The Miscellany

On to the mound of random items stuffed into the corner.  (Maybe you already keep yours in a nice heirloom trunk, but going through it is still a good idea!)  I followed much of the same criteria for these things.

  • Strong appeal to us both
  • Likelihood to fit
  • Whether or not it was similar to another item

It all fits into a printer paper box. I didn’t even have to sit on the lid to shut it.

THIS is what minimalism feels like.  I know there are people out there with one pair of jeans and three shirts, and maybe I’ll get there one day, but this is amazing!  I encourage you…Don’t stop until you reach a genuine place of peace and happiness and excitement about the state of your belongings.  Don’t aim for better, aim for BEST.

I’m on a roll now.  Closets being liberated all over the house this week!

Holiday Minimalism Tips

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I’m minimizing slowly but steadily!

We’re now down to two crock pots instead of three.

Leaps and bounds being made here, I tell ya!

In all seriousness, I really have been making good progress. Especially considering the time of year and the near constant influx of new toys and clothes.

I did a pretty good destash of my kids’ clothes a few weeks ago. I was able to donate two huge garbage bags of stuff. Yesterday I halved the amount of stuff in our toy box. (I cannot express the level of combined peace and fabulocity one feels when there is OPEN SPACE in the toy box.)

Let me tell you… Attempting to up your newbie minimalism game DURING THE CHRISTMAS SEASON can be tough. We are extremely blessed and often exchange many, many wonderful gifts.  It can feel overwhelming to have rooms full of wrapped gifts, new toys scattered everywhere, and giant mounds of new clothes to find hangers for.  But what a blessed mess! Because of the love and generosity of family and friends, we have only needed to actually purchase clothes for our children a handful of times in their whole lives.  How amazing is that!?

I’ve realized a few things and developed a few strategies to make the most of the season without going into full on minimalist panic mode from the chaos and then following up that panic with immense “but we’re so fortunate” guilt.  I hope this helps some of you too!

Action #1. Prep Errthing.

Destash heavily in the weeks before.  Clothes, toys, kid stuff, adult stuff.  Clearing out not only gives you room to work with, but it also gives you an excellent sense of what you and your kids actually need and what you don’t really use.  Clearing the clutter makes visits at home and traveling much easier. Plan your schedule and visits to allow for a recoup period so you can get yourself refocused before going at it again. Spacing events also helps give your kids some time to detox and unwind from the excitement and RED DYE SOAKED SUGAR IN EVERYTHING. STAAHHP.  

Action #2. Destash Wisely, Graciously, and Cheerfully.

During the destash process, be on the lookout for regiftables, hand-me-downs, shelter items, etc.  I’ve noticed in our town people leave warm clothing and blankets tied to trees in parking lots for the homeless and less fortunate.  There is always someone needing a warm jacket. With all the opportunities to be a blessing and be blessed during this time, there is no reason to keep any “umm, this could maybe be useful to me” items.

Action #3. Learn to Accept Blessings.

This was actually a hard lesson for us to learn.  When we started attending our current church, we realized that many within our church family love to give.  Whether it be a helping hand, a small comfort item, or palmed cash covertly slipped over during a hug.  To say it was awkward for us is an understatement.  When we asked our pastor about it (Should we let people do this?  Should we give the money back?), he basically told us to remain humble and not refuse a thoughtful and faithful blessing from a sister or brother in Christ.  If someone feels a pull to give, let them give.  Both sides receive joy in this.  And remember that we are blessed so that we may also BE a blessing.

Side note for funsies! – We did the shoeboxes from Samaritan’s Purse this year.  My husband and I were standing at the back of our SUV in a parking lot trying to decide what we needed and how to best pack our boxes.  A wonderful lady approached us and said she had asked God for direction in blessing someone today.  And then she handed us $50. We thanked her profusely, wished her a blessed day, and then bought $50 more worth of stuff for extra boxes!  I’ve heard it said, “God will get it to you if He knows He can get it through you.”

Action #4. Always Remember Jesus.

With soooo much going on and so many physical or material aspects of the season, always keep your focus on Jesus. Giving away your old items, or even giving away brand new items, is so much easier and heart fulfilling when you really open up and accept that you’re not just giving things or donating your old crud.  You can make your home a happier place AND bless others mightily. Maybe you’re like me and often struggle with thoughts of “we have so much and others have so little.”  Now is the time to remind yourself that Jesus was sent, not because we deserved Him, but because our Father in Heaven loves us so much!  Be blessed.  And when the blessings fill you up to overflowing, start blessing others just as much!

Don’t Hate the Pinterest Mom

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I had a Pinterest Mom moment today.  I made quinoa veggie nuggetsin fun shapes…for lunch today.  And I was suuuuuuper close to having a vegan recipe.

Who does that?!

But anyways, I was quite proud of myself for trying something new and experimenting with healthy alternatives.  I was reveling in my Pinterest Mom buzz.  I decided to do a search and see what other moms had come up with.

Cue lots of “I’m not a pinterest mom” posts followed by “Ugh, friggin pinterest moms and their clean kitchens” rambles.

CAN WE JUST NOT?

Instead of finding fun and new ideas by other moms, I uncovered entry after entry of moms speaking negatively either about themselves or other moms… other hypothetical moms, at that.

Everybody wants to hate on the Pinterest Mom because she has herself so together, no one can compete with her.  Newsflash.  Pinterest contains a collection of ideas, not biographies.  Pins are not trying to surpass you in mothering standards.  The issue is when people take a teeny tiny sliver of an idea someone else possibly likes and turns it into a battle.

Betty Sue, living on her homestead with her goats, may clean her kitchen with all natural products she whipped up herself and bring hand crafted gluten free cookies to the homeschool co-op she organized, but so what!?  Betty Sue is doing what makes her happy.

I have plans to make my own essential oil diffuser necklace from clay I’ll dig out of my yard.  I don’t give two hoots if you bought yours off Amazon.

Just because you’re offended doesn’t mean someone else has been offensive. 

A person living differently from you is not a personal attack.

There are a lot more people self-implementing judged feelings than there are people actually judging others.

Check yo’self, momma.  It’s okay.

My nuggets were FABULOUS.

Circumcision? I Think Not.

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I know this is a sensitive subject for some, but I feel it’s *most* sensitive to the ones that can’t speak for themselves.  I will be their voice.

I want you to have just as much peace and confidence in God’s design and your son’s capabilities as I do.

“YAY, we’re having a boy!  Should we have him circumcised?”

No.

I am so glad someone shared this information with me.  And now I share because I care about babies and their families. I also share because so many people felt it necessary to ask me if we would circumcise a boy during my pregnancies. When we said no, we were met with confusion, even disgust (at a baby!?), and a whole lot of misinformation.

I don’t judge anyone. I don’t do the “mommy war” thing. I share what I know out of genuine love. Here are just a few myths and concerns posed to myself and other moms I know.  Debunked.

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High Spirited Children with Low Profile Parents

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A lot of the spirited child blog posts I read include a small snippet about how the parent “gets it” because they too were a spirited child.

But what about those of us that were (are) not like that?

Unlike my daughter, I’m not a pusher of the limits. I’m a private, sort of self conscious person. She is loud and proud, and you’re lucky if she even acknowledges your presence in her fabulous world. The really scary part is that we’re both extremely sensitive but in different ways. She gets frustrated in an almost ragey fashion whereas I get frustrated in a deeply saddened way.

You could say our relationship is somewhat turbulent. 

I’m pushed towards (and sometimes shoved over) the absolute brink of my mommy threshold every day, multiple times a day. Motherhood is a beautiful thing, but we often make the mistake of thinking “beautiful” equates to happy hugs and constant laughter. My laid back, all smiles boy brings me peace and softness. My girl is ruthless in her passions and carries a fierce intensity that I struggle to fully understand.  She is beautiful in the most vivid, extraordinary, breath-taking, painful way.

Oh, how I wish I could be *that mom*. The mom that finds pure joy in her children all the time. (I really think she’s just a myth.) But I have to be honest.  I often find myself with feelings of “I can’t do this. I don’t know what to do. I’M SO LOST.”

Mothering a spirited child is beyond hard. I’ve ugly cried in my shower on so many occasions.

“Am I ruining this child?”

“I’m trying so hard to help her be the best she can be.”

“WHY DOES SHE HATE ME?!”

Now let me stop my moaning for a minute to clarify. My child is not bad. She doesn’t really misbehave, and she’s not an off the wall wild child. I’d describe her as intense decisive, opinionated, strong, intelligent, independent… Powerful. Like a teeny tiny explosive sun blasting rays through your mind and heart at a rate so unrelenting, you feel like you’re going to poof into ashes at any moment.

She’s quite impressive.

The first almost five years have been absolute pandemonium for me in terms of mommyhood. I thought I would know how to parent. How to love a child. But I was blessed to raise one of the world’s most mighty people, and she has brought to light so much that I don’t know. I believe in gentle and peaceful parenting because my only other option would be to go down in flames, taking her with me.

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For as long as it takes, and as hard as it will be, I will be the balancing weight for her. I won’t crush her spirit, and I won’t try to wash away her determination. My ultimate goal is to help her reach her perfection. Not to change her, but to offer her assistance in full development. I don’t want her to be less intense, I want her to scorch through any and every issue she is passionate about. I want her to know it’s okay to feel things at a level most of us simply can’t fathom or handle.

My child and I are complete opposites. It’s taken years to figure it out, but I now know we’ve been given each other for precisely that reason.

Stop Trying to “Win the Battle” Against Your Child

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Opening up to the notion of peaceful or gentle parenting can ironically be like smashing into a brick wall. Repeatedly. While little people stare at you like you’re insane.

Something that has hit me hard in my efforts to become a more gentle parent is the idea of winning battles with our children. For example… “You will use this blue cup. I don’t care how much you would like the red.” Or maybe “No, I will not read you a story, go to sleep!”

Traditional (modern?) parenting would have us believe that we, as parents and rulers of the home, should require, demand, and enforce total subjugation of our children. If they disagree, we still have to make them do what we want. We don’t even have to listen to why they disagree because it doesn’t matter what they think.

I firmly believe in appropriate discipline methods, but it’s really eye opening to realize that for in order for us to always be the winner, our child has to always be the loser.

In order for us to be a “successful parent,” our child has to become a conquered and defeated enemy.

The feeling of accomplishment we have every time we win is countered by the feeling of failure our child has.

Every win for us is a loss for them.

Imagine if we parented our children as if we’re both on the same team.

I no longer try to fight battles. I encourage and assist. I explain and also listen. I’ve learned to value my child as a person, not someone to defeat, and I strive to have them value me as an ally.