Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My version of vegan 'yogurt'

 I was looking for a quick, light snack or breakfast for those mornings when Mackynzie or myself just don't feel like eating much. I wanted it to still be nutritious and I soon found myself dreaming of being able to eat yogurt. It was the perfect solution in my mind, but the whole dairy thing was an issue. Then I remembered my love for coconut milk, and the versatility of coconut 'whip cream'. And with that, I give you:

 Rainbow's vegan 'yogurt'

I make them in single containers, so they are one serving. You can tweak the recipe to suit your desired serving size.

  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 1-2 tsp (actual teaspoons you eat with) Organic jam OR purred/mashed fruit
  • 1-2 tsp organic apple sauce (if you want some texture. skip if you're looking for completely smooth.)
  • 1 single-serving container with lid
shake your coconut milk really well. you want to incorporate the water and cream. skip this step if you want a thick, Greek-like yogurt. If you want it thick, do not mix can. open and scoop the 'cream' out and save the water for another purpose.
 Make sure your coconut milk is well whipped (by either shaking or whipping with fork. especially if you are seperating it from the water.)

Pour into container. Add 1 teaspoon of jam and 1 teaspoon of apple sauce and mix well. taste, and add more if desired.

pop lid on and leave in fridge for preferably one day.


I love that this has the consistency and creaminess of real yogurt. Its also super versatile as you can literally put any sort of fruit you want into it.  Also, how easy is that?!

Coconut milk is packed with awesome nutrition, so sit back and enjoy eating/feeding your little knowing you aren't filling up on 'nothing'!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Our Journey Into Night Weaning: One Month Update - Sleep Is Fantastic

If you haven't already, you can read about our decision to night wean 19 month old Mackynzie, with Dr. Jay Gordon's method of changing sleep patterns in the family bed,  and how night 1night 2, night 3, night 4 night 5night 6 and night 7 went.

It has been a month since we started this night weaning journey. So what's the verdict? Are we resembling people auditioning for the walking dead, or are we wide eyed and bushy tailed? We actually feel really fantastic. It turns out that night weaning was a really good idea for our family. It really feels so normal, i almost forgot about this update post to be honest!

Things have been really good. I was a little unsure if it would last, but we just went with the flow and didn't think too much about it. To sum it all up, Mackynzie is now sleeping anywhere from 9 1/2 to 12 hours.

 As mentioned in previous posts, our bedtime routine is super important to the success of our nights. We got a chance to test that theory very recently. Our evenings have gotten quite busy with outings, play dates, music class,   etc and since we have a limited time to see Cody each night. He went through a really busy period at work, so that when he came home he would shower and go to bed. When things settled down with his work days, we had a lot of usual evening activities to catch up on. Bottom line: we were busy and tired and started slacking a bit. A couple of nights, we would skip a small part or two of our bed time routine, and I would just put Mackynzie to bed. We had a few days in a row, where she was waking up at 4am hungry and mad. Even though our wake up goal time had been 6am when we originally started this, my instincts told me to feed my baby, so I did. I quickly became tired again, since I couldn't go back to bed after, so paired with not going to bed until about 11pm, 4am wake ups were making one tired mama. After a quick chat together a few nights ago, about what could be causing the sudden change, we realized our whole evening schedule was off. We went back to our normal routine the next night, and have not had any more 4 am wake up calls. We also noticed that Mackynzie's lack of interest at dinner time, and skipping her almond or coconut milk during story time were major contributing factors.

 Something we did decide to change after continuing with the process, was our morning nursing time. We had decided that 6am would work for us, for her first morning nursing session. That would allow us our 7 hour no nursing time from 11pm to 6am. Into our second week, Mackynzie started waking at 5:30 am every morning. At first, I tried to lull her back to sleep by rubbing her back/feet and singing her lullabies, but she just wasn't having it. I even tried going back in the steps and laying her on my chest/Cody's chest. Wasn't going to happen. After a couple days of this, and her and I sitting wide awake in bed staring at each other and waiting for the clock to hit 6, we decided that it was silly to wait, when her body was obviously telling her that she was hungry at 5:30 am. Once we let the specific time go, things went back to normal. She now goes to bed at 8pm (though sometimes she asks for closer to 7:30.), wakes to nurse at 5:30am, goes back to sleep, and wakes anywhere between 7am and 9am.

Our solid (now) well worked routine goes roughly like this (times are approximate. not that we are doing X from this time- this time.):

4:30-5:30pm- Make dinner and all that goes along with that.

5-6pm- eat dinner. We find that what we feed Mackynzie makes a huge difference with how her night will go.

6-7:15pm- Have family time/clean up dinner/take dogs for their walks/anything else we may have to do. (some nights, like music class, we don't get home until 7:15, but our flexible schedule makes things run smoothly still.)

7:15-7:45- bath time

7:30-8pm- Story time with a cup of almond milk.

7:30-8pm- Bed time 

 Our schedule works really well for us and the flexibility of the times is very important for us, because (like many of you can relate, i'm sure) our life is busy and sometimes we have to be somewhere at unusual times. 

 I feel so much better now that I get to sleep at night.When Mackynzie does have a bit of a rough night, due to a nightmare or she just needs us for whatever reason, we are able to be much more present and awake for her. I have been able to handle any wakings in a much better mind set, with much more patience. 

There have been some changes I have noticed since we decided to night wean:

  • I get hugs and kisses from Mackynzie randomly throughout the day. She is expressing her love for us in little bursts and it's really amazing to experience. She will come up to me and rub my back, or kiss my cheek, smile and then continue on after a pat from her little hand
  • She is taking better naps during the day. Before night weaning, she was taking a 30-45 minute nap. Now, her nap can be up to 2 1/2 hours.
  • When she wakes up, she is happy and ready to go. She has a lot more energy and is just generally in a better mood. She is also more willing to eat breakfast.
  • She is eating better in general. Something I find surprising to be affected by sleep, but it makes sense. 
  • I am no longer a jumbled, foggy mess. I am thinking more clearly, my mood is extremely improved, and I am much more productive with more energy.
  • We do more fun stuff together, both mackynzie and I and as a family.
  • My legs are smooth much more often. seriously. I get to shower more and even shave more. It's fantastic. I am also putting more into my self and outfits, rather than just throwing on a pair of yoga pants or comfy jeans and a shirt. (Okay, so I am still wearing the comfy jeans, but at least I dress them up a bit more.)
  • I am being an overall better person and parent. Probably because I have more patience to deal with daily situations.
  • Cody and I started having a weekly date night. We keep our dates at home, but we are able to put creativity and fun into them and it's a really great thing for both of us.

 Mackynzie's nursing sessions are longer and more serious now, making each session much more enjoyable for both of us.  I was starting to feel a yucky feeling when we nursed, but now it's completely gone. We are connected again during each session, and my back aches are gone! I feel comfortable and happy about nursing for a while longer now.

 We are all just feeling much, much better. Night weaning went really well for us, and I am super happy Mackynzie agrees that sleeping through the night is a pretty great thing. I am happy that we get to do more things now. We go out a lot more, we meet with friends more often, I am not dreading things like camping this summer anymore, and we are just generally more full of energy and able to be 'fun' parents. Cody and I have also been able to spend a lot more quality time together, as apposed to us laying in a tired heap or cranking at each other. I never realized how much the lack of sleep was affecting our lives. Turns out the whole sleep thing is really freaking fantastic.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Letting Go of Balance

 For so long I have been trying to find the 'perfect balance'. To have everything leveled out in a way where I can divide myself equally among my many responsibilities and desires. Not very long ago, I came to a conclusion. It's not going to happen. Ever. There is no such thing as a perfectly balanced life. Nobody lives one, and if they tell you they do, I'll bet they aren't telling you everything.

 You know what? I am okay with this. In fact, I am freaking ecstatic about it. I realize now that I don't want to be perfectly balance. In striving for this balance, I was setting myself up for failure. You just can't be two places at once. You can't have the job you love and the home life you desire. It's not realistic; something's got to give. I think I was in denial about this at first. Maybe I didn't have it all together now, but I would get there. I would work and strive for it until I succeeded in perfecting my juggling act. When I let those thoughts slip to the side for a second, I got a good look at what this type of thinking was doing to myself. I was constantly focused on something else. Almost everything I was doing had thoughts for the future attached to it, or thoughts of not letting the past repeat. I was hardly ever living in the now and it was making me overwhelmed, frustrated, and even feeling like a failure at times.

 It is good to think about and plan for the future of course, but do I really need to be so focused on it? The future is so uncertain, and the past already happened and cannot be changed. What I have is now. I have today. And I have to keep in mind that I can still aspire to future goals, while still living today. I just need to let go and trust that I will get there when the time comes. Putting all of my effort in today, no matter how mundane or small it may seem at times, will get me to where I want to go. Maybe it will even get me to somewhere I didn't know I wanted, but is better than I could have imagined!

 This is not meant to sound morbid. I want to make that clear. Rather, it's meant to be a happy paradigm shift.

 I found myself having days that slipped by me, leaving me feeling like I accomplished so little, or even nothing. I went to bed thinking "I'll get it tomorrow! I will get all the house work done, cook healthy meals, play with Mackynzie and be present all day, keep my energy upbeat and super happy, have time to myself after bed, and spend some time with Cody and then I will go to bed early for once with no distractions."
 I kid you not. I was telling myself a form of this that suited my daily events, every night. Then mid-day, or sometime in the evening I would feel like I had failed everyone. I wasn't perfect today... but tomorrow..

 This mentality is so unhealthy! It was keeping me from enjoying my life to the fullest, and I was missing out on the opportunities to learn, grow, and just be in the moment. I was fighting the wave instead of just letting go and riding it.

 I have yet to master this skill, and I doubt I will ever have it 'mastered'. That's okay. Just the feeling of letting go and rolling with whatever my day brings me, has given me such a piece of mind! I hope that in working on this, I can model it for Mackynzie. It makes me upset to think of the influences and such avoidable things, that happened to make me feel that I have to be 'perfect'. My hope is that together, Cody and I can model and encourage her to just be herself. That's really what it boils down to. Be happy with who you are and secure in your feelings of what makes you you, and you will be able to overcome the things and people in this world, that try to make you believe being you is not good enough.

I just have to add that I am so incredibly thankful for the partner I share my life with. Cody has so much in him that I deeply admire. Being and staying true to himself in all situations is something I feel so fortunate that he shares with us. He helps me work on my insecurities everyday and is a constant roll model for Mackynzie, especially during times I doubt myself. 

 This doesn't mean that I will never have balance, or that I can't have balance now. It just means that I need to accept a different type of balance. It's not going to look like the image I have had placed in my mind, but it will be far more successful. More like a pie chart that is subject to daily change, than a perfectly balanced scale.

 I am working on this by reminding myself to evaluate my expectations, in moments when I feel overwhelmed  or frustrated. Making myself breath and just learn to let things go. Is this particular battle really one worth dying over? Yoga and meditative practices and mantras are things that I find immensely helpful. Even if that's not really your thing, a mantra can be something as simple as telling yourself  "Be Easy" (or don't sweat the small stuff.), just make one up that works for your own needs and situations.

 Mainly, I remind myself this; Be gentle with yourself, act from love and kindness, give up, let go, and find what works for *you*.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sunscreen: Finding safe options and maybe a little something you didn't know

 Since the 'official' start of summer is just around the corner, I figured now would be a good time to talk about sun screen.

 We put sun screen on our children and on ourselves because too much sun can cause cancers and sun burns. Any will do, the higher the SPF the better. Slap it on, rub it in, and reapply every two hours or after becoming wet (although they have new 'one application' sun screens now.). That's what people know to be true, right? That's what we are told, that's what everyone does.

  Studies and new scientific findings, however are starting to make parents question their sun protection methods. For example, check out the EWG's article on 'the nine surprising truths of sun screen'. Companies are also changing their labels to 'broad spectrum protection' rather than spf ___, due to skin needing protection from both UVA and UVB rays. When I first started hearing about all this, I was really confused. What the heck would I use if the majority of brands on the shelves contained chemicals that could potentially give me and my baby an increased risk of skin cancer? Why would they sell something with dangerous ingredients that leach into your skin! I was left feeling a lot of mixed emotions on the subject. I talked with friends and family and soon discovered that hardly anyone even knew the dangers of sunscreen. With no one to give advice, I spent the winter reading, thinking, and devising a plan for when the snow melted and the sprinklers came on. I want to share with you the gist of some of the things I learned and what we have decided to use.

I should note that this is still a bit of a work in progress for me, but I am about to share a list with you that I assume will fix my dilemma. Also, if it isn't obvious, I am not a doctor or skin care professional. If you have concerns, you should speak with a dermatologist or trusted health care professional.

 If you haven't read the link posted above yet, I highly suggest you do. Its short, easy to read and to the point, but it can give you a better idea of what I mean by the chemicals. The first thing on my list for protecting our family was natural, simple ways for safe sun exposure. We all need short periods (approx 15 mins) of unprotected sun exposure several times per week, to maintain healthy levels of vitamin D. For times when we will be out for longer periods however, we wear hats, play in the shade when we can, and wear loose/light clothing such as cotton, linen, and hemp (there are many more options) that cover exposed skin.

 When it comes to sunscreen, there are still many options for safe sun protection. Organic brands tend to run fairly pricey for small amounts, which can be a problem for many families (like us!) who have a budget to stick to. The following is a great list that I trust enough to pass on to you. It has been composed by Job description mommy  using the EWG's skin deep cosmetics database.  please visit her web site for more information and details. 

8 safe sunscreens for children and mamas! that you can actually find in the store:

  1. Episencial Broad Spectrum Sunscreen, SPF 35, Rated a 2
  2. Badger Baby Sunscreen, Chamomile and Calendula, SPF 30+, Rated a 1
  3. California Baby No Fragrance Sunscreen Stick, Rated a 1
  4. Coppertone Water Babies Pure and Simple Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50, Rated a 2
  5. Burt's Bees Baby Bee Sunscreen Stick, SPF 30, Rated a 2
  6. Aveeno Baby Natural Protection MineralBlock Face Stick SPF 50+, rated a 2
  7. Earth's Best Chemical Free Organic Sunblock, SPF 30+, Rated a 2
  8. Alba Botanica Very Emollient, Kids Mineral Protection SPF 30, Rated a 2

Hopefully this makes someone's sun protection search a little bit easier than mine was! 

 Now let's all go soak up some sun!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Oat Flour... Where have you been all my life?

 I have been learning a lot lately. Isn't that how it always goes?

One of the things I learned today makes me very happy... because seemingly odd things can make me giddy.

 Oat flour.

Grind up oats (regular, not quick.) and replace it in any recipe that calls for flour. It has a sort of light nutty taste, but it's very delicious and works very well! As a family who strive for gluten free options, this is a very awesome thing to know. I feel much more relaxed knowing i can throw some oats in my blender, rather than scouring the stores to find alternative flours that aren't always nice on the wallet. You can bet I will be baking with this from now on! not to mention how much healthier it is in comparison to the standard options. (hello fiber?) 

I baked with it for the first time this morning. I made simple gluten/dairy/egg free banana muffins for Mackynzie, okay... and for myself, to enjoy. they were a hit! I even think Cody will like it when I make him something without bananas in it.

Oh ya, putting your baking ingredients in a blender is awesome. Some of you may be thinking that this was so last year and I should know this, but hey, better late than never!