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Warmth & Beeswax Candle Making

It is a cold, snowy Maine (holi)day. It is fun to be home as a family. All of us. Today I decided to make the day about warmth. Our downstairs temp is hard to regulate, so cooking and baking and other warm activities are on the list.

I think a lot about being warm. I took for granted the even 72 degree thermostat in our St Augustine house.

We prepared a lot for single digit temperatures. We get enough wood for our stove, make sure our pipes are insulated and we are dressed in enough layers to get us through the day.

Physical warmth is especially important for young children because they are using such a tremendous amount of energy for growth. If they have to use the energy to stay warm, they are taking away from their essential growth processes. 

Social-Emotional Warmth

Creating warmth is something I think about in the social/emotional sense as well. An atmosphere of warmth is love, is generosity, and it is what is required to do transformative work.

There are a lot of ways to foster an emotional sense of warmth. This is when we connect as a family and when we are nurturing our relationships.

The moments I find the “warmest” are when we are sharing creative moments— art, baking, crafts, or storytelling. Sharing is another time we are promoting that warmth. When we are doing things together, communicating about our day, about our feelings and truly listening. It is easy to get stuck in the auto-pilot mode and coexist but not necessarily share ourselves. And finally, when we are being grateful or being generous with our time I see the warmth being nurtured. This is when we are out shoveling snow together or doing work that is necessary, all of us together.

Today, candle making was on our creativity list and a great way to physically and emotionally create warmth. Even Keenan enjoyed this project. Ezra had fun because he made the candles for his 5th birthday cake!

It is a simple project, it just requires some patience and some mess-prevention.

Supplies:

  • beeswax pellets (about 1 lb. was enough for 12 candles and we could have easily made more)
  • cardboard
  • candle sustainer tabs
  • measuring tape
  • tall, narrow glass or metal container that is dedicated to wax
  • knife or spatula dedicated to wax
  • pan to be used as a double boiler
  • newspapers or table cloth to protect work surface

How To:

  1. Prepare your supplies. Cut cardboard into 2″ squares and cut small slits in each side. Measure 15 inches of wick and then thread through the cardboard. Tie the metal candle sustainer tabs on the ends both ends of the wick. This will help weigh the wicks down when dipping into wax.
  2. Melt the wax. I fill a pot 3/4 full and use as a double boiler. I use a glass bowl only for our wax projects. When wax melts, pour into a tall, narrow glass for dipping. Add 5-10 drops of essential oil if desired for extra aroma.
  3. Dip the candles. Hold the cardboard square and dip the wicks into the wax as far as possible. Pull it out, allow it to drip a few seconds and then move on to the next set of wicks. I had my 2 year old, 4 year old, husband, teenager and myself alternate between our wick pairs. When the candles are heavy enough do dip without the sustainer tabs, cut them off and continue dipping in rotation until the candle is your desired thickness. We made a few thick ones, and a few birthday cake candle size.
  4. After the candles are hard enough to handle but still soft, trim off the ends to flatten the bottom of the candle.
  5. Allow the candles to hang to dry (we used our laundry drying rack) for a few hours to completely harden.
  6. Clean up. I allow the wax to harden and peel off the paper we lined our table with and just add back to the wax bowl to use another time.

This project was fine to do supervised with a 4 year old and a 2 year old. We were just very careful and guided them when the wax was initially very hot. I would think a 7 or 8 year old could do this with a less supervised approach.

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What is Simplicity Parenting?

I’ve been sharing a lot about the Simplicity Parenting model for reducing familial stress. I thought today I would share the basics. The Cliff’s Notes version. What I am sharing is based on the book by Kim John Payne, and if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend borrowing it from your local library and checking it out more in depth.

I write this stuff because I found something that has improved our home, not because I am trying to push my readers into anything. I am one of those people who finds something that works, I tend to share (or overshare).

So, what is Simplicity Parenting?

In Kim’s book, Simplicity Parenting, he offers easy, effective and logical steps to simplify home life. In other words, he guides readers to living a simpler lifestyle, with more connection and warmth while reducing family stresses. So he provides a blueprint of simplifying major areas of your life to reduce modern chaos.

Why?

I don’t know if you are like me, but life is busy with 3 kids, a husband, and a business. When we have a lot of external pressures and go, go, go it is hard on everyone. The kids get cranky, I get cranky, it is a bad cycle. That is why I am sharing this information, I am the eternal student. I am always troubleshooting and working on reducing stresses so that our family has a good flow.

Changing behavior is not something that magically occurs overnight or after reading a resonating blog post or book. I read a lot, I listen to a lot of helpful information– but the actual changing, the process takes discipline and consistency (and this goes for anything you set out to do).

You can not buy yourself into a simpler or more sustainable lifestyle. You start with what you have and then peel back the layers to remove those things that do not “spark Joy” as Marie Kondo says (or the things that are not truly YOU).

For me, I like a life that feels quiet. When our schedules are chaotic, or our emotional states unbalanced, my home will begin to feel noisy and that is one of my big triggers. A busy, pressured life is often not a conscious life. If you are running on “autopilot” you are often getting the jobs done but are missing out on the beauty of life.

Simple Parenting & Family Life Tips

  1. Learn to say NO. Look at your schedules and start to dial back the commitments. Allow yourself and your child(ren) space for connection and just being together. Not in a car, not in a store, not at a playdate. This can feel lonely or isolating so ease into the transition. Remove 1 or 2 things first, then more.
  2. Purge— This is one of my favorites and is always a work in process. More than purging, take a look at why you buy the items in the first place. What is the “need”? Be more mindful of what you are buying your kids and why. Start reducing what you have by discarding what you don’t like, then the things that are broken, then reduce the items that are not played with, or have already lost their fun. I like simple, open ended toys and just a few of them (like 10 or so).
  3. Rotate and organize— when there is less, this is so easy. I keep a tote and rotate about seasonally. My son loves anything with wheels and has a lot of cars which are hard to part with. He goes through phases of construction, or emergency vehicles, trains, etc. So I just keep a few out that fit in a smaller basket and we rotate. I keep our favorite, most read books on the shelves, the seasonally appropriate ones and then rotate. And with clothing, I keep a reasonable amount of seasonally appropriate clothes that fit in the closets and bureaus. The rest are stored in labeled bins and rotated seasonally. It is so nice to have a spacious closet with just the clothes we are actually wearing.
  4. Plan— this is a biggie. If I plan the next day before bed, things go so much easier. We know what breakfast will be, I set up an activity for the kids to do after breakfast, clothes are laid out and snacks for the next day are prepped. If it is planned, most likely it will happen.
  5. Reduce screen time— I struggle with this one, but life is soooo much better when I put my friggin’ phone down. The kids are better when I’m not trying to photograph their every step too. For me, I am also leading by example for my teenager. He truly feels he “needs” his phone all the time. Take a moment and check your screen stats and see what you can cut back on. How many times do you pick up your phone in a day?
  6. Establish a rhythm— this is so helpful in my family. I have very predictable “blocks” of time in the day which are touch points. This helps ALL of my kids because generally they know what to expect which creates a subconscious feeling of safety and security. We have freedom, I’m not a complete stickler– but generally we have a structure with some spaciousness included.
  7. Get outside— Nature is powerful. It is a great way to connect with the world, notice that we are part of a bigger whole and connect with the subtle changes that occur daily. It is great for kids because they can move their bodies, they can create and imagine without requiring a lot of direction.
  8. Decrease stimulation— beyond purging also notice what you surround yourself with. Are the sights positive and uplifting? Is your home noisy? Could your television be moved or shut into a cabinet for part of the day? Notice what is central to your home and make sure it is pleasing to your senses.
  9. Nurture yourself— find balance. Have time for spirituality (if that’s your thing), exercise, eat well, drink water and decrease stimulating foods– just take care of yourself in the way that feels best to you.
  10. Practice gentle discipline— There are a lot of fantastic resources out there to guide you in your discipline journey. Again, I am going to suggest reading one of Kim John Payne’s books or listening to the Simplicity Parenting Podcast to get an idea of what that means.

That’s the thing I have found along the way– it isn’t always easy to live up to the ideas or vision you have for your family. I have really had to step back and think “what does my child’s world look like” and “what do I want it to look like in the future” to stay on track. It is important to have support, tools and a blueprint to follow that will lead you to where you want to be in life. That goes for anything, not just Simplicity Parenting.

Also, I am always here to provide more tools, support or direction. Feel free to reach out. I want to be accessible, not just a random voice on the internet providing my opinion.

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Dressing for The Weather: Play Outside, Every Day

Now that are fully settled in Maine, I am going to share what has been the toughest part. I know my answer sounds like an old lady, but it has been the weather! Seriously, we arrived in June and experienced many wet/cold summer days. I was very surprised. For some reason, I was expecting moderate 70-80 degrees through at least August. Fall is here now, we are having cool to cold mornings, lovely afternoons and lower evening temperatures. Before we know it winter will be here.

I NEED outside. I start to crumble a bit if I do not get out. Fresh air, sunshine, the breeze– all of it restores and grounds me. I will NOT be able to hibernate for months. I only a Floridian for 6 years, and sometimes the lack of seasons was a bit discombobulating, but we only had days of cooler weather, not seasons. We rarely needed anything more than closed-toed shoes, socks, and a hoodie to stay comfortable.

Luckily, early in my motherhood journey I heard my Scandinavian-born family say “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”. Now that I am prepping our wardrobe for the coming seasons; I thought I would share a little bit about how we will continue our days outside following that Scandinavian wisdom I learned many years ago.

Temperature Regulation

The younger kids are the ones I am focusing on in this post. As adults we have more awareness of what our bodies are doing. We know if we run hot or cold. Younger children are still developing their inner temperature gauge. Remember when you brought your newborn baby home and was told to dress them a layer warmer than you would yourself? This still matters well into younger childhood. They lack the awareness of their temperature and dressing appropriately allows them to play without exerting energy toward temperature regulation.

If you are the type that is hesitant to opt-outside in cooler weather, have no fear. It is pretty easy following a general guideline for layering and staying dry!

Must-Haves:

  • Base Layer: Long-johns, or long underwear. This is the layer that sits next to the skin, so it needs to be breathable, soft, and moisture-wicking. I prefer natural fibers, although there are some higher-quality synthetics that serve this purpose. I like wool, or wool-silk blends. Many people think of wool as itchy or uncomfortable. It is the kind of wool you choose and wool is wonderful because it is naturally antimicrobial, it regulates temperature, is moisture-wicking and super soft next to sensitive skin. One of my favorite brands is Engel, which is a German-made product that is virgin, organic wool and hasn’t been dyed with synthetics. My kids LOVE them. I will link some other brands/shops at the end of this post.
  • Mid Layer: This is your regular, every-day clothing. Pants, long-sleeved tees, short-sleeved tees, dresses, leggings, socks, etc. Again, I prefer soft, comfortable, natural fabrics like cotton, bamboo, hemp, wool, etc. I find my kids have less sensory-type issues when dressed in comfortable, natural fabrics. I still have a memory of being uncomfortable in church and school wearing synthetic tights and I think I have vowed to keep my kids from ever experiencing that level of discomfort, lol.
  • Extra Layer: This is a layer to wear on top of your regular clothing, but is still thin enough to wear under a heavier coat/outerwear. When dressing the younger kids, think about less bulk for less restricted movement. For this layer you’ll need a light coat, vest, sweater, or fleece. Wool is great for not adding bulk, however there are some good quality fleece extra layers on the market. We are looking again for moisture-wicking, breathability so the kids do not sweat and cause them to chill. Other staples are thick wool socks (we want to avoid layering socks), hat that covers ears, mittens, a scarf or something that covers their neck. Hoods are great as are balaclavas made of wool or wool/silk blends.
  • Outer Layer : (rain/wet/mud) The gear necessary for this type of weather are waterproof boots/wellies, rain pants or bibs, a raincoat with a hood, or you can purchase full one-piece rain suits. Oaki, Kite, and Polarn O. Pyret all sell these types of waterproof suits. For hands, wool mittens and waterproof mittens are necessary. Wool mittens keep hands warm, even while damp.
  • (waterproof/snow) Winter weather requires a bit more. For this season, waterproof snow boots, snow bibs, an insulated, waterproof coat with a hood and waterproof mittens will do the trick. There are so many options and price points for winter gear. My personal preferences are Gore-Tex and high-loft down fill.

Layer, layer, layer

Now, I am going to share a general guideline for layering based on temperature. All kids are different, some run warmer than others. My daughter tends to run on the colder side, and my boys are typically a little warmer so I see them shed layers much faster. The key really is to layer and make sure the layers are easy to shed for the littles as they play and move through the day. A good rule of thumb for checking a child’s temperature is to feel their neck first, then their backs and lastly their hands.

Above 60 degrees—- mid/main layer

60-50 degrees—- base + mid or mid+extra

50-40 degrees—- base + mid + extra

40-25 degrees—- base + mid + outer

below 25 degrees—- base + mid + extra + outer

A Note on Costs

It is easy to find great quality, gently used kids gear online or in your town. I recommend higher quality brands but RARELY do I ever buy new or pay full-price. I also work in a gently-used children’s store on the weekends so I have the perk of finding these items. Kids grow so quickly and barely have time to really do damage to their seasonal wear. If you have multiple children, these items can easily be passed down through several children with normal wear and tear.

Links

Nova Natural— wool baselayers

Patagonia— down filled outerwear, synthetic base layers

LL Bean— down, Gore-tex

Bogs— winter boots and rain boots

Polarn O Pyret— a mix of all winter gear

Kidizen— online source for used children’s clothing

Mercari— another site for used children’s clothing

Patagonia Worn Wear— Patagonia’s resell site

and again your local children’s consignment store, used gear store, or even thrift stores are wonderful resources to outfit your children with all of their seasonal layers!

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Tick Kit: An Important Piece for Family Wellness

Well. It has been a long time since I’ve written in this space. We’ve gone “off the grid” a bit and are currently living in a small rural town in Maine. This is our temporary housing situation until we close on our “real” Maine home in August. It has been an adjustment living in a small cabin, not all bad– just an adjustment.

The biggest adjustment has been dealing with the bugs in Maine. I thought the mosquitoes in Florida were awful…. Maine, well… the ticks, the brown-tail caterpillars… Now, they are no joke. We’ve been here for about 3 weeks, and both of our younger kids have been diagnosed with tick-borne illnesses. We’ve done tick checks, we try to keep them out of the tall grass, we spray (with chemical-free) bug sprays.

So, the point of me writing this is to tell you. I want you to create a tick kit. I want you to take ticks seriously.

I don’t care if you are not outdoorsy, if you don’t live in an endemic area, or if you take ALL of the precautions. Deer ticks are miniscule. A freckle. Tinier than a freckle. And time is critical in identifying the tick and taking precautions.

It is an adaptation to have to be so friggin’ hyper aware. However, it is necessary! If you, or anyone you know has battled Lyme disease– the effects can last a lifetime.

Every second that a tick is feeding on you or your child, it is potentially passing on Lyme, Babesia, Bartonella or other co-infections. Ticks often carry more than one infection. Again, time is crucial in removing and identifying the tick. Each moment you spend searching for tweezers or a plastic baggie, the tick is spreading more of its ick. Seriously.

The Kit

A tick kit is simple. Having one on hand can help you beat the clock and remove and identify the tick ASAP. The contents are easy-peasy. It is just crucial to have them accessible and ready to go in a few moments. If you are like me, you will spend 30 minutes locating these items if they are not packed and ready to go.

  • A few index cards
  • A ziplock baggie
  • Tweezers with a sharp point
  • Sharpie
  • Clear tape
  • Alcohol wipes

Just throw the contents in the baggie and put it in your travel pack or car if you are out and about or in your medicine cabinet at home.

How to Remove a Tick

  1. Use pointed tip tweezers and grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
  2. Pull upward, without twisting or jerking so that you remove the tick completely. If your hand is not steady you may jerk the tick, leaving its mouthparts embedded in the skin. If this would happen, make sure to remove the mouthparts as well.
  3. After removing, tape the tick to the index card and write the details of time, date and location it was found. This is good information to have if symptoms appear. The doctors will have the full picture for treatment.
  4. Next, clean the bite with the alcohol wipe and watch and wait. Symptoms can occur 3-30 days post bite. Watch for fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, headaches or a bullseye rash.

Avoid using folk remedies to remove the tick. It has been found that applying nail polish, petroleum jelly, or any other number of remedies actually causes the tick to regurgitate its contents deeper into the skin.

Sending the Tick off for Testing

To get your tick tested, simply visit www.TickReport.com and follow instructions to receive your tick order number.  Then place your tick in a ziplock bag, label it with your order number, and mail the labeled tick to the Laboratory of Medical Zoology, 270 Stockbridge Rd., University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003.  Results will be sent to you in 3-5 business days.  

This does not replace receiving medical advice/treatment, but it can give you an idea of what you are dealing with.

Take Tick Bites Seriously

An ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure, I’ve been told. Ticks are definitely something that can easily be missed. Some ways to make the burden of ticks less cumbersome– having your tick kit on hand is a priority. Also, wearing light-colored clothing and bundling up. Long pants, tucked into socks, long sleeves and hats can help protect. Tick checks. Checking every crevice, multiple times per day if you are in an endemic area and making sure to remove, save and identify.

If you find a deer tick embedded in skin, I definitely recommend saving the tick and seeking medical attention BEFORE you experience symptoms. There are prophylactic treatments available. I am not one to rush for medicine and love to do things naturally, however this is one instance that I stand behind doxycycline and feel its risks are minimal comparatively.

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Abuse Patterns: The Awakening

After my last post, I have been pondering how to share the steps of breaking the cycles of abuse. The first step is to recognize the abuse cycle. This is the step to empower yourself so that you can start to recognize the patterning and gain strength to make a change. We can’t make a change if we don’t know it is there.

Abuse is tricky, it is hard to define and is often difficult to even recognize when you are living in it, much less address and break-free. Most often, folks from the outside looking in can see it. In my situation, I was very headstrong, independent and sure I would never fall into the abuse cycle. However, my childhood clouded my adult mind and kept me from recognizing I was still choosing abusive relationships. This is pretty common and how the cycle perpetuates through generations.

There are generally 4 phases of an abuse cycle. There can be cycles within the cycles– and the length of time of the cycles can vary. Just reading that sentence is a little confusing.

4 Cycles

  1. Tension Building– This is the phase after the “honeymoon phase” of the relationship. This is where tension and stress begin to build. This is the phase when the victim is walking on eggshells as not to “trigger” the abuser, and there is a lot of passive-aggressive tendencies from the abuser.
  2. The Explosion– This is when the violence occurs. There are many shapes and forms of abuse. Violent behavior does not always mean physical assault. The abuse can be psychological– a violent outburst, sexual (make-up sex), or any kind of extreme-controlling behavior. Emotional abuse can be even harder to recognize. Emotional abuse can look like extreme possessiveness, jealousy, isolation, guilt-trips, put-downs, or blame-shifting.
  3. Honeymoon Phase- This is the phase of reconciliation. The abuser apologizes for their behavior, swear they don’t know what came over them, and they never meant to hurt you or cause any pain. They shower the victim with love, maybe even gifts, and they appear remorseful, sad, and sometimes even threaten to hurt themselves if the victim wants to leave.
  4. Peaceful/Calm Stage- This is when all is well, and it seems the abuser is “doing their work” to never let the behavior happen again. This is when the victim is holding on to faith that the abuser has really changed and life is looking up. Unfortunately, without extensive help and true sincerity, this is rarely the case. Something will occur to flare up the tension building stage, perpetuating the abuse cycle.

This Cycle of Violence theory was developed by Dr. Lenore Walker, and is used in many therapeutic approaches to teach the relationship dynamics of abuse.

Generational Abuse

The sad fact is, that children growing up in abusive homes have trouble recognizing that their upbringing was abnormal. This is what perpetuates the cycle and unfortunately a high number of these children grow up to be victims or abusers in their future relationships.

Awakening to Make Change

I am going to get personal here. Making a change is hard– sometimes familiarity is a comfort, and sometimes admitting that a relationship has “failed” is hard on the ego.

I am not a professional, and do not claim to be. I am just a survivor and have first hand experience. To make a change, the thing that is most important is that you love yourself enough to remove yourself from abuse. This is the part that has to be nurtured from within, and the next piece of the puzzle is to find support. Loving family, loving friends, and a strong support network can help you find the strength and light at the end of the tunnel.

Know that you deserve love, and abuse of any form is NOT love.

Resources

National Domestic Violence Hotline

1800-799-SAFE

National Dating Abuse Hotline

1-866-331-9474

National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health
1-312-726-7020 ext. 2011

Break the Cycle 
202-824-0707