Soul Detox: An Invitation to Change

Okay, friends, grab a cup of coffee or tea. This post has been in the works for a while, and it’s a lot of personal insight. Typically, I try to write, not from a place of hurt or change, but rather when I’m on the other side of things, healed. But occasionally, I feel the need to share my real, raw experience because maybe it’s something that will resonate with you too? Every single one of us is going through something (or will at some point) … I feel like there’s no need to pretend otherwise. You know? A photo by Austin Neill. unsplash.com/photos/ZahNAl_Ic3o

An Invitation to Change

Lately, I’ve been feeling … crappy. And by that, I mean my body (autoimmune symptoms flaring), soul (heaviness, depression) and mind (complete fog). This is nothing new. I’m well versed in the patterns that show up when I need to begin taking better care of myself … and also taking a good, hard look at my life’s inventory.

Maybe your patterns look different than mine? Still … going through rough patches, however they may show up, is an invitation to transform.

It’s easy to get frustrated with ourselves when we feel less than optimal. Those of us type-A people can feel like these symptoms are just another annoyance getting in the way of our goals. So we push them aside, push through … push, push, push. Always pushing.

Ignoring our hurts — whether physical, mental or spiritual — is about as effective as ignoring your child when they need you. They’ll persist, gently at first, and if they need to they’ll resort to tugging and throwing themselves on the ground in a full-on tantrum. Whatever they can do to get our attention as long as we’re ignoring their needs.

At some point, those cries for attention become full blown sirens and we risk breaking. I’ve broken a few times before, and what I’ve come to realize is that these symptoms are simply an invitation to wake up. And do things differently. Look at things differently. Offload anything that no longer serves my journey.

Being in the dumps can be an invitation to change. But we have to be willing to re-frame it that way. And trust me, some days I find it easier to wallow in self-pity or resentment, fanning the flames of discontentment, rather than pick myself up and try to see things from a higher perspective.

Currently, I’m still huddled under the cozy blanket of being generally pissed off about not feeling 100% myself. I can complain all I want in this place, but I know too well from experience that, if I truly want to move through this, I’ll need to put my big girl pants on and begin the work.

And the work begins by acknowledging the invitation to change. And then accepting it.

Offloading

Here’s the thing with autoimmune disease: energy is a finite resource for us. It can vary widely by the day, but in a very simplified analogy, you wake with a set amount of fuel in your tank. Once you hit E, you’re empty. Done for the day. And some days for me, that was at 9a.m. at the beginning of a full day with two children. On rock star days, I could make it through till bedtime. It is as predictable as a two-year-old running amok in a crowded mall (insert heavy sarcasm here.) You just never know what you’re going to get.

When I am all tapped out, running on fumes, I’ve found the best remedy is to make my world small. By that, I simply mean letting go of anything that feels like too much … too negative, too demanding, too tiring. It’s like de-cluttering a closet.

As I move through my days, I’ll begin to realize the things that are simply hanging around and maybe need to be let go. I start to notice people or places or situations that make me feel heavy. Icky. And then? I kindly let those things go … maybe not forever, but for now.

Here’s what it looks like in my life currently:

Social media … sometimes, I. Just. Can’t. (Other times I can!) But if my life feels like a bit too much, then peeping into others’ lives feels like taking on way too much. So, I take a social media detox until I feel differently. I deleted Facebook from my phone recently. I resist the urge to get lost in the black hole of Instagram.

Social obligations … something in me feels like, in order to be liked or a good friend or mother or wife or whatever, I must always attend. And not just attend, but be there with bells on! With a bottle of wine and a Pinterest-worthy appetizer! At the class party with cute gluten-free cupcakes! And all this, having been showered and in something other than yoga pants! (And an actual shower and not just a deodorant band-aid situation.) But I no longer say yes to everything. I just can’t. And I accept that others may not get me or my situation.

Asking for help … this is something I cringe at doing. I’m not good at asking for anything. It’s something I’m trying to get over. I’ll be the first to volunteer to pick up your kid if need be, to host the playdate or dinner or bring dinner if you’re sick … but when the tables are turned, I just feel weird and needy. So I stay quiet and feel resentful. Yeah — that’s not okay and it’s entirely my issue to grapple with. So, little by little, I’m asking for tiny bits of help. Can my husband and kids help me clean the house? Can I call my brother and vent my frustrations when I’m feeling upset? My friend Heidi once said something that really resonated with me. She said, “you deserve to take up space in this world.” I think of that a lot and try not to feel guilty taking up space.

Letting things go … most of the time, my priorities are made for me based on the amount of energy I have. For example, today my house looks like a tornado whipped through an American Girl doll store and then someone came along afterwards and barfed on everything single surface. This is not an exaggeration. But, I have a full day of work ahead of me. In years past, I’d clean like a madwoman, then work, then make dinner. Today? I’ll work, because that’s my priority, I’ll probably take a nap because I’ll be very tired, and then bring my kids home to the barfed-on American Girl Doll situation and microwave chicken nuggets. We will all survive, and I daresay we will all be happier because I won’t be an exhausted, grumpy mess.

Often it can feel isolating or lonely to do the right thing for our health and well-being, because we live in a society that values productivity, energy, happiness all the time, etc. Those of us with autoimmune diseases may even feel an additional layer of isolation because, while we may not look sick, we certainly don’t feel healthy all the time.

My Silver Lining

But here’s the silver lining, friends: letting go of all of the things in our lives that weigh too heavily or don’t fit anymore naturally opens the door for the real gifts to shine. Through this whole process, I continue to be amazed at what shows up in my life as a result of me focusing on just the essentials.

I don’t have a huge social network as I once did, but I now have a handful of treasured friends who I consider family as they’ve continued to love me through difficult times. My husband has proven to be my biggest advocate and best friend, and it’s strengthened our marriage. I’ve learned so much about grace … going easy on myself. And oddly enough, this has translated to how I mother my girls as well.

And above all, I continue to be humbled in a way that brings forth gratitude. Gratitude for the days I feel like myself. And even for the rough patches because they continue to refine me in a way I’m really liking.

I saw a quote once that said something about, “Don’t try to be everything, all the time. Just be you … and see who or what shows up.” I just love that. Maybe that’s the whole point of a soul detox, seeing what shows up … and letting everything else kindly go.

 

Spring Cleaning | Rosemary-Lemon All-Purpose Cleaner

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This past weekend, something just snapped. All of the warmth and comfort of winter routines began to feel a bit stifling. Suffocating. Whether it’s been from many mornings spent inside cozied up near a fire or a sad browsing of my closet to reveal stacks of gray, black and cream colored knits and sweaters — I am just ready for a change.

Whereas even my neutral home decor (and wardrobe) felt quite cozy and appropriate for chilly winter days … now I just feel the need for something different. I want color! Vibrance! Movement! Freshness! Playfulness! Green vegetables!

Ah, so spring fever has officially hit over here. Which is not to be confused, in Colorado, with actual spring. We still have weeks to go before we can fully count on constant warm temperatures and sunshine, but there’s no harm in nesting for spring in the meantime. Right? Right. And the most obvious starting point for spring nesting is, of course, giving our home a good scrubbing.

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This weekend I propped open the windows and let the brisk air seep into our rooms while I took a sage stick to the entire house. Usually I do this immediately after a huge cleaning spree to purify the air and energy that has gone stale. I lit one end and took it from room to room, letting the musky smoke waft around in the air. Afterwards, I opened up the windows as a sort of exhale. Then, I got to work wiping down counters and sink tops and my grimy kitchen floor. (We were on the tail end of a stomach flu so this felt especially good … and necessary.)

I’ve been making my own basic, toxin-free all-purpose cleaner for over a year now, which isn’t something I ever thought I’d do — make my own household cleaners. I mean, who even has time for that? Or a desire? I didn’t think I actually did … until my health caused me to rethink things.

My health wasn’t awesome at that point and so I decided to take anything out of my home (and life) that was harmful. It was a gradual process and continues to be a work in progress (if you saw my makeup bag, you’d know that I haven’t yet let go of my Sephora favorites in favor of “natural” makeup. Baby steps, friends.) Anyway, now that I make my own household products, it’s second nature, and admittedly, way less expensive and time consuming than driving to the store. I also love knowing that my girls aren’t exposed to harmful toxins when I’m cleaning. Plus, the dog no longer throws up after licking my kitchen floor (true story). And I will say that there’s a sort of nerdy satisfaction that comes from pretty cleaning products that I’ve made myself. So there’s that.

Here’s the basic recipe for this all-purpose cleaner:

1/2 part distilled white vinegar

1/2 part water

20-30 drops of your favorite essential oil/s (*for this springtime cleaner, 15 drops of lemon essential oil + 15 drops of rosemary essential oil makes a really fresh, uplifting scent)

I like these glass amber spray bottles because they keep your essential oils from degrading … and they look pretty on the kitchen counter, so they never need to be put away. (ahem – lazy girl’s guide to cleaning)

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All you need to do is fill up your spray bottle, give it a shake and spray on whatever needs cleaning. I especially love it for countertops after meals, spot cleaning my hardwood floors and bathroom counter tops. Every so often I’ll switch up the essential oils, depending on the season or my mood. The thieves blend from Young Living is great during sickly winter months to kill germs. Sometimes I’ll do a patchouli-orange-pine blend in colder months. Other times, it’s lavender and clary sage for something relaxing. It’s nice to mix it up.

There are so many other household cleaners that I make and love, so I’ll be sharing those with you in the coming months as we move into warmer weather. Enjoy, friends!

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chocolate mousse (paleo) + a roots revival playlist

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At almost any point in the day in our home we’ve got tunes cranked … sometimes with dueling songs if the kids are having a dance party in the living room. In an earlier post, I mentioned that I use music in the morning as a way to set the tone for our day. To me, it’s one of the little details about our days at home that just make me so happy. We might as well make our spaces as beautiful and enjoyable as possible, right? Plus, all of my memories growing up are tied to certain songs, and I hope that someday my girls will grow up remembering little bits about our time together when they hear an old song playing.

Lately, I’ve been on a bit of a bluegrass-y, folksy kick … something a little more upbeat for spring than my usual moody winter, acoustic mixes. It’s still nice and mellow enough for making your morning coffee or even cooking dinner in the evening. These songs are like cozy little bookends for your day — we save the hardcore beats and bass for after-school dance parties and driving around town. So, click on over if you’d like to get my Roots Revival Playlist. 

And now, into the kitchen…

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Also! If you’re like me and have a chocoholic (or two) in your home, I highly recommend you make this chocolate mousse recipe. I also recommend that if you’re making this for children, to scoot them out of the kitchen the first few times you make it. There’s a secret ingredient — avocados– and sometimes that can throw off their opinion of it before they even taste it. Trust me, it’s SO GOOD and both of my girls have enjoyed it. (You really cannot taste the avocado.) The trick is to get them to like it, and then let them see how you make it.

The thing I like about this mousse is that it contains a ton of good fats since it’s made from avocados and coconut oil — great for growing brains (and us adults, too). It’s super rich, so a little goes a long way; and it’s perfect for tossing into school lunches. Usually, I’ll whip everything up in a blender and then pour into tiny mason jars (see my photo above), seal and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Most of the time, my youngest wants to eat it straight out of the blender! The texture is more like that of a chocolate pudding when it’s fresh from the blender; after an hour or two of refrigeration it’s more like a mousse.

Personally, I think it tastes amazing right when you make it. It takes five minutes to assemble and pour into ramekins or little dessert dishes. I’ve made this for dinner guests before and simply threw the ingredients into a blender and served in little bowls straight away. For grown-ups, a pouf of whip cream (coconut cream if you’re dairy free) on top and a handful of berries is a nice touch.

 

Paleo Chocolate Mousse

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 5mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 medium (ripe) avocados
  • 4 TBS coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup raw organic honey
  • 1 1/4 cups full fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 TBS of a good cacao powder, I like this one
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Directions

  1. Toss all ingredients into a high-speed blender.
  2. Blend well until smooth.
  3. Pour and serve (or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days).

Simple Valentine’s Craft: Origami Heart Bookmark

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Lately, my oldest (age 7) has really gotten into origami. She received some beautiful double-sided origami papers from her aunt a while back, plus a simple-to-use beginner origami book. It didn’t take long for her to get completely absorbed into the process of folding and following directions, and ultimately creating something really cool. She’s made little animals, hearts, butterflies, boats, tulips and will give them to her little sister to play with. At night, she likes to fold while her dad or I read to her. “It helps me relax,” she says.

I found this heart corner bookmark idea on Pinterest and thought it’d be a fun little craft project for a winter weekend. You could even tuck them into Valentine’s for classmates. It would make a really sweet gift when paired with a book for someone special.

Do you have any current favorite chapter books for kids?  Yourself? I’d love to hear some suggestions as we are nearing the end of our winter library and looking for some fresh reads. (Currently enjoying The One and Only Ivan for our animal-loving second grader. I’m taking my time with Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path, a really beautiful read.)

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For your bookmark, you’ll need: origami paper (or colored paper cut into a square), scissors, pen if you’d like to personalize your bookmark. A small helping hand is great as well.

My heart is going to be all red (the back of this sheet of paper). Lay your paper with the side you want your heart to be, facing down on the table.

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Fold the bottom point UP to the top point to make a triangle.

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Fold the triangle to the RIGHT.

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UNFOLD it back into the triangle. Then, pull one tip down like this…

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Fold LEFT tip to the center. Fold RIGHT tip to the center.

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Again, fold the LEFT tip to the center. Fold the RIGHT tip to the center.

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Fold both sides back behind the flap…

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Cut the top….

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Flip your heart bookmark over and voila!

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Use a sharpie to personalize your bookmark if you like. I also like the idea of sending back a borrowed book to its original owner with a fun “thank you” heart bookmark. Let me know if you try this!

weekending: a turmeric latte + positive vibes only

 

A photo by Geoffrey Arduini. unsplash.com/photos/ea9Zg7HkFXQThis week has been a whirlwind of activity … it typically is … but I’m finding my mind is really overwhelmed with all there is to think about. And my body feels depleted, too. News headlines have been baffling. My daily meditation has given way this week to two tiny little feet that seem to hit the ground running as soon as I open my eyes . My morning routine has been off. Our schedule, too. Things just feel “off.” Do you ever feel this way?

And so, I’m pressing the brakes on this weekend. A bit of a reset is in order. Steve and the kids headed up to ski with some friends, and I chose to stay home. Of course there are things to do … meal planning, a house to clean, laundry to fold … and I will be doing all of them today. But, here’s what I won’t be doing: racing the clock. Reading the news. Viewing (and/or cursing) my chores as work. Engaging with anything or anyone that does not add positivity to my day. Only taking in that which fulfills, nourishes and adds to the wellbeing of this household. Starting with this …

Listening to positivity. I love podcasts. Love them! Especially when I cook or fold laundry. And I’m fascinated with the ideas of mindfulness and compassion. It seems so timely right now to focus on compassion for others. Tara Brach, a psychologist and proponent of Buddhist meditation, has some great talks that I’ve enjoyed in the past. These two, Part One and Part Two, are on my listening list and I’m going to fire them up after I finish my tea. Which brings me to this yumminess…

Cooking for health. Ah, the turmeric latte. I think I’ve finally found a recipe that is perfection. This one is made with fresh turmeric, which is incredible for easing inflammation. My last blood test results showed that my inflammation is off the charts, so I’m being mindful of adding in foods and spices that are anti-inflammatory. The ginger is warming and so wonderful on cold winter mornings. I’ve tried making this with both ground ginger and turmeric, and also fresh. And I have to say, fresh is the way to go if you have the time. I love making a cup of this on the weekend when I have time to peel and slice the roots. Such a treat!

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Here’s what you’ll need:

1 cup hot water

1/2 cup coconut cream

1 TBS coconut sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp peeled and finely chopped turmeric root

1 tsp peeled and finely chopped ginger root

pinch of sea salt

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Peel the ginger and turmeric roots, and then finely chop them up. Set them aside.

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In a small pan on the stovetop, add the water, coconut cream, vanilla, sugar and a pinch of sea salt. Stir frequently and heat until just before the mixture boils.

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Next, add the heated liquid and your chopped turmeric and ginger to a high-speed blender. Blend on high for a minute … or until everything is fully mixed. You still might have some small bits of ginger or turmeric root. Don’t worry, you can pour your latte through a fine mesh sieve into a mug to get rid of them.

And voila! I hope you enjoy your weekend, friends. And I hope you are able to carve out a pocket of time devoted to resetting your mind and body.

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Give the Gift of Health: My Top Gift Picks for Vibrant Living

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It’s no secret that I love giving handmade gifts to friends and family. There’s something really magical about the process of creating, pouring time and energy and thoughtfulness into something useful for someone dear. Creating … that’s my love language to those who mean much to me.

But not all of us thrive on the making aspect of gifts. Perhaps your love language is in searching for the perfect gift, the thrill of the hunt. Or maybe the thought of gifting simply wears you out. If that’s the case, then perhaps you are the one that you need think of in terms of being the recipient. In a season that’s packed full of giving and goodness and festivity, sometimes we can forget to give back to ourselves causing holiday burnout and energy drain.

Health and happiness are the greatest gifts we can bestow on both ourselves and others. Here are some of my favorite gift ideas geared toward restoring both of those aspects this holiday season. Perhaps think of these as one-for-you-and-one-for-me gifts. Give one away, but also? Give the same back to yourself. There’s no guilt in that.

These gift-giving ideas are categorized under five important foundations of health and wholeness: Mind, Body, Sleep, Food and Soul Care.

MIND

This app. Meditation has becoscreen-shot-2016-12-22-at-8-51-55-amme a morning staple in my routine, and on days when I neglect to tend to it, I can feel a negative difference. Research has suggested that a regular mindful meditation practice can help ease mental distress such as anxiety and depression. I love that Headspace can go with me anywhere since it’s on my phone. You can
personalize your meditation practice by selecting the length of each session and the focus. Right now, I’m working through a 10-day pack designed to cultivate more patience … and, Mamas, let me tell you that it is changing my parenting game. Try it for yourself with Headspace’s free 10-day trial. Give a subscription to someone who could use a little zen (who couldn’t, right?) and make sure to download it for you, too.

This book, ladies. It can change your life. It has mine. If you’ve ever grappled with depression or felt like you could be more in control of your health and happiness, it’s a must-give, must-read-for-yourself gift. Empowerment is everything in our health journeys. See yourself through a new lens … as an empowered, vibrant woman who has the ability for self-healing.

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BODY

Give the gift of  a super-yummy, toxin-free body cream. (Use the recipe for my Night Balm.) Pour into glass Mason jars for gifting, stir in 20 drops of your favorite essential oil or oil combinations, and voila … instant handmade gift that’s perfect for dry winter skin. I like to keep a jar of this by my kitchen sink for cracked hands, and it’s also my favorite face cream (without the essential oils.)

Grapefruit + mint is a perky combo for morning wake-ups. Lavender + eucalyptus is a soothing blend for sick days. Or, my personal holiday favorite (a sort of hippy holiday scent) is sweet orange, patchouli, pine and a touch of cinnamon.

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 SLEEP

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Sleep is one of the most crucial foundations to good health, especially if you’re like me and trying to stay on top of autoimmune flare ups. Research shows that even a few lost hours of sleep per night can have a negative impact on inflammatory responses within the body. In another post, I’ll outline my evening routine for optimal sleep. In the meantime, one of my favorite ways to get the most out of my sleep is magnesium. It can have a positive effect on the body’s stress response and personally, I find that it relaxes me to the point where getting to sleep is easier.

A great way to absorb magnesium, besides supplements, is a good 20-minute soak in epsom salts. To gift this, simply fill a large Mason jar with epsom salts, combined with about 30 drops of your favorite essential oils. Add a gift tag with instructions to pour a cup of the mixture into a warm tub and soak for at least 20 minutes to reap the full benefits of relaxation.

FOOD

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Food is medicine, friends, and it’s one of my favorite ways to show love. If you’re looking to gift food in an easy form, this cookbook is the one you want. An organic diet rich in vegetables, fruit, good fats and high-quality meats has become a staple for me in terms of healing my autoimmune diseases and depression. The authors Mickey Trescott and Angie Alt guide you through delicious recipes designed specifically for autoimmune healing. It’s a great place for those who are new to their health journeys to begin.

Or, make and deliver a sweet treat in person as a thoughtful gift. My Paleo Blueberry Crisp is a quick assembly in the kitchen and would make a delicious ending to a holiday meal. Don’t forget to make one for your own household, too.

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SOUL CARE

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Soul care can obviously look vastly different for each of us, so a little bit of thought might need to go into this type of gift. Personally, I love giving other women gifts that inspire a bit of introspection or self-care … a pretty journal, handmade beeswax candle (which takes literally 60 seconds to make) or an inspiring book for the nightstand.

I recently received How to Be a Wildflower: A Field Guide as a birthday gift and have loved spending time with a cup of tea pouring over its colorful and playful pages.

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Hopefully this provides a bit of inspiration if you’re still in search of gifts. May this season bring you health, wholeness, peace and vibrance, friends.

 

 

Morning Routine: Keeping the Peace (Part 1)

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I’m wholeheartedly convinced that the way we begin our days around here always sets the tone for what’s to come until bedtime. A rushed, frenetic morning with unkind words and no margin for connection usually begets a grumpy and disconnected day for us. Likewise, a morning where I have a loose morning routine in place that allows enough time to wake, connect and move on without hurrying usually makes for better moods all around.

Honestly, I wish I was the type of person who could snooze late, be roused from sleep by sweet little feet pounding the floorboards, bound out of bed and haul kiddos to school in my pajamas. But mornings like that leave me feeling like I’ve been ripped out of sleep unprepared … and grouchy. And you know what they say about when Mama ain’t happy.

Mornings just aren’t something I am comfortable with winging. So I’ve come to realize that it’s up to me to figure out a routine that will allow me to come to the table each day feeling ready to give my best self. And that, in turn, will help our kids do the same. It’s simply from a whole lot of good old trial and error that I’ve finally developed a morning routine that works well for us.

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Prepwork: Something about coming downstairs in the morning to a clean, quiet kitchen really satisfies my inner home ec nerd. It is a great feeling to start the day fresh. That being said, I don’t like spending a lot of time before bed doing chores as that’s more of a time to unwind from the day. But, I’ve found that if I take a quick 10 minutes after dinner/kids’ bedtimes to tidy up around the house it makes a big impact on my mood the next morning. We’re not talking deep cleaning here, just a few things that can get done while watching Netflix in pajamas, for example. Or enjoying a glass of wine, for example.

  • Clear countertops of clutter.
  • Make a quick list of to-dos for the next day (if you’re a list person).
  • Get the lunch situation under control or outsource to children if that’s their job.
  • Arrange coffee/tea for easy morning access. I find this really satisfying.
  • Set out any soups/meals that need to thaw for the next day. I’m still eating an AIP diet so breakfast for me is mostly soup or leftovers from dinner.
  • Shower/bathe. I find it infinitely easier to do this at night alone unless I want a sorority bathroom situation come morning.

Expectations: Having expectations in place that we’re all aware of helps everything flow better in the morning. The girls know they need to do certain chores in the morning, and they’ve become good at taking care of them right away. We’ve worked for quite a while to get them into the habit, but it’s beginning to pay off. For the most part, they’ll get dressed, make beds and feed the dog before coming to the table. Usually.

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Setting the mood: I usually try to keep our environment calm first thing to allow everyone to wake up at their own pace. Some of us (ahem … Ella and I) have a hard time with loud voices and lots of commotion. Typically, we’ll have a record spinning or a Spotify playlist going softly in the background. Bon Iver is an all-time favorite winter record. I also picked up an old Christmas album (shown in the photo above) from our local thrift store and am loving how it starts the day off happy. I almost always have a candle burning until the sun comes up. Sometimes I diffuse essential oils (current favorite combo: sweet orange + cinnamon + pine + patchouli … a sort of earthy holiday vibe).

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Full Bellies: This one is really important for my people. They wake up hungry … and hungry can quickly become hangry if not tended to quickly. The girls almost always have a smoothie for breakfast. If they’re awake and doing chores, I’ll whip it up for them. If they’re still sleeping, I make sure to put some milk/juice and a little bowl of dry cereal out for them to at least snack on until they get their real breakfast. Tip: we use glass votive holders (Walmart, 75 cents apiece) as juice glasses. They’re the perfect serving size for little hands. 

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Busy hands = happy hands: This is another critical piece of our morning. I used to find that if I simply allowed the girls to wander into the kitchen and sit at the counter just eating, it led to sibling spats. I started setting out  a simple, open-ended craft or activity on the island where we gather that the girls could work on individually … and noticed an immediate improvement in moods and squabbles. It’s usually nothing super fancy or complicated — but enough to allow them a focal point while they wake and eat. We leave small handwork (like knitting or sewing), painting (too messy) or card games (too much interaction) for later on in the day. I love to to flip through a magazine while the girls are working — it’s a moment in the day just for me that I really treasure.

The idea is to keep it simple enough so the kids can infuse it with their own creativity instead of following a set of rules. Some examples of simple projects include:

  • A bowl of beads and string. The girls made “sun catchers” the other day. Some days they just sort them. Other days, the beads become “food” for their dolls.
  • Modeling beeswax and a bowl of warm water to soften it.
  • A jar of simple building toys. The Target dollar aisles usually have great options around the start of the school year. (See our snowflake building set below in the Mason jar.)
  • Random items from our craft bin that are laying dormant: a pile of popsicle sticks, handful of pipe cleaners, pom pons or even just a ball of yarn (per kid).
  •  Any craft project that I’m doing that the kids can help with. Recently, I’d left a bowl of dried oranges, cranberries, string and needle out overnight and found the girls helping me make gift toppers. Today, they rolled beeswax candles.
  • Our absolute favorite — and easiest — activity is just a notebook/sketchbook and pencils. It becomes a journal, a vessel for an imaginative story, a drawing of the United States, a place to funnel difficult feelings or even a note for passing to little sisters.

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Connection: Making space for connecting to one another may just be the most important aspect of our morning (but unfortunately, it’s an easy one to miss if we’re rushing about.) It might sound obvious, but simple things like making eye contact with one another and making sure the kids each get emotionally filled up before we leave the house help make the transition to the outside world easier. For one of my children, that means snuggling. My other child needs a few minutes of undivided attention alone in order to feel most loved.

These aren’t hard and fast rules for “the perfect morning” … rather, a loose framework of ideas to help smooth the rough edges that sometimes come with waking up. Tomorrow I’ll share some ways that I help myself face the day feeling fulfilled and prepared.

And if all else fails (like it did this morning in our home) just chuck the whole dang thing and turn on YouTube’s GoNoodle, and dance it off!

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