When My Daughter Turned Two…

When my daughter turned two, I thought that she would magically grow up. She would start speaking like an adult, start working more independently, begin to move and play beyond the her actual maturity level; all of these were things that I imagined to change on October 18, 2018. None of that happened.

My daughter did not start to speak, although she blabbed a mile a minute.

She did not begin to put her shoes on by herself, however much she tried.

She did not follow all the directions I gave her, even though she seemed to be more selective about this specific milestone.

She did not get dismissed from speech or occupational therapy. 

emmasbirthday-62

But, there was a lot of things that did happen. She continued to run towards me and give me giant bear hugs. She tried to eat new things, and sometimes she didn’t want to eat at all. She picked and chose the days she wanted to take a nap. She became a puzzle-wiz. She perfected the art of independent play and learned to really occupy her own time. She still gave me the best cuddles I could’ve ever asked for. She still let me put her to sleep. She was perfect in her own way.

I had to realize that all of these milestones were more for me, and not for her. She currently has no care in the world about when she will start to speak. It isn’t necessary for her right now. It was me who worried about this for months too long. She can figure out ways to tell me when she’s hungry, when she’s tired, or when she just wants to dance. No other person in the world can understand her the way that we, her parents, can right now.

Realizing this, I discovered that these silent years are truly the most special. These are the days that I can look at her, share a perfect moment, and immediately understand what she is telling me. When I stopped focusing on the absence of words, I started to really hear her. That was the most magical think I have ever shared with my daughter, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

emmasbirthday-4

 

How To Have a Healthy Family Lifestyle

Food is easily the most important tangible and disposable thing we can give our children. As parents, we can get distracted by the hustle-and-bustle lifestyle and opt for easy and fast instead of realistic and healthy. As a society, Americans overall have found great ease in buying the (usually overpriced) fruit cups and cereals full of sugars and additives instead of real fruit or other natural whole foods.

During WW2, women became both the homemakers and the breadwinners in many American homes. While the men were overseas, women went into the work-force, small children went into daycares, and the love and emotion that was once put into cooking and feeding our families quickly disappeared. This torpedoed the manufacturing of convenient TV dinners and ready-made meals. This also allowed for the increase of preservatives and other harsh chemicals to keep foods “fresh” and elongate shelf life to make companies more money with less waste. Today, generations later, we are still living in the mistakes of our predecessors, i.e. fruit cups and cereals.

Something else that seems to be absent and readily ignored from family life is the focus on other aspects of health, such as the physical, mental, and emotional. We get focused on what’s going into our bodies and forget what is being feed into our minds. How do we fix it? We be consistent, every day. We try to change little imperfections. until they slowly disappear. Our family is far from perfect, but we make strives everyday to be healthy and well — here’s how!

  • Focusing on whole foods versus ease: As I mentioned before, all the crap that comes in processed food is the same stuff that will lead you to feeling bloated, lethargic, and unmotivated. The chemicals in the foods the supermarkets sell us (even the packaging) can cause exponential harm to our bodies, causing us to gain weight and even alters our genetics. American living definitely comes with a price. The best way to avoid this is obviously buying organic, but when that gets too pricey, the focus must be on eating whole and real foods! Buying fresh chicken instead of frozen or pre-made dinners, whole fruit instead of juices and sliced fruit in sugary liquid, or good produce as opposed to ready-made-to-eat-stick-this-in-the-microwave vegetables. I get it, we’re busy, but the food we are being sold is almost an insult to our intelligence. It takes and extra few moments to eat whole foods. It’s worth it!
  • Devoting time to movement: Whether it is a family walk with the pets, a trip to the park to run around, or play time in the back yard, movement is a key in both child and adult development. Especially as parents of young children, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to avoid screens and get outside. But, it’s mandatory for all the beneficial impacts it has on stress relief and the ability to self-calm. One thing your child will never forget is your need to be an active parent, which will stick with them for the rest of their life. Active parents = active (and healthy) children.
  • Ditching snacks! Americans are obsessed with snacking. Often, parents offer empty calories and grain fillers such as goldfish and crackers to ward off any hangry toddlers or children. In fact, the better choice is allowing our children (and ourselves) build up an adequate appetite so that when it is breakfast/lunch/dinner, they (we) are ready to eat a full meal with real calories. Snacking allows our children to believe that if they do not eat every 1-2 hours, they are going to starve. This is just not true! Having bigger and fuller meals three times daily will also curve any need to “snack” and build quality nutrition habits they can keep with them for the rest of their lives.
  • Eat dinner as a family: When I was young, we ate dinner in front of the TV in our living room. It was what everyone else was doing, so it wasn’t until I grew up that I realized just how related it was to my uncomfortable relationship with food (and socialization for that matter). Every meal should be had at some sort of table setting, but dinner especially. Allowing our family to focus in on each other and the meal we’ve created (hopefully together) brings a better feeling and association with food and family time in general. What doesn’t, is being made to think that food is only something associated with staring at a screen or being distracted by an intangible situation.
  • Quiet time: A great quote I heard long ago stuck with me. “Enjoy the quiet, not every empty moment needs to be filled with words.” This rings true especially today, as I am fighting a battle with screens and the toddler years. Adjusting my adult self to rid the background noise of the TV reruns and annoying radio commercials was tough, yet satisfying. Being left alone with one’s thoughts should not be a scary thing. In actuality, it should be a time for thoughtful self reflection and concentration. Teaching this acceptance of silence and lack of need for overstimulation to young children speaks volumes when the time comes.

3c2d1bb1-454b-4bd2-bc0a-d02f672c5936.jpg

These are just some of the main things we do as a family to bring peace and health to ourselves, but we learn daily! If you have anything you do with your families that would complement our routine, please comment or reach out!

xo,  Nasreen

18-Month Visit… My Toddler’s Speech?

I pushed our 18-month visit up a week due to Emma’s cough, which she had been experiencing for several weeks and was beginning to worry us. We knew she wasn’t talking as fast as the other kids, but that wasn’t what scared me about this visit. When you bring your child into a pediatrician, they give you an iPad with a form attached. You must check all the boxes to show you are taking good and safe care of your child at home. Locking away poisonous chemicals, not leaving them unattended near water, keeping cigarette smoke away, or whether or not you have a working smoke detector. At all past visits, I’ve never hesitated to check yes on all the questions, as if I were waiving my mom flag up high in celebration. But, at 18 months, there’s a second page of questions. These were the questions that hit home, hard. “Is your child pointing with one finger” and “Does your child respond to his/her name” or “Does your child participate in pretend play” were some of the toughest for me to check no. I think I was only, truthfully, able to answer half of the supplied questions with a yes, and it took everything I had inside me to not break down and cry in the waiting room.

When we finally got to see the doctor, I felt embarrassed allowing my tantrumy toddler to watch her iPad movies while explaining to him how I was worried about her low vocabulary, and how she still hasn’t said the word Mama. “She tries to mimic me when I use the M sound, but she only blabs out D, B, and P sounds,” I told him. He nodded empathetically, and continued to ask me familiar questions from a list of his own. “Yes… No… Sometimes she does this instead… Ehh, can you give me an example of what that would sound like?” This went on for a few minutes, and my answers varied.

The rest of the appointment was a weird blurr. It consisted mostly of more questions and answers, and some questions without answers. I had too much going on in my head to really participate adequately in it. I was also comforting Emma, whose toddler stage was at full speed and was completely done with being examined in that small white room. The doctor put fluoride on her teeth, checked all her vitals, and seemed overly pleased with her growth in height (which is always off the charts). We discussed her iron, which was low in the past. For this visit, it was high and she was cleared of her anemia. Her cough, which was the original worry of this visit, was of no concern to her doctor. He said she has no other symptoms and seemed great. She was healthy in all aspects of her physicality. Healthy, but slightly behind.

Fast forward to today, I am on several waiting lists for speech pathologists in my area. I am also on the waiting list for Easy Steps, a state organized program that assists children with speech and occupational therapy needs. I am stressed. I am going back and forth with my husband as to what we do wrong all day to have caused this. I am underwater in mom guilt and I find myself tearing up and random moments throughout the day, all day. I am trying to see the positive (there is help, and she will get it soon).

But, did we cause this? Is it something I did wrong? If it can be fixed, does that mean that something is broken? I don’t have an answer. Every child is different, and mine is a tornado at any given moment. She is not abnormal, she is Emma. She is amazing. She needs a little help, and we are so lucky that we live in a place where help is available to her.

Too often we worry that our children are not living up to par, but what is the par?

Minimalism as a Mom

The ideology of minimalism always seemed so easy. Disconnecting yourself from the innate attachment to simple worldly possessions in an attempt to bring your mind closer to those connections and experiences that truly make life worth living. Removing all the physical and mental clutter from your mind to only keep room for those “things” that bring you peace and legitimate happiness. And finally, understanding that true happiness is not something born from our relationship with items, but with ourselves and our loved ones. Never was there such a technique more perfect for the modern mother.

I watch my toddler ignore piles of stuffed animals in the corner of her room, and instead find pure joy in crinkling up plastic water bottles just to admire their sound. Or how she takes interest in watching the structure of the ceiling stretch and curve throughout the house with amazement. Or how she reached to grab my own hands and fingers, only so that she can curl them into her own. The human child is the most interesting thing because of their pure and natural demeanour. Maybe us, as adults should strive to find interest in those simple things in the same way children do. Soak our lives with relationships, travel, and memories as opposed to things.

And, as I watch myself: scurrying behind her to pick up used and forgotten blocks, rushing to load the next batch of laundry into the washing machine, or hurrying to wash endless piles of dishes and appliances that decorate what was once my beautiful kitchen… there is an imbalance. It was around this time that I was able to find joy in less. The extreme satisfaction I get when I remove all the unused clothing in my closet and donate it to someone who will wear it, or when I empty out the overpiled kitchen of snacks that no one will eat and appliances no one has used in months, or when I decluttered our living space until all that remained were purposeful pieces that gave me some sort of contentment.

The same way my daughter did not need those unused stuffed animals, I did not need those extra bathing suits I haven’t worn in years, or those photo albums from 2003, or those bags full of nail polish, or those vases that haven’t seen the stems of flowers in years. Emptying our space of all the extra in the physical has helped us in so many ways to empty all of the extra in the mental. My spiritual and mental clarity has never been so high, for the combination of many reasons, but I am certain that a large chunk of those reasons has been allowing myself to live freely from the invisible confines of all the things I’ve collected in 27 years.

Postpartum Weight Loss: Why I Don’t Blame My Child

Like most women, I grew up with that scary notion that childbirth would ruin my body. The messages imprinted onto us by society, the media, and the women who came before us always made such a large impression on our physicality. Our bodies were always made out to be something that we must take care of and show to no one, however we must keep them trim and attractive by all means necessary. Also like most women, I struggled with body issues and insecurities for (what felt like) my entire life. I was never an under eater, but an over eater. Over eating the good and bad foods with no control. Even after getting into fitness, my nutrition was so out of whack for so long that it took me years to understand what foods were intended to be put into my body.

Fast forward to a 16-month postpartum body, I am at my lowest weight in the past 10 years and arguably my lowest body fat percentage ever. This paradigm goes against everything I (and everyone) was told throughout the longevity of life. However, this is not only about the relationship I have developed with my body, it’s about the how. I understand how my body works. I know that certain foods make me balloon up, that missing too much time from the gym will spike my weight and cause water retention, and that a lack of activity overall puts me into a poor mental state. That’s the REAL reason I gained an obscene (60 pounds to be exact) amount of weight during my pregnancy. It wasn’t my daughter’s fault, and her existence was not the reason I was uncomfortable with my body for so long after I gave birth. It was MY responsibility to fix MY problem with my body. Placing blame on a tiny child that had no malicious intent towards anything is not only irresponsible, it’s cruel. It’s ignorant.

With that, this essay is not about me and my journey to health. What it is about it the need to address the problem with us, as women, who consistently use irrelevant banter to our children that wrongly blames them for OUR body issues. Guilting our child’s existence is not productive in an way. The same way we do not blame our husbands for our food choices, our friends for our lifestyle decisions, and our careers for lack of time, we must stop looking to our children for our poor perceptions of ourselves. A person’s unhappiness lies within that person. If I am unhappy about my body, it is my emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental responsibility to cure that unhappiness. Putting the pressure on our children to not only be responsible for something they cannot fix, but for also a problem which they cannot solve is our own downfall. Do not put that weight on their shoulders. Do not throw them under the bus when you are in the driver’s seat.

Being a parent is hard. Being a mother is hard. But, often we forget just how hard it is to be a child. As the mother a daughter, I am scared for her as she grows up in this world that forces her to be “picture-perfect” in a way that she looks at herself, and feels about herself. I hope that I can raise her to be prepared with the capability to be happy with her imperfections the way that I have learned, earlier than I have learned. I also hope, however, that I never make her feel as though anything she has unintentionally done has harmed my own personal happiness. My happiness is my own, our happiness is OURS.

 

 

Emma’s 15 Month Visit

How did that fly by so fast? This visit was particularly scary — for the both of us. For Emma, she has known what happens at the doctor’s office since she was about 9 months old. Needles, shots, and strangers taking her temperature through her ear. For me, those same things are almost equally as scary. The sensation a mother feels from watching her child cry in fright is the type to thicken your skin in the worst way. (Side note: I do not want that type of thick skin).

IMG_4024

However, Emma’s visit this time was also special because we would be checking her hemoglobin levels for the third time. Yes, I said THIRD. At 12 months old, her iron levels were recorded to be low at 10.6. The normal level begins at 11. She was not only teething that week, but to be honest she didn’t care much about solid food at that time either —breast milk was Queen Bee. We were told to come back in one month after giving her an iron supplement. My husband and I decided not to supplement, and instead concentrated on feeding her more food and aimed on iron rich solids. However, she still did not care for meat as her teeth weren’t fully there yet. We returned one month later and her level rose to 10.9. But that wasn’t 11, so we were told to go home and try again. This time, we bought the supplement with all the intentions to give it to her. We opened the jar, and scrunched our faces in disgust at the smell (and later, the taste). Emma isn’t easy to fool, she wouldn’t take the gooey green liquid straight or disguised by anything else. One doctor said we may be able to mask the taste with juice, however Emma has never had juice before. I was against giving my daughter juice and the unnecessary high levels of sugar to feed her iron supplements. The supplement sat in the cabinet.

For two more months, I researched until my brain was bleeding and booming with information on every way that we absorb, need, and use iron as children and adults. Her foods were planned and arranged in a way to successfully allow her body the best chance to add iron. This visit marked the end of our iron worries. She is no longer anemic, and I am so proud of her!

Besides one more blood test, Emma received her three booster vaccines. She hates shots, and I don’t blame her. Waiting around the office for what seemed like an eternity, I found the her ipad and oatmeal pancakes were a savior as she snacked and watched her favorite movie until it was time to see the pediatrician.

IMG_4029

Our next goals with this little babe is getting more words in her vocabulary, and possibly potty training! I’ve finally come to realize that I am not Mama, but Baba? Her dad is Dada. Everything else is jibber jabber and makes little sense. Let’s see what the next few months bring!

How To Reduce Trash As A Family

This post is definitely intended to be geared toward a “betterment towards society” and/or an “environmental awareness” standpoint. However, from a mother’s standpoint, there are SO many plus sides with eliminating trash that I cannot stress just how great our lives seem to be as a result. The reduction of waste we produce, as a family, has diminished increasingly in the past 7-8 months. I no longer cringe at the overflowing plastic grocery bags pouring from underneath the sink. I don’t worry about take the trash out every five minutes. I have saved countless dollars on items that cause us to produce even more garbage but opting for all-in-one options (especially for cleaning). I could go on and on, but I’ll just start writing…

The benefits of limiting trash, for us, have reduced a decent amount of stress from me especially. Staying home has really opened my eyes in the sense that I value the ways in which I spend my time, not only with Emma, but with myself. I mention some things in this post that will echo those ideologies of minimalism, and it is no accident. The less clutter, the less mess, and the less time spent cleaning. As corny as this comes off, we all have the same 24 hours in the day. I prefer to use the majority of my day in making memories with my daughter, as opposed to cleaning up after an unnecessarily cluttered lifestyle. Garbage reduction is one of those ways. Here’s how we did it!

  1. Compost: This is both necessary and unnecessary, so if you are truly ready to reduce your trash then a compost is a great way to do it. We have a single family home with a sizeable backyard, and therefore have the space to save all our food scraps and turn them into compost for our garden and vegetation outside. If you aren’t ready for that, I would not start with it. However, it’s definitely a game changer! It is unbelievable to see the amount of garbage you no longer produce when you take food scraps out of the equation.Our garbage output was easily reduced by 50% (or more some days). For the first few months we used an old plastic garbage pail with a secure top and composted there. I had googled the “proper” way to do it, and we cut some holes in the bottom and added lots of dirt and leaves. After we felt comfortable, we started using the real thing! We currently have this style compost by Yimby and love it!
  2. Putting junk mail straight into the recycle bin: I’ve gone paperless with (literally) ANYTHING important. From credit cards to bank and stock statements, I get virtually everything sent to me via email. This ensures me that nothing comes in the mail that I am not expecting to. The majority of our “junk mail” turns out to be credit card offers, investors trying to buy our house (we won’t sell it to you), and the weekly deals from our local supermarkets. While some of these things get shredded, they all ultimately go straight into our recycle bin without even entering our home.
  3. Cleaning with towels: As a teacher, I have to fight off the urge to use things like Clorox wipes all over the house. They are easy and cheap. However, here is something easy, cheap(er), and less wasteful. TOWELS! We have a solid amount of white cleaning rags (like these here) and use them with sprays depending on what we’re cleaning. Using the spray version of your favorite cleaners (wood, all-purpose, bathroom) and wiping with reusable towels eliminate a large chunk of the normal family’s cleaning-based trash. We wash these towels with bleach and reuse regularly. Using old clothing is also a great alternative!
  4. Paper over plastic: A little known fact about plastic bags is that they are not recyclable. Acquiring more plastic bags than necessary forces them into landfills. Paper bags are usually larger so allow for less bags being used, and are 100% recyclable.
  5. Buy in bulk: We buy most of our food, cleaning supplies, household items, etc. in BULK! We have a membership to our local wholesale club for roughly $40 a year, which we earn back exponentially in savings on everyday items and food. Doing this works wonders towards decreasing waste due to the fact that we are buying larger quantities, therefore rendering less packaging. This leads nicely into my next point…
  6. Stop eating take-out: The immense amount of extra packaging that comes along with eating out creates more trash than we realize. Plastic utensils, napkins, plastic bags, styrofoam containers, the list goes on and on… A night of take-out for the entire family can quickly fill up the garbage bin before we know it! This video from Vox does a great job explaining just how much trash accumulates from eating take-out. Not to mention the health benefits that home with eating home cooked meals… You’re welcome 😉
  7. Buy recyclable containers: It is ridiculous how many types of containers we use everyday are not recyclable. From cleaning products to shampoo. Being more conscientious in the types of products we are buying trickles down to the types of products we recycle, as opposed to throwing in the garbage. Look for packaging that is recyclable. This may bleed into buying less chemically prone items, which is a win-win if you ask me! The less chemicals for you and your family to inhale, the healthier you will be overall.

I hope this helps you see all the different ways there are to reduce your family’s waste!