Before I had the girls, the boys and I spent most of our time in three places:
The farmer's market/grocery store
Back then, just 13 years ago, I did not have the distraction and pressure social media. All of my learning came from books and podcasts. I did not have the bombardment that you may feel today to be and do all things as we see it on Instagram and Facebook. All of my energy went towards continuing to "feed" the boys while also trying to figure out how to feel like a whole person again myself. BUT...this was not where I started, and the journey to where I am today was not linear. In this picture below, I was really struggling. Of course, as mothers, we are smiling, presenting ourselves as feeling great and having it all together. In fact, it was not too long after this photo was taken that I found myself looking for answers beyond modern medicine. Mostly because I had no idea how the typical interventions could help me. My collection of symptoms was considered normal for first time moms and all fell under the umbrella of "first time mom" fatigue and stress.
Despite having a bachelor's in Nutrition and Dietetics and many advanced certifications as a personal trainer, I had no idea how to treat my healing body.
I did not know about the depletion of nutrients that was driving my fatigue, hormone dysregulation (I still had hypothalamic amenorrhea)
I had no idea that my overly taxed adrenals were driving blood sugar dysregulation causing brain fog, lack of efficiency in my days and a nervous system that could no longer even produce fight or flight...instead I was suck in FREEZE mode.
My digestion was off, impacting my ability to rebuild muscle, connective tissue, and fascial health because I could not absorb nutrients.
Training felt awful because of the core and pelvic floor disconnect from a massive diastasis, poor ribcage movement and faulty breath mechanics. This made everyday life needs so difficult, stressful and exhausting.
Needless to say, I was overwhelmed with where to begin.
When the boys were 11 months old, I began learning about the principles of nutrition. Real truths, that I could latch onto and put into practice. Twelve years ago, I began forming the framework for what would become the template of our lives, the "rules" that we would follow as a way of living and eventually the principles behind which the Resilient Mama Method would evolve.
I will save the nuance for another time...but I really want to emphasize with no intention of shouting, THIS WAS NOT EASY and THERE WERE MANY UPS AND DOWNS!! There are things that I look back on and say, "oh geez, I totally should not have done that!" Like times when I kept the boys from participating in school parties for fear of them consuming "food toxins" like gluten and food dye. Now before you write me off as crazy, know that it was out of love and misunderstanding of HOW to apply all of this information. It is really difficult to un-know what you have learned. BUT, the application of this knowing is where I needed some practice. So, let's talk about that.
SETTING UP AN ENVIRONMENT:
When the boys were 2 1/2, I started to get a better hang of what really matters and how I was going to establish a system of healing my own body while also helping them continue to grow, develop and learn.
So here we are back to every day being a mix of splitting our time between:
Nature-in the garden and woods
The farmer's market or other grocery stores
The WHY behind each thing, I bet you are already doing!!
1. Nature--nature is so healing.
Stimulate the visual system for eye muscle development.
Light exposure to help with their sleep.
Gut microbiome and skin microbiome from breathing in the spores from the woods and digging in the dirt from the garden.
Foot development and strength from walking, running and crawling on un-level ground.
Metabolic health from being physically active in nature.
2. The Kitchen--the heart of the home
I had to cook...A LOT! And I wanted to spend time with the boys so the two just went together.
Fine motor skill development from chopping, mixing, whisking, kneading, peeling, washing, scrubbing, etc. They did it all!
Understand how long it takes to prepare food and the value we place on nourishing our body.
3. The farmer's market and other grocery stores--our sourcing
We have our loop and every Friday, the boy's went with me to help source ingredients for the week. I wanted them to see me talk to the butchers, farmers, produce people, ask the questions and understand more about what we were buying.
They could see, feel and try new ingredients and understand what we could do with just a simple sweet potato, some oil, salt and pepper. FRENCH FRIES!
This was also an opportunity to help me stay on track with my own nutrition as the boys knew very early on that it was just a part of our world, keeping our body humming meant shopping for and preparing foods!
FAST FORWARD A COUPLE YEARS...
Now it was time to heal all over again. Nurse two more babies and feed my now 4 year old boys. BUT!! Principles were already set up, systems established. I just needed to tweak the application and set my mindset that this time around, healing would look different. This time, the path was there but the process would be much longer. Healing from a second twin pregnancy while caring for four children under the age of 5 would not be an easy road. AGAIN, I felt so grateful that I knew the path and understood I was likely looking at a solid 3-4 years of healing.
Two things that were most sacred to me and I held onto with an iron fist were sleep and meal time. Part of this was the need for routine on my end with two infants and two 4 year olds and the other part was I knew how important it was to take every opportunity to provide sufficient nutrients to my growing babies and toddlers.
There was not a time that we left the house for a long duration without having a snack prepared. There were a couple reasons for this...one, it saved us money and two I wanted set the value of being prepared and planning ahead to keep blood sugar stable. These two little boxes are still in our container cabinet and, 8 years later...the same template holds: protein, fibrous carbohydrate and healthy fat. SIMPLE.
Kitchen time probably tripled with the uptick in appetite of the now 6 year old boys, the need for more batch prep for school snacks and the girls quickly becoming little eating machines.
Dig back a little into my blog arsenal and you will see so many examples of meal planning, snack preparation and the ups and downs of all!
Kitchen time included making sauerkraut by the gallon (literally) and fermented carrot (lovingly called carrot pickles), tons of lunchbox ingredients and meals. There were lots of days where palates changed and meal times were shifting and preferences changed, but we did not give up! Everything circulated around How We Use Real Food from Breakfast to Dinner.
We cooked and cooked. I had no special chairs or tools. Just a close eye and lots of confidence that all of this extra effort would pay off!!
We shopped and we talked all about our ingredients, what they did for our body and how they worked together to build heart, muscle, bone, brain and all!!
Basically, every day was about how to take care of ourselves and have fun doing it! From shopping, to cooking to doing crafts...everything had a purpose.
MOVEMENT AND LIGHT
The next big rock that we focused on was movement and light. The boys knew I taught people how to move better as my job and they saw me exercising at home since they were babies. My exercise time was reserved for the time before their day began. That was the time where I was able to do my training that I needed to get in to heal my body, regain strength and reintegrate my core and pelvic floor.
This was ESSENTIAL as I wanted to be an active and fit mom for my kids. We started with the stroller and progressed to the wagon along with the boys on balance bikes and eventually their two wheelers. Our regular 3-4 mile trek around the neighborhood was a way to build their strength, get early light exposure and help with sleep. When the boys were a little older and the girls old enough to hang with Daddy for a couple house without me at home to nurse them, the boys and I headed to the woods to mountain bike! I would run behind them on the trail and help them through difficult parts. We talked about nature and how it helped build their eye and brain health, how the spores in the pine straw and leaves were building their gut microbiome, how their heart was pumping nutrients around in their blood from the food they ate for breakfast. It was a precious time and again, not always easy!
The garden, local hikes and farms were all more opportunities to help cultivate an "environment" where the kids could be exposed to the benefits of nature and being active outdoors while living in the suburbs.
These early years are FILLED with incredible memories and truthfully, awe at what we accomplished together. The ENVIRONMENT that was created took way more work than most people believe is necessary but I knew that it would pay off for my children, their health and ultimately my health and sanity as a mother. It was so important to me that the critical early years be filled with as much nourishing food, sunlight, good sleep in darkness and exercise that I protected these things deeply. At times, it was isolating. Family and friends did not understand why I said no thank you to gatherings that would interfere with nap time or keep them up past their bedtime. It was odd to many people that I brought their food to family functions that did not offer gluten-free or foods that I knew my kids would not feel bad after eating. I cooked A LOT (and I still do).
AS THE KIDS HAVE GOTTEN OLDER
Now all four children are older! The boys are teenagers and girls 8 1/2. The efforts in those early years have paid off by leaps and bounds. They all still see how I represent the values we have taught for their entire lives, speaking only from a health perspective....food, light, sleep, movement, exercise, hydration. Trust me, our life is way more than these things, but that is our topic here. :)
Now the things that I was teaching are habits engrained in their worlds where they know how to build a plate. Their palate is broad and they seek out activity. Sleep is not a battle and they all know how to assess the quality of their bowel movements. When they feel off or are getting sick, they know to reach for essential oils, probiotics and ask if they have hydrated well.
Now, as we journey into this next chapter together, principles stand. Values are in place and systems will continue to evolve around our changing environment. More and more independence shifts to the kids and I step back and let them take the reins...at least a little bit! Hang tight with me here and on my Instagram to see what plans I have up my sleeve!!