If only we could all get outside and catch a few more breaths of fresh air. Despite living in a cold weather climate, today’s Modern Parent makes it a priority to enjoy what nature has to offer. Laura, from The Mindful Mom Blographer, answers my questions about her journey toward more mindful living, sharing it with her son, and getting outside no matter what the thermometer says.
Today I have another edition of the Modern Parent Series, a collection of interviews with everyday parents who practice intentional living in a variety of ways. I love hearing from other parents who are taking life a bit more slowly, really digging into their priorities, and focusing on what matters most to them.
Today’s mom, Laura, hails from my hometown stomping grounds of Minnesota. She has a passion for nature and working to keep life a little bit simpler. She also focuses on sharing her mindfulness priorities with her son. Now let’s let Laura tell you more about herself.
Tell us a little about your life and your family. What’s the Laura 101?
Like so many moms, I feel like I wear about 25 different hats! To start, I’m a proud Minnesotan, a wife, mom to a 2.5 year old, a cat and dog owner, nature photographer, candle maker, and lover of edible cookie dough! I love spending time with my friends and family, and reading any type of book (Harry Potter is my favorite series).
I run a blog called ‘The Mindful Mom Blographer’ where I focus on reducing mental clutter through mindfulness, minimalism, and zero waste living. All things I focus on have the same overarching theme of ‘reducing’, which has become a big theme in my life. My belief is that if we can reduce the unnecessary things that don’t bring us joy in our lives, we can have more resources (mainly time and energy) to devote to things that do bring us joy.
Additionally, I love all things outdoors, and am very interested in the positive connection between nature and mental health. I am also a nature photographer and love incorporating my nature photographs throughout my blog and the 2-minute guided meditations I create.
How do you define mindfulness and what led you to make this a priority in your life?
The dictionary defines mindfulness as ‘the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something’, and that is how I like to define it as well. One of the reasons I like that definition is that it leaves our interpretation of mindfulness wide open. I personally think we all apply mindfulness differently in our lives; some through meditation, some through observing thoughts (versus reacting to thoughts), some by being present, and some through minimalism and being intentional about what we carry around, etc.
I don’t remember exactly when my mindfulness journey started. I have dealt with anxiety my whole life, but it really escalated when I got pregnant in 2015 and postpartum. I began looking for ways to work through the anxiety, and mindfulness is a great way to do that.
In 2017, I was showing my nature photography at a fairly large health campus in Minneapolis. Because it was a health campus, I wanted to incorporate something other than just my nature photography. I came up with short meditation prompts that viewers could read while looking at the photo. The prompts included mindfulness components (what do you think you’d feel, what colors do you see, etc), and invited viewers to imagine themselves in the nature scene while thinking of responses to the prompts.
It turned out much better than I thought it would, and I knew I wanted to expand on the gallery in some way. That is when I decided to start the blog.
You talk about experiencing nature as a component of mindfulness, and you’re also a nature photographer. Living in a cold weather climate, can you share about a few of your favorite outdoor activities in the winter with your family?
Getting outside in winter can definitely be a struggle! As a family, we do winter hiking, build snowmen, go sledding, etc. Once my son is older (he’s only 2.5 right now), I imagine we will cross country ski and snowshoe. I absolutely love doing both those things. Ultimately, we do the best we can!
Tell us more about your Mindfulness Flashcards for Kids.
Thank you for asking about these! The mindfulness flashcards were developed by accident. Being a nature photographer and a lover of nature, our house is filled with nature photographs. I started to notice that if my son was having trouble calming down, focusing, etc., I could ask him questions about the photos, and his demeanor would change. They are a hybrid of the nature photography gallery I talked about previously, with questions and prompts that are more kid friendly.
I know I am biased but I love them! I think they are a great way to incorporate mindfulness with kids, a question I’m often asked. Plus, it is a great activity for parents to do with their kids.
The flashcards can be downloaded and used electronically or they can be printed out!
Very recently I also just released mindfulness coloring sheets for kids, which also include a corresponding adult coloring sheet. The coloring pages ask a question regarding gratitude, happiness, being outside, etc. The adult sheet also has corresponding prompts, which make it a great way to talk to kids about mindfulness and the other topics I mentioned above.
You’ve shared that you started seedlings growing in your house to be ready for spring. Can you tell us a bit more about that? Where do you keep the seedlings (especially with little ones around the house)? Do you they get lots of sun? Do you move them around?
I am obsessed with my garden. I start planning it out in January! Because Minnesota’s growing season is so short, I like to start seeds inside. I have seed trays I reuse each year, which also help to keep waste down when planning and planting a garden.
Once the seedling has sprouted, I transplant it to some larger plastic cups (that I also reuse each year) until they’re ready to go outside. I’ll admit, having a 2.5 year old ‘helping’ this year was a challenge. I ended up giving him his own tray to plant his own seeds. He also has his own spot in the garden to dig around and use his own tools.
I had to realize that the process may be (was absolutely) more messy, took a little longer, and wouldn’t end up exactly as planned. I tried to remind myself that this was a great bonding time, and it was a great opportunity to talk about where our food comes from, why we garden, etc. While I realize he is likely a little young to understand all that, I feel it is never too late to start talking about this stuff!
We have a three season porch that has lots of windows. I keep the seedlings there. I try to involve my son as much as possible in the process in watering the seedlings and watching them grow, and for the most part he leaves them alone. But we have had a few spills, which is OK. I planted extra!
You completed a zero waste challenge. Can you tell us a bit more about why you started this? Was your entire family on board? If not, how did you manage without full participation?
I signed my family and I up for the challenge on a whim and then forgot I signed us up. I’ve always tried to be a good steward of the environment (traits learned growing up from my mom who got it from her parents), and I thought the challenge sounded really cool. I had never really heard of the term zero waste, nor did I know it was a lifestyle movement at the time.
At first my husband was hesitant, mostly because the term ‘zero waste’ sounds really daunting and intense. But the staff we worked with were very adamant about making changes slowly, and my husband quickly came on board. The challenge was 8 months long, and at the end of those 8 months, we managed to reduce our trash by 25-30 lbs a week. I never thought we would be able to accomplish that, but by going slowly and making small changes bit by bit, we did it. Even though the challenge is done, we are still looking for ways to continue to reduce our waste.
I will add a side note regarding having a spouse/partner/family not on board when you want to undertake a lifestyle change or movement (whether that be zero waste, minimalism, etc). You can’t make someone participate if they don’t want to. I know that is not what people want to hear, but it is true. The best thing you can do is make the changes where you can, educate, and hope that they notice the benefits you are receiving from making the changes. You can also communicate clearly and openly (and without judgement) about why the change is so important to you. You may also have to make some compromises.
What were some of the biggest takeaways or most important things you learned from the challenge?
The biggest takeaway was that it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. Looking back to when we first started, it is sometimes hard for me to remember what exactly we changed, because most of the changes have been so streamlined, natural, and fairly effortless. Composting was an exception, but we figured it out and now it’s going great. As I mentioned above, I think the term ‘zero waste’ sounds so overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. If you go in with the mindset that it is OK (and highly encouraged) to take things slow, that you will likely take a few steps back during the process (we did), and to simply do your best with the resources you have at this time, then it is really doable!
We were surprised by how much money we saved making some of the changes we did! I’ll give one example that doesn’t have to cost you any money, but will save you some! We were nearing the end of our tissue supply, and trying to come up with a reusable alternative. My husband had a blue checkered button up that had a large hole on the back and he wasn’t able to repair/wear anymore. We decided to try cutting that up and using it for tissues. We have ended up really loving them. And no, I don’t find myself doing any extra laundry because of switching to reusable products, another question I’m often asked.
Although some of the swaps may be small, the dollars have quickly added up, and we are probably saving close to $35 a month.
What are a few of the new practices you’ve continued and what are 2 or 3 things you tried as part of the challenge that definitely didn’t stick?
I’m happy to say that we have continued almost all the practices we adopted. We still compost and use reusables home products like towels, tissues, napkins, and. mop pads. We make all purpose cleaners at home. We also implemented an ‘eat me now’ section of our fridge. This is a designated one area of our fridge for all leftovers, produce that needs to be eaten, etc. This has really helped combat our food waste!
For a while, I was keeping any type of food packaging that I possibly could to reuse for poop bags for our dog. We shop at Aldi, and their package-free food options are very limited. However, I ended up with five containers full of bags, and it started to become overwhelming. I realized that we are doing so many other things to reduce our waste, and that at this time, the food packaging was just something I would have to throw away.
Additionally, while we still make some of our cleaning supplies, I no longer make all of them. We are slowly adopting more DIY cleaners, but we do still buy some. For the ones we purchase, we try to buy those that are as environmentally friendly and as toxin free as possible.
Where else can we find you?
You can find me on Instagram and Facebook or you can head over to my blog. I also have a Facebook group about reducing mental clutter, so be sure to stop over and say hello. Thank you so much for having me!