Friday, September 30, 2016

High Needs Toddler & Pregnancy

Having a high needs toddler is no joke. My daughter is just as unpredictable in her mood and temper as when she was a tiny baby. Although things do improve with vocabulary and gentle communication, there are still all those high need characteristics to deal with.

Right now, I'm 36 weeks pregnant, and going through almost the entire pregnancy with my toddler, I've had to change some of my expectations (of myself and my toddler), and I've had to adapt. If you are in the same boat I have been in, I know your frustrations and your desires. Here are some tips for getting through pregnancy while raising a high needs toddler with grace.

Friday, September 16, 2016

No-Spend 3 Years

As many have probably realized, my husband and I don't do things halfway.

My husband was talking to me, about a month ago, and asked me exactly how committed I was to paying off debt, because he really wanted to be able to pay it off in ten years, and he got the feeling I wasn't super invested. I wasn't hurt or offended by this comment, as I could see how it could look that way. I believe in investment purchasing, which means the purchases we make tend to be larger than a lot of people might pay ($90 for a dress that will last me forever, for example). I admitted to him that I had a “secret” goal of paying off all our debt by the time I'm 30, which will happen in about three years.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Five Reasons My Home is Always Clean

We live in a life that is incredibly understanding of women who can't get everything done, and I love that, because I certainly don't get it all done; however, I do keep a spic and span home. Various people do this in different ways because people live different lives. Here are some of the ways I keep my home clean:

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Why I Make My Toddler Wear Sunglasses

People ask me fairly often why my daughter wears sunglasses. Is there something wrong with her eyes? No. Does she like to wear them? Not particularly. Is it because it's so cute? That's good incentive, but it's not the main reason. I make her wear them, and she isn't allowed to take them off when we're outside, because I don't want her eyes to be damaged by sunlight. 

It's amazing to me; I'll see parents slathering sunscreen on their kids, putting on hats for good measure, and completely neglected those precious jewels. I'm guessing it's mostly out of ignorance, as whenever I explain, people tell me how much sense it makes. Of course they need protection. Many adults put on sunglasses because brightness hurts their own eyes and don't think to put them on children because there's no way for the child to communicate discomfort. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Spinach Meatballs: Gluten, Dairy & Egg free

I don't usually post recipes, but this one was special. As I've said many times, I do a lot of hosting, and one part of hosting is cooking for people with allergies and dietary restrictions. I recently hosted a family with a lot of allergies and dietary restrictions to deal with, and I loved the challenge of creating something for them that was delectable. You shouldn't feel like you're missing out!

I mention in the recipe that you can use any ground meat. I happened to have a pound of ground beef and a pound of ground turkey on hand, so I combined those. This is very different than my usual meatball recipe, but I think it's just as delicious without feeling like a compromise.

I used garlic and onion powders rather than chopping those ingredients up partly because my husband has an issue with onion texture and also because it's a little faster. Feel free to substitute and adjust amounts accordingly.

Try it out and let me know what you think!

How many meatballs you make depends on the size. I shaped my meatballs about the size of a golf ball and ended up with 33.

Spinach Meatballs

2 lbs. ground meat (turkey, beef, sausage, etc., or a mixture of any of these)
1 lb. frozen spinach, thawed and excess water squeezed out
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
1/2 tsp. parsley

Combine all ingredients and form into meatballs. Place on cookie sheet about an inch apart. Cook at 350 for 20 minutes or until done through center. Can serve over garlic and herb rice (essentially rice with the same herbs and spices used in this recipe).

Monday, July 11, 2016

My Wardrobe Discovery

Several weeks ago, I bought a dress to be my go-to formal-wear for church, weddings, funerals, and other similar events. I cringed as I bought it, because it cost $85 - a lot for our budget. 

When I received it, I tried it on and immediately loved it. It was comfortable - like cashmere - light and soft. It was my preferred length (to my ankles), with a top that made nursing easy but was still modest. I felt beautiful in it, my husband liked it, and it is "infinity sizing", which means I can wear it while pregnant and between/after babies. It's made of bamboo, which has a lot of benefits you don't get from cotton, and it's gentle on my ultra-sensitive skin. 

Pregnant with my first baby, I only wore dresses. Post-baby, none of the dresses I had worked for nursing, so I switched to skirts and shirts. I was frustrated by how quickly everything wore out, how all cotton seemed to be transparent to the point of immodesty, and I missed dresses. With my second pregnancy, the items I had made work no longer suited my growing belly, and I still needed to be able to nurse. 

Having found this dress, I'm excited to replace my skirts and shirts with more dresses of varying colours. It suits all my needs, is durable, and is wonderfully versatile. It's a perfect option for anyone wanting something modest, flattering, which will work for nursing, pregnancy, and just your everyday body. I encourage you to try one.

*I have not been requested to review this product, nor am I compensated in any way for raving about it. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Parenting by Instinct: Choosing Safety

This week, my daughter bit through two pacifiers within an hour. I was buying appropriate pacifiers for her age, so I knew it wasn't the quality; she had built up a habit of chewing on them as much as sucking. This presented a problem. She clearly was still deriving comfort from them, but they had now become a danger. If she bit a piece off during the night and I wasn't able to hear her choking... well, I didn't even want to consider that idea.

I am a huge fan of pacifiers, in general. Despite my wanting to avoid them after she was born, it became clear that she only nursed when she wanted sustenance. She also doesn't like her hands to be dirty or wet, so she wouldn't suck her thumb or fingers. After three months of trying every alternative, I finally offered her a pacifier, and she was a different baby. Although still fussy and generally irritable (which I now think was a combination of being over-heated and not wearing 100% cotton), she was much more happy.

As she passed a year old, I tried gradually weaning off with no success. She would fuss and cry if one wasn't always available, and I didn't have the time or energy to fight with her (I was in the first trimester of my second pregnancy and incredibly sick and exhausted). I decided I would let her quit on her own.

That decision went out the window, this week. Clearly, pacifiers had become a hazard instead of a help, and that wasn't something I or my husband were willing to chance (or pay for. New pacifiers almost every day? I don't think so). After some research and thinking about my daughter's personality, as well as thinking about my failed attempt, I decided our best bet was to stop cold turkey. We asked our daughter to throw her pacifier in the trash (she only had one left, at this point), and we told her she wouldn't have one, anymore. She was neutral on the subject... until nap time. Then, my goodness, the sobs and cries of "where'd it go?" were heartbreaking. I do not like it when my little one cries and I could possibly stop those tears, but I knew there could be no giving in. As a matter of safety, the pacifiers had to go.

We're still in the midst of this trial, and a huge part of me hates watching my daughter grieve this comfort she has enjoyed. Sometimes the right decisions in parenting don't feel right in the moment. We have to battle through, loving our children by saying "no" when we desperately want - when it would be easier - to say yes.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Parenting by Instinct:Potty Training

I have officially potty trained my 18 month old daughter. It was interesting to me how many people said: "she's still so little!" This is true, and I knew it would make the experience a little more complicated. She doesn't really have the coordination for wiping down, yet, and she isn't dry through the night as some insist your child should be before training. I didn't wait for her to show "signs of readiness," nor did I have a big build up to get her excited. We bought the potty, taught her how to sit on it, put away the diapers, and told her it was time to learn something new.

Why did I train now? Why not wait?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

My Minimalist Wardrobe

I know I've talked, some, about my wardrobe. It was really the beginning of my pursuit of minimalism as I looked through my clothes and realized that, although I liked most of what I had, not all of it fit well, was in good condition, and there were too many choices. I had half a closet, a couple shelves, and a large dresser full of clothes. My husband had exactly the same amount of space for his clothes. And we had clothes in storage for the off seasons.

I wasn't super happy with my wardrobe. The year we married, I had lost 40 pounds due to poor health, and a lot of my clothes were essentially pinned on. We couldn't really afford to replace them, but then I thought why do I need to replace these things? Is there enough that fits me to make work?

My decision was simple: I told my husband I was going to get rid of everything except for a certain number of each item. I don't remember the numbers exactly, but it went something like:

  • seven shirts
  • seven skirts
  • three jeans
  • five pairs of shoes
Etcetera. I had to love these items, they must fit perfectly, and they had to be in good condition. I was essentially building a capsule wardrobe, but I didn't know that, as I'd never heard of such a thing. My husband decided to join me, and by the end, we shared one dresser and the closet was half empty. The shelves were used for shoes and other storage as we no longer needed them for clothes. It was great! I loved everything I owned, and it all fit. 

Then I got pregnant. Suddenly, my wardrobe wasn't exactly splendid. I had several maxi dresses and a few maxi skirts, and those got me through it with few purchases. Then I had my baby, and dresses really don't work for nursing. The shirts I had worn before the pregnancy were mostly fitted, so I ordered some tank tops to even things out. 

Not too much later, we moved. As can sometimes happen, I quickly realized that because of the wardrobe changes I'd had to make, I had accumulated a lot of things that were no longer functional. I decided to downsize again. This time, I picked an outfit for every day of the week, with a few outfits have a second top to choose from. My husband joined me again, though his way of choosing what to keep was different, as his style had been changing over those couple years, and at the end, we sold the dresser and shared a closet. 

Again, I loved everything I owned. It all fit. It all looked nice. I had around 30-40 items, as well as a few seasonal items. I was pleased with how much having fewer clothes made my mornings easier. There was little enough choice, I didn't stand for several minutes trying to decide what to wear. I think my wardrobe stayed this way for about a month before I felt dissatisfied again. I had grown used to fewer choices and thought what if there was even less choice? 

I decided to go "extreme". Four skirts, one pair of jeans, five tops, a black dress, and three layering options. This includes one outfit for Sunday, which I don't wear at any other time. Eventually, I want to have three of the same skirt, three of the same shirt, a Sunday outfit, and a few layering options (I live in the north. Layers are important), thus making my choice even more simple. As I get closer to this ideal, I become more excited. Having little choice makes me feel like I have more room for other choices, and I find that I care way less about what people think about my clothing. I know that everything I wear is functional, beautiful, and something I chose with careful consideration. How many people can say that about their clothes? 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Thank You for Crying

As a mother, I never thought I would hear myself say those words, but as I recently held my sobbing, 17 month old daughter tightly, I whispered to her: “I'm so sorry, Baby; thank you for crying.”

This happened during her nap time. There is usually a pretty solid routine we go through, which is nice for both of us. I make sure she either nurses or eats a snack, change her diaper, cuddle with her for a few minutes, then lay her down. She is an excellent sleeper, and I can put her down wide awake for naps and bedtime. She might whimper a little when I leave, but she's usually quiet within a minute or two.

This particular day, our routine wasn't quite so regular. I had been nursing her lying down on the couch, and her eyes were slowly getting more and more heavy as she drifted off. It was about five minutes earlier than I usually put her down, but I gathered her in my arms, carried her to her crib, and set her down with her lovey, covering her with a light quilt. She smiled up and me, I told her to sleep well, and I left. Seconds later, she started crying. Since she did that on occasion, I didn't go back in but waited a few minutes. She was still crying. I thought she sounded like she might be calming down, so I waited a couple more minutes. Still crying.

I'm sure some, at this point, would have just ignored her, but I've never ignored my baby's crying. Despite people saying we might “spoil” her by going to her, we have found that she never cries without a reason – even as a small toddler. I went back into her room, and she was lying down, squeezing her lovey tightly, crying with quick gasps, obviously trying to “be good” and not cry but also plainly upset. I picked her up, remembering I hadn't changed her diaper. Pulling it open to check, I immediately knew why she had been so upset.

As I laid her down to change her diaper, she giggled through her tears, knowing I had understood. I changed her quickly, then held her tightly against me, apologizing for not remembering to change her and thanking her for crying until I listened.

This appreciation for a baby's tears is not something many people seem to understand. I hear parents say they wouldn't go to their child every time he or she cried, their voices holding a tinge of disdain for people who would. People seem to think babies and toddlers cry to manipulate them, and to ignore them is to establish authority. “I am an adult, and I know what's best.” It also implies that crying is a nuisance, not a tool – practically the only tool! – a baby has to communicate.

Although I don't enjoy crying any more than the next person, I encourage my daughter to cry. When she's sad or hurt, I want her to share her pain with me, and I don't attempt to distract her. When she needs something that I haven't noticed (it happens more than I like), I want her to cry so I can take care of the problem. I don't want her to ever feel that I don't take her tears as seriously as she does, and I believe that is a big part of why she is so content and cheerful.

If I had ignored her cries during nap time, what shape would her bottom have been in after sleeping in her own refuse for two hours? If I made a habit of ignoring her, when would she stop trying to tell me something is wrong? I don't plan to find out.  

Monday, March 21, 2016

Circumcision: Why I Say Nay

Circumcision is a hot topic among new moms, these days - at least in America. Although I do not have a son, if and when I do, he will not be circumcised. If I lived just about anywhere but the states, people would say: "Well, of course! There's no reason to." In America, however, there is outright hostility. Here are some of the reasons parents in the states still circumcise:

Friday, February 12, 2016

Why (and How) I Limit My Screen Time

I hate screens.

I don't know if I've ever mentioned that, but I really do. Why? There are several reasons.

  • They waste a lot of time without the time passing in a noticeable and concrete way. It vanishes like smoke
  • They steal attentions while giving the illusion of multi-tasking. Even though you think you're paying attention to the person talking to you while checking your email, you aren't. Ultimately, you don't give your full attention to either and do a poor job at both. 
  • They make people in my family grumpy. My daughter has a noticeably shorter temper when there's a screen visible. She can't touch them or interact with them, so to her, they are attention-sucking machines that separate her from her parents and friends. She's tries to distract us, then we're grumpy because we were in the middle of something. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Being Hosted: Proper Etiquette

We all enjoy being invited over for a meal and conversation, and I see plenty of people talking about the proper ways to host. One thing I don't see often, however, is how a person should act as company. I host at least twice a week, often three times, which means I invite people into my home 104 - 156 days a year. That's a lot! My husband and I enjoy hosting, and we've made huge efforts to hone our hosting abilities and make our home one that is easy for others to be welcomed into.

Because we do so much hosting, there are problems I sometimes run into with company. Nothing so serious it would ruin an evening but things I would guess people aren't aware are bad etiquette for company. Here are some things you can do to ensure people love hosting you.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Our Minimalist Home

I've been wanting, for awhile, to share some pictures of our home. We love being here, and we enjoy showing it off. Here are pictures and brief explanations of our space and how we use it.

Living Room

We do most of our hosting on the main floor, which contains our living room and kitchen, as well as a half-bath off the kitchen. Because our living room doesn't have a light built in, we have to use several lamps so it isn't so dim we get sleepy at night (especially on long winter days, when it starts getting dark around 4 PM). We have a clock on the wall and some pictures near the entryway.

One shelf has reference and literature books. The other only holds items our daughter plays with. There are six or seven toys, a few items which "nest", her Simba, and a box of blocks.

Two couches and a love seat might seem like too much, but we frequently need all of them, and the rug is mostly to protect the cream carpet from my daughter :). The mirror and the clock were gifts from my mother.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Parenting Methods: RIE Approach (or “Educaring”)

RIE is probably the closest to my instinctual parenting style. I came across a blog about it quite by accident, then I read a couple books about it – one by the founder of the method, Magda Gerber. Here are some guidelines RIE teaches:

  • Every child should have a safe environment where he/she can play and explore
  • Babies need time to play on their own and with other babies
  • Childcare activities (diaper changing, baths, feeding, etc.) should make the child an active participant and warrant your undivided attention
  • Weaning should take place at one year old if you can't manage any sooner
  • You shouldn't use pacifiers
  • Sleep-training is strongly encouraged
  • Anything your child is to learn should be learned independently, as much as is possible. This includes talking, potty training, rolling over, crawling, walking, etc.

This parenting style gets a lot of flack because people think it expects your child to be too adult. I don't see how this is true, as every child longs to be like an adult, and children spend all their time imitating what they see. Here are the points fleshed out and my comments on them.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Parenting Methods: Minimalist (or “Simple”) Parenting

I've talked about minimalism often, and this style of parenting was one I liked before I knew it had a name! It appeals to me because of its simplicity. We live a simple life-style, so it naturally fits into our lives. Some of the basic practices of minimalist parenting are as follows:

  • Remember what was important to you as a child and incorporate those experiences into your own parenting
  • Own less toys but provide more opportunities to have meaningful experiences
  • Don't fill up your schedule with constant doings

I think parents like the sound of this, though it may be hard to practice, because we live in a world where busyness is a virtue, and you know how much a child is loved by how many awesome presents he/she gets from his/her parents. Let's talk about each of these practical ideas separately.