Tuesday, September 14, 2010

An Organized Home: Creating a Chore Schedule

When my home is clean and decluttered it gives me a deep sense of peace and certainly more energy.  I feel like the day holds more options and potential when I wake up to a clean home with everything in its place.  Unfortunately this does not happen often enough!  I have found that between caring for a toddler and trying to feed our family three wholesome meals each day, keeping up with the laundry and dishes are sometimes all more than I can manage.  I knew I had to find a way to schedule all the chores that I want to have done into my week, especially before welcoming a new little one into our family in November.  I came up with a list of all the things that I want to do each week and then a smaller list of all the things that should be done monthly.  I then ordered the weekly chores into a Monday through Saturday list, assigning smaller tasks to days that are more hectic than others. 

Here is what it looks like:
  • Monday:
    • Vacuum
    • Clean out refrigerator (our CSA pickup is Monday afternoon)
  • Tuesday:
    • Meal Plan for the week
    • Clean mirrors, sinks, tubs and toilets
    • Empty trash
  • Wednesday:
    • Water plants
  • Thursday:
    • Dust and clean surfaces
    • Dry Mop floors
  • Friday:
    • Pay bills and update budget
  • Saturday:
    • Change all linens
    • Catch up on laundry
For my monthly list I have included:
  • Mop floors
  • Wipe down entire kitchen
  • Dust blinds
  • Dust light fixtures
  • Vacuum upholstery
I have been using this plan for a few weeks now and love it!  Even when I miss a day I am still getting so much more done than I used to.  I no longer feel overwhelmed not knowing where to begin and I no longer feel guilty that my house is dirty!  Even my husband has let me know how much he appreciates the extra effort I have been putting in lately.  Housework is never fun, but by breaking it down into manageable daily tasks it is so much easier!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Soup That Restores Health

Lately I have gotten tired and run down and have not stopped and taken the time to care for myself.  I noticed the first signs of a sore throat but just made sure to cut back on sugar.  A few days later I could feel something really coming on.  Being pregnant and caring for a two year old doesn't make sickness very easy to live with so I immediately pulled out all my health boosting remedies that are safe during pregnancy.  I took some homeopathic remedies, drank lots of water with olive leaf complex mixed in and made a pot of this soup.  I also had my husband and daughter pray for me and I got to bed a little earlier (not that I could sleep, but that is just pregnancy I guess).  Now it is two days later and I feel completely fine!  I am sold on this soup for whenever my immune system needs a boost.

As usual, I don't measure anything (especially not when making soup!) but here is the general idea.  I strain my soup before drinking it so I don't worry about cutting things uniformly and even leave the thyme leaves on the stem.

Combine the following in a pot and simmer until desired doneness:
  • Chicken broth (home made bone broth is ideal)
  • lots of garlic, roughly chopped
  • diced onion
  • lots of crushed red pepper and freshly ground black pepper
  • salt to taste
  • fresh thyme (or dried is fine)
  • bay leaf
Once everything has had time to mingle, add fresh lemon juice to taste.  You can also add more (minced) garlic towards the end of the cooking for an extra garlicky kick (yes, you will have horrible breath!).  I like to drink mine strained in a mug.  It stays warmer this way and is easy to drink a lot at once.  It will be spicy (the peppers and garlic make it therapeutically hot) but should not be uncomfortable to drink.  Dilute with water if necessary.  I like mine really spicy and strong and feel like I have really helped out my immune system after a few cups of this soup!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Home Education for Preschoolers

Little ones are like sponges!  I am constantly amazed at what my two year old daughter retains, often after only hearing or seeing something once!  She is eager to learn and I want to take full advantage of this time and not miss a precious opportunity to teach her about God, about creation and about life. 

I was inspired by reading about what other moms are doing with their preschoolers but didn't want to pay for a curriculum just yet.  I also wanted to have the flexibility to come up with my own plan and not feel like I needed to adhere to someone else's lesson plan.  I wanted the teaching to center around God and give Him credit for all He has made.  I came up with five categories that I wanted to teach Audrey more about:
  • God Made Animals
  • God Made Plants
  • God Made Our Bodies
  • God Made Our Earth
  • God Made Our Day

Some categories will take longer to cover while others will be only a week or two.  Under each category I came up with subcategories and we will cover one each week.  For each subcategory I make a list of crafts to do together, books we own to read, themes to discuss, field trip ideas and also music or videos to listen to or watch.  We also go to the library each week and pick up quite a few books that correspond with the topics we are learning about.  I try to find a few titles that are educational and a few that are just fun or fiction.  I want this to create a love of reading and learning and not feel like work at all.  I am also giving myself lots of grace- if one week is too hectic to take on a new category we will just put it off a week and maybe continue to review last week's theme.

The Internet has been such a help in coming up with ideas!  I search Google Images for line drawings that can be traced for coloring pages.  There are so many websites offering preschool craft ideas.  When I am feeling not so creative these have been really helpful!  I look for videos on Youtube that would be educational (always preview first!).  There are all kinds of sites like the National Wildlife Federation that offer tools for teaching children.  Whenever I come across something useful I save it to a special folder in my favorites so I know right where it is when I need to refer back to it.

I find that the hands on learning experiences are the most fun and memorable.  Making a craft together, going to a farm or even a trip to the pet store will make such an impression on a little one!  It really doesn't take much to engage your child and make learning so fun.

So far our home education has been such a treat for both of us!  Now every day Audrey asks when we are going to do our craft.  I know I will look back and be so glad I was intentional about teaching her things and spending quality time with her!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Teaching Our Children to Look to God

What is your child's first response when something isn't right?  When an illness causes discomfort, when a fear comes up, when something is out of our control?  And more importantly, what is your first response in these situations?  I wish I could say that mine is always to turn to God in prayer.  It often is, but not every time.  I have tried to teach Audrey to think this way, to look to God when she is in need, and it seems to have worked. 

A few weeks ago we were on our way home from church and I casually mentioned having a headache.  Immediately the response from the back seat was, "Mommy!  I want to pray for you!"  After chewing up her snack, Audrey held my hand and prayed a sweet and simple prayer for my head to "not feel bad."  I was so blessed by her quick and correct response to my need.  We have taught her that Jesus heals and I love seeing her child like faith in action.  I am so thankful that the good things we have sown into her are taking root and bearing good fruit.  I feel like I fall so short so often and it is times like these that I feel such encouragement to press on. 

I have seen God's faithfulness all throughout my life.  I know that God still heals based on His Word, but also because of personal experience.  My little sister was born blind.  Her optic nerves had not developed and she was completely unable to see.  My mom took her to three different doctors and they all gave the same diagnosis.  They all said there was nothing that could be done, no hope of her receiving her sight.  My mom refused to accept that her child would never see so my parents took her to be anointed and prayed for at our church (based on James 5: 14 and 15).  The following evening they observed for the first time, Lauren following a moving object with her eyes.  She was completely healed and now doesn't even wear glasses.  This testimony has been such a powerful force in my life.  Even in times when I strayed from God, I always knew that He is real and that He cares about me.  I want my children to grow up with that same sense of God's love and power.

Children are never too young to learn about God and to hear about His love and faithfulness.  They are little sponges, thirsty to suck up anything we put before them.  We must be so diligent to seek out good things that nurture faith and godly character in our little ones!  Spending time reading Christian children's books together, listening to worship music or scripture put to song, and patiently explaining who God is to our children really pays dividends.  Our favorite books to read together right now are two that I had as a child and remember enjoying the rich detail in the illustrations.  They are Big Thoughts for Little People and Giant Steps for Little People.  Both are available through Amazon and teach biblical truths and godly character.  We are also enjoying listening to God's Word from A to Z by Abe and Liza Philip and also the Seeds Family Worship music.  Both are available through the Itunes Store and make scripture memory so easy.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Make at Home: Simple Display Solution for Children's Art

Arts and crafts are such a fun part of childhood but can be a challenge to display.  My daughter LOVES for her art work to be appreciated and cherished!  I will never forget the time I was decluttering our (cluttery) art display during nap time and forgot to cover the evidence before Audrey woke up.  She saw her prized creation in the trash and I wanted to sink into the floor.  I felt like the worst mom ever!  I just had to weed out some of the art to make room to display new pieces.  I had no idea it was such a special piece and we immediately made a new one.  Thank God I had the supplies we needed!  I learned how special her art is to her and will never make that mistake again!  I have been trying to find a way to show off more of her art in a way that is playful and fun just like the art itself.  I didn't want to spend a lot or be stuck with something unattractive so I decided to just stick push pins in the wall and string ribbon between them.  Art can be clipped to the ribbon with clothes pins and they can be easily changed out as new pieces are created.  I am also planning on buying a large acid free box to store the pieces that I take down (most of them anyway).  The art adds a fun, child friendly feel to her play room and makes her feel so special!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Make at Home: Hair Bows

Making your own hair bows and clips for your children is so simple and frugal!  My daughter has never been very happy to wear a hair accessory for more than a few minutes and even used to pull them out of other little girl's hair as a baby!  Now that she is two and has more hair to hold them, she will wear a clip or bow for an hour or more if she forgets it is in.  She loves to hold them and can't see them when they are on her head I guess.  For this reason, I have not wanted to spend much on cute little bows that will be pulled out and possibly lost.  In two years I have only purchased 5 clips and bows for her and we are now down to 2.  With her hair in a growing out stage it was time to do something! 

So I ordered Alligator Clipsonline (my local beauty supply store did not have what I was looking for) and went to my favorite fabric store for ribbon.  I purchased a small bag full of ribbon for around $20 and the box of 80 clips was about $13 shipped.  Despite my desire to keep chemicals out of our home, I did break down and purchase fray check when I realized that the non toxic glue I planned to treat the ends with would not securely keep the ribbons from fraying. Fray Check cost me roughly $3 at a local craft store and Amazon also has it.  (I got rid of all my nail polish a few years ago or I would have used clear nail polish instead.)  With these supplies and a hot glue gun I can make dozens of hair bows to coordinate with her outfits.  The bows and clips I have purchased in the past ranged from $3 to $5 so it really is a significant savings over purchasing them pre-made.  So far they have all been simple embellished clips but I hope to make some actual bows soon! 

This was a great mommy craft that I enjoyed one afternoon during nap time.  I ended up with 7 new bows and a holder for the wall!  To make a simple bow display just cut two pieces of ribbon to your desired length.  Treat the ends with clear nail polish or Fray Checkand hot glue one over the other.  Sew a simple loop on the back for hanging by a nail and you are finished!  This keeps your bows out to be enjoyed and easily accessed.  Audrey loves her new bows and holder and I had fun making them!

Children's Book Review: Counting In the Garden by Kim Parker

Lately Audrey's favorite book has been Counting In The Garden
by Kim Parker.  It is such a cheerful, fun book that helps children learn their numbers.  Kim is an amazing artist and her work is so beautiful!  Each page is rich with creative, colorful flowers and lovely animals and insects to count. 

Whenever we read it (which is like 5 times a day) Audrey points her finger and wants me to trace each number with it.  This book really makes learning fun and it is so beautiful!  I was thinking of buying a second one to frame some of the pages for our kid's rooms.  It seems the book may not be in print anymore but is still available through Amazon.
I also found that many of the pages from the book are available as prints to be framed.  For more of Kim's beautiful work check out her gallery.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Keeping a Healthy Snack Close at Hand

Isn't food in Summer wonderful!  I have been in awe lately of all the fabulous produce we get every week from our farmer's market, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and even our own garden.  It feels so good to eat such perfectly ripe foods just moments or days after they are harvested.  With a fridge full of delicious fruit I decided to start keeping a fruit bowl on the counter every day to encourage us to eat more of it.  I know it is helping us eat healthier snacks by keeping us out of the pantry.  We all could use a little more fresh in our diet and this has really helped!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cloth Diapering- Easier Than You Might Think!

Audrey at Two Months Wearing Fuzzi Bunz!
I love cloth diapering!  I have been diapering Audrey in cloth since she outgrew newborn disposables.  We do use disposables for times when we run out of cloth, when she is in a nursery or when carrying around dirty cloth diapers would be inconvenient.  I imagine she is in her cloth diapers 85-95% of the time. 

Like many new moms, I was very interested in cloth diapering but was afraid it would be a mistake.  I was afraid it would be so gross that I would regret spending so much up front for my diapering system.  I knew once I invested a lot in diapers there was no going back!  I was also unsure about their performance- I was not interested in spending a lot on leaky diapers!  My fears were put to rest however when we took the plunge and tried Fuzzi Bunz pocket diapers.  I spent hours reading and comparing all the available options and found Fuzzi Bunz to be the best fit for us.  They are pricey (I paid between $18 and $20 per diaper) but with proper care, certainly pay for themselves over time.  Fuzzi Bunz were similar in price to other pocket diapers and all in ones (AIO).  They are far more expensive then classic prefolds that are used with diaper covers, but for the convenience and comfort to baby I think the pocket diapers are worth the extra cash.  I have since tried an AIO diaper and another brand of pocket diapers, both of which I was unhappy with.  My daughter refuses to wear the particular AIO I purchased as it is rougher against her skin than the fleece of the Fuzzi Bunz.  The other pocket diaper I tried is acceptable, but the proportions make it not fit as well as Fuzzi Bunz.

Pocket diapers are made of two layers between which you insert the absorbent pad (or pads) that will determine how much the diaper will hold.  The customization is great!  For smaller children who wet less at a time, the single liner or insert is perfect.  For overnight use you can add a doubler or soaker pad to hold more moisture.  Now that my daughter is 2, I find that the single insert is not enough and I use two inserts or an insert with a doubler around the clock.  This does make for a bulkier diaper, but I don't think she minds.  Each diaper comes with one insert and doublers are sold separately.  Of all the doublers I have tried, I love my hemp ones (BabyKicks Hemparoo Joey Bunz) the most because they are very absorbent.

Fuzzi Bunz are made with a soft fleece layer on top (against baby's skin) that rarely stains and helps to keep baby a little drier.  They have snaps rather than Velcro which is nice during laundering and the snaps are harder for little hands to open- a huge plus!  When I purchased them, the one size fits all option was not available so I purchased smalls and now Audrey is wearing mediums.  I did buy one of the one size diapers recently and really like it.  It has elastic in the leg that can be easily adjusted for a snug or loose fit.  I can't imagine this diaper on a tiny newborn, but I am sure it will continue to fit my daughter until she is no longer wearing diapers.  If I had it to do over, I would probably still have purchased the smalls and then the one size diapers once she outgrew the smalls.

One problem I have encountered is the elastic not standing up to so much washing and wear.  I found a tutorial online showing how to replace the elastic.  It was a pain to do, but will add a not of use to my diapers.  Compared to spending $18 or more per diaper again, I can spend a few hours replacing the elastic! 

Another thing I love about cloth diapering is using cloth wipes!  They are so thick and so much cheaper than disposable wipes.  Also I use half as many cloth wipes getting her really clean than I do with disposables.  I found the thicker terry cloth wipes to be the best.  I simply wet a handful of wipes with tap water and store them in a wipes warmer.  I found no need to make a cleaning solution to soak them in.  I sometimes will add a few drops of tea tree oil to the wipes (making sure it is diluted with the water).  When I feel she needs a little more than just the wet wipes I will use a diaper spray such as California Baby to get her extra clean.  I use a large trash can with a lid that can be operated with a foot pedal.  Inside the can I use a cloth diapering pail liner that I take out and wash with each diaper load. 

Washing cloth diapers isn't that bad.  I find that if you don't have too many diapers you will wash more often and the smell will not get as strong.  When Audrey was little I remember being pleasantly surprised at how her diapers did not smell that bad.  Especially for exclusively breastfed babies this is true.  Now that she is older, the ammonia smell is pretty tough but I think it is still worth it.  I would strongly recommend using disposable gloves for processing your diapers!  I don't separate the liners from the pockets when I am changing diapers so wearing gloves to do it as I put them in the washer is a big help.  I add all my diapers and wipes to the load and run a prewash cycle with no soap before adding the pail liner to the main wash.  I use Charley's Soap because it doesn't have any fragrances or garbage that we try to avoid in laundry detergent and it leaves no residue to irritate baby's delicate skin.  It is also very economical and concentrated.  So after the prewash, I run a heavy wash cycle on hot with vinegar in place of fabric softener and a second rinse at the end. 

To dry them I throw my diapers, wipes and liner in the dryer and run them on low heat for about 20 minutes.  Then I take out the diapers (usually almost dry at this point) and the liner and dry the inserts and doublers a little longer.  Usually the doublers will still be damp so I hang them to finish drying.  I store everything in a large basket in the bathroom (where I change diapers) and sort them into smaller baskets when I have a minute.  It really is convenient and not throwing so much away just feels good.
One of my biggest fears about cloth diapering was what to do with poop!  I didn't want to get a toilet sprayer attachment- that just seemed so messy and gross.  When Audrey was not on solids yet, the poop would simply wash away in the laundry.  Once she got older I started changing her in the bathroom (more convenient for practicing early potty training or elimination communication) where I could dump any solids into the toilet.  Now that she is 2, she is pooping in her diaper less and using the toilet more and when she does mess up and use her diaper it is usually easy to just plop it in the toilet.  The poop aspect of cloth diapering is not pleasant but for me it was not a deal breaker.  Also, it is your child's poop and as a mom God gives you a special grace to deal with it!

To determine the number of cloth diapers to purchase count (or estimate) how many diapers you use within a 24 hour period.  Then determine how often you want to wash and give yourself a cushion to allow for the washing and drying time.  We started out using 12 diapers and then felt the need to add 6 more.  Eighteen was certainly enough for our frequency of washing.  To determine the number of wipes to buy estimate how many wipes you use at each change and multiply that by how many changes you will need between washings.  You really never can have too many cloth wipes as they can be used for household cleaning as well as for diaper changes.  While my daughter is on the toilet I will often grab a wipe to clean the mirror or wipe down the counter and just toss it in the diaper pail when finished.  Cloth wipes are so economical and are such a step up from disposable ones!

Websites selling cloth diapers abound!  I have found that larger sites such as Kelly's Closet are a one stop shop, often offering free shipping with a minimum order.  They also carry all the accessories you will need such as doublers, diaper pail liners, etc and even cloth products for mommies too!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"I really need to nurse, Mama!"

Marguerite Gerard, The Breastfeeding Mother

While rocking my daughter this afternoon before her nap she hit me with, "I really need to nurse, Mama!"  It struck me as funny considering most people don't even consider nursing into toddlerhood, when a child can express themselves so clearly!  Yes, I am still nursing my 2 year old.  Nursing a two year old is so different from nursing a baby! She no longer nestles comfortably in my arms but rather lays across my lap or beside me in bed. She is not still for long but it is nice that I can now tell her how to adjust her latch when it gets uncomfortable.

Nursing while pregnant has created some changes to our nursing relationship, mostly the tenderness I have been experiencing and also the decrease in milk production.  But I am so glad to still have those special moments of closeness with her.  She is so very independent now and our occasional nursing times together are special.  Some days she is distracted and forgets to nurse all day and others she "needs" to nurse quite a few times.  I am thankful to be able to comfort her in this way and knowing that my milk is still a source of excellent nutrition is a plus. 

When I first found out I was pregnant with baby number two, I made a list of things to do to get Audrey ready for this next phase of life.  At the top of the list was weaning and potty training.  I have since put that list aside.  I no longer have the desire to wean.  Who knows what her nursing will look like 4 months from now, that is if she is even still interested in nursing.  Children change so quickly!  I just want to go with the flow and offer her what she needs from me at each stage of life. I don't want to miss out on something special just because it isn't a cultural norm.

I don't know any other moms who have nursed their children well into the third year of life (I am certain they are out there!).  I know extended breastfeeding is not for everyone, but I wish our culture would embrace breastfeeding as an important part of childhood.  I think the nursing relationship between mother and child should not be limited to a given period of time but rather allowed to persist as long as mother and baby are benefiting.  Not everyone has success with breastfeeding and not everyone's lifestyle would allow for extended breastfeeding, but for those who are able it can be such a blessing!  It saddens me to see how convenience oriented our society has become.  Aren't our children worth going the extra mile and giving them access to such a perfect food for as long as they would like it?

Something Worth Pondering: Forgiveness

"Forgiveness is releasing the captive and realizing the captive was you." - RT Kendall

Forgiveness is such a powerful force.  True forgiveness causes even the most ungodly person to gasp in amazement.  When we give ourselves the gift of forgiving others our own bitterness and anger is lifted and we receive a sense of freedom. 

As Christians we have been forgiven of so much.  In light of all that God has forgiven us of, should we not be quick to extend forgiveness to others who have hurt, taken advantage of or offended us?  In Matthew 18, Jesus tells a parable of an unmerciful servant who owed a debt he could not pay.  The merciful master forgave his debt even though it was equivalent to millions of dollars.  The servant came across another servant who owed him a much smaller amount.  Instead of remembering the mercy he had been shown, he demanded that the other servant pay him in full.  When the master heard of this he turned the unmerciful servant over to the torturers.  What a powerful picture of what we must look like to God when we hold grudges against people.  Is there anyone that you need to forgive in order to walk in freedom?  Forgiveness does not mean that what someone has done was ok.  It only sets you free from the burden of unforgiveness.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Easy Composting

When we moved to our new home in December, my sweet husband built a stacking compost bin into which we had been happily discarding our kitchen scraps and yard clippings.  Our compost was coming along nicely and was getting quite full when the flood hit!  We live in Nashville and were hit by a record breaking flood at the beginning of May.  Though our home suffered very little damage (we are so very grateful!), our compost bin was almost completely washed away.  Only the bottom tier remained after a river flowed over our entire back yard for 24 hours.  Discouraged by our loss of 3/4 of our compost, we stopped our usual collection of kitchen scraps in order to wait until a new compost bin could be built.  Weeds began to pop up in the bin and as they grew we realized they were mostly not weeds but rather tomatoes, potatoes, and a vine we think is a squash plant.  I had started my garden from seed weeks before the flood, but the plants coming out of the compost bin were healthier and much bigger than my seedlings that had been given far more care and had more time to grow.  I was amazed at how much the richness of the soil impacted the plants. 

Now I am more passionate about our composting than ever!  I am always looking for things to add to the pile.  I hope to have lots of mature compost to spread over our entire garden next year.  Composting is so easy!  If you have the space there is no reason to not do it.  I always thought it would smell and attract undesirable animals or bugs but this has not been our experience.  There is no odor whatsoever (unless you are turning the pile, then you will notice the smell of things breaking down).  And other than the cost of the bin, the collection container and tool used to turn the pile it is absolutely free.  I have been using a composting pailwith a charcoal filter in our kitchen to collect scraps each day.  I am so happy with it!  It has no odor and it a convenient way to transport things to the compost pile.

Tips for composting successfully:
  • compost plant material and egg shells only, avoid meat, dairy and bones as these will attract unwanted critters
  • keep a pile of grass clippings or other yard waste beside the bin and cover each addition of food scraps with it in order to cut down on flies
  • pile can be in a bin or standing alone, make sure it gets plenty of sun and stays slightly moist.  Turn the pile every few weeks to allow air to circulate
  • the smaller the pieces added to the pile, the quicker they will break down.  Smashing egg shells and cutting up citrus rinds will help them to decompose more quickly.
  • I found a good resource with more detailed info here.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Preparing for Childbirth

With baby #2 on the way I have been thinking a lot lately about gearing up for my next birth.  What a blessing children are and I am overwhelmed with God's goodness to us as I look at my precious daughter and picture this next baby coming into our lives!  Being pregnant is not always easy and certainly labor and delivery is challenging, but children are so very worth it! 

I had a (mostly) wonderful birth experience with my daughter just over two years ago.  My husband and I took Bradley classes and were so glad we did.  I felt so prepared and excited about what her birth would be like.  I was not afraid but rather confident in my body's God designed ability to produce, grow and birth new life.  I would have loved a home birth, but the need to be on blood thinning medication (Lovenox) made the hospital my only option.  The Bradley classes gave me the knowledge I needed to come up with a birth plan for the hospital setting. 

I started contracting three weeks before Audrey was born.  Sometimes they were strong contractions but mostly mild ones.  I was around 4 cm when I went into "active" labor and Audrey arrived five hours later!  With the threat of induction hanging over me, I took a long walk, ate almost an entire pineapple and then double pumped for 45 minutes!  I think I overdid it a little as labor came on fast and strong.  (I would not recommend the 45 minutes of pumping!)  I stayed home for the first 3 hours and labored mostly in the bath.  The warm water was so comforting and I enjoyed being alone while my husband packed the bag.  At the hospital I was coached and comforted by my husband, sister (who is a midwife) and my mom.  Other than wanting to induce me, my doctor was supportive of my choice of a natural birth.  Each contraction was so painful but I knew that they had a purpose.  I was not suffering but rather working hard to bring my baby into the seen world.  I knew that with each passing contraction, that was one less separating me from my baby.  I took them one at a time and relaxed as much a possible.  It was amazing! 

Everything went so well until Audrey was almost out and they realized she had aspirated meconium.  They feared that this could lead to pneumonia and she was taken to the NICU after only moments in my arms.  I kept waiting for the nurses to bring her back.  I had no idea that she would be in intensive care for 4 and 1/2 long days.  During that time my birth plan was completely ignored.  They administered eye ointment, gave her formula and a paci dipped in sugar water.  They didn't allow me to nurse her for 2 days.  This was all a very difficult end to an empowering birth.  My heart goes out to parents whose precious children stay in the NICU for much longer than our daughter did.  In retrospect we were so blessed but at the time it was grueling.  Our prayers were answered and she did not have pneumonia.  We were able to take her home on the 5th day.  What a joyful time that was!  She was finally ours!

Birth is unpredictable and no one is exactly alike.  It certainly helps to be prepared though.  I highly recommend the Bradley Method of Husband-Coached Childbirth!  After 12 weeks of class once a week you are armed with the knowledge and skills you need to welcome your baby into the world the safest way possible.  You learn how to have the healthiest pregnancy possible through proper nutrition and exercise.  When you remain low risk you have options during labor and birth.  My Bradley teacher also prepared us for breastfeeding by explaining what to expect and teaching proper latching.  She was available to answer questions both during pregnancy and after birth.  She was amazing!  Click here to find Bradley childbirth teachers in your area.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Cheap Seventh Generation Diapers and Wipes!

In a previous post I mentioned how much I enjoy Amazon's Subscribe and Save program- such a great deal!  Then today I received an email letting me know that their Seventh Generation diapers and wipes were an additional 15% off when you purchase them through their Subscribe and Save program.  That makes them 30% off of their already low case price.  I ordered two different sizes and a case of training pantsand wipes.  I purchase the travel size packages of wipes because they are small enough that they don't dry out before we use them up. They were only $1.69 each! The diapers ended up being $6.99 per package!  I think they are closer to $12 at my grocery store.  We use cloth diapers and wipes 80% of the time, but there are always times when we need to have disposables on hand and I have been really pleased with Seventh Generation.  It is great to know you aren't putting harsh chemicals like chlorine against your child's delicate skin.

Amazon indicated that this was a limited time promotion, so I don't know how long it will last.  Enjoy the savings!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Enjoying Every Day

We are expecting our second child this November and are so very excited!  Being pregnant the second time around seems much harder than the first, mostly because of the two year old that keeps me hopping.  I have felt so very tired that I have often forgotten how precious this time is with her, our last few months as just us.  Having the new baby brother or sister will be so wonderful, but it will be a change and I don't want to miss out on the special time that is now.  I want to shower my daughter with love and make the most of her time as an only child.  I came across the lyrics to this song by Malvina Reynolds and I cried.  It was really a wake up call for me to not let one day go by without appreciating how precious life is, to not wish for an easier day but to fully appreciate the one I am in.  Hope it inspires you too!

"I wish you were here to get underfoot,

I wish you were here to get in my way,

To call me from work, to call me to play,

I wish you were here again.

Oh what did I do that had to be done,

And what did I read that had to be read,

When I might have turned to watch you instead,

I wish you were here again."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Amazing Garlic Croutons

Here is an excellent use for bread ends or bread that isn't as moist and fresh as it used to be.  These croutons add an incredible pop of flavor to any salad or soup.  They are a great way to sneak more garlic into your diet.  Start to finish they take about 25 minutes and are very hands off.

Stale bread or bread ends (any kind will work)
Fresh garlic cloves (to taste, going a little overboard will make them extra tasty!)
Parmesan Cheese

Start by preheating the oven to 350 and dicing the bread into little cubes.  While the oven is preheating, throw a generous amount of butter into a heat proof dish and stick it in the oven.  Once the butter has melted, mince the garlic into the butter and stir to combine.  Next throw in the bread cubes and toss to coat them evenly.  Sprinkle them with pepper (they really don't need salt) and then transfer them to a baking dish (glass works well for this).  Make sure they are not too crowded because you want them to crisp up nicely.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until desired crispness.  Grate some Parmesan cheese over the top and allow to cool if using on a salad.  Enjoy!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Quality Apps for Kids

Don't get me wrong, I would not advocate the use of any electronic entertainment for preschoolers on a daily basis or for long stretches of time.  Children should be nurtured and cared for by real adults with real conversations and real world experiences.  I used to be very anti- video, dvd, and battery operated toy, but found that sometimes these forms of entertainment make life much easier.  I think they preserve our sanity as parents and when used minimally do no harm to our children.  I remember very well those days when a DVD meant I was able to get a shower without hearing my child screaming the whole time.  My pre baby ideals sorta went out the window at that point.

With that being said, I want to share with you these adorable preschool applications for Iphones and Ipods.  My 2 year old (23 months actually) LOVES my Ipod Touch and can turn it on, unlock the screen, scroll through a few pages of aps to her page.  Then she bounces back and forth between a few of her favorites (Jingle Bells, an animal spelling game, tic tac toe, doodle aps, etc).  Today I was trying to find one she had enjoyed playing on my sister's phone when I came across these adorable aps from Tickle Tap Aps.  We purchased Sound Shaker first and I knew we had found something special!  Then I picked up Field Flier because the little bird was such a hit, and since I want her to get a better grasp of numbers I got Count Caddy as well.  The graphics are so much cuter than anything else I have seen and the games are more creative.  These aps were $1.99 each but I think they are worth that.  Just make sure your kiddos enjoy them responsibly :)  Now if only Apple made something to keep toddlers out of the other applications (calendar, contacts, etc) when they exit their games!

Swiss Chard Even a Toddler Will Eat!

I am new to cooking greens and sometime feel intimidated by them.  I know they are so very nutritious but I wonder how they will taste and if my family will actually eat them.  Swiss Chard (or Rainbow Chard) however is easy and tasty!  I am sure there are many ways to prepare this green but here is what worked for me.  As you can see, I don't really use measurements when I cook things like this.  Just put the amount that looks right and enjoy!

  • one bunch chard (I used Rainbow as you can see above)
  • 1/2 red or yellow onion
  • fresh garlic to taste (3 cloves for us)
  • Butter or Coconut Oil, be generous!  It adds such good flavor.
  • Salt and Pepper, other seasoning to taste
  • Frozen Corn
  • Precooked sprouted lentils (optional)
  • Parmesan Cheese for topping
Thoroughly clean your greens then separate the stalks from the leafy part.  Chop the stalks and the onion and saute in butter or coconut oil for a minute.  Add in the garlic and salt and pepper as well as any other seasoning you like (crushed red pepper, granulated garlic, dried thyme, etc) and cook until just tender. 

 Meanwhile, roughly chop the leafy greens and add them once the stalks are slightly tender.  Continue to stir and cook until the greens are wilted. 

Then add frozen corn and lentils if desired.  The corn adds a sweetness that balances the earthy flavor of the chard and the lentils add protein and make this dish more satisfying.  Test for doneness and for flavor and top with Parmesan Cheese if desired.  If only it ended up as pretty as it started!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Delicious and Nutritious: Smoothies

One of the biggest challenges of being a mom is getting nutritious, whole foods into our children.  It is especially hard to get them to eat a variety of healthy foods when they are small and don't have all their teeth yet.  I introduced smoothies to my daughter a little before her first birthday and it was a hit!  For the last year we have been sharing a smoothie for breakfast almost every morning.  She learned to drink from a straw very quickly and will drink quite a bit! 

Here is how I make our smoothies:

Start with a whole, peeled orange and blend it up with either yogurt, kefir, raw milk, hibiscus or other herbal tea, or fresh juice of your choice (I don't recommend juice unless it is fresh juiced from organic, whole foods because of the sugar content and pasteurization of commercial juices).

Once this mixture is smooth add any or all of the following:
  • organic frozen berries or fruit (I use blueberries, strawberries, peaches, cranberries and pineapple)
  • fresh organic spinach or other green (spinach is mild and doesn't really change the flavor)
  • banana or other fresh fruit
  • green powder (we like Garden of Life's Perfect Food Berry)
  • ground flax seeds
  • spirulina, beet powder, olive leaf complex, zinc lozenge or other healthy supplement
  • for a treat you can also add cocoa powder, cinnamon, or vanilla extract
Your smoothie will be loaded with fiber and vitamins!  It tastes great and will help you get more fruit and veggies into everyone's diet.  When my daughter is sick I love to add supplements to our smoothie that she would not take alone.  Recently she had a runny nose that she just could not shake and we tried olive leaf complex.  Within 2 days of introducing it into her smoothies and mixing it with her water she was completely better.  Try to use organic ingredients when possible to reduce your exposure to toxins and to get more nutritional bang for your buck.  If your budget limits your organic choices try to stick with organic for the most contaminated fruits and veggies.  A helpful list is located here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Make at Home: Refreshing Mouthwash

I have been making my own personal care products for the last few months and have had mixed results.  Occasionally something will turn out better than what I have been buying.  There have also been times I have had to throw my concoction out and start over, or repurpose it (for example sticky lotion can become shaving cream).  I mixed up this mouthwash yesterday and am so happy with it!  It really left my mouth minty fresh with a slightly herbal taste.  It is made of simple ingredients and you can tweak it to fit your individual preference.  Here is what I combined in a glass jar:
  • water
  • baking soda (aluminum free if possible)
  • aloe gel
  • vegetable glycerin
  • peppermint oil
  • clove oil
  • lemon oil
  • tea tree oil
I did not measure the ingredients, but this is roughly organized by largest quantity to smallest.  Once combined, shake well and try it!  I had to tweak mine a few times to get that strong peppermint flavor I was looking for.  Make sure to use organic or high quality oils that can be used internally (not labeled external use only).  I found my peppermint oil and baking soda in the baking isle of my grocery store and the rest I have purchased from Mountain Rose Herbs or Whole Foods.  It is so fun to make your own products, especially when they really work well!  I would love to hear what adjustments you have made to make this recipe work for you!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Putting God First in Our Traditions

The holidays are behind us now and unfortunately that is a relief to many of us.  The stress and hassles that come with Christmas are really a shame.  One major source of stress is deciding on, buying and wrapping gifts, not to mention mailing or delivering them to each person on your list and trying not to leave anyone out.  In years past I have felt the joy of Christmas diminished because of the pressure to find something thoughtful for each person on my list without going way over budget. 

Well, two years ago my husband and I tried something radically different!  We decided that since it was Jesus' birthday we should give Him something He would like!  So we decided to take the money we had saved throughout the year to buy Christmas gifts with and instead give it to a ministry who would use it to help the poor and show them Jesus.  We believe it is God's heart to love and care for those in need and most importantly introduce them to Jesus.  So we wrote a letter to all of our friends and family letting them know what we were doing.  We asked that they partner with us and send any money they would have used to purchase gifts for us to the ministry we choose or one of their choosing.  That year we selected a ministry that was drilling wells in Africa and this past year we selected Iris Ministries who also ministers in Africa to orphans.  It was so very rewarding to send a check to these ministries who are saving lives and saving souls.  We so appreciated everyone who partnered with us. 

On a much less eternal note, it really made my Christmas less stressful.  Although I did not miss receiving gifts at all, I did miss the fun of giving (at least giving to the people who are easy to buy for like my mom, sister, girl friends, etc!).  We did not go over budget and were able to spend more time together, less at the mall or in traffic.  I don't think we will do this every year but once in a while it is a great way to honor God and have less on your to do list!  How do you keep God first in your celebrations?  I would love to hear your ideas!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Instilling God's Truth in Little Hearts

A dear friend of mine gave us the best children's Bible book I have seen!  It is called The Jesus Storybook Bible. We have at least four "Bible books" for little ones and to be honest I refuse to read her most of them.  I get kind of mad when we read them because they are really missing the point in almost every story.  The angels are chubby little children with wings and the animals on Noah's ark are all smiley with bows in their hair.  Obnoxious.  I want to raise my children to understand God's love, His power, His holiness.  I do not simply want them to have memorized sugar coated Bible stories or Bible characters.  I want them to get the point and believe the truth of God's word.  So anyway, The Jesus Storybook Bible is not like the other ones!  The illustrations are stylized but are not silly.  They convey emotion that is appropriate, not smiley.  And the best part is that every story, Old and New Testament, points to Jesus.  There is an anticipation in the Old Testament stories of the Deliverer who is coming to save God's people.  I love reading the stories to my daughter every night.  I feel like I have had time in the Word!  I highly recommend this book!

More Money Saving Ideas

In addition to my earlier post about saving money, I wanted to add some other ideas. 
  • Plan meals!  Having a plan for the week means not having to fall back on more expensive convenience foods.  It also means eating healthier which supports your overall well being.  I plan our meals the day before I do my grocery shopping and it helps so much!  Also it makes me take stock of what is hiding in the refrigerator so that less goes to waste.  If I am buying a specific ingredient (for example, cilantro) I try to plan meals throughout the week that will include it so that half of it doesn't hang around and never get used.
  • Stock up when things are on sale.  Things that are staples in your kitchen that are non perishable or can be frozen are worth stocking up on if there is a discount.  Just make sure that the sale price is not really just the same price you would find elsewhere (I have had the Kroger sale price for an item be the same as the Whole Foods everyday price). Also plan your meals around what is on special or what is in season.  Whole Foods puts their sale flyer online so you can plan before you go!  Speaking of seasonal, joining a CSA (community supported agriculture) is a great way to enjoy super fresh produce at a good price. 
  • Buy from the bulk bins!  Dried beans, for example, are so cheap and can be added to so many dishes either to increase their nutrition or instead of the meat.  I like to soak mine and sprout them, then cook and freeze for future use.
  • Make your own everything!  I know, that sounds overwhelming.  However if you just learn to make one thing that you usually buy and then another and another, before you know it you will be saving a bundle and probably prefer the higher quality of something homemade.  I have started making many of my own personal care items (toothpaste, shave oil, perfume, lotion, face masks, toner, body scrub, lip balm, etc) as well as things in the kitchen such as mustard, yogurt, granola, salad dressings, veggie wash, etc.  I am also learning to sew and have made some (really ugly) doublers for my daughter's pocket diapers and some bedding for her crib.  It is so rewarding to have made something by hand.  I think it really makes you appreciate and enjoy the item more. A great little (inexpensive) resource for getting started is a book called Make Your Place.
  • Sign up for emails from retailers you purchase from, brands you buy or coupon and giveaway newsletters such as Ecobunga.  I won a $50 gift card to Whole Foods when I signed up for Ecobunga's newsletter.  I was thrilled! Often retailers will email coupon codes for discounts or free shipping.  If you are looking for a coupon to use online, sites like Retail Me Not and Coupon Cabin are helpful.  Amazon has a subscribe and save program where you sign up for automatic shipments (that can be canceled right away) and get 15% off and free shipping on that item.  Not everything is eligible, but my Seventh Generation Diapers are and I have found Amazon to have the best deal.  (We use disposable diapers at night and when we are traveling and can't do laundry.)
  • Buy reusable! Cloth napkins, microfiber cleaning cloths (or old fashioned rags), cloth diapers, cloth baby wipes, and even cloth feminine pads save money over time.
  • Garage sales, craigslist, freecycle and consignment sales.  It is amazing how much less you will pay for things that are not brand new.  I love finding most of my daughter's clothes at consignment sales.  If you are able to shop around and possibly wait to find something these are all great ways to save.
  • Daily coupon sites such as Groupon and Living Social.  Not every city has them, but it is amazing if you do!  They negotiate deals with businesses (restaurants, salons, you name it) so that if enough people purchase the particular offer it is then valid.  So recently I purchased a $25 groupon for a $50 certificate to a local organic restaurant that we would like to try.  Once the minimum number of people purchase the deal they let you know that the deal is on.  Really fun!  Also Restaurant.com offers similar certificates that are considerably reduced!  Always google for a coupon code because there always seems to be one for this site.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Big Picture

I came across this quote from Kittie Franz recently.  After a few days home alone with a teething, fussy toddler this is a good reminder for me!

"Remember, you are not managing an inconvenience; You are raising a human being." 

How true that is!  When you step back and look at the big picture, all the stresses and frustrations are nothing compared to how amazing it is to be able to pour love into that little person.  What a high calling mothering is.  Isn't it amazing that God trusts us with such precious gifts!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Make at Home: Simple Art for the Artistically Challenged

I have a degree in interior design and when I was pregnant with my daughter I was really excited about getting her nursery just right!  I knew I wanted it to be girly and creative and not feel cold and uniform as so many nurseries today are.  I wanted bright colors and beautiful decor that would not be outgrown too quickly.  I found the most beautiful art online from Oopsy Daisy.  If the sky was the limit I could have placed quite an order with them, but I decided to keep it simple (I purchased a growth chart and two small bird prints shown here and here- LOVE them all!)  As I thought of ways to fill the other walls I had the idea to make my own art for my daughter, something personal that would hopefully be meaningful to her.  I took oil painting in college and was not all that thrilled with my work and I also didn't want to use something toxic in the nursery. 
I noticed that so many of the pieces I loved were simple shapes layered over each other.  I have stacks and stacks of paint chips from hardware stores and I went and got even more.  I purchased a large canvas (24x36 I believe) and some mod podge from a local art store and that was it (total cost was under $30).  The paint chips were free and gave me a great selection of colors to work with.  I decided to do the tree because it was cheerful and because of the associations with life that trees have.  I included our dog (at the time) and some birds and butterflies. 
The flowers were a pain, but the whole thing was worth it!  It was fun to work on something like that, anticipating my daughter's arrival!  I hope to do more art like this in the future and maybe even incorporate other elements (shells, buttons, ribbon, glitter, etc) so it is more of a collage. This is such a forgiving project- so easy to just cut out another piece if one doesn't look right.  If you try this let me know how it turns out!  I would love to see your creative ideas!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Penny Saved

Lately I have been thinking about all the things I do to save our family money.  As a stay at home mom I don't bring home a paycheck but I like to contribute to our family's financial well being whenever possible.  I manage our finances and get such a kick out of saving here and there. Here are some of the ways we save each month- it really adds up to huge annual savings with very little effort.
  • I pay all our bills online.  This saves the cost of a stamp- $0.44 which really adds up! I also use less checks and rarely use envelops.  Estimated savings: $3 per month/ $36 per year
  • We have two credit cards (one Visa and one American Express) that have no annual fees and are cash rewards cards.  We never carry a balance so there is no catch.  We charge 99% of all our purchases so as to earn the maximum rewards. Our American Express pays 5% on gas, groceries and drugstore purchases (after meeting a certain amount per calendar year) and 1.5% on everything else.  I can't remember the exact percent for the Visa, but since not all businesses accept American Express we use it occasionally.  We spend a LOT on organic groceries and enjoy that 5% back!  Last year between the two cards we earned almost $1500 back!  It didn't cost us a thing and we were spending money on things we would be purchasing anyway. Credit cards used responsibly can be wonderful things!
  • We print and clip coupons and take bags to stores that offer bag credits.  There is usually a coupon for Organic Valley products (things we buy every week) and other national organic brands.  I always try to grab a few copies of the Whole Foods coupon book at the start of each month (available at the door or at checkout).  I also try to always bring my grocery bags to Whole Foods to get their $0.10 bag credit.  If I average 3 bags per week that is a savings of $15.60 per year.  So easy!
  • We opened a high yield online saving account to keep our savings in.  It is certainly not an investment that will make you rich, but it is a great way to earn a little on money that you want to have available.  Ours is with HSBC and it takes about 3 business days for money to transfer back to our checking account. There are no fees and no minimum balance.  What you will earn depends on what your balance is, but for example if you even earn $10 interest each month that is an annual earning of $120 without much effort at all.
  • We make our own coffee!  See ya starbucks!  I used to enjoy a $4 coffee and now I make my own for less than $0.40 and it is organic. Between my husband and I we are saving about $1200 per year as well as using less gasoline and producing less waste from disposable cups, sleeves, napkins, stir sticks, etc. We use a french press and I like our coffee better than what we were paying so much for.
Total earnings/ savings for one year with these simple tips is roughly $2870!  Yeah!

Wonderful Books!

As a first time parent I am loving reading lots of books to my daughter! She is 21 months now and loves her books. I have enjoyed getting books out of my parents' attic that were mine as a child. These include some of the wonderfully illustrated books by Gyo Fujikawa like Milly's Secret, Babies, Let's Grow a Garden and Baby Animals. I just lover her style of illustrating and the stories are well written as well. If you are not familiar with her books check them out! You can find used copies of the titles that are no longer in print from Alibris for reasonable prices. Also try Amazon for new and used copies, as some of her books are still in print. I love exposing my daughter to books that are not so mainstream and of higher quality than much of what is produced today.

I appreciate that these books often portray children of different races playing together. I think it is important to lay a foundation of perception for our children that all people are created by God and are equal. I am from the south and despise the deep seated ideas that some races are not as good/ valuable/ smart as others. I reject that old fashioned mentality and want to teach my children to do the same. It really makes me mad (Irate actually) to hear comments from my elders that are so ungodly. I think something as simple as seeing children from all nationalities playing together is a way to lay a healthy foundation for our children that all people are valuable!

Nasty BPA

Are you aware of how awful BPA is? Bisphenol A is a toxic chemical used in plastics that disrupts hormone levels in our bodies. I think most people have heard about them in plastic disposable water bottles and nalgene type reusable ones. Not surprisingly they are found many other places as well. After reading this article on Civil Eats, I was so sad to see that canned goods are such a huge contributor to BPA in our food. I have been giving my toddler organic canned beans and heart of palm (good source of minerals) on a daily basis. Now I know that she has been ingesting chemicals from the lining of the cans! I called the manufacturer of the heart of palm and they were aware of the BPA in the cans and had phased it out of some of their other products, but not the ones we buy. This is so frustrating! It is not enough to buy foods that are organic, we can not trust that these manufacturers are concerned about anything other than their bottom line. It seems almost everything that is convenient and modern has a dangerous flip side. I am now being more diligent to soak my dried beans, which gives me a chance to sprout them, cook and freeze them. I know this is healthier anyway as sprouted legumes and grains are more easily digested an their nutrients absorbed. Other countries have banned BPA from anything that comes in contact with food, but not the US. It seems the corporations who profit from cheaper plastics that contain BPA have too much power in our legislature.

Eden Foods is one brand of canned organic foods that is willing to pay a few cents more per can in order to package their goods more safely. I think I will still avoid canned foods now but will certainly purchase theirs in a pinch. After all, who knows what they will find next in plastic to be harmful? This is yet another wake up call to avoid plastics altogether and opt for glass, wood and safe metals and ceramic in the kitchen. Also this reminds me that we live in such a greedy, polluted world and can not possibly avoid everything that is a threat to our health. I am so thankful to know Jesus and to know that I can pray and trust Him with my health and the health of my family. We make a point to bless our food and give thanks for it at every meal and I know that God does bless it when we do this. I am so thankful that I can rest in Him! With that being said, I still strive to do all that I can with the knowledge I have been given to make the best choices for my family but my trust is in Him.

If you would like to find out more about BPA here is another good resource.


Thanks for finding my blog! I am a wife and mother in my (late) twenties with a passion for God, for natural living, godly parenting, designing, crafting, organizing and living life fully. I have so many thoughts and ideas and wanted a way to better keep up with them and share them with others. I hope you find useful information and encouragement as you enjoy my blog. I have been so inspired by other bloggers (see links) who do such an excellent job! Check out their blogs as well!