Friday, December 14, 2012

Make Your Own Nursing Tops

The nursing/maternity fashion industry has a wide variety of clothes to help us during this time of change. As our bodies grow and develop during the nine months of a pregnancy, so do our wardrobes. There are several staple pieces that I would recommend getting - one of them being a slimming camisole to help you through those postpartum days. The others are nursing camisoles. And if you prefer to buy them, my strongest piece of advice to you is: shop clearance! Buying a $3 pair of maternity shorts/shirts in the middle of winter might seem silly, but you'll be happy you did when you're 8 months pregnant in the heat of August. Plus, shopping ahead can save you up to 90% instead of paying full price when you really need it. But when you don't find the great deals, you'll still need some clothes. If you don't have $35 to spend on a simple shirt with an extra layer so you can nurse your baby, or if you simply want to be frugal, here are some easy ways to make your own nursing tops!

1) Since layering is in style right now, this idea is awesome. What you'll need: tank tops, chalk, and scissors. I usually stock up on clearance tanks at the end of summer. You will be cutting these, so you can also use your old tank tops for this project. To begin: put the tank top on, and draw one line under each breast. Take off the tank top and cut the lines, making one slit under each breast. Don't make one big one. Make two. Depending on your bust size, you'll have to make them as big or small as you need. This idea allows any top to become a nursing top. It also provides so much coverage, you'll be comfortable and confident without a nursing tent - I mean, cover. :)

1b) I will add, however, that I do not use nursing bras, as they are cumbersome and expensive. I use regular bras (without underwires, of course), which make this nursing top option very easy. I don't have to play around up there looking for the plastic snap before unfolding the extra layer. If you have ever fussed with a nursing bra, you know what I'm talking about. Having the easy access slit allows me to pull everything up in one motion and latch my baby faster than you can say, "What?" :P

2) The second idea is to use a belly band. You might think those are just for pregnancy, but not necessarily. By using a belly band after giving birth, it will not only provide you with some shape, but it will also help you nurse with ease by freeing you from the need of a blanket/nursing cover. Besides, by buying from the link above, you're helping a stay-at-home mom's business!

That's all I got for you. You don't need the nursing tops, nursing cami's, nursing bras to make it work. I've been doing this for 14 months, and it's great.

Share your ideas if you do something differently!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Wool Soaker DIY

A long time ago, my mom told me the amazing benefits of wool diaper covers, often called "soakers". They are naturally odor resistant, breathable, and antibacterial. They are also very comfortable and easy to care for, as you don't need to wash the cover after each use unless soiled.

They sound awesome, but they are incredibly pricey. I haven't found a good one yet for less than $30! So I went to the thrift store and found three wool sweaters for a total of $9. I washed and dried them, so they became "felted". Then I found an absolutely wonderful tutorial on Pinterest (of course!) and went to work. In the end, I was able to get TWO soakers out of each sweater. That comes down to $1.50 each! And each one only took me about 15 minutes to sew. Unreal!

The green soakers used for this tutorial were the softest, finest wool out of the three sweaters I found.  The other sweaters were much more thick and made sewing a little tricky. So when you're looking for sweaters to use, try to find wool that isn't already very bulky!

 First I cut out the pattern pieces and fabric.

I'm just making sure I have all the pieces. Here are the leg bands, waist bands, and cover. Good to continue.

 The kids stayed busy painting and eating while I sewed.

 Little Huck!

 My sewing machine already had green thread! Love when that happens!

Step one: Sew sides together. I have a regular sewing machine, so I used a zig-zag stitch.
Serging would be great though. :)

 Step Two: For the leg bands and waist bands, I folded them length-wise and sewed the sides together.

Step Three: I took the waistband that was sewn on the side (top band) and folded it in half to look like the bottom band.

 Step four: I took the folded waistband, turned it upside-down, and placed it inside the cover. It was time to sew the waistband to the cover.

Step five: There should be THREE raw edges at the top of the cover. Sew them all together. Again, I used a tight zig-zag stitch.

Step six: Do the same for the leg bands. Fold them in half, place them inside the cover, and sew all three pieces of fabric together (two from the folded legband to the one piece of fabric from the cover). At the end, your cover will look like this. Time to flip it right side out...

You're all done!

Little Huck looks great showing off his new soaker!

Yeah, he's a love...what can I say?

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Save with Insultation

This upcoming week, we're having our house assessed for energy efficiency. I'm surprisingly excited for this, because Ian and I are all about saving energy. Partly for the cost, but also partly because it's the right thing to do. We want to know what we should change or be doing differently to do our part in conserving our resources. The inspectors will be checking our appliances, furnace, windows, attic, basement, roof, and insulation. I know we have poor attic insulation because we have dreadful icicles in the winter. Yes, they're pretty, but not a good sign! I wonder if the inspectors will recommend any Insulated Concrete Forms, or ICF. If we have to replace anything in the foundation, I would rather do so with some high-quality products that will work in the long run.  
Other ways we've been conserving lately is unplugging the Christmas tree during the day and once we're in bed. I pouted about this, but Ian insisted. For one thing, we can't see the lights during the day anyway. And at night, we're sleeping, so it shouldn't matter what's going on in the living room
We're also shutting off lights when we leave the room and keeping the oven off unless we are baking more than one dish. It takes a little bit of effort and memory to do all these things, but they do make a difference. To us, they're small. But if everyone did them, the change would be unstoppable. Make a change and make a difference!

Mama Zoe

My friends have been telling me for years now to watch the show Parenthood. So I finally started to do just that a few months ago. While I wouldn't recommend it for a really young crowd since morally it's not amazing, I flew threw the first three seasons during naptimes. I had been told that there was something amazing happening at the end of season 3, so I was pretty curious to keep going.

So we have a main character Julia, who is a successful lawyer and desperately wants another child. After months of trying to conceive, she finds she won't be able to. She and her husband Joel begin looking into adoption. So cool. Oddly enough, the coffee girl at Julia's work, whose name is Zoe, announces she is pregnant. She's young, living with her boyfriend, not into the pregnancy, and says she wants to put the baby up for adoption. Julia befriends her...and eventually she asks Zoe if she can adopt the baby.

Zoe says no.

It's troubling. Zoe explains she wants a fresh start and is going to close all options of adoption. She says it would just be too hard to go through with everything. It's clear she's looking into abortion.

Julia continues to be her friend...and slowly, their relationship grows. In a beautiful way, Zoe eventually agrees to let Julia and Joel adopt the baby. Zoe even moves in with them for a few months to get her life in order after she breaks up with her lame-o boyfriend.

Julia is right there at the hospital when the baby is born. Though it's quite dramatic (and I'm sure she wouldn't have had to scream as much if she'd been able to get off her back and into a more comfortable birthing position, but anyways, off my soapbox), the birth brought tears to my eyes. Zoe refuses to even look at her son...and says she doesn't want to hold him.

Julia's moment of becoming a new mother again had me forcing back tears. She takes the newborn into her arms and cries. It doesn't even seem like a tv show at that looked so real. I cried along with her.

A couple days later, Julia's family is entering the hospital to pick up their baby and say goodbye to Zoe. Julia goes first so that Zoe is not overwhelmed. But then, as she passes the nursery to say hello to her son, she is shocked to find Zoe talking, smiling, and cuddling her little boy.

No words are spoken...the exchange takes place though glass windows. Julia is clearly upset and hurt...but Zoe is amazing. You see a transformation in her. Though she seems apologetic, she also looks protective, ready, and sure. There's no going back.

Though Julia's family is incredibly devastated over losing their chance at a new baby, the season quickly moves on to other dynamics. However, the awakening of motherhood in this young woman was so powerful and moving...I hope every one who saw it was as blown away as I that they would include such a beautiful, pro-life story in their show. There were no fluffy-frilly "choose life" scripts. Instead it was real, heartbreaking, and heartwarming.

Well done, Parenthood. So very well done.

Healthy Ways to Feel Fuller Longer

Every since Little Huck began eating table food, I find that our family plows through the fridge in just a few days. I'll be thinking, But I just went to the store on Saturday! as I write up another shopping list. It can be very difficult to keep these kids full. With Little Olive doing her exercisers all day long (see photo to the right), and Little Huck doing everything in his power to sneak up the stairs, and me chasing after them, I too find myself growing hungry ten minutes after we finish cleaning up lunch!

The solution? Healthy, whole meals. Obviously, you may be thinking. But in all seriousness, it's true!

Instead of just toast and butter, I'll whip up some tasty celery sticks with peanut butter for a snack. Little Olive and Huck would eat peanut butter right out of the jar if I let them, so sometimes I'll make PB lollipops. Simply spoon peanut butter onto spoons, let them chill for a few minutes until firm, and serve. They're to die for! Add a glass of milk, and they have a nice snack. I cook their eggs in coconut oil or left over bacon grease. (When we can't afford bacon, having the flavor is amazing.) I add butter, cream cheese, and sometimes regular cheese to their mashed potatoes. When I serve veggies, I make sure they're buttery and salty so they gobble those peas and green beans right down! Yogurts for breakfast, or carrots dipped in salad dressing keep the kiddos smiling all day. (If only it were that easy!)

Share any secrets you have for keeping your kids happy and healthy with good food choices.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Give yourself the gift of health

Happy Thanksgiving - a few days late! How was your turkey dinner? We spent the day with my husband's family and had a magnificent feast topped off with pies, cookies, and cheesecake. Tis the season for goodies galore! Unfortunately, that night started a weekend-long stomach bug in our house.

I know, just the thought of it makes you feel just a tiny bit nauseous, doesn't it?

We're all fully recovered now, but I do not want to go through that for the rest of winter. I am fully determined to keep my family healthy and boost our immune systems! And if you've followed this blog long enough, you know we are all about doing this naturally and safely. We are huge advocates for naturopathic medicine - such as homeopathy and acupuncture treatments. As a matter of fact, it was homeopathy that cured my little guy of the flu last week. These medicines are proven effective, safe, and with minimal (if any) side effects, so I encourage you to seek out such care. In this day and age, it seems that many of us are all about diagnosing and getting a prescription for a quick fix. Sometimes this avenue is necessary. Oftentimes, however, it is more harmful than helpful. When used properly, homeopathy and other forms of medicines are blessings to families and individuals who look to heal various ailments. I can speak from experience how amazing these gentle remedies are.

While you can certainly learn some of these medicines on your own, I would highly recommend seeking the guidance of a wonderful naturopath. There a a lot of wonderful specialists who want to help people feel well again - so support them and seek out their quality care.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Catching up - with pictures

I should be sleeping...I know I should be sleeping. But earlier today I caved and had a Pepsi...and not a caffeine free one, either. Hence, the awake mind despite the exhausted body.

So instead of tossing and turning, I thought, blog! My long lost blog! It has been practically nine million years since I even logged on, so heck...why not tonight?

This past week has been an emotional roller coaster. My precious baby, Little Huck, turned one! Last year, he was born (feel free to read birth story), and now he's a sweet, toothy, little toddler who wanders around the house with his toothbrush.

How can a child go from this... this?

...In one year?

The days are long but the years are short. And the first year was way too freaking short.

Here he is digging in on his actual day. He got pretty messy. :)

We had the kids' birthday party today! Even though Little Olive won't be three until next month, we combined everything while the weather was still nice, and boy did we get lucky with a gorgeous 75 degree day today! I stayed up late last night making their cakes, which turned out to be a lot of work and a lot of stress. No, Liv from, it's not that easy to simply apply a crumb coat. But thank you for making it look that way and entice me enough to try!

Little Olive's Purple Castle Cake. The look on her face this morning honestly made it worth every minute. Her jaw actually dropped. I know, it might not look amazing to a critical eye. But her eyes were anything but critical. Magical is more like it.

On another note, Little Huck's cake had an odd shape to it thanks to Little Olive grabbing a chunk of it off earlier in the day. With only one Gluten Free box to work with, I had to make the best of it. Surprisingly, nobody said anything about the missing top.

At the party, Little Olive shows Ruby Red the castle!

Little Olive posed for a good 10 seconds while cameras raised

My little family
(Yes, she is still posing) 

The best ever

My little man

The other day, temps were near freezing...we busted out the winter attire. So stinkin cute.

Staying warm with tea and Emtea
She was so proud of her picture

Visiting with good friends

Friday, August 31, 2012

Creating a Blog Button

My sister-in-law has a VERY easy tutorial for creating your own blog button. I have been dying to give it a try. My whole blog needs a little revamping...I'd like to create a new banner and add updated pictures of the children doing very advanced things. I still think it would be funny to have the dog pictured reading a newspaper on the toilet. Or would that be offensive? It may. I'd make sure it was decent though. Still...there would be someone, somewhere who would call it tasteless. There's always a debbie downer.

Me? Not today! No way. I'm having a fantastic day. I have just finished sewing two wool soakers! I'll add a tutorial on that soon, because I even remembered to take pictures this time. Yippy!

Off for now. :)

Saturday, August 04, 2012

How Maggs Makes Money

It has become apparent in the recent months that people become very territorial about things that aren't even theirs to being with. That piece of road you've left before you could even form the thought of, "How dare you cut it front of me?" That idea on Pinterest that you pinned first. That bar you've frequented for years. Outsiders, watch out. It's YOUR bar.

I admit, I can be selfish about certain things too.

But learning to let go and not hold on with such control is very liberating.

So I want to set an example and share my money-making "secrets" with all the stay-at-home moms who come to this blog. I don't OWN any of these ideas, so I am happy to share them. By the way, they are not secrets at all.

1) Blogging
I earn income by blogging for adverters through My highest earning months were about $160, but I've had months with as little as $10. It all depends on how many tasks are available, and how dedicated you are at blogging. Money is PayPal deposited 30 days after the post has been written/approved. It's hard to wait for that first payment, but then if you keep receiving and accepting tasks (and grab bag offers), you get on a roll. I am not putting much energy into blogging at the moment though, so business is slow.

2) Etsy
Occasionally I'll find myself in a creative streak and spend hours at my sewing machine. After that, I'll list several handmade items on my Etsy shop. I make approximately 1-2 sales a month. After shipping, sellers fees, and whatnot, I probably make about $20 a month there. It's unpredictable, but I enjoy it.

3) Swagbucks
The way I earn/redeem my swagbucks doesn't directly put cash in my bank account, but I do get Amazon gift cards which puts more wiggle room in our budget. Since starting Swagbucks in September of '11, I've earned $285 in Amazon gift cards. I use them for gifts, our expensive natural toothpaste, and baby items. Right now I'm saving up for Christmas. 

4) Garage Sales and Craigslist
This has sometimes been more work and stress than is worth the profit, but I have made a considerable amount over the past few years selling what we don't need. I often use this money to treat our family to breakfast at a local diner, and then we deposit the rest into our kids' college funds. Although $20 here or there isn't enough to pay for even a week at college, I'm hoping it will make a difference down the road.

5) Tutoring
I used to tutor English and writing at our community college, and I still enjoy doing it as much as I did back then. The demand for home tutors is very high right now, so if you have a knack and a love for a specific subject, I strongly encourage you to share your talents with those who need it. I will openly admit I do this free of charge for friends, I would suggest making business cards and putting yourself out there.

6) Thirty-One
Back in April I started as an Independent Consultant for Thirty-One Gifts. I made a point not to mention anything on my blog because I just wanted to see where it would lead. After a few months of parties, sales, phone calls, and orders, I can honestly say it has been awesome. Money aside, I truly enjoy this work. Though I was nervous my first couple nights, I now feel comfortable and excited before my parties. I try to dedicate one full hour every day to my work, and that's it. So far my highest monthly earning has been $380. Since it is the most efficient and rewarding "job" I've listed, I've decided to focus all my efforts into this business. I feel like I was led to Thirty-One because it was meant to be. I can't wait until I can help someone make that step in her life too.

So that's all I've got for you today. If you have any questions about ANY of the six options above, I'll gladly share more information.  I feel that as stay-at-home moms, we need to stick together and help each other out. That's what I want to do here. I hope everyone has a great weekend and is enjoying the Olympics! (Yeah, Missy Franklin!)

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Friends and summer nights

Mother Nature decided to give us a special gift these past couple weeks: a sauna-like atmosphere. With temperatures in the high 80s, sometimes into the 90s, we are sweating out all the unpleasantries. Who needs to go on a detox diet? Just visit WNY for a couple months out of the year.

While my little fam spends most of our days sitting in front of a fan and not making any unnecessary movement, we perk up as soon as the sun sets to take advantage of these gorgeous nights. With warm air and a cool breeze, it's perfect for sitting with friends and drinking a cold one.

I've had a wonderful, full week with friends and family. In fact, I feel very blessed as I write this. On the Fourth of July, my husband surprised our little family with a late-night drive to see the fireworks. It was honestly perfect. Little Olive just kept whispering, "They're so beautiful! I love all the colors." Before that, we had a fun cook-out with his family on their deck. On Thursday, I went out with friends to celebrate one of their birthdays. We enjoyed some Bud Light Lime and wings on the back patio of my favorite local bar. Friday night, I had one of the best talks of my life with inspiring friends. We were sitting out in the night air, on a front balcony. Tonight, my husband and I finally met up with some old friends to enjoy a bbq and play catch-up. It had been years since I'd seen most, so I couldn't have been happier to see them all.

I noticed there were two things in common with all these events:

1) Amazing company
2) Being able to enjoy the night

We have a cozy fire pit in our backyard; mix up a pitcher of red wine and Coca-Cola, and enjoy the fireflies.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Parisian Parenting

My husband and I have an ongoing, love-hate conversation when one of us is reading a book. It goes something like this:

Ian (while reading Game of Thrones): You should really read these books. They're just like Lord of the Rings but ten times better.
Me (heavy sigh while imagining several pages depicting gory battles, too many names due to long lineage, and confusing maps):  Booooring.

Me (while reading The Baby Book by Dr. Sears): Oh my gosh, you would get so much out of this. It's so good.
Ian (heavy sigh): Darling...I like stories...not those informational books.

Ian (while reading City of Glass): The story line is really cool...just ignore all the annoying girl stuff.
Me (two pages in): Booooring.

Me (while reading Still Alice): Seriously...this is a must read.
Ian (tired look): It's totally a female book.

So you can imagine my surprise when, after two days of flying through Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman, and telling him the entire time just how much I was enjoying it, Ian picks up the book........and doesn't put it down. I told him it was one of the most interesting books known to mankind, and by golly, he believed me!

I would like to clarify right away that this is not a self-help, parenting, step-by-step book at all, and I think that's exactly why I enjoyed it so much. It was more of a collection of cultural, psychological, and sociological observations. Oftentimes, I was curious to know what the author's personal opinion was regarding the specific strategy being addressed. But she didn't seem too keen on saying whether or not she believed everything was right (or wrong). For the most part, she simply presented what she was witnessing and let the readers form their own opinions.

This is not to say she never steered our thought processes in one direction or another. She has a semi-humorous way of writing that sometimes teeters on the edge of sarcastic and mocking. But it's done in such a way that it (hopefully) reminds people to take a second glance at certain things. For example: in the first chapter, she dives into pregnancy and birth - and lays it right out on the table how many American women act like having a natural birth entitles us to be condescending snots to every one who doesn't.

I've written before and complained often about the annoying, competitive women who brag about their horrible labors and the length of their suffering as if that makes them better than everyone else. I realized she's partially right. But then she makes epidurals and c-sections out to be a gift from God to save us from the horrors of birth. I think we have way too much complacency about epidurals and c-sections in our country, but I (personally) still respect the ones who end up getting them.

This semi-humbling, passive-aggressive opening perked my attention for the rest of her book. I was careful to maintain a rational point of view as I read the way she described the middle-class, Parisian parenting style. Even she admits, everything is generalized and does not pertain to every single American or every single Frenchman. (So if I say "the French do this" or "Americans do that", please don't jump down my throat with eyes popping out of your sockets shrieking, "I never dooo thaaaaat!")

French parents consider their job to be education, not discipline or punishment. They do their best to teach their children how to do or not to do something. Their philosophy is built on the fact that they perceive children as little adults. They treat children with respect and speak to them with an expectancy that children will do what they are told. This confidence in French parents often results in well-behaved children who seem to understand what is being said to them or asked of them - even young infants.

One of the most jaw-dropping differences between American and French parents is the way we handle our infants sleep schedules. In France, they refer to "sleeping through the night" as "doing his/her nights." Infants seem to never have sleep issues or keep their parents up at crazy hours, and this is because parents look at infants as little people who need help connecting their sleep cycles. They don't let their babies "cry it out" - but instead they do the pause when the baby wakes at night. They see their role as helping the child return to sleep so that every one can have a peaceful night. Of course, if they baby is fully awake and cries for more than a few minutes, they pick her/him up.

My first thought was, "But what if they're hungry?" They say that, of course, the babies might be hungry, but that they don't always need to eat. It was this area that I felt a struggle in fully accepting. I still feel that respecting the baby means meeting his needs - such as feeding and cuddling him when he needs it.

On the other hand, I can understand their reasoning that running over and picking up the baby every time he makes a squeak actually can disrupt his sleep instead of meeting his needs. I can see that many sleep problems might actually be caused by over-anxious parents. This whole French mindset of teaching the baby to wait starts a deeply-rooted belief that children cannot get everything they want when they ask for it. I personally do not agree with this for young babies, but boy, does it make sense for kids.

The French believe that when children are protected from frustration, they do not build character and cannot handle being told "no" or dealing with negative emotions or situations. How can they learn patience if they are never taught it? Children are not scarred from these small but frequent delays. Instant gratification never makes us truly happy, does it? The French believe that having a healthy amount of frustration and waiting makes children happy. Having limits seem to help these young children thrive. These limits and boundaries are very important to the French, who consistently stick to their cadre, or frame. This idea works by giving the children much freedom within these strict boundaries. They recognize that children need to have a certain amount of freedom just as adults do.

But Parisians are not permissive parents by any means. They command full authority, but not blindly. Even their word choice shows that they expect more of their children than to just "be good." They say sage (sah-je), which means "be wise and calm." Can you imagine talking to your American child using the words "Be calm and wise, Little Olive." While they will often listen to what their child is saying, in the end "it's me who decides." Their tone of voice and "big eyes" play a crucial role in making sure their children don't turn into "child kings." The author states that she rarely sees a French child collapse at being told no. Instead, they seem "oddly calm about not getting what they want right away" (60).

Of course, if this is sounding a little too Utopian for you, fear not that there were many a things about the French lifestyle that made me think, "No, thank you..."

The one I'll briefly mention but not dwell on here is the top-down system of the government involvement with education and the creche. I don't want to get on my libertarian soapbox here, but I also didn't want this to slip through the cracks. Maybe I'll dedicate another post to my thoughts on this. If not, oh can be left to ponder it yourself.

Another is the Frenchwoman's obsession about her weight and her figure, to the point where she will maintain a thin figure throughout pregnancy, and then immediately work herself back into skinny jeans after the baby pops out. The French scoff at the Americans' excuses to gorge themselves while being pregnant and letting themselves reach large scale numbers. I personally think there is a healthy medium that can make every one happy.

The last is the severe lack of support regarding breastfeeding. The author received a subtle resistance when she insisted on nursing her baby even after she started to attend the creche (day-care). Regardless of the amount of science showing how important it is for mother and baby to have this, French women simply don't see it as pleasurable enough to pursue. This goes along with their belief that becoming a mother doesn't mean one should become enslaved to her children. She should still be able to maintain her social life, her career, and her jean size.

Now, to spin this into something positive, I admire the French's idealogy that their lives should have  equilibre - balance! One part of the life should not overwhelm the others...even the parenting part. This lifestyle extends onto the children who are not enrolled in 50 million extracurricular activities. Not only is it draining as a parent to be maman-taxi, it is also stifling for the child. In fact, the French think children should "awaken" and discover as much on their own as possible (which is one of the main purposes of the cadre). 

Some of the most humorous parts of the book were stories of her describing American parents and the way they behave around their children. I laughed out loud as she described the mother asking her child if she wanted a snack of parsley sprig. (Parsley!) Parents need to chill out sometimes. She points out that American parents also feel the need to announce to the world what is going on. I admit, I catch myself doing this sometimes with the kids and realize now how dumb it can sound. "You see the grass? Yes, it's GREEN. It's green, and it's prickly and tall. Let's touch it. Do you want to touch it? Do you? Yeah? Okay! Okay let's gooooo!" French parents are in no hurry to push their kids to do things earlier and better than other kids, and this hit home with me. I've always liked Piaget's theories (79) and was excited to see his work referenced in some of the chapters.

In fact, found myself realizing that so much of the book made sense to me. French children eat remarkably well and are not known to be picky eaters by any means. This is due to the fact that children eat one snack a day - at 4pm. (That's right, I said one snack a day.) This is called the gouter (goo-tay). By not munching on food all day, children are hungry and ready to eat whatever is served at mealtimes. They believe that repeated and calm exposure to foods that we might think are "too adult" for small children eventually are taken in stride. With Little Olive, I've started following their path and will occasionally say no to her frequent requests for food (that's her "I'm bored" announcement). Then when we eat meals, instead of fighting over her eating something new, I tell her, "You just have to taste it."

Speaking of food, French women don't consider themselves to be on diets (apparently). Instead, they say they "pay attention" to what they eat. One of the author's friends described her eating habits as being very strict during the week, and then picking one day where she could eat whatever she wanted. This helped her brain know that it wasn't a forbidden food, but that she had to wait to have it. (Patience is a big thing over there.)

As my husband arrives at the end of the book, he asks the same questions as I do, mainly, "What are the longterm effects of these methods?" While I know there's always another perspective and additional research, I also know that the idea of raising independent, content, happy, calm, thriving, healthy, and polite children sounds pretty intriguing. And doing it in a respectful, calm, patient manner sounds even better.

Now everyone, if you could just help me along and stop stuffing Goldfish into the mouths of your children every 15 minutes, we could all be looking toward a brighter future. :)

No, but seriously, read the book and leave a comment below! I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Financial Aid Tips

My mother says I'll go back to school someday to become an English teacher. She sees my eyes light up when I talk about a good book or how much I enjoy proofreading my younger siblings papers. The thought of attending classes right now is more terrifying than (I want to type "a positive pregnancy test" but I honestly would be excited if that happened, so...what should I write...? Ah, I've got it) a zombie apocalypse. (Don't judge me.) But maybe in ten years, I'll feel differently about being a student again. But if I ever do go down that road, I'm going to be a bit wiser about student loans and paying off the degree while I'm earning it. I'm all about visuals, so I wanted to share this with everyone.

Brought to You by SNHU.EDU Online College Programs

Friday, June 01, 2012

Why I bought an enormous sunhat
I had an eye-opening, jaw-dropping realization a couple weeks ago when I finally discovered why I can become a little irritable playing outside with the kids. While I can't believe I'm going to complain about the sun and the heat, I can believe it's the root of the problem. I always picture myself going in the backyard and chasing after my kids with a huge smile on my face, with their adorable giggling and laughing echoing off neighboring houses. What happens instead is my eyes squint, and I immediately become tired and uncomfortably warm. "Mommy, push me" becomes a dreaded phrase to hear while I try to stay awake in four inches of shade under our gutters.

In a desperate attempt one day to make it through the heat until naptime, I threw on my Hubby's baseball cap and marched outside. As we stood together, pushing our kids on the swings, Hubby remarked that the cap looked cute on me, and then admiringly stated, "I see you're Protecting Your Eyes Against The Sun. Good for you." I thanked him and curtsied.

Actually, I didn't. But I realized that the baseball cap kept me super cool, as in temperature. That afternoon, I went to the store and treated myself to one of those Kentucky Derby-ish hats with an enormous brim and a cute flower on the side. I wear it as often as I can when we're out in the sun, and it's amazing how comfortable it is. No wonder Mexicans wear sombreros! It's like wearing an umbrella on your head. Check it out, ladies. Let's bring hats back into fashion.

Why I'm not getting an iPhone this summer

I'm not going to lie - I'd love a smart phone. I have an iTouch (which is practically an iPhone without the phone) and really get a lot of use out of it. It's super convenient to check messages, e-mail, or any social media while I'm away from the computer. Although it has a pretty crappy camera, I can still take pictures with it. People who walk around with smart phones have every thing right at their fingertips. How cool would that be. It doesn't matter to me whether it's an Apple product or an android; both seem awesome. If you have an android phone, check out some free android apps at the website, Free New. There are plenty of awesome apps you can download for free. Pretty stellar.

The reason, however, why I'm not going to purchase an iPhone anytime soon is because the monthly data package is an unnecessary expense for us right now. I only pay $27 for my AT&T GoPhone every month, and it's great for what I need. Is it cumbersome to carry around my cell phone, a camera, and my iTouch sometimes? Yes, but we pay for convenience in our society. And I'm pretty frugal as it is.

We are blazing ahead with "gazelle-like intensity" at paying off Hubby's student loans. Any extra money spent on a cell phone could easily be put toward getting debt-free. So, as much as I'd love to be a cool hip mom snapping pictures and immediately posting them onto FB, I'm going to wait on that. Y'all will have to put up with my crappy iTouch pics till then.

Au revoir!


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Potty Training and Poop Prize Charts

Welcome to my lengthy post about potty training. I wanted to write so much in order to remember every thing for the next time around with Baby Huck. Enjoy!

Last year I shared with you my thoughts on potty training Little Olive. That was August '11. It is now May 2012, and with LO being 30 months, I'm happy to say we have quite possibly arrived at Potty Trained Station. She hasn't had an accident in a while, so I'm going to knock on wood and stand proud. If you'd like to know how we got here, read on.

Pre-Potty Training Mindset
I was in no hurry to potty train. People would ask curiously about her Potty Training Status and observe that she was ready and would be training soon. I didn't mind...I was confident in my decision to wait. I'd seen setbacks and regression from pushing this too young. Besides, no way was I going to train my little child in the chill of winter. Imagine dragging a toddler and a newborn into public restrooms and fumbling with hats, coats, and boots while she sits on those dirty toilets. Not my cup of tea. Besides, she hadn't told me she was ready yet. With all seriousness, I was waiting for this announcement.

When it wasn't happening, I began to wonder if I was doing her a disservice. A part of me felt a little lazy for not training her. I pulled out The Baby Book by Dr. Sears and read every word about how he trained his kids. After that, I closed the book and looked at my husband. "We're training tomorrow."

What changed my mind so quickly?

It was the realization that Little Olive had all the ready signs:

1) Child is able to understand or make simple requests (I guess you could call this simple? "Mommy, I'm hungry. I would like peanut butter and jelly swamich - well, no I want peanut butter on a spoon. Not jelly on a spoon. Just peanut butter! Not a peanut butter and jelly swamich.")

2) Child is able to pull down/up pants (child has been changing her clothes hourly since she learned what dresses are)

3) Child recognizes body functions ("Mommy, I pooped in my diaper. Tan you change me, please?")

4) Child is able to "hold it" for a couple hours (check)

5) Demonstrates a desire for independence (you could say that)

6) Has words for urine and stool (poopdog, poopybottom, and peepee crack her up whenever she says them *in a goofy voice, of course*)

First Day
It was Monday morning. I was ready. I felt like the Target Lady talking to herself in the mirror before Black Friday. Around 8am I explained to Little Olive that we were not using diapers anymore. She covered her face and started bawling her eyes out.  It was as if I told her all the chocolate in the world had gone to sleep. I was not expecting that reaction! She slowly recovered and we went about our morning in underwear. Within two hours, she had soiled all pairs. We did a load of wash together as I explained to her (yet again) that she needed to tell me before letting the peepees come out.

Not going to lie, I started feeling discouraged. Was I just wasting my time? Was she ready?

That afternoon, she stayed dry. I was pretty amazed!

Second Day
We had one accident in the morning. Otherwise, she was dry! I was floored. Was it possible for a child to do it so easily? Good for her. We were so proud.

The next two weeks
I forgot to mention...this potty training success was pretty one-sided on the urine/stool spectrum. Little Olive showed determination when it came to going peepee in the potty. She was really understanding what it felt like beforehand. We'd ask her if she had to go, and sometimes she would say no. We learned quickly that forcing her to sit on the potty (because it had been a couple hours) was honestly a waste of time. She really knew when she had to pee and when she didn't.

But...(dun dun dun...)

Poop was not happening. She knew she had to go. We'd run to the bathroom, sit on the potty, wait a while, then she'd get up. We'd go play. She'd announce she had to go, we'd run to the bathroom, sit on the potty, wait, and still nothing. We would do this many times until she would just have an accident in her undies while playing.

Out came The Baby Book. Dr. Sears suggested putting a diaper on the child and having her do her business in the bathroom, so that hopefully she would make the connection. We tried this, but Little O flipped out when I suggested a diaper. I'd give her a choice: the diaper or the potty. She'd sit for a while, but guess what? Nothing would happen.

I would firmly (but still kindly) tell her after each accident that it was not ok...that big girls didn't go in their underwear. That she went peepee on the potty, and that the poopy goes in there too. She hated the accidents...she would come to me crying after each time.

With all honesty, I wasn't frustrated. A lot of mommies shared with me that their children did the same thing for a while...and that eventually they went on the potty. So I was okay. I was using positive reinforcement and encouraging her and cheering for her every time she said she had to go. But something just wasn't clicking with her yet.

Then I read about a mom who used a Prize Chart for her child, and within a few days, he was golden.

The 180
Now, I admit it. I am against prize charts. After all, what about intrinsic motivation!?

Little Olive's Prize Chart
But it sounded pretty tempting, so I decided to give this a try. I made a simple 5X5 chart with "Prize!" at the end of each line. 

The plan was that after each time she went poop on the potty, she'd put a sticker up all by herself. After 5 stickers, she'd get a prize. I brought it to her, showed her the chart and stickers, and explained what we were doing. I taped it onto the wall and just wanted to see what happened.

I kid you not, she pooped five times that day on the potty. I seriously was not prepared for it - I even had to make up a prize that night because I hadn't planned ahead that far.

Here we are, almost a week after starting this chart, and she has not had ONE accident in her underwear. 

This picture was taken a couple days ago. We're almost to her 4th prize right now. I make the prizes simple things, like pieces of chocolate, or a notepad and a pen (because she looooves her notepads and pens). I just find things to wrap up and she is so excited. At the end of the whole chart, I want to get her Buzz Lightyear underwear. We aren't the kind of family to buy things all the time...but I think she'll deserve some new undies.

My Thoughts
I never thought I'd be a prize chart parent. Like, never ever. But whatever it was that was keeping her from pooping on the potty went away as soon as she started putting up her sparkly chicken stickers.

There are a few reasons why I think this way worked:

1) After her initial breakdown over saying goodbye to diapers, Little Olive was excited about going on the potty in the beginning. I didn't need to bribe her to get started.

2) We waited until she was older and understood everything that was going on.

3) After she got comfortable going on the potty, we took it up a notch to get the poopies out.

If someone asked me, I would advise holding off on the prize chart when first starting out potty training. I'd only use it if there was a reason. In a perfect world, on a nice piece of paper, she wouldn't have needed prizes. But in a perfect world, adults wouldn't need incentives either. And I don't know about you, but I love me some extra credit. :)

So thanks for reading, and as always, thoughts, suggestions, and comments are always welcome!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Groovy 60s Costumes

How crazy is it that fashion recycles itself, and that vintage is a popular style these days. Bathing suits from the 50s, pants from the 80s, hair-dos from the 70s are coming back into circulation. In a way, it makes us want to learn about the 60s and figure out why people wore what they did. Despite how much we look at photographs from decades ago and think, "Did people really wear that?" it's inevitable that those same styles will be making it to the runway and your favorite fashion stores this very season.

Some of my favorite fashions come from the 60s. So when it came time for me to pick out a costume, I immediately checked out that genre first. Browsing through 60s costumes is an absolute blast. I could've been a go-go dancer, a superstar with awesome bouffant hair, or a full-fledge hippie. I went with a hippie and ordered the super cute 60s patchwork skirt.

When my skirt arrived, I was ecstatic. The fit was perfect, and the material was really soft. I was impressed that it was a genuine patchwork skirt - not just a print on fabric to make it look that way. The colors are vibrant, and the stitching appears to be very durable and secure. I am so pleased with this skirt and would recommend it to anyone needing that perfect hippie skirt. I can honestly say the length is the only thing I could complain about - it's just a little long for me. But then again, I'm only 5'3".

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Vaccines: Round Two

Last year I wrote a lengthy post on vaccines. Then I expressed my concerns about a few specific vaccines here. It was literally tearing me apart not knowing if I was making the best decision for my children. During our play dates, my SIL over at A Life Well Loved told me she felt the same way as I did. We didn't know what to do regarding the Pc and Hib vaccines. So we took it into our own hands to get some solid research and facts from a credible source, Dr. Sherry Tenpenny. We had our minds put to ease once and for all. Below are the notes my SIL typed up. (I have to give her credit because her notes are a billion times better than mine.)

Hib vaccine

  • The bacteria for this vaccine was most common for meningitis that resulted from ear infections.
  • Less than 2% of people suffered from these ear infections, and only some of these ended up with meningitis.
  • This bacteria has barely been in circulation since ‘91.
  • Now, instead of preventing against these ear infections or meningitis, the vaccine does the opposite and lends one more susceptible to ear infections.
  • Hib really isn’t a threat anymore.
  • If a child has an ear infection, instead of vaccinating, treat the ear infection!  Use an antibiotic if need be.  Must address ear infection since it may be the 1st sign of meningitis!
  • The vaccine, once injected into the body, creates an antibody that looks for a certain amino acid sequence to "attack".
  • If the antibody cannot find that sequence, it looks elsewhere, attaching itself to other parts inside the body such as the heart, other organs, eyes, ears, etc.  This is where insulin levels can be messed up and diabetes can result.

Pneumococcal vaccine (Prevnar 7 and Prevnar 13)

  • Works same as the above vaccine
  • Prevnar 7- you get 7 vaccines at one time. Likewise, you get 13 vaccines in one in Prevnar 13
  • Prevnar 13 was taken off the shelves in Japan and New Zealand because of the increase in seizures.
  • Prevnar was used to eliminate strep throat.
  • What these vaccines are doing is weakening the 7 or 13 strands of the illness but by doing so are strengthening the many other strands. Now when people come down with strep or worse, it is usually caused by the stronger strands -- not even the ones IN the vaccines! It was the weak strains of strep throat that would cause meningitis and septicemia (happened less than 1 in 1000). But now there are much stronger strains of strep now out there.

Both Hib and pneumococcal get into the ear through the throat into the Eustachian tube.  Be sure to treat the ear infection or strep throat!

Breastfed babies get antibodies through the iodine and colostrum in the breastmilk, so bacteria doesn’t get into the ear!

Babies, and breastfeeding moms, need high levels of iodine; it is critical for brain development and increases a person’s IQ by 10 pts.
  • A good source of iodine is sea veg or North Atlantic kelp.  Can give to toddlers as well.

Kids must also be on a probiotic, even the baby; there is a lactose-free kind called Culturelle.

These (iodine and probiotic) will prevent children from coming down with almost any infection!

Keeping good GI health is the most important! It’s not about the bug. It’s about each person’s individual health.

Health doesn’t come through a needle!  Vaccines won’t keep children healthy.

Also give vitamin D drops (1000 IU’s a day); keeps illness from becoming viral.

Rebuttal to vitamin D toxicity argument: you can’t really overdose on it.  In the 1930s, sailors were stranded at sea and ate polar bear meat and fat to stay alive.  Polar bears contain an extremely high level of vitamin D.  After several weeks on this diet only, these sailors became ill and were vomiting. Their levels of vitamin D were in the 1000’s.  As long as you don’t eat a polar bear, you should be good ;)  

Our population as a whole now has vitamin D deficiency.  Vitamin D also protects against cancer and other illnesses!

Meningitis in schools
  • As for dorming, meningitis is NOT more prevalent on a college campus or dorm room.  There is no higher incident in a dorm. It is more prevalent in general society.
  • Check out Holistic Moms online. These groups can help families regarding vaccine exemptions, school and state guidelines, etc.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

So it turns out I'm a schedule person

So old news: sometimes I feel overwhelmed. Very old news: all moms do. I have been trying to figure out a way to to handle everything, and I thought back to a time in my life where I was crazy busy. It was my first two years of college. I was going to school full-time, five days a week, and working three part-time jobs. Not to toot my own horn, but I thrived. My grades were perfect, and I was always on time, never called in, never got sick!, and actually rarely felt stressed. I attribute all this to the fact that I was ridiculously organized and felt "put-together".

Being a stay-at-home mom, sometimes I just try to go with the flow and do whatever I can during the day. But almost always, I forget about important things and, as a result, find myself frustrated trying to make it until bedtime. I decided to test out an idea of putting myself back on a schedule. I just needed to become more organized.

So I thought long and hard about what would work best for us. I typed it in pretty colors, hung it on our wall where every one can see it, and I'm sharing it with you. Here is what our daily schedule looks like...and some notes below. 
Our Day

7-8:                  Breakfast, movie, bathroom
8-9:                  Changes, laundry, play
9-10:               Daily chore, Huck's nap, play
10-11:            Errands, visits
11-12:            Lunch
12-2:               Nap and quiet time
2-3:                   Snack, errands
3-4:                   Play time, Huck's nap
4-5:                   Make dinner and tidy
5-6:                   Dinner and clean-up
6-7:                   Wind down, get ready for bed
7:30:                Bedtime

Daily Chore:
Mon:          Kitchen
Tues:        Little Olive's room
Wed:         Bathroom
Thurs:      Our room
Fri:              Dining room
Sat:            Living room

Every day, no matter what:
Give lots of hugs and kisses

My thoughts:
1) We don't follow it to a T every single day. For example, sometimes we visit with friends and family longer in the morning, or we completely switch things up and go in the afternoon. Some days we have no errands to run at all, so we end up filling those slots with other things. And some days we start off following it, ignore it for a few hours, then get back on track later. It has just helped me break down the day into do-able sections. I know what needs to (or can) get done within a certain time-frame, and it puts my mind at ease.

2) Little Olive has been doing so, so well these past two weeks. That's when we started following this schedule. I honestly believe that children need not only limits, but also a schedule. It helps them get a handle on life instead of not knowing what comes next. That can be distressing. (Heck, if it's stressful to us, imagine what it does to their little minds.)

3) The schedule has seemed to help me be more patient and include Little Olive more. She knows that when it's time for our daily chore, she can help me. Together we work on the same room instead of me doing all the work and her "getting in the way" and frustrating me.

4) The reason I picked one room every day to clean is because I turn into a crazy person trying to keep my whole house clean, all day, every day. It's such a relief looking at the dining room today and thinking, "I'll do that Friday. Don't stress about it now. Focus on the bathroom."

5) This schedule has actually given me more time to spend with my kids. I write down things during the morning that I want to get done during naptime. This way, I'm not on my phone, computer, or Facebook allll day long. After lunch, Little Olive goes up to her room. She plays quietly or sleeps so I can do work-type stuff.

I'm sure it will need tweaking as the children grow and their needs change. But for now, this really works for us. If you feel drawn to try it out in your home, I highly recommend it.