Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Distractible Day

    Today can be summed up in just a couple of words- scattered and distracted. Granted, we had a rather short night with frequent awakenings by Tennyson, which is bound to leave my mind a bit disorganized. On days like today having a well-practiced schedule/routine becomes a lifesaver! I used a dry erase marker to mark off the daily tasks as we accomplish them. It's a necessary way to keep me on task. I don't think we'd get anything done without it! Even with the schedule at hand, it still took me until lunch to finish the first tasks of the day! We didn't even get to a walk with the stroller, which is a bummer since it won't be too much longer for us to get outside.
I'm so grateful for his cheerful disposition!
      We still had a good day together with lots of chatting and exploration during playtime on the floor. He's becoming increasingly mobile! Gone are the days of simply laying him on a blanket on the floor with some toys!

That tongue! Hahaha!

      My recent Amazon order arrived. (I love Amazon!). We have a big trip coming up soon and I wanted a few items to make it a bit easier for us. This will be our third long trip with Tennyson, and I've learned a few tricks for traveling with a baby. A new toy and/or book is always helpful to recapture his interest when he reaches the point of being over the car ride. For this trip I purchased the book, Winnie the Pooh's Book of Opposites. I think he'll enjoy the colorful animations on the pages. I also got him another Haba toy, the "Color Duo." He has the "Whirlygig" and loves it. Haba continues to impress me with the quality and creativity of their toys. This toy is no exception! I'm excited for him to get to manipulate and explore this little toy during the car ride. The challenge will be to not show them to him until the trip. I think I get just as excited to see him discover a new toy as he does! haha

     I also purchased a set of "Really Little Green Pouch(es)." I would like to continue to offer him our homemade foods even when traveling. Another reason for the pouches is that I have an idea that we'll spend few meal occasions at the cabin or at the appropriate time. So, I intend to prepare meals in these pouches and freeze them. Then, when I need one I simply allow to thaw and squirt it onto an attached spoon (which I still need to purchase). Now, I just need to determine the meals and start preparing them.

The day wrapped up nicely. David got off work early. He and Tennyson spent some time together while I ran an errand to Target to exchange some shirts. When I came back, Tennyson was taking a short nap and David was working on dinner- butternut squash risotto. (He wrote his recipe down for me, and so I'll share in a later post. It was delicious and perfect for fall!). We then went upstairs for bedtime storytime. I wish I could have captured the moment in a photo. All three of us were laying on the bed on our backs looking up at the book. We read several, but for the last one (The Little Engine that Could) we took turns reading the parts. We laughed so hard! I love the simple moments of life.

     So, at the end of the day I accomplished the main areas of our day- myself and Tennyson fully presentable in appearance, a load of laundry washed, folded/hung and put away, kitchen cleaned up after each meal and at the end of the day, lots of chatting and playtime with Tennyson, an errand completed, lovely dinner, and sweet family time moment reading stories and settling down for bed. It wasn't super productive and I will need to catch up on my weekly cleaning routine, but we all maintained a pleasant disposition and enjoyed each other's company. I'm calling it a success. (Though, I do hope my organized & diligent mind returns for tomorrow! haha)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Debt Snowball- Another One Bites the Dust!

This is a portion of the "book" of claims associated with the
pregnancy, birth, and Tennyson's hospitalizations. You know it's bad when
the claim recaps arrive by a shipped package instead of through the regular mail.
      When the bills hit following my high-risk pregnancy, c-section, and four weeks of hospitalization for Tennyson, they hit hard. One evening while paying bills I realized I had spent over an hour clicking "submit" and writing checks. I then counted the billing statements piled up to my side- 22. We were paying 22 bills each month!

          I've long been on the side of wanting less debt in our lives. Now, we needed less debt. Just keeping up with all the statements that arrived throughout the month was a nightmare. Yet, I've been told several times to "not worry about it" and to "just pay something no matter how small the amount." Ugh, such bad advice. First, not everyone will accept just any amount. Nearly all of the bills required a $25-50/month minimum payment (uh huh..do the math). Second, debt should be something to be concerned about. If we just didn't worry about it then we'd eventually find ourselves stretched too thin and living paycheck to paycheck. Opportunities, including that of working within the home and affording additional children, would be severely limited. 

     I ended that evening of bill paying with a good laugh at the ridiculousness of it all and a resolve to see it gone. My plan has been to use the debt snowball method. I rank all the bills according to amount, smallest to largest. Each time I finish paying a bill, I first and foremost resist the temptation to consider it as funds gained. Then, I apply it to the minimal payment of the next bill. Little by little the giant stack of twenty-two bills is getting smaller. Bills are being paid off completely years sooner than the minimal payment plan! That's an incredible burden lifted and life regained! 

     Despite the debt-elimination motivation gained from current progress, we still aren't aiming at being completely debt free. We desire to focus on being debt-limited and continue allowing our family to grow. Since we know that all pregnancies will be high-risk and followed by a premature c-section birth and NICU stay, we do have to be mindful of finances. We want the expenses from one child to be manageable, so that we could then safely take on additional expenses associated with another child. Waiting until one child's expenses is completely paid before having another child would risk not having that additional child at all (did you see the giant stack in the photo?!). Honestly, it's freeing to know that we are making choices that permit us to continue to accept a child whenever God see's fit. (It's also freeing to know that I don't have to keep up with paying twenty-two bills every month!). Hooray for making progress! :)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Mama's Media Time

     My media time has been on my heart lately. The impact of media (or screen time) has been well documented.. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time until the age of two and then only one to two hours per day for older children. We've chosen to abide by this recommendation for our child. However, I've been burdened as to if this is sufficient. A child is influenced by screens not just through direct access, but also through a parent's personal use. Though we are media limited in our home, I've grown convicted that the screen time I do have is still inappropriate.

      Sometimes I long for a "simple" life- a life free of the constant beckoning of the cell phone screen, television screen, and computer screen. I wonder if life, especially mothering, was easier in the past without these gadgets. While they can be a great aid, I've found them to also be a greater distraction. My attention is pulled away from greater priorities numerous times each day. Why is their draw so intense?

       I've contemplated the potential reasons. First, outlets such as social media can provide an instantaneous sense of approval and attention. A simple post can bring numerous favorable responses. Who doesn't enjoy being "liked" over and over? However, seeking approval of oneself from others is an endless fruitlessness. God's approval is superior and solely significant. Also, one must have intimate knowledge of and confidence in oneself. Approval and/or attention from others cannot serve this purpose. Moreover, I have a wonderful man and little man as my family, and their attention is by far greater than any that could be achieved through a screen. If I feel as though I'm not receiving adequate attention from them (and one doesn't count as he's just a baby who offers lots of attention), then perhaps I need to take initiative to offer them greater attention (ie don't expect a return for little investment). 

     Second, screens can serve as a means of escape. Screens have the ability to fully capture one's attention. For that moment, you're entirely apart of that other world. On occasion, that "other world" has been more desirable than my own whether it be due to difficulty or boredom. While reading the book Desperate by Sarah Mae and Sallie Clarkson, I was struck by the notion of being a willing participant in life. In essence, when you accept all parts of your life, then escaping is less desirable. Honestly, when I step away from the moment and examine my life my heart if bursting. Pinterest, Facebook, blogs etc. all seem less exciting in comparison to the life I have with my family. I want my home and family to be my "escape" in life.

     Finally, it's undeniable that screens have intercepted nearly every facet of life, even mothering. I feel as though attention to screens and/or media negatively impacts my mothering. My attention is pulled away from my role as my husband's wife and my son's mama. How much greater time and energy would I have if the sum of screen time is applied elsewhere? The habit is also a poor example to my son. I feel a bit of a hypocrite by denying his access to screens due to negative influence yet permit myself boundless access despite the same (if not additional) negatives. If I desire for my son to learn to partake of screen time with self-control and discipline, then I must first exhibit those characteristics myself. Most of all, I want my son (as well as my husband) to know that he is more valued to me than anything else. I don't want him/them to feel as though they must compete with a screen for my attention (and for a child this means acting out). I also want him/them to feel as though my love is so great that I am a willing participant in the life that includes them. 

      Does this mean that I ought to close all online accounts and/or rid myself of the television set, computer, or cell phone (this is actually the entirety of our electronics in our home)? Do I strictly guard my child against screen time? Not necessarily. I believe God has placed the matter of screen time on my heart lately to bring me back to a place of balance (in addition to other lessons). I want my child to understand that there is balance in and appropriate times for all things. I enjoy using a schedule/routine in our days for this purpose. At the bottom of the page and at the end of the day, there is a block of time designated as "personal time." This is the time to devote to any interests, including computer and television usage. I need to establish new habits such as shutting down all devices at the end of the day, reminding myself to keep them off throughout the day, and then turning them on only during that designated time. Ultimately, nothing is as valuable as investing in my home and family. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Soaking Up the Sunshine

    One of my intentions for this blog is to use it as a journal to tell the story of our lives; that story will inevitably be a homemaking story. I've come to see an account of homemaking as not just the "how to ____" but also those stories of day to day life. Homemaking as a simple way of life, and how better to demonstrate that endeavor than to simply tell the stories.

    Tonight, I'm too weary to write and so I will simply share some photos of our day today. As I view these photos once more I'm reassured that our day wasn't a complete disaster. (We continue to struggle with an extreme level of sleep deprivation and resulting poor temperaments as well as other consequences). We had some great moments though. I pray that these are the moments we'll remember.

Our Day In Photos:

He spent the night in our bed last night, which is not ideal. But we were desperate for a little more rest. I love this picture of him peacefully sleeping

Awake and ready to explore.. everything!


He has such a fascination with my nose and mouth during nursing sessions!

Story time! Well..story time before he tried to eat the book. haha 

Playtime outside. Soaking up the sunshine while we still can!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Too Tired To Be a Wife and/or Mama

   Today has been one of those days. One of those days in which the television screen probably could have been a better mama than me. My strength to perform the roles of wife and mama is critically low. I'm bone tired.

    I'm the weakest when I'm exhausted. My capacity to display patience and love diminishes drastically. I'm far from the wife and mama I want to be on these days. I scream and yell. I speak harshly. I walk away from them repeatedly to cool off. I know they're not intentionally trying to push every button of mine, but I still struggle. I'm so ashamed of my behavior on these days. I pray that Tennyson won't remember them, and that I can somehow learn to overcome before he does reach an age in which he is negatively impacted. I want him to have fond memories of his mama, not such poor ones that he can't wait to grow up and leave. Days like today I question my ability to be a mama. I also question whether I should deserve to ever have more children. It's a low point for sure.

    The cause for exhaustion stems from the fact that even though Tennyson is eight months old he often still sleeps like a newborn that is up every couple of hours. I wish I knew why he does this or how to correct his behavior. He doesn't wake up upset or in any sort of distress (such as if he was in discomfort from teething). Instead, he wakes up ready to explore and play. He's always done this. He'll be content and play for a bit, but then will cry if not attended to at some point. I think part of the issue is that he sees us across the room and wants our attention. We had planned on leaving his crib in our room until he was a year old, but I'm ready to move him to his own room. My husband, however, wants him to remain close. We're still "discussing" the matter. (With a night like last night followed by an overtired fussy and nap-less day today, my "discussing" may become a bit louder). At this point I need some more rest. I need him to learn a little quicker to sleep independently. We all need better days to remain healthy as individuals and as a family.

    (Sleepless nights often mean he's overtired the next day. He'll be so fussy and yet continue to resist taking naps beyond 20-30 minute catnaps at which point he wakes and is ready to get up. That means not much opportunity for me to rest as well.).  I took Tennyson on a walk this afternoon hoping he'd fall asleep for a nap. It's bad when you can fall asleep walking. He got drowsy but stayed awake. I rocked him for a bit when we got in, but he pushed back wanting down to play. I then laid him in his crib, stepped out of the room, and cried big tears of desperation. He's such an "angel" baby with a very happy and content personality...except when it comes to sleeping. It's like he just doesn't want to miss out on anything. It is wearing me out. They say you'll be tired when you're a mama, but I never imagined I'd be this tired for eight months.

     I've finally gotten him to sleep, and so I'm going to go lay down as well. I wanted to take a moment to get some of this off my chest. *Sigh* It's been such a miserable day. Hopefully this afternoon nap will do us both some good and we'll have a much better evening.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Shopping spree ... consignment style!

    Twice a year an enormous consignment event is organized in my town. I got a preview of it during the spring, and then began saving for the fall event.  Unlike consignment stores that I've been to, this event has a huge selection of really nice (often namebrand!) clothing, toys and gear and the prices are much less. When the doors opened for shoppers...let's just say this Mama had some fun!

     It was great being able to just go through the racks and grab items up without worry of expense. (Most items are $3-4). My goal was to complete Tennyson's 9 month wardrobe, have his 12 month wardrobe nearly complete, and perhaps begin his 18 month clothes. Mission accomplished! I found lots of warm pieces that will be perfect for a PA winter! I also found a few pieces for myself (perks of still fitting into "teen" sizes at 28!).

     As a natural penny pincher, I felt a little in shock over the total spent. However, Tennyson has to have clothes to wear, especially warm clothes, and I would've spent a whole lot more if I had purchased things in a store. A friend of mine reassured me that I got some great deals, and shared with me that she had spend much more and gotten much less from her recent shopping at Carters. Phew!

Here's a list of my shopping finds:

  • Size 2 shoes $2.00 (brand new!)
  • Pants x2  (12-18 mo.) x2 - $8.00 Old Navy
  • Overalls (12-18 mo.) - $3.00 Old Navy
  • Pajamas x3 (12 mo.) - $11.00 Carters
  • Sweaters x2 (12 mo.) - $8.00 Children's Place
  • Plaid button front shirts x7 (12-18 mo.) - $27.00 Gap, Old Navy, Children's Place
  • Jackets, coats and raincoat x5 - $26 Talbots Kids, Faded Glory, Wendy Bellissimo, Old Navy, Gap (includes raincoat, hooded jacket, fleece jacket, 3-in-1 winter coat and wool coat)
  • Pajamas x5 (9 mo)- $16 Carters
  • Pants (9 mo). $2.00 Carters
  • Flannel button front shirts x2 (9 mo.) - $3.50
  • Long sleeve t-shirt (9 mo.) - $1.50 Carters
  • Fleece vest (9 mo.) - $2.00 Carters
  • {me} Plaid button front shirts - $28.00 Aeropostale, American Eagle ($6 Aeropostale shirt didn't fit)
  • {me} Wool peacoat - $12 Old Navy
  • {me} White puffy vest - $15 Gap  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Flying Solo

    David had to work at another facility a couple hours away this week. Not only was I going to miss him, but I was a bit nervous about flying solo in parenting. It has certainly been a growing experience!

    I have learned so many things during this brief time. The greatest lesson has been that I'm capable of far more than I give myself credit. When you have no one to lean on, assist you or rescue tough situations, you find out just how strong and capable you are. (You also find out just how dependent you had been previously). It was all me all the time- all the cooking, all the cleaning and all the childcare. It was a lot of work! It was also quite exhausting. Yet, we made it through. I can now proceed in my role as a Mama and homemaker with far greater confidence than I ever had.

     Being all me all the time, I learned a few keys to having a more successful day:

1. Sleep when the baby sleeps- Considering the amount of work that must occur during the day, often I needed an hour or two after he went to sleep to finish everything. I was also the only one getting up with him during the night. Those two deficits meant that I had to take a nap during the day. I opted for the morning nap time which is typically fairly brief. Just a little snooze to feel refreshed and ready for the rest of the day.

2. A tidy home is essential- Starting the day with yesterday's mess is the quickest way to have a struggling day. Tending to the housework will take three times as long to accomplish while also tending to a baby. There's no time or energy to clean up big messes. Keeping messes contained to only that which pertains to that day keeps it manageable. Furthermore, you absolutely don't want to have to spend extra time looking for or preparing an item for use on the spot because that by the time you finish the baby will be demanding your attention and you've just gotten to a point of starting.
     For instance, cooking dinner took three times as long the first night because the kitchen was messy when I started. Soon enough, Tennyson was tired and about to meltdown. Yet, I had meal components that had to be finished. I ended up not finishing the meal and eating until 8pm. Ugh. Also, it took me two entire days to clean it up the house. It wasn't two days worthy of a mess, but with a baby it took me so much longer to get it all picked up. Meanwhile, Tennyson had to just play independently more than he normally does. Replacing time to spend with my children with housework saddens my heart. I have definitely learned from the consequences of a disorderly home!

3. There's no sense getting bent out of shape over a tough situation. Sometimes I feel that people get bent out of shape over a tough situation just because there is an audience. Our audience can unintentionally feed our poor habits/ character qualities by offering us attention in response. Interesting how I had a better attitude when it was just Tennyson and myself. This goes to show me that I am capable of more self-control than I believed myself to be (I had always attributed p.p.m.d. hormones to a lack of emotional self-control, but I did demonstrate an ability to overcome which means it is possible).

Friday, September 5, 2014

Daily Routine (with 6-12 month old baby)

     I've used a schedule for our days for several months. Though this latest schedule says "6 months adjusted - 8 months actual," it will probably be the one we use until he's a year old. I've once again aimed at pairing our activities up so that there are times in the day in which I'm fully attentive to him and times in which he can play independently while I work on the home or meals. I've learned that "doing it all" is all about balance and smart, proactive planning!
(Click image to view larger)
Edits: 7:15-7:25am Get ready for day
7:25-7:45am Breakfast, Clean-up and Table activity
7:45-9:00am Independent play

(Click image to view larger)

A few notes about our current schedule:
  • Tennyson still wakes at least 2-3 times at night. (Some nights it's all night long!) I learned at about 5 months old that until he does sleep through the night, then I also need to rest during the day. I'm able to be more focused, enthusiastic, calm and patient with adequate rest. In other words, I'm able to be a much better wife and mama! I may rest the entire time or only half the time. The important part is that I am intentional about resting during the day if I'm up during the night.
  • The blocks of independent playtime not only allow him opportunity to learn through exploration and develop his motor skills, but it also allow me additional time to accomplish remaining tasks such as laundry and/or dishes.
  • We frequently use playtime suggestions found on the websites Productive Parenting and Let's Play as well as the book Retro Baby. All are excellent for providing interaction-based play.
  • "Table activity" refers to any activity that can be done while seated at the table. Currently, this simply involves a toy or two (we often keep a toy or two stored in the back of his high chair that are brought out only at this time.). This trains him to not expect to get up as soon as he is finished, which is helpful in developing patience for waiting until others are finished eating and for enjoying a meal away from home. It also allows me to clean up the mealtime mess before we move on with the day. I feel it's important for him to see that we are responsible for cleaning up after ourselves and maintaining order in the home.
  • I've simplified my cleaning routine tremendously so that it is achievable within this block of time each day. This is important for maintaining order within the home, especially with a child(ren).
  • David and I both enjoy cooking, and so we alternate nights in which each of us prepares a meal. Whoever doesn't cook spends time with Tennyson. Though it's not written as such on the schedule, we've since implemented the rule that the non-cook cleans up after the meal. This way the workload is shared in the evenings. 
  • I don't always take my "personal time." If I haven't been very diligent or on-task during the day, then I may have work leftover that needs accomplished first. In a way, it serves as motivation to stay focused during the day! Other times, I decide that an extra thirty minutes of sleep is a worthy use of personal time!
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