Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Celebration

 
    Growing up, my family celebrated Halloween with non-frightening costumes and trick-or-treating. Many years my mother sewed our costumes. We would start the evening by first visiting each of our grandparents to show off our outfits and trick-or-treat. Then, we'd go house to house in our neighborhood.
 
    I had a cousin who wasn't allowed to participate in Halloween for religious reasons. I didn't quite understand why, but didn't really ask either. For us, it was always a fun and innocent occasion. Even as an adult, I didn't think much of Halloween. I carved a pumpkin and bought candy to hand out to the little trick-or-treaters each year.
 
      Then, David and I moved to a different area of the country and became exposed to an entirely different side of Halloween. Halloween isn't just an occasion for costumes and candy, it's a full celebration. The town even holds a parade in honor of the occasion. In August houses are decorated with fall scarecrows, pumpkins and mums much like they are where we grew up. But by mid-September those decorations are removed, and in their place come bloody dismembered heads, hands and feet hanging from porches, front yards transformed into graveyards- some with the likes of decomposed bodies partially appearing from the "plots," portrayals of demons and ghosts in windows. It's not hard at all to find one of these displays. Terrifying "haunted" houses are very popular as well. To us, it's all shocking and disturbing. It's just not something that is practiced where we grew up. It has definitely exposed us to the full scope of the Halloween holiday.
 
     We discussed how we would desire to handle Halloween for our family. We noted that even if friendly costumes and candy was the extent of participation, there still exists some element of the holiday which elicits a sinister nature of celebration. We don't desire to be a part of anything which would have that kind of characteristic. So, our son will not be dressed up in a costume and we will not be handing out candy (hooray for saving all that money!). We will be inside our home enjoy family time just like any other evening. In the future, we may use this night as a movie night and do a fun meal or activity.

      As long as we make the evening fun and emphasize togetherness, we don't believe our children will be missing out on anything. We have lots of other ways to celebrate the end of the year seasons and holidays. We currently have a list of activities for the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. I hope to create a fall activities list for next year. We're always celebrating this time of year, but very purposeful as to what we're celebrating.

      (Note: This is a highly debated topic, and I'm not looking for a debate. I'm simply sharing what we've decided for our family. If your family chooses something else, then I respect that. I ask that you respect our choice and reasoning as well. Thanks)
      

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Accentuate the Positive

     Life has been rather stressful lately. I've withheld from blogging much because I don't want to just spew negativity. That doesn't benefit anyone. Nonetheless, negativity and an overall sour disposition has been with me for a while.
 
     In an attempt to "turn that frown upside down" I'll share a few photos and other good things that have been happening as well. As the old song says, "accentuate the positive/ eliminate the negative/ latch on to the affirmative/ don't mess with Mr. In Between."
 
1) This little man is such a joy to greet in the mornings. He always wakes up so happy!

Oh, you know. Just chatting with my monkey friend. :)
 2) We took him to the park for the first time. He really enjoyed himself! We enjoyed watching him explore and take it all in. Can't wait to take him back in the spring!


3) He is growing up so fast! Sometimes I look at him and see a toddler instead of an infant. He had a Dr. appointment recently, and had a good report. He's made great progress in his growth and development! He's such an amazing little preemie man!

Oh, the mischief waiting to happen!

4) I've been working to finish up my pregnancy journal from when I was pregnant with Tennyson. I've really enjoyed getting to go back through all those pictures and posts. I set a goal to have it done by the time I start the next one which will be at 10 weeks (soon!).

     I've also been working on another photo book to be a family yearbook. Instead of printing (or in my case, not printing and then losing the photos on the computer) photos and storing them, I've decided to create photo books for each year. The books take up much, much less space (hooray!) and are more pleasant to look through. I'm so excited to see it come together!

 

5) I've been focused on "Operation Clean Out and Get Organized." I feel that it is important (and possible!) to not necessarily need a bigger space, but to better utilize the space we already have. I have a "To Sell" list and a "To Purchase" list. Now that Tennyson is getting more mobile and we'll have another child soon, I'm feeling the necessity for cleaning out things that aren't absolutely essential and getting what remains highly organized. Fortunately, minimalism and organization are two of my favorite things! I worked on our clothing today, and feel quite accomplished to have gotten everything to fit nicely in our small closet.


    Okay, so I am going to break into the negative side of life for just a moment. Contrary to that peppy song, sometimes you can't eliminate the negative. You have to confront it.

     My sister went for her first ob appointment today and discovered that she had lost the baby. She had been trying to conceive for a while, and finally did but now must endure greater loss. My heart is breaking. It's also trembling in fear of facing the same situation. She was only one week behind me in her pregnancy. My first ob appointment is next week. David and I have celebrated this little life from the beginning, but now I find myself cautious. I don't want to be. I want to be fully accepting. These moments hit you hardest when you can relate. My heart is just so heavy for her and myself.

     I'm reminded that there is no guarantee of conception and/or continuing to carry. Pregnancy and the child within are such incredible gifts. I don't take that for granted. For this reason, we've chosen to welcome the gift of children in our family. I don't fully understand the negative tone and question of "why" we would choose to have more children now. To me, conceiving and carrying a child is the ultimate display of beauty. I cherish it.

    I pray I might get to see this beauty flourish. I also pray she might get another chance to do the same.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Menu Plan: Fall (Oct. 26 - Nov. 1)

     I'm in a cozy comfort foods mood for this week's menu. I'm still working in plenty of greens though! The menu is also a little meat-heavy. We typically try to do half meat and half meatless meals, but during pregnancy I tend to plan many more meat meals. Mama needs the extra protein! haha. I've yet to figure out how to cook nutrient-dense meals without such a high grocery bill. Suggestions welcome ;)

Strategies this week:
- Now that we're expecting baby #2, I'm going to try to create more nutritious breakfasts and snacks for myself. Eating a little snack every two hours really helps keep down sickness. 
 - Planned leftovers has become a favorite of mine. I enjoy not having to make a big cooking fuss in the middle of the day
- Theme options: slow cooker, sandwich, salad, soup, pasta, pizza, quesadilla, potato, fish/seafood

Breakfasts
- Pear and grains cereal (quinoa, pear, dried cranberries, pecans, honey, cinnamon)
- Eggs, bacon, toast, orange
- Green smoothie
- Parfait (yogurt, mixed berries, honey, almonds)


Lunches
- (Salad) Club (greens, toasted almonds, bacon crumbles, tomatoes, cucumber, shredded chicken, avocado with homemade honey mustard mustard dressing or choice)
- (potato) Idaho sunrise
- (soup & slow cooker) Chili with Fritos and cheddar cheese
- leftover chili
- (sandwich) ABC (apple, bacon, cheddar) sandwiches, carrots and celery sticks with hummus

Dinners
- Hot dogs, kale chips
- Pork chops with spiced apples, green beans, sweet potato
-

Snacks
- apple and peanut butter
- granola/protein bar
- whole wheat crackers with cheddar cheese slices
- popcorn
- carrots with hummus
- cottage cheese and pineapple
- hardboiled egg

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Traveling with a Baby


    We've taken a few long trips with Tennyson and learned a few tricks along the way.

1. Understand that car rides are hard on a little one, so take frequent breaks- Unlike adults, an infant is strapped down into that seat. There's no shifting or adjusting of position. Frequent breaks are essential. I like to aim for stopping and getting him out for a bit every 1.5-3 hours. Yes, it makes for an even longer trip, but you do what you have to do in caring for the baby.

2. Classical music is magical- I've tried playing classical music with other babies in the car and it had little to no effect on them. For Tennyson, it's magical. We turn the volume up to make our car a moving orchestra. The more strings or piano the piece has the better. It's amazing how he'll suddenly stop what he's doing and concentrate on the sounds. He can be in a full fit and will tune in so intensely to the music. We've traveled several times with one or two particular pieces on repeat. Perhaps we have a future music man.

3. Have a variety of toys and books- You don't have to have an armful of toys just to pacify the baby when traveling. The key is rotation. I pack a handful of toys, particularly clutching toys at this stage. He gets about two at a time, and then periodically I trade those for another set of two. The rotation allows the toys to always be fresh and something new to explore. For really long trips, I will purchase a new toy or two just for the ride. After quite a few hours on the road, the new toy helps revitalize his interest and ability to continue riding.

4. Be the backseat buddy- I currently ride in the backseat with Tennyson on long trips. It's a bit awkward and I feel like I've suddenly lost twenty years in age, but I'm better able to interact with him there. I can play and talk with him, and read him books. It would be awfully lonely back there if not, especially since his seat faces the back instead of the front where we are. Later, he and his sibling will be backseat buddies.

5. Be prepared for mealtimes- Our recent trip was the first once since he's been eating solid foods. I make his food homemade at home, and wanted to continue offering him the same while traveling. I purchased a set of "Really Little Green Pouches," which are reusable food pouches. I then simply cooked his food like normal, filled the pouches, and then froze them. The frozen pouches also served the purpose of being ice packs in the cooler. Each evening, I pulled out the pouch(es) needed for the next day to allow it/them to thaw. Any additional thawing could be accomplished with a simple bowl of warm water.

6. A travel bed maintains personal sleeping space- I purchase a basic pack n' play specifically for traveling. We don't co-sleep in our home, and so the pack n' play continues to support the notion of his bed vs. our bed. He has slept in it wonderfully no matter where we've been. Next year, I'll need to purchase another pack n' play and carry two of them when traveling for both our children! haha

7. Maintain routine(s) as best as possible- Even when traveling, I try my best to maintain his regular eating and sleeping times. I don't believe in making a baby wait to eat until it's convenient for the adults to eat. Nutritious foods tend to slide when traveling or on vacation, but it's important to keep in mind the negative impact of junk (or nutritionally empty) food. Proper bedtime is also something that tends to get pushed back while traveling or on vacation. I don't believe in keeping a baby up past bedtime just because it's a vacation. A hungry and sleepy baby will quickly make that vacation less of a vacation. Properly caring for the baby is priority.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Flashback- Preparing for Baby #1 (Newborn Essentials List)

    I posted a list of desired items in preparation for our second baby recently. That list builds off the list I used for our first baby. I thought I might take the opportunity to share the "Preparing for Baby #1" list as well. 

    I took a minimalist approach to baby items with our first baby. I don't believe babies really need that much stuff. There is also not a tremendous amount of space in our home. Last, I needed to keep expenses affordable as we would be buying practically everything on our own.
 
     This list covers just the basics for newborn to one month old. The main area that is left off this list is feeding and toys. I figured I'd purchase a high chair and any items associated with feeding solid foods at that time. I also left toys to be purchased at a later time. Young infants are more fascinated and stimulated with their environment and direct interaction than toys. I later began purchasing one toy and book each month. I also haven't included postpartum items. At the time I had been preparing for a Bradley Method birth, and had a separate list for those items. However, I seem to have misplaced that list.

     If you're going to have showers or other occasions in which items might be purchased for you, then you may want to expand the list to cover the first six months or even the first year entirely. My focus had to be on getting what I could when I could for us.

    The funny part about this list- I made it on a Thursday morning and he arrived unexpectedly by Friday morning. I had been planning on having seven more weeks to get what we needed! Fortunately, we had a carseat. Everything else was a bit of a scramble.

      Thus, I highly recommend being fully prepared before the third trimester. If you're fortunate to have showers, then kindly request they be scheduled sooner than later. Trust me, it's stressful to have a baby arrive and barely anything prepared at home!

      I've listed the quantities we've used in parenthesis beside each item. I've also included the specific items we've purchased. There were several items that we didn't really need, and I've left those off the list. The items included are just the basics for a newborn based on my experience. I'll try to get the list reformatted into a chart later, which would be easier to read.


Newborn Essentials List
(Birth to One Month)
Clothing
*One-piece sleepers (7)
*Newborn hats (2-3)
handmade by Grandma
*Onesies/outfits (7-14)
If baby is a heavy spitter-upper then more outfits are recommended
*Socks (3-6 pairs)
 
*Large blanket (1)
*Receiving blankets (3-6)
 
 
Diapering
* Cloth diaper detergent (1-2)
Rockin Green
* Cloth diaper pail liner (1-2)
Planet Wise Diaper Pail Liner, Slate
* Travel wet bag (1)
Planet Wise Diaper Bag, Small, Monkey Fun print
* AIO cloth diapers (24)
Bum Genius Freetime All-in-One, One-Size, Snap Closure
* Changing pad (1)
Summer Infant Contoured Changing Pad
* Changing pad cover (1-2)
Summer Ultra Plus Changing Pad Cover, Geo print
* Lotion/ointment
Burts Bees (not used with cloth diapers)
* Disposable diapers (2 boxes)
Huggies Snug and Dry
* Disposable wipes (3 packages)
Huggies Natural Care
* Diaper sprayer
FuzziBunz Diaper Sprayer, Chrome
* Diaper pail
 
Bathing
* Baby wash
Burts Bees / Johnson and Johnson
* Baby shampoo
Burts Bees / Johnson and Johnson
* Baby lotion
Burts Bees / Johnson and Johnson
* Baby massage oil
Burts Bees
 
Feeding
* Nursing pillow (1)
Boppy
* Nursing pillow cover (1)
Handmade (not actually accomplished, but still hope to one day)
* Reusable cloth nursing pads (8-16)
FuzziBunz
* Disposable nursing pads (2 boxes)
Lansinoh
* Breast pump
Medela Pump In Style Advanced (free to me due to preemie situation)
* Milk storage bags (2 boxes)
Lansinoh
* Bibs (2-4)
* Bottles (3 if breastfeeding, 4-8 if bottle feeding)
Purchased LifeFactory, Used Dr Browns
* BottleNipples, stage 1 (3 or 4-8 depending on use)
Purchased LifeFactory, Used Dr Browns
* Bottle brush (1)
* Accessory brush (for the pump parts) (1)
* Nursing cover
Bizzy Babee Nursing Cover (The best nursing cover!)
* Burp cloths (7-14+, more if you have a heavy spitter-upper)
Gerber Birdseye Prefold Diapers
 
Sleeping
*Crib (1)
Ikea Sundvik crib, black-brown
* Mattress (1)
Sealy brand, Target
* Mattress pad (1)
Target
* Fitted sheets (2)
Target
* Baby monitor (1)
VTech Communications Safe & Sound Digital Audio Monitor
 
Travel
* Infant car seat
Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 Car Seat, Tangerine
* Baby carrier or sling
Moby, Slate
* Stroller
Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 Jogging Stroller, Tangerine
* Diaper bag
* Car mirror (1)
Brica Baby In-Sight Mirror, Gray
* Window shades
Brica Pop Open Cling Window Shade, 2 pack
 
Other
* Healthcare/grooming kit
Safety 1st Deluxe Healthcare and Grooming Kit
* Thermometer
 
Nice to Have
* Bouncy seat
BabyTrend Musical Bouncer, Safari Kingdom
* Floor seat
Bumbo
* Toys
Vulli Sophie the Giraffe Teether
* Books
 
 


Monday, October 20, 2014

Preparing for Baby #2

      Even though we're still very early in the pregnancy with baby #2, my mind is in full prep mode. We were completely caught off guard by Tennyson's nearly two month early arrival, and had next to nothing for him. I remember being in the hospital and thinking, "I don't even have a crib for my baby to sleep in!" Nor did we have diapers or clothing. The funny thing is that I had made out a list of the items we needed to get and penciled in on a calendar when we would get what. He arrived the next morning. So much for that plan! Instead of relaxed and paced shopping, it was a few frantic and stressful shopping trips to get everything as fast as possible (and likely at a higher cost).
 
      With this pregnancy, I fully intend to be as ready as possible as soon as possible. I intend to have everything purchased and ready before the 20 week mark. The last thing to purchase will be clothes if we find out at that time that the baby's a girl. (We didn't find out gender with our first pregnancy, but this time I want to only for the reason of having clothing and any thing else needed prior to delivery. I don't want to have to scramble for such things again).

     I will also probably start preparing freezer and/or slow cooker meals. We ate a lot of cold cereal and sandwiches initially as we adjusted to life with a demanding preemie. I want real food this time! I will probably also starting making a list of easy recipes or collecting them together. They'll be good for me to quickly pick a meal if I feel up to cooking, or for anyone who may come to help us transition to know what to prepare.

      So, as I said my list of items for the baby, myself and our home as already been forming in my mind. Time will go fast, and so my desire is to start now.

Baby
 
*Crib and mattress- IKEA trip! My in-laws are coming for Thanksgiving in Nov., and we may ask them to drive their truck so we can pick up the crib. Can't wait to see both cribs set up in the kids' room!

*Swing- I took a very minimalistic approach to baby gear with Tennyson. One reason was space within our home. Another reason was that we had to purchase nearly all of our baby items and expenses add up quickly. I thought a swing would be nice, but we made it just fine without one. As our only child, we were able to hold him a lot and honestly didn't put him down that much. With a second child, I'll need to put him/her down occasionally so that I can better care for his/her brother or whatever else I need to do. I'm hoping to find a smaller size swing so that it doesn't totally overwhelm our space.

*Baby bathtub- I skipped the baby bathtub with Tennyson because of it's size. We only have one full bathroom in our home, and a baby bathtub would take up so much space in the bathroom. Instead, I bathed Tennyson in the kitchen sink for months. When he outgrew the sink, we moved to the bathtub. We just always keep one hand on him. With two little ones to bathe, however, a baby bathtub will be essential. I can bath both children at the same time. I found a collapsible and gender-neutral color tub that will probably be the one I purchase.
Rumparooz  Lil•Joeys Newborn Diapers 2pk*Preemie/Newborn cloth diapers- I was advised that cloth diapers for a newborn may not be worth the money since they grow out of them so fast. Plus, many of the bigger size diapers start at 8-10lbs. I agree with this recommendation, but because we have preemies we stay in that smaller size much longer making cloth a worthwhile investment. I only purchased one-size diapers for Tennyson, but this was plenty of expense as it was much less to add another set for another size. We have a few prefolds and covers and a few pocket diapers, but our favorite is the all-in-one diaper. I'll probably try to find a way to resell the prefolds, covers and pockets. Cloth diapering with an AIO could not be easier, and so that's the only style I'm interested in purchasing more of. The only issue we've had with AIO was that they're bulky, especially on a slim baby. Even though he was at weight for them, they were still massive on him. I looked and looked for a AIO preemie size cloth diaper and found Lil Joeys. They range from 4-12lbs which is perfect for a preemie and slim 10-12lb baby! I'll probably purchase a few at a time this time around so that we're not looking at the total cost all at once. (Though I do believe they pay for themselves in the end). I'm by no means a cloth diaper fanatic, but will admit that I'm excited to see colorful cloth diapers in a preemie size!

*Clothing- if it's a girl, then we'll need all new clothing. It will be nice to already have clothes for him/her during the NICU stay. We could occasionally dress Tennyson while in the NICU, but since we didn't have clothes yet we used their freebies which were newborn size not preemie size. Clothes meant for a 8+ lb baby just doesn't work for a 3lb baby. (Just a side note- NICUs accept donated baby clothes for instances in which the baby arrives prior to the parents being fully prepared (like us!). If you ever want to donate to a cause, then donating preemie clothes or hats to a NICU is such a blessing! It really helps Mama & Daddy have some sense of normalcy during an abnormal baby arrival).

*Car seat- We'll obviously need a new carseat. Even though Tennyson can still fit in the infant seat, we'll probably get him the appropriate next size carseat and have the baby use the infant seat. No real sense in having two infant seats.

Mama
 
*Hands-free pumping bra- There were times with Tennyson in which I had to pump after his feed but he also needed to be held upright to ease reflux symptoms. I couldn't hold the pump in place and hold him. If we encounter a similar situation, I want to be able to have my hands free to hold the baby or interact with Tennyson as well.

Add a cami and a cardigan for a
 modest and comfortable post-C-section
 nursing outfit! Source: Old Navy
*Maxi skirts, tops, maxi dresses, diy nursing cami, and cardigans- I wasn't in the least prepared for an early delivery, much less a C-section. I had to scrape together any sort of clothing I could wear afterwards. The seam of my maternity pants hit directly on my incision, and so those were no longer an option (and I essentially only purchased and wore these two pants all pregnancy). Many of my shirts were not nursing-friendly, and I didn't care for having to nearly completely disrobe in the open NICU every nursing session. It was also freezing cold (as in negatives temperatures!) at that time. I wore two non-maternity maxi dresses, one maternity maxi skirt, an one or two maternity shirts for the entire two week NICU stay. Oh, and I wore my open Crocs with socks because my feet swelled so bad I couldn't fit into anything else (thanks, i.v. fluids). I already felt rough during that time, and not having any proper clothing  or shoes made me feel so much worse.
        After surgery, I didn't want anything to touch me, and so maxi dresses and skirts are perfect. Fortunately, right now summer maxi dresses are going on sale. The typical low neckline makes these great for nursing. I will simply add a diy nursing cami and cardigan to make them more modest and warm while maintaining accessibility for nursing. I also plan on having a few maxi skirts with a couple of matching tops each. I hope to put together enough of a mix-and-match collection for at least a two week NICU stay. We'll be shopping at an outlet mall during an upcoming family weekend get-together, and this  "collection" will be my mission. After Thanksgiving Day sales will be my other time. Fortunately,  all these items are non-maternity and so they'll be able to be worn when not pregnant or postpartum. I'll probably also be able to wear most of them throughout my pregnancy.
       If I was home postpartum with my baby, clothing would probably not be as important. Since we'll be spending some time at the hospital once this baby arrives, I do want to help myself feel somewhat better by at least looking presentable.

*Belly band- This would have made my first C-section recovery so much better. I badly wished I had had one! A belly band functions like the abdominal muscles used to in holding everything tightly inward. Without it, the forward and downward pull of the abdominal contents places a lot of pressure on the incision, especially when upright. My recovery was quite slow last time, and this time I'll need to help myself along a little faster since I'll also have a toddler to care for.

*Snacks for hospital stay- Amazingly, you're given heavy pain meds following a C-section and yet all they offer you to take them with is a cup of water and a pack of crackers. These are also all that's available between meals, and if you're breastfeeding then you need much more than three meals plus crackers in a day! I plan to have more substantial snacks on hand like granola or protein bars, and anything else I can think of that would be easy to have while in the hospital myself or visiting the baby in the NICU.

* Ring sling carrier/ Ergo infant insert- I'm considering selling my Moby wrap for an easier carrier. We couldn't use the wrap while he was a preemie, and then he hated it past the newborn stage. I didn't care for it much either as there was so much material to manage and how tight or loose I got it was always variable. A few friends of mine use the ring sling and rave about it. It would be one of the few carriers that could accommodate a preemie. Another option would be to get the infant insert for the Ergo. We love the Ergo! However, we'd have to wait until the newborn stage (8+ lb) before we could use it, and it takes a while for a preemie to get to that weight.

Home
* Toy storage- We currently have a basket for all of Tennyson's toys that sits on one of the end tables in the living room. We've chosen to be rather toy limited, and so this has been sufficient. However, has he gets older (and we pass a Christmas and birthday), he'll come to have more toys and larger toys. I personally do not want our home to look like a playroom. Not only is our home much too small for a bunch of toys scattered everywhere, but I don't care to have to maintain the mess. I also don't want to be tripping over toys in every room while carrying a baby.
     My current idea is to use a small cube shelf and a plastic tote or two. A limited number of toys will be stored on the shelf, and all others will go in the tote. Periodically the toys will be rotated from tote to shelf. This will keep the toys new and exciting to him, and the mess minimal for me. (There will still be messes, but not near the level as if all toys were out at all times).

* Clothing storage- We will need a dresser or the like for keeping clothing and cloth diapers for two children. The dresser we have for Tennyson is rather small and at capacity with diapers and his clothing. I'm thinking of moving our dresser and nightstand to the "kids room" and then finding us something else (Craigslist!).

Projects
* Clean out second bedroom of non-kids items. (We've continued to use part of the room and closet for storage since Tennyson isn't actually sleeping or playing in their yet).
* Set up room to be the kids' room- Create curtain rods and purchase curtains, set up both cribs, fix and move rocking chair into room etc
* Create lots and lots of independent play and busy bags for Tennyson (Pinterest!). I will need to occupy Tennyson during feeding sessions with the baby. I can't have a toddler running around unattended while I'm seated with the baby. We're going to work on "blanket time" but will probably still utilize the pack n' play quite a bit each day. We're still resolved on our children being screen free until two years old, and so that means we will need to proactively have means of entertainment for him.


    I think that's about it for now. I may adjust it here and there, and will refer back to this page often as I complete the list. I don't think that's not too bad of a list for a second baby. So many of these items have been placed on my mental "next time" list. ("Next time, a belly band is a must. Next time, a bathtub would be nice. Next time, postpartum clothes would be a great help. Etc etc.). When you have your first baby, you really are just guessing at what you might need. We chose a minimalist approach, and have done quite well. There are just a few things I'd like to pick up for this second pregnancy and baby.  

Monday, October 13, 2014

Celebrating With Others When I Don't Feel Like It

     At some point in life it's going to happen- someone is getting married and you're still looking, someone else announces a pregnancy and you're still trying, someone is holding the ownership keys to a home and you're still renting, someone else is ...something that you're not. How we handle this type of situation reveals a lot about our character. 

     The moment still lingers in my mind. She arrived late to my wedding shower and only partially ready. After spending more time away getting ready, she enters..sulking. She continued to display a poor attitude until she decided she would just leave early. I had another guest ask me what her problem was. Her mother excused her behavior by stating that she's nearly thirty and doesn't even have a boyfriend, and as such it's understandable as to why she acted the way she did. I can understand the difficulty of the situation, but I cannot excuse much less accept her behavior. I have always wished she had celebrated with me. 

     A few years later she did find a man she would marry. She sent an invitation with full expectation for me to be overwhelmingly excited for and celebrate with them. I was unable to attend the wedding due to concerns of traveling a long distance with my very small baby. She was furious and lamented her displeasure of me not doing whatever it took to celebrate with her. I appoligized and tried explaining the situation again, but it was to no avail. The double standard frustrated me, but I sent a wedding gift still. Her mother had to tell her to at least send me a "thank you" text message. 

      When my son arrived, she was just one of many who did not celebrate with us. We were actually shocked that few celebrated with us.Honestly, we felt rather abandoned. Only two friends texted/called us and helped us prepare to bring our baby home. All of our other friends, many of whom we frequently hosted for gatherings in our home, and the church we had attended for a year were no where to be seen. It would be five months before we would see or hear from just a few of them. We were on our own during the most stressful experience of our lives. We learned, though, to depend on ourselves and gained confidence that we were highly capable of handling difficult situations on our own. I have always wished they had celebrated with us.

      I ran into one of those friends recently. She had been unsuccessful at conceiving around the time we were expecting and delivered our son. She disappeared completely. Then, not long after his arrival she discovered she was expecting. We then began to hear and see more of she and her husband. It seemed to be a situation in which she could be happy for something good happening in our lives now that something good is happening in hers. I received a baby shower invitation with the expectation to fully celebrate her pregnancy and child. Bitterness tugged at my heart. The shower was to take place at our former church, the one that remained silent during our pregnancy, birth and NICU stay. I wrestled with purchasing a gift and/or attending for weeks. How could I celebrate her pregnancy, purchase a gift that would assist her in caring for the baby, and be surrounded by this particular group of people when all the while I'm aware of the fact that we were treated in a completely different manner? It's a tough matter to chew. 

     Nonetheless, I carefully selected a gift for her and visited with her in person. I asked her if she would like a meal calendar to be set up to coordinate individuals who might bring her meals after the baby arrives. I offered to bring one myself. She asked if this was something that had been done for me. As politely replied "no, but meals was something that I felt would have been helpful as we transitioned and so I want to provide that assistance for you." 

     I want to be bitter, but I also want to be better. I understand what it is like for individuals to choose to not celebrate the good in your life (or at least not celebrate until something equally good happens in theirs). It's a lonely place that should never be. The root of this occurrence is selfishness. Sometimes celebrating requires effort- the effort to push through selfish tendencies and do what is right. We celebrate because Jesus is in that moment, and always worthy of celebration. True selflessness is exhibited when we can celebrate with others regardless of the comparable events in our own lives. We don't do it for ourselves, but for the other person and for the simple fact that all life's joys should be celebrated regardless of the recipient.

 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

High School Reunion

     My ten year high school reunion is coming up. I'd always said I wouldn't attend, but now that the time has come I find myself reconsidering. I also find myself sleepless over the matter.

     High school (or any year of K-12 school) wasn't what I'd describe as "the time of my life." Honestly, it was a miserable experience, and one I couldn't wait to leave. The days were filled with so much loneliness and so much hurt. I planned to graduate, attend college and make something meaningful of myself and never look back to that time or place. 

     I didn't "fit in" at any point in school. I was always dangling on the fringe of this society, but no one ever seemed to notice. Most days, I felt completely invisible. I had some friends, but they only stuck around long enough to spot someone else and they'd quickly leave. 

     I came to dread lunchtime in the cafeteria. I sat at the "reject table," which was a table comprised of others who didn't belong to a group of friends. You'd think that we would've banded together based on this commonality, but no, we were even rejected by ourselves. By senior year, I planned my schedule in such a way that I could skip the lunchroom experience and chose to eat my sad little sandwich in my car instead. 

     Pep rallies and other school assemblies were the worst. At the end of the day, groups of excitable friends would gather and enjoy this free time together. Yet, there I was sitting by myself in a crowded gymnasium. I felt humiliated every time. I planned my senior schedule to avoid being at the high school during this time as well. 

     It should be no surprise that I didn't attend football games or other social events. Why would I voluntarily put myself in the pep rally situation? However, one Friday night I did just that and would always wish I hadn't. My mother constantly nagged me about not being like other teenagers, especially my sister. My sister was very social, and was constantly focused on being with her friends. She attends football games. She has friends she hangs out with. I just needed to come out of my shell and try it. So I did. I found a few other individuals to attend the game with. We created sparkly t-shirts that spelled out our mascot, "Raiders." I was really going to do this up! As we walked to the game, however, I began to question my actions as cars honked, people pointed and laughed. The three of us that were walking side by side later looked down to realize that in our order our shirts spelled, "s-a-d." Great. We weren't at the game long before a group of popular kids who had also worn "raiders" shirts laughed, pointed and yelled, "Those losers think that can be cool like us! hahahaha!" All eyes were on us, and I knew then what I knew all along which was that I didn't belong there. I didn't attend another football game, not even in college. 

     Tennis was my outlet. I was known for being a hard hitter and able to keep up with the boys team. My ability to whack the fuzz off that ball, however, was completely fueled by anger. I hated everything and everyone associated with school. Home life was highly tumultuous as well. I had no other relief than the aggression with which I played the game. Eventually, that fuel ran out and I repeatedly came to a full meltdown on the court. When you already have problems at home and at school, the last thing needed is to have your vulnerabilities show. I walked to practice one day and quit. I cried all the way back to the house. I didn't know how to handle matters other than avoidance. I should mention that I was #1 and Captain of the team. I have always felt so ashamed and regretful of walking away. I always wished they could understand the ugly place I was in personally that led to that choice. 

       Quitting the team made matters in school worse. I now had even more people who disregarded me. I put up an "I don't care. I don't need anyone" front and focused on my studies. College would be my ticket out, and everything would be different. I spent all my time and energy on my classes and received the best grades I ever had. I gained a sense of pride from this accomplishment (and that would later be my fall in college). Yet, I was still deeply lonely, angry and depressed. I still didn't have friends at school, and I still had a difficult home and family life. Truthfully, there were days in which I daydreamed about hitting the gas pedal and plunging head-on off the road or into something. I desperately wanted to end it all. Thankfully, I never did. I tried to remember that college wasn't far way and once there I never had to return. (I never did. I've never even spent more than a couple of days at "home" since I left at 18). I chose a "dream school" college. It was a small, conservative Christian school. I wanted something completely different. I was somewhat familiar with Christianity, and so wanted to learn more. I've always said this school kept me alive because it kept me on the road on difficult days. 

       Why share so many unpleasant stories now- ten years later? Because now that the reunion is a couple of weeks, those stories and others are painfully fresh. A part of me actually wants to attend. A part of me wants to be a part of something I never was apart of. A part of me wants returning to be a triumphant overcoming. Another part of me is as nervous as nervous can be. I'm terrified of attending and then standing there alone. What will David think? He had a fantastic high school experience. This- this is my pathetic and embarrassing story. This isn't the side of myself or my life I'm not proud of. I'd rather him not come to know the "Such a loser" and "Such a dork" taunts. Geez, ten years later it all comes back so clearly. Yet, here I am actually debating attending. Here I am losing sleep over past memories and potential fears. I've got just a few days to decide. I'm not sure what to do. Stay? Go?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Motherhood- a Gift From and Offering To God

    I came across this quote this morning, and found it to be a wonderful encouragement. Sometimes, caring for a little ones (yes, plural. This second little one is included by means of pregnancy fatigue. haha) is exhausting and overwhelming. However, a quick change in perspective makes all the difference.
"This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God's way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness."
~Elisabeth Elliot (word emphasis mine)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Room Switch

      We finally did it! We spent yesterday evening moving the computer desk and bookshelf to the alcove in our bedroom and moving Tennyson's crib into the second bedroom.

      He has done wonderfully in his own room!  Granted, I can't fully account for the night. He still wakes every hour or two, but is getting easier and quicker to get back to sleep. Hopefully getting him back to sleep will become faster and faster to the point that he'll not need us to rock or "shhh" him. Presently, though, the frequency is killer. I had a day or two recently in which I was so exhausted from the pregnancy and restless night with Tennyson that I physically felt ill. I carried headache all day. David and I then decided that he would take the nightshift with Tennyson because the current pattern of restlessness isn't healthy for the developing baby. I feel rather guilty for putting it all on him, but I must say I feel so much better today. I still need a little mid-day nap, but I am no where near the extreme fatigue that I had been feeling.

     There's still a lot of work that needs to be done to fully make it his room (but then later the "kids' room"). We had previously used the room as an office/craft space/storage space. I have a long list of items to sale. I'm excited to see the room become the "kids' room." Some time this month we'll work on diy curtain rods and purchasing curtains. Next month, we'll add a second crib to the room. Sometime in between then, I hope to find a dresser on Craigslist. I may also add a few new paintings to the wall. We'll see what time allows. I'm not decorating per say. I'm simply making the room functional. Nonetheless, I can't wait to see the room transform!

   A Few Pictures of Life:
We accomplished moving the furniture only. The stuff aspect of the room switch will have to wait until another time. Until then, our hallways looks a bit of a mess. A book mess isn't a bad mess, though!


My favorite early pregnancy snack- hardboiled egg wrapped in a dill pickle!


"Have you seen my carrot stick? I lost it somewhere."
I looked over to see his carrot stick stuck in his neck roll. He didn't act as though he even noticed it was there. haha!
 
He's becoming a master sitter! He can now be occupied for a time in the pack n' play with a few toys. This will be one idea for keeping him nearby and safe while I feed the next baby next year.
   In other news, I received excellent news regarding this pregnancy. I had low progesterone my last pregnancy and required a prescription. I was concerned about that being the case again and consequently having to suddenly stop nursing Tennyson. (Which would have been a nightmare because he hates bottles and barely tolerates a cup, as well as nurses to sleep. He likes the girls and the girls only. haha). BUT...my progesterone level tested at a good range! Praise the Lord! The test for rising hcg (ie a "viable" pregnancy) also came back good. Hip Hip Hooray!
 

Menu Plan: Fall (Oct. 5-11)

    Each Sunday David and I menu plan and grocery shop. I'm not sure how meals are made without a menu plan. By having a plan, I the "what do I cook?" question is answered. I also have all the needed ingredients in our kitchen, which saves me time making extra trips to the store each week.

      Our focus is on real food. We try to avoid a lot of packaged and processed foods. Although, I'll admit that I tend to keep packaged whole wheat crackers, protein bars, premade hummus etc. on hand. I once made all such things from scratch but with the fatigue of pregnancy and an active eight month old, I've allowed myself to buy some things premade. I still try to purchase these packaged products as wholesome as possible. 

       I prefer to buy the "dirty dozen" organic. It's not a hard rule, and we often will buy these items conventionally. Sometimes I can't find everything as an organic. Sometimes the budget won't allow for it. Sometimes I simply forget to mark on my list which ones to buy organic and which to buy non-organic. Sometimes, I just don't care. haha

       Our food budget tends to be on the higher end. We set a weekly budget of about $50 when we lived in other states. However, in our current state we've not been able to come close to that even with preparing the same meals and buying the same foods. We've found that an equivalent budget here is about $80 per week (no organic foods). Yeah, it's high but so is the cost of gas, electricity, water etc. Every area as a different cost of living. High cost of groceries is just part of it. I'd love to figure out a way to cut the cost while still maintaining real foods but so far I haven't found anything that really makes a significant impact. 

     I enjoy keeping a record of all of our previous menu plans. When we create a new plan we can reference the plan from about the same time last year. No sense reinventing the wheel every time! 

Strategies this week:
- We're buying a ham and then using this one meat for three meals
- Now that we're expecting baby #2, I'm going to try to create more nutritious breakfasts and snacks for myself. 
 - Planned leftovers has become a favorite of mine. I enjoy not having to make a big cooking fuss in the middle of the day
- Theme options: slow cooker, sandwich, salad, soup, pasta, pizza, quesadilla, potato, fish/seafood

Breakfasts
- Pear and grains cereal (quinoa, pear, dried cranberries, pecans, honey, cinnamon)
- Eggs, bacon, toast, orange
- Green smoothie
- Parfait (yogurt, mixed berries, honey, almonds)


Lunches
- (Salad) Mandarin Orange Salad
- leftover pizza
- (soup & slow cooker) sweet potato and lentil soup
- leftover soup
- (sandwich) ABC (apple, bacon, cheddar) sandwiches, carrots and celery sticks with hummus
- (fish/seafood) seasoned baked fish, sweet carrots, brown rice
-

Dinners
- (Pizza) homemade supreme style pizza
- Ham, asparagus, potatoes, cranberry sauce
- Plantation Ham Pie
- Ham Primavera
-

Snacks
- apple and peanut butter
- granola/protein bar
- whole wheat crackers with cheddar cheese slices
- popcorn
- carrots with hummus
- cottage cheese and blueberries
- hardboiled egg

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

My Cleaning Routine

   
     Cleanliness standards for a home vary from person to person. Great debates arguments are held on this topic. People seem to get really upset while defending their personal preference. Add the matter of caring for children as well and it's a real messy mix. 

     Caring for the home and children seems to be presented repeatedly as an either/or situation- either I keep a clean house and pay less attention to my children or I permit a mess and focus all my attention on my children instead. When I became a mother, I felt as thought this either/or situation was reality but was not satisfied with this situation. I asked and read quite a few sources of how to successfully manage caring for child(ren) and the home. The majority of responses were dismaying. I received advice to accept a mess for myself and my home. If the child(ren) had basic needs met, even if that meant fast food meals, then consider the day a success. Of course, there was also the support for focusing almost entirely on relationship and playing with one's children and leaving the cooking and cleaning. Honestly, I wasn't at all satisfied with any of these answers. I also didn't care for the insinuation that maintaining a clean home must mean that you're not attentive to your children or that they are not your priority. 

      I couldn't, and still don't, understand why managing the home and children must be an either/or situation. Only one person encouraged me to have a high standard for managing both my home and children. There is balance, and both the home and children can be very well taken care of without detracting from either entity. I fully believe this perspective. It's a matter of being very proactive and having a plan in the day for when there will be work and when there will be play. There is time for both. 

     The following is just a few benefits I see in maintaining order within our home. 

     Orderliness...

  • allows us to easily find whatever we're needing, and thus saving us time and energy
  • demonstrates responsibility for our messes (ie we aren't leaving them for someone else to clean up)
  • demonstrates value in our possessions 
  • demonstrates respect for others who must share the space within the home
  • teaches children that there is time for work and time for play (I want my child(ren) to witness work taking place and then later participate in that work rather than be in free play all the time)
  • protects safety within the home. (We can't be tripping over stuff just to move around within our home, especially when carrying a baby). 
  • encourages the home to be a place of peacefulness and rest (there's enough chaos in life)
     Strategies...

  • I offer Tennyson a "table activity" (any activity that he can play with independently at the table) after each meal. He's required to remain seated and play at the table for 10 minutes while I clean up the meal mess. He needs to witness that we clean up our messes and I need him to not be running around unsupervised when I need to focus on the task).
  • Always go to bed with the dishes washed. In the morning, put away those clean dishes so that you're starting the day with an empty dishwasher and clean drying counter ready for that day's dishes.
  • Always complete one load of laundry per day. Laundry piles up quickly. One basket of clean laundry requires less energy and time than several baskets. 
  • The greatest help- pick up after yourself. This is a habit that even David and I are still working on as adults! It's so easy to simply leave things laying instead of immediately putting them where they belong. It's a constant work in progress.
  • Own less stuff! I'm a minimalist. Clutter produces a stress response in me, whereas organization makes me giddy. (I'm very much a type a personality). Extra stuff means extra time, energy and perhaps even finances to maintain it. I view excess as a complete waste of all my resources. I'd rather spend less to maintain less. Less stuff, less to clean. {Note: My husband is the opposite. He inherited the tendency to .. uh hem.. "collect" and be rather disorganized. I certainly don't want to be a wife that tells her husband what he can or can't do or have, and so I try my best to not say anything about messes. (But I'll admit that sometimes I do fuss). I focus, instead, on any excess I may have personally or any excess we may have as a family. In general, the interior of our home is for me to manage and he respects that I need a certain standard of tidy to do so successfully. Anyways, just a little note on this area for potential nagging and disrespect). 
  •  Organization, organization, organization! I've sometimes found it hard to invest in organizational tools because I don't know if that item will be helpful in our next home (we move frequently). However, when things become left out repeatedly, it could be because they don't have a proper home. For instance, we used to just store our shoes around the perimeter of our bed. Eventually, shoes were scattered all underneath the bed and on the floor. We 1) needed less shoes and 2) needed an under-the-bed shoe organizer. 
  • Include cleaning in your daily routine/schedule. This is essential to creating balance in the day. A schedule allows for there to be time for work (ie cleaning) and time for play (ie relationship building with the child(ren). Plan for what the child(ren) will be preoccupied with while a household task is completed. Once the task is completed, then my attention may be directed entirely on my child(ren). There is time for both in the day! Again, it's a matter of being proactive and planning!
     Below is a copy of my current cleaning routine. I've modified it several times to find a plan that is achievable on a daily basis. I've determined that some tasks aren't entirely necessary to complete every single week. Instead, I do them every other week. I've also decided that tidying every room every day can be exhausting. Instead, I spread out all the rooms across the week and tidy two rooms per day. All rooms aren't spotless all the time, but they are all accomplished each week and are well maintained. In sum, my daily cleaning routine includes tidying two rooms and a deep cleaning task. It takes me all of thirty minutes at most to complete each day and is often completed during the first part of Tennyson's afternoon nap. Everyone will have a plan that works best for her. Like I said, mine has been through a few phases and this is currently the one I've had the most success at accomplishing each day. 
Click image to view larger
Edits:
 *Tuesdays of 2nd & 4th week: "Mop kitchen, downstairs bathroom and upstairs bathroom floors"
*"Tennyson's room/office" will soon become "kids room" and the office items moved to a different area
     Caring for both the child(ren) and the home simultaneously can be done, and done well! Set a high standard, and you'll be amazed at what you can accomplish!
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