Monday, June 27, 2016

Everything is bigger in Texas...including our family!

     I shared in May that the matter of additional children in our family was a matter of prayer. We've been uncertain as to whether having another biological child would be wise considering the degree of high-risk, intervention and complications of my pregnancies. This month, a decision was made...but, not by us. 

      I approached David one evening with the fact that the month had been particularly long. We both contributed it to the fact that it had been a very stressful and exhausting time this past month, and perhaps that had thrown things off a bit. Neither one of us thought another possibility could be the real cause. (And he's been first to pick up on signs and figure it out before even I have in the past!). There was only one way to find out for sure. Immediately, it was positive.

    We're expecting baby #3! 
Due February 14, 2017 

     It took a few days for us to wrap our heads around the news. We were completely surprised. I understand fully the interventions that will be required and risks assumed. It wasn't an easy journey the first time. It feels daunting to do it all again. But, we're here and so I must. I know that just like the last time, the moment I see the baby it will all be worthwhile. 

       Nonetheless, this will definitively be our last biological child. There is simply too much risk and too much to put my body through with the necessary interventions. I can be satisfied with three children. We may still be open to adoption in the future. 

     Honestly, I was very nervous about being able to manage another little one. Some days, having two children two years old and under are so challenging. When this newest little one arrives, we will have three children three years old and under. Tennyson will be 37 months old, Annelise 20 months old, and Baby #3 newborn. The spacing will be 17 months between #1 and #2 and 20 months between #2 and #3. However, I know that the little years will be some of the hardest but afterwards they will have been given a gift in their closeness allowing them to be friends. (Tennyson and Annelise have always been very close, and I think that has a lot to do with their close age gap). I just imagine the three of them getting to play and grow up so close together, and my heart is encouraged. 

            So far, the pregnancy has been amazingly similar to my first pregnancy. I haven't had has much issues with losing meals and everything in between like I did then. But, I've had plenty of nausea and digestive issues. I'm finding it fascinating that my cravings are exactly the same as then as well (cravings during my second pregnancy were completely different). I don't care for sweets and often find that will trigger nausea. Coffee has been another strong aversion. I went from two cups a day to not being able to finish a single cup (perhaps I should have picked up on that being a sign!). Instead, I want salty and meaty foods! (We went out for ice cream on evening. Everyone got ice cream except me. I got a large order of tots! Haha!) I also want plenty of juicy citrus fruit...again. 

      Unfortunately, another similarity to #1 and #3 is that I've developed another subchorionic hemorrage/clot. At six weeks along, I experienced some bleeding that sent me to the ER wondering if we were losing the baby or if it was just another clot/hemorrhage like before. After a nerve racking five hours, it was determined to be the latter. I was advised to rest as much as possible to allow it to heal. Unfortunately, that's really hard to do when I have other young children and no family or anyone around to help. I'm trying to take it easy the best I can, but overdo it some days and then have to rest. David has been wonderful in helping as much as possible. He's spent many nights washing our dishes. We're both conscientious of the need to protect the pregnancy as much as possible. That's meant a lot more disorder, but we're pressing on. Prayerfully, this will heal and resolve soon, and we'll have a smoother continuance of the pregnancy. 

    We've withheld telling family the news of the pregnancy just yet. When we announced our expectation of baby #2, the news was met with some rather ugly responses by close family members. True character was revealed and relationships were broken. (I've come to realize just how opinionated and hateful some people can be in regard to child spacing or number of children as I've heard quite a few comments and I only had two children!). I'm hesitate to share and experience the hurt again. Fortunately, we live at a distance from all family and so we can choose to not share in person. I will probably create a photo card that reads something to the effect of: "They say everything is bigger in Texas... Well, so is our family! Expecting baby #3 February 14, 2017). We've even considered adding a line somewhere that says, "If you can't say something nice, then best to not say anything at all." haha, it's still being debated. Like I said, the last time was just really hurtful. 

      I'll create journal posts soon for this pregnancy like I've done for the previous two. These posts and photos make such sweet memory photo books! I've so enjoyed having this special time of pregnancy captured. It truly is an incredible gift- a blessing.  I'm so glad God overrode our plans, made the decision for us, and gifted us with another little one. :)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Platform

A platform is your tribe. People who share your passion and want to heart from like-minded people. -Michael Hyatt

      What is a platform? I define "platform" as your unique angle or voice within a subject matter. It's what sets you apart from all the rest. 

      Within the realm of "successful blogging" a platform is essential. My goal here isn't necessarily to be classified as a "successful blog," but to simply convey our story- our homemaking story. But, I began to consider the concept of platform as it relates to this blog and more so as it relates to life itself. What is my platform? What defines me/us? What shapes my/our story?

      I considered three characteristics that I often feel set me/us apart. First, we live at a distance from all family. We've never parented with grandparents nearby. There's never been a moment in which we could call on a family member for help or simply spend time casually with them. Time with grandparents and other family members involves lengthy trips once or twice a year. More often than not (or ever), I encounter mothers who are far more relaxed and refreshed than I and wonder their secret. Then, it's apparent that they have a "village" in raising their child(ren). To those who have grandparents watch the children while they have a date night, run an errand, clean the house, or give exclusive attention to one child etc.- I simply cannot relate in the slightest degree. I have no concept of not doing and being everything for everyone all the time. Although I'm sure there are many people who live at a distance from family, there are few resources. Could I be that one?

     A second characteristic I considered was the fact that we have two children now two years old and under (they're 17 months a part in age). There is a distinct difference in raising children close in age versus ones further apart. Even spaced two full years a part is a difference! Perspectives on the three year old+ and newborn just doesn't apply. A child of this age has greater independence and abilities. My situation has been one in which both children are complete dependents, both children require constant attention, and in general ... all of me. Again, I've not found many resources on mothering closely-spaced children. Could I be that one?

     The final consideration was in regard to personality. I am a strong type-a personality. I'm also a strong introvert. (And for anyone interested in Myers Briggs personality typing I'm the rare INFJ). My personality thrives on order and always strives for excellence. To those who say "embrace the mess"- I simply cannot relate. For me, "calm the chaos" is a more suitable goal. I'm not necessarily condemning the other type(s), I'm simply learning to embrace and work with my own personality type. We're going to view and approach areas of life differently. There are resources that align with my hightly-ordered approach, but they are few. Could I be that one?

      I suppose if I were to determine my "platform" then those would be them. However, the problem with platforms is that they elevate and as such portray a sense of mastery. I feel incredibly ill-equipped for that level of position. I'm still trying to figure most things out (and fumbling along the way!)!

     How do I be a voice for living at a distance from all family when just today I ached so badly and cried for the ability to simply visit the children's grandparents to allow myself to breath out my stress and relieve my exhaustion? How do I be a voice for two children two years old and under when I yell out of exasperation and my child withdraws..crushed (the other child appears to be unaffected as she seemingly never stops crying or screaming anyways). How do I be a voice for a strong type-a, introvert & infj personality when very often I contend with this strength also being my undoing. Womanhood... motherhood... parenting...marriage...faith...(future) homeschooling ...homemaking- I have the interests, but honestly- haven't got a clue. 

     I'd love to write poetic words of faith, but the only words I find are the repeated prayers "please forgive me" and "thank you for loving me still." I'd love to share homemaking skills, but I pulled out a packaged freezer meal for dinner yesterday and today we had fast food burgers because I simply couldn't bear the thought of anymore cooking and cleaning. I'd love to share about the deep love and friendship found in marriage, but that flame is now but a dim flicker (though we both continue to determinedly hold onto the candle). I'd love to share of the warmth of hospitality found within the walls of my home, but, instead, you'll find a frazzled and fussy woman who honestly would much rather you stay in a hotel and merely visit briefly. I'd love to share of the sheer joy in myself, our home and our family. But, you see, I think I've forgotten how to smile and simply have fun in life. 

      Do I really have I platform after all? I share of ideas and approaches that I've seen to be successful. Perhaps someone in a similar situation will also find them helpful. Yet, none are so deserving of warranting the consideration of "mastery." I cannot legitimately stand on any platform, I believe. 

     What I can do is reassert to myself yet again that this page and this life is but a journey. It's a journey into the sweetest sight of a new life. A journey into the despairing ugliness of silence. A journey of failing and falling, and then getting back up to try again time and time again. This is more than a platform...this is our story. The good and the bad. Uniquely ours. 


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Grocery Shopping


     As newlyweds, David and I began a tradition of sorts of always grocery shopping together. At the time, our schedules were so full that the opportunity for grocery shopping and being together was limited. So, each Sunday afternoon we would plan meals, assemble a list and then go shopping together. 

     When we had our first child, we would simply have him join us with the Ergo carrier  and then later riding in the front of the cart. When we had our second child, it became a little more work to get everyone ready to go out, shop, and move children in and out of carseats multiple times in sometimes unpleasant weather conditions. And so, we then changed how we approached weekly grocery shopping.

      We decided to continue to shop on Sunday afternoons since that continues to be the most convenient occasion. However, we now have one person shop while the other person stays home while the children take their afternoon naps. Doing it this way allows each of us to have some time alone, something that is vital for strong introverts like ourselves. (We live at a distance from all family. We don't have babysitters or any other childcare. Consequently, if there is to be any little "break" for personal refreshment we have to create those moments. Weekly grocery shopping has become that opportunity). 

       Ideally, we create a menu plan on Saturdays so that planning is one less task to be completed on Sundays. However, many times we are planning during lunch or as soon as the children fall asleep for their afternoon nap on Sundays. We'll always create a list based upon our menu plan and what we lack in our pantry for that plan. We currently do not purchase extra items, as this may put a strain on our finances or storage capacity of our bookshelf pantry. 

      And so, we don't shop based on sales, rain check potentials, coupons, social media offers etc. I've found that these avenues typically require a lot of time investment to locate and clip coupon follow/subscribe for the deal. Furthermore, the vast majority of applicable products are packaged/processed foods. There are very few of these that we consume to make the effort worthwhile. Saving money is a valuable goal, but so is preserving my time and energy. 
     
    I prefer to organize my list based on category (produce, dairy, meat etc.). I find it most efficient to write items according to how I approach them in the store. For instance, I walk the perimeter of the store first and then weave between the shelves back to my original starting place. So, my list is organized by produce, meats, some dairy, and then shelf items. I do not care for wasting time and energy maneuvering back and forth through a crowd to circle the store multiple times for items. I have even made notes on my list of specific aisles items are in so that I can pick up those items in the order their stored in the store. (Shopping is not my thing, at all! However, my desire to give my husband an opportunity for alone time is greater and so therefore I try to make my shopping trip as efficient and pleasant as possible for myself). 
     
  In order for David and I to each have an opportunity for alone time, we alternate shopping weeks. (This also preserves my sanity for having to shop in a crowd!). So, I shop one week while he stays at home, and then he'll shop the following week while I stay at home. It's really a wonderful system, especially when you have few to no resources to create opportunities for alone time (or maybe just time to work on a project or task that is best done without little ones "helping"). 

 Other Posts In This Series:
-Bookshelf Pantry
-Recipe Organization
-Menu Planning

Friday, June 10, 2016

Menu Planning

Our weekly menu plan is kept on the refrigerator for easy reference.
Previously menu plans are stored in the recipe binder to aid in menu planning in the future
         Menu planning is an essential component of my homemaking. When the time comes for preparing a meal, I know what I'm going to make and have all ingredients available in our pantry. This act relieves me of a great deal of stress. It also helps maintain our family's finances by limiting unnecessary purchases from the store. Our goals for our meals are for them to be simple, healthy, budget-friendly, and space-friendly. Each weekend David and I consult various resources and collect our thoughts on meal options for the upcoming week. We've done it so many times, we've developed a few patterns in our planning and meal options, which makes the process somewhat simple!

Homemade beef stroganoff, peas and carrots
       I've tried pre-printed or electronic versions of menu plans, but wasn't satisfied with them. I found that they were less efficient by requiring more time to enter information and then limiting access to a device when needed. Instead, I prefer to use a basic menu planner sheet that I created. This page includes all the meal categories that are applicable for us and allows me plenty of writing space. I simply make two-sided copies of this sheet when needed. 

     We prefer to plan only one week at a time. A weekly plan allows the menu plan to accommodate changing preferences for foods/meals. It also preserves optimum ripeness and selection of produce. Since we have lived in small spaces, we've found it imperative to minimize the storage demand on our home. Although stocking up can be beneficial, we simply haven't had the space to store more than one week's groceries at a time. Finally, a weekly plan allows each of us an opportunity for us to each have some time alone while the other person shops.


Breakfasts List
      Breakfasts are pre-planned. I simply choose a set of breakfasts from my list. We rotate through all the options, and as a result never tire of the options. A list allows me to have one less decision to make first thing in the morning. It also helps me to plan ahead for the foods that need purchased. For example, if we have bagels a couple mornings in a week then I can place the remaining bagels in the bag in the freezer for use at another time. Presently, I choose the breakfast meals each morning. I often have it ready and waiting when the children come to the table. However, I do intend to allow the children to choose when they are more capable in the future. I will continue to plan seven breakfast options at the beginning of the week, but they will each be able to choose from those seven their desire for the day. I want them to have some choice in the matter, but still within a limit. (Full freedom of choice would not be appropriate and likely lead to pickiness. Mama's not a short order cook! haha). On Saturdays, David joins us and delights us with his delicious pancakes. We often have breakfast meats such as bacon and sausage at this time. (Having breakfast meats only once a week is also a way to save money, and allows it to be a special treat for when Daddy's home). On Sunday mornings, we typically need a meal that is quick to prepare and eat, and doesn't risk messing up clothing. We typically have a muffin or scone, hardboiled eggs, and fruit. It's a fun "snack" breakfast!


Homemade macaroni & cheese with mixed vegetables added.
 (Shh! The children have only had it this way and don't know
mac & cheese typically doesn't have vegetables! haha ;) )
     Lunches are nearly always leftovers. We cook extra portions at dinner, and then enjoy the meal a second time for lunch the following day. We began this when I was pregnant as I needed additional opportunities for additional nutrition. We then decided that it was helpful for a toddler who may or may not eat fantastically one meal or the next. He's offered more opportunities for nutrition by offering complete meals for lunch and dinner. Having the same meal twice also affords him the opportunity to try a food again. It takes repetition to develop a taste for a variety of flavors and textures. Leftover lunches has also been wonderfully beneficial for me to not have a meal to prepare mid-day! It's much less stressful to simply reheat a meal than create a new one! The main negative of doing lunches this way is that we are purchasing and preparing each dinner meal to serve 6-8 people. We feel that it's worth the extra expense and effort currently. 


Snack List
       Snacks are also pre-planned, like breakfasts. I find that I'm much more diligent in providing healthy, balanced snack options if they're pre-planned. Otherwise, it's tempting to grab more processed, packaged options. These are acceptable and fun on occasion, but not appropriate for a daily option. Like breakfasts, I intend to allow the children to choose from a handful of selections in the future. 

       Since breakfasts and lunches are pre-planned and lunches are leftovers, dinner is the main meal we need to plan each week. We aim to alternate meat and meatless meals for taste and cost purposes. We'll find new recipes or use favorites stored in our family recipe binders. We don't necessarily plan according to daily themes (ie. "Meatless Monday," "Taco Tuesday" etc) for weeknights. We do, however, use themes as a framework. For instance, we typically include a pasta meal and fish/seafood meal. Occasionally, I'll make a slow cooker meal or casserole. During the winter we'll have a soup each week. During the spring/summer, David enjoys cooking a meal outside on the grill. Friday nights and Sunday nights are the two only nights that we do tend to have set themes. Friday nights are always pizza night. We make our own homemade pizza as a fun way to end the week and welcome the weekend! On Sunday nights, we typically enjoy a variety of quesadillas and perhaps chips and salsa on the side. When something comes up or life is particularly busy at the time dinner needs prepared, we may veer from the plan and have a "backup meal." Back up meals may be a frozen dinner (stir fry, pot pie, chicken broccoli casserole etc). Although these serve the purpose, they're not used very often due to the expense and poor nutrition (whoa, sodium!). Occasionally, I will have made extra portions of a dinner and freeze the second one for back-up meal option. (We frequently eat these when David has to travel for work so that my cooking and cleaning workload is lightened). Canned soup is also another option, especially preferable to have on hand during times of illness. Jars of pasta sauce and dry pasta store well in the pantry and are quick and easy to serve. When all else fails, there's breakfast for dinner or carry-out!

Enjoying snack time together!
      Having a menu plan to consult and work from each week is a tremendous aid in lessening stress on me personally and on our finances. I don't want to waste my time and energy determining a meal to cook each day and then making multiple trips to the store for ingredients. I much prefer to have methods that will provide myself and our family greater simplicity and peacefulness. A plan is a wonderful means of achieving that goal!

Update:
     I neglected to mention feeding babies. This matter could probably comprise an entire post on it's own! Our general rule is that the children are expected to eat with the family. We do not offer "kid foods" or separate food/meal options. Consequently, the children have learned to eat a large variety of foods!

Other Posts In This Series:
-Bookshelf Pantry
-Recipe Organization
-Grocery Shopping
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