Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Playing in our "yard"

Most of the photos I take are in our front yard. It is where we chat and play with neighbors daily since it faces their homes. It's a very social area, and the fact we are in one of the farthest apartments from the road, means we are out all the time.

But during small pockets of time when I don't really feel like going out but Madeleine does, I let her play in the back yard. She knows the boundaries of where I can see her and no one goes back there other than us a few hard core gardeners. 

Last weekend Matt and I borrowed a play structure from our unofficial community toy library and brought it back there.  Madeleine was so excited. She's played for a few hours out there every day since.

She's mad that she can't make it go forward only backwards
She's actually playing right now, so I can write this blog post on the steps and enjoy the beautiful Fall weather. It's such a blessing living in a place where I don't have to worry about her running into the road and where the houses are small enough that parents kick their kids outside all day. This little neighborhood was built right after WWII and I wish that we still had neighborhoods planned like this. It really is lovely.

I asked Madeleine to pose and this is what she did.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Etsy purchases of late

Matt and I are constantly working on minimizing, but we still bring things in our home. It's like we are trying to find the perfect balance of what we need. I don't mind it. It's kind of like rearranging or baby proofing our home. Sometimes things need to change and that's okay.

I made a toy library for our home a few weeks ago. I love it. Madeleine checks out a box in her closet and then when she cleans it up she can pull out another one. It has kept toys off the floor and pieces aren't getting lost either. While I was going through all of our toys, I realized we had a few gaps. We needed more blocks (we still do), and a few more balls.

I ended up ordering these blocks.

The blocks are beautiful and really easy to stack. Madeleine likes looking through them. The wood part is really thick too so she can even stack the circles by herself! We push her little table by the window so the rainbow colors flood across the room. It's magical and her and Baby X really enjoy it. Madeleine likes holding the circle ones up to Baby X's eyes and he will start smiling. It's really cute.

And we also bought this ball.

I was surprised how much both of them liked this ball too. I bought it because I thought it was cute and I rationalized it by thinking that a Baby X might like the different texture from our other balls. What I wasn't expecting was how much Madeleine loves it. It's small enough that she can easily pick it up and throw it. It doesn't hurt at all if she hits us accidentally with it, and it bounces pretty well. I think I'm going to try to make another like it for her for Christmas. In my head, I have this vision of a bowl of cute little sheep balls sitting on her table. I don't think it will happen, but the vision is cute. 

Another toy I bought a few months back was this cute little sloth from bijou kitty.

It's made from minky and I was hoping that Madeleine would latch onto it so that I could take it instead of her blankets every where. It didn't quite work out that way. She saw this as Baby X's toy for the first few months we had it. Just now is she starting to warm up to this little sloth. The maker actually makes them in different sizes. I custom ordered one that was a bit smaller and cheaper. :) It's a beautiful little toy though, and all of Madeleine's little friends love cuddling and playing with it.

And a few things for me...

A little over a month ago I got these beautiful olive wood utensils off etsy. 

Matt refuses to use them, but I do daily and absolutely adore them. 

I also got some fabric for Madeleine's quilt I'm making off etsy. Usually I wouldn't include this, but I found that charm packs are cheaper on etsy than almost anywhere else. Also I don't have to take two babies to the quilting store. I did that once and we'll just say they're probably still trying to get the thread sorted after Madeleine played with it. (They were really nice though.)

I got 4 packs of these for less than $7 each. I was so excited to already have all the white squares cut.

I also got these colored charm packs to go with the fat quarters I already collected.

Again, they were cheaper than the quilting store here, and etsy has more of an variety. I'm a big fan now of quilting supplies of etsy.

And last but not least is Miss Caroline. I bought her from this etsy shop.

Right now she's hanging in our hallway and I couldn't be more in love with her. In the long run, we're planning on moving her to Madeleine's room. I love that she's based on a real person, and the fact that she was a short, cranky scientist just makes me like her even more. You can read more about her here if you'd like. Even though I don't care at all if Madeleine becomes a scientist, I hope Miss Caroline inspires Madeleine and me in some way.

So those are my recent buys. What do you like to buy off of etsy?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

21 Months

And just like that we went from "1 1/2" to "almost 2".

Madeleine is now 21 months.
She's around 25 pounds and is now starting to wear 2T. 

She still wears size 3 diapers, though lately she's been using the potty to pee. I ask if she needs to go and she'll look at me and run the potty. She'll then patiently wait for her chocolate chips that she carefully lines up on the bathtub rim and then eat them while reading her books.

Everything she does is deliberate and funny.

For example, if I tell her it's time to go, she grabs her stuff and stands by the door waiting for me. If I take too long, she'll grab my shoes and give them to me. Then when I open the door, she puts her dolls, blanket, and an extra binky in the seat next to her (we have a double stroller because of Baby X). She carefully props her dolls up just right before climbing in the stroller and buckles herself in. She'll sit there and wait for me to get my things together. If we have Baby X, then she carefully moves her dolls and binky in the basket underneath before cuddling back in the stroller with her blanket. 

Lego tower she made instead of napping

The blanket, her binky, and Sophie are her very favorite things. She flexible though. She has four other blankets that we can bring along too, and three or four extra dolls that she doesn't mind us bringing instead. Some of her other favorite toys are her green hotwheel cars, legos, and balls. She's lately fascinated by trucks, airplanes, and trains. She points them out every where we go. She still hugs trees and lights.

She loves picking out her own clothes lately. She picks most of what she wears and then accessorizes whatever I put on her. Baby X often has hats, necklaces, shoes, and purses put on him when Madeleine's best friend Be isn't around.

Running over to give me a hug
She's usually very conscientious of other people's feelings. A few weeks ago Madeleine was picking apples on Matt's shoulders. Sometimes she would accidentally drop apples on Matt's head. Each time after she did it, she would say "uh oh," before patting his head and giving him a hug to make it feel better. Another time, we were at baby store and there were a few babies were crying. Madeleine ran over to a pile of stuffed animals and started handing them out to the babies. 

She also is so good to Baby X. They are getting a cute little friendship. She's has become very concern with his well-being and lets me know if he cries. When he starts crying, she'll bring him all the essentials - his blanket, his binky, and his bottle. Then she'll sit there confused if he is still crying and gives him a hug before coming to me.Yesterday he was crying before his nap, so she crawled up next to him and laid next to him patting his belly.  

They also started to play together. Madeleine is so excited to see him most mornings and she'll chatter at him and try to get him out of his carseat. I often find her sitting across from him talking and trying to show him how something works or pretend playing with her doll.  She doesn't hit him or hurt him, so frequently I can just let them sit on the floor together and play. He'll throw the ball and she'll giggle and bring it back to him. Other times they play with bells and musical instruments.  I really love it.

Like all toddlers, Madeleine is so active. She runs, jumps, screams, kicks, climbs, and throws. She is careful but pretty fearless. She has no problem tackling most playgrounds. She spends at least an hour outside a day. I can let her out in the backyard alone and she'll stay near the house exploring. She often brings me back small treasures she finds - sticks, pinecones, you know, the usual. 

She loves chasing squirrels and throwing balls. Sticks are the currency among the kids in the neighborhood. The more sticks you have the cooler you are. Madeleine has her own little stash of sticks that she pokes and splashes puddles with.

One thing that I think is a bit unique is she adores grocery shopping. She sits in the cart and puts everything in the basket. She like touching each food as she puts it in, and every once in a while we'll find bite marks in some of the wrappings. She  unloads everything onto the conveyor belt (when she's not in the cart, she has no problem standing on her tip toes to push it on the counter) and then swipes the credit card and signs her name. She then takes the receipt and holds it until I buckle her in and trades it for her treat. She usually jumps up once or twice to bring me a fruit or veggie that she picked out. She usually will hold it the whole time and snacks on it on the way home.

I'm really loving this year of being a mom. It's been so much fun. She still doesn't talk much but she's a great communicator. She gives hugs often and still loves to be held. I love watching her learn and just interact with her surroundings. I never know what she's going to be up to next.

Apparently she needed to rearrange her furniture

I guess I should do these updates more frequently. There are so many little things I love about her right now that I don't want to forget.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

C is for Cooking

Baby X and Madeleine are currently on opposite nap schedules. It's been pretty nice, except our mornings are now confined to our home. Yesterday after Madeleine's nap, she and I made some cookies. Thankfully I have years of cookie-making experience, because measuring was kind of a moot point. If I was lucky, maybe 3/4s of whatever I gave her made it into the mixer, including the eggs. She tried so hard though, and every time something didn't quite work out, she'd say "uh-oh" before trying to clean it up.

I was able to pull my camera out when she put the chocolate chips in. She would only take one or two out at a time. Sometimes they went into the mix...

But just as frequently they ended up in her mouth. 

I taught her the useful skill of licking off the mixer. Usually I just let her have the spoon, so this was a first.

Then she sobbed for 8 minutes as the cookies cooked in the oven.

But all was forgiven, when I let her eat 3 after lunch.

We then dropped the rest off at Matt's lab, where they all quickly disappeared.

Friday, September 19, 2014

You can say "No"

 I saw this movie go viral on my facebook yesterday, and since I love 99% of Mormon messages, I decided to watch it. I turned it on while I was washing dishes from breakfast. I feel a tiny bit guilty for saying this, but I was actually completely appalled by this movie. After sleeping on it over night, I decided no, I can't keep quiet about this...so yeah, here's a blog post.

I'm guess to most people they see the message that as long as you are trying your best to do the things you need to do that God will bless you. Also the message that you never know how much one action will make a difference. Don't get me wrong, I think both of those are great messages, but I was bothered by how they chose to depict it.  The whole middle part of the movie with her sister is it what really drove me nuts . 

"I don't know. Everybody is looking for me to help them. I don't want to stay there if I'm not happy, but at the same time I don't want to abandon them. I really just want to think about myself, but I can't." ~right around the 4 minute mark

Yes, yes you can think about yourself! It's actually good for you! LDS women have the right to say "no" even to church people and their kids. It's okay to do that! Really! Taking care and loving yourself is vital for a happy family. Boundaries are healthy.

Lets see what would happen if she didn't do everything that she said "yes" to.

0:45 - Her daughter refuses breakfast. So she gives her a different one.
Alternative - she could have stuck to her statement that she isn't going to make anything else.

1:21  - Her son forgot to do his science project - so she rushed to help him do it.
Alternative - She could have let him fail. And guess what? He might have learned more from failing and would have been legitimately proud of himself next time knowing that he did the project himself. Does a blue ribbon really count if your mother threw it together with you right before school?

2:10 - Someone asking her to babysit. I actually thought she handled this well. It was an emergency. She asked first if anyone else could do it, and she figured out a way to make it work with her schedule.

3:00 - Someone asks if she can bring a meal to a family. She reassures them that she has time.
Alternative - she could have said no, not today, but I'd love to tomorrow.

3:24 - Her sister asks her to meet her for lunch.
Alternative - There are so many ways this could have been done different. It's her sister for pete's sake, she should be able to tell her no, but also sisters are special. You can tell them," Look, I'm meeting our cousin Kate for dinner. I'd love to have lunch with you, but I have x errands to run. Do you want to eat on the go with me while we talk and run errands?" If she spoke up about her needs, they could have been met with a few changes. Because guess what? Her needs matter too.

4:48 - She forgets that she was supposed to make dinner. She then makes a home cooked meal.
Alternative - order pizza for your kids and the family and leave. They probably would have liked it more, too. Not everything has to be homemade. Or call someone else to cook dinner or order pizza for the family. Or call the family and ask if you can bring it another night because you completely spaced.

Then she misses the one thing that she had on the calender for herself - a dinner with her cousin. She sits on the couch and cries. She is burned out. You can see that as she snaps at her children. You see that as she is too upset to pray. Her relationship with her children and with God is suffering because she gave too much of herself.

That isn't right. She should not feel obligated to say "yes" to everything. She shouldn't have to do everything herself.  And you know what? That's a completely okay. She doesn't need to be more selfless, and she doesn't need to be more Christ-like. She is allowed to be disappointed, hurt, and overwhelmed.
(By the way, something else that annoyed me is where is her husband in all of this? And if she's a single mom, why didn't she pay the babysitter and take herself out?) 

Then we see all the ways that she blessed other people, which is great, but it came at her expense. I've seen so many comments that this video shows how much we need each other, but I'd like to point out that no one helps or even listens to her (Her sister couldn't even let her talk during their lunch). At the end, she's alone. Her children don't comfort her. She has no friends that she calls. And she doesn't ask for help. 

What would have made this a better movie? Boundaries and saying "yes" to things that she could manage. People will find people that can help. If you can't do it, someone else will be found. Our Savior does not expect us to do everything. If you really can't help, He will keep knocking until He finds someone that can. He's good at it. 

Some of you might think that it's no big deal because this is just a small movie, and that I should probably have kept my mouth shut, but lack of boundaries, perfectionism, and depression and stress are problems that are so prevalent in LDS culture, especially in Utah.

What all of these articles have in common is perfectionism. Being the person that everyone can count on is something many people strive for. Being the "yes" person. It makes it seem like your life is more put together and that you have everything under control. It also makes you feel depressed, trapped, and out of control. 

We don't need to be perfect. There was actually a beautiful article in the Ensign in July about this. 

For those who may feel chronically burdened or anxious, sincerely ask yourself, “Do I define perfection and success by the doctrines of the Savior’s atoning love or by the world’s standards? Do I measure successor failure by the Holy Ghost confirming my righteous desires or by some worldly standard?”

Do you think doing her son's science project was success by the Savior's or the world's standards?
Do you think babysitting was success by the Savior's or the world's standards?
Do you think bringing a home cooked meal was success by the Savior's or the world's standards?

I think those are all very personal questions, but we as women do not need to abandon taking care of our needs and wants in order to help other's needs.

In taking care of home and family and being a nurture in the home, taking care of yourself is part of the job description. We live in the home too, and there should be reasonable boundaries to protect your own well-being.

And I know life isn't perfect, so for those days that I really just stink at balancing things...I listen to this song on repeat, so that I feel my Savior's love as I struggle. Because I know to Him, I count.

For additional resources about church, life, and family balance, here are some more articles.

  Conference talk
Good, better, best
Forget me not
Savior to Lighten your load

Friday, September 5, 2014

Simplifying and Zero Waste

Back at the beginning of the year, my resolution for August was "Simplify my surroundings". Matt and I have actually been doing this all year. I hate cleaning and he hates a messy house, so my solution was to get rid of stuff. When I told Matt way back when about it, he gave me a hug and told me that he felt like a big burden was taken off he shoulders before grabbing a garbage bag and started throwing out stuff. So we started in January instead of September. 

I'm so glad we did. I greatly underestimated how long it would take and we love having simpler lives. Through this process, we have freed up 2 closets, halved the number of books, clothes, and toys. And then it didn't stop there. We started simplifying other parts of our lives. We've simplified our schedules. Everything that needs to be scheduled with a secretary are only on Mondays and Fridays. Tuesday through Thursdays are for friends, hobbies, and spontaneous adventures. We've simplified our parenting style, our expectations, and our routines, and it's been lovely.

In order to do this, I've read a lot of books and blogs about it, and the result is our goals for our lives have permanently changed. But in the middle of my simplifying journey, I stumbled upon a different lifestyle that has also enriched our lives.

One of the many, many times I was pursuing pinterest, I stumbled across this kitchen. The lady that pinned it said. "This pantry is lovely, though the lady's philosophy is a little extreme."

Well, that got me interested. I clicked through and read about this woman named Bea and her family. She lives a zero-waste life. What does zero-waste mean? Well, this is a picture of her family's trash can for the year. (And yes, she's married with 2 kids.)

 It seemed way too extreme to even think about at the time, but it stuck with me. (Just like RIE parenting, which now I also love). 

A few months later, I visited her page again and saw that she wrote a book. My library even had it. I was so excited to read it that I was a bit annoyed when the person before me had it a month and half overdue. One of my wonderful librarian friends saw that I was eager and sent them a nice email reminding them. Apparently it worked, because the next day that book was in my hands.

It was a fabulous read for me. It wasn't overwhelming. The organization was great and I was motivated to start making small changes in my life. I started off really simple goals. Bring reusable bags to the store. Recycle stuff. Go to the thrift store even if it's a pain. Things I did sometimes that wouldn't kill me to be more consistent.

After a while, we got in the habit. Soon after, other changes came from these tiny actions. We started biking 5 miles to the grocery store. We started eating local. We have a small compost pile to take out in our kitchen. (Princeton is really awesome so we have a compost area by the community garden.) We started bringing tupperware for things to be weighed out in. 

It was really interesting for me to see that as I started to try to eliminate trash from our home that our home has drastically changed in many areas. (If you are wondering no we aren't even close to being like Bea. We still taking out trash and using disposable diapers.) We have a different perspective about food. (We picked apples from our local farm, made applesauce, and are getting ready to can for the first time.) I started enjoying cooking again. I buy mainly from etsy now. I haven't shopped on amazon in so long that I even forgot the password.  I prefer to buy things etsy "local" than a big box. (I also found especially for quilting supplies that it's a lot cheaper!) Matt and I now discuss what we like in our home and what is pretty instead of what is practical.

I think a great example of how we have change is when we went shopping this week. While we were checking out, Matt looked at me, and said, "Wow. We've gotten crunchy." I looked as he explained how we not only brought our own bags, but we had containers from home for our bulk goods. We also didn't have as much produce since I had already bought some from our local farm store and from our garden. Now I have really crunchy friends, and I don't think I come even close to them, but it made me smile. We have come a long way, and it's been a journey that I've been really enjoying.

I'm really excited to see where this simplifying/zero waste things leads us. Right now it's lead me to my new September goals. And I'm pleased to say that not only have I been "sugar free" for 5 days, but my energy is back to normal!
So tell me, what have you been exploring and reading about?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

September Goals

This month I set two goals for myself. They are both difficult, but if I can pull them off, I think it will really help out our home.

1. No Sugar and 2. No spending.

The no spending one has a few really basic rules. 
1) Food, gas, and bills are fine.
2) Everything else can wait.

Unfortunately, I lost my memory card in Utah and I didn't buy a new one, so blog posts aren't going to have any photos. :( Oh well. On the upside, this should be the easier goal of the two. Actually the no spend is a small incentive for me not to buy any junk food. It will save me more money at the end of the month. (I'm aiming for $500ish of spending? I'm really just trying to save as much as possible, so I can reevaluate my half of the budget.)  

The no sugar goal I think is going to kill me. Yesterday was the longest day of my life. My energy levels were all over the place. As a mom, I guess I reach for the giant costco bag of chocolate chips a few too many times, because I'm definitely feeling the withdraws. I actually tried going off sugar last month and I didn't even make it to 48 hours. Oops. This time though I'm doing a lot better. It's a really weird thing though to define what's going off sugar. When I google it people have so many different definitions of what no sugar is. For some people, it's no fruits. Others it's no fruit or carbs. Some people it means no desserts. There are so many different opinions and I actually didn't define it for me before I started. I thought it would be pretty straight forward, but instead it's lead to a few head scratching moments. 

Like muffins. I love muffins. They are tasty and easy to make. I also know that they almost have as much sugar as a cupcake. Cupcakes do count as sugar, but do muffins? Bread isn't too different from a muffin, but I had already decided that carbs are definitely not disappearing from my life. We live naturally a bit more vegetarian and while carbs aren't a huge part of our diet, they definitely have a presence.  So where do I draw the line? 

I've kind of decided that if it's from a box I don't care, since I make most of what we eat from scratch. The things I actually buy in boxes are things that shave off hours of my time - like pasta, bread, and crackers. Fruit I also think is okay. I haven't had any yet, since the fruit in our kitchen isn't ripe. I always feel weird cutting out an entire food group from my diet. It makes me uncomfortable. 

Matt just informed me that the tiny bit of maple syrup I poured on my oatmeal was all sugar. Oops. I guess I really do need to make guidelines. Maple syrup comes from a tree (we pay extra for that kind). It's natural. It can't be that bad right? I guess we better trek over the library and find out.