Archive | February 2014

Organization is My Happy Place

My goal! Er, I mean... Someday, this would be really cool to have?

My goal! Er, I mean… Someday, this would be really cool to have?

I have two kids and a history of living in pig sties. To my credit, the first sty was my teenage self’s room, where I insisted that I knew where everything was in that disaster. That’s why I spent at least 15 minutes every morning searching endlessly for my other heel, right? Right. The second was my husband and my first apartment. I have an excuse for that one, too. Wanna hear it? No? Ok. My dishwasher broke about 6 months into living there and we were too afraid to ask them to fix it. (We’d already ripped a hole in the wall thanks to my preteen brother catching the drilled-into-the-wall baby gate at the top of our indoor stairs, and had to replace a light fixture we dropped, and had my brother walk through our screen door, and gotten in trouble for drying our clothes on the balcony….) Also, I was 21, had an 18 month old, and a husband who’s man cave was the front 1/3 of our living room. Dip cans, dip bottles, and soda cans abounded. Walls were covered in highlighter and butt cream. Dishes piled up, as did laundry from our three week trip to the laundromat that I was too exhausted to put away.

Then, I started to teach daycare. Ah… a place of my own, where I was the only adult and could direct the smaller people to my heart’s content. Within a week (more often three days), my rooms were organized, labeled, and up to code. After a month, they were still organized. Yes, children make messes. Yes, two year olds can play games and recognize what toys go in which boxes. Or, they know that “BEEP” means they got the right box, while “AAAAAAANK” means they got the wrong box. It was bliss. I had color-coded folders for each day’s activities that were prepped by the previous Friday. I had news letters written. I had parents’ boards and bulletin boards to express myself and the kids on. It was amazing.

Then, I’d go home. It was awful.

Fast-forward a year, and I again have my own domain. Today, I re-organized. I re-organized my kitchen, moving throw-away baby bottles and cups and lids (none match, which is annoying in itself) to a lower shelf and my appliances to the higher shelf. I moved spices to a place where I don’t have to climb onto the stove to get them. I moved all the crap off the counter. It is a beautiful thing. I re-organized the baby’s room and switched out all of his 6-9 month clothes for his 9-12 month, which are surprisingly lacking. I discovered that I have about 10 boxes of boy clothes of various ages that are spilling out of ever closet except my own. I moved his make-shift dresser to his brother’s room for optimal toy organization and turn the changing table into a dresser-changing table. And #1’s room got wall stickies so it looks like a jungle! Everything is so organized! And I love it!

I love knowing exactly where everything is. I love looking into a room and being able to breathe because the shelves are clear. I love being able to say, “Grab me the baby towel off the left side, top shelf of the changing table, please, babe!” and getting a baby towel handed to me without shouts of frustration. I love color-coordinating shower curtains with towels. I love being able to get things off #1’s floor. I love being able to let #2 freely roam my kitchen cabinets because there is nothing harmful or expensive in them. I love it.

And maybe that makes me a little weird, but organization is definitely my happy place. There is nothing more calming to me than finishing a project and stepping back to see a tapestry of cleanliness. If I’m ever stressed or overwhelmed, look at my house. I can guarantee that the house is a mess, which is the root of it all. A clean house is a clean mind, and I can tackle nearly anything if I’ve got a couch I can sit on and a sink free of dishes.

Tonight, I’m in a very happy place.


Jumpin’ on the Organic Train

You’d think I would have done this sooner, seeing as I live within 50 miles of the home-base for Whole Foods. I haven’t. Why? I thought it was just a load of bologna. That, and it’s so crazy expensive! Alas, I have woken up to the truth: our food is not good for us. Rather, the food we find cheapest and on the shelves of our supermarkets are full of things that are less than bueno. I’d already made a few changes, like avoiding my previous go-to Broke People Foods. Sorry, Hamburger helper, Ramen, and Hot Dogs, you have to get the boot. I was still buying luncheon meat, american cheese, and boxed meals like jumbalaya and instant potatoes, cereal and instant oatmeal. The sodium and sugar content of these BLEW my mind. 

Then, I got the idea of starting a home-based organic/locally-grown baby food business. Of course, starting a food business in this town requires the best of the best, great research, and a knowledge of what the heck is going into this food. Did I mention that Whole Foods is based outta here? We have defined what a modern-day hippy is.

The switch to organic was inevitable. No, I don’t plan on buying everything organic. Yet. My itsy-bitsy food budget just won’t allow it. And I most certainly am not buying bunches of organic meat. Sorry, family. I love you dearly, but meat is down to maybe, mayyyyybe twice a week. But the foods on the dirty dozen list that I pick up often (apples *gasp*, oranges, strawberries, blueberries…) are most definitely going to be organic. Eventually they will be local, at least during the season. 

Am I excited? You bet! Am I nervous? Ohhhhh, you have no idea. My fingers are crossed that I don’t totally blow this food budget. Otherwise, we might be having a few nights of literally rice, beans, and bread. (If you have great low-cost rice and beans recipes, toss them at me! I need some! It’s an easy sell to a family of rather flatulent menfolk. Makes them toot? Bring it on.) No matter what, though, I will not be buying more foods that have anything other than ingredients I can understand.

Do you have any tips on buying and cooking organically? Do you have any awesome recipes? I’d love to get them! Thanks!

No More Dead Babies, Please?

I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve about had it with all of these articles and videos and blog posts about babies and death. I don’t care if it’s babies themselves dying, or their parents dying, or them being abandoned, or them surviving death. Stop it, ok? My heart and my tear ducts can’t take it all.

I’m not sure I was this incredibly emotional about babies after I had #1. I mean, I was paranoid for him, but there either weren’t as many baby stories or I’m just so much more sensitive to them. The only think I can come up with is that I was too busy transitioning from high school student to mom to pay any attention to anything other than my own kid. After #2, though? H’oh boy… Waterworks abound. I will never make fun of my mom for crying in a movie again. Ever.

Seriously, though, it seems like my internal emotional clock has shifted. Now, each story I see hits home. Each baby held in its dying father’s arms is my child with my husband. Each baby abandoned in a dumpster is my baby, though I’d never abandon it. Every baby who survives the impossible or who passes away in the night is mine, and my heart cries out for them. I have no idea what to do about it.

I’ve started just avoiding all articles, videos, and blog posts that mention the words “infant,” “baby,” or “child.” I know it isn’t right. After all, the reality is that these things happen. But just for a while, I’d like to hold my babies close and pretend like those things don’t happen. I want to pretend like it’s impossible for them to contract a rare, debilitating polio-like disease out of the blue. I want to pretend like their blanket is a friend to keep them warm, not their arch nemesis in sleep wars. I want to look at those little faces playing so happily together and treasure that moment, without the cloud of “what-ifs” hovering over me.

I’m beginning to think that I’m overly-paranoid. I’m not sure, though. Other mothers out there, do visions of horrible things flit through your mind in those quiet moments? Do you envision what would happen if you don’t lower the mattress on the crib soon? Do you stay up at night praying that the scorpions apparently inhabiting your apartment (seriously) don’t sneak into your babies’ beds? Do you panic just thinking about the thousands of things that could happen but probably won’t happen? Or am I in need of getting help?

I don’t mind honest answers. If I’m not crazy, I’d love to know that there are others out there who feel the same. If I’m having some sort of post partum, I suppose I should get that checked out. Either way, I really don’t want any links to any articles about babies.

Reality Sucks!

1896965_10152308230606018_119232050_nPardon my French, but reality sucks!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently had the idea to start up my own baby food business using primarily in-season, locally grown produce with organic produce filling in the spots. (Like right now. Winter is the season of leafy greens and squashes. Not much in the way of fruits right now.) This, of course, has led me to do some research on nutrition and the health of all of us, not just babies.

Inevitably, I was faced with a horrifying but not entirely unexpected reality: I feed my family crap.

I want to use my usual excuse: we’re broke. (I want to say “poor,” but Dave Ramsey would shake his finger at me. Just a momentary glitch…that’s lasted 5 years…..) We have gone through phases of ramen, hot dogs, and Hamburger Helper every night. I have a tendency to pick up those variety packs of flavored oatmeal and the rainbow rice cereal for #1 and I (though I avoid anything that brightly colored. I have a fear that my poo will come out colored, after a bad experience eating Mardi Gras-colored bread one time. It was scarring.) I’m not really sure why I feed it to my kid, since I won’t eat it. Maybe to make his shrieks of desire stop at the store? And I buy #2 Mum-mums (not entirely bad) and Honey Buzzers. I didn’t think about the fact that Honey Buzzers have the label “sweetened corn cereal” for a reason. Namely, because they’re sweetened to high heaven.

We won’t mention the hordes of unhealthy food my husband and I eat. Ok, we will. Hot dogs, canned baked beans, and cornbread in a bag were last night’s dinner. Ah, dinner for champions! Not at all. Root beer, ice cream, bags upon bags of chips, coffee with extra creamer and three sweet-and-lows, sweetened cheerios, salt seasoning out the wazoo, heavily-buttered vegetables, not real butter but margarine on EVERYTHING. Need I go on? We’ve gotten better over the past few months as I strive towards less canned goods and more fresh foods, but they’re still there, staring at me from my fridge door, calling to me from my pantry.

And I will be frank with you. As much as I know that the health gurus out there would demand I empty my house of every last gram of artificial sugar and high-sodium product, I won’t. Because we’re broke. Will I go buy more of it? Definitely not. Will I possibly try to eat it all myself so that my kids don’t? It’s highly likely. Will we be eating farm-fresh, locally grown food immediately? Heck no. That stuff’s delicious, but way out of our price range right now. That doesn’t mean I won’t begin buying more produce, cooking with more produce, experimenting. Today, for example, I am cutting all liquids out of my family’s diet except for steeped tea (with honey if it needs to be sweet) and water. No more milk for drinking, no more kool-aid packs, no more instant tea out of a box. Fingers crossed for hubby to keep to it at work, but I’ll settle for just at home, too.

All this goes to say that I am shocked and even more driven to set up this baby food business. If my family’s eating is this horrendous and I’ve watched documentaries like “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” and “Vegucated,” how much worse are the average American families eating? What are we starting our kids off with? Even moreso, what have we been sold is “good for us?”

Right now, I’m looking at a box of Mum-mums, apple flavored. A serving of 4 “rusks,” (which they aren’t, because rusks are traditionally double-baked cookies or breads, like biscotti) has 30 calories. Not bad. It also has 25 mg of sodium, with 3% protein. Now, my baby eats maybe one and gets tired of it, but there is literally NO OTHER nutritional value to these things. They are fillers. They have “rice, potato starch, sugar, apple powder, salt, and natural apple flavor.” That doesn’t sound like a heck of a lot. The fact that I can find no where how to get a baked good to be so light, airy, and easily-dissolveable has me wary, as well. What happened to the nutrients? What happened to the real fruit, not just the fruit “powder?” And why is it made in China? (Nevermind. I know the answer to that one.)

Right now, my boys are laughing hysterically at each other while they wait for me to go get #2. I love that sound. I want to hear it for a very, very long time. If I’m feeding them empty, tasteless and nutrient-less food, I’m sabotaging both them and my desire.

The reality sucks. I’m poisoning my family. And that is going to change.

Homemade Baby Food for Sale?

farmers-market-2The hubby and I have been struggling on our one income for a while now and, try my hardest, it’s proving more difficult than I thought to land a job. While I have all the credentials, certifications, and experience for the jobs I’m applying for, the two boys are causing some kinks. Either the daycare doesn’t have a spot for one of them, or they do but the discounted price would be half of my paycheck. On top of that, there’s just not a lot of job opportunity down here in the middle stretch of interstate. There are jobs aplenty 30 minutes north and an hour south, but the gas is horrendous and next year, #1 starts school. It’d be more than a little odd to be working at one daycare and have to have him at another because of my work schedule.

Then, today, I had an idea. It’s still half-baked, and I really don’t know how I would price things out, but here it is: homemade organic (possibly) baby food. What do you think? Would you buy it?

I know that many of us stay-at-home moms already do this, but I was getting a little bored of the basics. “Put a strawberry block in, and a mango block, and some applesauce…” Dinner times are the worst. Even I cringe while mixing green beans and mixed veggies together in his little bowl. I started looking into recipes for more variety and realized, if I’m wanting more diversity, I’ll bet there are other moms out there who want more. It’s a little daunting, though, tackling the baby food diet. Everything has to be stripped down to its essentials. No sugars added, no salt added. Do you know how hard it is to get green beans or peas to a puree-able softness? But I definitely don’t want to go back to the canned baby foods.

(I am totally thinking out loud here, so bear with me.) I’d probably have certain packages of differing values and stages. The beginning stage would have simple fruits and veggies: applesauce without the skin, bananas, pears, peaches, green beans, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash. Simple foods that aren’t too vivid in flavor. I found a fantastic recipe for a pumpkin-pear combination. The second stage would have larger chunks, rather than being completely smooth, and I’d start introducing some of the brighter flavors: mango, strawberry, blueberry, peas, broccoli, yellow squash. The final stage would swing into adding meats: ground beef, ground chicken, etc. And the recipes I’ve found! I stumbled upon pea soup for a great baby food when I had tons left over from a family meal and #2 loved it. It has carrots, split peas, onions, potatoes, and tiny pieces of bacon. It was delicious for us grown family members, and entirely healthy, even for #2. I’ve found so many more, and one reader from the fabulous country of Brazil has given me a whole bunch of recipes that she or friends have used.

What’s more, I plan on using local produce from the farmer’s market if I were to do this. Support our local farmers, get the local flavors, and keep it organic. What’s great about that, too, is that many farmers at the Farmer’s Market grow organically but can’t label it as such because it’s too expensive to get the label.

So, what do you think? I would of course have a disclaimer that it was made at home, and it would be frozen straight from cooking, not canned. Do you think it’s a plausible idea? Worth exploring? Or already something out there?

If I’m Not Here When You’re Grown

email pictureThis image has been floating around Facebook for the past few days and I love the idea. Today, I set up emails for both boys and shot off the first email, complete with descriptions of what they were doing right when I was typing it. Typical for my two little men, #2 was fussing because I wouldn’t hold him and his teeth hurt (those top two are racing to see which can come in first), and #1 had scratched a bump on his thigh and made it bleed. He was also scolding me for forgetting to put his pizza crust from last night into a container. Shame on me, I should have tossed it and not left it out all night, but it was cute watching him waddle around with his pjs around his ankles, wiggling his finger and trying to hold toilet paper onto his “wound.”

The email, though, hit a strange nerve with me. As I wrote it to my 18-year old sons, a part of me wanted to cry. I have no guarantee that either of us will be there on the other side of that email. 14 years, 18 years… That’s a long time to pray that fate doesn’t change course. With all of these stories flooding our Facebook walls and Yahoo pages about parents dying or children passing away, it left me shaken. Even more, it made me think of my husband’s father.

We don’t know when death will come. It could be today, tomorrow, or 40 years from now. What’s even scarier is that we have absolutely no control over it. Just like my husband’s father, we don’t know how the decisions of those around us will affect us. Maybe it will be nothing we did, but something someone else did that ripples over onto us. Maybe it will be our body giving out. I don’t know. All I know is that my next breath is not guaranteed.

With that heavy thought in mind, I just recorded a video of my boys. #1 just explained five water color drawings he made, while #2 drooled cereal out of his mouth. I don’t have enough pictures or videos for those what-if scenarios. I won’t dwell on what hasn’t happened yet, but I want to make sure I have memories stored. Whether it is for sharing when they’re grown or for looking back on when one of us is gone, I want to have something. I need to have something.

These emails are just one more way for me to let my boys hear my voice. If, God forbid, something should happen to me, I hope that they can go through those emails and hear how much I loved them. I hope they can see us playing together, learning together, and growing together. I hope that they will never doubt how much they mean to me, and that they never forget my face for lack of pictures. Most of all, though, I hope I am with them, reading through it and laughing about it all when that 18th birthday rolls around.

If I’d Only Known…

Baby JoshieBreastfeeding. It seems like everyone has an opinion on the subject, and many view it as black or white. You either do it or you don’t, and each camp slings mud towards the other. Often, the act itself remains cloaked in mystery and the women who struggle with it or choose not to are frowned upon. I personally am a strong proponent of breastfeeding, but I’ve also faced many of those same hurdles as other women. What’s more, there are so many things I wish I’d known going into it, even with #2.

It often huts a lot for the first few weeks.

I don’t know if no one told me this or if I just didn’t understand what they meant by “pain,” but it slipped my mind. #1 was incredibly difficult due to an extra-high palate, and I nearly gave up from the pain of it all. I was bleeding, cracked, and crying during most feedings, with constant aching throughout the in-between time. With #2, I thought it would be easier because his palate was more normal. It was, but only by a margin. Logically, it all makes sense. You’ve literally got a vacuum on one of the most sensitive parts of your body. Until the baby learns how to eat smoother and your body forms a callous of sorts, it will hurt. But, it will also get better. For both boys, it took about three weeks for us to fall into a rhythm.

Use your lactation consultant.

Often, hospitals will have one on the maternity floor to help with any questions you might have while you’re there. Use them.  If you feel like your nurse is pushing too much for something, or doesn’t know what she’s doing, feel free to ask for the lactation consultant. Nurses are a fabulous resource, but sometimes it’s best to go to the expert. If you’re lower income, see if you can apply for WIC. Their lactation consultants are fabulous and, best of all, free. With #1 and the issues I had with him, I went to them as a last resort in shame that I couldn’t do what women had been doing for thousands of years. They were the ones to discover his high palate and gave me a life-saver: the nipple shield. With it, I was able to nurse him until he was 8 months old. Without it, I probably would have given up. With #2, I went to them 4 days after he was born. He was doing this weird yanking in the middle of eating, seriously hurting me. And, did I mention that nursing in general hurt? They helped calm me down, talk over some new techniques, and made sure #2 was latching right. Just hearing them say, “This is normal” helped immensely.

Don’t be ashamed to pump, and don’t beat yourself up if it dries up.

With both boys, I had to pump due to work or school. With #1, it was in the locker room of the gym I worked at, and I was so embarrassed. Here I was, pumping life-giving liquid for my child, and I was ashamed! Don’t be! Your boobs were created for this purpose. Definitely don’t make the people around you uncomfortable by lounging at your desk, pumping while talking to your male co-workers, but don’t feel like you need to hide in the bathroom handicap stall to pump. (Unfortunately, this was the case with #2, but that was mainly due to the fact that I had 10 minutes in between classes at college. There aren’t many rooms that you can pump at there.) What’s more, pumping is not the same as feeding your baby. I beat myself up with both when my milk started to vanish, but I shouldn’t have. I was putting in the effort, taking care of my family, and staying committed. The fact that biology was against me is not my fault. It just happens. It’s not your fault, either, so stop feeling like a bad mom. 🙂

If you choose formula or have to switch to formula, IT’S OK!

Formula is not from the devil. Formula will not cause your child to be fatter or dumber or less healthy. There are definitely benefits to breastfeeding, but formula is still a totally viable, acceptable, and terrific way to go. I had to switch to formula when #1 was 8 months, and I missed the closeness of nursing, but he wasn’t affected by it too much. (He had a mild milk allergy, so soy formula was fun, but that’s only my personal experience. The allergy was actually one of my own biggest motivators to breastfeed, because it was much easier to remove milk from my diet than to pay for the soy formula.) Two of my nieces and nephews were only formula-fed, and they are happy, healthy, and smart as all get out. They haven’t suffered for not breastfeeding. If you choose formula or find yourself having to supplement, you are not less of a mother. You’re just feeding them something else. There is nothing wrong with it.

These are just a few things I wish I had been told before I started nursing. What are some of the things you wish you were told?