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Seasonal decorating.

I adore fall. I love the crisp weather, the crinkling leaves, the colors, the light, the lead-up to the holidays…you name it. What I don’t love are the crazy price tags on seasonal decorations!

So this year we took matters into our own hands and are making some of our own. We started with some dried hydrangeas from the garden. We purchased a $6 wreath and some crafting supplies and for under $20 we have a great wreath. Sure beats the pre-made ones that were $60 and up! For future seasons we could easily change up the bow or add some different colors for a completely different look.

Next on the list is spray-painting a few old flower pots to go on the front porch. We are sticking with mums and not much else this year. Our neighbors sent us some amazing looking squash which will add to the decor until they’re eaten.

We also scattered a few inexpensive decorations around the house with some more dried flowers. If you’re careful to choose ones that aren’t completely obvious in their seasonality, you can probably rotate them around the house throughout the year.

Now, if only I had some crazy embroidery skills I’d have some awesome throw pillows…

Washing Dishes: What’s your method?

I’m the first to admit that washing dishes is not my forte. Thankfully, my husband takes over that job most of the time. I grew up using a dishcloth for the task, he favors a sponge or a bristle brush. If I’m being honest, I’d have to say that I get a bit grossed out by the sponge most of the time. So I’m turning the question to the world at large…

What tool do you favor when washing dishes?

I’ve actually done some research on the cleanliness of each. A brush (provided it dries fairly quickly) ranks as the most clean but the least versatile, while sponge is the least clean (mostly for the grody bits that get trapped in it). A dishcloth is somewhere in between and seems about equal to the sponge for versatility.

I’d assume that a few simple practices are also recommended:

1. Rinsing the tool after use to dislodge any leftover food particles.
2. Regular cleaning/replacement regimen (dishwasher for the sponge, washer for the cloth, etc.).
3. Exposure to high heat for killing of bacteria (sun, microwave (use with caution), dishwasher or washing machine).

Have any other helpful hints?

Sunday dinner mashup

Last week we were out of town longer than expected so we’ve been playing meal catchup all of this week. After a few meals out at friends and celebrating our anniversary, we had a hodgepodge of food left in the fridge by weeks end. The funny thing was, there was no coherent plan for any of it! So tonight I set out to create a meal (and leftovers for lunch tomorrow).

We ended up with chicken sautéed with a little olive oil after being coated in a medley of spices,

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jasmine rice with red onion, zucchini and garlic (cooked in the same pan as the chicken so it picked up some yummy flavor)

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and cauliflower with a little red wine vinegar, mustard and a titch of mayo.
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Sound random?? It totally was but it sure was delicious!

This week’a goal is to prep ahead as much as possible so we can all sit down to eat together as a family. We really love establishing that routine as a family norm and Lena definitely responds well to it. She’s much more likely to eat what she’s given without argument and/or coaxing. It’s difficult when I sometimes don’t walk in the door until after 5:30 but we’re working on it!

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Getting a Toddler to Stay in Bed!

I’ve been doing a lot of research lately because our three-year-old likes to pop out of bed as soon as she hears the tiniest of sounds in the morning (aka my 5:20 alarm so I have 30 minutes of alone time to exercise). Needless to say, this has undesirable consequences for everyone.

The thing is, when she gets up early (or at her much later wake up time if 6 am) she is fully prepared to face the day with a smile. She gets a decent afternoon nap and is in bed by 7:00 – 7:30 pm most nights. Her routine has been pretty fixed for a while and I am not ready to give up a daytime nap, nor do I think she’s ready. So, the only solution I can see is to push back her bedtime.

There have certainly been times where she has gone to bed much later than that and still risen with the dawn. However, we have never made it a consistent switch.

I’m not sure I’m prepared for the emotional warfare that will commence if she’s overtired and cranky. But 5:20? Really??

So we will attempt to slowly move back her bedtime and see what that brings. Are we crazy? We shall see!

Thinking positively even when the going gets rough!

It’s crazy how quickly these little babes grow and with them, our expectations. It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment and forget to see the bigger picture. Sleepless nights, tantrums, incessant questions, disregard for rules, is there a moment that isn’t challenging?

I often hear people bemoaning the struggles of this or that stage and wishing of speedy delivery to the next and we are certainly guilty if this too! I don’t believe these complaints represent our overall parental well-being or happiness and we all need to share our frustrations. Yet, I can’t help but feel that it’s too easy to focus on the negative aspects of our current struggle and forget all the amazing and wonderful things that happen each day. Our brains are hard wired to focus on the negatives and the positives are all too easily glossed over and forgotten.

My mission these days is to actively remember all the great things that happen each day. We have technology at our fingertips, so use it! I have a terrible memory so need all the help I can get. Snap a picture, capture a quick video, jot down a note, save a piece of artwork or some token from a shared activity…the list goes on. I’m making it a point to do this and the process helps me focus on the good stuff! It doesn’t have to be anything monumental or earth shattering, just something that makes you smile. Let’s try a little harder to be grateful for the amazing family we are building (despite it’s many flaws)!

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Things I’ve learned from my FitBit

In no particular order…

1. It’s hard to hit 10,000 steps unless I go for a LONG walk!
2. Sitting at a desk during work more than halves the number of steps for that day (no matter how much I try to get up).
3. I’m a much more sedentary person than I thought…or want to be.
4. The sleep tracker works way better than a baby log (no input needed!).
5. Toddlers and crawlers keep you on your toes.
6. I’m addicted to the party on my arm when I hit goal (FitBit users, you know what I mean).
7. I need to start running up and down the stairs at nap times (too bad I have creaky old floors).

…I’m sure I’ll think of more!

Discipline as we know it, year three.

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Discipline has been an evolving process since our oldest was born. It’s difficult to remember the early days but we tend to have headstrong kids who aren’t afraid to make their wishes known. Case and point, the little one is getting braver by the second and responds to the word “No!” with a wail of protest. She still complies, for the next five seconds at least.

We always try to follow the ideals of positive reinforcement, pointing out the good things in hopes of encouraging more good behavior. Harping on the “bad” behavior often begets more of the same as even negative attention in a busy household is attention focused on that child. Kids know how to push our buttons so when I start getting my words parroted back to me before I even say them, I know it’s time to change my strategy.

That said, many of the tactics we use don’t always prove effective. Incentives and rewards are often shrugged aside when a stubborn three-year-old has her nose out of joint about something or other. Praise and encouragement only go so far when she has her little heart set on the sequence of events happening as she sees them.

More often than not, communication is the root of many of our difficulties. It’s not easy for a precocious three-year-old to understand parent imposed limits, timeframes or obligations like work. Sometimes, after attempting to satisfy an endless stream of “Why, mommy?”, “Because I said so!” is the only answer left. If you take a step back and try to view our hectic lives from a child’s point of view it’s easy to see why they balk when we try to hurry, or resist when we try to cajole. Their needs and wants are simple…love, attention, a full belly and some good old fashioned fun.

So as I grind my teeth in frustration after the millionth challenge of the day, I try to put myself in her shoes and find a little more patience. I’ll try to pick my battles and save them for the big ticket items I really care about…manners, kindness and gratitude being at the top of that list.

What are your tried and true best practices for discipline? I’d love to add to my repertoire!

Dear Highway Rest Area

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Let me begin with sincere thanks for facilitating the briefest of layovers on long road trips. Your convenient location provides a much needed respite from the cramped confines of our car. Providing a refueling station for humans and automobiles alike is a service that is often overlooked but much appreciated by yours truly.

I am loathe to find fault, yet I feel obliged to bring one complaint to your attention. I can’t help but notice that the sustenance offered to your patrons is sadly lacking in nutritional value. I will take most of the blame as, in providing food and snacks of maximum nutritional benefit for my children, I failed to provide the same for myself and my spouse. In lacking such forethought, I gained the unique opportunity to trod your gleaming halls and share road weary greetings with my fellow travelers.

So, having little choice, I sampled your wares and could weep as I feel my body absorb each salt and grease laden bite. I flatter myself in speaking for my fellow travelers in begging you to please reconsider your meager offerings. I will be forever grateful if you’d deign to provide options with a hint of greenery, the snap of fresh vegetables or even the enticing aroma of ripe fruit.

In closing, I leave you with one final thought. “Food for thought is no substitute for the real thing.” – Walt Kelly

Your humble guest,
~ Mom…in the works

The meddlesome three

It’s amazing how kids follow patterns even when you don’t realize it. I just read back through a few old posts and came to realize that we had much the same experience with Lena as we’re having with Maggie.

We are battling teething, a growth spurt AND a cold which are all contributing to night time wakings. I’m not talking a little blip and back to bed. This child is roaring for food and nothing will calm her except an 8 ounce ( yes, you read that correctly) bottle. That’s after being sent to bed with 10 oz to start with! I’ve finally whittled down the process to roughly 40 minutes but it’s still a huge disruption when I’m sleep deprived myself.

The good news is, after many days of swollen gums, we are finally seeing evidence of three teeth breaking through and most likely one more soon to follow. They can’t appear fast enough for me. Maybe once they arrive we’ll have a chance at a relatively quiet night?

We are currently employing the “grin and bear it” brand of coping. Ibuprofen before bed doesn’t seem to make a bit of difference. The only soother is more food, only then do we have a chance at a slightly less cranky baby.

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Twenty One Days…seriously.

Studies show that it takes 21 days to establish a habit. I know, I didn’t believe it either. But I have seen the evidence…it works!

I’ve shared my story about needing a healthy change in life. In just 21 days I saw not only a change in my body but more importantly a change in my mindset. I had been in a place where I felt like losing weight, feeling energetic (with two kids in tow) or having time to work on some goals were all impossibilities. Now, I’m finding ways to do all of those things.

The beauty of it is, there was no life altering change or big hurdle I had to manage. Over a few months I made small, almost imperceptible changes and stuck with then. No excuses. After 21 days (give or take) it no longer required much effort and I just continued to build on that premise.

Want to write more? Spend 5 or 10 minutes every day writing. I bet you’ll find you start building on those few minutes as time goes on. Want to get fit? Set aside a 30 minute window every day and exercise. Want to eat better? Choose one unhealthy item/food type a week and eliminate it. The trick is to start, and start small.

So pick that goal you’ve had lingering in the back of your head for the past few weeks or months and start working toward it. You’re going to be amazed at what you can accomplish!

PDF can be found here!