Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Organization and Home Management (part 1 of 2)

As a lot of readers know by now, I’m kind of a list-freak. I love to be organized and on top of my game. I love having a list in hand. I love checking stuff off the list. I’m a firstborn- the desire comes naturally. But whether you’re a firstborn or lastborn, and whether or not organization comes naturally, chances are high that organization and lists could help your day-to-day life run more smoothly. I’m sure some people really love a “fly by the seat of my pants” philosophy, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all. That said- some aspect of become more organized still might help you.

In recent months, I’ve moved towards organizing my life more thoroughly. My favorite thing about it is the fact that I’m getting so much more accomplished in so much less time. I love not having to think about what to make for dinner or what I should be getting done or what cleaning things need to happen (or forgetting about certain things to clean till…well….). Prior to recent months, I still always kept running lists of whatever….to-do lists, menu plans, and anything else. But after the morning sickness phase of this pregnancy, and finally getting back to menu planning after a few months of not, I organized everything much more thoroughly, and now have a notebook to contain all of my lists and keep everything in order. And I have to say, I’m in love with my system. The only down side is that a 1” ring binder is kind of big to haul around, and it now contains my whole life.

In my folder, I have several sections: grocery lists, food ideas, menu plans/weekly to-do lists, cleaning schedule, baby prep plans, canning/preserving notes/plans/ideas/check-lists, holidays/gifts and trip planning. I’ll outline more of what each of those sections contain below.

Some people have mentioned before that they love the idea of being more organized and having more of a “schedule” (as in, cleaning routine, meal plans), but that it isn’t possible with young children because you never know if you’ll be able to get anything done on a given day….whether that depends on simultaneous naps or happy babies or help or whatever rocks your boat. But personally, I think it’s especially helpful in living the unpredictable life of mothering littles. People who don’t plan anything and let everything rest on how the day goes often end up not getting anything done. And while that’s not totally a crime…it doesn’t seem ideal to this productivity-minded gal. If I know what to expect- what has to get made for dinner, what housework needs accomplished on a given day, what weekly projects I have- then I know, no matter what happens, that these things just have to get done. I know that if that means I have to tandem wear or eat a power snack (chocolate, of course!) or whatever, no matter how tired and unmotivated I am (there are exceptions to the rule….I’m not talking about extremes of illness and such), it’s my job to find a way to accomplish the items without neglecting my first job as a mom. Without the list, especially if I was tired, it’d be easy to let everything slide and just make it through the day on a day when Vivi’s extra crabby, for instance, requiring constant attention. Whereas, knowing what has to happen, I can get up the will to go at it, and decide to wear Vivi while accomplishing what needs to get done. Another large advantage on this side is the fact that you don’t have to think on long days. You don’t have to put the effort into figuring something out plus the effort of doing it. Just consult your lists, and go!

On the other hand, one challenge I have to deal with as an idealist who always jots down excessive to-do lists that would never be practical….is being real. Which sometimes means the extras on the to-do list don’t happen. And it might mean that after a whole night of being awake with sick littles, the menu will get changed to something simpler, or something I can get out of the freezer. It might mean there’ll be weeks when I just get the basics (meals and cleaning, for instance) done….but nothing extra. I have to remember that my to-do lists aren’t life-or-death. That they’re a tool to help me, not a weapon to stress me. And that when there’s a conflict of interests between my babies and my lists….my babies win, always, and that’s perfectly okay- even if I didn’t get much done.

Depending on your personality, you’ll probably struggle more with one side or the other, and knowing that can help you strike a balance that benefits everyone. If you’re unorganized or laid back enough that any small excuse is enough to toss the plan out the window, then you probably need to focus on the “this absolutely has to happen today” mindset, or paper-organization won’t help you. On the other hand, if you, like me, are an idealist and tend towards high productivity, you’ll have to work at remembering that it’s okay if everything doesn’t happen….or it’ll just become a stress factor in your life.

Stay tuned for part two, where we’ll dig into what exactly my folder looks like, and how I use it…

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Baby Carriers: Ring Slings


Written last Aprilish....but for some reason, never posted... :-) We still love our ring sling!

*Note: even though I wear Vivi all the time in my maya wrap ring sling, I don’t have any recent pictures. So all of these are fairly old, and they’re all with homemade slings.*

I like variety. And I love variety in my baby carriers. Someone asked me recently to fess up as to how many carriers I have (12-15, for those who are curious- but some of those are available for selling, and most are ones I’m willing to loan), and then asked if I’ve figured out a favorite yet. In short, not really….they are all so useful for different purposes! Depending on the need, the baby, and my mood, I like different ones.

But I’m pretty sure, if someone could have just one baby carrier, for birth through toddlerhood, I’d recommend a ring sling. (That opinion might change if I can manage to fall in love with my woven wrap at some point…if the person was up for the learning curve.) It’s versatile and simple….and there are many gorgeous ones available.

Ring slings are especially wonderful for the early months; maybe birth through around 18 pounds. With a baby that light, the one shoulder system offers plenty of support and weight distribution, and can be worn the entire day. Ring slings are easy to get on and off, and can even be gotten on/adjusted while holding your baby, making them a good option for places where you can’t necessarily set your baby down to get adjusted correctly. However, even though Vivi’s over 23 pounds, I’ve been greatly enjoying using it with her, lately. I can no longer comfortably wear her for the whole day in it (but, honestly, I don’t wear her for the whole day, anyway- she has a world to explore, now), but I can still wear her for an hour or two at a time quite comfortably. For longer periods than that, or something more rigorous like a fast walk or hiking, I would prefer an ergo baby carrier or a Kozy mei tai. Another benefit for the maya wrap and toddlers is how fast it is to put on. It takes me hardly any time to throw the sling over my shoulder, pop Vivi in, and pull on the tail to tighten it. This is especially great if you have a toddler who’s on the go, but still needs mommy snuggles.

A great feature is the ability to nurse discreetly and hands free in it, simply by loosening the back rail while baby’s in the cradle position. When Vivi hit a sudden fascination with nursing around the clock again recently, I started nursing her in the sling a lot. And at a year old and 23+lbs, we can still do it comfortably! I didn’t nurse her in it when she was younger, as I didn’t use it often the first couple months. However, I have fallen in love with it so completely that I anticipate it being my favorite carrier when our next little one is an infant…and an important criteria for a carrier in the early months, for me, is being able to nurse in it. I need the ability to be able to put the baby on the breast whenever they need it, even if I’m in the store, in the middle of a time-sensitive meal, or helping Viviana with something.

One of my favorite things about the ring sling, and something Vivi and I used it extensively for from about 6 weeks-6 months, is the ability to curl the baby’s legs up and face them out in a “kangaroo carry”. You can do this with an older baby, as well, but you may find having all their weight balled up in front of you (instead of distributed around you) isn’t quite as supportive. Many moms give up babywearing with the declaration that their baby doesn’t like it, when what’s really happening is that the baby wants to see. Most babies are attentive and observant, and they want to see what you’re doing. Once they’re older and bigger, they can do this while facing you, or peeking over your shoulder from your back, but as a little one, facing you doesn’t allow much visibility. Viviana loved riding along this way, seeing everything I did throughout the day. She would also fall asleep in this position, which was an easier position to transfer her into bed from, as I could just loosen the sling up, tuck in my neck and slip it over my head, while supporting her with one arm as I eased her down. The kangaroo carry can’t be done in most other carriers.

Once Vivi got quite a bit heavier, I shifted more to my ergo and mei tai for a few months. But recently, I’ve rediscovered the world of ring slings, and I’m in love all over again. It’s almost always my carrier of choice right now for shopping, or quick sessions when she wants up while I’m doing something. For things where I’m doing a lot of bending, like cleaning bathrooms, I prefer to have her on my back in a 2-shoulder carrier. We’ve shopped for up to a couple hours at a time with just our sling, and both of us were very comfortable. She likes to ride on my hip (and so far I haven’t found another carrier with as comfortable a hip ability), and placing her there helps distribute her weight better.

If you’re considering purchasing a sling, I would recommend a maya wrap or a slingified wrap from Sleeping Baby Productions. You can make your own as well, and there are lots of patterns online. But I have to say, after not being able to see justifying spending the $60 to buy one when I could make one for $10, I’ve been converted. I’ve been using a real (lightly padded) maya wrap for a few months, since receiving one for teaching classes, and I’m in love. The difference just between their fabric and what I can find makes an incredible difference. Slingified wraps are also very comfortable because wraps are made out of a supportive fabric…and, they’re incredibly gorgeous! So, if you can afford it, I would recommend going for the real thing. You can get great deals on slings that look brand new on ebay- I’ve bought a couple this way to either resell at cost or have on hand to loan out. Otherwise, making your own is a great option. Also, if you are able to get a second carrier for when your baby’s older, you might find that a homemade one meets your needs perfectly- I didn’t have any issues in spite of wearing Vivi in my homemade slings all day, everyday.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Preparing For the Babymoon- less than 10 weeks away!

I’ve mentioned preparing ahead of time for a “babymoon” occasionally before. I thought I’d share some of the specifics of what I’m doing this time around. Each baby’s preparation will look a little different for me, as I have different things done and different needs…and yours will look very different from mine.

Whatever you might have to do to get ready, I think it’s a great thing for every mom to prepare for. You might not “need” it…you might not have much of any healing to do, the baby might be content being worn all day, and you might be able to jump back into life within 24 hours of giving birth. Or you might need it…your baby might (ahem :-)) not be perfectly happy just being worn while you do stuff, you might have breastfeeding issues, your other children might have more adjustment issues and need more of you, you might have a rough/longer recovery, tandem nursing might not be a breeze, you might be up every hour or more at night, and find yourself succumbing to an afternoon nap with the baby. I didn’t think I would need one with Vivi, but due to my longer recovery, I did…and was glad I had prepared for one, and was also very blessed by and thankful for family and friends who brought meals- especially since I only had about a week’s worth of fully-done meals prepared. Not to mention, there’s nothing quite so easy as having someone bring you a fully-done meal! J Whether it ends up being needed or not, I think it can be valuable and special for every family.

With Viviana, we stayed home the first two weeks. Ben left to play ultimate and do the grocery shopping, but Vivi and I didn’t go anywhere till attending a Memorial Day picnic when she was 13 days old. With this baby, we hope to stay home the first couple weeks as well, and I’m planning for a babymoon (as far as not really having to do anything) that’ll last around a month, give or take, depending on what we want to do.

Lives go by so quickly- and in just a flash, newborns grow up into alert babies…and before you know it, they’re turning one, and then getting married. I want to take in every moment with my newborn….I want Vivi to enjoy the season, too. I want Viviana to feel special and enjoy getting to know her little sibling. I want to take in every moment….capture every smile, every gurgle. I want to just drink in my baby’s sweetness….before s/he’s no longer a baby. That’s why we’re having a babymoon. So Vivi, the baby and I can just hang out all day…rocking, nursing, playing. We’re going to enjoy each other without any worries or cares. And when I start to feel restless, I’ll put the baby in a sling and pull a chair up next to me in the kitchen for Vivi, and we’ll go to work on a special dinner….not because I have to, just for fun. Or maybe Vivi and I will both grab sponges and set to work cleaning the bathroom, with baby in the sling or wrap. (Side note: I clean with all natural homemade cleaners, making it perfectly safe for little ones to be with me when I’m cleaning!) On the days when life’s a little busier, or when we’re just having too much fun being lazy together…we’ll pull a meal out of the freezer. And of course, we’ll still do laundry and keep up with any basics that need to be done.

I remember spending hours a day just rocking Vivi during her early weeks. She was so precious, so sweet….there were so many details to make note of and carefully imprint in my memory. I want to create those same memories again….oh, yes, it’ll be very different, with a toddler in tow…and it probably will be more active, because said toddler will surely want to play. But I want to drink in every moment. That won’t change.

*Edited to add: The closer we get to due date (10 weeks left!), the more I wonder what Vivi’s needs will be after the baby’s born. Since her needs are extremely important to us, I’m thinking a lot about practicalities of each day- how to still meet her needs while fully meeting the baby’s needs. Vivi has always been slower to develop emotionally than other babies, and that hasn’t changed yet. She has quite a few more emotional needs than the typical 15 month old. And that’s okay…but it means she’s still going to be very much a baby when #2 arrives. Like, I don’t think she’ll be ready to quit nursing in the night before then. And it’s pretty questionable whether or not she’ll be walking. So, I’m thinking a lot through how life will look practically in order to meet the full needs of both munchkins (instead of just expecting Vivi to grow up or, if this baby happens to be a more content baby, taking too much advantage of that). There will be adjustments for Vivi- for everybody, and that’s okay. I just don’t want adjustment to equal neglecting her very real needs. For instance- she’s going to have to be able to fall asleep while I nurse both at once sometimes, I’m sure, and then be eased down into the bed…something I have a hard time seeing happen right now. But, we aren’t going to settle for a cry-it-out method for her just because there’s a new baby, too.

So, needless to say, I’m thinking I’ll be quite grateful for a month off as we settle into a new normal, so I can still give my babies what they need. Vivi’s going to be a lot more needy than I originally anticipated she might. I originally thought it likely we’d help her night wean prior to the baby, for instance…but it’s obvious she’s not ready for that. Definitely okay, but it involves a change of plans, and means a baby moon might be necessary simply for the sake of meeting everyone’s emotional needs through the adjustments and still getting enough rest.

Mostly, I need to prepare my mindset….planning on it being a month off and not getting anything particular done outside of day-to-day basics and nurturing my family. Realizing that taking time out for naps or rest for a little while is okay, if it better enables me to meet everyone’s needs. Recognizing that my family’s needs are most important, and it’s okay to let the rest slide for awhile till we find a routine that works for everyone. Anyway….just some more realistic and down-to-the-nitty-gritty thoughts as we approach due date and work through how things will look practically! (Because I’m a planner…so thinking about stuff like this absolutely has to happen.)*

In the meanwhile, Viviana and I are having lots of fun getting ready for the babymoon! We’re gearing up, working hard together for the reward after baby.

I have a list of projects, which includes:

-Make postpartum menstrual pads (done!)

-Make overnight menstrual pads (done!)

-Stock up items for my etsy shop (pads, bowl covers, one-size diapers, etc.), so I can continue selling without having to make anything for a while (pretty close)

-Make a one-size diaper pattern and ½ dozen or so diapers (done!)

-Make a few baby hats

-Figure out Christmas stuff for Vivi, baby, Ben, family, etc. as well as birthdays over the next several months (coming along…but needs quite a bit more work!)

-Get all the canning/preserving done (work in progess…but things are under way!)

Then there’s cleaning preparation. I think this one’s really important. Firstly, because it lets me welcome the baby into a nice, clean, dust-and-dirt-free home. It also allows me to labor in a peaceful, uncluttered environment. And it makes it easier to let things slide for a while after the baby’s born. I’ve recently started working on tackling some of the more difficult things, because, while it’s still 10 weeks out, I’m getting larger and more and more out of breath….so I know at 36 weeks, especially with Vivi on my back, I may not be very able to do some of it. If I can, great- it won’t hurt to get done again. If not….at least it will have been done semi-recently, which is better than nothing.

My condensed list looks something like this:

-Vacuum dust all baseboards, surfaces, fans and light fixtures (most rooms are done- but there are at least a few I want to get to again in a few weeks)

-Steam Vac all carpets (done!)

-Wipe down appliances, etc. in kitchen (done- but it’s now on my monthly cleaning list, so it should get done 2 more times before baby)

-Clean out refrigerator (partially, but not a full wipe-down yet)

-Organize/create master list of freezers (they aren’t too bad due to recent partial-cleans in making room for new seasonal stuff- but need a little more organization and a final list so I know what I have and where to find it)

-Clean up craft room

-Get out all Vivi’s winter clothes

-Organize any closets/storage areas that need it (done!)

-Declutter entire house (I guess this one’s always a work in progress…but I’ve pretty thoroughly gotten through all rooms recently, so it’s fairly well done)

-Wash bedding, also wash any items that need it and don’t get washed often

-Wash/stash newborn diapers (holding myself off till 32 weeks on this one and the one below…can’t wait!)

-Wash newborn clothing and paraphernalia


I’m sure there are other things….but that’s the general jist of it, anyway.

Preparing for birth. Obviously, this one’s very important if you’re birthing at home, but even if you aren’t, there are some things needed no matter where you go/what you do. I detail this further in an old blog post (here and here), so this’ll be pretty short and sweet. I really wish I could start working on this one, and the getting ready of new baby’s dipes and clothes….that’ll be so much fun! But, I should probably hold off a few more weeks, at least….and I still have an issue of needing an upright dresser- so I don’t have a place to put anything yet.

-Prepare birth kit….make sure I have everything I need

-Prepare birthday freezer meal that works for my mostly-vegetarian midwife (definitely a meat-to-the-side meal, because I know I’ll be ready for something hearty and vegetarianism isn’t for me J)

-Set aside after-birth clothing for baby and I

-Prepare gift for Viviana (doll-size sling and cloth doll)

-Prepare healing stuff for afterwards

And, of course…preparing the kitchen! I love having a full pantry and freezers…it’s so rewarding, and always gets put to good use. I’m not sure how much I’ll have space to do this time around, since baby’s arrival will come closely on the heels of preserving season. My freezers are already stuffed, and I’m not even done! So, I’ll be working off this list, doing as much as will fit, and we’ll stop when there isn’t any space left….unless my mom or someone has a lot of empty space I can stash a few dishes in, which is a current possibility. Also, some things are subject to change…often the meals get put in my freezer because I’m making something for us and say, “Hey, this would be a good freezer-friendly meal that would be great after baby’s birth.”

Birth-day Meal:

Manicotti w/meatballs and homemade noodles

French bread

Chocolate cheesecake

Fully-done Meals:

-Uncooked pepperoni bread (up to 6-8 loaves, depending on space…it would make a good potluck/sharing at families’ meal)

-Chicken tortilla bake (one 13x9, done)

-Manicotti w/meatballs and homemade noodles (possibly- this would be in addition to the birth-day meal)

-caneloni w/homemade noodles (1-2 13x9)

-chicken divan (1 13x9)

-Beef stew (2 packages (will require making rice or mashed potatoes for serving)- my mother in law made us beef stew after Vivi was born, and it was a really awesome after-birth/starting up nursing meal!)

-sloppy joes (2 packages, done!)

-buffalo chicken soup (1)

-wet burritos (13x9)

-cheesy creamy chicken enchiladas (13x9)

-stir fry (this is vague- I need to find a recipe to try J)

-split pea soup (1)

Sides and Starters:

(a note: A lot, but not all, of the things listed here are things I like to have on hand more or less all the time. So preparing them for baby just means making sure I stay stocked up on all of these and don’t run my supply out without replenishing it before the end of October. That’s not the case for everything, but is definitely so for meats and cheeses…and preferably for beans and bread dough products. I also have/will have plenty of stored veggies, fruits, and what-not to use for stuff.)

6 pints refried black beans, seasoned

6 pints black and/or red beans

15 – 1 lb packages cooked ground beef

4 – 1 lb packages cooked seasoned burrito meat

3 – 1 lb packages cooked seasoned Italian beef sausage

6 – 1 ½ lb packages homemade meatballs

4 – 1 ½ lb packages Salisbury steaks (add mashed potatoes and typical sides (veggies, bread, etc.) and it’s a meal)

4 burger packs

3 bags taco meat

various cuts of meat from our side of beef

2 lbs homemade pepperoni, sliced

4 lbs homemade summer sausage

lots of cooked chopped chicken in various quantity packages

2 – 1 ½ lb fajita meat packages

2 – 1 ½ lb creamy crockpot chicken packages

2 – 1 ½ lb grilled chicken sandwich marinated chicken packs

shredded mozzarella and cheddar cheese

sliced provolone cheese

lots of bread dough- French bread, regular loaves, buns, pizza crust, etc.

tortilla dough- regular, jalepeno cheese, corn (divided into balls already, so I just have to roll and cook)

4 onion/pepper packs (for use with fajitas and meatball sandwiches)

1 cherry/blueberry pie

1 apple pie

8 qts frozen smoothies, assorted kinds

pureed bananas, for breads

12 breakfast burritos

Non-freezer Items:

Granola (3 gallons)

Banana chocolate chip bread mix for 6 loaves

Home-canned spaghetti sauce

Home-canned pizza sauce

Easy Meal Ideas Using my Sides/Starters:

-Steak, rice, salad

-Spaghetti & meatballs, French bread, salad

-Fajitas

-Meatball sandwiches, veggie and/or salad

-Pizza

-Tacos, bean dip

-Bean burritos

-Chili

-BBQ beef or chicken sandwiches, veggie/salad, potato salad if I have the time

-Beef pepper steak

-Salisbury steaks, mashed potato, salad

-Burgers and homemade fries

-Creamy crockpot chicken over rice, veggie

-Grilled chicken sandwich and homemade fries or potato salad

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

In which there isn't such thing as "bad" babies....

“Wow, he’s such a –er—content baby,” I commented to a friend recently, noticing that it didn’t bother him that he’d been left alone forever in his stroller seat. I almost said “good” baby, and catching myself and thinking about what I was actually saying got me to thinking in general on the topic.

We’re pretty good at slicing babies into a couple categories….good babies and bad babies. Good babies never cry, take minimal or no effort, and really aren’t much of an inconvenience to your life. Bad babies…well, let’s just say they rule your life for at least a little while. But really? Are babies actually bad? It’s not like it’s their goal and intent to inconvenience you, ruin your plans, and make your life frustrating. I don’t think a 3 month old wakes up devising ways to ruin your day. I don’t think a good baby is truly any more angelic than a “bad” baby, even if they allow you to carry on with your life.

So…I really prefer terms like “content” and “higher needs”. Because really, that’s what it is. It’s not a matter of a baby being “bad”…it’s simply that they really, truly, have higher needs than your average baby. They aren’t trying to make sure you get nothing done, they’re just conveying that they have important emotional and physical needs to be met by you.

And, unless I go over the deep end (not saying that won’t happen…but it’s not the plan, at least!), I’d never know if I had a “good” baby who would sit for hours by itself. I don’t want to know….I have no desire to take advantage of a more-content-than-average baby and neglect important emotional needs just because I can. I don’t want to “test” our kids and push them to their limits just to see what kind of freedom I can get from each one.

On the other hand, whether or not some of our babies are more content will be obvious. A high-needs baby is pretty unmistakable. And content babies don’t need quite as much as a high-needs baby, necessarily. There isn’t anything wrong with letting a content baby do some things that Viviana would never have done- like playing on the floor for 10 minutes. Each baby has individual needs, and a content baby might really enjoy and desire floor time that Vivi couldn’t handle and wasn’t interested in until she was fairly old. I just wouldn’t want to practically ignore said baby just because “hey, he’s content sitting over there by himself, so why should I ruin a good thing and ‘have’ to spend time with him when I could be getting such and such done?”

Content babies can be a blessing, especially in certain seasons of life….God knows what we need when He sends small packages our way! But so are high needs babies….Vivi brings so much joy every single day, and getting to spend all her waking minutes with her is a lot of fun. There’ve been harder seasons, but I’d never trade our Vivi-girl for an easy baby- she’s too great a blessing to us!

So….let’s not forget the blessing in each baby, whether content or high needs. Let’s not write some off as being “bad” simply because they’re babies with needs and don’t allow life to go forward as used to be normal. And let’s not enviously label some as “good” because they’re willing to play alone all day….it isn’t overly healthy for them anyway- and I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to loose so many hours a day with my baby just because he’s content.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Our Parenting Philosophy in Regards to Training and Discipline (part 3 of 3)

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Down the road, when “discipline” becomes necessary (i.e. when she has a firm grasp of what we desire, right and wrong, etc., and is no longer being trained as much in those areas), we would prefer to use more natural consequences….which are abundantly available, or simply “time in”, helping her learn what is and isn’t acceptable. I also want to reward our children randomly for positive behavior….because, again, it’s important for children to know how proud you are of their progress, and that you see the positives they’re displaying.

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Another practical aspect we feel is important is explaining to our kids “why”. There are a lot of mixed opinions on this out there, especially in the crowds who believe in first time obedience. But we feel that part of treating our children like people is taking into account their feelings, and therefore being willing to explain why they need to do something, or can’t do something else.

It’s also a bit of a “safe guard” for Ben and I. So often, parents end up making mandates just because. Because it’s inconvenient to them, or they just want perfect obedience, or something else that isn’t very explainable. For instance, how often might a child ask to go outside, be told no and throw themselves into a tantrum? Then the parent gets to think over why the child can’t go outside and the fact that there really isn’t anything wrong with the child going outside…except, now they’re tantruming, and allowing them to go out would be giving into a tantrum- something we’re firmly opposed to. I know I’ve been there as an older sibling. If you have to be prepared to give an answer, it’s a lot easier to hold out against tantrums…as well as to only say no when it’s necessary, instead of being provocative to your child. If the only reason the child can’t is because it sounds like an inconvenience for you, then no probably isn’t a good answer. If, on the other hand, you don’t want to let the child out because dinner will be on in 15 minutes- but everyone can go outside for a little while before getting ready for bed later- you have a reasonable base, a good explanation, and no reason to go back on your word when and if a tantrum ensues.

Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, it will help ease our children into deciding for themselves what’s right and wrong, in matters where it is a right/wrong situation. And ultimately, that’s what we want. I don’t want a child to do something because we “said so”, but rather because there are good and bad choices we can make everyday, and they desire to choose the right ones. Someday, they’ll be flying on their own, and we won’t be there to make sure they’re doing the right thing anymore. Our job will be done- unless we’ve managed to become such good friends (as we hope to) that they still come to us when they desire counsel. Ultimately, we want our children to do right for right’s sake. Not just because doing wrong means getting a spanking….or going to jail….or so forth. But because God loves righteousness and “right” is always the most rewarding decision to make.

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Having grace for our children- just as God has grace for us- is another practical aspect to gentle parenting. And honestly, it’s one that I’m not sure how it totally plays out yet. I’ve been wondering about it lately with Vivi, as she’s dealt with being chronically overtired after too much vacation and it’s caused more tantrums and meltdowns. I don’t have any desire to give into and encourage tantrums…yet I understand that most of it is stemming from being emotionally out of whack due to tiredness, rather than a desire to manipulate and get her way. And this week, I can relate….and I’m so grateful that God has the grace to forgive me when I get frustrated and have a poor attitude. While I may not understand how it all plays out, I know for certain that I need to give Vivi the grace I so desperately need poured on me.

Essentially, we want to parent the way God parents us. God doesn’t beat us. He doesn’t desire for us to fear Him. He woos us and draws us to Him. He gives grace when we stumble. And always, He loves. Always, He holds out open arms….always, we can feel safe there. We want our children to feel all that in us. Certainly, it won’t be to such a perfect extent, because we’re humans. There’ll be apologies, and too many opportunities to ask our children’s forgiveness. But the base that we strive for- is Christ’s model.

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Parenting and discipline- what we intend to do to shape our children’s lives- is a vast topic. It could never be summed up fully in one article or one conversation. But this is the general gist of what we believe, and where we’re headed. Ultimately, if I had to give a one-sentence response to the question of what we think of parenting/discipline, I’d say that relationship-centered parenting and demonstrating God’s personality are most important to us. Everything else tends to fit under one of those, or just be a further explanation of how it plays out.

We’re not the experts….we don’t have any adult children to prove that what we did works. We’re just two parents following in faith and seeking to find the very best for our children. So here we are, on quite the adventure….

Our Parenting Philosophy in Regards to Training and Discipline (part 2 of 3)

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We feel like it would be far more effective to gently guide our little ones as we train them than to use a rod/other instrument. It means that we have to be constantly involved with Vivi, so we’re there to help out with issues- it doesn’t work to just tell a one year old from across the room that she can’t touch that. See, not spanking doesn’t mean we think kids should get away with whatever they want. If we can help it, we’d rather not raise spoiled brats who tantrum to get their way and do whatever they want. We firmly believe it’s our job to train our young children to listen and obey. We really want to avoid the empty threats that happen in so many homes- or “having” to threat, period, because it seems harmful to everyone involved. The “Don’t touch…” “If you touch that (again), I’m going to have to come over there.” “Do you want a spanking?” And so forth. Not a fun route to go…and one that parents easily slip into, because on the surface, it’s easier. It delays your having to get involved. The end result, though, is a child that never listens the first time (and quickly figures out the line between threats and a consequence) and parents that are constantly frustrated by the need to threat and reiterate over and over, and eventually to get involved.

Our experience is pretty limited, obviously, since Vivi’s still quite young, but so far, here are some scenarios of how this might actually play out (and has played out for us). I’m pretty well convinced that, no matter what parenting style you use, consistency is a major key. In other words, constant parental involvement…it’s a way of life.

Vivi loves to play in the sink….but initially, she was really drawn to the window crank right behind the sink….and also to tasting everything in the sink and drinking the water. So, I would stand next to her, washing dishes or doing something where she was occupying most of my attention. Anytime she started to reach, or succeeded in grabbing the crank or drinking water, I’d remove her hand/the item and say something like, “No, Vivi, you can’t drink that, it’s yucky. The sink’s to play in.” I might also offer her sippy cup and see if she wants a drink of “good” water, telling her that’s what she can drink. That might’ve happened 10-20 times in a sitting initially- which is to say I didn’t get a whole lot done until she was done playing and went on my back or played with something at my feet where there was less to get into. Occasionally, I’d eventually remove her, but typically not- she wasn’t old enough to need a consequence, she was just in training process….learning her boundaries. Pretty soon, though, it was happening less and less, and now while I wouldn’t say she’s 100% perfect, it’s very rare (maybe once every few times she plays in the sink) that I have to tell her not to drink the water….and she never gives the window crank a glance.

Or, she’ll become infatuated with a pile of my or Ben’s books sitting next to the couch. When she starts to go for one (assuming it’s one she can’t have- some of our books we allow her to look at for as long as she’s handling them gently, or with our help), we say, “No, Vivi, that’s mommy’s book. Here, you can look at your books.” And we give her one of her books. Again, initially she would be back at the pile quite a few times…now, usually distracting her once is enough.

Another recent incident was learning to be nice to her 7 month old cousins, whom we spent a week with on vacation. She was too rough with them, and would try to hit the top of their heads. Not enough to hurt them, since they’re used to older siblings, but hard enough to not be gentle, and therefore, be a problem. I made sure I was with her when she was playing with them and if she hit/started to hit, I’d remove her hand and say, “No, Vivi, we can’t hit. You have to be gentle with ____.” Then I’d demonstrate, both on her and the cousin, how to be gentle. Because it was a situation where someone was getting hurt, I only gave her one additional opportunity, usually, to be gentle. If she tried to hit again, I would generally remove her to a different part of the room or house and play with something else with her. Usually, a tantrum was involved because she didn’t want to leave. Within a couple days, though, she seemed to have a pretty good grasp on playing nicely, and while I’m sure I’ll have to help her along in the future again, we didn’t have any issues in the latter ½ of the week.

Thinking about dealing with this situation as spanking parents just doesn’t make sense. Vivi is learning a lot by mimicking be- in fact, she developed her own sign for gentle because of the way I’d always stroke her gently on the face when telling her to be gentle. It just doesn’t make sense to tell her not to hit while I’m slapping her hands or bum. I think using your hand to spank your child is wrong and absolutely not an option, but even using an instrument (rod, switch, etc.) doesn’t seem like it sets spanking apart from hitting. Likely, Vivi would wind up confused and frustrated, trying to figure out how it is she’s supposed to interact with the world. I’d rather just display gentleness and guide her in interacting gently with people, instead of hitting her every time she hits.

Distraction strikes me as important at as young an age as hers. I don’t expect to just say no and have her figure out something else to do. So we tell her no, and find something fun that she can play with/do, and/or show her how to correctly use/play with what she has. When she’s older, sure, she’ll be able to figure out a different source of entertainment for herself…but for now, it’s all part of the helping and guiding process, and I want her to see what she can have.

Each “session” is also always followed with lots of praise and/or conversation. For example, I might talk to her about how nice it is to drink her yummy water, and how yucky the sink water is. Or I’ll tell her she’s doing a great job being nice if she’s playing gently. It takes a decent memory, sometimes….just recently, as we were rehashing through what we’ve done with Vivi, I was realizing that we’ve already encountered a lot more hurdles than I thought. It’s easy to forget about them once Vivi gets past them- but it’s good to remember that it used to be a struggle, and to continue to praise her for positive behavior. I don’t want to just interact with Vivi when it’s necessary to intervene and be the “bad wolf”…I want lots of positive interactions, too.


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Our Parenting Philosophy in Regards to Training and Discipline (part 1 of 3)

Since we first got engaged, 4 years ago, Ben and I have spent countless hours talking about child training and discipline- probably weeks worth of hours. Our kids have always been extremely important to us, and it’s always been high priority to think through why we do what we do, especially when it affects them. As we’ve hashed and re-hashed new and old ideas, we’ve gradually formed guidelines for how we think God wants our family to operate. Guidelines that are drastically different than what we thought they’d be 4 years ago. Slowly, gently, God’s pulled and tweaked our ideas, molding them carefully.

We have more questions than answers. And we can’t guarantee that the road we’re on will lead to perfect success. Yes, we’ve seen positive results so far….but Vivi’s just 15 months, and our only little one. There’ll be new phases and stages, new challenges and blessings, new personalities….and lots of new questions along the way. We can’t point to a host of families around us who parented this way and say, “See? Their kids all turned out well….” Because the path we’re choosing would seem at least a little radical to most of those we fellowship with. On the other hand, we’ve seen lots of methods that don’t work. We know, for example, that legalism won’t get you anywhere, and that controlling your teen’s life only works till they’re old enough to hit the highway. And, on the other extreme, we know that total leniency also produces negative results. We know that failing to be perfectly consistent in whatever one chooses produces negative results.

It’s very much been a journey of faith for me. I’ve assumed for a long time that spanking was biblical and what godly parents do, for the good of their kids. I thought through how I wanted to parent, and why, all based on the assumptions that certain philosophies were biblical- and not just biblical, but the only biblical option. And then, gradually, God started giving us new ideas. Ideas I wasn’t sure about at first. I wanted a set action plan, and it had to be “biblical”. As the ideas have formed together, they have become a loose plan of sorts….they’ve given me a guideline for how to handle various day-to-day training issues. Gradually, we’ve become convicted of the way God wants us to parent. A few months ago, while I felt it was clearly the direction we were supposed to go, I would’ve preferred if it was something we didn’t have to discuss with anyone else. But God had more work to do….and slowly, our decisions have become a passion. A conviction strong enough that it doesn’t matter how much opposition there is, or if everyone disagrees with us. Like babywearing and cosleeping. We know, absolutely, that this is where God has us.

So, then….where are we headed? We feel very passionately about relationship-centered parenting. We always have. More than anything else, we want solid relationships with our kids. We want to have friendships when they reach adulthood that will carry on through whatever life has. We don’t want them to be afraid to come to us- whether it’s with an idea, a troubled conscience, a life issue, or something else. We’re passionate about attachment parenting and its many branches- breastfeeding on demand, babywearing, involving our babies in all of everyday life, cosleeping, etc. We’re also very passionate about treating babies and children like real people….acknowledging that they have emotional and physical needs, just like us. That they count just as much as adults- that, in fact, our children are the most important people, outside of each other (Ben and I) to spend time with, because they’re the ones we’ve been entrusted with. We believe in guiding and leading our children in righteousness. And we’re far more interested in making sure their hearts yearn after God than that they make us look good by obeying perfectly on the outside. We want our kids to obey, not because they’re afraid of getting spanked otherwise, but because it’s right. We want to show them a picture of who God really is- a loving Father. Because they’re people, like us, we believe we need to have grace for them. I’m not perfect; why should I expect my kids to be? We believe in explaining to our children why we ask/tell them to do what we do.

And we’ve come to the conclusion that spanking won’t help us reach those goals- and would, in fact, hinder many of them. Every parent has different goals, and different means of reaching them. These are ours, and following is more on how we currently feel we’ll best be able to meet them. Although I feel very uncertain right now on how biblical spanking actually is, I’m not at a place of saying it’s wrong for everyone, across the board. Spanking might suit your family and meet the goals you have in raising your children. And that’s okay. It, and many of its components, just isn’t going to work for us.

I was realizing this week that we believe in parenting teens as a friend and counselor, rather than a dictator. And we’re firm believers in all or most things attachment parenting. So, it really just doesn’t make sense to totally shift gears and mindsets for the approximately 2-12 crowd. Not sure why I didn’t see that light before!

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As we seek to form solid relationships with our children, we desire to spend lots of time with them. Family is our top priority. We love our children, and we love hanging out with them. We want them to feel valued and cherished, which means we spend a lot of time interacting with them. It means we plan activities just because we know Vivi would love them, or that we choose not to partake in activities that don’t work for Vivi. It means that we talk to her a lot, and involve her in our conversations. We get excited over the things that excite her. Mostly, we just love being a family together, interacting with each other.

Our marriage, and time for just us, is important too. The two don’t have to conflict….we typically enjoy lots of good marital time in the evenings after Vivi goes to sleep for the night, focused on just the two of us.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Going Green week seven- eating local and summer preservation

I’ve pretty well disappeared for some time around here...and I really miss writing. Partly because of life. Partly because of family trips and a crazy July. Partly because of some lifestyle changes and spending more time working to implement healthier eating. And partly because it’s summer, and all the fresh bounty is in!

Several years ago I started canning for my family, and for a few years, we were pretty faithful about doing a few staples….tomatoes, peaches, applesauce, apple pie filling (for syrup). We also froze, and still do, green beans, blueberries and some other things depending on the year. But somewhere in there it got to feeling like so much work that we weren’t really saving money, which at the time was the primary motivator. Tomatoes got dropped, though my family’s continued doing the apple stuff, since it’s something they use that’s easy and for which the taste difference compensates for time. I haven’t really done anything (except blueberries and green beans) since we got married….till this year.

This year, healthier living has become a front-line priority for us, and one of the steps we’ve taken is eating as much local as possible. We’ve been feasting on lots of fresh stuff, and have slowly been putting stuff away as it’s come into season. August will really be the big month! Now, I have a better motivator than saving money, which makes the effort feel so much more worth it….I want to feed my family the best of the best- the very healthiest I can. I want to support local farmers and help them continue to thrive as they provide us with high-quality produce. Not to mention, the stuff tastes awesome. An added bonus, I am saving quite a bit of money on at least most of the stuff I do. (Side note: the focus of this article is mostly on produce, but we also do local meats, milk, eggs and butter- most of those we have done for some time. My meats and milk are cheaper than the grocery store’s sale prices (as long as I buy in bulk), which makes it super easy to justify!)

We are currently eating only local produce, with the exception of cherries (one of Ben’s favorites) and bananas (not many, but they’re an easy fruit Vivi loves). That beans that what we eat depends on what’s at the market….it’s also meant less variety in each week’s fair, and instead, a continual move of different foods. It’s been so much fun to feel healthier and to eat stuff that tastes SO good. I don’t know what we’re going to do come October…I would imagine that after our feast this year there will be some foods we just won’t really eat until they’re in season again next year- the taste would just be too disappointing. And some things we’ll get used to making do with, for the sake of still getting raw stuff. Fruit wise, we’ll start enjoying tropical fruits again, and we’ll also eat a lot of smoothies (from fruits I’ve frozen this summer) to count towards our fruit consumption. Raw veggies will be the thing we’ll just have to deal with. Although I’m wondering lately…would slightly cooked local produce (say, green beans) be as healthy as/healthier than veggies grown in mass quantities on a mega farm who-knows-where? I don’t know….but it’s something I’m curious about.

So far, we’ve preserved 5 gallons of strawberries (from our patch, and without encroaching on eating as many as we desired!), 1 gallon mulberries (from a neighbor’s tree), several bags of rhubarb (also unused of a neighbor’s), 50+ lbs of blueberries (mostly frozen, some dehydrated), 6 gallons sliced peaches, 2 quarts dried peaches and 15 quarts canned peaches. I’m still debating about whether or not to do more peaches…another affordable option for getting peaches has arisen, but I need to decide and act in the next week. So, we might also just call that good for the year and see how it lasts us. Next up will be green beans (probably about 20 quarts frozen). We’re also planning to do around 10 lbs each of tart cherries and raspberries (frozen). Then tomatoes should be ready….we’re planning on cut tomatoes (around 20 quarts/20 pints), tomato sauce (same) and if I find recipes we enjoy, spaghetti sauce (14 quarts) and pizza sauce (10-14 pints). I’m really excited about the latter two because it’ll be so fun to have fresh, healthy convenience foods that I’ve never had access to…and that are healthier than the homemade stuff I’ve done in the past using store bought canned tomatoes. We’ll also be trying a V8 type recipe that came highly recommended…only 7-14 quarts. With all the fresh stuff, it sounded good although I’ve never drank veggie juice, and it seemed like a good way to incorporate more veggies, something we’ve talked about doing. If I have space, I’ll do 5-10 quarts (frozen) of corn. This isn’t a huge priority, so we’ll see what space looks like….we don’t eat corn plain since it isn’t that nutritious (and if we’re splurging on a food, there’s other things we’d prefer), so I just need it for the occasional soup we enjoy it in. I’m okay with buying organic frozen corn for that purpose this year, if need be. Then we’ll be into apple season, where we’ll do applesauce (21-28 quarts), apple pie filling (14ish quarts) and dried apples (4+ quarts). We may or may not do other things as produce or inspiration becomes available….but that’s the current general goal.

It’s a really exciting journey! We’re having fun focusing on our health, and it’s fun to think that after these next couple months, I’ll have lots of local produce stored up for my family and little or no need for any canned/preserved/processed stuff this coming year. It also seems most ideal to start now, while we’re a small, growing family, who doesn’t need a whole ton of food, so that the idea of canning/freezing for all our needs when our family’s bigger doesn’t seem so overwhelming….it’ll just be a gradual process of adding a small number of cans to what I do each year. We’re excited to see where all God will lead us on our journey to better health.