Wednesday, February 10, 2010

WFMW- How I made Housework more FUN!

I don't like to clean. I don't like to fold laundry. If I had my way, I would leave dirty pots soaking in the sink til I needed to cook in them again. I would much rather be lost in a good book than be doing housework. Except now I do both... I get lost in a great story WHILE doing housework and it makes it so much more enjoyable, to the extreme that I find myself looking forward to dishes, or mopping, or folding laundry! How did I accomplish this amazing transformation???? Hypnosis???? Strong Drugs???? Partial lobotomy????

No my friends, nothing quite so drastic as that... I accomplished this life altering (okay, at least SINK altering feat) with the help of my local library and downloadable audio books! I've always listened to audio books in the car. It turned a boring drive into a chance to get lost in a terrific story and have some ME time. Recently my library began offering downloadable audio books that I could load onto my iPod. Now story time could be anytime- in the car or out! Though I find it hard to watch TV and complete my chores, I can easily stick my iPod in my pocket and mop, wash and straighten anything that I need to. It really makes household tasks so much easier, and that definitely WORKS FOR ME!

Fore more great Works for Me Wednesday tips, visit We Are THAT Family. 

Thanks to for providing the photo. I'm trying to do more photos in my posts and their widget makes it easy! If you buy something through their link, I will get a small thank you from them. THANK YOU from me! 

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Natural Parenting Village

Welcome to the February Carnival of Natural Parenting: Love and partners!
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month we're writing about how a co-parent has or has not supported us in our dedication to natural parenting. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

I am super excited that my blog is participating in February's Carnival of Natural Parenting, courtesy of Acacia, who wrote a terrific guest post! Acacia (and pea in the pod), her husband and son live in the Brookside/Waldo area of Kansas City, MO. She is currently a part time stay-at-home-mom who teaches yoga at the Yoga Patch and paints pregnant belly castings and children's murals through her business, Art, Body & Soul. She believes in natural parenting & living and actively being present to her life. You can learn more about Acacia and her business at Rumor has it that she may have her very own blog soon- I'll be sure to let you know when that happens! I am hoping to post my very own update one day soon. --Jamie

From the beginning, I was attracted to Natural (aka “Attachment”) Parenting. It creates an environment of security and empowerment for children while they learn to satisfy their needs on their own. But there are criticisms of natural or attachment parenting: it is demanding; it takes too much work; it imposes unrealistic expectations; and it inflicts anxiety on a whole culture of mothers. Sociologists, psychologists, doctors and writers all share the same criticisms.

Natural parenting is not synonymous with parenting alone. It implies nothing about being a supermom, single or not, that takes the world of parenting on her shoulders. After all, who of us gets what we need from just one person?

Natural parenting finds its roots in some of the oldest cultures around the world, many that follow the well-known philosophy “it takes a village to raise a child.” The origin of the saying is thought to come from tribes in Africa like the Nigerian Igbo. Their proverb “Ora na azu nwa” translates to this statement. The Igbo also name their child “Nwa ora” which means child of the community.

Natural parenting calls for this philosophy here in the US, as well. I boldly believe that it is because we often isolate ourselves and take the world on our shoulders with our other responsibilities in life (e.g. work) that the same expectation is assumed to be extended to parenting. What is natural about that? What could be any less fostering of a secure environment that provides for our needs than a parenting philosophy that asks us to do it alone? What favor would we be doing ourselves to take on parenting alone when we are trying to embody an AP philosophy to pass on to our children?

Within my own family, I have the blessing of being supported by generations of natural parenting, back to my grandmother. In the 1960s, before natural childbirth was again breaking into the walls of hospitals, she was demanding natural childbirth. She had three children, and by the time my mother was 9, my grandmother was divorced and raising them alone. She chose breastfeeding while she stayed home but switched to formula when she had to return to work. She raised her children to be independent and strong. Not necessarily with the same gentleness and nurturing as AP encourages, but she was often natural-minded and knew she wanted something different from the norm.

While my grandmother did the groundbreaking for this natural parenting village of ours, her children, including her step daughter, set a strong foundation for an AP legacy. Growing up in my immediate family of four children, we breastfed until we self-weaned, wore cloth diapers and co-slept. My mom stayed at home with us until my youngest sister was 3 years old, and she guided us with open communication, gentle discipline and lots of nurturing. We grew up very secure, loved and fulfilled not just by my parents, but by each other.

Two of my aunts have birthed babies at home, breastfed, cloth diapered, co-slept, and used natural medicine with their own children. Now for my growing family, they have been wonderful resources. I have called on them for advice on homeopathy and, most recently, home birthing.

The way I was raised has been equally extended to our son as it was to me growing up. He sleeps with them when my husband and I are away; his diapering and feeding is the same as we would have it. Breastfeeding was a given when he was born, and supported until we were ready to move on. My parents have been irreplaceable resources for help and advice in all of our parenting challenges. It has been so comforting to know that their advice will often be just what we need because we share the same parenting philosophy.

When my sisters and brother come over, I witness them parenting Everett just as we were parented. I hear them encourage and praise his independent moves but hold him when he needs to be held. They gently discipline when he needs to be disciplined and model behaviors we want to see him express.

Although not part of my direct family, I include my husband’s parents in our natural parenting village because of how they have contributed to Everett’s parenting. They didn’t employ attachment parenting with my husband, Erik, but have been very supportive and respectful of our parenting decisions. They often extend themselves to include our choices into the way they care for our son when he is with them. They provide him with wholesome meals or snacks that are naturally minded (as much as you can expect from a grandma!), they communicate with us on ways we discipline or talk with him, and they have had many an afternoon of holding him through naps because he is so used to sleeping with us.

My biggest supporter above all has been my husband. Erik attended midwife appointments and natural childbirth classes with me. He massaged, soothed, and protected me in the hospital when our son, Everett, was born. We agreed that Everett should not be circumcised, and he supported my choices for selective vaccinations. He supported full-term breastfeeding and snuggled up to our son as much as I did at nighttime. He wore Everett in slings, used nurturing touches, and rocked and cooed him to sleep. I have never seen a more playful and loving side come out of my typically subdued husband.

Erik has managed our finances and worked hard at his jobs so I could stay at home with Everett and afford local and organic foods. He also strives to create balance between work and home. When I had to work a couple days a week for a school year, he stayed home one of those days. “Dad’s day adventures” continue to be a favorite of Everett’s even though Erik works full time.

Erik continues to stand by my side and model the same gentle discipline methods we have begun since Everett was young. We encourage him to express his desires and needs with his words and respond sensitively. We have patience as he makes changes to his behavior that we have modeled, and empower him with choices where it is appropriate. And with each other, we have communicated throughout our parenting journey to decide on what feels right for us and for our son.

I do have to admit, my situation is unusual. It is rare to find so much support in one family, among so many generations. There are natural parenting families all around that do not have such supportive networks, and those same families can feel very successful in natural parenting. But those families also can be looked at as my family, three generations ago. Starting with my grandmother, one woman who knew she wanted something different for her family, we have grown into a village of families that can be counted on for help and support in natural parenting.



Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated Feb. 9 with all the carnival links, and all links should be active by noon EST. Go to Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama for the most recently updated list.)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Update from the break room...

So hello bloggy friends. Welcome to the quickest blog post EVAH! I am really, really enjoying my job. The people here are super nice and the environment is very fun. I don't feel like I am coming to work every day! Leaving the baby stinks, but coming home to him is oh so sweet. This is going to sound corny, but because we don't have the same quantity of time together, I work harder to make the quality of that time much better. I am much more apt to stop whatever housework I am doing to sit down and read a book since I know that my time with him is finite. The fact is, my time with him, at this age and stage, was always finite, I am just more aware of that now.

My weekend was nice and it was good to get time away from the job. I now remember what Mondays are like... ug...

I am working very hard to keep up to date with my bloggy reading and I am super excited to have a guest post coming up for you guys- my first participation in a carnival, and I'm not even the one posting!!! Stay tuned...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's off to work I go!

So tomorrow is my first day. I'm worried that I'm not going to be able to do it all, but for now, I'm mostly excited. I really don't know what to expect tomorrow- I think a lot of paperwork, maybe a tour?? I'm looking forward to being out of the house all by myself and having some time to think and feel productive! I'm not looking forward to leaving my boy and not looking forward to hearing my husband complain about how difficult he was all day long! I am kind of looking forward to him realizing what I was dealing with every day.

I should have spent the rest of my week last week making sure that my house was spotless and my clothes were all ironed and ready to go. I didn't do that. The best I got was making a notebook for relevant household information, including a master calendar showing where I'll be when and who will be here to watch Tyler. It also has a list of daily tasks for me to focus on so I stay ahead of the mess. Thanks to my mom, I am pretty much caught up on laundry. She came over to help me fold! I spent Thursday and Friday relishing the last few days of stay at home "freedom", wearing yoga pants all day on Friday and spending lots of time playing with the kiddo. And shopping for a few new things for work!

I feel a little like it's the first day of school tomorrow. I had a dream last night that I overslept for my first day. That just can't happen! Here's to hoping and to starting a new chapter- still stay at home, but working too- hopefully the best of both worlds! 

I had a dream last night that I was

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Getting Ready to Go Back to Work: Energy UP!

Around the beginning of the year, I was sick and tired of always being sick and tired. I knew that I wanted to make more changes so that I had more energy and wasn't always feeling sluggish and like I wanted to go back to bed. My back constantly felt tight- my muscles always felt on edge and my mood did too. I decided enough was enough and I needed to make some changes. When the new job came along and I knew that my sleep was going to decrease, I realized that I needed to get serious about these changes. 

So what were my huge changes? I've really only accomplished two... there's a third that I'd like to work on, but we'll see. The first two that are really working for me- drinking more water and getting more exercise. The third that I would like to work on is cutting out a lot of the refined sugar from my diet. I am trying to incorporate more fruits and veggies, but the ice cream in the freezer keeps calling my name. My husband has a HUGE sweet tooth, so we always have M&Ms, cookies and ice cream in the house. And I apparently have NO will power, so I'm still eating way too much of said M&Ms, cookies and ice cream. Any ideas of what works for you in that situation?

Here's what IS working for me, though- more water and more exercise. On the more water front- I HATE drinking water. HATE it. I don't know why- just not my favorite thing. There are times that I will have a LONG drink of water and think, "Wow, that's really good!" and yet when I get thirsty, I am far more likely to grab a soft drink or worse yet, eat something. I have to trick myself into getting enough to drink. Target recently had Sobe flavored water on sale. They have a zero calorie version, so I stocked up. There was a peelie coupon on the water- buy 5 get 2 free, so I think that I ended up paying about $5 for 21 bottles when it was all said and done. I know that all of those plastic bottles are not great for the environment, so here is my compromise: I drink the flavored water from the bottle, then I refill the bottle with water and drink that. That's 5 cups of water right there. Then I refill the bottle with water again and mix in come Crystal Light or Benefiber drink mix, so I'm not drinking plain water. Now I'm up to 7.5 cups, and that's  pretty good for me. If there are hours left in the day, I might fill the bottle up with plain water again. I can bring the bottle with my anywhere I go throughout the day and it comes to bed with me so if I wake up in the night, I have something to drink. The next morning, the bottle gets recycled and I start fresh with a new bottle. I can really tell the difference in my energy level when I am well hydrated.

The other thing that helps me have more energy is getting more exercise. This is so much easier said than done! I was having a really hard time waking up in the morning. I found myself feeling grumpy and just really annoyed at the fact that I was someplace other than in bed! My muscles were very sore and tight. I could wake myself off with a strong cup of coffee or a Diet Coke, but I was not thrilled that I was so dependent on a drug to perk me up! My son LOVES to watch Baby Einstein- he begs and begs to watch and though I'm not thrilled with him spending a ton of time in front of the TV, we have a new morning routine that makes both of us happy. He gets to watch baby Einstein and I get a few minutes to wake up! I am fortunate in that I have a lap top. I either put Einstein on the computer of TV for my son. Then, whatever he's not using, I use to access Exercise TV. There are a TON of workouts available On Demand through my cable company, many of them only 10 minutes long. I can find 10 minutes to improve my mood and energy level for the entire day! The great news is that their workouts are also available on-line. I can find one for whatever muscle group I feel like working- lower body, upper body, abs or just general stretching- and it's free and there when I want it. When I'm done, even with that little short 10 minute burst, my muscles feel looser. I feel awake and ready to start my day. I'm slowly getting addicted! Last night I wanted more so I did a whole 20 minute yoga routine right before I went to bed. I slept GREAT and felt better when I got up this morning. I am hoping that if when I continue this when I go back to work, I'll continue to feel better and have more energy.

This is also part of Works for Me Wednesday. You can see more WFMW Tips at We are THAT Family.

You can see the first in this very informal series here: Getting Ready to Go Back to Work: Stocking the Freezer.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Getting Ready to Go Back to Work: Stocking the Freezer

I spent Saturday cooking. If you want to get technical, I spent Friday shopping and Saturday and Sunday cooking and cleaning like a mad woman. I decided that it would be a good idea to stock the freezer with some go to meals that I could put into play if I needed something on the fly. I visited Once a Month Mom, browsed through the January recipes, thought buffalo chicken pasta was something I'd like to try and jumped right into making 16 servings. In for a penny, in for a pound, I also decided to make mandarin orange chicken rice. I've been wanting to try Erin's Enchilada recipe for a while now, so I figured I'd triple it and freeze those bad boys, even though that's not a freezer recipe. I had about 2.5 pounds to ground turkey in the freezer and thought that needed to be made into chili. Finally, I wanted to put together and freeze three meat loaves.

I would love to tell you that things went great and I have a freezer full of nutritious, yummy meals for my family, but I'm not sure that's the case. We tried the rice dish and it was not exactly everything I hoped it would be. This is due, at least in part, to poor execution of what might be a perfectly fine recipe. After I spent all of Saturday afternoon cooking, washing, freezing, mixing and WORKING REALLY HARD, then eating a disappointing first freezer dish, I was feeling a little down, especially since we had two more dinners worth of that dish hanging out in our freezer and four servings going home with my mom. It was at this point that my husband asked me why I had bothered with all that, he would gladly just eat burgers and pasta three nights a week. I'm actually pretty proud that I didn't completely loose it at this point. But I didn't. And the real verdict is still out on the whole experience since we haven't eaten all of the foods yet.  So we'll see...

Here's what I wish that I would have done differently before attempting this whole process:

I would have made each of the recipes once prior to trying to cook enough of said recipe to feed a small army, or one family four times over. Although the recipes looked good one the sites, I don't really have any idea if we like buffalo chicken pasta or mandarin orange chicken. Trying one meal's worth would have been a lot better than experimenting with four meals worth. Also knowing what a normal version of the recipe looked like would have made a quadrupled version seem less strange. A lot of my difficulty came from not trusting the recipe. For example, the buffalo chicken recipe calls for one cup of hot sauce. This seemed all well and good until I realized that hot sauce, i.e. Tabasco sauce comes in 2 oz containers. Surely I was not supposed to add FOUR containers of hot sauce to my recipe??? Plus THREE bottles of ranch dressing??? It all seemed perfectly normal there on the page, but in my kitchen, it seemed a lot stranger.

I would have begged, borrowed or stole some seriously BIG pots. I had to boil my pasta in two batches because it didn't all fit in my biggest pot. I also had to delay cooking some of the other items because they didn't fit in my smaller pots. When you're cooking a bag and a half of rice in about 11 cups of liquid, you need a big pot. If someone else is helping you with your cooking day, ask to borrow their biggest pots. If you're going it alone, borrow what you can from friends or neighbors.

Finally, I would NOT have tried to do so many recipes in one day. I completely blame Once a Month Mom for making it look SO easy! It seems so organized in the excel spreadsheets and step by step instructions, but it's a lot of work, especially if you're used to cooking for a few people. I would have gone for one or two recipes, not FIVE!

Here's what went well:

My grocery store had bone-in, skin-on split breasts for $1.69 per pound. This is a decent price around here, so I bought a ton. Not enough, it turns out, to finish all my recipes, resulting in a frantic run to the grocery store and a second round of chicken cooking. But this is about what went RIGHT. I took the skin off the chicken on Friday night and put the chicken in my 4 quart slow cooker insert, then put the whole thing in the fridge overnight. The next morning, I turned it on as soon as I got up and my chicken was waiting for me at nap time (1 pm), ready to be picked from the bones and shredded. I did things exactly like Stephanie explains in this post from A Year of Slow Cooking. It was a great way to cook a lot of chicken with very little effort. I wasn't even home while the chicken was cooking.

The chili... it was yummy... I borrowed a bit from the enchilada spices and used the same combination in the chili. It came together very nicely and my husband didn't realize that it was turkey, not beef. SCORE!

The best part of the day was frantically tweeting "Help! @onceamonth mom, does hot sauce = tabasco?? 1 cup?? I'm halfway though the buffalo chicken pasta recipe!" and then actually getting a reply, yes, that's right. Very cool technology!

So that's it. Don't do what I did with the whole freezer cooking thing. Get your feet a little wet before diving right on in... and then let me know what went well for you, because it turns out I need a little help!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A super HUGE, really BIG, WOW I'm EXCITED decision!

So this past week was a whirlwind of interviews for me! I literally lost count. I think, but don't quote me, that I had two in-person interviews and a phone interview Monday, one interview Tuesday, another phone interview Wednesday, and an interview Friday. Four in person interviews and two phone interviews in five days is A LOT. Each interview requires its own research and follow up emails and consideration and wow was I tired of talking about myself. First and foremost, let me express how absolutely blessed I was to be considered for each and every one of these positions. The job market is terrible right now, especially in depressed Florida. For me to get this much interest was AMAZING. I had calls back from resumes that were submitted six weeks ago. I also got a call back from a company I interviewed with in early November. They had another position open and wanted me to consider that. I was also fortunate enough to have a few offers to consider.

I was most excited about a job in the publishing industry selling textbooks to college professors and working with various universities to get those textbooks adopted. The position included a company car, decent salary and very generous bonus, paid annually. It also included a fair amount of travel, unfortunately. The manager I interviewed with told me that during my first year, I would be out in the field all day, then have about three hours of work to do when I got home at night. I was ready for the challenge- I know that I can do that work. Then I started thinking about all the work I already have to do around here at night. And how I've left my child overnight exactly one time and wasn't all that thrilled about it. Pursuing this opportunity meant letting this opportunity pass me by. And I realized that I wasn't willing to give up that possibility for this possibility. So I stepped out of the interview process and decided to move ahead with that "I think that I might be nuts" job- the one that requires working til almost 2 am and pays a pittance, but allows me to be home with my child almost all day, provides medical benefits, and allows for advancement.

A few other things factored into my decision. First of all, I recently remembered a conversation I had with a co-worker before I was laid off. I was lamenting the cost of the childcare and how I hated leaving my child everyday to come to work. I said to her, verbatim, "I wish that I could just find a job in a call center working nights so that I could keep the baby during the day and Matt [husband] could keep him at night. I know I wouldn't make as much money, but we wouldn't have to pay for childcare, so that would make up for some of it." Here I am, about a year later, with the very opportunity I wanted when I was working a "real" job! The thought process then went something like this- "You have the opportunity to have exactly what you said you wanted so shut up and be happy with that you moron." (I'm so nice to myself, huh. That's my interview question answer to what is your biggest weakness- I'm too hard on myself, just in case you were wondering.) In this case though, I think that the whole moron comment was deserved. When I was working a full time job, I wished for this job. That says something, right?

Second, I thought about what I would tell a friend if she told me that she were considering what I was considering- working a job with slightly unconventional hours in order to have more time to spend with her child. I would tell that friend that I thought she was an awesome mom to be willing to do that for her child. I would do everything I could to help support her and make things easier for her during this transition. I did, in fact, have a friend who took a job at Target working very early mornings so that she would be home in the afternoons when her husband worked. At the time, she felt that the job was not necessarily the best use of her talents, but was willing to do it anyway since it meant that she could be with her daughter. I thought it was fantastic and bought every red accessory I could find to coordinate with her new uniform. If I was willing to do that for a friend, why couldn't I be that supportive of myself? No good reason that I could think of, so I got behind that plan!

Finally, I thought of my own childhood. It was just my mom and me, so she always worked- she didn't have another option. I was always well-cared for and my mom did everything she could to make sure that she was there for important events and school programs and whatever. At the same time, there were many, many days that I came in second to an important project at work. She will admit to you today that there were times that she put work ahead of me. There were nights when she did not get home until very, very late and I was the one who made dinner for us both. I'm not sitting here crying a river or anything- my childhood was far, far better than many others. At the same time, I knew that I came in second to her job. And I didn't want that for my child. I wanted to be able to tell him, "You were so important to me that I chose to put you first and be with you instead of pursuing my career," which is really what it comes down to, right? I am sure that when he is a teenager he will claim that I made the complete wrong choice and ruined his life completely, but for right now, this seems like the right choice.

So that's my super HUGE, really BIG, WOW I'm EXCITED decision. I'm going to take the "I think that I might be nuts" job. And I am choosing to be really excited and focus on the positives of this job. I'm going to be excited about the cafeteria! Because I've never worked anywhere with a cafeteria before! And the employee discount! And the company store! And how easy I think that the job will be! I'm, for the most part, ignoring the late hours, weekends, holidays, pay and other crappy parts of the job. Quite honestly, I don't know how I'm going to do it. I wouldn't know how I was going to do any other job, though, so that's not any different. I also didn't know how I would manage when I had the baby and had to go back to work, and I figured that out, so I'm having a little faith that I'll somehow manage this too. Because I want to. Not because I HAVE to and I had no other option, but because **I** decided that this is what **I** want- for myself, for my family and for my child. I've made the decision and I'm owning it. Since I had NO say when I became "Suddenly Stay @ Home", to at least have some control in this decision is nice. I am feeling incredibly blessed to have this option- to have the job offer and to have the financial means the accept this, even though it's not the highest paying option. I recognize that this was not an option my mom ever had, or an option that a lot of other people have today, and I am grateful.

And I'm not truly ignoring the challenge of it all. I spent the weekend stocking the freezer with meals for when I go back. I've made some changes since the New Year which will hopefully boost my energy level even on little sleep. I will be spending the week tweaking some other things around here to make things run more smoothly without my constant attention. And streamlining- lots and lots of streamlining! I hope to share these things with you in the week to come, but we'll see... the best laid plans and all.

By the way, just a little disclaimer, this was the right choice for me and for my family. I completely acknowledge and recognize that this might not be the right choice for another woman and another family. I would not dream of judging another mom who did choose to take a traditional (9-5) job and enroll her child(ren) in day care or another child care arrangement. I hope that this post in no way makes you feel bad if that's the choice that you made- this is just my choice that I am choosing to be EXCITED about today and might blow up in face tomorrow.