Summer 2015

It’s equal parts being an over-planner and getting excited for some fun family activities, but every year since Hadman was old enough to have fun (in 2012, he was a newborn, so we didn’t do much of anything that summer!), I’ve made a list of fun summer ideas. In 2013, it was as much about my goals as it was the family. In 2014, we simplified quite a bit. While this year I’m still planning to get some personal goals accomplished (at least one book is written, so I’d like to get it sent out to publishers and work on other ideas) and we’re always puttering away at the house (and may be finding a new one! Eek!!), I’d ultimately like to keep it family-oriented. 

Heck, I’ve been so excited about summer that I dropped in with a wishlist in January! But, now that we’re getting closer, I thought I’d fine tune things a bit. So, I give you some dreams for THIS summer (along with some family favorite repeats from years gone by) – 

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1. Birthday Party 3.0 – Had’s birthday is in July, so I always like to get my creative juices flowing so that I at least know a theme or what have you for the big day. This year, my sister will have a brand new baby (in May!) and my sister-in-law is having her first little one (due early July, so it’s anyone’s guess as to when!). So, it might be a smaller event this year, which is totally fine. However, given that every time I’ve asked him in the last several months what type of party he’d like, he’s given me the exact same answer, I at least know what type of party it’ll be. Even if we only have, like, 5 people there. 😉

2. Walks – We didn’t take nearly as many walks as I would’ve liked last year. Call it my own laziness, I suppose, but this year I’d like to take several a week. Whether it’s a quick up-and-down the street or around the neighborhood, we’ve gotta get movin’! (And, yes, I’m already exhausted thinking about it.)

3. Zoo – This was a HUGE hit last year, so we’re planning to re-up our family membership to the Utica Zoo this year. With the price that it is, we don’t mind just going for the morning, eating lunch, then heading home for a nap (or staying the whole day, if we so choose). We particularly love that the animals they have on “display” are part of their focus on conservation, habitat preservation, and species survival. It’s the absolutely perfectly-sized zoo for a toddler/preschooler (with a great playground area) and H talks all the time about the animals he’s seen (and even some he thinks he’s seen ;-)). It’s definitely a big part in our raising an animal lover. Plus, there are reciprocal zoos that we could get in during any trips at a discount or free with our membership.

4. Trips! – We’re planning on taking a couple of day trips (like, within 3 hours from home) plus one 2-3 day trip similar to our Massachusetts trip last year. Still working out the details. You’d be amazed at how many places you search for that are “toddler friendly” that simply babysit the kids for the parents to have alone time all day. Not our bag; we like a FAMILY vacation, not a vacation FROM our family. 🙂 We’re also pretty loose, enjoying things like museums and hands-on play places to relaxing on the beach (not the whole time) to discovering local history and culture, so our ideas are all over the place.

5. Sandy Feet – Whether we get to a beach during our “bigger” vacation or not, I’m really hoping to get to the beach one or twice in our area. We’ve got some awesome state-protected lakes with family-friendly beaches in the area, and H is at a “love to run and play” age now, so it just seems perfect. Plus, I’d love to do the same. 🙂

6. “Potted” Garden & CSA – Between the prospect of possibly moving and the fact that our friendly neighborhood cats have taken over our gardening space, I’m hoping to just get some small plants going this year. I’ve tried in years past and had crappy-to-moderate success (I think watering is my downfall, maybe?), but am determined to at least grow a tomato plant, some herbs, and maybe something else that might catch my eye. I’d love to be able to use our back deck for this purpose, but have had issues there in the past. More research ahead! 

Oh, and we’ve finally found a CSA that has us super excited to sign up. We’re still discussing between a full share (May through October) or the summer share (May through August) due to cost and our willingness/ability to keep up with meal planning come the new school year. But, we hope to figure that out this week and get our check mailed to hold our spot quickly. I’ll chat more about that once we get our first share!

7. Library – We haven’t utilized our local library much at all. It’s a pathetic state of affairs given that I’m a school librarian. We’re not huge fans of our town’s library, quite honestly (it’s always surrounded by riff raff, so kind of intimidating to bring a toddler into), but we should at least give it a shot. I’m going to look into whether or not they have a story time (their website says they do, but it hasn’t been updated since November). If not, I’ve seen that another local library has storytime and other events, so hopefully we can start getting used to *QUIET* spaces and interacting with other littles a bit.

8. Kindermusik – Here’s the opposite of quiet time! We noticed awhile back that seem to have Kindermusik classes available about a half hour away. I’d like to try a month of classes (4) to see how he likes them. If he does, it’d be cool to continue; if not, it was a good learning experience. I’m also eyeing some swim classes (that we would take with him). Again, this all might add to the “crazy” of the summer and with the idea of maaaaybe finding (and selling) a house and two new family babies coming, it might be shooting for the moon.

9. Baby Help – Speaking of which, I’m hoping to offer up my help as much as possible to Dave’s brother and SIL, and my sister and her family. Whether they’ll take it or not is totally up to them! That said, if anyone has some yummy, healthy meals I could make for their freezers, let me know in the comments! 😉 

So, what about you guys? What are you looking forward to the most this summer? This week is a dreary, rainy mess of a spring week (last week was gorgeous and spoiled us with borderline summer-like weather), so my mind is definitely wandering!

The Thankful Post

Happy Thanksgiving Eve, everybody! Things have finally died down here, with the Book Fair complete for another year and a few days off to enjoy the holiday. I get to hang out with the little guy today while Dave works one more day, then tomorrow it’s time to watch the parade (one of my favorite parts of the day! Especially the Broadway performances), eat a big breakfast, then head off to eat with our families for the “big meal” and dessert.

We’ve talked to Monkey about what this special holiday means, and it’s been a great opportunity to open his mind to the idea that we’ve super lucky (and some people aren’t). It looked like I nearly blew his mind when I explained to him that we’re so very lucky to have a house and food, and that some people, even little two-year-old boys, DON’T. *kerpow*

I thought it’d be fun to share a couple of simple, last-minute ideas for the holiday to help friends and family get hands-on sharing their thankfulness this Thanksgiving. This year, we’ll just be having a family talk or two about the things that we’re lucky and happy about, but I can’t wait to try some of these out in the future!

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Some of these are simple enough to throw together in less than fifteen minutes, and will help you and your guests remember – amid the craziness of getting a meal together and trying to pull everything together – that the day is about more than perfecting your recipes and using your best china. And feel free to use these as jumping off points; do whatchya can!

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Thankful Tree

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Brown Paper Thankfulness

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Gratitude Jar (and Chains)
(With free printable! Couldn’t be easier, really.)

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Thankful Chalkboard Wall
(Could also be brown paper on the wall, easy peasy!
And I’d suggest using an old chalkboard if you have one, but that depends on if you’re cooking a turkey and have the time to make one from scratch. ;-))

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Thanksgiving Light
(You could also do this on a white paper bag half-filled with sand. Just insert a candle and light. Luminaries always make me cry, but that’s another story!)

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Frame of Blessings

Or, after discussing your blessings, have a “did you know” session about the history of Thanksgiving. Watch this brief video for a bit of the background. (They didn’t have pumpkin pie or sweetened cranberries due to the lack of sugar in the “new land.”) It’s also a good reminder of the original natives who were trusting enough to help the Puritans settle and successfully plant in their new, treacherous conditions. Anyhoo, we’re weird; we watch a different, lengthier documentary every year (sometimes twice) about Thanksgiving (and Halloween and Christmas, for that matter.) You could turn it into a Trivial Pursuit type game, if your guests are into it!

However you celebrate, whether you’re giving thanks openly (saying “grace” always made me terribly nervous as a kid!) or just using the holiday as an excuse to enjoy a great meal with your favorite people, my family and I wish you the happiest of days!

Falling for Fall

Hey, folks who read stuff online! Today’s frickin’ September 1st. SEPTEMBER, dudes and dudettes. So, while I’m by NO means looking forward to heading back to school (not whining but stating a fact: I am fraught with all sorts of anxiety at the thought of returning; I’ll man-up soon after getting back into the swing of things), the paradox is kinda weird. That’s because I super heart fall.

As long as I can remember, I’ve most loved the sweet but somber smell of decaying leaves, the necessity to throw a denim jacket on while enjoying a walk on the first crisp night, and cranking up the oven to help Mom whip up perfect apple pies or Grandma’s famous soft molasses cookies. It’s a thing of beauty, my friends.

So, of course I’m excited to continue my love affair with autumn, and to spread the love with my family. (Shh. Don’t tell Dave. He thinks autumn and I are “just good friends”, so let’s keep it that way. Although, it’s his fave, too, which is why we got married in October. Huh.)

As Hadman grows, EVERYTHING has become more of a fun, at times unpredictable adventure. Even the experiences he had last year for the first time (the year before, he was a brand new infant) that we all enjoyed giving him will be like new this year.

Here was his first autumn ever…

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Here were a couple of experiences last year…

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What’s better than Vermont and an apple orchard in the fall? I mean, really. Nothing that I can think of.

And, thanks to Pinterest, here are a few of the goals of mine this year. I like to use these as guidelines and reminders of the things we love about the seasons, hopefully reducing the guilt factor when I don’t check off every last one. Although, if I did, it wouldn’t suck.

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Most of these are self explanatory, but a couple need a bit of elaboration. Or maybe you don’t care. But, just in case, here goes:

– I very rarely do lattes or purchased flavored stuff, so when I say pumpkin latte, I mean just one will do the trick. Just one pumpkin spice-flavored cup of caffeine, thanks.
– Pumpkin muffins. Pumpkin pancakes. Pumpkin cookies. Whatev. I’m not picky.
– Fly Creek Cider Mill near Cooperstown is a family tradition for me as long as I can remember. It’s an awesome leaf-peeping trip in itself, but grabbing some overpriced cider and feeding their resident ducks complete the season. Totally.
– Vermont started as our honeymoon spot, but has turned into a fall family road trip. Fun!!
– Okay, a locavore date entails saving up, getting a sitter, and going to one of the few pricy-but-worth-it restaurants that serve locally-sourced gourmet food. We don’t get many dates, so these are super special ones. Plus, fall flavors are incredible, am I right? You know I’m right. Pumpkin risotto? Get out.

Oh, and because I believe strongly in surrounding oneself with the cozy reminders of what makes us happiest, I’m a believer in seasonal decor. If you’re into country kitsch, do it up. Antiques? Go for it. Since I’m the antiques-with-a-modern-twist girl, I’m working on finding a happy medium. Check out a couple of ideas (that still stand true) from last year:

The Fall Inspirations I Totally Heart
What I Attempted Last Year
A Fall Tableau (With Really Crappy Pictures)

What about you guys? What’s your favorite season? Do you go all out? Or do you live it up every day of the year?

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Alright. I’m blogging about this for two reasons. One, to remember that I took part in a timely fad for, yes, a good cause (like looking back and saying you took part in “Hands Across America” or something). Two, to add a few things to the video I made.

So, by now I’m sure everyone (except maybe my mom) has heard about the ALS Challenge, and probably been tapped to do it by a friend or two. Of course, the time came and I couldn’t feign societal outcast any longer. But, I had to look into it further to decide whether I was one of the many skeptics out there, or if it was really important enough to do. You can search the internet and find a slew of people who argue for either side, and I was just slightly to one side before being forced to consider doing it.

Watching my friends post videos stating, in essence, who tagged them and the three individuals they’d be torturing back, followed by a dump of icy cold (sometimes not so much) water over their heads, had me kind of shaking my own head. My issues were thus:

a) Is it really raising awareness if no one even says WTF ALS even IS?
b) How much is it helping the cause if the point is to take part in a viral campaign that’s about AVOIDING paying to help research/treatment efforts?

It seemed to be a popularity thing. A fad. A chance to lightheartedly piss off one’s friends. The point of the thing was moot.

BUT…then I got tagged by my brother-in-law. He’s a guy who, while we joke our butts off together quite a bit, I respect. A lot. Not only would I be tortured for NOT doing it, I respected him too much not to at least consider it.

So, I decided to do it a tad differently. Just a bit.

I researched. Of course, the internet is such that, these days, you can find a million “valid” explanations on how to do something “the right way.” Yeah, no. Since this wasn’t an organization-based campaign to begin with, there was really no accurate way. Some said that the point was to raise money even if you dump the ice water, just in smaller denominations ($10 or $20, depending on what you read). No matter what, if you didn’t do it, you had to spend $100.

All of this left a yucky taste in my mouth. Many of my friends and family are budget-conscious folks. A good cause is great, but dipping into the grocery funds ain’t. Forcing someone to give $100 or $50 or even $20 if they have a family to support just isn’t the way to get help. I much prefer saying, “give what you can, if you can.” 

And saying “no” just makes you a hardass; not a team player. Y’know, the kids who got made fun of in school. Neither’s the best situation.

So, I did this:

Notes: I enjoy talking to folks, really, but when my nerves get up, my lisp gets a-goin’. And “ums” get used generously. And, um, degenerative. Yes. I know.

But, more importantly, I’m trying to bring some awareness to the thing. Aside from stating the definition of ALS (poorly, but still) and the official website for donations (is anyone else waiting for some fake ALS sites to pop up and start making a false profit on this thing??), I make it clear that I am ALSO making a donation, and invite anyone to do so, as well. The ice water was really just for fun, to avoid familial harassment, and to prove that I’m a tough broad.

A couple of facts that I had hoped to state, but I knew I’d ramble and the thing would be wicked long:

There are over 30,000 individuals in America alone living with ALS. Once receiving a  diagnosis, the life expectancy is 5-6 years, tops. There is only one medication to treat ALS, and it only extends one’s life by mere months. There. Is. No. Cure. Oh, and this disease doesn’t discriminate; young, old, white, black, fit, unhealthy. It’s not genetically passed. It’s like winning some horrific lottery. “Hey, ya never know.”

I kid you not. Check out for more sad but true information.

Oh, and to learn more about Lou Gehrig, I greatly suggest watching “The Pride of the Yankees”. Sure, there are tons of great books out there, but there’s nothing like watching Gary Cooper portray the real man, being brought down by this crippling disease in his prime. It’s heart-breaking and true.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming… Oh, and do tell me what you think of the challenge in the comments! Did you take part? Are you hoping to? Do you think it’s a superficial masking of truer fundraising efforts? Let’s chat!

I Blame Louisa, Laura, and Lucy

Lately, I’ve been noticing that a lot of bloggers I casually enjoy seem to have a small running theme. A similarity. A coincidence, perhaps, but a common thread, regardless.

Sure, some blogs share a pioneering spirit, raising chickens and baking their own bread and growing what they eat. Others like getting their hands dirty and DIYing their hearts out. Lots share a life-simplifying philosophy. Many chat about living an earth-friendly life. Most ultimately focus on giving their all to their families.

Just drop the name “Anne” (with an “e”) on Facebook and the chatter starts. The same can be said for Laura and, to a lesser extent, Jo.

I blame the ladies. Those independent lady authors who came before us and created such true-to-life characters (characters who often reflected their own independent streaks) that still resonate with readers and fans a hundred plus years later.

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Like many who grew up in the late ’70s and ’80s, I watched quite a bit of “Little House on the Prairie” and then, after watching my sister read the crap out of the series, swiped them from her book shelf when I was old enough to read a chapter book. During a time that could be construed as a bit terrifying (high child mortality rate, taking huge risks traveling to a new, dangerous territory to raise one’s family, relying on one’s own hands to provide food and shelter), Laura and her family faced challenges but grew together with warmth and even some fun. “Half-Pint” was allowed to be her own individualistic, at-times outspoken self.

I still think of her when I smell lemon verbena or see it at Bath & Body Works.

Laura was my gateway girl. Sweet and readable, I longed to eat biscuits with jam, grow my own garden, pull taffy, wear calico dresses with braids, and pretty much build a time machine to go join Laura in any one of her family’s cabins. It was definitely one of the things that sparked my history obsession.

Next, thanks to the impeccably-produced “Avonlea” TV series, which my mother and I watched religiously each week, I became interested in the books of Lucy Maud Montgomery. I took one or two of her original Chronicles of Avonlea books from the library, but got absolutely hooked when I met Anne.

I loved Lucy’s Sarah Stanley, but Anne was timeless. Between Megan Follows’ performance in the miniseries and finally reading a handful of the Anne books (namely, Anne of Green Gables) when I was old enough to comprehend the flowery language (very Victorian), I lurved her. Anne (with an “e”) Shirley was handed a pretty unlucky hand. Orphaned. Passed from one unfriendly family to the next. She finally landed in Prince Edward Island with strict, sensible Marilla Cuthbert and her silent, sweet brother, Matthew.

Her spunk, spirit, independence, and intelligence always inspired me. Aside from her disdain for her red hair, she never seemed to feel sorry for her lot in life. It helped me to recognize that, throughout history, lives have been hard. Damn hard. Far harder than mine, even growing up without my father. It taught me to suck it up and find the joys in life.

And, then, there was my all-time favorite author and character.

I watched the movie first — the good one, the 1994 one. (I love Katharine Hepburn, but hers is only second place of the five — yes, FIVE — versions.) It became a family classic. My sister and I will still throw in the DVD on those “off” days we need the comfort of the story and the friends within. Then, in about 8th grade, I got my very own copy of Little Women for Christmas (which, considering the first chapter’s theme, was perfect). Since then, I’ve read it piecemeal every year, or a different LMA work or biography. I have a new copy, but kept the old one. Of course. My dream is to own a first edition (two volumes).

Jo, the second oldest of four March girls, is the epitome of a feisty chick. She feels incredible highs when she’s able to read, write, and act with her sisters and friend-next-door Laurie (um, a guy), and incredible lows when she feels a great urge to be able to do greater things during the Civil War and in her own life, a tad bitter that she wasn’t born a boy with the rights they were afforded. She’d rather run, use slang, and speak her mind than be quiet or prim and proper. She’s a modern woman if ever there was one. I like to think she (in the form of Louisa May Alcott, her alter-ego) would have very much enjoyed and embraced the independence that women have gained, and it makes me appreciate the education and choices I’ve been afforded. Even if I have chosen to get married and have kids. *wink, wink*

Little Women and LMA is one of the reasons that we like to travel to Concord from time to time. I’ve been through her house once (and, honestly, felt like I was meeting a celebrity the whole time) and have learned about transcendentalism, her famous family friends and acquaintances, and every year seem to find out more deeply interesting facts about her family and past. The fact that it’s the site of the shot heard ’round the world…well, for a history freak like me, that’s the icing on the cake. Nom nom.

I think it’s only natural that so many of the independent female writers of today who may see any of these writers or their timeless girls as idols have taken to the interwebs to write their own hearts. The women of yore were romantic but realistic. True to themselves and independent. Hard workers to support their families. Strong as hell in the face of adversity. They helped show us a world outside our tiny little girl lives, inspired us to dream, and taught us to try what we want and work hard at it.

Write away, girls. Write away.

Getting Oily

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If you’re into holistic lifestyles (or the concept that the current health care system ain’t cuttin’ it), you’ve probably heard about essential oils. These are highly concentrated oils from plants, herbs, flowers, and fruits that, when applied to parts one’s body, taken in capsule or beverage form, or diffused into the air, can have tremendous healing powers. The more I read, the more I realized how beneficial they could be to try out. Headaches, illnesses, stress reduction, even for cleaning around the house — there seems to be an almost endless list for their uses.

The skeptic in me kept searching, not for whether to try the stuff or not, but picking from which company to purchase essential oils. I’m part of an awesome Facebook group that had some great suggestions, and, upon searching further, I found a blogger that wrote tons of articles comparing popular brands and discussing whether cheaper really was better. At the end of her series, she posted this article announcing “Native American Nutritionals” as the winner for quality (and for “not too good to be true” value). Check out the post to see her reasoning.

Her reasons (and invaluable research) were compelling enough for me to consider purchasing their basic kit. It was priced, at the time, at $154.35 (10% off as a kit). See why I’m hitting myself over the head trying to select the right brand? This $&#% is expensive (and rightfully so)! Oh, and quality matters big-time since there are some sleazy people out there trying to pass crap off as the real thing. Also, I didn’t want to get into the other companies’ “buy this much a month, get this much free” stuff because a) I was still skeptical as to its validity (if it would work for our family) and b) I’m not good at the pressure of purchase. (You know, like if I get a 30% off coupon for Kohl’s, the pressure that I should go use it because goodness knows when they’ll send a 30% off coupon again. Hate that. It makes me cry in aisles, I kid you not.)

But I kept hearing of Young Living and doTerra as people’s favorites. This article helped me to whittle it down to YL (which most of my FB buddies recommend, anyway). Still, I searched further (gotta love in-depth comparisons where folks do days and days worth if work for you. Apparently I’m lazy). Finally, the these links (here and here) are the two-part analysis that gave me a result that was clear. I’d be plunking down $154.35 (plus S&H…or is it S&P?) to try NAN.

I *FINALLY* ordered earlier this week, so I was kinda shocked when they arrived on Wednesday. I’ve used them a couple of times on our pillows (lavender one night, a blend called “tranquility” last night) and they were wicked relaxing – but that’s all so far. 

This is clearly the start of something, so I’ll be sure to share my findings. If I find a need to switch to another brand in the future (namely the highly recommended YL), you’ll hear about it. If I find that EO are the greatest thing since sliced bread, you’ll know. For now, I’m just ecstatic to finally get going!

Minimalist Mama

Similar to my zero-waste and French child rearing posts of yore, I’ve found a new inspiring (or frustrating, depending on how you look at it) concept in the cause of living simpler – the minimalist mom. Spoiler alert: I’m pretty sure it’s not something we’re going to adhere to, but stick with me here.

I saw this article on the Today Show’s website which, in essence, talks about a British family who, after the mum lost her job and got slammed with the holiday marketing blitz, vowed to strike out against consumerism by not spending ANYTHING on their son (and now daughter — yes, having a newborn and buying NOTHING for her). This is, of course, aside from any medical costs and food (although she doesn’t buy into the “food marketed specifically to kids” thing). And, after a year, they’re deeming it a success, and even continuing the project (with a monthly “get out of jail free” card).

After checking out the mom’s blog, I get it. The fact that her “rules” on the site go as such —

1) Mama don’t preach. This isn’t about telling anyone else what to do. If you’ve read my blog before, even a couple of times, it should be pretty obvious that I DON’T KNOW. I have no answers. Just a few jumbled ideas and a wobbly will to try to do the best thing I can for the kids. Most of the time. When humanly possible. On good days.
2) Liberation not deprivation. If it turns out that any of us (Johnny, Frida, my husband, me) are less happy, more stressed, less healthy, or just generally flourishing less (wilting?) due to cutting out spending in any area, we’ll reintroduce that thing. This isn’t about being stoic, or even doing without. It’s about blundering messily but happily towards a way of life that makes us happy and content.
3) Honesty is the best policy. I will be honest. I’ll always tell you what’s going on. No sneaking purchases past this blog. Hand on heart.

— is refreshing and lovely. She doesn’t seem to be doing this to jump on the “a year doing *fill in the blank* to get tons of press” bandwagon. She genuinely knows how toxic it can be (figuratively) to have to deal with the constant onslaught of C-R-A-P as parents (and children). I mean, just look at this video:

Adorbs! Doesn’t that just say it all?

Ahh. Stuff. That recurring theme of ye olde blog. I mean, just think of the influx (dare I say FLOOD) of toys (this isn’t including outfits) we received for Hadman’s birthday. Cuh-razy! (We’ve got a buttload more since Christmas, mind you. Le sigh.)

We’re of the mindset that if folks would just give ONE toy (and maybe one outfit, if they get “the itch”) for these special occasions, it’ll make everyone a lot more comfortable (my mother’s officially “scared” to get him ANY toys, and it’s not because of me…simply put, it makes me super sad) and help Hadley to realize that it’s more about showering him with love and kindness and appreciation and to let him know he has true worth. No one is allowed to “buy” his love, as far as I’m concerned, and we’re going to have plenty of family conversations with him about it as time goes by. Y’know, when he starts to understand things better.

We also don’t buy into (ha! Get it?) the “toy of the season” mentality. There’s nothing he “has” to have. Not the latest Elmo thingamabobber. Not everything-Sesame-Street-because-he-likes-Sesame-Street. (Although the Easter Bunny has mentioned wanting to bring one SS-themed toy. Darn him.) Lord knows munchkin HAS more than enough already. If you took the sheer number of toys, he’s reached his life quota. Seriously, that many. And he’s not 2 yet.

Stop the insanity! (Remember that? From the ’90s? Er…’80s, maybe? Susan Powter?)

The items that we get him tend to be creative or pretend toys that will hopefully stick around for years and years of use. Other toys that he has make him feel overwhelmed and bored SO. QUICKLY. Can you imagine? Having two huge containers of toys, literally overflowing, and feeling bored? I can imagine it. Because I see it. (Heck, when I look at all of his toys, I think, “Um, yeah. I’m going cross-eyed. Too much.”) It makes complete sense.

We want him to have an imagination…and to use it. To play WITH him using OUR imaginations; inside, outside, with pots and pans and bowls and spoons, with sheets and boxes and recycled egg cartons. What greater gift is there than that? My best childhood memories are of just these things.
And there’s also SO much to be said for “free play.” You know, going to a park or running around your backyard like a giggling fool or digging in the dirt or…well, you know.
So, let’s meander back to the topic at hand. Could we go a year without buying ANYTHING child-oriented?

It definitely got the ol’ brain juices flowing. I buy him Annie’s bunnies (but I eat them, too, and they’re not necessarily kid-centric…just cutesy), but I also buy the whole milk yogurt that’s perfectly portioned for toddlers (I swore I’d never do it, but saving 5-7 minutes in the morning? Psht.) I don’t buy a lot of clothes or toys for him (family hooks us up on this front, mostly), but we have failed at cloth diapering. (Sad to even admit that.) So, purchasing dipes ‘n wipes is a big one on the list.

Clearly, we couldn’t fully go without getting him ANYthing…plus, I’m too spineless/lazy/imperfect/flip-floppy to do one of those “for a year” challenge thingies. Hey, at least I’m honest. *wink, wink*

However, there’s a lot that I (or we, if you find it appealing) can learn from this experiment. I haven’t utilized Freecycle much…er…at all. Ever. And I should. Same goes for Craigslist. So much of what she says is true, though. There’s definitely a stigma that they have to be playing with the “right things” or wearing the “cutest” stuff. I find myself by nature anti-licensed character clothing. (I think it’s because I didn’t have much as a kid and realized I didn’t really like it; exceptions are the ONE Punky Brewster t-shirt and a TMNT shirt {Michelangelo FTW!} that I owned, and maybe a hand-me-down Betty Boop sleep shirt.) I also find myself turning away those gifts because I don’t want those obnoxious cartoon faces to inundate our own animated munchkin’s face, y’know?

That’s a tug-of-war right there. If it’s willingly given, do you just accept (I actually know for a fact that doing that tends to open Pandora’s box, causing us to receive even MORE stuff) graciously (which, believe me, we ARE truly grateful!) or do we pick and choose what we allow through our doors to better control what he (and we) are subjected to? Like…he’s never seen a full-length Disney movie. (He knows Mickey and the rest from short films and watching his playhouse at Grandma’s.) So…should he have shirts and pj’s with a million images of Lightning McQueen all over them? Then there’s the slipppery slope that we simply MUST own that movie (and a million others). Again, I only owned a handful of Disney flicks, and they were ones we already knew that (as a family) we loved watching over and over again. Not 50. Not 20. A handful.

And I turned out just fine. 😉

Obviously, my head’s still wrapping itself around this concept. I highly doubt we could do a full-blown challenge (even a month’s worth…? Maybe? Maybe not.) like this, but it definitely is good to help consider our needs vs. our wants vs. society’s perceived “you need to want”s.

Whatchya think?

Organic For Less

Happy Monday from a very snowy CNY! I’m back from a “mid-winter break” and ready to get back to normalcy. Now, if I could only find the energy to match my enthusiasm. Eh, on with the show…

Every couple of weeks or so, I find myself hitting up our local Aldi (a unique grocery store with mostly generic-ish brands where you rent your grocery cart, bring your own bags, and may only use cash, or debit or EBT cards) before making my usual Hannaford haul. It helps to lower my regular food bill, and I’m ecstatic to see their choices in organic products is generally increasing. Woo hoo!

Now, before I share my budget-trimming selections, I’d like to briefly state our current eating philosophy. I wish I could say that we eat only fruits and vegetables; minimal quantities of organic, grass fed, humanely treated meat and poultry (and eggs); whole grains; and raw, grass fed milk and cheese. Period. But, we don’t. A great majority of what we eat is organic OR grass fed OR GMO free OR 5-ingredients-or-less, but we still consume processed foods – frozen pizzas, part-skim cheese sticks, breads, snack crackers, granola bars, etc.  We try to eat minimal meat, but it’s still a part of most of our meals (most dinners, at least).

It is what it is. Our consciences are relatively at ease on the subject. About 90-95% of the food in our house is organic or at least GMO-free. That’s a heck of a lot further than we were a few short years ago. We don’t stress out over the occasional ordered-in pizza or diner breakfast or meal shared at a friend or family member’s house; they’re quite rare and we know the rest of the time we’re doing our best to put good things in our bodies. {And we’re still profoundly against fast food (I’m going to attempt to pack some appealing meals for our next vacation so we don’t fall victim).}

It’s an evolution that I’m not rushing. To force a thing means that it will be a stress rather than a pleasure to enforce in our own lives. So, for now, I let someone else make my bread. (Either an organic brand or a few-ingredient, locally made one.) And I sleep just fine. 😉

For some tips on grocery shopping for “whole foods”, check out this old post. I’ll have to do a farmers’ market one when things warm up. Yay!

So, anyhoo! I ended up spending a lot for an Aldi trip (less than $60), but couldn’t help myself. For once, I found so many new organic products, I felt like I was robbing the place. “Ohhhh, yessss!!” I shouted each time I spotted another. I’m sure folks thought I was crazy, but I know for a fact that crazier things DO happen…especially at this joint.

Summer 2015 - image 2e98e-picstitch1 on

I’m showing my haul in categories – fruit ‘n veg (one organic pile – left, one non-organic – right) and processed stuff (bottom).

I still subscribe to a small extent to the “clean 15” list to cut back on cost (although it’s also a matter of supply/demand; if they supply an organic version, I’ll often buy it). So, at Aldi I purchased a pineapple ($2.49), mushrooms ($.99!), a trio of onions ($2.69; I’m a tad wary here; the last time I did this, I cut into them THE NEXT DAY to find they had soft/browning middles…happened recently at Hannaford, too, though), garlic ($.79!), green onions ($.79!), asparagus ($2.99…and already gone…I should’ve bought two), and a bag o’ potatoes ($2.99 for 5 lbs! But…on the dirty list, but it’s tough to find organic here :-P).

As for the organic produce, I FINALLY caught their fresh bananas (I think $.79/lb.), bag o’ apples ($4.49), spinach and spring mix ($1.99 each; if we don’t use the spinach by the time it starts to go, I can boil it quickly and flash freeze) and baby carrots ($.99; this is the price if you’re LUCKY for non-organic at Hannaford). Lots of “booyah!” and heel kicking in the aisles, I tell ya. Oh, and I grabbed two bags of frozen organic strawberries ($2.69 each) and one of blueberries ($2.99). If you want to count apple juice, I hunted down an organic container for $2.49 ($.50 – $1.00 less than usual).

Then we get into the more processed (yet organic) stuff. Diced tomatoes for $1.49, two boxes of $1.99 chicken soup, a box of $1.79 chicken broth, a box of $1.19 linguine, a $1.99 peppercorn ranch dressing, hormone- and antibiotic-free bacon (just like the kind we get at Hannaford, only $3.89…similar price, just want to check it out), $1.99 “toasted oats” (organic Cheerios, folks!), and TWO organic pizzas for $3.99 each (TWO DINNERS for $4.00 each! Yes, we’ll probably have salad, too, but c’mon…can’t buy a pizza from a local pizza place for that little, and they’re made with ORGANIC ingredients!!!).

Whew. So, yeah, minus a $2 bag that I purchased because I ended up finding way more than I had expected, it came to around $57.63. For comparison, I usually spend around $30 there. If only they’d start carrying WHOLE organic milk instead of 2% (don’t get me wrong — I was ECSTATIC to see that they even had milk).

On a final note, this is just an example of a random grocery trip. I’ve had some interest from folks to know what one of these trips looks like, how much we spend on stuff, and what selections we make. This is by no means a bragfest (although I was dancing in the aisles to see what deals I could find); it’s just putting myself out there to see if what I do might help any of you. 🙂

So, how about you? What are some ways that you find to eat healthier (no judgment zone: healthier doesn’t always mean organic; it’s just our personal philosophy) for cheaper?

Pump No More

Summer 2015 - image  on https://megactsout.comI made a decision this morning. It may not be earth-shattering (there are important things happening, like the death of Nelson Mandela, after all), but it’s a change for me.

I announced to Dave in ceremonious fashion that I wouldn’t be bringing my pump to school today…meaning, no more.

(Fun fact: He usually carries my pump out to my car when he loads his car with baby stuff in the morning. One of those examples of chivalry.)

It could’ve been because I woke up late after forgetting to set my phone alarm after our 3:30 feeding, putting me in a rip-roaring mood. It could’ve been my crazy hormones. Or, it could’ve been because I thought to myself after pumping a total of 1/2 an ounce yesterday, “This is nuts. He doesn’t need it during the day anymore.”

I’m in a sullen mood today, and I had hoped this decision would come when I was at the top of my game and mentally prepared…but, it had to happen in its own time, I suppose. So, I’m dealing. It’s not the end of the world. He’s still feeding at night and wicked early in the morning. It’s not like he’s done breastfeeding. And, even if he was, it still wouldn’t matter. I don’t want a 20-year-old breastfeeder, after all. But, the best way that I can put it is that a connection we shared will be gone. That’s the part that will suck.

So, a chapter in my life is closed. I may write another chapter on breastfeeding with any future bambinos, but my “training manual” chapter is done. I know there’ll be more to learn, but Hadley was a great teacher for this first adventure. Now, to sterilize the crap out of all the components of the pump and throw that sucker in the basement. On the bright side, at least there’s one less piece of high-maintenance baby paraphernalia to deal with.

*SIDE NOTE: I didn’t get my pics uploaded to my post for Foodie Friday, so I might just have an extra post for you guys next week…maybe…if I can get it together by then. 😉 Have a great weekend!*

Overcoming Facebook Addiction 2.0

Two and a half years ago, I posted about trying to overcome my addiction to Facebook. The fact that it’s my #1 blog post makes me realize that I’d better revisit the topic. Actually, I think this calls for an update, a confession/reflection, followed by penance and some small changes that we (yes, you, too!) can make to take control of our lives back. Come along, won’t you?

Okay, first, the hard part: confession! (Recovering Catholic, can’t ya tell?) If you’re “friends” with me on Facebook, you see that I’m sporadically on there; sometimes I’ve got crickets chirping, other times I’ve got one thought-provoking (hopefully) meme after another (weird how the good ones pop up all at once – Must. Hit. Share.). 

I must be an addict. What else would explain the amnesia that strikes when I find myself staring blankly at my phone (iPhone be damned!) thinking, “Mmmkay, well how’d that app open?” Seriously, zero recollection of opening it. It’s the only app I get the amnesia over. Think it’s a coincidence? (Side note: Is there a MySpace app? Or is that site just for musicians and stuff now?)

So, there we have it. The first step towards recovery is admitting you have a problem. And I do. 

I know Facebook isn’t a drug, and it isn’t all bad. Hell, most of my hits here (over 1,000 a month, thanks, guys!) are from FB. I don’t see myself able to ever give it up 100% because, honestly, I want this blog to spread its wings and soar with the eagles. Or at least some Canada geese. Love those birds.

But, at the same time, I’m sick of feeling owned. Like, I enjoy Pinterest and Instagram but I feel in control of the situation. A day (or a week) can go by easily without my having to check either. I also don’t allow myself to feel like crap (like so many others in articles and posts  I’ve read) by the beauteous projects and lives that people display. When and if that happens, I’ll revert to trolling home magazine sites for inspiration that I need and taking plain ol’ pictures to edit with Picassa. S’all good.

With Facebook, it’s not all good. There’s a smidgen of good surrounded by any variation of:

Drama – Personal, political (often one and the same), veiled posts trying to start something, and rude comments from people (both friend and stranger), and let’s just say I’ve fallen victim of the “public fight with a strong-willed stranger” a few times.
Fishing – I’ve got low self esteem and even I don’t do this. Soooo what does that say about you when you’re using FB to fish for compliments and validation? It’s even more interesting when no one bites… Awk-ward. Find life-fulfilling, honest ways to do this, folks.
Over-sharing – Hardly ever intriguing, usually disturbing, alarming, or obnoxiously immature.
Mean ol’ guilt-trippers – Being an animal lover, I’m connected to several animal rescue pages. Some do an awesome job of informing the public in a respectful manner, but more and more are made up of some mean muthas (and I don’t mean Mom) who use the site to badger people for not calling a government official in Maine (I live in NYS) about a horrific animal abuse case. The guilt is horrible and the tone with which they lecture followers is like a reprimanding. I wish I could save every animal from pain and suffering, but I kind of have a life…and a baby…and three cats I’m too busy spoiling (since they’ve had rough lives before finding their “forever home”, too). It’s like an online version of those ASPCA ads without the music but with insults.
Super political/self-righteousness – This can be individuals or groups. Let’s just say I’m a left leaning individual just because, well, I am. However, because of my environment and the respect that I have for those around me who may be moderates or right-leaning, I try to post the non-offensive stuff. I follow a couple of groups that post maybe 20% valuable, rational ideas while the rest are Republican bashing. I know there are groups on the other side if the aisle, as
well. Guys…guys. This is what’s wrong with America today. Instead of considering ideas, opinions, conversations, valid information, etc we go with our guts and fight simply because “He’s a liberal.” When did the U.S. become two high school football teams that people sign up for and root for ’til their dying day? I’m okay with posting political ideas, but not offensive slights. (And, yes, I post gay rights things because I feel strongly in favor and the posts are non-offensive; there is a difference between a post you disagree with and a post that personally attacks you.)

I’m sure I’m missing someone, but you catch my drift. But, on to penance. Like I said, I don’t think I’ll ever be a completely healed Facebook-holic, but I hope to lessen my dependence to, well, zero. To be able to consciously use it once in awhile to post a blog post, to avoid the volatility, to respond to a message, and to occasionally unplug without withdrawal. Is that too much to ask?

If you’re interested in getting on the wagon, here are a few methods I’m going to be testing out:

Time yourself. You know how there are those methods of quitting smoking that allow you a little bit of it in the beginning? Use that as a guide. Consider what you can realistically do – one check a day for 5-10 minutes? (And you may want to set a timer ‘cuz you know FB is a time loss vortex. Seriously, though, you don’t need to see every single post from the last day; this is when you start getting that “my brain has over eaten” feeling.) As you feel comfortable with once daily, see if you can extend it. If not, once daily is actually a huge achievement and will give you SO much of your life back.
Tally ho! Keep a pen and paper (or make a note on your smartphone…maybe. The concrete reminder may work better.) handy to jot down a tally every time you visit FB, even accidentally. Go a step further and write down the time each time, too. We’ve gotta work on breaking the habit. It’s like having a dieter write down what they eat. You may or may not be surprised by how often you’re perusing Oh Evil Mistress Facebook. 
Purge your list. This will help with the brain-bloat, too. What friends only post things you’re interested in hearing? (ie the ones who don’t suck the air out of the room with every damn post) Which friends or groups give you anxiety or a headache regularly? Lose them, or if you really can’t delete them, edit what posts you receive from them. Seriously, I’ve done this and it has not only saved me some virtual stress but has saved my “real life” relationship with a couple of folks. Not that they need to know that I don’t get their immature, politically-charges rants anymore. Shh!
Be honest with yourself. What do you use Facebook for; alternatively, what does it do for you? Do you use it to stay in touch with friends and family? Sure, right, we all do that…but it’s only 10% of the truth. Figure out your reasons, then analyze whether you need FB to accomplish these things (sometimes you do; case in point, I need to reach readers). This may help you loosen the strings a bit more realizing that FB isn’t the only way to achieve those things you want to do (or those things you realize you don’t need in your life).
Put the phone down! Guys. Since I got the iPhone, I’ve been guilty of this, but it’s part of the process. You do not need to be connected 24/7. You’re not the president, or a member of the fire department (if you are, thank you!), or anyone ultimately important. (Okay. You’re important to me, but I don’t need to hear about your insomnia when I wake up in the morning. Love ya, but no one really cares. If your dog goes missing, however, we’ve got your back. Same with any other truly life altering situation.) But at dinner, when you should be playing with the baby (oh, the guilt) or paying attention to your spouse (y’know how spouses of yore would sit and just stare in stony silence when they reached 70? Yeah. Today, we’re doing it at 30. Stop that. You married a person, not your phone.) Allocate time to check your phone, but always put people first. Please and thank you.
Use the computer. If you must check, only allow yourself to use a computer (and not your work one). The less convenient it is, the less you’ll do it.
Final step: Walden it up. Thoreau is my hero, but man did that guy get crap DONE in a day! So when you’re getting the urge to waste an hour online, distract yourself in other ways. Do some house cleaning (okay, don’t), exercise, paint or draw or make sock puppets (whatever you like to do creatively, no judgement), watch a documentary (or something with Molly Ringwald; again, no judging; I’d watch a Jimmy Stewart flick), or read a book. I highly suggest going outside (as would Thoreau), even just to water plants or walk for a few minutes. Unplugging is so good for your brain. Y’know, as if nature intended it…

So, there it is. My Facebook Addiction Post 2.0. Let me know if you’ll be taking the journey with me! And, yes, I’m going to post this on FB, but be sure you follow my blog page since I’ll be on my personal one far less. 😉