2016: A Year of Kindness

When 2016 rolled around, I decided deep in my heart that I wanted to make kindness a central priority in my life. There’s been so much cruelty and pain in the news, that I want to do my best in my own little way by making the world a better place. Even if I’m only able to do small things, sometimes those can make a difference, right? I hope so.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. – Leo Buscaglia

I’ve been having to explain a lot of troubling things to my children. We see the heartbreaking news of the refugees from Syria who are fleeing for their lives and politicians here who say loudly that they are not worthy of our help and compassion. We see presidential candidates talking about building walls and shutting people out because of the way they worship or who they love. We see armed men breaking in and taking over public property waving guns and then bulldozing over archaeological sites and damaging fragile habitats. We’ve seen young people gunned down because of the color of their skin.

What this world needs is a new kind of army – the army of the kind. – Cleveland Amory

It’s been a lot to take in. And it’s hard explaining all of this to the girls. They have friends who are many different faiths and we are lucky enough that they go to a diverse school and preschool. For the Grasshopper especially, it’s hard for her to understand the cruelty directed at her friends. Quite honestly, I can’t understand it either, and I don’t know how to explain it other than to say that some people have ideas that we know to be very, very wrong.

Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world. – Desmond Tutu

How do we solve all of this? I don’t know. Obviously, there aren’t any easy answers.

I think, in part, the solution lies within each of us. I think each of us, in our own small ways, can make a difference. I think it starts with realizing and admitting when you’ve done something wrong and apologizing for it. I think it starts with a word of support when you see a parent stuck in a tough situation with a tantrum-y kid. It means standing up and speaking out with compassion if you see someone mistreating another person because of the color of their skin or their faith or who they love. It’s taking the time to ask someone how their day was and really listen to them.

Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.
― Kahlil Gibran

Either way, I think it all of this has to add up somehow. We can do better than this. We have to choose to be the change we want to see. We have to choose to live with kindness.

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have. – Margaret Mead

This is why, in 2016, I’m choosing kindness as my word to live by.

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Kids, Games, and Sportsmanship

I grew up playing games all the time with my parents. We played card games like Double Solitaire and Russian Bank. We played games like Boggle, Yahtzee, and Scrabble. Trivia games like Trivial Pursuit, Jr. Trivia, and more.

When I played with my parents, we all played hard. No one let anyone win. When I did manage to beat them at a game the victory was so sweet, but those wins were often far between. Sportsmanship was a very big deal in my family. I learned how to be a good loser and how to be a graceful winner. And you never, EVER cheat.

I’m trying my best to pass that along to my kids.

Games, in St. Louis, are a huge thing! There are gaming conventions, game nights, and groups that get together regularly to play. I always felt like such an oddball for liking to play games so much, so it’s cool to discover that there are other adults who love playing as much as I do.

It’s been fun discovering new games with my kids, but inevitably, we’ve run into problems with sportsmanship, so here are our family’s rules for fair play:

  • Cheating is never tolerated. When someone cheats (which has never happened) the game is over. Period.
  • Accusations of cheating as a means of expressing frustration for the outcome of a game or turn are never tolerated. Cheating is a charge we take seriously, and it’s not an accusation to be bandied about.
  • It’s okay to feel disappointed, but it’s not okay to pitch a fit and behave rudely to other players when things don’t go your way.
  • It’s great to celebrate a win, but it’s never okay to gloat.
  • Everyone plays as hard as they can to win.

Really, for my family, it’s the same as sportsmanship in an athletic event. You congratulate the winner and encourage the ones that lose, and we teach this by example. Although, my husband tends to “jokingly” accuse people of cheating which earns major side-eye from the rest of us. We’re working on that one.

I do my best to teach them strategy, just like my parents did with me. On my turn, I explain why I chose certain moves over others, and sometimes we play “open-handed” so I can give them pointers on why some cards might be better to play than others. But if they beat me, they know that the win was truly earned. The smiles on those faces are wonderful to see!

The girls are learning. Winning is fun, but losing can be tough. Last week, the Grasshopper made a really bad decision at the start of a new game we got the day before. I mean, it was a colossal mistake, and it immediately cost her the game. In a dramatic way. The tough thing was, she had to hang in for 30 or so minutes until the game finished, watching the rest of us pull farther and farther ahead. She shed some disappointed tears. Not tantrum-y tears. Just sad ones. But she hung in there and finished the game. It never crossed her mind to quit, and for that I am so proud of her.

When it was all over, we hugged and talked about what had happened and why she had lost, and we came up with some strategies for next time. I told her how impressed I was about how she played her hardest until the end. She was still sad, but she’s looking forward to playing again, and that’s the most important thing.

These are some of the new games we’ve found. They’re pretty well known, but they’re new to us and tons of fun!

  • Hey! That’s My Fish – Cricket got this for her 4th birthday from a friend and it is a favorite! There’s enough strategy that it’s engaging for me, but it’s simple and requires no reading, so it’s great for little ones, too.
  • Ticket to Ride – We don’t actually have this one, but we got it for my parents for Christmas and we all LOVED it. We were all able to play, even Cricket, although for her to play, we either had to put her on someone’s team or play open-handed. My husband and I are thinking of picking up one of these for us!
  • Ninja Camp – We got this through their kickstarter and it arrived last week. We’ve only played it a few times, but so far it seems to be a hit! This one is tough for Cricket, though, because of the reading involved.
  • Munchkin – This is one that is best for the Grasshopper and I to play. My husband gets frustrated with the complicated rules and doesn’t find the cards amusing. He doesn’t have the same love of role playing games that I do. It definitely requires reading skills, so Cricket is not able to play. Honestly, I’m still figuring it out, but the Grasshopper and I have fun with it.
  • Machi Koro – This was the one that the Grasshopper lost so bad at last week. Poor thing. Awful loss aside, this is a fun game, although Cricket needs tons of help to play. Even though Cricket can’t read the cards and mostly just guesses, and even though the strategy has been a challenge for the Grasshopper, it’s still a fun one that even my husband likes.
  • Race to the Treasure – This is definitely one for the kids, but it’s cooperative which they enjoy. It’s simple enough that they can set up and play it by themselves.
  • Cauldron Quest – Again, this is a kid’s game, but it’s got enough complexity that Cricket needs a bit of help remembering the rules. They both enjoy playing it with me, and it’s cooperative so it’s fun to see them working together toward a goal.
  • Pokemon – Yeah, you read that right. the Grasshopper and I get serious playing Pokemon TCG. That’s “The Card Game” if you’re unfamiliar. It is surprisingly fun, and she’s gotten great at adding, subtracting and multiplying in her head with this one.

I really want to try Catan, but I think we may have to get the Jr version of the game. I also want to get Pandemic, but I’m holding out for the Cthulhu version. I have the feeling this one will not be one the kids can play, though. I’m also curious about Forbidden Island/Forbidden Desert. I’ve heard that one is playable with children.

Do y’all have any favorite games to recommend? How do you handle winning, losing, and sportsmanship when you play?

 

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Winter Skin Rescue from Grateful Naturals – Review and Giveaway!

We got so spoiled over Christmas with the warm weather that I almost forgot how dry winter skin can get here in the midwest. But then, in a flurry of snowfall, everything changed. Sure, I love sledding with my kids and making hot chocolate and doing those snow day rituals (taping a penny to your door and flushing an ice cube down the toilet?), but let’s face it. I’m the SAHM, which means I am the primary dishwasher in the family, the primary bottom wiper, and the one who washes her hands the most. A few weeks ago, my hands were actually cracking and bleeding. Winter really does take dry skin to a whole new level.

So I was excited when, after this crazy day when Kellymom.com shared my post on handling breastfeeding criticism, the owner of Grateful Naturals reached out to me to see if I’d like to try a few of her products to share with my readers on my blog. I don’t really do reviews much. Y’all know that. But I took some time to look at her products and her company and quickly saw a kindred spirit. Monica started her business in order to provide families with natural skin care products that nourish the skin. You can read more about her story here. The thing I love about the company is that all of the products are made in the US, right in Ventura, California where I used to live! It’s really a hometown business, run by a mom, who is in my Ventura mom’s group as it turns out! I love supporting small, women-owned businesses, and when they’ve got great products like Grateful Naturals, I want to share them with you guys.

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So here’s the rundown on the products I tried:

Lip Balm – Vanilla Honeysuckle 

I can’t decide what’s worse about winter: cracked hands or chapped lips. I’m going to go with chapped lips. Hands I can ignore if I need to. Lips just hurt all the time, and I always manage to leave home without my chapstick. By the end of the day, my lips just hurt so bad. That’s where the Grateful Naturals lip balm comes in. Monica sent me the Vanilla Honeysuckle, and it was love at first… um… taste? It is great. It works well, does not sting at all like some lip balms do, and it heals and protects my lips.

But that’s not the best part.

For me, the best part is the size. The tube is slim enough that I can actually slip it into my wallet. Okay, now I know I carry kind of a big wallet, but I still think this is a game changer. No matter where I am, I always have lip balm with me! My lips never have to crack again!

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Tushy Cream – Cloth Diaper Friendly

She also sent me some diaper rash cream, which is funny because I don’t have kids in diapers anymore but somehow my family still deals with chapped booties. Once again, the product works great. It has a nice, light scent that comes from the calendula, chamomile, and lavender, all of which are healing ingredients, not fragrance. There is also melaluca (tea tree oil), but I can’t smell that which I appreciate. Sometimes that smell is too medicine-y and bothers me. The Tushy Cream heals chapped bottoms quickly and washes out of underwear easily, which makes sense since it is cloth diaper friendly.

You know how I like products that serve more than one purpose, like how I use lanolin nipple cream for everything, and this one fits the bill nicely. I found myself using this on my upper arms where I get those annoying red spots, on my belly and elbows, and on all the itchy spots my kids get from dry, winter skin. It goes on easily and puts down a nice moisture barrier that stops the itching.

You might notice that the top of this one is a little dug out. This is because I preferred to apply it to bootie rashes with a q-tip. It’s designed to be applied straight to the baby’s bottom like a giant chapstick, which I think is respectful in that in means you don’t have to put your hands on your kiddos private parts more than necessary. However, since we’ve been using it on more that just booties, I prefered to use a q-tip to apply it to chapped bottoms to avoid cross contamination.

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Deodorant Stick – Lavender

The deodorant stick was a bit of a stretch for me, I’ll be honest. I was hesitant to try it because all of the store-bought natural deodorants I’ve tried have left a strange, waxy-feeling film on my pits that just feels awful by the end of the day. I’m so glad I tried this one, though. No waxy build-up, and it worked great, leaving my pits feeling soft and fresh.

Now keep in mind, I’m trying this in winter, and not the dead heat of summer, but it worked very well for me. It smelled great, didn’t leave powdery streaks all over my clothes, and it kept me stink-free all day. It was also much easier than having to fool with making my own. I just don’t have the time for that anymore with how busy both kids and a part time job and writing are keeping me.

This is also one that I would purchase for the girls when they get older as a good, natural first deodorant.

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Healing Salve

I saved my favorite for last. This healing salve is awesome. It has helped us with all kinds of owies: rug burns, chapped cheeks, cracked and bleeding knuckles, scraped knees, razor cuts, and many other little ouchies that I just can’t think of. My kids love it. It’s soothing and it really does seem to speed healing. In fact, they love it so much, that when I threw my back out day before yesterday, little Cricket ran to get it because she was convinced that the green stuff would help my back feel better. How cute is that?

This really is a great, all-around healing cream that ought to be a staple in the first aid box. Monica even says it can be used on bug bites and sunburns, so I’m sure we will get to try that out this summer!

When Monica heard how much I loved this one she suggested giving one away to one of my readers! So be sure to read all the way to the bottom so you can see how to enter this giveaway!

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Grateful Naturals makes a little bit of everything: sunscreen, men’s deodorant, hand and body cream, perineal spray for new mamas, and even a hand sanitizer. The best part is, her prices are reasonable and in line with what I would expect to pay for a good quality, natural product. I plan to order several of these when I run out, most notably the healing salve and the lip balm. And I’m sure I will order the sunscreen this summer to try it out, too.

Definitely check out the Grateful Naturals products. You won’t be sorry! And be sure to let me know if you decide to try any!

Here’s a quick, clickable wrap-up of the products I tried:

The Giveaway!

Grateful Naturals is giving one of my readers a free Healing Salve to help with chapped skin and scraped knees! Just click this link to go to Rafflecopter for your entries! Clicking this link will open a new tab and take you to the Rafflecopter website where you can securely enter the giveaway.

The giveaway has ended.

Congratulations JackieGirl82! Remember, if you didn’t win, you can still use the coupon code below!

 

The Coupon Code!

Whether or not you win the free hand salve, all of my readers can get 20% off their Grateful Naturals purchase from now until the end of February! Just enter the code SKINRESCUE (be sure to use all caps) at checkout!

 

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Grateful Naturals provided me with free product to try for this post, but did not compensate me in any other way. All opinions are my own. #gratefulnaturals #naturalskincare #winterskin #freeproduct

“Bless Your Heart”

Okay y’all, I’m going to get a little southern here for a minute. I was raised in Central Texas (which totally counts as the South), and growing up I used to hear my grandmother bless people all the time.

“Bless your heart.”

“Well, bless your soul.”

And she always meant it with all of her heart.

This is why I was surprised to learn as an adult that there is a “southern” thing wherein people apparently bless other people but really mean, “What a dumbass.” Or “I hate you.”

Guys, please. This isn’t a Southern Thing. This is a mean thing. I’m sure there are some passive aggressive people from the south out there, but I’d hate for anyone to walk away with the impression that Southern women are, as a whole, mean people who just fake being friendly until they can turn around and talk about you behind your back. Meanness is something that happens everywhere. It’s not a “Southern Thing.” I think those folks that bless people’s hearts in a sarcastic way would find ways to be nasty no matter where they are from.

I grew up surrounded by Southerners. East Texas Southerners. My maternal aunts could put more syllables into a word than you would believe. My mother can, too, but she’s pretty good at keeping a lid on it. What she’s not good at keeping a lid on is being friendly to folks. Everywhere. No matter who they are. This Christmas, we were standing in line to get tacos in a gas station (because this is Texas and that’s where you get good tacos), and my mom turned around and struck up a conversation with a couple of construction workers behind us. She chatted with them about their day and the delicious tacos we were all about to eat, and then she stuck out her hand and introduced herself to them, shook hands and learned their names. I guarantee you that if she sees them again she will remember them by name and ask after their children. Probably by name. Because she is kind and genuine and really cares about those two guys and how they are doing.

Now that’s a Southern thing.

But it’s not only a Southern thing. Just like mean folks live everywhere, so do kind people.

So if you ever hear me say, “Oh, bless your heart.” It doesn’t mean I hate you or think you’re stupid. It means I love you and I wish you happiness.

This year is just getting started. Let’s all work together to spread a little kindness.

Things I am (NOT) Tired of Seeing on Facebook

Have you guys seen those lists floating around listing all the things someone you don’t know is tired of seeing you post on facebook? Things like food photos, selfies, pictures of your kids, updates on your love life, commentary about the weather, cute animal videos, and on and on and on?

Listen, I don’t know who this person is, but let’s just give them the benefit of the doubt that they had a bad day, send them an oatmeal-raisin cookie (great for constipation!), and pack them off to bed.

I don’t like these lists because there’s always a thing or two on them that I feel guilty about. And because I can be an anxious person, I end up worrying that I am making my friends hate me because I post stupid stuff. But then, after a day or two, I come back and start scrolling through my feed, and I realize that my friends are all posting pictures of food, selfies, pictures of kids, updates on their love lives, commentary about the weather (sometimes with cool pictures!), cute animal videos, political commentary, and so forth. And I love seeing it!

I love seeing what my friends eat because it gives me new ideas when I’m stuck in a dinner rut.

I love all of the selfies because I love seeing the new haircuts, the new lipsticks and eyeliners, the cool hats, and the smiles of people who feel good about themselves. As long as they are being safe. Practice safe selfie-ing y’all! Although, is there some kind of trick to getting decent looking selfies? Mine always look really weird. Can somebody clue me in? Because apparently I’m too old to be able to do this well.

I love seeing pictures of everyone’s kids, even when it makes me realized that my friend’s newborn baby is going into kindergarten and I’m officially an Oldie McOldperson.

I love hearing about my friends’ love lives. I love celebrating with them when they’ve found the one, and I’m grateful for the chance to offer hugs and sympathy when things don’t work out.

I love weather posts because I have friends from all over the world, and it’s kind of crazy to see folks chillaxin’ (shush, that’s totally a word) on beaches when I’m in wool socks and long underwear. And the snow photos and storm photos are, let’s face it, just plain cool!

Do I actually need to tell you why I love cute animal videos?

I love seeing my friends happy. And when they’re not, I appreciate the opportunity to hug them and send them love. Post what makes you happy, and don’t listen to cranky people who want to pretend to be the facebook police.

And on that note, here’s an adorable picture of our dog playing in the sprinkler.

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Organization, Joy, and KonMari

A few days ago, the lady I work for, who is totally awesome, introduced me to the KonMari method of organizing. I’ve been trying my entire life to get organized, to purge all of the junk that I don’t need, and to keep the house tidy. This doesn’t come naturally to me. My inability to keep the house orderly causes friction between my husband and me. He is one of those people who was born organized. For him, keeping house is second nature. He’s a minimalist at heart, where I tend to accumulate stuff. So much stuff. Because maybe I might need it one day or I’ll get around to fixing it or sure it’s too small but what if I need it in a pinch? 

This year, after returning home from a lovely Christmas holiday with my parents, I walked into my closet and said, “This is enough.” I had a closet full of clothes that I haven’t worn in more than a year because I mostly just wear the same three outfits day in and day out. I had a pile of shoes that kept me from finding the ones I want. I had stacks of folded clothes that have been pawed through until they’re nothing more than piles. The closet felt like the manifestation of my feeling that I’d lost control of the house. I avoided it, only entering it when I had to, but on December 31st, I walked in and decided, “This is enough. I don’t have to live this way.”

 

I posted about this on facebook, and a few days ago, at work, while chatting with my boss about the new year, the subject of organization came up. We are facebook friends (no, it’s not as weird as you might think it is) and we have both seen each other organizing over the last couple of weeks, me in my closet, her in her bathroom cabinets. She mentioned this thing called KonMari, a Japanese tidying method created by a woman named Marie Kondo. I’d never heard of it, so my boss explained. When you organize, ask yourself:

  • Did this item bring me joy when I purchased it?
  • Does it bring me joy now?

Cue the lightbulb moment!

Do you ever keep things out of guilt? Do you ever look at something and say, “Ugh. I don’t use that anymore, but I can’t get rid of it because so-and-so gave it to me (or I spent good money on it or any other reason why you might keep something that is no longer useful). I guess I have to keep it.”

The KonMari method of tidying is based on the idea that instead of choosing what to get rid of, choose what you want to keep. Choose the things that spark joy and inspiration so that you surround yourself with that feeling of happiness. Here is a youtube video where Marie Kondo describes how her method works. It’s long, I know. But believe me, it’s worth it, and this is coming from someone who won’t watch a youtube video longer than 3 minutes!

 

There is a very specific way to go about doing this, so after watching the video, I snapped up a copy of her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Thus began The Great New Year’s Eve Closet Purge. I was ruthless. I asked myself:

  • Is it maternity? If yes, donate
  • Is it broken? If yes, can I repair it? If yes, realistically, will I have time to repair it? If no, toss.
  • Does it fit? If no, donate.
  • Does it match other items in my closet? If no, donate. (You’d be amazed how many things I have that I can’t wear because they match absolutely nothing in my closet)
  • Do I enjoy wearing it? If yes, keep. If no, donate.

When I finished, I had a massive pile of clothes to donate (and of course a few that just needed to be pitched), an orderly closet that makes me smile, and a sense of order and control over my clothes that is expanding in tangible ways to other parts of the house.

Sure, I’d already done my closet, but it’s not just my closet that needs to be tidied. It’s my entire house. And wouldn’t it be wonderful to teach my children that instead of buying a bunch of stuff that fills spaces to surround themselves with joy and let go of things that no longer bring happiness?

Have any of you tried the KonMari method? How has it worked for you?

 

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Resolutions: A 2015 Retrospective

Last year I made several New Year’s resolutions. Some turned out the way I expected. Some didn’t.

I did not read everything from that “books I should have read in college but didn’t” list. In fact, the only thing I did manage to read from the list was Slaughterhouse Five. Okay, so I started Catch-22, but I didn’t finish it. But, and this is a big but, I read a ton last year. In April alone, I read 19 books as a part of a mid-grade reading project I assigned to myself. That’s pretty good, I think. What I discovered about myself is that I want to be able to enjoy reading. With two little ones, a job, a house to manage, and everything else, my reading time is a precious escape. I want to be able to enjoy what I’m reading. Part way through my April Mid-Grade Challenge, I made a new resolution: If reading a book becomes a chore, cast it aside. There’s no point in taking up my valuable (to me) reading time torturing myself with something I don’t enjoy. So, even though I didn’t read everything (or anything) from that list of books I posted last year, I feel like this resolution was a success in its own way.

Another resolution I made last year was to start sewing again. Specifically, I intended to begin sewing a Victorian dress starting with the underthings and working out. Well, I got the chemise (basically a nightgown looking thing that goes under a corset) completed! And it is very pretty. I still need to finish the drawers, but there is a buttonhole involved and button holes make me nervous. Also, I’ve been too frightened to start the corset because corsets are less of a sewing project and more of an engineering project. That said, I’m still reading about corset construction and fit, so I haven’t cast this one aside. I’ve just put it on pause, that’s all.

I did grow in my sewing confidence enough to bite off the truly terrifying task of sewing Halloween costumes for both of my children. And they turned out pretty well! I had to remember all of my middle school 4H sewing skills, but the costumes turned out great! Scary zippers and all! And I can still topstitch like a boss! So, I’m going to call this resolution a win as well. I thought I’d be farther along with my Victorian dress, but I didn’t specify a timeline back in January, so I’m okay with where I ended up. And I can say that honestly and without feeling like I’m settling or making excuses.

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A mouse and Marshal from Paw Patrol!

 

Probably the most important resolution I made last year had to do with writing, and apparently, I didn’t post about it which is weird because I was sure that I did! What I was sure that I had told you was this: I wanted to concentrate on short stories. My goal was to produce three finished short story drafts and start trying to sell them. By “sell them” I don’t mean post them on Amazon for folks to read, so you won’t be able to find any of my work anywhere to read yourself right now. When I talk about selling them, I mean sending them to the editors of the short fiction magazines I listed in my resolutions post (among others) to see if they are interested in publishing them in their magazines.

And you know what? I did it! In fact, I produced four pieces of short fiction that I’ve been shopping around! I’ve racked up around nearly 20 rejections, which is hard, but expected. It’s important to note that my goal was not to get three short stories published, but to get them polished and sent out. This was a goal about improving my writing and conquering the fear of rejection. I’ve got plenty of time, and a year later I still get up every morning at five and write. Even on vacation.

So, when I look back at the resolutions I made in January, I would call 2015 a success, even if I wasn’t successful in quite the way I thought I would be.

Did you make any resolutions for 2015? How did you do in keeping them?

I’m Ready, Mama – Independent Sleep

Cricket and I have co-slept from the beginning, and I’ve heard it all.

“You’ll never get her out of your bed.”

“You have to teach her to self-soothe.”

“She’s never going to sleep on her own.”

Yes, Cricket is four. She sleeps in a double bed in her room, and I sleep with her. I’ve heard all of the co-sleeping criticisms multiple times. I’ve been told over and over that I’ve ruined her ability to sleep.

But here’s the thing. I didn’t. And I can say that, not with a defensive glare, but with a serene smile, because here’s the truth, the honest truth:

Sleep is a developmental milestone. When a child is ready to fall asleep on their own, they will.

Sure, the AP books all say this, but it’s hard to believe when what seems like the entire world tries to convince you that sleep training is a necessity.

But it’s not just the books that say they will sleep on their own when they are ready. I’ve seen it with my own eyes with both children.

I nursed both of my babies to sleep every single night from the time they were born. Then, one day, at around 18 months, nursing stopped helping them fall asleep. They still nursed before bed, but it didn’t put them to sleep. After a strange and confusing week, both of my girls learned to nurse, lay down beside Mama, and fall asleep. On their own. There was never a need to teach self-soothing, whatever that is supposed to mean. No need to “train” them to sleep. They were ready. They knew sleep time was a time of comfort and peace, so they were able to lay down knowing they were safe and comforted.

But wait, some folks might say. You’re still sleeping in bed with them! How’s that going to work out?

With the Grasshopper, I got Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I never got the chance to find out whether she would be able to learn to sleep on her own because the sickness took away my night time parenting abilities. With Cricket, though, we’ve been able to go at her pace, and while I sometimes doubted, my trust in her ability to know when she was ready has paid off.

A few weeks ago, we were in the car coming home from the grocery store (because all big conversations seem to happen in the car), and Cricket announced that she wanted to fall asleep like a big girl. It was completely out of the blue. We were listening to the Frozen soundtrack and she just piped up with, “Mama, I’m ready to go to sleep like a big girl now.”

And she was. She likes patterns, so we do a pattern. Every other night, I tuck her in, kiss her head, and say goodnight. And that’s it. No training. No tears. She just closes her eyes and goes to sleep. She knows that if she needs me, I will come to her immediately, so she feels safe trusting that Mama will be right there.

To all the tired mamas out there, keep the faith. Trust your kids. They will get there. It’s hard sometimes, I know. Cricket used to wake hourly in the night some times. But it’s not a forever thing. It will pass. Cuddle those babies. It’s what they need.

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April Showers Bring May Smiles

Every year, the Girl Scout troops of Eastern Missouri head out into the neighborhoods for the largest service project of the year. The Grasshopper and I have participated twice now with her Daisy troop in the April Showers drive to collect toiletries and personal care items. The girls spend one day hanging bags on doors requesting items like toothbrushes, tampons, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, and deodorant. The next weekend, the girls return to collect the bags and bring the items to banks where they can be distributed to families in need.

You might wonder why this sort of collection is important. Did you know that food stamps and many other forms of assistance don’t cover basic items like toothpaste? Did you know that having a period without access to pads or tampons can force girls and young women to miss school and work?

From the GSEM website:

  • Among households in Missouri, 25.8% percent reported annual income under $25,000 household income.
  • Among families with children under age 18, 16.7% percent reported annual income less than $25,000.
  • In 2013, the percentage of children ages 5-17 living in families in poverty in Missouri was over 20%.
  • According to the Consumer Expenditure Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average family of four will spend about $144 per month on housekeeping and personal care items.
  • One in seven Americans rely on food pantries and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families, a report from Feeding America, the nation’s largest nonprofit provider of food assistance to low-income Americans, finds.

These kinds of donations are critical in supporting our community and helping to lift people out of the cycle of poverty. Yesterday, the Grasshopper and her troop collected 1,682 personal care items. Last year, the troop collected 1,327 items. If you live in the area and forgot to put out your bag, it’s not too late.

Individuals, who did not receive a bag or are unavailable to donate during the Showering the Community program can drop off personal care items in the barrels located at any Schnucks location in Missouri from April 15-27 or nearest Dierbergs Markets from April 25 – May 9, 2015 .  They can also call 314.400.4601 or 1.800.727.4475, ext. 4601, to arrange a pickup.

 

I’m proud of our girls in Eastern Missouri. If you would like to help out others in your local community, please call your local food banks. They will almost always accept these kinds of donations, and you could make a huge impact on the lives of people in your community.

Before every troop meeting, our girls recite the Girl Scout Promise

On my honor, I will try:
To serve God and my country,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.

and the Girl Scout Law

I will do my best to be
honest and fair,
friendly and helpful,
considerate and caring,
courageous and strong, and
responsible for what I say and do,
and to
respect myself and others,
respect authority,
use resources wisely,
make the world a better place, and
be a sister to every Girl Scout.

This past week, they didn’t just say the words, they lived them.

 

Garden Planning 2015

Last year was my first real year to have a vegetable garden that was more than simply a collection of pots on the deck.  It was a great experience and I learned a lot of lessons.  I grew a whole lot of food and failed at growing even more.  So looking ahead to 2015 also means looking back.

Last year, my most successful crop was cucumbers.  This was both good and bad.  It was good in the sense that now I have a dozen jars of homemade pickles on my pantry shelves.  But it was bad because I have a dozen jars of homemade pickles and I’m the only one in the family that likes pickles.  I had a total of 10 pickling cucumber plants and they produced with an abundance that I simply could not keep up with.

Lesson 1:  Plant what your family will eat.

Another source of frustration for me were the pest issues I faced.  You might remember the squirrels who dug up all of my garlic last year.  They continue to be a major problem.  My bare, winter garden looks like the face of the moon.  It is full of craters dug by their tiny rodent paws.  To add insult to injury, just after my tomatoes set their fruit, a deer hopped my fence and ate the entire crop of green tomatoes.  The delicious pizza sauce I managed to jar came from store bought tomatoes.  Depressing.  Animal pressure is clearly a major issue for my garden, and I will need to take more aggressive measures this year if I want my tomatoes and all of my other vegetables to survive.

I’ve come up with some plans.  I’d like to make a small frame with chicken wire stretched across it to fit down over each my raised beds.  My hope is that I will be able to plant through the holes in the chicken wire, but the squirrels will not be able to dig in it.  As for the deer, I have a neighbor who has had great success with a motion sensor sprinkler, so I think I will try this.  The trick will be getting the angle just right to keep the deer well away.  I hope that between these two barriers, the deer and squirrels will look for easier places to cavort.

As for 2015, I’m going to narrow my focus on the tomatoes and plant mostly sauce-type tomatoes.  Burpee has a hybrid called Supersauce that promises huge fruit (one tomato to fill a jar!) and great taste.  Considering that my store-bought tomatoes only gave me 4 meagre jars of pizza sauce, the idea of enormous and prolific fruit certainly appeals to me.

I’m also going to plant more hot peppers for my husband who is a capsaicin addict.  We’re going to try Biker Billy, the same Jalapeno as last year, Diabolito, and one called Sweet Heat.  Hopefully that will satisfy my husband’s need to set his mouth on fire!

After the squirrel fiasco, I am not attempting garlic.  This has nothing to do with the fact that I put off ordering it until it was too late to ship.  Nope.  Definitely not.  But I did manage to get some shallots, so I’m giving that a try.

For the kids, I got some Bush Baby watermelon seeds.  I’ve never grown a melon, but it will be fun for the kids to give it a try!

As for my other plans?  I’m not sure.  I’d like to grow some peas and beans, but the rabbits hit them so hard last year that it hardly seems worth it.  Considering the extreme measures I am taking for the deer, I will probably try and hope that it helps, but the loss of the peas was such a bummer that I’m not entirely sure if I have it in me this year.  Broccoli and Cauliflower were also a major disappointment (thanks squirrels) because not only did they just stay thin and reedy, but the bastard squirrels dug them up, too.  I will likely try those again, however, and see if purchasing actual plants from a nursery works out better than attempting to grow from seed.

I’ve sketched out a preliminary plan for my garden.  You can see that there are lots of blank spaces still, but it gives me an idea where the big stuff will go.

2015 garden plan

I’m looking forward to spring.  We’re in the middle of rain and snow today, so sitting down and planning a garden helps me think of greener and warmer days.

Are you doing a garden this year?  What will you be planting?