Thankful for my life as it is

I just finished reading a heart felt post: The Moment I Realized Our Struggles Weren’t Going Away. In reading it, I hear some of the echoes of much of my life. Worked hard, got a good job, made good money – now its gone. Same with my husband. Since my husband and I got married we have endured 3 pay cuts and many, many cut backs in our lifestyle.

Gone are the days of pretty hair, nice clothes & expensive shoes!

But I couldn’t be happier.

I have 2 beautiful boys and an awesome husband and a cute little dog to round out the picture. Despite our meager earnings, my husband and I do not fight, argue or bicker about money. Either its there or its not but either way it is not something we fight about. Although, I must admit that on occasion I do find myself getting  snappy with him when I feel the crunch of the bottom line (or lack there of). My husband has relinquished the reigns of the finances to me. For us, it just makes sense. I do the shopping, stay home with the kids and I don’t mind balancing the books every few days. My husband works 6 days a week and is exhausted when he gets home. The last thing he wants to do is think about paying bills. On occasion, I bring him into the loop when I need help prioritizing the direction of the funds we have. I think there is also a subconscious desire to bring him in  the loop to remind him of how much I do.

Despite not being able to spend money on some niceties, I do feel like we live a very full, loving life.

My boys all wear hand me down, thrift store, garage sale clothing with a sprinkling of new outfits that were given as gifts. Their toys are usually given as gifts or also hand me downs. On occasion, I’ll splurge and by him (Milan only at this point – Max hasn’t needed anything yet) something used from Craigslist. We get lots of books from other kids, too. They may not be new, but those items all come with love.

I have a good memory, so when I get my boys dressed, I remember who gave us the outfit. When they read a book, I’m reminded of the friend that passed it along. When Milan is rediscovering a newly found toy, I remember the look on his face when he saw it for the first time. These moments happen every day and every day I am reminded of the many wonderful people in our lives. These moments remind me that I am not alone in this journey of motherhood. There is an army of friends out there that fill our days and lives with so much joy – even when they don’t even realize it.

Yes, there is no doubt that life would be easier if there was more income. But I’m so thankful for this time without an abundance of money because it has caused me (and my family) to focus on what is really important to us. I hope that in the future, when the purse strings are not so tight (yes, I’m an eternal optimist), our funds will be directed towards joy. Vacations, visiting family, cultural events and things that enlighten us as individuals and keep us being a close knit family.

That is our future. But life is good right now, too!

 

Posted in Parenting

Batman costume

Posted in Miscellaneous

Craft Eyes

If you do lots of craft projects with your kid(s) then you probably know how annoying it is to cut out eye pieces. So to speed up the process, I created a sheet of eyes!

There 9 different styles and they are all about the same size, but I find this size works on just about any craft.

You can cut them out together and thus reduce even more cutting time. Or if the craft needs bigger eyes I find if I cut them out separately then they seem bigger because they take up more space when placed on the craft.

Here are two samples:

Hopefully this helps you enjoy more craft time with your child(ren).

Enjoy!

my-mom-recycles-craft-eyes

NOTE: This is in a .pdf!

Posted in Craft

Some of the worst advice I’ve ever gotten

We’ve all been bombarded with advice from people, but I have to say some of the worst advice I’ve ever received was “Do it right or don’t do it at all.” My mom told me this all the time. I’m sure she just told me so I would do my chores correctly so she wouldn’t have to go back and clean again. But seriously, it has been probably the most crippling advice I’ve ever received.

In theory, it seems like sound advice. But in practice it is so incredibly limiting. I procrastinate like no one’s business and after lots of soul searching, journaling and reflection it is this simple sentence that has caused me so much grief. If you are a procrastinator, you probably have had some of these thoughts:

  • Why can’t I just get things done?
  • I’m really not lazy but why don’t I just (_fill in the blank_).
  • Tomorrow, I’m going to be a better person and get to things right away.
  • Why am I such a loser? I can’t even (_fill in the blank_).

Procrastination causes guilt and self loathing.

What does my procrastination have to do with the sage advice of my mother? Well, that wonderful advice has caused me to be a perfectionist. If you’ve seen my house you’re probably thinking “yeah right!” But its true. I procrastinate cleaning because I can’t just half clean…I have to do it right. I often don’t start laundry because I know that time is limited and then I won’t be doing it right. I put off inputting my receipts because if I don’t finish then I didn’t do it right. You get the point don’t you?

Its taking me nearly 40 years to figure this out!

What sage advice should be given instead?

Doing something is better than nothing and you can always learn from your mistakes!

Now whenever I notice that I’m procrastinating I say this mantra. More often than not, I get up and start doing whatever it is I should be doing.

So to all you mothers, fathers, sisters, uncles, etc. that are bestowing words of wisdom on the younger generation, please, oh please, do not tell them to do it right or don’t do it at all. Encourage them to try to do anything and that mistakes are a natural part of the process of being human!

Posted in Miscellaneous, Parenting

Magnesium for back pain and muscle cramps

(This was sitting in my drafts since Sept 8. 2009! Finally decided to finish this)

Many moons ago I was in a car accident and over time my spine became misaligned. Therefore, I have had major issues with sciatic nerve pain. And to top it off, I’ve always had issues with leg cramps. I’ve had such severe leg cramps before that I couldn’t put my full weight on my leg for a couple of days. Getting pregnant exasperated the situation until I learned about the benefits of magnesium.

You might remember from science class that your body needs calcium to contract a muscle and you may have heard that when you exercise you deplete your potassium levels. But most of us don’t know that your stores of magnesium get depleted, too.

Why is this important to know? Magnesium is required for muscles to relax. And to top things off if you are taking calcium supplements (like in prenatal vitamins) without increasing your magnesium intake you can actually deplete your magnesium stores even more. The prenatal vitamin I was taking did not have magnesium in it.

Luckily, there are a lot of foods that are really high in magnesium so its actually quite easy to get your requirement through your diet. Check out http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/foods-high-in-magnesium.php for a list of foods. Of course, you could always just have one of my favorite smoothies – almond butter banana shake!

DISCLAIMER: The content shared on this site is for informational and educational purposes only. Statements/products discussed have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease or illness. Please consult your own certified health care practitioner before making changes to your current diet or before beginning any herbal or vitamin supplement regimen or exercise program.

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Posted in Health, Pregnancy

How do I organize my refrigerator

I don’t know about you but keeping our refrigerator organized is a never ending battle, that is when I actually get around to doing it… that is until now. I finally came up with a system that actually works! Don’t laugh but it seriously took me months to figure out the best way to get our refrigerator organized in a way that makes sense and can stay that way. So after some serious deliberating, arranging, rearranging and then rearranging some more here is how I organize my refrigerator…

A organization project would not be complete without before and after pictures:

 

As you can see, my fridge was not organized in the slightest bit. Well maybe the slightest bit. There was some sort of underwhelming organization that went on and in all fairness, I took this picture right after I had gone grocery shopping and was so fed up with the state of the fridge that I knew I was going to write a post about organizing my refrigerator. So some things are really just thrown in their haphazardly whereas most days I would sort of put things where they belonged or at least where they fit.

So onto the actual organization:

Step 1: Throw out all of your old food

Before you even begin the process of organizing, throw out all the old food in your refrigerator. While you are doing it, take notice of the food you are throwing away. Why did it go bad? Did you forget about it? Did dinner/lunch plans change? Do you get bored eating the same meal more than 2 days in a row? Did you buy too much fruit? Did you buy vegetables that you really weren’t sure what you were going to do with? The questions are almost limitless.

Step 2: Take inventory and make a plan

Ok, I don’t mean you need to write down every thing in your fridge but if you want to… go ahead. What I mean by inventory is take a look at what is in your refrigerator and think about how your food can/should be grouped together.  By thinking about food in groups its easier to make a plan.

  • Leftovers
  • Sandwich stuff – lunch meat, cheese, toppings
  • Breakfast sandwiches – peanut butter (smooth & crunchy), almond butter, jam, cream cheese
  • Milan’s snacks
  • Cheese
  • Meat – ready to cook and thawing
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Sauces for cooking
  • Eggs
  • Smoothie extras
  • Baking helpers
  • Condiments
  • Salad dressing
  • Juice

After I took an inventory, I actually mapped out different zones in my refrigerator to correspond with the different groupings. Although our fridge is bigger than a dorm fridge, its really not that big. It is definitely on the small side of standard refrigerators so a well thought out plan is needed.

Start by measuring the inner dimensions of your fridge. Drawing a rectangle and sketch what you think your fridge should look like. Then see what containers you have around the house that will work. I spent an entire evening measuring, testing containers with different food types, making sure drawers and shelves could accomodate my food containers. It was a long process but in the end it was worth it.

Think about what you use most and put those things in the easily accessible areas. Also, think about what gets forgotten about most and put those items in the most visible areas.

Although, the one thing I didn’t take into consideration was the placement of the light in my fridge. My original configuration had to be modified because the items blocked the light to the rest of the fridge.

Step 3: Take everything out of refrigerator

I know that seems obvious. I suggest getting a cooler or at the minimum a big plastic bin to help keep your food cool while you reorganize.

Step 4: Clean out your refrigerator

Take this time to clean your fridge out. The easiest way is to take all your shelves out and put them in the bathtub. Caution: don’t put them in and immediately put on hot water or you might crack the glass (if you have some). Start with cold water and then slowly add in the hot water. Then turn off the cold once the shelves are all almost submerged. While the shelves are soaking, go clean out the rest of the fridge. Rinse and dry your shelves.

Step 5: Put your shelves back in the refrigerator in the desired configuration

If you have done a lot of planning, measuring, etc. then this should be easy.  I divided my refrigerator into zones:

  1. Butter – If you use margin or some other tub based butter then you might want to put your medicine, vitamins or something you access on a daily basis. But for us, butter works the best here. I’ve tried it in numerous places and it just gets squished!
  2. Leftover bakery products that don’t get frozen and cream cheese –  We use cream cheese a lot for breakfast and sometimes have multiple flavors so I find the quick access easier to see what’s available when I’m not thinking clearly in the morning.
  3. Morning sandwich fixings and extra condiment style toppings – We have a variety of nut butters and jams that we rotate between. Its easier on the door to see what you have and also my son likes to see what’s available and this prevents me having to pull everything out so he can see it. The extra condiment style toppings include capers, olives, pepperoncinis, jalepeños, etc.
  4. Juice, salad dressing, left over wine, chocolate syrup & ketchup – A lot of websites say you shouldn’t store juice in the door because of the fluctuation of temperatures but it doesn’t really last that long in our house. We use left over wine (when we actually have any) for cooking mostly. Salad dressing, syrup & ketchup (don’t t have any when this pic was taken) work best here because of their height.
  5. Eggs and sandwich making stuff – I don’t remember where I saw the idea for the sandwich making bin but it is easily one of the best and easiest ideas ever! My husband makes a sandwich almost everyday for work so we put all the stuff he likes on his sandwiches: lunch meat, sliced cheese, different condiments (wasabi mayo, mustard, specialty sauce), sun-dried tomatoes, etc.  I love it because I can pull out the bin before I go shopping and see if he needs something for his lunches. I was always forgetting something he needed because everything was in different areas and I had to search for the items. Our large jar of mayo doesn’t fit in their and besides, I use it a lot because my son LOVES tuna! We also keep our camping/picnic sized condiments in the back behind the sandwich bin. They’re out of the way and we only pull them out on occasion. We can fit 3 cartons of eggs behind the mayo. If you buy flats of eggs, you’d need the whole shelf but up out of the way is a really great place for eggs when you have a toddler in the house!
  6. Leftovers – We dedicated an entire shelf that was the most visible to our leftovers. Leftover containers are by far the biggest culprit for cluttering up our refrigerator. We also keep open jars of half used sauces (like spaghetti sauce) and ready to make meals like tortellini on that shelf. When its time to think about what to eat, I check that shelf first before unknowingly opening the 3rd jar of pasta sauce!
  7. Cheese – We used to put lunch meat in this drawer and had the large bottom drawer for all cheese but since we now have a few places for our cheese depending on usage, we actually didn’t need as much space. Also, since its higher I actually look in there to see what cheese we have instead of just relying on my memory. Inevitably, my husband would by a special cheese and I wouldn’t know it was there and then it’d just end up getting to the point beyond recognition.
  8. Commonly used items that aren’t necessarily part of a category – In the back we have a basket of sauces and cooking helpers such as curry pastes, peanut sauce, gyoza sauce and a baggie full of condiments from take out. In the front we have salsa, yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, hummus. Its a big enough space that I can stack things on top of each other if I’m almost out of something and buy new containers before we run out.
  9. Milk, water & other beverages – There’s enough space for 2 jugs of milk, a 6 pack of bottled beer or an extra container of juice as well as our pitcher of filtered water. Our maple syrup is also here just because we couldn’t find a better place.
  10. Meat bin – I use a sterilite/rubbermaid bin to store all of our meat. This is especially good when you’re defrosting frozen meat. I take the fresh meat out and put the frozen meat on the bottom. Then if any juices leak out when it defrosts its all contained in an easily washable container. We also keep breakfast meats in here such as bacon, sausage and lox!
  11. My son’s stuff & smoothie & baking helpers – For a long time now, we’ve had a basket of stuff for my son… its so, so, so much easier that way. Things we keep in here, cold juice boxes, yogurt, mini baby bell cheese, containers full of already cut & portioned fruit. We use a leftover chocolate milk mix container without a lid for his string cheese. It takes up less space storing the cheese vertically. Definitely make sure you take apart all the sticks of cheese before you put them in or inevitably all of the sticks of cheese will end up on the floor as your child tries to get just one. In the back I have a basket with our smoothie/baking helpers – wheat germ, flours, breadcrumbs, etc.
  12. Vegetables – We keep our veggies (except for avocados, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms & potatoes) here. I tried putting them on the shelf to be in view so I’d use them more but they just ended up spoiling faster and I wasted more. I have pictures of some of the vegetables on the front of the drawer so my son knows whats in the drawer. I keep carrot sticks ready in snack size containers in his bin, though. I’ve schooled my husband on which veggies are ok to store here. If you don’t know which veggies are sensitive to ethylene take a look at http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=1103
  13. Fruit – Most of our fruit sits in a bowl on the dining room table so that we eat it more frequently. Sometimes we just end up grabbing a piece at lunch or dinner because its right in front of us. But things like grapes, cantaloupe,  kiwi and have used lemons are kept here. I put pictures of the fruit on here, too! Only cut up strawberries in a sealed container are kept here otherwise the berries are kept with the veggies (see link above if you are wondering why).

Step 6: Maintenance

The shelves are easily maintained because I  don’t buy anything or at least don’t open a new juice, salad dressing, condiment, etc. until we finish up what’s there.  If it doesn’t fit, you must omit!
The leftover shelf is by far the absolute best thing about this refrigerator. We don’t lose track of what is there because if we have new leftovers and we didn’t make the previous left overs in the last couple of days, I throw out what’s on the shelf.  Its so easy to keep organized now and we definitely eat more left overs and waste less food… especially those half jars of pasta sauce!
Also, now that most things are in bins when there is a spill it is so much easier to clean out the fridge. Although, most spills came from defrosting meat or condiments. The meat juices are now contained and the condiments spills are only on the door or in the sandwich bin.
I hope this post helps you to get your refrigerator organized and save some gray hairs from appearing on your head! Life really is a lot easier when you aren’t searching for things and most importantly when everything has a place it is much, much easier to get and stay organized.
Posted in Organization

Turmeric and honey for overnight pimple relief

First a little bit of background on my acne situation (you can skip to the heading for information on turmeric and honey):

You may or may not know that I have had issues with acne ever since we moved to our current apartment. I was able to clear up most of it once I got a new shower head filter and started spraying my face with water. But it never totally got rid of it except when I was pregnant. Oh how I miss my smooth, clear, glowing face… that’s almost enough to want to get pregnant again! (Not really but I sure did love my face)

Recently I had discovered that when your face is breaking out with acne it is primarily due to an imbalance in the acid mantle. Totally makes sense. My skin always broke out more the more I washed it.

Anyways, I got the HUGEST pimple the other day. SO I did a little internet research and came across turmeric. I had totally forgotten about it! I used to religiously use a face mask every week or at the least every two weeks for the few months leading up to our wedding.  I really did have beautiful skin! I even wrote about my weekly facial routine that uses natural products a few years ago.

So I tried a simple combination of honey and turmeric and had great results! My pimple was not itching any more and was NOTICEABLY smaller. My son even said that my boo-boo on my face looked better – he’s 3 so for him to notice is a big thing.

Turmeric and honey for overnight pimple relief

As soon as you start to feel that tingle of a pimple coming, dab some honey on your pimple and then pat some turmeric on top. Let it sit overnight. Rinse in the morning.

WARNING: If you haven’t exfoliated your skin for a couple of days, mix honey and oil (coconut or olive) to prevent the turmeric from turning the dead skin yellow. The oil binds with the turmeric in a way that prevents (or at least greatly diminishes) the yellowing

If you ended up with some yellowing of the skin and have some difficulty getting if off, use lemon juice on a cotton pad to wipe it off.

Posted in Beauty

Clean out your pantry and create lots of fun toddler time

I don’t know about you, but about every couple of months I realize there are a bunch of uneaten and definitely stale packages of food in my pantry – primarily snacks and cereal (why is that no one really wants to finish the box of cereal but me). So now whenever I clean out my pantry I use the goods to create lots of fun toddler time. Several months back I discovered the joys of creating a construction zone with such leftovers. (Just realized I forgot to post about it)

We use a Sterilite bin but you could easily use a cardboard box, too. Just dump out the contents of the uneaten snacks into the container. We start out by dumping them into separate piles and then of course everything gets jumbled together as my son plays.

Have a girl that doesn’t like cars and trucks? Cups, empty food containers, etc. are just as fun!

Added bonus: your child(ren) will be occupied for quite awhile and you can finish organizing your pantry… after you take pictures of course!

Another added bonus: dump all of the food into two different ziploc or equivalent bags. Label one for crafts and put the other one in your car for food for ducks.

Posted in Activities, Craft

Breastfeeding woes, Formula guilt

Last month was National Breastfeeding Month and I can honestly say I’m actually pretty sad about all the Boobie Mania. Milan and I had quite a lot of difficulties getting going but after a couple of weeks everything went smoothly and I nursed him until he was 2. I enjoyed nearly every minute of it. In fact, if I hadn’t been pregnant, I don’t know if I could have stopped the breastfeeding so easily. At the end he only breastfed for comfort. I loved having my growing son in my arms cuddled up. It was as close as I could get to him being a little baby. To be honest, I still sometimes miss those moments with him. Luckily, he’s a great cuddler and loves his mommy time so now we spend it snuggled up on the couch or at nap time.

However with Max, I was never able to get my supply and demand in sync with him. So we’ve had to supplement with formula which is really not a big deal.  But as we have given our son more and more formula, I’m overcome with such guilt. When I see a mom whip out a bottle of formula, I don’t judge but I do wonder if they do breastfeed simultaneously, because its such a special experience. With every bottle I’m painstakingly aware that it is just one more time that I’m not able to breastfeed him. And to make matters worse, the majority of the bottles that I gave him I did the big no-no… I propped the bottle!

At the beginning I needed to prop the bottle because he would get frustrated when I held him in my arms. He would get a bottle after nursing so I was already out of milk. He would pull off the bottle and try to nurse and get so completely frustrated. I realized early on that he was much calmer and happier if he was by himself. Luckily, he doesn’t mind hanging out in my arms with a bottle now but that’s a recent development (like in the last couple of weeks).

And one more reason to feel guilty… formula costs a lot of money! Sadly, we qualify for WIC but they don’t offer any of the formula types that agree with Max. And I really prefer to give him an organic brand of formula anyways. If he can’t get booby milk from me, the least I can do is give him milk with the least amount of pesticides and chemicals.

So with each canister of formula we buy, I’m not only cringing at the money but crying inside because I realize how many more precious moments with my baby are slipping by.

I know there are plenty of ways to increase your milk supply but I’m not good at pumping. Its really hard with an active, energetic toddler in the house. Now that he started back in preschool, hopefully I’ll get some more time to pump, but realistically, I’m only adding in one pumping session while he’s at school. Some kids will let their mommies pump… mine does not. Almost every time I break out the breast pump, he knows that I’m tied to the couch for the next 20-30 minutes so he decides to go and do all the things that he knows he’s not allowed to. Thus forcing me to stop pumping and get up and go to him. Its understandable but frustrating.

I can’t just let my toddler do whatever he wants while I’m pumping, but if I stop pumping I feel like I’m letting Max down. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t!

Posted in Personal

Its official, my toddler is finally facing forward

Unlike the large majority of mothers I know, I did not turn my son forward facing as soon as he met the legal requirements. Although now, more mothers are waiting till at least 2 since the AAP (American Academy of Pediatricians) is now recommending waiting until your child is at least 2 years old before turning their car seat forward facing.

Back when my son was 18 months old, I posted a video from YouTube that shows the dangers between forward facing and rear facing. It was quite shocking and if you haven’t seen it yet you really should (I reposted it for you so you don’t have to search). As I said in the previous post, I was going to keep him rear-facing as long as I can. I figured I’d only go until he was 2, but then he turned 2 and I wasn’t sure I wanted to let my little boy take the risk of facing forward.

After all, isn’t the car seat for his protection? So my new mantra became “I’ll keep him rear-facing until he’s 4 or until he asks to face forward.” Well, this Saturday he asked. So in the blistering heat I switched his car seat around.

My son has grown leaps and bounds since he was 18 months. Heck, he’s grown so much in the 6 months since his brother was born. I’m so proud of the little man my son is becoming. Sitting forward and exploring the world with his momma is just one more step away from being my little baby. Although I must admit, its quite fun listening to his commentary and listening him to point in delight at the many things he sees along the way to wherever we are going.

I’m glad we waited until he was 3. It made this moment such a special occasion and it helped me to take notice of how much my son has grown. I guess it won’t be long before he’s asking me for the keys to the car!

Here’s the video…

 

 

Posted in Parenting