Month: April 2011

Simplicity Parenting Book Club – Chapter 2

I’ve been delving more into Simplicity Parenting, but am still in chapter four – I need to read it in spurts!  I’ve also been working on some knitting when I have time, and I finally painted those picture frames (finished product pictures soon, hopefully).  Our lil’ book club has started its discussion on chapter two, and I’m sharing my thoughts here. 

The part of the chapter that most spoke to me was towards the end.  I don’t have the book in front of me and I forget the exact words, but basically, I’m not responsible for making my children better.  I started tearing up as I read that.  So often when my kids are acting out I take it personally, feel like I messed up somehow, need to FIX it.  Just like when they’re sick, you care for and nurture them, but you don’t heal them by yourself.  And you may not see positive results immediately.

Just like some of the other mamas mentioned, I too can tell when my kiddos aren’t themselves.  And people are often surprised when I put my family before other obligations or frivolities.  One of my friends expects me to drop my children off with a family member or babysitter when she wants to do something.  It seems the growing trend to think of children more as accessories to be taken out and put away when convenient.

I try to keep things “quieted down” most of the time anyway, as the chapter suggests when your child is experiencing a “soul fever,” but I do often feel like we need to be Doing Something.  I try to remember:  less is more, rather than if something is good more must be better.

There are days (it seems to coincide with PMS, but since I’m not regular there’s no predictable pattern) when I get so upset with my children and have my own outbursts – but mamas rarely get time-outs!  I find it difficult to shower affection on my kids when they are “the least deserving.”  I’m working on this, but for the most part I consider myself an even-keel, matter-of-fact kind of person.       

I, too, would be interested in some of Rachel’s discipline techniques.  I never thought I would use time-outs with my children, but I often send my 3-year-old to her room when she’s being fussy and won’t comply (I also employ the “count to 10” warning).  She can come out when she stops fussing, ready to be a good girl and apologize.  If there’s some more serious infraction – hitting or outright disrespect – we’ll often get down to our daughter’s level and try to speak calmly about what’s expected and ask for an apology.  If the behavior persists, then we tell her she’ll get a spanking unless she complies.  She’s gotten a few spankings.  We always explain what’s expected of her and why she got punished. 

Ah, mealtimes – I’ve gone all over the spectrum with this one!  In the past I’ve gotten so upset with my kids for not eating their meals, telling them they couldn’t leave the table till they had eaten.  Other times (and this is what I aim for), I don’t make a big deal about it – provide healthy food, realize they will eat when they’re hungry, put away leftovers, and don’t pander to their food whims.  For a picky eater I particuarly enjoyed Rachel’s “bite for each year” idea (since Gwendolyn is three, she would need to take three bites before she decides she doesn’t like it).  The chapter I’m reading now speaks to simplifying food choices, which may also help with picky eaters.  And not to get too far ahead of myself, but I’m seriously thinking of employing a weekly meal schedule; not only will it take the stress off my trying to figure out what to make every night, but it will provide a sense of rhythm for the kids.  I am getting ahead of myself! 

Now… how to handle grandparents who give them treats?

At the library today, I got talking with one of the librarians, telling them how Gwen is such a little diva.  She has to be a princess and wear twirly skirts and constantly checks out the ruffles on her sleeves to the point of preening.  They told me about the book Cinderalla Ate My Daughter, and whereas some of the things might not apply to our family since we don’t watch TV our keep up with the latest trend, I’d be interested in reading it.

Read my thoughts on Chapter 1


Easter at the Farmer’s Market

It rained the Saturday before Easter, and as much as I hate running errands in the rain, I needed to get some shopping done.  I already had the spiral-cut ham that I ended up tossing in the crockpot, but wanted to look for some healthier cupcake ingredients. 

Earlier in the week I had bookmarked this recipe for sourdough chocolate cake, intending to use my whole wheat starter to make butterfly cupakes.  Which, incidentally, turned out looking nothing like the picture. *sigh*

I’ve been using agave syrup, maple syrup, honey, and no-calorie sugar substitutes (Splenda and Stevia) as sweeteners these days, but wanted to look for Sucanat.  I figured Whole Foods would carry it, but decided to stick closer to home and checked out Dave’s.  Score!  Not only did I find Sucanat, I got a bag of Bob’s Red Mill unsweetened coconut flakes (my store only carries sweetened coconut) to add to my trail mix. 

I had planned on going to the farmer’s market a few towns over to get some fresh eggs, but didn’t feel like driving all that way… especially since I knew I’d end up getting the kiddos their ritual bag of kettlecorn.  So, I settled on the one just down the road from Dave’s. 

And man, was it packed!  I guess everyone else had the same idea on that rainy day.  Though this market tends to be more expensive, it has a different variety of items, live music, and usually one or two baby goats for me and the kids to fawn over. 

As soon as we walked in the door we noticed a line of kids, and at the end of the line, a white goat and an albino rabbit, some hay bales, and a photographer’s setup.  Kids were getting their pictures taken with the “Easter bunny”!  I didn’t want to pay for a picture, but I knew the kids would love to see the animals.

Gwen kept telling me she was hungry, so we all shared a chocolate croissant and enjoyed the music for a bit.  Then we made the rounds, picked out some cage-free eggs for the cupcakes, and checked out out the line to see the animals again.  I told Gwen we could look at them, but Mommy didn’t have money to pay for a picture.  She looked crushed, so I thought – fine, we’ll just stand in line and I’ll ask if we can just pet the animals

As we’re waiting, waiting, waiting, I grew anxious, because I knew there were lots of other kids waiting to get their pictures taken, and we just wanted to pet the things.  The things we do for our kids!  Finally, it was our turn…

The kids got to hold and pet the bunny, we had our picture taken, and the wonderful folks at Light Forge Studio e-mailed us the images for free! 

In the Kitchen, Out & About

Though I’m eating probably as healthy as I ever have these days, I realize there is always room for improvement.  I’ve lost the baby weight I gained with the kiddos, but now I’m just hovering.  Stagnant.  I have no desire to add an exercise routine other than getting out and about when the weather is nice.  When I stop and think about it, I realize I get a lot of exercise just going up and downstairs, vacuuming, lifting Josiah, carrying bags and baby, bending over to clean food off the floor and retrieve the same toys over and over again.     

I like to browse magazines and websites for new and interesting recipes to try, though I tend to stick to familiar favorites.  I bookmark awesome craft ideas, thinking one day I’ll get around to making that.  In just the same way, I earmark healthy tips and resources for making changes; save an article here, bookmark a blog there.  And the more I find out, the more I realize, not only are these changes beneficial, but necessary.  It scares me, how much crap we as society are literally fed from the Higher Ups; there’s always an agenda, and it’s not in our best interest.

I’ve been especially concerned with the amount of carbs we take in, even in the form of whole grains – pancakes for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, pasta for dinner.  I’ve been trying to find a way to improve upon this, at times substituting ground nuts for flour, as in the case with the fluffy flatbread (though I didn’t know I was supposed to add the egg yolks back in – oops!). 

I frequent a number of blogs, one of them being Passionate Homemaking, where I originally found a recipe for homemade toothpaste when I was on a quest for healthy toothpaste.  I got to browsing, and discovered her section on soaking grains.  Initially, I was overwhelmed just reading about it – I don’t always know what we’re having for dinner at dinnertime, how would I plan ahead and soak my grains hours in advance?  But I decided to try… and have been excited at the results.  I already use wheat flour, and often grind oats and brown rice for flour, so I was already a step ahead in the game.  

Somewhere along the line – I don’t know if it was related content on one of the websites I was browsing or just leafing through my cookbook – I decided to make a sourdough starter for bread, which is basically building on the idea of soaking. 

I used the simple recipe in my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, something like this one, though I used wheat flour instead of white.  It’s been brewing for over a week now, and I’ve already made a plethora of goodies – pancakes, muffins, pizza dough, and finally… bread.   

In Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats (love the title!), I was excited to read the many benefits of fermented foods, the traditional method of preparing things such breads, yogurt and other dairy, vegetables, beverages (beer, anyone?).  Though we don’t drink milk anymore, I’ve started making yogurt again from whole milk, straining it to make what basically amounts to Greek yogurt or homemade cream cheese – yum.

I’ve been leafing through Nourishing Traditions, taking note of the fact that saturated animal fats (as well as tropical sources – coconut and palm oils) such as butter are actually healthy for the body (in moderation of course), especially when compared to all the popular fat sources we have today, namely vegetable oils, margarine, shortening, fake spreads.  Grass-fed beef and eggs from free-range chickens are also one of the healthiest protein sources, whereas the kind you get in the store is missing so many essential components.  I’ve known that milk from the store is basically crap – but more than that, it’s actually harmful, in the it leaches nutrients from the body while trying to process it.  On the other hand, raw milk is “white gold” – and I’ve been disappointed to learn that buying raw milk is illegal in my state.  Discover the truth about milk at Real Milk.

For dinner, I decided to try one of the recipes in Nourishing Traditions.  Sourdough bread fresh from the oven accompanied the brown rice that had been cooking on the stove with a lovely aroma of spices, carrots and chicken broth.  The kiddos and I devoured the rice – it was so good!  It will be my new staple rice recipe, and I’m already thinking of ways to tweak it. 

The family has been excitedly awaiting some green to appear in our garden after planting lettuce, spinach and peas.  Just the other day we finally saw some green poking out of the ground.  And in the kitchen, I’ve been experimenting with microgreens and sprouts, which I’ve been researching here and there.

I always forget that we have a year-round, indoor farmer’s market, but I get excited about going when the weather is nice and plants and produce are plentiful.  We’ve already been to the markets a few weekends now, and last weekend the kiddos and I were delighted to see baby bunnies and a baby goat. 

We had to get a bag of kettlecorn for Gwen and Josiah to fight over… er, share… and I picked some carrots and a big ol’ parsnip.  We kept going back to the baby animals.  I had rabbits growing up, and we’re considering getting ’em for the kiddos. 

I take Gwen to storytime at our library every week, and last week we were fortunate to have it at local farm.  Gwen got to plant some seeds and flowers…

we looked at the horseys…

then peeked in the greenhouses at the gorgeous flowers.  It feels so good to get out! 

Healthy foods, sunshine, the promise of a self-sustaining crop in the future – invigorating!  Looking forward to the weekend, even though Phil will be working Easter Sunday (boo).  Continuing to read Benjamin’s Box leading up to Sunday, and Gwen has a little wooden box where she keeps the treasures from the Resurrection Eggs. 

What have you been up to?

Simplicity Parenting Book Club – Chapter 1

I’ve been devouring Simplicity Parenting, and am currently in chapter four.  Our lil’ book club has started its discussion on chapter one, and I’m sharing my thoughts here. 

I have two kiddos, ages 3 and 1, and I’ve gradually begun simplifying and enriching things a little at a time.  I forgot how it started – probably a little over a year ago when I was trying to eat healthily and lose some baby weight.  Making small changes for the better makes you want to carry that over to other aspects of your life (a fact that the book points out as a sort of natural progression).  I, too, feel “allergic to clutter” as Liz said, and I get edgy and stressed out when things are strewn around all over the house. 

In wanting to be a good wife and mother, keep my family happy and healthy, I’ve been researching things here and there about health, hygiene and diet.  We’ve been progressing on our journey into eating more healthy, less-refined foods (aside: I just got Nourishing Traditions from the library, and it’s such an eye-opener – I hope to write about some of my findings here at a later date); but there’s always something that could be changed, tweaked.  Let’s face it, no one’s perfect.  There’s always room for improvement! 

At such young ages, my kids already have lots of Stuff – mainly given by other people, but also from my desire to provide good, “educational,” “stimulating” things for them.  Rachel’s Downsizing Challenge really got to me, and it came at just the right time when I was already thinking something had to be done.  It was SO refreshing paring down toys and possessions, not holding on to every single article of clothing “just in case.” 

In chapter one, the correlation Dr. Payne made between Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in war-torn countries and the exact same symptoms of children in the Western world was simply staggering, shocking.  I will be honest – I find it hard to disagree while not judge at the same time, and I know every situation is relative.  I’d probably feel different if I were in another person’s shoes.   But when Dr. Payne spoke of ADD, ADHD, etc. and its prevalence in society, I found myself agreeing wholeheartedly that it’s mainly the result of the environment in which we live.  In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that many of the negative things we experience – sickness, allergies, “disorders” – are due in large part because of our choices not only as individuals, but as society as a whole.  We may take steps – baby steps, big steps, whatever – to make changes here and there, but it’s difficult to change your way of thinking about everything to which you’ve become accustomed.

I sincerely believe that our instinct to protect our children will be what motivates us to change.  For me, that’s so true.  In the past, I may have thought this healthy change would be nice, or one day I’d get around to doing thus and so… but it really hits home when you’re striving to make changes for your family, your children.  Spending more money on healthy foods is a no-brainer when you’re concerned with the welfare of your children.  The more informed you are, the more educated choices you can make as a parent.  Once you realize less is more, it gives you the freedom to unload all the Stuff bogging you down – both physically and mentally.        

Children nowadays grow up so quickly, and as Dr. Payne writes, the pace of our daily lives is increasingly misaligned with the pace of childhood.  In essence, children are losing their childhood.  As a mother, this scares the heck out of me.  Not only do I want my children to retain their innocence as long as possible and have happy memories; but I want them to grow up in a safe, nurturing environment, one that will help shape them as creative, loving, contributing individuals.  Since the outside world is seriously lacking and terribly misguided, it’s my job to create that environment for them.        

This paragraph towards the end of the chapter sums it up nicely:

Why simplify?  The primary reason is that it will provide your child with greater ease and well-being.  Islands of being, in the mad torrent of constant doing.  With fewer distractions their attention expands, their focus can deepen, and they have more mental and physical space to explore the world in the manner their destiny demands.

I am being inspired to make these changes for the better both because of the progress I have already seen and in the excitement I feel in anticipation of what the future holds.  It feels refreshing, invigorating, freeing, shedding the excess and unwanted, making room for the things that really matter and having the energy to focus on those things.  Hoping to homeschool one day definitely has its own impact on my choices as a mother, since I will be with my kids All. The. Time.

What frightens me the most is not being able to shield my kids no matter how hard I try.  There’s always some new study, fads touted as gospel, and if I don’t go along with them I’m a “bad person.”  For instance, my pediatrician was taken aback when I told her I stopped giving milk to my children to drink.  And people are often surprised that my young children are with me all the time as opposed to being socialized in daycare.  The truth often seems hidden behind what the government, Big Business, wants us to know – the truth about refined foods, antibiotics, education, and so forth.

Susie’s comment resonated with me when she said that “Simplification for me is about letting go of the ‘thought-clutter’ of modern life and letting the littles in to fill that space.”  Too often I’m caught up in what I need to get done, cross of my list, that the kids are almost a nuissance when they want my attention.  I’m always trying to plan ahead, and while this can be a good thing, it can definitely get in the way of treasuring each moment.  This is probably the biggest simplification hurdle for me – the change within.

Paper Coterie – a review

It’s here, it’s here!  The album that I ordered from Paper Coterie arrived yesterday, and I excitedly tore open the box… 

I love pictures – taking them (although I am by no means a professional, usually taking lots of pictures and narrowing them down to a few favorites), organizing them, putting them into albums.  I decided that instead of developing the marjority of my digital pictures and later deciding how to organize them, I would start making a digital album for each of the kiddos every year. 

I currently upload my pictures to Shutterfly, where I arrange them into files, share them with friends and family members through one of their Share Sites, and use them for a variety of projects (mainly albums and cards, but there are other offerings).

When I heard about the Paper Coterie Beta discount, during which you can get any of their products at 50% off with free shipping during their trial period, I decided I had to make something.  

Browsing their book section, I immediately took to the idea of their alphabet books.  Gwendolyn is a pro at her ABCs (singing them, anyway), and is beginning to recognize letters everywhere.  What a great way to incorporate favorite pictures and familiar words to help her recognize letters!  I liked the look of their Book of ABC, but didn’t like that I couldn’t change the predetermined words for each letter of the alphabet.  Instead, I went with About a Boy, which basically has a more neutral color scheme than the girl version.

The process of uploading pictures and creating pages is easy enough, though I found myself comparing it to Shutterfly’s interface, since that’s what I’m used to.  Initially, I thought I had to stick to one of a few different page layouts, though I soon discovered I could drag a picture or text box and drop it wherever I pleased.  This is where I was able to get most creative.  Editing the photos and changing the text was a breeze, but I soon realized I would have to make sure I had a good idea how I wanted to lay the pictures out on the pages because there is no way to rearrange the pages (other than to add or delete a set).  I rarely know how I want every single page to look, sometimes moving pages around until I’m happy with the result; this is definitely something that would influence my making another album.  I contacted customer service about this but haven’t received a reply.

The selection for backgrounds and graphics is limited to the specific product you’re personalizing, unlike the variety of backgrounds you see on Shutterfly – but I like this, it’s more focused and removes a lot of the guesswork.  I hit one snag when, while trying to add one of the letter graphics, I found it had somehow disappeared from the list of options and I had to start fresh with a new album. 

It took a while picking photos from my extensive database, trying to match elements to all the letters of the alphabet.  There doesn’t seem to be a way to delete photos once you’ve uploaded them, so even if you don’t end up using them, they just take up space.  The program seems slower the more pictures you load, which is problematic when there’s no way to get rid of the unused ones.  

When I was finally happy with the result, and had proofed it a hundred times, I ordered it.  Woo-hoo!  Then came the option to share the album – a different kind of preview, during which I noticed a piece of text stuck at the bottom of one of the pages that wasn’t visible during any of the other previews.  Arrrgh!  I always have at least one trademark mistake.

I immediately e-mailed customer service about the error, and they were quick to respond, and very gracious – assuring me it would be taken care of.  I was relieved that the mistake wouldn’t be in the final product.  Other than a couple of my questions remaining unanswered, I’ve been very happy with the level of customer service. 

And the packaging… what a beautiful presentation!  This little vellum envelope lay atop the box’s contents, welcoming me as a new member.  What a thoughtful, whimsical extra!  Wonder what the guys get…


Simple, clean, elegant, crisp.  And I love the color combination.  Warm and cool. 


The envelope has four flaps that unfold to reveal the treasure inside…

I love it!  No need for extra wrapping if giving this as a gift.  The unexpected green inside is a nice touch.  Great quality, beautiful paper, and a vellum page with the company’s name at the back of the book.  I will note that the text seems darker in person than it did during the design process, but it’s not a big deal to me.  There were a couple spots where it looks like not all of a letter printed smoothly, but it’s very minor.  My only complaint with the album itself is that there’s a small barcode on the last photo page that covers some text – and it just so happens to read “the end,” which is very important in a book!  The design/preview process doesn’t make mention of this margin, so it’s a tad disappointing.

All in all, I’m happy with the results, and already contemplating making one of their recipe books.  Just as with Shutterfly, though, at full-price I would wait for a promotion or discount code before ordering.  Take advantage of their discount while it’s still available!  The swatchbooks are adorable – think, Mother’s Day gift. 

Here’s a peek at Gwendolyn and Josiah’s ABC Picture Book.

May 5, 2011 EDIT: Now that Paper Coterie has officially launched their website, I find the prices a bit, well… pricey.  Yesterday, they had a little “launch party,” including a code for $40 off an order, shipping not included.  I thought, for the measly price of shipping, I could get a couple lovely gifts.  After putting the items in my cart, I was shocked that shipping was over 20 dollars!  At the very least, they could do flat rate for less.  It bugs me when companies over-charge for shipping, especially when it looks like they’re trying to give you a discount.