Life in Bullet Points

 

  • We have had some of my family in from out of town and it has been so fun.  Gatherings everyday and many shared meals.  Sadly, they head home today.  Good news…we get to party with Hubs side of the family tonight. Life is full… and I am tired.
  • I told Hubs that I can care for the Littles and carry out a busy schedule, but I can not care for the Littles with a busy schedule, AND keep up on the house.  Can you say laundry mountain? Good thing I have some awesome laundry basket dressers to hold it all while it waits.
  • Captured one of the all time best toddler lineups. Love those sweet faces and wish we saw them more often.

  • Little Man sweetly looked at me nursing our youngest yesterday and said, “You are like the cow….and she is the bucket.”  Good observation.
  • Summer has been a little late in coming (like the last two years) and this morning I brought down a tank and shorts and Little Miss said, “Are we doing summer today?”

  • After a father daughter trip to Home Depot on Father’s day bead board has been purchased.   They are waiting to be installed into my eating area.  I am super stoked! I will post updates as things get moving.

  • Just got my catalog for the Nordstrom Anniversary sale.  Lots of cropped trousers. I am 5 feet tall and looking forward to a different trend.
  • Had a chat with the produce guy at LifeSource (our awesome local health food store) yesterday.  The only organic fruit in the fairly reasonable range for the last couple weeks has been Valencia oranges.  He said we should be seeing some stone fruit coming down in price fairly soon and that most of the organic apples are now from outside the country and will remain spendy till September-ish when we have local apples again.
  • Had an awesome time at the OCEAN Homeschool Conference last weekend.  It is kinda like going to summer camp for homeschool moms (and dads…but I am not sure they get the same buzz from it).  🙂  So encouraging and fun!

I will leave you with this gem.

 

So Fresh, and so Clean, Clean.

First things, first.  My second guest post over at Frugal Living NW is up!  This post highlights one of our favorite hiking places, McDonald Forest near Corvallis.  So thankful to have the opportunity to do a couple fun posts on such a practical and helpful site.  Go check it out and give them some comment love.

Most of their posts are about saving money in the NW (readers from all over will benefit from their posts), but right now they are doing a series on frugal family outings.  Check out their growing list of places to visit in greater Portland area.  Also, check out my first post for them on Hoyt Arboretum.

When we took the pictures (a long time ago) that are in BOTH articles I had no idea I would be including them in a guest post.  One post I am wearing a St. Patrick’s shirt from 6 years ago and gym shorts, and the other post shows me wearing 3 awkward and thick sweatshirts after being ill prepared for a cold hike.  Just keepin’ it real I suppose.

And on the other great news…the ol’ blog got a make-over!  The hubs spent hours sprucing up the place to make it more visually appealing and cleaner.  Isn’t he amazing? I would have absolutely no idea how to do this stuff.  It is still a work in progress, but it finally has most of the elements I was hoping to include (there is a bug or two that will be fixed soon).

Let me know if you are having a hard time digging anything up and I will send you a link.  The search feature should help with most of that.  All of the posts are still there, but we are still working on some of the categorization.  It is now time for me to dig through most of my old posts and try and re-categorize them into my new streamlined list.  Fun stuff!

(Review) Eco Store Natural Products

When Eco Store offered to let me review two of their products I was thrilled!  As I dug around on their site to pick out my two products I was even more excited because their prices were awesome!  Who doesn’t love a company whose favorite phrase is “No Nasty Chemicals”? Genius.

When I was looking for my two products to review I decided that I would look for items that I had either not successfully made before, or had not found a natural alternative for at the store (I make a good chunk of our basic cleaning supplies and laundry detergent. Don’t worry, it is super easy).

I chose the Pure Oxygen Whitener (The natural version of OxyClean), and a cleaning product called Cream Cleanser.

 

The first time we used the Oxygen Whitener we threw it in with my husbands whites.  The load included dress shirts and under shirts etc.  He said he could totally tell a difference in their color.  We normally just use my homemade detergent and not any extra bleach or laundry care additives like Oxy Clean because of expense and questionable ingredients.  It was great to have something we felt good about throwing in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wanted to try the Cream Cleanser because my vinegar and water mixture I use for most basic cleaning was just not cutting it with my sinks.  I really needed something that I could use to scrub and polish.  It was so nice to have something with some more substance to it.  My sinks looked much better after using this stuff.  I do think that for my purposes I would prefer it to have a bit more grit to it.  If you use it be sure to rinse this stuff well after scrubbing to get a nice shine.  It is so nice to have something like this to add to my small cleaning stash.  I think I will mix it with a paste I make out of dish soap, lemon juice, and baking soda and I think it will be the perfect thing for sinks and tubs.

Eco Store caries products within 5 main categories; Baby, Bath and Body, Hair Care, Household, and Pet. The packaging is BPA free and everything is made in the USA. How is that for a commercial?

Although all of the prices are excellent, I was most excited about the value of the baby products. They had Baby Body Wash for $4.25, Baby Shampoo for $4.40, and Nappy Balm (diaper rash balm) for $5.10. That is really good. The only downside I am noticing is that I don’t think the product is specifically organic.  But because it is chemical and “bad stuff” free, I would feel comfortable putting it on my little ones.

The best news? They just posted about a 25 hour sale that runs through tomorrow night for 25% off everything (use code 25for25).  I have not seen many sales from them at all…especially since they have lowered their prices.  This would be a great chance to try a couple things if you are needing anything.  When they posted about this sale I immediately rushed to put this post up so y’all would be able to get the best price.

Let me know if you try any of their products. I would love to hear about your thoughts and how they worked for you.

Disclosure- Beyond receiving the two products, I was not paid for this review and all opinions are my own.

Game Mode Mama (Alternative title-Sergeant or Shepard)

I have my game face on much of the time I spend with my children.  Not necessarily a grumpy face (although that happens plenty), but like I am trying to accomplish a mission.  Acting as if my resolve and focus will get us safely and sanely through our day.  Maybe my gumption (do people still use that word?) will keep us all on track?  The almost constant use of phrases like “Sit in your chair until you finish your food,” “Use loving words,” “Can you try asking that again the nice way?” “Please stop screaming.” “Do unto others,” “Please be kind,” etc. leads me to think that it is me and my words getting us through these (often long) days.

Is this the way we should handle our task as mothers? I don’t think so.  We will not win our children’s hearts with our barked demands or by hollering things through the house.  Yes, we need to use our words to guide our children.  But we should also remember that the tone we use ourselves will be reflected in our children.  I often wonder, “Why are my children always so demanding?” Part of it is their nature. They are young and often very focused on themselves. The other part is probably what they are seeing modeled.  If I am spending most of my day in “game mode,” making semi-stern faced requests,  that is what I am going to get back.

Are all of my children’s behaviors my fault? No.  I cannot take all of that on. BUT, I lead by example.  If I am not acting in love or am more focused on results and staying on track, my children will notice.  Mommy will not be fun to be around. Mommy will be more of a Sergeant than a Shepherd.  I want to lead my children to Jesus and help be a picture of who He is to us.  How do we want Jesus to treat us? With firm demands and a lack of patience (not that he ever operates like that)? I don’t.  I rely on His grace.  I want to show that same grace to my children.

 

Some verses I found this morning that speak to some of these things:

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:31

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” Proverbs 14:1

“Everyone who quotes proverbs will quote this proverb about you: ‘Like mother, like daughter.” Ezekiel 16:44

“But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.” 1 Thessalonians 2:7

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12

 

Real life example-It took me 25 minutes, 1 long cuddle, giving the baby 3 more helpings of berries, 2 tantrums, one coloring project, and many “Mommy phrases” to get me through typing 2 of the sentences in this post.  When you allow yourself to be “in the moment” with your children and meet their needs, things might MOVE SLOWLY.

 

Today’s Goals-Be sillier, laugh more, loosen up, pray more, be joyous, watch my tone, love more loudly.

P.S. Blogging does not magically turn me into “Super Mom.”  I totally still struggle just like everyone else.  But, I have hope.

 

We are linking up with Raising Homemakers today! If you are visiting from there I am so glad you stopped by!  I would love it if you would leave a comment with your blog so I can come over and “visit” with you!

“I kinda like myself,” she said.

“I kinda like myself” she said in a soft voice as we were sitting together in church.  She was drawing in her notepad, and generally going about her business and what she said totally caught me off guard.  I was floored.  I looked at Hubs to see if he had noticed and whispered what she said to him.  He looked over and said, “You are beautiful.” Wanting to affirm her, but not embarrass her or probe more into what she meant.  We knew this meant a lot coming from her.

She is a bit more cautious than our other two. Her twin brother is quite talkative and a deep thinker.  He always has something funny or interesting to say and could run the show if we let him.  He often takes up more of our attention in discipline, and gets more laughs and praise as a result of his personality.  She on the other hand, is a bit more fearful in new situations.  She often asks for my help when doing art projects or trying to write things.  She does not want to mess up.  For awhile I have been a bit unsure of how to lead this sweet girl.  I feel that some moderate shyness (normally when she is feeling uncertain of her surroundings) is only part of what she feels inside.  So many parents seem to want to “un-shy” their children.  That never felt right for me.

I have told my husband on a couple different occasions that if there is one kid we could totally screw up, it would be her.  I don’t want to contribute to any of her struggles.

God has slowly been showing me ways to help her.  She is the way she is for a reason. God created her.  I don’t want to try and change her.  But, I don’t want her to be fearful.  I don’t want her to be lacking in the confidence she needs for whatever God will call her to someday.  So we have made the conscious decision to try and encourage her as much as possible.

Yesterday Hubs told her he loved a painting she had done earlier in the day. She got an awkward smile on her face.  She did not know what to say. (She probably looked like I did when someone complimented me on my weight loss earlier in the day.  I felt like a deer caught in headlights.  Why is it so hard for me to take a compliment?) I knew it was because he was pointing to a part she had me help her with.  I directed his glance towards the part she had done by herself and he told her how nice it looked. She beamed. A natural happy smile that showed she was proud of her picture and thrilled he had appreciated her work.

This parenting thing is tricky. My brain quickly begins to swirl and take things too far: Too much confidence and we are afraid we lack humility.  Clean the house instead of being with your children?… and our priorities are out of whack and our children won’t know they are important to us.  Help a child complete her art work?… and she might have no true sense of accomplishment.  If I build them up too much will it cause them to think that the world revolves around them?  These are the things we might assume and apply to everything.

When she said those sweet words in church I knew it was big for her.  As my parents noted, she had came to a place some people never reach.  Am I there? Usually not. I leave a group of people and try to retrace all my words.  Did I say something stupid? Did I hurt someones feelings? In an attempt to cover the silence, make myself look a certain way, or make someone feel better did I talk too much? Did I make them feel welcome?  Why am I never anybody’s “best friend”?  My insecurities come out when I am around other people.   Why can’t I be more like my husband? Why can’t I be more easy going?  Will my children be as messed up as I am?  I pray that they will not.  I also pray that in time God will continue to work in me and quiet the voices in my head.

As I talk to good friends I learn that we are not as different as I thought.  Certain circumstances take us to places of self doubt. Different situations and relationships bring these feelings to the surface.  For me, a lot of it started in Jr High and High School youth group when I was constantly made fun of and was the butt of many jokes (hard for me to even admit or type).  Now, when I open my mouth I am afraid of being what they always acted like I was.  An outsider.  Never really fitting into either “group.”  I still find myself in those situations.  Stuck in two worlds.  Trying to connect them, make sense of them, and decipher God’s plan for me.

Will my daughter still struggle with confidence? Of course she will. But, seeing these strides in her through that sweet phrase was affirming for us.

Photographs

Here are some pictures from our mini session with the fabulous Heidi Helser.  She was doing a couple days of 30 minute sessions as a fundraiser for our local La Leche League (breastfeeding support group).  I was thrilled to have the chance to capture some pictures of our nursing days.  The slot I was able to get was while Hubs was working.  Thankfully, my sweet mama came along for to help out.  After I got everyone up from naps and pretty in record time, we headed to Bella Vie for our session…and on the way inside baby girl and I got stuck in a DOWNPOUR.  Wet hair, no hair brush, ya know. No biggie.  One of the rules of parenting is that there MUST be a bit of drama during family pictures.

Second half of this post contains modest nursing pictures.  Cut out early if you are so inclined.

Sometimes I think nursing is not shared about enough. It should not be a “best kept secret”.  It can be hard (trust me, I know), but it IS amazing.

Reader Question: Where do I start with moving to a natural/organic diet?

 

(Welcome Better Mom readers! I mistakenly linked the wrong post. If you would like to read the post titled “Game Mode Mama (Sergeant or Shepard)” please hop over and check it out. Although I think you will enjoy this post too.)

 

A reader and friend wrote me with this question:

“So I have a question for you. How did you get started with eating more naturally? I read about the organic stuff and Azure and everything on your blog. I really want to start working on that, but I just don’t even know where to start!

I was wondering if you knew about a book that could ease me into being more natural?  I want to figure out what is most important and start with that.

I tired to look at the Azure catalog online and it was totally overwhelming! I know I need to start small but where do I start. We have started ordering Bountiful Baskets (but not organic) so we have increased our veggie intake!

I thought you might have some good ideas on how to start! You are very inspiring with your blog, if you can do it with three kids I can do it with two!”

Some basics about their family I got after asking more questions:

  • They live in Rock Springs, WY
  • They have access to a Super Walmart, Albertsons and Smiths (Kinda like Safeway she says), and have a 3 hour drive to a town with lots more options (including Costco).
  • They could likely find an Azure Standard drop near where they live.
  • They drink a good amount of milk.
  • Have just started getting “Bountiful Baskets” (fresh produce) each week and is having fun integrating that into their meals and diet.
  • This mama does not consider herself a “natural cook”, but wants to learn.

 

First of all, way to go for wanting to improve the way your family eats! The first step is being ready to take on the idea of changing your normal routine.  The way most people have found success in moving towards eating healthier and better quality foods is through BABY STEPS.

For us it started after our twins were born.  We used to joke that we had to get the Cheetos out of the house before we had any children.  For the most part, we were able to make that happen.  Once I saw “Monosodium Glutimate” on the label they were not so appealing.  Although I do still crave a crummy (yummy) Totinos pizza from time to time. Ha.

 

Back to where I was going with this… Baby steps.

Here is basically how our progression from traditional groceries-natural/organic went…

1) Organic produce (started when we were making them baby food and finger foods)

2) Organic milk and yogurt (started when they transitioned to cows milk)

3) Mostly organic grains and snacks(rice, pasta, oats, wheat, etc).  Often we choose Trader Joe’s non organic snacks when we can’t find an affordable organic source because I know it will at least be GMO free.

4) Grass fed beef from a local source (store bought organic when we don’t have it).

5) Farm fresh eggs when we can get them (organic or at least cage free when we can’t).

6) Hormone and antibiotic free chicken (organic when affordable).

7) Organic sugars (usually Wholesome brand) and some baking ingredients, organic (cold pressed usually) olive oil, non-GMO canola oil, organic store bought bread, organic butter, natural toothpaste, shampoo, etc.

This process was influenced by our twins transitions as they grew, what we ate the most of, and developed as we could find affordable sources for each.  We still have a few things in our kitchen that are not organic.  We are not obsessed with only feeding our children organic and natural foods.  We still eat out sometimes and buy non organic foods when organic foods are hard to source at an affordable price.  Making the transition slowly as I have been able to find where I can get each item at a good price has actually been so rewarding.  To know that I can feed our family healthy foods at a price we can afford is such a good feeling.  I feel like I am giving my children a great gift.  As the saying goes, I would much rather pay the farmer than the Doctor.

Here is what I would recommend for your family

1) Keep getting your Bountiful Baskets since it sounds like it is helping your family eat more fresh produce.  If you have to chance to join an affordable organic CSA (or one that is at least spray free and follows mostly organic practices) go for it! CSA’s are usually a great value and the perfect way to get organic produce for a great price.  Supplement your Bountiful Baskets with organic produce from wherever you can find it. Buying a big box of apples from Azure Standard to eat off of would be a great way to get affordable produce.  If they start to go bad before you finish them make apple sauce.   I also recommend following the weekly ad from whatever grocery store that has the best selection of organic produce and then stocking up on whatever is on sale that week (message me if you are not sure if it is a good price or not). Look up the “Dirty Dozen.” And pay particular attention to purchasing those items organic when possible.

2) Since your family drinks a good amount of milk, I would start buying organic milk as soon as possible.  I have done a fairly good amount of research and for us it is totally worth it.  We have gone down on our milk consumption quite a bit, but I still think it is important.  If you are having trouble affording it, at least get milk that is free of hormones etc.  We also buy whole milk rather than 1 or 2%, but I will save that for a whole ‘nother post. 🙂 If you eat yogurt switching to organic would also be a great move. Most people eat larger quantities of yogurt, rather than things like sour cream, cream, butter etc.  Also, large tubs of plain organic yogurt are good value (we choose plain because it is so much lower in sugar). Mix in fruit, jam, honey, or maple syrup if you prefer flavored.  Also, watch for markdowns on organic dairy.

3) Whatever grains your family eats a good amount of could be the next step.  Do you eat lots of wheat? Start there. Do you make a good amount of rice? Do your boys eat crackers or animal crackers regularly? What about oatmeal?  Grains are a great way to make the switch to organic for not too much money.  Purchasing bulk amounts of the grain is always cheaper than purchasing organic packaged or boxed foods.  It is also healthier.  Also, organic just refers to the quality of the ingredients based on how they are grown, and also what ingredients are allowed to be put into the processed foods.  It does not mean that the product is necessarily “healthy”.

4) Find a local farm source for eggs and beef if you eat those regularly.  There is nothing like eating animal products that have been raised on pasture (what they were intended to eat).  Grain fed chickens and cows (even if organic) will not have the same nutritional and vitamin content in their products. A local source for chicken would also be fabulous, but I have had a hard time finding it at a price I can justify.  Research local chicken brands a bit by asking the butcher what they would recommend you purchase (antibiotic and hormone free, vegetarian…and pastured if possible). Also, whole chickens are often more affordable than breasts etc.  We love roasting chickens in the oven and then using the bones for soup/broth after taking all the meat off!

After that go from there.  Also, be sure to have good communication about these changes with your husband.  It is so important to have his support. This transition will mean some changes for your family in both what you eat, and how you are spending your money.  Create a budget, and have fun feeding your family healthy foods! Keep us updated and keep asking questions!

If you bought 1 book, I would recommend Nourishing Traditions.  It is fabulous and has both information and recipies. It will stretch your mind and challenge traditional nutritional information we have been told.  Pretty much everybody who reads it loves it.

Readers…What books or articles would you recommend to her as they work towards eating more naturally and organic diet?

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To follow up on your question in the near future I will write posts on…

-Cheap organic staple foods. Organic foods that give you the best bang for your buck.

-How to cut back in other areas to be able to afford organic/natural foods.

-A list of what stores I generally buy different items at.

-What is a good price? Target prices I like to pay for each of our groceries (when I am feeling up the the challenge of writing this post).

 

I am linking up with Raising Homemakers.  If you are popping in from there I would be thrilled if you said hello! I would love to come and check out your blog too!