Archive | September 2013

Breastfeeding- Yeah I’m a guilty supporter.

This weeks requested blog topic- Breastfeeding.

I realize this isn’t a topic that will intrigue most of my recent followers, but it’s important for me to discuss it as it’s something I actively support.

I am guilty of being the biggest supporter of the nursing mother and also guilty of being the least likely to give up in the cause for those I have helped. My mother was firm in creating a sense of knowing your own body and listening to it. Formula wasn’t really an option for thought… nursing your babies is what God intended for women to do. We don’t have to like it, but it is how our bodies are made.

…Well unless you’re like some of my friends whose boobs never “worked” or received the message. They carry this weight of guilt around like they did something wrong. As someone who knew from early on that my body was going to struggle having babies, I can relate to feeling like you failed at something. If you are a victim of broken boobies this is for you— Stop beating the crap out of yourself and those of you reading this just to use it as an internal guilt trip. STOP NOW> your boobs never getting the message is not your fault and this blog is not for your self abuse! Don’t read it to question what you did or make yourself cry either! I am speaking to some wonderful mothers I know who read these things and feel bad bout them… still wonderful mothers regardless of malfunctioning boobies.

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My precious son Alden getting Momma loving.

My history of experience- I only saw a lactation consultant in the hospital and never went to any La Leche League meetings. I nursed both children and worked full-time. I nursed both of my children- my son Alden nursed until about 9 months when my supply went down and the fattest baby on the planet was not satisfied by what I gave him any longer. At 10 months he decided his teeth were a weapon and laughed at me from the breast while I was crying my eyes out. My daughter Maggie nursed until 17 months. She never had a drop of formula and I had learned so much along the way that I was able to take my experience and blossom. I have counseled many women- strangers- friends and clients along the way. If you are nursing in public and I happen to pass by I may stop to talk to you or smile and nod…

So I’m going to try to give you my advice- this is obviously not professional advice, but it’s stuff that worked for me.

Being In the Right State of Mind

A friend of mine posted this picture on facebook this week- from a 1910 Southern Tenant Farmers Union outside meeting.

Now I love old black and white photos, but I really love this one. This is the ease we should feel. When I was nursing my babies. I would have covered myself with a wrap and I would have felt like all the people around me were uncomfortable. I would have been tense with fear that my child would flash me to the crowd. I love this photo because it captures the spirit of the culture. This my friends is the way it should be. So my first piece of advice is to say this don’t ever let anyone make you nurse or pump in a bathroom stall or any other filthy location. Yes- I did both and never again would I ever allow someone to do that to me. In the state of Virginia it is not indecent by law to nurse in public don’t let anyone tell you that. Also under Obama care legislation  you are allotted time at work and a location to pump in private- no bathrooms or nursing stations are allowed. When I had my son in 2006 this was not the case and yes I did have coworkers walk into a locked room unannounced while I was pumping… it does happen. Remember to be like this woman. You don’t have to be fierce in your natural state. Anyone who is offended has lost sight of nature and has been watching too many angels from Victoria Secret or Miley Cyrus videos…. and don’t see breasts as their natural form any longer. That’s their problem. Not yours.

Tips

1- Be natural and calmly fierce.

2- Know your federal and state rights.

3- Surround yourself with supportive folks. If people make you leave the room or make you uncomfortable… don’t visit them for a while. They may miss out on your wee little babe, but they would be missing out with you in another room anyway.

4- Nurse where you are the most comfortable otherwise. I bought a mini-van when I had my son so that I could pump in the car with privacy. Yeah all it takes is two middle aged men to walk in on you pumping to change your perspective on yourself.

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Alden my squirrel cheeked Hokie.

Having the Right Support

When I had my son I was twenty-six and other than my sisters and my sister -in -law I didn’t really know any other moms nearby. Luckily, the ones I did know had nursed their babies! My mom, step-mom, and John’s mom all nursed their babies and were big advocates for the cause. They were all wonderful women to have around. In my own personal life, at social functions, work life and just any other time I wasn’t with my family it was pretty empty in the support realm. The other problem is that only one of my family members had ever pumped. I remember my very dear friend Chris, a woman, came to see me in the hospital in her normal mother support grabbed my breast to get my son to latch on correctly… awkward in the moment but she was spot on… love her. I instead did a lot of reading. I’m not knocking down the La Leche League- but I didn’t have time for that. Not in the job I did and trying to pump. It was way too much going on regardless of that. So I read… a lot.

This is my favorite site- kellymom

As far as other moms- don’t be afraid to ask. I love when a new mom skirts around their question like I’ve never heard it before!

One of my favorite stories is one told by my sister. She had befriended some African immigrant women. She was in a room of women all nursing openly and speaking in their native tongue. One of the women quite engorged shot milk clear across the room hitting another woman and the room filled with laughter. The cultural and language barrier was dropped in their most natural abilities and to laugh like that takes no language at all. Don’t feel alone and find support from all ages, stages, and cultures.. advice as old as time may be the best advice you receive.

For me the worst advice I ever received was from the lactation consultants. When I was in the hospital both times they had advised the football hold since I am so well endowed- Oh how I blistered. My toes curled in pain every time my son latched on. With my daughter I was fine until the consultant came in- then I blistered and cried. My mom looked at me so distraught in the hospital bed. She said to me, “This is your body. You know what feels right. Yes, she’s an educated person, but that doesn’t make her advice the right thing to do. Did it hurt before she came in?” Me- No. Mom continued, “Well then pretend like that idiot never walked in here. Pretend she never said anything. Do you remember how you were holding her and how she was latched? ” Me- Yes. Mom- “Well then by all means… take a deep breath and forget it all and bring the baby back to the breast the way you were doing it before.” I took a deep breath and did what my mother said… 17 months later I cried when I weaned my precious little one having never to look back after the first day. ~ Thanks Mom.

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Me just out of the recovery room- LOOKIN ROUGH- notice my daughter, Maggie, in a deep sleep.

It may be natural… that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Given our cultural times I think we have fewer and fewer people that have ever nursed in front of us. The amount of support we have is oddly limited and we don’t see it as natural. For my children, I ask that people not really cover in front of them. I want them to remember it and see how to do it. I want them to be able to embrace it as natural.

Just like those of you who struggled with fertility you heard- Well how hard could it be? Yeah- those same idiots say those things about moms who struggle with nursing. Ignorance is annoying, but teach them a lesson and help them learn.

You will hear that it’s not supposed to hurt if the baby is latched correctly. This may be true but I left the hospital with blisters both times and once they are blistered even if they are latched right it flipping hurts. Yes- dear God it hurt. I can’t remember who it was my mom or my sisters someone said to me- get through the first three weeks and then it will be okay. I found this to be very very true.

My husband went to breastfeeding class with me and although he found the class disappointing (not sure what he was hoping for— more show and less tell…) I’m glad he went with me though. His understanding was super important.

If you are falling apart- call someone who makes you comfortable to help you walk through it. I’ve helped so many women along the way and it’s important to me for other people to have the support.

Read up about latching techniques and common problems.

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I love posts like this one. There is also a breastfeeding support page on facebook called “If breastfeeding offends you put a blanket over your head.” – They have some pretty funny posts.

Get the Right Equipment- If I were pregnant this would be my shopping list. 

Target is awesome for supplies.

Milk storage bags– These bags held up great in the freezer- fridge etc. For freezing lay bags on the side. They thaw easier that way.

Nursing Pads– I prefer this brand because the other ones pooched out at the nipple and that’s just weird. These made the breast look more smooth also this brand pulls away from the nipple better. Some cheaper ones are like pulling a fuzzy shedding cotton ball off you leaving cotton residue all over you chest. It’s gross- go with these.

Lanolin– Yeah this is like heaven for those first three weeks when you think it might be more helpful to remove your nipples.

Madela Pump– Madela is expensive but it’s the tried and true pump.  Make sure you get a car charger… you’ll want it. ‘Get some extra storage bottles while you’re at it.

Nursing Bras– Now I’m very well endowed. I’m a woman of many blessings… ::sigh:: If you’re a bigger chested gal- bravado is the way to go!!!

Nursing Apron– I like the ones at Target- but you can find some pretty unique ones on etsy too.

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Maggie- I mean who in the world doesn’t want to give her the healthiest options.

Successful Nursing- Making it a breeze

Rule number one- This should have been at the top. Have that baby and get it to the breast. Once the baby is born it’s alert for some time and then CRASH they are passed out. Sort of like that call right before bed that makes you stay awake way longer and you can’t fall back to sleep from all the excitement in your brain, but getting up in the morning is super hard. The same thing happens to babies… If you get the baby right to the breast it has an easier time latching on and knowing what it’s supposed to do. If you wait then it throws the baby off… trust me. I had my baby at 8pm and midnight they finally brought him to me. He was sound asleep and he had so much trouble latching. He also lost a ton of weight from it. My daughter was at the breast in the recovery room… I couldn’t even sit up but she was latched on. I love that memory… truly love it and things were so much easier with her.

Rule number two- Never pump or nurse without water near by… I would drink 90-150oz of water a day.- that’s not a stretch either that’s exact.

Rule number three- If your baby is spitting up it’s probably something you’re eating, but cut out the common foods first… if that doesn’t work talk to the pediatrician. Look it up on kellymom… I’m lactose intolerant but had one yogurt a day because sometimes a girl needs yogurt.. My daughter projectile vomited all over the place. I cut out that one yogurt and she stopped throwing up. My friends’ son had so many reactions I think she lived off of gluten free triscuit style crackers or well … pretty much cardboard for months.  I realized if I had a glass of wine my kids both of them got super gassy and had funky stools for days…

Rule number four- Have that drink, but for the love of the Lord do not dump that milk! Your milk is only as intoxicating as you are intoxicated so if you have one or two beers I would  not even pump… but lets say you were celebrating a big event and got wee bit too tipsy I would wait until I sobered up and then pump some. There is no sense in pumping and dumping for cases like my kids and wine because the food you ingest stays in the system for a long time…. so if you notice something like this… you have to just cut it out of your diet- sorry folks.

Rule number five- pump and nurse in different directions. I know this sounds weird, but I know I had clogged milk ducts and the beginning of mastitis, but I never once had to have it checked. I put warm compresses on those puppies and massaged until I felt those knots out of there. I self compressed… pumped with the pumps to the side and woke the baby in the middle of the night and nursed them laying in opposite directions. I would do whatever it took to get that knot out.

Rule number six- supply and demand baby. You can try fenugreek, oatmeal, dark beer etc, but I say take good vitamins- drink tons of water- get rest- relax and get that baby to the breast. When my milk was low during the work week I would put my baby to the breast all weekend long. They were probably overfed but the result was my body needed that skin to skin contact just as much as babies need it and by Monday my supply was back up. When you introduce solids pump in replacement for it. My supply dropped off quickly when they started solids and my milk supply decreased too quickly, but if I pumped more when they increased solids everything worked out fine.

Rule number seven- don’t over do it. If you are exhausting yourself… loathing life.. or pumping so much your nipples hurt—- chill out or push through depends on how hard you want it. Quitting was not an option for me… so I pushed through. If your milk after the colostrum stage looks orange or yellow after you pumped it… you are trying too hard. That is actually blood in the milk- wont harm the baby so dear Lord don’t throw it out, but do slow down a bit and don’t push yourself so hard.

A Shirt I needed— Weapons of Mass Lactation 🙂

Pumping Tips

* If you are like most people I spoke to prior to writing this blog they say to me- I really should have listened to that rule about pumping three weeks out, but I didn’t. So If you have 6 weeks off start pumping at 3 weeks. Now again I’m not a professional lactation consultant, but what I am is a successful pumper. I  made more milk supply than most people. I took care of my baby and I was overproducing.

* Three weeks before I went back to work- I would feed the baby the last feeding of the night. Then pumped after I put the baby down. No more than 20 minutes. This pumping session drove up the demand without bothering our daytime routine. I froze everything I had at this session even if it was just two ounces for the following three weeks to six weeks since I had c-sections I had more time off work.

* Week two I started pumping in the morning and at night. I would feed the baby the bottle from the am. The baby should start having a bottle once a day three weeks out just so that it’s used to it.

*Week three you should pump in the am- and whenever you anticipate that you will be pumping when you will be returning to work. You can feed your baby these bottles or have them nurse from one side etc. Switch it up.

* The goal here is to up your demand and get your body into a schedule of when to expect that demand. You are smarter than your body, but your body gets into a routine. I used to pump at 5 am and on the weekends I would wake at 6 am and have to pump even on the weekends because the milk was in on schedule but I wasn’t up yet and it was uncomfortable.

* For work pack a lunch/snack for when you pump nothing is worse than feeling starved and dehydrated and trying to feed an invisible baby.

* Create a safe place and relax. I pumped in the van I made curtains that clipped up on the back and ran the pump. Ate my lunch and made phone calls. Listened to music and just felt at peace with the world. Pumping in the office- was never- ever- relaxing. Not after my interruption by fellow employees.

Good luck and I hope this helped! Enjoy your babies!

Feeling Good Friday

shalomThis week by request- One of those feeling good Friday posts.

 

Songs I’ve hit repeat on more than I’d like to admit. These are some of the songs that by memory bring tears to my eyes because of the time they represented.

My Dad was or is a big Sarah McLachlan fan. So I had to listen to this album a lot.

Queen yes.

John Mayer… Yeah- Comfortable.

I found Tom Waits late in the middle of the night when someone had left the tv on. He was doing songs from his album Mule Variations which is still my favorite album.

Yeah… we’ve belted this out a few times.

There are a few Leonard Cohen songs that fit this category.

One of my friends from middle/ high school passed away last week. I lost track of him over the years and I can still remember his voice cracking with intensity when he would sing this song.

Orange is the New Black and Real Life Tiffany Encounters

I just plowed through the 2013 season of Orange is the New Black.  As I watched the last few episodes, I was disturbed when the character Tiffany said that she was ready to murder someone and just needed to back it up with scripture to make it the right thing to do. She found it in Luke 19- once she turned around the scripture to her liking. ** Spoiler alert ** The backstory to Tiffany is that she murdered someone who made fun of her for having multiple abortions.

A little taste of the Orange is the New Black Tiffany

I was talking to an agnostic person several years ago and they said to me, “You call yourself a Christian? I mean I believe in a higher power, but I just cannot support Christianity. I would never be a “good enough” Christian. There is always someone hanging around saying you are not as good a Christian as someone else and you are set up for constant failure the way the Bible is written. It has been translated so much… who knows what it was really saying. Christians as a whole are so cruel to each other. So don’t doubt me that I believe there is a God and I pray and meditate… I just don’t follow the Bible so closely that I exhaust myself. I do believe in good and evil. I do believe that there is a certain way to treat others with love and compassion… I consider myself a genuinely good person, but this self-righteous crap keeps me from ever walking into the doors of a so-called Christian church.  I can’t believe how incredibly cruel they are to one another and I refuse to be part of that type of institution and constant criticism.” This was the first logical explanation for being agnostic I have ever encountered and I never once questioned someone again who said they were spiritual but not exactly religious. Yes I do consider myself a Christian, but I refuse to surround myself with Tiffany like folks. I wonder how many people have lost their way in their relationship with God because of the self-righteous behavior. I wonder if Christians had truly treated each other with more hospitality and grace much like Jesus loved us, the impact that that would make on our community as a whole.

In the recent weeks, I have had to distance myself from a real life Tiffany. One who spouted hateful things about my contact with my church and allowing my children to attend a wedding, which according to Tiffany was not an acceptable occasion, I  was responsible for the doom of my children’s souls. I was so incredibly offended by Tiffany and I understood more in that moment people that are driven from Christianity. If I were not so settled with my faith and my church I would be tempted to blame Christianity for this, but it’s not the case. It’s just Tiffany.

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God Knew of Their Coming

The impact I hope to have on my children in my choices are this… 1. No matter the persons past, color, education, sexuality or wealth they deserve grace and respect. 2. God is there for everyone in prayer and we were all created to serve him. Never ever tell someone anyone they cannot be a Christian… in fact God knew of their coming. 3. Yes read the Bible and do your best to be a good person, but not every bit of  scripture should be taken literally in today’s terms – I would have to expect my daughter to not speak in church and obey her husband. My son would be expected to see his future wife as his obedient subservient companion… whilst we have taught him to respect women.  We’d have to change a lot of this blended cloth too. I’m not sure how my son would feel about not having pepperoni or bacon anymore. 4. Forgiveness is important and without forgiveness no one learns and grows… they only grow apart. 5. They have already learned love, family and marriage from the life we have created in our home, but they have witnessed love dissipate and marriages fail already. I can’t save them from that, but I can teach them to show love and respect for those that are from broken families — not pity- compassion 6. Everyone sins and no one is free from it… in fact expect it and respond appropriately. No one is perfect. If you expect everyone to be perfect sinners and do not show compassion for them… don’t expect compassion when you sin because you do and you will.

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This most beautiful sunset on our trip this summer was shining into a very important moment for me a moment in nature when you know God is with you.

A friend of mine has a relative that is incarcerated for abusing a child sexually. The friend visits the inmate in prison much like the visitors in Orange is the New Black. It is out of love, grace and compassion that they visit and show forgiveness. The friend said to me that they are blood and it is extremely important that they treat the incarcerated as forgiven. The inmate has repented, even turned themselves in and doing their time here on earth. This is God’s grace…. this is ultimately what it is all about. This friend of mine is a good Christian and I respect them so much for this and may God continue to bless them all. This is opposite of Tiffany in that they are faithful people and act with love and grace instead of self-righteousness. I pray that I may be like this friend in my faith.

One real life Tiffany that I know would instead never speak to this family member again and back it with scripture. Particularly with 1 Corinthians – in the letters from Paul saying to not associate with these people- remove the wicked from among yourselves. Are we guilty by association? Some people would say that is the case- trust me- don’t think those words have not been said to me. As the alabaster jar was given to Jesus with weeping tears,  the sinning woman was shown grace and compassion from Jesus. Might we all show more hospitality to all sinners not just the ones we approve of and allow them to anoint our lives with oil. As with Tiffany from Orange is the New Black- just because you twist things around scripture to fit what you’re doing… doesn’t make it right. Is this Christian behavior? Is this what being a Christian means to ostracize and treat people as less and not worthy of God’s love? What makes Tiffany so mighty to say that they are a better Christian. In fact, I actually have chosen to distance my children from such Tiffany’s because this is exactly what I don’t want them to learn. They could possibly otherwise push my children farther from God as it did so many of my Christian friends who do not attend a church or for my agnostic friends who simply cannot be part of this behavior. This is what I’m teaching my children … to love.. to forgive.. to see others as sinners as well as themselves… to judge lest they be judged. I hardly feel as though their souls are ruined for this lesson.

My son, Alden, lied to me yesterday. We had overbooked ourselves and the kids and I missed out on church while my husband went. Alden threatened his sister while playing in his room and she came and tattled on him. That wasn’t the problem… the problem was that he denied it and lied to me. I knew he was not telling me the truth. I told him that I did not believe him and that he was to go to his room and pray. I told him he should think about it and pray for forgiveness because he knew he had broken “big God rules”. He had lied to his mother. After a few minutes, I went to check on him. He was quiet when I entered his room. He said to me with tears in his eyes, “Mom, I don’t know how to pray that.” He’s seven and I thought although a struggle it was worthy of a lesson in knowing that it is hard to pray on your own. So I told him that we would pray together so I said the prayer for him and when I opened my eyes and raised my head I realized he was looking at me in awe. He wasn’t streaming tears, but his eyes were still filled and for this brief moment I know I’m doing the right things with my children. I know that I am … no matter what Tiffany says.

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Hardly Damaged Goods

Many of my readers have read my previous blog on what type of church I attend and I must say it was a Tiffany that created that desire within me to find an open and accepting church. We were sitting around a Thanksgiving feast when Tiffany went on to say that they just love their new pastor. They were previously uncertain about his coming and now felt totally confident about his presence and his guidance. His first sermon was the Sunday before this feast and it was very fresh and new to Tiffany. Tiffany went on to say that his first sermon was the best they had heard in a long time and how spot on it was. Now Tiffany was certain this was the right pastor for them. I was thinking it was something amazingly powerful and inspiring the weekend before Thanksgiving. Being intrigued I asked what this amazing sermon was on… Tiffany’s response was unnerving and ruined my meal or maybe my faith in humanity or maybe perception of Christianity. Tiffany said the pastor read scripture and described how all homosexuals regardless of repentance would all surely burn in hell. It went on and on for several minutes. Oh how lovely…. Happy Thanksgiving? From then on I refused to attend church with Tiffany and instead I sought out a church that spoke of no one in such light… I refuse to subject myself to hate. Did this pastor quote Rahab during this story of sexual immorality… if it is not so clear that with repentance and faith she was forgiven for her prostitution?  I sought a church instead that would teach me to grow in grace. I wasn’t expecting to end up where I did, but when I found my church I felt love and am loved by many. No one spouts off about abominations or sits around judging others with their hate. Instead I am moved by their compassion… their love… their forgiveness… I could not and would not allow my children to be taught to hate. My children don’t really care to understand the concept of our family being any different from anyone else that attends or the make up of couples because they simply care as much as me- they don’t spend any time trying to discuss it… there is simply nothing to discuss. They don’t talk about sexuality in children’s church… it’s the same as children’s church as when I was a child. What I do know is that they are surrounded by many people of all walks of life and have been taught so many things by feeling the love that simply pours from the doors of the building. My children love Sundays… absolutely love them. They beg to go to church and have been caught in their disappointment realizing it is Saturday and not Sunday. I walk out of church on Sundays enlightened by the peace of the scripture and the blessing of the presence of those who surround us.

It is scary to me in my faith journey to think that this conversation about Tiffany’s new pastor drove me away from God and Christianity for a few years. I understood more clearly what my agnostic friend was talking about. I allowed someone that is Christian to back their hate with scripture keeping me from being connected. I realize that real life Tiffany’s will continue to exist, but I can only hope that churches like mine continue to show that Christianity is not about being self-righteous. There are churches that teach to embrace the incarcerated- the homosexuals- the poor- thieves- or well… anyone really. Certainly, it is easier to sit back idle and go unnoticed as a Christian, but it doesn’t make me any closer to my faith detaching myself from Christianity for the fault of my supposed imperfections. It takes strength to be an ally and a Christian, but let them cast their stones at me for loving my neighbors and treating them with grace…. Trying to change me by involving my children by writing their souls on the stones was a low attempt and hurt to the core of my being, but it doesn’t mean my children are damaged goods. It just means that Tiffany is not part of the lessons I want to teach my children about Christianity at this age for fear that they will be led away from God being squeezed so tight they lose sight of the spirit.

Feeling Good Friday

I lost my other completely written blog, many other things went wrong including a lady ran into our van today, but I’m a count my blessings kind of gal. My family is okay and I can write my other blog later. So here is another blog on music… why not.

 

So here are a few songs old for Feeling Good Friday while you finish out your work day… 

I love this song…. 

One of my new favorite songs..

Steamrolling all over you…

It might have something to do with Johnny Cash…

This one always makes me laugh.

Why not listen to one that is about legal medicine… Headphones- it’s inappropriate for the workplace… 

 

Also- This guy is 1. Sorry we missed your birthday. Happy belated, Benson!Image

 

 

My Thoughts on Organization and Time Management

Being an organized, time managing, and mutli-tasking person.

10 tips to getting stuff done…errr 9

1. Make the investment and get a good phone. My phone (iphone5) contains my contacts, emails, calendar, daily reminders, apps that help with a multitude of things, lists and many other things.

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These are the reminders that pop on my phone that tell me to do things. You can also set things as an alarm. Super helpful.

2. Start routines as a household and stick to them. We have a morning routine that we’re fairly good at keeping to lately. It includes me waking up early to workout, time for both John and I to shower, feeding 3 animals, waking 2 children, getting them dressed, fed and teeth brushed, packing one lunch, starting coffee, feeding ourselves, and straightening the house before my business opens at 7am. Sometimes we’re a little off, but for the most part we get it all done in a moderately calm and friendly manner.

3. Respond immediately to emails and messages and if you can’t write it down or do something to remind yourself to do it later.

4. Lists, lists, lists- grocery lists… I write them in order of which department they are in. Now this seems like a no brainer to many, but if I’m sending John even that list takes him forever. If you have an iphone- I recommend the anylist app. It allows me to make a grocery list and you can check off items while you shop. But the best part about that is that if we decide John is the one to go I can e-mail it to him and he has the list. Making a meal list for the week- having all the calendars open to see what’s going on for the week. It helps you make better meal choices and stop running back and forth to the store (not that we never miss something… this week I ran out of celery of all things) We have a list of wishfuls for every room of the house- this week we put up a new light fixture in the downstairs bathroom. This is helpful for when we’ve found some extra time to just get some things done. I have done family weekly chore calendars and those are fabulous, but hard to get everyone to stick to for the long term. I just make an excel sheet of time of day and what needs to be done. This is good to do heading into the holidays or if you are selling your house. It tends to all land on one person otherwise. When I have overbooked myself it is helpful to make a To Do list of things I must get done by the end of the day.

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Our grocery list from last week.

5. Budgeting- I hate getting slammed with random bills. While we were on vacation this summer someone checking our mail set a bill on the computer and it fell behind the desk. It was a medical bill so out of the norm for 166 bucks. Now since we paid for our vacation entirely in cash and since our washer died the week we returned… we were a little strapped for cash… so it sucked. But John and I hate using credit cards… We have been following Dave Ramsey for years and although it’s not perfect and we still have some lingering debt we’ve been paying for things in cash for years. We like “Wine and Finance” meetings… if you take the time to look at your calendar of bills and budget out your spending over a relaxing evening it makes life a whole lot easier. I also recommend if you and your partner in crime both have a good phone- the EEBA app. It’s an envelope budget system that can be shared between our phones. So we may have 120 in clothes a month and if I go buy $40 pair of shoes I can put that in the phone envelope and now the budget will say we have $80 for the month and John knows what’s left to be spent. It’s super helpful. Also, with all this online accounting money coming in and out electronically overlook everything carefully that you spend. I realized a few months ago that an insurance company that John had changed from was still deleting funds from our account. Now it didn’t draw our attention because it had been the norm for so long. It didn’t raise a red flag until I was writing everything down…

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Note haircuts are under clothing expenses… and the expense called “unexpected sh*t”

6. Calendars- I can not stress this enough. I try to put everything in my phones’ calendar as I get it because otherwise I will forget every doctor’s office and salons’ cute little cards- yeah I will lose that – so I just plug it in immediately and text John or I will forget to tell him. From church to soccer and days off from school I have to write it down or it throws me off big time. I like routines and I like getting things done so if the calendar is set then I don’t feel so bad. I also don’t cancel on my friends as much because of this- I know what I can or can’t do- unless I have to check with John.

7. Communicate- I make calendars 3 to 4 times a year for the daycare. I let the parents know everything from closings, three meals on each day, activities of the week and lists of who brings what food. I send that out as soon as I can and they have weeks if not months of a notice. I do my best to stick to the list and it operates much like a lesson plan I used in my classroom. With John we communicate daily about schedules and routine things and I do my best to keep things up to date by email with the church responsibilities and activities as well as soccer. If I get a soccer e-mail I forward it to John… we have a lot of bases to cover so it feels good when we both feel we’re in the know. I have unlimited texting- thank the Lord! I text clients when I remember something because otherwise I might forget. I want my clients to be well informed and feel good about the organization here. My memory is really terrible… so it’s because I don’t trust myself to remember and I act on it… that’s how I get things done.

8. Do away with clutter- Now if you’ve been to my home either one of three things hits you immediately when you walk in the door. It’s all about perspective. You either think 1- Man she keeps a clean home… considering. 2- Man this house has a lot of stuff in it. 3- This place looks lived in (in a good way). I’m not perfect at this rule but I try when I can. We realized a few weeks ago that our kids were pulling out these blocks in their room- they never actually played with them they just randomly appeared throughout the house. So we got rid of them and it cut so much of the mess down. I also get rid of the kids clothes rather fast… I do this because if it’s stained or what not I don’t want them wearing it out anyways. I also want to keep the laundry rotation at a minimum. If they have more to wear I have a tendency to let it pile up faster. Less to dust… etc. The less clutter the less you feel smothered by stuff.

9. Find the things that throw you off- Last year we realized it took us forever to get Alden to go back upstairs to brush his teeth. It was a huge battle. So I said screw it and bought extra toothbrushes for the kitchen. So he dumps his dishes after breakfast and brushes his teeth there. It helped a ton… something that simple.

This is a list of organizing more than time managing I guess, but when I started brainstorming about this I realized that having things organized in physical form and mental form allows me to get things done faster and more proficiently.

A few time management things that work for me

* Start a load of laundry and dishes before you go to workout. While you are out, they are doing the “home” work for you so they will be done when you get back.

*If the kids keep dragging items out lock it up or get rid of it if it isn’t important. My kids went through a phase where they got out several cups a day.. so I locked them all in the medicine cabinet so they had to ask me for one…

* Buy extra cleaning supplies and store under sinks so you don’t have to lug everything around. You ultimately buy the same amount…

* Plan picnic dinners with tuna, egg, or chicken salad so that your family isn’t getting fast food all the time when you’re an active family. I pack baby carrots, grapes, apples, pears, juice packs or water bottles… no chips or other junk. I may make it look easy, but Monday John had rehearsal and I had a pot luck, Tuesday we had soccer things from 6 to 8:30, Wednesday I had pottery and Thursday we had soccer again until 8:30 or so. That means our family, as a whole entity, had not been together at home since Sunday. Well except for when we were rushing the kids to bed together Tuesday and Thursday at 9pm! Friday we went out to eat, grocery shopped and then put the kids in bed. Today, John had to work all morning until two and then had to leave at five for his evening improv performance. If someone says we’re not busy… they are just silly.

* Preset the coffee maker the day before while you’re stirring dinner. It makes for more peaceful mornings.

* Get places early and then check on e-mails, lists and things via your phone while you’re waiting. I hate being late.

* As a parent, I got in the habit of resting while the children rested… yeah that party is over. I workout while they rest or watch tv.- Stair climbing, squats, jumping jack, crunches… During the big nap time I can plug in the monitor and I run on the treadmill. I found working out doesn’t wake them up as much as if I tried doing the dishes or something.

Noting all of this. I am not perfect…. the van is a complete mess. The basement is interesting. Dusting… yeah that needs to happen and wiping down the walls. When this home is no longer a business next year I may not know what to do with myself! I’ve never lived in this house without it having 4 sets of parents coming in and out all the time. I can’t wait to move the treadmill out of my bedroom and have the office out of my dining room! Everyone surely gets fed and cared for here, but there are aspects for improvement for sure.

I hope you found at least one useful thing to this list!

~April~

The Unique Proposal

This is our story- it is not meant to offend anyone or to… in any way… insult your story or the story you want to have.

I had someone ask me if one of my rings was my engagement ring. I replied, “No it sure isn’t.” She said, “Oh and you aren’t wearing it?” I replied, “No, I don’t have one. I will let John tell that story.” She seemed a little surprised, but looked to John inquisitively. John looked annoyed and in his mind was probably thinking- Oh here we go again the story of how I never gave her an engagement ring.

John and I have been together for 18 years it has been such a journey here. He’s absolutely fabulous and the fact that he didn’t get me a ring doesn’t mean he’s not committed or able to hold his own financially. In fact, it doesn’t say anything negative like many of the other reasons I’ve heard people say they wouldn’t marry someone without a ring. I would marry John dressed in palm leaves on an island all alone with a seashell wedding band. I would marry John living by a river and sleeping in tents while acting like hobos living off of baked beans. It doesn’t matter the wealth of the situation. No matter the promise in a hunk of a diamond it doesn’t classify his dedication or love for me.

It took me a long time to realize this and not only accept it, but embrace it as it was. Of course many young girls dream of getting a beautiful diamond and having their love get down on one knee and say beautiful and memorable things. John always saw this as somewhat greedy and many people I know would be offended the thought ever crossed his mind. The ring, to John, equals a dollar sign and a goal to reach some status and does not symbolize love, commitment, or any of those other reasons people have for giving or receiving such a ring. John didn’t save up for a ring and never felt compelled to do so. He was honest about this for our entire relationship and he never wavered about it. I questioned it and wanted to be the norm and have the norm. Nothing extravagant… just something that symbolized all of those reasons.

When we were seventeen or so… about 1997 we were very serious about our relationship at this point. We had survived a year of him living in another state- just barely, but we made it. We had struggled to reboot again and found a new balance this time around. So we took a trip to Hills- yes like the department store. John had purchased this awesome cubic zirconia ring from Hills department store. In the same parking lot and in his parents car- he put that ring on my finger. It was a promise ring and he asked, “I am so in love with you and someday will you marry me?” I of course said yes and for years rocked my cubic zirconia ring with pride. Now I wore the ring without saying much about it. We didn’t tell many people that it was a promise ring or why I wore it. Mostly, we just kept it to ourselves. I told my friends of course… what girl wouldn’t.

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The promise ring. I haven’t worn it much since before our wedding as it was too small for my chunky fingers. It goes on nicely now after all these years.

In the years that passed, while I wore my promise ring, we went through bumps in the road and moments where we questioned everything and moments where we felt like the whole relationship could be a bust. We stuck it out and found new ways to balance things. By the fall of our senior year of college, we had decided we were staying on the track and it was serious now. More serious than it had ever been before… this time we were talking wedding plans and getting the ball rolling.

No ring. No down on one knee. He was firm he didn’t believe in it. I was still dreaming. He had no money for it anyways, but a girl can dream right? Or maybe she just needs to get over it and see love right there in front of her and not pray he goes into debt trying to get her the ring she just absolutely wants. Honestly, I knew exactly what kind of ring I wanted. I knew exactly what I was hoping for, but we just went ahead with the wedding plans. In the back of my mind, I had hoped he would be secretly saving up for one and I had hoped he would “man” up on this and just make my part of the dream come true.

I was hurt by this concept that we so desperately disagreed upon. My dream of getting this beautiful ring was disappearing and I was saddened by it. I came to the decision that I was still marrying this man and trusting that all the naysayers of the ‘man who doesn’t buy a ring’ isn’t really in love with you were all wrong. Yes, people said these things to me… to my face. This societal expectation that a man should get a ring for the woman he loves is very vocal on this side of things. I’m not sure John caught as much crap for it as I did. Though anyone not knowing this story and actually knows John and I – Does it make you think any less of our relationship? Any less of our commitment? Any less of our wedding or marriage? It shouldn’t.

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Oh man… I forgot to propose…

On our wedding day it poured rain. I mean buckets and buckets of rain about a half an hour or more before the ceremony. It was an outdoor wedding. Yes, I thought I might have a nervous breakdown. The power went out…. there was no music… there was no running water or flushing toilets… dear Lord. But really the Lord was listening… it was July it was unGodly hot and the downpour cooled things down just right and left things a little damp, but the power came back on and everything worked out just fine. About ten minutes before the ceremony John looked at his friend Joe and said, “Oh man, I forgot to propose… ” Joe said, “Um you’re kind of running out of time.”

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I’m not sure what is happening. Neither is anyone else. Note my sister Megan on the left… nervous and unsure of what is about to happen.

Now many of you who think that John is just an on the whim kind of guy- let me tell you that is not always the case. He’s a thinker and a very intelligent man. He came running towards the lodge I was in and of course all of the wedding party tried to stop him from seeing me… everyone started saying “OH No… what has happened to the power now.” My heart sank. I instantly thought he’s not going through with this but he says, “Wait I’ve got blind folds!” (They matched the wedding colors… brilliant man.) So he gets blind folded and I get blind folded- yes it messed up my hair and yes you can see it in all the pictures but oh well.

They walked him to me and he held my hands and got down on one knee. He said, “Several years ago, I asked you to marry me some day, but I’m here now to ask you if you will marry me today?” Of course… I said yes… I was just thinking about how terribly wonderful he is and how my glasses were shoved into my eyeballs. He ran off to do the whole wedding thing. I finally started to cry once my glasses were dislodged from my eye sockets… One of the most beautiful moments of my life. More precious than the ceremony or the scripted vows were, because those words, his words, came from the heart.

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Note again my sister Megan… we were all completely taken aback.

There is another part to the story. Yes, I wear a diamond “engagement” ring on my left hand with my wedding band- for those of you who know you’ve seen one on my hand. It is not my engagement ring. It is something more wonderful than that ever would have been. In 2006, our son Alden was born. Alden was a wonderful baby and such a blessing to us both. For my first mother’s day, I received a bouquet of flowers, a dishwasher, and a diamond ring. John had decided that he would give me a ring with our first child’s birthstone in it. As luck would have it for me- Alden was born in April and his birthstone is a diamond.

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Alden’s ring with my wedding band. I tried wearing it on another hand and it just looked silly alone. This is a very special combination of rings.
My husband and my son.

Maggie’s birthstone is peridot. It is a green stone which just so happens to be my absolute favorite color. I haven’t gotten my Maggie gift yet. I’m still waiting and he knows it. I’m sure he’ll think ahead and surprise me with something amazing.

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John with our son Alden

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John and our daughter Maggie

For all my naysayers that said I “shouldn’t” have married him- you were wrong. He is simply a man standing up for what he thought was right and sticking to his guns about it. I used to speak of this in disappointment and give him a hard time about it. I have moved away from disappointment to embracing his ability to stand his ground so firmly on something. Our story is unique and just because I didn’t have the traditional proposal and ring doesn’t mean he doesn’t love me or is any less of a man because of it.

Choosing a Childcare Provider

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I am a middle teacher by education, but due to my current employment I have become quite the source of information in early childhood parenting. I get daily contacts on breastfeeding, daycares, pediatricians, potty training and a host of other things. Today’s post is written for someone I went to high school with and she had asked for questions you could ask when interviewing a childcare provider. Now this isn’t something I take lightly and some people might be offended by some of the questions, but you’d be surprised by the people I have met on this path that lead me to where I am.

The responses are based on an in-home center, but could be used for other daycare centers for the most part. In the state of Virginia there are daycare centers, preschools and childcare centers all hosted by some sort of organization. Then there are private in home centers. Legally, in the state of Virginia you can have a licensed in home center, a voluntarily registered center, or a one with a regular business license. In a licensed center this means that you can more than five children in the center and hire assistants, offer meal programs and have your house subjected to state inspections. A voluntarily registered center means that you can have the meal programs – things like the state assists with childcare expenses and you get paid via the government if you want. Then there is the kind I have where you register and pay for a business license with your city/county… you can not have more than five children, you can not employ anyone outside of the home and you have to, in my city, register every single item in your home that is daycare used. This makes my eyes cross- every bowl, spoon, bib and toy. This is hard to be accurate about since my kids live here too!

Here was the answer for my friend considering an in-home daycare facility.

Questions you need to ask.

1.What’s the daily routine? – What you want them to answer is up to you, but it is better to be aware. Some people want structure for their kids, some want them reading by four, and some just want kids to be kids and playing.

2. Do you have any pets? -You may have an allergy to cats, a fear of snakes, or not really care, but you just want to know what’s going on in the house. It’s amazing what someone will not think is important until after the fact. We have very large yellow labrador retrievers and I don’t even let someone come for an interview without telling them that first.

3. Do you feel comfortable and have experience with breastmilk? Do you know how to warm it and have space for frozen milk?– I met one woman that I was interviewing once that thought it was gross so she wouldn’t even humor it… again you would be surprised.

4. Where do the children sleep? -Don’t forget that this is their home! If they are licensed all the babies have to be in legitimate cribs and all sleep in the same room. My house they sleep all over the place in pack-n-plays or on sleeping mats. I used every single inch of my home for the daycare. One person wouldn’t let us see where they kids slept because it was her home and she wanted things private for herself.

5. Who all lives in the home?– Yes ask that question…

6. What are your hours of operation?

7. Do you take many days off… if so do you have an assistant that covers? – We met one woman who took an entire month off from work in her contract paid by the parents throughout the year. That wasn’t something my husband and I were not comfortable with at all.

8. Do you take the children out of the home? – Here we go on walks a lot- parks, strolls and out to eat. I have 4 strollers.. yes 4. It’s ridiculous. One woman was caring for five daycare kids and five of her own children and had a fifteen passenger van and went out twice a day. One woman and yes that’s legal, but that doesn’t mean you have to be comfortable with it.

9. Do you expect paid vacation and holiday time? -I take all major holidays off. We met one person that had their birthday and their kids off… and it wasn’t deducted from her pay. Some things you may find reasonable… some you may not.

10. What are your rates by age group?

11. How many children do you keep? (If they have their own children they don’t legally count in the numbers, but all the other kids can’t be more than five for places like mine… yes people break this rule)

12. What ages and sex are the children you currently keep?

13. Do you have formal training in this field? Legally, this is not required. What you want to hear is up to you.

14. Are you part of a daycare providers social network or group?

15. Do you have children of your own?

16. How long have you been doing this?

17. What is your normal protocol for ill children?

18. Do you have CPR and first aid training including infants and children?

19. Do you take pay weekly monthly cash check etc?- Some people want to get paid under the table and that may be fine with you until you go to do your taxes and can’t claim the childcare expense…

20. Do you claim taxes and are willing to provide my daycare expenses with your ssn or tax id at the end of the year? Some people want a receipt for the year some want one every week. Right after the first of the year all of my clients get a printed out sheet of all of their payments for their tax records.

21. Do you have emergency contact forms to be filled out?

22. Do you allow the children to watch tv?

23. Do you know the list of prevention for SIDS?

24. Who provides food and what are regular meals like? What time?– I have times I feed children, but some people are such sticklers they literally will not feed your child if they are late in the morning.

25. What kinds of items should I bring with me to get started? Sleep items?

26. How do you deal with misbehaviors? 

27. Have you ever had anyone seriously injured while in your care? – It happens. Accidents happen- one of my girls ran into a wall/gate and sliced her head open. She had to have staples. She didn’t slip or trip on anything other than thin air, but it was handled well and all was fine.

28. Do you own a gun? If so, is it locked away properly? – Awkward question, but good to know. Once we went to visit a friend that lives in the country. They knew we were coming, but my son walked into a room to get to the restroom and that husband shot up out of his chair and ran. He had a loaded gun just laying there. Yep. It’s worth asking.

29. Do you have a home phone and cell phone?

30. Do you have an emergency action plan? – We’ve had several tornado warnings in the last few years and yes here in Virginia I still have a flipping plan with water, diapers, wipes, a flashlight, etc just incase.

31. Do you or anyone else smoke inside the home? – I had one lady tell me over the phone that she only left the kids alone during her smoke breaks… classy.

After having a really scary babysitter situation for our children, this may seem paranoid. Most clients are friends or friends of friends. I have met several people that found me on craigslist and I have found wonderful clients on craigslist, Maybe I’m crazy but I have taken the persons e-mail and searched their social network pages and associations. I’ve looked up their GIS information, sexual offenders registries and local criminal and civil court records. After my mix up with the babysitter, who took my kids out without carseats, I looked her up and realized she had a bunch of speeding tickets and a sketchy financial history and it was all available on the local public record website. You can think me paranoid or just thorough.

I hope you find this list useful! Copy, paste and take it with you folks.