Tag Archives: children

Thoughtful Thursday: This Far on the Path

Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?
-1 Chronicles 17:16

This is a question I ask myself time and again.  It helps to not only keep my life in perspective when compared to others on this earth, but it also helps keep my vision and praise trained on God.

Who Am I?

Truly, I am a wife and mother of two.  That description alone makes me one of the most blessed people on earth.  That my husband is The BHE and my children are healthy and bright just sweetens the deal.

I am a home-owner, gainfully employed, intelligent and educated, and driven to excel.  What gifts those are!

My friends are many and easily contacted.  My family is spread wide with experiences to share.  My neighbors aren’t the friendliest but I do live in a relatively peaceful, non-violent town.  Thinking about all the places I could have been born, all the places I could have ended up, and all the scary things in the world my friends and family have seen, I am exceedingly blessed to live where I choose and in an area safe to raise my family.

I am organized and thrifty, I am physically and mentally strong and healthy, I am clean and friendly.  Who I am is in itself a phenomenal gift.

O Lord God

It is to Him that I give thanks and praise.  God provided all of this, from my first breath to every one after that, from the roof over my head to the thoughts in it, from the food in my belly and the clothes on my back.  This is God’s work.  How truly AWE-some is that!

The Almighty has created so much that it cannot even be fathomed, and even more unfathomable to me is that He chose to bless me with so much, both here on earth and the gifts He promises in the afterlife.

The Lord is my shepherd and I do not want, and for that I must never forget to thank Him.  Even during the difficult times, I have always had shelter and sustenance, people to rely on, and my own mind to depend on to think my way through.  These are all things which God granted me, without my even asking, without expecting praise in return.

Too often, the simple things in life are taken for granted and that leads to even the more complex things being taken for granted.  How often has it chafed you in your life to be taken for granted by someone?  Now imagine if you were brought out of poverty and destitution, starvation and uncleanliness, from a place of no potable water and surrounded by violence and fear…and you were brought into my life, where my family has more vehicles than drivers, more houses than we know what to do with, potable water at the lift of a lever, lights and fans and the Internet at the flip of a switch, constantly accessible food in the refrigerator and pantry.

O Lord God, I should drop to my knees now to thank You profusely.

And What Is My Family

To me, my husband and children are very special people, my everything.  We love one another and care for each other.  But what is my family to our town, our society, the world?  And what are we to God the Almighty?

My family is my everything.  Even broadening the description to cover all relatives, in-laws, friends, and co-workers, my connections to those around me mean more to me than any possession.  If my house were to burn down tonight, I would wake the BHE to help grab our children and cat plus the photos of me with my grandparents and him with his dad before running out the door.  If I managed to have my phone on me, I would call my dad, our friends, someone we know to come help us and provide shelter for the night.  I know how blessed I am to have such a vast network of people to call my family.

What are we to God, though?  We are all His children, His flock, even those who don’t know or have chosen not to follow the footsteps of His Son.  It is singularly amazing that of all the creatures on the planet, God chose us to be special and rule the beasts and tame the waters and receive more of His blessings each day.

This Far

On this, I go back to the first point of who I am.  I am not just intelligent but have an education and the means to further my knowledge, like access to libraries and the financial steadiness to have regular Internet access in my home.  I am not just healthy but have the opportunities to visit doctors and grocery stores where I can purchase the best foods for my body and mind.  I am not just sheltered in my home but actually have three freaking houses on nice properties that are full of comfortable, clean, and sturdy furnishings and can have the temperatures regulated at the press of a button.

THIS IS HOW FAR I have climbed with my two hands and the grace of God.  THIS IS HOW FAR the Lord has brought me.  THIS IS HOW FAR my family has come from humble beginnings and days of fear and uncertainty.  THIS IS HOW FAR God has brought us with promises of much more to come.

For that, I will give thanks and praise.  For that, I will focus on this verse when I become enmeshed in the anxieties that come with weakness and an unclear view of the future.  For that, I will try to keep in perspective that I am so unbelievably blessed.

A recent gem from my Devotional app.


When I lose sight of the path, I will seek His Word to remind me how far we have come.  Gratitude and perspective, folks.

What helps you see the beauty of how far you’ve come on your path?

Plea to My People

**This is an edited version of the post I added to a Facebook group I lovingly dubbed “The Village Fountain”.**

Dear Villagers,

I need your help.

Yesterday, I accepted a job offer to become the Communications Specialist for the Diocese.  I will be working on their newsletter, subscriptions, website, web presence, and parish websites.  This job is basically my dream job; I say “basically” because I’ll be working for a non-profit, which means I won’t be making $2 million a year doing it.

As my new boss said, my skill set is vast and my education is impressive.  I also know that I am stubborn and prideful.  But beyond these things, I am intelligent.  I am smart enough to know when to shelve my pride and stubbornness to ask for help.  None of us were meant to go through life alone, so I am reaching out to each of you for assistance.

Taking this position means that I “switch” with the BHE:  he will stay home with the kids, work on the houses, start projects at the farm, and take Angel to preschool in the Fall.  We keep talking about how we can’t make it a 100% switch since our skills are different and our work around the properties is so different.  This is where you come in!  We would like to have someone watch the children on Tuesdays and Thursdays, starting April 18th, and lasting until we sell both in town properties (goal:  by the end of 2018).

We would prefer that someone we know take care of Angel and Rover in our home or, if they have children of similar ages, in their home.  We will pay, of course, but may need some flexibility on pay being cash or work.  The BHE is very handy and I’ll totally do someone else’s laundry without issue.

Would you or anyone you know be interested in helping us a day or two a week?  Think on it, ask around, and get back to me, please.  I know the power of networking and the power of prayer, so I am confident that among us, we can come up with a solution.  I’m so excited about this job, but I know we need the help of our village to raise our children.

Much love and peace to each of you!

Remember: Not one of us was meant to travel the paths of life alone. 

The 5 Best Pieces of Parenting Advice I Can Give

My last blog post was a couple months ago and on the negative side.  This will be my first blog post of the New Year; I’m going to write something positive.

In the last post, I listed off the 5 Worst Pieces of Parenting Advice I have ever received.  Now I’m going to share with you the 5 Best Pieces of Parenting Advice that I have received as well as what I’ve discovered along the way.

Take these with a grain of salt.  Or as gospel.  This whole parenting thing is different for all of us.  So here goes…

#1.  There is no such thing as the “right time” when it comes to having kids.

The BHE and I were asked when we were going to start our family before we were even married.  I know, I know: this is an acceptable thing in our society.  But for us it was not part of the plan.  We had a Grand Master Plan.  We had our goals and our priorities and we just knew when the right time would be for us to get pregnant.

Oh, boy.

First off, folks, I can tell you from experience that just because you decided you wanted to get pregnant/have a child by such-n-such a date DOES NOT MEAN your bodies will cooperate.  Seriously.  This is out of your hands.

We tried for a couple years after deciding it was the “right time” and my heart broke month after month.  We have friends who tried for much longer, some without any success, and others with the kind of success that led to great loss.

There isn’t a “perfect” time to have children.  Your house, your career, your finances, your car, your whatever will never be perfectly aligned in reality the way you think you want them to be before you have children.

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Just a few weeks before the Angel was born, here I am working in the empty nursery, painted yet not ready for a baby!

If you know you want kids, take comfort in knowing that no matter when or how they come, you’ll handle it like a champ.  No matter if your car isn’t a brand-new minivan or if the nursery never got a fresh coat of paint or you’re still at that job you hate.  Parenthood is a whole new ballgame; roll with it.

#2.  But it is all about the timing.

No, seriously, watch the clock and the calendar.  Timing is everything.

During pregnancy, you’ll be seeing an OB or midwife monthly then weekly.  You’ll be asked about when you had your last period, when you last peed, when you first felt movement, what frequency you felt movement, and on and on.

During labor, you’ll be timing contractions and counting breaths.  Make sure there is a clock in the room where you deliver your baby.  The wall clock in the delivery room during the birth of my son was broken, so I had no idea what time of day or night it was, no concept of how long I had truly been going at it, no idea until after the fact that I had been laboring for 29 ½ hours with over 3 hours of pushing.  No idea.  None.

TWENTY-NINE AND A HALF HOURS!

During early infancy, you’ll be tracking the times spent feeding, how many ounces or minutes, when was the last bowel movement, and more.

During the early days of solid foods, you will have to count the ounces as well as days since you introduced a new food.  And you’ll be counting more dirty diapers.

During toddlerhood, you will need to watch the clock to keep track of when your tot got out of bed, when was breakfast, how soon is snack, when you need to feed them lunch so you can get them into a timely nap, how long was the nap, how long after the nap until bedtime, how long between dinner and bedtime…

And you think I’m kidding.  I’m not.  Watch the clock.  It is the best way to avoid meltdowns induced by lack of food or sleep.  Because, really, the wee beasties need copious amount of both if you expect them to be angels.

A schedule helps them as well as you.  There’s advice all over the place, from your pediatrician to this lifestyle blog, about how children need a regimen to maintain equilibrium and how parents need their children to have a regimen to maintain sanity.

#3.  When in doubt, present food.

If your child is crying, check for these things:

  • Is he/she hurt?
  • Is the diaper dirty?
  • Is he/she tired?
  • Is he/she hungry?

If your darling angel isn’t hurt, has a dry diaper, just woke from a nap, and just ate, feed him or her again.  For real.  Present more food or another bottle or your breast.  Feed them.

My son cried way more than my daughter did during his first year.  It feels like he was constantly wailing about something.  He also was the size of a two year old at his 9 month check-up.  He’s a beast.  What I didn’t understand in the first 6 months or so was that he was screaming like he was hungry even when he just ate because he was already hungry again.  He never wanted to stop eating.

 

Now that he’s one, my son wants a snack cup in his hand as soon as he exits his high chair after breakfast.  For real.  Feed him.  And then feed him again.  When all else fails, feed him.

#4.  Have a canned response that you have practiced delivering without emotion to anyone who dispenses unsolicited advice.

I learned this one from a good friend who chose a very non-traditional route for becoming a mother.  We had a lunch date where I asked her the questions I felt she would receive throughout her child’s life; she told me she had a response ready to cover most of them.  For the ones she wasn’t prepared for, she just wouldn’t answer.

Boom.  Done.  Response is ready, no matter the circumstance.

So I thought this should apply to all new parents.  We all know we will hear things in our lives that upset us or irk us or get under our skin and fester.  What better way to save yourself some strife than to have a reply ready!  It doesn’t have to be snarky; in fact, it shouldn’t be.  It should be an unemotional, canned response.

Try this:  That’s interesting.  Thanks for sharing.

Or:  Great!  I bet that works for a lot of people.

Even:  You are very considerate to share that with me.

I highly suggest avoiding anything that is open-ended or could lead to further discussion.  Unless you really, really want to know/be upset/upset the other person.  Just have a one-liner ready to roll out and then walk away or change the subject.

There are a million other topics you can get into an argument about.  Try politics.  Or religion.  Walk away from parenting advice that makes you shudder.

#5:  You need a village.  If you don’t have one, start building one.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a network of people you trust and can count on for anything in your parenting adventure.  You will need a shoulder to cry on, someone to watch the kids in an emergency, a person you can count on to come over with wine but without judgement, a mother-figure for you, grandparent figures for your kids, someone whose advice you can count on, other mothers and fathers at the same stage of parenting, other mothers and fathers further along or even further behind… you need people who get you as well as get this whole parenting gig.

I don’t feel like I had a village for most of these first years of my journey as a mother.  Too many people have come and gone, for one.  Also, I live in the middle of nowhere, a good hour from any member of my family, more than a half hour from most of my friends and former coworkers, forty-odd minutes from any major place for groceries or shopping… seriously, if it weren’t for two libraries within twenty minutes of us, my weeks would crawl by.  I have church on Sundays and three story times a week to look forward to.

People need a community in which to thrive.  We cannot go it alone.  Life isn’t designed that way.  We are commune creatures, to a point.  If you want to fight off baby blues or the more sinister postpartum depression, keep your dears very near.

My advice here, to tag onto this most important piece, is to start with the free things and go from there.  Your family and friends, right now, are free.  Call them, invite them over, make plans, whatever:  keep them in the loop and keep them close.  Then look up other free things to make new friends, to meet other parents, to be around those with kids the same ages as yours; try local libraries and parks, your church, a zoo, a mall playground.  Go to places you would normally go, though, instead of forcing yourself into awkward situations that may repel you from great people.  Someday I’ll write a post about being the odd one out at a mommy group full of women who could not believe I had driven almost 3 hours to be present.

Having children will isolate you from people you never expected to lose.  It will also introduce you to people you once never noticed or maybe even looked sideways at.  Be open-minded and recognize that it takes a village not just to raise a child but to support the parents.  We are human; we are not meant to go it alone.

Parenthood is amazing and eye-opening. Your heart will be full to bursting with love and pride.  Parenthood is really freaking hard.  Your body will be drained, your eyes will be burning, you will lose your mind from time to time, and you will need support.  It can be so isolating and exhausting as well as exhilarating and network-building, what with all the story times and preschool functions.

A village gift

You really do need a village.

Won’t you be part of mine?

The 5 Worst Pieces of Parenting Advice I’ve Received

I have read a couple different blog posts recently about good and bad parenting advice.  Coupled with knowing a handful of lovely ladies with newborns or expecting, I decided to share some of the gems I have received over the past couple years.  It is hard to call it well-meaning advice when it sounds mean… or just plain stupid.

#1.

“You shouldn’t cloth diaper because you’ll never know when the diaper is wet.”

cloth-diaper-clare

The Angel, 2 weeks old, rocking a cloth nappy and matching socks

When I asked for an explanation, she said that only disposable diapers have that blue line to let me know when the baby has peed.  She insisted I would be harming my child with cloth diapers because of the higher likelihood of diaper rash.

Don’t worry; I hear the argument that just ran through your head.  Almost every time I use a disposable diaper that doesn’t have a blue line, I shake my head as I replay her words in my mind.

See, not everything said to a new parent is good or bad or misleading.  Sometimes, it is downright ridiculous.  This gem is my go-to bit of “advice” when I’m illustrating to other new parents how they’ll be inundated with well-meaning people and ought to come up with a canned response to their so-called wisdom.

#2.

“You carry your baby so much that she won’t learn how to walk.  She is too big for that baby carrier anyway.”

The baby carrier in question was designed for babies weighing between 8 and 25 pounds, and the baby being discussed weighed about 10 pounds at the time.

I love baby carriers.  I have a couple of them.  There are different designs for different activities, for all sizes and shapes, and you can easily find support groups or meet-and-swap groups on Facebook.

Also, I love holding my kids.  I wish I could always carry them always.  I like having them on me, I like hugging them, I like smelling them, I like feeling their weight in my arms, and I wish I could have them with me always.  Ok, not always:  the Angel recently grasped the concept of “privacy” and now revels in the chance to stand outside the bathroom door while I’m using the toilet and tell her little brother to leave me alone.

Our struggles to conceive, the joy I had about these new lives while they were in my womb, and the drastically different ways my children came into the world are all the more reasons why I want to hold them.  After everything, I don’t need someone telling me to put my babies down.

Believe me, they will learn to walk.  The Handsome Boy was walking independently and extensively before 10 months, and the Angel took her first steps the day before her first birthday party.

#3.

“You should hold your infant over the toilet right after she eats, starting around 6 months.  This will potty-train her by 12 months.”

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She figured it out and he will someday, too.

I cannot imagine how on earth a child who cannot walk could be potty-trained that early.  Not to mention Science Says the brain and body aren’t wired that early for that sort of knowledge.  Suspending an infant over that “swirling vortex of terror” just sounds like a terrible idea.

Kids do as they want, really, when it comes to potty training.  My experience says that while you can guide your child, she will figure it out before it actually becomes a priority for her.  Then it will be no big deal.

No matter how early or how quickly your tot learns to use the toilet, you’ll still be wiping butts for some time afterwards.

And just because the Angel proudly uses her potty Every Single Time today, including wiping herself and washing her hands, does not mean that tomorrow she won’t leak a bit in her panties or throw a fit when you outrageously demand she wipe herself.

#4.

“You should take a switch to her.  She’ll mind you then.”

Wow.  Seriously?  You want me to not just physically reprimand my daughter, not give her a quick spank on her bum, but actually whip her….

I think I’m going to be ill.

Granted, the individual who suggested this was a much older man who had never raised children.  Sadly, his generation was whipped (not using a colloquialism here, folks, but was actually whipped with a thin reed of a stick that could leave vicious welts or even split skin).  He was just spouting what he knew, from 7 or 8 decades earlier.

People, don’t ever suggest someone lay a hand on their child.  If a parent so believes that physical punishment is part of disciplining a child, let’s all hope they keep that to themselves.  It has become taboo to discuss spanking.  We talk about it behind closed doors with close friends and family.  Even then, we know we are subject to criticism no matter which way we say is best or worst.

I am not perfect, I do not always adhere to the guidelines of Positive Discipline, and I have lost my shit a time or two.  No matter how you feel about reprimanding, punishing, disciplining, or the like, I think we can all agree that a switch is just out of the question.

#5.

“Because he’s so big,” she says while holding my 9-month-sized 4 month old, “you should tell people he’s a developmentally disabled 9 month old instead of an overweight 6 month old.”

Wait.

What.

You mean to tell me it is better to lie that he is older but behind in cognitive and motor skills development than it is to have a complete stranger possibly judge me for him being fat?

Challenged is better than fat?!? 

That’s what you’re saying?

Dear me, that is what you’re saying.

He isn’t challenged any more than he is fat.  He is a big baby who actually is ahead of all the mile-markers. But that isn’t what upsets me about this.

It is that you would dare not only to THINK this about a child BUT TO SAY IT TO HIS MOTHER!!

chubby-baby

Like, I said, folks:  there are some people who cannot grasp the fact that what they believe is well-meant advice is actually just mean.  Wrong.  Unacceptable.  Or stupid.

If you can’t say something nice (or constructive), don’t say anything at all.  Do not assume you can parent other parents.  I may be new at this, but I really don’t need random advice.  I will come to you if I need some guidance.  Otherwise, everyone, butt out.

Believe me, even after more than 3 years as a stay-at-home mom, I feel there are days where I am still a newbie, still learning the ropes, still bungling through.  I also have the days where I feel like I should have a cape and tights because I’m such a bad-ass mother.

What’s the worst that has been said to you?

Steps of Deep Sorrow on This Path

This begins the second part of my series on grief.  I’ve decided to “write it all out”, defining this feeling and expressing just how hard it is to mourn with small children.

The Big Blows

Throughout my life, I was compared to my dad’s mother.  My laugh, my body type, my sense of humor, my love of reading all seem to have come from this spunky old woman.  In the last decade, after I not only became an adult but really became aware of who I am and where I’m meant to go with my life, I became really close to her.

I talked to my Grandma Lucy at least once a week for at least an hour each time for almost 10 years.  I shared everything with her, and she listened and talked and guided and laughed with me.  She was, truly, a mother to me.  Lucy talked to me not like I was a grandchild to be doted on or coddled but like another adult.  We talked like we were old friends who had much wisdom to impart to one another.  And that meant so much to me.

She became ill shortly after I became pregnant the second time.  She entered a nursing facility as I entered my third trimester.  My son was born shortly after her birthday, right at Thanksgiving last year.  Lucy returned home at the beginning of the year so she could die in peace.

I buried my grandmother on a bitter cold, snowy day while clutching my newborn son.

My husband was my rock.  He guided me, he cared for me, he helped with the children, he answered our daughter’s questions, he listened and provided.

Mourning Needs More

But what he couldn’t do was completely take over the care of both of our kids while I gave into the grief.  I’m a SAHM with a duty, and our son was exclusively breastfed at that time.  I couldn’t drop everything, curl up on the couch with tissues, and spend days sobbing in my pajamas instead of eating or taking care of myself.  I couldn’t stop caring for my children, either.

I didn’t have the luxury of giving into my grief.

I have a family I need to care for, and I have two littles that require me to function and provide for them.

When my father called to tell me his mother had died, I fell to the floor.  I literally dropped to my knees.  I took a deep breath, thanked him for calling, and asked if I could call him later.  I let myself have one big gulping sob and then I heard my daughter ask, “What wrong, Mommy?”

Immediately, I had to suck it up.  I had to pull it together and use my words and try to explain the situation.  Through the next few days of buying the kids funeral-appropriate attire and booking a hotel room and arranging for someone to feed the cats, I also had to make three meals a day and change diapers and stick to a routine.

Which left the dark of night the only chance I could really cry.  And even then, I had to do it quietly so as not to disturb my slumbering family.

You Try to “Move On”

Life carried on afterward, as it does.  Like my friend warned me, the grief does creep up on me sometimes.  There are days where I look at the framed photo of Lucy and me, and I smile; there are days where I get tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat when I am reminded of the loss.

There are also the days where something wonderful happens and I immediately think that I need to call Lucy and tell her about it.  And quickly the joy snaps to grief and the yawning cup of sadness becomes thick as it reveals how full it still is because I recall that I can’t call her, I can’t share this with her.

Yes, there is the part of me that knows she did see it, she did share it with me, but we all know that accepting your deceased loved ones are in Heaven isn’t the same as talking to them on the phone or visiting with them in your home.  Is it selfish, or even unfaithful, for me to say that I don’t think that is good enough?  That Heaven isn’t good enough?  I just want to call her.

And Again

We knew my grandfather would follow his wife within a year.  It had been half-joked about in the past, and Grandpa even said at her funeral that he was ready to go with her.  It took a few months, but he did join her.  Frank passed in July, just 5 months behind Lucy.

Since our wedding anniversary and the Angel’s birthday are close in date, we generally take a short family vacation in early July.  I made plans for us to spend a few days in the city where I was born and had visited so often because my grandparents lived there.  I wanted to show the BHE and the kids the places where I played and went to school, learned to swim, got bit by a peacock, and ate my favorite meals.  I also wanted to make sure we visited my grandfather.

That was one of the hardest things I’ve done since saying goodbye to my grandmother.

He didn’t know me.  I knew from a few brief phone calls and the reports from my father, uncle, and brother that Grandpa wasn’t really all Grandpa anymore.  But to walk into their home, that still smelled like her, and have him look at me and not know who I was… was just too much.  The BHE handled it well, guiding the conversation and intently listening as Grandpa’s mind moved around his history: he wasn’t here with us in the present but jumping about his own life’s chronology and remembering people and places we didn’t know.  I busied myself with the kids.

A few weeks later, when my dad called to say Grandpa had died, I again hit my knees.  I again thanked him and said I’d call him back when I got it together.  I again took that long, keening gasp.  And I again had my little girl get in my face and ask, “What wrong, Mommy?”  Once again, I had to pull it together, tamp down the grief, explain in terms a 3-year-old could understand, and proceed through life with a lid loosely fitted onto that cup of sadness.

Overflow

Now, though, the cup was fuller, the contents pushing against the bottom of the lid.  In some ways, that made the funeral and all that entails a bit easier to deal with.  We had just done this: we knew what was expected, how to act, who we’d see, what needed to be done, what wasn’t so important.

In other ways, the grieving was that much harder, as I was grieving the loss of both of my grandparents rather than just the one.  I had not yet lost myself in grief over losing the woman who meant the most to me in all my life and here I had to keep that tamped down as I poured more grief on top, more sadness that I couldn’t express, as we buried my grandfather.

Mourning with small children is a luxury.

Giving into the sadness, letting the cup overflow so that it can wash itself out and be, not empty, but calmer and easier to deal with, just isn’t an option when so much is expected of you.

I don’t want to scare them.  I don’t want to abandon them.  I need to feed them, clothe them, bathe them, et cetera… but I also need to guide them.  I need to show them what grief looks like but really show them how to handle it, how to experience an emotion without it overriding your senses or your life.

Really, though, I wanted to let that cup fill up and splash out.  I wanted to wallow in my own misery for a few days.  I wanted to not care for a bit and wear every ugly emotion on my sleeve just so I could get it out of my system.  But I couldn’t.  I can’t.  That isn’t responsible parenting.

Why I Have to Write

So I’ve written this post time and time again in my head.  I have sat down at the laptop to pound them out only to keep hitting the backspace because I wasn’t saying what I wanted to say.  I tried to write it all out but it just wasn’t flowing right.  I wasn’t saying with my writing what I meant to convey.  The point of my blog is to share my experiences to enlighten and guide others, to show where I’ve done it wrong as much as where I’ve done it right, to speak to that bit in all of us that doesn’t want to go it alone and needs to know that someone somewhere gets us.

Healthy Baby Home Party 

Sharing something I’m passionate about couldn’t have been more fun!

First Things First

Every year, we have thrown a party for our little girl’s birthday. The theme was her choice, I made some fun invites, we bought colorful goodies, and the party was so much fun.

Because of the timing of the party, I decided to make it a joint operation.  The focus would be on the Angel but I would have the best audience possible for my Healthy Baby Home Party.  The people I care about the most were in attendance, as were most of the little people (re:  adorable children) I love so much.

We did your typical cake-and-presents, but then I passed out the sample bags along with some great information about creating a healthy home for happy babies (and parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles).

Passion

It means a lot to the BHE and me to provide the best we can for our children. We care about their health and safety as well as that of our home and the environment.

A few years back, we really got into cleaner living, with a big focus on food. These days, we try our best to eat organic and nonGMO foods as well as not support the major chemical companies that are harming the world and its population with poisons.

But it isn’t just our food! I mean, we can eat organic and use cloth diapers, but what good is that really doing our babies if the dishes they eat off of, the detergents used on their diapers and clothes, the cleaners sprayed on the tub they bathe in are full of harsh chemicals?

Healthy Baby Home Party

As a member of Seventh Generation’s Generation Good, I was presented with the opportunity to share my passion and spread the word about the Come Clean campaign with free samples. I received a great big box full of free goodies to give my guests to not only learn about the facts but also test some of the best products on the market, like Plum Organics, Zarbee’s, Bobble, American Meadows, and of course, Seventh Generation.

There’s this video:  Maya Knows Clean

And this one:  Seventh Generation:  40 Weeks webisode by Big Belli, LLC

Plus, for hosting, I was given some games and prizes to really teach through fun. Bingo for Bobble? Memory for Detergent? Hey, why not!

Grateful

I am so thankful for my family and friends. I am filled with gratitude and awe today as I go through the presents my daughter received. Thank you thank you thank you!

My heart is lifted by the knowledge that those I love had fun, got some goodies, learned that there are alternatives to home cleaners that can trigger asthma, saw the benefits of dishes washed with “clean” dish soap, ate a cake that tasted as good as it looked, and exited my home happier and a little healthier than when they entered it.

Generation Good

Generation Good, a comunity supporting bright & safe solutions.

“We’ve always felt that being a part of a community is about connecting to what matters. And we know that what matters most to you is raising your family in a safe and healthy environment.

 You’ll love being part of Generation Good™ – a community where you can exchange tips, let your opinions be known, try new products, receive valuable offers, and take on missions that matter!”

Learn something. Share. Enjoy.

This home party wasn’t the only thing I’ve received free from Seventh Generation. I have been selected in the past to try laundry detergent and baby wipes. They sent me free samples and coupons, only asking that in return I provide an unbiased opinion of their products. This company wants to know how its consumers feel about what they are doing.

Check it out!

Disclaimer

I got awesome stuff for free. I was not paid to write this blog post. I have received no money and I will not receive anything if you click on any of the included links.  All opinions and pictures are mine.  Well, except for the image that I copy-and-pasted from the Generation Good sign-up site.

I am feeling like I don’t know how to write a proper disclaimer; I just don’t want my readers thinking I’m a sales person for Seventh Generation or any of the other companies that were part of the host kit I received for the Healthy Baby Home Party.  I’m not in sales. I write about how I am on, and want to help you get on, a thoughtfully sought path towards a cleaner, greener, healthier, happier life.

Shopping with Purpose (Free Printable!)

I get asked all the time how I do it:  how I save so much on groceries, how I only shop each store only once a month, how I manage my fridge and pantry, how we have the money to host and feed people all the time, how I make it all happen for cheap.

Well, I’m going to tell you how I do it.  Then, I am going to let you try out my method for yourself.  That’s right, honey:  FREE PRINTABLES!  Everyone loves ‘em, lots of people use ‘em.  I made a pretty one just for you.
image

My Method, with You in Mind

First, write out your NEED list.

Example:  I NEED paper towels soon, so even without a coupon or a sale price, I will have to buy a package.  I NEED fresh produce so I’ll look at what’s in season and on sale at each store.

Next, write out your WANT list.

I WANT my husband’s favorite chips, breakfast sausages for the Angel, and yogurt to make frozen treats in this crazy heat.

Third, if you coupon, coupon now.  If you don’t coupon, start.

Since I am a member of Inbox Dollars , I like to go to their site and access Coupons.com through it.  All the same coupons PLUS the bonus of ten cents added to my ID account for each redeemed coupon.  It’s great. 

Once I have all my coupons selected and printed, I sort them with the coupons I may have received with a receipt or in the mail.  I have an accordion folder that’s about 4″ tall where I have the coupons sorted by store, and I put them in by date.  I also have a slot for “manufacture food” and “manufacture dry goods” for the coupons that don’t have to be used at a specific store.  (The other slots in my accordion doohickey that I bought years ago in Target’s Dollar Spot hold rewards cards, receipts, and post-its and a pen if I forget my list at home and need to make another before entering a store.)

Then, check the advertisements for the stores you go to most frequently.

I have an app on my Android phone called Flipp that shows me most of my local sales ads.  I have marked which ones are my “favorites.”

Not all of the stores I like to go to have their ads available through Flipp.  Maybe you get a weekly newspaper, maybe you use a different app, or maybe you turn to Google each week to find what you’re looking for.

Personally, I use Flipp for Kroger, Aldi’s, WalMart, Target, and Fresh Thyme.  There’s a local meat market that I have pinned their website to a folder on my phone dedicated to saving money.

Finally, as I go through each ad, I write down what is on sale that I am interested in.  I mark down next to the items on my NEED, WANT, and COUPON lists which store has the best price.

I also write down things of interest that are on sale but that I don’t necessarily NEED but could possibly WANT in the future.  Or maybe I don’t NEED it now but will someday NEED it.  For instance, I buy cat litter when it is on sale and I buy as much as I can at the time.  Yes, I’ve marched through Target with almost 100 pounds of Tidy Cats in my cart.  It doesn’t go bad, every last grain will be used, and I NEED it so will buy it in bulk to save myself an emergency full-price purchase.

That is how I shop each store once a month; that is how I save money and have extra food and supplies for hosting and donations.  THAT is how you can simplify your shopping and boost your savvy ways.

Typically, I hand-write everything, but since my penmanship is quite sloppy these days, I typed it up just for you.  Yes, you, dear reader.  Check out this handy-dandy PDF for an example of how I do it:

Shopping with Purpose Example

Notes on My Method

To really save with this method, make this into something you do only once or twice a month.  I mean, keep your eye on the weekly ads, but also build up your pantry and freezer so you won’t have to go shopping each week.  You’ll save even more!

Always consider what works best for you, too.  If you have only one item on your list for a certain store, it is not worth the time used and money saved to go to that store.

For instance, we buy our cheese at Walmart.  They carry two pound blocks of Cabot for an unbelievably low price.  It is always on our Walmart list, yet rarely is there anything else we buy there.  When we go to Walmart, we buy as many of those two pound blocks as we can.  No joke.  I’ll spend more than $30 on cheese.  That is so I don’t have to return to Walmart for another month.  In that month, there may be things added to the Walmart list, like Aveeno body lotion (not needed to be purchased too regularly but still best price around for something used almost daily around our house).

Sometimes, Fresh Thyme has a great deal on certain organic produce items that I would really like.  However, if I can get the majority of the produce we regularly eat at Kroger for a better price, I’m not going to a different part of town just to get those pears or whatever. I’d rather (a) go without or (b) buy the darn things for an extra 19 cents per pound.

REMEMBER: The money saved and the time spent sometimes isn’t worth the extra trip.  Don’t drag yourself all over town to save 19 cents per pound.

Especially when we’re talking about loading two kids into car seats and dragging them through stores and making them spend at least an hour and a half in the car since we live in the middle of nowhere.

NEVER FORGET YOUR LIST!  You may forget to put things on your list.  You may not buy everything you did put on your list.  But you will stick to your needs (both at the grocery and in life in general) if you have a list to keep you on track and saving time and money.

Don’t we all want to save time and money?

Now, I have included a lovely little spreadsheet to illustrate what I’m talking about above as an example.  I don’t always have the luxury of sitting down at my computer to type up a clean-looking list like this.  So I print out a bunch of blank pages to scribble on when I have five minutes here, five minutes there to check my pantry, look at my ads, think about our needs and what we have coming up, and calculate if my coupons are worth the 40 cents I’ll save.

For you, you wonderful Thoughtfully Sought path walker, I am including a pretty PDF for you (Yes, YOU!) to print and use at your leisure.

You’re welcome.

Shopping with Purpose Printable