Saturday, February 28, 2009

Spring cleaning

I just got done cleaning out our rental house and I was appalled by all the chemicals I used. Everything smelled like chemicals and even though everything was technically clean, I felt like we couldn't put food or things like that on the counters because then all of the chemicals would get on them.

I decided to look into greener ways to clean. We buy some green cleaning products, but I thought surely there has to be more natural ways to clean that are not harmful to us or the earth. After scouring the Internet I found the solution! Vinegar to the rescue! I found that you can add some lemon juice or essential oils to the vinegar solution to make it smell better, but I actually enjoy the vinegary smell because it smells clean to me.

I used a cloth soaked with white distilled vinegar to clean the counters and polish the faucets. If you add water to the vinegar to dilute it, you can use that to clean the refrigerator, microwave, oven, and dishwasher. If you add baking soda to make a paste, then you can use that to scour and scrub messes. Plus the baking soda helps deodorize any odors that might have built up.

I found so many uses for vinegar that I felt a little stupid. You can do so much with it! I'm now committed to finding even more ways to be green. I feel like I'm learning something new all of the time!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Spring is Getting Closer

I'm already behind on my gardening. I still haven't started my tomato or pepper seeds. I did get my sugar snap peas planted, though. I went out the other day to see if they've poked their heads up (not yet) and I noticed my peppermint and spearmint are perking up. Mints spread and root very easily - some people call them "invasive." You can grow them in pots to contain them. Pinch the tips off to encourage bushy growth (this works for many herbs).

I like to include peppermint in my flower arrangments (I like to grow zinnias and roses). It adds a lot of green and smells good. By the time the flowers die the peppermint has grown roots, so I can replant it or pot it up to give to someone. Peppermint also looks pretty in a little vase by itself.

Here is one of my favorite peppermint recipes.

Peppermint Pineapple Drink
(This is very refreshing on a hot day. We like this with picnics.)

pineapple juice
fresh peppermint leaves
ice cubes

Fill your blender half to three-fourths full of pineapple juice. Add a handful of fresh peppermint leaves and a handful of ice cubes. Blend until the ice is crushed. Enjoy! You can adjust the amount of peppermint to suit your taste. (This is also good made with Pineapple-Orange juice.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Home is where the heart is

I had a hard time thinking of what I would write for this weeks post. I'm in the middle of packing for our move/vacation and of course all three of my kids are sick. I'm overdosing on vitamin C and echinacea hoping that I don't get sick as well because honestly, I can't take the time to be sick right now.

As I'm packing all of our mementos and belongings, I'm getting a little nostalgic. I'm finding things that I thought were lost or even thrown away. I found the pregnancy test that I took when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter (gross, but I'm a pack rat), I found several pens, several small toys, and even a $20 bill. Sweet on the $20! I'm also finding myself going to my son and asking if he remembers taking this picture or that and if he doesn't I'm taking the time to sit down and tell him about the picture. He now has a picture of himself and his daddy and one of he and I on his dresser. I'm remembering when it was just my husband and myself and wondering how we lived without children running around our home. I found a picture of myself and my best friend while we were in middle school so I'm trying to remember myself before I was a mom and a wife, but I can't remember how I ever filled my days.

I'm incredibly sad to be leaving this house even though we've lived in it for only a year. We gave birth to our daughter in this house. Our family has had so many ups and downs and sometimes things have even gone sideways. During all of this flurry of activity, a dear friend reminded me that it doesn't matter where we live. We are (for the most part) healthy. We, and especially our children, are happy and growing nicely. The city we live in...the house...the school district...none of that matters in the big scheme of things. Home is where the heart is and my heart is my family. My children ground me in a way that I could never have imagined and all the worry about everything else is superfluous.

I want to thank my friend for reminding me that we are okay and everything will work itself out. We'll make a home wherever we are because we are a family and we love each other and that's all that matters. When we get back from our trip I plan on going through our little knick knacks and pictures and telling my children the stories behind them. Because it's the little things that matter and that makes a house (or apartment) a home.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Three's Company

Before either of my children were born, I knew I would breastfeed them. I didn't know they'd spend more time in my bed than their own. Nor did I realize how much I would enjoy it.

I can't remember whether I was familiar with the term "cosleeping" during my first pregnancy. It was just something that happened as a matter of survival. Our bedroom is large enough to accommodate a crib, so it made sense to set it up there instead of in one of the other rooms on the opposite end of the house. After a few nights of getting up every two hours to nurse Olivia (and falling asleep in the rocking chair), I decided to bring her to bed with me. Ahhh! Sleep! I only had to wake up enough to get her latched on or to swap places so she could nurse on the other side.

Ditto for Jesse (except he moved to my bed even earlier). My husband isn't crazy about the arrangement, but he'd rather not have a zombie for a wife. He hasn't lost as much sleep, either. There have been many times he didn't even realize Jesse woke up during the night because I got him latched on when he started squirming, instead of when he started crying.

Sometimes I, too, yearn to have our bed back to ourselves. But I love snuggling with Jesse (especially when it's cold). I love to stroke his downy head, feel his little legs curled up against my belly, and wake up with him babbling in my ear. They grow up so fast that I don't mind sharing our bed for such a relatively short time.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Domestic Violence

With the media frenzy surrounding the Chris Brown and Rihanna saga, it's been a little difficult to escape the gossip surrounding the couple. If you haven't heard, Chris Brown allegedly beat up his long time girlfriend Rihanna in a domestic dispute early Sunday morning. I think that this issue is extremely important and awareness of domestic violence needs to be raised.

Domestic violence is defined by Wikipedia as occurring when a family member, partner or ex-partner attempts to physically or psychologically dominate another. Domestic violence often refers to violence between spouses, or spousal abuse but can also include cohabitants and non-married intimate partners. Domestic violence occurs in all cultures; people of all races, ethnicities, religions, sexes and classes can be perpetrators of domestic violence. Domestic violence is perpetrated by both men and women. Domestic violence can be in many forms including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, threats, or intimidation.

Emotional, financial, and psychological abuse are not considered criminal, but would be viewed in court as showing a history of abusive behavior should it become necessary to take someone to court for domestic violence. Women and men can be victims of domestic violence, but women are more often the victims. Please be aware that domestic violence is not considered a persons lack of control. For example, the abuser threatens violence while arguing with their partner. Domestic violence is often a deliberate choice that one person makes to break and control their partner or spouse over a long period of time.

Abusive partners will often use humiliation and/or isolation to control their partner. They will often make threats to exert their dominance. Abusers are very good at excusing away their behavior. They will blame a bad day at work or even a bad childhood. They also seek to blame shift and justify the abuse to the partner they're seeking to control.

A victim of domestic violence often feels desperate to escape their situation, but feel helpless to do so. There's often depression or self loathing. There could be frequent absences from work or school or various injuries that are from "accidents". Personality changes and fear of their partner are also common signs.

It is impossible to know what goes on behind closed doors, and if you're worried about getting involved please remember that domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women every year. 5.3 million women are abused each year and 1,232 women are killed by someone they're intimate with. I have a friend who was robbed in a parking lot in broad daylight and everybody in the parking lot let it happen because they saw the man strike my friend in the face and assumed it was a domestic dispute. Nobody called the cops as my friend screamed or fell to the ground. Nobody cared that her toddler was in the vehicle and watched her mother get punched in the face. They assumed it was a husband and wife issue and they needed to work it out for themselves. I think that is extremely sad and shameful that our society has fostered a blind eye mentality. Please watch out for each other. You could save a life. Again, domestic violence does not discriminate between male, female, age, heterosexual, homosexual, or race. It affects everyone and you can do something about it.

Here are some resources if you ever need to report domestic violence or you would like more information:

American Institute on Domestic Violence
Ruidoso, New Mexico
(505) 973-2225

National Domestic Violence Hotline

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
(303) 839-1852

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sweets for the Sweet

Red is my favorite color (and I love flowers and candy) so it's no wonder that Valentine's Day is one of my favorite holidays. Well, it's not really a holiday, but close enough. For the past several years I've been making candy for my family as Valentine gifts. I refuse to pay $5 for a few pieces of candy loaded with artificial flavors and colors that doesn't even taste that good. Homemade candy tastes great and you can add anything you want (or NOT add anything you DON'T want). You can package it in a coffee mug, tea cup, or arrange it on a pretty plate that the recipient can keep. I thought I'd share a few of my favorite recipes with you.

Baker's One Bowl Brownies
(I know it's not candy, but these are really good and easy to make.)
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar (I use brown with no problems)
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour (I use whole wheat pastry with no problems)
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Melt chocolate and butter in heavy 3-quart saucepan on very low heat, stirring constantly. Stir sugar into chocolate until well blended. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour and nuts until well blended. Spread in buttered 13x9-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Cool in pan. Cut into squares.

Date Nut Roll
(More challenging than brownies, but still relatively easy.)
3 cups brown sugar
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup pitted dates
1 cup nuts (I use pecans, but I bet others would be good, too)

Combine sugar, milk, butter, and dates in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, to soft ball stage (about 234-236 degrees on a candy thermometer). Remove from heat and stir in nuts. Let cool until it just starts to set then quickly spoon into log on damp cup towel. Roll up in the cup towel and refrigerate until completely set. Slice and serve.

Here's the candy rolled in the cup towel.

Here's the candy after I sliced it. You can see the pecans and chunks of dates.

If you want a real challenge, I'll post my fudge recipe. It's delicious, but I wouldn't try it for my first candy-making endeavor.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

To Wean or Not to Wean

My daughter is almost 8 months old and we're already getting asked when we're going to stop nursing. Not only do I find this slightly offensive as most people wouldn't ask the mom of an 8 month old formula baby when they're going to stop giving them a bottle, but since I'm already counting down the days to when I can wean...well it makes me feel like a bad mom that I want to wean her, but I get my gander up when someone asks me that and makes me want to nurse her until she's 5.

I love nursing my children. I love that I provide their nourishment and I contribute to their mental well being because they know that they can count on me when they cry and need comforting. I love that they prefer me to anyone else and I think a lot of that is the fact that I nurse. I love that all three of my children would not take a bottle and two of them wouldn't/won't take a pacifier. Yes, not taking a paci is a little hard on us, but I love that I'm their number one comfort measure. I love the look of their little baby hands on my breast. I love looking into their eyes and I love seeing their eyes close as they fall asleep from nursing. I love the booby milk drunk look. You know the look I'm talking about!

I don't love my grandmotherly nursing bras. Yes, they have sexy ones, but I can't justify the cost of them. I don't love having to wear nursing pads all the time because sometimes they wrinkle or get pointy and make my breasts look funny in my shirts. I don't like leaking all over the place. I am embarrassed that one breast is significantly bigger than my other because my baby has a favorite side. No matter how often I nurse her on the smaller one, it just won't get bigger to match her favorite! I don't like that I forget to weigh myself after I nurse and my weight can fluctuate 4 lbs up or down depending on if I remembered to empty my breasts before stepping on the dreaded scale.

There are several more pros to cons when it comes to nursing my children. The cost comparison, the bond, the health benefits...I could go on and on about the benefits of breastfeeding your infants. But the honest truth for me is that I don't like being touched and having a person hanging off my breast for several hours every day for at least a year sometimes makes me cry. I am in bliss the first few months...then acceptance the next few months...and then the fidgets come on. I am starting to get those fidgets. I cannot wait for her to finish eating. I just would like to not be touched on a very sensitive part of my body for a few hours. My baby hits 9 or 10 months and I literally have to sit on my hands so I don't take them off before they're done eating because I get so overwhelmed with the sensory overload. They start to want to play and giggle and touch things and pull hair and crawl around...all while they're nursing. So I start to count down the months, weeks, and days until their first birthday and I can feel like I did my duty and can then take it day by day as to whether we will continue to nurse. I see these moms that nurse until their children are two or even older and I'm so jealous and proud of them! How wonderful for both of them that they still nurse! I hope everyday that I can make it that long. I want to make it that long, but the longest I've done is 13 1/2 months. I think I could have done longer if I wasn't pregnant again and sensitive, but I couldn't handle the touch overload. I want to just make it to her 2 year birthday. I would be so proud of myself if I nursed her that long. So, until then keep your fingers crossed for me that I can make it to 13 months and then 18 and then 24 months. And be proud of yourselves for everyday that you nursed your baby. Even if it's only for a few days. Every day of nursing is a gift to you and your baby and every drop is precious.

Monday, February 2, 2009


I wasn't sure what I wanted to write about today. I've been so busy taking care of my sick kids that I hadn't given it much thought. Olivia got a cold early last week. Jesse came down with it a couple days later. Now my husband has it. I narrowly escaped catching it myself. Not to pat myself on the back, but I started thinking about how important (and undervalued) mothers are. I couldn't get sick. Who would have taken care of everyone else?

My job is far from glamorous. I don't get a paycheck or vacation time. An 8-month-old doesn't have a snooze button. I can't remember the last time I finished a meal without getting up at least once. I've had every body fluid on me at one time or another. I'm responsible for two little people. It's my job to feed them, bathe them, teach them, love them, correct them - mother them. The other day I was reading yet another headline about the job shortage in America. I wondered if anyone else thought "What would happen if mothers stayed home with their children?" For one thing, that would free up a lot of jobs for men and single women. More importantly, it would reunite mothers with their children. It seems strange to me that lots of women go to work so they can pay someone else to care for their children. I found some quotes this afternoon that I'd like to share with you...

“What is home without a mother?” - Alice Hawthorne

"My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her." - George Washington

"All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother." - Abraham Lincoln

"The commonest fallacy among women is that simply having children makes one a mother — which is as absurd as believing that having a piano makes one a musician." - Sydney J. Harris

"To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors, and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes, and books; to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the Rule of Three and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman's function is laborious but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute." – G. K. Chesterton