Friday, August 28, 2009

Vacation? Uh, no.

I find it pretty humorous that we are referring to last week's trip as a "vacation". The dictionary defines vacation as "A period of time devoted to pleasure, rest, or relaxation...".

Uh, no.

Let's see. Getting up at 5:30am every morning, walking your baby to sleep every night by pacing the only quiet room in the house (the bathroom with the lights off and the exhaust fan running) and picking up the pieces when your sleep deprived toddler has another meltdown. Nope, not resting, not relaxing or the least bit pleasurable.

Although there were some epically bad moments, we still managed to have a great time and make it home in one piece. Here are a few things that I think helped me survive our first big trip with our high spirited little Peanut.

1. Reasonable expectations. I really wasn't expecting to sleep in until 9:00 or even 8:00 every morning. I knew we were traveling across a time zone and that I'd probably have an early riser. I also wasn't expecting that she'd drift blissfully off to sleep at 8pm every night and sleep solidly through the night. I had hoped that might happen, but I wasn't betting on it. I also knew that when we went on family trips to amusement parks, restaurants and other public places, there was a good chance I wouldn't be participating in all the activities. I packed my sling every time we left the house and there were many times I had to whip it out, pop Peanut in and find a quiet place to rock and soothe her. But I was expecting that. So I didn't resent it or feel like I was missing out.

2. Planning ahead. There were some days that I over-packed my bag for day trips, but no one can ever say that I wasn't prepared. I had snacks, juice, changes of clothes, toys, pacifier, blanket, diapers, wipes, bibs, hat, sunscreen, bug spray and of course, my trusty sling. I didn't end up needing those things every time we went out, but I was ready just in case! I also kept careful track of her naps. I knew what time to expect her to start whining and melting down and tried to make sure we'd be in a place where I could get her down for a nap. It didn't always work out, but I did make the effort.

3. Eating wisely. This is one area that I think we can definitely improve on the next time we take a trip. Peanut was not a good eater on this trip. The few healthy meals that I took pains to prepare her were left largely untouched and then I'd catch her snacking off her uncle's plate an hour later. I did limit (but not eliminate) her sugar intake and did my best to make sure the only liquids she had were juice, water or milk. She still managed to come down with an ear infection and I can't help but wonder if I'd made more of an effort in the food department, her little immune system would have been more equipped to handle the infection.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that we were traveling with my amazing in-laws and my brother-in-law and his girlfriend. Each one of them was a huge help with Peanut and they even babysat one night so Justin and I could go out to celebrate our anniversary. They are seriously awesome.

So, was our trip fun? You bet! Restful? Not one bit! But we had a great time, made lots of memories and I can't wait until our next Missouri visit.

I'd love to hear your tips for traveling with children. What are your must-have items or fail-proof tips?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Vacation

Last week, my family and I spent a lovely time in southern Missouri visiting family, relaxing on Table Rock Lake, taking in the shows and attractions around Branson and just generally having a fabulous time.

Peanut surprised me by being very well behaved on our flights and was very excited about all the "ahpains" she saw during our layover in Atlanta.

The lake was every bit as beautiful as I remembered it from our trip a few years ago.

We spent a few days doing nothing but visiting with family, swimming and fishing in the lake and watching Peanut enjoy her first big trip away from home.

Even though she could hardly move, Peanut did great in her "bumble bee" life vest and loved her very first boat ride.

Of course, we had to visit Bass Pro Shop for Justin - Peanut just loved seeing all the animals...even the enormous grizzly bear.

We spent a day at Silver Dollar City and even though Peanut wasn't feeling up to par, she was a little trooper.

She loved the petting zoo and got very friendly with the goats before conking out in her stroller.

I even found the courage to ride a couple roller coasters!

This might be one of my favorite images of the week...my sweet little girl digging for worms.


Starting tomorrow, I'll be back to my blogging ways.

But at the moment, I'm still trying to crawl out from under a mountain of laundry. Seriously, it's a mountain.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Homemade bread & butter pickles

Okay, if you are off sugar or don't eat a lot of it - click away now. This recipe is NOT sugar free. Or even low sugar.

Anyway.

I made these pickles years and years ago and I always remembered how well they came out. And since we've been blessed by family members with an over abundance of fresh produce, I decided it was time to try it again.

Okay, get ready. I've gots lots of directions and tons of pictures. Here we go!

You will need:

7 quarts of sliced cucumbers (This is equivalent of about 16 good sized cukes)
5 cups of sugar (I warned you!)
1/3 cup of coarse salt
6 white onions
4 cloves of garlic
3 green peppers
3 cups apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. Celery seed
1 1/2 tsp. Tumeric
1 Tbsp. Mustard seed

Other stuff:

About 6 quart sized (or 12 pint sized) canning jars
2 big pots (or one pot and a canning pot)
Lots of ice
Old towel

Wash you cucumbers very well with warm waster and soap. Rinse and slice them up. Measure them out into a large bowl.

OH! Before I forget, all this slicing takes some time, so occupy your little ones with something fun, like stacking cans or something.

Okay, slice up your peppers, onions and garlic. I chopped up one pepper very fine and then left the other two kind of chunky. You can do it anyway you want. I did the same with the onions. I chopped up two really fine with my food chopper and then sliced the rest into thin strips.

I have no pictures of the onion chopping because chopping six onions will. make. you. cry. This is the hardest part of the whole project. Anyway, moving along.

Mix your cukes, onions, peppers, garlic and coarse salt in a big bowl. I just used my (clean) hands to toss everything very well. I ended up needing two bowls.


Mix a lot of ice (I didn't measure, but I suspect is was at least 20 cups) of ice throughout the cucumber mixture. Again, I used my hands to mix it thoroughly.

Set the bowls aside and let them sit for three hours. Now would be a good time to go dress up your baby and take them outside to get a picture for the RDA photo contest. That's what I did.

On a serious note, I really would suggest timing this project so that your little one(s) are napping or at the very least occupied in another room during this next part. If you are making a batch this big, it'll take at least an hour and require your full attention. And you don't want babies around boiling water. Especially when you are using salad tongs instead of proper canning equipment. But anyway, we'll get there in a minute.

Mix together the rest of your ingredients (vinegar, sugar, tumeric, celery seed and mustard seed) in a big pot and bring to a boil.

In the meantime, drain your cucumbers very well. Do NOT rinse. Take out another large pot (or your canning pot), fill it about halfway and bring to a boil.

You're vinegar mixture should be boiling now - throw all the cukes into the pot and stir well.

They are starting to look like pickles! This is so exciting!

Now we want to bring the cuke/vinegar mixture just to a boil. While you are waiting, prep your cans and lids. We are going to be putting them in boiling water, so we need to warm them up a bit first. Wash them well, and then set them in hot (not boiling) water.

By now, your pot of pickles and your pot of water should be boiling. Turn the cucumbers on low and remove your first jar from the hot water and (carefully) spoon in the pickles. Leave about a 1/2 inch of space between the lid and the pickles. Spoon some of that yummy pickle juice in there too. Before you place the lid on, make sure you use a damp cloth to clean the rim of the jar - even the tiniest speck will keep it from properly sealing. Screw on the lid and set aside. Repeat with enough jars to fill your pot of boiling water. Mine fit four. Very carefully put each jar into the boiling water. There should be just enough water to cover the lids.

Set your timer for 10 minutes. In the meantime, warm up some more jars in your bowl of hot water and then fill them with pickles.

*Ding, Ding* Time's up!

Now, if you have a proper canning pot, you'd just lift your rack and remove your cans. I like to live on the wild side, so I extracted my boiling hot jars with a pair of salad tongs. It worked, but I do not recommend it!

Place the jars on a large towel on your counter.

Repeat this process until all your pickles are gone. Don't move your canned pickles off the towel for at least 24 hours. Test the seal by making sure the center of the lid doesn't "pop" when you press on it. Don't be alarmed if you hear some of the cans "pop" after initially removing them from the boiling water - they will reseal as they cool.


I'm really, really pleased with how these came out. My hubby tested them on a tuna sandwich a few days after I made them and thought they were great.

Please let me know if you try these - I'd love to know how you like them!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Breastfeeding: My changing views

World Breastfeeding Week was two weeks ago and I never got around to writing a post about it. But I have a lot to say on the topic and I don't think it needs to be confined to just one week out of the year.

My view on breastfeeding has changed dramatically in the year and a half since Peanut has been here. Before I gave birth to that sweet little bundle of joy, I was totally one of those women who made statements like these:

"Once a baby has teeth, it's time to stop nursing."

"Once they can ask for it - time to cut them off."

"Breastfeeding past a year is just gross."

At six months, Peanut cut her first tooth. We kept breastfeeding. At around 10 months, Peanut learned she could pat my chest, say "nur-nur", and I would know what she wanted. We kept breastfeeding. Peanut turned a year old 6 months ago. We are still breastfeeding.

Did you know that I have still not even reached the minimum age recommendation by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF? Both organizations, which are widely accepted as the authority in worldwide health matters, recommend exclusively breastfeeding for 6 months (that mean NO food of ANY kind except for breast milk until a baby is 6 months old) and then continued breastfeeding "for two years and beyond".

I'm absolutely not saying that women who don't breastfed until the age of two are doing something wrong. I'm just saying that women who do breastfed until the age of two or beyond are not wrong either. The longer a woman can breastfed, the greater the benefits to her child. If you could only nurse for the first three months - awesome! That tiny baby got the good stuff early. If you can nurse for a year, way to go! That's great! If you nursed for 3 years, hats off, momma! Ultimately, it's a woman's choice how long she chooses to breastfed. Even if it's a length of time that you wouldn't personally be comfortable with, I think it's important to show respect for other mothers and their choices.

For example, I've never been big on nursing in public. Sure, I did it when it was necessary when Peanut was an infant, but if at all possible, I'd find someplace private and quiet to fed my child. I'll never post a picture of me breastfeeding on this blog. But I certainly don't mind seeing other women breastfeeding in public. Or seeing pictures of other women nursing their children. In fact, I think it's great. Just because it's not something I would do, doesn't make it wrong.

Regardless of how strongly I may feel about breastfeeding, I must acknowledge that women do have a choice. I'm learning to show respect for women who don't make the same choices that I do. In the same breath, it makes me very sad to see women making choices based on wrong information or simply lack of information. Education is key.

I'm an advocate of breast milk simply because it's better for babies. It's healthy for moms. It's a smart economic choice. It's recommended for at least the first 24 months of a child's life. There is no substitute for the milk that God designed our bodies to make just for our babies. I've decided not to be influenced by the arbitrary 12 month cut-off that many people feel compelled to follow. In the same breath, if Peanut decides to wean before she turns two, I'm fine with that too. I'm not in it for some sort of invisible merit badge for making it to 24 months. It's working for me, my daughter and my family and I don't see any good reason to change that just because she's now at the age that she can walk up to me and ask to nurse.

Besides all these compelling facts that propel me towards the two year mark, I've found that I love to nurse my baby. It's not a chore to me. It's a special time that only she and I can share. Not only do I love it, she really loves it too. Just the other day when she asked to nurse, I decided to see if there was anything else she'd rather have other than Mommy's milk. I was reasonably sure of her answers - and she did not disappoint.

Me: Do you want some cake?

Peanut: No, no.

Me: How about some ice cream! Yum!

Peanut: No, no, no.

Me: But I bet you'd like a lollipop!

Peanut: Mommy, no, no!

Me: What, you don't want to nurse, do you?

Peanut: YES! Yes, yes, nur-nur!

I mean, really. How could I purposely deprive her of something she loves that much? And that also happens to be a great source of nutrition, unique antibodies and immunity boosters?

Well, I think you know that answer to that.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Cloth diapering 101: what you need to know

I'm guest blogging this week over at Pure Natural Diva. The subject? Cloth diapers, of course! Remember way back when, I promised to bring you a more in depth look at the health issues associated with disposables? It's all covered in my post over at PND.

Check it out!


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Forever and ever, Amen.


Justin and I were married four years ago today. Some days it feels like we've been married for decades and other days it seems like yesterday we were teenagers passing notes in church.

We had this poem read at our wedding. I loved it then and I love it even more now.

Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens.
A good marriage must be created.
In marriage the little things are the big things.
It is never being too old to hold hands.

It is remembering to say "I love you" at least once a day.

It is never going to sleep angry.

It is at no time taking the other for granted;
the courtship should not end with the honeymoon, it should continue through the years.
It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.

It is standing together facing the world.

It is forming a circle of love that gathers the whole family.

It is doing things for each other, not in the attitude of duty or sacrifice,
but in the spirit of joy.
It is speaking words of appreciation
and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is not looking for perfection in each other.

It is cultivating flexibility, patience,
understanding and a sense of humor.
It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.

It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow old.

It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.

It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal,
dependence is mutual and the obligation is reciprocal.
It is not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner.
~Wilferd Arlan Peterson

We've certainly had our good days and our bad days, but we are unequivocally committed to each other. For better or worse, we're partners for life.

Forever and ever, Amen.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Rocky Mountain cloth diaper giveaway

GIVEAWAY CLOSED. The lucky winner is #65, Katie!

In the 4 months since I've started this blog, I've been privileged to "meet" so many amazing women. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to network and share with moms who share many of the same ideals that I do.

Mary is one of those moms. Some of you may remember that she was kind enough to share her amazing homebirth story with me about a month ago. You can find it here and here. She recently started a new blog, The Rosie Layne, which is now among my favorite blogs to visit. It's full of lots of useful information, healthy recipes and other ideas for living naturally. Today is "Wellness Wednesday" over there, so you should totally go visit.

Mary is just such a sweetie, that she sent me TWO fantastic diapers from her store. One for my Peanut and one to giveaway to my readers.

Let me tell you a little bit about the Rocky Mountain Diaper. First of all, the print is adorable. I am in love with animal print diapers and this one just might be my favorite. Secondly, this pocket diaper has an absolutely ingenious internal snap system that makes it a one-size-fits-all diaper. An elastic band extends through the leg gusset and it can be gently pulled and snapped into one of three different sizes. Some one size diapers come with literally dozens of snaps on the front of the diaper and it can be quite confusing. Not a problem here - just one neat row of snaps. Take a look at the difference in the smallest size setting and the largest setting!



This diaper has been in our diaper rotation for over two weeks now and I just love it. It's cute, it has snaps, it performs great and it'll fit her until she's potty trained. What more can you ask of a diaper?


You can find more pictures of Peanut sportin' this fabulous diaper in my last post.

To enter: I'm going to give your four ways to enter - you can choose one or choose them all!

(1) Become a follower of Mary's blog, The Rosie Layne, and then leave a comment on this post letting me know that you did.
(2) Follow Mary on twitter, then leave a comment letting me know!
(3) Tweet about this giveaway using @MommaMolly and @RosieLayne, then come on back here and leave me the link.
(4) You can tweet about this giveaway once daily - just be sure to come back here and leave another comment letting me know that you did!

I'll stop taking entries on August 24th. I'll announce the winner sometime during the Monday night cloth diaper chat on Twitter and then contact the winner on Tuesday, the 25th.

Happy Entering!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Real Diapers, Real Babies Photo Contest

The Real Diaper Association (RDA) is an organization dedicated to providing support for parents who use reusable diapers. Their website is full of great information and valuable resources, so if you haven't already - make sure you check it out!

The RDA just launched a photo contest called "Real Diapers, Real Babies". Twelve photos will be selected to for use in the 2010 RDA calendar. The rules are simple, and anyone can enter. Check out the fabulous prizes while you are over there - certainly worth playing for! You can check out some of the entries that have already been submitted by clicking here.

Okay, so you know I'll be entering Peanut in this contest! In fact, I may have gotten just a bit carried away the other day trying to get a decent photo to enter. So carried away, that I can't seem to narrow it down to just one photo.

So, I'm looking to you, my dear readers, for some help. Which of the following photos is your favorite?

#1



#2



#3


#4



#5


Please leave me a comment with your favorite! I'm secretly favoring one photo and I'm wondering if you all will pick the same one.

Oh, before I forget! That adorable one-size Rocky Mountain cow-print diaper Peanut is sporting? How would you like to win it? (Well, not the exact same one she has one, but you know, one just like it.) Stay tuned, new giveaway coming soon!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Headbands and horses

Note: I wrote this like two weeks ago and I just now realized I never posted it. *sigh* And you should just see the headbands I've been making lately. Ridiculously huge flowers. Makes this one look tiny. Really.

Oh, and I promise this is not turning into a craft blog. Promise.
_______________________________________________________________

I've been a little obsessed with making little crocheted headbands for the Peanut girl lately. She still doesn't have enough hair to put a clip in, but she's in a phase right now where she loves "pitty" headbands and hats, so I'm taking full advantage.

Last week I she wore one of her new headbands when we went to our church rodeo where Justin volunteers each week. She obliged me by keeping it on her head the entire evening.

Peanut has absolutely delighted her daddy by showing signs of being a horse lover just like him.



*Sigh* I just love to watch my little girl exploring the world.

I am so blessed.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Summer sewing project - Reversible sundress

So, I'm still on my crocheting/sewing kick.

I'm having a blast creating things for my little one to wear. I've always had to follow a pattern for pretty much everything, but lately I've been venturing out into uncharted territory and doing some pattern making of my own. Last Friday my 14 year old sister Hannah came over and we decided we wanted to sew something. I still had some fabric left over from the last dress that I made Peanut, so we decided to make a dress for one of Peanut's little friends that had a birthday coming up.

I had some ideas in my head from dresses that I liked and some pictures of things I wanted to try, so we pulled it all together and made a sweet little reversible sundress. I was so tickled with the results, that I scrounged up enough material to make a second dress for Peanut.

This is seriously one of the easiest sewing projects I've ever done. Even with some silly mistakes that involved extensive seam-ripping, we still had both dresses done in 3 hours.

By sewing strips of coordinating fabric around the hem and armholes, the dress is completely reversible. I used very lightweight cotton, so even with two layers these dresses are super light and comfortable.

The fact that these dresses are reversible just makes me grin. I love playing with colors and my sister and I had so much fun sorting through my considerable stash of scrap fabric to find just the right match for each dress. The fabrics weren't purchased to be used together, but I think they work well.

Peanut wasn't pleased when I told her that the "ahfly" (apparently the bumble bees look like butterflies to her) dress was for her friend and she would have to settle for the green one. She managed to get over it. And her little friend's mother was equally pleased with hers.

The best part? When my little Peanut inevitably spills or smears something on her new dress, I can just flip it inside out and keep right on going with our day.