Monday, November 18, 2013

Season of Thanks

Every year at this time people start posting all of the things they're thankful for in their lives on Facebook. I've never participated in that. It just doesn't feel like me. But I do like to put my gratitude out there, so I usually write a blog post. It doesn't change much year to year I guess because I'm a simple girl with a pretty simple life. There's of course much more I'm thankful for that isn't mentioned here, but that would be a much longer post than anyone would care to read. Here we go...

I am so incredibly thankful for every piece of my life. I'm a big believer that all the parts add up perfectly to the whole. I wouldn't change a moment, even the icky ones, because I want to be right where I am. I'm thankful every single day for the people in my life- from my precious little family, to my great big family, to our amazing friends, to those people who pluck my last nerve. They're all part of my life and who I am, and I'm thankful for them. I'm thankful for our health. We don't have to look far to find someone struggling with a chronic illness, who can't seem to catch a break, or who's fighting for his or her life. There's not a day that passes when I don't consciously acknowledge how incredibly blessed we are to be healthy. I'm thankful for our home. I don't love it, but it's ours. It keeps us warm and sheltered. It welcomed our girls home from the hospital and has been the only home they've ever known. It has taught us many lessons that will weigh heavy when we buy our next house, that's for sure. It has been  a place of fun and laughter and family for us- squeaks, creaks, leaks and all. I'm so thankful for our income. In a time when many seek work and can't find it or work half a dozen small jobs to feed their families, we have steady income. And it's enough to afford me the luxury of staying at home with our girls, snuggling, playing, adventuring, teaching, and making memories - where I know I belong. That is something I will never take for granted and never stop thanking God for. I am beyond grateful for the sacrifice of every member of the United States Military and their families. Our lives are what they are because they do what they do. Above all, I'm thankful for God's love and mercy. To live life knowing God's love is a gift I can't describe. Words will never be able to express how thankful I am for a loving, forgiving God.

While a blog post about what I'm thankful for is nice, just like all the posts on Facebook every day, what better way to show gratitude than to give back and pass the blessings on? Each year we kick off the holiday season around the beginning of November by collecting things we no longer need or use and make a huge donation. We take some things to Goodwill, some to a local transitional housing shelter, and some to the food bank. Not only does it feel great to clear some things out of the house that we no longer need or use, but I can't put in words how great it is to know that someone else will be warm, or fed, or clean because we made that donation. We are very fortunate to have parents who love to spoil us and our girls at Christmas. As a result, we always have older, lesser used items we can pass along to those in need. This year, Carsen is 3 1/2. While she doesn't have a concept of what it means to be needy, we did encourage her to help us pick out some of her toys and books she doesn't play with as much, and told her we were going to give them to children who had no toys. She was totally on board and didn't make a peep about the toys getting boxed up.

Donating to local charities and helping the less fortunate in our community will continue to be a part of our holiday season as the girls grow up. In today's world of 7-year olds with cell phones, I refuse to let my children be consumed by a materialistic culture and lose sight of what the holiday season is truly about. Of course, as they get older they'll be able to participate more and will certainly understand more what it means to reach out to others. Hopefully it will help to instill in them a sense of gratitude for what they have and compassion for those who go without.

be_more_thankful What-if-you-woke-up-tomorrow-with World_full_of_miracles

always_something_thankful mostly_God take_for_granted

thank_God_for thankful_people thanks_to_all


How are you showing your gratitude this holiday season?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sleep Happens

I'm keeping it real for you today and talking about our sleep situation around here. Getting babies to sleep is one of the great mysteries of humanity. There are countless methods, doctors, experts, books, old wives tales, and advice {both solicited and unsolicited} all focused on how to get a baby to sleep. Yet, the answers seem to change every few years on what works best.

In my experience, having gone through it once with our now 3-year old and going through it currently with our 7-month old, there is no one answer. What works for one kid may not work at all for another. Every baby is different, which makes it extremely difficult to apply any blanket solution or method to all of them. For example, Carsen started on a nap schedule by the time she was 4-5 months old. She established it herself and took two almost 2-hour naps every day without a peep until she was about 1 year old when she switched to one long nap. To this day she naps every single day from 1:30-4:30, and would sleep longer if I didn't go wake her. From about 6 months old she woke up once every night around 4/4:30 to nurse and would go back to sleep until 8/8:30. Once she moved into her own room around 1 year, she slept 12 hours every night and still does. Easy!

Reagan is totally different. I have been trying to figure out her nap schedule for months. She rarely sleeps more than 30 minutes at a time during the day. You could set your watch by it. I've tried laying her down earlier, later, swaddled, un-swaddled, her room, our room {where she sleeps at night}, and I've just never found anything that seems to make any difference. Usually when she wakes up at the 30 minute mark I can give her the paci and she'll go back to sleep. Sometimes for 10 minutes, sometimes for an hour, sometimes not at all. Again, I can't seem to find any pattern or indicator as to what makes for a longer nap vs. shorter nap. Night time is another challenge of its own. For a long time she slept 8 pm - 3:30 am, and then woke up for the day around 6:30-7. Then for about a month she started waking up around 11 pm and every. two. hours. after that for the rest of the night. Brutal! Just recently, thank the Lord, she has gone back to sleeping until a wee morning hour (3-4) and then waking around 6:30 am when I pull her in bed with me to nurse {she sleeps in an Arm's Reach Co-sleeper which we LOVE} and she snoozes for another hour or so.

Like many sleep-deprived parents, I've turned to the Interwebz more than once in a moment of bleary-eyed exhaustion when I thought I just couldn't take it any more. Of course, what I found indicates that I'm doing everything wrong. Here's the list of infractions...

  • Nursing her to sleep

  • Using a pacifier

  • Using a swaddle blanket

  • Staying with her until she falls asleep

  • Picking her up when she cries {though only when other attempts fail}

  • Nursing her in the middle of the night

  • Sleeping inches away from her {in separate beds though}

Most of the advice I find suggests that nursing her to sleep will make her dependent on the boob to fall asleep, as will the pacifier and swaddle blanket, and staying with her until she falls asleep. All I'm doing with all of those things is teaching her that she can't possibly  fall asleep without them. Here's my question about that... if I did all the same detrimental things with Carsen, how did she end up being such a champion sleeper?? My answer to that is simple- all those things aren't the problem.

I mean, is there even a problem? Some argue that babies shouldn't be waking all night long. Well, she doesn't. But when she does wake up, I do something about it and we're all back to sleep in less than 10 minutes. Sure, I'd love to know what it feels like to fall asleep at 10 pm and not wake up until 6 or 7 {or 8}. I'm just not willing to put my baby through a traumatic training experience for my own luxury. She falls asleep nursing, so no, I'm not waking her up just to teach her to fall asleep in her bed instead of happily snuggled against her mama. I have zero trouble transferring her into her bed once she's asleep. Per all the "rules," I've tried not swaddling her. Instead of waking up after 30 minutes, she woke up every 6 minutes. I haven't even attempted taking the pacifier away. While she only uses it for bed/nap times, it is very clear to me that its disappearance would not go over well. The pacifier and swaddling both provide comfort and are part of the reason I can easily get her into her bed. We've also tried putting her in her crib in her own room. It was a disaster. She woke up constantly, sometimes the second I'd step my foot back in our room. If you think waking up twice a night is torture, imagine waking up twice every hour and standing bent at 90 degrees over a crib for 20 minutes soothing a crying baby only for her to start all over again less than 30 seconds after you leave the room.

So why bother with all the rules? Like myself, here's another mom who suggests trusting your instincts and listening to your baby instead. My approach to parenting, and the advice I always give new parents, is don't over-think it. I use my own common sense and Reagan's cues to determine when she needs to sleep {and all of her other needs for that matter}. If it's not in a perfect pattern, then her needs must be fluctuating at the time. As I type this, she has taken a fantastic 2.5-hour morning nap and went right out for her afternoon nap. It's been a good day, but I've done nothing any different than any other day. The inconsistency can be kind of annoying, yes, but I have to accept that that's just her. I'm sure that when her system settles into a pattern it will emerge on it's own.

In counseling, we always approach things from a standpoint of impact on daily function. Do you need an intervention if everyone is healthy and functioning even if not "by the book?" If it ain't broke.... I'm just saying. If you can't function on the amount of sleep you get and your baby seems miserable, try something different to get more sleep. But you don't need to force a baby into an expert's mold. Your sleep habits are different from other adults, so why expect that all babies will sleep the same way and for the same amount of time? Do what works best for your baby instead of fighting them for sleep, and sleep will happen.

I'll keep you posted on Reagan's sleep as it develops. In the mean time, what worked for you? Does your baby sleep all night or wake up a few times? Is your baby a napper, or not?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Weekend Humor

Do you ever mess with your kids or spouse to amuse yourself {and others}?? I grew up with a prankster brother and sister, so in our family BatDad is classic humor. My sister first discovered him and shared his antics with us one weekend when we were at my mom's for dinner. As a result, we've all been walking around doing our BatDad impressions to each other {and our kids} ever since.

This is just one of many of his videos. I highly recommend checking the others out, too :)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Chicken & Butternut Squash Stew

As usual, I was surfing Pinterest for some new dinner recipes the other day. I'm big on seasonal food, so I love making soup in the fall and winter. I had a recipe for chicken & butternut squash stew pinned to my dinner board and had been anxious to try it. As it was written, though, it required a lot of standing at the stove. With two littles in the house, dinner making is enough of a challenge. I really have to simplify as much as possible and minimize the amount of time spent actually prepping and cooking. So I did the natural thing - made it in the crock pot! I have to say, it couldn't have been easier!


Here's what I used:

  • 1/2 butternut squash, peeled and diced {you could also just get a smaller one, but I just freeze the rest to use later in other recipes or baby food}

  • 2 chicken breasts

  • 28 oz can of diced tomatoes

  • 14.5 oz can of black beans {rinsed and drained}

  • 3 cups of chicken broth {1 full box, -1 cup}

  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

  • 1-2 teaspoons of brown sugar to take the edge of the tomatoes, maple syrup would work as well if you don't like adding sugar ;)

  • 1/2 cup of uncooked quinoa

Here's what I did:
Toss everything into the crock pot except for the quinoa and 1 cup of chicken broth. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Scoop out the chicken breasts and shred them up. Then add them back to the pot. You could also cut them up into chunks from the get-go and skip this step if you prefer chunks over shreds. Then cook 1/2 cup of quinoa in the remaining 1 cup of chicken broth. Once that is cooked, add it to the soup. You're done!


This was a huge hit here in The Luckiest Household. Even my husband, who is not a big veggie guy, loved it and promptly packed up the rest in individual servings to take for his lunch. We'll definitely be making this again!

Whenever I make a new recipe I usually come up with improvements to the process or the ingredients either while I'm cooking or after tasting it. For this one, I already mentioned adapting for the crock pot instead of standing at the stove. I also eliminated a bunch of prep steps with the squash by simply dicing it and tossing it in the pot. While I loved the taste of this soup just as I made it, I also think it would be really good with some heavy cream and fresh grated parmesan cheese. Or you could spice it up with your favorite hot sauce, some red pepper flakes, or even chopped peppers right in the soup. It would be interesting to change up the meat too- pork or beef both seem like good options.

If anyone makes it, let me know how it turns out in a comment and share what (if any) variations you used! Enjoy!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Food is Medicine {for the common cold}

All of "Daddy's girls," as Carsen calls us, are on day 4 of a head cold. Maybe it's day 5. I can't keep track. The only thing worse than having a head cold is when your littles have one too. Most people with a cold just pop some pseudophedrine and get on with life. I, for one, am not a big fan of taking medicine (or giving it to my kids) unless I absolutely can't deal without it. Plus, when you're a nursing mama you have to be extra cautious about taking any medication since it could be passed on to your nursling. You also don't want to take anything that will dry up your sinuses because it will also dry up your milk supply. And of course little ones can't take cold meds at all. Instead, we rely on humidifiers, extra pillows, saline, NoseFrida, rest and fluids to battle it out.

[caption id="attachment_834" align="aligncenter" width="504"]My poor, sick Reagan baby My poor, sick Reagan baby[/caption]

But sometimes the humidifier and some extra pillows still leave you and your little ones in misery. That's where I am! Sick and tired of being sick and tired... literally. Knowing that many common foods have health-promoting, immune-boosting, anti-illness properties, I set out to find some food-based or otherwise non-medicinal head cold relief for moms and babies. Oh, and I decided to share it with you in case anyone else is looking for the same thing :)

Here are some options I found...

1. Hot "Tea" Concoction
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 wedge lemon
Bring water to a boil. Combine hot water and apple cider vinegar in a small glass or mug. Add honey and cayenne pepper. Stir well. Top off with a squeeze of lemon. Take a deep breath of the mixture, and start drinking!

2. Cinnamon + honey
Mix 1 teaspoon of honey with 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon and take 2-3 times daily. Both are antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal. Could probably be mixed into a tea as well if you can't handle eating it right off a spoon.

3. Netti Pot
Get yourself a store-bought Netti Pot (or similar device) and follow instructions.
*Side note: I would personally boil, then cool the water before pouring it up into my sinuses just to ensure it is free of its own potentially harmful microorganisms. 

4. Homemade Chicken Broth/soup
Place a whole chicken in the crockpot with 6-8 cups of water depending on the size of your bird and your crockpot. Add vegetables and season to your liking. Cook on low until chicken is done. Remove chicken and save the broth. You can use the chicken meat and make it into soup, or simply sip the warm broth (you may want to skim it for fat/pieces, up to you). This is NOT the same as buying canned or boxed stock at the store ;) Read about the benefits of real broth here.

5. Garlic
Garlic soup (garlic cloves peeled and boiled in water), garlic tea (chopped garlic, lemon juice, honey, boiling water), lots of garlic added to your food, or even just peel and suck on a garlic clove. It's a natural immune-booster and along with your budding romance, it can kill bacteria too!

6. Electrolyte Popsicles
An easy recipe from My Whole Food Life, a blog I follow. Her recipes are vegan and all-natural. This recipe is especially for kids (it can be tough to keep them hydrated when they aren't feeling well), but adults could enjoy them just the same!
*Note: this recipe contains honey and should NOT be used for children younger than 1 year.

7. Herbal Steam
Bring water just to a boil with a few drops of essential oil mixed in. Then breathe the steam. You can place a towel over your head to trap the steam as well. Just be VERY cautious with steam/a pot of hot water to avoid burns.

8. Vapo-Rub Alternative
Skip the petroleum in store-bought Vapo-Rub by mixing a few drops of essential oil like eucalyptus or peppermint with a small amount of vegetable oil and apply to the chest or soles of baby's feet to open up the lungs.

**Disclaimer - I am not a doctor or medical professional, so please use this for information only and always consult your doctor for concerns about your health and treatment! Furthermore, I have not tried all of these methods nor am I endorsing or recommending any of them. Just sharing what I found readily available online!

Overall I found lots of recommendations including honey, lemon, ginger, and garlic used in various ways. I'm sure you could play around and create your own recipe with those ingredients and still get similar benefits. That's just my personal, non-medical opinion though. I think of these I would be most apt to try the cinnamon & honey (probably in tea) or the homemade Vapo-Rub. I'd also give the popsicles a try. I can usually tough out a cold pretty well, but it's really hard to manage two little kids with colds too. The Vapo-Rub would be great for them too. As I think of it, some essential oil in a nice warm bath might be soothing too - similar to the herbal steam, minus the danger of boiling water.

Just for interest's sake, I found some really weird suggestions too! One of them was to blow a blow dryer in your face (without burning yourself) for as long as you can stand it. What?! The hot air supposedly kills the rhinovirus in your nose. Also, cut an onion and leave it beside your bed when you sleep. It's supposed to absorb bacteria/germs.

Has anyone ever tried this stuff?? Do you know of any food-based or non-medicinal remedies for the common cold? Do you have any tried-and-true practices that help when you're sick?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Attachment Parenting and My Love for The Badass Breastfeeder

Attachment Parenting. It sounds like parents hovering hysterically over their kids, hopelessly attached and never wanting them to experience a moment of distress in their lives. But contrary to popular belief (I actually saw a published article in Parents magazine referring to it this way), it's NOT the same thing as "helicopter" parenting. Quite the opposite, actually. Based on Attachment Theory,  Attachment Parenting (let's just call it AP for simplicity) is a style of parenting that promotes strong parent-child bonds and has been proven to result in greater independence and less anxiety as children grow into adulthood. actually has a really good article explaining it here if you're interested.

I first learned about AP in undergrad when I was studying human development and child psychology as part of my teaching certification. It has been a topic near and dear to my heart ever since. My love was further reinforced during grad school when I was studying psychology and counseling. Attachment Parenting is all about being attentive and responsive to babies' needs and keeping babies and children in close proximity to their parents or primary caregivers. Think practices like baby-wearing, exclusive/extended breastfeeding on-demand, co-sleeping or room-sharing at night, gentle or alternative forms of discipline (vs. spanking, punishment, time-out, etc), and definitely no "crying-it-out." The rationale behind being so attentive is an effort to build strong and secure bonds between babies and parents. Such a bond helps babies feel safe and cared for. They know that their basic needs are being met (and vigilantly), they know that their lifeline- mom & dad- are close by, so they feel comfortable and confident exploring their world independently. Logic, not to mention our human instinct, tells us that since mom & dad are baby's lifeline, when they are present and attentive baby's stress level is going to be low. When mom & dad are absent or inattentive, baby will feel anxious and fearful. They're uncertain about their basic needs being met, much less any risk-taking or exploration of the world around them. Ever wonder why parents agonize so much about leaving their babies for the first time at daycare, or leaving them to cry-it-out for sleep training? It's because it goes against our instincts as parents to leave our children and not respond to them. This is not to say that parents who sleep train or utilize daycare are bad parents or are psychologically damaging their kids. People do what they have to do. The overall key factor is making sure babies know their needs will be met, either by parents or other caregivers if they're at daycare.

For me personally, this style of parenting makes the most sense. I love and use AP because I believe in parenting by my instincts and the way God/nature intended. When my baby cries, there's a need, and it's my job to address her needs. Naturally children who are too young to care for themselves are going to want to be in close proximity to those who provide for their needs and will feel fear and anxiety when they're separated. I also believe in the research that indicates this style of parenting results in less stress and anxiety for both babies and parents and the long-term positive impact it has on development. Yes, research has proven that the way we respond to babies affects the way their nervous system develops, and therefore affects them for life. They may not remember crying it out, but that experience could be something that sticks with them into adulthood. Nurturing that part of my kids' development is just as much a priority to me as feeding them nourishing food and keeping them safe and warm. AP also just works really well for me as a stay-at-home mom. We don't have to separate for daycare in the morning, I don't have to sleep train so I can get up on time for work, etc. This isn't the case for every family, and I believe just as strongly that families should do what works for them.

So as a mom, counselor, and practitioner of AP, you can imagine my joy when I was browsing Facebook one day and came upon The Badass Breastfeeder: a mom, former social worker and huge proponent of AP. As a former Social Worker, our professional backgrounds are very similar and we happen have a lot in common philosophically. She's an awesome resource, very smart, very practical, and totally inspiring. If those things weren't enough, my respect for her maxed out when I read this story about how she still struggles not to lose her shit sometimes. I'm all about being real and putting the real stories out there. We all struggle! Sometimes reading blogs and Facebook pages and other such resources out there in the Mommy-sphere can be so discouraging because all we see are glowing, shining moments of perfect parenting. I don't care how many great moments you have, no one's parenting experience is sparkling all the time. We give it our best, and that is the most important thing. Some days that looks like Cheerios and Disney Jr., some days it looks like gourmet organic lunches and making crafts for charity. Currently the girls and I all have colds, so we're closer to the Cheerios and Disney Jr. end of the spectrum. It happens!

Here's to giving it our best!

PS- If you have a favorite parenting resource or parenting style, share it in a comment!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Fresh Start

Welcome to the new blog! I hope you like it here and will come visit often :)  This is both a continuation of my previous blog and new direction for it as well. My old posts have all been moved here, but I consider this post a turning point. Moving forward I'd like the blog to be focused on some specific topics- marriage, parenting, health, photography, cooking, DIY projects, homeschooling, and some other stuff in between. I realize that is a wide range of topics, but rather than just sharing our day-to-day happenings in the style of a journal as I did on the old blog, my goal here is to share our stories and experiences, in addition to news articles, photos, links to other related blogs and websites, and possibly some guest posts that are especially relevant to my life as a SAHM, and hopefully to other moms, too. Instead of simply a collection of ramblings about our family, I hope that giving the blog a clearer focus will make it more relatable, useful, and helpful to others. Additionally, if you followed/read the old blog, you probably noticed that I also updated the title from "The Luckiest." I felt that an updated title was appropriate since this is a fresh start, and since I'm in a different stage of my life now than when I first started blogging almost 7 years ago!

I'm really looking forward to this new version of my blog and all the fun things I have in mind to write about. Please stay tuned and check back often. I'm currently working on a post about attachment parenting that I hope to share by the end of the week :)

Thanks for visiting!