Saturday, November 23, 2013

We Have Become Ebeneezer

I read this post today by Matt Walsh, and it got me thinking. If you haven't read it yet, you should. He makes an excellent point that I've been trying to articulate for years. Let me start out this post by making a confession, right from the get go:

I HATE Black Friday.

I hate it. Loathe it. Have nothing but contempt for it. The whole idea of it is strange to me: we spend an entire day supposedly thank God for the incredible blessings that we've been given and for the people with which we share them and then rush rush rush to eat so that we can go stand in line for MORE stuff. More crap that we do. not. NEED. More garbage that's just going to replace the garbage that we already have, which will now end up in a land fill. More junk and excess that we buy so that our loved ones will be able to have a visual, tangible idea of just how much we love them based on the amount of stuff that we give them for Christmas. 

Doesn't that seem a little...sad? And...backwards?!

"Oh, but I go for the appliances!" you might say. "I need a new bluRay player/dishwasher/dryer/whatever." I think my favorite justification was hearing a family on the news talk about how it's become a family tradition to camp out in front of different stores together so that they could be sure to get a good spot in line. They actually had the father of the family bring them their Thanksgiving dinner to the line in front of Best Buy. So the tradition of sitting down with family, spending time with the ones you love, actually taking time to talk to each other and thank God for the blessings in your life has now been usurped by the all-encompasing need for MORE. MORE MORE MORE. 

Thanksgiving dinner isn't even about the symbol of the bounty that we've been given. Rather, it's become about getting the BIGGEST turkey, the BEST place settings, NEW dishes and linens, candlesticks and flatware, Martha Stewart this and Rachel Ray that.

Do we really need new dinnerware for Thanksgiving dinner to be meaningful?
Or are we only buying it because the commercials on t.v. tell us that we NEED it?

I worked retail for 10 years and after that first time that I found myself driving to work at the mall at 3am because I had to work Thanksgiving night/Black Friday morning (that's right folks, most places will FIRE YOU if you can't or won't work Black Friday), I vowed that I would never, ever participate in this stupid, awful, shallow event. Ever. 

Because it's the worst.

While you're in bed, sleeping soundly and dreaming of cheap smart phones and cut price iPads, the people who have to be at work are either already at work, having to leave their families to get to work, or are missing their Thanksgiving entirely. They are going into work early so that they can be abused, yelled at, ridiculed, shoved, and belittled by the good shoppers who less than 12 hours ago were saying family grace over their meals, giving thanks to God for all that they had. People are AWFUL on this day, and I'm getting all capsy about that because it deserves it. People are mean, they are tired, they are often hung over, they have been whipped into a frenzy by clever marketing which has told them that their families won't feel loved if they don't get everything they ever dreamed of for Christmas and if they don't buy those things now they will no longer be available and then their kids won't believe in Santa or Baby Jesus ANYMORE. 

Wanna know some secrets of the trade?

1. That "awesome" gift bag/tote/free whatever that is being offered by a lot of stores as incentives to show up is garbage. It's cheaply made crap that you probably wouldn't buy, but since it's free, they've made you think that you desperately need it. It's junk. Rule of thumb: if you wouldn't BUY it if it wasn't free, it's not a deal. It's just more crap to clutter up your house.

2. When I worked at Express, they would send TWO shipments of everything: one to put out for Black Friday and an IDENTICAL SHIPMENT to put out two weeks before Christmas. And they're not alone in that. The KNOW that they can sell the American public the idea that if they don't buy something right now that it won't be available and Christmas will be ruined. You are statistically more likely to buy something that you don't even want or really like if it's cheap or if someone tells you that might not be able to get it later. Basically, they're selling you stuff that they KNOW you don't even want...because they can. Oh, and Express, the Limited, Bath and Body Works, and Victoria's Secret are all owned by the same company. Guess what stores all have the same policies.

Now let's talk some more about the employees:

Why should you care?

After all, they chose to work at Wal-Mart/Target/K-Mart/Wherever, right? At least they have a job, right? If they don't want to do the job, there are literally thousands of people who would love to do that job, right?

Really? How about you?
You wanna leave your family on Thanksgiving to sell crap to mean people at unGodly hours of the morning?
You wanna explain to your kids why you can't tuck them in?
You wanna wonder WHY THE HECK you're doing this since, as a single mom, the money you're going to making from working this shift is going STRAIGHT to the childcare company?

Didn't think so.

You realize, too, that all of those justifications for making them work on Thanksgiving and Black Friday are the same ones given by Ebeneezer Scrooge to Bob Cratchit in "A Christmas Carol," right? Ever last one of them. 

Because Scrooge was greedy. And mean. And a hoarder of THINGS. Of STUFF. The only difference is that the STUFF that he hoarded was money while the American public at large chooses to hoard STUFF and give away their money. Hm. 

But wait, you're not Scrooge, right? You just want your kids to have a nice Christmas!

That's totally fair. It is. But what if we taught our kids that STUFF isn't what makes Christmas nice in the first place? What if we reject this idea that Christmas is about excess ad piles of stuff under the tree? What if we refused to play the big box stores' games? Because you can BET that they're not working the cash registers on Black Friday, dealing with the mess they've made. Nope, they're with their families. Where the rest of us should be. What if, on Black Friday, the doors swung open one was there? What if people were willing to wait until 8am or 9am the next day? What if they didn't feel the need to get aggressive or physical or mean over something made of plastic that they don't really need anyway? What if Thanksgiving and Christmas were allowed to be about what they have always been about, which has nothing to do with things and everything to do with love. People. Family. Hope. Home. Jesus. Togetherness. 

What if being a minimum wage employee working the best job you could get to support your family didn't exclude you from getting to take time to appreciate and thank God for those things?

I'm going to leave you with this last question:

Are Thanksgiving and Christmas only for those who can afford to celebrate them? Is that the direction in which we're headed?

It's looking like it.

And that makes me ill.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I Don't Think I'm a Better Parent Than You

I wanted to set the record straight about something, since the way in which the Hubs and I have chosen to parent tends to get a bad rap in a few regards. Some of them (most of them) I can't do much about, but one I can and that's this-


See, we attachment parent. We are baby wearing, non-circumcising, bed sharing, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, Dr Sears worshiping type folks. 

Trust me. I know. My son has been on this earth for six months and I think we've already heard it all already:

"You'll never get that baby out of your bed if you share with him now!" (For now, I think we're good, but if it turns out that he's 15 and still in our bed, I guess we'll admit you were right and go from there.)

" share your bed? But...when do you have sex?!" (Not to put too fine a point on things, but we figured out pretty early on that sex doesn't require a bed, bedroom, or even being alone in the house. You get creative, which keeps things...interesting. Hey, you asked.)

"Your baby will never learn to walk/sit up/crawl/whatever if you carry him all the time!" (Wes is doing just fine with all of his milestones, thanks, and I don't have to worry about cramming a stroller through a too-narrow door when I'm out and about or trying to navigate rough terrain like festival grounds with one. My baby carriers are dead comfy and I was able to navigate two airports with Wes in my ring sling with almost zero fussing. Plus...he looks adorable in them.)

"You're still breastfeeding? You need to get that baby to learn to take a bottle!"
"I heard that there's no nutritive value to breastfeeding past four months."
"What're you going to be, one of those moms that breastfeeds until her kid is in college?"
(I love to breastfeed. Not only do I believe that it's best for my baby, but the World Health Organization, the American Association of Pediatrics, and a wide variety of other sources will back me up on that. Wes is only seven months old, so still very much a baby. I'd definitely like to think that he'll be weaned well before college age, although I'm unclear who those moms are that people refer to. I've never met one, although just for curiosity's sake I think I'd like to at least once in my life. Perhaps they'll be covered in National Geographic someday as some exotic tribe of lactationally gifted women. Dreams come true. I will say that I will breastfeed as long as both Wes and I choose to and I will not apologize for that. Who knows, we might get all crazy and do it in public. Stay tuned.)

I could go on and on. Really. When it comes to parenting, people seem to have the same boundaries as when it comes to pregnancy, which is to say "none." Everyone has an opinion, everyone has an idea, everyone's heard something from someone who heard something from someone who read something. It's all very involved and confrontational.

And I get it. Human beings are social, tribal dwellers. We believe that what's best for the tribe is best for the individual, which means that we tend to be deeply suspicious of individuals who deviate from the accepted norm. That was true of early man and it's still true in the produce section of the grocery store. So normally I try to respond to these criticisms and calls to question about my (very) personal parenting choices and then just rage about them later to my family and bestie on the phone in private. The "That's What I SHOULD Have Said" conversation is my wheelhouse.

But there is one assumption that people make about me when I tell people that we're attachment parenting that I couldn't let slide hurts people. Not me, so much, but the people who are assuming that this particular thing is true about me:

I don't think that I'm a better parent than you.

Seriously. I don't. I'm not looking down on you for your choices, judging you for not doing things the way that I do them, sneering at you for using a stroller or formula, jeering at your behind your back because I think that I've got it all figured out. I'm not getting together with my other attachment parenting friends and exulting over the fact that, obviously, we are far superior parents and our children are going to grossly outstrip yours in happiness, healthiness, and prosperity. 

I have made choices about the way that we parent largely the same way that I think most people do: lots of reading, lots of praying, lots of research and back and forth, and some trial and error. I parent the way that I do because I truly believe that it's the best way to raise my child. Did you get that last part? MY child. See that? 

My philosophy on this is that I was given the children that I was for a specific purpose and you have the ones that you have for a specific purpose. I was prepared to raise the children that that I now have and the ones to come and I have been given special, Heavenly stewardship over these children. Just like you have over yours. So when I pray for inspiration or about a specific thing, I'm getting inspiration and confirmation/negation for my children. Not yours. Not all the children in my congregation at church. Definitely not all the children in the world. 

Just mine.

The answers to what will work for my children will oftentimes be different from what will work for yours. I will probably discipline my children differently, play with them differently, feed them differently, and teach them about Jesus differently than you. We may have some similarities in our approaches, but there are bound to be differences. And that's okay. You know why? Because we have different children to raise.

So, when you hear that I didn't circumcise my son and you ask why, I'll tell you. I'll tell you about the research that I did if you're interested and I'll tell you about the promptings that led to us choosing not to have it done. And I'll tell you that I feel good about that. That doesn't mean that I'm judging you if you chose to do it.

If you ask me about breastfeeding and why I'm still doing it, I'll tell you, if you really want to know. I'll tell you about the bonding that I experience when Wes and I spend that special time together, about how good I feel about being able to boost his little immune system, about how happy we both are that we have this sweet connection. And I'll tell you that I feel good about that. That doesn't mean that I'm judging you if you use formula.

If you ask me about co-sleeping or vaccine schedules, baby wearing or gentle discipline, or any of the other decisions that we've made about how we'll raise our children, I'll tell you. And if you want to talk about the research that I've done or why I ended up choosing to do what we do and how we do it, I'll tell you. But sharing that information isn't the same as judging you for coming to a different conclusion or doing something that works better with your lifestyle.

I don't think I'm a better parent than you are.
I think I'm muddling through this experience the same way that we all are.
I think that I'm having the same frustrations and fears when I'm up in the night with a sick baby.
I think that I'm scared that I'm screwing it all up just like you are.
I think that I love my baby with such an intense love that it makes me want to do the best possible job that I can - just like you.
And I think that I'm working hard at finding answers and figuring out what works - just like you.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Disaster Mom

I'm an organized person. I like labels and files and perfect little plastic boxes with their perfect little plastic lids that perfectly contain the uncontainable. I like lists and organizers and ping-y reminders sent to my smart phone about when and where I'm supposed to be places. I like the smug satisfaction that goes along with returning library books on time and I like knowing that my Netflix DVD cue is organized so that the perfect DVD arrives to coordinate with the upcoming holiday.

I like to be...right. 

And most days, I am. Truly. It's something that I wasn't born with, I've had to work at this "rightness" for literally years. Years of working at check lists and memorization and forcing myself to write things down. 

Thanks to my years of careful training and concentration, most days that sort of organization comes naturally. Like breathing. Well ordered breathing.

Today was not that day.

What happened today?!

Today, I was DisasterMom. Today, I was distracted, fluff-headed, and scatter brained. The Hubs will be SO pleased to know that there is a chink in my Armor of Organization. 

Today, Wes had to be schlepped to the doctor's office because I was worried that he was coming down with whooping cough (he isn't, thankfully). I was nervous because our pediatrician already thinks that I'm a loon who probably lives on a commune somewhere, breastfeeding my sister wives' 10 year olds and wearing love beads. I can see his "here comes to the crazy hippie" face every time we go to the office and I see him tense up every time something is suggested for my son's treatment. It's actually become sort of delightfully passive aggressive, like a holiday dinner with family. I feel like Wes will be 18 and my doctor will still be asking me if we've "considered finally doing something like taking oral vitamins to combat that newborn jaundice." To which I will gleefully answer that no, we have not. 

BUT. The DTaP is one of the vaccines that we have decided to have Wes get. I read a lot. I researched a lot. I read papers and pamphlets and books and websites. On both sides of the argument. 

So Wes is currently up to date on his DTaP. Which means that if he had ended up with whooping cough (pertussis) I would have skipped passive aggression and gone straight into the "I Told You So Dance" right there in the office. Possibly with hand gestures. While attempting to get meds right in that moment to simultaneously stuff into Wes' mouth while dancing. 

But it wasn't whooping cough. A FACT FOR WHICH I WILL ETERNALLY BE GRATEFUL. Because whooping cough is scary.

Unfortunately, I am now the crazy mom who takes her kid into the doctor's office for (wait for it) post nasal drip. Yay me. DisasterMom.

To help me to lick my wounds, the Hubs (who came with me to the ped's office) took me out for a deeply bad-for-me lunch. We ordered. Our food order came up. And then had to be sent back THREE TIMES. At which point I almost lost it. Over a taco. I almost became that lady in line. You know who I'm talking about. Thanks to the Hubs' calming influence I managed to cap my taco-fueled rage but...barely.

Then we went to the library to return some books. Books which, thanks to the fact that I had misplaced my glasses yesterday (!) didn't get returned on time (!!) and were now overdue (!!!). I pulled into the library parking lot and realized that I had forgotten to put the stroller in the van's trunk, which meant that I now had to struggle to juggle the Wes=laden carseat, my overstuffed diaper bag, and overflowing library bag into the library with my sad, breadstick arms. Things were falling out of bags, Wes threw his Sophie le Girafe toy straight into the parking lot, and I ended up walking into the library with my wallet clutched between my teeth. I shamefacedly handed over my library card to the librarian and explained my situation and then felt the need to explain that I NEVER do this and that things had be CRAZY this week (um, it's Tuesday...), and that I'm usually SO organized, blah blah blah. I yammered, she stared, the people in line behind me got all shifty and irritated, and then...then she told me that there was still a book overdue that was unaccounted for in the stack that I had handed her. It was still in the van. All the way out in the parking lot. I finished checking out, telling her that I would bring it right in, and went to grab Wes. When I bent over to pick up the carseat, I realized that I had left the top on my travel mug of herbal tea which was stored in the side pocket of the diaper bag open and I now had Tangerine Zinger running down the leg of my jeans, into my shoe, and onto the carpet. I just managed to avoid cussing a blue streak all over the entrance to the library, grabbed my bags and the carseat and juggled everything out to the van. I grabbed the stupid book, which happened to be a book on CD, and ran it to the drop slot on the outside library wall.  I finally got to the van when I realized- disc 2 of the book that I had just returned through the slot was still in the van's CD player. 

I almost lost it entirely, right there in the parking lot in my mom van.
With my mom hair and my tea-stained jeans.
With my poor sick baby in the backseat that now had to be unloaded and carried into the library so that I could return that STUPID CD. LATE.

I simply rushed into the library, thrust the CD at the poor librarian with a mumbled excuse about what an idiot I am today, and ran out of there as fast as my sloshy, squishy shoes would carry me. I jumped in my van and drove home, trying not to cry.

So now I am at home. I am currently installed on the couch with an immense tub of Jif peanut butter, saltine crackers, Hershey's kisses (which are delicious with peanut butter...), and the brand new Bridget Jones book (which I didn't even realize was a thing until I saw it on the Book Express shelf!). I may never get up again. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

10 Movies I'll Be Watching While Snuggling Under Blankets This Fall

Autumn is my favorite season of the whole year, but it tends to bring out the hermit in me. There is just something that I find so scrummy about throwing on some cozy clothes (yoga pants, oversized flannel shirt, scrunchy wool socks, big slippers I stole from the Hubs, all topped off with a great big scarf...ahhhh), grabbing a mug full of Apple Cinnamon Herbal Tea (seriously? Autumn in a mug, I'm telling you.), throwing something on the knitting needles, and planting myself in front of Netflix for a full-on FallFest. It just speaks to my soul. If possible, I'll crack open a window nearby to let in the crunchy smell of drying, mouldering leaves, crisp air, and pine smoke from the neighbors' fireplaces and bonfires. On the hottest days of summer, when I feel sticky and lazy, I cast my mind back to the last autumn and try to imagine myself there, to stay cool.

With that in mind, I've already been planning my knitting projects and what I will be watching while they click away, making scrumptious little bits and pieces for my shop and for Christmas gifts. Here's the list that I've come up with so far!

1. Hocus Pocus
Because obviously. I vividly remember the first time I saw this as a kid (I was around 9 or 10) and how much I loved it. We owned it on VHS and I watched in constantly in September and October, dreaming of the day that I, too, would have zany, magical adventures riddled with witches and talking cats. Also, I was in love with Max, the male protagonist in this. *siiiiiiiiigh*

2. Funny Farm
This movie is great from fall to Christmas! It's very funny and full of images that make me long for the country life even more than I already do. The house in it is darling (even if it is a money pit!), and the New England autumn foliage is to die for. As a bonus, the '90s country style Christmas decorations make me think of my mom, and that is always welcome.

3. Bell, Book, and Candle
This is the movie that inspired the t.v. series, "Bewitched," though they seriously toned down the sexiness of the Samantha character (called Gillian in the movie) to make it more family-friendly for television audiences. All your favorite "Bewitched" characters are here- the crazy uncle, her unsupportive mother, and the nosy neighbor. The only difference here is the plot twist- witches aren't supposed to be able to fall in love and if they do, they lose their magical powers. Dun dun dun! The scenes in the '60s beatnik club are the cutest and I love all things Jimmy Stewart, so this is a win for me.

4. Arsenic and Old Lace
This movie is the cutest! Confirmed bachelor newpaper columnist (Cary Grant) secretly elopes on the afternoon of Halloween with the next-door neighbor's daughter. They run home to pack their bags and tell her father and his two maiden aunts the good news when Grant discovers something most unsavory: his aunts have concocted a most unique charity. They've been offering up a spare room to lonely boarders and, upon discovering that the poor souls have no family or loved ones to speak of, have been bumping them off and burying them in the basement. It's a dark comedy, to be sure, but it still manages to be charming. It's just spooky enough for Halloween night, and is perfect for snuggling on the couch with a mug of hot chocolate full of tiny marshmallows.

5. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

A romantic movie perfectly fit for autumn! Mrs Muir, eager to ditch her horrible in-laws, falls head over heels in love with a gorgeous cape-side manor house only to discover she's jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. See, the manor house already has a resident - the ghost of hot-tempered Captain Gregg (played in a wonderfully campy way by Rex Harrison). The ghost discovers that Mrs Muir is as stubborn as he is cantankerous and they set about learning to live together until the ghost discovers that his heart is most certainly able to be given away, ghost or not. Love, love, love this one.

6. Jane Eyre
I can't seem to get myself to reread this gloomy work of Charlotte Bronte in its entirety, but the movie is just splendid, particularly this version of it. Charlotte Gainsbourg just is Jane Eyre and a wee Anna Paquin is perfect in her role as young Jane. The story is so delightfully gothic and gloomy, with mysterious screams in the night, dark corridors, a mysterious and brooding leading man, all set on the misty moors of England. This movie makes me want to knit lacy shawls and cozy fingerless eyelet mitts to wear while strolling pensively across overcast fields.

7. Bewitched
Yep, I know that this movie was panned by the critics when it hit the theatres and nope, I don't care. I think it's delightful and a super fun break in the gloom of Halloween festivities. The television show was always a favorite of mine growing up (Nick@Nite's Blockparty Summers hold many fond memories for me and I deeply wish that they still ran them!), so this movie touches something nostalgic in my heart. Will Ferrell is his goofy self, Steve Carrell is absolutely perfect as her zany Uncle Arthur, Shirley MacLaine simply is Endora, and Kristin Chenoweth and Heather Burns are lovely as Samantha's sidekick friends. The story is, of course, different from the television show, but it's no less adorable. The story goes that a television studio decides to resurrect the old television show "Bewitched" and options Jack Wyatt (Will Ferrell) to play Darrin. Wyatt, whose film career is foundering after multiple flops, decides that the focus of the new show ought to be on Darrin rather than Samantha, who is played by complete unknown Isabel Bigelow (Nicole Kidman). Isabel believes Wyatt to be genuinely in love with her and, at the launch party for the new show, decides to trust Wyatt with her biggest secret- that she really and truly is a witch. Wyatt flips his lid, insults Bigelow who has a suitably witchy meltdown, and hilarity ensues.

8. The Good Witch
Oh. Camp, camp, and more camp. This movie is the first in a series of (so far) five Hallmark films starring Catherine Bell as Cassie, the titular Good Witch. These movies are seriously soft fare, but I love them just the same. I guarantee that the Hallmark Channel will run a marathon of these films at Halloween time and I will be tuning in. In the dark, often moody evenings of fall, these light-hearted films are a sweet break and, with their "be kind" messages, are great for watching with the family. The scenes of her stirring up lovely concoctions in her kitchen and selling herbal lovelies in her store make me want to jump into the kitchen and whip up something yummy of my own, even if it's just pumpkin soup with a loaf of crusty bread.

9. Wuthering Heights
There's just something about gothic romances that demand to be watched in autumn, and this is one of the best. Those Bronte sisters knew what they were doing! Unlike Jane Eyre, I have read this particular novel many times since I first read and fell in love with it in high school and this is my favorite film adaptation of it so far. The manors, the moors, the wildness of Heathcliff and Cathy and their tragic romance...*sigh* This story is beautiful and sad and's just heartbreaking in the most perfect way.

10. The Great Gatsby
I saved this one for #10 because it's based on my favorite book of all time. ALL TIME,  you guys! I just love this book (apparently I have a penchant for tragic love affairs?) and I think that this is the best film version of this movie that I've seen. This movie lends itself perfectly to watching at the very beginning of fall...the hysteria of the parties in the middle and end of summer winding down to the final, tragic act of the book at the beginning of the chill of fall...*sigh* Tears in my tea. Incidentally, thanks to the infamous "beautiful shirts" scene of the book and movie, this makes me want to completely reorganize my closet which I have to do once a season anyway so it's perfect in that regard as well. Love.

I'll throw in a bonus movie for you, just in case you need an alternate for one of these others that you don't like, or if you watch all of these before autumn is up and you need a spare:

11. Anne of Green Gables
This one isn't particularly fall-y, but it is so very cozy and sweet that I just had to add it to the list. Anne taught me so very many things growing up, from the importance of staying in a guest room to the festivity rose-painted china lends to a luncheon, to the fact that "tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it." I adore Anne, Marilla, Gilbert, Matthew, Diana, and all the rest (except for Josie Pye. You know that there's just no accounting for a Pye.) and any chance to return to Avonlea for a time is a joy. Just please, for the love of all things holy, stay away from the third installment in the film series. It is an abomination and an insult to the entire franchise. Ugh.

Enjoy these, everyone, and if you watch any of them, I'd love to hear your take on them! Happy fall, y'all!

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Sea of "Supposed To" and Attachment Parenting

Ever since I found out that Little Man was on his way here, I've been trying to figure out what kind of mother I want to be and how I can reconcile my instincts to what I'm supposed to be doing. Being a new mother in our society is tough because we are so bombarded by these messages about what we're supposed to be doing, how we're supposed to look, what our babies are supposed to be like, etc. In short, I felt like I was swimming in a sea of supposed to.

*I was supposed to be reading my scriptures everyday.
*I was supposed to be keeping a daily journal full of meaningful, spiritual insights as well as a concise family history.
*I was supposed to be working on family history work.
*I was supposed to be losing that baby weight as soon as possible by working out the second that Little Man reached 6 weeks of age (thanks a lot, Heidi Klum).
*I was supposed to be keeping up on my housework and making sure that my home looked gorgeous and company-ready
*I was supposed to be breastfeeding on demand, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but also not offending anyone by (*gasp!*) breastfeeding in public or where anyone might possibly see me.
*I was supposed to be making this motherhood thing look easy breezy, keeping up my appearance, dressing to the 9s, and cooking scrumptious meals full of whole, unprocessed foods- all on about 4 hours of sleep a night.
*I was supposed to know exactly what I was doing in every situation and remain calm at all times, even when Little Man was crying constantly, pooping about 75 times a day, and my hormones were more up and down than a seismometer on the San Andreas Fault.

The truth? I was exhausted. And overwhelmed. I cried a lot. I didn't know what I was doing and I was stressed out. This little bitty person that had been entrusted to my care didn't come with any on the job training or a manual of any kind and yet I was expected to just jump in with both feet, knowing what I was supposed to be doing. Add to that the fact that I was indescribably stressed out and terrified, watching him constantly, praying that he would live, and I was a complete basket case.

I tried cloth diapering right off of the bat, and that failed. And I cried because I so believe in cloth diapering.
I tried breastfeeding and that was a roaring success immediately following his birth- and I cried because it was painful and because it was an overwhelming change to my schedule and lifestyle.
I tried giving him a bottle once in awhile to take some of the pressure off of me to nurse 24/7 in those first few weeks when all I wanted to do was sleep a tiny bit- and I cried because I felt guilty and like I was a failure as a mother.
I tried sleep training him so that he would be a "good sleeper" - and we both cried. A lot.

The first two months of Little Man's life left me feeling like a giant failure by the world's standards. I wasn't living up to anyone's expectations of me, society's or my own. I felt like pretty much anyone would have been a better mother to this little boy than I was. I just felt helpless, hopeless, and terrified. Every time I went into public, I kept waiting for other parents to come up to me and point out all of the things I was doing wrong that would ruin my baby irreparably.

And then, at around the 3 month mark, I read The Attachment Parenting Book by Dr William and Martha Sears and it was like the sun came out from behind the clouds. I was able to relax. My confidence shot up and I started to forget about all of the things that I was supposed to be doing and started trusting my own instincts. I realized that even though I didn't know exactly what I was supposed to do in every single foreseeable situation, I knew what to do in this moment and that was all that mattered. I realized that, contrary to what anyone might say, I knew by instinct what my baby needed and that my trying to fight against that instinct in order to appease the supposed tos was what was causing my misery.

To paraphrase a phrase from the book, attachment parenting is what you would do as a parent if you were parenting on a desert island without any outside pressure and expectations. Babywearing, breast feeding, bed sharing, birth bonding, avoiding "baby trainers," and the other points in attachment parenting as a philosophy felt just like coming home. It all seemed to logical and sensible! And it acknowledged that I, the mother, had exactly what it took to raise my child to be the best person that he's capable of being just by doing what came naturally to me regardless of what the so-called experts might say. That meant a lot to me, I can tell you!

And I love that according to the Sears' book, I get to decide what's best for my baby, not anyone else - including the Searses. I wear my baby, yes, but I also let him rock in a swing when he's having trouble sleeping and let him play on the floor in his play gym when he gets restless. Yes, we co-sleep most of the time, but Little Man also has his own co-sleeper crib attached to our bed that he sleeps in on his own when I need a little extra space. Yes, we avoid "baby trainers," but we do try to keep some consistency in his schedule where sleep is concerned, especially at nighttime. And no one can tell us that we're doing it wrong!

I love this philosophy and I love what it's done for me and my relationship with my son. I love the lack of stress over doing it "right" and the knowledge that my instincts are trustworthy. I love the gentle approach and the fact that I don't have to let my child scream or treat him like he's a manipulative little criminal. (For more information on attachment parenting as well as other parenting tidbits, you can click on my "Parenting" tab above!)

Most of all? I love that I get to let go of the supposed to and just enjoy the want to and the going to and the feeling able to.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

They're All Miracles

Duchess Kate has had her baby boy and named him, which is thrilling. The fan fare and hoopla surrounding this little boy is amazing and wonderful; I've never seen a country of people so enamored of one tiny little bundle of blanket and waving fingers in all of my 28 years. There has been a beautiful outpouring of love and good wishes, positive thoughts and happy energy. The press if full of smiling faces waving flags and hugging each other.

All because of one tiny baby less than a week old.

And it made me think- what if we treated every baby like the miracle it is? I'm not saying that every baby needs a parade and press conference or anything. But what if we were this excited every time a friend told us that they were expecting? What if the world embraced the pregnant mother of five rather than rolled its eyes? What if your local church congregation smiled and cheered when babies were blessed during their services rather than used it as a time to clean beneath their nails or try not to doze off?

Because the thing is, they're all miracles. Every. Single. One. If you look at the amazing series of things that has to go just exactly right in order for a baby to be conceived and born is awe-inspiring and humbling. The most exacting human engineer in the world would have an excruciatingly difficult time trying to duplicate the process, and yet it happens every day all on its own. Somewhere along the line we've lost sight of how incredible and beautiful this whole process of life is and allowed it to become mundane. Common place.

I look at my son, sleeping soundly in my bed, and I watch him breathe in and out. In and out. In and out. I imagine the muscles necessary to expand and contract his tiny ribs, the tiny air sacs in his lungs filling with oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide, imagine the dark red blood in his veins becoming a bright, cherry pink as it fills up with fresh air. I think about his blood circulating through his tiny system, getting cleaned and filtered, taking nutrients where they need to go, feeding his brain. And all the while, his lips make sleepy sucking motions while he dreams of milk and mama's arms and the Heaven that he knew before coming to our family, blissfully unaware of the beautiful miracle that he really is. Unconscious to the fact that his mommy and daddy prayed him here, obsess over every little hiccup and cough and sneeze, examine his poop like there's going to be a test on the contents of his diaper, agonize over decisions from whether to use cloth diapers or disposable and what vaccination schedule to use. 

And he dreams on. This little person who is so full of potential, who could grow up to cure cancer or play professional soccer or be an accountant with three lovely kids in the suburbs- he doesn't know yet that he's a miracle. That he's amazing. Right now, he's excited about finding out that those hilarious things kicking around are his feet and better yet, they're attached to him! He's excited about seeing the patterns on mama's dress for the first time, about being able to grab things whenever he wants to, about that funny thing that his tummy feels when daddy bounces him on his knees. He's learning to laugh and he's learning to squeal with delight. He's learning that hunger and sleep aren't the only feelings that he can feel. I hope that he learns that laughing is better than crying but that it's also alright to cry, because that lesson will serve him for the rest of his life.

I stare at my baby and I know without being told that he's a precious miracle, sent here from Heaven, and given to me to watch over. To keep safe. I know without having to read it in a parenting book that that is an enormous and powerful responsibility. My body wakes without an alarm every two hours in the night to check on him, to watch him breathe, in and out. In and out. In and out. Without having to be reminded, my soul covers him in heartfelt, desperate prayer with each of his tiny, unthinking breaths. 

And then I remember: this is the case with all babies. Every mother. Every father. Every parent is enchanted by their child's sneezes and is certain that their child is the most amazing child ever to come to Earth. Every parent is terrified of messing it all up and is delighted by silly things like their baby learning to stick their tongue out. Every parent tears up when their baby cries inconsolably because of colic and when they take their first step, whether it be across the living room or into their college dorm.

Every baby is a miracle. Every. Single. One. 
When did we forget that?
And what can we do to fix it?
How can we, as a people, recapture the magic of parenthood, of being the village welcoming its newest tiny member?
Because it's there, deep inside of us. I know, because I've seen it in the last couple of days on the news.
The magic and the wonder and the delight.

Every baby deserves that because every baby, someday, will return to the Palace of the King and inherit the birthright that is theirs and theirs alone from their Father. Every baby is royalty. Every baby was "fearfully and wonderfully made." 

Every. Single. One.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Meal for Monday - Thanksgiving In a Pan

Hey all! Did you forget that I exist?! It's been three months since I've been here! I can't believe it...I'm so sorry. I, clearly, am a terrible blogger. I think you'll forgive me when you see what -or who rather- has been keeping me so busy, though!

I mean...could you just?! Seriously. He's the cutest. I just can't stop looking at him. And touching him. And playing with him. And smelling him. lol. All of which makes it a little difficult to type. Oh, and the crippling exhaustion that has come with having a newborn around the house has made it difficult for my brain for form cohesive thoughts as well. I'm sure you didn't want to read my half-garbled pleas for sleep at 3am while rocking the baby, am I right? Lol.

Good news, though! I'm back and full of ideas and energy! I've revamped the blog a bit, added some new features, and overall just given things a little face-lift. Take some time to snoop around my new tabs, too, to see some awesome resources that I've linked up for you!

And, as a bonus, I have a Meal for Monday for you today! I know, I know. Contain your shock, please.

I was craving comfort food in the days that I was trying to get my schedule back on track, and I stumbled across this little gem of a recipe. It's so easy and so yummy and so inexpensive! I made it with chicken since turkey is in short supply in July (ahem), but this recipe would also be an awesome one to trot out just after the real Thanksgiving to use up leftovers! It was a hit with The Hubs, which is my benchmark for whether a recipe sees the light of day again, so we'll be having this again soon! Yum yum!

I couldn't resist making mine in this adorbs little chicken dish that I have, either.
Photo courtesy of
  • 1 package (6 ounces) stuffing mix
  • 2-1/2 cups cubed cooked turkey
  • 2 cups frozen cut green beans, thawed
  • 1 jar (12 ounces) turkey gravy
  • Pepper to taste


  • Prepare stuffing mix according to package directions. Transfer to a greased 11-in. x 7-in. baking dish. Top with turkey, beans, gravy and pepper. Cover and bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until heated through. Yield: 6 servings.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

True Confessions of Late Gestation Gretchen (T-8 Days Until Baby Day!)

So. Truth? I'm currently a crazy-go-nuts hormonal mess. I'm not sleeping super well (unmedicated, that is. Medicated is a different story entirely...), my back is killing me no matter what I'm doing and where, I have contractions pretty much all day and night, just nothing consistent and...oh the feels I feel. *sigh* I'm like a bipolar cobra, if that cobra could sob hysterically in pitches only dogs can hear after dealing you a fatal blow to your jugular (or wherever cobras bite. I'm not an expert.). And then make it your fault that it bit you. Delightful, right?!

That's me. I am the cobra sobbing on your shoulder about the unfairness of it all.
I mean, really, though. Who among us HASN'T had a Defcon-1 meltdown in any given aisle of Meijer during a sale week when something that was CLEARLY REPRESENTED in the sale flier ISN'T THERE and what do you MEAN YOU'RE NOT GIVING RAINCHECKS?!?! NO IT IS NOT OKAY, AND YES I AM GOING TO NEED TO SPEAK TO THE MANAGER, PLEASE. *dissolves into incomprehensible sobbing mingled with what sounds like apology for all the insanity, but it's difficult to hear and understand through all the...well...insanity.*

I mean. That's everyone's Tuesday, right?

So, yeah.
There hasn't been a lot of blogging going on because really? Who needs to read that? Who WANTS to read that?! 
Plus, I reserve my Constitutional right against self-incrimination.

The real problem?
We have a week before Baby Wes gets here.
a week.
And then baby is here and NOTHING is done!

Okay, trying not to go to that place.
Because that's an exaggeration! Our kitchen is painted, our living room is painted! We have clothes and bed and diapers and all kinds of things.
We even have this groovy baby monitor that actually clips to baby's diaper and monitors breath movements. Nifty!




I feel very unready.
And my hormonal brain takes that feeling and freaking runs a marathon of worry and public spectacle with it, which is making me NO FRIENDS right now, I can tell you.

I feel unprepared for nighttime feedings and colic and breastfeeding and by the way? The prospect of bathing a slippery-as-soap newborn with my HANDS sends me into a mild panic attack.

I'm not afraid for the birth because I've DONE that part. I KNOW that part. No problem. And I breastfed for...three days. So I have a TINY bit of experience with that. But that's it. I know NOTHING else. And focusing on the stuff that I feel like I NEED to know and SHOULD know keeps me from obsessing about how all of this is going to play out- if this is information that I'm really even going to need in the future, you know?

And I miss my mom. Desperately. Especially in times like this. I just want my mom to come over and kick my "rear in gear" (one of her favorite phrases) to get the house finally finished and then hold me and tell me that everything is going to be okay. Because no matter how old you get and what you go through, you mama is always your mama, and sometimes you just need her smell and her arms and the feel of her hair on your cheek.

And I miss my bestie and my sister, both of whom are far away and dealing with their OWN lives and things. Not that they wouldn't be willing, but it seems unfair for me to expect them to be on call 24 hours a day to talk me down off of whatever ledge I've gotten myself (or the produce manager at Meijer) onto that minute.

And I miss my daughter, who I would desperately be trying to get excited for the baby to come (since she'd only be a year and eight months old right now) and trying not to panic about the responsibility of raising TWO littles so close together. The longing for that path that my life could have gone in sometimes hurts so much that I can't breathe. 

So I'm in survival mode because...we have a week. A week with our boy before he makes his grand entrance and I get to be properly introduced to the little squirmer who's been giving me heartburn and cravings for cheeseburgers and spaghetti. And an obsessive need to eat ice cubes. His bag is all packed for the hospital, but I just can't bring myself to pack mine. Because that's very, VERY real.

So, instead, I cry sad tears about songs on the radio.
I cry happy tears at the rain that falls on the trees and our skylights and makes such beautiful, whispery music.
I cry frustrated tears at the grocery store because I wasn't able to get what I wanted because I wasn't feeling well enough to be up and about earlier in the week.
I cry confused tears over nothing that makes sense, and those tears feel the best because they seem to come from deep, secret place deep inside me that doesn't have a name that doesn't burden itself with a label but exists only to bring healing.
I cry.
A lot.

The other day, that first really rainy day that we had, I danced up on my tippy-toes in the rain on our deck, twirling and twirling and twirling around with my hands cupped to catch the drops so I could really feel as many of them as possible. Because it felt like the world just needed a good cry, too, and I wanted to be a part of that. So I cried along, and the sky's tears dripped off my nose and the leaves on the trees, and for a minute I didn't feel quite so alone. Being covered in tears, mine and the world's, was cathartic and beautiful, and made me feel less like a pariah in a world where everyone around me seems to be mostly happy. I shivered in the rain, but I accepted it the way I wanted my own tears to be accepted by someone- just unapologetic, and matter-of-fact, and with a hint of me-too.

So that's what I'll probably be doing with the rest of my week: 
Trying to do as little damage to innocent bystanders (and grocery store displays) as possible.
And crying so as not to think.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Simple Sabbaths - Maternity Photo Shoot

I've had a lot of time to consider my blessings in the last few months while growing this amazing little person inside of me. The Hubs and I have been through a lot in the last year and a half, as have those that we love. It seems like an entire lifetime of experiences, good and bad, have been crammed into the last few years, which makes it impossible not to take stock of yourself and your life. I've been given so very much to be grateful for and, while fear tells me that the next hills we have to face are impossible, hope tells me that brighter things are just around the corner for us. All of us. 

I wanted to have something to document this little slice of our lives right now, this part of being a mother that I love so much. I do so love being pregnant! It's my favorite thing, watching the changes in my body and feeling the first stirrings of life deep inside. It's incredible. Yes, there are the normal things that women complain of in pregnancy, and no it's not necessarily always dignified but OH! The things that are good as so incredible that they more than make up for the hard parts. I would gladly take heartburn and backache for the opportunity to feel little feet paddling against my belly and see the jumps and jives of a little person performing an acrobatic show simply for his own amusement. 

I felt the need to document the joy that goes along with making life so that someday our Little Man could see these pictures and sees what incredible love and happiness he brought to his parents simply by existing. We teamed up with an amazing photographer and dear friend in our area (Stephanie Lowe of Stephanie Lowe Photography) and scheduled a maternity photo shoot in February. I really wanted to do some snowy, poetic looking shots and thought that our property would be the perfect backdrop for our pictures! I'm SO in love with the land that our house is on, especially in the winter. The woods are just gorgeous. These are just some of the beautiful shots that she got but I have to say, I'm sorely tempted to just plaster these all over our house! I'm so in love with them!!!

The Hubs is in love with touching my tummy which I, of course, love.

See? Daddy and son, already inseparable!

This one is one of my Top 5 Favorites. Seriously, Stephanie is SO talented!

SO in love with this man...

This one might make this year's Christmas card...


Okay, this was actually surprisingly comfortable. The snow contoured to my body's position, making a sort of outside easy chair. I could've sat out there all day. lol.

My shoulder to lean on...

My rock and shelter from the storm...

And he always makes me laugh!

Seriously? Love.

Another Top 5 shot, mostly because of the look on his face. He looks so...protective.

*sigh* He still gives me butterflies.

Okay, please, please, PLEASE don't think that we're crazy animal people or anything but...I love this dog. There will be a blog post in the future going more into it, but we're very, very attached to each other. She was so excited about the goings on of having company over, so I thought it would be fun to try to get her in a couple of shots. The fact that she's not just a big blonde blur is a testament to Stephanie's talent because I don't think she held still for more than .5 seconds at a time. lol.
Giving kisses!

Snuggled up in a family heirloom quilt.

Booties that I crocheted for Little Man! In Detroit Lions colors, of course!

This one is definitely going to make it on a wall somewhere in our house. I love it!

Dreaming out of one of our living room windows. We came inside to warm up with some herbal tea (Tangerine Zinger!) and as luck would have it, I even had my favorite mug in hand for the picture!

Warming up in front of our fireplace. Love. Love, love, love.
It was such an incredible experience and I think we've found our official family photographer! She'll be doing a newborn shoot with us after Little Man arrives, as well, which I'm very excited for! It was such a beautiful day for it (albeit freezing cold! And REALLY snowy!) and the surroundings couldn't have been more perfect. I couldn't be happier!

We love all of you who have supported us and who have been praying us through this pregnancy. It means so much to feel the power of those prayers and to know that there are so many people who love us. We think of all of you daily and are so grateful for all of you. Please keep those prayers coming as we close in on my due date. We most assuredly need them. Until the day he makes his arrival, I'll continue to calm myself by remembering all of the blessings in my life, all of the love we feel on a daily basis, and all of the joy that having the Gospel in my life brings me.

Happy Sabbathing, everyone!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Wifey Wednesdays- Putting the Hurt on Dirt (not your loved ones!)

I'm on FIRE lately, folks! I have been troubled for quite some time by the products that we've been using to clean our house. It needed a lot of TLC when we moved in and needed a baseboards-deep clean which meant that I found myself dumping loads of chemicals on every surface I could get my hands on. I didn't feel great about that, but I tried really hard not to look at the ingredients labels while I was cleaning. I've had asthma since I was really young and I found myself not being able to clean for long stretches at a time because my lungs would feel like they were on fire and I'd start wheezing all over the place. I had to wear really thick gloves on my hands because after a session with cleaning solutions they'd be so red and raw that they'd actually be painful when I tried to flex them (did I mention that I have sensitive skin, too?).

'Member these Mr Yuk! stickers from elementary school? lol!

Then I got preggers and I swear, it's like this little baby was just begging me not to inundate my body with all of those nasty chemicals because this whole 8 months so far, I have been wiped. First I was on partial bed rest to help alleviate some problems early on and then, when that was all done with, I was still exhausted to the point that getting dressed was enough to make me feel like I needed a nap. I was really, really looking forward to that "honeymoon" period of pregnancy to start up in the second trimester like I'd had with Violet, but somehow the Feel Good Fairy missed me. Let's just say that cleaning has been revised to mean having clean dishes from one meal to the next and making sure that we had clean undies to wear. lol. We're at bare bones, folks. Thank Heaven for the Hubs because without him I'm pretty sure that our house would have been condemned sometime around mid-December.

It would seem, however, that Week 32 is the magic number for this baby! I think that reality is finally setting in that we're going to have a little person here in about 7 weeks (I'm 33 weeks now), give or take depending on if he got his sense of punctuality from his mother (who is perpetually 15 minutes+ late) or from his dad. lol. Whatever it is, I've gotten more done in the last few days than I have in the last few months combined.

Nesting like whoa!
But here's the conundrum: I'm still not crazy about all those nasty toxins and chemicals coating my house (*shudder*), organic or "green" cleaners cost an arm and a leg at stores (and I loathe paying through the nose for a bottle that's mostly filled with water), and I'm nesting like the birds that have suddenly reappeared in our woods. So what's a girl to do?

Lucky for me, there are a TON of helps out there for people like me (and maybe you, too?) who want a clean house without having to label it a toxic waste site, including recipes for making your OWN green cleaning products for literally PENNIES per use.

Today I bought the ingredients that I'll need to best clean my house in every area (laundry, kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, etc) for the next six or seven months, at least. You would not BELIEVE how inexpensive it is to clean your house in a green way if you're willing to do a little of the heavy lifting yourself.

1. Laundry Detergent

First of all, a little note for those who don't know- when you read the ingredients listing on the back of ANYTHING, they're listed in order of greatest to least amount. So the first ingredient listed is the ingredient that is most prevalent in that product. I promise that the first ingredient listed on your liquid laundry detergent is WATER. Water. That means that the majority of what you're paying for there is available straight from your very own tap, and if you have city water then you're paying for water TWICE- once when you pay the city and again whenever you buy cleaning products with it in them. Hm. Add that, any time you add water to something you have to add something ELSE to keep the water from "blooming," or growing water born algae. That something else is a mild herbicide. Which you're putting on your clothes. And then putting on your skin. (Sidenote: that holds true for things like your shampoos, conditioners, liquid hand soaps, and lotions, too. More on that in another post.)

The good news is that it's VERY easy to make your very own detergent.

Now, I know that this isn't news since it seems to be the latest sensation that's sweeping the nation, but I figured it bore telling about here since I'm so stoked about it. lol. This is the recipe that I'm using and I like it because it has some Oxiclean powder in it for extra stain boosting. I also add some drops of Lavender Essential Oil to it to give it a little scent boost, especially on our sheets. It's SO relaxing!
This is the actual bottle that I have! Essential oils are a steal on, a little goes a long way, and they're so much better for you than artificial fragrances! Lavender is also offensive to mice, which makes it a no-brainer for us as far as a household fragrance goes.
Plus, doesn't it look pretty in its decorative glass jar?

2. Disinfecting

I'm like everyone else out there in that I want a clean, fresh house, but I also want a healthy house, especially during cold and flu season. Plus, with the Hubs being a nurse, he tends to bring home a certain amount of pestilence with him, so we have to be hyper-vigilant about disinfecting our surfaces. The good news is, you do NOT need BLEACH to disinfect the average house. You don't. Your house does NOT need to smell like a pool to be clean!!! All the typical homemaker needs in her arsenal is white vinegar, lemon juice, and water. That's IT. You can mix all three together in a spray bottle (I buy mine at the Dollar Tree) in equal parts and spray down all of the "touch" surfaces of your home- your counters, vanity top, door knobs, toilet surfaces, etc. If it gets touched a lot, spray it down with this and you're set. Most bacteria can't stand up to the combined acidity of the vinegar and lemon juice together. As an added bonus, the lemon juice will leave your house smelling so yummy and fresh!
This is 100% pure lemon juice, which is what you want. Nothing with sugar or other additives. I got four (4!!) 48oz bottles for $23.69 with free shipping on Amazon. AWESOME deal!
Okay, this is something that I will tell you NOT to buy on Amazon unless you're a gourmet chef and even then it looks like it's a giant rip off online. I get a gallon of this stuff at our local grocery store for a little over $2. 

3. DeGreasing

Dawn Dish Soap. End of story. And that's not just my opinion, Dawn is an industry standard in labs and oil spill recovery efforts all over. Those commercials where you see the adorable and pitiful-looking little ducks and penguins getting cleaned up in Dawn and water after an oil spill aren't just a marketing ploy, rescue workers actually do that! And if it's safe enough for that, it's safe enough for your house. My dad is a chemical engineer and  even he says that there's no better anti-surfactant on the market (that's the additive that works to cut oil and grease). ANYWHERE. It holds its own patent, which means that Dawn is the only product to have it, which means that in this case brand name matters.

One of the chores that I hate more than anything else is cleaning tubs and showers. It involves awkward angles and bending, leaning, reaching, ugh. It's like a really unrewarding yoga exercise. Not to mention, once you start seeing that soap scum and nastiness coming off of the walls...blech. I just want to run screaming. If you're like me, do yourself a favor and grab yourself some of these:

These ones are from the Dollar Tree!
Fill them with Dawn and white vinegar (seriously, that stuff is ridiculously useful) and keep them in your shower. At the end of each shower, get in the habit of scrubbing down the stall with it and you'll never have to dread that particular chore ever again. Same goes for the tub. Use the water that's there, scrub with this, rinse, and you're done. Boom. Game changer.

Dawn is also great for untold other things but for this post suffice it to say that you can safely use it (the original blue kind, not the other fancy kinds out there) on any and all greasy stains from laundry to furniture, to the bathroom. Hubs even uses it to wash his hands after working in the garage because it's the only thing that gets all the gunk off of his  hands effectively.

4. Debugging

You guys, bugs are gross. GROSS. I know. Few people hate spiders more than this girl, but I also know that bugs are useful and needful. Bugs and I have a tentative agreement: they stay out of my house and I won't kill them. lol. We are animal lovers here at Forget-Me-Not Farm, though, and I hate the idea of spraying deadly (literally) chemicals places where we live and eat. The problem? Wet places, warm places, and places with openings (like drains, for example) are bugs' favorite places. So, the kitchen and bathrooms are prime targets. GROSS.

So I do what our forebears did: REPEL them. Essential oils are step one. Spiders (and bugs in general) hate the smell of peppermint, lavender, and cloves, as do mice. Easy solution? I make little sachets with cotton balls doused in essential oils, covered in cute fabric, and tied off with bakers twine and then I stuff one in each of our kitchen drawers and cabinets. I focus especially on places with drains (like the under-sink area) and places with food (like our food storage and dried goods cabinets). They work like a charm and I feel better about repelling the creepy crawlies than I did about killing them off (and should a tenacious mouse slip past the barricade, our Lady Lucille does an excellent job as a second line of defense! Our ancestors kept cats less as pets and more as a defense of their hard-earned food stuffs). After a year in this house (which had a BAD mouse and bug problem when we moved in), we are almost entirely free of BOTH. Not bad. The only intruders we've had have been in the garage! I'll call that a victory, especially out here.

Ants can also be an issue, but the thing that I've found that works the best is cinnamon! It looks like dirt so they can't tell the difference, but it kills them if they eat it. If you have a problem with them coming in your house, put a line of cinnamon over the thresholds of your house and along the route that they follow getting where they're going and you'll solve the problem pretty quickly. I was dubious but I promise it really does work. It's not our dogs' favorite, but they learned pretty quickly not to lick it up off the floor (lol) and now they leave it alone.

5. Air Freshening

So I love a good air freshener just as much as the next girl (I'm a sucker for Bath and Body Works' Wall Flowers) but I also love fresh linens, cupboards, and closets. You just can't put plug ins and stick 'ems everywhere! Luckily, there are inexpensive and easy fixes!

For clothes closets, the killer of good clothes and smells is moisture! I take a bundle of plain old white school chalk, bundle four or five sticks together and secure with a rubber band. Cover the rubber band with ribbon leaving a long tail that you can tie a loop in and hang (clear of clothes!) from a hook in your closet! The chalk will absorb moisture and odor, just make sure to change it out every three or four months (I do mine with the seasons so it's easy to remember).
This is also a Martha Stewart tip, so you know it's legit! lol!
I also use my handy-dandy lavender essential oil mixed in a mason jar with baking soda as cupboard and closet fresheners!

Stinkin' cute and gets rid of smells better than anything else I've tried! The best part is that when you notice that it's not as "smelly" as it used to be, you just stir up the baking soda and add a few more drops of oil. Done!
Speaking of baking soda, I've never encountered anything better for deodorizing! Take a page out of your grandma's book and sprinkle some all over your carpet before you vacuum. Use a clean broom to spread it evenly and make sure it gets down into the carpet, then let it sit for twenty minutes or so. Vacuum it up and enjoy the freshness! Baking soda will soak up any odors and the vacuum will suck up the baking soda. Easy!

I love these little DIY deodorizing disks, too! They're made with three ingredients: baking soda, distilled water, and whatever essential oil you like (I use lavender!). You can pop them in the bottom of your trash can, diaper pail, sweater and lingerie drawers, whatever you can think of! You can make them in whatever cute silicone mold you can find that you like!
Here's the recipe!
I have a TON more ideas and tips, but these should get you started with your spring cleaning! I'm excited to share these and I hope you find them useful! Happy Wednesday!