Monday, September 13, 2010

Little Miss no longer the Little Sis

This is what a little sister looks like
Before she realizes she's going to be a big sister.

This is what a big sister looks like after finding out that, come May 2, her crib will be occupied by someone other than herself.

Don't worry, Maddy, your new brother or sister won't take your puppies and teddies.
Mommy and Daddy — and 'Ka —  not only still love you, but can't wait to see if our next little bundle of joy will be as smart, cute and lovable as you!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

"Old MacDonald had a farm ..."

"E-I-E-I-O!," Madeline always replies. I've got to get her on video singing this song because it's a 10 on the cute-o-meter.

She loves this song and we sing it at least a dozen times a day. Sadly, my 18-month-old has never seen a cow, up close and personal. The drive by a herd of cows last Sunday going 60 miles an hour on the highway doesn't count.

She hasn't seen a chicken. Or a pig. Or a horse. Or a goat. Nothing.

So I'm determined to do something about that. I wish the zoo was like, oh, about three hours closer than it is. Or that we were descended from a long line of farmers where we could go visit the family homestead but that lineage ended at my great-grandparents.


Is my little kiddo destined to think that chocolate milk comes from brown cows, like a co-worker of mine thought until about eight years ago? (laughter ensues...this is still so damn funny.)

Today I got to visit a fabulous family farm about an hours' drive from here to do a story on a group of about a dozen local families who formed a raw milk club. They take turns driving to this farm to get gallons of raw, or unpasteurized milk straight from the milk tank (which came straight from the cows that morning) and bring it back to town in coolers. It was a fun experience - the people were great - and it's fun to speak with those who care about where their food comes from.

Anyway, it was cuteness overload at the farm. There were baby chicks, baby ducks and newborn calves and little boys playing with all those cute little animals. Oh, and the boys got to run around the farm with an egg carton and try to find eggs recently hatched by the free range chickens - like an all-natural Easter egg hunt.

Good times.

I didn't want to leave and have to go back to work to my sad little office cube.

This farmer does offer farm tours so I may have to bring Maddy back to be able to run around the farm herself. I tried to talk my husband into letting me get some hens for our backyard - urban chickens rock! - but sadly, he nixed that idea. Especially since I can't stand changing the kitty litter box.

But hey, it's not like our cat is laying eggs in the box - I do have standards when it comes to our food.

I've read a lot of great books lately about sustainable and green living and local foods (yep, me. I read them. I swear.) I loved Barbara Kingsolver's book, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," about her family's experience growing and raising their own food and am now reading "Compassionate Carnivore" by Catherine Friend, a Minnesota author and sheep farmer.

Hmmmmm....I never talked to Nels about raising sheep. Maybe, if we fence in our backyard ...

Friday, April 02, 2010


I hadn't miscarried last July

I'd be home right now, not on a weeks' vacation, but on maternity leave.

It sucks.

Totally sucks.

But life goes on ...

Full of challenges

And small victories.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Life in the Fringe

Nels and I had an interesting conversation last night. He asked me if it really was becoming more trendy to make your own non-toxic cleaning products and become more "green" or is it that I talk about these things SO much that he's just accepted that it's trendy. He said he was talking to his cousin the other day about some of the crunchy ideas we've talked about and then he started thinking to himself that maybe he was sounding like a freak. :)

He questioned whether I was becoming a bit fringy, especially when I started talking more about the benefits of humanure and family cloth.  He said that I can maybe keep telling him about these ideas but maybe, just maybe, I better not talk too much about them with other people. Funny.

So I had to ask myself, am I going overboard on some my frugal and green ideas?

Some of the concepts I initially thought were too much for me I'm now warming up to. I just ordered a Diva Cup yesterday as a way to save money on feminine hygiene products. I figured if I use it only when I'm at home it could save me about $70-$80 a year. And if I make my own cloth pads (Yay! Sewing project!) then hey, an even bigger savings plus it would mean even fewer products being sent to the local landfill. So I may try to make them while I'm on vacation this week. We'll see how it goes.

Yesterday I cleaned our kitchen and bathroom with vinegar and baking soda...and unlike the many times I used harsh chemicals, my hands weren't sore and chapped afterwards. And the vinegar smell disappears quickly, not that I mind the smell. It reminds me of coloring Easter eggs with my grandma so who could be bothered by that, right?

We took the big step (for us) of recycling today. Since we don't have recycling pick-up by our garbage hauler (boo!) we have to bring it up to the city hall, which shouldn't be a problem. We should have been recycling for years.

So it's become a period of personal growth for me, to live more simply and green, that I'm excited to explore. We're trying to eat healthier, less processed foods (My daughters now both LOVE quinoa!) and so far it's going so well. We're planning to start planning our garden soon, which is also exciting.

I'm happy that my husband is on board for most of my ideas.

And fringy? I'm not so sure but hey, I'm OK with it.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

It's not easy being green - or so I thought.

Never one to stick by my New Year's Resolutions - particularly the weight loss ones I make every year - I have to share my excitement over my latest personal life changes.

Since the start of the new year, my husband and I have started down the path of trying to dramatically decrease our spending. I'm tired of feeling like we're never getting ahead, of paying minimal amounts on my student loan and my credit card (which I haven't used in four years but am still paying off).

I don't feel I have more debt than the average person but debt is still debt. It's been an ongoing nagging issue that I would like to eliminate in my life. And after having no raises for the past few years, including a 7-1/2 percent wage cut last year, and having our health insurance premiums increased from $180 to $460 a month when our daughter was born, I've desperately needed to make some changes in my life so I could feel like I was getting ahead and not drowning.

And as a result of my strict money diet, I've had to find ways to cut costs. I used to eat out nearly every day when I worked - sometimes twice a day since I often work late - but I've cut that down to maybe once a month now and I bring my lunch to work. I use coupons at every opportunity, scour my favorite couponing blogs for the latest good deals and have enjoyed my fill of free cappuccinos from Holiday gas station when I need a treat, as well as my gas coupons.

My husband, a wedding photographer, is a stay-at-home dad and he's also an incredible cook.

He's taken up our challenge and is cooking a lot more, so that means I have delicious homemade lunches I actually look forward to eating.

It's so rewarding when I find deals on the things I use, like an incredible deal I recently got online on diapers. I have 4 boxes (96 diapers in each) of Target brand diapers for Maddy that will last us for months that I got for less than 10 cents per diaper and free shipping. I was able to renew my subscription to Time magazine for two years for only $27.

But perhaps my favorite discovery is that I've learned that being green can save us money. A LOT of money.

There are a lot of people out there who make their own household products and I've become one of them. It's so awesome. I've made my own homemade dishwasher detergent and laundry soap and even yogurt in a crockpot that turned out fabulous! I've been using vinegar, water and baking soda to clean, too. Not only is it better for Maddy, our entire family and the environment, but it's so much cheaper than buying the toxic products I normally buy.

We now have a 5-gallon bucket of homemade laundry soap, which actually makes 10 gallons of soap, that comes out to only a penny per load. Our first batch of our homemade dishwasher detergent has lasted a long time and costs about 65 cents for 100 loads, according to the blog, Frugally Green.

Tonight I was so proud of us as a more frugal family. My teen came home with a friend who is now staying overnight. They wanted pizza for dinner so my husband whipped up a homemade pizza using a pizza crust mix (we stocked up on several of them for 39 cents each a couple weeks ago). The pizza was delicious (according to both teens) and my husband estimated the entire thing cost about $2 to make. They also had lemonade Kool-Aid (ok, not so healthy but at 20 cents a packet, what a bargain!) and later I made them popcorn on the stove, using my favorite popcorn popper I got for Christmas. I'm guessing but maybe it cost about 40 cents to make? I like the more expensive Orville Redenbacher gourmet popcorn.

So for about $3, my daughter and her friend were completely happy and full as they watched their movies tonight. The old me would have gone to the store, bought a couple bags of chips, two or three 2-liter bottles of soda and either bought a $9 frozen pizza OR ordered pizza from a local pizza joint. This is what I normally did when she has friends over, at a cost of about $25-$30.


I am working on more "green" initiatives in our lives. We are trying to reduce the amount of processed foods we eat and eating more whole foods. We're talking about growing our own garden this summer in my flower bed that houses more weeds than actual flowers. I'm also looking into other ways to eliminate toxic chemicals from our lives, as well as reduce the amount of trash we create. This may mean making our own homemade deodorant (I'm very intrigued by this) or using a Diva Cup (I had no idea this even existed!), making my own body wash or nearly eliminating the need for toilet paper by using family cloth (It's a thought, but I'm still on the fence about this one.)

I am also hoping to find other ways to dramatically cut costs by making homemade products and gifts. I have just started sewing and have made adorable bibs for Maddy, as well as bibs and burp cloths to give as gifts. (More on this on a later post).

I'm just so excited about the possibilities. And happiness and contentment are the last things I ever imagined I would find when forced to live on less.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Not so curious about Curious George

Last Saturday I took both my girls - 16 years and 16 months - to the local mall to get their photo taken with Curious George, who was there for a promotional reading event. While Madeline would point excitedly to the large monkey when we were standing in line, her curiousity ended when she got near him. She buried her face in her sister's shoulder. It was a miracle I got a photo of her facing toward the camera.

Crazy girl.

It's shaping up to be a great week

So I was asked this week by my editor if I'd like to become editor of HealthWatch, our quarterly health magazine - and I jumped at the chance.

I'm starting to get pretty excited about it, actually. I don't have much layout experience, but I'm thrilled to get the chance to learn more. I have been writing for HW for years and I do enjoy writing health-related features. Actually, in a former life I think I was a doctor because, thanks to my buddy, Mr. Google and his nurse, Ms. WebMD, I love, love, LOVE diagnosing people and their various ailments.

I've decided to "go green" for my inaugural edition, featuring environmentally-friendly health-related stories. Should be fun.

And today I found out I won a cool children's book from Frantic Mommy. 


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sweet 16

Whenever someone asks me about my daughters, I inevitably get the same response:

"Wow, that is quite the age gap!"

Um, yeah. I realize that.

My girls are 15 years apart. When we've been out and Erika is carrying Madeline, people often think she is her baby. She's usually not too thrilled about this, either. Last fall when we were school shopping, Erika brought Maddy with her into a shoe store while I was paying for something in a nearby shop in the mall. The sales clerk asked Erika if she could help her find shoes for her daughter. Erika quickly informed her that she's her little sister and no, she was shopping for shoes for herself. I can just picture the look of horror on her face. When I walked into the store she quickly handed Maddy off to me so she could find shoes in her size.

On Monday both my girls will be Sweet 16.

Madeline turns 16 months tomorrow and Erika is 16 years. I'm not sure if their ages sort of match up like this again in their lives but to me, it's worth commemorating. I've having my husband take some nice photos of them together. I'll post them here if I can. Sometimes Erika's hard to pin down. She's playing Mrs. Darling in our community theater's production of "Peter Pan," and she's very active in speech, in addition to taking college and online courses at her high school. She's rarely home and when she is, she's doing homework before she goes to bed.

Madeline adores her big sis and always cries when Erika leaves for school or, like tonight, when she's watching a movie with her boyfriend downstairs. Ugh.

A couple friends of mine recently asked me how I deal with the whole dating scene with my teen daughter, since their daughters are preteens now and really, like I told them, I have no good advice on that. I hate it. It drives me crazy knowing that they're making out in my basement.

But she's a high school junior and in 1-1/2 years she'll be away at college. I've got to allow her to date, be with her friends and basically have to trust her. She's a good kid and actually, her boyfriend is a nice guy.

Fortunately  I have plenty of time to worry about Madeline making out with her boyfriend in our basement.

My girls' age difference wasn't planned but I think they may be spaced out perfectly. I had long forgotten how painful childbirth was when I had Maddy, and by the time Maddy's 16 (years, not months), I'll have forgotten how painful these teen years are. Shoot, I'll probably have Alzheimers by then I'll be so old. :-))

It's a win-win, really.