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Written by Mama Monday

Blog posts written by mamas on cloth diapering, green living, natural parenting.


The name you choose for your little bundle of joy is kind of a big deal, right? There are so many factors to consider when trying to make the right choice. What’s it mean? Does it go with your last name? Does it hold sentimental significance? Is it too weird? Is it too common? Will it suit them for the REST OF THEIR LIFE?! How many syllables? (Seriously, some people find this terribly important.) Does it go with their sibling’s names?

Some of these factors, people don’t find to be very important. Others hold more clout. Then, there are those times when you and your significant other don’t necessarily agree — not just on the names, but the “why”s behind the names.

Our first son’s name is “Hadley Allston” (Allston is my deceased father’s middle name that goes way back). We pretty much adore his name as much as we adore him. Since we didn’t find out his gender beforehand, we went into the hospital with a handful of names for both a female and male, plus a couple of possible middle names. It may have driven our families nuts (and, in this case, definitely caused an eyebrow raise or two), but we kept them all pretty much locked up tight in advance. When the little (big, 10+ pounder) guy was born, all the other names flew out of our brains. His face just emanated “Hadley.” We feel we nailed it, head-on, with his name.

Even those who were doubtful upon hearing his name on Day #1 have come to say, “No, he’s a Hadley. He just is. No other name suits him.” It’s a general consensus. Thank God and whew. Not that it matters that family and friends deem it an acceptable name; it just helps. We still get strangers who respond, “Uuuummm…okay.” But, who cares? 😉

The fact that we feel “Hadley” hit it out of the ballpark puts the pressure on for Baby #2. We haven’t pored over the baby name book quite as thoroughly (we actually did the activities in the book our first time; this time, we’re just perusing the name dictionary part), and while I’m not feeling a huge sense of urgency about tightening up our current list, my husband totally is.

Our challenges? I look at everything. If the name has a meaning that’s really cool (or, at the very least, doesn’t mean “steaming pile of feces in the yard”…you get the gist), I’m more apt to be on board for it. Same goes for origin: since I have an ancestry with Welsh/Irish/English roots, I gravitate in that direction. If it’s got too many syllables or doesn’t sound good with our kind of unusual last name, I’m out. Add to that the fact that I’m an educator, and it cuts our list down tremendously.

My husband, on the other hand, doesn’t think any of those things is really important. He doesn’t care as far as ancestry is concerned (he likes to say he just feels “American”). He seems to have more of an organic way of picking ones that just sound good to him. And I can respect that. I just feel awful when he mentions one and I immediately shoot it down: “I have three of those in kindergarten as we speak.”

So, our criteria, at present?

– Not too common, but not too “out there.”

– Not a name I’ve taught before. (Or, at the very least, only once and they have to have been a good kid. I’m weird.)

– Should have at least a good flow with our last name. (There’s one my husband LOVES, but I just don’t think it sounds good with our surname. Just doesn’t.)

– If it could be slightly Anglo, that’d be great. (My husband has even taken to saying, “Hey, nudge nudge, this one’s even Irish!” He knows my soft spot, what can I say?)

– Compliment “Hadley.” (Not rhyme, or necessarily start with the same letter, but be in a similar “family”, if that makes any sense at all.)

So, the list-making continues. Our fingers are crossed that, come November, this baby’s face will do exactly what his/her big brother’s did: sneak us the answer.

Did you guys have much trouble naming any of your children? What criteria was super important to you? Did you use any cool books or tools to help you figure it out?

While autumn is our family’s favorite season (we even got married in October because of it), my favorite times of the year are actually the transitions between them. There’s something rejuvenating and exciting about the change from one season to the next. When it comes to summer into fall, it’s the spark of magic as summer breathes its last breaths of warmth and sunshine as the leaves slowly take their opportunity to change into their earthy autumn tones. The sight of pumpkins and mums bursting with color and smell of sweet decaying leaves is great for resetting your attitude, too.

Strangely enough, when the earth goes about its quarterly shifts, our family tends to see our biggest transitions, too. I’ve mentioned that we’re expecting our second little one in November and recently told you all about our son’s change to a “big boy bed.” Throw on (hopefully) the completion of potty-training (I know we’ll have accidents, so I use “completion” very loosely), my heading back to my work at school with more duties than ever, and just the general aches, pains, and exhaustion that comes with pregnancy…and you can say that our family’s experienced plenty of transitions and adjustments!

So far, though, we’ve made preparations for all these transitions. Things have been pretty casual. But, now that we’re seeing the word “OCTOBER” coming at the end of the week, our heads are getting a bit scattered. We’ve definitely gotta pick up the pace so that it’ll be a more relaxed jaunt towards the finish-line come November!      

We try to live a simplified life, so when stress hits hard, it’s best to take a deep breath, relax, and follow a few of my own tried-and-true tips.


Write it Out – First and foremost, a list can be your BFF. I know some people have a love-hate relationship with them (and I, for one, used to mock my mother for hers; seriously, she was obsessed, but now I totally get it). But they can really help you breathe and feel like you won’t forget something at the end of the day. In other words, you totally won’t have those wake-up-at-3am-with-worries moments. Ahhhh.

So, there are times when I’ll write out one long list only to re-write the whole thing. The reason for this? The first list is a total brain dump. It’s just there to get out whatever worrisome tasks I may have floating around in my brain. Then, I’ll organize that list into general areas: stuff that needs to be done in the nursery, important work tasks that must be figured out before I leave the joint, around-the-house chores, and so on. For some reason, seeing it separated and organized in this way helps me feel a little more on top of things. 

Purge – Okay, I’ve talked a lot about purging STUFF, and, sure, with less to surround yourself, you’ll definitely feel calmer. (Heck, it’s one big thing on my to-do list at the moment.) But, in this case, I’m actually talking about purging your to-do’s.

In my case, I’m analyzing, truthfully, what NEEDS to be done before the baby comes. There’s not a lot as far as the baby is concerned, quite honestly, and that’s the main thing. Then, when creating the aforementioned to-do list, I’m figuring out what else I’d LIKE to get done. See? Two totally different beasts. Then, among the things I’d LIKE to get done, I ask my husband and those friends and family who have been offering assistance if they’d like to help out with a task or two. Whatever I’m left with, I’ll pick ones that I wouldn’t mind (or, gasp, would actually ENJOY) doing and leave the rest. Let’s call it donating. Sure. We’re donating the rest of our to-do list. 😉

Bye-bye, unnecessary stuff. Hello, feeling of accomplishing the important stuff.

Take Your Time – Now that you’ve figured out what needs to be done (and, truly, what doesn’t need to be done), set timelines for yourself to achieve them. Knowing there’s a flexible end in sight (read: we all know some of those projects that we expect to take 15 minutes can end up lasting three weekends, so allow for some leeway) helps to further alleviate that nagging feeling.

My husband and I both tend to have issues with this tip, fitting far too much in our mental schedules for a rare free Saturday and being disappointed when not everything gets checked off my list. But, it’s okay! Think about what can realistically be done (while accounting for things like, say, meal prep and toddler potty breaks) and jot down, for the whole family to see, what the goals are for the day. Then, put an asterisk next to the couple that you’d be happy getting DONE. If you have extra time in the day to get the others done, great. If not, figure out another time for them to fit.

And remember NOT to beat yourselves up about not being able to accomplish every single task. Relish the tasks you were able to get done and let the others roll off your back, knowing they WILL get done — just not today!

Don’t Forget Some Happy Time – When things are transitioning, it’s so easy to get caught up in the less fun side of the to-do list. It’s totally understandable; there are things that need to get done and only so much time to do them. But, don’t forget to manage the mental health of you and your family. No matter how busy or stressful times may get, there’s nothing like a little downtime as a family to reconnect and remember what matters most.

In our case, this can range from having one-on-one play time with our little guy to instituting a “tech free night” with my husband to enjoy a movie and homemade popcorn or completely normal, adult conversation. Even getting a pizza with my parents can have the ability to pull us out of the whirlwind of planning, prepping, packing, etc. Yup, strangely enough, my husband is actually most relaxed at my parents’ house, and our son loves any place with a large enough yard to run around or bird feeders to help fill. You just have to find what works for YOUR family.

I’ve even taken to working on a Sudoku puzzle at the end of the day to try to clear my head. It helps SO much, it’s nuts.

Do you have any transitions happening in your life, whether happy or sad? A big move? A new job? A wedding? A new baby? How are you handling the stresses that inevitably come along with these times? Any tips to share with us?

Ahhhh. What is it about autumn that reinvigorates the soul so much? If it’s your favorite season, you get it, and you’re DEVOUT. Sure, lots of people like the newness of spring, and summer’s warmth is great, and winter can be downright magical, but if you’re a lover of fall? You’re a fall-ower of the season. (Yes, I went there.) You make lists of all the things you want to do or see or enjoy out of the season before the first flakes start to fly. (And for those of you in the warm-all-year regions of the world? I just don’t know how you do it!)

I’m a lucky girl. My husband and I are HUGE fans of fall, and our son has loved it ever since we tossed him in his first leaf pile. We’re lucky enough to live in a “four season” area, so today I’m sharing some of the ways that we like to make the most of the crisp, cool evenings and sweet, leaf-scented Saturday mornings as a family – particularly, without spending too much dough!

And, even if you’re lucky enough to live in an area where you don’t have to select Halloween costumes two sizes too big (to accommodate puffy winter jackets), you can still grab some of these ideas for yourself!

Plan Meals Around the Season
– We’re big farmers’ market fans. In our neck of the woods, great produce doesn’t really get going until well into the summertime. So, while summer brings us awesome berries and loads of zucchini, our family can’t wait to get at the butternut squash and root vegetables of fall. There’s just something about those cozy, comfort food meals, and it’s finally not too sweltering to crank up the oven!
Because of this, I take the season as an opportunity to meal plan (which, normally, I fail miserably at!) based on what’s in season. Especially with a newborn on the way in November, I’ll be pulling out our slow cooker to throw together some of our family’s favorites soups, stews, and chili. Oh, and of course there will be plenty of apple desserts and muffins, pumpkin goodies (especially cookies!), and quick breads. The sky’s the limit with fall food!

Make Chores Fun – After a season of lounging (okay, and lawn mowing and garden tending), it’s finally time to turn our attention to the pre-winter outdoor chores. This, of course, means pulling out the rakes a couple (or more) times before trading them in for shovels and snowblowers. This also means it’s the perfect time to get kids involved, too!

Although it’s a great skill to learn, children don’t even need an extra rake to get in on the fun, er, work. We’re fine with having our three-year-old jump into the pile as many times as he wants, but lately any chore isn’t really seen as a chore for him; it’s a fun way to show how big and responsible he’s gotten. He genuinely loves being given a “job” to do. So, this year I foresee him scooping up armfuls of leaves to add to our bucket or carry to the curb. Sure, he’ll probably drop half of them along the way, but it’s a great, fun teaching tool…and is sure to tire him out for nap time! *wink* And, of course, older kids can help with this, big-time!

Enjoy the Outdoors While You Can – Going along with raking, there are TONS of fun outdoor activities families can do that don’t have to cost a lot of money. Most areas have some sort of autumn festival, pumpkin patch, apple orchard, or other fall-themed events. Search your local papers and websites (or put out a Facebook post to friends) to find out where your nearest, funnest options are.

Sometimes there are weekend events that you can attend with everything from hayrides to face painting (which may or may not be free), whereas other times a business will pull people in with free fun in hopes of people purchasing their goods. We have a tradition of going to a notoriously expensive cider mill to feed their VAST amount of ducks, sample their goods (for free, of course, hee hee), and maybe get one gallon of their cider. Or, since we like to pick out pumpkins and get some U-pick apples, anyway, we’ll go to a spot that may also offer free hayrides or a corn maze to get some extra fun out of the experience.

Remember that the best things in life are often free, and a walk around the neighborhood or a leaf-peeping adventure (either by car or on a nature trail) are wonderful ways to experience the season, too! Be sure to take plenty of stops along the way to let your little one use her senses to take in all she can; curiosity is one of the biggest, most wondrous parts of those early years.

Spice Up Your Home – One of my favorite things about a new season is making a few changes in and outside our home. Whether you have a tiny apartment or a sprawling mansion, just a few touches here and there will help set the mood for a cozy autumn.

You don’t have to go on a huge shopping spree to add some fall to your house. Look at what you currently own with a different eye. Pull extra blankets and pillows out of storage to switch up the color, textures, and coziness factor in your favorite areas. Grab some branches or leaves to fill a vase. Pile some autumn-toned books in the middle of your table. You can even change up some art by throwing some inexpensive patterned scrapbook paper into your picture frames. I also love to hit up the thrift store to see what I can repurpose around the house. A teacup can hold a small votive candle, for example. We’ve found a perfectly-sized chalkboard that now hangs in our living room; each season, I draw a new scene or positive saying to change the mood of the space.

And the absolute best way to cozy your home for fall? An inviting scent. You can buy an inexpensive candle in an appealing fragrance, or try a DIY option: put some water, cinnamon, clove, and even sliced apples in a pot on the stove and simmer until your house is filled with the spicy aroma, or use some essential oils in a diffuser or DIY reed diffuser.

Treat Yo’self – A lot of autumnal fans equate the season with one thing: the availability of pumpkin spice flavored EVERYTHING. So, go ahead and revel in it; treat yo’self, as they say on Parks and Recreation. Or, if you’re not into the artificially-flavored stuff, you can still indulge with one of the many recipes you can find online: DIY pumpkin spice coffee creamer to add to your favorite home-brewed coffee, DIY natural pumpkin spice latte for those who own an espresso machine/frother, or even these “pumpkin spice everything” non-coffee recipes. 

And for those of us who aren’t addicted to this trend, this is the time of year to enjoy whatever treats your family enjoys most. My husband is the popcorn maker in our family (organic air-popped deliciousness, my friends), but this year I may steal some of his unbuttered magic to make our own caramel corn (I’m thinking this healthy natural caramel corn recipe may do the trick). Add to that our family favorites of all-natural homemade hot chocolate and “wassail” (hot spiced apple cider), and call us officially fall-ified!

So, what’s your favorite part of autumn? Are you a fan of the season, or are you already mourning your flip flops and beach attire (or looking forward to pulling out your ugly Christmas sweater)?  



Using treats and/or rewards with your kids.

Some might call it bribery. Others may call it positive reinforcement. Still others might say it’s simply teaching cause and effect. And, like many choices in parenting, it’s a conversation that can definitely get people on either side of the issue touchy.

There are a million and one ways to raise a child, aren’t there? And doesn’t it seem that, no matter the choice you make, someone will offer you an opposing opinion? Especially in this here Internet Land.

Whether it’s a choice I’m glad we’ve made or not, we tend to utilize a loose semblance of a reward system. It usually depends on the exact scenario, but when our son shows that he can act properly (especially in a situation that is normally a bit sticky for him), we may “reward” him with a trip to his favorite book store (whether we get a book or not isn’t usually the draw; it’s the train set he’d prefer to play with for hours on end). Or, if he’s shown a few days of consistently good behavior (or, during a rough patch, even one full day), we may give him a package of his favorite organic fruit snacks and tell him why he earned it.

Oh, yes. We do. And I admit it here, freely yet terrified of public ridicule. 😉

While I don’t like to use the word “bribe”, we do use an occasional treat to help our little guy regain or maintain focus. I was recently on a solo trip with him to Target, and the one thing he wanted to do was to peruse the toys. (At this time of year, we do a lot of “Ohhh, that’s nice! We’ll put that on our Santa list when we get home, buddy”, although I’m not always above getting him a small something that we know will get lots of use.) I realized that if we hit up the toy area right away, there was zero chance that he’d let me get the rest of my shopping done. So, I talked it out with him. “If you can help me with the rest of my shopping and show how patient you can be, we’ll visit the toys at the end of our trip.” Cause and effect. If you *fill in the blank with desired action*, then *this positive thing will happen*. Maybe it’s bribery, maybe it’s not. Most of the time it works wonderfully. Other times, he gets to learn that by making a poor choice, he won’t receive the thing he longs to do/see/have/eat. Follow-through is key, and it’s a sad lesson of life if you don’t follow directions. For the most part, he gets it.

Then, there are those times that we need some extra help to get something important accomplished. Take, for example, our little guy’s recent bout of pneumonia. He was hit-or-miss at sitting still while having his nebulizer treatment, and I totally understand why. It’s a loud, scary, foggy thing. Not fun. But, we’d throw on one of his favorite shows and give him some “gummies” or a special snack at the end, and he even started sitting on his own to get the job done. There’s no way we would have reached that point without a little extra incentive. No amount of gentle conversation or coaxing would’ve accomplished that end.

This method hasn’t always worked, though. While we found that tying his potty-training successes to a treat system didn’t help the situation, I’ve known plenty of parents who swear by it. He’s on the older spectrum for the potty-training game and, at times, very psychological in his training. So, if he was going to be stubborn or obstinate, no amount of yummy treats were going to change his mind. (And, at times, I love him for being so strong-willed. Really!) But, if you find that the M&M route worked wonders for your little one’s potty progress, I say grab that method tight and don’t let go. Plus, who’s to say our next child won’t be easily swayed by a sweet treat? Parenting is such an ebb and flow, who can say what’s right?

In our case, I know that as long as we keep him in the loop and give a meaning to the reward, he doesn’t tend to hit the “spoiled” phase. If we’re firm and follow through when he doesn’t hold up his end of the bargain, it’s understood that he won’t just get the treat, anyway. Many parents have issues saying “no” to their child or feeling like they’re going back on their word, but the connection really helps kids feel less entitled and more proud.

That said, not every situation elicits a treat response at our house. It’s definitely the exception rather than the rule, and we find that words of love, encouragement, praise, pride, and support go a very long way to boosting morale and self-esteem. Plus, it helps keep the toy clutter from getting out of hand. We also find that a “treat” can be something more, like going to a new, special place and making memories together as a family, as much as it can be a tangible item.

What about you? Do you reward your child with treats, or are you staunchly against the practice? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, especially since we’re all about respecting different parenting methods around here. :-)

We’ve had a LOT of transitions at our house lately. The end of summer brings plenty of transitions for every family, and ours is no different. Since I work in a school, this year it means sending our son back to my husband’s mom’s daily, with quite a change in schedule, discipline, and routine.This summer we’ve also been doing our best with potty-training. I’d say he’s at about an 80% “nailed it!” stage, so I’m hoping he doesn’t regress. Throw in our consistent, time-consuming house hunting and, OH YEAH, being about 7 months pregnant with our second child, and it’s no wonder our poor son is a little out of sorts. He’s actually handling the big things incredibly well right now, considering, but we’re expecting some emotions to run high after our baby arrives.

One area that we’ve been SUPER lucky has been with his “big boy bed” transition. He turned three this summer, so we knew it was only a matter of time before we should make the switch. Since he had never given any indication of wanting to “escape” his little cell, we put it off and put it off. Well, when we finally started planning furniture placement and organizing for our quasi-nursery recently, we knew we’d need to switch out his crib, finally.

We were lucky enough to receive a hand-me-down toddler bed from a friend. It was in great shape, but had lots of scrapes and carvings from the previous owner, so I felt no guilt in painting the thing a perfect gray neutral. Hadley helped pick out the color and, after sanding, priming, and several coats of paint, it was ready. And so was he!

I had read tons of great information about how to make the transition smooth for everyone. However, much of it was heavy on role play and deep in lengthy conversation. Our highly active little guy does best with brief descriptions and an opportunity to ask plenty of questions, so I took this route (which may not work for everyone, but it worked great for us):

1. Give a brief explanation of what the new bed means in their terms. I tried to make the new bed as fun and positive as possible. We used the “big boy” and “special” terminology because, well, he doesn’t hear it enough (as much as we may try). At the same time, I mentioned just one “rule”: that he couldn’t get out of bed unless there was an adult with him. If he needs something, he has to call for us first. With a stairway right outside his door, we’re using a gate, but this rule was downright necessary.

2. Ask their feelings about it all. A new bed often accompanies lots of other life transitions for a little one (much as in our situation). We’re sure to ask Hadley his feelings pretty often. Sometimes he can totally care less; other times he can tell us about any nervousness he may have. In this case, we helped him find the words: it’s new and exciting, but different and a little weird. Talk it out! It genuinely helps to let them know that their feelings are normal and give simple strategies for dealing with them.

3. Celebrate successes; rinse and repeat for the road bumps. Okay, this is one I need to follow with potty-training better! But, when they show that they’ve listened and have transitioned to actually sleeping pretty successfully, praise the heck out of them. If you have an adorable little voice wake you up at your bedside, just quietly walk them back, lay them back down, and calmly remind them to stay put. It may take time, but they’ll get it.

Hadley’s actually been far easier to get into bed and in for a nap; he’s so excited to use the new bed. Getting him to sleep is just as much of a challenge as it’s always been (hit or miss), but we haven’t had any issues with him getting out and wandering around. He knows he has to ask before getting up, anyway, and the first night he called me in with a worried voice – his stuffed animal was sitting there, on the floor, about 1 ½ feet away from his reach. “Yes!” I thought. “He understands.”

The fact that we use a monitor with a sensor mat that goes under his mattress also gives us a huge peace of mind for the time being, as well.

That’s not to say that this transition has been easy. There was quite a bit of melancholy on the parts of my husband and I over one of the bigger “he’s not little anymore” steps he’s reached. My emotions are pretty in-check lately, so I was generally able to acknowledge the sadness but focus mainly on working on the practical side of things – painting, disassembling the old crib – with a pretty good recognition that this is was a happy transition. The Dorky Daddy (aka my husband), however, has gotten pretty sad over the change. I can totally see why, but it’s really just one of the bigger, easy-to-spot examples of how the little guy is growing into quite the big guy everyday.

So, how have you guys dealt with the big bed change-up, whether it’s from co-sleeping or crib to bed? Do you have any tricks or tips to share that others may find useful? Or do you have different transitions going on in your household lately? We’d love to hear about them!