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Written by Mama Monday

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

Last week, I talked about the fact that we’re paring down our holiday festivities this year, and a few weeks back I shared how we planned to simplify Thanksgiving this year. So, today I though I’d chat about what we ARE doing to celebrate our holiday. After all, what’s Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Winter Solstice…) without SOME form of tradition?

simplified_christmas

There’s a lot that we simply aren’t doing this year, with a newborn and super active toddler in tow. Given that our little peanut, Harper, is just around 3 weeks and this is a super germ-filled time of year, we’re being those paranoid parents and sticking close to home with her, for the most part. So, most of our shopping was done well before she came along or online, and we’re skipping some of our admittedly favorite activities: namely, our annual schlep to a living history holiday celebration called Candlelight Evening, featuring THE St. Nicholas. (Yes. The REAL one! ;-)) The baby and I are even skipping my husband’s annual reading of “The Polar Express” at our local Barnes and Noble. We’re lucky that my in-laws were willing to take our son, Hadley, along, but I was sad to miss it. I try to remind myself that we’ll have a blast next year with a 4-year-old and 1-year-old along and able to enjoy things on a whole different level.

But, there’s a lot that we ARE able to do, and I’m downright giddy about the simple things. Here’s what we’re still excited about:

Getting a Christmas tree. We’re not going to the same place that we usually do since it’s much further away and would take TONS more work to pick up, but we’re still getting a real one! They’re actually more eco-friendly and it was silly to plop down a chunk of change for a new fake tree if we’d only use it for one year. So, we’re trying out a place that’s about 15 minutes from home (rather than 45+ minutes) and will be far quicker to get home. And, this year, I know our son will be FAR more interested in helping to hang the ornaments and Harper’s going to love the lights. Win-win!

Baking cookies. Hadley’s been craving one-on-one time with me lately, so I try to find something to do with him regularly – even a quick play session. I can’t wait to whip up some cookies and let him cut out whatever shapes his little heart desires. Plus, I’ve got a sweet tooth, so he and I will eat our weight in cookies. Can you tell I’m excited? I am.

Movies + snacks. We’re movie people. Literally. My husband actually wrote, directed, and performed in numerous indie movies in his younger days, and I’ve got one of those “old souls” (I’m a borderline expert on many classic films and even have a Katharine Hepburn autograph), so we’ve got a list of “it’s not Christmas without watching…” movies. Add to that the fact that I make some killer wassail (inspiration from the aforementioned Candlelight Evening) and homemade hot chocolate and the hubs is the popcorn maestro, and you’ve got a fun, stay-up-too-late night! So, here we come, It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, and the slew of TV specials on our flash drive!

Basic decorations. We’ve already got some simple white lights strung outside, but on the inside I like to do a little more than just the tree. So, I’ll scroll a Christmas-y saying on our chalkboard, hang our stockings early (along with a banner for all the cards that arrive), and use some of the extra greenery our tree always seems to give us with an orange or two to deck the halls a bit more. If it’s away from our son, I may fill a vase with some bulb ornaments and call it a day.

Family! Christmas is all about family for us. I know it’ll be tiring, especially when straying from the routine, but we’re going to make an effort to celebrate as we normally would with our families. This means a lovely dinner and gifts on Christmas Eve with my in-laws (a small get-together but always a wonderful time), Christmas morning to our own devices, and the rest of the day with my larger, more boisterous clan. The most exciting part is that my husband’s brother and his wife welcomed their first child and my sister’s family welcomed their second child this year. So, there are THREE babies less than one! Of course, Harper’s the newest, most floppy-headed of them all (and the only baby girl), but it’s definitely a year we’ll all remember!

Are you guys planning a simple holiday season this year, or are you doing it up big-time?

I’d love to hear how you celebrate!

One of the best parts of the holiday season is tradition. Traditions can give our holidays a sense of consistency, and help us reach back to warm, love-filled memories of our own childhood. Sometimes we even get so caught up in maintaining our favorite traditions that we find we bury ourselves in a ton of (unnecessary) stress and even lose sight of what the season should be.

I try to remember this when looking ahead on our calendar this upcoming month or so, knowing full well that, this year, something’s gotta give. With a newborn tossed in the mix along with a super active (at times challenging) 3-year-old, I’ve given myself permission to tone it down. Upon making up my mind, I decided to look into the actual meaning of the word “tradition.” Here’s the definition according to Merriam-Webster:

tradition

One thing that stands out to me here is the phrase “for a long time.” It doesn’t say “performed annually” or “strictly adhered to on a yearly basis” or any variation like that. So, who says a tradition has to be an annual event? The calendar? Our families? Our church? Ourselves? Everyone’s answer here may be different, but I know that most of my own traditions are self-imposed.

I understand why we adhere to traditions, I do. Heck, there are some that give me a twinge in my heart to miss this year. But, we’re doing our best not to give up every single tradition. We’re just not going to beat ourselves up if we’re unable to get to them all. Or half. 😉

Next week, I’m planning on sharing what our “priority” traditions are (and what’s being tossed aside – at least for this year). Ultimately, though, in our process of simplifying life, I’ve learned a couple of things:

#1 – You don’t have to give up EVERYTHING; it’s okay just to slim it down. Say, instead of making a dozen different types of cookies, try asking your family for their top three and make those. Or, instead of getting folks a million gifts, go for one awesome present per person. Just analyze what your family deems to be traditions and reflect on which are “musts” and which aren’t quite as imperative.

#2 – Just because it’s a simple tradition doesn’t mean it’s any less of a tradition. Embrace and enjoy these simple ones. Staying up late to watch a Christmas special and eat a family-sized bowl of popcorn? Totally counts as tradition – and it doesn’t even have to be the same special every year. I still fondly recall watching some horrible New Kids on the Block Christmas special when I was a kid alongside my mother (regardless of the ones we usually watched annually), and it’s not because of the quality of the show. Most of my memories involve incredibly simple tasks – stringing popcorn and cranberries, frosting cookies, basking in the glow of the tree, the feeling of choosing the perfect gift (and having it well received), and so on. The simpler, the better.

So, what are the traditions you’re looking forward to most this year? The ones you couldn’t slim down or skip for even a year?

harper_quinn_announcement

So, we are officially the proud parents of two littles. That’s right – on Friday, November 13th, we welcomed our daughter, Harper Quinn, into our silly little nuthouse.

I thought I’d share what we’ve learned in the brief time that we’ve officially been “not quite outnumbered but each have full hands” parents of two (and as second timers on “Team Green” – surprise gender!). Let’s see if any of you parents of 2+ agree or have dealt with any of these things!

Surprises

It’s a Girl!!! Everyone – strangers, family, coworkers, even me at points – INSISTED it would be another boy. I carried the same way, had a completely identical pregnancy, and the baby was “all in front.” Ha. As we walked into the hospital at 5:30am, we saw a terrified new daddy wheeling his juuuuust born little (I mean little) girl by us and I had my first twinge of “I kinda hope it’s a girl…” I had told people that we’d be super surprised (and ecstatic) if it turned out to be a girl, but that was the first time I allowed myself to have a wishful feeling about it. So, needless to say, the cheer we gave when the announcement was made was glorious. Plus, my husband is from a two-boy family, so it was about time they got a little lady in their lives.

This time, I watched. Since our practitioners don’t advise VBACs and our son was 10+ pounds (and super late), we opted for a second C-section. I wasn’t necessarily pleased with the choice, but I was resolved to simply have a healthy child. But, one thing I did try this time? Asking the couldn’t-be-sweeter anesthesiologist to hold a mirror so that I could watch the birth. Oh. My. Goodness. I’m so grateful that I was told about this option in advance! It was a total out-of-body experience and the tears flowed (then the joy, when her gender was announced). It definitely helped me connect to the experience more completely.

The pain. Okay, since I already had a C-section with our son, I thought I knew what to expect. However, with a toddler to chase and life still in full swing, I’ve definitely felt more pain and twinges all over the place, with little extra time to rest, or heal super calmly. And, while we’re at it, I’m way more hormonal this time. Lots of tears (no baby blues or PPD as far as I can see!) over stupid little things.

Her personality. We all know how special our kids are, right? Our son is super intelligent, precocious, slightly high-maintenance, active, and sweet. I found myself hoping that our next child would be a carbon copy and having a hard time envisioning someone NOT like Hadley. Being from a family of four and knowing that all of our personalities are different told me that the odds weren’t in our favor. So, of course, she is *so far* incredibly different. Calm, good-natured, quiet, pensive, aware of her surroundings…but, also super sweet and adorable. 😉 Plus, they look a heck of a lot alike, so that’s pretty awesome.

Parenting worries are totally different than what we had expected. We knew it’d be a tough transition for our son, no matter how much he really does show that he loves “his baby.” For the most part, he ignores her and doesn’t have blatant issues with her being around whatsoever. But, clearly there’s a transition happening, and he’s acting out in the brattiest, most disappointing of ways. On the other hand, we had expected to completely forget the ins-and-outs of caring for an infant. Surprisingly, though, it came back pretty much immediately. Plus, her low-key demeanor doesn’t hurt the situation, either. *whew* Thank goodness for small miracles.

Not-So-Surprises

Transitions are not a toddler’s favorite thing. As I mentioned above, we had expected to have a bigger challenge on our hands with the baby. But, the challenge, so far, has been solely in the toddler realm. In some ways, it’s exactly how we had expected it to happen; in other ways, it’s far, far more difficult. Dealing with an obstinate 3-year-old (especially with an unhealed C-section incision) is tough, but we’re trying to remember his side of things in the meantime. The best parenting lesson I know, thanks to Hadley, is that everything is a phase. Some phases are just longer than others, but this, too, shall pass, and we’ll miss this when he’s a teenager. Maybe. 😉

Less attention. We’ve had a lot less attention from friends and family and, ohhh, it’s generally a wonderful thing. There were a few visitors in the hospital, but the stay was overall far less stressful and packed. We knew not to schedule a million visitors upon returning home, and those who come are super helpful.

Advice is still to be taken with a grain of salt. The first time around, we got SO MUCH ADVICE about EVERYTHING (gotta love when someone with zero breastfeeding experience gives their two cents…). This time? My husband has been told numerous times “wipe front to back.” Um. Thanks. And that was literally the only thing he had already known about baby girls, so it’s not super helpful. The generalizations are pretty annoying – the “wait until she’s a teen” and “buy a house with an extra bathroom” (okay, that one may be true…we’ve only got one) – and make me think, like, I’M A GIRL. And I had brothers. Our teen years were all very different, but our behaviors were markedly similar. So, why don’t people say those things about boys? Ah, so it begins.

What about you guys? Were there any huge surprises for you the second (or third or fourth…) time around? Anything that you were better prepared for?

simplified_thanksgiving

With a new baby in our midst, we’re taking on the holidays with a new attitude: Relaxed, simple, and enjoyable.

Okay, maybe we say this every year, baby or not. “We won’t overdo it.” “We’ll keep things simple.” “This year, we’ll actually enjoy the day.” And, sure, we reach varying levels of these goals.

But, this year, things are incredibly different, and luckily our extended families are on-board.

Take Thanksgiving, for instance. Our usual routine is to switch the meal and dessert every year, meaning that one year we’ll eat the full meal with one of our family’s (say, my husband’s) and the dessert with the other family (in this case, mine). The following year, we’ll switch.

Our families live about a half hour apart, and it has worked out relatively well. Sure, we almost always end up eating some semblance of dessert at the first house and the second house will almost always end up sending home extra leftovers, but the peace is kept and we get to enjoy time with both families. Win-win. But, the travel can get tiring (which I hate to even say because I know people will travel for many hours and do anything just to get to a loved one’s house). 

This year? We’re not leaving the house. I’ll actually have a little more work on my hands since I still aspire to have a real Thanksgiving meal (I’ve actually craved the ability to cook my own holiday meal and will often do a turkey breast and sides the weekend before or after the big day, anyway), but with that “relaxed, simple, enjoyable” mantra. Heck, we can eat in our PJs and not worry about rushing every which way, at least.

How the heck, with a nursing newborn and rambunctious toddler, will I get the job done? The key is the second word in my mantra: simplify, simplify, simplify. My husband and I have listed the items that “make” Thanksgiving dinner, for us. Aside from the turkey, his big thing is the mashed potatoes and gravy, and maybe my homemade cranberry sauce. My favorite is the dressing and a certain type of store-bought roll. (What is up with the carbs, guys?!) Our son likes corn and not much else. So, instead of making caramelized brussels sprouts, glazed carrots (which I LOVE but don’t need), homemade cornbread, and so forth, we’re sticking with these relatively simple things.

It’s really going to be a glorified Sunday dinner – and that’s fine.

Along with the simplification, it’s all about the make-ahead prep. The cranberry sauce can be done in advance and heated up (unless we just eat it cold). The rolls are store-bought, but can be popped in the oven for a quick warm-up as needed. The organic corn will be frozen; not much quicker than that. The potatoes can be peeled, chopped, and set on the stove (with a pat of butter to keep the water from boiling over!) the night before, quite possibly by my husband. Same goes with the stuffing prep.   

But, what about dessert?! Yes, there will be dessert. I am a stickler about pie (it must be homemade!!!), and as a pie lover my husband married the right girl. We even cut and ate pie instead of wedding cake. And, what’s his favorite? Apple. It’s pretty high on my list, too, so this is what I’ll be putting all of my energy into the day or two ahead. I mean, we’re not barbarians, after all.

As far as the fact that I don’t feel that it’s Thanksgiving without a slice of pumpkin pie? I’m cheating. My mother has offered to bring me a slice (it will inevitably be half a pie, or possibly the whole thing) since she lives one town over. Plus, she’ll get a quick kiss of the grandkids, which, in her book, is more than payment enough. I wouldn’t necessarily agree; her pumpkin pie is AWESOME. So, it’s probably equal value. 😉 


So, that’s Thanksgiving this year! Breakfast and lunch will be light and simple (if we even eat lunch) and the parade will be viewed in its entirety. I’ll be skipping out on the Black Friday crowds since we’ve gotten most of our gifts already (and I’ll be browsing online in my PJs as needed for the last of it). If the house is clean, great. If it’s not, no big deal. Family visits will be sporadic but plentiful during this time, anyway, so we shouldn’t be missing out on too much family time.

Who else is planning a relatively low-key event this year? Do you have any secrets or tips to share with the rest of us? Or are you excitedly looking forward to a holiday filled with tons of people and gourmet recipes (which I normally love)? Do share!

 

We can’t control every single situation 100% of the time. Heck, I’m sure even saying 50% is generous. So, while I try not to sweat the small stuff or the things that I literally have no say over, my general rule of thumb is to prepare, whenever possible.

In my current case, this has almost everything to do with our bundle of joy, expected to arrive this Friday (via planner C-section). I’ve had a lot going on at work and with my husband’s work, so I’m finally reaching the point of, “I’ve done all I can; it’ll have to work.” And it will, because life has a way of handling things. Mostly. 😉

And all the baby worries that could pop up – will the baby be healthy, will s/he take to breastfeeding, what have we forgotten to do? Let’s call it blind faith, but I’m pretty relaxed about it all. If there’s a situation, we’ll take a deep breath and deal with it. Again, such is life.

But, of all the unpredictables, of all the unknowns, a three-year-old seems to trump them all. When he’s good, he’s pride- and joy-inducing. When he’s not, well, he’s a three-year-old. We all know what that means, right?
So, we already know that it’s a crapshoot as far as which version of our son will rise to the top when he meets his new sibling. We’ve had plenty of conversations about what’s about to happen, and we’re proud that he’s already been including the baby in his vocabulary and life (say, when he lists his best friends, it’s “Mommy, Daddy, and baby”). Sure, we think he may be a tad upset if it’s not a boy, but he’s also so starved for a playmate that I think the shock will wear off.

But, while the little one is, well, little and pretty much helpless and Hadley’s a relatively high-maintenance toddler, I’m trying to do some of that aforementioned preparation to handle things. Here are some “tips” that I’m hoping to implement, if and when needed.

preparing_for_baby

Dole out the responsibilities. We’re lucky that he’s always been a helper. It took awhile to get him not to melt down over putting toys away, but over time he became quite adept at small tasks here and there. And with plenty of kind praise and hugs, he seems to truly stand up straighter with confidence and, dare I say, enjoy the simple jobs we ask of him.

So, this will most likely continue. I already refer to him as my “Helper Boy”, but now just small things like grabbing a burp cloth for me will bring him into the baby scenario (rather than viewing it from the outside). He also knows that, as the baby grows, it’s his job to share his gifts: his ability to make anyone and everyone laugh, his huge vocabulary, his ABCs and counting, and his vast knowledge of all things superhero (among other random facts).

Create special moments. I already know that my husband will step up to the plate and spend lots of extra time with our buddy to do special things together after the baby comes. But, I also know how important it is that I work hard to do the same. We’ve cultivated such a warm, special relationship, I’d hate to lose that while working to do the same with our new sweetie.

So, whether it’s just a brief “date” to his favorite restaurant or heading to the store together for some one-on-one time, it’s on the docket. I’ve also got a few simple holiday ideas that we can do as a family (like viewing Christmas lights) or as a one-on-one activity (like making cut-out cookies). I’m looking forward to those more than I am the actual holidays.

Plus, we’ve got tons of family that he loves to see, so I foresee a fun sleepover or two in his near future. He’s asked plenty, so it’s time to let his little wings stretch a bit.

Allow for greater independence. There are times and places that we’ve seen Hadley as an INCREDIBLE independent player. But, at home, it’s not always like this.

So, I’m hoping to develop this through the plethora of “Quiet Time Activities” I’ve stumbled upon on Pinterest. From simple fine motor tasks like stringing beads or toilet paper tubes to a coloring page to a sorting game, handing over a special, “just for him” activity (especially during nursing or while I’m trying to get the little one down for a nap) will help both of us achieve a tad more independence.

I’m also thinking of making a handful of healthy snack options available within his reach that, after asking and receiving permission, he can choose from. Sometimes even small choices and giving an individual their own option does huge things.

Allow for (and breathe through) setbacks. Our little man is about 95% potty-trained. The only time he has an issue is when his grandmother (who watches him everyday) has our little nephew to care for. Our guy completely reverts on those days. And, when I ask him about it, he tries hard to explain – hands flailing, words cut short by stutters. I totally get it, the poor buddy. He’s not doing it to be spiteful. He’s not proud that he’s not wearing his Flash underpants from the morning. It’s all psychological and he just can’t figure it out. I’m guessing it has something to do with his ability to take control of a situation, even if it’s in a not-great way.

So, at those times when we most want to yell or pull our hair out or punish, it’s just as important for parents to take a deep breath and consider what the child’s going through. It’s bound to happen and he needs to hear that he’s still loved and valued – but that we’d like him to just keep trying his best. And, isn’t that all any of us can do?

WHAT ABOUT YOU GUYS? DID YOU DO ANYTHING SPECIAL TO PREPARE A LITTLE ONE FOR THE ARRIVAL OF A SECOND (OR THIRD, OR FOURTH, OR…) CHILD? I’D LOVE TO HEAR!