Tales from the house on the hill Part 1: I'm home

I'm Home-

The first time I saw the little blue house on the hill I knew I was home.

It was a rainy day in March. It was unseasonably cool for Georgia and there was mud everywhere. We drove our little Saturn up the gravel driveway, across a rickety little bridge and to the little blue house on the hill.

Our home was supposed to sell soon. We had a buyer in the wings and we had to get out fast. (Side note, this sale did NOT happen. The house wouldn't sell for another year. But we will get to that later.)

I had been driving 95 miles one way to work everyday to work here, the best twice weekly newspaper in ALL of Georgia.

Also, our financial situation was a far cry from when we had bought our house in Metro Atlanta. The economy had hit us pretty hard. My husband took a HUGE paycut and the company I was working for closed and it had taken me a long time to find that newspaper job in Northwest Georgia.

I had been making the drive for almost a year. It was getting to be too much.

So it was time to move. The landlord had left the key hidden behind the electric meter. We walked through the tiny and empty house. It was a far cry from the house we were leaving.

"This bedroom is the size of our closet," my husband said.

We took it.

So we moved to the little blue house with the little red barn and we set up shop.

It was Easter weekend when my husband's parents moved us in. I am not a good mover. While I was happy to be selling the house in Atlanta (although it took much, much longer than I wanted) it hurt to leave it. Selling that house felt like a failure.

Leaving Atlanta for the hills felt like we were running from something. There were hurt feelings and tears and anger. Truthfully, I was a little depressed. So each box I watched my husband pack, hurt.

I just wanted to lie on the floor. At one point my mother-in-law had to tell me to get up and pack a box.

The move ended in tears. It was bad. Moves don't bring out the best in people do they?

But the little blue house it held a lot of possibility and once the tears stopped, I was happy to embrace those possibilities.

Next week: Looking for a sign.


The low down on cloth diapers Part Deux

So yesterday we talked about the cloth diapering system we use at our house.

Today let's talk about why I cloth diaper and some myths associated with swaddling a behind in cotton.

I decided to cloth diaper for three reason:

1. I am cheap. I am very, very cheap. I was buying diapers from Amazon, and even that was expensive. With cloth I could buy one time and they would fit him (hopefully) until he outgrew them.

2. I read the average baby goes through 3,000 diapers in his or her lifetime.  I think my baby went through that in the first six months. That is a lot of diapers that won't decompose.

3. Fear got all up in my business. I read somewhere about diapers bleached in Dioxin. This might be fear mongering. It might be true. I don't know. All I know is my baby's business was red, a lot. I assumed it was the chemicals. But why not just eliminate that if it scared me.

Once I combined these three things I decided it was time to get cloth diapers. Now, I have stated before and I will state again. We are not 24/7 cloth diaperers. I have great respect for the women who are. But I am not one of them. Also, I don't think I am any better, or worse because I use cloth diapers. It's just what I wanted to do. The end.

During my research on cloth diapers I had a lot of questions. And boy did I get some answers.

Myth: Cloth diapers are gross.

All diapers are gross. The only diaper that isn't gross is the one that's never been worn.

Myth: But you'll constantly be touching poo.

Nope. No poo touching here. Just use a diaper sprayer, or in most cases just shake it off over the toilet and you're fine.

Myth: You'll change their diaper more.

I still change his diaper six times a day, which is what I did before I switched.

Myth: I don't want pins near my baby.

Then don't let your baby play with the sewing kit. My cloth diapers have cute little buttons. They are all in one. No pins here.

Myth: Your baby will get diaper rash.

I don't think this is really related to cloth over disposable. I think diaper rash is a number of factors. In fact, his bottom seems to get irritate less.

Myth: They will make your house smell bad.

This would be true if I didn't put them in a sealed bag and wash them often.

Myth: You'll do more laundry.

Hello! I have a baby and a husband who works outside in the Alabama heat! I do laundry every day/every other day any way!

Myth: It's expensive and it uses up a lot of water and electricity.

Refer above answer. If you're washing your laundry anyway what's the big deal. I wash the diapers with the towels, wash cloths and underwear on hot water using mild detergent. These are things I need to wash on hot water anyway. Then I hang them on the clothes line because the vitamin D in the sun kills the bacteria. This sounds time consuming and maybe for you it would be. But to me it's peaceful.

As for the cost, it cost me $72 to buy 12 diapers I can use through potty training. That's a bargain!

Fact: Cloth diapering isn't for me. You're right. It might not be. It isn't something everyone wants to do or should do. If you're repulsed by the idea, don't do it. If you don't have time to do it, don't do it.

Like everything else in raising a family, you have to do what's best for your family, not what you think other want you to do.

I hope this has answered your questions though. Thinking about cloth diapers and don't know what kind to buy? AllaboutClothdiapers.com have come great answers.

This post contains links affiliate links to Amazon. I do get a commission if you make a purchase. I am not asking you to, I am just trying to be up front with you guys.

A word on baby food

This is a blog about food and this is a blog about babies but this isn't a blog about baby food. If you want a great blog about baby food, I highly recommend Sarah Eleanor over at Spoonfed Baby. She is witty and smart and full of knowledge.

So I reccomend you go there to get your info on baby food making. But I do want to talk a little bit about the advantages of making your own baby food.

The other day I got a coupon from Publix in the mail. It was for $1.50 of Beechnut Baby Food. The baby food was also on sale BOBO. So I was able to get eight jars for $.64 total. That's fantastic! But it is also largely unheard of. I put the jars in the cabinet for use when we go on vacation.

Had it not been on sale, those eight jars would cost me $4 or more. While $.50 a serving seems like no big deal you have to consider this- I can make baby food for $.10 or less per serving.

Note: I pulled this out of the freezer to photograph. And yes, I am reusing baby food jars in the freezer.

Last week I got a bag of organic carrots on sale for $.99. I was able to make 11 containers of homemade baby food for that. That is $.09 a container.

It was simple. I chopped the carrots, put them in the rice cooker/steamer of all things. Let them steam for an hour. Then I poured the carrots and some of the water from steaming them into a blender and let them blend away.

It required little effort on my part and required no special equiptment. It saves money and I know exactly what is in my baby food.

Bottom of the Hamper Day

Bottom of the Hamper Day. What? You've never heard of it? Hmmm....

This is an elusive celebration, not oft celebrated in our house. I suspect it isn't celebrated in any house that is home to small children. 

It is a magical day that occurs when all of the elements align- the washer, the dryer and the motivated Mama. 

I remember when I was a little girl my mother too a photo of the bottom of our hamper. (This was a long time ago, back in the days of film.) I think that was the last time I saw the bottom of a hamper. 

Until now. 

I believe on that day my mother made a cake. Perhaps some baking is in order. 

A day in the life of a work at home mama

I tried and tried for weeks to get my baby to adhere to a schedule. Then I realized scheduling a baby was like trying to stop a flood with a plastic spoon. It was a sign of my own insanity. So I took three deep breathes and calmed myself right on down. That's when we fell into a routine.

Now that I am working from home more and picking up clients for my and sponsors for this website I have had to find a way to put myself on a schedule.

Here is a rough outline of how our day goes.

5:18 a.m. - I hear an alarm going off. It's Beardface UnStoppable's (that's my nickname for my husband. His real name is Jason). He hits the snooze and I roll back over.

5:30- Beardface gets up. I tell him goodbye but it's muffled by my pillow.

6:15- Someone is hungry. I somehow always know that the baby is awake, even when he isn't crying. I snuggle with him in my bed and feed him, change him and put him back to sleep.

6:45 - I stare longingly at my bed. I decided to make it so I won't get back in it. (Disclosure: Making my bed means pulling up the comforter and walking away.) Sometimes this is the only "housework" I will get done.

There is no time for a shower this morning. I have just picked up a new client and I have an ongoing project with another. I am also putting together an ebook. If I am going to put a dent in all this I need to get started before little man gets up again.

6:50- I am dressed and have a cup of coffee in my hand. Throw a load of laundry in the machine. Dump clean clothes on a chair in the living room. I will walk by those clothes about a dozen times today and swear I will have them folded. I never do.

Spill coffee on the floor. I read my devotional and get to work answering emails and working on projects.

Somewhere around 8:30 Little Bits wakes up. I clean him up, dress him and we sing for a little while. Then I put him in his baby gym to play while I wrap up a few things.

9 a.m. - we both eat breakfast. He is now up to 3 small meals in-between nursing. Today it's oatmeal for everybody.

9:30 a.m. - He plays in his high chair while I do the dishes or get dinner plans together.

10 a.m. - He has to be rocked cuddled before he will go down for a morning nap. I talk to him or read to him. Then I put him in his swing for nap. I dread the day he outgrows it.

Then I get back to work. Today a client needs me to write him a letter. I am also wrapping up a ghost writing project.

11:30- Sweet boy is awake. I change him and feed him.-- at some point here I eat again.

Noon- 2 p.m. Then we play. I keep a notebook near by to jot down ideas and to do lists.

I also use this time to run errands.

2 p.m. Baby boy gets more solids at this point. We listen to music while he eats. I dance. He laughs. It's a sweet time.

3 p.m. It's time for another nap. He usually fights this one hard, but he needs it.

3 - 4:30- He naps if I'm lucky. He will be an ill pill if he doesn't. More work time for me. I think I might get that laundry folded- I don't. 

Between 5-5:45 Daddy is home! Jason feeds the baby. I finish supper. Do more work.

6:30- Jason and I eat.

7:15- bath and story time. I make the coffee for the morning. Lunch gets packed for tomorrow.

8- I think the baby is asleep. Jason puts him to bed.

8:07 - Just kidding! He's awake.

More snuggling, walking, bouncing, shushing.

8:45 - He is asleep this time.

I hang out with Jason, FINALLY fold that load of clothes. Get more clothes together to dump in in the morning.

10:30- We read our devotional and get in the bed.

11 - ??? I lie in the dark and make to do lists in my head.

5:18 a.m.- I hear an alarm going off.

The little stories are the big stories

I was just a kid when I decided I wanted to be a journalist. I had this vision of me in fancy shoes and a brief case living in a big city where I would get into heated debates with the corrupt city leaders.

The only thing I got right was that last part.

I started my newspaper career at a small weekly where I wrote stories about school spelling bees and new police cars and I while I was excited to be getting paid to write something, it was at times disappointing.

"I want to write about things that matter," I said to my mama on the phone one day.

"These things matter to your readers," she replied.

I wasn't convinced.

That until I met Mrs. Vanwinkle.

She walked into our small newspaper office with a photo of her son and a handwritten "in memory ad." She wanted to pay a few dollars to run an ad for her son's birthday. He had been dead for nearly a year.

But when I heard her story I felt compelled to write it all down. Her son, Shannon Vanwinkle, died attempting to save the life of another man and a little girl.

Sadly, all three of them died.

But Mrs. Vanwinkle was desperate for someone to remember her son for his bravery.

"He wasn't perfect," she told me. "But he had a good heart."

That is it. The heart of each story. It might not be a big story. It might not be what you as an author thinks matters. But it matters to someone.

A few days after Shannon's story ran in the paper I got a floral arrangement form his mother. It came in a big coffee mug with a big yellow smiley face printed on it.

I still have that mug.   I take a sip from it I remember Shannon Vanwinkle.


Sometimes you have to stop and smell the gardenias

The past few days have been less than easy. As evidenced by the cookie dough incident. 

I was stomping down the stairs to the laundry room, my heart and laundry basket heavy. It was hot, I was tired, the baby didn't want to nap, I was frustrated with the 1,000 other things that had gone wrong (stolen debit card, our dog ran away). I did not want to carry my laundry to the garage.

"Why can't the laundry room be in the house?" I huffed. "A man designed this because men don't hold screaming babies while they do the laundry." 

Then I caught a whiff of something. Something that make something in the back of my memory stand up. The scent of gardenias. 

They are my favorite flower. 

Our first home had a gardenia bush planted in the front yard, it was given to me by my daddy. When we sold the house the bush stayed and it made me a little sad. 

But here in our rental, tucked in the corner of the yard, was a long-neglected gardenia bush that was nearly overwhelmed by another vine. 

It was in full bloom and it smelled amazing. 

I put down the laundry and walked over to the gardenias. 

How many blessings have we all forgotten we have tucked away because life has gotten too stressful? 

Judgey McJudgerson strikes again

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I am in constant danger of falling off my high horse. I am not a snob, no way, she who shops at the Dollar General can't be a snob. I am something worse- judgmental.

This is something I have always struggled with, and to be honest it has gotten worse. Nothing brings out the Mrs. McJudgerson like motherhood, right? *Sighs in shame.

Recently a friend posted to Facebook a challenge to encourage someone instead of judge. 

It struck me. I have always considered myself an encourager, but is it authentic encouragement when I am silently judging someone for their mistakes and shortcomings? What does that make me? A big, fat hypocrite!

When I told my friend that a judgmental attitude was something I was struggling with she pointed out to me that sitting in judgement is not "a job we can master because we weren't created to do it." She pointed out that we were created by God to love and encourage one another and she challenged me to see God in everyone.  "It's much easier to love our brothers and sisters when we see our Father in their eyes and hearts," she said. 

We are told time and time again by our Father not to judge.

Luke 6:37 says: “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven."

Again in Matthew 7 it is repeated "For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." (Matthew 7: 1-5)

I end by asking this, what is judgement? For me it is my way of having others validate my life choices. "This is the right way to do it, don't you agree?" But if I need others to validate my life choices am I living authentically?


Worth the Read: 31 Days to a Better Budget

31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget

Money Saving Mom is one of my favorite web sites. She is funny and practical and offers some great advice. One of the best things she has written is 31 Days to a Better Budget. I highly recommend it. It will only take you about 30 minutes to read through the entire series and she offers great advice like, plan your meals in advance and don't be brand loyal.

While I do disagree with her on the concept of buying the newspaper (come on, a girl's gotta eat!) it is still a great series.

5 Things I've learned about motherhood so far...

My little boy will be 5 months old soon. Since we are all about the 5's around here I thought I would take this as an opportunity to talk about 5 things I have learned about motherhood so far.

No matter how many books you read, people you talk to, advice you get, practice you've had babysitting nothing and I mean nothing will prepare you for taking a baby home from the hospital.

It will come as a shock to you when they wheal you out to the car and say goodbye. They won't let you take a nurse home with you. So this is what my husband, Beardface UnStoppable, and I have learned.

1. Sleeping

Newborns don't need the quiet to sleep. In fact, they will zonk out anywhere.

At a moments notice. (We did not leave him there.)

As they get older it's a different story.

But when they do sleep through the night the first time. It is like magic befalls your home. You can think clearly, you might get a shower. You can string together a coherent sentence. Magic!

2. Poop, spit up and other bodily fluids.

Babies, while cute and cuddly can often be gross. When the UPS man tells you you have spit up in your hair- gross. When you have to rinse out a onsie because poop came up and out the sides of the diaper- gross. When they poop on a hotel room wall in Greenville, Alabama- gross. 

A baby will pass gas in church and it will be so bad the lady in front if you will turn to look. For a good laugh, blame it on your husband.

But hilarious. Even if those first few months teach you nothing else other than to relax and go with the poop, you're still good.

3. Emotions. 


Photo by Candi Barnwell

Babies have a lot of feelings. They are kind of like drunk college girls. They go from smiling, to crying, to passed out in a matter of seconds. Refer to images below for example.

Photo by Candi Barnwell

Photo by Candi Barnwell

4. Behold the power of routine.

Babies, even little babies, appreciate a routine. Don't we all. And in my case you dare not throw him off. My baby was a good napper... for 2 weeks. He was taking a 90 minute nap two times a day like clock work. Then went out of town.

That was two months ago. This (photo above) is the face I get 45 minutes into an attempt to nap. Pray for me, won't you?

5. Not matter how tired, exhausted, frustrated, upset, much pain you feel you will be able to take care of your baby.

I am struggling through some pain from a wreck I was in when I was pregnant. (Long story, not talking about it right now.) Last week I was in so much pain I feared I couldn't pick my baby up out of his crib. But I did and we were ok. It hurt, yes. But I "mommed up" and did it.

I had a good example. My Mama is still Momming up.

Bottom line. You can do it. It's great. It's fun. It's draining and exhausting. I get tired and frustrated. But every morning when I get my son up to start the day he smiles at me and I see the face of nearly everyone I have ever loved in that crib. That's the biggest blessing.