Five Ways to Encourage a New Mom

Today I am wearing a cute maternity top and leggings. The top is roomy and comfortable, warm, but not too hot and it's pretty flattering. The best part- it was gifted to me. 

We started attending a new church back in August. Now that our boy is older and more flexible with his routine, attending Sunday School has been easier. But up until this point our interactions have been limited to saying hi to the greater and having a quick chat with the nursery ladies. (Who all rock!)

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Saying good bye to a sweet friend

Yesterday my husband came home to find that our dog, Millie, had died. It was unexpected. She had spent much of the day barking at the farm workers tearing up the peanut field behind our house.

She was a healthy, happy, sweet, seven-year-old dog. She was a good dog and we will miss her.

I got Millie when I was still in college, living alone in a town house my last semester of school. I was nervous to be alone and my fiance, now husband, suggested I get a dog.

I immediately wanted her when I saw her. She was black as night and fuzzy and sweet as she can be.

Millie stood guard over the town house while I was in class. She slept at the foot of my bed, ready to pounce. She stole pizze from the dining room table (true story!).

When Jason and I got married and moved to Atlanta, Millie patiently endured living on the thirf floor of a walk up.

When we bough out first house she was happy to play in the back yard, enjoying the suburbs.

But her real personality came out when we moved to the country. Her huntress came out. She even caught, killed and ate a rabid skunk and had to be quarantined for six months (true story!).

Last summer I was in a wreck that injured my right leg. Sometimes I walk with a slight limp. In February Millie got kicked by a cow and injured her front right leg. She walked with a slight limp after that. Every day she accompanied my down the driveway, where we both limped to the mail box.

She will always be the sweet baby puppy who met me at the car every day. She will always be the good girl who howled at the dangers of creatures like raccoons. And she will always be the dog that made our sweet baby boy giggle at the sight of her.


There's a mouse in the kitchen...

Last night we ate take out pizza. There is not recipe today because there is a mouse in my kitchen. This means I am not setting foot in there.

Yesterday I was sitting on my couch, eating my lunch. I was taking a much needed five minute break while the baby napped. I had just gotten a ton of work done and needed to let my brain rest. (I own my own business. You should check it out here)

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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 Un

Before I had a baby I seriously thought about cloth diapering. Then I realized how much babies pooped and thought better of it.

Then I realized how much diapers cost and reconsidered again.

This diaper feels a little strange!Then I did some research, purchased a dozen cloth diapers and have been using them during the day time for about a month. It has been, fabulous.

These are not your Mama's cloth diapers with the pins and the plastic pants.

These are cute, economical, time friendly devices that are way easier than I ever imagined. That's not to say there isn't a little bit of work involved, but it's minimal at best.

Oh! It's cloth.

Note: We are not cloth diaper T-Totalers. We don't use cloth diapers at night, or while traveling or when we have a babysitter. Like everything else that comes with having a baby, it is all about balance. You have to decide what works best for you and your family.

I admire those women who cloth diaper 24/7. They know a secret I don't.

I thought I would break down my cloth diapering system a a part of Life As Mom's Frugal Fridays.

The diapers: I bought my diapers from Sunbaby Diapers. This is a female-owned company based out of China. (Don't give me grief for buying my diapers from China. The keyboard you are typing on was made there too.)

The owner is Sun pei. She had the best prices and amazing customer service. Four around $70 I got a dozen diapers and 24 liners. I didn't want to sink a ton of money into something if it wasn't going to work out for our family.

They have these really great snap closures and the diaper will grow with baby from eight pounds to 35 pounds. (Note: I would reccomend not cloth diapering a newborn the first week or two. It's nonstop poop.)

She had a variety of colors but I knew bleach would be involved so I just bought white.

The cleaning: When it's time to change the diaper I simply take it off of my boy, clean him like I would if he were wearing a pampers, and throw the wipe in the diaper genie.

Then I pull out the liner and throw the liner and dipey in a wet bag like the Planet Wise Diaper Pail Liner - Avocado . You can purchase some really cute wet bags at Etsy. Or you can make your own. I just use an old resuable shopping bag with a zipper.

If the diaper is... shall we just call it what it is?... poopy, I shake it off in the toilet and rinse. I reccomend a bumGenius Diaper Sprayer . Then pull out the diaper liner and spay it with Bac-Out too.

Then I spray the diaper with Bac-Out w/Foaming Action Sprayer 32 Ounces . It's made from live culture and lime enzyme and breaks down any stains. It smells good and is safe. Also, it gets the stains out.

You can spray this stuff on any stain. It got olive oil out of a dress!!

 The washing: I wash my cloth diapers every other day. I throw them in the machine with towel, wash cloths, underwear, anything that would need to be washed on hot water. I put them on the regular cycle and use Tide Free and Gentle High Efficiency Unscented Detergent, 50 Ounce (Pack of 2) .

I throw the liners in the dryer and hang the diapers on the clothes line or over a chair on the back porch.

I know it sounds like a lot, but it really isn't.

Tomorrow I will cover a few facts about cloth diapering, a few basics and how to get started. 

For more check out this video from Mama Natural on her cloth diapering set up.

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 upfront 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. 

How I don't organize anything...

I do not have an organizational bone in my body. In December when it came time to move from Northwest Georgia to South Alabama I moved several garbage bags of dirty clothes and a basket of mismatched socks.

I am many things. I am good at many things. But organized is not one of them.

I terrible at crafts, I don't know how to sew and I am not organized. Although I would love to be all those things.

So I have decided that if I am going to run a house, a baby and a business I should probably get myself into some sort of organizational routine. I am starting in the front of my house and working my way forward.

A few days ago I took five minutes to organize my our entryway.

This was what it looked like. My husband's shoes were everywhere! Which resulted in a lot of yelling on my part.

SO I took an old book shelf and organized that a little bit. Oh and I made ugly curtains.

It's a start.

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.

10 Cheap Dates

It's Frugal Friday over at Life As Mom. So let's talk about Cheap Dates.

Dates are important. Since we had the baby seven months ago we have been on 2. Yeah, I know. We need to get out more.

This weekend my mother-in-law will be in town to keep sweet boy while we go on a date. I am so excited.

But we, like so many of you, are living a frugal life, so we are dating on a budget.

Here are 10 ideas:

1. Don't be afraid to BOGO. We purchased an Enjoy the City book and it is filled with great buy one get one bargins. Also, check out Groupon for some great deals in your area.

2. Pick your own. Our area has some great pick your own farms. Black berries, strawberries, you name it you can pick it. Pack a picnic and spend an afternoon picking your favorite fruits for later.

3. See the great outdoors. Do you have a great park, local beach or walking trail? Grab your sunscreen, pack and sandwich and hit your local patch of nature.

4. Keep it local. If your city has a great museum they might have some free days for those who live in the county. Seriously, Google "free museum days" and a ton of info pops up.

5. Dinner and a movie, budget style. You can make a great homemade pizza for about $3. Pair it with a Netflix marathon of Lost and you have a pretty good evening.

6. Pin it. Go bowling. A lot of bowling alleys offer great weeknight deals. You can get a 2-for-1 game or free shoe rentals.

7. Gift challenge. This sounds really not fun, but it is. Each year when it is Toys for Tots time my husband and I budget what we're going to spend and then we make it a challenge to see who can get the most bang for their buck. I always win.

8. Play along. Does your town have a local playhouse? Or is your local high school perfoming the music man? Why not go? You can probably get a couple tickets for $20. Put on your fancy shoes and go take in a show.

9.Wii game night. Put a batch of chocolate chip cookies in the oven. Fire up the Wii (or whatever gaming console you like) and have an indoor tennis match, car race or discover the cake is a lie (yes, that is a portal reference).

10. What's so amazing that keeps us star gazing? One of my favorite memories of my time with Beardface (my husband Jason) was when we were still in college. There was a meteor shower. So we went to our university's golf course in the middle of the night and just laid down and watched the stars fall around us. We drank coffee and talked about the future. It was a sweet memory that didn't cost us a thing.

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?