Fruitese and nuts and Coronavirus

In March of 2020 (a couple months ago) the world was hit with a global pandemic. Only weeks before I managed to abruptly and gracelessly leave the social media scene in obedience to a calling I felt God place on my heart. Since then I have questioned this choice, been tempted to return, only to decide the answer for my heart’s longing for connection within a quarantined world has to be found in other virtual platforms, like this one. I realize blogging is an extremely one-sided avenue for conversation and relationships, but I always talk too much and listen too little, so truthfully, it fits. Within this sphere, I have to be intentional about reaching out and it’s honestly good for me to need to be intentional. However, sending 15 texts to let everyone know about big life changes and updates is challenging (especially when I am uncertain about who is even interested in hearing them), so this platform once again seems to be perfect. You can expect my next several posts to surround the following momentous change we’ve faced in the last three months: WE BOUGHT A HOUSE. Finally, we are making payments each month for our own outrageous debt balance as opposed to someone else’s, and it feels great. We have become turncloaks, WTF, and are officially Fruitese (ridiculously geographically localized humor). Naturally, the house-shopping during a coronavirus stay-at-home-order, renovating while facilitating remote learning for my oldest, and all the while searching for toilet paper and beans has been challenging. However, it’s been exciting and I am deeply aware of how lucky we considering majority of the world is struggling in health and economic uncertainty.

On a side note: I really don’t intend to minimize the global turmoil we are in right now by neglecting to talk about it. The truth is I have little encouragement or wisdom to share and therefore feel inept to share at all. All I know is God is still sovereign, He is still good, and I have absolutely no control over 99% of the issues we are all being faced with. So I’m left with choosing to focus on  tackling the unique challenges and changes my family is facing and making our experience as joy-filled and normal as possible rather than spending my time discussing and proselytizing what to do about the pandemic and economic depression. I don’t mean this to be offensive for those who are wanting to debate or share their opinions and take on such a huge historic event; I think it’s awesome if you want to do that. Instead, I hope you can forgive me for deciding to set up a giant stack of hay in the corner of the room and letting the elephant stay there.

So back to the moving situation… For those of you who are thinking “but wait, Sarah, didn’t you just move in to and fix up a trailer house around the corner from you parent’s house?” Why yes, yes we did. To condense an otherwise long, drawn out story which could have been it’s own post (or three):

The location of the trailer house was exceptionally perfect, our initial assessment of the condition of the trailer and property seemed promising, and the possibilities appeared to be wonderful. In an ideal world, the whole situation would have been supremely wonderful. So being the idealist I am, with zeal and naive hope we spent weeks and several hundreds of dollars fixing up a trailer house we were renting with option to buy. Our landlord, the trustee of the estate for her late step-father (the property we were cleaning up), let us know from the beginning her intent wasn’t to make a huge profit off of the home. However, after living at the property for several months, the proverbial cat staggered out of the proverbial bag. We learned our landlord would be firm at her $190,000 asking price and that she would need to close the estate (implying she would need to sell it either to us or someone else) by July of 2020. We also learned trailer is “pre-hud,” meaning little other than no lender wanted to touch it with a 10 foot pole other than ONE guy who could only run us through a loan program requiring a full 20% down and a stomach-wrenching 6.5% interest rate. Yikes, right? To solidify our desire to scrap our efforts to make the property our own, we learned the extent of the property’s disintegration from water damage, septic issues, pest infestations, enormous diseased trees, and a deteriorating irrigation and sprinkler system. Needless to say, the property began to appear… well… less than ideal, despite it’s matchless location. However, still clinging to a thread of our battered hope, in the middle of February, we asked our landlord to renew our lease so we could figure out how to find a way to make the property work. Our landlord declined and wished to go month-to-month. Channeling my inner husband and choosing the pessimistic (I’m sorry… “realistic”) view of the world, I presumed her reasons were ominous, and we chose to get pre-approved and start searching for a different home. Enter… COVID19…

The next month was a whirlwind. We asked a family member to represent us as a realtor, learned of the stay-at-home order, saw our now home pop up onto a real estate page, and asked to go see it. We were able to do a walk through just before more of the covid19 restrictions hit. We learned the seller was looking for a cash offer, but we put in an offer anyway, the seller accepted. We were under contract (woo hoo!). A couple days later we had the inspection and appraisal on the same day, but the appraisal came back with conditions and construction needed to be done in order for the loan to go through. We knew the seller wanted to sell “as is,” so we thought the deal was over… but the seller agreed to do all the required repairs over the weekend. We came to the house Friday: no work was done, Saturday: no work was done, Sunday: no work, finally Monday people were working on the house to be appraised the next day. We went Monday night and found some of the things weren’t actually finished, we thought the deal was over…but the seller insisted they would get it done by the following afternoon. The appraiser agreed to come after the work was done. We got the approval from the appraiser. We got the approval from our lender. We closed on the house! In less than 30 days we went from seeing a listing for our house to having the keys in our hands. After a roller coaster f emotion, we finally purchased probably the only house within 75 miles that fit in our price range, which required “an insane amount of work” as quoted by an investor, in the middle of a viral pandemic…. making us completely nuts.

I can say my faith and trust in God was tested during that month. I remember crying to Drew after hearing the appraisal and before the seller decided to make the repairs on the home and telling him I was so frustrated because I didn’t understand and couldn’t see what God was doing. It only took a few days of hindsight before that moment seemed so silly. But that’s the thing about God’s sovereign plan, it really doesn’t make sense sometimes. Sometimes it seems so painful, so unfair, so… well wrong, but it is always the right one. There are times when the magic of His plan makes sense after a few days, but I know there are times His plan won’t make sense until we are standing before Him. There’s where the faith part has to come in. Trusting God “should” be so easy because He proves Himself time and time again, but it’s hard because we are so extremely human. The way He moved to help us get this house was nothing short of amazing. The way He has worked to bring us support and help during this first month of renovation is nothing short of humbling. Rest assured, you will be hearing more about this renovation process, seeing before-and-after photos, and staying up to date with the progress we are making. For now, though, just know it has been a blessing… and a headache… and exciting to be nuts living in our little Fruity house.

Are you feeling anxious?

I fully believe God speaks through His word. I believe we have encounters with Him through perfectly-timed, divine appointments when we open up our Bibles (especially if that is daily). In my individual Bible study, I am working through the book of Luke. Just like God does, I came across a passage right when I needed it most. See, I have been struggling lately with trusting God, especially with my oldest child. I have been gripped with fear and anxiety surrounding his safety, his education, his heart and well-being. I have been praying and feeling as though my prayers have gone unanswered.

Maybe you can relate. We are in an extremely difficult time right now. The future is scary and gravely uncertain. There is thick, dark anxiety hanging in the air. Fear, hopelessness, and grief are so saturated in the world around us right now it’s palpable. I can honestly still say I don’t understand what God is doing right now. I don’t see The Plan. Both in society and in our personal lives, I am just. not. getting it. But, while God might not have given me the answers, he has given me just what I needed. Right when I was going to hit the panic button, I read this story about Mary and young Jesus. ⠀

(The context of these verses are really important to understand what is going on, and to get the best picture I recommend reading the full passage for yourself. It can be found at the end of Luke 2, but I will summarize below)

In this story, we learn Jesus and His parents were going to Jerusalem for the Passover festival (Luke 2:41). Just like festivals or conferences today, big time events bring in big time speakers (or in this case, religious teachers). There were lots of people in the town, and there was a multitude of knowledge and wisdom to soak in. At the time of this particular story, we are told that Jesus was 12 (Luke 2:42). According to the culture of that period, Jesus at 12 years old was considered almost a man (picture a 17 or even 18 year old in today’s western culture), and this is important to remember. At the end of the festival, Jesus’s family packed up and left. They would have been traveling in a caravan to keep themselves safer on the road, and most likely were traveling with extended family (Luke 2:43). So here is where Jesus’ age plays a big role in the unfolding scene: an adult man would travel in the back with other adult men, and a child would travel with mom in a different group. Since Jesus was considered almost an adult, He could have been with either group, and it’s because of this we read His parents traveled a day’s journey from Jerusalem before they realized… Jesus wasn’t with them (Luke 2:44-45). Now, we are told as readers Jesus was taking advantage of His opportunity to learn and grow in God. The whole time, He was in the temple learning from the religious teachers and even sharing His own insight and wisdom (and totally amazing them by the way) (Luke 2:46-47).

I want to pause right here though, because when I read this, I immediately thought of a time when my husband and I were at a park with our kids and lost sight of one for a moment (each thinking the other was with him). We quickly found him safe and sound, contentedly playing under the slide. So for us, the panicked search lasted only a couple moments and the total time apart was less than five minutes. For Mary… we learn she looked for Jesus through the city of Jerusalem and their time apart lasted three days! As a fellow parent, I can relate all too well to the panicked “oh-my-gosh-where-is-my-baby?!” feeling Mary and Joseph felt. And we know they were feeling this because of what Mary says when she finally finds Him:

“When His parents saw Him, they were astonished, and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for You.” “Why were you searching for Me? ” He asked them. “Didn’t you know that I had to be in My Father’s house? ” But they did not understand what He said to them.” -Luke‬ ‭2:48-50‬ ‭(HCSB)

Y’all! Can you hear it? ‬‬Can you hear your own voice, dripping with both relief and frustration pouring over your child, “Your father and I have been ANXIOUSLY searching for you!” I know I am taking some interpretative liberty here, but I can imagine Mary’s tone was not gentle in this moment. I put myself in Mary’s shoes and can too easily imagine “anxiously” searching for a child God told me was HIS child, the messiah, savior, rescuer for an entire nation… no… an entire world. I imagine feeling like, “God!!! I LOST YOUR KID! I lost the promised one! You entrusted the most important person to ever walk the face of the earth into my care AND I LOST HIM!” I can feel that terror, shame, and anger well in up in me. Then I can imagine that I see this boy SITTING IN A TEMPLE CHATTING?!

Yeah, I can imagine Mary’s sin-nature taking over. I imagine I can feel her heart, because I have been there. I am right there with Mary, and my mother’s heart is scolding Jesus for putting His parents through such a horrific nightmare. My mama brain is ripping into him, saying what Mary says, “Son?! Why have You treated us like this?!” (Luke 2:48). Can you hear it? “Listen KID, I have been worried SICK about you. What were you THINKING?! Couldn’t you HEAR me screaming for you!?!”

And yet… the thing I am most wrecked by is not what Mary says. Yes this is such a relief-bringing relatable moment. Mary was a sinner, just like all of us. Mary was working through her anger triggers, just like we are. Mary lost her cool with her child (GOD’S CHILD), just like we do. And as beautiful and comforting as this is, that’s not what struck me. What strikes me is Jesus’ response.

“Why were you searching for Me?” (Luke 2:49)

There it is. Jesus answers Mary with words that shook me. And of course, Mary and Joseph don’t understand what He means. And I think it’s easy for us to read this and maybe miss the point a little, too. I don’t think Luke’s purpose for including this story in his gospel was so we can feel comforted in how relatable Mary and Joseph are as parents, or so we can shrug our shoulders and wonder how Mary and Joseph could have lost their kid, or for us to think they must have been foolishly looking for Him in all the wrong places. I don’t even think the point is just to show that Jesus is God’s son.

I think this story is here because of Jesus’ response. I think this story is here because we all (yes, even those without kids) needed to listen to and understand what Mary and Joseph missed. When I read what Jesus said, I hear, “WHY were you freaking out?? I am GOD’S child! Of course HE is going to take care of me. Nothing is going to happen to me that is apart from His will! I will be obedient to HIM and that won’t always go along with your plans, it won’t always make sense from your perspective. But no matter what HE has it all under control and I am safely resting in HIS hands! Mom, its OKAY. I am where I am supposed to be. YOU NEED TO TRUST GOD WITH WHAT IS GOD’S!”

Mamas, let’s trust God with our children, because they are HIS children. When we give our lives to Christ and decide to follow Jesus, we give our lives to Christ. Let me say that again… we give our lives to Christ. We give everything we have, yes EVERYTHING, to Jesus. So your children, your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your jobs, your health, your finances, your nation, your safety, your future, your legacy, your life is in God’s hands. The old children’s song “He’s got the Whole World in His Hands” is truth! And the joy isn’t in the letting go. The letting go is hard. The joy comes because of who is holding all of this.

Giving your life to Jesus means the One who was there at the creation of the Earth, who has power and authority over ALL things, who knows everything, who rose from the grave, who is perfect in every way and is victorious over sin and death and every un-lovely thing… that is who is taking care of everything you hold dear. God is not going to neglect your family, because when you give it to Him, they become HIS family. God is not going to mismanage your money, because it’s HIS money. God is not going to destroy your life, because it’s HIS life. It may not look the way we expect, but it is still in His will. And God is supremely good. God is perfect. God is all-knowing and God is in control (honestly, whether we surrender or not). So surrender and allow Him to take care of it, no matter what “it” is.

When I look at this passage I am reminded of the importance in trusting God with what’s God’s… and it’s ALL God’s. I am reminded my fear just reveals what is important to me. But when I let fear control me, I lose the freedom and joy God gives. When I look at whatever my fear is fixated on and hold it up in light of eternity… does it really matter? And if it does… won’t it also matter to God? And if it matters go God… won’t He take care of it? And if He is taking care of it, it’s going to be okay.

We should listen to Jesus’ response. Instead of frantically searching, getting angry when Jesus doesn’t do what we expect Him to do, or becoming swallowed by fear when things aren’t going well, let’s trust Jesus is right where He needs to be, and God has what we hold dear safely in His hands.

It’s going to be okay.

God bless.

Oops and goodbye content

As many of you may know, I have been on a little social media lacuna for the past three months. What you may not know is that during my hiatus I have somehow managed to lose most of the posts and content from this blog. Oops. While many would be disappointed, discouraged, distressed, disquieted, disturbed perhaps, I, rather, am choosing to view this as an opportunity for a fresh start in my blogging journey. A renewed blog for my renewed mind seems like the best way to approach this disappearance. Previously, I have struggled focusing my blog into a more consistent “subject” and have bounced around topics from cloth diapering, food, parenting tips, teaching advice, spiritual views, my interpretations of scripture, rants, just to name a few. Moving forward I have a much better grasp on what I am choosing to focus my content on. So here is the plan for my blog’s focus in the future: a completely chaotic and confused content. As in, I have embraced my unhinged approach toward blogging and am presenting you with a completely incoherent and random sequence of posts.

Part of my journey during my departure from social media has been letting go of my expectation to fit into some kind of category. I see people all around me who have a sort of “brand,” if you will: outdoorsy, country, posh, fit, modern, hip, earthy, redneck, traditional, charming, sophisticated, retro, vegan. From aesthetics to attitude, home decor to language, everything is grouped into a neat little label. I have tried for so long to fit myself into some kind of category, finding only mismatches and an inability to stick with any one “type.” So, I have drawn the conclusion the only word I could possibly group my life under is eccentric, and not even in a cool, hipster-esque type of eccentric. My brand of eccentric is sometimes mainstream, sometimes off the wall, usually irrational, and certainly erratic, underscored only by my passionate love for Jesus.

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The only constant, unchanging, and predictable aspect of this blog is my faith. You can expect me to mention God, quote scripture, and frequently discuss my relationship with Jesus on the regular. Apart from this, you may encounter anything from our recent home remodel to awesome-sounding recipes I most likely burned trying to make. So, if this kind of oddball blogging journey is one you are interested in, stick around. I love sharing, writing, reading, and connecting with others and I always want to hear from you and am delighted if you want to hear from me. God bless.

Cloth Diapering 101

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The Lingo:

I never thought a college graduate with a minor in English could feel so lost looking at posts about baby diapers until I found myself in a Facebook support group asking questions before my daughter was born. AIO, EUC, CD, Fluff, Sposies… the terminology and abbreviations in the cloth diapering world can feel like a completely foreign language. For your convenience, I have a little picture below with some of the terms and definitions for those terms I personally have come across in the cloth diaper world. There are surely many more, but I compiled the list below at bare minimum for the sake of the rest of my post:

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My cloth diaper journey started almost six years ago when I was a single mom to my now oldest child. While pregnant with him, one of my family members told me about her love for using cloth diapers. She encouraged me to try finding some pre-loved (aka used) and saving myself and the environment the burden of using sposies. I greatly looked up to her (and still do) as a mother, so I figured I would give cloth diapers a try. To be completely truthful, my desire to do cloth was rooted primarily in an economic motivation- cloth diapers would be infinitely cheaper than disposables. The environmental benefit was more or less icing on the cake at the time. I had another wonderful family member who sewed me a few newborn sized AIO diapers, I purchased about 30 more os pocket diapers online and decided I was all set up. I gave birth and started using a mix of my handmade newborn diapers and sposies.

My oldest son was born at just over 8 1/2 lbs and grew very quickly. He weighed 13 lbs by his one month checkup and was already outgrowing the AIO diapers I had been given. I also quickly leaned he had very sensitive skin and most brands of sposies were giving him rashes. I started to fall in love with my pockets for keeping him rash-free and for actually fitting. However, I was still a single mom trying to get through my freshman year of college at 19 years old. My conviction, time, and ability to pursue cloth diapering full time fell flat. While my family was fairly supportive, they also enjoyed the convenience of sposies and over only a few short months I was more-or-less the only person using my precious cloth diapers. So, my oldest son was cloth diapered part time when I was home with him.

In the years to come I have had two more kids and progressively cloth diapered more and longer. I started using cloth full time with my daughter at 3 months old (using sposies before that). Around one year old I started using cloth wipes as well. When my third baby was born we were using a mix of sposies and cloth from day one, transitioning to full time cloth by the time he was about a month old. I am far from an expert, but I have learned so much over the years I wish I would have known the first time around and figured I would share my experience.

Fluff Love University

Looking back I would do so many things differently when it comes to my choices with cloth. At the time, I lacked some of the support and resources I know would have made my endeavor so much easier. When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, I wanted to CD more diligently and I learned about a resource which became an absolute GAME CHANGER: Fluff Love University The website and sister facebook group weren’t around when I had my oldest and I so wish they had been. I was using a homemade laundry soap, mf inserts, and disposable liners- all things I changed after investigating the Fluff Love website, connecting with facebook groups, and learning so much about the world of cloth diapers. So, my favorite resource and first place I send any new parents who are interested in cloth diapers is Fluff Love University. I am well aware they are not the end-all-be-all of cloth diapering, and many parents (myself included) have successfully used cloth on their babies without ever opening a link on their site. However, they have SO MUCH extremely helpful science-based information and can be a life saver when you are new to cloth. Much of what I talk about here in my post is gleaned from the knowledge on that website!

Buy them used, sell them when you’re done

There are some really, really cute diapers out there and I am totally guilty of wanting to buy all the fluff. However, the cost of buying cloth diapers can be pretty hefty initially, and I have met many a mom with sticker shock from Target, Amazon, or other retailers’ brand-new diaper prices. A good bleach soak will kill any germs you may find from a used diaper and the price can be about half of what you would find them for new. If you join b/s/t groups online, you can often find parents who are selling their entire stash! Not only does this cost you less per diaper, but also less shipping costs. Plus, these diaper stashes usually have an assortment of brands and types, so you can figure out what you like without breaking the bank. Further, I have used iso threads and posts to find particular diapers or prints I really wanted! During my pregnancy with my third baby, I wanted to find a cactus print diaper for some newborn pictures (see top pic) and found what I was looking for in less than an hour!

When you are done using your diapers, your baby outgrows them, or you find a particular style/brand you like more than others, you can sell your diapers. Selling brings your total cost of diapering your baby down to next-to-nothing (especially if you bought them used in the first place!). I’m also a fan of buying and selling used cloth because it means you are supporting another mom financially, and in theory you use less of our planet’s resources to manufacture the cloth diapers making it an even more environmentally friendly way to take care of your baby’s waste!

Find a style you like

The extra work involved in caring for your diapers can vary depending on the type of diaper you use. I, personally, found AIO diapers the most convenient when it comes to ease of use and laundering. They can be a great transition for people who are wanting to start cloth. Velcro closures can make them function the same as sposies. However, I find them to be less absorbent than some of the other types, and the more frequent changes and leaks has deterred me from using them.

Pocket diapers function the same as AIO diapers when you are using them (although many use snaps instead of Velcro), but they are much more customizable when it comes to absorbency. I love using folded up FSTs for inserts as they are cheap and have always worked extremely well for my babes. I used this method for my oldest son the entire time we used cloth and for my daughter until she was just about a year old. I know many parents also use prefolds as inserts for their pockets making for fantastic overnight absorption. We still use pocket diapers as overnight solitons since they wick the moisture away from the baby’s skin and we can use a combination of hemp, microfiber, and cotton inserts to make some pretty bullet-proof diapers. However, I quickly grew tired of pulling out soggy pee inserts when I needed to wash them and of folding and stuffing the inserts into the pockets once they were cleaned. My go-to style of diaper I use daily and the most are pockets/covers.

I tend to lump fitted diapers and flats into this same category when I talk about the pros/cons because I find using them and washing them all very similar. I like to use fitted diapers for the ease of folding and putting on baby, but since they are more expensive than prefolds, I don’t use them for the bulk of my stash. Truthfully, I haven’t used flats as much because I’m lazy and don’t want to do the extra folding. Each of these diapers function the same way under diaper covers, but I enjoy using prefolds the most. I use an easy folding method (pictured below on “Drew Bear”) and snappis to fasten them. While this is probably the most cumbersome style when it comes to changing baby, I find the efficiency of laundering trumps the extra seconds on the changing table. I also love how absorbent and trim the prefolds are under clothes and how long I am able to use each size prefold on my growing kids!

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Get a good rotation

The biggest con to using cloth diapers (in my opinion) is the laundry. Washing, folding, stuffing, and putting away your baby’s diapers can seem extremely daunting. Many find CDs much more work to keep your baby clean and dry and credit laundry as the reason for quitting. I talked a little bit about laundering diapers above, and my advice here about washing and stash size will change a little depending on what style you choose to use.

There is a good general rule to follow when it comes to how many cloth diapers you need: 12 diapers for every day you don’t want to do laundry. This number comes from the idea you’ll change baby every 2 hours. 24 hours/2 hour changes = 12 diapers/day. Obviously you might be changing more frequently during the day or less frequently at night, so that is why it’s a general guideline. Older babies may need to be changed less often, and newborns usually need to be changed more often, so the age of your baby will change this number as well. However, it’s a good rule of thumb to help give you a baseline to go from.

When my daughter was 3 months old, I had 60 pocket diapers and was able to wash once a week without any trouble. Now that I have two in cloth I have about 40 small size prefolds for Boaz, 36 (way more than I need or end up using) large prefolds for Gracie, and probably 6 covers for each of them. I have around 20 backup pockets which I use for overnights, when I need to stretch laundry day, or if family is visiting. With this stash, I wash about every 5 days because of the size of the load and can stretch to a week when I need to. Shortly after having your sweet baby you will have a better idea of how often he or she needs changed and how often you can manage to wash diapers. Although, thinking about what you want your rotation to look like before you buy your diapers is a good way to keep your sanity when you first make the transition or have a brand new baby at home.

Use a good wash routine!!!!!!!

I know some parents are also afraid using cloth is less sanitary than disposable diapers and express concern about the health safety aspect of using cloth. Thinking about so many of the things parents did with cloth diapers years ago and the lack of knowledge even when I was using cloth for my oldest, I don’t blame them. But I am here to tell you the health safety fear is fairly irrelevant when it comes to modern cloth diapers.

I will remind everyone of my favorite resource, Fluff Love University, to help with this one. A wash routine is VERY much an individualized formula! It depends on the style of diapers you have, how many of those diapers you have, your washing machine, and the kind of water you have (hard/soft/neutral). Once you have a routine, washing your diapers is not complicated and really easy. But, making sure you know what you are doing will help keep your diapers clean and sanitary!

If your baby is EBF you don’t have to do anything more than throw your diapers in the wash. Otherwise you can take care of the poop by using the “dunk and swish” method in the toilet (hopefully that is self-explanatory), scraping the poo off, or using a diaper sprayer. We use a sprayer and my husband crafted a “spray-shield” for me using a trash can and binder clip so the mess is contained to the toilet. I believe keeping baby’s poop where poop belongs (in the sewage) is actually more sanitary than a bunch of stinky waste sitting around in trash bags all over your house.

I want to note, too, that you do NOT need to use any special soap (unless your baby needs it for skin sensitivity or allergy reasons) and you do NOT need to bleach or use harsh chemicals to keep your diapers clean. Hot water and laundry detergent kills 99% of the germs in your baby’s cloth (remember you are using them on your baby’s bottom not to wipe their face so that last 1% of germs is usually nothing to worry about). However, special circumstances like infections, stomach viruses, etc. will mean you have to bleach soak your diapers to make sure ALL icky germs are gone. This is not a good idea to do on a regular basis because they are such harsh chemicals and can cause your diapers to wear out quickly, but it is safe when necessary and if done properly. Washing your cloth correctly is important, but shouldn’t scare you away from using them!

My personal wash routine is doing a prewash with cold water and a minimal amount of soap, then a regular wash with hot water on my machine’s heavy duty mode with full soap. Then I pop my prefolds/inserts in the dryer and hang my covers and we are all done. For me, it feels like less work than going to the store to buy sposies!

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Relax

I believe we are called to be good stewards of God’s creation and take care of this beautiful Earth. Using cloth is one way we can try to take care of our world and leave it better than we found it. Plus, they are cute, economical, and good for your baby’s skin. That sounds like a win-win-win-win to me. However, parenting is stressful enough as is, and if using cloth diapers becomes overwhelming there is nothing wrong with stepping back and using sposies. I believe using cloth, breastfeeding, healthy meals, sleep training, and other good things in parenting should never take priority over your mental health or the well-being of your family.

There are some compromises, though, which can make cloth easier if you feel as though you are drowning in a sea of fluff. Disposable liners are fairly inexpensive, less impactful on the environment than sposies, and if spraying or dunking in the toilet sounds nauseating, it can help ease the “gross” for you, too. Some parents use fleece liners cut up from cheap fabric or secondhand blankets in the same way. I want to point out, though, small particles from the fleece can infiltrate your water and have a negative impact on the environment. I have heard of nifty bags which can help with this, but have no experience first hand. I also want to say that I, personally, feel like using cloth is more beneficial for the environment than using sposies, and if fleece liners are more affordable for you and the difference maker to help you stick with cloth, I see the environmental pros of fleece liners outweighing the cons, but I digress… Liners, part-time use of sposies, and finding other ways to reduce your environmental footprint are all things you can do if cloth becomes too much for you. Parenting is hard and your unique circumstances call for wisdom on what the right choice is for you. Pray, meditate, research, do what you need to do, but DON’T make yourself crazy over where your baby is going to poop.

And there you have it! The basic tips I’ve learned from the last few years of using cloth on my babies. I have tips about storing your diapers and tracking with cloth but those topics warrant their own post (so stay tuned!). I am so passionate about cloth diapering, and love to talk about my journey and share experiences. So, what is yours? Do you love cloth? Hate it? Do you have any other questions? Any advise of your own for parents who are new to cloth? Drop a comment below or message me on Instagram! God bless!

Hello 2019: Goals, Being Intentional, and Mindfulness (long post)

Schumann-27
Pc: @irenedurantephoto

I’ve always been a fan of the New Year. All the cheesy resolutions and excitement about fresh starts, reflection, and improving yourself really tug at my heart. Recently I’ve heard a lot of talk about how you don’t need to wait to for a new year to make a new you. I love that truth. New Years is definitely not the only time of year you can make a resolution, Mondays aren’t the only day to start workouts, and you don’t have to wait until tomorrow morning to have a better day. You can improve your life and yourself at any time. I also have loved seeing others share the fact there is no resolution, goal, or accomplishment which will make you more worthy of love. I know this is true, and I also believe you are deeply and completely loved just the way you are by the creator of the universe. I think we all know the running joke and unfortunate truth about the short-lived nature of most New Years resolutions. So why make a New Years resolution at all? I like to think of those statements as empowering you to make a resolution for the new year rather than discouraging you. If there’s no “right” time to set a goal or resolve to improve your life, then why not now? And if you are ALREADY worthy of love and fully loved, why fear the failure of not completing a goal or sticking to a resolution?

I think self-reflection and goal setting are so vital to building a life worth living. It’s easy to fall into the trap of forgetting to set, keep, or think about your life and what you can (or can’t) do to improve it. This is why I love New Years resolutions. To me, it’s just like Mother’s Day or Christmas. You should thank your mom every day, and of course we should spread joy and count our blessings all year, but sometimes the chaos of life pushes things to the back burner. Setting aside a day of the year to show gratitude for your mom, or celebrate the birth of Jesus are ways we help ourselves to remember. They are ways of being intentional about our actions and feelings. The New Year is just a marker to help you remember to stop, reflect, and look forward with hope and thanksgiving.

This year I spent a lot of quiet time looking back at my year and thinking about the one to come on December 31st. Our family went through so many exciting changes from new jobs, a new baby, and my oldest son starting kindergarten. It’s been a full year and a very blessed one. When I think about what I want to change for the year to come, truthfully, I just want more… more joy, more life, more adventure. That’s not much of a resolution. So, I also looked back and recognized parts of my life I need to improve on. In the coming year, I want to be more intentional. Intentional about what, you may ask? At first, I thought- everything. I want a more intentional life, a more purposeful life. But, that’s a big goal to make. I don’t buy in to any particular formula for designing your goals, but I do know it’s really hard to feel successful at a goal so vast and ambiguous. So, I narrowed it down.

In 2019 I resolve to be more intentional about

  • spending time with God.
  • spending time with my husband.
  • spending time with my children.
  • how I am caring for my body and mind.

As blessed as I am, I don’t want this beautiful life I am living to just happen to me. I know much of it is completely out of my control, but how I choose to spend my time, how I choose to think about myself, what I choose to put in and do with and my body are all things I am in control of (for the most part… I recently had a marker shoved up my nose without my consent but you get the idea). I also know myself. These lofty, ambitious resolutions are going to be really hard to meet if I don’t set myself up for success. I know being mindful and conscious about my choices throughout the day is the essence of being intentional, but as a scatter-brained, often selfish, and impulsive woman, I find mindfulness a challenge. Therefore, I created a few shorter-term goals to help narrow my focus and potentially keep me at least somewhat accountable

To help me be more intentional about spending time with God, I will open my Bible and read at least one verse every day. I don’t think spending time with God has to look any particular way. I know He encounters people in really amazing ways all of the time. I also know the Bible is His written word and if you want to get to know someone, it helps to not only talk to them (prayer), but also to listen to them (hence, Bible). Using a Bible app is a fantastic tool, but for me it often it ends up as a gateway to distraction in other apps or messages on my phone. I wanted to make this a goal of having a 15 minute quiet time every day, and I think there is a lot of value in that. However, I often find myself distracted during quiet times and in all honesty finding “quiet time” each day is very difficult with a newborn and two other children. Rather than a quiet time, I decided to start small and just make sure I crack open my Bible every day (at some point during the day). It really helps me to look for time to read it during the day, even if it’s only for a moment.

To help me be more intentional about spending time with my husband, I will devote a 10 minute, technology-free period of time each day where I will focus my attention on my husband without talking. With three small kids, my husband and I spend a lot of the short time we have together talking about the kids, work, or my day at home. I think this is really important, but a lot of times I dominate our conversations. Other times, I find myself thinking about the laundry, answering a message, or just failing to pay close attention to the things my husband shares with me. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but it’s the truth. To be more intentional about giving my husband the kind of quality time and attention he deserves, I know I need to put all technology aside, shut my mouth and listen (really listen) each day. I hope you notice this is a one-sided commitment. My husband doesn’t have to talk to me, he doesn’t have to do really anything for me to pay attention to him. Focusing on him for 10 minutes could mean I bring him some coffee in the morning, I get his stuff ready for work, or make him his favorite desert. Of course, if the chance to listen to him arises, that is the perfect opportunity to meet this goal. However, I wanted to give myself a goal independent from him wanting to talk to me or even being home. Yes my goal is to spend more time with him, but focusing my attention on my husband will lead me to spending more quality time with him when we have the chance.

Similar to my goal with my husband, my goal with my kids is rooted in wanting to have quality time. As a stay at home mom, I spend a LOT of time with my kids. However (as most parents know), it can be difficult to give undivided attention to my children, especially each individual child. I know there are probably tons of parents who do this far better than I do, and I may be opening myself to some criticism with how minimal my goal is. Just like my other goals, I want to start small to set myself up for success to progress. To be more intentional about spending time with my kids, I will devote a 15 minute technology-free period of time each week to each individual child where I follow their lead in play or conversation. Yes, it’s only 15 minutes a week for each of my kids. I wish I could make this a daily goal. But when school, mealtimes, homework, and other responsibilities consume so much of our day, I am not sure how to make daily quality time a truly attainable goal just yet. I want to get there. Again, my goals are to help me be intentional, purposeful, mindful, conscious about spending quality time with my family, and I think setting aside time each week will help me find time each day.

When it comes to caring for my mind and body, I have three big focuses and basically a three-part goal for how I want to accomplish this. To help me be more intentional about caring for my mind and body, I will eat one thoughtfully prepared meal, engage in 5 or more minutes of purposeful movement, and speak one positive truth about myself each day. Whew, when I see it written down it sounds like so much to me, and it may sound like a daily habit for you. I am sure many people are incredible about giving their bodies good fuel, about exercising and making healthy choices each day, and about using positive self-talk. I am not one of those people.

I get so busy taking care of the kids, I have the tendency to shove whatever is convenient into my mouth between cleaning up a mess and changing a diaper. I am not one for diets or extremes, but rather I believe mindfulness about the kind of nutrition we put in our bodies can make a big change for our health. Often we make better choices the more we think about what we are eating. While I wish I could have thoughtfully prepared, healthy meals all day every day, the reality is I have not figured out how to budget my time each day to make it possible. Additionally, I believe strongly in using as local and natural of ingredients in home cooked meals as possible, and in the winter months this is really difficult and can be financially straining. So for now, the goal is at least one a day.

I feel the same way about my goal for purposeful movement. Exercise is absolutely fantastic for your overall health. As a kinesiology grad, it has a special place in my heart. My college self would probably be ashamed at how sedentary I have become. You may have noticed I did not explicitly use the term “exercise” in my goal. This is because although I find so much value in exercise, physical activity has been shown to be just as (if not more) important.

Side note: For those of you confused by the difference between the two terms I will explain with my own loose definitions. Exercise involves increasing your heart rate, building strength, improving flexibility, or training in agility through a particular movement. Physical activity is basically anything that keeps you from sitting. Doing the dishes, gardening, crawling across the floor with your baby are all physical activity (albeit light physical activity).

I believe exercise is incredibly beneficial, but moving as much as possible throughout the day (even if it is just standing up and walking around your chair) is what truly keeps us healthy. So, my goal is to have “purposeful movement.” This may be exercise some days, and on others it may be realizing I have been sitting here for 30 minutes writing this blog post and instead of continuing to type, choosing to get up, grab a drink of water and take a couple laps around my living room…… Consciously thinking about how long I have been inactive, sitting, or lying down helps me to sprinkle in more movement throughout my day. Making it “purposeful” and at least 5 minutes straight just helps me makes it more thought-filled and intentional.

Finally, my self-talk is pretty disparaging to say the least. I am very critical, including with myself. Criticism is not a bad thing by itself, but slamming myself for things I cannot change needs to stop. “You’re too fat for that outfit” or “You’re a terrible mom for yelling at him like that” or “He’s not going to love you if you can’t give him a perfect home” are all lies I should never say about anyone, including myself. If I want to raise my children to be kind, respectful, and positive people then I need to lead by example. I don’t want my daughter or son to think about themselves the way I sometimes speak about myself. I believe Psalms 139:13-14 (““For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well.” HCSB) are true statements. So when I say negative or degrading things about myself, what does that say about God? I know my ego doesn’t need to be fluffed up any more than it already is, but I want to get in the habit of framing what I say (critical or not) with the thought that I am speaking about a child of God. I am a person whom he “knit together” with love and purpose and should speak to myself as such.

For those of you still hanging in there for such a long post, thank you. I truly love making goals and sharing my aspirations for the year with you and I would love to hear yours! Let’s keep each other accountable throughout the year and hopefully see some incredible, lasting improvements to our lives. Drop a comment below to share your New Years resolutions, or why you didn’t make one! God bless!

My Favorite Freezer-Friendly Recipes

My journey into meal prepping and freezing dinners started during my second pregnancy when I was teaching. I wanted to be prepared for those first few exhausting weeks postpartum. My AMAZING in laws live a few states away, my own family live a few hours away in another town, and at the time I didn’t have the incredible support group of friends I do now. Hence, freezer meals! During my pregnancy with my third baby, I started even earlier with my freezer meals because it made life so much easier after helping hands went home and the craziness of life kicked up again. They can also be a great addition to your weekly or monthly meal rotation for an easy weeknight dinner any time.

After scouring the internet and Pinterest, I did find a TON of different “freezer friendly” recipes. However, many of them did NOT go over well with my family. Whether it was user error or the recipe itself, I do not know, but I’ve compiled a short list of the recipes which were a total hit for us. There are a lot more dinners because eggs, cereal, sandwiches, and canned soup are always quick and easy “go-to” meals in our family and I didn’t need to worry about making as many freezer breakfasts and lunches.

Most of these I would cook for dinner and just make a double batch and freeze the extra to make it even easier!

Breakfasts:

1. Breakfast Burritos

I add cheese and green chilies to her recipe. Then I wrapped in a paper towel and foil instead of plastic. To reheat in the microwave I would cook on one side for 1 minute on high, then flip for 1.5-2 minutes or until totally heated up.

2. Smoothies

I just used recipes for any lactation smoothies and would blend them before hand and just pop them in the fridge to thaw or run under water instead of using my blender in the morning 😉 this is my favorite lactation smoothie I concocted with the help of my sister in law!

  • 1/2c oats
  • 1/4c nut butter (I like almond)
  • 1 banana
  • 1c coconut milk (or your favorite milk)
  • 1 tbsp brewers yeast
  • 2 tbsp flax
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup or honey

3. Muffins

I loved this recipe because they are lactation muffins! You could freeze any muffins from your favorite recipe and just microwave for 30 seconds- 1 minute, though!

Lunches:

1. Bagel Pizzas (I would recommend putting cheese, then sauce, then cheese/toppings so they don’t get soggy 😉)

2. Burritos (these are my husband’s favorite kind of burritos. See above for reheating)

3. Pulled Pork

I love this recipe! I saved in individual sized servings and would reheat in the microwave and put it over salads, in burritos or quesadillas, over rice, as a sandwich, or just plain because it is THAT good! WARNING: this recipe is on the spicier side so you may want to adjust for your kiddos or yourself if you aren’t a fan of hot!

Dinners:

1. Parmesan Chicken Casserole

This one was probably our favorite and SO easy to make! I just reheated at about 450 degrees for 1-1.5 hours or until hot and bubbly!

2. Chicken, Broccoli, and Rice

I put this into a casserole dish and froze and then reheated in the oven at 425 degrees for about an hour and a half. You could keep it in a bag and reheat in the crock pot or instant pot instead.

3. Chicken Enchilada Soup

4. Fajitas (I threw mine in the instant pot frozen for about 20 minutes on high pressure to cook these)

5. Chili

6. Taco Casserole

7. Pot Roast

  • 1-2lbs beef roast
  • 1/2 c beef broth
  • 1lbs petite potatoes
  • 1/2lb baby carrots
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • Salt and pepper

Take the beef and cut into approx 1 in cubes and place in freezer bag. Dice onion and add to bag. Then add seasonings, carrots, potatoes, and pour brother over mix. Shake a little and lay flat to freeze. When ready, cook for 6 hours on low in crock pot after thawing or for 45 minutes on high pressure in the instant pot.

8. Baked Ziti

I think baked ziti and lasagna are recipes that freeze extremely well and always heat up nicely! You could substitute this recipe for your favorite and get by just fine!

9. Sausage and Peppers

  • 3 bell peppers (I prefer red, orange, and yellow)
  • 1 onion
  • 1lb cooked sausage
  • 1 tsp creole seasoning
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 c chicken broth
  • 1/4 tsp mustard powder

Dice the peppers and onions and add to freezer bag. Then slice sausage (or cook and drain ground sausage) and add to bag as well. Sprinkle seasonings and garlic over the meat and veggies and finish by pouring over chicken broth. Give the bag a little shake to be sure everything is evenly mixed. Then lay flat to freeze and cook in the crock pot for 5-6 hours on low after thawing or from frozen in instant pot for 20 minutes on high.

10. Chinese Beef & Broccoli

Camping with Kids

While I was a single mom to my oldest, Oliver, we would spend countless weekends all summer long adventuring through the Colorado wilderness. Oliver was an April baby, and though I definitely could have taken him on camping trips that first summer when he was 2-4 months old… I just didn’t have the gumption to do so. But, the second summer of his life, when he was around 14 months, we started heading out on camping trips just the two of us. I learned a lot about how to adjust to camping with a toddler on these endeavors. For me at least, backpacking was no longer an option. My backpack carrier didn’t have the storage for a tent, water, diapers, food, sleeping bags, and other necessities on top of my 32 lb son, and to be honest, I didn’t have the strength or stamina to lug him and our supplies into remote areas. I also had a slight phobia of him being mauled by a bear and ultimately decided to stick with car camping. I tweaked my packing list, changed my expectations for camping, and shifted the focus of my trips around child-friendly exploration instead of some of the more rigorous hiking and extreme activities I had done in the past. The outcome: incredible memories with my son. Of course we met our share of challenges and our trips usually didn’t go as planned, but they were always fun and always an adventure.

After meeting my now husband, I was sure to take him on at least one camping trip with my son and I before we got married, and while that particular trip was a bit of a disaster (my son was potty training and we forgot pull-ups…yeah…yikes) it was still a great memory and a learning experience for both of us. Bringing your own grills, port-a-potties, or air mattresses to sleep on were all considered taboo luxuries when I was growing up, but were essentials on the gear lists of my husband’s past. And as a child I was told flashlights and getting to sleep inside the tent were privileges I had been given only at the expense of some aggressive bartering by my mother on behalf of us kids (thanks mom!). Needless to say, merging our two styles of camping was quite the task and somehow the potty-training essentials for my son slipped through the cracks. When I woke up soaked in toddler pee pee after only the first night of our “weekend adventure” on the mountain, the weekend of course turned into just that night. However, the laughs and fun we had that night are still stained in our minds like the pee stained in my old sleeping bag. So camping remains something our family values and makes time for although they never seem to go without some complications.

Fast forward a few years and my husband and I finally set out on our first camping trip as a family with my 5 month pregnant belly, my now 5 year old son and our 11 month old daughter. We went with our life-group from church to Moab, Utah and had a total blast… up until the last night…

At about 1 am, I awoke to the sound of my son crying unintelligibly and violently kicking out of his sleeping bag. After about 5 minutes of wailing, my husband and I were finally able to determine the problem: my son’s head hurt. Not to worry! I thought to myself; I had packed some medicine and I figured I would give it to him and we would do a full scale evaluation in the morning. I dosed up my son and we all settled back down. No sooner had I started to drift off to sleep when I heard the most terrifying sound anyone who is trapped inside a tent, in the dark, hours from home could hear: *gag* “Mom” *gargle* “I…” *puke* My son was throwing up in the tent. He stumbled over to the door puking on sleeping bags and flashlights the whole way. While my husband was wrangling the door zipper, my son attempted to throw up out the screen of the tent only to have surprisingly sparsely digested hot-dog splash back onto himself, my husband, and the last clean parts of the tent. Tears and vomit streamed down both of their faces. I surveyed the tent. Nothing survived the wake of my son’s upset stomach. I made the executive decision cut yet another family camping trip short due to my son’s bodily fluids without much resistance from my still spewing child and mildly traumatized husband. By some miracle, my daughter slept through the whole fiasco, so was able to hold a bag for my son and console him while my husband packed up our campsite. It was dark, but I’m fairly certain he was shaking as he rolled up the barf tent and hurled it and the rest of our gear onto the roof of the car.

Coming in as the worst camping trip I’ve ever been on, our little stint to Moab taught me some serious lessons about preparing for the extreme. It also inspired me to share some of the tips and tricks I have learned through the other various camping failures and successes I have had through my life. Camping is such an amazing and worthwhile experience, but preparation definitely can make or break a trip. Below are the top suggestions I have for anyone wanting to go camping with kids!

Know where you’re going

I can’t stress enough how important it is to know where you are headed before you pack up and get on the road! Depending on the particular campsite and area, your packing list may look completely different. Does the site have picnic tables, fire pits, trees, water nearby? These are all questions that could change the types of things you would want to bring. Additionally, it’s always important to check the forecast a few times in the week/weeks before you go. Knowing the high and low temperatures, cloud coverage, chance of rain, and potential wind gusts can all help you be prepared and pack accordingly! I would also check websites/call around to see if there are going to be any major events or festivals near where you are wanting to stay. Popular areas or busy weekends may require a reservation in advance, and sometimes high-traffic locations do not allow primitive BLM (bureau of land management) camping so it’s a good idea to check so you’re sure you have somewhere to stay. I always like to have an idea of attractions and adventures in the nearby area as well. It’s fun to just explore right around your campsite, but knowing hiking trails or attractions close to where you are staying can really add to the trip!

Make a tangible list

I’ve made a free download of a packing list for camping with kids you can check out here. There are blank places to add individual needs depending on location and your individual family. Fishing poles and swimming suits may be great things to add to the list if camping near a lake. Likewise, some kind of shade structure (like an easy-up awning) would be a necessity if camping in the desert or somewhere without shade! While I am not a fan of overpacking, some of the items on the list are things I would always bring to try to be prepared for unplanned situations. For example, it is completely worthwhile to bring a bucket to keep in the tent for puke or bathroom emergencies. I will repeat BRING A BUCKET FOR YOUR TENT so when you or your child start exploding out of either end, you don’t have to ruin the whole trip and/or leave in the middle of the night. Further, bringing along allergy medicines can really make the difference when you are exposed to foliage and fauna for the first time and learn someone is allergic! I also like to have a small broom to sweep out the tent and an extra tarp to go in the front of the door for shoes (which can help keep sleeping bags and the inside of the tent as clean as possible). It may seem excessive but camping is one of those times where it really stinks to leave something behind, especially if you’re in a more primitive area and can’t swing by a store and pick up the things you’ve forgotten. After neglecting essentials on trips like a lighter or pull-ups for my toddler, I decided it’s worth having everything written down so I am sure not to overlook anything important! I printed out and laminated our checklist so I could use a dry-erase marker and reuse it every time we go. I keep the list in my camping tote and only check off items when I put them in the car.

Print it out

Directions, lists, maps… get them down on paper! I grew up with the adventuring philosophy “if you still have cell service, keep driving.” Relying on your phone GPS or data to look things up isn’t a good idea, even if you are 100% sure you will have service and be able to keep your phone charged the entire trip. Losing your phone, having a kid throw it into water, or accidentally smashing it (all of these have happened to me while camping) can really throw a wrench into your plans if the coordinates for your site or directions to a hiking trail were all stored only on your phone. Gas stations in the area and visitor’s centers can have paper maps and occasionally hold helpful information you can’t find elsewhere. And sometimes the BLM or park website can have printable maps or tips that are also great to check out before you go! These things don’t take up too much space and can really make a difference in how much fun you have on the trip.

Get there early

I know how hard it is to get packed up and ready to go when you’ve got kids and other responsibilities, but getting on the road and to the place where you want to camp as early as possible is definitely worth it. From my experience, the kids are usually SO excited for the chance to explore and stretch their legs (no matter how short the drive), and you’ll want to get the campsite set up before you need to make dinner and especially before nightfall hits! I usually get non-perishable foods, sleeping bags, tents, and clothes bags packed into the car the night before so the only thing I need to load up in the morning is the cooler, ice, and the family! When we get there, my husband and I always try to tag team setting up camp, so someone always has eyes on the kids. If you have a tent that requires two people to set it up, you can have your kids “help” by holding bags or poles, finding good rock hammers, or some other age-appropriate jobs so they are preoccupied and you know where they are. I also like to do a simple, fun scavenger hunt with my kids on the first day (or at some point early on during the trip) to get them really excited about investigating nature and familiar with where we are staying. I print off the one I have linked here and bring it along with some kind of container to keep the treasures they find.

Planning is great…but don’t over do it

Since having kids I learned it’s a good idea to think through various situations and try to be prepared for the unexpected (hence the extensive packing list), but cramming too many activities into a camping trip can spoil the fun as well. Having unstructured time and spontaneity allows both you and the kids to slow down, explore and create some incredible memories. I usually try and limit activities to no more than one per day. Additionally, your agenda should stay loose so you are free to change plans and go with the flow. If the kids are having fun playing at the campsite, there’s no need to rush off to do an activity. If hiking or exploring a particular area starts to go south or isn’t what you expected, turn around! Don’t feel obligated to stick with any kind of plans and don’t strictly follow any kind of schedule. It’s a good idea to try and keep routines for your kids consistent, but camping is not the time to tightly cling to your 7:00 bedtime or afternoon nap. Sometimes looking at the stars or throwing rocks into the river are life-long memories that are worth tweaking your normal routine or throwing the itinerary out the window!

Overall, camping with your kids can be an amazing way to connect with them, enjoy God’s creation, and learn about science and nature. Getting away from the day-to-day stresses and unplugging from technology really brings your family closer together. I always feel so much more centered after an expedition into the wild and the worst camping trips can still become stories you laugh at and tell over and over again. Keep in mind even the most well-planned camping trips can sometimes have challenges, and keeping your expectations realistic is essential to enjoying your time. Remember to stay positive and enthusiastic even in the face of trouble! When you do, your kids will see you face difficulty and overcome obstacles which only adds to the benefits of the trip. I can confidently say from my own disaster trips, the kids end up remembering the fun.

What do you think of these tips and tricks? Any advice or things you would add? Drop a comment below!

Teaching while Pregnant: The 2nd and 3rd Trimesters

The second and third trimesters of pregnancy bring a new set of challenges and triumphs, so I thought the topic would warrant its own post. For background info on my personal situation and teaching position, or for tips specific for the first trimester, see my other post here! Many of the things that were helpful during the first trimester carried over later into pregnancy, but some of the unique obstacles the 2nd and 3rd trimesters meant new solutions and lots of learning through trial and error. Here is what I think helped the most

1. GET GOOD SHOES

I honestly can’t stress enough how important it is to get some comfortable, supportive shoes for your last trimesters. As your baby starts putting on weight and your body is changing dramatically, the hours spent on your feet while teaching can really take their toll! Some women find tennis shoes to be a favorite, and if your feet still fit in yours and your administration will allow, wear those! They will save your back, knees, and really your whole your body.

If you have a particularly difficult administration, you may want to talk with your doctor or midwife to see if you can get a medical excuse to wear clothes and shoes that may be a bit more “casual Friday” on a regular basis. As I’ve said before, I had a fantastic and supportive administration that wanted me to look professional (no sweats every day) but was realistic about what my pregnant body could tolerate. My only problem with wearing tennis shoes was that my shoes simply didn’t fit after I hit about 28 weeks. My daughter was born in June and with the added heat I couldn’t cram my poor, puffy, sausage feet into much of anything except flip flops. However, flip flops do not give the kind of support my body needed. Wearing structured sandals (like Chacos or Tevas) were a perfect in-between as they made room for the swelling but still gave me some support. I also know of pregnant teachers who have used inserts to make the shoes that still fit work better. Whatever you find, just be sure they are comfortable and help you maintain good posture and support your changing body! Pregnancy is hard enough on your feet, you don’t need to put those poor puppies through any extra pain!

2. Invest in lots of comfortable seating

Similar to the advice above, it’s important to give yourself time off your feet as your baby gets bigger and the stress on your body increases. I strategically placed stools and chairs around my my room so I could sit down as much as possible (especially in the last month of pregnancy). I believe it’s still very important to circulate your classroom and change locations so your students don’t take advantage of your aching body and find trouble while you’re across the room. However, circulating your room and walking between desks is going to look differently in the second half of your pregnancy. Instead of spending the majority of the time walking around my class, I would sit for anywhere from 5-10 minutes and then move to a chair or stool in a different part of the classroom where I would stay for another 5-10 minutes. I tried to walk different routes and get around to all parts of the room each time. I also was sure that the areas where I sat left all students (and their screens/desks) in my line of sight. Keeping my pattern of movement unpredictable was hard during the exhaustion and physical load of pregnancy, but I believe it helped keep the students’ behavior issues to a minimum. I found padded stools, cushy office chairs, and large, bouncy exercise balls to be the best seating for my pregnant body (especially the exercise ball) and would often have students come to me or roll/bounce my chair to them in the last month to rest my body as much as possible. This worked well for me as I had older students and a generally well-behaved group this year. Other ages and more challenging classes may require you to walk more often! If that is the case for you, it may be a good idea to see if you can stay off your feet in other ways. See if others can cover your hallway/lunchroom/playground duty during the last couple months or weeks of your pregnancy and try to find opportunities to put your feet up as often as you can.

3. Set up your sub early

In a perfect world, you would teach up until your due date, and then hand over your class to your sub who would step right in with your students and life would go on as if you had never left. However, babies never follow our plans and pregnancy can be a time full of unexpected doctors visits, sick days, and overall surprises! I put together two weeks worth of emergency sub plans as soon as I found out I was pregnant and I would suggest getting your sub in line as soon as possible. Give your sub the chance to see you in action before you are in the last trimester so he or she can get the best idea for how you manage your class and what you expect. Keep in mind that your sub is a different person and won’t do things in the EXACT same way you do, but a good sub will try and follow your lead as much as possible. I also think it’s a good idea to let your sub run a few classes (maybe while you attend a prenatal appointment or get some planning done)! Giving him or her the chance to build a repoire with your kids before you leave will make the transition easier on both your sub and your students. If you are able, you can have another trusted teacher ensure your sub is following your lesson plans and your students and other staff can give you feedback about your sub BEFORE you are out on maternity leave and unable to make changes. Your district and administration most likely will have policies and procedures in place for your maternity leave, but be sure to make your maternity leave sub plans as early as possible and allow for your sub to look them over and ask questions before you are gone. Getting the plans together and in the hands of your sub before the last 6 weeks of your pregnancy is very important since babies can come early and the end of pregnancy is an unpredictable time.

4. Assign independent work

Much like I mentioned in my previous post, pregnancy is not the time to start experimenting with new lesson plans or to implement new teaching strategies or curriculum. For both your baby and yourself, you need to prioritize your own health and safety. Especially in the second half of your pregnancy, it’s important to stay in tune with your body and pay attention so you can watch for any signs of labor or complications. There is no shame in repeating important topics, and using as many resources and help as you can. For my students (8th graders) I assigned lots of projects and independent study opportunities. I would try individually meeting with about half of my students (briefly) during class each day to check in on help heir progress and answer any questions, but gave one big independent project or assignment per unit to keep my grading to a minimum and allow for students to do as much work on their own as possible. While this may not work for your specific class or grade-level, assigning student helpers and handing over as much responsibility to your students as possible will really benefit you in the last trimester.

5. GET HELP

This is essentially a tip I am reiterating from my pervious post about your first trimester, but it’s THAT important so I am repeating myself here. Don’t be afraid to let other teachers, students, or friends help you with tasks and your workload. In the last few months of my pregnancy, I often gave my husband stacks of papers to help me grade. On days when my back or feet were in such excruciating pain I didn’t feel like I could stand any longer, I asked other teachers to help cover my recess or after school duty. I asked friends and family members to babysit on my days off so I could take a nap. Of course, don’t take advantage of your coworkers or slack on your responsibilities, but pregnancy is a unique time when others are usually willing to help because, let’s face it, you need it! I know asking for and accepting help can be really hard. During my time as a single mom I got used to taking on lots of responsibilities and handling situations on my own and quickly started hating the idea of needing someone to help me with… really anything. However, like I mentioned above, your health is directly related to your baby’s health and it’s important to be realistic about your limits. Especially in the last month when labor is looming around the corner, it’s a good idea to refrain from testing your limits or pushing yourself.

6. Meal prep

Keeping in mind my above statements about knowing your limits and giving yourself ample time to rest and relax, I also found it helpful to meal prep at the beginning of every week. While your appetite may decrease as baby grows and starts shoving your stomach out of the way, it can also increase (as in my case), and having healthy snacks and lunches ready every day can help with keeping your blood sugars level throughout the day. Prepping those healthy snacks in the afternoon on a Sunday before your work week means getting a few extra minutes in the mornings before school starts, which can be invaluable time at the end of pregnancy!

Additionally, I began cooking about 1 freezer meal a week (edited to add: here is a link to a post about the recipes I loved the most) when I was around 30 weeks pregnant. I didn’t usually do anything special other than doubling my ingredients for dinner one night a week and freezing the extra. Looking back, I would have started doing this even sooner and used some of those freezer meals during my last few weeks of pregnancy. Freezer meals are amazing and can really help you keep from spending money on less-than-healthy takeout dinners when you are exhausted from having a newborn (or are in those miserable last few weeks before labor!)

7. Find time for yourself and for your family

We all know teaching is a very stressful, exhausting, and demanding job and it’s HARD to break away from your responsibilities and from thinking about work. I know for me, personally, I would talk about my students and think about work a lot when I was at home. I LOVED my job, my coworkers, and many of my students and it’s easy to bring work home, especially when you are passionate about what you do (as many teachers are). However, you are about to go through a BIG change whether it is your first, second, or fifteenth baby. It’s important to be intentional about spending some one-on-one time to spend with your spouse, other children and to be with yourself. I’m a huge fan of technology free zones in the house or technology free time in the day (I know this is a little ironic since I am currently using an electronic platform to share my thoughts and you’re using it to read them). But, putting down your phone and turning off the TV can help keep you from checking work e-mails or obsessing over things that are outside of the moment. Whether you spend a few hours, a day, or take a whole weekend trip to focus on you, your husband, your other kids, your dog, it’s important to intentionally set aside that time before you have your baby.

There you have it. My big tips about how to survive teaching in the second half of your pregnancy: take care of your feet, your butt, your sub, yourself, and your family! Teaching is hard, pregnancy is hard, but you ARE going to make it and the beautiful life you are creating and the wonderful work you are doing with your students are well worth it. Congratulations on your new baby and if you have any tips of your own, advice, or thoughts PLEASE share them by commenting below! God bless!

Teaching while Pregnant: 5 Tips for Surviving the First Trimester

Shortly after my husband and I got married… as in the next month… we found out that I was pregnant. While we were not expecting to get pregnant so quickly into our marriage, but the news was exciting and joyful for both of us. However, when my morning sickness really kicked in, I have to admit the excitement started to wear off. My “morning sickness” was quite severe lasting all day and sending me running to the bathroom every class period. I could hardly keep down water and saltine crackers, and if I wasn’t throwing up, I was struggling to keep my eyes open. I would come home at 4pm and be sound asleep on the couch by 7pm! Between the morning sickness and exhaustion, it would be an understatement to say my performance at work was suffering during the first trimester.

As a little background, I teach 8th grade science at an incredible middle school in Colorado. I have an awesome cooperating teacher who also teaches 8th grade science in the room right next to mine. I am certain the fact I have older students and such a fantastic neighboring teacher made my situation much easier. However, I still struggled to find the motivation to go to work every day and struggled to survive the 8 hours of molding minds I usually love so much. I dreaded work and was noticeably miserable while I was there. Desperate to find some relief, I scoured the internet, asked every teacher and mother I knew for advice, and tried what felt like everything to make it through the day. While working during the first trimester of my pregnancy was still one of the more challenging things I have done, I found a few things that made those first few months almost bearable.

1. Hydration, hydration, hydration

Staying hydrated was (and still is) extremely hard when you are teaching, especially when fighting nausea and vomiting. I am fortunate enough to be close to a bathroom, but power walking through the hall every passing period to relieve myself was no easy task. However, it is so important to stay hydrated! I honestly felt better and less nauseous when I was able to keep hydrated. The research I have found says that the body needs about 1-1.5ml of water for every calorie consumed and so if a pregnant woman is to eat (on average) an extra 300 calories a day, we are going to need at least an extra 300ml of water a day. While the guidelines suggest drinking this water should be feasible if you have a glass with every meal and with snacks, I found this very difficult because of how much I was vomiting.

One of the ways I kept myself hydrated without sending my stomach into a violent fit of rage was to take a small sip of water every 10-15 minutes. I used my lesson plans to help me do this. I put reminders in my power points, made notes that during certain transitions or when asking certain questions I would need to drink. I also tried to stay hydrated by drinking a full 8-oz glass of water every morning as soon as I woke up.  I also liked to get my “water” or fluid intake from other sources. Milk, juice, soup broth, tummy-friendly teas that are safe for pregnancy (like peppermint), and watermelon saved my hydration on multiple occasions. I found, too, that adding lemon to my water really helped ease my nausea and made the water taste much better! On the days I struggled to keep even my small sips of water down, I would suck on ice cubes or chew ice while my students were working or any time I didn’t have to talk. *Note* Lots of the research I found said that it’s important to make sure you are drinking water that is safe and free of contaminants especially while you are pregnant. Your local health department should have information on the safety of the drinking water in your area and can give more information on testing your water if you need! This website https://ofmpub.epa.gov/apex/sfdw/f?p=108:200:::::: from the EPA also has information on your local drinking water! We ended up purchasing a water filter that attaches to our faucet after finding out our water wasn’t as healthy as I would have liked. Plus it tasted a lot better!

2. Small snacks

The battle with morning sickness is real. As I have already mentioned, my morning sickness was pretty severe and keeping myself fed while also throwing up just about everything I ingested was very difficult and made working really hard. The best way to fight the morning sickness bug and keep energy up to fight that first trimester fatigue is to graze all day on small snacks that you can tolerate. For myself, saltine crackers, peppermint candies, string cheese, and certain fruits like watermelon and apple slices were mainstays in my diet. I also liked really bland granola, egg noodles (like Ramen) without the flavoring added, ginger snap cookies and dried coconut flakes also sat pretty well in my stomach. Most of the experts seem to suggest that while nutrition during pregnancy is extremely important (see post with healthy pregnancy meal ideas here), keeping food down during the first trimester is much more important. Less-nutritious food in your stomach is better than super healthy food in the toilet (or your on shirt… or the covering side of the road… isn’t pregnancy fun?). So listen to your cravings, find something that you can keep down and much on it throughout the day. Try to keep your stomach from getting completely empty, which may feel impossible.

If your administration is really strict about allowing you to snack in front of the students, try and see if your doctor or midwife will write you a note to give you some kind of an exception. I am blessed with an amazing administration that is really understanding and willing to work with me so I was able to eat a small snack about every class period or sometimes twice in a class period while my students were working or reading. On days that we were doing labs and more intense work, I would set a timer on my watch that would remind me to run to my desk and quickly grab a bite so my stomach never got too empty. Remember too that scarfing down a big meal during that 15 minute window for lunch or chowing down during your planning period like you used to might make your morning sickness worse and messes with your metabolism. If you can keep from eating large meals it will help the nausea and your energy level!

3. Manage your workload (as best you can)

Okay, this is a tip in general for the duration of your pregnancy. During the first trimester, I was so exhausted I couldn’t bring home work and grade until 10pm or spend my entire planning period coming up with creative lesson plans like I used to. Pregnancy is a time where you might need to fall back to older lessons and cut back on the work that you grade. I really relied on my students peer-grading work after I checked it for completion or only grading a few key questions from an assignment or lab to save myself time. I also turned a lot to other teachers and online resources to keep my workload down. From my experience, your pregnancy is not the time to join a new committee, coach a sport, or add extras to your plate. I know this can be especially hard during the first trimester when you aren’t ready to share with people the big news yet, but again I have a very kind staff that was understanding of my “I have a lot going on in my personal life right now” excuse until I was ready to share. If you struggle with a principal or other staff members who pressure you to be more involved, you may need to share the news earlier than you had planned (I felt comfortable enough and ended up sharing the news with my principal at around 9 weeks and the rest of our staff at about 12 weeks).

Try your best to keep your work at school and spend your time in the evenings resting as much as you can. I used as much of the time as I could over the weekend to get ahead on grading and lesson planning while trying to balance the time I needed to rest. I would spend about 2 or 3 hours on Saturday doing work and about 30 minutes to an hour on Sunday. If I tried to spend more time working than that, I would end up drained! During my first trimester, I really leaned on my husband to take care of our four-year-old and keep up with some of the housework, and if it’s possible for you to find other people to help you during these first few months (and the last few months), it will be well worth your while! It can be really challenging to ask for and accept help, but it is extremely important to your health and the health of your growing baby to take care of yourself and get enough rest.

4. Exercise

*important note* you must consult your doctor or midwife before beginning any kind of exercise program to make sure it is safe for your unique situation! As much as it pains me to say, mild exercise really did help my energy, nausea, and overall moodiness. I know the “fit mom” trend is booming like crazy, and I am a huge fan of physical activity but I am also realistic. I am not suggesting you work out to have six-pack abs through your first trimester! The kind of exercises I responded to best were low-impact activities that I could make either more or less challenging depending on how I felt that day. I aimed to spend around a half hour each day doing activities like yoga (okay… it was just stretching), walking, or mild calisthenics (squats, lunges, modified push-ups). But my philosophy on exercise is that some is better than none and more is better than some. Do what you can when you can.

I, personally, am a huge advocate of walking. You can walk at whatever pace you feel comfortable, it boosts those feel-good hormones, can alleviate stress, and is a much lower impact activity, making it easier on your joints compared to running or some of the other high-intensity exercises. If you have access to a pool or aquatic center, you may want to try swimming or water aerobics as well! Even walking in the water provides a little extra resistance without the added stress on your joints. Personally, it was hard for me to find time to get to a pool, but when I was able to it was heavenly (I love the water). Having a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology has been incredibly helpful when it comes to thinking of activities and exercises to do while I am pregnant! If you’re interested at all in exercises and fitness advice for pregnancy, postpartum, or beyond, please drop a comment below!

5. Establish and maintain routines

Making my students as self-sufficient as possible has been a life-saver the entire pregnancy, but especially during the first trimester. I established a routine at the beginning of the class period where my students would come in and immediately work or study for the first 5 minutes of class on whatever “bell-work” assignment I posted on the board. This is a routine I always have with my students, but was especially important during my first trimester. Making sure my students knew my expectations and stuck to them even when I wasn’t in the room was vital for when I had to run out of class to throw up or go to the bathroom, and it was a sanity-saver when my hormones were raging and fatigue really set in. There were many a time that I made my 8th grade students practice lining up and coming in my room multiple times or where I would spend 10 minutes of class reviewing my procedures and expectations. They hated doing this and I would kindly remind them that if they didn’t need reminders or practice I needed to see my expectations and procedures demonstrated.

I also am a firm believer in giving the students jobs, and assigned a few extra ones when I found out I was pregnant to make sure they were well-established by the time I would need them later on in the pregnancy. I will save the “jobs” and specifics on my routines and procedures for another post, but the general idea is to make life easier (see tip #3) and help the class run smoothly even when I am not able to be as present as I would like to be (physically or mentally).

Please don’t think I am promoting leaving a class unattended for any amount of time, as leaving students without supervision is highly irresponsible (in my professional opinion). Any time I leave the classroom I am sure to poke my head in to my neighboring teacher’s room or find a nearby para to keep an eye or an ear on my classroom. Luckily for me, there is even a door connecting my classroom with my neighbor teacher’s classroom and, after working out a system with her, I would just open the door poke my head in and make eye contact to alert her of my need to leave the class. Having the routines in place made it much easier for her to keep watch of my class and also helped me as well. Find and strictly implement as many routines and procedures as you can so that even when you are present in the classroom, students are able to work without constant instruction and coaching, this will make life easier during your first trimester and beyond.

I sincerely hope that some of these tips and tidbits of advice will help you out and I would love to know what you did to survive your first trimester of teaching while pregnant! Any feedback or input would be greatly appreciated! Happy teaching and God bless!