We’ve got an Indian Summer in full effect over here. This past week has brought us temperatures in the nineties & lots of humidity. (I’m not complaining! Give me all the summery weather.)
We’re nowhere near ready to be dressed in sweaters, jeans, and boots — but now that September is here, I’ve definitely got autumn on the brain. Thoughts of pumpkin spice & Halloween are dancing through my head. I’ve been dreaming of fall fashion, especially for the babies, and I’ve started to build up their fall wardrobes from my favorite small businesses & thrift shops.
I recently purchased a couple of gorgeous autumn bonnets for Marina. I’ve got my eye on some adorable bright tights in colors like mustard yellow, red, & pink. She’s going to look so sweet in tights paired with a dark skirt & beautiful cardigan. Have I mentioned how much I love having a little girl to dress up? Kids fall fashion is the best. I’ve got to start looking for some more stylish warm weather hats for Roman, too. His signature fedoras are all made for summer.
One more thing, have you started looking at Halloween costumes yet? Or am I the only crazy one doing that? I’ve found so much adorable Halloween costume inspiration on Pinterest recently. There are a bunch of kids fancy dress ideas online at Tesco, too, in case you’re starting to look.
Where are your favorite places to shop for fall fashion — kids or for yourself? I’d love to hear what is inspiring you for the upcoming season.
“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” –G.K. Chesterton
Do you want to know a secret? Sometimes our house smells terrible! It’s the worst. It’s so embarrassing. We have to constantly stay on top of it. We can’t really figure it out. We’ve lived here for seven years and it’s always been an issue. We think it has to do with humidity and the fact that we have an unfinished, dirt-floor basement. Of course our stinky dog & the ever-full trash bin of poopy diapers doesn’t help anything. Oh, and then there’s our compost pile, too. We keep the compost outside, but we always have a bowl full of egg shells, vegetable peels, coffee grinds, etc. waiting to be brought out.
Even though it’s embarrassing, I feel like it’s probably a pretty common occurrence. Maybe? Thing is, I refuse to plug something into the wall, spray something in the house, or burn candles that contain chemicals. I just will not do it. On the rare occasion when I do burn regular candles, it actually hurts my throat. Can you imagine what that must be doing to our insides? Yuck and no thanks. Matthew and I are both super-sensitive to smells — we don’t wear perfume or cologne for this reason.
So we’ve always dealt with things the best way that we could. Baths for Bella, burning natural incense once in awhile, lots of vacuuming and taking out the trash. Then recently, the folks over at Fresh Wave reached out to invite us to try their line of natural, odor removing products. Obviously we were all ears. (…Or all noses?)
The main reason that I said yes — aside from our smelly house — is because Fresh Wave’s products are all natural. They’re literally just made with natural ingredients: water and essential plant oils. They’re non-toxic and non-hazardous. They’re safe for people, pets, and the environment. I was sold!
Fresh Wave sent along their three signature products — odor removing spray, gel, and packs. The products have been working wonders. They actually remove odors rather than covering them up with perfumes and chemicals. I use the spray on furniture and carpets about once a week, especially after Bella’s been spending time in the living room. I use the packets inside the trash can and inside of our diaper pail. I keep the gel in the bathroom.
Honestly, since we’ve started using the Fresh Wave products, our house has never smelled better. It doesn’t irritate our sensitives schnozes and I know it’s safe for our whole family. Win, win, win. I think that our days as smelly-house owners might be behind us. 😉
You can learn more about the Fresh Wave products on their website — Happy, Healthy, Odor Free. The products that I’ve mentioned are exclusively carried at Target stores. Just enter your ZIP code on the site and you’ll get a list of the Target stores closest to you.
Here’s to being #happyhealthyodorfree!
This post is in partnership with Fresh Wave. All opinions are always my own. As always, thank you for supporting the companies that help to make this blog possible.
Over the weekend, we took a trip to one of the sunflower farms in our area. A lot of people don’t realize just what a beautiful state New Jersey is. There is so much to see & do here, especially in Northern New Jersey where we live. There are so many beautiful farms nearby and late summer into autumn is my favorite time to visit them. We’ve got lots of plans for the coming months including apple picking, pumpkin picking, and farm & farmer’s market visits.
Visiting the sunflower maze was the first check off of our “Autumn To-Do List.” We met up with our friends and had the most beautiful morning exploring the sunflower maze. Roman had a lot of fun on the hay ride, too. He has his own little John Deere tractor at home, so seeing the real, big ones in-person is always a treat for him.
After the farm, we headed to The Chatterbox for lunch. It’s a family-owned fifties style “drive-in” restaurant that has received lots of awards & has been featured on The Food Network. It was our first time there and it really lived up to the hype. The food was delicious & the decor was spot on. I didn’t take any pictures because lunch out with our dynamic duo is really a feat in itself, but we had a fantastic time. (It was also our first time ever taking Marina out to eat and she did great!)
I hope that you had a fantastic weekend, friends. Here’s to the beautiful week before us.
It’s been awhile since I “checked in” here on the blog. I’m always writing about the house, the garden, the babies — and I don’t often stop to update about me. Sure, all of those things are parts of me, but as a blog reader myself, I often wonder how the blogger herself is doing.
I guess what I’m saying is that if any of ya’ll are as nosy as I am, here’s a little update. 😉
Just like everybody else, I have good days & bad days, or as I frequently say — good hours & bad hours. When I look back at this past year or so, it’s just overwhelming. There has been so much. I honestly feel as though I’ve aged twenty years in two years time.
I never wrote about it, but when Marina was nine-days-old I picked up a stomach bug at the pediatrician’s office. Oh, what a joy that was. It all started in the middle of the night when I had the urge to vomit and couldn’t make it to the bathroom in time. Hello, mess all over the living room, the bassinet, everywhere — all with a sleeping newborn in my arms. The subsequent 72 hours were spent running to the bathroom and lying in bed, drinking every conceivable liquid known to mankind. All the time I was also scrubbing my hands until they were sandpaper dry and nursing Marina constantly in the hopes that my breast milk supply would not diminish due to dehydration.
I’m sharing this experience now as a reminder to myself that life just keeps throwing punches. Just because you’re already dealing with a high-needs newborn (or whatever you’re dealing with at any given moment) doesn’t mean that life is going to slow down for you. It just keeps going and you’ve got to roll with it because… well, because there’s nothing else that you can do.
Matthew is still home with us on disability as a result of his accident last October. He’s made progress in the ten months since his injury. By the grace of God he can walk and he can hold our children. But what we’ve come to accept is that there are some things that are never going to be the same again. He has learned to live with a new normal and we’ve spent these past months adjusting to what that means for our family.
Having him home has been a blessing and a curse. Having that extra set of hands around during those first few months when Marina never stopped crying was invaluable. He forged a closer relationship with Roman than we ever could have hoped for. He was here for me during those darkest of hours when I really didn’t know how I could go on.
On the other hand, all four of us cooped in this house together, every damned day, is enough to make me want to scream. Not surprisingly, some days, I do scream. It’s good, it’s bad, and it’s ugly. That’s life, I guess. I get out and away as often as I can to keep us all sane. I wake up at the crack of dawn and get the babies ready for the day and head out the door as quickly as my legs can carry us. We go for long, daily walks and inside of those few hours each day I find my sanity.
I’ve also started going to church again. It’s a song and a dance to get myself there, but I manage it. I spend that hour or so every Sunday morning worshiping the Lord, giving thanks for his grace. It’s soul-food that sinks deep inside of me and nourishes the very roots of my being.
I had a mother’s helper come in for two hours this week for the first time ever. Matthew took Roman out fishing and my helper walked around the yard with Marina so that I could get some things done. Good golly, what a treat that was. When she left, my head felt more clear and the burden on my shoulders felt lighter than it has in a long time, as long as I can remember. It’s amazing what a couple of uninterrupted hours can do for your head space.
I’ve never felt more unattractive than I have lately. The reality is that I just don’t take good care of my appearance. I’m not proud of it. I’m not going to throw out a bunch of excuses either. We have time for the things that we make time for. I know this. When it comes down to it, I spend my time soothing my babies, making crafts with Roman, taking walks, taking photographs, editing photographs & blogging, perusing social media, eating, and sleeping (sometimes).
I take a shower every few days and my hair gets brushed when it gets brushed. M. does the lion’s share of the cooking these days and I do the lion’s share of the eating. I’m holding onto a good twenty extra pounds and it sucks. But I’m exclusively breastfeeding Marina and I’ve got an appetite that just won’t quit. That’s just the way it is right now. My days are full of selflessness and love.
I’ve started exercising (in the form of those long, glorious walks) and it’s making me feel better, physically. Very soon Marina will be starting solids and then her appetite for my milk will slow a little bit. Hopefully my appetite will, in turn, slow a little bit too. I don’t have any hate for my body even in its current state. I am so damned proud of the two miracles that I created, I will never hate my body again. I have a new relationship with beauty now that I have a daughter. I will always be careful, not just about what I say, but also about what I feel. I want Marina Grace to spend every moment of her life witnessing a mother that is wrapped up in self-love and not self-loathing.
There is a poem by Mary Oliver titled, “The Summer Day.” It is a favorite of mine. In it, she writes:
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Those lines, that question, have reverberated through my mind for years. For years now they have chased me. I could always feel them breathing at the nape of my neck. They were right behind me, watching me, following me, asking me.
That question haunted me because I couldn’t answer it. For years I wondered, What will I do? What will I do with my one wild & precious life?
And then, the other day while I was walking, something stopped me dead in my tracks. There was this moment of stillness and clarity. All the world fell away from around me. Suddenly that question was standing in front of me, and for the first time, so was the answer. The voice in my head saw the question and answered: my babies. My Roman James & my Marina Grace. They are what I have done, what I will do, with my one wild & precious life.
I’ll never be able to quite explain what motherhood has done for me. But what I can say is that it is the answer to the questions that I’ve been asking all my life. It is right. It is the first time in my life where there are no questions, there is no doubt about whether I made the right decisions. Every single step that I took toward bringing my babies into the world was the right step. I was always coming to them and they were always coming to this world. They are my greatest achievement and the one that matters most. They are destined for beautiful things, those sweet little ones of mine.
I don’t know where I’m going with this post. I really just wanted to let my heart spill out a little bit. I’ve accomplished that, so I’ll leave this post off right here.
I thank you for being here, as ever. I hope that things are going wonderfully for you, dear reader. I’d love to know what’s been up with you lately. Spill a little bit of your own heart into the comments?
I couldn’t count how many times I’ve witnessed full-blown toddler meltdowns in public places. We’ve all seen one at one time or another, haven’t we? A toddler, or a child, doesn’t get his way — fueled by exhaustion, hunger, sheer frustration, who knows what — he starts to cry, then scream, then finally throws himself on the ground in a fit of hysteria. I never really got it. I would see the look of sheer desperation on a mother’s face, but I didn’t know just how awful it could feel.
Gratefully Roman hasn’t reached epic meltdown mode yet. I am told lovingly by other mothers that it starts to rear its ugly head closer to age 3. (Can’t wait!) However, I have had a taste of it on the handful of occasions that I had to take Marina into a store at the height of her “colic.”
It was bad, really bad. I never had so many looks of sympathy or disgust shot my way in a single outing. Her blood curdling screams were enough to, literally, send people speeding off in another direction. Those brave enough to get close would cautiously offer inquiries– Is she hungry? Is it nap time? Is she cold.
She’s just “colic,” I would reply, my cheeks turning red. I would smile painfully and just keep going, desperate to get back into the car where Roman & I would once again be alone with her screams. One time it was so bad that the cashier was actually shaking while handing me my receipt.
Hopefully these little glimpses into “the humiliation of parenthood” will help to prepare me for what’s to come. Of course I will do my very best to mitigate public tantrums, behavioral training is incredibly important to me as a mother. I believe that children are capable of good behavior and should absolutely be held accountable. Still, outbursts are an inevitable — hopefully occasional — part of childhood.
With that said, I’d like to introduce an important study that is currently being conducted by Kayla Landis, an undergraduate who is doing research with her adviser, Dr. Nicole Overstreet, in the Psychology Department at Clark University. Her study focuses on how parents perceive other parents whose children behave disruptively in public spaces. This could include verbal outbursts, physical aggression, insubordination, etc. The study focuses on a scenario that is played out across several different conditions.
Studies like this are incredibly important, both to the parties involved in the research and also to the psychology community at large. This type of research is near & dear to my heart and I would be so grateful if you would take the time to complete the survey yourself.
The study itself is anonymous and online. It contains a short scenario for participants to read, several short multiple choice questions about the scenario and other parenting aspects, and one short open-answer prompt. If you wish to provide your email address (which will remain completely confidential), you will be entered in a raffle to win either one $200 Visa gift card, one $100 Visa gift card, or one of four $50 Visa gift cards. Email addresses will be deleted after all winners are drawn and all cards are distributed.
I know that Marina’s monthly updates have been sounding like the most terrible broken records. But guess what!? I’ve finally got some good news to share! I can’t report that everything has changed overnight and that it’s all sunshine & rainbows — but we have seen improvement and I’ve got lots of good news to share.
I’m going to start with the best of the best. One day last week, Marina kept her pacifier in her mouth, fell asleep in her baby papasan chair, and then slept there for nearly half an hour! It was epic on so many levels. It was the first time that she ever took a nap somewhere other than my arms or a moving vehicle. Plus, she kept the pacifier in her mouth which is huge in itself.
Another thing she started doing this past month is putting her fingers in her mouth and occasionally sucking her thumb. Could we be on the road to self soothing? I can only hope!
She has also started rolling from her back to her belly & from her belly to her back. She can lay on her belly and hold her head up like a champ. (See pictures.)
We’ve also seen some general improvement in her temperament across the board. She used to cry about 95% of the time in the car, and now she only cries about 20% of the time. She used to cry about 90% of the time in the stroller, and now she only cries about 10% of the time (or less!). She used to cry 100% of the time when we were at home and she wasn’t being held, and now we can put her down for a few 5 to 20 minute stretches throughout the day. These improvements may not seem like much, but they’re actually enormous for us. I’ll never be able to fully explain the impact that the endless screaming had on our household. To have some quiet, peaceful time again is a joy and something that I will never take for granted again.
We are really getting a chance to know her now and she’s just amazing. That bright smile that we’ve been catching glimpses of all along, is now brighter & more beautiful than ever. I am finally getting to enjoy her the way that I had been hoping for. There is lots of cuddling, kisses, staring at her sweetness, and smelling her delicious baby smell. All of those precious, magical moments of “baby-ness” that I’m just soaking in. I’ve even thought to myself a few times — “Okay time, you can slow down now.” I am so deeply grateful to be able to enjoy this time with my little girl rather than just struggling to survive & hanging on by a thread, the way that we had been.
As I said before, it’s not all sunshine. She is still an incredibly high-needs baby. We went to a picnic recently and there were other babies there Marina’s age. The parents were able to put the babies down in their car seats or strollers and the babies just hung out contently. Another time recently, we were at a party and a family friend saw Marina being held throughout the day and asked, “Don’t you just have a baby seat you can put her in?” It’s difficult for people to understand what life is like with a super high-needs baby. Hell, I never could’ve imagined it myself.
But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I wouldn’t trade it. As difficult as it’s been (and is), it’s equally as wonderful and then some. This precious girl is all mine & my goodness, how I adore her. I’m just beyond grateful for the progress that she is making and I know that we are going to keep moving in the right direction. I’m truly enjoying these baby days while they’re here because I know how soon they will pass.
Now that Marina is doing a bit better, I have had some time to think straight about everything that we’ve been through (and continue to go through). The conclusion that I have come to is that Marina is a “high needs” baby. I’m not a huge fan of the term “high needs” but I like it a hell of a lot better than the term colic. Here’s why: “high needs” is actually a thing, a manageable thing — not a mystery condition from hell that nothing can be done for, like colic. I discovered the term “high needs” through a link that was shared with me in a Facebook mom’s support group a few months back. Only recently have I revisited it and really taken the time to analyze and absorb it. Here’s the link. Marina checks off every item on the “high needs” list to the umpteenth degree.
I really wish that more pediatricians would take the time to differentiate between colic babies, reflux/allergic babies, and high needs babies. In my experience, and in the experiences of many I have spoken to, these three types of babies are lumped together extremely flippantly. Parents of these babies are brushed off and told “the baby will outgrow it” and then gingerly pushed out of the office. This is not okay. In short, the answer to high needs babies is attachment parenting. I’ve got a lot more to say on this (colic/high needs/attachment parenting) issue, but I’m going to do a whole series on it soon.
For now, suffice to say that while Marina is showing improvement, we still have a long way to go. I’m grateful that I’ve discovered Dr. Sears’ work. I’ve ordered his book on the subject and again, I will share more in the near future.
That’s about all I’ve got for this month’s update. I’m so happy to finally have some good news to share and I look forward to having even more to share next month.
Oh, and I almost forgot! Marina’s eyes have started to change color. It looks like she is not going to be a blue-eyed baby like her brother. We think that she is going to have brown eyes like Mama or hazel eyes like Papa. Time will tell.
This past month, the garden has provided us with bounty after bounty. We’ve spent hours in the sun caring and tending. We’ve spent beautiful evenings gathering & harvesting. We eat dinner from the garden at least five days each week and many lunches, too.
On top of the bounty, there is the beauty. We’ve spent countless hours just walking around the yard and enjoying the splendor. Birds of all shapes & sizes have been around picking up the seeds that are beginning to fall from the flowers. We have a set of hummingbirds that visits multiple times each day to draw the sweetness from the blossoms. (Aren’t hummingbirds just the most magical little creatures?) The flowers are visited as long as the sun is shining by bees & butterflies.
The garden provides for us endlessly — in nutrition, in occupation, and in beauty.
It’s just incredible to me to look back at some of my early posts from the spring and to see how the garden has come along. You see the progress from seedling to present at these links:
It’s humbling to witness the blossoming of our dream garden. We’ve learned a lot this year and have many changes to implement in the future. Mostly, however, it’s been a dream come true. Isn’t nature wonderful?
“Keep your best wishes close to your heart and watch what happens.”
I’ve started taking long walks with my sweet babies again. It’s something that I didn’t do often after Marina was born. Recently, though, she’s been doing much better in the stroller.
I forgot how much joy these long walks bring to my heart. We take the same path most times. We drive to my parent’s house and park the car. Then I load everybody into our stroller. We meander around lots of little side streets, by my old elementary school, and past a few playgrounds. On the trip back, we stop at the ball field and Roman plays on the little playground there. Sometimes Marina falls asleep, but only after a long while of taking in all of the sights with wide eyes. We collect things along the way, like discarded baseballs, pine cones, and crab apples.
Perhaps it sounds crazy, because it’s only a simple walk, but it’s just magical for me. On the days when Marina is quiet and the weather is good, I feel like the stars have aligned especially for me & my little ones. It’s so peaceful. I am grateful for my strong legs that push us all along the streets. I am grateful for my giant double stroller that makes me feel like I’m commandeering a massive pirate ship at times. I am grateful for the splendor of nature. I am grateful for the two, tiny, perfect souls that God has entrusted me to mother.
Or perhaps it’s not so crazy at all. Perhaps these walks truly are magical. Perhaps gratitude is the very key to unlocking magic’s door. Perhaps magic isn’t something that you stumble upon, but rather, magic is something you make. ♥
Some of my favorite childhood memories are of reading. In particular, I remember spending hours & hours reading on the little day bed at my grandmother’s house one summer. That summer I started devouring chapter books. I found myself completely immersed in worlds of adventure & magic. Long before that, I remember having “reading time” in my first grade classroom. Each student would sit quietly at her desk for a half hour. I always looked forward to that quiet time to get lost in a book with the greatest excitement. My love for reading carried on into my teens and adulthood. It’s something that I will happily carry with me for the rest of my life.
There is just something so incredible about losing yourself between the pages of a book — forgetting whatever pains you & escaping into something wonderful.
I hope with my whole heart that my children will share my love of reading. I worry so much about this digital age that we live in and what it will mean, especially for something as simple and tangible as the good, old book.
I can only hope that my children will see the incredible value in reading and that they, too, will share my love for it. I just love sharing books with them. I really dislike buying toys (I feel like nature provides the best ones!), but I just love adding books to our little collection.
I fell in love with the book as soon as it arrived. It’s full of gorgeous illustrations & a whimsical story. Fairies bring letters one by one to spell out your child’s name in rhyme. At the end, they crown her to be their fairy princess. The story transports the reader into a magical garden full of flower and berry fairies. It’s a beautiful keepsake that I know Marina will enjoy for many years.
The book also includes the child’s birth date & a customizable dedication. You can upload a photo of your little one to appear in the dedication page. How special? The book was written by Maia Haag, illustrated by Joyce Patti, and made in the USA. It’s really just the most lovely little book and I can’t wait to read & share it with my little flower fairy girl as she grows up.
I See Me! has many customizable children’s books to choose from. I’m planning to get one for Roman for his next birthday. They also have lunch boxes, puzzles, coloring books, and more. You can connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, too.
I See Me! currently has a “Back to School” coupon available site-wide. Just enter coupon BTS at checkout now through 9/1/15 to save 15% off your purchase. And, shipping is FREE when you purchase $75 or more!
This post is in partnership with I See Me! As always, thank you for supporting the companies that help to make my blog possible.