Monday, February 28, 2011

parks at the park!

Just having fun at the park with daddy! 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

10 more weeks, are you kidding me?

My baby ticker is telling me I'm 30 weeks...whaaat?!  My visits with my midwives are now three weeks apart instead of four and will soon go down to 2 and then every week and then she'll be here!  Insanity.  I have 10 more weeks with just me and my little buddy.  Kind of bittersweet to think about it that way.  Oh yes, by the way, we've officially picked a name.  Her name will be Reese Scottlynn Andrews.   Scottlynn is both of my parents' middle names combined (Scott and Lynn).   I randomly thought of it in the shower one day.  I really like picking a first name that Jackson and I both just love and then a middle name that is a family name.  Parks' middle name is Jackson, which of course, is his daddy's name but it's also Jackson's grandmother's maiden name.  I think Parks Jackson and Reese Scottlynn flow well together. 

I would love any helpful tips anyone has on helping an older, but still very young, sibling adjust to a new baby.  I've heard some neat ideas including reading books about a new baby, talking about the baby frequently, letting the sibling help in the nursery and bringing the sibling a gift "from" the new baby to open at the hospital.   I'll be doing all those things.  If you have any other great ideas that helped your family, I'm all ears.  I'm fully expecting to feel completely overwhelmed for about the first six weeks of Reese's life and then I'm hoping we'll establish our "new normal" routine.  

Here I am at 30 weeks with Baby Reese! 14 pound gained so far and right on track to gain the same amount as I did with Parks, approx. 23 pounds.  Last thought, I am officially in the market for my first "tankini" ever.  Reese will be born right at the beginning of swimsuit season and I don't plan on flaunting my poor stretched out belly for the world to see merely weeks post-partum.  Any cute tankini sources?

Friday, February 25, 2011

I gave arts & crafts a chance

I have just discovered the beauty of arts & crafts.  Prior to this week, Parks only exposure to "crafts" has been crayons and paper and whatever he does when he is with his Mama Boo, who is VERY crafty!  Up until this point I've been very skeptical that he would actually sit and do something for more than 3 minutes so I haven't purchased any art supplies.  Not to mention, crafts were not my friend growing up.  I've always been "challenged" in this arena and my childhood bff, Bryceleigh, can attest to this.   And to be honest, paint sounded like a HUGE mess and effort for very little time spent doing it.  Well, boy did he surprise me!  I went to Michaels this week and purchased some basics: paint, finger paint, brushes, stamps, a smock, etc.  I told him we were going to do a painting project when we got home and he was very excited about it.  Lo and behold, he loved it!  We did "arts and crafts" for 45 minutes.  The "Hallelujah" chorus was playing in my head because I had found something for us to do at home that we both enjoyed.  I don't mind being at home *if* we have things to do and aren't bored.  Here are some videos of my budding Monet! 

P.S. I have an amazing resource I found about things to do with your pre-schooler that I will post on later.  Get excited!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

why moms shouldn't compare: the story of sally & sarah

As mothers, I feel like we are always tempted to compare ourselves, and our kids to others.  We see an area of strength for one mom and we get down on ourselves that we aren't like that or our kids aren't like their kids.  Well, I've finally realized why this is such a bad idea.  It's not a fair comparison when you're not comparing the same things.  Comparing apples to oranges is never fair.  Let me illustrate my point by telling you an imaginary story of two moms: Sally and Sarah.

Both are loving, wonderful moms who stay home with their children, both age 2. It might be tempting to lump them into one category together since they seemingly have so much in common, but look at how different their realities might really be...

Sally's Day

5:45 am: Sammy wakes up ready to start his day.  Sally has tried everything to get the child to wake-up later but to no avail.  He wakes at this time every day.

7:00 am:  Sally realizes that they are both dressed, have had breakfast and her kitchen is clean at 7:00 am and there's three more hours until her playdate.  How wonderful!

8:30 am:  Sally is trying to occupy Sammy at home until it's time to leave for her playdate.  She does some laundry and tries to do other things but after about an hour or so Sammy starts whining and wanting her attention.

10:00 am: Finally the playdate crew arrives. Sammy is pleased with the company but quickly has difficulty seeing his friends play with some of his toys.  Sammy's attitude and actions need attention and Sally has to remove him from the playdate to give him a spanking.  Sammy returns and then repeats the offensive actions, Sally removes him again from the playdate to administer another spanking.  Finally, Sammy decides to have a good time.

1:00 pm: Sammy naps, Sally is happy.

3:00 pm: Sammy is awake!

5:00 pm: Sally tries to start cooking dinner but Sammy is running around the house like a wild man and pulling up his chair to her counters trying to help her cook.  Really, this is just a huge hazard and while cooking dinner she is having to make sure that Sammy isn't endangering his life by touching the hot oven or by getting into the knives.  2 more spankings are administered over the course of the next hour.

6:00 pm:  Daddy is working late tonight so a tired Sally puts dinner on the table and watches while Sammy doesn't eat anything she has prepared.

7:30 pm:  Bedtime for Sammy.  Phew! Repeat in 10 hours.

Sarah's Day

7:45 am: Sarah's little darling, Lucy wakes up.  Bright-eyed and bushy tailed saying things like "love you mommy".

9:00 am: Breakfast is done, Sarah and Lucy are dressed.  Lucy plays happily by herself while Sarah does a couple things around the house.

10:00 am: Playdate!  Sarah and Lucy go to the playdate and Lucy is a complete angel.  She shares and isn't bothered when someone takes the toy she was playing with.  She's totally laid back and sweet.  She leaves the playdate and gives the host kisses and hugs. She's confused when her friend Sammy has to be taken away for discipline, her mommy's firm voice is all it takes for her to obey.

1:00 pm: Lucy naps, Sarah does whatever she wants.

3:00 pm: Lucy wakes up and they read together

5:00 pm:  Lucy "cooks" in her pretend kitchen while Sarah makes dinner.

5:30 pm: Daddy's home!

6:00 pm: The family sits down to eat dinner together.  Lucy eats all her chicken and even a few bites of veggies!  Go Lucy!

7:30 pm:  Bedtime for Lucy.  Kisses!

Well, it's no wonder that Sally has a little harder time in this season of life than Sarah is it?!  Her day is much more challenging than Sarah's day!  This is why comparing is so dangerous because chances are, you're not comparing the same thing at all.  Certainly stay at home moms of young children have many things in common, but the reality of their daily life can be quite different.  This is just a friendly reminder to give yourself and others grace, because you never know what their day is really like.

**These fictional characters are not based on people I know, although I will say I loosely identify with Sally, surprise!**

Sunday, February 13, 2011

2 years in...and some reflections

A little over two years in to this thing called "parenting" and I feel like I've learned a few things.  Overall, I've become much less judgmental and critical of others and myself.  I was your typical type A parent who thought they knew exactly what kind of parent they were going to be and exactly what kind of kid they were going to have and exactly how they were going to be raised.  Sure, some of those general ideas are still in tact but some of them aren't at all.

1.  Things are not as black and white as I tend to think they are.  Period.  Life, and parenting especially, is just more gray and that's O.K.  

2.  Some kids are just plain hard to raise.  This is not the fault of the parent, I repeat, this is not the fault of the parent or because the parent lacks good parenting skills.  It's also not because the child is rotten. This has been a big eye opener for me.  Some children are simply harder than others.  If your child is generally easy and you have more good days than bad, thank the Lord.  If your child is more strong-willed/high maintenance/needy or whatever you want to call it and you feel like most days are a struggle, pray for strength and get some supportive friends who acknowledge that your child is a tough one.  I find that when other people acknowledge my reality, it makes me feel better.  This is not to excuse bad behavior that should be corrected, it's just to say that some kids require A LOT more energy to parent well than others and that's O.K. 

3.  I'm more "career minded" than I thought.  This has been very difficult for me to come to terms with.  Here I was, a stay at home mom, doing what I had always dreamed of doing and yet I found myself frustrated, lonely and generally unhappy about the reality of a whole day with nothing to do but care for a 1 year old.  It's hard for me to even write this because so much of my pride did not want to admit that I wasn't actually loving my staying at home reality. (Disclaimer: not to be confused with not loving and adoring my child, just not loving the stay at home lifestyle with a very young child).  I put a lot of pressure on myself to love staying at home because I knew it was the "right thing to do".  And by the way, I still believe that.   

I still believe that parents need to raise their children and that a child's mother is irreplaceable in the early years of life.  However, what this looks like practically speaking has changed for me.  I personally am still committed to being home with my children when they are not in school.  I'm happy with that decision and I feel it's right for our family.  However, I'm pursuing some work from home ventures that are very fulfilling for me that require me to work outside the home a couple hours a week.  At this point, I have a babysitter come about once a week for a couple hours so I can get some work errands done and then Jackson covers any other time I need.  At this point in our life with pre-school aged children, a few hours a week outside the home is all we are comfortable with.  However, when my children are in school, I'm certain that I will want to increase my work load.  Before I had children I would have told you that I did not desire a career outside the home in any capacity.  The bottom line here is I've learned to give myself grace and that there's freedom in how every family works this stuff out.  What is right for us may not be right for you and that's O.K.  

4.  A full quiver for us might mean 2 kids.  If my mother-in-law is reading this she is probably cringing or crying :)  Of course, we will take it one kid at a time but we're thinking this baby might complete the Andrews family.  It makes me laugh to think that before Parks I went around telling people I wanted four, or five (gasp!) children!  Ha. Ha. Ha.  The joke was on me.  If I had four or five children I can honestly tell you I would be in an insane asylum.  You truly have no idea what kind of parent you will be until you have a child.  And, equally as important, you cannot predict what kind of child you will have.  Parks is a wonderful child, I had just underestimated the amount of sheer effort and energy it would take to raise him and frankly, I'm not sure I'm up for more than 2.  And guess what, I'm learning that's O.K.  

The overarching theme here as you can see is "It's OK!".  It's really ok.  I feel like there should be a Bob Marley song on right now in the background.  Two years of parenthood have mellowed me out, and I think it's a good thing.  

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Trader Joe's is my happy place

If you have never been in a Trader Joe's, you won't understand this post.  If you have, maybe Trader Joe's is your happy place too.  I seriously love going in there.  I've always enjoyed grocery shopping but stores like Trader Joe's just make it so delightful.  Usually I go every Monday morning and then on Thursdays to get food for the weekend.  There's just so much to love so I'll start in the beginning of the store.

When you walk in, you are greeted by fresh, cheerful flowers and a nice selection of pre-potted houseplants.  These make great hostess gifts and I've bought two for myself.  The containers are so stylish.  Oh, and I forgot to mention the sanitation station for the shopping carts.  Also, the carts are smaller than the average grocery cart.  I like it because it feels more "market-y" than grocery store and they are easier to maneuver.  

Some of my all-time favorite items are:
1. 99 cent GOOD pizza dough 
2. Chicken/provolone/sundried tomato meatballs that takes my spaghetti from drab to fab on a regular basis
3. The bananas are 19 cents each...that's 5 bananas for under a dollar if you're counting.  Parks frequently asks for a banana to eat while we shop.
4.  The asadero marinated chicken.  It's so delicious and I'll get it, lay it on my hot grill pan, slice up some onion and red pepper and we've got tasty fajitas in about 10 minutes.  Delight.
5.  The apple/carrot crushers.  These are in the baking aisle and Parks loves them.  They come in a cool pouch that you squeeze into your mouth.  
6.  The corn bread mix is great. 
7.  Hollandaise sauce.  They sell this by the eggs and this pregnancy I've craved eggs benedict.  I buy this sauce and enjoy eggs benny for weekday breakfasts in no time!  It's great. 
8.  Cinnamon Rolls.  Goodbye Pillsbury!  You have forever been replaced in our home.  These are the BEST cinnamon rolls out of a can you will ever eat.  Jackson and I have eaten all manner of canned cinnamon rolls throughout our marriage (not a fact that I'm especially proud of) and these are by far the best.  They have a great homemade taste to them.  We now have them every Sunday morning as a little family tradition. 
9. Honey-wheat pretzel sticks...tasty snack.  Parks loves them. 
10.  Cheap, tasty wine!  I haven't been enjoying this for the past 6 months but they have a great selection of very affordable and good tasting wine and beer.  I look forward to enjoying a glass of wine in 3 months! 

Those are my favorite products at Trader Joe's.  I also love the sample station in the back.  I usually always go see what the sample is and try it.  They are usually great and twice I've actually purchased the products they were showcasing after trying them.  The employees there are so friendly too, everyone smiles and asks if they can help you.  It's like walking into an alternate universe.  They also hand out stickers to all the kids and Parks loves getting his TJ stickers. 

I will say if you are new to the TJ's, it may be slightly confusing or challenging at first.  I felt like Whole Foods was like that at first too back when we lived in Charlottesville.  You need to take your time and go when you aren't in a rush the first few times.  If you would like a personal guide, I'm available.  

What are your favorite grocery stores?  Do you enjoy a trip to grocery store or loathe it? 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

celebrate the successes: keeping a home

After 4 years of struggling with "keeping our house" I have finally made a breakthrough!  I am not an expert in this area but I figured if I have found something that has really helped me, I may as well share it because it just might help someone else.

Until about...3 months ago, I never really had a routine for cleaning/caring for the house.  I would do things as it became clear they needed to be done.  This included dishes, cleaning the kitchen, laundry, etc.  This meant that I would wait until the laundry was overflowing or Jackson said he had no clean shirts to wear to work.  Some days Jackson would come home to clean house, other days he would come home to something that resembled a chaotic zoo.  It was unpredictable and stressed us both out.  Not exactly the best way to serve my family.

I was always frustrated at the way our house was and frustrated with myself that I wasn't doing a better job.  After all, so many women keep their homes effortlessly spotless, right?  Well, the answer to that is NO.  Keeping a tidy, organized and efficient home is not effortless.  Anyways, I really wanted to improve in this area for the sake of our whole family.  I realized I was going to need a system or some kind of routine.  I'll share with you the routine that I've developed over the past few months and share the results, they have been amazing and have really changed our home!

For starters, I asked Jackson the top three things that were important to him in terms of home maintenance.  I'd encourage you to ask your husband if you haven't already.  His answer was 1) clean laundry, 2) clean kitchen counters 3) clean bathroom counters.  Ok, easy enough.  As I planned my routine, I made sure his top three things were incorporated on a regular basis.  Because I'm currently a stay at home mom, I decided to organize my cleaning routine around the existing rhythm of our days.  This is my current daily routine:

 daily routine
  • shower & dress -- this does not always happen :) 
  • make bed
  • straighten room
  • start laundry
  • clean up breakfast dishes
  • unload & load dishwasher
  • wipe down kitchen
  • 5 minute pick-up
  • switch laundry
  • 2-3 cleaning tasks - I rotate these activities based off a master monthly cleaning schedule. Each week of the month focuses on a different part of the house so each day has different cleaning tasks. 
  • clean up lunch dishes/wipe counters
  • load dishwasher
  • sweep kitchen floor
  • swiffer main hallways
  • fold laundry & put away
  • 5 minute pick-up
  • check counters/bedroom **Jackson's top priorities!**
  • clean up dinner
  • load dishwasher & run - this has made the biggest difference in keeping our kitchen clean! Every morning I unload the dishwasher and it's ready for the days dishes, no more piling up in the sink.  
  • wipe down bathroom
  • pick up Park’s room

As I noted, I do different more in-depth cleaning tasks every day after the "morning chores".  But this basic routine of keeping the floors clean, house picked up and kitchen clean has been HUGE.  Life-changing really.  And the best part is, when you are on a routine like this, nothing takes that long.  I usually have my morning chores and cleaning tasks completed by 8:30 or 9:00 am at the latest.  Then I have the whole day to enjoy knowing I've already taken care of my chores.

Laundry is the other area that has drastically improved with this routine.  I don't actually do laundry every day as this routine suggests, we simply don't have that much right now.  I do laundry every Monday and Thursday and this is the perfect schedule for us.  I also make sure to fold and put away before Jackson gets home from work.

I stay focused on my routine by using a checklist of sorts that I created to fit my needs.  It's very similar to some other ones I've seen on the blogosphere but I felt like making my own because then I could include exactly what I wanted.  Every night before bed, I fill out the next day's sheet.  It includes my daily routine on the left that I already showed you all, and then a schedule in the middle for any appointments we have and then my to-do list on the right which is where I fill in my cleaning tasks for the day.  At the bottom I have an expense tracker to help me with our budget, what's for dinner that night, and my water intake tracker.  At the very bottom is a blank space for whatever I need to jot down during the day.  Checking things off from my routine list and to-do list everyday makes me feel productive and keeps me motivated.  Call me crazy but it really works for me.

I absolutely love this system and it's changed our family life.  I'm happy, Jackson is happy, and well, we think Parks is happy about it.  When our house is out of order, it makes me feel like life is out of order.  A well-run, well organized home is such a blessing to everyone in it.

I know I've been a little MIA from the blog lately but I've just been so encouraged in this area that I wanted to share it with you and hopefully it will bless you in some way.  If you struggle in this area, don't give up.  I, just now, after 4 years of being a wife and 2 years of being a mom feel like I've made significant progress.  It's never too late to start! Your family will thank you!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

baby steps

I read lots of blogs that emphasize "green" living among other things.  These blogs inspire me but they can also make me overwhelmed.  Some of these women make their own cleaners, shampoo and deoderant for crying out loud...whaaa???  I've realized that in order to make any lasting changes, you must start small.  

For example, these are my two healthy changes for the year.

#1.  Drink 8 glasses of water a day.  Seriously, this may sound simple, but it's really not.  Drinking 8 glasses of water does not feel natural at all.  It feels like you have to constantly be drinking water, like forcing it down.  My midwife told me you know you're properly hydrated when you can't see your urine in the toilet.  Ummm...sorry for the gross vision, but whose urine is totally colorless?  I've been tracking my water consumption every day and usually I drink 7-9 glasses of water and I've really noticed a difference in how I feel.  I'm less tired, my skin is clearer and I know it's good for me and my baby.  I plan on continuing post pregnancy.

#2.  Coffee Makeover.  Every morning since my junior year of college I've had coffee with a splenda (or two) and some kind of flavored creamer like Coffemate or International Delight.  During pregnancy I still have one cup a day.  Well, after doing some research I decided this chemical cocktail is no healthy way to start my day.  I have switched to organic coffee, organic raw cane sugar and organic half and half.  I can't say I have noticed a big difference in how I feel, but I just know I'm so much better off not ingesting chlorine, aka splenda, on a daily basis.  Yes, I do miss the flavors of my previous creamer and the coffee does taste a little plain, but I know I'll adjust.  If you use these creamers look at the label of ingredients, it's scary.  We have a Keurig and I discovered that the organic coffee is the same price as regular coffee and apparently there is not very good regulation on chemicals used in processing coffee, so if you can get organic, it's the better way to go.

Those are my two things, that's it, just two.  Like I said, it's all about baby steps.  Are you making any changes to your lifestyle this year?