I just had a lightning strikes moment. I think I just found my new domain name. I have been trying to think of something more creative than Jennifer's Journal for this blog and think Cereal For Supper would be perfect. It just whacked me in the head when I typed in the title of this post (we did have cereal for supper tonight).
Catchy, short, easy to say and to remember. Captures the idea of my blog of personal improvement and living intentionally without going overboard--sometimes cereal for supper is just the way things go down. And that's OK.
Ok, maybe perfect is too strong of a word, but a job that I think I would like and be really good at would be a recipe tester, especially if it was gluten-free baking recipes. Is there such a thing? Does it pay?
Say, for example, you were writing a cookbook and wanted to test the instructions for completeness, ease of understanding, etc. I would cook the recipe as written and then make suggestions based on my experiences.
I am thorough and follow directions well.
I can write and have a fair amount of editing experience.
I love to bake.
I collaborate well with others and can also work fine alone.
Six days until I go back to work, and I am jamming all kinds of appointments into those last few days.
meeting with the pastor about FH's baptism
haircut (which is desperately needed)
FH's three month checkup
We are also having a four-year-old birthday party for LM on Sunday, and somewhere in there I still need to lose ten pounds. Totally backslid this last week. Eating an entire bag of chocolate chips is probably not a good thing.
I should mention, just for the record, that I do not have a bad job at all. I know it may sound like I am going back to the worse thing ever, but that is not the case.
Of course, there is the proverbial grass is greener on the other side thing. I know in my head that if I truly quit my job to stay home with the kids there would be negative things about that too. For starters, money would be a huge issue. It is convenient to think all things would be fine but that is because my check "magically" appears in the checking account every two weeks while I have been on leave. This, obviously, would not be the case if I didn't have a job.
After several weeks of having various samples of yellow painted on the sun room wall, we (actually W) painted the room. The new Behr paint with primer in it is awesome.
This is the first wall that you see when you come into the house via the side entrance (the one everyone uses). Kinda blah even with the new yellow paint. Ignore the couch cushions that still need to be recovered.
I got 11 x 14 prints made of these photographs and hung them above the couch. This picture really doesn't capture how great they look. The two landscapes are from our trip to Kansas, and the flower is one we found on a walk behind our house. I love them. Isn't that what making a house into a home is all about?!
I had forgotten but quickly remembered why this box has been sitting in the office for the last two years.
It is full of photographs--random photographs. You know, those one or two photos that someone sends you after an event or school pictures of family members. Honestly, some of the pics could be tossed, like the ones of old boyfriends. I mean really, why do I need those?
What do I do with the rest of them? I could scan them in and toss the originals. I could scan them and keep the originals as is. I could put the photos in an album.
I even drug the box upstairs, so it would be in my sight. Sadly, I think it is just going to go back downstairs unresolved. It requires too much energy to deal with at this time. Lame, I know.
I was recently at a luncheon where we got started talking about how I began eating gluten free, so I thought it would be fun to write it out on the blog.
In 2002, I had been going to a chiropractor for awhile to eliminate back pain and some terrible headaches. After many treatments, the headaches still persisted. In addition to regular headaches, I had some major migraines that put me totally out of commission as well as nausea and dizziness. My chiropractor suggested that perhaps it was a food allergy causing the headaches because my back alignment seemed to be fine.
She suggested that I start taking out various types of food one at a time to see if the culprit could be identified and thought I should start with wheat or sugar.
I decided to start with wheat. Literally, within days of not eating anything with wheat in it, I was a new woman--no stomach ache, no headaches. It seems so hard to believe that one ingredient can wreak so much havoc in one individual and how quickly things turned around. I feel like I should be on that show Mystery Diagnosis. I hoped that my physical well-being would improve but was not prepared for how much the change also impacted my emotional well-being. It is hard to explain, but I felt like a huge curtain had been pulled back--I could breathe freely and simply was just happier.
Thinking back, I remember having headaches on a regular basis as far back as junior high. By college, I was taking Tylenol every day just to get through the day. No wonder when I drank beer or whiskey did I get so violently ill!
Initially after making the change, I lost quite a bit of weight. Although some of this weight loss was related to figuring out my new diet, most of it, I think, was my body finding its equilibrium.
It is seven years later, and I still maintain a wheat-free diet. Actually, I abstain from gluten ingredients all together just to be on the safe side since I was never tested for celiac disease.
People often ask if it is difficult to eat gluten free. Absolutely not, and it gets easier every year. Yes, in the beginning I spent a lot of time reading labels, but vegetables, proteins, and fruits are naturally gluten free. If I want processed foods like pasta, breads, and cookies, I can make them myself or buy them. Even my regular grocery store in a smallish Virginia city carries a large selection of gluten-free foods. I'm so glad this is a health issue that can be solved without medicine or other medical intervention.
So far, LM does not exhibit signs of having a problem, as he eats a mix of foods with and without gluten. I definitely keep an eye on it and will know what to do if he starts showing signs, so he won't have to suffer like I have.
Photo: from the University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture
Entrances to homes that is...should be clean and clutter free, right?
There are four major entrances to our home. Strange, I hadn't really thought about it until I started this project.
Entrance #1 Technically, this is the side entrance, but it is the one everyone uses. All those glass panes were what started this all. I have been wanting to clean them for some time now, so I did today...and swept, and convinced myself that what it really needs are some flowers and a welcome mat.
This is the front door. Only delivery people and others who have never been to the house before use this entrance. It is really too bad because we have quite a nice front porch except that the spiders had totally taken over. They were none too happy when I whacked them down with the broom.
Door from inside the garage to the house. This is the entrance that still needs the most work. I wish I had before pictures though because it was Much, Much worse.
Entrance #4 This is the back door. Many little fingerprints covered these glass panes, and the dirt loves to settle here by the door.
There you have it; at least for one day all four doors are clean.
Honestly, for me the emotion is not guilt. Guilt implies that I think I am doing something wrong by working. Nothing could be further from the truth. Maybe if LM and FH had to go to daycare, I would feel that way, but since they are cared for in the home by my most wonderful and loving sister, guilt really doesn't enter the picture much. (This is not to say that I like it when LM calls me Megan instead of Mom.)
a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined
It is more sadness and quite frankly selfishness. For me, staying home is easier than going to work--especially since I am absolutely committed to breastfeeding.
I know, I know that I have done the SAHM thing for only a limited time while on maternity leave, and I know that for the most part I have had just the baby, as LM has been kept on his regular schedule with my sister watching him.
Less Stress I just am way less stressed out, and the house is better run when I am at home fulltime. Yes, the kids can be demanding, but in a much different way than a boss and other colleagues. I have no performance anxiety about being a mother. There is no one judging me.
Scheduling I love being able to set my own schedule for the most part. If we want to go to the zoo on Wednesday, we can--no leave requests, no permission needed. When I work, everything just gets jammed into the weekends--errands, grocery shopping, family time.
Healthfulness Without a doubt, the family eats better when I am at home. We eat out far less, and I have time to try different menu options. There is also more time for exercising.
So......since not working is truly not a realistic option at this point, I would like to make a few changes that will make working and home life more harmonious.
Do more cooking ahead, so there is always a meal in the freezer that can be heated up. One of the things I hate the most about working is the "get home rush." As soon as I hit the door at 5:00, I start cooking dinner since everyone is "starving." Then there are the dishes, other household tasks (paying bills, etc.). Before I know it, it is bath and bedtime.
Hire a housekeeper.I have resisted this option for some time. It seems like a waste of money to pay someone to do something that I am totally capable of doing. We are going to start with just once a month though to help with the things I cannot ever get to.
Get a routine. Although routine can be mind-numbingly boring, I do think there is something said to having a routine around the household. I am talking about things like doing the laundry and cooking those freezer meals. on certain days of the week. In general, I do so much better when there is a schedule, so I am going work on setting one up.
We were going to take the kids to the National Zoo today but the combination of potential rains and tiredness changed our minds.
Instead we took them to the Perry Wildlife Zoo in Perry, WVa.
They say an interesting blog has good photographs....
I would love to show photographs of the kids squealing with delight, as they fed the bear. The deer shedding its velvet would have also been a great pic. Or how about the porcupines, that also would have been a neat photo.
Alas, I brought the camera, but the batteries were totally dead. Ugh.
I hadn't been to Perry Zoo in probably 15 years. It is a perfect outing for small children--low key, relatively inexpensive, and a good variety of animals. I am not a veterinarian, but all of the enclosures appeared to be clean, and the animals well cared for.
I always have mixed feelings about zoos. On the one hand, I like seeing and learning about different kinds of animals, and the kids certainly enjoy it. It is sad though to see a cougar or lion all caged up though when you know they are accustomed to roaming large areas. In many cases though, zoos take animals that would otherwise die or be treated poorly by individuals. As with most things in life, there is more gray than black and white.
I have been writing this post in my head for the last eight weeks. The title New Mom Necessities is a bit of a misnomer, really. Obviously, the only absolutely necessary items for a baby are some type of covering and food.
These are things that I have found extremely helpful that may or may not be on the traditional baby check list.
In no particular order:
laptop/wireless--countless hours nursing, need I say more. Having the ability to work on photos, check email, and surf the web have kept me sane during numerous nights of nursing.
Shout--honestly this stuff is amazing. I have no idea how it works, but all I know is that it gets out every stain a newborn and active toddler throw at it. I could seriously do a commercial for it. I see also that they have introduced a Natural Stain Remover. I wonder if it works?
gas drops--I know there are some people who say that babies don't really have gas pains. Perhaps there is something I am missing, but what I can tell you is that with both LM and FH, these gas drops work, eliminating a writhing, crying baby in the middle of the night.
cloth diapers--not so much for diapering the baby but for everything else--wiping up spills, catching projectile vomiting, and removing disgusting boogies. When the babies are grown, they can be used for dusting and other household projects.
hand pump--This is probably TMI, but with both of my children, my milk came in very quickly. Let's just say that one's breast should not be rock solid. Thank goodness my sister knew what to do. She whipped out the hand pump and saved me from excruciating pain. I am eternally grateful.
dishwasher--We did not have a dishwasher when LM was born, so clearly this is something with which I could live without. However, sterilizing all of those bottles by boiling is just a pain in the a**. As FH sits in his bouncy chair sound asleep, the dishwasher apparently is quite a good white noisemaker as well.
bouncy chair--When we went to the beach (a six-hour trip), this was the only baby apparatus that we took. No play pen, no swing--but we had to have the bouncy chair.
Things that I have found to be totally worthless or at best not helpful:
baby bathtub--We used one of these for the first couple of weeks with LM, but it was terrible. He was so slick and wet, it was difficult to keep him in place, and the thing was bulky in our tiny house. We ended up just putting a hand towel in the bottom of the tub and running a smidge of water. Worked much better.
wipe warmer--maybe I am cold-hearted, but this just seems like overkill. I don't think five seconds of a cold wipe is going to cause any lasting damage.
baby monitor--With both kids, they slept in a bassinet next to our bed until they would no longer fit into it. In both houses, our room and the kids' room are extremely close to each other. I find the white noise of the monitor extremely annoying when trying to sleep. I hear the slightest thing anyway, so we ended up stopping using it with LM.
Also, why is it that all of the channels go to commercial at the same time? We have 100+ channels, and all of them seem to be on a commercial simultaneously. What's up with that?
In popular culture, I know it is the man who is stereotyped as being a channel changer--not in our house. If I am watching TV, I am following at least two shows if not three or four.
W and I have been together 15 years. In those fifteen years, I have never understood how he can just sit through a commercial. He just sits there calmly like there is nothing wrong in the world. I, on the other hand, am literally twitching to change the channel.
Very rarely do we watch TV together (big surprise). Actually, very rarely do we watch much TV at all. If it wasn't for the sporting events, I think we could cancel the cable subscription.
I gained exactly thirty pounds with my first pregnancy.
With the second pregnancy, I gained 34. I lost 17 pounds right away and the next ten within a couple of weeks of L's birth. If my math is right, that leaves 7.
Seven very pesky, difficult-to-lose pounds. I have eighteen days left until I go back to work and must get into my work slacks. I have been walking regularly and worked out for the first time yesterday. I better step it up though.
It would help if I didn't eat everything in the house.
First, let me say that I never expected this task to take so long. I thought I could just go to a few sites and get what we needed. Nor did I expect this post to be so long either.
Along with getting our financial house in order, I have had on the "to do" list for ages the task of preparing or purchasing an emergency preparedness kit for the house.
It is amazing (and a bit overwhelming) how many kits are available online. Starting out on the Red Cross site, I spent several hours last night surfing around looking at all of the options. Two days and many hours later spent surfing...
By the end of the night, I was totally confused about what we should get.
So, this morning I regrouped and asked:
First question: What is the purpose of the kit?
I am not an alarmist and am realistic enough to realize that in the face of a catastrophic emergency, think terrorist attack or nuclear bomb, no matter what I did would be insufficient.
Ok, when exactly do I think this kit would be used, and why do I feel a compelling need to have one?
In our part of the world, the most realistic emergency would be the extended loss of power due to snow or other inclement weather. In our case, loss of electricity means no lights, no water since the pump on the well is electric, no heat, and no cooking on the electric stove.
No lights--we already have a camp light and numerous flashlights as well as candles.
Tasks: Check the battery on the camp light
Find the flashlight that belongs underneath the sink and return it
No water--not much we can do to run the well without electricity
Tasks:Get an emergency supply of water (done 9/10)
Get water purification tablets (done 9/10)
No heat--we have tons of blankets and two fireplaces with plenty of wood. The laundry room trash always has lint in it for a starter, and the matches are in the kitchen cabinet.
No cooking--we have a camping stove with extra fuel as well as a gas grill and a manual can opener. We always have some canned food on hand.
No communication--the cell phones would last only so long, but we have a generator so we are ok there.
Task:Find the hand crank radio and return it to under the sink
Other items: We have a lot of tools for whatever might be needed, games and cards for entertainment, a four-wheel drive vehicle, and I would like to think two resourceful adults. W also has a lot of his Army gear, such as heavy-duty rope and a ruck sack.
Task:Get a more complete First Aid kit (done 9/10)
It seems like we would fair fairly well if we were stuck in our house for several days without electricity. Anything beyond a week or so, we would probably start to run out of water, food, and gasoline for the generator.
The other issue would be an evacuation due to a forest fire around our house. In this case, we would simply go to a nearby relative's house. I don't foresee having to camp out in a shelter or some other makeshift lodging.
SO....if we would be OK at home, it seems that the emergency preparedness kit would likely be used more in an evacuation-type situation--getting us from the emergency to safety.
Second question: In an ideal kit what would our family need?
At a minimum, the Red Cross recommends the following:
first aid kit
sanitation and personal hygiene items
copies of personal documents
cell phone with charger
family and emergency contact information
map of the area
Seems like a good place to start. Since we have two small children and a dog, the following additional items are suggested:
baby supplies (food, diapers, etc.)
games and activities for children
pet supplies (leash, food, carrier, bowl)
Additional suggested supplies include:
extra set of car and house keys
manual can opener
blankets or sleeping bag
Third question: To build one myself or purchase one? Should each individual have their own kit, or should the family's be all together? Should we go the backpack route or a waterproof bin?
You can buy these kits for four people, but I think it makes sense to have two bags--one for each adult with additional supplies added for the kids. I went back and forth on this. It finally came down to cost. I budgeted $100.00 this month for this expense and wanted to stick to that. I ended up getting one 3-day adult bag and adding some additional items. Depending on what it looks like when it arrives in the mail, I might get another one at a later date. I figured that if the purpose is to give us a few supplies to keep us until we get to safety, we can split up the food and water meant to cover one person over a three-day period.
Depending on how much extra space there is in the bag, I will likely get another empty backpack and split up everything between the two, including items for the kids and the dog.
After much deliberation and comparison, I narrowed the selection down to these four kits, realizing that none of them had exactly what I needed:
I wanted to get a kit that had as many of the Red Cross recommended items in it as well as some additional "survival" components, such as waterproof matches, a compass, and fishing hooks. (I know these items totally go against the whole purpose of the kit for us, which is a grab-and-go to safety thing rather than living out in the woods with Bear Grylls. I just felt like a disaster kit just wasn't complete without these types of items.)
I really wanted to support the Red Cross, but after comparison, the only thing the RC kit had that the Lifesecure one did not was a hygiene kit. On the other hand and for the same price, the Lifesecure kit has a multipurpose tool, LED safety signal light, notepad, pen, waterproof document pouch, water purification tablets, biohazard bags, and toilet paper.
The LifeGear kit had a drinking water pouch, hygiene kit, compass, thermometer, and signaling mirror, which the Lifesecure one did not. However, the LifeGear kit was missing: plastic sheeting, duct tape, radio, flashlight, light sticks, purification tablets, biohazard bags, and toilet paper.
The 2-person Essential Survival Kit available from Survival Gear Source came the closest to having everything. I decided not to order from them though because I just couldn't tell the quality of the items from the website. The price almost seemed a little bit too low.
I went with the kit from Lifesecure and for added the following items from Wal-Mart to make it work for four people and our family:
Well, we all survived the family yard sale. It was busy, hot, and we even made some (a little) money.
IF we do it again, here are some things we learned:
Do as much of the pricing beforehand.
Price every individual item if at all possible.
Make sure the prices on the items are correct. The kids switched some of the stickers without our noticing, and I think some of the items did not sell because the price was too high.
The early birds can be REALLY early. We said 8:00 in the ad, and had someone sitting on the curb at 7:15. It was difficult to be finishing up the pricing and dealing with customers at the same time.
Do the pricing at a time when people will not stop by, or behind the garage doors. We did some of the set up on Friday morning, and people kept stopping by, thinking we were having a sale. That really slowed us down.
Do not underestimate the number of tables or flat surface needed to set out all of the items. We had to go get more tables.
No one came after 1:00 p.m. Officially run the sale from 7:00 to 1:00 instead of 8-3.
People can be incredibly cheap.
People can be incredibly rude.
Put baby clothes in different bins that are labeled e.g. 0-3 onesies, 6-9 outfits. People just rifled through the piles, and it was difficult keeping everything straight.
Do put an ad in the newspaper.
Do have the money box and table all ready to go before uncovering the tables.
Do have the tables all set up in the driveway and just cover them the night before.
Seriously, Adam and Dennis from the Winchester Habitat for Humanity ReStore just made me day...maybe even my week.
I called to see if they would be interested in having the cabinets that have been taking up the ENTIRE garage for over a MONTH. He said, "I'll be there in fifteen minutes." Are you kidding...fifteen minutes.
They also took the toilet that had been sitting in our side yard. Yes, a toilet. How much more white trash can you get than a toilet sitting in your yard.
AND, they also took all of the countertops that were also occupying much space in the garage.
Just goes to show that making one phone call and asking for some assistance rather than doing everything yourself can be wonderful.
Habitat Rocks. I feel like doing cartwheels, jumping around to Hey Ya, and screaming Thank Heavens! I cannot tell you how glad I am to get that stuff out of the garage.