Thursday, February 28, 2013

Piper's Place

Piper never really took to sleeping in her crib very well and tended to wake up more during the night when I put her in there.  Co-sleeping worked better for us anyway since she wakes to nurse.  While I was changing things up for Salem, I figured I should do the same for Piper.  During my research, I read a bunch about Montessori beds for babies, which are the same as they are for toddlers/preschoolers. Many people stated that their babies even slept better once they were on a floor mattress rather than in a crib. We decided it was worth a shot and upgraded Piper's area in our room.
I should learn to take before photos so these changes would seem more dramatic
The mobile I made for Pipes before she was born still works with the new bed and I scored a super cute sheet set for $4.60 on clearance at Target.  That's thrift store pricing right there! I love that if she rolls off the mattress, she can't get hurt.  Since our dear babe will be crawling about soon, I added some books and toys (which I found when organizing Salem's room) to the area to hopefully entertain her.  I have an idea for baby safe wall decor, which I will add at her level soon.  
Piper's vantage point
We swapped beds so I could see what she sees
Piper has been sleeping on her new digs for a week now and she seems to like the room to move about.  I like that when she wakes up at night to nurse, I just go lay with her and then return to my own space when she finishes.  She has also been putting herself to sleep for her morning nap, which was super rare before.
Reading to his sister

All in all, I think the room upgrades for the kids are going to work out.  It will be interesting to watch them grow in their new environments.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Salem's Room

After months of letting Salem sleep in my bed (because in all honesty I was too tired to care where he slept), I realized that I needed my space back.  On the nights Miguel was home (he works nights), he would end up on the couch in order for Salem to sleep in our bed.  Um, yeah, no.  My husband and I needed to be close to one another without a toddler foot in our backs.  So one day I decided enough was enough and a change was needed! Salem had been sleeping in his toddler bed for naps but just didn't want to sleep there at night. Some research and racking of my brain to remember things I learned in my education classes in college, led me to the decision of implementing some Montessori and Waldorf principles into our home.

I am not an expert on these types of education nor do I plan to be, I just simply took some ideas from the two styles (simplicity, fostering independence, a natural approach to learning, etc.) and added them into our life. When I looked into Salem's room, I always felt overwhelmed by the amount of toys and books we had packed into his space.  If I was overwhelmed, surely Salem was too.  His toddler bed was more of a trampoline than a bed and I thought maybe he needed a bed more suited for relaxation and rest.  The drawers of his dresser were packed with all of his clothing options and I dared to wonder why he always brought me more than one of each item when I asked him to pick out his clothes. His room was decorated for an adults perspective and I thought he might want more stuff at his level.  There was an oversized rocking chair that I used to nurse him in, that had become a toy as well.

After really examining and assessing the situation, I came up with a plan to reorganize, simplify and update his quarters in order to foster his budding independence.  Here is his room now:
Our plants love the light in Salem's room.  He has taken on the responsibility of watering and does it on his own (ish)!
Simplified his toy and book choices.  Organized the rest of his things into three different sets to rotate in when he tires of the current set and hid them in my closet. With limited choices he is able to focus on each thing rather than switching quickly (and making a huge mess) like he did before.
A twin size Ikea foam mattress on the floor replaced his toddler bed.  This opens up his space quite a bit and allows room to grow.  Salem has really taken to this new bed and stays in it much more than he did before.
A kid sized table and chairs replaced the big rocker.  Salem now has a place to work on and hang his art (as well as play with cars and whatever else)

The changes were easy and Salem has really taken to his new digs.  He especially likes the photos and art work at his level; he beamed with pride when he first saw it all.  I didn't show the dresser drawers which now house only a few clothing options in order to assist Salem in making decisions (when there are too many choices, it's too hard to decide) or the closet which has his shirt and shoe choices at his level.

Salem has slept through the night in his new bed twice since we changed things up a week ago. The other nights,  he came into our room and fell back asleep on our floor, which I could handle since his feet were no where near me.  We then decided to put his old crib mattress underneath our bed for him to pull out when he wants to sleep in our room. I figure every step towards independence is a win and for those nights that he still wants to be close to me, well, that's a victory too.  After all, I am now getting more sleep which means we all win!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Govanni's First Birthday!

On Saturday, our nephew Govanni, turned 1!! My sis-in-law threw him a party at Chuck-E-Cheese and most of the family was in attendance.  Salem was crazy excited to see his cousins and to play games.  Piper was in good spirits considering she was running on very little sleep (as she does often) and almost made it to the end of the celebration before passing out. 

 Salem loves his cousins and we are so grateful that they get to grow up near one another. 

 Govanni was also a little tired but pushed through! He loved the little train by our tables and was not happy when it stopped moving.
Salem didn't want to quit playing for pizza but he did slow down when it was time for cake.  The birthday boy wasn't sure about the cake at first until he tasted the sweetness.
 Happy 1st Birthday Govanni!! 

I am a little afraid of the potential trouble they may get into with one another in their teenage years.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Lifestyle Makeover

Sometime towards the end of 2012, I realized that I wasn't living my best life.  I had become complacent and wanted to make a change.  When I looked around the house, I noticed some areas that could use improvement.  I didn't like how much of our food was coming in a package of some sort.  I didn't like how much sugar our family was consuming.  I didn't like that we were using chemicals to "clean" our bodies and home.  I didn't like how high our electric/gas bill had gotten. I didn't like seeing how much water we were throwing down the drain.  I didn't like the person looking back at me in the mirror.  So I talked with Miguel and shared all of my fears for continuing to live an unconscious life.  I relayed the thought that I want to teach our children a better and healthier way to live so that they may have a solid foundation to build their lives upon.

With Miguel on board, I set out to research different ways of creating a more sustainable life for our family.  I figured we needed to start small as to not overwhelm ourselves into a panic*.  I started with food (since that is where I am most comfortable) and reduced our processed items greatly by making granola (instead of cereal), greek yogurt (Salem loves yogurt), bread, beans (dry instead of canned), and snacks from scratch. These items are just the beginning as I have a long to-do list in this department and will share my trials and tribulations as I knock off each new item. My end goal is to produce most everything under my roof using local resources for ingredients, which in turn reduces the amount of packaging and unwanted chemicals/sugar in our food.  Oh and we need to compost our kitchen scraps, then we would have barely any actual trash (since we recycle/reuse too).

Homemade granola and Greek yogurt
After reading a ton of blogs about sustainability and natural/simple living as well as discussing these topics with friends, we quit using shampoo/conditioner and replaced it with the baking soda/apple cider vinegar method. We moved away from chemical laden soaps in plastic containers and started using bars of ivory (which we also use in making detergents and such) instead.  We stopped using fancy 'no tears' baby wash and just use water and a wash rag now (Salem uses ivory when he's super dirty).  Coconut oil with a few drops of tea tree oil replaced our deodorant.  I'm still working on moisturizers since our skin is a bit dry, but we have been using coconut and olive oil when things get rough.  We use white vinegar as a fabric softener in the laundry as well as for cleaning;  we add it to saved citrus fruit peels to make citrus cleaner/degreaser.  In the very near future, I will be making laundry/dish/dishwasher detergents, hand soaps, body and face scrubs.
Brewing some citrus cleaner
I bought a drying rack for indoor line drying laundry and a programmable thermostat to regain control of heating/cooling our house.  We have been saving the cold start-up water (that first gallon or two of cold water before the hot water gets to the faucet) from the shower and leftover bath water then using that to flush the toilet.  We save the cold start-up water from the kitchen and use it to water the dog and plants as well as to soak Piper's dirty diapers.
After 3 weeks of line drying full time and using the programmable thermostat, our electric/gas bill was down $80 from the previous month
I started to workout regularly and changed my eating habits to reduce the amount of white sugars I consume.  I recently acquired the Insanity and P90X workout dvds from a friend and am finally in decent enough shape to attempt these programs.  For the first time in the last decade I feel in control of my life and cannot wait to share our progress towards a healthier and more conscious existence!

*Disclaimer: There are a few things that we were already doing that may have helped us transition easier, such as: Making most of our meals from scratch in the first place, limiting showers/baths to a few days a week, using more natural household cleansers, practicing the 'if it's yellow let it mellow, brown-flush it down' method for toilet flushing, etc.

Piper Rolls Over!

A few months ago someone asked me if Piper was rolling over yet and my response was, "I don't encourage that kind of behavior in my house".  Now don't get me wrong, I simply meant it as a humorous way of saying I wasn't ready for that major milestone yet.  After all, Piper is my last baby and I want to cherish in the moments of her infancy before she bolts into toddlerhood. With Salem, we were so excited to have him hit every milestone that we pushed him through games and exercises.  But we soon realized that babies do their own thing on their own time regardless of how much we encourage them.  Piper has been pretty content just laying back and watching life go by, without even attempting a roll over until this past Thursday (the day before she turned 7 months).  Although she had to try a few times before actually turning from her back to her belly, she managed to accomplish her goal! Before long our dear baby girl will be motoring about the house getting into trouble with her brother.  I need a nap just thinking about it!
Gaining momentum

Halfway break

Almost there!

She made it, drool and all!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

My Valentines

I know this is a few days after the fact, but as I always say, better late than never.  We had a very mellow Valentine's Day overall.  Salem wanted oatmeal for breakfast but we were out of frozen blueberries, which are is favorite part.  He decided that he wanted frozen blackberries as a substitute.  I quickly found a new and natural way to create a bloody looking face and hands!

Our dear friend Ann, sent a wonderful gift for Mig and Piper to celebrate the day: matching father/daughter shirts! Thanks Ann!

Salem had a music class in the morning where he decided it was an appropriate time to throw a tantrum.  Gotta love it when your toddler acts like a toddler in public!  After an exhausting morning of parenting following a relatively sleepless night, I took the rest of the day off and we had take-out BBQ for supper. A happy Valentine's Day ending!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Find Sam a Home

One recent afternoon, the whole family was chillin' in the living room when Miguel noticed a person approaching our door.  He quickly asked me to remove the dogs from the room as to avoid the excessive barking that typically follows a knock on our door.  Our female, Delilah went into the bedroom without a fuss but our male, Samson wasn’t so quick to move from his position on the couch.  After persistent commands were given without response, I approached the dog to shoo him off the couch and into the other room. As I got within a foot of him, he turned and snipped at me aggressively.  I jumped back and Miguel was shocked! Now, I wasn’t quite as taken back by his behavior as this was Samson’s third time exhibiting this action towards me in recent history.

Now that Miguel has witnessed the dog almost bite me, he realizes I wasn’t over exaggerating when I told him about the previous snipping incidents.  I know that I was partially to blame for his angry responses towards me, however, in this house and around my children, snipping is not allowed for any reason; especially one as trivial as me wanting a trained dog to listen to me and get off the couch when instructed to do so.  This left us with a big family dilemma: what do we do with Samson? Do we just keep going on trusting that he will simply keep warning us but never actually bite? Or do we recognize that he is a dog and you can’t really ever trust them? 

Miguel and I agonized over what to do for about a week when I brought the subject up to my parents (which I knew better than to do).  I was immediately chastised for not getting Samson out of our house the second he acted aggressively.  My father said something along the lines of, “I don’t know why you’re even giving it a second thought” and “you know the right thing to do”, which implied that we should send Sam to his resting place.  I tried to explain that we didn’t believe that was the right option for our family and we were trying to find an alternative that is best for everyone. 

That evening I cried and cried as Miguel and I continued our discussion.  I was so sad and angry that our sweet dog was getting grumpy and we had to decide whether or not he could spend the rest of his life with our family.  He has shown zero signs of a health problem being the root cause for his actions or any pain/discomfort of any kind.  He is a healthy and spry guy at his estimated 10 years of age. In the past five years since Miguel and I rescued him, he hasn’t so much as growled at either of us until about two months ago.  It was the same scenario as this last time, I went to shoo him off the couch and he went to bite my hand.  Since this has happened three times, I can conclude that the dog doesn’t like to be booted of the couch.  What if Salem went to move Samson instead of me? Or if Piper surprised him while he’s napping on the couch?  Can we, as responsible parents and guardians of our children, keep a dog that now has a history of shady behavior under the same roof? 

Ultimately, we decided that we would rather be safe than sorry and Samson was taken to the kennel while we search for a new home for him.  My dad suggested we take Sam to his place in order to give us a chance to talk and think without having to look our dear dog in the eyes.  He has been gone since Sunday and the house feels quieter.  Salem asked for him once on Sunday but hasn’t since then, which is both nice and sad.  Although I love Samson and have for nearly five years, I believe in my heart that it’s best for all involved if we try to find him a new home.  I can’t trust him anymore and I wish more than anything that I could so we wouldn’t be dealing with his fate this way. 

And we thought he was the nice one!
Walking Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park in Maine
Walking on the lakeshore in West Virginia
Merrier times!
Sam with Piper and Sara on Saturday, his last day at home with us.
I’m putting together an ad for craigslist and I will be getting a hold of the Springer Rescue to see if they can help.  This decision was one of the heaviest I have had to deal with in my adult life and I find myself struck with sadness at random times.  If you know of anyone who needs a companion and likes semi-grumpy older male springer spaniels, let me know!  He really is a sweet dog and I sincerely doubt he would ever actually get to the biting point, but you can never really know that for sure.  What would you do if you found yourself in this position?