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Life Rhythm | Potty Training

If there is anything that has been daunting about moving into toddlerhood, potty training is near the top of the list. Despite every parent doing this process, I came into it without a single idea about how to go about it, or even where to start! Last June, when Norah was about one and a half, we bought her a floor potty in preparation for any interest she might show in using it. She mostly thought it made a hilarious hat at that point, much to my first-time mommy dismay.

We initially tried just taking off Norah’s diaper and following her around anxiously staring at her bottom until it looked like she might poop, and then sweeping her onto the potty in a game of “how much more pee and poop will I clean up off the floor today?”

After a few months, Norah was gaining interest in the idea and would ask to sit on the floor potty and then on the toilet as well, especially when I put a basket of books next to the toilet to keep her distracted long enough that she might accidentally go on the toilet and I could praise her for it. She enjoyed it, but went 0% of the times we tried this method. It was frustrating for me, and finally she relented and decided that peeing on this bigger potty was okay too. But pooping was still out of the question.

She walked around the house naked from the waist down for a few months, and during that time did well learning how to make it to the potty in time, so that my game of clean up turned into keeping the Swiffer handy for accidents but not worrying much more than that.

We introduced pull ups at this point, which did not work as well as advertised. First of all, why are pull ups so hard to pull up?! These are small humans we’re working with here! Right now my struggle is trying to move from full time pull-ups to underwear. Norah is pretty consistently almost dry and it is becoming difficult to justify the expensive barely used pull ups in the trash. But, she has had difficulty pulling down her pants still, so we are going to try big kid undies next with the hopes that she is able to more easily pull them down.

It’s been exciting to do this journey with her though. She is doing a tremendous job and I am finally getting used to the new pace – anywhere we are I have to remember to remind her to tell me if she needs to use the potty (many times, especially now that she’ll do the dance)! Our goal is to have only one kid in diapers at a time… But I have confidence that Norah can be in undies by the time Baby #2 arrives in June! The adventures never cease!

Some resources that I have found useful include:

I Use The Potty: Big Kid Power was the way I convinced Norah that toilets were okay for toddler sized humans too.

Stress-Free Potty Training: A Commonsense Guide To Finding The Right Approach For Your Child is a great book… Well admittedly u only read the first few chapters before losing it in the muddle until it was due back to the library!

And this is our beloved floor/trainer potty, which according to Norah makes a splendid hat in a pinch!

Leave a comment if you have any questions or have things you found useful while potty training!

Living Space | Creating Home

Alright, folks! It’s been a while and I have been quite busy since my last blog post to you all. Our family has moved to a new apartment and I have been cleaning, unpacking, organizing, and setting up a new space for our family to call home. It’s been a lot of fun, a lot of work, and (unfortunately) a lot more money than I hoped to spend on the endeavor! All this to say, I am excited to give you all a tour of the space and share a few projects we have been excited about!

Space #1: Library and Family Room

The first two spaces I want to show are our Library and our Family Room. My husband and I love reading, and he has curated a beautiful collection of books from our favorite authors. We were so excited to be able to unpack them for the first time in 2 years and display them in a way that they deserve!

We have been trying to be dedicated to having less traditional furniture in order to encourage healthier movement and posture habits. Having our own new space that we can design in a nontraditional way has been a dream come true! Some of the”furniture” we have collected includes:

Our “floor couch” made from 2 extra large, firm pillows that we found at our local thrift store for 25 cents each:

Other assorted cushions (also 25 cents each) for the floor or the window seat. Our 2 gorgeous bay windows are our other “couches.”

A reading chair which allows for no slouching and provides awesome lumbar support (thrifted for $30):

An oversized steamer trunk that we found at a yardsale for $10 provides a place to lean on for a moment or a place to do a puzzle:

We have a day bed, gifted to us for Norah’s enjoyment by my high school best friend and her family. We love having a day bed instead of a traditional bed because it allows for many more lounging positions and encourages us to move around more. It is also a trundle bed, allowing us to have more seating for movie nights if we need it once we find a mattress for the trundle!

A table was left by the old tenants and it was bigger than our previous table! I decided to keep both tables so one can be used on our porch, for morning coffee breaks and outdoor meals!

Space #2: Norah’s Bedroom

Norah’s bedroom has been fun for me. I never had the opportunity to set up a nursery while I was expecting with her, and we have been longing for a room for her to have to herself for a long time now. I have a few favorite parts of her room.

Her closet is a particular favorite of mine. I found a expandable closet rod at walmart for just over $10 which allows her to be more involved in choosing her daily outfit. I simply move the choices that would be appropriate for the day to the bottom rod and she decides which is her favorite that day! Her socks and pants and pajamas are in bins on the closet floor, which lets her be part of that discussion too! Best of all, I can then close the closet door and not worry about her taking each item of clothing and scattering it about the entire upstairs floor of the house!

We have kept her floor bed and continue to enjoy the way it allows us to do middle-of-the-night cuddles with her when she wakes up scared or upset. Her nightstand allows us to (theoretically) keep her books in one place (but realistically, they are scattered around the floor of her room daily.

Space #3: The Playroom!

The Playroom has been an ever-changing space since we moved in. The current setup is working well so far, but as she grows, I am certain that it will evolve with her. Currently, there are a few stations set up in the space. The first area is our reading corner, featuring a thrift edge globe and a wooden puzzle of letters:

The second area is her Train Station. We live right next to the train line and Norah loves to race to her window and climb up onto the chair to watch the freight trains and passenger trains go by. She has a wooden train set that she puts together and pulls around the room joyfully once the train has passed.

The third area is her homemaking space. She loves taking care of her baby doll, and this is where Baby lives at the moment. She loves putting her to bed and singing her to sleep, or dancing with her in this space. She has a bucket of bowls and teacups with a tea kettle which she plays with here too.

The fourth area is her sorting and counting area. She has an abacus, a shape-sorting puzzle, blocks, and a small chest of drawers (thrifted for $1!). In the chest of drawers, she has a whole bunch of buttons that she likes to take out and admire before we put them away. Sometimes they end up sorted by color with a lot of help from mom! The mirror actually really helps her focus on her task, and lets me see her adorable concentration face while she plays. The letters were a gift and I have stuck them on the wall with command velcro strips so that she can take them off the wall and manipulate them.

The fifth area is a music-making corner complete with a xylophone (not in the photo), a wooden drum, and a bag of assorted instruments (thrifted for $2). Her current favorite is the harmonica!

The last area is an (in-process) art gallery at her eye-level to begin to encourage her to look at works of art. A small mirror is here to represent that she is a work of art as well!

I have enjoyed the process of homemaking in this past season and I am excited to be back in this online space to report about my progress! I welcome any questions or comments below!

Life Rhythm | Simplicity Parenting: Chapter 1

The book Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne, M.Ed., asserts that as parents, we can use “the extraordinary power of less to raise calmer, happier, and more secure kids.” So far, this book offers a way to reconnect with the hopes and dreams we once had for our family in a practical way. Here are my takeaways from chapter one. 

Dream again

My husband and I have dreams of time spent as a family reading books, being in nature, and exploring together. We dream of having minimal belongings, and choosing what to keep based on items that are beauty and useful. We dream of homeschooling our children and teaching and learning with them in a way that is affirming  and validating to each person’s unique abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. We dream of simplicity and space, both in our schedules and our home, that facilitates growth and ample time to rest and breathe. We dream of challenging each other and our children to be our best selves, and to grow into the most resilient and faithful people we can be.

“Simplification is not just about taking things away. It is about making room, creating space in your life, your intentions, and your heart. With less physical and mental clutter, your attention expands and your awareness deepens.”

Foster well-being

So far in my parenting journey, I have been protective of the family schedules and in creating the rhythms of our daily life. I have been striving to keep clutter from overtaking our spaces and our time. It is hard, but important work. Simplicity Parenting points out the cultural normal when it says, “We are building our daily lives, and our families, on the four pillars of too much: too much stuff, too many choices, too much information, and too much speed.”

As adults, we have gotten used to the pace of society, even if in our case it’s begrudgingly so. Again, this book wisely points out that “a certain pace or volume of ‘stuff’ may be tolerable for adults, while it is intolerable, or problematic, for the kids” and yet, “our parenting may be affected by too much clutter and stress, just as our children’s behavior is.” As parents, this spurs us on towards continuing the work of simplifying and decluttering our lives in an effort to create a well-being within the family.

Do what’s doable

“In terms of areas to change I usually see two categories: what is important and what is doable. What seems the most important is usually not; what is most doable is the place to begin. If you do enough that is doable, you will get to the important, and your motivation will be fueled by your success.”

This is true in my experience. Each small victory is immensely motivating and compels me to do the next step and then the next. And with each victory comes more peace in our home and a greater sense of well-being in our family.

“Imagine your home as a place where time moves a little slower…where those we love know it, by virtue of our attention, protection, and appreciation”

Living Space: Organization with a Toddler

Between the blizzards and the rounds of family sickness, March was a month filled to the brim with cabin fever. I am glad that Spring has finally arrived, and with it, mobility and outdoor outings!

March wasn’t all bad though, as the cabin fever helped me accomplish some spring cleaning tasks that I would otherwise not have prioritized (because sunshine and fresh air!!)

One of the projects that I want to share with you all is my solution to the piles of toys and board books that were taking over my living and dining room. I’m sure that at least some of you can relate to this struggle, and hopefully my solution will work for you as well!

My first step was to bring ALL of her toys and books and put them in a pile on the couch. Then I sorted out toys that were too old or young for her developmentally and put them in a separate storage bag. While doing so, I also sorted out toys I would rather donate than store away and bagged them up to bring to the thrift store.

Next, I cleared off a thin bookshelf and reset the shelves to fit two cloth bins. I had just a little space left after refitting the shelves, so I used that space for less durable books and toys that I prefer to supervise her with.

The last step was to put all the toys into one bin and the books into the other.

Playtime is super easy now! I just take out the two bins, and then when we’re ready to clean up together, we throw the toys in one bin and stack away her books neatly into the other… And voila!

The bins go back on the shelf and the living room is spared from the lingering mess that playtime had become.

Life Rhythm: Meal Planning Board

I love it when the sharing economy helps me in my journey! The other day, I found a whiteboard in my father-in-law’s apartment swap area. First of all, I am so thankful for the way that Rochester’s community values reuse, upcycling, and alternative economics. This apartment complex’s neighbor book and household good swap is just one of many places in my city where people give and take as they need, rather than tossing out old things and buying new.

I found a whiteboard with a weekly layout in the swap pile and eagerly began brainstorming a plethora of ways which I could use it to make my everyday life easier.

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I settled on meal planning, since I have never been very good at consistency in this area. Actually, I regularly say to my friends that consistent meal planning is pretty much the epitome of adulthood and having your life together. I have to say, thus far, I was incorrect in my casual idolatry of meal planning as the end all be all. Nonetheless, it is pretty great!

This week is week 2 in our house of having planned out the meals in advance on this nifty whiteboard. My takeaways have included:
  1. I need this! When I am hungry, I skip hungry and go straight to hangry. If you are unfamiliar with this term, I am happy to have introduced you to it… it means that the minute I realize that I have less than the amount of food I would like to have in my body, I turn into an irritable monster who is incapable of making simple decisions.
  2. We don’t always stick to the plan, and that’s okay.
  3. Meal planning helps me to make healthier eating choices (like eating real food and not spoonfuls of peanut butter out of the jar)!
  4. Assigning meals is helpful (those are the little (M)’s and (A)’s on our board). Why? See #1!

If you are a person who is more experienced than I at meal planning (or anyone who has done it for more than 2 weeks!) feel free to comment on your tips and tricks! I would love to learn from your experience!

Life Rhythm: Weekly Scheduling

I’ve been keeping myself entertained working on a project for the last couple of weeks. I have been imagining and designing my ideal weekly life rhythm, which has been keeping the winter cabin fever at bay most days. I have been feeling that it would be helpful to have a daily and weekly “plan-of-attack” so that I could feel more at peace with how I was spending my time at any given moment.

Instead of feeling frustrated as I sit on the living room floor surrounded in spit-covered toys and half-finished board books, I can cherish the time I have with my daughter, knowing that the to-do list has a scheduled time in the near future.

So I have been tweaking the exact form of the weekly life rhythm that I created over the past few weeks, and have finally settled on the one I have now. I created a weekly view to have handy when I want to remind myself when I have scheduled myself to complete a task.

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And I also created daily views (which I made into a neat flipbook!) to carry with me inside my bullet journal, allowing me to quick reference how I could be best allocating my time and energy at any point of the day.

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For example, on Thursdays, Norah and I start our day by going on a half-hour walk to our mom and crawlers meetup at Beautiful Birth Choices (for parents in the Rochester, NY area…check it out!). She takes a nap on the way home and we have lunch together when she wakes up, or we go to lunch with the other mommas and she naps after she eats. When we’re home and have eaten, we play and read together in the living room or in her play space. In the evening, I have been enjoying a weekly contemporary dance class, and then after I come home and put Norah to bed for the night, I have allocated time to actually blogging!

I get the question, “Why is there only breakfast on some of the days?” pretty often. The answer is simply that meals with a baby-led weaning baby tend to take about 45 minutes on average, and so “breakfast” on my schedule refers to a bigger sit-down meal, rather than a small snack before we head out for a morning activity!

Feel free to ask more specific questions in the comments!

 

Living Space: Floor Bed Play Area

For the past few months, my husband and I have been feeling more and more uneasy bedsharing with Norah, especially when she is napping alone in our bed during the day. However, despite my best efforts, she has always been averse to sleeping in her crib. Many of my mommy friends have expressed similar frustration.

Last month, I came across A Gallery of Children’s Floor Beds, and this Montessori-style sleeping setup appealed to me! It wasn’t until last week that I really started considering how I could make our space work for us this way.

Today I found some motivation and took apart the crib that has occupied our bedroom corner for a year now. I am thrilled to have that space opened up again!

After scrubbing the floor and baseboards and window sills, I put the crib mattress back down and set to work making the corner as cozy as I could. I stacked some wide plastic drawers that were stored under the crib to create a makeshift wall to keep her in her space. I was not so keen on losing the practicality of keeping her penned in that the crib had provided!

Here are some photos of her space now:

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And just because she is the cutest, here is a picture of Norah with pigtails.

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100 Things Every Homeowner Must Know: Book Review

I read through a great book this evening that I am excited to share! 100 Things Every Homeowner Must Know, by The Family Handyman (a Reader’s Digest publication), was an informational schmorgasboard! I read it on recommendation from my grandfather in law, and I was not disappointed. 

100 Things is packed full of tips on how to save money while improving your home!  There is an abundance of problem-solving techniques that had me exclaiming with awe. I had more insights reading this book than I’d have in an hour browsing Pinterest! 

First of all, I was impressed with the format of the book. It kept me reading with helpful professional insight, high quality photos and graphics, and the occasional pun. From how to keep your appliances running smoothly to how to get the simplest home security to how to clean the sink drain, this book has it all! 

I suppose I should mention

that my husband and I bid on a HUD house and were accepted this past weekend! God has definitely blessed us with this house. When we went to walk through it last Thursday, we knew that this was the one. We were filled with anticipation and were anxious about deciding on a bid. 

We sat on my mother in law’s living room floor and prayed for a number to offer. Each of us wrote what we felt was the wisest choice after silently reflecting in prayer. When we showed our papers to each other, we were amazed that our numbers all matched! We prayed for God’s favor in the process of closing on the house, and we gave thanks for this opportunity. 

On Monday when we were waiting for the answer as to whether we won the auction, the daily verses from Sunday and Monday spoke peace into my anxious heart. 

O LORD, I will honor and praise your name, for you are my God. You do such wonderful things! You planned them long ago, and now you have accomplished them. Isaiah 25:1

Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words! 2 Corinthians 9:15

When we found out from our agent that we won, we were overcome with Thanksgiving and I am blessed by the way that the season has coincided with this major life event. I am so excited to bring our dreams of starting our own intentional community house in Rochester to life.

After two years of searching and hoping for a house of our own, we are finally in the process of closing on our first home. So get ready for a whole lot of project updates, book reviews, and mental processing as I get this house ready to be our home. 

So in light of this event,

I was (obviously) enthralled by this book about being a saavy homeowner! If not this book, I would recommend reading a similar handyperson book to anyone who is interested in learning how to save money by doing some basic things yourself… and how to know when to call in the professionals! 

Sacred Rhythms: Scripture

This is timely.

Between all the upheaval with the election last week and a new movement in the process of buying a house, these last couple of weeks have been tremendously stressful.

I feel very thankful for the opportunity to purchase a house; don’t get me wrong! But anyone who has ever wanted a house as much as I do right now can relate to the amount of stress I am under as I wait to hear back from the seller.

Because of this, I felt so much relief this week from opening up this book, Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton. The next chapter is about Scripture as a spiritual discipline that can be used to help renew your spirit and connect on a deeper level with God.

Barton writes,

This is level at which intimacy unfolds in a way that has the potential to change me in the deepest places of my being.

This week I read about a method of Bible study which is meditative and meant to help stimulate a deeper mental, emotional, and spiritual connection to the Scriptures.

Lectio Divina (translated as “divine [or sacred] reading”) is an approach to the Scriptures that sets us up to listen for the word of God spoken to us in the present moment.

Lectio Divina includes a prayer of response and a prayer of rest.

Barton introduces the process of Lectio Divina as a dance with four movements.

To prepare, the reader is encouraged to choose a passage, 6 to 8 verses in length, to focus on.

Then the process begins.

  1. Silencio.

    Settle into the silence and reach out toward your desire to be with God.

  2. Lectio.

    Read the passage the first time, listening for what strikes you.

  3. Meditatio.

    Read a second time, and reflect on how this striking word or phrase applies in your life.

  4. Oratio.

    Read a third time, and respond to the reflection and to God’s invitation.

  5. Contemplatio.

    Read a final time and rest in God’s presence.

  6. Incarnatio.

    Resolve to live it out!

To practice Lectio Divina, I chose to read Psalm 125. I focused on the words trustsecure, surrounded, and peace. While reflecting, I appreciated the timing of the words as they were spoken into my heart. Trust, the way God is in control. That we “will not be defeated but will endure.”

While responding, I wrote several pages in my journal, expressing my struggle against anxiety and toward trust. I thanked God for his faithful love and his protection and peace.

The final read-through in which I rested in God’s presence was powerful and I felt his peace surround me.

As I continue today, I am allowing myself to continue to soak in his words of peace and security!

Sacred Rhythms: Solitude

This week I enjoyed practicing solitude as a way of renewal in my daily life. I felt excited about the premise of solitude, as I am rarely alone these days. And when I am alone, I feel the mom guilt kick in…

“Should I be with my baby right now instead? Is she hungry? Does she need me? Am I causing her needless stress by distancing myself?”

To get beyond that is in itself a pretty major struggle. This week I compromised by finding my solitude during my shower time.

The shower is a wonderful thing to a new mother (and I imagine to seasoned mothers as well!). There is an innate sense of separation from the world which comes with stepping away into a steamy room to cleanse yourself and to take a moment to breathe. The susurrus of water drowns out any unnecessary noises and distractions. It’s blissful, really, and it was a great place to practice solitude with intentionality.

Solitude is a place. It is a place in time that is set apart for God and God alone, a time when we unplug and withdraw from the noise of interpersonal interactions, from the noise, busyness and constant stimulation associated with life in the company of others. Solitude can also be associated with a physical place that has been set apart for times alone with God, a place that is not cluttered with work, noise, technology, other relationships, or any of those things that call us back into doing mode. Most important, solitude is a place inside myself where God’s Spirit and my spirit dwell together in union.

One of the wonderful things Ruth Haley Barton in this chapter of her book Sacred Rhythms is how she describes solitude as a way to reconnect with your soul. The soul is described as a wild animal who won’t dare come near a hunter crashing through the woods (which is an idea from a quote by Parker Palmer). Barton says,

We are not very safe for ourselves, because our internal experience involves continual critique and judgment, and the tender soul does not want to risk it […] There are very few places where the soul is truly safe, where the knowing, the questions, the longings of the soul are welcomed, received and listened to rather than evaluated, judged, or beaten out of us.

She also talks about the toll technology takes on us when we are accessible all the time– an emotional toll that comes with the convenience of boundless availability. I could relate to that exhaustion, not only from technology but also from being available day in and out to the demands of a nursing infant.

Barton looks into Scripture and points to Jesus himself. Jesus is concerned with how we sustain our spiritual life in the midst of serving him. He knows the demands of ministry, and he doesn’t waste any time before inviting the disciples to experience the renewing effects of solitude.

She encourages the reader to honor solitude as a place of rest from which we can live as we reengage with community.

[Jesus] understands that the sources of our exhaustion are many and complex and often we are completely unaware of how they are taking their toll […] Solitude helps us stay attentive to the dynamics of spiritual exhaustion and attend to the deeper sources before they pull us under.

I especially love the practical side of Sacred Rhythms, because Barton doesn’t just tell us why we need solitude, she also gets us started. She offers a helpful tip that while we rest with God with our soul exposed, we must not try to fix the things that surface.

She urges us to acknowledge what emerges and to “be with what is” because not everything can be fixed or solved.

Feel the difference between trying to fix it and just being with it. Feel the difference between doing something with it and resting with it. Feel the difference between trying to fight it and letting God fight for you.

As a final encouragement, I bring to you Psalm 62:5-6, which is lovely and fits perfectly with this discipline.

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p style=”text-align:center;”>Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
    for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress where I will not be shaken.