I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

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I read an article a long time ago about your “to do list” getting longer and longer but never finding the time to check things off.  I am actually one of those people that add things to my list AFTER I’ve done them so I can check them off.  shhhh….

  1. Eat breakfast
  2. Make coffee
  3. Write a to do list

No seriously, there are things that nobody likes to do, like clean the bathroom.  Side note…when I had Lukas and my mom was visiting she asked, “Is there anything you need me to do? Do you want me to clean your bathroom?”  I was like, “No, you don’t need to do that.” and in my head I’m thinking, is my bathroom dirty?  A couple years later…Hey Mom, come clean my bathroom anytime you want! 

So anyways, this article was about a group of friends who would get together one time per month at a different persons house.  Each friend kept a running “to do” list.  When it was your turn to have friends over everyone worked together to knock out the list!  What a great idea! The lists included cleaning, freezer meal prep…you get the idea.

So I’m thinking, make some (Irish?) coffee, turn on some music and start a friend/mom/co-worker group.  The goal isn’t to sit and socialize but to knock out projects that you can’t seem to get around to WHILE enjoying some good company.  You set aside a few hours a month and when it’s your turn you get a clean bathroom!

Put A Little Breast Milk On It!

Hi all of you nursing mamas!  Breast milk is nature’s liquid gold.  Not only is it wonderful for building your child’s immune system but it also has many healing benefits.  I have a friend whose answer to everything is, “put a little breast milk on it.”  So that’s what I do and guess what? It works!  So next time you are dealing with diaper rash, baby acne, sore nipples from nursing, eczema and cradle cap put some breast milk on it before you pull out the diaper cream or ointment.  I am all about avoiding chemicals in the foods we eat and the products we use.  There isn’t much in our household that can’t be cured with a little breast milk or coconut oil!  Oh and another perk: it’s free!

Here is a quick reference list from Simply Real Moms and see below for my homemade breast milk lotion recipe.

Breastmilk

I used this lotion after baths and on little bottoms for diaper rash.  Remember, it’s not just for your little ones!

BREAST MILK LOTION

3 ounces of breastmilk

3 ounces coconut oil or grapeseed oil

1 tablespoon of beeswax

a few drops of Vitamin E oil

optional: add essential oils for therapy/scent

Microwave the oil and beeswax slowly just until the beeswax melts, approximately 3 minutes. You can also do this on the stove with a double boiler.

Add the Vitamin E oil and slowly pour in the room temperature breastmilk while whisking rapidly until it thickens.  You can use an immersion blender to mix if preferred.

Pour into shallow jars or lotion tubs. It will continue to thicken as it cools. Refrigerate and use for up to 3 months.

 

Ultimate Happiness

For those who don’t know me personally you may not know my husband and I hiked from Mexico to Canada, twice. Does this define me? No. Yes. Maybe? One of the most difficult things after a really long walk is merging back into society.  Everyone is busy, the world is loud and everyone is moving 100mph to do something bigger and to be something better. I remember getting off the trail after hiking the CDT and I felt like I was that person in the movies where they focus on someone sitting still and speed everything up around them.  I still feel like that sometimes.  Ultimately, in my life, I just want to be still and enjoy my kids and my husband.  I want to hike and explore, travel and try new foods, drink a good beer and watch a sunset.

My husband never talked to anyone much about the trail.  When we hiked the PCT together it was so life altering for me.  I wanted to tell the world, I published my journal and I felt like it was my job to tell anyone and everyone that would listen to me.  He said one day, “Do you notice when you talk to people about the trail that most of the time they don’t REALLY listen?” and I realized, yes, it’s true and I felt sad and longed to be back out there away from the rat race.  Of course there are the people who do listen and you have my mom and dad who tell perfect strangers about us.  I love that.  I’ve had friends I’ve known for years that probably don’t really know much about me at all.  That’s okay.

It took me a very long time to find myself.  I do realize that sounds completely cliche but I have no other words for it.  My husband can attest, I can go a mile a minute and have 200 projects going all at once and can be organized and prompt…and in the very same breath, I am making coffee while drinking a mimosa in my mismatched clothes and Muk Luks, swaying to Bob Marley or Hot Buttered Rum (Eric says I have the same dance for every song) and jabbering on and on about the trail. Right now that’s not the season of my life BUT it reminds me to slow down and be still and it makes me smile. Every. Single. Time.

After the trail we would socialize and meet friends of friends because “you will love them!” or “they are just like you!” and every time we would sit and have a drink together utterly exhausted from listening to how busy everyone was or what their plans were to redecorate their kitchen.  After awhile we realized that we have each other and that is enough.  We don’t need to feel obligated to go and do things that don’t make us happy. We are at our best sitting on top of a mountain together or in our pajamas on a Saturday morning listening to records and watching our kids move about.  We have friends across the country and there are definitely times we wish they were right next door.  For now, we know who we are, we aren’t defined by a job and we find great comfort in living this beautiful, slow, simple, mediocre life.  We spend our time doing things that are meaningful to us.  We contribute to community, shop local, do things we enjoy, eat good food, drink good wine, stay up too late on occasion trying to soak up some kid free time and in the grand scheme of things try to avoid that feeling of obligation.  There seems to be this inherent need to be busy in our society.  I just need to be still.

We still get caught up sometimes and it feels like we’re going in circles and we know ourselves well enough to realize it’s time for a new adventure.  Right now on our wall we have 9 different places written in Sharpie that we want to live with an ongoing list of pros and cons.  We’ve made big life decisions drinking 40’s of Malt Liquor and rolling “decision dice” and even by throwing darts.  I’m not saying this kind of well thought out plan is for everyone but it has taken us on a 3,100 mile walk across the country and to a tiny village in the Dominican Republic.  Once, our dartboard held the words “ultimate happiness” on the bullseye as we laughed with friends after way too many drinks long ago working at a lodge in the middle of the woods.  So now, when we need to make a big decision, we always aim for “ultimate happiness.”

In the  end, it’s important to realize that avoiding unhappiness is not the key to happiness.  For some, maybe “busy-ness” is what makes them happy.  For me, I want to lead this small and simple life where I find happiness in the space of “in between”.  I love our great adventures.  I love the feeling of reaching the monument on the Canadian border after hiking 3,100 miles and I love rocking my babies to sleep at night.  Both are great adventures.  While I can’t wait to see what’s in store, every single day I remind myself that this is my life and right now my greatest adventure is whatever I have right in front of me at this very moment.

So my challenge to you is to find your ultimate happiness and I’m not talking about what everybody else thinks should make you happy.  If you can get past that feeling of obligation I’m pretty sure you will experience the freedom to be who you are. That is all.

P.S. I LOVE this journal The Happiness Project. It is a 5-year one sentence journal to record all of those “little things” that happen each day.

 

 

 

A Breath of Fresh Air

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Eric and I always say if you are struggling to find clarity then it’s time to go on a LONG walk.  While our nice long walks aren’t currently from Mexico to Canada we still get our legs moving any chance we get.  When we had kids everyone told us how much life would change.  I won’t deny that it does change but not in a “the world is caving in” sort of way. Instead, you get this chance to see life through a child’s eyes once again and there is such beauty in that.  Our adventures might be a half mile loop on some days and that may take hours but you can bet it will be full of wonder.  We listen to ravens, draw shapes in the snow with sticks, look for pine cones and play games to keep little legs moving.

Today was one of those beautiful blue sky days in the Rockies.  One where you are pretty sure there isn’t a more gorgeous place in the world.  Those sunny winter days are rare here in Kalispell so there is no other choice but to get moving.  I think the hardest part about getting ready for a day of outdoor adventure is actually getting out of the house.  I typically keep my pack by the door so it’s ready to go at any given time.  Not today. Someone (I won’t name names) has become master of dispersing anything that may be neatly tucked away inside of…well, just about anything.  So after an hour of changing diapers, finding winter clothes, boots, packing diapers, water, snacks, that extra “blow out” outfit (for Lilah, not me, just to be clear) and then we have to cycle through the diaper change again and last minute feeding and of course, “please stop riding on your sister” and “she doesn’t like it when you lick her head” well, after all those things we finally make it out the door.  Now getting past the “snow blowlee” at the bottom of the steps takes another 15 minutes because they are so darn cool.  After that, we get everyone to the car.  That my friends was the hardest part.  Smooth sailing from here…

Once I get my kids outside they magically transform.  I swear it’s true! The whole dynamic changes.  There is so much to see, so much wide open space, there is wind and sun and snow and sounds and sticks and rocks and streams.  The list goes on.  This is our happy place.  Everyone has their own niche, ours just happens to be anything that involves nature.  I do think it’s important for EVERYONE both young and old to get outdoors and breathe in the fresh air.

A few tips and tricks from this outdoor mama to others with small children:

  1. Do try to keep your basics packed and ready to go.  I like to keep a change of clothes, extra wipes and diapers in the car.  Have some easy (but healthy!) snacks on hand and if you know you’re heading out the next day then get as much as you can ready the night before.
  2. Take a deep breath and repeat.  Get your coffee and a good breakfast and know that your estimated departure time will be about an hour after what you had planned.  That’s just how it is.  Sorry.
  3. Be prepared to play!  Does that sound so bad?  Put your phone away.  Period.  You are allowed to take photos (sometimes) but seriously, put it away and play.  Kids feed off of your mood and if you’re having fun then they are having fun.  Run around, do something silly, dig in the dirt, catch frogs in a stream, find cool rocks.
  4. If you see “the cloud” moving in then switch things up.  Play a game, look at something really cool or take a break and have a snack.  Whew…tantrum avoided (at least sometimes).
  5. If you’re hiking then know there will probably be at least a little whining.  Keep your Ergo, Moby or backpack handy and let them hitch a ride for a bit.  Then when they’re ready let them get down and explore some more (this is key for nice long naps.)
  6. Always remember you are aiming for a good experience.  You want them to want to get back out there and do it again.

There are some days we do “mommy and daddy” hikes and that means packing the kids up a mountain to a lake and then letting our little man out to explore.  Other times we are out on a walk just for the kids.  These are the times when we don’t mutter, “come on” or “hurry up” (we try to limit this in our lives anyways) but we pay close attention to our words (or lack of) when we are watching Lukas explore.  If he wants to lay on the ground and be the “ant whisperer” and try to get them to crawl up his arm then he can do that as long as he wants.  It’s his walk.

So yes, life has changed and I think I’m the lucky one.  I get to take a step back and see all of those little things through new eyes.  Eyes full of wonder.  Whatever it is that makes you whole then get out and do that with your kids.  Life doesn’t stop after children, you’re just on a little different adventure and it’s important to keep doing the things you love and sharing them when you can.  What’s that saying? Oh yes, “If mama ain’t happy then nobody’s happy!”  Happy Trails!

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Here’s $20 Cash from NetSpend

I’m giving you $20.  I promise on this blog I will never post anything that I haven’t tested myself.  I will only write about things I am passionate about, products I enjoy and ways to save and earn a few extra bucks.  So here is a simple way to get $20 cash.

  1. Click here to open a FREE NetSpend Account.  There will be a simple form to fill out and you will use referral code “6607682083” to get the $20 bonus.
  2. You will receive a NetSpend Visa Debit Card within 10 days.
  3. Once you receive your card login to NetSpend to activate it.
  4. In order to get your $20 cash you will need to load your card with a minimum of $40 using Paypal or a free bank transfer.  There are also a couple other options for transferring money.  You are not paying anything to do this, you are simply adding funds to your NetSpend card.
  5. After you have added at least $40 NetSpend will add a $20 bonus.  So now you have $60 instead of $40! That’s it.
  6. You can withdraw your $60 at an ATM or spend your funds online, at the grocery, gas station or anywhere you would use a credit card.

*TIP: I suggest withdrawing your cash at an ATM.  I incurred a $1 fee (per transaction) that I wasn’t aware of because I didn’t read the fine print.  If you just use all the funds in one transaction OR withdraw at an ATM you avoid the fees.

It is an easy 20 bucks my friends and when you earn I earn so it’s a win-win.  I signed up on January 4th, received my card on January 8th, transferred $40 from Paypal on the 9th and the bonus was on my account by the 11th.

 

Sharing the love…

Quick Tip!

Here is another website that is similar to EBATES that I just came across.  It is called TopCashback.  You get cash back for shopping online and there are special offers, deals and ways to win extra cash.  Sometimes we are just talking pennies on the dollar but you can cash in those pennies for a gift card down the road and I think free anything feels pretty awesome! Right now TopCashback is running some Valentine’s Day specials but please don’t feel like you need to send me flowers…really…well, unless your name is Eric but even then I prefer chocolate.  Happy Saving!

Kids in the Kitchen

My toddler loves to help in the kitchen.  He turned 2 in August and his daddy is the real cook in the family.  Lukas loves trying all of the spices in the cabinet and we had to remind him not long ago that he can’t survive on Turmeric and Cardamom!  I am pretty sure I knew nothing about spices at age 2 and even until I met Eric my spice rack was some seasoned salt, salt and pepper.  Oh, I think I had one of those pretty little round spice racks but it just sat there and collected dust on the counter top.  Now (thanks to the hubby) I have learned to really appreciate spices and we grow rosemary, sage, thyme and parsley.  We have a little patio garden in the summer and grow tomatoes, peppers and some fun edible plants.  From the time Lukas could walk he helped “feed” the plants.  He now helps clip the rosemary to put in recipes, adds spices, measures flour and sugar (and tastes a lot too!) The key to having kids help in the kitchen is to remember that it’s probably going to get messy (and that’s okay) and it takes time and patience.  Every project doesn’t have to be huge so think small scale to get started.

An important part of letting your kids work with you in the kitchen is to set them up for success.  We have a small kitchen so we use his Melissa and Doug Wooden Table for his personal work space.  He also has his own Curious Chef knife set and some utensils that I found at Bed, Bath and Beyond.  There is a spatula, whisk, ladle, funnel and wooden spoon that are all small so they fit his hands.  There is a fun Starter Cooking Set on Amazon that has all the basics too.  Another option is to get a High Rise Step Stool if you have the counter space and the kid(s) can be right up there with you.  These can be pretty spendy but we use it for everything and I love that it has the high sides so he won’t fall off.  Sometimes you can find an Open Box Deal on Amazon or do an EBATES search for a step stool and see what deals you can find.  Personally, I think it’s worth the money to get something sturdy that will last. We also have a little Wooden Step Stool that is handy because he can easily pick it up and move it to reach things that he needs.

Again, remember that every project doesn’t have to be huge so let your kids help measure flour or add spices to a dish.  Let them make a smoothie or bake quick muffins.  Lukas loves to use his knives to help chop mushrooms and asparagus for dinner.  You will also find that if you let your kid help prepare their own meals and snacks then it’s more fun to eat AND they are so stinkin’ proud!  A note on the knives is it says ages 5 and up.  We took the time to show Lukas how to hold his knives and explained that knives are sharp and there is a proper way to use them. Kids are extremely capable and independent at a much younger age than we give them credit for.  The set he uses are safe and have a serrated cutting edge with blunt tips.  They can be used to cut things like fruits, veggies and cheese and are easy for little hands to hold.  Another fun addition for older children is a cookbook for kids.

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Lukas also has a “play” kitchen that he likes to use but he prefers helping out with the real stuff.  When you’re finished cooking it is important to let your kids help clean up too. It sounds funny but kids really do love to work at completing a task.  Lukas gets out his Little Helper Broom Set and sweeps the floor.  He uses a washcloth to wipe his table and helps put everything away.  He loves helping load the dishwasher too!

I’m not gonna lie…some projects end up with mama taking some deep breaths and there is always the “please don’t lick that” or “we have to wash your hands again because you wiped your nose.”  You will find that once they start helping and become comfortable the easier it is.  It’s important to limit the use of “no” or “don’t do that” or “stop!” because you want them to enjoy what they are doing and also have confidence in the kitchen.  Kids are kids and they are learning a completely new task so all of those little things that come easy to us, like stirring, are actually a really big feat for them. Remember, you don’t need special kid utensils you can use what you have. I just like to let him use things that are his size because it’s easier to hold and he thinks it’s pretty cool that he has his own stuff!  The important thing is to get your kids in the kitchen and who knows, maybe one day you’ll get breakfast in bed! You know, on ALL of those days you get to sleep in?! 😉 Happy Cooking!

 

 

Money Saving Mama

We moved, had a baby and my hubby started a new job all within a few months.  That’s a lot of change! I never felt overwhelmed, oddly.  We were excited for something different and I knew things would fall into place if we just took it day by day.  We did take a cut in pay as Eric is pursuing a new career in Montessori teaching.  This means going through a training program to receive his teaching certificate and working as an intern while taking classes.  I’m super supportive of all of this, it just means creative budgeting especially with me staying home with the kids.

I’ve found I really enjoy the challenge of it.  I have always loved a good bargain, going to thrift stores and finding ways to save.  I feel like I need to share the love!  My favorite right now is EBATES.  Okay, this site is awesome for a number of reasons so I’ll break it down.  First, it’s absolutely free to sign up so no credit cards, personal information or anything like that.  You just register for an account and you’re in.  So what is EBATES? It is a site where you earn cash back on purchases you make online.  It’s really that easy. We are talking stores you shop at anyways like Old Navy, JCPenney, Sierra Trading Post, Turbo Tax and even hotels and travel websites. EBATES will offer a percentage back on your purchases.  This varies by store and they also do a daily double so you could earn 12% instead of 6% for example.  On top of this they also have coupon codes to enter at checkout and will find you the best codes across the web so you can save time searching for them.  So this is double way to save!  Awesome, right?!  I do get excited about this because it’s free money.

I’m not saying you are going to make millions on this but I’ll give you my numbers so you can see that it actually pays to join.  Okay, I’m still working on this blog thing so forgive me for the poor screen shot but hey, it does the trick!

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Okay, so a little breakdown.  EBATES sends you a “BIG FAT PAYMENT” on this schedule:

Purchases Posted Between Big Fat Check Sent
Jan 1-Mar 31 May 15
Apr 1-June 30 Aug 15
July 1-Sept 30 Nov 15
Oct 1-Dec 31 Feb 15

You can choose to have a check mailed to you or it can go directly into your paypal account.  My next check will be my biggest one I’ve ever gotten $140.43.  I credit this to Christmas shopping.  I do ALL of my shopping online so it really pays to use this tool because I can use the coupon codes and earn money on every purchase I make.  An additional bonus is if you use a rewards credit card then you get money or points for that too.

So the first thing you want to do after joining is install the Ebates Cash Back Button.  This does all the work for you. It allows you to shop and earn cash back without having to visit Ebates.com first. The Cash Back Button will flash red and alert you when Cash Back is available at participating merchants.

I’m not trying to be pushy but sign up and get your money!  They offer $10 just for joining and did I mention it’s free to join?  You will earn your $10 bonus after you make your first online purchase of $25 or more.

So that’s it! My money saving mama rant of the day.  So far I’ve earned $331.74.  That’s 331 miles as Eric and I would say 🙂 That’s a different story…when we thru-hike we always calculate that it costs $1/mile to hike from Mexico to Canada so every time we save or earn money our lingo is in “miles.”  Happy saving my friends!