Happy New Year!

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One of my top New Year’s resolutions is to start blogging here on my lifestyle blog more regularly again. I used to be better about it when I only had one little guy, but since becoming a mom of two energetic little boys, this blog has definitely been one of the things that has gotten pushed to the back burner. Which is sad since it is something I really enjoy, and my favorite way to document the changes in our family, our home and our garden!

So I am back with a new plan, and determined to stick to it this year. πŸ™‚ Here are some of my other resolutions this year….

1. Take more selfies and more self-portraits with me and my boys! I used to do a ton of self-portraits with our older son and me, and then in the past year I started to have some changes in my appearance that made me self-conscious and I pretty much stopped taking photos of myself. As a professional photographer who emphasizes the beauty of capturing motherhood, it’s actually been highly embarrassing! So what happened exactly?

I’ve been having problems with my sinuses and severe allergies ever since we moved into this house and started our endless list of construction and remodeling projects. A large bump started growing inside my nose around the time my husband opened up our kitchen, and then had to leave it open for several months while he went out of town to deal with other issues. So in the meantime, I was home with attic dust streaming in for several months and my dust allergies were out of control (I was also pregnant at the time which didn’t help). I had seen several ENT’s about the bump and none were able to help me with it.

Then this past year it started getting even worse, to the point where my nose was constantly painful and started completely visibly deforming. Every time I looked in the mirror, I felt like I was looking at a stranger. I have barely been able to sleep for the past year since I was getting so little air through my nose. I finally went to see a more specialized surgeon, who had a better idea of what was going wrong. He told me that my sinuses had collapsed shut, 0% air on one side and less than 30% on the other side. As a result of the collapse, they had pushed down around the cartilage, causing the bumps and deformation. So we scheduled surgery for just after Christmas this year.

I am currently recovering from the surgery and in a lot of pain, but I am so happy that I was able to find a doctor who knew how to handle the situation. I am looking forward to being able to sleep without waking up grasping for air. I am also really excited that my nose should hopefully be looking a lot better, more like normal again. πŸ™‚

My older son LOVES snapchat. He made me install it on my phone (he’s played with it with my sister and his babysitter). He said it makes him so happy when we do snaps together. So, I have been getting started on my resolution already about getting in more photos with my boys. πŸ™‚ With my bandages, bruising and all…here we are! Having fun cuddling with my sweet boys while I recover!

2. I’m going to do more work that makes me happy, and less of the work that stresses me out. πŸ™‚ I’m not going to go into all of the details here, but I will be making some changes for my photography business this year and I am excited about it. πŸ™‚

3. Get on a regular system and schedule with our garden maintenance, and actually schedule it into my work calendar! My garden is such an important aspect of my business, and I often try to cram in gardening tasks whenever I have a bit of free time, and that leads to a very stressed out mom. We are going to be making some serious changes with that routine going forward!

4. Get more of our projects finished on our house! Certain projects have been dragging on forever around here, mostly because we never have any free time to get them completed. With my husband working outside the home Monday through Friday, and I have spent the majority of my weekend time working this past year with photo sessions, it hasn’t led to enough family time and not enough time for us to finish the personal projects we want to complete. I’ve been saying it for years but this time I mean it…I’m going to seriously start cutting down on weekend photo sessions! We also seriously need some fun time as a family all together! πŸ™‚

5. Most importantly…be more mentally and emotionally present for my family. πŸ™‚ I feel like I have been spreading myself too thin for a while and it just leaves me zapped of energy all the time. I have been working on finding ways to delegate certain tasks for my business so I am not so wiped out all of the time, and that has been helping already.

I am excited about the changes I have planned for the new year! πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading and joining me on my journey to a better year!

One Lovely Blog Award – Alicia in Wonderland Blog

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Last week, the wonderfully sweet writer of Making it as a Mum nominated me for the “One Lovely Blog Award”. πŸ™‚ I am incredibly flattered to receive this honor! Be sure to check out her blog here…it is filled with tons of witty and wonderfully honest musings about motherhood.

The RulesΒ for accepting the Award(s):
  1. Thank and link back to the awesome person who nominated you.
  2. Share 7 things about yourself.
  3. Nominate 15 other bloggers and comment on their blogs to let them know.Β 

It has been difficult trying to think of seven things about me that you may not already know if you read this blog often! I decided to start with some funny facts about my husband and I. πŸ™‚

1. I met my husband in a dark alley and tried to hit on him.
Yup, and I parked in that alley and ran over to him to introduce myself. Definitely not something I had ever done prior to that day, but I just had to meet him! I was driving one of my friends from work home one evening, and I saw this mysterious man pull up on his motorcycle. My friend told me that was his buddy and his neighbor. I parked my car illegally in the alley and ran over to him. I tried to introduce myself and make conversation (he was wearing my favorite motorcycle jacket made by the company I worked for at the time). He blew me off completely. That night, I had a dream where I saw myself getting married to this man who had so rudely blown me off. It made me pretty angry. We became good friends over the course of the following year though.

2. He later was going to be my pretend boyfriend.
When my high school reunion was getting close, I started talking with some of my girl friends about the fact that I did not want to go alone. I was embarrassed that I been focusing too much on my job and had no good date options at the moment. My friends and I made a list of all of the guys we knew collectively, and pros and cons for each one as a date and faux-beau as we called it. We decided that hands-down, my now husband was the best option for a faux-beau. I asked him if he wanted to pretend to be my boyfriend at my reunion (and on Facebook too prior to the reunion). He happily agreed. The reunion ended up getting canceled, and he was surprisingly really disappointed about it. At that point, I started thinking hey…he’s the best guy I’ve ever met and maybe he is starting to be more interested in me than he was when we first met. I tried dropping hints for months with no luck.

3. Then we became roommates for a little bit and I kept referring to him as my husband when I was asleep.
On the nights when he got home really late for work, I would occasionally sleep walk and ask our other roommates when my husband was going to be home (we had not even gone on our first date at that point and were completely just friends/roommates at the time). I realized that my subconscious mind was seriously trying to tell me something, so I pretty much forced him into our first date. πŸ™‚ At that dinner, he said he did not want to get married any time soon, and he did not like organized religion (he knew me very well at this point lol). A little over a year later, we were married and shortly after that, he got baptized. πŸ™‚

4. My grandma convinced me to keep dating him.
I was getting frustrated by how much my then-boyfriend-now-husband was against organized religion. It left me in tears on quite a few occasions that I felt like I knew this was the man I wanted to marry but I just did not want to end up with someone that was anti-religion. I told my grandma that I thought I was done with him, and she convinced me to be more patient. She and her friends from church had apparently been saying the rosary for his conversion. I never would have guessed in a million years that prayer would suddenly be answered not long after. One weekend, he took me on a ski trip (most of our mutual friends thought he was going to propose). Instead of proposing, he told me that he wanted to start taking classes so he could eventually become baptized. Even better than a ring. πŸ™‚

And a few things just about me:
5. I may come across as an extrovert, but I am really a very introverted person.
Back when I was a little tyke in preschool, I was a chatterbox at home, but very quiet at preschool. So much so that the school thought I was mute for a while. As I got older, I started noticing that the more outgoing girls in dance class got all of the best solo parts. I started watching them and trying to force myself to be more outgoing. That became a habit that stuck with me for most of my life. I have come to realize since I met my husband that I am most happy when I allow myself to be comfortable with my introverted self. I need time to relax at home, and meeting new people makes me a bit uncomfortable at first. I often ramble nervously with people I do not know well or people I do not completely feel comfortable around. I have come to the realization that my nervous rambling has been interpreted as self-centeredness. In reality, my chattering is really just my way to deal with that awkward feeling that haunts most introverts. Maybe it is better to just be the quiet one. πŸ™‚ I think there are a lot of artistic people who are very introverted by nature. I know that having alone time (or time just with my husband and son) always recharges my creative energy. My husband and I are both introverts, but we have a very extroverted, social son…we make the effort to meet new people just for him. πŸ™‚

6. When I was growing up, my life goal was to be a writer.
I wanted to write a fiction novel so bad. I even went to a Young Writer’s Camp one summer. Unfortunately, fiction is not an area where I have ever been extraordinarily creatively gifted. I tried for years to come up with the “big idea” for the novel I wanted to write, sketching out plot lines, but none of them were ever any good. I finally gave up on the idea and started focusing on writing non-fiction. I had so much fun for many years writing for online fashion magazines, attending runway shows and writing trend reports. I eventually gave up on that though since the pay was awful. I knew that writing was still something that I really enjoyed and something that enriched my spirit. For me, blogging is the perfect solution. I get to share stories about our life, but do not have to worry about getting writer’s block and having a lack of creative ideas! With sharing our real-life stories, I get the fun of writing without the stress of trying to come up with the details of a fictional story.

7. I don’t mind if someone thinks I am an over-sharer.
I share a lot of personal details about some our struggles here on my blog. Some people are not comfortable with that. Personally, I look at my blog as a way to document our memories, and hopefully help a few others in the process. If it gives someone else the inspiration to get out and garden, or find a way to find peace with their own personal struggles, I feel like that is worth all of the over-sharing. I only share really personal events when I think it may help someone else in their own emotional and spiritual journey. There are plenty of things from my past that I have not shared (things that make the trials that I have shared seem easy in comparison), and they are things that I probably never will (although who knows, some day I may feel otherwise). Journeys I have faced and personal battles I have won. I don’t like to hash out all of the ugly details here because I like to think of myself as a survivor, not a victim.

Okay, so now on to the 15 blogs that I nominate! Be sure to check them out…they are some of my favorite blogs!

First up is the set of blogs that I have been scouring recently in planning our new tot school homeschooling curriculum, that I mentioned in this post. These are some seriously amazing mamas!
1. http://wildflowerramblings.com/
2. http://teachingmama.org/
3. http://www.andnextcomesl.com/
4. http://www.1plus1plus1equals1.com/

And some more of my favorites!
5. http://8kidsandabusiness.wordpress.com/
6. http://carrotsformichaelmas.com/
7. http://wellnessmama.com/
8. http://timewarpwife.com/
9. http://www.keeperofthehome.org/
10. http://biblicalhomemaking.blogspot.se/
11. http://leaciceraro.com/blog/
12. http://www.abowlfulloflemons.net/
13. http://catholicmom.com/
14. http://www.simplyjune.org/
15. http://www.heynataliejean.com/

 

Why I Blog + Keeping Poisonous Plants Out of Our Garden

Sometimes I wonder why I bother blogging at all. Some days it seems like many people view bloggers as just someone to contradict, like the internet is one big arena of the high school debate team. I know I personally do not blog to try to start arguments, debates, or be insulted about the way that we live our lives, and I cannot imagine any blogger who would write with that intention. Most bloggers do not get paid for running their blog, so it is not like they are getting a weekly paycheck for keeping up with a blog, or have a boss telling them what to write about, or editing their entries.

So, why did I start my blog? Way back here on my first post on Tumblr, I started the blog with the intention of teaching my husband more about portraiture. I figured if he was documenting my more creative outfits and outfits I had designed and sewn, with the intention of posting the photos on a blog, he would be more motivated to work on his skills than if he was just photographing me for photos that no one else would ever see. He had experience with photography, but I wanted to work on his skills with portraits so he could assist me as needed in the photography business we wanted to start. I very quickly got bored of only blogging about my outfits, and decided that since I had already gone to all of the trouble to build the blog, I might as well start posting more interesting content.

A couple of generations ago, things like gardening and creating new recipes were common activities. I noticed among my own friends that they were hobbies and interests that were not as common as I am sure they used to be. I wanted to share some of my own experience (especially with gardening), and help inspire others to get out and get creative in their gardens, and maybe try making some healthier meals at home. I started writing about things I was growing in our garden, and documenting some of the recipes I came up with.

I started gardening at the age of two, with the encouragement of my dad. It is something he enjoys as well, and so did his mother. While my dad was always encouraging and teaching me about gardening, his mother was not encouraging to me about my gardening skills. She would tell me horribly mean things, like I would never be able to grow strawberries as well as she does (strawberries are not the easiest food to grow). She would tell me that nothing I grew would ever be good enough to win any awards or receive any recognition. Some of those comments stuck with me for a long time.

Since gardening has been something I have been interested in for so long, I wanted to help demystify the process of gardening for those who read my blog. It really is not that difficult (no matter what my grandmother claimed). I wanted to help inspire others to get outside and grow something beautiful or useful (or both!). Even when I only had a little studio apartment with an old fire escape at the end of the hallway, I still worked on growing a container garden of edibles that became a community garden for my building. I want people to know that it is easy to grow your own food and flowers. That is why I blog.

I also blog as a way to document our lives, mostly for our own reference. It may sound a bit morbid, but after having a couple of close calls with my health where my doctors were having conversations with my husband about the fact that I may not make it to the following day, I wanted to make sure that I was documenting our family from my point of view. A few times, when I have been too ill to be up and about with my normal routine (either when I had a severe case of pneumonia, was on pregnancy bed rest, had meningitis, etc.), my husband actually referenced several of my blog posts to find some of my recipes or figure out how I normally handle certain things around here. I like having that peace of mind knowing that my simple act of blogging could be a great point of reference if needed. Also, it is so much fun for me to be able to document our little guy growing up, especially for family members who are not local!

In addition to all of that, I really enjoy sharing when I have found something that works well for us, like the amber teething necklace post or my rave review of the gDiapers system. Those were not sponsored posts, they were just honest reviews of things that I was excited about and wanted to share with others. Unfortunately, sharing what works for us has not always been met with favorable responses.

After I wrote my gDiapers post, I was suddenly flooded with angry hate mail from crazy crunchy moms who were upset that I referred to disposable diapers as “regular diapers”. I know that cloth diapers are the original thing that everyone used, but sorry…disposables have become the norm, whether any of us like that fact or not (hence my use of the term “regular”). Such a minor thing to gripe about in reality anyway. I posted my low-sugar lemonade recipe, and got more angry hate mail from people who were upset that it was not as sweet as store-bought lemonade. With the disclaimer that it is a low-sugar recipe, without artificial sweeteners, why would you expect a sickeningly sweet lemonade anyway? When I decided to share the artwork I designed for our son’s nursery (for free, as printable pdfs), I mistakenly made a typo in referencing one of the Bible verses. As soon as the first person brought it to my attention, I corrected the post and the artwork, and apologized profusely for the typo. I still got tons of angry emails and comments because I was not able to correct the typo in the pin that had since gone all over Pinterest. Sorry, but that is not my fault…I did not design Pinterest. As I told one angry reader, the last time I checked, there has only ever been one perfect person, and He has never yelled at me for a simple typo. You would think that people interested in free Bible artwork would have a little more patience. It’s not like they purchased the artwork and it was defective!

I may have some strong opinions about how we do things in our house, and I often share those on my blog. But here’s the thing…it’s my blog. Meaning my own personal corner of the internet. I am not writing for a boss, or writing to get a grade at school. If you do not like how we do things here or how I write, you can simply find something else to read. I have a zero tolerance policy for internet bullying and rude comments. Even less patience if those rude comments come from someone I actually know or worse yet have considered a friend. If you have a legitimate concern, that is understandable, but people who just want to complain for the sake of complaining are persona non grata in my world. Just because you stand up publicly and say “here’s what I’m doing and it works for us” doesn’t mean you are also saying, “here’s what I’m doing, rip me apart if you don’t agree”!

Also, I never claim to be a certified expert at anything I write about. I am not a certified Master Gardener (yet…I don’t have the time to complete that process now). I never claim to be the best gardener in the world, or have grown the world’s biggest squash, or anything of the sort. If anything, I always think I am not doing a good enough job with our garden, and if you follow me on Instagram or are friends with me on Facebook, you know that I almost did not even bring my squash to the fair that ended up winning first place and division winner. When I am proud of an accomplishment or award I receive, it is just news that I am excited to share…that’s it. Like most of us, I am always learning and challenging myself to learn more and try new things. My blog is just my way to document the process.

If you have been reading my blog for a while, has it inspired you to get out and try new things in your garden, experiment more in your kitchen, try a new DIY decorating project, give cloth diapers a try, or something else? If it has, please send me a photo! I would absolutely love to do a special post with reader photos that have been inspired by my past posts!

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Thank you for reading my rant, and now back to the regularly scheduled programming, so to speak. I always try to keep our garden free of any poisonous plants. I have realized recently that this is not always something that people take into consideration when planning a garden. If you have children, grandchildren, or pets, it is a good idea to keep in mind that some plants may be toxic or poisonous if ingested. Our son does a pretty good job now of knowing what he can pull off and snack on in the garden and what he cannot. He even can tell when a tomato, strawberry or kumquat is not ripe yet. I have worked with him extensively on this for months. However, one of my good friends had a scare a few months back with her daughter. She texted me a photo of a plant that her daughter had nibbled on, and was worried that it may be poisonous. Thankfully it was not poisonous, but it motivated me even more to make sure that nothing in our garden was toxic. Even though I grow specific plants for our pets to eat, some of them have a tendency to nibble on just about anything when they are in a certain mood.

When planning what I would plant in our garden, I selected mostly plants that have edible flowers, such as sages, rosemary, roses, nasturtiums, and lavender. I wanted to be sure that just in case something was accidentally ingested by our son, one of his friends, or one of our pets, it would not be a problem. I used to grow things like sweet pea flowers, just because I love the way the smell. Unfortunately, sweet pea flowers are highly toxic. I tried planting them in places that I thought our pets would not find. Our one cat became so infatuated with the smell that he seemed to find them no matter where I planted them. I have since stopped growing sweet peas.

When we purchased our house, it had lots of elephant’s ears plants everywhere (seen above). They are highly toxic, and unfortunately grow from little tiny pieces of the root system, making it difficult to completely get rid of them. Even the tiniest piece left underground seems to allow them to come back. I thought I had previously gotten rid of all of them when we first moved here, but they keep popping up when I least expect it. It means that I go out in the garden early each morning and do a quick check before our son and any of our furry kids wake up and come outside to play. Another thing that I keep trying to get rid of is the English ivy around our son’s garden, also poisonous if ingested. Ivy is nearly impossible to kill off, and it keeps coming back despite my best efforts. I have resigned myself to the fact that it may be a lifelong battle, but I at least try to keep it trimmed back enough so that it does not drape down into E’s garden. It is currently growing in the retaining wall planter above his garden.

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When I was purchasing plants for our back yard garden, I researched each plant online before purchasing. I have a variety of succulent arrangements in containers in the back yard. When I first researched the fire sticks shown below, all I read online was that they could be a mild skin irritant. That did not seem too serious so I did not worry about it much. However, in the series of gardening classes that I recently took at our local botanical garden, the instructors started talking about how dangerous fire sticks can be around children. They can be poisonous and deadly if ingested in large enough quantities, and can even cause temporary blindness. I was completely freaked out and it was a scary reminder that I need to always be sure to get my information from a reputable source online. I since replanted my fire sticks in their own containers, and relocated them up onto the high ledge above our son’s garden, where they are out of reach from him and all of our pets. Similarly, I also made sure all of my medicinal herbs are not accessible. Most of these are intended for internal use, but that does not mean I want anyone going in there and nibbling on things they should not be eating (more info on my herb garden coming next week).

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If you are researching plants for your own backyard, I highly recommend referencing the ASPCA list of toxic and poisonous plants. Many of the things in our garden that were planted by previous owners were on that list, and I have removed them, such as lantana, elephant’s ears, etc. If you ever have any concerns that your pet or child has eaten a plant, contact your veterinarian or pediatrician immediately.

Life Is Not Always Picture Perfect!

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Okay, I am just going to say it. It is physically impossible for anyone to be able to perfectly keep up with everything all the time. In today’s Pinterest/blog filled society, we start to get the impression that in order to be a good mother and wife, that we need to have a perfectly spotlessly clean and organized home at all times. Some bloggers give the impression that every corner of their house is always immaculate and picture ready. I generally try to keep things pretty neat and clean, but sometimes that is just not always possible. Especially with a new baby around, I have quickly learned that this is definitely not always possible. Some days, other things just have to take higher priority than a spotless kitchen and all of the laundry neatly folded and put away. I realized that this is nothing to be ashamed of, and nothing to beat myself up about.

Our house was clean on Saturday. We had visitors who could attest to that. I gave myself a deadline to have all of our baby’s newborn photos that I took edited and processed. I wanted to make sure I had them all processed and blogged by the time I planned to mail out his birth announcements and baptism invitations (I included a link to our photography blog on his birth announcements). Since the deadline I set for myself was the end of the day on Monday, I treated that deadline just as I would treat any deadline that I give myself when working on photos for a client. Things that are urgent and MUST be done take top priority: feeding and taking care of the baby and the pets, and making sure we have clean diapers and towels.

I wasn’t able to quite finish everything up by Monday night, but came pretty close. On Tuesday morning, we went into the pediatrician for his two month appointment. Just like after his one month appointment, he cried pretty much nonstop the entire day after getting his vaccinations. The only thing that soothes him when he gets that upset is putting him in the Moby wrap for some skin-to-skin time all day.

Comforting our baby definitely takes priority over putting away laundry and scrubbing dishes. He is still pretty fussy today, and has a huge welt and rash all over one of his legs where the vaccine was injected. I will get to the house soon enough, but for the moment, soothing our little boy is my top priority. Once he is feeling a little better, I will tackle this to-do list:

1. Put away all the clean laundry.
2. Put away the clean dishes.
3. Clean the dirty dishes that are piling up from the past few days.
4. Sterilize all the breastmilk pumping parts and bottles.
5. Fold the sheets that were stuffed into the linen closet haphazardly.
6. Straighten up the living room and bedrooms since I have been skipping my daily pickup routine.
7. Get back on track with my weekly cleaning routine: dusting, sweeping, mopping, etc.
8. Wash a load or two of laundry.
9. Polish the copper bottoms of my pots and pans.
10. Get some kind of new organization system going for the paperwork explosion in the office.

I am very happy that I was able to get the birth announcements and baptism invitations put in the mail. πŸ™‚ How bad do you let your house get when things get busy?