Hiring a Babysitter

October 21, 2014

My Girls
In the two years that S and H have been home, we’ve never left them with a babysitter — except with a friend from church who used to come occasionally on Friday afternoons last spring so I could go upstairs for two hours and get some paid work done. The girls already knew and liked her, though, so it was never a big deal.

During our first year home, I made sure no one else took care of the girls but B and me, but as we began to emerge from our attachment-focused cocoon, I started to leave the girls for an hour or two with close friends here and there, or with my mother-in-law when she was visiting. A stranger was out of the question, though, and I’d still be uncomfortable leaving them with someone I didn’t know.

Still, there will come a day when we’ll need to find and hire a babysitter for one reason or another, and I’ve often thought about the best way to go about it. The toughest part always seems to be locating potentially great people — and then there’s the screening process. Joanna Goddard at Cup of Jo posted eight questions she asks potential babysitters, and I think it’s a handy guide, whether you’re seeking someone to help for an occasional night out or hiring for a full-time nanny position. The best advice, of course, is always to follow your gut: Just like with dating or friendship, you and your kids should ultimately click with your sitter.

How have you handled babysitters in your family? Have you found great people you trust? Do your kids spend a lot of time with babysitters, or none at all? And what’s your favorite question to ask a potential sitter?

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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Friday Inspiration

October 17, 2014

Quote about Positive Thoughts

I had high hopes that motherhood would turn me into a morning person, but alas. Which means, many mornings I hit the ground running, already feeling behind. I don’t like starting the day feeling rushed and stressed so I try to pause, even for just a few moments, to pray and breathe and think about my attitude towards the day. Even when I’m running late, taking that little bit of time gives me greater calm as I rise to meet the tasks that await me.

It would be great to have 20 or 30 minutes in the morning to do this — and occasionally, I manage it – but many of us just don’t get that much time. I liked this quote for that reason; it’s a reminder that something as simple as one positive thought can brighten your entire day.

Do you take time in the morning for meditation, prayer, journaling, or some kind of intention-setting? Do you find it makes a difference in your day?

Happy weekend, friends! I’ll see you back here early next week.

Image: Huffington Post

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Helicopters
We’ve talked here before about “helicopter” parenting, and this week I spotted the first article that claims it’s actually not just an American phenomenon but prevalent  in many other western societies who have a robust middle class.

Pamela Druckerman, who wrote Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, calls it “hyper-parenting” and says in her New York Times piece that the best cure is not to eradicate it but to “reign in its excesses and keep it from getting worse,” proposing 11 tips for modern parents to try. I agree with most of them, though take issue with her advice to not be concerned about over-scheduling: With all the studies out there now about the importance of unstructured time for children’s creativity and well-being, I’m surprised at her take on that.

Mostly, though, I wish she had written more about why she thinks hyper-parenting is so common these days, beyond the fact that many of us marry and have children later in life, making us “richer and more grateful.” To me, the reasons seem complex. A big one in my book is that we have fewer children today in the West — and that changes parenting dramatically. You can’t hyper- or helicopter parent when you’ve got more than a few kids. (Just ask my mother.)

It also seems to me that, for all the books written and information out there, most of us are still pretty clueless about child development. Even though I had a graduate degree in counseling psychology, it wasn’t until I was preparing to adopt that I really came to understand a lot more about healthy child development, including what’s “appropriate” at various stages and what can interfere with or enhance a child’s development. I’m far from an expert, but I wince when I hear parents say that their toddlers need more “socialization,” for example, or any of a number of other tips from the “experts” that don’t take these issues into account.

I’m not really bashing modern parenting, though. I think there’s a lot to be said for the concerns and dedication of today’s parents: They care, and they take parenting very seriously. The answer may be to keep that focus on the well-being of our kids but work on parenting them in a way that fosters their development first, rather than operating from a place of fear. That requires some self-examination and courage, because we all have fears as parents and want the very best for our children.

Any thoughts about what causes hyper-parenting and how to put the brakes on it?

Image via etsy

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DIY: How to Make Lip Balm

October 15, 2014

by Kate Newton

Lip Balm Favors
When I hosted my last brunch for a group of my girlfriends, I decided to make grapefruit lip balms as a party favor. I first saw these lip balms on SouleMama last year. I decided to use her directions but tweaked them a bit, leaving out the lipstick and using less essential oil. I chose grapefruit essential oil (instead of peppermint) since I was throwing a citrus themed brunch, but a slew of different oils could work.

These were a cinch to make – except for the tins; those were hard to track down. But I now know there are many bath and body care online companies that deliver quickly: Mountain Rose Herbs is a great place to start for U.S. residents, and for Canucks like me, I recommend Voyageur Soap and Candle. They’re super helpful and carry a wide selection of products.

Just thinking about all the possible flavors and scents here make me tempted to do another batch. I still have all the ingredients; just need to order more of those darn tins!

Lip Balm Ingredients

So here’s what you’ll need and how to do it:

Supplies

  • Double boiler or saucepan and heatproof bowl
  • Large bowl
  • Spatula
  • ½ oz tins
  • Round stickers to fit tins

Ingredients

  • 8 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 3 Tbsp beeswax *
  • 1.5 Tbsp raw honey
  • 25-30 drops of desired essential oil

*I’m going to admit something embarrassing here: I made a little mistake with my first attempt at these: I thought I could switch up paraffin wax with beeswax. Don’t do this! You’ll waste a whole batch of lip balm when you realize that beeswax and paraffin wax are two totally different substances. Live and learn.

Directions

First, set up your tins (lids off) on some paper towel close to your stove for easy access.

Lip Balm Containers
Using a double boiler or a small saucepan and heatproof bowl, stir the oil, beeswax, and honey over low heat until completely melted. I found chopping the beeswax into smaller pieces helped it melt faster. This entire step will take about 5-10 minutes. (Side note: I bought a large heatproof bowl for a dollar at the local Salvation Army because I didn’t want to use my regular kitchen bowls. I figured I’d use it again for more making other body care products — which I already have — so it was a dollar well spent, I think.)

Making Lip Balm
While the ingredients are melting, fill another large bowl with cold water (I put in some ice to make sure it was really cold) and set it aside. Once all of your ingredients are melted, take your bowl off the stove and mix in the essential oil. Set this bowl into the large bowl of cold water and stir quickly but gently, until the mixture thickens up a bit (about 30 seconds). Working quickly but carefully – you don’t want to spill any of your precious mixture! – fill all of your empty tins.

Filling Lip Balm Containers
Fill them right to the top of the tin. I didn’t do this for all of them at first, and once the lip balm sets, you can’t correct it. They look much better if they’re filled to the brim.

Put the lip balms aside to set for at least an hour, then put on the lids. Top with your label stickers, and voila! You’ve made some yummy, natural lip balm.

Finished Lip Balm
This stuff feels great on the lips — and I think my brunch guests all agreed. They would be perfect for little holiday gifts or for a fall or winter party coming up!

Images: Kate Newton 

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Two Years!

October 13, 2014

Saint-Paul Girls
Yesterday marked two years home together as a family. We all remember that looong flight home, touching down in Washington, D.C., and walking through our front door to start a new chapter in our lives.

We decided last year that we’d celebrate the day we came home, since it marked the end of a long journey and the beginning of a new one — for all of us. We call it “Family Day,” or “Coming Home Day.” Every adoptive family makes their own decisions about whether and how to mark those early events: Some celebrate the day they met, for instance, or when they went to court in Ethiopia. But even though those were unforgettable days, and we talk about them a lot together, celebrating the day we got home felt right for us.

Daddy & Girls
And so we did: We spent lots of great family time yesterday, and we went out for Ethiopian food for dinner with B’s mom, my brother and sister-in-law, and our nephew.

Ethiopian Food
As for an update on how things are going, things are pretty much the same as they were at 18 months, except that everything has just deepened and solidified. S and H are flourishing — happy, healthy, and growing like weeds. B and I have a hard time imagining life without them; we continue to feel so blessed that we get to be their parents.

Special family time continues today, since my mother-in-law is in town for a couple more days and B took the day off. It’s also Canadian Thanksgiving Day so I’m baking a pumpkin pie and we’ll open some delicious ice wine from a Nova Scotia vineyard to celebrate the occasion. (I still maintain that October is the superior month to celebrate Thanksgiving, instead of November.) Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian readers!

Images: B and yours truly

 

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Friday Inspiration

October 10, 2014

If Only Our Eyes Saw Souls
When I spotted this quote recently on Facebook it gave me pause. I thought about beauty — what it is exactly, and who I find most beautiful. Like anyone else, I’m drawn to and distracted by physical beauty, and more preoccupied with my own looks than I’d like to be. But the most beautiful people I’ve met have always possessed something much deeper than physical attractiveness. Pretty is skin-deep, but beauty is much more.

I remember hosting a conference many years ago where a particular guest speaker captured my attention. She wore a simple blue dress and didn’t have on a stitch of makeup. What struck me most about her was that she seemed ageless: She could have been 19 or 59, it was hard to tell — perhaps because I couldn’t see her hair. When she spoke, her voice was gentle, but there was a confidence and boldness in how she spoke and moved. She had a particular intelligence, an air of grace, and the ability to be completely present to whomever she was speaking. She was loveliness personified — like she came from another place. And it turns out, she kind of did: She was a cloistered nun. To this day, when I think of beauty, I think of her.

It would be life-changing if we could see souls — though we can catch glimpses through another’s eyes and gestures and presence – but it would be equally great if we could focus as much on our own inner beauty as we do on our physical attractiveness. Now that the signs of aging are upon me, I think about this often; I know that I’ll be much happier at 50, 60, 70 years old the more I do.

What is beauty to you?

Image: Luna Belle 

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by Margaret Cabaniss

clothing_rack
Capsule wardrobe, conscious closet…whatever you call it, it seems like everyone’s doing it. Something about the changing seasons apparently makes everyone want to throw out all their clothes and start over with a smaller but more versatile, well-chosen wardrobe.

And I am definitely one of those people: I realized when I was (over)packing for a trip recently that the reason I brought way too much stuff was because I didn’t really love any of the clothes I had, so I could never be sure I’d want to wear anything I’d packed (or that it would go with anything else), and therefore I had to bring a ton of options — and on and on it goes. But for all those choices, I end up wearing the same five things anyway, so why not just clear out the clutter and stick to what I actually like? It would mean less waste — of money, time, and rarely worn or cheaply made clothes — less laundry, less clutter…it’s kind of hard to see the downside here.

Anyway, it’s a project I’ve been meaning to take on for a while, but as it’s suddenly popular on every blog I read these days, I’ve found lots of handy guides to help me think through the whole process — not just what to get rid of, but what (if anything) to replace it with when I’m done.

This post at Everygirl is a great way to start thinking through the closet-cleaning part. Going down the list of questions to ask yourself about every item — does it fit? Is it damaged, and will you repair it? — makes me realize that there are lots of pieces in my own wardrobe that wouldn’t pass the keeper test. (A pilled and stretched-out t-shirt I bought on sale five years ago? Why do I still even have this?) If you’re not quite ready to get rid of something for good, try boxing it up and putting it away for a few months. If you don’t pull it out before the end of the season, you didn’t need it or love it anyway.

jeans
(If this looks like your closet, you might have a problem, is all I’m saying.)

Once you’ve cleared out the mess, how do you keep it from growing back? That’s where the idea of a capsule wardrobe comes in: limiting yourself to 30 (or 40 or 50) pieces — pants, tops, dresses, everything — that you wear throughout a whole season, and nothing else. Frankly, I’m not sure I currently own 50 pieces to rotate through, but the important part is to pick a number that makes sense for you and then try to work within it.

Caroline at Un-Fancy has a free wardrobe planner to help you think about your own style, your daily activities, the colors you’re drawn to, etc. — at which point you can figure out what’s still missing from your basic wardrobe and how much money you have to fill the holes. But then, once you’re done shopping, you’re done. (Honestly, the “no more shopping” thing might actually be my favorite part of all.)

Looking for some more ideas? I like some of the wardrobe essentials laid out over at Say Yes and In Honor of Design — but your mileage may vary. And, of course, there’s always Pinterest… But before disappearing down that rabbit hole, I try to remind myself: The goal, as Caroline puts it, is to “be really happy with a lot less.” I can get behind that.

Have you done something like this before? I want to hear all your tips! Anyone interested in trying it out with me?

Images: Vintage pipe clothing rack via Pinterest. The fancy, open display means you have to keep it organized. Wall o’ jeans via Pinterest, too.

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Man’s Best Friend

October 8, 2014

Po
New research shows that dogs are even smarter than we thought. Probably not a big secret to all the dog lovers out there. My husband, who grew up with dogs, has always said his little friends could comprehend a lot and feel emotion.

I didn’t grow up with dogs myself, and I’ve never owned one as an adult, though I lived with a few here and there who belonged to housemates of mine. Which didn’t bother me, since I never wanted one anyway. But then I found myself house-sitting for a month for some good friends who had two dogs, a weimaraner and a dachshund. (The little one was the boss.) I assumed I’d just take care of their needs and that would be that. But one thing led to another: They insisted on sleeping on my bed; they got into lots of trouble that had me in stitches; I discovered their unique personalities; and, eventually, I bonded with them in spite of myself. When my friends returned, I really missed those two little canines! Proof that even a disinterested non–dog person can be wooed.

H and S routinely ask for a dog now (and two cats whom they’ve already named Snowball and Lila). Even though they’re still very fearful of dogs, they’ve decided they can handle a small, cute one like our friend Napoleon above. As long as we’re in our tiny row house, the answer is no — but between B and the girls, I sense there’s one is in our future at some point. And I’d be fine with that, so long as I don’t get stuck with all the care-taking.

Are you a dog person? What’s your favorite breed?

Oh, and for a heart-warming story, be sure to check out this article I wrote for TruthAtlas about a dog-rescuing postal worker in Maine. It’s a great story.

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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Deathbed Regrets

October 7, 2014

Ice Fishing Cabin
If you were lying on your deathbed right now, would you have any regrets? (Other than the fact that you’re dying, of course.) This article about the biggest regrets people have on their deathbeds was interesting, but not all that surprising: People wish they’d spent more time with loved ones, lived more authentically, not cared what others thought, followed their dreams. We all struggle with these things in one way or another, at one time or another — so how can we make sure we get to the end without regrets?

There’s no magic bullet, but I think one of the best things we can do is to think about death more. Our own deaths, to be specific. That may sound morbid, but if there’s one thing we can all be sure of, it’s that we’re going to die someday. Reflecting on that from time to time helps us cherish the present, be more grateful, and focus on what’s most important.

I actually think about death pretty often. I’m not sure why; I’m not a gloomy person. It’s probably a combination of my philosophical nature, my fears, and my faith, which draw me to ponder the heavier questions a lot – death being the biggie. When I look at how short even a long life is, and how I want to live the years I’m given, it puts things into perspective for me — and perspective is everything.

I’m hoping any deathbed thoughts are still a long way off, but it makes me think about whether I have any regrets so far in my life. I’ve lived a lot of years, and I’ve made mistakes; if I could go back in time knowing what I know now, there are some things I might do differently. Then again, I know I was doing my best at the time, so I can’t quite bring myself to call anything I did then a regret. After all, everything that’s happened (or didn’t happen) in my life has led me to where I am right now — and it’s hard to imagine being anywhere else.

Years ago, a professor had my class write our own obituaries. We were encouraged to think about what we wanted to be remembered for, what our legacy would be, what kind of person we wanted to have become by the end of our lives. It ended up being a very fruitful exercise: It cemented in my mind the idea that life often takes on greater meaning and purpose once you look at it from its endpoint.

Do you ever fear you’ll have regrets at the end of your life? Do you have any so far? And do you think about death a lot, or is that just weird and you want to forget we ever had this conversation?

Image found via Pinterest 

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Friday Inspiration

October 3, 2014

Gratitude quote
I remind myself of this whenever I’m having a bad day. Even Viktor Frankl, the Austrian psychiatrist who survived a concentration camp, found meaning and gratitude in the midst his horrific circumstances.

I also use a version of this quote when I feel afraid. When I’m really anxious about something, I tell myself, “At least you’re not on a plane flying to Ethiopia right now.” And then, when I do find myself on a plane flying to Ethiopia (or wherever),  I tell myself, “At least you’re not starving right now, or battling a terrible disease, or being run out of your home.” Or some version of that. Might sound dramatic, but it helps me to think of how much worse it could be. Even when tragedy does strike, there are still things to be thankful for.

Where do you find comfort when life gets difficult or stressful?

Happy weekend, friends! Don’t forget: If you’re in Philly this Sunday, come on by to MommyCon and say hello! I’ll see you back here on Monday (or maybe Tuesday, depending on how crazy I get at MommyCon…).

Image via Pinterest 

 

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