It’s Your Kid – Not a Gerbil

by Tiffany in Book Reviews

its your kid bookNowadays it is all to easy to fall into the trap of becoming overly busy and over scheduling our kids. We have things that are important for us perhaps… church, volunteering, learning music, math club, and the like. Then there are the things they want like dance, sports, play dates, and all that fun kid’s stuff that seems so important each day. Our days may begin to fee as though we are running on auto-pilot and going through the motions. We spend more time in the mini-van bouncing from event to event then we do at home.

The book It’s Your Kid – Not a Gerbil is all about creating a less stressed, happier life. It battles the very idea that busy hands are happy hands and gives us some insight into why we might want to slow down and schedule less. Much of that is prioritizing and choosing activities wisely and it is also about making sure the home environment is a place the entire family wants to be, so they won’t feel the need to find stimulation elsewhere.

One aspect of the book that I loved was that it addresses the idea that our kids become the center of the universe as far as we or they are concerned. All of the effort we put into making sure they have all these opportunities and experiences is actually more likely to result in a selfish child who takes and takes, rather than gives. Not only can the over scheduling phenomena be exhausting for all involved it can be harmful for their future. Sooner or later they WILL be slapped with the reality that they are not the center of the universe. By that time it may mean they can’t hold a job or be a good spouse.

Another issue is that all the activities kids are involved with can be a source of pride for the parents. Retraining for all family members may be in order. Being so invested in your kids means you have lost a part of yourself and are living through them, which is not good for anyone.

If you need to slow down and get off the wheel I recommend this book. It is all about creating a happier family life, happier kids, and a less stressed mom and dad.


Co-Sleeping Safely With Your Baby

by Tiffany in Birth & Baby

Cosleeping Safely With Your Baby

Awhile back moms across the blogosphere became outraged by a campaign from the City of Milwaukee Health Department designed to convince parents that co-sleeping is not safe. Not only is co-sleeping not safe, it is comparable to letting your baby sleep next to a sharp knife, or so they want parents to think. Of course they do not bother to mention that it is riskier to drive your baby around in an automobile than to bring them into bed with you but that wouldn’t be staying true to their actual mission. The intent behind these posters is not public awareness against some real and true threat, it is all about convincing people they need to buy cribs.


Even Dr. Sears agrees:

Who is behind this new national campaign to warn parents not to sleep with their babies? In addition to the USCPSC, the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) is co-sponsoring this campaign. The JPMA? An association of crib manufacturers. This is a huge conflict of interest. Actually, this campaign is exactly in the interest of the JPMA.

We have seen these same tactics within the car seat industry for YEARS. Few people actually know studies have proven that past 2 years of age car seats provide no better protection from death in an auto accident than regular old seat belts. But no one makes money when you use the manufacturer seat belt so they skew studies and harp on one stat among many, so that they can get laws passed that require car seats and pad industry pockets. This Milwaukee campaign is no different. They are using a city government to spread their message… “Co-sleeping kills, buy a crib.”

Don’t fall for it and don’t let them get away with it. We need to be vocal about all the ways to make co-sleeping safer and of course be honest that it is not attached, attentive parents who lose a baby to co-sleeping. Rather it is typically inattentive parents who are under the influence of alcohol or other substances and then in their stupor roll over on their infant. When I co-slept with all three of my babies I felt even the tiniest flutter and movement, even while I was seemingly asleep. That is our mommy instinct… the one ingrained in us since the dawn of civilization, when people always slept with their babies!

But just to make sure, here are some tips for making co-sleeping safe.

  • Use a firm mattress for the family bed, no lumpy featherbeds or waterbeds.
  • Sheets and blankets should be tight and fitted.
  • Layer clothing rather than blankets if it is cold.
  • Remove extra pillows, including decorative ones. No stuffed animals.
  • Ideally place an infant between mom and a guard rail, sleeping pad (my recommendation), or wall. Make sure there are no gaps if you use a wall.
  • A large body pillow is a low cost way to fill in a gap.
  • Place baby on his or her back to sleep.
  • Keep your bed low to the ground and place pillows just underneath so that if baby falls they have a soft place to land.

Another alternative is a bedside co-sleeper. Some parents choose to use these when their babies are really small and then when they reach infant and toddler sizes they move them into their own bed. Do what is best for your family and situation and don’t let fear mongers sway you away from the joys of co-sleeping with your little ones.

Where do you weigh in on this? Yay or nay for cosleeping?

Co-Sleeping Safely With Your Baby


A Minimalist Approach to Toy Clutter

by Tiffany in Children

A Minimalist Approach to Toys and Toy Clutter

How many times have you been frustrated with your child for allowing their toys to be strewn all over the household? How many times have you found your child’s toys in your way when you were in a hurry or trying to accomplish some household task? How many times this month have you had to argue with a child about the disaster area that is their bedroom?

Toy clutter is a big problem in the typical American household. We live in a society of excess and amassing huge quantities of toys is just part of the lifestyle. Gone are the days when you got one toy for Christmas (ie that shiny red bicycle). Now kids can pick up a dozen or more new toys and gadgets during the holidays and the toy consumption really goes on all year long. I know well how easy it is to fall into the habit of excessive toy buying. I was raised with lots and lots of toys and so when I had my first child I thought that was what you did…shower your child with toys. My oldest child’s bedroom would get so messy that he would not be able to handle it himself. It required a parent (or two) to “gut it” frequently and make it livable again.

All of the this changed though with my second and third children. We decided to downsize our entire life so that my husband could get a different job, one that would mean we actually would see him on a daily basis. This came with a huge cut in pay but I was ready and willing to meet that challenge because I wanted our family to live more intentionally. I also wanted to stop the cycle of excessive spending and rampant consumerism. We moved from a 6000 square foot house to one that was 1000 square feet. We started living with a mind to minimalism and one of the first areas we tackled was toys.

Nowadays we have very few toys in the household and with the exception of Legos, none of them are new. If we buy toys we buy them used at thrift stores and yard sales. We also purge frequently (donating them) and allowing only so many toys. This means I almost never have to tell my kids to pick up their toys because they just don’t have that many. There were some pains adapting to this in the beginning, especially for the child who grew up with an excess of toys but my youngest two don’t know any other way.

Here are some simple ways you can go minimalist and get rid of the of toy clutter…

Stop buying toys!

This is the easiest and most sensible first step. I am sure your pocketbook will be eternally grateful too. Kids don’t need all those toys and in fact I suggest reading the book Simplicity Parenting. It was written by a therapist who recognized that many modern day kids have post traumatic stress disorders due to their their hectic schedules and overabundance of “stuff”. One statistic that was horrifying to read is that the average American child has around 150 toys. That is ridiculous!

In my home we buy new “things” for the kids for holidays and birthdays only. Now this is not to say that we can’t surprise them with something special just because but in general they only get toys or new possessions (except clothing) during special occasions. When we go to a store my kids know they will not be stopping in the toy isle and they will not be leaving with anything. I think it provides them with an understanding that we can go into stores and buy the things we need only.

Create a commercial free zone

One of the ways in which our children are influenced into consumerism and senseless buying and spending is via television commercials. You can avoid this by changing the way they watch TV or even going TV Free. We have opted to not allow our kids to watch regular TV and mainstream cartoon channels. Though we don’t tell them they can’t, we just set it up so they only have the options we endorse. We stream and/or rent content via Netflix, Redbox, or Amazon Prime. They get to watch shows they like without commercials so they are often unaware of the latest, greatest toys. We also have basic cable but almost never watch it directly. We DVR anything we want to watch from there and use the fast forward button!

Purge the toys often

Make five piles and label them as follows:

1. Toss: for toys which have been damaged, broken, missing or worn out
2. Keep: for toys still in use and well loved
3. Sell: for toys that were expensive and for which you feel that you will still be able to get something back from them by selling them.
4. Giveaway: this pile is meant for those toys which are still good but have lived their life and are no longer interesting for your children.
5. Save: for any toys you feel you should save for subsequent children.

Set aside one room as a toy-free zone

This room should be the first room you see when you come home or the room you spend the most time in to relax and unwind. You should help your children understand that this room is only for relaxation and not a room for toy clutter. If they bring a toy into this room then it also needs to leave at the end of that day or when they leave the room to spend time somewhere else.

I used to have a toy box in our main room (or family room) so that my kids would have easy access to some of their favorite toys and so they could be put away quicker and with less of a battle. Awhile back though I decided I just didn’t want to see any toys in the common areas of our home period and I got rid of it. Toys are not permitted anymore…they have to be kept upstairs in the child’s bedroom or actually in their hand being played with if they are in the common areas like the family room or kitchen. This is non negotiable.

Limit the selection

When you go about limiting the selection of the toys and rotating them in and out of the play environment on a scheduled basis it reduces stress for the whole family. Moreover, it also keeps the children from becoming overwhelmed by all their options. Old toys become new again. You simply need to have a method to store the toys (out of sight) so that you can rotate them every couple of months without children getting into them.

Donate toys

Its best to involve your children in the process of donating old toys. When you involve your children in the art of donating toys it will be able to teach them empathy especially when you remind them that there are many children who don’t have very many toys, if any. Donating will teach your children the joy of sharing, kindness and generosity. At the same time you will also be able to get rid of toy clutter.

We can conclude by saying that what children really want is us. They also want and need fun experiences. This is why it is necessary to spend some quality time together as a family and not buy a bunch of toys so that they can spend their time entertaining themselves. Enjoy them. One of the most remarkable gifts which you can give your children is the gift of your presence. When you go about looking for something to give them, keep this in mind.

Recommended Reading: Clutterfree with Kids: Change your thinking. Discover new habits. Free your home (Only $2.99 for the Kindle version!)


Great Gardens Begin in Winter

by Tiffany in Gardening

Great Gardens Begin in WInter

One of the biggest obstacles for newbie home gardeners and homesteaders is that they get gung ho about their gardening goals a little bit too late in the year. When the weather warms they see Pinterest and blogs explode with gardening adventures. Nurseries and home improvement stores are overrun and you probably see your neighbors starting on their projects and digging in the dirt. What you don’t see though is that these same people start planning their adventures long before the weather turned warm. Great gardens are actually rooted in the winter months. That is when they are dreamed up and planned for. So if you want to grow your own food and have a great spring/summer garden don’t be left behind again, start NOW!

Here are some ideas and tips to get you started…

Write It Down

Take out a pencil and paper and get to writing. Start with a list of the things you want to grow and then research how those plants grow together. Some will be complimentary and others will not be. Draw out what it is you want to create. Use real time measurements so you will know if you have enough space. Outline a plan so that you won’t be left scratching your head in spring and wondering where to start.

Mark Your Garden Deadlines on a Calendar

Use a calendar to keep up with your garden planning. Write down what you need to start indoors and when so that you can meet any planting deadlines. Different plants grow at different paces and if you want a steady supply of certain edibles you will need to stagger your planting as well. Also make a note of when you need to move seedlings outdoors, taking into account any frost dates and when you need to start garden/yard clean up so you can have everything ready. I use the The Old Farmer’s Almanac Gardening Calendar.

Have Soil Tested

It is always a good idea to know the quality of your soil and to know if you need to amend it so that growing will be more productive. If your soil is lacking you will likely have problems growing and it might even frustrate you enough to make you give up when all you needed to do was be informed and proactive. Investing in your soil is arguably one of the most important things you can do (especially if you are growing edibles) and it starts with testing. Do a search for soil testing in your state and find out where you need to send a sample and what the associated costs are.

Order Seeds and Supplies

Don’t get caught in the trap of having to buy seeds at a local home improvement store or buy seedlings because you were late to the game and didn’t start your plants indoors. In my post about modern gardening practices actually harming bees, I highlighted a study conducted by the Friends of the Earth-US and Pesticide Research Institute. It found that 54% of common garden plants purchased at top retailers like Lowes and Home Depot contained neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been shown to harm or kill bees and other pollinators, with no warning to consumers. Don’t buy from these places!! Instead try heirloom seeds from places like Seed Saver Exchange, which is a non-profit, member supported organization that saves and shares the heirloom seeds of our garden heritage, forming a living legacy that can be passed down through generations.

Other supplies include everything you need to start your seeds indoors. Don’t forget though that you can use recycled materials from home like eggshells and toilet paper rolls to grow seedlings and spend very little. Check out the post below for more information…

Green seedlings growing out of soil in egg shells

Visit Home and Garden Shows and Botanical Gardens

Why do these gardening shows often take place in winter? Because that is when master gardeners plan their gardens! Visit a local show, get inspiration, and talk to the gardeners and designers. Botanical gardens also highlight local plants that you can grow and they have people you can talk to about what will work best in your area. The best way to educate yourself about what you can grown in your own backyard is to talk to the people in your area who have been doing it for years.


Naturalmat Latex Crib Mattress Giveaway

by Tiffany in Birth & Baby

mattress giveaway

One of the top motivators (in my experience) for women who want to go green and live a little more naturally is the fact that they have become mothers. Many of us come to view the world with a completely different lens when we become responsible for the health and well being of children. Suddenly the products we have always used become suspect and the way we have always done things has become not quite safe enough. It is one thing to use a bottle of lotion with a thousand ingredients on your own body but on your baby??? Heck no!

By now many of us know or at least have some clue that conventional mattresses are full of toxic stuff that we really shouldn’t be exposing ourselves to for 8+ hours each night. It just goes to follow that more moms are looking for safer and more natural mattress solutions for their babies and toddlers that won’t involve breathing in a chemical soup each night. We want to get our wee babes off to the best and most healthy start possible.

Just as there are for adults, there many options out here but the one I am highlighting today is a latex crib mattress from Naturalmat. Latex is the option I typically go for in my home. If you are not familiar with it, natural rubber (a completely renewable resource) is harvested by tapping the milk (sap) of Hevea brasiliensis. The sap is whipped up and turned into latex foam and is a sustainable resource because sap can be collected from the trees up to 180 days per year and the tree heals within an hour. Natural latex is anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, dust-mite proof, and very comfortable to sleep on. Usually you will also find organic wool wrapped around the latex core. Wool serves as a fire retardant and regulates moisture.

This particular mattress is the company’s most allergy safe mattress offering medium support. It has a quilted cover and mattress protector included! It is suitable for newborns and great for older babies offering medium support allowing excellent breathability with great hypoallergenic benefits.


Naturalmat Latex Crib Mattress Features:

  • Organic lambswool
  • Organic coir
  • Natural latex
  • Pure cotton cover
  • Breathable & Organic
  • Does not absorb heat or moisture
  • Naturally breathable and self ventilating materials
  • Helps babies regulate their temperature and sleep through the night
  • Organic lambswool is an excellent insulator, keeping children warm in cold conditions and cool in warm conditions
  • Eco friendly packaging made from potato starch and a mixture of recyclable and renewable paper sources
  • Anti-Allergy & Anti-Bed Bug
  • Naturally hypoallergenic and anti microbial and offers complete protection from bacteria and dust-mites
  • A treatment of lemon, eucalyptus and lavender makes our lambswool anti-dust mite, anti-moth, anti-mosquito
  • Naturalmat’s organic coir (from the outer husk of the coconut) is sourced from the only certified organic coconut plantation in the world
  • Naturalmat’s organic lambswool comes direct from certified organic British West Country farms
  • Outer covers are removable and can be machine washed at 140°F

Recommended Retail: $499 (Size: 28” x 52”)

About The Natural Mat Company:

The Natural Mat Company was founded in 2000 in Topsham in Devon, by Mark Tremlett and Peter Tindall, who as keen sailors both became frustrated with the poor quality of synthetic mattresses found on boats. Mark and Peter decided to look for an alternative and found natural fibers to be a more superior substitute for boating. With their knowledge and expertise they quickly developed a business making mattresses for yachts and motor boats. With the arrival of Mark’s first child, they quickly identified a need for a natural offering for babies. With a mission to develop the perfect natural sleeping environment for babies and children, Mark and Peter set to work to create a range of pure natural fiber mattresses. After nine months, they were proud to launch the first range of natural baby mattresses.