Tag Archives: Change

What’s In My Hospital Bag for Baby #3

It’s nice to have some extra clothes and home comforts in the hospital with you when it’s time to deliver your baby. And of course there are the things you need, which is actually a lot less than you might think (especially for a baby born during warm weather).

I’m speaking from the vantage point of delivering a baby in a hospital as opposed to anywhere else because a hospital is where I birthed my previous two babies and plan to birth my third. I really have no idea what other situations might be like or the accessories they might entail. Judging from experience, I like how easy my hospital makes it for me.

First, a list of what is in my bag.

The Essentials

  • A postpartum outfit. For me, this summer, this means maternity waisted (as in not full-panel elastics) shorts and maternity waisted jeans (I highly doubt I’ll wear the jeans, but who knows, maybe there will be a cool night); a loose v-neck t-shirt; and one nursing bra. I will have the shoes I wear to the hospital – either sandals or flip-flops. A nice summer dress would also do nicely, but I’m wearing them constantly pre-delivery and I don’t want to take even one out of rotation to make sure it’s clean and packed and ready to go.
  • 2 outfits for the baby. Outfit 1: A Newborn Size short-sleeve onesie; tiny shorts; a thin cotton hat; and Outfit 2: a Size 0-3 Months short-sleeve shorts romper; with previously mentioned thin cotton hat.
  • Baby mittens. So the silly baby doesn’t scratch himself up with his newly exposed fingernails.
  • 2 thin baby blankets. Many people take the blanket from the hospital, but they really don’t want you to. I use hospital blankets whenever possible, however, so if they get messy they will be laundered right away. I wrap my newborn in one blanket for a while and then send it home with visiting family so they can introduce the scent of the new family member to our cats. The other thin baby blanket should be more than enough to keep the baby warm if his outfits aren’t enough.
  • Extra contact case and solution. I am in the habit of removing and cleaning my contacts every night and I suspect my eyes would hate it if I kept them in for 2-3 days straight in the hospital. I just don’t like sleeping with contacts in either. I want to be able to put them back in during the day, though, because my glasses aren’t comfortable enough to wear all day.
  • Eyeglasses and case. Okay, these aren’t technically in my bag yet because I still wear them every night. But I have a Post-it Note next to my bag reminding me to grab them out of my nightstand before leaving for the hospital. As it gets closer to my due date, I will just store them in my hospital bag, taking them out for whenever I need to use them at night.
  • My purse. This includes my wallet with all necessary ID, insurance cards, and money, and my cell phone.

The Comforts

  • Nursing pads. At home I use washable organic cotton nursing pads. A cousin had given me a box of disposable ones that I kept forgetting to use at home when Pigpen was nursing. I’m packing them mostly so they’ll get used, and somewhat because I think they might be convenient to have.
  • Cell phone charger.
  • Camera and charger.

Now a list of things I am not bringing.

  • Diapers/feminine pads/disposable underwear. The hospital provides all we need and more to take home with us.
  • Toiletries. The hospital provides it all. And I’ve actually never showered in the 2 days spent at the hospital after giving birth. I’m too busy sleeping, nursing, interacting with doctors and nurses, and generally recovering. I’ve already established that I don’t need to shower very often to feel good. You may want to shower, but the hospital should provide all you need to do so.
  • Slippers or socks. My hospital provides comfy, fuzzy, grip-y socks with my gown as soon as I get a room.
  • Baby socks. Summer here is quite warm and, again, the baby blanket can pick up any slack.
  • Book or magazine and journal. I’ve brought these before and never used them. During the day, I’m busy. At night, I try to sleep. For entertainment, I talk with my husband or we watch the luxury of cable tv, which we don’t have at home.
  • Snacks. The hospital provides me with all the food I need. Andrew isn’t included in the meal plan, but that’s up to him. I’ve got enough to worry about. If I get hungry, I send Andrew out to bring me extra food.
  • iPod.

All that I am bringing fits in a medium-sized backpack with room to spare. I am a minimalist so I am not bringing much. But I will definitely have everything I need. I’ve learned I don’t need other “comforting” items, because as long as my husband is there and my baby is healthy, I’m good.

2-3 days is not a long time and there is actually a lot to do. Mind you, I believe that rest is a very important thing to do in the hospital. (Especially before we bring our tiny new infant home to two toddlers.) I don’t need my hospital room to emulate a luxurious hotel room or spa experience to accomplish the simple act of resting. We are there to get our baby safely from my belly into the world and to ensure he’s healthy enough to go home. Then we get comfortable, in our family home, together.

Changing the Way I Track My Spending

I first started really keeping track of my daily spending in December 2015. Since then, I’ve tried a few different ways to track, and honestly I’m still not sure if I found the way that’s right for me. But I am learning all along the way, so that’s something. And I’ve decided to share some of my experiences here so maybe you can avoid some of the things that didn’t work for me.

First, I created a budget listing expenses by category. Then, throughout the month, I would list every purchase amount made and also color-code them by category. I would input those amounts into a formula to be balanced within the budget. It looked something like this:

Note: all amounts are made-up.

It was very colorful and the color-codes allowed me to see where my money went, but it was also very labor-intensive and didn’t really help me at all when I was at the check-out counter. I would spend first, think later. So it was a lot of work and didn’t help me stick to my budget. I needed to try something else.

Next, I tried to simplify things a bit. Instead of keeping a running list of every purchase I made, I just added the amount spent into the “spent” section of a slightly different budget set-up I created.

The design was a lot simpler and thus easier to use. I did need to make sure I was keeping track of purchases as they happened because they weren’t detailed in the spreadsheet so it was harder to figure out what amount corresponded to what purchase receipt. It helped a little bit more with deterring spending — I’m not sure why. Maybe because I had to keep track more often? Maybe because after a year I was just naturally being a bit more mindful? Still, keeping track of what purchase was affecting which category was hard to do at the check-out counter.

In the past few weeks, I’ve decided to try yet another strategy. This one incorporates the budget spreadsheet with the calendar in my bullet journal. I use yet another reincarnation of my budget to determine a weekly spending amount (ideally in cash), then write that amount on the Sunday block of a new week. Then, throughout the week, I subtract the dollar amount I spend each day, hopefully not straying past $0 by the end of the week. If I do stray past $0 during the week, I subtract that deficit from the next week on Sunday.

The new budget:

And the calendar… it’s quite messy, but it looks like this:

Maybe you can tell that I am already really far beyond this month. I did buy a new computer, though. My hope, however, is that I will be able to amass many more highlighter-green days, a.k.a. no-spend days, to make up the deficit by the end of the month. Seeing that negative number everyday is a motivator, but I’ve still yet to find out if it is motivating enough. The highlighter-green days are inspiring — they are my goal.

So if you are looking for ways to track your spending, maybe some of this will help. I’m sure there are tons of options to look at online. And don’t be afraid to play around with different strategies to find out what works best for you. And remember, what worked best for you last year, might not be the best anymore — don’t be afraid to change it up and keep it fresh. As long as you’re trying to keep track of spending (i.e. keeping what’s going out less than what’s coming in), I believe you are on the right path to some financial comfort.

The Fear of Downsizing… My Computer

What if it’s not enough? What if I can’t do what I need to do? What if I can’t do what I want to do? Is it even worth the investment? Should I wait for something bigger or better to present itself? What if it’s not what I expect? What if it’s not enough?

I am in need of a new computer and I have made the choice to downsize. And I’m a little scared.

I have owned 2 personal computers in my life. My first experience with a computer was a Gateway desktop, with dial-up internet. Man, I loved playing in that cow-colored box. Next, when I was in high school, my parents bought me my own black Dell desktop that I kept in my room. We got better internet in that era and it was awesome. And finally in January 2006, after a semester of excellent attendance and grades in college, my parents bought me a sleek white MacBook.

I love this MacBook. It has served me very well in the past 11 years and 5 months. And it’s still going! I debate getting rid of it at all, but, truth be told, it’s just getting too outdated. Can I use it for what I need to do? Yes, most of the time.

Here’s the deal.

  • I don’t have much storage space. I store all of my music on an external hard drive because there is no room on my actual computer. Same for photos. So then I just started storing all documents on the external hard drive, too. All of the storage space on this computer is basically used in a way so the computer itself will function — it’s not storing any of my personal files anymore.
  • The battery is pretty much dead. I need to keep this computer plugged in all the time when I am using it. It will stay on for a few minutes between outlets if I need to move it, but that’s it. This has essentially made my laptop into a desktop for the last 5 years. I just never got around to replacing the battery and now it seems too late.
  • I always need to keep this laptop open. I mean, physically keep the screen up. There is some sort of loose wire in the hinge and whenever I close the laptop, it is very, very, difficult to open it again and still see the screen. I can see an extremely faint outline of items on the screen, but it is essentially black. It can take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes to finagle the screen back up with a back-lit picture showing. So I just leave it open all the time to avoid that hassle. But that creates other hassles, like dust collecting in the keyboard and cats stepping on it and opening unexpected windows and menus.
  • It just can’t handle another update. I needed to update my operating system about 2 years ago to be able to connect to our wireless printer. This took up even more storage space and was not compatible with a lot of my software, such as Microsoft Office. I’ve been able to get along just fine without the software, thanks to things like Google Docs and online photo editors. But even though I just updated the operating system, this system is not supported for many other updates, including, most importantly for me, Google Chrome. Sadly, the hardware of this system just can’t support another operating system update and it doesn’t seem worth the money to essentially rebuild it with components that will.

I would love to replace this MacBook with the current equivalent, but now that the money is coming out of my pocket, I think, that starting at around $1,200, it’s too expensive. We have student loan debt and a mortgage and home repair debt. We could take some of our income and put it towards a new MacBook, but it just doesn’t make sense to me if it’s going to slow down our debt repayments. Even if we had no debt… well, maybe I would buy a MacBook then… but really I would want to do even more home improvements — like finish our attic and basement to better utilize the space we already have.

So I decided not to buy another MacBook. Thus began my quest to find a suitable replacement. One that didn’t run Windows (I really dislike the Windows operating system). Eventually, for $214, I decided on getting a Chromebook… And that’s where the major downsizing came in.

I am losing some functionality, but I think I can make it work. (I hope it works!) It satisfies 3 out of the 4 problems listed above with my current MacBook — it’ll have a new battery with a long life, it will be mobile, and it will technologically up-to-date. The thing is, it still doesn’t have much storage space.

Chromebooks are designed to have most, if not all, digital matter stored in the Cloud. I’m a little weary of storing everything on the internet, but I do still have my external hard drive to store back-ups and super personal files. My husband has a Toshiba laptop running Windows to which I will transfer my iTunes account, since one cannot run iTunes on an Chromebook at all. I fear that not having my very own iTunes will be the thing I miss the most — after all, I’ve already been dealing with no storage space and loss of software for a few years now — but it will definitely be manageable.

There’s probably a lot more that even my current obsolete MacBook can do that a Chromebook cannot, but when I really thought about it, I decided I didn’t really need it. I asked myself “What do I use my computer for on a day-today basis?” and “What do I want to use it for in the future?”

Right now, I basically use my computer for the internet — things like online banking, email, domestic shopping, connecting to the library, searching for information, reading blogs, etc. — and a Chromebook should be ace at allowing me to do all that.

In the future, I want to do more writing. It certainly does not take a powerful computer to do word processing, so a Chromebook should manage fine. I will have to give up Scrivener, but as much as I like Scrivener, I am looking forward to the simplicity of writing without all the bells and whistles. Like, a typewriter has been seeming very appealing to me lately — no distractions. A Chromebook will be full of internet distractions, but I can also just physically disconnect from that for a while.

There are lots of other things that I’ve used a computer for in the past, like editing videos and photos, but I’ve grown away from them and have no desire to go back to it. I have a family now and want to spend more time with them and less time in front of a screen. And since I’ll be sharing iTunes with my husband, maybe that’ll bring us closer, too, ha. I’m diving in — the Chromebook should arrive in the mail sometime next week — and I’ll just see how it goes.

Hopefully it’s enough.

Making Religious Holidays My Own

Over the holiday weekend, my family and I went camping. Being Easter, it was a holiday for only some. I grew up celebrating Easter. Andrew grew up celebrating Easter. But neither of us would call ourselves religious now and don’t believe in Jesus as the one and only messiah. So why continue to celebrate it? Partly because our families still do, but we’ve come to see it a little differently.

For Easter, Andrew and I have decided to celebrate the arrival of spring, specifically with the first camping trip of the year. We share meals and traditional foods (pufek [spelling??? which is a German bread], liverwurst, and strammer max for me) with family. We don’t dress up or go to church. We spend time together outside, enjoying the freshness of spring, and send the children out on a little egg hunt just because it’s a fun game to play outside. And of course we eat chocolate. Easter, for us, is not about Jesus, but about family and nature and getting out to enjoy the warmer weather.

It’s similar with Christmas. I don’t celebrate the coming of our lord and savior or whatever. But I do like a lot about the holiday, such as the sharing, coziness, warmth, and love. So when I celebrate Christmas, I celebrate the coming of cuddly winter with the closeness and coziness of my family and friends. Since it’s also so close to the end of the year, I reflect back on that year and celebrate it for what it was. Then I celebrate the coming of the New Year with new beginnings.

It didn’t take a lot to get here — just a little shift in thinking. It helps that Andrew and I are on the same page with these religious holidays, too. Celebrating in this way, I am able to comfortably share traditions with my family and friends without feeling like I’m sacrificing my own beliefs or pretending to follow others. I’ve come to enjoy these times again instead of constantly questioning the history and purpose, as I did a few years ago. I am now at a good place with them and feel content.

Perhaps a shift in thinking is all it would take for you to have a more enjoyable holiday?

9 Easy Ways to Watch Less TV

I don’t like everything about tv (as you can see here), but I think watching some is okay. In addition to making sure we watch “good” tv, we would probably benefit from watching a little less of it, too. So here are a few changes we can make to our lives or homes to make tv-watching a mindful event instead of a mindless habit.

  • No televisions in the bedrooms – here are 18 good reasons why.
  • No televisions in the kitchen – cooking shows are impossibly fast to follow along with IRL anyway. Plan the meal first, cook following written reminders if needed, and eat together if possible. Even if we need to eat alone, we can be more aware of tastes, flavors, and textures, thus enjoying the meal better than if we were distracted by a screen.
  • Better still, have only 1 television in the house – even if you have room for more televisions in your home, consider keeping only 1, and don’t make it the focal point of the room. Living rooms and family rooms are for living and family. Design a room around social interaction and it’s more likely that memorable social interaction will happen. And then, even when we’re watching tv, we will be doing it together, cooperating about what to watch, and sharing the experience.
  • Turn the television off when you’re done – just makes sense, doesn’t it?
  • No televisions in the car – long drives are great opportunities for conversations, listening to music, enjoying silence, or letting the mind (and imagination) wander. Traveling is an experience — enjoy the unique surroundings.
  • Go to restaurants that don’t have televisions hanging everywhere – I really don’t like televisions in restaurants. Nobody’s really watching them (there’s too much noise), but their flashiness can be huge distractions, even to someone who is trying to ignore them. Restaurants without televisions are getting harder and harder to find where I live (especially without paying $20+ per plate) and I think it’s a shame.
  • Don’t stream videos to distract children – children need to learn how to occupy themselves, be patient, be pleasant around others, and be present. The only way they will learn to do all that is by practicing. We need to let them have lots of opportunities to practice.
  • Limit the amount of time spent watching – the other options are more decide-and-be-done, whereas this one takes some self-discipline. If you have the willpower, create guidelines for yourself, such as: only 2 movies per week, only 2 hours tv per day, only 3 episodes per day, or whatever.
  • Cancel your cable or streaming subscription – You don’t have to cancel all of them of course, but if you have less to watch, you will watch less. Getting rid of cable also gets rid of commercials (win!). And having less subscriptions means you’ll save money.

Just imagine all of the other things we will be able to do now that we aren’t spending so much time watching tv.

Sweet Talk: Where I Am Now?

There’s a bit of a [huge, glaring] discrepancy between my post this past Wednesday and the post of my September-October sugar journal. As in, Wednesday I admitted I was still struggling with sugar, but I claimed to have given it up for good at the end of October.

I honestly don’t even remember making that decision. That obviously wasn’t very mindful of me. Now I’m thinking that it wasn’t a conscious decision at all, but one born out of my frustration at the difficulty of introducing moderate sugar back into my life. It was kind of like, this is hard! I give up! Instead of re-evaluating where I should make some changes to make things work better for me.

I doubt it was the next day that I started eating sugar with abandon, but once I stopped tracking what I ate, I just didn’t pay as much attention. I paid attention, just not as much. Not enough.

It was a gradual slide from the end of October to now. I still don’t feel addicted anymore, which is very good. But I’ve given in to cravings and I’ve had bad days where I felt like crap because I didn’t realize how much sugar I was consuming throughout the day.

I must be honest with myself and admit that I am not an all-or-nothing type of person when it comes to food. Cigarettes? Definitely. I’ve never had one and never will because they are proven bad, bad, bad. Alcohol? I have some. It can be harmful, but it has some benefits, too. So I drink in moderation. But I’ve never struggled with either of them like I struggle with sugar.

I like my original Rules and am going to follow them again. I won’t track everything I eat, because as long as I’m avoiding sugar that’s NOT

  1. part of a whole food or
  2. honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, or
  3. the occasional exception
    1. ice cream, when there is walking involved
    2. homemade desserts (i.e. dinner parties)
    3. restaurant desserts (rare)
    4. anything I want on my birthday

I will be fine. Those 3 sweetness circumstances are hard to come by in my suburban New Jersey area, believe it or not, unless I’m cooking at home. It allows sweetness in my life (fruit, honey, syrups, birthday treat) without the likelihood of extreme excess (half a box of cookies, cake icing, jars of candy, etc).

It’s an ongoing experiment. I will not allow perfection to be the enemy of the good here. I will be mindful, while still enjoying small pleasures. I will try to be better. I will do my best.

Sweet Talk: My 6 Week Sugar Journal (9/16-10/16)

[This is a companion post to Sweet Talk: My Battle With Sugar]

The Rules

  1. Eat whole foods.
  2. Accepted sweeteners are:
    1. honey
    2. maple syrup
    3. brown rice syrup
  3. On my birthday, I can have whatever kind of ice cream I want.

Reminder — Sugar per day = 6-9 teaspoons or 25-37 grams

[Food list has been omitted for brevity.]

DAY 1

Went quite well. Good start. Actually quite shocked about the amount of sugar in the Taco Bell stuff.

DAY 2

A little nervous today because I have work and there are treats here. I have gum for intervention. And, whoa, that bread! Gotta stay away from certain brands.

Whoo-hoo! I did really well today! If I had a different brand of brand it would have been even better. Selfie-high-five! I did have 2 pieces of [sugar-free] gum at work though. I remember gum tasting better when I was younger. Now it seems… sensational. Like, sensational in the bad way like U.S. cable news stories are. I guess gum is not good because it is formulated. It is not good because it is not a whole food.

DAY 3

The sugar level of that jam is so crazy! I was soooo close to the limit, too. I’m learning, though. And I’m still proud of myself for today because I didn’t have any dessert at the German buffet. None! I resisted all the cakes and puddings — even the fruit. Good thing, too. I mean, damn, jam!

DAY 4

I can’t believe it’s only been 3 days. If I wasn’t keeping track, I’d have thought I had been “good” long enough and deserved a treat. Then I would have kept treating and treating, being addicted again. But I’ve really [barely] just begun.

I helped my mum make peanut butter bonbons today. Specifically, I did the chocolate melting and dipping part. And I didn’t eat or lick any of it at all!

I resisted salt water taffy, cookies, and grapes at work today!

DAY 6

Whoo-hoo! I did it! I got nervous there with that drink with dinner. I only drank half. It was a treat from Andrew. He brought pizza home for dinner and I saw he brought a 2 liter of soda home with it. I knew I wouldn’t drink it, but was a little disappointed because I wanted some. I really like the flavor of Dr. Pepper. Then he pulled out a bottle of Izze for me. And for a moment I got even more upset. He thought of me and my ragus aspirations and got me a special drink. So thoughtful of him! But I still didn’t think I should drink it. But I checked out the ingredient list and the sugars were from all natural juice. If I only drank half, I could fit it into my day.

And it was a very special treat. I wanted to drink more, but I was just really thirsty so I had water. Lots of water. I don’t know what Andrew did with the other half of the Izze Maybe I’ll find it [flat?] in the refrigerator tomorrow. I’m really, really appreciative of his help, support, and love.

DAY 7

Lot and lots of sweets at work today because of our supervisor’s return. I just enjoyed their ascetics. 🙂 Belly feels a bit bloated and squishy — just my monthly hormones? Or that drink yesterday?

DAY 8

I’ve been in quite a good mood for the majority of this past week. Could it be less sugar-fueled mood swings? Or the slightly cooler weather? Even Andrew noticed my good mood tonight.

DAY 9

Alright! Success, even with some cake in there. I treated myself to a big portion since I controlled the sweetness. Not too sweet at all. Sweetened by maple syrup and brown rice syrup. (The coconut whipped cream I attempted was a total fail, though.

Although I must say that after such a big portion so late at night, it’s sitting pretty heavy in my belly, and even up my throat a bit. I guess after 9 days I’m a bit detoxed?

Still in range for today so that’s good.

DAY 10

Oh, no!!! 2 teaspoons over. 🙁 It turned out I got the wrong kind of coconut cream and there was sugar added. 🙁 Won’t be making that mistake again. Back on target going forward.

DAY 12

Nice! Super low! I hope I didn’t forget to write anything down… Oh yeah, I had a slice of cheese to distract myself from a sweet craving.

DAY 13

Today I really wanted a rich, sweet, buttery cookie (more like a box of cookies), but I did not. So I felt deprived today.

Andrew offered me a bite of the rice pudding at the diner after dinner. I refused (even though I wanted some!) and Andrew said, “Good. That was a test. You passed.” I must admit I was proud of myself for “passing” his “test”. I mean, I can do it! I’ve been doing it for 13 days! That is quite the achievement for me. Honestly, I don’t know how I am doing it. Being mindful, I guess; paying attention to what I eat. And honoring myself.

Got quite the headache at the end of dinner until even now, though. Don’t know if it’s related to what I’ve been eating or something else.

DAY 14

I felt kind of deprived again today. Wanted… something. Sugar, I guess. That satisfying sensation in my mouth. Although, I guess it’s not “satisfying” because I never could get enough.

DAY 17

I was a bit lazy with tracking my food today and did it all tonight. Eh — it’s a Sunday. And I erred on the side of caution at dinner because I wasn’t sure where my numbers were so c’est bon.

DAY 18

Another headache tonight. 🙁 Upset stomach, too — too much coconut oil on popcorn?

DAY 23

Mother-in-law brought over freshly baked chocolate chip cookies today. Homemade! Warmish and smelling delicious! Chocolate chip cookies, especially homemade, are my favorite. This is quite a test. I will pass.

DAY 26

I found lunch to be really sweet today. Can you imagine? Me! Thinking half a kiwi and a few slices of orange makes a meal “really sweet”!

DAY 34

Really wanted a little Hershey chocolate bar today. I even had Andrew bring one to me. He said I shouldn’t deprive myself. Recent event highlighted the “life is short — enjoy it” argument for me. But sugar does not equal an enjoyable life. My self control is something I am proud of. I am not depriving myself — I’m teaching myself to be responsible, starting with a rigorous test.

I did not open that candy bar. I didn’t even smell it, ha. It sat next to me on the couch and I forgot about it — that would have been inconceivable a little over one month ago. The power is shifting back to me, away from sugar. I am proud and I will carry on.

DAY 38

I’m really doubting whether I want to go on with this or not. Part of me wants to just continue for 3 more weeks to complete the 8 week detox program designed by the writer of I Quit Sugar, but another part argues that she just made that 8 weeks up, it doesn’t mean anything, except, perhaps, that that’s what worked for her.

I feel good. I feel in control. I feel more confident when it comes to sweets. Wasn’t that my goal? To not be addicted? To not be a slave to cravings? Is wanting to do 8 weeks or 100 days just a silly quantifiable measure?

I never planned on quitting sugar for life. It, especially in chocolate, brings me great pleasure. I want to learn how to live in harmony with it in my life.

Aha. I will continue while introducing sugar back in my life, tracking what I eat and its sugar grams for the 3 more weeks, to learn how it looks like in my diet and practice moderating it.

DAY 39

Wow. Looks like I overdid it already. 🙁 Those little bits of sugary chocolate have a lot of grams and add up fast!

DAY 40

Wow, I’m bad at this.

DAY 41

Boo me! Well, no, boo frozen yogurt. I can’t believe that! It is SO much more sugar than ice cream! Give me fatty creamy ice cream — fro-yo is a disaster!

Boo me, this whole this is a disaster.

THE END

I am not going to track my sugar any more because… I have decided to give it up forever. (!)

I’ve tried to reintroduce sugar into my diet during this past week and it’s been horrible. I have noticed my moods were not as stable, my skin is broken out, and I’ve felt awful on the days that I’ve gone overboard. And it’s SO EASY to go overboard.

So I’m just giving it up. I won’t worry too much about ketchup and fruit, but I will be mindful. And perhaps on special occasions I will indulge. But I mean super special occasions. And I will indulge in good stuff, that’s worth it. The end.

Sweet Talk: My Battle With Sugar

I love(d) sugar. Too much. I was dependent on it. If my children didn’t nap, I went crazy, and a big reason for that was that I couldn’t have my sugary snack. I would only eat sweets while they were napping because I didn’t want to give them any. I know the effect sugar can have on a child. It’s something I’m battling 20 years later. I want to spare my children if I can.

First, I read I Quite Sugar by Sarah Wilson. I also flipped through her The I Quit Sugar Cookbook, but it is not great for anyone who wants to be mostly vegan. For vegan sugar avoiders, I would recommend Crazy Sexy Kitchen by Kris Carr.

If you don’t want to read an entire book, there is this extensive, yet un-definitive, article by Gary Taubes for The Guardian.

As for my own story… it is disappointingly incomplete and failure-ridden. But it is a pursuit that I am still very interested in. Avoiding sugar is a very, very tough battle to fight on the American food-front, but I want to get strong enough to win it. Or at least survive through it.

I first became interested in quitting sugar when I realized I was addicted. I craved it and ate as much as I could, even though it left me feeling like crap. I needed it every day, usually at certain times, or else I would be irritable. I didn’t like being dependent on it to stay out of cranky moods. I wanted to be free of the addiction and I also knew it would be healthier for me.

I kept a journal, as suggested by Sarah Wilson, for 6 weeks — from last September to October — to track my sugar intake and how I felt. I will post a summary of those 6 weeks in another post.

Right now, I can’t say that I’ve quit sugar. I am much more aware of how much sugar is in foods, though, so I am better prepared to lower my intake at meals. It’s a lifestyle change, for sure, so I think it may be something that I can never complete. But I count being more mindful as a step in the right direction.

“If you are fighting to overcome an unhealthy addiction in your life — you are doing a noble thing.” – Joshua Becker

I Joined A Gym

I didn’t want to join a gym.

I really believe that adding exercise into your daily activity is extremely possible. Taking stairs instead of elevators. Going for walks in spare moments, like your lunch hour or something. Lifting arm weights while watching television.

But the truth of my life right now is, I don’t have many spare moments. And when I do, I sit and relax. Maybe even read! Although raising a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old is a type of exercise all of its own, I wanted to focus more on myself for a few hours a weak. Really focus on keeping my own physicality fit.

I think I have a nice, simple “gym” set-up at home. I have an elliptical (found for free on the side of the road when people were moving!), a yoga mat with 3 yoga DVDs, and 2 sets of hand weights in different heaviness. The only thing that I don’t seem to have at home is enough time.

That’s why I joined a gym. They have a daycare. This makes the whole endeavor of working out as simple as simple could be for me. I drive to the gym, hand off my children, and then focus entirely on my physical self for an hour. Then I collect the kids and drive home.

One day, I will return to exercising exclusively at home or around town. When the children are old enough to be left alone for an hour — or to join me!

I didn’t want to spend the money on a gym membership. Being minimalist, I try to cut out all extraneous expenses to keep life simple and stress-free. But then I realized, a gym membership actually reduces stress for me right now. Thus, it’s worth the cost. (Even with the extra charge for daycare.)

It was quite the minimalist revelation: what worked for me before may not work now. And spending money might actually be the answer! And, perhaps the most counterintuitive of all, an extra thing might just contribute to simplicity.

The Art of Contentment

I’m writing yet another post inspired by Joshua Becker, but what can I say? The guy’s kind of a genius when it comes to minimalism and, in this case, contentment. He actually writes about completion and the satisfaction it brings.

When confronting the desire to buy yet another thing, he uses this as an example:

The next time you have a desire to buy something you don’t need, say to yourself, “Nope. I’m done buying clothes. I already have enough. I have met this desire and I am moving on to something else.”

Such a simple thing! Just decide to be done buying clothes. I had honestly never thought of that before, even with the pursuit of a capsule wardrobe. I always thought that it would be growing and changing with me — that I would have to constantly think about and curate it. But, no! I can just stop and be content.

Maybe contentedness doesn’t last forever, as life is fluid and change is constant, but it does exist. And it can exist for a time. Decide to be content and it will be until you decide something needs to change again. Being in control sounds much better than constantly chasing dreams advertisers are constantly presenting.

But maybe it isn’t marketers fueling your discontent. Maybe it is brought on by yourself as you consider all of your life’s what-ifs.

I’ve lived in my hometown my entire life. I’ve done a fair bit of traveling, but have never lived outside of New Jersey. When my husband’s company recently offered him a job in Indianapolis, I began to imagine how my life could be better and happier in another place. I weighed the pros and cons of Indiana vs. New Jersey, a city vs. a small town, the country vs. the coast, anywhere else vs. here. And in doing so, none of the places seemed good enough… Until I went full circle, remembered what I love about where I live, and decided that right here is good enough.

I will be more mindful of how I spend my time. Is it pursuing something that doesn’t really need more attention? Like filling a closet that is already full? I will be content in matters where I already have enough and instead focus on matters where I really can improve myself. Or, as Joshua Becker highlights, on matters that will never be completed, such as being a calm and patient mother, a loving and fun wife, and a considerate and contributing member of society.

The Art of Contentment: A change in thinking can create a change in being.