Tag Archives: Family

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.

Capsule Wardrobe – Maternity Edition

I am currently pregnant with my third child. I’m due in less than 3 months. The following list of clothing has gotten (/is getting) me through all 3 pregnancies. I was due at a different time of the year for each pregnancy (March, December, and July) and this group of clothing got me comfortably through all weather.

Maternity clothes can be hella expensive so it can be comforting to know we can get by with few pieces, supplemented with a few strategic non-maternity pieces. Note that these pieces worked for my casual job/lifestyle and the temperate New Jersey weather; always be mindful of your own lifestyle, location, and climate.

Without further ado, the list of my maternity wardrobe, keeping me warm and covered for 3 pregnancies and postpartum.

Maternity Pieces

  • 2 pairs jeans or trousers
  • 1 maxi-skirt
  • 1 knee-length skirt
  • 2 pairs shorts — I didn’t need/want shorts until my July due date pregnancy
  • 2 t-shirts — I only needed 2 at a time, but since t-shirts are generally made of thinner material for warmer weather, just 2 didn’t last for all 3 pregnancies and I needed to replace them when they wore out. So for 3 pregnancies, I’ve had a total of 4 t-shirts
  • 2 long-sleeve shirts
  • 2 long sweaters or short sweater dresses — I like them long enough to feel comfortable wearing with leggings, but short enough that they’ll still look good with jeans or trousers
  • 1 pair leggings — these can be maternity or not depending on your body, comfort level, and style of legging
  • 1 pair yoga pants — for sleeping, yoga, and lounging
  • winter coat — again, this depends on your due date. I needed one for my March and December due dates, but not this one. And I was actually able to wear a loose-ish flared non-maternity coat that I already had.
  • 2-3 nursing bras — during my first pregnancy, a saleswoman convinced me I would need 4. Now I know that I could easily get by with 2 or 3
  • 2 nursing sleep bras

Supplemental/Non-Maternity Pieces

  • 1 or 2 maxi-dresses — I found the type with a loose cross-over bodice to be quite convenient for breast-feeding, but racerbacks to be the most comfortable
  • 1 cardigan or light jacket — I didn’t need maternity because I just didn’t button them up
  • 2-3 loose shirts — long sleeve or short sleeve; for sleeping, yoga, and lounging
  • 2-3 more sweaters or t-shirts — I used these because I already had these looser items in my closet and they still fit during my pregnancy
  • wrap dress — will at least fit during most of a pregnancy
  • 10 pairs underwear — I find non-bikini briefs to be the most comfortable, but you be you

So that’s 25 pieces (not counting bras or underwear) to get you started for a capsule maternity wardrobe for any time of year. As always, quality pieces will last longer and thus through more pregnancies, but since pregnancy is such a short period of time, it’s pretty easy to make due with whatever quality you can find/afford.

Also, as with any capsule wardrobe, try to keep a simple color scheme in mind — such as 2-3 neutrals with 2-3 colors. You can also create a personal uniform with maternity pieces to make things super simple. Pick your favorite colors and fabrics and at least your clothing will be comfortable and pleasant, even if you don’t feel that way yourself. 🙂

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?

The New Era of Shopping for Children’s Clothes

I found a children’s clothing website that I’m super excited about. I haven’t bought anything from there yet, so maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself by doing a post about it, but I’m just really excited and haven’t posted in a while so here it is.

It’s called primary.com and the reason I’m so excited is because the clothes are so simple. I found it from Simple Families and her post about creating capsule wardrobes for kids. Since I know the benefits of having a simple wardrobe myself, I would like to extend that simplicity-induced bliss to my children’s closets as well.

Okay, first let me go into my frustrations with children’s clothing.

  • Gender stereotypes – 90% of the children’s clothes we have are hand-me-downs. Which is great because 1) it saved us a lot of money and 2) re-using second-hand clothes is better for the environment. But this means that I didn’t have a lot of say in the styles that got passed down to us. And since we have boys, people passed “boy clothes” down to us. I have no problem with tractors and cars and blue and sports, but I really don’t think it’s necessary to emblazon them onto boys clothes to let people know that they’re boys. Our children are super young and are still learning about the world around them, let alone forming opinions about what they like and how they want to represent themselves. Clothes need only be functional, not ornamental, at any age. And I’d rather my sons play with tractors or race their bikes or draw bears and lions than have <cough> ugly <cough> cartoons cluttering the tiny spaces of their bodies on their clothes. Conversely, my sons and I like flowers, hearts, rainbows, unicorns, and colors like pinks, yellows, purples, and aquas, and they just aren’t available in any way on “boys” clothes. Not that I would want to use any daughter I might have as a billboard either. I just don’t like the walk-into-a-store-pick-a-side-and-those-are-your-options model. Which brings me to…
  • Trends – I don’t care about clothing trends and I doubt my 1- and 3- year-olds do either. But most children’s stores seem to follow or propagate them and I just can’t be bothered keeping up. Simple, comfortable clothes are classy and versatile. I don’t like how I have to dig, dig, dig to find a plain shirt, just to find that they’ve discontinued it the next season when I need another one. I’m trying trying to impress anyone with the clothes my kids wear — I just want my children to be comfortable, clean, and presentable (i.e. no cartoon monster trucks or corny slogans in hard to read fonts).
  • Sizing – Finding clothes to fit my small, slim children is hard enough, but adding in the likelihood of a different store’s sizing measurements being completely different is infuriating. I have a 15 month old wearing a 3-6 month onesie right now. That makes no sense to me. I’d like to have 1 store that can satisfy all my needs to keep sizing simple and accurate.
  • Seasons – Stores’ clothing seasons are annoying early and trendy. Not only am I not interested in the ’80s day-glow trend for children’s swimwear this year, I am especially not interested in January when the shelves are lined with flip flops and all I need is a couple of long-sleeve shirts to keep my kid warm from the 30°F weather. I’m lucky if I can find a few pieces of on-season clothes, in the size I need, that isn’t hideous in the clearance section. Whoo-hoo clearance prices, I guess, but boooooo clearance pile hassles. I want to be able to buy what I need, when I need it — not 4 months in advance. Because kids can grow a whole lot or not at all in any given 4 month period. Guessing future sizes and buying in advance has rarely worked out for me (even when picking through the clothes handed down to me).

Those are the reasons why I’m so excited to start shopping at Primary. The company was founded by mothers who were just as frustrated as I so they get it. They offer simple clothing in consistent sizes in a spectrum of colors year-round. I have no doubt that I’ll be able to find what we need when we need it. I look forward to all of the children’s clothes I collect over the years being mix-and-match compatible and last through multiple hand-down transitions (again, I haven’t bought anything yet so I can’t attest to the durability, but Simple Families seems pretty happy with it so that’s a start).

I’ve had the flitting idea to start an un-gendered clothing store myself, but am super glad that these lovely women have done it already. Oh, and they sell every item for under $25. Oh yeah, I’m excited. Welcome the new era of shopping for children’s clothes!

Debt Feelings

I hate debt. Our family experienced a hardship a few months ago in the form of a car crash last October. We are all healthy and well, which I am super thankful for, but our finances took a hit and it’s been a hard battle getting back on top again.

My husband and I usually never carry credit card balances, but we have $3,000 worth of credit card debt right now and it is really weighing down on us. Not only are we stressed out, but we feel a bit hopeless. I feel stuck on a hamster wheel of work, work, working toward paying it off and yet we’re not getting anywhere.

There are a few unfortunate circumstances and mistakes that have put us in this position.

First, of course, was the car crash. We lost the value of the car we crashed, we had to pay towing and other varying reparations, and we had to buy a new car. That totaled at about $9,600. (Ugh, it’s painful to see it written out here.) That wiped out our meager savings and then some.

Then, it was Christmas and the whole holiday season in general. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get comfortable financially during that time of year and I just can’t seem to manage it. We don’t spend a lot on gifts, but we do get some things. Like, I bought the clothes Wingnut and Pigpen needed for Christmas because I still feel this obligation to have something under the tree for them (I want to get rid of that nagging feeling of duty). We get a tree, we go to parties, we go out with friends. It’s a season of celebration and it cost us money. Money we didn’t have.

Next, Andrew and I needed some clothes, too. He really needed new sneakers. The soles on his old ones were smooth with wear and his socks got wet in the rain. So we went shopping. I also bought some clothes I “needed”. That is in quotations because I did kind of need the stuff I bought. I am wearing them all now and getting tons of use out of them. I am very happy and satisfied with the purchases. The only problem was: we bought them on credit. I bought these wonderful pieces of clothing without the cash to do so. And if I am really truly honest with myself, although my old clothes were uncomfortable and deteriorating, I really could’ve gotten by without buying new. The old stuff was falling apart, but it was still keeping me warm.

The anxiety I’m feeling now, makes me wish I was more discerning then. But then that’s the problem with credit — it’s easy to justify purchases because it’s so easy to swipe the card. We can afford this swipe and this swipe and this swipe, but not all these swipes together. Because even if the purchases are perfectly legitimate, we still didn’t have the money to buy them. And I don’t know, that makes me feel poor.

And now I get into the controversial bit. I really don’t think I’m poor because we have a house and eat pretty well and have an annual income pretty dead-center in the average range for middle-class households of 3 in New Jersey (although we are a household of 4). But when you calculate in our debt, it starts to look a lot more dire.

We already paid off about 50% of our student loan debt, which is awesome. But the remaining balances are 71% of our annual income, which is definitely not awesome. They come out to be 26% of our monthly budget. Our mortgage is another 25% of our monthly budget, leaving less than half for all other living expenses, like food, heat, and transportation. Which brings our annual income clearly below what is considered middle-class, but still not technically under the federal poverty line.

Truthfully, I grew up comfortably middle-class, maybe even upper middle-class, and I’m just not used to saying no to a new coat when my current one is falling apart. But this winter, that’s how it’s been for us. It’s a personal experience and it hasn’t been pleasant for us. We’re stressed and despairing. I believe that we will get out of debt, but the wait is excruciating. I’m hoping to at least get these credit cards paid off within the next month or two and I hope that’s realistic because I really, really want it gone. Then it’s back to work building up our emergency savings before we can even think about tackling any more student loans.

Having debt sucks. I want to feel free and content and comfortable buying things we need. I want to feel secure in our finances, especially our savings, in case we experience another hardship. Regardless of whether we are or not, I don’t want to feel poor. I don’t want thousands and thousands of dollars of debt hanging over my head. I don’t want to be overdrawn or in perpetual service to indebtedness.

And to do that honestly, I think I’ll need to reevaluate my standard of living.

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.

Children and TV | Minimalist Kids

I limit the amount of tv that my children watch. With my firstborn, Wingnut, we waited until he was 2 years old before letting him watch any tv. With my second, Pigpen, it’s been harder. If Wingnut wants to watch some tv and it’s a good time, I don’t want to deny him just because Pigpen is around. If our tv was in a different location where I could keep them separated, that would help, but that’s just not the situation in our house right now.

At first I was worried about Pigpen being exposed to tv before he was 2. After all, that was the recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics (now you can see that it is 18 months). But in reality, Pigpen really didn’t end up watching that much. I would set up the tv for Wingnut with some “high-quality programming” and Pigpen would sometimes hang around and watch. But he usually only watched for about 10-15 minutes before wandering off to hang out with me or play somewhere else.

I understand the purpose to limit time spent watching tv. There needs to be time for family interaction, for quiet, to be alone, for creative play, music, reading, etc. But the more I think about it, the less I agree with forbidding it altogether.

As I’ve said before, I am not an expert on children and I am not an expert on television. But I do think that it’s hard to prove that tv is totally detrimental. There are studies that conclude that children under 2 years old should not watch tv because it may inhibit their learning and development. But by the nature of this activity, we could only compare children to other children. We could never compare how a child turned out after watching tv to how he would have turned out if he didn’t.

No two children grow, learn, and develop at the same rate. Add in the millions of external factors that could influence a child at any moment during their day to day life and extrapolating the effect that something like tv watching could have seems impossible. I’m not saying that these studies are completely invalid. I’m saying we should watch and monitor our own children and how tv effects them, be mindful, and decide how extreme to be with the regulations we place on them.

Some researchers have even found that watching tv can be good for toddlers. Even accepting that children may learn less from tv than from live interaction, it doesn’t mean that that learning isn’t worth it. The stories children hear and see from tv can enhance their lives, just as much as books I would say, depending on what is understood and how the rest of their life experiences grow and build on them. Hearing stories and seeing different parts of the world expands the mind, opening it up to more curiosity and acceptance of differences.

Perhaps that is where the idea of “high-quality programing” comes in. What is high-quality programing and who decides what does or doesn’t fit the bill? I have a few of my favorites (that I will list below) and I have a few that I really don’t like (here’s one example). This is a totally personal choice I have made, though, and the views you may have for your children may be different. As parents, we need to pay attention and be involved with our own children, deciding what tv — if any — is best for them just like we decide what is the best for them out of everything else.

Too much tv, like too much of anything, is not a good thing. But balanced well into a week full of diverse, stimulating, and restful activities, I think tv is okay for children.

Also, I must add here, that I benefit from the hour Wingnut is engaged watching tv. It gives me a much-needed break (2 year olds can be very attention-demanding) where I can rest and recharge or be productive, where I can concentrate completely on something for a whole hour. This is very important for my sanity — a stressed-out mama is not pleasant for anyone. When I am able to receive the self-care that I need, I am better equipped to provide the care my family needs, and that is better for everyone.

 

Some of my favorite “high-quality programming” on tv:

  • Puffin Rock -A young puffin and her ever-curious little brother explore an island off the coast of Ireland – Netflix
  • Mouk – Young Mouk and Chavpa discover the world on their bicycles, making friends along the way – Netflix
  • Kazoops – A imaginative young boy and his pet pig explore home life and encourage children to challenge the workings of the world – Netflix
  • Stella and Sam – Sister and brother have many adventures, mostly outside, because they know they have more fun when they’re together – Family Channel and Netflix
  • Wild Kratts – Follows the adventures of animated versions of brothers Chris and Martin Kratt as they encounter wild animals during stories of adventure and mystery – PBS Kids 
  • Sesame Street – Bridges many cultural and educational gaps with Muppets teaching children numbers, colors and the alphabet, set on a city street full of valuable learning opportunities PBS Kids
  • Peg + Cat -Inspires preschoolers’ natural curiosity about math and helps them develop new skills and strategies for solving problems creatively in their daily lives – PBS Kids
  • The Muppet Show – A medley of sweet and mischievous, a weekly variety show with songs, dances, and comedy featuring a range of famous guests – DVD

What Happens When Our Children Watch Certain TV Shows?

I’m not an expert on children and I’m not an expert on television. But I do have this nagging thought about a certain type of children’s tv show.

I’m talking about the tv shows, targeted at children, that encourage them to interact with the characters by answering questions or doing certain actions. The characters will abandon their setting and look out the tv at your child and ask them a question or tell them to do something.

“Will you help us figure out blah blah blah?”

“Do you see the letter X?”

“Pull the lever with me by moving your arm up and down like this!”

“Jump up and down and clap your hands to scare away the evil owl!”

I’m pretty sure these shows are designed like this to get your children “active” so they aren’t just sedentary sponges. Shows want you to think that they are getting your children’s minds engaged in the story, making them cognitively superior, and their bodies in the action, making them more fit.

But I see it completely different.

Television is not the best interactive device. It’s design is completely one-way, transmitting images and sounds, with no interface for receiving feedback from the audience. So when our children watch these shows, they are not engaged with the story or the character. They are mimicking, performing, and obeying an “other” just because they were told to.

This is just a theory, but I feel like these tv shows, geared toward children in their most formative years, are priming viewers to follow the commands of advertisers. Advertising already preys on our psychological weaknesses (see below). If advertisers start with a group of people who are already willing to do what they ask without questioning, it will be all the better for those advertisers.

Now, I’ve done no studies and have no proof of this. Maybe the creators of these tv shows really do just want to improve our children’s cognition and fitness. Maybe our children will grow up to be just as skeptical as any other person in any other generation, regardless of the tv they watch or don’t watch. Maybe watching these shows doesn’t have any effect on how we consume advertisements at all.

I’m just saying, that to me, it feels a bit… odd. Those tv shows make me feel uncomfortable and I don’t want my children following along. Adults aren’t expected to talk to a television so why should children? Why teach them to behave in a way that won’t serve them as they get older? That would actually make them appear crazy if they continued to do it?

The way I see it, tv is meant to be seen and processed. Interactions should be reciprocal — that is their very definition. After all, isn’t respectful interactive discourse how the best communication happens in the real world anyway?

 

Resources:

Home For The Holidays – The Hope Effect

A couple of the things that I am most thankful for — perhaps even the thing (or 2 things) I am most thankful for — is my home and family. Especially when it’s cold outside and it seems like all the world is getting together for the holidays, I notice how lucky I am to have the home and family that I do.

Since becoming a minimalist, I’ve asked for nothing as a gift for the holidays (in my family’s case, it’s Christmas). I must admit I haven’t had must success with my extended family when it comes to this blatant rejection of what has become a social norm. So this year I’ve decided to try a little something different.

This year, I’ve set up a fundraising page to help build small family-style homes for orphans and I’m asking all of my friends, family, and you readers to donate. I’m hoping to raise $500 before December 26, but really any amount is wonderful. People have already donated so I already feel like a success!

You can click to read about the charity, The Hope Effect.

You can click to learn about the campaign, Home for the Holidays.

And you can click to view my fundraising page — and donate!

No pressure, though.

And remember, it doesn’t have to be #GivingTuesday to give.

I hope everyone is feeling warm and snug and loved. And I hope that everyone knows that buying more stuff won’t make you feel more loved — you must first be loving.

Life Update and My Plans for November 2016

My life has been thrown a little out of whack recently due to a car crash. The whole family was involved, but Andrew is the only one to have a major injury — a fractured sternum, which is, thankfully, still pretty minor. However, it will take his body 6 to 8 weeks to fully heal. I’m happy to announce that he is healing quite well so far.

It was an odd experience being so thrown off of our schedule. I am so thankful that my parents and Andrew’s parents were around to help out with my children at the scene, the hospital, and the week right after when Andrew and I were in the most pain. I felt a bit lost and sad and worried there for a while, but after two weeks, we’re getting back to normal. Insurance paperwork is dealt with, hospital and doctor visits are over, Andrew and I are back to work, and I am able to take care of pretty much all of the day-to-day things again.

It’s not over yet, though. There is still more paperwork to sort, medical bills to pay, and the process of searching for, finding, and buying another car. Andrew is still on “light duty” when it comes to taking care of the children and the house so I need to handle the slack. This means that I am not participating in NaNoWriMo this November.

Writing a novel in a month takes a huge commitment and I usually depend on Andrew to take over some of my responsibilities around the house while I hide out and write write write in big chunks and spare moments during Novembers. Due to our circumstances this year, that obviously won’t be possible.

It’s only 3 days in and I already miss the community, excitement, and creative fervor that occurs ever November over at the NaNoWriMo community. But I am still happy with my decision to skip this year because I believe it is the best choice for my family and, ultimately, me.

Part of me wants to give it a crazy shot and try to write 50,000 words in one day or something (I saw on Twitter that someone already did that this year!), but another part keeps reminding myself of the 5 or so manuscripts I already have written that are still waiting to be edited. I have yet to even look at the novel I wrote last year since typing out the last word.

My plan, though, is to keep it simple. I will not attempt to write a novel this month. I will take care of my family by pulling some extra weight to make sure Andrew heals properly. I will take care of the loose ends of this car crash so we can put it behind us. And I will focus on writing every day [in a slightly less manic manner] this month. Maybe I’ll even get some editing done!

Ah yes, simple. That sounds pleasant. Much better than trying to do too much.