Thursday, February 27, 2014

Makin' It Work

Today, I'm over at Julia's blog participating in a series called Moms Make It Work. You can click on this image to go to all the Moms Make It Work posts, which of course, you should do. And you should ESPECIALLY scroll on past mine to read an amazing post from Julia's Memaw. Seriously, every single person who has posted thus far has had some great words of wisdom about how moms in a variety of positions "make it work", and they are *all* worth a read.


All that said, it feels sort of hilarious that I'm guest posting on this topic, because I've definitely been feeling like I am just barely making it work lately.

Just barely clinging on to no-spend February and our budget.

Just barely squeezing in a 9pm.

Just barely staying awake as we're listening to the Frozen soundtrack for the 100th time. That day.

Just barely finishing editing photo sessions in my promised timetable.

Just barely able to converse about anything non-kid related. 

Just barely able to keep up with laundry. {Who am I kidding, I'm never caught up with laundry.}

I mean, you should have SEEN the chaos that even taking a family photo for the guest post entailed. I seriously almost cried. At one point, I think Justin suggested that I send Julia a stick figure drawing. He was like, "And then you can use it in your post as an illustration of how you didn't make it work this time. Julia wants the real life!"

Thanks babe.

But he's right. I don't think any of the moms who have posted so far will mind me saying alive, there are times when it just doesn't feel like we're making it work very well, if at all. Things don't go as planned. Life happens. And I have the tendency sometimes to feel like if it isn't Pinterst worthy, or if it didn't happen easily, then I didn't "make it work".

But I don't think that's the point, is it? Maybe the point is just doing the best that we can, even if that best is just a stop through the drive thru, or popping on a movie for the kids while we do a load of dishes uninterrupted (why do ALL toddlers climb on the dishwasher while you're trying to unload it?!). Maybe making IT work really just means making SOMETHING work, whether it's what you had originally planned or not.

Give yourself some grace, and I'll try to do the same :)

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Monday Printable

Just because it's Monday.
And my kiddos have been crazy today.
And because I've been listening to the song "How Sweet the Sound" by Ciziten Way non-stop lately. And because I'm ready for spring.
And because I've been playing around in Photoshop lately.
And because I need the reminder...

Here's a little printable.
To print it, just click on the image. It should take you right to Flickr. From there, click on the three dots in the lower right hand corner and select "view all sizes". Next, click on the original size. Once you do that, the link at the top should change to say "download the original size of this photo".

I haven't upgraded to the Beta version of Flickr yet, so these instructions may not track if you've already upgraded.

Happy Monday :)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Girls Right Now

The other day, we were playing blocks when I grabbed my camera and asked both girls to "model" for a photo. I totally let them run with whatever that meant to them, and I just happened to get a series for both girls that I thought captured each of their personalities perfectly. And so, along with the photos, I just wanted to give a quick update on both girls and what they're up to as well, because it has been too long.


-Turned 4 in January, but often tells people that she's "almost five".
-Is going to preschool two days a week.
-Has informed me that she's having a summer party, which is NOT a slumber party, though everyone who comes to her summer party will spend the night. I am in charge of making a quilt for everyone and also the food.
-Wants to listen to the Frozen soundtrack 100 times a day.
-HATES broccoli.
-Is starting to talk back and have some serious attitude sometimes. 
 -If she gets sent to her room for a timeout, she sing cries. She'll cry for a minute, and then sing, "I don't want to clean up toooyyyssssss!" Then cry for another minute before singing, "I just want to play all daaaaaayyyyyyy." Thank you Frozen, for this one.
-Is really sweet with Becca 95% of the time. 
-Could probably really benefit from some one-on-one "dates" with mom and dad.
-Is zero percent shy, and 100% spunky, in the best way possible.

-Is 15 months old.
-Can eat more than everyone in the family, except maybe Justin.
-Just had her bottom two molars finally pop through, hallelujah!
-Is a total bruiser. One of her favorite things to do is to push Lizzy over and jump on top of her, or else grab on to her clothes and pull her all around the house, usually resulting in lots of crying and hysterics from Lizzy, which Becca just seems to think is absolutely hilarious. 
-Enjoys giving "loves", but is really super aggressive about it--smooshing her face into us as hard as possible. -Is still a total mamma's girl, and often screams and cries hysterically if anyone else (including Justin) is holding her. Unless she's offered a cookie. Then she's totally fine. Stinker.
-Is starting to sing songs. Her favorites are Wheels on the Bus, Itsy Bitsy Spider, and Let It Go (from Frozen)
-Actually knows a lot of words, though our families probably wouldn't believe it--she tends to be very quiet out in public, or else just grunts rather than actually using the words she knows.
-Loves to play "getcha getcha" and peekaboo.
-Likes to read Llama Llama Red Pajama.
-ALWAYS takes off one shoe in the car. I've been hit in the head with flying shoes several times, and we've also lost several shoes when driving with the windows open.
-Is really starting to develop her own personality and sense of humor this month!

Friday, February 14, 2014

On Magnesium (Why I Take Supplements)

I've had migraines (with auras) for years. At one point, I was on Topamax and various other prescriptions that would supposedly help with migraines, but they really didn't help much at all in my experience, and I eventually went off them because I didn't feel like the risks (i.e. birth defects) were worth the benefits since I wasn't really getting any relief anyway.

For me, the aura part of the migraine was the worst--with virtually no warning, I'd get tunnel vision. I could see, sort of, but had weird floating things all over my field of vision, and it was hard to do much other than lay on the couch. I can remember a couple of times where an aura would come on while I was driving, or out grocery shopping, and it was absolutely terrifying to me to suddenly hardly be able to see.

At one point, one of my dad's friends told me that he also had migraines and that a pharmacist had recommended he take a calcium/magnesium/zinc supplement. To be honest? I totally ignored him. People were always giving me "migraine solutions", and 99% of the time they didn't work. I was tired of trying (and spending money on) things that didn't work. I felt like I had a system that would generally get me through them, and that was the best that I could hope for.

Then, when I was pregnant with Becca, I started having both migraines and ocular migraines (which is basically the aura, minus the headache).  I'd typically have at least one migraine or ocular headache per week, and it was pretty miserable because not only would I have the day of the migraine, but then I'd feel terrible, like I'd just had the flu, for a day or two after. My OB ran EKG's and all sorts of other tests to make sure that the baby was okay, but in the end, it was just migraines, and it was just awful. Towards the end of my pregnancy, I remembered the calcium/magnesium/zinc supplement suggestion, and got the okay to try it.

OH MY WORD. I took the supplement for the first time during an active migraine, and while my migraine didn't immediately vanish, it cut the pain and the usual headache time in half. I was shocked.

Since then, I've done a little bit of research on magnesium, and the more I read, the more surprised I became. First of all, one study that I came across stated:

"The available evidence suggests that up to 50% of patients during an acute migraine attack have lowered levels of ionized magnesium. Infusion of magnesium results in a rapid and sustained relief of an acute migraine in such patients. Two double-blind studies suggest that chronic oral magnesium supplementation may also reduce the frequency of migraine headaches. Because of an excellent safety profile and low cost and despite the lack of definitive studies, we feel that a trial of oral magnesium supplementation can be recommended to a majority of migraine sufferers."

The University of Maryland Medical Center website also stated:

"In one study, people who took magnesium reduce the frequency of attacks by 41.6%, compared to 15.8% in those who took placebo. Some studies also suggest that magnesium may be helpful for women whose migraines are triggered by their periods. Side effects from magnesium can include lower blood pressure and diarrhea. Magnesium can interact with medications including heart medications, diuretics or water pills, some antibiotics, and muscle relaxers."

During that time, I had also been tracking what I was eating in order to try and identify if I had any dietary triggers that caused migraines...and what I observed was that whenever I attempted to eat paleo, even just for a day, I'd get a migraine. And as I looked up many of the foods that paleo eliminates, I discovered that legumes, nuts, and whole grain breads all tend to be high sources of magnesium. Now, some people have noticed that eating nuts, legumes, and yeast breads trigger migraines for them (and it sounds like they may be a good candidate for the paleo diet) but for me, it's the opposite--magnesium levels seem to trump all when it comes to my migraines.  Isn't it interesting how different we all are? There really is no ONE way to health, I'm becoming convinced.


Along the way of researching magnesium, I kept seeing lists of things in our bodies that magnesium helps. Most of them looked like this:
  • Gives rigidity AND flexibility to your bones
  • Increases bioavailability of calcium
  • Regulates and normalizes blood pressure
  • Prevents and reverses kidney stone formation
  • Promotes restful sleep
  • Helps prevent congestive heart failure
  • Eases muscle cramps and spasms
  • Lowers serum cholesterol levels and triglycerides
  • Decreases insulin resistance
  • Can prevent artherosclerosis and stroke
  • End cluster and migraine headaches
  • Enhances circulation
  • Relieves fibromyalgia and chronic pain
  • Treats asthma and emphysema
  • Helps make proteins
  • Encourages proper elimination
  • Prevents osteoporosis

I've also read that magnesium supplements can help with anxiety as well as sleep. One article even mentioned that breastfeeding mothers who are taking magnesium supplements may notice that their infants sleep better as well. I definitely notice a positive difference in my anxiety levels when I'm taking magnesium supplements, but I also noticed a positive difference in sleep for Becca back when she was nursing. That said, I was most regularly taking the supplements just after she turned one, which is when sleep seems to settle down for most kiddos, so it's hard for me to pinpoint that specific event to the magnesium definitively. Still, I've found tons of benefits in taking a daily (well, 3x's daily) magnesium supplement for myself. 

I really thought that this snippet from an article written by a former ER doctor was telling as well:

"I find it very funny that more doctors aren't clued in to the benefits of magnesium, because we use it all the time in conventional medicine. But we never stop to think about why or how important it is to our general health or why it helps our bodies function better.

I remember using magnesium when I worked in the emergency room. It was a critical "medication" on the crash cart. If someone was dying of a life-threatening arrhythmia (or irregular heart beat), we used intravenous magnesium. If someone was constipated or needed to prepare for colonoscopy, we gave them milk of magnesia or a green bottle of liquid magnesium citrate, which emptied their bowels. If pregnant women came in with pre-term labor, or high blood pressure of pregnancy (pre-eclampsia) or seizures, we gave them continuous high doses of intravenous magnesium."

During my informal research, I also kept  seeing the statistic that 68-80% of Americans are deficient in magnesium. The Wellness Mama has a great blog post that covers some of the changes to farming and water that may contribute to lower levels of magnesium. But, keeping in mind that 60-80% of the American public may be deficient in magnesium, I found the lists of symptoms of magnesium deficiency to be fascinating. From the book The Magnesium Miracle, here some conditions that may be caused by a magnesium deficiency:
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Asthma
  • Bowel disease induced by constipation
  • Cystitis and bladder spasms
  • Depression.
  • Diabetes.
  • Fatigue.
  • Heart disease.
  • Hypertension.
  • Hypoglycemia.
  • Insomnia.
  • Kidney stones.
  • Migraine.
  • Musculoskeletal conditions including fibrositis; fibromyalgia; muscle
  • spasms; eye twitches; cramps; and chronic neck and back pain.
  • Nerve problems including migraines; muscle contractions;
  • gastrointestinal spasms; calf, foot and toe cramps; vertigo; and
  • confusion.
  • Premenstrual Syndrome; dysmenorrhea; infertility; premature
  • contractions; preeclampsia; and eclampsia in pregnancy.
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Raynaud’s syndrome.
  • Sudden infant death syndrome. 
  • Tooth decay 
I also found a number of studies (here's one) that linked magnesium as a therapy and prevention tool for congestive heart failure, and I also found a lot of information about magnesium on this website, including links to studies on the relationship between magnesium and everything from ADHD to various forms of cancer (I didn't read through all of these studies, so I can't speak to their validity).

Now, as I mentioned above, I don't think that there's a one-size-fits-all approach to health. I don't think that magnesium is the miracle solution to "fix" everyone who suffers from any of those problems listed above. That said, I wouldn't have known about the link between magnesium and migraines unless someone had told me how well it worked for them. And that's what this is about--magnesium supplements have changed my life for the better...and if you deal with two or three or four of the symptoms above, it might be worth a shot at trying a magnesium supplement, especially since researchers seem to be linking magnesium to the prevention of osteoporosis right along with calcium.

Obviously, I am not a doctor and you should definitely consult YOUR doctor before adding magnesium supplements to your diet as it can interfere with some specific medications. However, magnesium has really helped me a lot, and I think it could possibly help others as well, so I wanted to share! 

Monday, February 3, 2014

No Spend February

So, back a couple of years ago, we started budgeting to zero every month, and also creating "funds" that we contributed to every month. We basically had a "fund" for everything from taxes to our cat to toiletries to household expenses to kid clothes. For us, it just worked well to toss $5 or $20 into the fund, and some months we used it all, and other months we rolled it over so that it was there in case we saw a really good deal on chicken breasts or Costco had Ziplock bags on sale or Becca suddenly grew out of all of her clothes. The money was just there, and it was less stressful for us. We were excited about it, and it was like a game to roll over as much as we could each month.

But somewhere along the line, we grew a little complacent. We'd stick $100 in the household fund, and I'd find myself thinking, "Great, I have $100 to spend!", and wouldn't you know it, I'd always find something to spend it on. This was happening with both of us to some degree nearly every other category--we'd spend because the money was there, not because we were buying something that we needed or even really wanted.

So, as we've been talking about our financial goals for the year (we also just recently attended a financial literacy workshop at church that was AWESOME), we decided that we wanted to do a no-spend month. Emily @ Imperfect also did one last month and was also a big influence in our decision!  Now, I will mention that the financial guy at church works with consumer credit counseling and he talked a lot about the dangers of complete self-deprivation in a budget, and as a whole, Justin and I agree that complete deprivation isn't sustainable long-term, but for us, one month is a short enough time that we feel it gives us an opportunity to change our focus without just getting so frustrated that we throw our hands up and just say I DON'T CARE, I WANT A BURGER AND A NEW PAIR OF SHOES!

For us, a no-spend month means: 
-We pay all of our regular bills/expenses, house, utilities, internet, gas, student loans, etc.
-We continue to give, both in terms of tithing and to the fund that we use for family birthdays and other special occasions.
-We have a grocery budget for the month, and it's set for the same amount that we'd like to spend every month--$300. We find that by sticking to a grocery budget that allows us to eat well, we miss eating out less. I feel like $300 a month for a family of four is still a pretty reasonable grocery budget, and that restricting it too much wouldn't be wise for us.
- We have allocated a small amount ($25) for eating out. The reality is that sometimes we get stuck at church or out and about longer than anticipated, and it's not fair to make our kiddos wait to eat until we finally get home. For us, if we're not realistic, it won't work. This gives us a little bit of flexibility while also encouraging us to plan ahead (i.e. if we think there's a chance we might get stuck at church, maybe pack a sandwich).
-We also have a few major expenses that will be paid this month--new tires on the car, and also replacing all the light fixtures in our house. Those are both safety issues that cannot wait, and will be paid for. Doing the no-spending month will also help us pay for those things without having to put them on credit--hooray! (And hopefully once we get back on track with the "fund" system, it won't be an issue if things like that come up in the future).

For us, a no-spend month does not mean: 
-That we expect friends or family to take us out to dinner or buy us groceries. If friends ask us out to lunch/dinner, it's my goal to be able to say, "We're trying to cut down on eating out this month--I've got XYZ going in the crock pot, want to come over to our house instead?"
-That we severely restrict our gas and grocery budgets.
-That necessary, unanticipated purchases will not occur (i.e. if Justin happened to rip every pair of his work pants, he'd still buy new pants even though it's a no-spend month).
-That we're going to be making lists of everything that we're going to buy come March 1st.
-That we won't give to others--if I have a friend having a bad day, I may pick her up coffee.  We'll just adjust accordingly from groceries or some other category.
-It also won't necessarily mean that we'll put a ton in savings this month, due to the major expenses that I listed above.

Since there's a good likelihood we'll get our tax return back this month, I'll also mention that we have made the decision to depart from our usual tax-return plan--usually, we pay Lizzy's school tuition with our tax return and have a little extra to buy things that we've been putting off (usually underwear, clothes, and shoes for all plus a fun dinner or two out). It's nice to have tuition paid in full, not to worry about it, and still have some fun, and usually it is a really good balance for us. This year, we're applying all of our tax return to the balance of our car loan. This will mean paying off our car by June. And then even when monthly payments for tuition for Lizzy begin in August, they'll be about $80 less per month than our car payment was...and we felt like no car payments and more money in our pockets each month was a pretty good thing. 

So, that's our plan so far! I'm actually pretty excited...but it IS only February 3rd ;)
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