DIY Project: Narrow Roll-Out Pantry

Build a Space-Saving Roll-Out Pantry That Fits Between the Fridge and Wall

I guess this one’s going to have to be one of my next DIY Projects!  If anyone has tried this, let me know how it went!

Honesty Versus Tact

Some people pride themselves on being open and honest.  Some even brag about being “brutally honest”.  And while honesty is definitely a desirable character trait, is there a point at which you can be TOO honest?

Sometimes I think we use honesty as an excuse to be overly harsh and critical towards another person.  Indeed, you may need to point out when someone has done something that really bothered you, or made you feel bad in some way.  But rather than lash out at them and point out their character flaws in a heartless manner, how do we express how they have hurt us without hurting them in return?

I would generally consider myself an open and honest person.  I am usually not terribly shy about expressing myself, or letting you know how I feel about you.  But I do have a tendency to want to avoid conflict, and to try to avoid hurting someone else, often to the point of not telling someone when they have hurt me or in some other way upset me.  This is not necessarily a good thing.  By not letting someone know that they’ve done something I didn’t like, not only do I increase the chances of them repeating the offense, but I tend to start developing a negative attitude towards that person, because they repeatedly do aggravating/thoughtless/selfish things.  Is that really fair to them?  Of course not.  I have not expressed how much their actions bothered me, so maybe they don’t realize that their actions are aggravating/thoughtless/selfish.

Instead of stewing over the immature, selfish actions, we should go to the person who has wronged us and let them know how we feel.  But we have to strike a balance here.  While we should not hold everything inside and stew on it, neither should we harshly blurt out what a horrible person we think they are.  This is not an opportunity to attack everything that we think is wrong about the other person.  Hopefully, we can use it as an opportunity to mend and/or strengthen our relationships.  It is sometimes very difficult to express that someone has upset us in a tactful way so that they do not perceive it as a personal attack.

And what if we are on the receiving end of the correction?  No one really LIKES being told that they’ve done something wrong.  Most people don’t like having their flaws pointed out to them, even when it is done in a relatively gentle manner.  Even if we are willing to admit that we HAVE flaws, it can get pretty uncomfortable listening to someone enumerate them.  And when someone starts pointing out our flaws in a critical, unloving way, it’s hard not to snap back with every time they’ve wronged us.  And it’s hard not to excuse our own behavior by making it the result of the other person’s behavior.  “I only did “y” because you did “x”.”  True, much misbehavior is reactive, but that doesn’t excuse what is, in fact, misbehavior.

As I’ve said before, “simple” does not necessarily mean “easy”.  We all know that we should treat others the way we would like to be treated, and that is one of the simplest of all ideas of human interaction.  But that does not make it easy to do.  I have said many times that I would like to know if I did something that upset someone else, so that I could avoid doing it again, but I often do not offer them that same opportunity.  Often I simply don’t know HOW to broach the subject without having a negative outcome, so I just try to avoid it altogether.

Do you struggle to find this balance between being honest and being tactful?  Do you have a tendency to lean more towards avoidance or blazing honesty?  How do YOU find that middle ground?  Would you be willing to share an instance in which you were able to gently let someone know that they hurt you, and they responded positively?

Don’t Eat Heathfully

Dear American Consumers:  Please Don’t Start Eating Healthfully.  Sincerely, the Food Industry

A humorous but sad comment on how we are being brainwashed to eat “better-for-us” processed foods instead of eating truly better for us simple meats, fruits, and veggies.

Do you find it hard to feed your family healthy meals when it’s so much more convenient to heat up pre-packaged processed foods?

Caring for Baby: Diapers, Sleeping, and Feeding

Since I’ve been watching little Rose five days a week since she was about 2 months old (she is now 14 mo), I’ve been thinking a lot about how I would do things differently and what I’d do the same as when my kids were small (they are now 20 and 16).  This is not an attempt to make anyone feel guilty for not being super-mom, it’s just that I’ve reconsidered some of the decisions I made then.

I think in nearly all cases there are plenty of “right” ways to raise your children, and not very many “wrong” ways.  You have to decide what’s best for YOUR family.  Sometimes it’s hard to not let other moms get to you when they tell you you’re doing it wrong.  My intention here is not to start a fight, because a lot of these topics can generate pretty volatile “discussions”.  I’m just considering what I might do differently if I were raising a kid now, instead of 20 years ago.

Diapers

I used exclusively disposable diapers for my kids.  At that point in time, nearly everyone used disposables.  This was a phenomenal expense, but it was a burden mostly borne by Rob’s grandparents.  They would constantly stop by after a shopping trip with a huge box of diapers.  I felt at the time that I simply didn’t have time for cloth diapers, and they weren’t all that good then anyway.

Now I’ve seen some of the new-fangled cloth diapers out there, and I think that if I were an at-home-mom with a new baby, I would probably give them a try.  It’s a lot more work and the initial cost is high, but in the long run it saves a lot of money.  And let’s not even talk about the literally TONS of diapers I’d be saving from the landfill.  I think it would be a lot harder to keep up with them if I were working full-time outside the house, though.  And I can imagine I would carry disposables in the diaper bag as back-up for emergencies while I’m out and about.

Napping/Sleeping

Although I didn’t really get into the co-sleeping thing at the time, there were many times that my babies fell asleep in my arms during a nighttime feeding in the recliner.  I didn’t sleep with them on the couch (which carries a high risk of accidental death), and there were probably only a few times that they fell asleep in my bed (usually during those nighttime feedings).

While I have posted before on the power of touch, and I’m a huge proponent of physical contact with the people we care about, I’m not sure I’m sold on the co-sleeping thing.  A large part of my concern with it is that the baby gets so used to having you right there beside them when they go to sleep that they get to the point where they HAVE to have you right there beside them in order to GET to sleep.  Even if you are committed to co-sleeping, there are times when you will want to try to accomplish something while the baby is napping, and if you’re out somewhere you obviously can’t just lay down with the baby.  I’m really not sure how I would deal with this issue if I had another child.  Perhaps someone who has tried co-sleeping could offer some input.

As for the timing, I pretty much let my kids dictate their own schedule, within reason.  I tried to encourage them to be awake during the day and asleep at night.  But I wasn’t a tyrant about making them take their nap at exactly the same times every day.  That I would probably do the same.  While it’s good to have a general schedule, and definitely better to have them sleep more at night and less during the day, I can’t see myself being inflexible about bedtimes.  Sometimes life happens, and not being able to go with the flow just causes unnecessary stress for both mother and baby.

Feeding

Not being able to eat wheat means you can’t just throw together a PB&J sandwich.  I wasn’t aware of my wheat sensitivity when my kids were little.  Knowing what I know now, and considering that there are MANY people on both sides of our family who are gluten sensitive to some extent, I think I would wait as long as possible to introduce wheat into her diet.  Part of the problem is that most “beginner” foods contain grains.  We have been told over and over how nutritious whole grains are, but if you can’t digest them properly, you simply can’t get the nutrients out of them, no matter how many nutrients they may be purported to contain.

I did breast feed for the first several months with both of mine, and I still think that is best whenever possible.  It is the balanced nutrition that babies are designed to thrive on.  But I’m not one of those who feels compelled to shame others for NOT breast feeding, or not breastfeeding long enough.  Breast feeding for “too long” is another issue entirely, and has nothing to do with nutrition; I’m not going to open that can of worms here.

It’s when we start to introduce other foods into baby’s diet that things really start diverging.  When it comes right down to it, grains are hard to digest, even if you’re not overtly intolerant.  Out of the grains, rice is the easiest, and least likely to produce an allergic reaction, but whether you are feeding your little one breast milk or formula, the reality is that either one has everything they NEED, nutritionally speaking, so adding in other things just supplements and gets them gradually used to the other foods that they will soon be eating more regularly.

As soon as they were ready, we started giving our kids smashed up bites of tender fruits and veggies from our own plates, along with the standard jar foods.  I didn’t have one of those magical food processors, or I probably would have made a lot more of my kids’ first foods.  But we didn’t really eat as many whole foods, fruits and veggies as we should have in those days.  I would definitely try to get more veggies in their diets as toddlers than I did.

There’s a nice “back-to-basics” list 0f first foods here.  It’s markedly different than what most doctors are recommending, but then they’re also recommending that adults get 60% of their calories from carbs, and most of those whole grains, and that’s not best either.

All in all, I think I would do most things just as I did, if I had it to do all over again.  Not that I think I am the perfect mom, or anything, but it seems that they managed to survive all of my shortcomings.  I guess that’s the best bit of encouragement I can offer to new moms–don’t overly stress yourself out over every little detail.  So many things are a matter of personal preference, and even more have to take into account the individual child’s personality.  Don’t beat yourself up about being “imperfect”.  There is no such thing as a perfect parent, any more than there is such a thing as a perfect human being.  And don’t let other moms guilt you into thinking you’re a failure because you’re not doing something the way they would.  Unless it’s a matter of threatening a child’s physical or emotional well-being, rest assured that there is more than one “right” way to raise your kids.  And the “best” way for another family may not be the “best” way for yours.  You will also find that parenting involves a whole lot of trial and error.  Even things that worked well for one child in your family may not work as well with the next one.  I think the most important thing of all is to love them like crazy, and let them know that you do, often!

I have several friends with little ones, so if you have any input, I’ll be sure to pass it on–I encourage you to comment! Civilly, please!

Contentment and Gratefulness

I have been thinking a lot about contentment lately.  While I have by no means mastered this mindset, I have definitely been in the process of learning how to be content no matter what is going on in my life.  The last month has been really busy, and has included some pretty rough days.  But I’ve been trying to make a conscious effort to dwell on the verse in Philippians 4:12, which says “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” I want to get to the point where I can make this statement honestly and wholeheartedly.

I’m not just talking about money here, although that can certainly have a profound impact on our contentment level.  I think everyone has caught themselves saying , “If I just made a little bit more per hour/week/month/year, I would be happy/content/comfortable.”  Funny thing about money is that if you base your contentment on making just a little more, you’ll find yourself always wishing for just a little more.

But this applies to other areas just as well.  If I could lose just a few more pounds, I would be happy with my body.  If I could just remodel my house, I would be satisfied with it.  If my spouse was more helpful/more romantic/more supportive, etc, we could have a great marriage.  (I happen to be blessed with a fantastic husband, so this doesn’t really apply to me, but you get the idea).

It’s just so easy to fall into that trap. We are always reaching for just a bit more, instead of being truly grateful and genuinely content with what we have, right now, at this moment.  But how do we get out of that rut?  I’ve been trying to keep a running list of all the things I am thankful for.  I started it last Thanksgiving, and while I haven’t referred to it constantly, I find that whenever I do read through it again, it definitely gives me a lift.  I have so many things to be grateful for, and the things that I have to legitimately be unhappy about are minuscule in comparison.

While I do have a lifelong illness which affects my day-to-day functioning, in the grand scheme of things, it’s far better than most of the other afflictions I could have.  Addison’s Disease is relatively easy to manage as long as I stay on top of it, and remember to let myself have low days (basically waking up with my battery already drained).  I am not bedridden, confined to a wheelchair, blind, deaf, fighting cancer, or any of the other far worse things that could affect my health.  And my frequent back pain from scoliosis and a car accident several years ago has become far less severe and less frequent since I went gluten-free in mid-January.  I chalk that one up to the chronic systemic inflammation that can come with gluten sensitivity.

Rob and I are certainly not rich, but we literally lived far below poverty level for the first several years of our marriage, so I can’t help but be grateful that we now have everything we need and many of the things we want as well.  I am ecstatic that we have enough that we can use what we have to help others.  I’m not really a “stuff” kind of person, and am even less so since starting to give away things we don’t love or use, as the Flylady recommends.  And we’re so much more content with the general state of the house since we’ve gotten rid of all the clutter we never use.  It’s far easier to keep it clean when you’re not stashing unused stuff.  I definitely prefer the simple/minimalist approach here.

And while there are many things that I would like to change/improve about my house, I am truly grateful that I do have a house, and I love where it’s located (in the woods, and surrounded by family).  Not only do we have plenty of room, we have actually been able to offer space to people who need a place to stay, and allow first Rob’s grandmother and then mine to stay with us when they needed assistance.  And we have a large living room and plenty of outdoor seating for hosting friends, which is one of my favorite things in the world to do.

Although I would still like to continue to lose weight and become more fit, I’m thrilled with how much better I look and feel since I stopped eating gluten.  It was a challenge at first, but it’s becoming second nature now, and the health benefits are so worth the learning curve.  I have, in the process of blogging about outer beauty, become far more comfortable with my body than I ever have been before, and I’m more accepting of myself just as I am now, even though I know I’m not done yet.

Being content does not mean that you can’t want to improve things.  Nearly every aspect of our lives leaves room for improvement.  But if we spend all of our time wishing for more, we will never actually reach contentment, never be truly satisfied.  My goal is to refer to that list of gratefulness more often, and continue to add things to it.  This is another attempt to dwell on the good instead of the bad, and to change my outward attitude by changing internally how I view the world.

Which aspects of your life do you find it hardest to be content with? How do you keep yourself focused on what you have, instead of what you don’t have?    Do you have a “thankfulness list”?