There’s wine in my soup

Those of you following us on Instagram may have seen this mouthwatering photo of our homemade Chianti Minestrone pop up on your feed for #winewednesday this week.

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We got a lot of interest about what’s cooking in our kitchen, and we were asked by a reader (and high school friend! what, what!) to post the recipe. So, without mincing words (see what I did there?) I’ll get straight to the point. Here’s how to make the magic happen.

Homemade Chianti Minestrone with Spicy Italian Sausage

Ingredients:

  • 1 28 oz. chopped tomatoes
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, sliced into half moons
  • 1 lb hot Italian turkey sausage
  • 1 yellow squash, sliced into half moons
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into half moons
  • 2 cups of fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup of fresh basil, chopped (reserve a few leaves for garnish)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 32 oz. vegetable broth
  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 1/2 cup good Chianti (optional)
  • 1/2 water (as needed)
  • Olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese (for topping)

To Make:

  1. Coat the bottom of a large soup pot generously with olive oil. Add sausage, onion, and garlic and cook over medium-high heat until sausage is cooked through, and the garlic and onion are fragrant but not blackened. Crumble sausage as much as possible.
  2. Reduce to medium heat and add carrots, cook 3-5 minutes more or until slightly tender.
  3. Add zucchini and squash and saute until tender, another 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for another 30 minutes or so.
  5. Add pasta, beans, spinach, and herbs and return to a boil. Cook for 5-10 minutes and reduce heat to low simmer.
  6. Finish by adding 1/2 cup of good Chianti, and salt and pepper to taste. Sometimes I’ll add an extra 1/2c. of water or so too, depending on how much broth has reduced.

That’s it! You’re done. If you want to go crazy and make homemade bread too, this soup goes fantastically well with my homemade herbed bread, and you can find that recipe here. This makes a LOT of soup and typically feeds us for a couple of meals. I add a bit of water to thin the broth when I reheat it, but it keeps very well in the fridge for a number of days.

Bon Appetit and happy fall soup-ing! (And wining, if you’re so inclined.) Cheers!

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3 children, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe & wine explorer.

Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography

 

 

A tribute to preschool wisdom

My family recently relocated with the military (more on that adventure here if you missed it) which means all of our young children went through the sometimes scary and always eventful process of beginning new schools and making new friends in a new place.

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Recently, while driving through our new town to my youngest son’s new preschool, I asked him to tell me a bit about his new friends in class. We discussed his peers in the true little-boy fashion I have come to know and love, which includes standard points like their names, what activities they do together, but also (and more importantly) what superheroes they like, what ninja moves they can do, and the fantastical tales they share about pirates, dinosaurs, outer space, and legos (all of which I’m certain I still don’t completely understand).IMG_6534

But what I found most interesting was his response when I asked him about one boy in particular that he mentioned playing with a lot, even garnering him with his “best buddy” status (which this kid doesn’t throw around lightly, believe. you. me.). Being the nosy mother I apparently am, I asked him what the little boy looked like. Not because it matters at all really, but because for some reason I wanted to see if I could find my son’s new “best buddy” in the class picture, or spot him on the story carpet at drop off. I don’t really know why, I think I was just excited that my little guy had a new friend more than anything else (and I tend to inherently want to know everything about everything our kids do. Sorry in advance to their girlfriends/boyfriends.)  So, I asked our son “what does your new best buddy look like?” and I really wasn’t ready for the preschool wisdom he was about to drop on me.

“I don’t know” he said.  “When I play with him, I look at him, but I just see a buddy. I don’t matter about the other stuff”

His simple, perfect answer hit me right in the chest and actually choked me up. Maybe it was because I was a little sleep deprived from being up with our 1.5-year-old the prior night, but mostly I think it was because he was so. right. on. And I… wasn’t. Because he was telling me, Mom, I don’t care about what he looks like in the way you are asking. All I see is my friend. And just like that, my little preschooler put me back in my place. Does it matter what his friend looks like? No, it doesn’t. Does it matter if I know what his friend looks like? No, it doesn’t. I don’t need to exert one ounce of my potential parental judgment into a classroom friendship that is making him happy.

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As adults, we tend to place so much emphasis on what we look like. In fact, I would even wager to say that we miss out on potential friendships because we can’t get past all of the things we “see” when we look at someone. Clothes, hair, color, shape, size, occupation… to name a few. Just think what we might see if we all looked at each other with a non-judgmental preschool heart. Past the physical qualities that so often define us to focus instead on our commonalities and shared experiences. Like being a mother or a father, a son or a daughter, a person looking for happiness, a person that likes dogs, sports, cooking, (or of course what ninja moves we can do, if only we could be as cool as our kids) or WHATEVER. What if we could “just see a buddy” in the people we meet? I for one, am going to try harder…

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So thank you, to my son for opening my eyes. And thank you, to his friend for playing with the new kid. May they enjoy many days of Batman, shark-hunting, and ninja-kicks together. And may we all bring a little preschool wisdom into our day.

 

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3 inspiringly resilient military children, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe & wine explorer.

Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography

 

Disaster Preparedness, Baby & Child

As Hurricane Florence stares down the eastern seaboard and wildfires continue to rage in California, it would seem remiss to ignore that a natural disaster will likely touch all of us in some way at some point in our lifetime. Disaster preparedness is a major issue for everyone, but particularly for those of us with small children. Infants, pregnant/nursing mothers, and young children have particular needs that may not be covered by your standard emergency kit or checklist.

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To save a lot of googling, anxiety, and time (we know you already don’t have any…), we’ve compiled some of the best official disaster preparedness resources and thrown some emergency prep essentials from our own professional and parenting experience in the mix too. Some of these items are simply for comfort, while others could truly save lives.

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Basic Disaster Survival Kit

According to experts at the American Red Cross, a basic disaster supplies kit should include the following items:

  • A supply of water (one gallon per person per day). Store water in sealed, unbreakable containers. Identify the storage date and replace every six months.
  • A supply of non-perishable packaged or canned food and a non-electric can opener.
  • A change of clothing, rain gear and sturdy shoes.
  • Blankets or sleeping bags.
  • A first aid kit and prescription medications.
  • An extra pair of glasses.
  • A battery-powered radio, flashlight and plenty of extra batteries.
  • Credit cards and cash.
  • An extra set of car keys.
  • A list of family physicians.
  • A list of important family information; the style and serial number of medical devices such as pacemakers.
  • Special items for infants, elderly or disabled family members.

You can view and download the complete American Red Cross emergency preparedness checklist here.

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Extras for pregnant moms-to-be, infants and children:

While the Red Cross checklist is a great place to start, “special items for infants” doesn’t exactly help the stressed-mom-trying-to-pack-everything mode we all enter when trying to provide for the safety and welfare of our children in the face of disaster. Luckily, the March of Dimes created an emergency checklist specifically for pregnant moms and parents with small children. They suggest adding the following items to your family’s disaster preparedness supplies.

Pregnant Mothers:

If you’re expecting, your disaster preparedness kit should include basically what you plan to pack in your L&D hospital bag, along with some (admittedly rather scary-sounding) emergency birth supplies, as follows.

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  • Emergency birth supplies (such as clean towels, sharp scissors, infant bulb syringe, medical gloves, two white shoelaces, sheets, and sanitary pads)
  • two blankets
  • closed-toe shoes
  • maternity and baby clothes
  • prenatal vitamins and other medications
  • nutritious foods, such as protein bars, nuts, dried fruit and granola
  • extra bottled water

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For baby & child:

If you have an infant/toddler/small child, think about adding the following supplemental items to your emergency supplies to keep baby happy and healthy.

  • Baby food in pouches or jars and disposable feeding spoons
  • Extra baby blankets, clothes, and shoes
  • a thermometer
  • copies of vaccination records
  • antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer
  • dish soap
  • a portable crib
  • baby sling or carrier
  • diapers, wipes and diaper rash cream
  • medications and infant pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • small disposable cups
  • ready-to-feed formula in single serving cans or bottles

For more information, you can access the full March of Dimes emergency preparedness checklist here.

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Additional Real As A M*ther Essentials

From our collective Real M*ther experience, the following items can also be invaluable for baby, child, and parent during extended power outages and temporary lodging situations that often accompany storms and natural disasters.

Anker cell phone charger

This rechargeable cell phone charger can provide you with extra hours of phone battery life when the power is out. Given all that we rely on our cellular devices for these days, it’s smart to have a way to access important information stored on your phone.

Nursing supplies for breastfeeding moms

Nursing pads, lanolin ointment/coconut oil, breast pump (with batteries and/or manual!) and bottling supplies, nursing pillow and extra blankets. Extra pacifiers.

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Battery powered lanterns

Candles are too dangerous, and flashlights become play-things in our house full of little ones. These waterproof Energizer lanterns are functional, bright, and provide hands-free illumination for a whole room. They also have a nightlight setting for which is great for kids’ rooms at night, and a 350 hour run time. We have three and use them almost constantly for one thing or another.

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Non-perishable kid’s protein sources

Getting your kids to eat is hard enough in perfect weather. When conditions may be challenging (OK, basically anything that involves the refrigerator not working is challenging with kids, but hangry kids won’t help) keep their bellies full with healthy, non-perishable protein sources. Some of our favorites are:

  • Earth’s Best baby yogurt pouches;
  • Nut butters like these Justin’s single-serve almond butter pouches (and don’t forget the Nutella!);
  • Larabars (natural ingredients, but soft enough for little ones to munch);
  • Horizon organic milk boxes (no refrigeration required); and
  • Snap Pea crisps (5g of pea protein per serving!)

Additional medicines for baby & child

Children’s Benadryl, Allergy/Asthma medications (as required), Simethicone drops or Gripe Water for little tummies. Band-aids, peroxide, and Neosporin for slips and falls and bumps.

Battery operated fans

In the hot summer months of hurricane season, the air circulation provided by even a small fan can go a long way to help kids and adults sleep comfortably during power outages. These O2Cool portable fans can be battery operated, no cords required.

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Battery powered sound machine

A little sleep goes a long way for everyone. A comforting song or white noise is a great way to help little ones (and adults for that matter) sleep in cramped, loud, or new environments, and when the electricity is out these battery powered machines can be a big help keeping little ones asleep without draining your phone.

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Comfort Objects and distractions

Stuffed teddy, puzzles, favorite books. Whatever makes your kids feel comfortable, along with a few activities to keep their minds active and away from potential disaster-related anxieties.

Birth Certificates

If you are concerned about damage to your home or potential evacuation, you can avoid a lot of potential hassle by bringing your child’s birth certificate along. Many times, we forget that children need ID in several situations too!

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Your Village

Remember that no matter what your circumstances, no one experiences a natural disaster alone.  Reach out to neighbors, school groups, church groups, and shelters. Get out of your comfort zone and connect. You’ll be surprised how many people are willing to help, and how many you can likely help as well. At the end of the day, we are all the village.

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Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone recovering from, and preparing for a natural disaster. Be safe y’all.

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe & wine explorer.

Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography

A Modern Day Village: The Birth Worker’s Inspiration

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I recently had a conversation with a client who is about to be a first time Grandmother. As I listened to her speak about her worries about her daughter’s upcoming birth, her struggles during pregnancies with depression and Hyperemesis Gravidarium, I was completely struck by the feeling of isolation that she was describing in her daughter. She is the only one of her friends pregnant, and although she does have a Fiance, he is  not operating on the helpful wavelength that she needs.

Immediately, my head swirled with questions to find out more.

“Who did this new soon-to-be-mama have to ask questions to other than the doctor she sees once a month?

Why is no one there for her other than her mother? Is the doctor leading her to support groups, mothering circles, moms with prenatal or postpartum depression? What will she do when she actually HAS the baby? If she’s struggling with depression now, who will watch out for the signs/symptoms of it in the postpartum months? Who will help this woman!!!!!!!??????”

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A little voice in my heart spoke up right then.

You, silly. You’re a birth doula. You have all she needs. Help her.

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Almost moved to tears, the words fell out of my mouth reflexively. “I remember those feelings all too well in both of my pregnancies,” I said sympathetically. “It sounds like she could use a birth and postpartum doula.”

The only difference between this mama and me when I was going through those same terrible feelings while pregnant was, I wasn’t actually alone. I had my doula there one phone call away at any moment. I had the cohesion of care between my amazing midwives, my doulas, myself, and my team. I had created my village.

After explaining what a doula is and does to her, (if you still want to know what that is, reference my Demystifying Doulas post here) it occurred to me that in some cases, women have no idea of the need for a village.

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Photo Cred Doulamatch.net

Back in the day, we lived in literal villages that would commune together for the birth of a new village member, and either call the midwife or have one on hand. 9 times out of 10, the birthing mother had a sister, mother, friend, neighbor, SOMEONE, with her until the midwife could arrive to her. Thus, the doula is born. Even female elephants know the importance of gathering around to form an impenetrable barrier of support for the birthing mother. I frickin’ love elephants.

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While modern-day women and birthing communities are certainly bringing doulas back, there is still too large a proportion of women who go unsupported during the pregnancy, birthing, and postpartum process. Why, you ask? Mostly because, they do not know we exist. It is the lack of conversation, or the lack of clarity on our exact role, that I sadly have to believe is one of the main reasons that birth has the potential to be such a traumatic experience for some women.  Having the guidance of your doula to shepherd you into the parenting life with grace, provide you with materials to support you every step of the way, can provide you with your lifeline if when you need it.

A glorious benefit in making the choice to hire a doula is that he/she may in turn lead you to your permanent, modern village.

Truth is, the years of preconception, pregnancy, transitioning to becoming a mother of one, two, three, multiples, etc., can come with many mixed emotions. No matter what your situation turns out to be when you find out you are pregnant, the feeling of isolation can be sudden and agonizing. When hiring a doula, you’re not only receiving the personal care of a hands-on teammate in your birthing journey, you are also DSC01327choosing an expert in community, local resources, birth education, knowledge of primary care givers specific work, and access to birth related evidence, articles, and, yes, even a postpartum sounding board. The doula will, in essence, be your trail guide for navigating the rough and unknown waters of this new chapter.

It is time, now, that we stop isolating ourselves as mothers. Let’s remind our world that we have been supporting each other proudly and strongly for…well…since the dawn of humankind. We do not need to do it alone. It may feel too daunting a task going to these mothering circles full of strangers, organizing birth class dinners at your house, or even seeing a therapist to get the necessary prescriptions to aid you. What if, in lieu of uncertainty of the support you need, you could Call. Your. Doula.

We can support this adventure every step of the way. We are here, so that you can be here and present through the whole process.

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Now that I have you convinced of the awesomeness of unconditional education and no-judgement support during your birthing years, let me illuminate the steps necessary to finding your perfect doula.

  1. Ask a friend: Ask around for a connection or connect with the doulas in your area by using the ultimate doula search engine: Doula Match  
  2. Interview a few: Find the right candidate by sitting in the energy of several different people.  Remember, you are hiring for a job, so the right fit is important. Birth is a vulnerable experience, so pick someone who will make you feel completely safe, who makes you feel confident, and someone by whom you and your birth partner feel empowered.
  3. Ask all the questions: Make sure you understand their vision of care, fees, and schedule and those align with what you had in mind for your birth vision. After all, it is your birth, the team you hire should complement it in every way with encouragement and advice that makes you feel informed. Do you want a doula just for prenatal education and birth? Do you know you’ll need postpartum care? Do you even know what that means? Does this person have the resources for all of that?
  4. Contract: You should always enter into a contract with your doula. That way there is an expectation of care that is agreed upon by all parties. This agreement is key, as mentioned above, it will be the catalyst for your new life as a mother.
  5. Get excited: Your doula should help you feel connected to birth classes, books, and other materials to prepare you for your upcoming experiences and all outcomes!

We all need the help. It is up to us to choose, in this modern world, just what our helping hand will look like. Most of us consider this calling a service to womankind alike. I am here to let you know it’s out there. I am writing to speak aloud that we are everywhere. We are your friends, neighbors, sisters, mothers, co-workers and colleagues, gym members, professionals, and tradeswomen.nature.jpg

We are your village, and we are here for you.

Kristy is a doula, massage therapist, energy worker and mom of 2 in Virginia.

 

Bug off! Non-toxic home pest control

It’s that time again! The end-of-summer showers have arrived, bringing with them lots of humidity loving… BUGS. Yep, just when you think school’s back in session and you are solidly on the way to a pumpkin spice latte, the summer heat and showers hang around and make it feel like these bugs are here to stay FOREVER.

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Ok, ok, I exaggerate. But here, near the water, I feel like we’ve had more than our fair share of creepy crawlers this year, and  kid-friendly, non-toxic methods to deal with these seasonal pests is something that I find moms ask me about ALL the time. And I’m all for supporting eco-systems and letting bugs do their thing outside, but when they come inside on repeat?! Whole lotta NOPE.

So, when the little crawlers have you creeping, or shall I say “bugging out”?? (Who’s got mom jokes??) Have no fear, we got you. And as moms, we are particular. We want bugs out, but no toxic pesticides in either. Here are our go-to (and I don’t know if I can say stylish in this arena… but not-totally-smelly-and-disgusting-looking in the very least) methods for kid-safe/pet-safe indoor pest control to keep the summer bugs at bay.

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The offender: Fruit Flies

Look. I love a beautifully arranged fresh bowl of produce as much as the next guy, but the GD fruit flies are really cramping my style. I am absolutely certain that every time I reach for a lime, those little suckers have multiplied. But homemade methods for trapping fruit flies can seem borderline sadistic. You know, the mashed-up fruit with the funnel in a cup trick? And the sticky paper?! No. The solution shouldn’t be more disgusting than the problem, people! Enter the saviors at Garden Supply Co. with this little beauty, pictured below.

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This actually nice-to-look-at soapstone dish comes with two odorless bait inserts that lure in fruit flies and trap them. And it works. Like within days, you’re done. (Maybe the best part, even when emptying, the flies are OUT OF SIGHT!! Yes!) You can leave the simple, clean, soapstone container out on your counter preventatively and no one gets fruit flies in their wine. Win.

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I want to think of them being cute.  I just… can’t.

The offender: Ants, Spiders (and other crawly friends)

I really just can’t even list the names of all the summer crawlies. But thankfully, I don’t have to, because there is a natural, non-toxic solution that works on all of them called Diatomaceous Earth (DE). DE can be used indoors or outdoors, and deters ants, spiders and the like. It is made of the fossilized remains of phytoplankton (yes, REALLY!) and is completely odorless and about as worry-free as it gets. It’s harmless even if baby gets some in her MOUTH. (Little known fact: Humans actually can and do eat DE, as often farmers sprinkle DE in and around their grain to keep the bugs out of the grain.)

To use, sprinkle the powder where you think the little critters are coming in (vacuum excess if using indoors) and let this stuff do its magic. It takes a couple days, but we saw a drastic decrease in our stubborn sugar ants pretty quickly. For more information on DE and how it works, check out this article from SFGate.

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The Offender: House Flies

Oh my flipping word… if another fly buzzes past my head at a summer meal!! Am I right?! Ugh, let’s just say I struggle to find the redeeming qualities of house-flies when the sight of them inevitably reminds me that they probably sat on poo before they sat on my kid’s sandwich. Every.single.time.

Common solutions to flies are often ineffective, smelly, loud, or visually pretty gross. Think fly-zappers, smelly traps, and yet again, the sticky paper. Why the sticky paper!? I don’t want to look at live flies, but I also don’t want to see them stuck to my wall. Instead, here are some quiet (maybe even interesting) and non-toxic solutions we use in my house.

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Venus Fly Trap

For real. You can get a plant that will eat your house fly problem. OK, carnivorous plants are basically just cool.  While interesting (and maybe fun in an odd way?) and happy to digest any victims of the fly-swatter, our Venus Fly Trap wasn’t up to the job of actually ridding our residence of flies. (Side note: did you know venus fly traps are actually native to the Carolinas?! They originally grew wild in boggy areas of North and South Carolina, gobbling up swamp bugs! Sorry, I digress. But really, that is cool.)

Indoor Silent UV trappers

UV light trappers are not new, but the quiet, indoor models are. (Trust me, this is not the porch zapper of our childhood.)

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I love this method because it emits ZERO chemicals into our home and the clean, non-offensive look of this trap (pictured above) in particular that comes with a lot of solid consumer reviews, makes for a tidy and non-toxic but effective fly-catcher. (Works for mosquitoes too!)

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Whole home: Essential Oils

Another method for cleansing your home of pests is essential oils. While they won’t trap or rid your home of infestations, they will smell nice, and have a deterrent effect that can help keep pests out instead of drawing them in. Some great scents to try include Rosemary, Citronella, Lavender, and Tea Tree oil. Always diffuse with care and according to instructions.

Try a drop of each in a carrier oil such as ghee butter, olive, grapeseed, coconut, or avocado oil. Rub it all over as a deterrent. If you wish to diffuse it, grab a diffuser from any health food store (don’t make it expensive) and place 3-6 drops of each oil each in your blend if you are relaxing outside.

When in doubt: go with Hollywood. Honestly, the best pest deterrent is pure garlic oil. Crush a clove or two….or three… You’ll have to bathe after, but you won’t have West Nile. (Or vampires.) I’m just sayin’.

Wishing you a pest-free weekend and a fresh, clean home! I’ll be here, doing my no-fruit-fly happy dance. From my fruit-bowl to yours, you’re welcome.

 

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and fly-swatting ninja.

Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography

Zen As A Mother: Kristy’s Simple Guide to Creating Your At Home Zen Space

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Oh, there you are!

Now that school is back in session, I have found gratitude in some straight up sol-i-tude. Know what I’m sayin’? Rather than spending this time binge watching “This is Us” (no judgement if that is how you relax) or adding on work hours that would leave me depleted when the kids got home, I’ve decided to dedicate this time where I am transitioning in so many ways to starting each day with some zen time.

This has always been a hard concept for me, because my house has never felt…well….zen-able. I have struggled with the ability to turn off my anxiety in order to sit peacefully without the checklist of things that I have to get done before I turn my “mom” back on. I realize now, that that notion is no longer working for me.

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So, I put on my Namaste big girl pants and tackled a space in my house that has been many things. A guest room, a Massage Room, the room where I kept all my LulaRoe clothing inventory (yes I did do that for a time) and now, I have transformed it into a loving and welcoming environment for all those family members who wish to find peace with meditation.

SOOOOOOO, without further Ado, I give you my guide to making your seemingly impossible chaotic space….zenified.

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  1. Find a subtle corner: It doesn’t have to be an elaborate room or even a huge space, if you feel at peace in a corner of your bathroom with Cindy Lauper blaring, do that.
  2. Declutter your space; Declutter your mind: Make sure you vacuum, sweep, remove any trash or clutter items, so that energy can flow nicely and there are less distractions in your space. In the Ultimate Beginners Guide to Feng Shui, (Feng Shui being an ancient Chinese version of creating harmony in your living or working space) “In a clear and organized space, energy can flow freely and feelings of guilt and unrest might vanish too.” I know that clutter makes me feel irritated and judegmental of myself and my surroundings, and disorganization of my space adds to my anxiety and scatter-brained moments. So, clear answer is a clear space leads to a clear mind.
  3. Meaningful Decorating: For me, it is super important to feel inspired by the art that surrounds me. Whether it invokes a sense of peace, a pleasant memory, or makes me feel cloaked in the guidance of a loved one who has passed, each piece in my zen space has meaning. My personal space has some living energy in the plants that remind me of divine guidance and the readiness of life to bloom at any moment.
  4. Sacred clearing: Not only do we declutter our space of “things”, we must also declutter our space of energy. If you haven’t heard of smudgingimg_0031 with sacred sage before, now is the time to jump on that train. It can be a smudge stick, or it can come in spray form, but the idea is the same. According to Jane Alexander in her article Smudging, “It [smudging] is the equivalent of spiritual spring cleaning.” There is a ton of information out there about the origins of this practice, but for our purposes here, I will explain my intentions. Sacred sage, for me, allows any energy that will influence my mediation practice to be cleared. I believe the smoke from burning the smudge stick will attach to the energies. So, I fill the room, open all the windows, and blow the energy out to the earth. This way, I am clear of any influences or energies that are not my own.
  5. Sound Elements: Sound therapy is always a plus for keeping energy flowing and clear as it is moving through your space. In this amazing book, How to Heal with Singing Bowls, Suren Shrethsa explains that “clients have experienced a wide array of benefits from deep stress relief and relaxation, to a reduction in chronic pain.” One can also use music of all kinds, guided meditation tapes, or water elements such as this fountain for the sound therapy as well.
  6. Get Cozy: In my zen space, I use a sham pillow that’s cushy and cozy to sit on. You, however, may choose to lay, sit in a meditation chair, stand, or even do yoga. The choice is yours, just get comfy so your body can fully relax.
  7. Set up your Altar: There are a million ways to set up your altar space. Setting up an altar with statues, figures, photos, intention candles, or relics that pay homage to your higher power, can help ground your reflections and connect you to that source you find most comforting. It does not have to be about an organized religion, but just think about what makes you feel unconditional love, and place your reminders on your altar. Mine has a heart that reminds me of the sacred union between my heart and the universe, and a mantra that reminds me to light my soul’s fire and be fearless in that. I also love to remember that the world is full of magic, so I am inspired by peacock feathers and a fairy next to my orchid.
  8. Protect your space: believe it or not, it’s super easy to be effected by the energy of others while creating sacred space for you. If your kids are at home, or your neighbors are cutting the grass, their influential distractions can take their toll. I like to put up special mirrors, called Bagua mirrors that deflect negative energies and keep them from entering your space and on the other side, keep positive vibes in. Rad, right?
  9. Time for zen. Now, it’s up to you. Go forth, my loves, and get your zen on, whatever that means to you.

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Kristy is a doula, massage therapist, energy worker and mom of 2 in Virginia.

Labor Day 2.0

If I found myself unexpectedly on a trivia game show, I could probably have told you Labor Day was in some way a holiday to honor the struggles of those in the Labor movement in the late 1800s-early 1900s ish. I knew there had been strikes over working hours and conditions. And yet… I didn’t reallllllly know why we had this day where so many people were off work and stores offer awesome sales. I wanted to know how we, today, could best understand and honor this day. So I put on my nerd hat and started reading.

adult blur books close up
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I stumbled across an article by Jay Zagorsky, “The Eclectic Economist”, titled Have we forgotten the true meaning of labor day? In it, he says, “Labor Day came about because workers felt they were spending too many hours and days on the job.” He describes the working conditions of those laborers – 70 hour work weeks, 7 days a week, few if any holidays.

wait…. is he talking about parenting?

He suggests, “If you work all the time and never really take a vacation, start a new ritual that honors the original spirit of Labor Day. Give yourself the day off.” … tell me more!

Now, I’m not saying hard labor in a late 19th century factory is the same as raising kids and maintaining a household amidst admittedly first world problems. And probably someone’s going to get on a high horse and ‘educate me’ on the insensitivity of this post.

On the other hand… 70 hour work week?? wow! sounds luxurious! If you are lucky and your kids reliably sleep 8 hours a night, you, as a parent are still left with 112 hours a week of duty. Repeatedly doing the same actions, in a single work environment, over and over and over… few if any bathroom or lunch breaks. You have to admit there are some major parallels up in here. Labor comes in lots of different forms these days. We are all more worn down, more disconnected, more at-the-end-of-our-frayed-and-breaking-ropes than ever.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t celebrate the work done by those early activists to fight for safer and more humane working conditions. Of course that should still be part of the day. But, can we not also update this holiday like we have for so many others?? How many of you still light a bonfire and sacrifice an animal on Samhain (Halloween)? Who’s asking the town bum to order around the wealthy people to celebrate Christmas (Thanks History Channel for that crazy info)? Holiday celebrations change as we do over time.

I propose a new kind of Labor Day celebration. Whatever your “Labor” is – do the opposite. Are you slaving your days away in an office away from your family? Stay home. Turn off your computer and phone and just be with them. Are you a stay-at-home parent, never getting a minute away to breathe? Get the grandparents over or hire a babysitter and go do something utterly selfish that feeds your soul.

photo of woman riding swing in front of waterfalls
Photo by Artem Bali on Pexels.com

And then, make time to think like those early activists and plan how to make your laboring life more humane, more healthy, more supportive of a whole YOU. Write it down, then plan how you will make it happen – like a better version of New Year’s resolutions. Because you’ll keep this one, right?

Labor Day: Because you’re worth it

Happy Labor Day 2.0 people!

DSC_4458BWDr. Annie is a family physician, mom of 2 with 1 on the way, married to a busy doctor and dedicated to fending for her own non-laboring self-care time.