Our Baby Class

Thursday, May 30, 2013


This blog isn't about green living, or even completely about being a mom. It's more about being a spouse.  This morning when I was in the kitchen washing up after breakfast, I reflected on marriage advice offered when DH and I were engaged.

We were married in the Catholic church, and that came with many learning opportunities leading up to the wedding day.  Some people offer their sympathy, but it was an incredibly important experience.  I recommend premarital counseling, whether or not you are religious.  It was a little bit like going to school: we had to take a multiple choice test, bubbling in our answers for a Scantron machine. It was a compatibility test. I failed, because I lost my place and mis-bubbled.  The priest sat us down at our next session with a very serious expression as we went over the test.

"Stephanie, I see hear that you do not want to have children, and your fiance does.  This is a very important problem to talk through." I burst out laughing, because I'd always wanted to have children. Clearly, I had become confused by the 80+ question "test." I explained, and then we figured out that the test worked out after all.  There were great questions: about raising children, marital expectations, and whether or not you were comfortable being nude in front of your spouse.  It asked if there were external pressures to marry or not marry.  Almost all of the questions would have been relevant for any couple getting married.

We also had to write an essay about the reasons why we were getting married. It was a great exercise. Not only did it provide material for the homily, but it made us think hard about this major commitment.  We had to discuss what our "breaking point" would be (abuse and extended infidelity).

Finally, we had to attend a class with dozens of other couples.  The class was led by a priest and two married couples.  One couple had been married for 11 years and had two children. The other couple had been married for over 20 years and had 5 children. Both couples emphasized the challenges of the first five years. They didn't sugarcoat marriage. They said it would be hard, and there might be times that you wondered if you had made a terrible mistake.  They said that it would be ok to feel that way, ok to feel frustrated and bewildered.  Both couples said that the first five years were the hardest for them.

This was the best advice we received.  Our five year anniversary is coming up in September, shortly after Abby's first birthday.  There were fights, slammed doors, swearing, and tears.  I'm sure they won't magically disappear after our five year anniversary, but we have learned to argue better. We've learned to fight without hurting each other's feelings and how to talk to each other when we are angry.  When we disagree, we are more productive.  And the disagreements are spread further and further apart.  We have learned that we fight less the more time we spend together. So we put down our phones during meals. We eat breakfast together almost every day to give the day a good start. We cuddle, kiss, and hold hands. We've learned how to express our love non-verbally. We laugh together.  And we never ever tear each other down as parents.  We hung in there through some tough times. I'm sure there will be more tough times in the future.  We still have a lot to learn about being coparents. Disasters and tragedies can happen. But just know, if you can make it to the end of the first five years and come out with a smile on your face, it's completely worth it.

What's your marriage advice, for newlyweds, new parents, or years down the road?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Green Eats

Joel Salatin is the owner of Polyface Farms, a sustainable farm in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. He's a very outspoken promoter of the organic movement.  He said, "If you think the price of organic food is expensive, have you priced cancer lately?"

I've seen this floating around Facebook lately, accompanied by his image.  It's an important thought to consider: Is it worth spending more on food now to live a healthier life later?  Ideally, the answer is absolutely yes.  However, sometimes making healthier or more natural food choices can be expensive (but not always). What do you do if you are on a budget but want to eat better?

In our house, we started by prioritizing. Several years ago, we cancelled our cable.  Instead, we paid for Netflix and Hulu+, and took advantage of Amazon Prime's video service. Our cable money went towards our grocery budget.  Then, once we get to the grocery store, we have to prioritize.  Buying all organic ingredients all the time is just not an option for us right now.  Organic milk and eggs are at the top of the list.  We consume a lot of milk and eggs, and you can't just wash them clean. Organic meat is a high priority for the same reason.  Then we focus on the so-called "Dirty Dozen." The Dirty Dozen is a list of fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residue.

Dirty Dozen

  1. Peaches
  2. Apples
  3. Sweet Bell Peppers
  4. Celery
  5. Nectarines
  6. Strawberries
  7. Cherries
  8. Pears
  9. Grapes
  10. Spinach
  11. Lettuce
  12. Potatoes
We might buy conventional items if they are on the list of least contaminated produce.

  1. Onions
  2. Avocado
  3. Frozen Sweet Corn
  4. Pineapples
  5. Mango
  6. Asparagus
  7. Frozen Sweet Peas
  8. Kiwi Fruit
  9. Bananas
  10. Cabbage
  11. Broccoli
  12. Papaya

We also choose to shop at Farmers' Markets as frequently as possible.  Eating seasonally helps keep costs down. Sometimes items at Farmers' Markets are more expensive, but more and more are accepting food stamps.  Some items may be cheaper. For example, organic strawberries at our grocery store run about $4 per pound.  A quart of strawberries at our market costs five dollars and weighs about a pound and a half.  Organic certification is expensive and many small farmers can't afford it, so that quart of strawberries might not be certified organic. However, buying directly from the farmer allows you to ask questions. You may find that many or all of their practices are organic.

During the warm months, we also grow some of our own food: herbs, tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, potatoes, and carrots. You don't have to have a huge yard to have a garden! We live in a townhouse and have just a couple of beds. Growing up, my dad grew cantaloupe, tomatoes, and herbs in containers on our deck.

Finally, we eat vegetarian meals frequently. Meat, especially organic meat, is expensive.  Minimally or unprocessed vegetarian options are healthy and environmentally friendly. Try giving up meat for one dinner a week and see how it goes!

How do you balance budget and healthy eating in your family?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Unpaper Towels

Every year, Americans use 13 billion pounds of paper towels. Or, 13,000,000,000 pounds, if you prefer.  That means that every day, 51,000 trees are cut down to replace the trees that were cut down to make paper towels.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  Sometimes, at our house, our "green" decisions are as much about saving money as they are about helping the environment. It's nice that so many choices support both goals.  We've been working hard to reduce our use of paper towels, which means less money spent and fewer trees cut down.

In our kitchen, we keep a basket of wash cloths and small hand towels that aren't quite nice enough to put in the bathrooms but aren't quite grubby enough for the rag basket.  There are also some bar towels thrown in there for good measure, and the odd dish rag here and there.  The basket keeps things looking tidy, but it's easy to grab a towel to wipe up messes.  Another smaller basket holds baby washcloths for wiping Abby's face after she eats.  We also have two dish towels: one for drying dishes and one for drying clean hands.  We generally only use paper towels to pat meat dry.

What to do with the dirty or damp towels? I  have a wet bag that hangs in the kitchen. All of our used towels, cloth napkins, and bibs go in there until it's laundry time. (Check the store for some cute kitchen wet bags).

In my sewing basket, I have a prettier solution: a roll of "unpaper" towels that snap together around a roll and can hang on a regular paper towel dispenser.  I picked colors that match our kitchen for a little extra flair.  It cost about $30 to make the roll, however, and I already had cloths that work just as well with no extra money at all.

Join me in a challenge: think of one thing you use paper towels for and use cloth instead. What one thing will you choose?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Enter to Win a Loving Touch Wipes Wetbag!

The shop is officially open! To celebrate, we are having a giveaway with a wipes wet bag gifted by Loving Touch. These are the same wipes bags we have in stock in the store, but with an added snap-on flower.  I have my own plain grey chevron wipes bag in my diaper bag right now. I keep a few damp cloth wipes in there for when we are out and about. You could also use it for disposable wipes or dry cloth wipes.  It's so adorable I feel like it would even make a great little clutch! Enter below and good luck!

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