From Plastic to Glass

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I can’t really explain what has happened to me this past week.

I have ALWAYS known that exposure to a lot of chemicals or plastic is “bad for you”. I never really investigated any further other than that passing understanding, and over the years, I have settled into a lifestyle where I am surrounded by products that are without question, toxic.

In the last 12 months I have become increasingly concerned about our use of plastic and its effects on the environment. To me, the damage that plastic is causing the natural world is very tangible and very alarming. I began making small changes at home as a way of reducing our use of single-use plastic and changed the way I thought about shopping at the grocery store (because so much of our plastic trash comes from the packaging of products we pick up at the store). I started to buy cleaning and laundry products with ingredients that I was certain were safe for the environment, and I changed the products we wash our hair and bodies with so that I wasn’t leaking toxins into the drinking water. And still it never really occurred to me that those things that are harmful to the environment are also harmful to us.

The other day I had what can only be described as a lightbulb moment. I read something (on Instagram of all places) that resonated with me. I spent the following 48 hours obsessively devouring as much information as I could possibly find. I read the results of clinical research, articles (both pro and anti industry), listened to radio clips, podcasts and watched 3 documentaries.

Sidenote: In recent years I have been really aware of the way we consume information, so I am REALLY PARTICULAR about making sure I am seeing a topic from all sides. Social media algorithms and tracked internet usage usually make it so that we only see/read/hear about topics and opinions we already believe in, so you really have to do some digging to make sure you’re getting a comprehensive education on any topic.

The things I read about carcinogens and endocrine disruptors broke me. I realized that even when I think something is safe, like BPA-free, that it still may not be. BPA is just the devil we know. There are hundreds of other toxins in BPA-free plastics that act as endocrine disruptors. The effects those toxins have on our bodies, especially our babies’ tiny still-developing bodies, is disturbing.

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I encourage everyone to do their own research and decide for themselves what is appropriate, but I came to the conclusion that I need to make some big changes at home to limit - where I can - our exposure to toxic chemicals. Particularly those that seep into what we eat, and what we put on our bodies.

Immediately after deciding that I tore through our kitchen cupboards and was instantly overwhelmed by the sheer size of the task I was taking on. I thought back to what I had read, some of which had truly upset me, and I just knew I couldn’t let it go.

I can’t unlearn what I’ve learned.

It’s going to take some time, and it means replacing probably hundreds of items in our home, but we’re on a one-way street here. I am not talking about making radical lifestyle changes, shielding my kids from all potential exposures and going off-grid. I am talking about making simple and impactful changes at home especially concerning products that we use frequently and touch our bodies or our food.

As I am quite literally on the beginning of this journey, I also reserve the right to change my mind at times, to be open to learning new things as more information becomes available, and to sharing this process as it happens. As with everything you read here, this is just what works for our family. I’m not an expert, just a person muddling through like the rest of you. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about being better.

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The No Spend Month

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About once a year or so Rob and I will do a no-spend month where we basically eliminate all variable spending from our budget for a month. It’s a great exercise if you feel that your spending is out of control (which ours tends to be after the holidays), or if you need to save a serious chunk of change for something like debt or a down payment. We originally learned of the whole idea of doing something like this after reading about it on And Then We Saved back in 2012.

Every time we do this I get a ton of questions about the process and how (and why) we do a spending freeze at all. I am happy to share what I’ve learned over the years in the hopes that it can be of use to some people.

How do you pick when to start?

Honestly, there is no convenient time to cut spending for a month. We generally do it in the early part of the year because there is usually less going on in the winter. We also usually need a bit of a reset after the holidays, because I just get into a bad routine of buying everything that doesn’t seem to end after Christmas is over. If we pick a month where we have something special that we can’t not spend for (like a kid’s birthday) then we just build that in. It’s not a cheat if you know about it going in so don’t let those things derail you. Better to understand ahead of time that you’re going to have one exception instead of adopt the “well today is already a bust may as well buy x, y, or z” mentality.

What if something special comes up during the month? Do you break your spending freeze?

It depends. The point of the freeze is to re-prioritize our spending habits so that we can afford to do more of the stuff we love in life. If something really exceptional came up during a no-spend month, and it wasn’t a recurring event or something that we could buy or do again at a later time then we would indulge. If it didn’t meet those strict criteria though, we would skip it. Don’t get into the habit of justifying everything as “special”, or you will rob yourself of all the benefits from doing a freeze in the first place and you won’t change any of your spending behaviors.

Do you really save that much money?

Totally. In fact, we did two spending freezes last year to save up a bit for our trip to Italy with the kids. We went for 3 weeks and saved enough to pretty much cover the whole trip. I think that for most people, coming to grips with what you really spend on coffees, eating out, clothes, gifts, etc etc can be SHOCKING. Equally so, the amount you can save in a relatively short period of time can be shocking.

How do you keep motivated to do it for a whole month?

We are extremely competitive people, so there’s that. Also, there is truth to the idea that if you surround yourself with people who are doing something similar than you have a better chance of succeeding. To this end, I follow a lot of people on Instagram who are on a budget journey, and I join a bunch of like-minded Facebook groups to stay motivated.

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It seems like a lot of work just to save money, wouldn’t it be easier to just budget better?

We budget pretty well in our normal life, but we have definitely benefited from doing the freezes on occasion. Every year we do one just as an exercise of restraint, but more than once we have found ourselves suddenly needing a large amount of money unexpectedly (like the year we had to replace the garage door at $2500).

There are other benefits too that don’t seem all that related, but we usually both wind up losing weight. In a month with no eating out we wind up eating much healthier much more often. This year that’s a benefit I’m certainly counting on.

Is it hard?

Yeah, of course it can be. I find M-F to be pretty easy once you get into the rhythm of it (although I have found myself driving to get a coffee more than once only to have to turn around). The weekends can be trickier, but not impossible. I remind myself during weak moments that it’s only for a month and I can do almost anything for a month.

How do the kids feel about it?

They’re still so young that they don’t really know what is going on, but I hope as they get older they see us being responsible with money and understand the value in cutting back from time to time. We continue to pay for things we consider necessities and this includes their programs (like swim lessons and preschool). The only thing they really notice is that there’s no Happy Meals for awhile.

TOP TIPS:

  1. Change what you see on social media - surround yourself with accounts that will inspire and motivate you not ones that will make you jealous and cranky.

  2. Find alternatives to activities you normally do that cost money. Skip brunch with your girlfriends or suggest a potluck at someone’s house. Go for a hike instead of to the movies.

  3. Figure out a way to treat yourself. For me, it’s sending the kids to another floor of the house and making myself a HOT coffee.

  4. Fill your time. Make plans if you can that don’t involve shopping. If you find yourself with a bunch of free time take advantage and tend to some neglected home/organizing/craft projects.

  5. Don’t get bogged down in a specific start date. Preparation is really helpful, but if that means you can’t start tomorrow or on a Monday or on the 1st of a month specifically DON’T WORRY and don’t let it stop you from doing your own 30 day challenge.

  6. Be clear about what’s in and what’s out. If giving up your daily coffee isn’t feasible, then don’t make yourself do it. It will be worse, and more than likely make you give up completely, if you start out everyday already feeling like you’ve broken the rules.

  7. Don’t let a slip up derail you. So you screwed up. Don’t make that an excuse to give up altogether. Take it in stride and finish out the month :)

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New Year + A Giveaway!

I don’t always buy into the whole idea of New Year Resolutions, but I do love the chance the start of the year offers for getting back into a routine! Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the hustle and bustle, but after a few weeks of gluttony and sloth, it feels so great to settle back into our normal schedules. I don’t know what it is about our kids, but they really do so much better when our days are structured and organized and they know what they can expect (and what is expected of them). I think many families feel the same way.

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One of the things that I am focusing on this year is improving our home piece by piece. This includes tackling long neglected spaces that aren’t functioning properly and really adding a few personal touches. I have basically put off hanging art, printing photos and adding any personality or life into this house until we “finish” spaces. The longer we are here, the more I realize that the house is always evolving, like our family, so I am determined to stop waiting for things to be perfect, and to enjoy the house as it is right now.

One of the easiest ways to make a place feel more like home is to hang art and family photos - something that I am really bad about. For someone who likes to take photos (and frequently does) I have embarrassingly few printed and on display in our home. Right before Christmas I was lamenting this, so I ordered a canvas print of all three boys from Canvas Factory. When it came I was SO excited - it is beautiful AND high quality, and was exactly what I wanted, but I wasn’t sure where I was going to put it, so it sat in the box for a few weeks.

If you follow me on Instagram you know that I recently gave the back hallway a makeover with a coat of paint and a couple of IKEA storage pieces that provided some much needed coat and boot storage. After I was done I felt it was lacking a little personality, and then it occurred to me to use my photo canvas of the boys! I hung it and fell in love. Now I see their little faces every time we come or go from the house and I couldn’t be happier.

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Canvas Factory was easy to work with and is so well-priced and BONUS they come ready to hang. I’m so happy with the quality of my print - it really brings me such joy! If you’re fixing up an area of your house and feel your walls could use a little something, you’re in luck because Canvas Factory has offered to giveaway a 20”x16” canvas print to one of you!

This contest is open to residents of the US and Canada. To enter, just provide your email below but DO NOT WORRY - you’re not going to get any unwanted emails. Unless you win - then I will be contacting you ;)



Preparing for a Postpartum Body

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Throughout my pregnancy I talked openly (and frequently) about my body. The way I feel about my pregnant body is a mixed bag. There were times that I felt like I looked great, but I have always received a lot of comments from people about how large my belly gets. My belly does get big, and early on. As early as July people were assuming I was “ready to pop” (I delivered October 15, for reference). While this doesn’t actually bother me too much, I find it extremely annoying.

My belly a full month before delivery.

My belly a full month before delivery.

Given that this was my third baby, I began to think ahead to how I was going to look postpartum, and how that would make me feel. I knew that at a time when I should be praising my body for growing and birthing and feeding a new life, I would struggle with adjusting to my new size and shape – as I had after my first 2 kids. It’s just hard to feel good about yourself, when you don’t feel good about yourself.

I was determined to do things differently this time around, but that required some planning ahead of time. I thought back to what made me feel really crappy about my body after my last two kids and then I focused on correcting those mistakes. For me it boiled down to ill-fitting clothes. I reached out to Amanda Hanson from simplySTYLISH for her thoughts on assembling what I started to call a “transitional wardrobe” and she had a lot to say on the subject:

Prep your wardrobe and mind before the baby comes

Come to terms with the idea that you may still have to wear maternity clothes for a time postpartum. You may never want to see them again, but they are better than going to the store in your pajama bottoms. Tuck away or get rid of items that didn’t fit pre-pregnancy, seeing those clothes every day is an opportunity for the inner critic to surface. You don’t need to give that voice any extra opportunity to appear. Invest in maternity wear that can serve you postpartum as well.

I bought several transitional maternity pieces from Adaela Quinn Boutique while I was pregnant that I knew would carry me through the postpartum phase (linked below). All of them are nursing friendly, and fit me just as well now as they did at 40+ weeks pregnant. These are pieces that I don’t consider “maternity”. They are well made, structured and will last me years. Can’t recommend them enough.

If you can’t stomach investing in maternity clothes, then get used to thrift shopping on a regular basis or asking friends for their old maternity clothes. I bought very little of my maternity clothes brand new other than maternity leggings (which are fantastic even post baby and worth the investment).

Start to build a capsule transition wardrobe

You deserve to have clothes that fit you post baby. These pieces should be able to last as your body continues to change and heal. Some things you should invest in or may already have in your wardrobe are layering pieces like cardigans, button up shirts or jackets, a pair of real pants, a handful of loose flowy tops, proper nursing gear (whether this be a functional and flattering nursing bra or a couple of nursing tanks that you can use underneath a layering piece), and one dress for when you need something a bit more put together.

Based on Amanda’s advice I knew I needed to beef up a couple of areas in my wardrobe. I had lots of fall appropriate layering pieces (cardigans and Costco lumberjack flannel shirts), but I knew I needed some high-waisted leggings and a good bra or two. I decided I could wear my maternity jeans for awhile if I needed “real” pants. What I wound up buying ahead of time has served me VERY well in the two weeks since I’ve had the baby.

Be patient with yourself and your body

Remember, WE get to define our definition of beautiful and it is not defined roundness of your waist or the absence of stretch marks. Your worth is not defined by the number on the scale or the size of your clothes
— Amanda Hanson
My little guy at 1 week old.

My little guy at 1 week old.

Amanda is a big advocate for acknowledging that you deserve to feel good about yourself at any size. She often says, your worth is not defined by any number like your weight or size. Our bodies are constantly changing as we age, as we have kids, so be gentle with yourself as you acclimate to life with a newborn. Your body has done something amazing, so treat it with respect and admiration for what it has accomplished, and not for what you may feel are its failings.

Places to buy Maternity & Postpartum clothing in Saint John (and surrounding areas)

Adaela Quinn (Fredericton)

Once Upon a Child

Frenchy’s

H&M

Value Village

Paula’s Picks (past Hampton)

Mama Beans Boutique (Sussex)

Thyme Maternity (Moncton)

Motherhood Maternity (Moncton)

Nature in the City: Fall in Saint John

Nature in the City: Fall in Saint John

Check out our fall activity list and let me know if you have other things you would add to it. Keep in mind these are EASY places to take kids where they have freedom to run around, and there is usually some place for me to sit down. Both crucial at this point in the game.

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