Monday, June 30, 2014

Our New Church Branch

If you don't already know, I'm Mormon. The congregation we attend is determined by geographical location. Because we are in a rural area with a low LDS population, our congregation is extremely small. It is called a branch. On an average Sunday, about 30 people show up, 7 to 10 of which are missionaries. Definitely different than the LDS-dense areas I've lived in in the past--Southern California, Utah, and Arizona. Justin grew up in this kind of environment, though.

Our first Sunday there, Easter Sunday, everyone was so excited we had moved into the branch and were not just visiting. They were excited we were a young family with little kids, especially a baby (though there will be another one soon). They were excited we were active in the Church. One sister senior missionary admitted they prayed for a family like us to move in. No pressure, right?

Everyone was super friendly and loved the kids. We weren't sure if we would stay in the branch since we hadn't found a permanent place yet and were looking in several areas. Every week they asked us if we needed help moving in yet. They did not want to see us go! Fortunately, we found a place within the branch boundaries.

It has been interesting each week, and sometimes very different for me, but what I love about my church is that no matter where you go, it's the same--the doctrine, the ordinances, the music, the practices, the feeling of immediate family and friends. We've already made friends too. We love all the missionaries that served and have now left. We enjoy the branch socials and informal after-church celebrations, which are so easy and cheap to do considering our small numbers. We have been invited to dinner and hosted a dinner. We have new playmates for Caden, and everyone fights over holding Gabe. There is no shortage of voluntary babysitters! We have felt very loved since the moment we first showed up.

Justin's calling is branch mission leader, and he spoke in sacrament meeting about missionary work. I too spoke in church, about applying the scriptures to your life, but have yet to be called to anything, though I will be substituting in Primary the next two weeks (as in Sunday school, Sharing Time, and Singing Time. I hope the other kids show up so it's not just me and Caden!). There are lots of calling possibilities since most auxiliaries have no counselors. Any predictions?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Featured Seller: Rita from WhiteQuiet

This week's featured seller is Rita from WhiteQuiet, a shop of lovely crocheted items and vintage-inspired illustrations.

My name is Rita, and I am from Moscow, Russia. One day I decided to mix up my hobbies: handcrafting, fashion, design, and Internet marketing. Then I spiced it up with my favorite styles: bohemian, tribal, rustic, cottage chic, and vintage. I like playing with colors and getting inspired by nature. I work with all natural materials: pure wool, cotton, linen, soy yarn, gemstones, wood, and metal.

My Etsy shop is pretty new; I am still looking for the right concept and the right way to run my online business. I am really happy to find and join the Etsy community, and I hope to stay here for long.

Check out WhiteQuiet for more pretty products! You can also follow Rita and her shop on Tumblr, Pinterest, and Facebook.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Cute & Curious Caden

I wish there were a way to see into kids' brains and watch their thought processes. Caden's brain would be particularly fascinating! He says and does the most interesting things. When we first moved here, one of the smoke detectors kept beeping loudly and shouting "Low battery." That first night we slept in the temp apartment, and Justin bought and changed the batteries the next morning. Since then, Caden has been obsessed with the smoke detector and fires. He tells everyone about the beeping. He talks about fires all the time. We recently stumbled upon an "Elmo's World" episode about firefighters, which he watches daily. I wonder if he is simply curious or if he is scared and talking his way through that fear.

Also, when we first moved in, we couldn't set up the table until we had cleared all the space of boxes and things. Justin and I could eat on the couch or counter, but Caden couldn't, so he ate in the highchair. As you can see, he loved it. He finally learned how to drink from a regular cup without spilling, though he still prefers his sippy cup.

One morning after returning from the store, Caden couldn't see Gabe in the high chair. He asked worriedly, "Where's Gabe?" I told him to look around. He scanned the room, gasped, and said, "Oh, no! We left Gabe at the Price Chopper!"

He likes to clean

His new rolling backpack. He carried it all around the house for a week.

first time buying ice cream

Caden loves to dance. Except I wouldn't exactly call it dancing. More like a combination of marching and wiggling, with a squat or two added in. Caden loves going outside, rain or shine. We go on lots of walks, and Caden usally comes home with at least one scrape from tripping over the bumpy sidewalk.

Mowing the lawn like the boy across the street.

Caden will talk your ear off all day about anything. Some more Cadenisms: scream (sour cream), subping (something), repartment (apartment), zukiwi (zucchini), and "What's that noisy (noise)?" We love our baby-no-more so much!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

How to Get Your Kids to Do Chores

photo by Horton Web Design
Getting your children to do chores can be a chore itself. Here are some tips for making it less stressful:

Start Young
Toddlers love helping out. Take advantage of their desire and curiosity and find simple things for them to do that they would enjoy, like taking laundry out of the washer and dryer. Starting young also establishes chores as part of your daily routine, and your kids will accept it as normal.
Ask Politely
Your children will be more likely to help out if you ask politely and calmly. Other useful ways are to give them a window of time instead of asking right away (ex: "In five minutes/when your show is over could you please put your shoes away?") and framing the question as a group effort (ex: "Let's put the dishes away.").

Set Clear Expectations
Be sure your child knows which chores to do and when/how often to do them. Keep them the same for younger kids for consistency and to teach them responsibility and allow them to improve. Rotate chores for older kids for fairness and to teach them new skills. Make your directions for completing the task very clear. Specific instructions will help prevent arguing over how and when the job is done. Also forewarn them of any consequences if the chore is not done.

Show Teamwork
When children are young, help them out with their chores and show them how teamwork can make the work go quickly and efficiently. Your kids will then be more likely to help you or their siblings out with chores when asked since they receive help with theirs.

Give Praise
Let your kids know when they do a good job and always thank them for contributing to a clean, organized home. Kids who are appreciated are more willing to continue helping.

How do you get your kids to do chores?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

My Favorite Parenting Resources

photo by Svilen Milev
As a mother who tries to practice attachment parenting, I am grateful there are so many trustworthy resources out there for me to use. Here are my favorite sites to refer to:

General Help
Dr. Sears
I love his site best because it combines attachment parenting (AP) with medical knowledge from a real pediatrician and covers every topic you can think of.

Mama Natural
Genevieve gives great advice via her blog and YouTube videos for those who want not only to practice AP but also to try to live a more natural lifestyle. Although I am nowhere near as crunchy as she, I like to consult her site for basic info about natural practices and opinions and have even adopted some of them, such as skipping baby cereals with Gabe.

Elizabeth Pantley
Elizabeth Pantley is my idol. When I was at my limits with Caden's sleeplessness and no one was giving me the help I needed, a former babysitter came to my aid and introduced me to Pantley's most famous book, The No-Cry Sleep Solution. It changed my life! Pantley has also written books on no-cry solutions for picky eating, separation anxiety, discipline, and potty training.

Breastfeeding Help
La Leche League International
This site not only has answers to every breastfeeding question, but also articles of first-hand experiences with breastfeeding issues, mother-to-mother forums, breastfeeding laws, and links to other helpful resources. You can also find your local chapter to join for support.

Breast Is Best 
BiB is a Facebook page for women to give and receive support for breastfeeding. They share articles, statistics, photos, recipes, other resources, and related products, and answer your questions. Want more privacy? Then join their closed group, Breast Friends United.

Run by an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), this site provides evidence-based information on breastfeeding and answers those tougher and more specific questions about breastfeeding that you can't find elsewhere.

There is one popular AP site I do not like to visit. Those who lean toward AP and natural lifestyles accuse traditionalists of using inappropriate argumentative tactics--like extreme-case scenarios, guilt, and fear--instead of using reason, factual evidence, and respect to convince people to follow their ways. This blogger uses the same shameful tactics, and although we share some ends, I do not agree with her means to get there.

Which parenting sites do you like? Are there any you don't care for?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Gabriel Is Growing Up!

So much has changed with Gabe in the last two months. While in Wisconsin, he improved at standing up by himself and not holding on to anything. He learned how to crawl normally by the end of our stay.

He enjoys being chased.

While in our temporary apartment, Gabe figured out how to clap, and claps and stomps his feet to "If You're Happy and You Know It." He learned how to shake his head no when I tell him "No-nos." He started making this super cute face that looks like he's fuming angry, though he's not, and breathes in and out loudly. I have no idea where he picked it up or what it means.

Everyone thinks he's a girl cuz of his curly hair!

He loves to play with whatever he can get his hands on. Of his toys, he loves the kitchen and play food, balls, and tent (which we just took down because the boys kept tipping it over). He finally likes his pacifier too. Of non-toys, he loves cords, remotes, papers, and our phones if we would only let him. He will show you his toy and say, "Dish." I like to think he's saying "this" though I know that's unlikely. Yesterday I think he finally grasped the concept of clean-up time, because he handed me some toys while I was putting them away--though five seconds later he was taking them out again.

When we first moved in to our new place, Gabriel went on a nap strike. He eventually would fall asleep.

He is finally back to me being able to just put him in his crib, unless he is having a bad teething day. It helps that Caden is there with him for one nap time and bedtime. It also helps if I don't let him take a morning nap unless he woke up really early. That doesn't always work.

He also started walking along the furniture in the first apartment. In our new home, he took his first steps and within two weeks was walking completely, at only 9 months old! (He will be 10 months tomorrow.) He thinks he is so cool because he can walk now. He looks so funny doing it, with this gut and bum sticking out. He still crawls when he wants to get somewhere fast.

Gabe loves playing peekaboo with his hands and blankets. He recognizes and understands signs, but doesn't execute them very well. He shuts his eyes tight to mimic me when I'm trying to get him to sleep or when we say prayer. Sunday he waved for the first time at his Grampa Nishimoto via Skype. I was very surprised!

pita bread

Gabriel finally has two teeth on the bottom, with another one coming, and two almost all the way out up top. He loves to eat food and makes smacking movements and noises with his mouth whenever he sees food or a spoon. His favorite foods are carrots, berries, bananas, raw celery, and pita bread. He still has much to try though.

He likes to feed himself.

I can't believe how fast Gabriel is developing! His babyhood is flying by far too quickly.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Featured Sellers: Unique Artists on Etsy

This week's featured sellers all share one thing in common: they sell artwork. First is Nicole of Art, Design and Dreams, seller of photography cards and upcycled vintage items.

Exploring the world, its society and culture. Experimenting with its materials. Preserving real beauty. Discovering true happiness. Staying curious. That is my way as a crossmedia designer to approach art, design and dreams.


Second is Stanka of Lady Art Talk, seller of collages and wall art.

Design, the manufacturing of different things, the redesigning of clothes from old materials – these were always a part of my life. Since I can remember, I was always painting and coloring anything I could get my hands into. However, university education and my profession brought me to entirely different areas, like economy and sociology. A part of me was still waiting for the opportunity to create, and when I took the decision to do what I like most, everything became clear, and the next steps followed naturally.

About two years ago, I decided to do something new. While surfing on the Internet, I discovered lots of videos related to the work I do now – instantaneously I knew that this is what I wanted to do. I always had a passion for changing things into something else, and collage opened up a new possibility to express this emotion. Etsy popped up as 'the' place for selling my work. The magic of inspirational art is that it reminds you of who you are.


Third is Janet from Made by JH, seller of handpainted iPhone cases.

I am a painter and student, living in the little big city of Charlotte, NC. I have studied accounting and marketing, but ultimately found my love in the arts. I love luxury fashion, hot fries, and family. I have a passion for making everyday items into a work of art. I am inspired by the sea, bold colors, textures, and the work of Vincent Van Gogh.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Our New Home

This is our new home. Technically it's an apartment; there is another part in the back where other people live. We have 2 bedrooms, an office, and 1 1/2 baths. There is a mud room in the front where the porch used to be and an old-fashioned cellar in the back. We have a small side yard and a joint backyard with the townhomes next door, which our landlord also owns.

We live right in town. The library is less than a 5-minute walk away, and we go to reading time every Thursday morning. One park is a short jog down the road, next to the local grocery store, Price Chopper. There are several more parks and school playgrounds scattered throughout the neighborhood.

view to the left

There are churches on almost every street (now I know why Joseph Smith had such a hard time knowing which one to join!). The one at the end of our block--the orange-red building above--peals hymns on its bells every day at noon and 6 p.m. Caden and I enjoy listening to the joyous music, most of which we recognize.

view to the right

Nearly everything is old and looks it. The houses here are a mix of tall, triangular, narrow New England homes; fat, square, Southern-style houses with wrap-around porches; stone cottages right out of a fairtytale; and modern one- and two-story places, though those are more common the further away from town you get. Some look like haunted houses too spooky to trick-or-treat at.

The landscape is very green and farmy, and the sun sets late because there are no mountains. Summer has not quite arrived; rain is still falling frequently. The local insect population includes various spiders and centipedes. The immediate area is not as rural as I thought it would be, thank goodness, especially since we live in town, though Justin would love to move into a home in the countryside. For now, we love our location: walking distance to many places for me, close to work for Justin.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Indian Bazaar $10 Store Credit Giveaway [CLOSED]

I am pleased to welcome back Vishruti and host another giveaway for her second shop, The Indian Bazaar, for which one of you will win $10 store credit!

You may have already met me from my Indian journal giveaway here, but for you new readers, my name is Vishruti and I am from Mumbai. The Indian Bazaar started almost a year ago, and so far it has gained a loyal customer base that I am very proud of. The shop is aimed to become your one-stop shop for all things Indian--from Indian bindis to organic Ayurveda incenses. 

The items in my shop are a beautiful mix of vintage, supplies, and handmade Indian products. If you don't find what you are looking for or see something you like in my sold orders, please do not hesitate to contact me! I welcome bulk orders and custom orders too, so please tell me if you have any requirements for party favors, reselling at fairs and conventions, stocking in art and culture shops, etc.

Vishruti sent me some incense and this lovely canvas clutch wallet:

*I'm not a fan of incense (or 99 percent of most scents, for that matter), so I had my friend who loves incense review it. She says the aroma is sweet and pleasant.
*The clutch wallet is great because it has two large pockets, where I can put my phone; small pockets for credit or business cards, which fit perfectly; and a loop for carrying a pen. I also love the snap closure to ensure nothing will fall out. It's a great little clutch for when you just need your essentials. The little bird on it is super cute too!
*Nice variety of items in the shop.
*Great customer service.

*I'm one of the few people who still carry change, and there is no place for keeping coins in this wallet.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Move Part 3: New York

We left for New York on April 16. Driving for hours with two kids is difficult and slow! Caden got car sick and threw up. Luckily the hotel we stayed at that night had laundry facilities. Gabe cried when he wasn't asleep because he wanted out of the car seat. We made it to Toledo the first day and stayed at The Holiday Inn.

Caden enjoyed jumping on th beds. He got a queen all to himself!

We had dinner at the restaurant in the lobby so we wouldn't have to get the kids back into the car. The food was very good.

Eating peas.

The next night we made it to Syracuse and stayed at the Hampton Inn. We had dinner at a delicious hibachi place called Ichiban. We didn't do the table show, though, because it was late and the family we would have sat with had unruly children. We plan on going back again sometime.

In the morning we made the short trip to Oneida. Justin met with HR and we got our temporary apartment, a furnished 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom. We shared a washer and dryer in the basement with the other tenants. The complex was located near train tracks, and Caden loved watching the trains go by all day.

We ended up staying there for nearly a month. It was really hard on me because I didn't care for our neighbors, I just wanted to know where we were going to be permanently, and I wanted to have my stuff! We didn't get much out of storage because we didn't have the room, we didn't want to repack, and we didn't expect to be there so long. We were supposed to have rented a house from Justin's tribe, but--unsurprisingly to me--drama closed that door. We looked around for other places, which proved somewhat difficult those first weeks because most rental places don't have front offices or signs, or even look like apartments. Also, we needed 2 bathrooms and washer/dryer hookups. After all was said and done, we ended up with a place we found while driving by that first week or two and which was luckily still available (next post will be about it).

The boys also had a hard time. Caden was cooped up in a tiny place with no friends and Gabe had no crib or high chair. They had plenty of toys, though, and a run to the dollar store got Caden lots of educational activities. Caden learned how to write his name all by himself.

There was also a park around the corner. We didn't get to go as often as we would have liked because it kept raining. The days we did go, there were other children for Caden to play with, thankfully.

Gabe's first time in the swing.

First time playing instead of watching from the K'tan.

We also found the library, and I devoured several books to ease the boredom. We discovered a shopping mall 25 min. away, a tiny health food store near that mall (oh, how I miss health-conscious Arizona!), and a delicious Chinese restaurant at the resort Justin works for.

May 7 the boys and I went to the first annual Taste of Oneida, where businesses set up booths and offered food and product samples. (This is how I discovered the Italian place we ate at for my birthday.) Caden got his face and hand painted.

For Mother's Day, Justin bought me these gorgeous flowers, a mouth-watering red velvet cupcake, and pecan bars.

Caden made me this at church:

Two days later we finally moved into our new place! What an enormous relief!
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