Preparing to Move

Oh goodness. We got a sudden and unexpected offer for a nicer apartment on the other side of town. It’s cheaper, comes with a washer and dryer, storage, a playground, more space, easier to child proof and better neighborhood.

We are going through and purging our house. Saving money like fanatics so we don’t exhaust our emergency savings. We are also purging our kitchen. Fridge, freezer, and pantry.

Basically we’re doing a no-spend, “how low can you go” challenge. With a high needs toddler and a 12 year old.

A lot of plans are being put on hold. This move is expected to free up $200 a month from our budget and be a stable place to stay until we are ready to purchase.

So how is this working? I started with a moving budget. Deposit, first months rent, pet deposit, childcare on moving day, gas, Uhaul expenses, food and booze for the after party (the people who helped us move), cleaning supplies, incidentals. $1,920.

I have 3 paychecks to set aside this money which is very intimidating. I’ve done worse though.

The second step was to go over out budget. We have a lot less wiggle room than we usually do thanks to two medical appointments in another state. But we made a plan, put a lot of stuff on hold, and seperated our whiteboard list into two categories: bare necessities, post-moving shopping.

So breakfast cereal? Post-move. Raw milk? Necessity.

Some of our necessities might be things we could live without. Like cheese. But we are trying to find financial balance after years of penny pinching and then budget burn out. So a few “moderate luxuries” are on there. Fresh fruit, cheese, Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel, etc.

In trimming our budget for a short term we are also canceling our internet. It is usually cheaper to cancel for 30 days and then reapply as a “new customer” and get the promotions. Installation fees have always been waived. We usually do this whenever our promotional pricing runs out anyways. Not highly ethical but neither is our internet provider.

We have learned to be unconventional.

We have straight talk for our cellphones so we are also switching from the $55 cards to the $35 cards.

We are using up the personal care products we have, less to move. We will eat a lot of brown rice, split peas and homemade bread as I wipe out our pantry. Soups galore. I estimate at least a $200 savings there.

No new clothes. My jeans and hubby’s sneakers will wait. Saving $60. We are doing laundry at a friends house and saving some for the new place – that’s saving $100 right there. No going out, renting movies, childcare limited to necessities. $100. I pick up lunch to go at work on really crazy days, but I will suck up my pride and bring peanut butter sandwiches in my purse. $50.

Those medical appointments? Day trip. Packing food and snacks to go. No drinks but water and black coffee in a thermos. My husband will bring kool-aid because I have some stashed in the cupboard. No shopping. No side adventures. Gas for one will be $125. The other will be $75. But we are saving about $200 with our food and drink choices.

Minor car repairs (like an interior lightbulb) will wait. $45.

We’re gonna get this done. It’s just six weeks. I might even have extra money for a “new” couch from the thrift store if we do this well.

How so you save cash in a short term? Any secret tricks?

Emergency Meals and Our Master Grocery List

I keep a pretty full pantry. I think it’s safe to say I stockpile. I have daydreams about root cellars and walk-in party’s with matching mason jars and chalk labels. My husband fondly refers to it as hoarding.

But even when I’m cooking down my pantry or taking food to the bank, I always keep certain items on hand.

Because I am forgetful. Surprises catch me off guard. Things happen. What if we get snowed in? What if I forgot to defrost meat? Surprise bill leaves us broke for two weeks?

I keep:

  • Canned spam
  • Canned chicken
  • Calrose rice
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Tortillas
  • Cheese
  • Tomato sauce
  • Dry pasta
  • Dry beans
  • Butter
  • Milk
  • Tuna
  • Canned corn
  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Pepper

As long as these items (or atleast a few of them) are in my home I don’t have to resort to take out. I can have unexpected guests. As a foster parent, I can feed an emergency placement (not that I’ve ever gotten one).

I can make:

  • Quesadillas with beans and rice
  • Tuna stuffed rice balls
  • Tuna mac and cheese
  • Tuna wraps
  • Spam rice balls
  • Spam fried rice
  • Hash browns
  • Bean soup
  • Spaghetti
  • Butter noodles
  • Mac n cheese
  • Spam mac n cheese
  • Bean cakes
  • Chicken gravy and potatoes

And I’m sure there’s some other recipes I’m forgetting. But you get the gist.

These are all easy to store, affordable ingredients that my family routinely uses so they dont go bad on a shelf. It’s easy to prepare and delicious meals I know my kids will eat. And there’s enough basic nutrients to live. You know, those important things.

Finding My Soul: The Fervent Pursuit of Joy

I used to be a writer. Not a blogger, like this, but spinning beautiful tales of faeries and love and tragic disasters and characters overcoming insurmountable obstacles.

But life got in the way. And I told myself I would come back to it later. For now I needed to focus on important things.

Painting went the same way.

I fellfor the myth thatgrowing up meant overworking myself, giving up on my goals, sacrificing everything I enjoyed, and becoming a boring worker bee.

And as I sit here thinking why my life is like this. I have just turned 23 and feel like my life is over. Passed on by. I am just waiting for old age and death. I realize that each time I faced the hard times I gave up a part of my soul to the machine.

Some of this was necessary. Surviving trauma, abuse, violence. Recovering from job loss, homelessness, ill-timed pregnancy, poor health.

Some of it was depression. Birth control that GAVE ME postpartum depression. A lack of social support. Loneliness. Marital strain.

And some of it was just Things I Should Do. Hustle, work hard, if I had free time I cleaned or worked harder. Nothing was good enough. Not the food I ate, how I spent my time, myself.

And now I realize that I didnt lose myself. I am still here. What I love is still here. Who I am is still here. Myself is not lost. But my soul? My source of joy and passion and enthusiasm? It has been passed around, eroded, stomped on and given away in trade for money.

So as I consider where this new year will take me I have decided to tell it where to go. We are going to find the lost pieces of my soul. Rediscover joy. Pursue passion. Grow enthusiasm.

Buying the Farm: Financial Struggles and October Summary

Summary: Our journey to self-sufficiency, and my personal dream of farm ownership, requires a lot of work to achieve. Follow along with us as we figure out the do’s and do-not’s of credit repair, income generation, mortgages, farm loans and homestead skill development.

Current Goals

Our big goal right now is to improve our credit. While I don’t have any big plans for borrowing it is still an important step to financial security for my family so that we can takes risks. Especially in the wake of farmer suicides sweeping the nation it is more important than ever to make sure my family is protected in the pursuit of our dream of self-sufficiency.

We have also been attempting to save lots of money. The goal last month was 20% but we’ve had a lot of changes. Our income went up dramatically, which means we now only receive $25 a month in SNAP assistance. While this is a good thing (you can’t be self-sufficient on welfare) it has changed our cash budget. We also live in income-adjusted housing, so our rent has almost doubled in the last month with the income changes. Again, these are good things. It is allowing the transfer of those resources to family’s who need them more, now that we’re on our feet again. But it changes our budget.

October Review

October was a pretty rocky month, with some personal struggles on multiple fronts. Financially we had a lot of changes, as discussed above. 

My husband is also physically unable to work at this time as we await an orthopedic appointment. We are exploring other income sources for him, but this does limit our income potential for now.

We also had the joy of a surprise $400 car bill. But that’s why we have an emergency savings – so it doesn’t take away from our plans and goals. 

October Accomplishments

  • Opened an IRA with Stash. Current investment is $35. We can withdraw, tax-free, up to $10,000 for the purchase of a home. While stock-markets are a risky investment, I feel like it’s an important part of our long-term strategy. 
  • Developed a solid business plan for this website and begun exploring monetization options. 
  • Paid $325 down on our debts.
  • Raised my credit score to 627!! 
  • We have continued to acquire supplies such as quality tools, work gear, kitchen equipment, and lots of canning supplies.
  • Canned for the first time. 8 pints of fire-roasted tomatoes. Skills like this are necessary for self-sufficiency and preserving our personal harvest for future food supply.
  • Stayed on top of our grocery bill, keeping it below $500 this month (that’s $50 less than the month before!).
  • Stashed $100 in our emergency savings

Looking Ahead

Thanks to some education and research, I now know we’re aiming for a 675 credit score and then we can start exploring our purchasing options.

We’re still avidly building our emergency savings to the goal of $6,000.

Our main task now is to make our new budget sustainable and explore ways to increase our income, especially passive methods.

How are you working towards financial security?

Zero Waste Project: Week Seven

Recap: this is part seven in a series on zero waste living. For a rundown of the rules and what happened last week, check out Week One, Week Two, Week Three, Week Four, Week Five, Week Six, and Week Seven over here.

Keeping track of the shopping has been a serious struggle for me. So much so that I’ve decided to remove it from this series. I hope this doesn’t detract from the usefulness of the project for you. Please let me know if you would like me to give it another try. 

While I am not writing down every item I purchase anymore, I am still working on conscious shopping and consumption. This means a lot of planning ahead – I shop on payday for household items and every Tuesday morning for groceries. I do not shop outside of these times now, to prevent impulse purchases. I keep a stock of enough things that I don’t have to make emergency trips to the store. I use a master grocery list and capsule meal planning to make sure we have enough food and to prevent food waste. I write my list before I go to the store and stick to it. I limit eating out to emergencies or planned restaurant outings (like datenight) to remove fast food from our diet and our garbage can. I pick the lowest waste option for what I need and find alternatives or ways to eliminate wasteful purchases. I hit the second hand store before I go anywhere else because a lot of my shopping list can be picked up there (jeans for work, a new mixing bowl, holiday and birthday gifts, craft supplies, etc.). 

With all of that in mind, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of this week’s success and the trash we produced.

Celebrating Success

Fox, our preteen, just finished the last of the fruit snacks (I haven’t been recording the trash she throws away at school because it would be insane and unproductive at this point in my zero waste journey). So I won’t be buying those again. THANK GOD. Even 100% fruit snacks, it was a daily battle with her sugar dragon and other related issues. And the thought of all that plastic packaging every day in the back of my mind.

We have 100% switched to reusable towels and wash cloths, and every one else in the family uses them out of habit now. We have about 4 rolls of paper towels in our linen closet that I have saved for deep sanitation emergencies, like lice or the flu. Our leftover Lysol wipes are also back there, and a bottle of Lysol laundry disinfectant. I had a bad run in with the Noro Virus that resulted in us contracting it three times in three months about a year back. So now I just keep a stash of high-intensity cleaning supplies for high-intensity illness. (I’ve stated before in the beginning of this project, but I will say it again, sometimes waste is medically necessary. This is okay! That’s why alternative products like hemp plastic are still so important to develop.)

We have successfully controlled eating out to actually going to a restaurant once every two weeks. Especially in our early days of foster parenting we used to get a lot of fast food because our lives had gotten very crazy very quickly. We’ve developed a lot of new habits and skills that help us cope with that craziness in a healthier and less wasteful way.

My new reuseable charcoal pads are amazing. 

Finished my shampoo and switched to a castile bar soap from Dr. Bronners. I use the tea tree oil one for my skin because it actually heals Excema flare ups and reduces itching. I use the rose one for my hair because it smells so nice. It comes packaged in a wax paper, so it’s 100% compostable. There were package-free options but they had some ugly ingredients. I’m still finishing up my conditioner, but I already have some homemade leave-in conditioner that works wonders. 

The Trash

  • Plastic bread bags x3
  • Broken glass screen protector x2
  • Styrofoam and plastic meat packaging
  • Broken disposable pens (I’ve had these like 5 years!)
  • 4 plastic Ziploc bags
  • Butter wrappers
  • Diapers, wipes and wipe packaging
  • Diaper plastic wrapper packaging
  • Vegetable and fruit trimmings
  • Molded leftovers x5
  • A handful of rotten potatoes
  • Trash bags x3
  • A handful of Halloween candy wrappers
  • Egg shells
  • Tissues by the dozen
  • Plastic label on cans (cans were recycled)
  • Jug lids x4 (milk and juice)
  • Freezer paper and tape

Areas to Improve

Find out how to recycle screen protectors. Thanks to my clumsiness and our toddler we seem to go through a lot of them. It’s less wasteful than frequently replacing a phone but I want to figure out what I can. I am not in a position to give up my cell-phone, unfortunately. I dream of someday having a home phone… Isn’t that funny?

The tissue thing is still a real struggle. I have one hankie right now and since we go to a laundry mat, we don’t get to wash laundry that frequently. I am planning on when we run out of tissues, buying the off-brand box and with the money I saved buying 1 hankie. I plan on repeating this until we have enough to last everyone between laundry days.

Our local butcher wraps in plastic wrap and then freezer paper. I’m planning on going in to discuss my options with them next payday (when I buy more meat). It’s still better than those awful styrofoam trays and then having to repackage into Ziploc bags, though. So we’re making progress and supporting a local business. Fun fact, it’s also cheaper than the regular grocery store. 

How are you making sustainability easier?

The Zero Waste Project: Week 6 and the Halfway Mark

Recap: this is part six in a series on zero waste living. For a rundown of the rules and what happened last week, check out Week One, Week Two, Week Three, Week Four, Week Five, and Week Six over here.

Oh boy was Halloween a struggle. Especially as a foster parent, but just as a mom, including my kids in community and cultural activities is really important and something that often conflicts with my principles.

Finding a compromise that allows my kids to participate and enjoy the holidays but isn’t excessively destructive to the planet or their health is the goal. And as important as zero waste living is to me, my family comes first, and I have to find a sustainable lifestyle. I also don’t expect myself to be perfect. As a working mompreneur/college student I don’t have the time or energy for perfection.

But I have the drive to do better, which is the focus of this project. So let’s talk about what I did better.

Celebrating Success

One of the keystones of successful change is to recognize and reward yourself for accomplishments, big and small.

My husband is now on board with recycling!

We made a box of garbage bags last two months. This means we’ve reduced our garbage consumption by 50% in six weeks with small changes!!

For Halloween we made candy apples with wooden sticks, carved pumpkins and ate the seeds, and bought used or paclage free costumes. My kids used grocery totes for trick or treating. I am very grateful for the people who passed out pencils, bubbles, bracelets, or limited it to just one piece of candy. We went to a party downtown where they served hot dogs, soda from a fountain, and kettle corn. They also had a pirate treasure hunt, photos, costume contests and more. Focusing on the experience of Halloween was the goal and we succeeded. The kids still got way too much candy so were regifting some of it for Christmas to people.

My dill sauerkraut was great. I have three quart jars that will be Christmas gifts and a gallon on my counter for us.

I finally bought a set of reuseable sanitary pads and I’m really excited. I bought a box of 8 off Amazon for $15. A box of disposables was $12 so there wasn’t a lot of extra cost. I’m not sure how many I will need so we’re starting here.

I’m still avidly working on DIY Christmas gifts and thrifting others, so I’ll write up all about that when we’re done.

We also had a very successful low-waste birthday party that I plan on dishing all the details on later too.

The Trash

  • Tetrapak milk carton and lid
  • Egg shells
  • Butter wrappers
  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • 2 plastic bags from powdered sugar packaging
  • Jug caps
  • Lysol wipes
  • Micro usb chord that stopped working
  • An old gift card I found that’s empty
  • KFC Family meal packaging
  • Plastic film packaging from a pack of sticker labels, a pack of napkins, 3 packs of disposable silverware, a pack of paper plates, tablecloths
  • Disposable silverware, paper plates and paper napkins from party
  • 2 plastic table cloths from party
  • 3 plastic seals from syrup bottles
  • Wax paper
  • Styrofoam tray and plastic wrapper from meat
  • Empty ranch bottle
  • Candy wrappers galore
  • Wood popsicle sticks
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Cheese that molded
  • Leftovers that went bad
  • Plastic wrapper from a jumbo pack of hot dogs
  • Plastic flossers
  • Trash bags
  • Diapers and wipes

Areas to Improve

Next year I will cut off the trick or treating sooner than I did to limit the amount of candy brought home and plan more crafts. I also want to pass out our own zero waste treats like candy apples.

We’ve got a lot of reuseable products but I’ve got much more on my list. Hankies is next.

We’re really struggling with potty training Pudge. This is going to be a very long process.

How are you doing things better?

9 Pumpkin Recipes to Experience the Season

Have I told you all how much I love pumpkin already? Because I really love pumpkin. Pumpkin spice lattes, savory mashed pumpkin and parmesan, straight out of the can with whipped cream… Ahem. I really dig me some pumpkin.

And it’s fall. So I have like 12 pumpkins in my pantry and around 8 cans of puree. So I need to start cooking it!

All of these recipes are tried and true favorites that I’ve personally cooked.

  1. Pumpkin spice coffee creamer from the Balanced Berry
  2. Pumpkin pudding with cream and caramel sauce from Baked by Rachel
  3. Pumpkin mac n cheese from skinnytaste
  4. Pumpkin French toast
  5. Pumpkin Pop Tarts from Cooking Classy
  6. Parmesan Pumpkin French Fries by Back to Her Roots
  7. Roasted pumpkin seeds (in 6 flavors) courtesy of Wholefully
  8. Garlic Pesto Pumpkin Soup from the Half Baked Harvest
  9. Sausage and Cranberry Stuffed Pumpkin from Inspired By Charm

What’s your favorite way to cook pumpkin?

Pumpkin Spice French Toast and DIY Pumpkin Spice

I love pumpkin. And pumpkin spice. And fall. And sweet things. And toast – but especially French toast.

So this was really quite logical food to come from said affection.

I’m really picky though. Pumpkin foods need to taste like pumpkin without being bitter or pasty. The texture of my French toast must be a crispy exterior and a chewy moist inside. High standards.

So cook this in a cast iron with butter or coconut oil for best results.

DIY Pumpkin Spice Blend

In a small jar, combine 2 tbsp cinnamon, 1 tbsp ground ginger, , 1/2 tbsp allspice, 1/2 tbsp nutmeg, 1/4 tbsp ground cloves. Shake before use.

To Make the Pumpkin Puree

You will need 1 small pie pumpkin, to make about 4 cups of puree. This can be kept in a jar in the fridge or freezer.

Preheat the oven 400 F and turn on your range fan.

Take a nice round pie pumpkin and wash the exterior thoroughly with soap and water. Melons and squash are notorious for salmonella. I dont recommend using a precarved pumpkin for this reason but some people have successfully. Eat at your own risk.

Now cut out the stem on top like you’re carving a jack o lantern, and scoop out all the seeds with a metal spoon. Set these aside in a bowl of salt water to roast later.

Rinse out the inside of your pumpkin. Slice in half and pat dry with a towel. Place face down on a lightly greased baking sheet (coconut oil is my fave roasting oil especially for sweeter foods like pumpkin). Bake for an hour. Dont open and shut your oven checking on it please. It’s going to burn and blister and leak juices. It will be done when the pumpkin looks beaten and burnt and the skin pulls away like an old scab. Very Halloween-y, I know. So unappetizing. But it will definitely smell delicious.

Now dump it in a high powered blender or a food processed. Add a tsp of maple syrup or a tbsp of apple juice to really bring out the flavor. Thin with water to desired consistency.

To Make the French Toast

  • 6 eggs
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tsp pumpkin spice
  • 2/3 cup whole milk or cream
  • 1 loaf of French bread, buttermilk bread or challah

In a bowl or brownie pan whip eggs and salt until they begin to take on a creamy color. Gradually mix in puree, vanilla, sugar, and pumpkin spice.

Preheat a cast iron or griddle to 425 or medium high. Grease with butter or coconut oil for best results.

Now if you have a hand mixer I recommend it but it’s not necessary. Whip in the heavy cream or milk until the mix is frothy.

Next, one at a time drop in a slice of bread, flip it it in the batter until its coated through, and toss in your pan. If your bread is thick like challah it might need some time to sit, but don’t let it get soggy.

Fry your slices, flipping when it starts to brown and crisp, and then place on a paper towel or a drip rack to stay crispy. Serve hot a delicious with powdered sugar, butter and real maple syrup.

The Zero Waste Project: Week 5

Recap: this is part five in a series on zero waste living. For a rundown of the rules and what happened last week, check out Week One, Week Two, Week Three, Week Four, Week Five, and Week Six over here.

I seem to be forgetful with some less obvious waste. For example I only remember to record the plastic trash bags about every other week, just because it is so routine it becomes easy to overlook.

I’m fairly embarassed about the shopping this month. Especially the hot dogs. But I went ahead and posted this anyway because my efforts aren’t wasted. I will continue to make progress.

Celebrating Success

Switched to dog food in tins.

Reused my dry dog food bag and rice bag as trash bags.

40 lbs. Of sauerkraut going on my counter!

Packed a lot of my meat in freezer paper and freezer tape.

Switched to a recyclable container of lactaid milk.

Cleaned, polished and waterproofed our boots so that they last.

Saved meat bones and veg trimmings for soup stock.

Packed lunch and snacks everyday for work. This included my own utensils and my own napkin.

I used my last punch card for drive thru coffee last week and I am quitting it until I can afford a refillable tumbler.

Most of my meat was packaged with freezer paper and tape instead of Ziploc (chicken quarters being the exception – the freezer tape I bought did not seal well).

I buy bulk jugs of olive oil now and refill my glass bottle above my stove, greatly reducing my packaging consumption.

We went to a sit down restaurant and refused straws instead of hitting up a drive thru.

I reused a spice container for home dried herbs.

The trash

  • 1 plastic wrapper from sausage
  • 5 plastic bags from meat
  • 3 Styrofoam trays from meat
  • 2 plastic produce bag (a guest brought them over)
  • Diapers and wipes
  • Plastic wrapper from diaper packaging ×3
  • Plastic trash bags x3
  • Tea bags and wrappers x16
  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Little plastic tag thingy
  • Jug lid for olive oil
  • Wine lid
  • A handful of lysol wipes
  • 2 plastic bags from bulk cheese
  • Egg shells
  • Milk jug caps
  • Plastic dental Flossers ×2
  • Fruit snack wrappers x5
  • Granola wrappers x5
  • Plastic backing from command hooks
  • Plastic film wrapper for a notebook
  • LED lightbulb that was broken
  • Broken ceramic mug
  • Plastic wrapping and sanitary pads

The Shopping

Farmers market: this is the last week of market. I’m so sad! I got a case of granny smith apples, half a case of Roma tomatoes, two bunches of carrots, a spaghetti squash, three bottles of balsalmic vinegar, 8 banana peppers, 6 green bell peppers, a kabocha squash, 2 bags of salad mix, 7 pints of raspberries, and 2 loaves of focaccia.

Wal-Mart: dish soap, clear mod podge varnish and matte glue, wet dog food in cans, 18 lbs. dry dog food, 2 lbs. butter, 108 ct. diapers, maple syrup, 5 dozen box of eggs, 10 lbs. chicken quarters, 10 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs, 24 oz. Cream cheese, potty seat for toddler, saddle soap in metal tin, leather conditioner in metal tin, waterproof boot spray, 32oz. Shredded mozarella cheese, 32 oz. Cottage cheese, a chopper, 4 pack of reuseable lunch containers, an aux cable, snowsuit for toddler, giant jar of banana peppers, 2 large boxes of cereal, 1 box of granola bars, 1 box of fruit snacks, 1 jug lactose free milk, wood and horse hair shoe polish brush, 16 oz. Peanut butter, 32 oz. Sour cream, 1 jug whole milk, 1 gallon of dish soap, 2 64 oz. Bottles of apple juice, 1 box canning lids, 2 lbs. Corn tortillas, 3 lbs. Avocados, 3 lbs. Oranges, 3 lbs. Lemons, 5 lbs. Carrots, 2 lbs. Bag of garlic, 2 organic red bell peppers, bananas, 20 lbs. Calrose rice, straight talk phone card x2.

Safeway: 4 lbs. Ground beef, freezer paper, freezer tape, 45 lbs. green cabbage, milk.

Dollar tree: fabric baskets, command hooks, 3 pack jute twine, ceramic bowl, pencil sharpener, pencils, hot dogs, pretzels, 2 rolls brown paper, stack of coloring books.

Areas to Improve

I discovered I can pay for our phone service online instead of buying the cards, so I’ll be making that change with our next phone coverage renewal.

Refusing single use items, like individually wrapped gummy candy and granola bars. Finding substitutes for my kids has been really hard for them.

I will be switching to wooden tooth picks after I’m done with my Flossers – I can’t afford a waterpik yet.

Switching back to my local raw milk in a glass jar is priority uno.

There’s a lot up there to work on. And my budget just got cut in half – to $300 a month for four of us. And my available time to cook has gone out the window too. But I won’t quit. We’ll do the best we can with what we have.

The Lies I’ve Told

I told myself a lot of things when I was pregnant, I told other people, I committed my husband to these things, all these grand plans for the “kind of mother” I would be. I was not going to be the fat mom. I was going to be the organic yogi mom. I would never give him sugar or wheat or trans fats or seed oils. I was not going give my baby bottles, or let him watch tv. I would certainly not let him cry for any reason. I was NEVER going to use a baby swing to “babysit”. And I would certainly NEVER have a crying baby in the grocery store. The first book I read to my baby was Moby Dick. It all went down hill from there, really. I’m the fat mom. I am not the organic mom (even though I want to be). I am the mom on a budget. I am the yogi mom. My child has sugar occasionally. Definitely has wheat. No trans fats. And rarely seed oils. I am a working mom. He has bottles and sippy cups. He watches tv – especially if I need to sit for 15 minutes and watch tv so my brain doesn’t explode. I let him cry when he doesn’t want to go to bed. I’m there to reassure him, but I also don’t encourage crying as a way to get out of bedtime. I let him cry when he has a tantrum. For the first 6 months of his life the baby swing is the only reason I ever showered or cooked dinner or put on pants. And I love wearing pants. And don’t even get me started on the grocery store. Goodness. But of all these little stories and ideals I decided in the determined ignorance of my first pregnancy, the absolute worst was this: My child will not be a picky eater. I told myself I would introduce him to a wide variety of meats, fat, dairy, fruits and vegetables, starches and grains, natural sweeteners, herbs and spices. He would have a cultured pallette and dinner would always be a joyful adventure into the unknown . Its certainly an adventure. And I did introduce my child to all of those things. He’s eve had alligator! And kumquat!! But my child has struggled with eating his whole life – from being unable to focus on nursing at the hospital (“he’s just young, he’ll get better with practice”), to cluster feeding from 2 to 14 months old NON STOP. Being unable to stay latched more than 3 minutes (I’ve timed it). To being unable to sit still in a highchair – breaking the straps and throwing himself out of it. To jumping up and down on a dining chair at the table while he ate. To running around the table while we ate because my child does not stop moving and never has. To chewing and spitting all his food. Every last bite. To throwing all of it before he’d even taste it. My husband and I committed to no compromise. We decided he would eat what he was given and if he was really hungry he would eat. My 22 month old toddler can go at least 2 days without anything but water and breast milk once a day (I still nurse mornings and the rare evening – but there’s not much there) before I quit for fear of his brain development. His last doctors appointment informed us his growth curve is more of a rollercoaster. He’s short for his age and underweight for his height. And now hes lost 5% of his bodyweight. I suddenly found myself struggling to feed a picky toddler. Feed him enough just to grow like a normal child, let alone thrive. So I read Nourishing Traditions and It Starts With Food. I tried a Whole 30. I tried organ meats. I threw out all the shortening, all my chocolate, all the bread. All the things so that my baby would fill up on healthy fats and protein and bulk up. And he kept losing weight. He is still losing weight. My toddler will play and taste other foods. But he will not eat anything. Anything that is besides Kix cereal, ramen noodles, pretzels and corn. I will continue to try and feed him healthy food, no matter how often it’s thrown or spit or ignored or thrown up. I will cook it and serve it and sneak pumpkin in my mac and cheese. But calories will be my first priority for a while, it seems. So to the woman who is pregnant or daydreaming in baby fever, relax. Do your best. Stick to the goals that are achievable and adjust your standards when they aren’t. I still read my kid chapter books (which he loves) and do yoga with a toddler climbing all over me. To the mom struggling to meet not society’s expectations (because you already know that’s impossible), but her own seemingly modest ones, relax. Tale care of yourself. Ask for help. Prioritize and let go and forgive yourself. Its okay to be a mediocre mom. Mediocre does not make you a bad mom. Mediocre is still a lot better than bad. And to your baby, you will always be the best mom because you’re the only one they’ve got.