Friday, June 10, 2011

It's a...

G I R L !

If I haven't emailed, texted or tweeted you by now you must be living under a rock.  But just in case I haven't let you know...we are having another baby GIRL!  We are so excited over here at the Ratliff house (not sure which one that is these days-in the middle of our move)!  Margaret was with us at the doctor's office and got to see her baby sister on the ultrasound screen.  It was truly one of the more special moments of my life.  Jackson was all grins all day!  I have been trying not to think about all of the drama that will fill our household in the tween and teen years.  So, more pink for us and we couldn't be happier!


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

a cozy corner of the world (for my little peeps)

When I was growing up my mother always told my sister and I that she would never say no to buying us a new book.  It didn't matter how much money we had she would find a way to get us the books we wanted.  She is an English teacher, her mother was a teacher, her sister is a teacher, my Grandfather worked for years for a textbook publishing firm-so you see where it comes from.  Education, particularly reading has always been encouraged (if not forced) upon my sister and I.  My sister took to this very well.  I always remember her reading-all the time.  Me, well it took awhile for me to have the want to read.  I loved riding my bike around the neighborhood with the boys and playing in the creek.  I would have lived outdoors in my playhouse if my parents had let me.  But then like magic, one day in the 3rd grade my teacher Mrs. Hood introduced our class to Matilda by Roald Dahl.  I couldn't help but read ahead.  I could not put that book down.  I became a part of the story-Matilda and I were friends.  Reading finally brought a story to life for me.  After that I read every book that Roald Dahl wrote.  And then I moved on to The Little House on the Prairie books, all of the old Nancy Drew novels and I just kept reading.   I was not the coolest kid in elementary school.   I had just started to get serious about my ballet lessons.  So I was busy every day after school with dance class and most weekends too.  I was a bunhead for sure.  So the escapism that reading provided was important to me.  In the library at East Side Elementary (my distinguished Alma Mater) was the most wonderful reading spot.  Someone had taken an old claw foot tub and filled it with pillows and blankets.  My bff at the time, Laura Hardy-wonder where she is these days?-and I would snuggle down in that tub together and read all of the mystery and ghost stories we could get our hands on.  This special little memory has been carried with me all this time and I am now on the hunt for a unique reading spot for my little ones.  I would love to find an old claw foot tub for the playroom and refurbish/paint it and fill it up with pillows and give them a little slice of my childhood heaven!
What do you think of a reading tub?  What was the first book you fell in love with?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

oh the places she'll go

Tonight I am reflecting and getting a little emotional.  Sure the pregnancy hormones are surging but I have a happy-heavy heart tonight (if that's possible?) for another reason.  My little sister-in-law is graduating from high school tomorrow.  You can see from these pictures that she is obviously a knock out-but her beauty goes far deeper than just her looks.  I first met Sarah when she was still Sarah Elizabeth :)  Jackson and I had just started dating and his family came to Tuscaloosa for a football game and Sarah was along for the ride.  All of 7 or 8 years old-gah, is that right??  She is fiercely protective of her brothers (she is the youngest and the only girl of five)  and I could tell even then she was keeping one eye on me at all times!  I did have something going for me, I worked part time at a toy store every summer so whenever I would come visit the Ratliff's in Birmingham I would be well armed with the latest toys for Sarah.  After college when I finally moved to Birmingham Sarah was my best buddy-we would go shopping together and to all the girly movies that her brother refused to go to with me.  But as the years have passed and Sarah has grown up she has become more of my confidant and equal- she gives me advice!  She is much more mature than I ever was at her age.  She is an incredible student and the best aunt in the world.  I trust her implicitly with Margaret.  I know when Margaret is with her she will not only have a blast but Sarah makes sure she actually gets to bed on time (Nana-not so sure she believes in a set bedtime..haha).  Sarah graduates tomorrow and then Sunday she is leaving for Ukraine for a mission trip.  I'm pretty sure I spent the summer after graduation working at said toy store and laying out.  Sarah never ceases to impress me!  Jackson, Margaret and I are so proud of you Sarah! Selfishly I hate that you will no longer be here in Birmingham but I am so excited for you to go to Tuscaloosa and pledge Chi Omega (ha, had to throw that in there).  Truly, I can't wait to watch the next chapter of your life unfold.  It will be amazing! I know this because you have such a pure heart and truly love and trust the Lord.  The best is yet to come sister!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

surviving summer

Is it even officially Summer yet?  I don't think it is and already today it is going to reach 90 degrees!  I have been trying to compile a list of things that will help us get through this summer cool and comfortably.  Here are a few of the things Margaret and I love to chill out with...

Melissa and Doug's grub scout sprinkler
Margaret and our neighbor friends love running through this cute sprinkler.  The dogs also enjoy cooling off with this fun toy.

The lil' squirt baby pool

We love this pool/splash pad.  And it is not just for babies-toddlers and adults love it.  I enjoy it because you can watch your little ones easily (no high sided pool) and it gets just enough water to splash but not enough for parents to worry.  If you have a little one who is not crazy about being submerged in the pool this toy is great.  I also love it to cool myself off with the tikes!

Zoku Quick Pop Maker
Zoku quick pop maker

OK, we don't actually have this as it is a bit pricey.  But it is on my wish list!  It makes popsicles in 7-9 minutes!  How great is that!!  I want to start making icy treats for Margaret using Kefir and fruit puree, and herbal fruit tea pops this summer.  This tool would make it quick and easy!

Strawberry Vanilla Red Tea Bags
Little Citizens' Herbal teas
your local grocery store or

Skip the sugary juice!  If your little one isn't crazy about water or is around friends or cousins who are allowed juice- try an herbal naturally decaffeinated, sugar free fruit tea instead.  Pour it over ice and they will drink it up! Freeze it in the above mentioned ice pop maker and they will have a cool sugar free treat.
I Play Ultimate Ruffle Swim Diaper
I Play swim diapers
$12.00-$13.00 or locally I get them at Swaddle in downtown Homewood

Not only are these swim diapers reusable and work wonderfully they come in the cutest fabrics for boys and girls.  They also have a built in SPF 50+.  They have never let us down-no leaks-enough said!

Do you have anything to add to this list?  Please share!

Happy Summer!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

a mother's compass

**DISCLAIMER** this post is real and honest and I'm laying it all out there.  If your not up for that you may want to stop reading now.

....alright, I warned you.

This post has been "sitting" with me for awhile.  I have taken up the strange habit of using my voice memo app on my iphone as I drive along I20 (my usual long trip) to record ideas that pop into my head.  This one came to me as I was driving along and reflecting on how and when I should discipline Margaret.  I started to wonder what was driving me to make certain decisions as a parent. Why is it not ok for Margaret to do one thing but then another mother finds that certain behavior acceptable in their child?  Yes, there are so many different schools of thought when it comes to parenting.  But what is really driving my parenting?  What makes me make the decisions that I make for Margaret?  I think as a christian it is easy to say that God and prayer are what drive your decisions.  And while I believe this to be true and I think prayer is/should be a HUGE part of a Christian's life-it is how we apply the information/guidance that God gives us through this prayer that directs our lives.  I guess this is where I should place a second disclaimer: I am in no way a theologist or am I trying to be.  I am just a christian, wife, mom sometimes wannabe philosopher who really enjoys discussing the gray areas of life.  And on this particular day a few months ago I got to thinking about what was prompting me to make certain decisions for my child and family.  I was and still am trying to make sure that my compass is being guided as authentically as possible.   I think a "misguided" compass was part of the reason I struggled with postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression.  I set out on the journey into motherhood really wanting to do everything naturally and just "right"- just perfect.  I knew that I wanted a natural, unmedicated birth so I started to read everything I could get my hands on in the way of natural parenting.  I ordered a subscription to Mothering Magazine the second the pee strip on my pregnancy test had a plus sign!  When my beautiful baby arrived in just the beautiful, natural way I planned it I was ecstatic.  I could put a pretty little check mark in that box of my perfect natural parenting list.  Are you beginning to see where I am going with this?  So, when I got my baby home and co-sleeping was not working for us, and I wasn't comfortable wearing my baby every minute of the day something in me started to say you are failing.  Look at your check list!  It's not complete!  And then I would go on the message boards and read different blogs and articles and every little comment kept bouncing around in my head.  "leaving your child alone in their room is the equivalent to a mother wolf leaving her cub in the wild for a predator to attack"  "my friends and I refer to exersaucers as the circles of neglect" I started to doubt myself and my choices so much I became literally frozen in fear - fear that I would make the wrong decision.  Two particular incidents stand out in my mind.  One I was in my daughter's room and had just put her down to sleep for the night.  I couldn't decide wether or not to turn her night light on or off.  I had read two conflicting opinions on this and I was literally standing in the middle of her room frozen not knowing what to do.  Secondly, when I finally went to my doctor for treatment he prescribed me to Zoloft.  I immediately went online and "researched" all I could look up on Zoloft and breast feeding.  Although my doctor assured me Zoloft was safe I had to find out what my natural community had to say.  My husband looked at me (literally, bless his soul)  and said "Meghan, you are anxious about your anxiety medicine.  Shut the computer now"  Best advice ever.   Somedays you just need to shut the computer, put down the parenting book or magazine, tune out the well-intended friend, pour a glass of wine and say a prayer.  (Call me blasphemous but I pray and drink at the same time *gasp*)
Don't get me wrong, I still practice a lot of natural parenting ideas.  And I often refer to my natural online community for info and help with my parenting.  But I have also learned that I am never going to be perfect by anyone's standards-even Margaret's.  And truly, I don't want her to think I'm perfect or that I'm even striving for perfection because that will only let her down.  I want her to know that I am doing the best that I can for her and her daddy and her siblings to come AND for me.  I want her to see me trusting God to give me the guidance and direction that I need.  Yes, I may sometimes let my compass get out of wack and there are even moments that I will just be standing still not knowing which way to go.  But I know that God will never leave me alone on this journey.

Friday, May 6, 2011

to all the moms I've loved...

This post is dedicated to my favorite moms out there.  I have so many wonderful moms in my life.  I want to take this post to spotlight a few of the women/moms who have and continue to inspire, motivate, encourage, laugh and cry with me, share their knowledge and love.

to Nancy for showing me how to make a beautiful meal and home
to Cynde for having a heart that bursts with love
to Vicki for encouraging creativity in all of the children you come across (remember the big tub of art supplies you gave me?? best gift ever!)
to Jeannie for making us all laugh so hard we sometimes wet our pants
to Melissa for encouraging and nurturing me during my pregnancy and beyond (not to mention owning an amazing business while mothering a 4 yr old and a 2 yr old set of twins-all EBF!)
to Meredith for showing how strong and dedicated a single mother can be
to Kate for making sure I knew where to go and what to do with Margaret and for inspiring me with her continued strength and love of Christ
to Kristin for encouraging me and telling me I am a great mom and for her determination to breast feed even though she was recovering from a c-section and had barely any BF support
to KJ for her strength in managing a baby who didn't sleep and was colicky.  For showing me that I was not crazy and I was definitely not alone!
to Alima for being my nursing buddy and being my nutritional/parenting style advice line :)
to Brooke for always making sure Margaret and I have something to do and being the most creative and energetic mom I know!
to SK for encouraging and inspiring me
to Cristy for helping bring our sweet baby girl into this world in the most loving and peaceful way (not to mention homeschooling her 6, yes 6 children)
to Aimee for fighting for the health of her daughter and other children with heart conditions
to my friend CH who is fighting right now to have her precious daughter returned to her.
to my beautiful friend who wants nothing more than to be a mommy but for some reason God is having her wait.  I'm praying for you.

to my sweet mother in law who managed to raise 5 beautiful, God-fearing children with enough class and grace to fill the world up!  And for always treating me as one of her own.

To my beautiful mother who made being a mom her only ambition.  Who built us forts out of blankets, signed us up for every art, dance, music class available, let us spend the whole day in our PJ's if we wanted and basically just loved the snot out of us.

And to so many more moms that I couldn't fit on this list.  To the moms who gave me a pat on the back and said way to go for breast feeding, to the moms who have come forward and shared their own struggles with post-partum depression/anxiety.  To the moms who smile and give me that "I've been there" look when Margaret is throwing a fit in the grocery store and I don't know what to do.  To an old high school friend who I reconnected with on facebook that gave me nursing advice, to my birth class instructor who took my tear-filled call at 10:30pm despite having children and a job of her own.  Really, I could go on and on about how wonderful you moms are!

I hope all of you have a beautiful Mother's day that is free from doubting your abilities, comparing yourself to other moms and truly just filled with love and gratitude for all that you do.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

blue for a day

I have been all up in arms over the FDA food-coloring debacle.  I have been trying to follow the hearings and wrap my mind around the idea that our government could decide that food coloring in our food is safe. Although other countries have already been labeling these additives as dangerous for awhile now.  So, needless to say this all has been at the forefront of my mind.  Flash-forward to this Tuesday-story time at the library.  The Misfit and I arrive to find out that it is the library's anniversary celebration.  There are balloons everywhere-which have become a recent favorite of M's.  Once we are seated at story time Miss Nay-Nay (the librarian who heads up story time) announces that she has a special treat for all of the children.  Mind you no child in the room is over 3 years of age.  She brings out a cart of cupcakes.  Turquoise, purple, yellow and hot pink iced cupcakes.  Internally I sigh.  Here we go...First off let me say that for Margaret's first birthday she did have a cake.  A hot pink bug covered cake.  She got to have a piece.  I am strict with her eating but I do make exceptions.  But this day it was 9:30am and I just didn't want her to have one.  So, I sit there holding Margaret in my lap as all of the other mothers walk by us with their children jumping for joy.  And then M starts to scream.  "Margaret's turn!" Margaret's turn! pupcake! pupcake!" So, I get all sweaty and try to calm her down and then I feel all the icing covered faces turn our way.  And then I just fold.  I march up front and grab a turquoise god-awful looking cupcake and hand it to my sweet baby girl.  She swipes all of the turquoise icing of the top and mushes it in her hands and wipes it on her shirt and then down the front of me.  Immediately following this she hands me the cupcake and says "all done."  Even though I folded and let the pressure of a toddler meltdown turn my good judgement in to mush my daughter had the presence of mind to know she didn't want to eat that crap.  That, or she just thought it was playdough.

Do you make exceptions in your children's diet for parties and special events?  What has worked for you and your family in these type of situations?