Organic : Prioritized

The importance of eating organic (and non-GMO) has been written a million ways by a million people way smarter than me so I’m not even going to go into how EXTREMELY critical it is! (Robyn O’Brien is my fave blogger/expert on this topic if you want more info.)

So, how does the average person on an average budget know how to prioritize? I really struggle in making decisions on where to splurge on organic and when its OK to buy conventional. And if you’re anything like me, I dread coming home after a grocery store visit to my husband asking, “K how much did you spend this week??” So, I wanted to share a few tips.

Now, I must include a disclaimer: most of the information I share in the post comes from my mother, Patricia Ryan-Carlson, MD. I quickly picked her brain while she gave Kate a bath last week (seriously, she’s the best) on why she recommends certain foods MUST be purchased organic. Her order of importance is as follows:

1.) Meat and Dairy – MOST IMPORTANT

Why? The pesticides and herbicides are fat-soluble, meaning they accumulate and are stored in the fatty tissue of the animal. The EPA reports that meat is contaminated with higher levels of pesticides than any plant food. Animal feed that contains animal products compounds the accumulation, which is directly passed to the us. In addition, antibiotics, drugs, and hormones are a standard in raising and slaughtering livestock, all of which accumulate and are passed on to consumers as well. Ick. So much ick.

Grass-fed beef (and butter/milk/yogurt/cheese) and free-range chicken and eggs (Note:  not just “cage free”) are absolutely worth the splurge.

2.) Fruits and VeggiesDirtyClean

Why? There can be as many as FORTY (40!) different pesticides sprayed on each piece of produce (strawberries being the biggest offenders). Check out the Environmental Working Group’s list of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 here. This guide can help you prioritize which produce items are critical to buy organic and which ones are OK to purchase conventional.

Quick tip: While fresh is always the best, I am big consumer of frozen organic fruits and veggies. It’s totally cheaper!

3.) Everything else: Grains, snacks, processed goods

Work this stuff into your budget when you can. Thankfully, grocery stores like Bakers, Hy-Vee and Costco have their own store-brand organic items. The smallest ingredient list is best and avoid HFCS and artificial dyes. And, remember: just because it’s organic doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

My last tip? The 80/20 rule: be good 80% of the time. 20% of the time, give yourself a break. Perfection when it comes to any sort of “diet” is unrealistic. (Hellooooo Bruegger’s bagels and cream cheese).

K sorry. One more tip: Baby steps! Start small. Small changes over time DO make a difference. Slowly move more organic items into your diet.


Kate Berries

Picture because…who doesn’t love a cute baby eating organic berries?!


Baby, Back That Glass Up

This mama is a proud consumer of glass when it comes to food/beverage storage. Glass water bottles (my ello is seriously my bestie), glass cups, glass food storage for left overs (this is a great Pyrex set!), glass baby food containers (LOVE Wean Green!) and glass BOTTLES! Buying glass items is second nature to me and I forget how “odd” it is until someone comes over to my house and sees glass bottles drying on my counter.

Decades ago, bottles made of glass were the only bottles made. Did you know that glass bottles are STILL available to purchase?! In fact, Philips Avent Natural glass bottles were the only bottles I bought when I was expecting Lucy. I had to do a bit of searching, but Babies R Us carries a couple of awesome glass bottle brands.

Plastic has become such a staple in our society, and while MOST (not all) food-grade food storage containers no longer contain BPA, plastic unfortunately still leaks toxic chemicals into your food & drinks, ESPECIALLY if you heat them up! (Um, hello! So scary – that is exactly what we are doing with bottles!)

I couldn’t fathom the thought of spending countless hours, meticulously pumping my “liquid gold”, only to have it tainted the second I put it in a plastic bottle for my baby to consume the next day while I was at work.


So, why did glass bottles go away? Here’s my thoughts:

  • Plastic is lighter – true; glass can’t compete here
  • Plastic is cheaper – eh, questionable; my glass bottles were more up-front but I’m two babies in and they are still in perfect (dare I say, pristine) condition. I bet I’ll be able to re-sell them at a fair price.
  • Glass will break – well, this is technically true…BUT you guys, I have dropped countless bottles on the floor (a couple of times with my milk actually in them with no lid on – so painful to see that milk spill on the floor) and the bottles DID. NOT. BREAK. I have had not ONE broken glass bottle.

Are you intrigued yet? Here are my top 5 reasons for using glass bottles:

  1. Glass is completely nonporous and even impermeable. The quality and flavor of your milk/formula will in no way be impacted. Maybe you need a wine reference….wine references always bring it home for me. Q. Why do you think wine is stored in glass?! A. As to not disrupt the flavor!
  2. Glass is made from NATURALLY abundant materials (i.e. mosly sand) and won’t breakdown over time
  3. There is NO risk of man-made chemicals leaching into your baby’s milk
  4. Glass is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without loss in quality or purity AND 80% of the glass that is recovered is made into new glass products
  5. They are easier to clean and keep looking nice

Do you have a favorite glass bottle? How do you use glass in your daily life? I’m always looking for tips!

“Girl ya look good….won’t ya back that glass up?” You know you’re singing it.

Terribly Terrific Twos

The “terrible twos” have hit our house.

For probably the whole first year of Lucy’s life, I was never more confident in the decisions I had made in my life than I was that first year she was alive. This is opposite for most first-time parents. I researched and read EVERYTHING I could on different aspects of parenting so that by the time I made a decision, I was 100% confident in the choices we were making as parents.

Boy, Kate is a different story. She has thrown me for a loop since the beginning. But I digress…

The Terrible Twos are challenging! Their ability to think for themselves, communicate their wants and needs, and their desire for independence is sure amazingly awesome to witness but makes me seriously question my parenting. The tantrums, the attitude, the defiance. I’ve yelled at her in response to an exorcist-like tantrum in protest of nap time. I REALLY don’t want to be a mom that results to yelling. It makes me feel out of control of myself and of my household.

Thank goodness for mama groups on Facebook. They have become my sounding board for advice and reassurance when needed. Another mom going through the toddler phase asked for recommendations on books to read to help effectively parent in these formative, important and difficult years.

Janet Lansbury’s “No Bad Kids” was recommended, which I ordered on Amazon that day. Understanding that no two moms will parent the same, this book rings true to what we believe is the most effective way to raise and discipline children: through love and respect. This book has given me two things: 1) reassurance and confidence that we are doing many things right; I’m on the right track 2) Tools and ideas for improvement on areas where Mike and I are missing the boat. I’m about 50 pages in (150 pages total) and I’ve already been able to implement many of the strategies she suggests and have noticed a difference in a few short days!

“Gain perspective. Our attitude toward limit-pushing behavior is everything, and our perspective is what defines our attitude. Testing, limit-pushing, defiance and resistance are healthy signs that our toddlers are developing independence and autonomy” – Janet Lansbury


I feel like I am again the CEO of my household, confident in the decisions I’m making. A few tools in my tool belt, a cup of coffee in my hand and Eric Church blaring on the radio and I’m back. Peace in the house is getting restored and I’m taking the time to think through how best to discipline – which is most certainly not the easiest way, but the most respectful and honoring ways to help Lucy learn to express her independence and emotions. (yelling, bribery and distraction would sure be easiest but are not forms discipline, as I have learned. Makes sense, right?)

Will I never “lose” it again and yell? Of course I will! But at least I don’t feel unsure of my self.

Now, to figure out miss Kate…. who is increasingly the sweetest and happiest baby.

Gosh I love my girls. Wouldn’t trade them for the whole world.

Next on my agenda, mastering Yoga. In true Shannon form, I am reading about it as much as I can…

Enough for today.

So pretty! Lucille putting on my lip gloss.

It’s ok, Mommy.

My little Lucy. She’s a pistol (Or perhaps just a typical two year old). But gosh she’s so dang sweet. Returning to work after Kate has not been smooth and I’ve found myself crying a lot more than usual; worried about Kate, worried about Lucy, just wanting to be home with my girls, worried that I’m not a good enough mom, employee, wife, friend.

These little humans we create and mold are just quite amazing. Lucy has seen me crying several times over the last few months. And it never fails – she comes right over with a hug and a kiss and a “It’s ok, Mommy. It’s ok.” I’ve found myself feeling guilty for allowing my girls see me upset. But, it’s OK. In fact, it might even be a good thing. We are trying to raise our girls to know it’s OK to feel their emotions; it’s OK to be angry, sad, frustrated or upset. And then, we try to teach them the best way to work through these emotions. It’s OK to cry.

And it seems little, but her gestures like these remind me that I’m doing something right. Amidst the tantrums and the sass, she also shows compassion. And then she tells me how much she loves me and daddy and Kate (followed by a big wet toddler kiss) and my heart melts.

They are teaching me just as much, if not more, than what I’m teaching them. I’m learning from them all the time and I thank God every day they chose me to be their mommy.

“I’m tickling Kate, mommy!”

Sweet Baby Kate

Our precious baby Catherine was born on August 17th – happy, healthy and perfect. She is now 4.5 months old and it has certainly been a journey with her! In hindsight, I wish I would have blogged about it all. She is much different than her sister. But it’s not too late to re-start. So, more to come.

Cheers to 2016. I vow to spend more time slowing down and “just being”. My two little creatures are begging this of me. And less worrying. It’s in God’s hands, after all.

Mama and Kate. Babywearing has been my saving grace with this little monkey.

Lucille’s Gifts

Toddlers do the most amazing things. It’s so easy to overlook how amazing little kids are in the hustle and bustle of every day life. My little Lucille, nearly 21 months, is down right maddening sometimes. But she is SO amazing.

I was having a really rough day yesterday and arrived to pick her up from daycare with her shouting “HI MOMMY!!!!”, excited to have me watch her go down the slide. (And, what I actually watched was another little girl kick her down the slide sending my happy, excited child into tears. Sigh. Toddlers.)

We drove home in silence, which is not normal for us. Usually there is laughing, singing, tears, complaining about the awful carseat, etc. I was deep in thought, reflecting on my day, and I thought perhaps she had fallen asleep. We arrived home and I went to the back seat to find her awake. Maybe she had been deep in thought as well. I hopped in to release her from her dreaded carseat and she smiled and immediately began pointing out my facial and clothing features. “Mommy’s eyes. Mommy’s hair. Mommy’s pretty necklace. Mommy’s ears. Mommy’s pretty earrings. Mommy’s shirt.” And then her own features, “Lucy’s eyes. Lucy’s nose. Lucy’s piggies. Lucy’s hair.”IMG_6682I don’t know why, but it brought tears to my eyes. This experience is nothing new; we go though it daily – on me, on her, on daddy, on Barley, on stuffed animals. But yesterday, I needed it. I truly NEEDED it. I needed her little hands on my face. I needed to look directly into her bright eyes. I needed to see her smile (albeit, underneath her filthy, snotty face. Ha!). I needed to hear her voice.

Lucy gives me gifts almost daily. She gives me happiness, worry, frustration, giggles, hugs, kisses, tears, tantrums, laughter. She gave me a big, huge blown-out bellybutton during pregnancy that I don’t think will every return to normal. She gives me the opportunity to make mistakes and learn, forcing me to grow into a better person. Yesterday, she simply gave me a small reminder that it will all be ok. I’m going to be ok.  I need to slow down and appreciate these moments more often.

So It Begins.

I’ve always loved the idea of having a blog. But what could I possibly write about that anyone would care to read? What could I say that hasn’t already been said? Perhaps I will write and no one will read it or I’ll realize it’s been said before or that my words don’t matter. And today I’ve decided that that is OK. I’m writing for myself and if I happen to strike a chord with one other person, then that’s pretty cool.

It seems that when we are faced with adversity, we start writing. We start connecting. We want to reach out to others who have been in our situations in hopes of a silver lining. So here I am….writing a blog. How original 🙂