Tattoos

By: Brady Evans

I am currently holding myself back from getting a tattoo.

I look around and see coworkers, strangers, and people I admire intellectually, professionally, and socially with tattoos.  I watch the news and see tatted skin.  I drive tattoo-1179512through Lexington and into Columbia and pass by at least 6 tattoo establishments.  No one talks about tattoos anymore.  When referencing someone, no one ever says, “AND he had TATTOOS!”  No doubt they are becoming more acceptable and more the norm.

I heard a story on NPR about Ice Man (by the way, I remember when he was found in 1991 – I was just in elementary school but it made a huge impact on me) and I heard that he was tattooed.  Tattoos have been present in our culture for a long time!

So, I am sitting here holding myself back from getting a tattoo.  I already have two.  This surprises most people.  These two stay hidden all of the time – one is on my ribs and the other on my shoulder.  They stay hidden because I am still not sure what people think about them.  I wanted them in a place that was covered day to day.  But then…what’s the point of a tattoo if no one sees it?  Are tattoos for the wearer or the viewer?  A part of me thinks both.

My dog died.  That’s what my new tattoo will be about.  The grief my husband and I have experienced is new to both of us and has surprised us both.  For some reason I think that tattooing her memory on my body will help.  It probably won’t.  It will, however, give me a reason to bring her up (when people ask about the tattoo – if it is not hidden).  I will see it in the mirror and be reminded of her.

What’s your opinion on tattoos?  Tacky?  Unprofessional?  Sweet?  Do you have a tattoo?  Why did you get it?

Cloth Diapers

It is Sunday again so that means that it is laundry day. Doing laundry on the weekends is not novel to most families. It is a time for many mothers to catch up and do load after load after load in between the other tasks of grocery shopping, cleaning, and spending time together as a family. In between my loads of work clothes, toddler clothes, and casual clothes, though, I have another type of laundry going on.

Cloth diapers

Diaper laundry. A lot of people are surprised when they find out I cloth diaper. Some older people, somewhat familiar with the idea from generations past, ask if I have a diaper service. Hm. We can hardly get delivery pizza out in Gilbert, SC let alone diaper pick up and drop off.

I decided to cloth diaper my son when I was pregnant. It took a lot of convincing on the part of my husband to get him on board. Why would we do something so gross when disposable diapers are readily available? How could we dare wash bodily fluids in the same washing machine as our clothes? Are we really going to invest $300 in a stash of cloth diapers when we could just put some diapers on our registry and go from there?

Cloth diapers

So why was I so insistent on cloth diapering? First – it isn’t that crazy of a thing. Many of our parents and certainly our grandparents did it. Second – cloth diapers have come a long way. They aren’t the “plastic pants” of generations past.

Over the span of 2.5 years of diapering, these diapers are estimated to save us $1800-$2200 with an initial investment of only a few hundred dollars. They can be reused for subsequent children as well.

They are better for the environment. It has been estimated that it takes 250 years for a disposable diaper to decompose!

They are adorable.

Some people try to mention that I’m wasting water by rinsing and then washing the diapers. All they have to do is look into how much water is used in the making of disposables.

About washing them in my washing machine – if any parent thinks they’ll never be washing vomit or poop clothes in their washing machine at home they are sadly mistaken! And while we’re talking about poop clothes – in 16 months all of our “blow out” diapers have been disposable we’ve been using while traveling. We love how dependable our cloth diapers are.

cloth diapers

Having this cloth diaper chore probably adds 45 minutes to my week of “stuff to do.” The rewards are worth it, though. I feel good about doing another thing to help the environment, I’m never rushing to the store because we’re out of diapers, I’m not spending any money on diapers, and I can do less laundry on days where we let the diaper be our “pants” because they are so cute!

cloth diapers

If you are interested in cloth diapers, don’t be intimidated. They are easier than one would think! Here are some resources:

http://theartofsimple.net/cloth-diapering/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64os5I4_Z9Q

Letting Go of the Farm

By: Brady Evans

I’m learning the difference between missing something and regretting something.

The farm

My husband and I are trying to sell our farm. The farm is the reason we moved to South Carolina. It is the reason we jumped into the world of horses. It gave us so much purpose, inspiration, and LIFE for years. But it’s gotten to a point where it drained us of purpose (any purpose other than farm things), inspiration, and life. It was a constant to-do list; we were ridden with guilt every moment we spent NOT working on it. The chores separated our new little family on the weekends.

My husband and I both work full time. My husband travels. The brunt of it ALL (work, motherhood, farm) falls on me a lot. It got to be too much.

The farm

We agonized over the decision. Would we regret leaving the farm? We worked so hard to buy it. We’d never get it back if we sold it. When the baby is older and things are a little easier will we be sorry?

The farm

And then we learned that we could miss the farm without regretting selling it. We know there are many times in a person’s life where changes must be made and things happen beyond our control. And we miss what changed or we miss what might have been. But that doesn’t mean we regret walking one path over another.

When we give up the farm, we will gain a lot of things. The things we gain – time, flexibility, and more – are just as important and valuable as the things we lose.  We’ve purchased our new house and are excited to move in. We haven’t left the farm yet because life has been too busy to list it for sale. But we are so excited for our next chapter.

10 Tips for Traveling With a Toddler

By: Brady Evans

Benjamin and I just completed our fourth flight – most of which I did with him solo. After doing this for awhile, I’ve come up with 10 tips to help moms deal with airports and such.

The beach at Grandma's!

The beach at Grandma’s!

10. You’ll never see these people again. Don’t stress out!

9. Remember that most of these people were babies themselves and had babies themselves. If your child is cranky give them a meek smile and make no excuses for yourself. Far more people understand your plight than you think.

8. Bring a change of clothes for the baby – and for you! I haven’t needed to use either, but with traveling comes a lot of close contact and a mess for the baby can easily turn into a mess for the both of you.

Benjamin playing in a somewhat empty airport gate area.

Benjamin playing in a somewhat empty airport gate area.

7. If you cloth diaper like I do – give it up and take disposables. Some things just aren’t worth it.

6. Dump out your child’s water cup before going through security. Doh! It is just water and I could have easily refilled it on the other side of security but having this cup means extra levels of screening with my baby and a carry-on.

5. Less is more. Don’t bother bringing reading material or your iPad. Baby isn’t going to be idle enough to let you read and won’t give a darn about your iPad. Ask me how I know.

4. Layovers are helpful. Direct flights are tempting but dealing with a squirmy baby with no breaks on a long flight is TOUGH. I chose flights with short-ish layovers to give myself a chance to change the diaper in the airport, stretch my legs, and give baby a change of scenery.

Pretzels!

Pretzels!

3. Snacks. Never underestimate the power of a pretzel even if you think the baby can’t possibly be hungry.

2. Standards. Lose them. Baby can have white flour for once. A Starbucks sugar-loaded frappucino isn’t so bad if it gives mom a pick-me-up.

Benjamin praying for an uneventful flight.

Benjamin praying for an uneventful flight.

1. Have fun!  Enjoy your getaway, laugh at your goofy kid, and let go.

Bonus tip: It doesn’t seem like a tip to me since it is such a big part of our life, but lose the stroller and wear your baby. You won’t have to take your baby off during security checks, you’ll have your hands free, and baby will be happy!

Charleston

By: Brady Evans

CharlestonI keep starting and deleting this post over and over again. I sort of don’t want to talk about the Charleston shooting. It totally needs to be talked about, though, and the more we ignore it the more we validate the shooter (in my opinion).

Racial tensions have been brewing. The majority (white) foolishly thought things were good. It is easy to think that way when you are in the majority. It is easy to ignore and make excuses for institutional racism when you aren’t a victim of it. It is easy to say he was just a “crazed gunman” when it wasn’t your own people who died just for being black. The truth of the matter is that there is a big divide in the United States. And if we don’t confront it, we’ll continue to fall victim to it.

I think a great place to start is simply educating yourself on some facts.

5 Disturbing Facts on Black-White Inequality (via CNN Money)

US Education: Still Separate and Unequal (via US News & World Report)

Criminal Justice Fact Sheet (via NAACP)

None of these links is meant to point fingers at anyone. They are just meant to inform.  Once you read the statistics about majority vs. minority in the U.S. it is easy to see that the system is not set up for equal attainment. People of color are not fundamentally less intelligent, less hardworking, and less moral so why do the statistics show that they make less money, have lower levels of education, and are incarcerated more?

It is painful and awkward to talk about these things – I know. But it must happen. It must be addressed. And the first step is knowledge. Yes, pray for Charleston but also pray for our country.

Baby Sign Language

By: Brady Evans

Did you know that babies can do sign language? They can communicate with sign language well before they can with words.

baby sign language

We started signing with Benjamin when he was just a few months old – right when we felt he could focus on our hands and mouth. We’d say the words out loud and give him the hand motions and then feel like fools for doing so. And then one day, when he was about six months old, he gave us the “milk” sign while nursing. That’s when we knew this was going to be a great thing. A 6-month-old with a specific communication for his hunger!? Amazing.

Our caregivers and I used Babysignlanguage.com for signs. These signs are simplified versions of American Sign Language. There are videos and cards you can use with your child but we never took that route. We just say the word and use the sign. Now at 13 months old, Benjamin signs “milk,” “eat,” “more,” and “wait.”

It truly is an amazing experience having a child that purposefully asks for what he desires instead of screaming out of frustration. You don’t need to worry about using signs inhibiting language development. My child has 4 distinct verbal words at 13 months old in addition to his signs. Signing simply enhances the language we use. It really is a fun and rewarding way to interact with your baby.

For more information, read these articles from BabyCenter and psych central.

Oreo Cake

By: Brady Evans

I made my own birthday cake this year and I am so glad I did. Usually I make a new recipe each year but this one was so great and such a crowd pleaser that it may just become my birthday tradition!

Not only does this cake use Oreos as an ingredient, but the cake itself almost mimics a giant Oreo, too. The whipped cream frosting was a nice break from the usual sugar-sweet buttercreams that dominate most cakes. It was also super easy to make but makes quite an impression. I recommend it for sure!

oreo cake

Oreo Cake (adapted from Serious Eats)

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup (about 3 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (about 3/4 ounce) cocoa powder
  • 1/2 plus 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (about 4 1/3 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Oreo whipped cream:

  • 1 18-ounce package Oreo cookies
  • 4 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

To make the cake:

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Line bottom of a 8-inch cake pan with parchment paper and lightly coat the inside with non-stick pan spray.
  3. Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into large bowl; set aside.
  4. In medium bowl, whisk sugar, sour cream, oil, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.
  5. Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients until smooth.
  6. Pour batter into pan and bake until cake is just firm and toothpick inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs, 20 to 25 minutes.
  7. Let cake cool in pan for 15 minutes, then remove from pan to completely cool on wire rack, about 1 hour.

To make the whipped cream and finish the cake:

  1. Carefully cut 6 Oreo cookies in half; set aside. Chop remaining cookies into 1/4-inch pieces; set aside.
  2. Make the Oreo whipped cream in 2 batches:
  3. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with whip attachment, whip 2 cups cream on medium-high speed to soft peak, spoon into large bowl and refrigerate.
  4. In same mixer bowl, whip remaining 2 1/2 cups cream, sugar, and vanilla to soft peak.
  5. Fold into already whipped cream.
  6. Fold chopped Oreos into whipped cream.
  7. Slice cake in half horizontally to create 2 layers. Place bottom layer on serving plate. Spread about 1/3 of Oreo whipped cream onto cake. Top with second cake layer and use remaining Oreo whipped cream to frost top and sides of cake. Chill in refrigerator for about 2 hours to allow cookies to soften.
  8. Garnish with reserved Oreo cookie halves. Serve.