Friday, March 17, 2017

7 Things I Could Use Your Help With Right Now, Part 2

Remember that time I did a post like this back in 2015? Well, it was so helpful, I've decided to do it again! Here goes . . .


Any recommendations for shows on Netflix or Hulu that can keep me awake during Jude's two nighttime feedings? They've gotta be similar to my favorites, because I find if I don't love the show, it doesn't keep me awake. Oh, and nothing scary, because I do have to be able to fall back asleep without having nightmares after I get Jude back down. So anything similar to the following titles will do:

Parks and Rec
The Office
Jane the Virgin
This Is Us
Friday Night Lights
Arrested Development
The Mindy Project
Call the Midwife
Downton Abbey
The Young Pope
Fixer Upper
Property Brothers
The Next Food Network Star
The Great British Baking Show


What do I feed my picky toddler? Right now he only eats a few main dishes: mac n' cheese, turkey hot dogs, grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly, Chick-fil-A chicken nuggets, pizza, and pasta with red sauce. And that about sums it up. Eek!

Thankfully he loves all fruit, so we can always add that to any meal and feel better about ourselves as parents. And he also will eat basically any carb: bread, french fries, chips, pretzels. I just feel like there's not a great variety with main dishes. And forget about ALL vegetables -- we might as well be offering him poison. We try and try and try but he's just not interested. And we're not interested in forcing, so we're currently stuck with limited options. Is this all just normal toddler stuff? Should I just get over it and be happy that he eats?

Favorite gifts you've ever given to or received for a 2-year-old. And go! 


Speaking of gifts, we really really REALLY don't want friends to give John Paul gifts for his 2nd birthday. We're planning on inviting a bunch of kiddos because John Paul's idea of a happy birthday = playing with ALL the kids. And eating cake. Lots of cake. But we don't want (or need!) the gifts that inevitably come along with it. So, with the help of some other mommy friends, I've brainstormed two ways of throwing his party and not getting gifts . . . 

Tell people it's a BBQ birthday party and encourage them to bring a side dish instead of a gift.


Tell people it's a spring BBQ party, don't mention the birthday part at all, and then just celebrate his birthday toward the end with a cake.

If we ask for side dishes instead of presents, do you think most people would still bring presents and then also feel obligated to bring a side dish? Or if we don't even mention the birthday when we invite people, do you think they would be upset that we're not giving advanced notice of celebrating John Paul's birthday? 

Can you think of another way of doing this without getting gifts? We could simply say, "No gifts please!" but we did that last year and almost everyone brought a gift. 


I want to grow a garden this year, but have absolutely no idea how this works. It's our first year in a house with land!! So I can finally do this! But like, I'm seriously clueless. Is there anything I should be doing now to prepare? And what are your favorite low-maintenance plants? Spam me with all your beginner garden knowledge.


Any other ALDIs lovers out there? I absolutely love that grocery store. I'm planning on writing more about it someday in the future. But until then, if you're also an ALDIs lover, can you tell me some of your favorite ALDIs purchases? Bonus points for recipes that use only ALDIs ingredients!


Do any of you fellow adults have a solution for the constant stream of paperwork that comes into the house? We're drowwnnnning in it. Miscellaneous papers everywhere. Help me organize!

link it up


  1. 1. I just finished this phase with my firstborn, and was watching a lot of similar shows. Two I highly recommend - Scrubs (skip the last season) and 30 Rock (only wish I had managed to catch it all! very witty).

    4. You could add the caveat on the invite that if they feel the need to bring a gift, to make it something that will be "used up" (craft supplies, bubble bath, a snack) or is an experience (a one-time pass to a children's museum). A few articles I've comes across previously on this dilemma:

    7. I keep a hanging file folder that I deposit all my random paperwork into. I then find some time every few weeks to sit down and file it all away. Keeps it off my desk, and I can usually sort it in the span of a 30 minute show (see answer to number 1).

    1. Oh, and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is another good show. It's a little more upfront about some topics that are contrary to Church teaching, but is very funny. I think the third season should be coming out soon too!

  2. 5. Gardening - for Spring/cool weather, I recommend kale and lettuce, both easy to grow. Fresh lettuce from the garden is so much better than store lettuce!! Loose leaf is our favorite, and the more you pick it the more it grows. For summer, cherry tomatoes are our fav, and pole green beans are fun too. You can make a teepee and grow them up that - a fun shady place for John Paul to play! :)

    6. We love Aldi's!! Favorite things are cheese cheese cheese, dried fruits, canned everything (so cheap), coconut oil (again, so much cheaper than anywhere else), and their fun German stuff. I'm sure you'll get a feel for it soon! We don't really do meat & veggies there - at least at our local Aldi's the selection isn't so great. Dairy & non-perishable stuff are more our go-to.

  3. Cryptic Star has some good suggestions. I like her consumables/experiences idea. The other thought that comes to mind there is, say something like, "We are asking only for the gift of your presence, but if you would like to bring a gift to donate to (whatever homeless shelter, etc), you are welcome to." A little cheesy, perhaps, but people really do have a hard time not bringing something!

    As for paperwork, Get. Rid. Of. It. That is my organizing tip. KonMari method would have you getting rid of everything, but I don't quite do that. I keep a few things, but I used to keep quite a bit of stuff, and then realized that by far the majority of it was unnecessary. Be cause my files are thin and easy to manage, it's easy for me to deal with things right when they come in the door now. I used to have stacks of crap lying around!

    I'm doing my level best to keep one plant alive, so can't help you with a garden, but I wish you the best of luck!

  4. For the birthday, we asked for donations to flood victims for G's birthday last year. Still got a few gifts, but nothing like we wild have.
    I also ❤ Aldi!

  5. What about saying something like "In lieu of gifts, we are collecting for ". Some ideas might be baby items for a local pro-life crisis pregnancy resource center, toys/games for needy kids (or sick children in hospitals), monetary donations in John Paul's name to your favorite charity, canned goods for a local food pantry, blankets for an animal shelter, etc.
    I think even when an invitation says “no gifts please”, people still feel awkward showing up empty-handed. BUT…giving to a cause makes people feel like they are not showing up empty-handed, while still respecting your wishes for no gifts, and doing good for others (win, win, win!) Also, what an awesome way to pay it forward and bless others (and what an awesome learning experience for John Paul :)

  6. Two- maria isn't picky so not much experience here... but if you're concerned about veggies- will he drink smoothies??

    Three- Maria's current favorite toys are her kitchen, her peg doll Saints (with dollhouse, cardboard "church", and pretend cars), doctor kit, set of wooden blocks, and puzzles. We gave her more toy kitchen food, dishes, and new shoes for her second birthday (she was thrilled about the shoes!).

    Four- good ideas above! Another option might be to say we have lots of toys, if you'd like to bring a gift we would love to build our library- bring your favorite children's book!

    Five- no advice but so hopeful I will be needing the same advice next year :-)

  7. 1. New Girl (a la Parks and Rec), Parenthood (a la This Is Us), The Crown (a la Downton Abbey), House of Cards if you don't mind sexuality/violence, LOST if you want to be sucked in to something, The West Wing just because it's my all time favorite show and I think everyone should watch it. :)

    2. In my experience it's normal toddler stuff...aka that's about all we feed Kate, too. She really likes plain lettuce though...and olive oil/salt and pepper/parmesan green beans if we roast them in the oven. (Let's be honest, that's how I like them best too.) As she has gotten older, I realized we have to introduce new foods to her while we are eating them in front of her. She's much more likely to eat something if she sees someone else eating it.

    3. Toy stroller, wooden blocks, play tool set, baby doll!

    4. If you find the magic combination for this...please tell me. I have no solutions for you. Except maybe you could ask for diapers in all sizes, and then just donate them? But yeah, I have no prowess for this question.

    5. Tomatoes and peppers are really easy to grow! Don't plant them too close together, but make sure you get those tomato cages for each so they grow upright and don't fall over from their own weight. :) That's all I've ever grown, though!

  8. 1. Not Netflix, but have you looked at subscription? Awesome Catholic content--from saint movies to faith formation programs, there's a little of everything!

    2. Edith (a few months younger than John Paul) loves to eat her vegetables, only if they're roasted. She'll eat cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, even onions if they're roasted in olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper. She cannot resist :) (Plus if we give her something to "dip" them in [like ketchup], it's a win-win-win all around).

    4. At her first birthday, we invited very few people (just cause we're not big into setting a precedence of huge celebrations) and were very candid in asking for no gifts, stating that their presence was a enough of a gift. Her godmother gave her a Mass offering (on the anniversary of her baptism) and some friends gave her an unstuffed stuffed animal. That was it. If we have another small celebration this year, we'll request the same (but I love the ideas of making a donation to a charity on behalf of the birthday child, or collecting the gifts to give away to someone more in need).

    5. Tomatoes, salad greens (including kale), beets, zucchini and cucumber are our mainstays. We've tried other things but we never end up eating them as much as we think we would when we plant. We prefer cherry and Roma tomatoes (they're so hearty! And we ALWAYS get volunteers the next year!) and plant several rows of each because making sauce from our excess is the best. thing. ever. to use up in the winter months.

    6. I grew up on Aldi's food but we don't have them here in North Dakota (my singular lament of this state). Enjoy what you have there!!

  9. 1. You didn't mention Parenthood. I am sure you've already seen it but if you haven't it's time to get on board with the Bravermans. I really liked One Day at a Time but I know some people who didn't. I second The West Wing. Watch the first few when you're awake and then you'll get sucked in.

    2. As a mom of a fellow picky eater, I just try not to stress about it. We just serve what we're serving and make sure that there's one thing on the plate he will eat. If we get really concerned because he hasn't eaten anything all day, which messes with the sleep, we will give him a pb&j. But usually his breakfasts and lunch balance out the lack of dinner.

    3. Water table. (Especially with Jude because it's so much easier to supervise than a pool!) Bubble Mower. Leapfrog Letter Factory DVD (Yes, I am totally serious. Perfect age to start and sometimes you need a 30 minute break and this will make you at least feel like you're not turning their brains to mush!) Then the Leapfrog Phonics Bucket to go with it.

    4. Just say that all gifts will be donated to people in need. Then if people really feel the need to bring something, they have been warned. Women and children's shelters would love pretty much anything you'd get (toys/clothes/diapers) Or do a specific need drive. Canned goods etc. Or just go with the have a BBQ and bring a cake out at the end. Anyone emotionally stable will be able to handle it. (Unless you do actually have people who would be upset and then I would stick with the donating thing.)

    5. We get almost no sun in our backyard so I am sorry I am no help! Good luck!!

    7. We scan things that we'd like to come back to but don't need a hard copy. (Also good for kid art and like their well child stats.) We have a file case for the things we need.

  10. So many answers!

    1. Poldark-- my husband and I loved Downton, and this is also a historical British show. The 1st season is better than the second, but still watchable. I don't have Netflix or Hulu (since they charge now. Grr.), but we checked the series out from the library. I second Parenthood, too. Based on your list, it looks like we could be show buddies!

    3. Tegu magnetic blocks

    5. We have a "Survival of the Fittest" garden. That means we plant seeds, randomly water, rarely weed, and are happy with whatever meager vegetables manage to grow. It works out well, because I like the *idea* of gardening much better than actually gardening. :)

    6. I love, love, love Aldi! We just got one last summer, and I told my husband we're naming our next baby (who does not yet exist) Aldi because of my deep affection for the store. Surprisingly, he is not on board. We'll see. ;)

  11. Hi Steph! Wow, this post is chock full of burning questions! ;) I've got some thoughts on several:

    2. As a dietitian I can tell you that What JP is going through is completely normal and to be expected (although it usually drives parents crazy!). I would highly recommend a book by my friend and dietitian-colleague Jill Castle called "Fearless Feeding". Here is the link:,descCd-buy.html.

    4. Asking people to not bring gifts to a party is always so tough because inevitably someone WILL bring a gift. And, honestly, I would think about the true meaning of "gift"'s something that someone wanted to give you. So should you really not give them the satisfaction of giving something to you when they feel compelled to give? Of course the flipside of that is that then you're faced with the possibility of things you don't need that just create clutter. I have heard of people asking guests that in lieu of gifts they make a donation to a favorite charity. Or, have them bring gifts that will be donated to a local shelter or daycare, etc.

    5. Check out

    7. Look up the "tickler file" concept. It has helped us, but we are still getting in the habit of using it properly! :) Here is more info:

  12. 2. As a Registered Dietitian, it is normal to be picky. Keep offering the veggies. Be persistent in offering the variety and he will come around eventually.

    4. We always request no presents for our son's birthday parties. Just be prepared to graciously accept the gifts that people will bring anyway. Even if you ask for gifts for charity, be prepared for some people to be upset and think you are denying your child gifts. I was amazed at how many people thought I was denying my child presents when it was his idea, at the age of 5, to give to a needy child!


  13. 1. Poldark. And another recommendation for Formed (you will fall asleep it you watch it nursing though).I only watch shows with my husband, which means everything is a compromise and not much is like what you have listed there (The Americans, The Man in the High Castle, Walking Dead.). Sorry though, I kind of wish it were different but it's good. Those look like such good shows.

    2. My oldest was so super picky at first but he has largely grown out of it. We just kept offering. And once he was several years older we started saying, "this is dinner, and there's nothing else." And eventually he got better. He still won't eat cheese though (weird?). I just kept things separate for a long time. I would make black beans and rice for example, he would eat the rice, never the beans but at least he got something and I wasn't cooking two meals.

    3.Balance bike hands down. You will not regret it. They are, in my experience, super difficult to find used but they are well worth the investment buying new. And you have other kids to pass it down to. My younger kids learned to ride their two wheelers at 4 years old, as soon as they were big enough to reach the pedals, after very little effort (my oldest was almost 6 before he learned, and it took him a lot of practice). And now that my current 3 year old is using it he can keep up with the big kids on short bike rides, which with training wheels would not be possible.

    4. Puzzle swap. We ask that guests not bring gifts, but instead invite you to bring a gently used puzzle for a puzzle swap. Every guest goes home with a new puzzle, but no one needs to buy anything, or make room for anything new. It's just replacing. It's a hit with my kids anyway. Old puzzles are boring, but NEW puzzles-so much love.

    As for the rest I can't help you. We live near forest and the dirt it terrible for gardening, the animals eat everything, and it's discouraging. Good luck though. I love Aldi for everything, not that helpful right? Especially dry grocery, but I almost always go somewhere else for produce.


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