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Super Simple Nursing Top Fix

If any of you are breastfeeding moms, you know how challenging it can be to find tops for nursing. Sometimes it feels like the only options are either to never leave your room, or to wear baggy tee shirts all the time that you can pull up for access.

Fortunately, as breastfeeding becomes more widespread, there are more and more specially designed nursing tops made. They have various systems that give access without requiring you to pull your shirt up. A lot of them are really cute, too. Here’s a few links to lovely nursing tops you can buy.

This one comes if a wide variety of colors, is under $30, and has great reviews. I think it looks pretty nice too. (Click on the picture to go to Amazon and see what it looks like when being worn normally.)

This hoodie is great for if you want a more casual look. I like the charcoal gray here, but you can find other colors, too. It also has good reviews. Under $25.

I like the cute styling on this one, and it looks like access is very easy and fuss-free. Under $20.

Here’s one with a pattern if you’re more into patterns. It is a cool summery fabric. Under $25.

Now, as cool as all these tops are, you just had a baby, so there’s medical bills and other new expenses, and you probably can’t afford a whole new wardrobe, sadly.

But don’t worry. There’s still hope for you. You are not doomed to baggy tee-shirts for the next six months. There’s a quick easy way to turn any low enough v-neck shirt into a nursing top that will give you easy access.

This would be a perfect top to do this with. And isn’t it a lovely color? (Under $20)

Nursing Top Tutorial

Now, you could just wear this shirt and pull it down to give you access for your baby or your pump, but then half your chest would be bare, and I’m just not comfortable with that. (Besides, now that it’s definitely fall, it’s getting a bit chilly for low-necklines.)

Before I had my baby, I often wore shirts of this sort with a tank underneath to give a bit more coverage, but this became inconvenient when I started nursing. So here’s the super simple solution I came up with:

You will need:

  • A relatively tight, stretchy tee shirt with a neckline you like.
  • A pair of scissors
  • A safety pin, marker, or piece of chalk.

Step 1: Put on your shirt and mark two inches below your bust.

Step 2: Take it off, and cut the bottom half off where you marked it. ready to make your nursing top

Step 3: Cut off the sleeves. Make sure to leave about half an inch of sleeve beyond the shoulder seam.

your nursing top is almost ready

And that’s it! You could hem it, if you wanted to, but it’s not necessary as knit fabrics don’t fray and no one will ever know.

Here’s a couple pictures of what it looks like done. You’d never guess it was for nursing, and I can tell you from experience that it’s super easy to use.

Hope this helps you make your wardrobe more functional.

As a bonus of this project, you can make a cute little baby skirt from the part of your shirt you cut off. (I don’t usually put my daughter in black, but we had to go to a funeral.)

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Cooperation: the Engine of Success in Marriage

This is the third article in our series about feminine virtues. See the introduction here.

The proper role of woman has been the great social question of the last hundred and fifty years. In particular, what is appropriate for a married woman? She is said to have the duty to obey, to submit, to inspire, to respect, to give life, to make the home, to be interesting and charming, to communicate, to demand her rights. But many of these activities are difficult to reconcile to one another, if they are not downright contradictory. If she is a passive, submissive piece of furniture, how is she supposed to make the home, or inspire her spouse? If she is demanding her rights constantly, how is she supposed to be loving and respectful?

The answer is that you must break free from the false choice between submission and independence. The rational woman does not yield silently to her husband’s every whim, nor does she demand to control every aspect of his life or angrily resent anything she did not initiate. She instead builds a relationship of cooperation–and not a servile, pragmatic, or manipulative cooperation, but a cooperation founded on respect.

Respect: The Foundation for Cooperation

To respect someone is simply to recognize their worth as a human being. It is possibly the one most important predictor of success in any relationship. It is impossible to treat others well, to communicate with them properly, or to love them, if you are thinking of them as being less than yourself. Stated this way, it seems fairly obvious. But it is often lacking in relationships.

While all relationships require respect, there is a special kind of respect in the relationship between a husband and wife. The husband and wife are partners in the foundation of a family, a fantastic and unique institution in which new people sometimes come into existence and must be inducted into the mysteries of the world. While other institutions, like hospitals and fire departments, save lives, only a partnership between a man and a woman can create lives. Thus the family is the most important institution, the foundation of all other institutions, the institution that all others depend on for their existence.

If you were going to found a hospital, a fire department, or even a clothing company with a partner, you would certainly make sure that your partner was someone you respected. Mr. Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is a good example of this. He has such a high opinion of his company that he wants to ensure that each employee matches certain requirements. The person in charge of hiring people is supposed to ask himself three questions about new applicants, the first of which is, “Will you admire this person?” He wants to make sure that all his employees can respect each other, and thus cooperate at a higher level.

Cooperation: The Engine of Success

What would happen to a business venture that was missing the mutual admiration so important to Mr. Bezos, if the partners did not trust each other’s abilities? Clearly, there would be problems.

So the relationship between partners in a business venture needs to be one of respectful cooperation. If one partner always runs around behind the other’s back, spending money, making hiring decisions, and changing company policy without discussing it with the other, the company will quickly disintegrate.While they might cooperate for a time–perhaps they might defer to the largest shareholder, or the one with the biggest mouth—eventually, productivity-killing conflicts and a toxic work environment would undermine the company and it would fail.

A marriage will similarly fail if cooperation is missing. So, how can a woman practice cooperation in her marriage?

People form partnerships because one person has certain resources or talents that the other lacks, and together they make a good team. Perhaps one partner is good at coming up with new ideas for products, while the other is good at creating a business plan. Both are equally necessary for a successful business. A marriage should be similar. There will be a difference in the talents and resources of the husband and wife. Perhaps your husband is good at home repair and you are good at accounting. Both of these are important aspects of home life. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe you’re a DIY queen, and your husband is better at keeping track of money.

A cooperative wife, unlike a merely submissive one, will actively work with her husband on an equitable and mutually supportive division of labor. It may well happen that the woman will end up bearing the brunt of housework and childcare while the husband works at a job outside the home. When children are infants, this is almost definitely going to be the case. The feminine virtue of cooperation will help the woman to realize that this she is not “relegated to the home” or somehow less than her husband because of this division of labor. She will realize instead that she and her husband are working together at the most important work in the world, and that they are in partnership, each using their talents to contribute what they can.

The virtue of cooperation will also help her to objectively and respectfully discuss with her husband what the best division of labor will be. Will she do the accounting and shopping, or will he? Who will plan the family vacations? There is no right answer. There is only what is right for your family.

Other tasks must be done together if they are to be successful. Educating and disciplining children must always be done by both parents (if both are present) in order to succeed. Decision on these matters will also require the virtue of cooperation, which will allow the wife to discuss options with her husband. Her respect for him and his respect for her will allow them to value each other’s insights and opinions, and to come to a decision they can both agree with.

The virtue of cooperation will further help the woman in living with the decision that has been made in this way. If she finds it does not work, rather than changing it unilaterally, she will work together with her husband to find a new solution.

The woman who possesses the virtue of cooperation will be far more effective in building a marriage than either a merely submissive woman who adds little of her own ideas and talents to the relationship, or an aggressive woman who refuses to allow anyone else to contribute.

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Classy Alternatives for Halloween

It’s getting to be the season where some of your neighbor’s yards have probably sprouted zombie graveyards, skeletons, ghosts, cauldrons, or other potentially frightening things. Sometimes you see something really cool, like one of my neighbors this year has a homemade spider web in their tree. I’m not sure how they did it, but it’s pretty cool. And then there’s the other yards, where there’s just too much going on… Zombies, witches, ghosts, spiders, bats scary pumpkins… Sometimes less really is more.

Now, there are a lot of different attitudes toward Halloween. When I was a kid my parents weren’t fans of the holiday, so we would turn off all the lights and pretend we weren’t home so the kids wouldn’t stop and ask for candy. (I remember once a kid did stop, and my parents did actually give him candy, so it wasn’t that they were mean or anything.)

This last year, I and my husband actually wanted to hand out candy because we thought we might meet the neighborhood kids that way, but all they would say was “trick-or-treat” and be on their way. But that’s another story.

Anyway, while there’s a lot of ideas about Halloween, as a woman with a sense of beauty among her many fabulous qualities, have you ever wondered if there were any alternatives to horror movies, haunted houses, and zombies in the yard for late October enjoyment?

Catholics have had “All Saints parties” for decades, where the kids get to dress up as saints, and yes, get candy… but that’s just one option. (By the way, if you think dressing as saints sounds boring, you should see the Saint George costumes. You get armor and a sword.)

Here’s a few alternative fun and maybe even scary things to do around this season, which will actually help you develop your skills and virtues.

Try Out an Escape Room

Escape rooms have become very popular lately. If you’ve never done one, the basic idea is that you, and a group of friends get locked in a room, usually for an hour, and you have to get out before the timer goes off. Escaping from the room is quite challenging though, as there are puzzles and riddles and clues that you have to sort out to figure out how to unlock the door. There is a story to go with it, to explain why you are there and to give you a little background and provides the theme of the room and clues.

While escape rooms can sometimes be pricey, costing perhaps the same amount as a trip to an amusement park, they are a lot of fun. It’s also great exercise in cooperation, creativity, and tenacity. It can be a good bonding experience to do with friends or family, and is a great choice for bachelorette parties.

Host a Murder Mystery Party

There are murder mystery kits available either for free download, or in a boxed set. They can be for as few as 7 people or as many as 200.

There are a few different kinds of murder parties. Some, like this one, are played over dinner in rounds, and others are fully interactive, but all of them involve playing parts, asking questions, and trying to solve the crime. In the interactive versions, you have to wander around and find people and solve problems, all while either trying to discover the murderer, or if you are the murderer, trying to conceal your identity. This website offers some family friendly options, has practical suggestions to help you run them, and explains how they work.

If you’re really ambitious you could even write your own, but you’d probably want to try at least one out first.

Decorate Your House

There are classy ways to decorate your house. Just putting pumpkins on the doorstep is always a classy (and easy) way of bringing a little color to your yard. Some people like to put a collection of pumpkins and orange mums for a very elegant and low effort Halloween look.

Fall leaf wreaths are also elegant. You can make a wreath from a coat hanger using fall leaf decorations from a craft store, or dollar tree, or a garland like this if you want to make a couple. It would be a great craft to do with kids too. You can also use the garland over your front door for a more impressive look.

Host a Costume Party

Dressing up is always fun, and with a little creativity you can usually throw a costume together for just a few dollars, so it doesn’t have to be a very expensive activity. Your party can be all girls, couples, or random. You can even do it with just family, and see how creative everyone can get with what’s already laying around in the house. As a kid I spent many happy hours with family members writing, directing, and performing skits, and designing and constructing the costumes for them. I remember cutting up the fake fur lining from an old coat, and turning it into a wolf mask for some skit we were performing.

My cousin and I hosted costume party several years later, and we didn’t have enough drinks, so we and a few friends went to the grocery store. The other customers were a bit surprised to see Zorro and his wife, a Norse princess, a lady from the Civil War era, and Maria Von Trapp all wandering the aisles together. If you don’t want to see zombies or other sickening creatures at your party, it is simple enough mention on the invitation that costumes must not be gory or gross.

Making and wearing costumes will help you and your children develop virtues like patience, resourcefulness, and social confidence. Working on costumes as a family or team effort will also help develop skills like cooperation and problem-solving.

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Is Minimalism For You?

You hear a lot about minimalism these days. But there seems to be a lot of confusion about what it is. According to Merriam Webster it is “a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity.” Wikipedia says that “In visual arts, music, and other mediums, minimalism is an art movement that began in post–World War II Western art, most strongly with American visual arts in the 1960s and early 1970s.” But when most people talk about it nowadays, they have no intention of referring to a school of art. Minimalism is a lifestyle choice. But even here there is confusion. What kind of minimalism are you talking about?

Generally speaking, minimalism means living with less, but as it turns out, there are a lot of ways of doing this, and a lot of different definitions of what “less” is, and why living with less is something you would want to do. It is a choice that can be made for dozens of reasons. Some people become minimalists because they like the way it looks. Some live with less because they want to be able to move easily. Some just find that clutter irritates them and that having less stuff can contribute to productivity or happiness.

Apartment Therapy describes 6 kinds of minimalism in an entertaining, but rather tongue-in-cheek article. But I think that we can narrow it down to three main types, each based on a different principle of action. Then we can determine if this kind of minimalism is for you, and if it is consistent with a full, happy, human life.

The Extreme Minimalist:

The extreme minimalist takes as her mantra: “Less is more!” And tries to live up to it. Anything that is not immediately useful is thrown away. Often this kind of minimalist chooses an arbitrary number, like 100, and decides to have no more than that many things. Her clothes are chosen for their versatility rather than any other feature. She has a “capsule wardrobe.” Her cooking is done with the smallest possible number of utensils. She has as little furniture as she can get by with.

Her house is certainly not cluttered, she probably never loses her keys—there’s nothing for them to hide behind—but is it practical?

Happiness test:

A full human life, by nearly any definition, includes relationships of various kinds with other people. A complete, happy, successful human will generally have a whole collection of ties to other people. Most adults get married, and have an extremely intimate relationship with their spouses. But it is generally agreed by psychologists, social sciences, and common sense, that you need more friends than just your spouse. Now one of the most basic acts of friendship is to invite people over for dinner or for some other occasion. If you only have 100 things, it is unlikely that within that number you have budgeted for extra plates, forks and chairs, not to mention cups, napkins, etc. You could, I suppose, get paper plates for the occasion and then throw them away, but is this really the best option?

Also, back to the part about most adults being married. If you are married, then you will probably have children. Imagine trying to raise a child without extra changes of clothes, for one thing. Anyone who has ever dealt with a baby knows that they make laundry at a truly astonishing rate. Your capsule wardrobe would probably not be up to the strain, and neither would the baby’s.

Also, besides friends, another excellent way to enrich your life is to have a hobby. Hobbies that require hand-eye coordination and mental activity (that is to say, just about any hobby that isn’t Netflix, TV, or Youtube) can protect people from Alzheimer’s, not to mention excessive boredom. But, sadly, hobbies require stuff. I sew, and this means that I have a few boxes of fabric, a bunch of thread, pins, needles, a sewing machine, and a fascinating button collection. Gardening requires shovels and hoes and trowels, not to mention seeds etc.

Extreme minimalism therefore is only practical for a single person living alone with no friends or hobbies. Which is probably not the person you want to be.

The Aesthetic Minimalist

This is the kind of “minimalism” that you see advertised in the really expensive catalogs. Minimalism in this sense, is mostly a look. You’ve all seen it. Everything is gray or white, and simple geometric shapes. It is clean and almost sterile in appearance. Furniture is chosen for its simplicity rather than for its comfort or beauty. Wall art is generally abstract and simple, like a black and white photo of a dew drop, or a few lines or dots on a white background in a white frame, like this overpriced item at Athropologie. Decorations are simple and abstract as well.

Your house looks like a magazine cover, but is it sustainable?

Happiness test:

What is your home for? This is the first question you need to ask before you choose a system for decorating, organizing, or furnishing your home. If your home is supposed to be a display piece, or a background for your instagram life, then this type of minimalism is definitely for you.

But if your home is supposed to serve some other purpose, like being a stimulating and practical environment for raising children, or a welcoming place to invite friends for fun gatherings? Well, let’s think about it.

The first thing that everyone knows about small children is that they make messes. Now having fewer toys is actually good for your children, so the toy mess might be manageable, and you might be able to put all the toys in a perfect storage cube that would effectively hide them out of sight. (You do have to live with the possibility that your child may prefer playing with the storage cube. My baby’s favorite toy seems to be the wastebasket.) But what about your older children and their hobbies? Will they fit in with your décor? Will your white carpet or your pale gray sofa withstand the efforts of marker-wielding toddlers? Or will your magazine-perfect home become a war zone where you side with your house against your children?

So much for practicality. What about other factors? Children need beauty and order and mental stimulation. Children’s books with attractive pictures and such things are good for your children’s development, and while your baby books can probably also go in a storage cube, what about their hobbies when they get older? A home that encourages independent pursuits and hobbies will probably not be ready for a photo-shoot. And that’s okay.

And lastly, even if you don’t have kids with hobbies or dirty diapers, does having an Instagram-ready house actually make you happy? Or does it put you right back in the mainstream of consumerism? Despite the counter-cultural vibe of aesthetic minimalism, it can be just another way of being consumerist and keeping up with the Joneses, or maybe even the Kardashians. If minimalism, rather than liberating you, becomes another source of stress and conflict in your life, then you might want to try something else.

The Practical Minimalist

Now, you are probably getting the idea from all this that I think minimalism is stupid. But I am in favor of a less consumerist way of living, and I really don’t like clutter. I even like Marie Kondo, who a lot of people love to make fun of. But I think there is a balance, and that an anti-consumerist lifestyle should be practical, fun, stimulating, and inexpensive too.

So what would practical minimalism look like?

Well, let’s focus on the practical first. You want a home that’s easy to care for, so that you can spend your time doing things like spending time with friends, reading books to your small children, or engaging in hobbies instead of having to do housework all the time. Not that housework can’t be fulfilling or enjoyable, but there are probably more worthwhile things to do than dusting a fancy collection of glass figurines.

So, to be practical, you wouldn’t have sixteen shelves full of delicate glass figurines. Walls are nice, they don’t need to be hidden behind stuff. Or if you really have to hide your walls, try flat wall art, wall hangings, like this awesome one, or anything that’s not hard to clean. This will also have the benefit of making your home feel less cluttered.

Next, if you have things that are useful, but not attractive, or hard to keep neat, like certain kinds of kitchen tools, or computer accessories, you can put them in boxes or cabinets that organize and conceal them. A lot of craft stores have great sales on pretty storage boxes once or twice a year. This is a great time to stock up. Covering these types of things makes your house feel less cluttered and makes it easier to keep it clean.

Kid’s toys should have places too. A storage cube is a great idea, but you can do other things too. (I just covered a diaper box in white copy paper and colored tape the other day because I needed a box for my baby’s toys and I didn’t want to spend money.) The great thing about having a toy box is that you can make sure your kids’ toy collection doesn’t get out of hand by making sure that it can fit in the box. If it gets too big, you can start weeding out. Then your kids won’t feel overwhelmed by having to clean up their toys, and they will actually be able to play with and appreciate the ones they have. Psychologist John Rosemond has a fantastic chapter on kids’ toys in his Six Point Plan for Raising Happy Healthy Children, (which I highly recommend).

Now for the minimalist part: The practical minimalist makes it a rule not to buy anything that isn’t necessary, definitely going to be used within a reasonable time frame, or so beautiful (decorative items) informative or interesting (books etc) that it’s worth the money, time and space it will require. She also tries to find items that serve multiple purposes, like storage ottomans, and she tries to prioritize the function of the items she buys. For instance, sofas are for lounging comfortably, so they should be comfortable, and of a color and material that holds up under wear and use. Following these simple rules will make it easier to resist ads for the latest gadget, and incidentally, stay within your budget. It should also prevent the buildup of clutter.

This simplicity has many benefits. It should streamline housework, and I’m a big fan of anything that streamlines housework. It should minimize conflict, as the furniture and other items are meant to be used, not gazed at or photographed, and there will be fewer fragile items laying around to break. And it should liberate the minds and hearts of the people in the home, allowing them to seek beauty, peace and fulfillment without the pressure of having to conform to some advertising ideal.

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Clothes for October

As the temperatures start to go down, it’s time to get some of those warmer clothes. Here’s some cute warm neutrals to keep you both cute and cozy this fall.

This is the third of what I hope will be monthly collections of clothing for for women with a sense of their own dignity. I will try to find items that are seasonally appropriate (for the Northern Hemisphere) and I will try to set it up so that you can make one or two outfits from the selections listed.

I think clothes are very important.  You can read about some of my reasons here. I want to promote clothes that are attractive and dignified and to make it easier to find nice clothes without searching through pages of things that are ugly or inappropriate. Please tell me if this is useful, or if you see something I should put up here.

Purchases through these links will benefit the website. However, I only post things that I actually like. I have not tried all of these clothes, so I cannot guarantee that they will fit, suit, or otherwise please anyone. In order to maintain some sort of quality control, I will not post any clothes that have not received an average of at least four stars in their reviews.

I have one friend who always starts with the shoes when she plans her outfits, and these boots look practical, comfortable, and easy to wear. Combine with any of these other pieces for a fuss-free look.

The perfect thing to throw on when it’s too chilly for just your shirt, but not cold enough for a coat. Pair with the scarf below for an even cozier feel. This also comes in lots of other colors, but the army green is so wonderfully fallish.

Here’s a nice basic khaki skirt for any casual occasion. This would look great with the boots.

This is a wonderful bottom layer, a bit more sophisticated than a teeshirt, but just as comfortable. Imagine how soft and comfy it would feel under the long cardigan at the top. Also comes in a wonderful variety of colors.

I love scarves. This scarf isn’t just for looks, though it will coordinate nicely with a fall pallette. It is heavy and warm as well and will keep the fall chill away.