Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas Card Displays

Photo credit: Family Fun Magazine Website
 Last year, I was determined to find something fun to do to display the many, many Christmas cards we're blessed to receive.  I settled on this little design from Family Fun magazine!  We had a tomato cage in the garage already so I figured it'd be easy.  It was pretty easy, and we liked it!  I am kicking myself now because I can't find a picture of it, although I swear I took one. 

Photo credit: Family Fun Magazine Website
This year, seeing as we disassembled last year's to use the tomato cage in the garden, I figured we'd try a new one.  I headed back to Family Fun magazine for a new idea and found this.  So that's what we went with!  I had a cardboard box around so we went with that option, and I decided to not paint it white since trees are brown anyway and it'd be going on a white wall.  Not quite magazine quality, but I think it'll work for us!  Can't wait for it be filled with all our holiday greetings!

Truthful Tuesday: Play and Parenting

I know folks who do a Truthful Tuesday series, so I thought I might try it, mostly because I've been thinking about this post where I need to be totally honest with myself and my 5 readers (who I appreciate so much!) about how play fits or doesn't fit into my parenting.


I've always loved to play.  I'm a playful person.  I went to summer camp as a camper year after year, worked there for summers, and then got a masters degree in camp.  Sure camp (and outdoor ministry which is really what my degree is in, that is Theology for Outdoor Ministry, fancy eh?) is a lot more than just play, but play is a big part of what we do at camp.  It is play with a purpose, even holy play.  But you can't work at and be invested in the camp community without being pretty passionate about play - games, laughter, silly songs, and so much more.

In the years where I couldn't work at camp because of where my husband's church was, I found myself as the Director of a My Gym Children's Fitness Center.  Uh, have you seen the place?  It is all about play!  Games, gymnastics, sports, silly songs, and creating an exciting Walt Disney World feel for fun right there in the gym every day.  I got to wear sweatpants and funky socks to work, jump on a trampoline, and flip upside every single day.

But at camps, I quickly went from being a cabin counselor to a leadership staff person.  I found myself drifting from group to group or wrapping myself up in paperwork, hiding in the office.  By being in charge of so much, I was able to avoid engaging in much of it.  (Clearly, not the mark of a good leader, I know that.)  At My Gym, I did similarly.  At my best as a director, I was in almost every class the gym had, connecting with every single child, parent, and staff person constantly.  But before I knew it, that got harder and harder and I found myself buried under administrative tasks, behind a computer doing important things to make sure everything ran well which allowed to me to disengage.

Somewhere along the way, I learned how to hide from the play, and well, I felt a need to hide to begin with. I became quite good at 'checking out' of an experience.  I am a really passionate person so maybe it's a reaction to the intensity of my experience of the world or maybe it's my way of dealing with stuff I haven't dealt with.  Maybe it's the introvert/extrovert stuggle I have.  You see, once upon a time, when I was good at play and engaging, I was an ENFJ on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).  These days, I am an INTJ.  As an "I" which denotes Introvert, I draw energy and renewal from small intimate groups of people or by myself.  It does not mean I am not capable of working with large groups or doing much of the extroverted things I used to do, but it does mean that those things drain me.  I love them and hate them at the same time.  So maybe, it's that I was always an "I", but when I was younger I had more time for that refuel and so I didn't notice my desperate need for "I" time.  Instead, the refueling happened so I could enjoy and thrive in my "E" side. I don't know; I am full of excuses.

What does this have to do with parenting? I am doing it with my kids. I am hiding behind my household responsibilities, my volunteer commitments, my need to be oh so busy that too often when asked "mama will you play with me?" the answer isn't yes.  I am 'checking out' and simply going through the motions too often.  Play is painful these days.  Seriously, I dread those hours of imaginative play with my preschooler in the playroom.  (hides in the corner). 

Why is it so hard to play?  We can certainly agree that when we are exhausted and our tank is on empty, it's a lot harder to invest in play.  So we need to be diligent about refueling our tank so that we can give more to our kids.  Yes, it's a "put your own oxygen mask on before helping others" instance.  But there's something else.  Giving up the to-do list, the phone, the computer, the t.v., and the responsibilities leaves us raw and unguarded.  It is opening ourselves up to truly engage and connect with others, children and adults alike.  Our kids need and deserve this. This is so much more valuable than the overscheduling of activities, classes, sports, and more that fills many families' days that allows them to disengage as they race from commitment to commitment. 

Play is so important for children.  It is where they process, explore, learn, create, and connect.  Because of that, it is crucial that we as adults in our children's lives enter their world of play, fully engage in it and explore it.  By doing so, we validate their work and are able to connect with them in a way that cannot happen anywhere else.  It is in play that we discover who our children really are.  So, this is me, *that* mom, the one who preaches about what we think about Santa Claus and how we try to live a natural lifestyle for the good of our kids and the earth, coming totally clean about my inability to just play with my own kids.  And this is me deciding to put all the crap that separates me from other real live people (as much as I love those friends that live in my computer as my husband refers to them), especially kids away every. single. day. for just a little bit.  Baby steps and all.  It's going to be ridiculously hard for something so simple, but my kids are worth it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Advent Wreath

Well, one more Advent post here.  After the Advent Conspiracy and the Advent Calendar, I couldn't not mention our Advent wreath.  This is a new tradition we're excited to start this year.  We bought our Advent wreath, calendars, and a small (rather outdated) devotional that we will be following each night as we light our candles each night.

Finally, our one last Advent tradition we're starting this year was the purchase of the book, Advent Storybook.  This book has a story for each day starting with December 1st as told to Benjamin Bear who is impatiently waiting for the arrival of Christmas.


We are excited about experiencing this season with our little ones this year!

Advent Calendar

Last year, I scoured the internet to find advent calendar ideas.  As my son was almost 3, he was really getting to a point where he could enjoy the anticipation and meaning of the season.  I settled on a simply envelope calendar similar to the one Frugal Granola posted about this week.  I actually made our envelopes by finding a simple envelope pattern on the internet, not unlike this one.  I made my list of activities and put together our envelopes.

 It was a huge success!  My son loved it, as did my husband and I.  We opened one enveloped each day, and then we hung up the card and put the envelope away as we moved towards Christmas.  It was a great visual reminder to our wait for Christmas day.  It also gave structure to all the fun Christmas traditions we love and wanted to incorporate.  There was no forgetting to do one when they had a special day on the calendar, and we weren't trying to cram them all into one day.  Finally, I loved that I could switch the cards out with another day when neccesary, like when one said we were going to go sledding and there as no snow on the ground. 
So, now I am quickly getting together this year's which is much easier than last year, because I just need to check the cards' content and make a few extra to fill in ones we don't want to repeat. 

Here's a list of what some of our cards say for this year:

Go shopping for the church food pantry.
Bake Christmas cookies.
Take cookies and cards to our neighbors. 
Read the Night Before Christmas.
Dessert First Night!
Make paper snowflakes and decorate the windows.
It's Christmas Day! Sing Happy Birthday to Jesus!
Go on a train ride with Santa.
Make edible gifts for the birds and squirrels.
Have a Christmas music dance party!
Drive around to look at Christmas lights in our pajamas!
Get a Christmas tree. 
Buy toys for children in need.

There are, of course, a few more.  Some focus on fun traditions of the season while others focus on the reasons behind the season, but we concentrate on the wonderful gift of Jesus throughout it all, because that gift is why we celebrate by giving our presence and presents to the world!

Advent Conspiracy

The Advent Conspiracy is a movement to Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All.  Their tagline is "Christmas can still change the world.  This year, Give Presence."   Here's a quote from the site:
The story of Christ's birth is a story of promise, hope, and a revolutionary love.
So, what happened? What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a savior has somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists.
And when it's all over, many of us are left with presents to return, looming debt that will take months to pay off, and this empty feeling of missed purpose. Is this what we really want out of Christmas?
What if Christmas became a world-changing event again?
Welcome to Advent Conspiracy.


Here's one promo video.  There are a bunch of others on the Advent Conspiracy Site as well as on youtube.com if you search Advent Conspiracy.  I love the idea of taking back Christmas and focusing on what it's really about.  I love the idea of it not being all about us or about stuff.  It's about presence.  When i feel overwhelmed by the season, I plan on returning to the site to read other people's stories as well as watch the videos. 

My favorite programs for saving and even making a little money!

Since it's Cyber Monday, I thought I'd share some of my favorite places to save a few dollars and even make a few.  Disclaimer: I do receive some sort of referral bonus for almost all of these sites if you sign up through the link I provide (mostly only after you've made a purchase or completed a survey or whatnot).  I very much appreciate that, but I also want to be completely honest about it.


Ebates.com

Ebates is a cash back site.  When shopping online, you go there first, look for where you are shopping and click through there to earn a certain percentage back.  Sometimes it's only 2%; other times it's as high as 35%!  They also have a selection of coupon codes for most sites available which is always nice.  Payout is on a periodic basis, and as long as you have a certain amount in your account, they'll send you a check.  If not, your balance rolls over.  I have $7 sitting in my account right now and by the time Christmas shopping is over, I'll have closer to $15 I'm sure! Bonus - you get $5 just for signing up via the link above!

Shopathome.com
Shop At Home is another cash back site.  I check both ebates and shopathome everytime I buy online.  Shop at Home tends to have higher cash back for the stores I shop at, but occasionally ebates is better (especially when they run specials).  Same deal - you get a check quarterly as long as you have a certain amount in your account.  I get at last $20/quarter!  It's great. Bonus - you get $5 just for signing up via the link above!


Opinion Outpost
Opinon Outpost is a survey site where you get paid to complete surveys.  They pay out via check or amazon gift card.  It can be frustrating for some people when they don't qualify for a number of surveys.  I go through periods where I don't do it at all, and others where I do it often.  I also go through periods where I qualify for nothing, and sometimes when I qualify for everything.  In the past 9 months, I've made about $80 through this site.


Swagbucks
Oh, how I love Swagbucks!  On the most basic level, you use swagbucks.com as your search engine and are rewarded randomly with Swagbucks.  These add up and then you can cash them in for all sorts of things, my favorite of which is amazon.com gift cards.  I've cashed in $280 worth of amazon.com gift cards in the 9 months I've be using swagbucks.  You can also earn swagbucks for completeing special offers, doing surveys, and finding special swag codes!  If you sign up and you want pointers, leave a comment here and I'll send you some or post some here!

Groupon
This is the one newest to me, but boy do I love it!  They offer deals for cities across the country for local businesses as well as items that can be shipped nationwide.  My first groupon was for mywinesdirect.com and I got 6 bottles of really great wine for $40 through it!  There are others for quality nuts, photo books, spas, etc.  A lot of people sign-up and then the local stuff is just too far to be convenience, but you can buy groupons from any city location.  When there is a good one going on in another city, often some deal bloggers will post about it and you can go find it from there.

So those are my favorites right now. I've used a ton others, and these are the ones currently making the cut.  I encourage you to check them out.  Otherwise, what are you favorites?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Goodbye low-fat, good bye sugar-free.

I grew up in a house filled with low-fat, fat-free, sugar-free items.  It was what was popular at the time for losing weight and becoming healthy.  My mom did a lot of research, and she tried to provide us with healthy options.  We never had soda or junk food.

Fast forward to today, we know now that processed foods replacing the fat, sugar, and calories with fake food is not good. Well some of us know that. There are certainly plenty of people out there still touting the pleasure of diet foods designed to taste delicious and make you skinny.  You might lose weight if you cut your calories by substituting these foods, but you're not going to gain health. This brings me to the Real Food Movement.  What is Real Food?  Real food is a lot of different things.  It is often associated with local foods, sustainable farming, and traditional foods.  Real Food means so much more than I even know so far, and I learn more everyday.  But essentially, as we focus on it, it is food that is in as close to natural a form as possible.  It is not processed or filled with chemicals or additives.  It is the opposite of fat-free, sugar-free, or anything else free.  It is full of everything good for you!

In this way of thinking, full fat dairy or even, say, bacon is much better for you than any diet food.  *Gasp.*  Yep, that's right, I've been cooking with and using whole milk for the past year and I have lost more than 25 lbs.  Now, dairy is a hot topic in the world of traditional foods.  Raw milk is certainly ideal, but we use organic whole milk most often.  We also don't drink it straight or use it often.  But I'm not going to get into the details of why this or why that.  Mostly, it comes down to food in its original form is always healthier than the processed version.  We focus our diet on fresh fruits, vegetables, organic and properly raised meats and eggs, whole grains (preferably soaked), etc.  We are not perfect.  We don't do this 100%.  We have processed food leftover in our pantry... salad dressings full of ingredients I can't pronounce and powdered sauce mixes that have sat there so long because they don't even look appetizing anymore... but we us them sparingly, and eventually they'll expire and we'll move forward without them.  We buy healthy, real foods that nourish our bodies, and we enjoy cooking delicious meals full of flavor, nutrients, and yes, even fat.  And both my husband and I have lost weight and got healthier doing it.

Some of my favorite real-food bloggers:
Kitchen Stewardship
Nourished Kitchen
Passionate Homemaking
Nourish MD
Frugal Granola

11 down, 1 to go

That's right, we are on the brink of being eleven twelfths of the way through 2010.  There is one busy, crazy (at least for us and many people we know) month to go!  As we approach the end of the year, and with a particularly busy few weeks at that, I wanted to check in on my 2010 goals or the dreaded term, New Year's Resolutions.


I know a lot of people who hate New Year's Resolutions.  They think they're silly because no sticks to them. Or they think it's dumb to pick an arbitrary date to evaluate one's life.  Or some even think it's just one more commercial attempt to get people to join gyms and buy diet foods.  

I, on the other hand, like New Year's Resolutions.  I like them because I like evaluating where I'm at and setting new goals to work towards.  I'm the kind of person who likes making lists and checking things off.  It's not to say that sometimes I don't throw out a list, because it becomes irrelevant, but overall, I like how they structure my life.  


Like all people who like setting goals, I know the things that go into an effective goal, and therefore an effective New Year's resolution.  They must be realistic, specific, and measurable.  Looking at my resolutions from last year, I was not so good about specific and measurable.  But nonetheless, I want to see where I'm at with them.


1. Lose weight, get active, eat healthy:
How I've done:  I am doing really well with this, and I am proud of what I've accomplished. I've changed my eating habits.  The occasional fast food that had become too frequent now makes me physically ill because we just don't eat the stuff anymore.  I am running.  I went from not being able to 2 minutes to running 6.2 miles.  I am getting strong, and I am loving it.  I have also lost weight, more than twenty-five pounds at this point, but I won't reveal a total until January 1, 2011.  
How I'm going to keep working in December: I am signing up for a New Year's Day 5k.  My goal is to finish in under 30 minutes which is a serious challenge but also completely doable.  I am going to add in some weight training this month as I've been neglecting that.  And I'm going to focus again on vegetables and water to balance out holiday treats.  As a result, I have no doubt my weight will continue to come off.

2. Get our finances in order and take care of debt:

How I've done: We have not charged a single thing on a credit card in 2010.  WOW.  That's huge for us.  We have started an emergency fund, and we are working within a budget.  We have cut many expenses, including eating out and impulse purchases.
How I'm going to keep working in December:  We have a strict Christmas budget that we are closely adhering to so that all our hard work does not go out the window this month.


3. COOK MORE - which plays into both above:
How I've done: Good.  Really good.  It certainly goes in waves.  We have weeks where we fall off the wagon, but overall, we grocery shop and meal plan weekly. We cook double meals often so that we can freeze half for later making our own convenience meals.  We are make delicious real food meals made from scratch.  I've learned to make bread, soup, cook whole chickens, homemade pizza dough, and granola bars.
How I'm going to keep working in December: Meal plan and grocery shop weekly so that even when it gets crazy we have easy fresh meals to prepare. 

4. Get the house in order:

How I've done: Eh, this one is a lot harder than the rest.  Again it's gone in waves.  We have certainly made progress, but I haven't gotten into a home management routine the way I wanted to.  But we've begun to clean, organize, and put some finishing touches on some rooms.

How I'm going to keep working in December: This one honestly overwhelms me.  I don't have a good plan.  I'm going to do something daily to work in the house, regular maintenance/cleaning or projects, big or small.  We are also going to start cleaning out and organizing our offices which is the room in the house where things just get dumped when they have no place to go.


So those are mine.  What about you?  Did you make resolutions?  How are you doing on them?  Have you thought about next year's?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Santa: Let's Play Pretend

As usual, some great post out in the blogosphere spurred me to share.  This time it's Kelly at kellynaturally.com and her post on The Santa Dilemma.

We don't do Santa.  Well, that's not totally true.  We love Santa traditions.  We go on a Santa train ride each year.  We leave out cookies for Santa, a carrot for Rudolph, and even cheese for Santa Mouse.  We read lots of Christmas stories some that include Santa.  We sing songs that include Santa.  We watch the Christmas movies.  Growing up these traditions were some of my favorite things, long after I discovered that Santa didn't exist.  At the same time, we don't do presents from Santa.  We don't send letters to Santa (mostly because we don't do the presents, so it's never presented itself that way).  We don't go to see Santa in the mall to tell him what the kids want.  But most of all, we simply don't try to convince our children that Santa is real. 

I can't bring myself to try to make them believe that something just isn't true.  I've heard from lots of people that I'm making them 'miss out' on the Christmas magic and the fun of childhood.  For me, part of the magic and fun of childhood is the joy in pretending, the joy in knowing that something is not real but losing yourself in it just for the very sake of fun.  And that's what Santa is to me.  Santa is a fun way to pretend.  It's a fun way to celebrate the season, to celebrate giving, and to gather together as children and adults and play pretend, something we could all stand to do a little more.  As a result, it's not important that my kids believe that Santa is real for them to enjoy all the fun of the season and its traditions.

The other part of why I feel uncomfortable with the idea leading my kids to believe Santa is real only for them to discover that we've deceived them years later has to do with our faith.  We are Christians.  We believe in God.  We take our kids to church, and we talk to them about who we believe God to be.  We don't expect our children to believe exactly what we believe, now or ever, but we do believe in giving them a foundation in what my husband and I believe while also encouraging them when age-appropriate to explore on their own.  So we talk about God.  It's not hard to see the consequences of teaching your child that both God and Santa are real, only for them to discover that you knew otherwise and were lying to them the entire time about Santa. 

Finally, skipping the focus on Santa and sustaining the myth, we free ourselves to more easily focus on the reasons behind Christmas.  As we enjoy playing pretend in our chosen Santa traditions, we are also lifting up the spirit of joy, giving, and play that Christmas brings.  These same things tie into our celebration of Advent and our foundation in the reasons for our family's celebration (yea, that whole Jesus thing). 

My kids are still under the age of 4.  Last year, I had a bit of a crisis of my belief when my almost 3 year old chose to argue with me about whether Santa was real or not.  (What can I say, he really likes the Polar Express, and therefore is firmly grounded in the fact that Santa is in fact real despite all of us doubters.)  I admit, I freaked a bit.  I tried to convince him.  But in reality, the boy thinks Handy Manny is real, or any number of a variety of other characters. 

I've realized that with the kids so young, there has to be some developmental understanding of where they are at.  I won't argue with the kids this year.  Though, I will tell once if they ask, in the same way I would with Mickey Mouse.  Our beliefs and our approach will be much more real as they kids get older, ask questions, and we choose not to perpetuate a myth but instead celebrate a great game of pretend.  I'm not sure exactly what we'll tell them about other people's beliefs, except that we encourage respect for other's beliefs year-round and I hope that will help carry us through.  We'll see what this year brings!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Holiday Evaluation

A few weeks back, I stumbled upon this post from Passionate Homemaking, "Simplifying the Holidays: Holiday Evaluation." I thought this was a great idea because without intention, there is no way to maneuver the holiday season that doesn't leave you frazzled and lost.  Advent and Christmas are particularly challenging for us because my husband is a pastor.  Advent is a very busy season for him at church.  As a result, I try to be supportive of his time at work ensuring that we don't distract him from that, but also ensure we have time to celebrate as a family.

I am extremely lucky in that my husband is very involved in parenting our children and is willing to help out around the house, especially in cooking and kitchen related stuff.  But during Advent, I try to take over everything household, while also managing the to-do list of the holidays, gift buying, wrapping, holiday fun events, etc because I know how busy he is.  I try to put on my best homemaking game face (what does that look like anyway) and succeed in ways that I am often fail in order to help our family survive enjoy the season.  As a result, I thought this kind of inventory of priorities and tasks could be a great starting place for us.  I bookmarked the link and made a note to come back to these questions with my husband in the next few weeks before we got swept away by holiday madness.  A few days ago, I actually managed to pin my husband down in the same room as me while my children played suspiciously quietly so we could take stock of our hopes and priorities for the upcoming holiday season.

We asked ourselves the questions put forth.  Our ideal Christmas was described as quiet (ha!), family, play, yummy food, traditions, music, not big and crazy.  Activities that we thought were particularly important to us were getting our tree, going on a Christmas train ride, decorating, baking, taking pictures, celebrating the Advent season, and thoughtful and meaningful gift giving.  We have a lot of traditions we are excited to keep including a Christmas train ride, cutting down our Christmas tree, a daily advent calendar with activities for the day, watching Christmas movies, baking cookies, sending Christmas cards, going to church on Christmas Eve, and giving Christmas pajamas.  We also want to add a intentional tradition of attending Sunday church services in Advent, doing Advent wreath devotions as a family, and some sort of meaningful giving of both our time and resources as a family.  Our focus is family.  While we love to be hospitable, Advent is a really challenging time for us where we are somewhat hanging by a thread as a result of my husband's work schedule, the normal busyness, and having two small children.  In reality, our focus is in creating meaning focused on Christ as a family during this holiday season.  This means making time to do things together, and it means focusing our celebrating on the Christ in Christmas.  In that, we kind of answered how much emphasis our usual activities place on the spiritual side of Christmas.  The answer is a decent amount, but we want to and can do more as we establish traditions for our family.

The last question encourages you to list the asks of Christmas and think about which ones you enjoy, which ones are stressful, which ones you can take off the list or do in a way that could be more enjoyable.  For us, so much of this does fall on me, and so for me it's advance planning and organization that helps it all work.  We also talked about making sure my husband as a very normal work schedule as often as possible so that when a rare something comes up that pulls him away (like our son's Christmas show for school), it isn't the stress it could be if that was happening all the time.  We also realized that one of the most helpful things is striking a home management routine, because this is what we struggle with year-round.  It is important that we get that down and strictly adhere to it, because if our home is in chaos and then you add in holiday chaos, I can already feel the stress and tension gathering in my shoulders and neck.

This is the first of a few steps that we are working on in order to prepare for a less-stress, more Christ-filled holiday season.  The countdown is on as we are less than a week away from the start of Advent!  Coming soon will be a post on how we are choosing to celebrate Advent in our home this year....

Go and check out Passionate Homemaking's Holiday Evaluation and prepare yourself for a less-stress, more whatever-you-want-it-to-be filled with holiday season!

Essential Oils

Our family enjoys using alternative remedies for our family, both as a way to treat and prevent symptoms and optimize wellness.  We see a chiropractor.  We use homeopathic remedies as well as herbal supplements.  We avoid most pharmaceuticals reserving them for the times when they are seriously needed.  It is a growing process.  We are always learning more and adjusting habits.

 In September, I blogged about Holistic Moms Network and the 7 Ideals of Holistic Parenting. 
I mentioned in that blog that one of my goals was to learn more about essential oils, particularly through Young Living Oils. I am doing just that!  I have become a distributor for Young Living Oils and I am beginning to explore their many uses.  I had dabbled with some oils previously, but I was unaware of their potential as well as the importance of top quality, therapeutic grade oils like those made by Young Living.  These oils are so pure that you can use them on pregnant mothers and small infants.  They can even be taken internally to great benefit.  This is not true of other oils available.  Of course, you get what you pay for, so these quality oils are much more expensive that what you'll find elsewhere.  Like so many other things, I believe the versatility and benefits of these oils do justify the cost, but it does mean I'll be building my collection rather slowly.  It's also why I became a distributor to take advantage of the great discounts available.


To start off my learning, the wonderful holistic health coach who brought me into Young Living supplied me with a few resources (as well as endless opportunities to ask questions, thanks Amara!).  The first of these resources that I tackled was Gentle Babies: Essential Oils and Natural Remedies for Pregnancy, Childbirth, Infants, and Young Children by Debra Raybern (This is the best link I could find to it, although I'm sure you can buy it through Amara by contacting her through her website.)  It was a great little primer and will undoubtedly be a handy reference as I begin to explore using essential oils.

The first part of the book gives some background about Young Living oils, essential oils in general, and some basic information about how to use oils.  This information was really helpful to me.  It discusses when and how to dilute oils as well as the benefits or drawbacks of using oils 'neat' or undiluted.  It discusses the options for inhaling, diffusing, ingesting, using topically, or even making a ointment with the oils.  It is also talks very specifically about pregnant and nursing mothers and young children.  The second part of the book is entirely made up of symptoms and the remedies (mostly oils but occasionally other natural remedies) that can be used to treat them.  Finally, the last portion of the book is all testimonies.  Some of these were helpful to hear how different oils were utilized in different situations, though I'll admit it began to feel a little infocommerical-ly at times.

Overall, the book felt like a good basic start, particularly coming from already being invested in Young Living oils over and above other oils.  One last word of warning - some people may be put off by the Bible verses that start each section.  To  be honest, I found it distracting if anything, as I'm not a big fan of throwing Bible verses around without context, but I was able to overlook it.  

As for what oils, I'm using.  I've started with Thieves (which I had heard so much about as an immune booster and illness fighter), Purification (because it's an ingredient in a homemade bug spray recipe I am very excited about), Pan-Away (because I've got lots of sore muscles with my running), and the Stress Away Roll-on (which Amara described to me as 'mommy crack').

 My boys were battling yucky coughs and just general congestion that we were having a hard time getting rid of.  We used the Thieves on their feet, first just at bedtime, but then after talking to Amara, I found out I should do it as often as possible if they are fighting a bug.  Sure enough, after putting it on their multiple times a day, their symptoms noticeably decreased.

 At that point, we also added Purification to the chest to help with their coughs.  The boys really enjoy it.  I find the ritual of putting it on their feet is soothing to them, and when they are not feeling well, they ask for it.

 I've used the Pan-Away once, but my husband has a huge aversion to all thinks mint, especially spearmint.  As a result, he wouldn't go near me the rest of the day.  So I'm not sure what this means for me being able to utilize that oil, but I'm going to think more on that.

And finally, the Stress Away Roll-On I find relaxing.  When I am stressing, I dab on the inside of my wrists and back of my neck.  Again, it is a ritual that helps calm me, and a scent that grounds me in that ritual.  It's very pleasant, and I almost use it as perfume.

I will be exploring a lot more oils and information about oils, so I'll be sure to keep you posted.  If you have questions, feel free to ask me and I can find the answer for you even if I don't know it yet.  It's all a part of the journey.  And feel free to contact Amara Wellness directly for information.  Just tell her I sent you!  I'm really enjoying learning one more way to support my body in the healing process without impeding it and am excited to add one more tool to my natural wellness tool kit.

Disclaimer: I don't have an intent to make a living or really any money off of this.  I became a distributor because it was an economical way for me to get oils for myself and my family.  That being said, I would certainly encourage you to look into (whether through myself, Amara Wellness, or the Young Living website directly) that if these oils are something that interests you or you can purchase oils through me as well.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I asked...

I asked, How far must we go?  Danielle LaPorte of WhiteHotTruth.com asks, What's It Going To Take?  She asks "what's it going to take for you to be incredibly joyful?"  The post is short and powerful so click the link and go read. Our joy is as urgent as deadline or to-do list, probably should be more so.  So seriously, what's it going to take?  And are you willing to go there?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Scapegoats: first breastfeeding, now attachment parenting

So, I am a little late to this party but I’ve been out of town and with limited internet access.  Last Sunday, an article written by Erica Jong ran in the Wallstreet Journal titled Mother Madness.  Jong claims that attachment parenting has begun a prison for the modern mother.

I am struck by the similarities to Hanna Rosin's The Case Against Breastfeeding than ran in The Atlantic in spring of 2009.  You can check out that article, a couple of blog responses, as well as my podcast with (Over)Thinking Mom about it over at (Over)Thinking Mom.

Jong writes about attachment and green parenting which certainly includes breastfeeding though it is not the core of her argument.  What is the core of her argument is a misunderstanding of what attachment parenting really is and a lack of clarity of the issues at hand.  Much of what Jong talks about are issues, but they are not a result of the philosophy of attachment parenting and the movement of parents who look beyond their square of the world to consider the impact of their living on the world and the impact of the world upon them, or green parenting. 

Much like Rosin made her comments about "the urban moms in their tight jeans and oversize sunglasses size each other up using a whole range of signifiers," Jong makes sweeping generalizations about those who “[treat] babies like expensive accessories” and try to keep up with the images of celebrity parenting.  When Rosin said it, we remarked that it had to do with so much more than breastfeeding and with Jong it’s the same deal.  Celebrity parenting and wearing your baby as an accessory are not the marks of attachment parenting, but instead a culture that is using motherhood as a status symbol, as a way to establish new trends, and let’s face it, sell more stuff.  It’s comical that Jong would think they go together as what she describes is as anti-attachment parenting as it gets.  We have another case of an attack on an upper-middle class culture of status and motherhood, while uneducatedly dragging something practically unrelated through the mud.  Just as Rosin’s argument in the end seemed to have little to do with breastfeeding as she lamented the shackles of motherhood (though she claimed it was that of the boob) and the unequal parenting in her own marriage, Jong is attacking a culture of perfectionism and an obsession with grooming children that is not found in real attachment parenting.

So maybe it’s time we talk about what attachment parenting and green parenting are or are not.  The following statements Jong puts forth as indicative of attachment parenting philosophy.  While the statements themselves might be true for our culture today, it is not the voice of attachment parenting saying these things, and the very ideas are at odds with those of attachment parenting.

“Moms and dads are advised to cater to their children.”

Attachment parents do not cater to their children but promote the awareness of and response to a child’s needs, establishing boundaries as developmentally appropriate.  Catering conjures up the image of Viola from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as she screams “I want an oompa loompa daddy, and I want it NOOOOW!”

“Mothers and fathers run themselves ragged trying to mold exceptional children. It's a highly competitive race."
As attachment parents focus on meeting the needs of their children, the drive to succeed and schedule your child takes a backseat.  These parents promote alternative learning environments that are not status driven and focus on creative and free play.  I can tell you that my son does a lot less worksheets and knows a lot less of his letters some kids his age, but that will all come in time. 

“It certainly serves to keep mothers and fathers out of the political process. If you are busy raising children without societal help and trying to earn a living during a recession, you don't have much time to question and change the world that you and your children inhabit.”Green and attachment parents are some of the most politically minded I know.  They are striving to improve their communities and the world for the sake of the future generations.  Breastfeeding mothers have to stand up for their rights on a daily basis when it comes to nursing in public, pumping at work, and so much more.  Green parents are supporting research and legislature that create healthy work and play environments for communities.  Educated parents who choose not to vaccinate have to be aware of their rights and advocate for those rights regularly.  Attachment parents establish a strong foundation at home so that it easier to orient oneself outwards to the world, advocating for change.  Furthermore, as a result of attachment parents deep respect for children as people with rights, they continually fight for justice in the world on their behalf.  And finally attachment parents band together in community as a result of their need to find like-minded individuals as they parent against societal norms.  They draw on support and fellowship from these groups.  Attachment and green parents are also supportive of parenting co-ops and multiple family living arrangements where they can be support each other and be the village it takes to raise a child.

“And it has led to 'helicopter parenting,' the smothering surveillance of a child's every experience and problem, often extending as far as college. “

Helicopter parenting is based in a distrust not only of the world but of your children.  It is embodied through an ignorance of your child’s needs for freedom, for the opportunity to attempt success and accept failures on their own.  It is not attachment parenting.  Attachment parenting creates a strong foundation from a very young age that in general creates more independent children because they are confident in that foundation.  When my 3 year old was still nursing, people would tell me how it’s not healthy for him to be so dependent on me, and yet when they met him they would see a vivacious child willing to attempt anything knowing that mom would be there to support him and help him whenever needed.  By following your child around and by constantly saying “be careful” “don’t do that”, you are not meeting your child’s needs, you are an impediment.  That is not attached parenting.


Jong has misplaced her issues with those jumping on the trend of 'green living' without educating themselves (which does little for the earth but only feeds greenwashing) and celebrity parenting ideals by choosing to attack attached, educated green parenting.

I understand the judgment that can be found by members of this community.  I was told by two rather uneducated and uninformed leaders of a popular group that supports mothers in one piece of attachment parenting philosophy that I was ineligible for leadership as a result of my having left my children in the loving care of their very involved grandmother for 3 nights while I went to a wedding in Las Vegas when my children were aged 6 months, and 2.5 years.  Grandmother tended to their every need, sharing her bed with them, feeding them both with the milk I had pumped for them (yes, I was still nursing them both), and I had a refreshing and rejuvenating few days with my husband and dear friends so that I could return to my children renewed and able to better mother them bringing 200 ounces of pumped milk with me, some of which I saved for future use with my own children, but a large part of which I donated to my sister and nephew who was struggling with pumping enough milk while working full-time. 

It takes a village.   It is women like those who told me I didn’t fit the values or standards of this organization (who I was later informed by their higher ups that they were misinformed) who fail to stay up to date on even the governing ideas and philosophies of their own organization who push women down who are doing their best to meet the many needs of their children.  The organization had moved to accept that women must form and keep this attachment to their children in different ways in this society which sometimes mean working full-time or short absences and that by ignoring this we are not helping women but pushing them away.  To institute such expectations and deem that anyone who fails to fulfill them is a bad mother or does not meet our high standards, we are pushing mothers down instead of supporting them and lifting them as they find the best way to meet their child’s needs in this culture.  There are women out there who imprison themselves and other women with their judgment.

So while some of what Jong describes as issues and threats to feminism are accurate issues, they have little to do with what authentic and green parenting truly promotes.  Of course, with anything, there are supposed ‘advocates’ of this style of parenting who are uneducated, ill-informed, and who are indeed building that prison.  I would encourage Jong to do a little more research into who real attachment parents are and see that what we are doing is a response to so many of the problems she stated.  Promoting legislature that supports the mother who needs or wants to work and meet the needs of her children and encouraging a culture where children are valued as much more than expensive accessories, as unique individuals to be respected and nurtured,  might be a better use of time then starting a new stage of battle in the already raging ‘mommy wars.’  If we continue to fight against each other, vilifying women, we will make no strides for feminism, womanhood, motherhood, or for our children.

Some other great responses to Jong's article:
Nancy Massotto, Executive Director of Holistic Moms Network responds.
This ain't no orgy Erica Jong - The Wellness Bitch

A letter to my body.

Inspired by the Letters to my Body Project.

Dear Body,

We have been through a lot together, and when I think about you, I am overwhelmed with gratitude.  I am overwhelmed with how you have stood by me through the years, through emotional and physical abuse.  You have taken me places I never thought I could go.  You have birthed two children in a way only you could do.  You have ran more than 6 miles just months after you began to run at all.  I am so grateful for all of this.

I know we haven’t always been on the best of the terms, and I ask your forgiveness.  I ask your forgiveness for all of the awful things I’ve said and thought about you.  I ask your forgiveness for the ways that I hurt you.  I ask your forgiveness for years of emotional and binge eating.  I ask your forgiveness for years of too little exercise and unrealistic expectations when there was exercise.  I ask forgiveness for the chemicals I’ve put into you, the chemicals in my food and my environment. 

I am doing better by you.  I know I am not perfect, and I never will be.  And I know you will accept me no matter what, but I also know there is only so much you can take before you break.  I am learning to nourish you with real food that provides the nourishment you need without the toxins.  I am learning to deal with my emotions without forcing food into that you don’t want or need.  I am learning to respect your abilities and love your possibilities.  I am struggling to give you the rest you so desperately need.  I am taking you to the chiropractor and taking the supplements that I know help you to be strong and resilient, to heal yourself.

And we are running.  I know it can be hard sometime, but we are running. When we run, I feel like we are on the same page.  Together, we strike a balance between pushing ourselves to perform and protecting ourselves from injury.  Running helps my mind and my heart be in a better place to help you.  And you feel good when we run, well except for all those aches and pains, but you feel like this is what you needed, the fresh air, the challenge of the goal, and the respect that comes from achievement. 

I am proud of you.  I am proud of your strength and determination.  I am proud of your curves.  I am proud of where we’ve been together.  We have danced beautiful dances and ran exciting races.  We have hiked for days on the Appalachian Trail and paddled the Delaware River.  We have explored the Scottish Highlands and wandered the Welsh countryside.  Together, we carried and birthed, two amazing little boys, and even in that, you know how I have learned to respect your abilities from one birth to the next.  We have provided the ultimate nourishment of breastmilk to those little boys for years.  We have been at the base of the cheerleading pyramid and have climbed forty feet into the trees on high ropes courses.  We have laughed, we loved and well, you know, loved, and we have hugged.

I commit to you that I will continue in learning to respect you and treat you right.  I will slip up.  I will forget.  I will criticize.  But I am learning, and I will keep learning.  I will nourish you.  I will don your stretch marks as the badges of honor that they are.  I will continue to push you and urge you to change, but not because I don’t like who you are, but because together we can be better.  And I will continue to grow in the ways that I support and empower you.

With love and admiration,
Jamie

What does it mean that I "get" to stay home with my kids?

I am so incredibly tired of being told, “Oh you’re soooo lucky, that you get to stay home with your kids, there’s no way we could afford that.”

Where do I even start?  Well first, let me say, that I know that for some people this is very, very true.  For those struggling to live at or below the poverty line, for single parents, and for a few others, they have no choice but to work in order to provide the roof over their family’s head, food on the table, and to just barely scrape by (as in literally feed their families the most simplest of food and cover the most basic expenses).  I can tell you that most of the people who say this to me are not those people. 

When someone says that I am so lucky that I get to stay home, like it’s some magical gift I’ve been given, they are ignoring the sacrifice and work that has gone into making this happen for my family.  My husband is a pastor.  He makes a fine salary for a young pastor.  It is not extravagant by any means.  We live in a lovely parsonage (which by the way is not free but is 1/3 of his compensation package, meaning he gets paid less than he would if we weren't provided a home.  It makes total sense, right?  Well, those people that tell me how nice it must be because we have a free house to live in and I get stay home clearly don’t understand that part.)  We live as a family of four on one income, not because that income is so big that it can support us comfortably, but because we’ve chosen (for the most part) to make this work.

We live on a very strict budget.  We forgo a lot of things.  I am not a martyr.  These are choices we’ve made.  But I don’t simply get to stay home with my kids like it’s the easiest thing on earth.  I use the time that I have as a result of staying home to make most of the food we eat from scratch because it’s cheaper, particularly because we like to eat whole grain healthier foods which are often more expensive at the grocery store. Yep, I make my own granola bars because I can’t spend $3 (and that’s if they are on sale) for a box of ones without corn syrup in them.  (I know this is not earth shattering to many of you who read this blog but to others, it is.)  We do not do a lot for entertainment that costs money but instead spend time in the woods and in the backyard.  We don’t subscribe to movie channels or netflix.  I keep the heat set at 62 in the winter.  We don’t have a house phone.  We have to say no sometimes when friends ask us to do things or when the kids want to do things.  We try to minimize stuff.  We buy a lot of things used, and we just buy less.  There are days or weeks I don’t drive to save on gas.  I volunteer at my son’s school twice weekly in order to receive discounted tuition.  I do online surveys during naptime to get an extra $20/month that helps us have something for little splurges.  I don’t buy $5 cups of coffee, and we pack snacks and lunches for pretty much everywhere we go.  I cut my kids hair at home, and avoid hair cuts for myself except for maybe twice a year.  We don’t get a lot, or often any, new shoes, purses, clothes, home d├ęcor, or anything else that can wait because at this time in our life we are putting every penny into making this work.  This doesn’t make me better or, at least in my opinion, worse than you.  It’s simply what we’ve chosen for right now.

To be honest, now that we’ve figured out how and we’ve lived the benefits of this living, I love living like this.  There’s more I’d like to do to live simpler which would save us additional money.  I’d love to ditch cable, but my husband just can’t handle that jump.  I would love to buy even less as every once in a while we get caught up in the desire to buy (but it’s amazing what that looks like now opposed to what it looked like 5 years ago).  Again, I'm not telling you this so I can be lifted up in martyrdom.  We’ve made this choice.  It’s working for our family for now.  It’s hard some days, as money is for all of us, especially in this economy.  But, think twice before you tell someone how lucky they are that they get to stay home with their kids.  Think twice about what you’ve spent money on recently that maybe you didn’t have to or what ways you could change your lifestyle, because chances are you could make it work too.  If you want to maintain your current lifestyle, you are, in most instances, choosing to work, and you too, could get to stay home if that was what you wanted.  If you don't want that, that's fine!  I will be happy in many ways when we return to a two-income household, but for now this is best for us overall.  The important thing to know is that few of us get to choose work or home without making real sacrifices on either side.

How far must we go to find renewal?

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to go away for four days.  Yes, four days.  All by myself.  I went to visit a friend from college who is 33 weeks pregnant with her first baby.  She doesn’t many friends who already have kids, so I was thrilled to get to visit her for some ‘mommy boot camp’.  For four days, I wanted to be able to be a voice to commiserate and rejoice over the experiences of pregnancy and help in anyway to prepare for the upcoming birth.  Another friend from college came out at the same time.  It was wonderful.

Well, actually, it wasn’t wonderful at first.  I met my friends at the airport.  (Did I mention she lives in sunny Las Vegas?  Yea, bonus.)  We grabbed a bite to eat, and headed back to the expectant mother’s home before heading out for spa appointments.  Still sounding wonderful, yes?  At this point it was mid-afternoon Las Vegas time, and I had been up since 3am east coast time (and really hadn’t slept much before that with the kid waking up routine).  I was exhausted.  The kids have been waking up a lot lately.  Sleep has been scarce.  I’m not sure I realized how exhausted I was.  I began to feel queasy, and then downright sick, and it all culminated with me throwing up in the casino bathroom before even making it to the spa.

Expectant mama’s husband generously came and retrieved me.  I went back to their house and went to sleep.  I slept for 16 hours.  I slept, and I slept.  Oh how I slept.  It was glorious.  I woke up feeling like a human being again.  Though by 8pm, the next night I was feeling similar and quickly headed to bed for another twelve hours of sleep.  My body was telling me something serious.  My husband laughed that I needed to fly to Vegas to catch up on sleep, but I did.  It makes you really think about what we  put our bodies through and at what lengths do we need to go to get the rest we need (and are we willing to go to those lengths).

Besides, all of that, I had a wonderful time.  I spent the better part of a day getting a spa pedicure complete with my own personal wine and cheese platter, and then relaxing at the spa rotating between the sauna, the hot tubs, the cool plunge pool, and steam room with a friend from college I hadn’t caught up with in almost a year.  She lives in Washington, D.C.  I live in New Jersey.  We had to fly to Vegas to catch up.  Again, at what lengths must we go and are we willing to go there? 

But together, we relaxed.  We shared stories - the joys and the challenges of life.  We asked questions, ya know the kind you ask when you’re lounging by the jaccuzi at a spa in Las Vegas.  What are your hopes and dreams?  Is life what you thought it would be 10 years ago?  How is that good or bad?  And of course, if you had a superpower, which one would it be?

We both felt a sense of relaxation that I’m not sure we knew how to find in the context of our lives.  In those hours, I felt capable of balance.  But it’s easy to feel balanced and refreshed in that setting.  How can we create and make time for those experiences in our daily lives without flying to Las Vegas?  How can we carry that elusive sense of renewal and balance back to our daily life?

And finally, I spent wonderful time with my friend, the expectant mother.  We shopped and talked.  We oohed and aahed over baby clothes.  I showed her how to use a breast pump and how to install a car seat.  We talked about her hopes and wishes for labor and birth and began to write a birth plan.  We shared how the experience of pregnancy is so hard to translate to someone who hasn’t experienced it, and we laughed about all those strange things co-workers and strangers do or say that they somehow think is appropriate just because you are growing a baby.  I hope it helped her to feel welcomed into the community of motherhood and to feel supported and empowered in her ability to birth and mother despite her feelings of cluelessness. 

And now, I return home refreshed - physically, emotionally, and spirtually.  I am filled with gratitude for good friends, good sleep, and an amazing support system at home that allowed me to take this trip.  I am commited to hanging onto this feeling and ensuring that it carries over in positive ways to my husband, my children, and my home.  And I am also very seriously considering the questions of what lengths must we go to nurture and renew ourselves.  In what ways can we intentionally practice rest, renewal, and relaxation more regularly so that we don’t have to go to such great lengths?  What things do you to do that fill you up physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually?  What things do you to protect yourself from getting completely depleted physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My oldest weans.

I keep a small blog (ha, yep, smaller than this one) for family and friends about the happenings of the boys.  I posted the following post on it as my preschooler has weaned.  I was planning on writing a separate post about extended breastfeeding and weaning for here, but I've decided I really like this post, and so I'm going to post it here and leave it at that!

It might be cheating for NaBloPoMo since I posted this on another blog already, but I'm not following the rules anyway!  I'm aiming for 30 posts on each of my two blogs by the end of the month, but I'm clearly not making one happen every day. More coming soon!
______________________________________________________________________________
Ben and his marble race.

Benjamin is done nursing.  He announced before bed on Tuesday that he was done nursing and wasn't ever gong to nurse again.  He said it rather grumpily after he didn't get his way with something.  I told him that was fine, but that he shouldn't say it because he was grumpy.  I suggested that if he was ready to be done that maybe he wanted to nurse one last time that night.  He immediately perked up and decided this was the plan.  So he nursed. 

Now, we've been talking about weaning for some time.  We've asked him if he was ready to stop.  No!  We've asked how long we would nurse until.  Forever!  We've asked why he wanted to keep nursing.  Because I like it.  We've talked about there being a day when he would stop.  We've talked about the day coming sooner.  We didn't push.  We did tell him that when he was ready to be all done, we would celebrate with something special.  We talked about maybe when he turned 4.  He adjusted to that idea, and he knew it was a few months away.  

Then came the marble race.  He saw a marble race in a store and fell in love.  He wanted one.  We told him we could put it on his Christmas list.  He obsessed over it.  He wanted it and wanted it now.  We had multiple nights of crying as he yelled that we'd never ever get him a marble race because we'd said we couldn't manifest one at that very moment.  Oh the life of a 3 year old.  We talked about getting it for Christmas.  And then one day he was asking about what special thing he'd get or get to do when he stopped nursing, and I suggested that maybe that's when he could get his marble race.  He thought this was a great idea.  I went to work looking for one so I'd have it when he was ready.  

A few weeks went by.  I finally found one on woot.com that I wanted after having already ordered a different one from hearthsong.com.  Oh well, it can get returned.  I ordered it, I knew it would come in a few weeks.  I was in no rush.  Neither was Ben.  I felt good about that because I didn't want him to wean for the marble race.  It wasn't a bribe.  It was a celebration of the next step when he was ready to take it.

So when he told me that night, he was done.  I said ok.  We nursed.  We went to sleep.  He didn't ask the next day.  He accidentally nursed the morning after that as I in my sleep deprived stupor offered and he half asleep accepted.  He awoke upset that he was nursing when he said he was done.  I told him that he could if he wanted, and he said no, he was all done.  He was just sleepy and wanted to be snuggled.  So we snuggled. 

The deal was after 5 days of no nursing, we would get his marble race.  It had arrived on Friday, and yesterday marked day 5.  So this morning, I told him the good news (he hadn't asked since about the marble race), that if he was really done nursing, I had his special marble race for him.  He was so delighted.  We talked a little, and he said he was happy to be done nursing because he still got to snuggle and he didn't need to nurse anymore.  

His marble race is more like a ball track, but it's the same idea.  And he loves it.  We played alllll day putting it together in different ways and sending the balls down.  I am proud to have provided the best nutrition - physically and emotionally - for my child for 3 years, 10 months, and 1 day.  And I am proud to have watched him wean himself with some gentle encouragement from us.  (This also marked the end of tandem nursing for me, at 20 months to the day!)
 
Ben and his marble race.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

*that* mom's bookshelf - November 2010 edition

Books I've recently (recent as in the last 3 months or so) read:
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
A great book.  My mom saw me reading it and remarked that it was recommended to her by a trusted counselor when she was trying to parent my sister and I. I really appreciated it how it framed the situations in a way that helped better understand the child's side of things, as well as all of the tools.  In fact, after a few months, I feel like I am forgetting a lot of it, so I plan to print out some of the skill sheets and tools to put up as reminders.  I found it easy to read, consistent with our view of respecting our children as people and unconditional parenting, and full of hands-on ideas.  Some of it is hard to implement with a 1 1/2 year old, but it is laying important groundwork.  I have a feeling I will re-read it multiple times in the next decade.


Siblings Without Rivalry: How to help your children live together so you can live too by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
I read this as soon as I finished the above book by the same authors.  It holds a lot of the same tools, but also some really great information about sibling dynamics.  I found this one more challenging to implement because my kids are so little (3.5 and 1.5 years).  The  1.5 year old just doesn't quite get it when it's time for them to work together to figure things out.  His older brother responds really well and tries hard with it, so I think it will become a more effective tool for us as the little guy gets better at communicating.  It also just gave me a sensitivity to the way we frame the two in light of each other, the labeling, and the parenting of one child in relation to another.  It's in so many of the details.  Another one that I will be re-reading.



The Complete Book of Running for Women by Claire Kowalchik
This was a good place to start for me!  As you've noticed if you've been reading, I've started running.  As of July, I was barely running 2 minutes at a time.  Two days ago, I raced my first 10K.  It gives some great basic running information in regards training, stretching, and racing.  Some as simple as 3:2, 2:1 breathing was such a great tool for me to learn and when it clicked I felt amazing.  I felt some of the information in regards to nutrition to be out of date and not in line what we choose as we focus on a real food diet.  It was also challenging to read over and over again some really big training programs (including working towards a marathon) and an expectation of speed (with a 10 minute mile being a slow jog) that I just don't meet.  Overall, it was informational and well-laid out.


Let the Baby Drive: Navigating the Road of New Motherhood by Lu Hanessian
Oh, I love Lu!  Her website is amazing with everything from her blog, her clothing line, and her teleconferences.  I heard her speak at a La Leche League NJ Area Conference a few years back.  She had me in tears in minutes.  She puts gentle parenting and unconditional parenting in words and stories that hit you right where it counts.  Her book was no different.  As a mom of a preschooler and a toddler, I am not a new mom, but I read it because I got my hands on it and I love her so much. Well, it hit home.  Some of it was remembering and putting things in perspective, and other things were really rethinking the way I approached my boys, what I made them to do because society said so, and how I responded to them because that's how society has taught us to work with children. 


Women, Food, and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth
I didn't know what to think when I dove into this one.  I have serious food issues.  I grew up with them.  I eat emotionally.  I eat out of stress.  I eat out of depression.  I eat because I ate too much.  My book is filled with post-it notes and little marginal notes.  Some of what she said just didn't feel like it applied to me.  I don't think I eat to sabotage myself because I am afraid of being skinny.  I do eat to avoid.  I do eat out of self-loathing.  She talked a lot about the things we tell ourselves, the records in our head.  That was really pertinent for me.  She also makes the point that change comes out of love and desire, not out of self-loathing and misery.  It helped me be more aware of some of my habits.  It's another one that I think I could re-read and take something else from it now.  If you're looking for serious God stuff and not loose spirituality, this is not the book for you.  I was able to take what worked as is and what didn't, I was able to leave or apply in my own way.

Currently reading:
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia by: Elizabeth Gilbert
To be totally honest, I just can't get through this.  I had a friend tell me ahead of time that it made her want to bang her head against a wall because it just seemed so self-indulgent.  I see that.  I've enjoyed parts, but it's just dragging.


Next up on the shelf:
Conversations with God: An Uncommon Dialogue by Neale Donald Waslch


Scream-Free Parenting: The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool by Hal Edward Runkel


Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe by Gavin de Becker

God or not, these are things the world needs.

Phdinparenting wrote in her post today, Approaching Heaven, Mummies, and Infinity,

I think that not having a religion and not believing in God makes our job as parents both easier and more difficult. It is more difficult because we can’t explain difficult things away with “Jesus loves you”, promises of Heaven, or threats of Hell. We can’t write things off as sins and leave it as that, a more nuanced conversation is required. But at the same time, it is easier, because I don’t have to explain why a good God would allow so many injustices in the world and because I feel like there is more nuance and more flexibility in building an evolving set of personal values that are not necessarily better or worse than someone else’s.
 Go read the post.  Seriously.  Go.  I'll wait.   While you're at it, read the post she's responding to, Just Like Heaven.  And yea, I know, I'm asking a lot, but read the sin post that phdinparenting references in today's post.

Done reading?  Ok, here we go.  First off, let me applaud these women.  Let me applaud these writers and mothers for asking hard questions, lifting up really important values, and opening the dialogue both with their children (as age-appropriately as possible) and their blog readers.  I truly admire and respect any person, but especially any parent, who wrestles with these issues and what impact their beliefs and the things they teach their children will have on their family, their community, and the greater world.

Second, let's talk about where I come at this from.  I am a Christian.  I am an ELCA Lutheran.  I am the wife of an ELCA pastor.  I have an undergraduate degree in world religion and a masters degree from a Lutheran seminary in theology.  I have a shirt that has a hand with the the pointer and middle fingers crossed over each other that says "Me and God are Like This".  Yes, it's a joke, but it's kind of how I approach things.  It's not that God and I are "like this" opposed to God and you or anyone else being "like this" because my relationship with God doesn't impose itself on other people's relationships with God.  Its about me and, well, God.

I agree with so much of what these women said in their posts, and yet I have to respond some ideas about Christians.  In the quote above, Annie says that maybe parenting from an atheist perspective is harder.  I can assure Annie, I don't rely on threats of hell, promises of heaven, or 'Jesus Loves You' statements when it comes to the tough stuff, or at all.  And I agree that my personal beliefs and values are not better or more 'right' than anyone else's. 



Emma wrote in her post, Just Like Heaven,

When anyone speaks about their religious beliefs, I really don’t know what to say.  I can understand the comfort of a belief in a benevolent higher power, the sense of community that comes from attending church or mosque or shul. I can’t understand a God that would ‘create’ people and think some of them lesser than others, or anyone killing in the name of.  I respect your beliefs. I just don’t share them. At all.

I have my own beliefs. More like values. I believe in evolution, human kindness, in free will, in social justice, in equality. Real equality. Seriously, I mean everyone. I’m a bit of a commie/socialist. 
 I can't understand that God either, the one that would create people and think lesser of some.  I can't imagine a God that would encourage killing in his/her name.  I'm not sure I can even respect those beliefs, so Emma is one step ahead of me.  I broke into a grin as Emma mentioned her beliefs.  I believe in those things too, and I have also been called that dirty word (ahem, cough, socialist, cough, cough).

But I guess I come from a pretty unique place, a unique church.  I was just listening to someone from the Churchwide office speak about the changes and trends in the ELCA and the greater religious community.  He remarked that the ELCA is probably the only, and certainly the largest, mainline protestant denomination that is not exclusivist.  That's right.  We do not assert that we are completely and totally correct and that everyone else must be wrong.  We do not tell others they are going to hell if they do not come to believe and practice those beliefs in the way we do.  The ELCA is known, and disliked by many Christians, for its true passion for social justice, welcoming diversity, and lifting up the absolute unconditional love God gives, a love that we cannot choose or dictate whom is eligible to receive.  It's not up to us!  We have no place for judgment or exclusion, because it's not about us, it's about God.

There's a lot in Annie's post on sinners that I would love to comment on, but I could write a book.  Theses are the conversations that should be had over a few bottles of good red wine.  The values she holds up for her family are those that I hold up as well, and they are ones that my church lifts up.  Of course, the church is an organization made up of people and anyone can identify with it and do some terrible things.  However, the things we teach and we strive to embody are acceptance, valuing diversity, practicing inclusivity.  It's all about grace, yes God's grace, but grace means truly welcoming all into the community, respecting people for who they are and what they believe, and seeking to learn from each other as we live and work alongside each other.  God's grace is about forgiveness, of ourselves and others, when we fall short, because none of us are perfect, we mess up even with the best of intentions (and sometimes the not so best).  Grace is about tolerance, openness, and love. 

Annie wrote :
This is a concept that is emphasized over and over again in Alfie Kohn’s Unconditional Parenting. He explains that children need to know that they will be accepted even if they screw up or fall short. I know that Christians say that God loves everyone unconditionally, but when he calls them “sinners” it is certainly a different message that gets conveyed. Kohn explains in his book that if you tell your child that you love him unconditionally, but then tell him he is bad for doing X, Y or Z, you are sending a mixed message.
For me, God is the absolute picture of unconditional parenting.  There is nothing I can do to be cast away from God's amazing love and graciousness.  There is nothing I can do that God will not forgive.  Lutherans talk a lot about being both sinner and saint.  Yea, we screw up, who doesn't?  But we are still saints.  It's one of the reasons I feel so strongly about attached and unconditional parenting.


I, of course, respect that both Annie and Emma and many others do not believe in God at all.  I'm not trying to say that they should because we do it without so many of the negatives they've said.  I want to be sure this does not come across as me saying, "that's nice and all, but you should believe because hey we do, and we're pretty cool."  It's not that.  It's mostly just saying "Hey, we believe in God, we believe in Jesus, and we're not like that."   We lift up so many of the same values as you.

I am working to teach my children critical thinking, integrity, love, respect, and so much more.  We should work together, because God or not, these are things the world needs.  And in the end all of our children will make their own decisions, but I hope and believe, that with the skills we are modeling and cultivating in and with them, they are going to make this world a better place regardless of what they think about religion.

Monday, November 8, 2010

My first 10k

Yesterday, I ran my first 10K, Run the Bridge 2010.  The race starts and ends at the Camden River Sharks stadium and goes across the Ben Franklin Bridge in the process.  The 10K race registration was closed before race day because it passed the 4,000 runner max!  Along with the 2 mile bridge walkers and kids fun runners, there were 5,000 participants total!
The Bridge at 7am

That morning it was so cold.  I mean SO cold.  The kids and I stayed at my mom's house because we were down in the area for my nephew's birthday party.  The boys were up pretty much from 2am on.  By 5am, I was cursing and pissed.  It was the weekend the clocks changed, so that meant I had an extra hour in there to fight my kids to sleep.  Not fun.  So we bundled up and headed out.  We were meeting my good friend from college, Kristie, who is a serious runner (like marathoner serious), and her husband Mike.  They were going to get me through this race.  At least I hoped so.
The runners pre-race... I ended up taking off one more layer before race time. 

As race time neared, we put on layers, took off layers, and tried to figure out what would be best as the temperature changed.  We carried the stroller down onto the field for my mom and left her with the two boys, while Kristie, Mike, and I walked to the bridge for the start.  B was running the kid's run while we ran our race.

The race felt great overall.  It was so much fun to run with people. I've literally never done that in my life.  We talked the entire way up and over the bridge and then back.  We skipped the first water stop.  Kristie is a talker when she runs, which apparently annoys some people, but I loved it.  It made the time pass, and plus we got to catch up a bit after having not seen each other for FAR too long!  Every so often on the bridge, we had to remind ourselves to look out because we were on the bridge.  It really was pretty cool.

Then we got off the bridge, and the rest was mostly flat.  This was a relief to many others, but for me, I was more concerned about that flat.  Living where I live, I run nothing but hills.  I like hills.  I'm used to hills.  But we kept going.  I was still talking, although not quite so easily by mile 4.  Mike was doing great, having previously been a runner but not having run a 10K in a loooong time.  It was fun.  *Gasp*  Who says that?  Yep, runners say that.  Scary.

The last two miles were getting harder.  My left ankle and shin had been hurting almost from the start.  My legs were hurting otherwise.  But I was still pretty happy to keep going.  If I had slowed down, I think I could have even felt good, but I wanted to get in under 70 minutes.  I had run 6.25 miles a week ago in a training run and did it in just over 72 minutes.  I was hoping to shave a few minutes off but wasn't sure how that would work out.  Kristie was keeping our time and pace on her fancy watch.  She was chatting to keep us entertained, and continually checking in on how I was doing.  Did I need to slow down?  How was I feeling?  Was she annoying me?  Haha.  Yea, it sounds annoying, but it totally wasn't.

Somewhere in those last two miles, we ended up along the waterfront running past the battleship, and I went wow, this is freaking AWESOME!  Then there were a few hills, and I was off.  Seriously, I know hills.  From there on, Kristie was pushing me.  She was keeping me a decent pace, and in the last half a mile, staring picking people out for me to catch up, too.  By this point, I was hurting, but there was no way in hell I was stopping.  Somewhere around here is when Kristie flat out lied to me, by telling me that we were going to cut my 70 minute goal really close.  That's when I said screw it, and put every ounce of anything I had left into the race.  Kristie was ahhhh-mazing.  Seriously, I love that girl.  It's like I had my own personal running coach. 
The three of us approaching finish.  I'm in yellow in case you couldn't tell.

We crossed the finish line together at 67:44.  Wow.  Thanks, Kristie!  And way to go, Mike, who stuck with us the whole time with absolutely no training.  I am totally proud of my accomplishment and excited to take on my next challenge whatever that may be.  Stay tuned!
Me and my childhood best friend Darcy who ran her first 10K that day too!  Go Darcy!

The runners post race - Darcy, me, Mike, Kriste, and Ben in front.
Ben and Mommy after their races.
The Bridge - post-race - seeing it a whole new light! :)