Monday, January 31, 2011

Links I Love

Look at me.  Three weeks of Monday Links I Love in a row.  I think I might just keep this up, and I like the idea of being able to offer some of my favorite reading from the previous week for you as you begin a new week.  What do you think?  Do you like this feature?  Tell me what you think in the comments!

Why None of the Oscar Nominees are Lucky by Urban Nomad
"Luck lets the rest of us off the hook: if we are not great, it's because we are not lucky, not because we didn't prepare. However, I believe that we are all created for greatness, and that greatness will look different for every single person."

Why We Need to Listen to the Inner Voices of Creativity by Ann Voskamp 
"...who would have thought that 365 nights of the year, year after year, our children would story beg from my days before them and I never stop fearing that they’ll be disappointed at the blandness of the recollections and I never stop being surprised at how children heartily embrace our feeble efforts at creativity."

Perhaps by The Wellness Bitch
"... instead of talking about me behind my back, perhaps you should consider the back pain/chronic cough/sinus infection/asthma/ADHD/ear infections, you and your offspring seem to suffer from quite often. Perhaps you should consider spending less time counting my money (or lack therof) and more time reading the books and articles that continue to show the links between lifestyle choices and illness."

How to Suscribe to Blogs, Serialized Online Publications, and Podcasts by (Over)Thinking Mom
"... If you are new to this whole internet media consumption thing and find yourself bookmarking every blog or newspaper you read online, you may want to reconsider your virtual time management. If the term RSS makes your head hurt, believe me, it’s actually easy peasy.  If you are a seasoned blog reader, you may not need the following information, so this is for the rest of you."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Children and Woodland Creatures at Church

On Sunday, I was that mom.  I was that mom sitting in the church pew, second from the front, with her two small children. You know the kids wearing mouse and bunny ears and tails?  And I'm sure you woudn't forget the puppets on their hands.   Yep, that mom with those children.  But I was also that mom who braved the super cold morning, resisted the urge to call it a pajama day, and got her children and herself dressed and out the door in time for worship.  It was no small feat, and if it meant that they arrived there dressed as small woodland creatures, that was going to have to be okay.

The view of church from our front porch.
 We live next door to church.  It's great, except when the temperatures are in the single digits, there is six inches of snow on the ground, and I feel dumb driving next door to church.  On Sunday morning, I piled on the snow boots, the snow pants, the hats, and gloves, and we trudged across the snow and over the five foot mountain made by the plowing of the parking lot so all those smart people could park the cars they drove to church.  Once in the building, I quickly discovered I hadn't brought regular shoes for the kids so my children took off down the hall in their socks. (Yes, I'm sure you're imaging how much everyone loves when the pastor's wife and his children arrive. Maybe we amuse them. Maybe we horrify them. But they smile and greet us nicely regardless. For that I am grateful.)

The baptism of our younger son.
I like to talk about children in church.  I am passionate that children belong in worship both because the community needs them there (whether they know it or not) and because they need to be there for their own faith development.  I am committed to the promises we make at baptism as parents and as a congregation. But on your average Sunday, I find myself kicking myself for these beliefs because goshdarnit it'd be so nice to send them to the church nursery for an hour and because goshdarnit this whole worshiping with young children is so. much. work.

This Sunday was no different as I sat next to the small woodland creatures with puppets on their hands.  It started with Elijah, who is not quite 2 years old, crying screaming for no apparent reason.  He wanted a snack.  I gave him a snack.  It was not the snack he wanted.  I stood up, and he wanted me to sit.  We sang, and he wanted it quiet.  No matter what we were doing, it was clearly not to his liking.  So I began the juggling act of keeping Ben, at 4 years old, in the pew, while I took Elijah into the narthex to figure out what he needed.  When the kids simply can't sit, we don't play or run around.  We simply go stand in the narthex and keep it as boring as possible.  Their choices are worship or stand in the narthex and be bored.

I somehow managed to get Elijah sitting in a pew with a bag of pretzels.  Seconds later, Ben proclaims that he has to go potty.  Really?  No, seriously?  Okay.  After mumbling some words inappropriate for chuch to myself, I beg the person behind me to watch Elijah and hope he stays quiet while running Ben to the bathroom.  Finally, we are all sitting together in a pew with the help of the family behind me and the church organist who kindly sits with us during the sermon.  Yes, it took somewhere between three and four adults and about thirty minutes to wrangle my kids into a pew.  What was I thinking?!

I took a deep breath and I watched.  I watched a boy in mouse ears dance a jig in our pew exuberantly celebrating as we sang.  I watched a toddler who says only twenty words frantically sign "Jesus" while saying "Geegus" as he watched communion being prepared on the altar.  I laughed out loud as a boy insisted on passing the peace with a moose puppet, outright refusing when anyone tried to shake his bare hand instead.  I knelt at the communion rail with two children so excited to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus that I almost cried, and yes one of them had mouse ears on (that he had turned around backwards specifically for the occasion so that everyone sitting in the pews could see the front of his ears as knelt).  I heard two little voices echo every 'Amen' and 'Lord, hear our prayer' just a few seconds after the rest of the community.

I knew why I took on this crazy, exhausting task of worshiping with my children.  And, I can only hope that some of the community gathered was blessed to see a little bit of why I did this as well.  If not, there's always next Sunday when I'm sitting next to two superheros.

Links I Love

Check it out.  Exactly one week after my last Links I Love post.  Don't get used to this kind of consistency.  That'd be boring.  But anyway, here are some Links I Love!

Parenting Through the Perfect Storm by Kelly Naturally
This is my life every day.  Great tools and lots of forgiveness for you in this post.
"...Forgive myself.  When I realize that I may have acted in a way that’s less than ideal, but have apologized and thought about ways to do it differently next time, I also realize that the simple act of awareness is a big step towards making a change. I forgive myself the lapse of peaceful parenting prowess, realize my children have forgiven me, and I forgive myself. And then…I move on to what I can do to better handle future perfect storms."

The Yellow Bow by Late Enough 
This made me cry.  I struggle with gender stereotypes, identity, and creativity a lot.
"I clipped to my bag so I, too, would remember to be myself.  To be the best Alex I can be.
And sometimes I wear bows. And sometimes I wear baseball caps. And sometimes I cry for my little boy who can’t be everything he wants in this world.  I remind myself to add YET.
Because I believe that it won’t always be this way. Each generation, while perhaps not financially better off, is more open and tolerant than the last. And in the face of hatred, we learn every year to judge people less by what they wear or who they look like, and more by the person they are trying to be."

High Art: Raising a Child at
"Children enjoy their lives because they have not forgotten the natural rhythm they learned in the womb. It's the flow of life, the flow that makes you take a moment to explore, to give a hug, to notice the day. Being a mother is an art. You constantly improve your technique, brush up your skills, put passion into every stroke. I see other women devoting their time to becoming great artists, leaders, and poets. They have their art, and I have mine. And I wouldn't give it up for the world."

Outrage: When Parents Cross the Link by PhD in Parenting

"Where’s the line? The imaginary line. The line between “do what is best for your family” and “that is cruel, abusive, neglectful.” Where is it?  Do you have one in your head? That dividing line between “not my cup of tea” and “wrong, wrong, wrong”?"

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Running My Way Out of the Big Holes I Dig

Life is stressful, parenting is exhausting, and women are hard on themselves.  All too often, I sit at the end of the day and list my failures.  I didn't get the things done in the house I needed to do.  I lost my temper with the kids.  I ate based on my emotions instead of my hunger.  I could go on and on.  One thought leads to the next, and I find myself trapped in a hole that I dug with each and every awful accusation I wouldn't imagine throwing at anyone but myself.  That hole is a really hard place to get out of.  I try digging, tunneling, and climbing, but when none of it works, I try running. 

It takes a lot to go for a run when I am feeling like that. When I am in that hole nothing seems worth it.  My mind races with negative thoughts piling up on me like handfuls of dirt, pushing me deeper into the ground, suffocating me.  It's a ridiculous amount of work for barely noticeable results.  It won't make a difference.  Why bother?  You can't do it.  You've dug yourself too deep into this hole  There is no point in trying to get out now.  You can't run, you're weak, you're fat.

Just the other day I knew I needed to run.  The hole I had dug was getting deeper.  Ice, snow, and my husband's work schedule had kept me from taking to the road in my running shoes for an entire week.  I checked the temperature. 18 degrees.  Ouch.  It didn't matter.  I had to go.  As I took off down the road, one step at a time with my face burning from the shock of the cold, I began to climb out of my hole.  Just a few miles later, I was shaking off the last of the dirt I had piled on myself.  My feet pounded the payment in a familiar rhythm while my breath appeared in small cloud puffs in front of me. 

I continued down the road with snow covered farm fields on either side of me.  I did an easy 4 miles.  I picked up my pace on the last mile feeling my body stretch, remembering the fitness it had achieved just a few short months ago.  I finished tired but restored.  I felt awake.  I felt strong.  I felt proud of what I'd done. 

Photo Credit: Canvas from Caty99 on Etsy

Later that day, I posted a facebook status, 4 miles, 18 degrees.  Can't help but feel a little badass.  I did.  I felt strong.  I felt fierce.  Not because 4 miles is such an amazing distance or because I ran it so fast.  I know there are runners and athletes much more badass than I, for goodness sake there are runners who take on 50 mile trail runs in the dead of winter.  But nobody else mattered, because I made a choice that day. 

When I was out running, there was nothing negative I could say about myself that made a difference.  Any dirt I tried to throw on myself just flew off as I kept on down the road.  I could think that I wasn't going that fast or that far.  I could think that I gained weight and lost fitness over the holidays.  I could think that I haven't been running as often as I should.  But none of it mattered.  It didn't matter because on a day when it was pretty darn cold and I could have come up with a billion excuses to stay home, I didn't.  It didn't matter because I was out running 4 miles farther than I could have ran in July.  It didn't matter because the person I am when I'm running - the person who keeps going, pushing herself mentally and physically and yet listening to her body's needs every step of the way - that's the person I want to be all the time.  It didn't matter because I could have been on the couch binge eating, but I was out overcoming depression, overcoming exhaustion, and overcoming apathy.

So next time you see me sending cranky tweets or just notice me not around the blog for a while and you're wondering if I fell down a hole that I might have dug, send me a note and ask me when was the last time I went for a run.  I'll do the same for you.  What do you mean you don't run?  You should.  Fine, if you really don't want to run, how do you get of your holes?  And don't tell me you don't dig them, because, well, that would make too much sense.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Links I Love

I follow more blogs than I'm willing to admit.  Ask my husband.  The other night I began to count all of those my in google reader, and well I stopped at a very high number because I just wasn't willing to go any higher.  This experience has convinced me of two things.

First, I need to unsubscribe from some blogs.  There, I said it, and it wasn't nearly as painful as I expected.  This shouldn't be too hard to begin with because I have a number of blogs in my reader that I've noticed I've been 'marking as read' without reading on a regular basis.  As I find myself doing that in the next few days, I'm going to be clicking that 'unsubscribe' button.  One more way to declutter and simplify my life.

Second, I need to share some of these fabulous posts I read with you!  So on a semi-regularly basis, because let's be honest and admit I do nothing on a real regular basis when it comes to blogging, I'll put up a 'Links I Love' post with a few of the posts that are particularly resonating with me around the blogosphere.  I could dream of this being a weekly thing, but let's start small.

So here are some Links I Love:

Why I Love to Run by the Luthearn Zephyr

"I love to run, simply for the space, the adrenelin, the fitness, and the feel-good it gives me.  Not the deepest words I've ever posted on this blog, but perhaps the better things in life aren't always honest or deep ... simply great experiences that causes one to give thanks to God..."

Building the Legacy Your Children Will Remember by Simple Mom
"I think that’s an incredible reminder that as parents we can dream, plan, and act on all of the things that we want our children to remember about us — or not.  We are building a legacy every day, whether or not we are intentional about it...."

Are You Setting Limits? by Nourish MD
"... healthy people have to say no to a lot of the foods offered to them.  The foods are offered with the best of intentions and often with love, but if we eat everything available to us in the 'outside' world, we will be on a fast-track to poor eating habits and poor health."

Everyday Ways to Foster Independence in Kids by Simple Mom (Yes, I love her!)
"...I know when I was a kid, I loved being around adults that treated me respectfully. I want my children to feel the same around me. What a blessing to (hopefully) see them move in to adulthood with tools to make wise decisions, and to think critically without being told how to think."

Hiking with Children at Mothering magazine
"You need not be a botanist or zoologist or an Outward Bound instructor to introduce your child to nature. As Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods notes "Many of us must overcome the belief that something is not worth doing with our kids unless we do it right. If getting our kids into nature is a search for perfection, or is one more chore, then the belief in perfection and the chore defeats the joy." Use your parenting common sense, and enjoy the walk."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Candles, wine, and blogging.

It's naptime here.  Can you hear the blessed silence?  Divine.  Don't be mistaken.  It won't last long. I probably won't even finish this post.  But for now, I will sit with my wine (oh yea, you read that right. It's a snow day, and I am taking certain liberties including a glass of wine at naptime), one of my favorite candles, and my blog. 

I love candles.  There is something about the soft glow, subtle fragrance, and just barely noticeable warmth that makes me feel warm and cozy, it helps me relax and unwind.  I go through periods where I forget about my candles, never finding the time to locate one or thinking to light the ones out for decoration.  Consequently, lighting a candle feels like a tiny indulgence, something I do for me.  It takes but a few seconds (and certainly a few safety considerations with small children around) to light one, and I can't help but take a long, deep breath at the same time, giving me a moment to pause and focus in a day often filled with chaos.

As I am continually trying to make small changes to minimize our carbon footprint as well as intentionally focusing on the health and wellness of my family through holistic living, I found myself reconsidering my traditional candle choices and wondering about the fragrances and ingredients in candles.  If common air fresheners and cleaning supplies are filled with toxins bad for both my family and the environment, I figured candles couldn't be much better.  So I did a little research and found that as expected, not all candles are created equal.  All sorts of toxins including but not limited to lead, toluene, benzene, and formaldehyde can come with that lovely little flame in your home.

Here are some guidelines offered by Healthy Child Healthy World to ensure a healthier candle:

  • Select candles with cotton wicks
  • Buy Certified Organic Candle Wax candles or pure beeswax candles
  • Choose organic candles with natural fragrances
  • If you are not sure what type of candle you are buying:
    • Avoid soft or gel candles, select hard wax candles
    • Buy unscented candles
    • Choose wicks that are thin or braided; steer clear of thick or wire-core wicks
    • Buy tapered and votive candles; avoid candles in glass jars or ceramic containers
  • Test candles you already own: separate the strands from the wick to see if there is a metallic core; if so, rub the core on white paper -- if it leaves a gray mark, then the core is probably lead.
Read more at Healthy Child Healthy World...

After learning what I did, I settled on some lovely candles from Henry & Co..  First and foremost, I discoverd I know one of the owners/creators/candle makers.  I worked with her way back when at summer camp.  I like to support folks I know in their businesses, especially when they are working to provide safer products for my family and for the earth.  Second, I felt comfortable from what I learned about the candles that these were a vast improvement over what I might buy in your average store.  These are dye-free soy candles.  They have a soft wick.  And, it doesn't hurt that their scents are heavenly.  Seriously, I have Snow Day rather appropriately lit right now, and it's the perfect scent for keeping warm inside on a cozy day.  While I have no doubt these may not perfect (although I am pretty darn happy with them!), I am committed to small changes.  This is one more change that moves my family to a smaller carbon footprint and a healthier home.

Now, back to that wine...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I know Christmas is over...

...but I have one more Christmas related post!

I showed you how we chose to display our Christmas cards this year.  It turned out great, and it was wonderful to see the tree fill up with family and friends. 

Here is a picture of Christmas card tree on Christmas day.  It's missing a handful of cards that had arrived the day before and not yet made it up.

We kept our Christmas card tree up through the season of Christmas, and took it down on Epiphany along with the rest of our Christmas decorations.  But what to do with all those cards?

I've heard some great ideas about what to do with Christmas cards you receive to both be eco-friendly as well as to preserve them as mementos whether it be filling a photo album with them or using them as gift tags or whatever else.  To be honest, they all seemed like a little too much work for me.  Until I read this post.  I love Katie from Kitchen Stewardship and this is a guest post she did.  Among her other ideas, Katie explains how her family gathers their cards and uses them to continue their time of prayer and reflection surrounding dinner that was started in Advent.  Placing themi n a bowl, they pick cards each evening and they pray for those families along with their table grace.

This is what we've done.  All the cards went in a bowl that went on the counter in the place where the Advent wreath had sat.  Each night, our kids excitedly choose a card from the bowl.  We read the card, look at the picture, and remember the sentiment getting to enjoy the card once more.  We then say our mealtime prayer, including special blessings and gratitude for the family or person who sent us that card. 

I like this idea, because first of all, there was little for me to do in preparation for it.  I just needed a bowl. Check!  Second, I like it because it continues the energy and tradition started in the Advent wreath.  For the few days after Christmas where we were not doing this, the boys kept asking to do the Advent wreath and we all felt a bit of loss.  This has added something to look forward to at dinner time and a focus to our prayer and short devotion.  An added bonus for some of my readers - it doesn't have to be a God thing!  This would be a great thing to do to remember and express gratitude for those people in your lives who have sent you Christmas cards carrying on the positive feelings of community created in the Christmas season even if you didn't choose to include prayer in that ritual.

If you sent us a Christmas card this season, know that we will be thinking of you and lifting you, especially, up in prayer on a night in the near future.  And if you didn't send us a Christmas card, well next year you should, there's some extra prayers in it for you.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Christmas: A Season of Giving

Contrary to all the tweets, facebook status updates, and blog posts I keep reading, Christmas is not over.  It is the 11th day of Christmas.  The Magi are journeying to Bethlehem to bring gifts to the newborn baby Jesus.  They will arrive soon.

There's a lot of gift giving at Christmas time, and a lot of gift receiving for that matter.  As a mom of two small children, I worked hard to ensure that the focus of the holiday for my children was not simply receiving gifts.  Through the month of December we focused on the season of Advent through our Advent wreath and storybook as well as our Advent calendar.  We focused on the upcoming birth of Jesus and the wonderful gift that it is to us.

Somewhere around December 21st, I had a mommy freak out when while wrapping presents, I realized that I had not actively included my 4 year old son in the gift selecting process.  I had been so focused on taking the focus off of gifts (as well as getting the gift purchasing done through online shopping in the wee hours of the morning) that I hadn't considered how to make him part of that process. 
I panicked at the thought that he would be woefully unprepared for Christmas.  I had visions of tantrums caused by presents given to anyone other than my children.  I thought of four different craft projects we could throw together for family and friends.  I dreamed of a gift giving boot camp that we could do in the next four days in order to prepare him.  And then I snapped out of it, realizing I had far too much on my plate and that I would just have to do a better job next year.

Then it was Christmas Eve.  I was lying in bed putting my two boys to sleep.  We'd been to church.  We'd read the final night of our Advent book.  We'd left cookies for Santa even though he was pretend, along with carrots for Rudolph and cheese for Santa Mouse (who are also pretend in case you were worried).  Just as I thought Ben had fallen asleep he said, "But mama, it can't be Christmas.  You said Christmas was a still a while away."  I assured him that yes Christmas was tomorrow, and it was finally here.  He anxiously replied, "But mama, I haven't gotten all my presents for everyone."  The distress in his voice was real.  That whole gift giving preparation thing was going to bite me in the butt, but it wasn't because he was some greedy little kid.  It was because he wanted to give.

Trying to be the calm and confident mama that we all know I am, I asked who he wanted to give a gift to.  The first response were his two best friends from school last year who hadn't returned this year.  We talked in circles for a few minutes about how that would be difficult as I didn't know where they lived and so on.  Then he settled on giving a gift to Dada.  I asked what he wanted to give Dada.  The first response was a marshmallow shooter which I had told him earlier that we were giving to his cousin which we decided I wouldn't be able to acquire by morning.  So then he decided on a cow.  He wanted to give his father a cow. I thought to myself that this conversation was going really really well.


But then he explained a little more, "ya know, the kind that live really far away but help people who don't have food to be able to eat."  You see, we had given ducks from ELCA Good Gifts to his teachers at school this year, a program where you can give a donation to ELCA World Hunger, selecting from a variety of farm animals, water, school supplies, and much more to help a community in need.  Our neighbor had then given both Elijah and Ben ten chicks that evening for Christmas.  We explained to Ben that these were not chicks he'd ever see, but that they lived really far away and would help people who didn't have food to be able to eat. Sound familiar?

And so, after discovering that a cow would have cost me $500, we settled on a goat because they could give milk that could be drank and made into cheese and yogurt just like a cow.  Ben was delighted to give Dada his goat.  And I was delighted to realize that I hadn't totally screwed up this gift giving thing.  Instead, I realized that our children learn about giving from watching us give.  The more joy and generosity we show in giving, the more they will find.  As we soon move from Christmas into Epiphany, I hope to continue to model the giving of gifts, both tangible and intangible, throughout the year just as the gift of Jesus that we receive at Christmas does not stop giving on December 25 or even 12 days later when the season of Christmas ends.

Monday, January 3, 2011

One Small Change - January 2011

I'm excited to be jumping onto the One Small Change bandwagon!  Here's how it works.  Each month, my family will make a commitment to make one small change that will reduce our carbon footprint.  Some months it may be big.  Some months it may seem tiny.  Every change counts.  I'll comment over on the One Small Change blog to commit to our change and follow along there for support, tips, and ideas!  I'll post here to let you know what we're doing.  Check it out.  Imagine what could happen if we all committed to regularly making one small change.

For January 2011, we will begin composting again.  When it got cold, we got lazy and stopped our regular composting habit.  I'm committing to composting every possible thing this month.  Look out hubby, you're going to be walking out to the compost pile all the time!  Okay, okay, I'll make some trips, too. 

Why compost?  It's simple, it's easy, and it's free.  It keeps things out of landfills while making nourishing soil for our garden.  We do two kinds of composting.  We have a worm bin for vermicomposting, and we have a regular compost bin in the backyard.  We had some difficulty with our worm bin and so we're letting our worms rest and see what happens by spring for them.  In the meantime, everything will go in the big bin.  Here's a One Small Change post on composting.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Bring it on, 2011!

I'm the kind of girl that likes New Year's resolutions.  I like lists.  I find the New Year is a natural time to evaluate the last year and my goals for the coming year.  I then check in regularly throughout the year on those goals.  Sometimes they are fitting, and sometimes by March they get thrown out as the game has changed.  But I like checklists, goals, and structure. 

My wrap of last years resolutions was kind of done in 11 down, 1 to go because December was a bit of an overwhelming wash between keeping up with Advent traditions, dealing with my husband's insane work hours, and getting to and surviving Christmas.  Yea, we'll be working on how we handle Decembe again next year.  So my progress stalled, but I still feel good about the leaps and bounds of progress I made in 2010 including a whole new look at how we handle our finances, learning to run, and losing 27lbs (that's the tally after holiday indulgences.. it was a bit more, but hey, I'll take it). 

There will undoubtedly be a post coming with some thoughts on my goals for 2011 as I've been thinking about them a lot.  But for today, for this beautiful new day that is also my first born child's 4th birthday, I want to focus on what I am looking forward to in 2011. 

And there is so much to look forward to...

Lots of hiking, kayaking, camping and times spent outdoors with my family.

Another gardening season to try our hand at new fruits, vegetables, and herbs and watch them grow!

A winter full of sledding, maybe even learning to snowboard, and hiking - because we are refusing to be afraid of cold weather this year.  I'm even embracing winter running!

Running.  Running a 7 mile leg of a marathon relay with friends.  Setting a new 5k personal record (PR).  Trying out trail running.  Just plain running.

Reading new books... with my family and on my own.  A new book is a great new beginning every time you start one!

Becoming president of a non-profit board of directors.  Wow, I'm terrified and excited about this one.  So many opportunities for growth for me, the organization, and the board.

Farmer's market and CSA season, and continually learning to cook new things and be healthy in delicious and fun ways!

Trips to camp and the beach with my family, and a girls getaway with a group of women that have been a rock in my life since I got pregnant with my 4 year old son.

And a new year of blogging!  November inspired me in forcing me to write.  December I got lost in chaos.  But I look forward to writing this year.  Some months it will be more, some will be less.  But I enjoy this outlet, and I love the conversation it starts with you readers.  Plus I can't wait to see what all my blog friends have to write for 2011.  I learn so much from all of you!!

Wow, I could just keep going but I'll spare you.  There is SO much to look forward to in 2011.  So many opportunities for joy, renewal, and growth!  Bring. It. On.!