Wednesday, March 23, 2011

2 is the new 1: The AAP gets with the car seat safety program.

Many of us have known for a long time the benefits of extended rear-facing when trying to keep our children safe in the car. Extended rear-facing refers to the practice of rear-facing your child in a car seat beyond the legal minimum of 20 lbs and 1 year of age (car seat laws do vary by state but this is a common minimum).

I am grateful for people in the online communities I was a part of while pregnant with Ben for being such advocates and spreading the word. It was as a result of this advocacy that I was inspired to do my own research and decide to rear-face our children in the car to the limit of their carseats.

I promise straps got tightened after this picture was taken!
In recent years, the AAP has started to advocate for a minimum of 2 years of age before turning the child around.  In the April 2011 issue of Pediatrics, they formally put forth the new guidelines that include rear-facing until 2 or the limits of your seat, as well as keeping children in a 5 point harness as long as possible, booster seat until 4'9" and between ages of 8 and 12, and finally sitting in the backseat until 13 years of age.

This has created quite a stir as you can see by reading the comments on news articles on the subject or the Facebook posts filling my feed. Many comments and blog posts are putting forth information that is completely and totally wrong.  Everything from "my child can't rear-face because his legs touched the back of the seats" to "this is impossible to follow because there are no car seats that rear face past 20 lbs". 

Let me be completely and absolutely clear here. I do not fault anyone who followed the previous guidelines with their children because they were unaware of the benefits of extended rear-facing.  When you know beter, you do better.  The thing I am having a really tough time wrapping my head around is the outrage being expressed by parents at how ridiculous this is and how it is impossible to accomplish. My husband fears I may have an aneurysm while reading people's inane comments. I even saw one person say she was convinced this was a ploy paid for by car seat manufacturers to make us buy more car seats. Seriously. I'm all for a good conspiracy theory, but really?
Ready for an eight hour drive to the Outer Banks for vacation

This is not new research. Communities of car seat technicians have been advocating this for years based on the research and crash test findings.  The AAP is just finally getting on board. As usual, other countries are way ahead of us with children in Sweden routinely rear-facing until age four. Car seat manufacturers are also recently catching on in the past two years as they increase the rear-facing limits on their seats with some now rear-facing to 45lbs and the vast majority rear-facing to a minimum of 35lbs.

But still parents are upset. They say that their kids would be miserable rear-facing. They say it's so much harder. They say their kids won't be able to see the DVD players in their car. (Oh don't even get me started on that one, and we do *gasp* occasionally use a DVD player in the car for very long drives, but I'm sure not to going to compromise my child's safety so they can squeeze in more screen-time!) They say they will be uncomfortable.  They say it's too expensive. They say this is over-protective.
Again with the straps. They got tightened. This and the first picture on this post are from Christmas tree getting trips so we get the tree buckled down and then check and tighten seats.

My four year old and two year old boys are both comfortably rear-facing in the same seats they've been in since six months of age when I moved them out of their infant bucket car seat (which I could have avoided completely, but it was a convenience factor). I know other parents who have already moved their children to booster seats at this age, which I luckily have not had to purchase yet and won't need to for many years by extended rear-facing and extended harnessing.  My nephew rear-faced until past two in a car seat that cost less than $50 when my sister bought it on sale for their extra vehicle. No, he is not abnormally small. My kids can see out the back and side windows, plus we sing songs, listen to music, and play games in the car to keep them entertained. They both cross their legs or put them against the back seat sitting more sprawled out than they sometimes do when they squish themselves into strange positions on the couch at home.

It's one thing to not know the research and the facts, but why would you not want to keep your child safer in the most dangerous you thing you do with them almost every single day. Safe Kids USA continues to report  motor vehicle crashes as the #1 cause of unintentional injury-related death for all children 14 and under. I have to chuckle (or I'll scream) when people remark on how all this car seat safety stuff is overkill and we are being overprotective, when most of the people saying it are the helicopter parents who never let their out of their sight claiming it's better to be safe than sorry. These are people that don't blink an eye at taking a picture of their children every morning so that they have a current picture in their child's current clothing should that child  be abducted that very day.  Meanwhile, I prefer to follow a more free-range kids way of thinking that emphasizes empowering our kids to be independent and responsible while refusing to hide under a rock just in case the sky might fall.
Straps! Ha. Hubby went to loosen and unbuckle the little guy but I stopped him so I could snap a picture.

But their car seat?  Their car seat is not stifling them. Their car seat that is appropriate and safe for their size  and development is not preventing them from gaining independence and responsibility anymore than my seat belt that is appropriate for my size and development prevents me from being a grown up. Instead, I'm doing something that costs me no extra money and makes my life no more difficult to make them seventy-five percent less likely to die in a car accident (which by the way no one ever plans on getting into and can happen regardless of your own driving skills). 

Next time we're at the playground with my toddler eating the snack he dropped on the ground or maybe just some dirt and my preschooler jumping off of the highest point on the playground he can find, I can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that I've prioritized the risks in their lives and taken the necessary steps to make them as safe as possible while giving them the maximum amount of freedom to grow, learn, and probably even break a few bones along the way.

Disclaimer: As I noted in the captions to the pictures, a few show loose straps but it all has to do with the timing of when I grabbed the camera (which is always an after-thought either before we're fully buckled in and ready to drive or when we're grabbing sleepy kids out of the car).  Their straps are always appropriately tight when driving (at least we do our absolute best).  My new mission is get some intentional pictures with them correctly buckled in!  I can hear the "maaaaa, put away the camera and let's go" already!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

8 Days Vegan

I've been eating vegan for eight days. The time has passed quickly. I've been enjoying my e-course 30 Day Vegan: A Cleansing Whole Food Workshop.  Because of my intentions for Lent, I started two days after the course began and I will continue after it's finished.  As a result, I'm enjoying taking things kind of slow and not stressing about staying up to date with all the course content as my journey will continue after the thirty day course is up. Luckily, Heather will be keeping all course content available for sixty days following the course which will work well for me.

The course is designed to be retreat-like from the comfort of our homes and in the midst of our busy schedules.  We are provided with weekly recipes, educational whole food posts, and little bits of inspiration throughout our days. We are encouraged to focus on listening to our bodies and they have to tell us about ourselves - mind, body, and spirit. As I strip away some of the excess in my life, I am focusing on the ways I hear God speaking and being aware of my food, my body, and how those effect me in mind, body, and spirit.

While I have remained 100% vegan (well except that time I accidentally licked a crumb of cheese off my finger while cooking for the family and proceeded to quickly spit it out when I realized what I'd done), it's not been a perfect eight days. I haven't carved out the time for daily prayer as consistently as I'd like. I haven't created the peace-filled home I'd like for my family. It's been overwhelming and crazy most days as my pastor husband moves into the busy and stressful season of Lent, as I learn new ways of cooking and eating, and as we continue to recover from the chaos that ensued when I was knock-down-drag-out sick for a week. The list could go on, but that's not the point.

First off, it's all been a lot of 'two steps forward, one step back', and it's easy to focus on the one step back if you don't consciously look at where you are now.  There are a lot of steps forward even when you consider all the steps back.  I've been eating vegan and almost completely whole nourishing food, save for a few tortilla chips and that vegan chocolate cake I made. (And there's nothing wrong with a few tortilla chips or vegan chocolate cake, but it's noteworthy for me to realize that everything else I have eaten has been simple, real, nourishing foods.) I've spent more time in prayer in the past eight days than I have in months. There is an intention in everything I'm doing trying to bring about that peace for my home and my family.

But second of all, I'm not perfect. I'm not going to be perfect. And that's okay because it's not about being perfect. I could never do it all. I am broken. I am a sinner. I am human. I can't achieve peace, happiness, salvation, or anything without Christ. A Lenten discipline is not about becoming perfect, ending bad habits, or making yourself worthy for what happened to Jesus on the cross. In our Lenten disciplines, we are stripped down, brought to our knees, the very place where God met us, and reminded of our complete and total dependence on God and God's amazing grace. It's because of this that on those days where I am struggling to not just steal one bite of my son's toast with butter or when I gaze lustfully at the cheesy-ooey-gooey lasagna I'm making my family for dinner, that I don't reach for some processed substitute, some fake cheese or chemical-filled butter imposter, because that's not going to fill my body.  It might temporarily stop a craving, but it's not going to help me crave God.

So I continue on this journey, eating real food that nourishes my mind, body, and soul, praising God for this opportunity to grow in my faith, and looking forward to the events of Holy Week full of sorrow, repentance, grace, love, and joy.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Look at Where You Are Now

I am on a message board with about thirty other women who were due with babies in January 2007 when my older son was born.  We bonded over our pregnancies and have been talking ever since!

On this message board, a few of us gather to support each other in goals of fitness, health, and weight loss.  In a recent conversation, a friend commented to me, "Jamie - Look at where you are now compared to a year ago." She included a link to our conversation from a year ago. I obligingly clicked that link and was surprised in a few ways.

A year ago, I was earnest in my desire for weight loss. I was sick of carrying around so much excess weight and feeling awful physically and emotionally. My family and I were on our journey to eating less processed and more real food, but I felt extremely conflicted with that and my desire to lose weight. I had most effectively lost weight in the past with the help of Weight Watchers and diet foods. I knew I didn't want to do that again. I knew the answer was smaller portions of heartier healthier foods free of chemical substitutes, but I struggled with the desire to eat for quantity instead of quality based both in simple habit as well as more complicated emotional eating tendencies. A year ago, I bought my last food with artificial sweeteners in it.

Photo Credit Photographer: Ian Britton

Where am I now? I weigh just shy of twenty pounds less than I did then, and I have reached a point where weight loss has taken a backseat to my fitness and health goals. It now comes as a side effect. I still struggle to exercise regularly, but I have discovered a passion for running. I won't consider buying diet foods or foods with artificial sweeteners in the name of weight loss or any other reason for that matter. It's just not an option. When I eat fast food, it makes me physically ill, and so I happily just don't do that. I make most of what we eat from scratch. I am living vegan for Lent filling my days with whole foods that nourish the body and soul. I am cooking things I've never cooked, and I am enjoying the way I eat. I'm not obsessing about portion sizes or emotional eating. For the most part, I eat when I'm hungry until I'm full. Sometimes I overindulge, but now my body lets know because it's no longer used to that kind of treatment. The discomfort reminds me why I don't do that anymore.

Homemade tortillas
Recently, I've been getting a little discouraged with my running. I was really ill for a week and missed an entire week of training for my half marathon coming in May. I started back up and my lungs protested. My runs were hard and my times were slower than normal. I had my first race of my spring schedule on Saturday. I felt unprepared and didn't run as well as I could have.

But let's add some perspective.  Let's look at where I am now. I finished my 5K on Saturday with a time 31 seconds faster than my 5K in September. I have run 9 times in the past 24 days, and that number will go to 10 after today's run.  Even with a entire week off, I am averaging 3 runs per week for the first time in six months. Six months ago I toyed with the idea of running a 10K but it was intimidating. I ran that 10K. Now, I am intimidated again by my goal, but this time it's a half marathon. Six months ago, I thought I was pretty cool for running in a drizzle. Since then I've taken to the road and cranked out 4 miles in 18 degree temperatures. 

What a powerful message! Look at where you are now. Let's think about where we are now opposed to constantly thinking of where we want to be.  Take a look at where we are now as compared to a year ago, or maybe even a month or a week ago. It's great to have goals and to aspire to improve ourselves. In fact, it's part of my personal mission statement to seek growth. But, sometimes it helps to slow down.

I'm not perfect.  I have a lot of things upon which I want to improve, but heeding the advice of a friend and looking at where I am now has shown me how far I've come and renewed my energy in moving forward.

Where are you now?  Where have you come from?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Personal Mission Statement

I mentioned at the beginning of February about the fabulous e-course I was taking with Dawn Trautman.  It was just as fabulous as anticipated, and she's about to start a new round of courses that you should check out.  The course I took was called Personalize.
Personalize: Explore Who You are Created to Be
  • Week 1: Your past: What gifts and talents have always been true about you?
  • Week 2: Your present: What reality have you created for yourself?
  • Week 3: Your future: How can you leverage your talents to create the most good in your world?
  • Week 4: Your statement: What phrase embodies who you are and what you are best at doing?
I enjoyed the course for so many reasons. I enjoyed sitting down with my cup of coffee each morning to read the day's post and consider the questions presented. I enjoyed forcing myself to take time that was focused on me in the midst of our busy lives. I enjoyed reading and dialoging with the other students in the class and receiving helpful feedback and observations on my own thoughts. And I really enjoyed stripping away the layers of identities I've taken on over the years to discover what is true of myself over time and space.

Walking away with a personal mission statement was a big goal of mine, as I feel strongly that mission statements help to inform and guide us in our lives.  They ground us and focus us.  They give us something to weigh our decisions against. It is helpful to say, "These are things I value. This is who I know myself to be. Knowing that, what do I do in situation?  Do I say yes to this? Do I move in this direction or that?" As I've struggled with my own identity as a stay-at-home mom called to motherhood and ministry, and as I've felt pulled to act passionately in so many areas of my life, I have yearned for this kind of clear articulation.  In this e-course, I was able to find and create this.

Without further ado, I present to you my personal mission statement:

My mission is, rooted in the sacred, to passionately seek growth and inspire wellness in myself, my family, and my community.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Welcome to Lent.

Today is Ash Wednesday.  Today, we begin our Lenten journey to the cross.  Today, we are reminder that we are dust and to dust we shall return. Our physical bodies are temporary vessels.

I've heard a lot of things as we've prepared for Lent and as I've voiced my intent to live vegan for 40 days.  I've had conversations with people who are Christian and celebrate Lent, who are Christian and do not celebrate the season,and who are not Christian at all and wondered what it was all about.  Some people I spoke to were giving up something, whether that be facebook, a favorite food, or a bad habit.  Other people I spoke to were choosing an intention of more prayer, more devotion, or some other positive action in their life. 

I heard a lot of cynicism or judgment as I observed conversations. I heard people say that Lent shouldn't be about giving something seemingly trivial up but doing something positive.  I heard people ask when Lent became the latest diet program.  I heard people wonder what the point of people engaging in a Lenten sacrifice just because they were taught to do so and not because they were called by God.  I heard people ask if what others were choosing to sacrifice were really getting in the way of their relationship with God or if it was something they chose for their own purposes.

I watched as people from varied walks of life looked at Lent as another New Year's resolution, or another thing gone so commercial and taken so out of context that it just wasn't worth it. If you remember my rant on Valentine's Day, you know I just don't buy that as a reason to disregard a practice, let alone a season of the church that inspires us to engage in spiritual discipline. It doesn't matter what anyone else chooses to do with the practice, although I do reach out to my communities in support for those who are engaging in a discipline. It is not for me to judge whether someone's way of observing the liturgical season is appropriate, fruitful, guided by God or anything else. It is not for me to try to say what someone else might get out of their practice.

Growing up, we didn't give things up for Lent. I recall it being a Catholic thing that many of the kids at school did, but my family didn't.  We were Lutheran.  Then sometime in junior high or high school, I remember learning about Lent and the idea of a Lenten discipline that didn't have to be giving up candy, but instead was a practice that was meant to bring us closer to God, quiet us and prepare us as we prepare for Good Friday and its important events. I became rather insistent about the fact that I didn't give petty things up for Lent but instead committed to a special time of devotion and prayer with God during those 40 days. To be honest, I felt my practice was better than those people just mindlessly giving things up.

Now, many years later, God has brought me to the spiritual discipline of fasting.  Fasting can be from food, from a specific type of food, or from something else like facebook, technology, television, or whatever else.  We can fast from anything.  Many people choose to fast when they find that something is getting in the way of their relationship with God.  The intent in these situations is use the time that one might spend on the computer instead with God. Other people choose to fast from something as a form of dedication and sacrifice to God.

I am living vegan for 40 days, not because my consumption of meat and dairy specifically gets in the way of my relationship with God. I am getting back to the basics in the way that I nourish my body as well as my soul. For me Lent is not about giving up a bad habit, and believe me I have plenty of them. It's not about losing weight or going on a God-sanctioned diet. I am entering into this fast as a type of spiritual exercise, strengthening my physical body with a cleansing lifestyle while strengthening my awareness of my dependency on God. When I struggle, as I know I will, I will go to God. I will start my days in prayer giving thanks, setting my intentions for the day, and remembering this journey is to the most amazing place we could ever go. This journey goes first the foot of the cross where we receive the biggest gift we could ever receive and then to the empty tomb where we witness the greatest miracle we could ever witness.

My Lenten journey will center around fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. I will eat vegan, fasting from all animal products in an effort to cleanse my body and soul. I will pray often, both routinely each morning, but also at every moment that I hunger for the foods I have given up and struggle with temptation. I will focus on both my ability to do anything with God and my inability to do anything without God. And I will give of myself, to my family specifically, striving to connect meaningfully daily with my husband and children and fill our home with positive energy and joy.

I enter into this journey with a great sense of peace quieting my fears. I invite you to join me along the way. How are you choosing to honor the season of Lent? How can I support you in your journey?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

One Small Change - March 2011

Well I'm a few days late on getting this up because I've been recovering from my butt-kicking illnesss, but better late than never.  This is my third month into One Small Change.  For February, I chose to ate less.  This was incredibly challenging and I somewhat succeeded but I will continue to work on this one.  For January, we committed to get back to composting everything possible, and that was a success!

For March, I am committing to walking my son to school more often than not.  My son goes to a Montessori school that is right on the other side of church from us.  We walk through the church parking lot from our house, through a little section of woods and into the backyard of the school.  Over the winter, with the cold temperatures and more importantly the massive amounts of snow and ice we got, I switched to driving him. It seemed silly but with an six foot snow drift between us and even the church, it just wasn't feasible with my toddler.  Now, the snow has melted leave now excuse!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Update and some Link Love!

Hey readers,

I am slowly crawling out from the rock I've been hiding under while I've been the sickest I've been in years!  I am finally on the road to recovery, and I am going to try to find some balance while trying to catch up on all the things that have kept on moving along while I've been out of commission.

I am busy picking out and ordering seeds for our garden!  I am knee-deep in planning a bangin' Holistic Moms Network Open House with my fabulous co-leaders.  I am pulling out some oomph to try to finish out my Personalize! e-course with the lovely Dawn Trautman (which I can't wait to tell you more about and reveal my personal statement that is in the making!).  At the same, I am nursing myself back to health with the help of fabulous chiropractic care, essential oils, herbs and nutritional supplements. Finally, I am gearing up for Lent, my favorite season of the church year.  This year for Lent, I have chosen to go vegan as part of my spiritual discipline (which is interestingly traditional for some parts of the church).  I want to post some of my thoughts on Lent and my intentions for it this year, so I will hopefully get to that by Wednesday!  To support me in my Lenten discipline, I am taking an e-course, 30 Day Vegan: a cleansing whole food workshop. I am super excited about this.  Heather is amazing, and I have already fallen in love with her regular blog so you should check that out too!

Phew!  Wow, I have a lot on my plate, but what else is new.  I am working to find balance and peace in my busy schedule by simplifying what can be simplified and embracing the chaos that can be enjoyed!

And now, I can't help but share some weekend reading for you with some Links I Love:

Do You Know What Sucks? PPD Sucks @ Parenting Off the Mat
PPD does suck.  So does depression in general.  This hit home for me, and I look forward to sharing with you more about the ways I am battling my own tendencies toward depression.  Yoga is an amazing tool, and I love the way this writer gets real.

I Stress, Therefore I am: 10 Ways to De-Stress & Enjoy Rest @ (in)courage
Stress is often the one word I would use to desribe myself and my life, and I am working really hard to change that!  These are some great tools in a way that doesn't sound like every. single. thing. I've heard before.  And it's not about taking everything out of life, because the enjoyment, excitement, and passion leaves then too!

Do Vaccines Cause Autism? @ Modern Alternative Mama
This really breaks down the controversy explaining some important facts about the Wakefield situation while being honest about the fact that we simply don't have answers despite what anyone on either side of the argument wants you to believe!  I also love her breakdown of myths about unvaccinated kids!

Taking a Stand Against TV @ Kveller by Mayim Bialik
Screen time is something we struggle with a lot.  I really love the way Mayim talks about it as it reinforces for me the reasons that while we struggle with it, minimizing media influences and screen time for our children is so important and worth struggling for!