Saturday, April 30, 2011

Spank Out Day USA

Today is Spank Out Day USA.  Spank Out Day USA aims to support "Raising Responsible (Good) Kids Without Hitting". From the website:
SpankOut Day USA was initiated in 1998 to give widespread attention to the need to end corporal punishment of children and to promote non-violent ways of teaching children appropriate behavior. EPOCH-USA (End Physical Punishment of Children) sponsors SpankOut Day USA on April 30th of each year. All parents, guardians, and caregivers are encouraged to refrain from hitting children on this day, and to seek alternative methods of discipline through programs available in community agencies, churches and schools.
I just learned of this event a few days ago thanks to a post on a blog I follow. If I had known earlier, I would have loved to do something bigger than a blog post, but it is still important to do something.

I have always believed spanking was wrong. It would be wrong for me to hit my husband, my neighbor, or my dog.  It is wrong to hit my child. It doesn't matter the reason or the rationalization. It doesn't matter the semantics of whether you call it spanking, hitting, swatting, or beating. It is wrong. It doesn't matter bare-butt or fluffy cloth-diapered bottom. It is just wrong.

Parenting is hard. Discipline is hard. Some parents could never imagine hitting their children. They must nott have the fire in their belly that I do. I always knew I wouldn't hit my children, but I didn't always know how hard it would be some days. I have a big temper. I have big emotions. So do my kids. Together we struggle and wrestle with those emotions and those tempers. Together we learn by watching each other how we can best interact, how we can best communicate our emotions and needs, and how we can best find peace in the moments that we might otherwise hit something or someone. I am still learning and growing so that I can be the best example possible to my children. And they are teaching me along the way.

I know that hitting my child will not help me teach them empathy, compassion, peace, confidence, self-worth, or self-respect. It will not teach them boundaries, appropriate touch, communication, or provide the foundations to a healthy relationship. It will teach them that when someone is violent to them, they should obey them. After reading, Protecting the Gift, I am even  more convinced that I do not want to teach them to succumb to violence, to listen when an adult coerces them with pain or threats. Corporal punishment teaches children that the way we get someone to listen, to pay attention, or to obey is with physical strength and violence. That is not something I'm willing to teach.

Some Web Resources:

10 Reasons To Not Hit Your Child @ AskDrSears
The Center for Effective Discipline
A Corporal Punishment Fallacy @ CodeNameMama
Tearing a Child Down Will Not Build Him Up @ CodeNameMama

Why I Don't Spank @ phdinparenting
Best Anti-Spanking Resources @ phdinparenting
Instead of Hitting
Why We Don't Punish Our Son Ever @ TodayMoms

Friday, April 29, 2011

Eco-Eggs Review: Yes, I'm more than a little late.

I wanted to share a review of the Eco-Eggs kit we tried this year.  I know it's more than a little late, BUT if I wait until next year I'll forget, and this way next year I can link to this post at the appropriate time.  In my defense, the kit barely arrived in time for Easter, let alone to use ahead of time and post a review.

I bought this kit.  I have no connection with the company whatsoever.  I saw a good deal on it, and I thought I'd try it to save me a little time and mostly the thinking involved with making my own natural dyes for the first time. The verdict: Not Worth it.

This kit came cutely packed, though ridiculously late from the deal site I bought it from (I won't buy from them ever again. I ordered March 28, and I did not receive until April 21.)

The kids had fun of course.  The colors were naturalish but pretty. The eggs had to stay in the dyes for twenty minutes at a time which was difficult for the two and four year old to understand, though admittedly we took them out a lot sooner and they turned out okay.  I also know this is a reality with all natural egg dying.  The "cut-outs" the website promises to decorate the eggs are on the reverse of the wrap and would take some serious taping in order to attach them to the egg in any interesting way. Overall, it just didn't impress.  It would have been worth the work to make the natural dyes myself exploring the different foods that make different colors which I will do next year. But, I am glad to have switched to a natural kit from the traditional ones we've used in years past.

Here are some instructions for naturally dying eggs on your own:

Naturally Dyed Eggs at Healthy Child Healthy World

Natural Easter Egg Dye at Peaceful Parenting

Did you dye eggs this year?  Did you branch out and try something new?  How'd it go?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

*that* mom's bookshelf - April 2011 Edition

Where do your books come from? I need to get to the library more as I shamefully haven't gotten a library card since we moved eighteen months ago, but more on that another time. I do buy some books new, mostly from because it's easy.  I love to go browse through bookstores but they are just so darn expensive. The majority of my books recently have come from PaperBackSwap.

PaperBackSwap is a book swap site where you post your read books and when someone requests a book from you, you pay to ship it the cheapest method which is often media mail (usually less than $3) and you receive credits to order books with.  It has been a great way to clean out our bookshelves of the books we are willing to part with (which admittedly is not nearly enough considering our massive book collection) while getting books we'd like to read.  You are able to add books to a wish list so when they come available, they are offered to you. When I hear a book recommendation, I add it to my list, and then often in a few months, poof, it appears. When you post your first 10 books for swap, you get a free book credit, and if you go through the link above, I get a free book credit too!

Now, onto what I've been reading. In my last bookshelf post, I was in the middle of reading Eat, Pray, Love.  Since then I've finished that one and read a few more, although my reading has been slow as of late.

I am someone who always likes the book better than the movie, and I always try to read the book before seeing the movie.  I read Eat, Pray Love before seeing the movie. I had a hard time getting through it. After the first half of the first section, it just dragged on and on until the third and final section. It all seemed a little self-indulgent. I have a hard time explaining why I didn't like it. I enjoyed the end, but the process of reading this book just took me forever. Meanwhile, I think I enjoyed the movie a little more, although I was prepared for the self-indulgence and annoying content so I guess that helped. I mean really, it's all about her finding the elusive balance that she needs in her life, but she is only able to find it by gallivanting around the world for a year and the book ends with her in Bali enjoying and celebrating this balance.  Well, if I was living in Bali with no responsibilities and none of the chaos of everyday life rounding out a year of finding pleasure in Italy and spirituality in India, I, too, could find balance.

I admit, I am a screamer. I never intended to be. I never was, but suddenly in a whirl of stress, exhaustion, and little boys who I don't always have the energy to parent in the best way possible, I became a screamer. I liked this book. It called like it is. My kids don't push my buttons. My kids don't force me to scream. It's my issues, my screaming, and I am the only one who can fix it. Our culture has taught us to blame our kids for so much and to act as helpless bystanders in the chaos of parenting. It is my responsibility to own my issues and do better. I would have liked some more helpful tools for implementation in the book, but that wasn't his intent. It's a lot of work, but Runkel shows you that you can do it and how important it is that you do.

A novel featuring group of four women trying to redefine their lives after marriage and motherhood took over.  I had high hopes for this book, and it was okay, but I didn't connect with it in the way I thought I might.  It's largely a story of high-powered executives turned stay-at-home-moms while their husbands stayed in the business world, although one of the moms is a self-described washed up artist. That was easy and made sense to them in the early years, but ten years later, they aren't quite sure how or what to be now that they children don't need a doting, hovering parent 24 hours a day.  Slow at times, but drew me in about half way through.

I was prepared to hate this book, thinking it would be filled with over-protective fear-mongering much of the kind that Lenore Skenazy speaks about, and sure it had points that seemed a little excessive and opinions with which I did not agree.  But amid the book's gruesome statistics and unsettling stories, it gave real life tips on keeping yourself and your children safe from the violence in our world. De Becker focused on tools for trusting your mother's intuition to protect your young as well as for empowering your kids without scaring them. These two pieces were the biggest takeaways for me. I won't keep my children in a bubble, and I won't live a life of fear, but instead I will empower both my children and myself to trust our instincts and be aware of the things going on around us. There's a lot more to it of course, but that's the basics. I do feel that by reading the book I am more aware of things I would not have considered or noticed otherwise and therefore better prepared.

This was exactly what I expected it to be, a quick, easy chick-lit read. I didn't connect with it in the way I do some chick-lit like Jennifer Weiner, so it didn't leave me laughing out loud or crying, but it was an entertaining enough read as long as you take it for what it is.  I'll read the others in the series if they come available from paperbackswap.

What have you been reading?  Recommendations?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Belated Earth Day!

Earth Day, one of most favorite days, got a little lost in the shuffle for us this year.  My older son was baptized on Earth Day four years ago, and so we celebrate his baptismal birthday each year on Earth Day.  This year, it was also Good Friday which is not only an important day in our faith and my favorite religious holiday, but also the midst of an extremely stressful week for a pastor's family. Finally, this week a few close friends have experienced losses that has left my heart aching for them. Add all of that to my bad couple of days in the middle of the week and wow... it's no wonder Earth Day got a little lost.

I did make a few Earth Day purchases or plans for purchases in the near future.  Earth Day is not about buying stuff or needing to buy stuff to go green. In fact, most often, you can make green choices without buying anything or with a few very simple items. But there were a few things we've been wanting to acquire in order to avoid some of our plastic and non-reusable items, and earth day sales seemed like a good time for that. So here's a little shopping love.

From Hip Mountain Mama (one of my favorite places to buy earth-friendly, fair-trade goods), I ordered two glass smoothie straws, a stainless steel food storage container called a Tiffin, and a cloth coffee filter (which I was so thrilled to find as our coffeemaker doesn't take any of the regular re-usable ones you can buy).  I might have also thrown in a necklace for me as a treat.

We also invested in some durable glass dishes and bowls for the kids so we could purge the remaining few plastic items as well as some additional cloth snack and sandwich bags to replace some of ours we had misplaced or accidentally ruined with a trip through the dryer (it was my Mom, and well you can't complain when Mom does laundry even if it does melt your sandwich wrapper.

Finally, I'm ordering glass spray bottles and the necessary essential oils for a insect spray recipe that I absolutely love.  I'll even be investing in rose oil (and thankfully splitting the purchase with friends as that stuff is expensive) because it is amazingly effective as a tick repellent.  I look forward to us being tick and bug free all summer long without the use dangerous and toxic chemicals.

I'm excited about a few new green acquisitions, and I love learning to continually reduce our carbon footprint and ensure the healthiest lifestyle possible for my family.

So we didn't blog or celebrate Earth Day the way I might usually, but you know I'll be back in the next few months sharing more of the ways we are going green and why it's so important to us. We'll continue making one small change every month to improve the way we live. After all, Earth Day is a great start, but we all need to live like the Earth is a priority every day.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Depression Series: Just Plain Depressed

Last week, I shared a little bit about my experience with postpartum depression.  Today, I wanted to tell you about my journey with depression beyond the postpartum phase.  I keep writing and re-writing the beginning to this post, mostly because I am in one of my bad days.  Before the bad day arrived, I had thought about sharing some of the ways I know the darkness is lifting and the rays of light I can see in my daily life, things I have begun to notice and enjoy in ways I wasn't able to before. But right now, I'm not sure any of that matters. In fact, I'm sure I couldn't find or articulate any of those moments that I was acutely aware of just a few days prior to now.

Right now, I am in the depths of a hole wondering if there will be a day I stop finding myself here. I wonder if I will ever be normal, with ups and downs like a normal person and without the days that I wonder if I'll ever be up again. I'm sure I'll share more in another post about my journey coming off of medication after PPD, my wonderings about whether I have PMDD (Premenstrual dysphoric disorder), and how I'm handling the depression now.  That's what I always planned to do in this series, but then a few days like this hit me.

I can't ever seem to prepare myself for days like this. It comes seemingly out of nowhere. I start to get more impatient with my family. I get antsy and cranky. I start to crave food just for the sake of eating stuff I know is not good for me. I get angry, sad, and overwhelmed. I want to eat not because I'm living vegan and feel deprived, but because I want to eat so much junk that I'll feel ill in order to distract me from what I am feeling right now. My kids ask me to play and all I can say is Mommy just can't right now. Suddenly, in a matter of hours, all the progress I've made over weeks, months, and even years disappears and I am puddle of goo on the couch not sure how I'm going to make it through the day, the night or why in the world my family puts up with this.  After today's suicide scare from a mom blogger on twitter, I feel blessed that thoughts of harming myself or my children don't ever cross my mind, but it doesn't make this any easier to deal with for me in the here and now.

I'm not sure about the triggers of this all. I believe it has something to do with hormone levels for me. I also believe stress plays a big role. I'm still figuring out the rest. I go from a completely functioning and nearly thriving mother to a giant mess with a pit in stomach that simply hurts in a matter of hours. I fight this for a few days, and then suddenly it's lifted as soon as it arrived.  When it lifts, I'll feel silly for all the drama (most of which is internal) of the past few days.  I'll feel stupid for not being able to fight it harder when it goes so quickly. And I'll wonder and hope that maybe it won't happen again... that is until I am blindsided once more.

I don't want to hit publish on this post. I don't want to accept the stigma that comes with being the crazy, unstable, or insert your own negative assumption here depressed girl. As much as it's not easy to have PPD and deal with all the misconceptions and media portrayals of what that means, being just plain depressed is even worse. But in the same spirit of my post on postpartum depression, I will hit publish.  I will share my story, the ups and the downs, the moments of clarity and the days of despair.

I repeat: I have lived with, struggled with, coped with, and failed to cope with depression. It's a part of who I am, and I am not ashamed of it despite the stigma I know that comes with it. Alone it does not define me, but I will not hide from it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ten Mile Training Run: Ouch.

I started running for the first time in more than 5 years this past July. My running experience before that included three 5k races and that was it.  I was never a runner.  In July 2010, I started using the Couch to 5K program to prepare for a race in September. After that, I worked my way up to my first ever 10k in November. In February, I told you about my spring race schedule.  In March, I celebrated some progress as I've looked at how far I've come in both running and other areas of my life.

I am continuing to train for my half marathon May 15. I am working to go from Couch to Half Marathon in just ten months.  In July, I began this journey with intervals of sixty seconds of running combined with ninety seconds walking for thirty minutes.  Today, I ran ten miles.  I ran for just under one hour and fifty eight minutes without stopping.

I am learning a lot about running, a lot about myself, and a lot about what I still need to learn.  I'm developing preferences for gear and learning about the joys of black toe nails. I'm just beginning to figure out what to take in energy wise during a run. No matter what I've learned or still need to learn, today I ran ten miles.

Today's Gear
For today's gear, I ran with my iPhone using the Pandora app as well as the imapmyrun app as my GPS.  I carry my phone in the only armbelt I've found that will hold an iPhone in an Otterbox Defender case (a case I highly recommend as a mother to small children whose phone take's a beating). The Pandora station? Well, don't laugh too hard, but today's run was set to the Miley Cyrus station with a lot of Taylor Swift mixed in. I was looking for upbeat and light for this run to stop me from thinking too hard about the miles ahead.

I used Body Glide which I've learned to use faithfully not only between my still much-too-chubby thighs, but also on top, in between, and around all my toes. It has helped decrease, although not eliminate, blisters.

The water bottle was my newest purchase. I opted for a hand held instead of a belt because it was less expensive in case I don't like it, and I don't imagine liking stuff around my waist while running. We all know how I feel about plastic, but I thought that there was little alternative for a running bottle. I've since found a stainless option and plan on replacing my plastic one with it in the near future.  In the pouch of the water bottle, I had a package of Clif Shot Blocks and Honey Stingers to try out as far as mid-run energy.

Finally, I use my Valor Essential Oil roll-on before all my races and longer runs.  I've mentioned before how I use Young Living essential oils.  I find it to be a grounding pre-run ritual. Valor is described as...
an empowering combination of therapeutic-grade essential oils that works with both the physical and spiritual aspects of the body to increase feelings of strength, courage, and self-esteem in the face of adversity. Renowned for its strengthening qualities, Valor enhances an individual's internal resources. It has also been found to help energy alignment in the body.
The Pre-Run Picture

So I set off on my ten mile run. My ankle was bothering me for the first quarter mile but it loosened up.  The next three or so miles felt really good. I left from my house for a  five mile out and back route. I had over dressed and really should have lost the mock turtleneck, but with high winds (did I mention the crazy winds? yea they were fun) it was hard to gauge before I headed out.  Muscles or joints twinged, and I tried to simply acknowledge my body's needs, sitting with the various sensations, and for the most part I was able to work through things this way.

I passed cows, sheep, goats, alpacas chickens, horses, and lots of groundhogs. I passed the Appalachian Trail, the New York state line, a really old cemetery, an apple orchard, and a couple bed and breakfasts. The views were breath taking. But, the ups and downs of the hills and the crazy wind took its toll on me.  With three miles left, I was hurting. I was fighting with my desire to give up and walk with every hill I hit.

I thought I might actually fall over and die. I ran out of water around this point which was not good.  I had used it to take energy at  the 3, 4.5, 5.5, 7, and 8.5 mile marks.  I took either one shot block or two honey stingers each time.  Energy wise I felt okay. A couple of times I thought I might just burst into tears like when the wind kicked up again while I was climbing one of the steepest hills or when the truck driving by kicked up a piece of gravel that hit me smack in the middle of the forehead.

Post 10 Miles.
But I did it! I was hurting when I stopped. I just kind of walked around moaning for fifteen minutes or so. I used my foam roller and stretched after that.  Later, I iced my foot and knee, took a mineral salt bath, and used lots of Arnica and Panaway essential oil. My right knee is bothering me a bit, and my tailor's bunion on my left foot is incredibly painful at this point, but more on that in another post. I'm hoping a good night's sleep will provide some good recovery and a better idea if any of this pain should be a real concern or not.

In the meantime, I'll enjoy the fact that I ran 10 miles today, something that I would have never imagined I'd do in my lifetime.... well that, and try not to move too much.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Depression Series: Postpartum Depression

I don't talk about it a lot, but I've mentioned it in passing. I have lived with, struggled with, coped with, and failed to cope with depression. It's a part of who I am, and I am not ashamed of it despite the stigma I know that comes with it. Alone it does not define me, but I will not hide from it.

This will be a short series talking about my personal experience with depression - postpartum or otherwise including ways I have dealt with it along with resources I've happened upon along the way. This in no way constitutes medical advice. This is simply a sharing of my journey and whats helped me along the way in the hope that it might help someone else experiencing depression or someone who knows someone experiencing depression.

Postpartum Depression
I was first diagnosed with postpartum depression (PPD) about seven months following the birth of my first son. He was born in January 2007. He was colicky spending hours at a time every single day screaming his cute little head off. He didn't sleep for more than twenty minutes at at time for months and even then it was only in our arms. That same spring I wrote my masters thesis (The Gift of Sacred Place: Responsibly Teaching Place Practices in Outdoor Ministry) so I could graduate in May. S-T-R-E-S-S was the name of the game.  But when things settled down and I hadn't found an emotional normal, I sought help.
Writing a Master's thesis with a baby on my lap
What does PPD look like? 
Post-partum depression doesn't look the same for everyone. It's not a one-size fits all kind of thing.  According to Post-partum Support International, 15% of women experience significant depression following birth.  Symptoms can manifest anytime during pregnancy or the first year following birth.  Symptoms can include any of the following: feelings of anger or irritability, lack of interest in the baby, appetite and sleep disturbance (ok what new mom's sleep is not disturbed?), crying and sadness, feelings of guilt, shame, or hopelessness, loss of interest, joy, or pleasure in things you used to enjoy, and possible thoughts of harming the baby or yourself. Often times, you may not know someone around you is experiencing PPD; other times, it may be more noticeable.
Mama gets her Master's Degree
For me, I felt like the high stress level never improved. There was an enormous weight on me at all times. I felt like I couldn't get a big enough gulp of air to catch my breath. I was just unhappy. I was not finding as much joy in the things I usually did. Everything seemed like an overwhelming chore. Some days, it was paralyzing and I could barely function, but besides my husband, most people didn't know it. Doing some laundry, washing dishes, or figuring out dinner were all such large tasks that I often couldn't get off the couch.  But at the same time, I was still functioning enough to put on a happy face and complete volunteer obligations and tasks from event planning to curriculum writing.
You can't tell someone is struggling with PPD by looking at them.
Because of the stereotypes of PPD, because of the picture of it that had been painted for me, I wondered for a long time if that could be what I was dealing with because I was functioning.  I was able to fake it and do things around other people. Meanwhile, at home, where I felt safe and didn't have to put on a show, I crumbled into an exhausted, miserable mess. 

Getting Help 
If you or someone you know may be suffering from PPD, please get help now. There are hotlines and support groups. They vary by region. Your doctor is often a good place to start.

I went to my doctor. For many reasons, I don't use this practice anymore. In a practice with three doctors, I got an appointment with the one I liked the least. It was traumatic. I explained that I thought I might be experiencing symptoms of PPD. His responses included the following.  

That's impossible, your baby is seven months old. 
All post-partum depression literature, including that received from this doctor's practice explain that symptoms of PPD can appear anytime in the first year following birth.  

Clearly, you've had issues with depressions before. Haven't you been on medication? 
While, in retrospect some of these issues are things that I can see present in earlier periods of my life and that I continue to deal with, I had never been treated for depression with or without medication. 

I don't know why you're talking to me. You need to see a psychiatrist. This has nothing to do with birth. 
As is shown from the numerous screenings they are required and encouraged to do, birth professionals are the first line of defense and care for postpartum depression. They are a great place to start when you are unsure how to proceed.  They can recommend possible treatment options and refer you to other practitioners where appropriate.  

I don't tell you this to encourage you to feel bad for me or make you fear talking to your doctor but to point out that despite all the hype that PPD receives in our culture, many people from health care professionals to family and friends have a lot of inaccurate information and misconceptions. This is why we must continue to share our stories, spread the word, and support mothers.  If you or someone you know has encountered bad advice or a lack of response when they asked for help, seek more help. There are good people out there who can help you.

There are various treatment options for PPD, the two most popular being talk therapy and antidepressants. Besides these two popular options, there are alternatives.  I wanted to avoid medication. I went to counseling. After a few months my counselor told me that after talking with me and hearing the disconnect between what I thought and could articulate versus the symptoms I was experiencing, she really believed that I was dealing with a hormonal imbalance that no amount of talk therapy could address. She recommended medication. At that time, I wasn't aware of the many alternatives outside of counseling and antidepressants so there was little else for me to consider. I began a low dose of Prozac. The medication helped me, and I'm glad it was there. It's not right for everyone, but it can be a very effective treatment option.

I took the antidepressants until I got pregnant with my second child when my first was seventeen months old. about ten months from the time I sought help. At that point, I attempted to wean from the medication and had an incredibly difficult time. I chose to remain on the antidepressants through my second pregnancy and initial postpartum period. It was a challenging decision with so many risks and benefits to consider. Yes, there are medications that can be compatible with both breastfeeding and pregnancy, but whether to take them is an individual decision that should be made between mother and health care provider.  

I am not an advocate for or against any particular treatment option, but I am an advocate for researching all the options.

The Journey 
My children are now two and four years old. I am medication-free, though I still struggle with various pieces of depression related and unrelated to PPD. I'll talk more about that along with treatment alternatives in another post. 

I am writing all this to 'come out of the closet' so to say. In the past few weeks and months, I have had countless unexpected conversations where someone whispered to me that they were struggling or they had struggled with depression, postpartum or otherwise. I was able to share my experience with them, support them, and assure them that I was not going to judge them for this. PPD affects real normal people. The more we hide it and stigmatize it, despite countless PR campaigns, the more we risk people who need support not getting it.  When we share our stories, we help empower others to do the same, standing proud for what they have been through and not feeling guilty for having been sick.
All moms are exhausted and overwhelmed. All new parents feel stress, guilt, and fear. Mood swings and irritability can be expected. The hope is not that everyone will think they are experiencing postpartum depression but, instead, that those that are will have the support and resources to get help without being ashamed or embarrassed.  Because PPD sucks.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Seeds are finally started! Phew!

Starting our seeds and preparing for our garden has been a giant task looming on my to-do list.  Today, we finally got ourselves organized and found a few hours to start the majority of our seeds.  The kids were ridiculously excited.  Dirt in the kitchen?  It doesn't get any better than that!

Am I supposed to drink that?

Despite my problem with plastic, we used red plastic cups for our seed starting.  Last year, we used primarily recycled plastic containers from food but because we are buying so much less in plastic we didn't have anywhere near enough this year. The red cups make me shudder, but they are inexpensive and effective. I'd love to use to peat pots but they were out of our price range. I know there are options with newspaper, but I have heard generally negative reviews from people using those. Eggshells and egg cartons didn't give us enough room for growth before transplanting. I plan on rinsing and reusing these cups for at least a second year to cut down on waste, and luckily we use them for such a short period of time that I'm not going to focus on all the chemicals in them!

Once all the seeds were planted, we set them all up on our shelf with grow lights in our guest room upstairs. We need to buy two more light fixtures to add to the bottom two shelves.

And then we watered, which I think might have been my little guy's favorite part. The smaller little guy was napping by this point.

Of course, there are still more to start.  We ran out of seed starting mixture, so we need to get some more to plan our green beans in cups.  We also have to start all of our herbs in their pots.

So we have a lot more to do, but at least we've stared and we have a plan!  Part of what made it so overwhelming is the sheer amount we are planting.  What were we thinking?!!  Buying seeds in the dead of winter when your garden hopes are what's getting you through until the weather thaws may not be the best idea. We were a little.. ambitious.

Here's our plan. In our garden structure that we built last year we'll have strawberries, green beans, two varieties of peppers, spinach, two varieties of lettuce, kale, two varieties of eggplant, carrots, cauliflower, and two varieties of tomatoes.  We are clearing out two beds in the back of the house and building less protected raised beds and hoping for the best when it comes to animals.  In those we will have zucchini, watermelon, and two other varieties of melon.  We're going to play with some hanging pots on our front porch putting additional kale, spinach, and lettuce in them just to see how it works out.  We are also ripping out some ornamental grasses from a large mound in the backyard that separates our house from the church.  There we will be planting two varieties of sunflowers, both for decoration and to attempt to harvest seeds. Finally, in pots on our back and front porch and around the house we'll have our herbs: parsley, chamomile, lavendar, rosemary, cilantro, chives, thyme, basil,  oregano.  

I'm at the point in the garden process where I begin to freak out about the work and money we are putting in wondering if we will get anything for all our efforts.  I felt similarly last year, and we were very happy overall.  This year we are expanding and trying some new things so we'll just have to see how it goes!  So we're off to buy some hanging planters, organic seed starting mixture (we mix this with compost to start our seeds in), additional shop lights for grow lights, and materials to building our new beds. I'm tired just thinking about it!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Vegan Journey: Day 33

I haven't checked in about my vegan journey since day 8.  I am attempting to live vegan for the season of Lent, and I participated in the 30 Day Vegan: A Whole Foods Cleansing Workshop.

The first two weeks of my journey were surprisingly easy.  I was excited about the food I was eating and the recipes I was trying.  I was committing time each day to my online workshop.  In our workshop, we were given Morning Intentions and Evening Reflections to complete daily.  For the first few days I did these along with my morning prayer time.  I was feeling renewed as a result of the intentional time I used to focus on this journey physically and spiritually. I was increasingly finding joy in simple moments.

But things got harder.  I began to feel overwhelmed by my to-do list.  I was trying to carve time out for my training runs, the online workshop, preparing to start seeds for our garden, meal planning and grocery shopping, non-profit board work for the camp I am currently serving as Board President, and planning a big event for my Holistic Moms Network chapter. Stress got the better of me. I reached for vegan junk food instead nourishing whole foods.

And then came the cravings. Dreams of bacon cheeseburgers, milk shakes, and thousand calorie chocolate coffee drinks from starbucks filled my mind. I got lazy. I began to think a bite here or there didn't matter. If I was out I'd take a guess as to whether a bread or a cracker was safe instead of really checking ingredients. I swiped half a slice of my son's leftover cheese pizza one day and a week later I ate a piece of cheese with the junky, although vegan, crackers I was eating.

I felt sick. Not just the times I ate the pizza or the cheese, but overall.  Almost every meal I ate, healthy or not, left me feeling queasy. I was exhausted. I was cranky. I was stressed. I felt disconnected spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  It was harder to find motivation to run. I stopped checking into the vegan online workshop. Everything felt like one more thing on a to-do list that I couldn't keep up with.

Now, I am two weeks out from Easter. I am re-focusing. While my online workshop was 30 days long and is now over, the material is still online. I am going back to Day 17 and completing the the rest of the course in the final days of Lent. I will find more time for prayer and meditation. I have been grocery shopping and have new recipes to try again. I am carving out time for peace and renewal while prioritizing projects. I feel a strong need to de-clutter both internally and externally.  While I may do some of that in the next two weeks, I am not adding it to my stress-inducing to-do list, but instead planning to focus on it after Easter.

This is a journey. It's a journey with ups and downs. It's a journey that's both built on and saved by the grace of God. It's a journey to a greater awareness of not only my dependence on God but the beautiful gift we receive in Jesus that makes it all okay. We are broken and sinful but wrapped in God's amazing grace we are saints called to live and serve with joy.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Links I Love

The past few weeks were crazy busy with preparations for my Holistic Moms Network chapter's annual open house.  It was this past Saturday.  It was a really fun event with about thirty exhibitors and almost a hundred people coming through the front door! In the meantime, my bookmarked blog posts and links I wanted to read, share, or comment on piled up with no time to get to them.  So here's a little link love to things I've been meaning to share.

Natural Antibiotic Alternatives @ Modern Alternative Mama
What, you mean you hippy natural folk don't just sit around and hope not to die without modern medicine when sick? Nope, we don't. There are lots of alternatives to pharmaceuticals for sick care. We do a lot of things to promote wellness, and there are remedies we have that help with symptoms while supporting our body in healing itself. But sometimes, there are those times your body needs a little extra help. This post spells out some great options.  Oregano oil and grapefruit seed extract are two of our favorites that we can go to in an emergency, like last month when I got the sickest I've been in years.

Reasons I Hate Weight Watchers @  Jogger's Life
Gasp, I can't believe I'm saying it. I lost more than forty pounds with Weight Watchers before getting married. It helped me regain a sense of control and a level of health I had lost through college. It really really helped me. I went back to it a couple times after being married and having my first child.  I just couldn't wrap my head around it because each question I had was met with a processed food solution.  That's not how we choose to live. I support others in their journey toward health and don't believe there is one right path, but I think Weight Watchers creates a lot of bad habits and dependency on fake food instead of giving tools for real health.

Myths about Non-Vaccinating Parents @ Modern Alternative Mama
Another one from MAM. I really enjoy her posts, and this hit home as I deal with some many of these assumptions and accompanying judgments daily.

Finding a Local Farmer @ Keeper of the Home
It's a great time to locate a farmer nearby!  We participate in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and we can't wait to start picking up shares. We also love the nearby farmer's markets, especially for goods like eggs, meat, honey, and maple syrup that are not included in our particular CSA, not to mention artisan breads and cheese. We love knowing where our food comes from and supporting the local community. This in addition to growing from our garden will provide produce for the growing season but also extra to preserve for the winter!

Creating a Handmade Home @ Simple Mom
This post puts it so simply. I'm not the most crafty person so I seek out people who make things so that I can buy directly from them.  I also love etsy. I am also learning to create more on my own.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

My problem with plastic.

We have a lot of friends and family that think I'm a little crazy when it comes to plastic.  Granted, they think I'm more than a little crazy on a lot of things, but that's what you get when you're that mom.  But recently, I've come across with a number of good resources on plastics so I wanted to share them here and tell you a little bit about our journey to reduce plastics in our life.

First, watch this.

Bag It Intro from Suzan Beraza on Vimeo.

Plastic is bad for the environment both because of the chemicals it releases and the fact that it fills not only landfills but the ocean.  Marine animals are swallowing so much plastic this turtle pooped plastic for a month.  It's also really bad for our health. A chemical called BPA has recently received a lot of attention as far as its possible effects on our health.  BPA is also found in canned goods.  But, it's not just about BPA.   

Even BPA-free plastics are still leaching chemicals.

These chemicals mimic estrogenic behavior in our body creating extremely high levels of estrogen in our bodies or, in contrast, low-estrogen that still tests high because these fake estrogens take the place of real estrogen in our body causing our body to produce less estrogen overall.

So what is my family doing about it?

We are limiting the plastic that enters our home. When we buy something new whether it be a toy, food, a household item, or just about anything we consider whether we need it (reduce), whether there is a plastic alternative (if the item is made out of plastic), and whether there is an alternative with less or plastic-free packaging.

If a food item is sold in plastic and in glass, I will pay slightly more for the glass item. We don't buy individually packaged snacks or food items except for the occasional granola bar for when we don't have our own made. We try to buy in bulk. If a toy our child would really like is available in wood, we'll pay extra money for that item.  This goes with our less is more perspective on toys and gifts.

We love our bamboo ware.

We don't use plastic food storage bags, but reusable cloth alternatives.  I plan purchasing glass straws when our package of straws is used up. We don't use plastic utensils when we picnic but instead bamboo to-go ware or just plain old silverware.  We use stainless steel water bottles instead of plastic reusable ones.

I plan to get a few of these to round out our water bottle collection for spring adventures!

We are purging the plastic already in our home, in baby steps. We save all glass food jars and reuse them along with mason jars we've purchased for leftovers and food storage enabling us to get rid of our plastic food containers. We use reusable grocery bags and are using the remaining plastic bags we have for trash and other things.  When our plastic grocery bag stash is gone, we are committed to figuring out alternatives for the areas we currently use those bags.  We are switching to durable glass dishes and glasses for our kids.

We are not a plastic-free household. In fact, we are far from it. But we are becoming increasingly aware and continue to be surprised the places where we use plastic. Sometimes we have to think for a bit until we come up with an alternative but we are purchasing and purging creatively and carefully.  Most recently, I wondered about the number of large plastic storage bins we use for clothing, seasonal decorations, and more in our basement. Is there an alternative? Does it make sense to just go back to cardboard boxes? But those aren't nearly as protective. Maybe we just need less stuff to have to store.  I don't know.  The answers are probably different for everyone.

Do you strive to use less plastic? What solutions have you discovered?  Is there somewhere you're struggling to find an alternative?  Where do you miss it?  Where do you not miss it at all?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

One Small Change - April 2011

I've been taking the One Small Change challenge since January.  While, the official One Small Change project is closing down, I'm going to keep posting my changes each month because when you tackle things one change, one month at a time, it makes it seem so much more doable and less overwhelming.  It also reminds me to not get too comfortable with how far I've come and to continue changing for the better of our environment.

For April, we'll be doing lots of green things as the weather warms, we plant our seeds and prepare our garden, and we begin to spend so much more time outside again. But, I want to make a change in addition to continuing all our previous plans. As I've considered the changes I could take on, I keep coming back to the same one. I wish I didn't. To be honest, I keep trying to think of something else, anything else, I could do. During a month where I'm going to be working hard in the garden and getting us back into our outside routine, I wish I could think of an easier change.  But I can't, so here we go.

At the end of last summer we bought an outdoor clothes dryer in the hopes of reducing the energy used for us to do laundry.  We used it a few times but never fully got into a routine before the weather turned cold. I wanted to love it. I wanted it to be second nature.  But I didn't love it, and it wasn't second nature. So this month, I will commit to drying at least 5 loads of laundry outside on the dryer. It might not seem like much, but this project is about small changes. Because small changes can turn into big things.  Let's start with 5 loads of laundry and see where it goes.

And with a view like this, hanging some laundry out to dry can't possibly be that bad.