Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day! I have to admit...all I did in honor of Earth day was to pick up my free cuppa joe from Starbucks in my travel mug. Tough, I know. :) But I'm actually in the habit of using my travel mug at starbucks these days. So I figured I'd write about a few things I've done to become more green this YEAR.

Travel mug at starbucks. (as a bonus, it saves 10 cents!) I also buy the coffee we drink at home from a local roastery who uses only organic, fair trade beans.

We became a one car family! Bought a beautiful and environmentally friendly 2010 Honda Fit, which is on the top 10 list of "green" cars for last year. I cannot tell you how much I *love* this car! What a blessing. :) 

I've made better use of one of my favorite posessions: my set of baggu's. :) I've finally gotten in the habit of grabbing them on my way out the door, and I keep one in my glove box for random stops at the store. I sometimes even use them at Target. (They give you 10 cents off also!)

Cloth diapering...round 2...complete with homemade wipes. :)

I've switched most of the lotions/cleansers we use on our skin. I try to avoid sulfates and petroleum in particular. I am impressed with Avalons skin skin has never looked happier. :) Body soap is bought from a local soap lady, and I make my own scrub.

I use white vinegar and baking soda to clean most things in my house. I also love these products ( for tougher jobs. They smell fabulous and work great!

Lastly, I've been striving to buy local, in season produce, and to cook/bake almost everything from scratch. This has been tricky in my tiny kitchen, but I've enjoyed the challenge. :) This has been better for our bodies, and better for the world since we aren't using fuel to transport our food from across the country.
Happy earth day!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

possessed American

I am in a room, surrounded by things. In America, it is so easy to become overwhelmed and burdened by our possessions. This is such a problem, that there is an ongoing television series called “Hoarders”! And many of us are not SO far off from those featured on the show. Hopefully you aren’t so obsessed with keeping things that you can’t take your TRASH out! But look around your house and just think about this: How many winter scarves do you own? How many do you NEED? How many pairs of shoes? How many do you NEED? How many cookbooks? How many do you actually USE? How many mugs? (Oh I am guilty on this front!) How many do you require? (Come on Rebecca, when was the last time you served coffee to 20 people in glass mugs?!! LOL) I’ve spent so much time asking myself these tough questions, and paring down, and I STILL have...Way. Too. Much. Stuff.  It’s an ongoing struggle here. But this week, I’ve gotten fed up with our stuff, which caused me to reflect on some sermons I heard recently. Our former pastor preached through the book of Ecclesiastes last year and I've been listening to his wonderful sermon series! This book of the Bible discusses how brief, busy and wearisome life is, and recommends that we enjoy the simple things we have( love, work, and wealth) while we have them. This has caused me to look at my possessions differently. I've started to see the burden they can be. We live in a small apartment with 2 children, and having too many things has been causing me so much stress. I truly have to choose between my kids and my home. If I want our home to be remotely tidy, I sacrifice my children, and if I want to enjoy my kids, our house is a constant mess. Lately I have tried to spend more time with my children, which I believe is the best choice (a delightful, though not always easy one) but after only a few weeks, I’m drowning in things and the chaos they create. I have put a ton of effort into good storage, it’s just not enough! So lately I've realized that we have too much, and I need to be more radical in my fight against materialism. Until recently, if something had a use, it was "useful" and therefore kept. But now, I am beginning to see how even useful things can suck life from you. For example, I love my mugs. But when I have 20 of them, and all 20 end up getting used and put into the sink…INSTANT stress! This is ESPECIALLY true with children's toys. Sam has many bins of toys, and sometimes he just dumps them all out on the floor. Some of these toys have many pieces. If we don't pick up his room when he's done, he won't want to play in it anymore, because he can't even choose a toy to play with. It's TOO much visual stimuli! I don't blame him, because I feel the same way. I have so many clothes, most of which don't fit properly, yet I cling to them. I end up digging through mounds of clothes trying to find "the shirt that is comfortable and fits and isn't stained." :) I want to have maybe a weeks worth of clothing that works and nothing more. We have so much more than we need. So now that I've had these realizations and I feel that I "need" a certain object, I've come up with two questions that help me discern whether an item is going to benefit my life or waste it:

Is having this item WORTH the amount of Joe’s life it will take to pay for it?
Is owning this item WORTH the time and effort I will spend cleaning it up?

On a side note, I do believe in the importance of owning a moderate amount of things you enjoy for simply for their beauty! But that is a post for another day. :) I want to enjoy my life, and the things I own. I DON'T want to be possessed. :) I'm at the start of a journey to a place where our home is purged of excessive/ugly/burdensome things, and there is more space/time/energy to enjoy life together. One good thing that will be accomplished on this journey is donating many things to the thrift store for people who want to spend less. And eventually, I'd love it if we were able to give money we save to those who need BASIC things...Food. Clean water. Clothing. Shelter.  I'm excited, but there is such a long road ahead...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

joyfully distracted :)

I'm posting to say that I am joyfully distracted this week, and haven't had time or energy to think of anything worth posting about... Except for the fact that I'm joyfully distracted by these cutie pies!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

dirty dozen

Although I am crunchy in many ways, it might surprise you to know that I rarely buy organic. You see, my values sometimes war against one another. While I want to make a statement to the powers that be by buying local/organic/non GMO foods, I also firmly believe in being frugal and really can't afford the food I would like to eat. I am trying to figure out a happy medium. Here are some guidelines I've come up with for our family:

DAIRY: First of all, I try to use minimal dairy. I think we have an overabundance of it in our American diets. But we still go through about a gallon of milk a week and about a bag of shredded cheese. On the weeks I shop at Trader Joe's or MyOrganicMarket(MOMs) for $5.50 a gallon, I purchase organic milk. When I'm at Costco on the alternate weeks, I buy their milk, which is just over $3. I figure organic half the time is a step in the right direction, and it winds up costing as much as buying milk at a regular store every week. But as money becomes available, I do intend to buy more organic dairy products. And even when money is tight, I only buy dairy products which state that the cows are not treated with rBGH. It is inhumane to use on the animals, and may have negative effects on humans who consume them. Cows treated with this hormone require lots of antibiotics(for mastitis) which many believe can lead to antibiotic resistance in humans. This is a great little fact sheet, if you'd like to read more:

MEAT: After realizing how badly animals are cared for, and how contaminated our meat is, I have become more determined to eat only organic meat. My ideal would be to buy from small local farms! But that is just not in the budget yet. So for now, I am cooking mostly vegetarian dishes, so that I can afford to buy organic chicken breasts. Again, cooking less expensive meals has allowed for the "splurge" of happier chickens. The taste is SO much better too! We almost never eat red meat or pork, and when we do, I buy "natural" but not organic. The only fish we eat right now is canned tuna, and that is not organic, but I'm not convinced that is as much of a problem.

PRODUCE: This year, I made huge efforts to buy only seasonal produce. That means for a large portion of the winter, we did not have fresh fruit. (I make an exception for bananas, cause really, when are they "in season"? and we can never by local for those either!) It was tough, but we saved money, didn't settle for eating something that tasted only slightly better than wax fruit would, and took better care of the planet. Raisins and applesauce saved the day! And I have to say, I've never been more excited about summer fruits and veggies! But back to the point, I always try to buy local (from farmers markets mostly), but not always organic. Even in the summer, organic produce is still pricey, so I need to be wise about what I purchase. Someone has come up with a list called the "dirty dozen", which recommends avoiding produce that is most potentially hazardous. So this summer, I intend to make an effort to buy this "dirty dozen" either organically, or from farmers who use minimal pesticides. I'm not going to buy any other organic produce, at least for now. Here's a cute little cheat sheet(made by Heidi Kenney) for you to tuck into your memory when you go shopping! (The left picture is the part you need to memorize if you're following my advice here)


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Consistency...vice or virtue?

Growing up, I always heard people talk about the importance of "consistency" in parenting. People with all different approaches to parenting seemed to sing the praises of this concept. I absorbed this information, and when I became a mother, I believed it was vitally important to "be consistent" in child training. Lately however, I've been thinking long and hard about this term, and asking the question, "Is consistency really one of the greatest virtues of parenting? And if so, what exactly does it mean?"

The other day, a thought struck me like a ton of bricks: If consistent parenting means to punish every single time a child does something wrong, or punish all offenses with the exact same method, then God himself is an inconsistent parent, and there is no room for showing grace or mercy to our children! This simply cannot be right. I think there is much room for danger in trying to administer punishment "consistently." (The only exception to this I can see is in training young toddlers. Since language is not developed yet, it is helpful to use the same consequences for certain offenses, so that they understand "When I do X, Y will occur.") So, should we strive to be consistent with our kids? My recent conclusion: Absolutely! So what do I mean by the term "consistent"? I'd advocate mirroring consistency as we find it in God. He is a reliable, trustworthy, and faithful Father. He does sometimes give harsh consequences for our sins, and yet He is exceedingly gracious and merciful.
On this note, I'd like to post the section of scripture that has most influenced the way I approach parenting:
"The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust." Psalm 103:8-14
That last part just blows me away. The natural compassion I have towards my children is the way God has chosen to relate to me, someone who was His enemy. wow. But back to my point. He REMEMBERS that we are dust. He knows we are weak and going to fail repeatedly, and though He has the right to punish us immediately, He is instead long suffering. He gently corrects and redirects His children.  He allows us to repent and try again. And He even goes as far as to send the Redeemer to die as a blood offering for our sins. I can't tell you how often I forget that my children are dust. I get angry and want to punish them when they sin against me.I'm so grateful for a Father who remembers. So now I seek to remember their humanity and my own. I want to be someone who is a consistent person--a mother they can depend on to love them well. Sometimes this means showing compassion and mercy on their human weaknesses and sometimes the most loving thing is a hard consequence or punishment. But in either case, I have forsaken the idea of consistent discipline. The consistency I aspire to is consistency in who I am and how I relate to my children.  

Friday, March 18, 2011

Life is sweet

I've been on a kick lately. I'm baking through a book of vegan cupcakes. mmm. I can barely resist them long enough to snap a photo!!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Green = simple = happy :)

Being earth conscious has an indirect benefit--it requires you to live your life fairly simply. I've especially noticed this now that we have only one car. We recently got rid of both of our cars and bought a new car--a 2010 Honda FIT. It has great fuel economy, and is just an absolutely delightful car! Having only one car has forced me to be at home with our boys every day. At first I was terrified by the idea of being trapped in the house with two young children! But after a month of this I can say with confidence--This simple life is good for the environment, and good for us. I am able to be a better mother to my children (none of us could really handle running around as much as I did when we had a vehicle), delight more in God, and put more thought and time into being green. I use cloth diapers more often, bake bread and desserts, waste less food, buy less (since I'm rarely out shopping), am constantly repurposing things, recycle more faithfully, make my own body scrub and wipe solution, etc. And above all, it has just put a lot of things into perspective. By spending so much time in my home(without a tv), I realize more and more that I have everything here that I need! I have a great family, good food and a comfortable place to live. It is wonderful not to be bombarded with advertizing that lies to me and tells me, "You need this. If you had this, you'd be happy." I already am happy...or at least I was, until I saw ads that tell me otherwise! My simple, green life is teaching me to deny consumerism and appreciate what matters most. I've been enjoying my kids more. (an example: Today while Tru was napping, Sam and I threw on our wellies and headed into the rain to jump in some puddles! Simple fun!) I've invited more people into my home than I ever have. I'm more grateful and content with what I have, and therefore give more. I've read more and had clearer thoughts. I could go on, but you get the picture. Hope this inspires you to simplify your life! Green = simple = happy. The end. :)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Happy thoughts

My dear sister, who is very wise, pointed out that I might also benefit my children by acknowledging the good I do as a parent, while trying to correct my flaws. And she is right. So I'm going to stop and think about the things I think I do well as a Mother...

  • Lately, I've been singing/clapping with them every morning. My mom sent us a kids CD in a music style that all 3 of us love. The first song is called "So glad I'm here" and when I sing it to my boys it is a great reminder to love my days with them.

  • For the most part, I am a stable person, whom they can run to and feel safe.

  • I ask what they feel and think, because I really want to know.

  • I try not to judge their motives when they do things that seem naughty until I have heard and considered their perspective.

  • I sit down and play with them--not for a long time, but for a period every day.

  • I pray with them and for them each day.

  • I prepare a healthy variety of foods for them, and try to make them taste good. :)

  • I started letting Sam bake with me while he was still 2. He loves it now.

  • I tell them that I love them and praise them often.

  • I show them physical affection.

  • I usually admit my failures and ask their forgiveness.

  • I accept their limitations.

  • I strive to train them with the gentlest methods possible, with consistancy.

  • I love and respect their daddy, and make sure they see that. (this is UBER important)

  • I say yes to things that make me crazy paint, playdough, puddles, etc.

  • I don't baby them, but help them learn to be independent and strong.

  • I read to them sometimes (this is one I really want to do more often!)

  • I lose sleep when they need me.

  • I breastfeed, even in spite of difficulty.

  • I take little opportunities to teach them about the world.

  • I delight in beauty with them.

  • I am patient and kind much of the time.

  • I put a high value in family and try to make times together fun.

  • I create simple traditions to create memories with and for them.

What are some of your greatest strengths as a parent? I'd love to hear about them. Caring for young children can leave you exhausted and brain dead. Unlike jobs in "the real world", you get little praise, acknowledgement or thanks. Some days you just have no idea what you did, or whether or not it meant anything. And there's nobody to hand you a paper with a grade on it! So I think this kind of reflection is pretty much vital. This post has done me some good. :)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

my favorite four year old

Here he is, on the day of his birthday party. I made it a camping theme--a huge tent out of blankets in his room, fishing, and worm/dirt cupcakes. :) He was so excited!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

4 years of motherhood...the good, the bad and the ugly

My firstborn, Sam, just turned 4! This amazing event has caused me to reflect on how I have changed as a mother in those years since I became one. Please bear with my little rant... :)

Parenting is so much harder than I thought it would be. I have encountered all sorts of challenges that I just never expected. I consider myself a fairly patient, loving person, and so I just assumed being a mother would come naturally to me. I suppose in some ways it does. But what I failed to realize is that parents have to make tons of decisions each day, and decision making is extraordinarily difficult for me. My thought processes are slow and meticulous, and when you have young children, you often need to be able to think fast. This is endlessly frustrating to me. I have had to let go of so many things in order to focus my mind on parenting well. And when I try to do too much, my kids suffer greatly. In my frail humanity, I ignore them or get snappy with them whenever I try to do anything (cook, clean, type, etc)while they are awake.

I never realized how lonely parenting could be. I learned this when Sam was just an infant. He was a very large baby with an even larger personality! I soon discovered that he was energetic and intense in ways few children are. When you have a uniquely challenging relationship with your child, you may feel like nobody understands what you're going through. Eventually, you will probably find other parents who can relate, but there may be times when you are weary, broken hearted, exhausted, confused, and even angry, and you don't know any other mom who truly gets it. There have been many times I have felt this loneliness in the past 4 years. One memory stands out in my mind of trying to sit at a cafe with a friend and her little girl who was the same age as Sam. (They might have been 2?) We both ordered hot chocolate to share with the little ones. My friends child sat calmly and politely sipping her drink. Sam saw me carry ours up, compulsively grabbed it, spilled it everywhere and then threw a screaming fit. It took all my energy(plus help from my friend) to get him out of the cafe. I was so disappointed that I could just not do anything like that with my toddler. Grocery stores, restaurants, malls and pretty much anyplace outside our house was a nightmare. Sure, all moms can relate to having difficulties and frustrations with their kids. But when I would talk to other women about parenting, most of the time I got blank stares, or looks of pity, when I would describe things I was dealing with on a daily basis with Sam. I was also immersed in a community that typically approaches discipline differently than I do, so I felt alone and overwhelmed on that front too. Frequently during the past four years, I have been terrified that I am going completely out on a limb and screwing my kid up. Parenting can be scary, especially when you don't feel that anyone is "in the trenches" with you. Thankfully I did have honest, good moms around me for encouragement. My mom and mother in law often gave me encouragement and praise. And by the time Sam was hitting terrible twos, I did have one friend who was truly on the same page with me on every level. What a blessing she was to me during the difficult 2's and 3's! Those were hard years, but God was faithful throughout.

One thing I have just recently been able to see and confront is that I am a sinner, and it comes out in my parenting. Yes, I have known that all along, but it is so much more clear to me now. When you're young and imagine being a parent, you never think about the fact that you will be ridiculously tired, and that when you are in that weakened state, you are more prone to failure. No matter how hard I strive to be gracious and loving, I fall terribly short. This is why it is so important to me to make an EFFORT to focus on grace and love in my parenting. Because even with my best efforts, my kids will not be loved as they ought to be. I cannot love them as my heavenly Father loves me. I am far too broken. But I have been loved well by God, and so I strive to love them well. Recently I was having a lot of difficulty with Sam again, and I realized that I had a bigger problem than he did. I was exhausted from being up with Truman every night, and so Sam was watching a show while I slept in the morning. This seems innocent enough except that I was OUT of it, and often Sam would try to wake me for a long time. This would result in both of us being frustrated and irritable. I would get mad at him when really I was the one being irresponsible. He's only 4. Of course he was behaving badly by the time he got me up. And of course I was irritable because of his relentless energy while trying to wake up(something that is hard for me even in a serene atmosphere!). The solution? I needed to go to bed earlier and get up before Sam. This has made the world of difference in our lives. I can't believe what a happy, sweet boy I have every morning now that I've stopped blaming and taken responsibility for myself. But the truth is, even with this effort on my part, I still fail my boys! And I am also learning to accept that, and know that God will be the parent to them that I cannot be. that I've tried to be real about my struggles with mothering, let me be real about its blessings too. There is just nothing sweeter to me than the smiles and laughter of my children. Their joy could brighten my darkest day. I cannot remember what I thought the good life was before I had Samuel and Truman. But whatever it was, it was nowhere near this satisfying. Mothering has been harder than I expected, but also far more rewarding. Kids have brought a much needed lighthearted element into our home. Joe and I can be far too serious. :) It is so fun to play trains, build with legos, watch "Charlie and Lola" and dip cookies in milk with Sam! Yes, this is my JOB, and it's fabulous. And as much as I enjoy them now, I anxiously anticipate future days with them. I am so glad I will, Lord willing, get to watch their personalities unfold in the coming years. I can't wait to find out who they become! I already appreciate their delightful, individual personalities, but it will be great to watch them grow into the good men I believe they will be. :)

In closing, I have to say that my mother in law was right. Four is a magical age for little guys. Sam is getting easier all the time. And Truman is just the chillest of babies. Our little family is at a really lovely place! I know it will get harder again, but for now, I'll breath a sigh of relief, smile, and hug my sweet babies, knowing that in a blink they'll be bending down to hug their mama!

cloth diapering, take two...(GoGreen review)

Somehow I managed to keep Sam in cloth diapers with only 12 bum genius pocket diapers. I somehow lost one (I don't even want to think about what became of it?!! EW.), so I had 11. This was not going to cut it now that I'm a busy mom of two! I heard about some new diapers ( from a friend on facebook. They looked really good, and were HALF the price of BG diapers, so I figured it was a worthy investment to buy a few more! I've been using them for the past 2 weeks or so. Here are my thoughts...

Pros: only $8 a piece, really cute patterns, soft, seem durable/well made, good elastic, snaps. These would be great for someone who wants to cloth diaper but is on a tight budget!

Cons: Not as sturdy as BG diapers, so I wouldn't recommend these if you want to use them again on future babies. Also, I've had some trouble with leakage. (even poo seems to come through to the outside fabric--something I've never experienced with BG) I think this may be partly due to the inserts being too small? I'm going to try stuffing them with prefolds, and I'll update you when I see how this goes.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Our 2nd son, Truman Shepherd, was born on September 27th, 2010. I finally got the all natural birth I wanted! He was born in a whirlpool tub at a birthcenter after 8 hrs of labor. I actually didn't intend a water birth, but once I was in (at 8cm), I wasn't getting back out! haha. It was an amazing experience, and I am so grateful that I was able to have it. These are some recent photos of our sweet baby, who is now 4 months old.

yeah...a bit overdue to say the least.

Hello blog world. I'm here to say that I'm still alive and well...quite well actually. I've been busy baking and birthing a sweet new boy named Truman Shepherd. He's now 4 months old and truly a bundle of joy! But being a mother of 2 has made me re-evaluate how I spend my time. Blogging is just not a priority for me. However, I still want to share things with you every now and then, so please don't completely give up on me. =)

I continue to ponder my approach to parenting in light of the fact that Sam is now almost 4 and we have another child (with a totally different personality!) to teach and love. It's been a long road, and there are many years of learning yet to come! As a reminder to myself, and to get your input if you'd like to give it, I want to post a summary of my parenting ideas that I wrote shortly after Sam was born. It's basic, but sometimes I find making simple points can be helpful. I will try to fill you in on thoughts I've had since then at a later date.

What do I want to communicate to my children? I want them to learn that we will always love them, no matter what, and that we want everything good for them. I want them to learn that God is the source of all that is beautiful and good. I want them to learn that we are all sinners--that includes their parents--but that God is merciful and gracious to forgive our sin. I want him to learn that though life is hard, we are part of a grand story, God's story. He is sovereign over all things, and will use us for His glory. I want them to learn that God's law does not exist to deprive us from joy, but to give us greater joy. Because the Lord knows we cannot keep the law as we ought, He has provided the ultimate sacrifice for our sin, Jesus. I hope they will see that as Augustine says, "Our hearts are restless til they find our rest in Him."

How can we communicate these things well in daily life?
1) Lots of prayer!
2) Humility. We should be constantly seeking to acknowledge to them our weakness and need for Christ.
3) Talking with them about our Christian worldview--specifically taking all opportunities to explain redemption.
4) Affirmation. We need to praise them as often as possible for thinking and doing right.
5) Sacrificially serving one another. (husband-wife-children)
6) Setting boundaries, and explaining WHY they are there. (few and with good reasons) And yes, punishing when they willfully cross those boundaries.
7) Knowing each individual child, and loving him for who HE is. And though this seems obvious, showing tenderness and affection to each one.