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. :)