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Archive for January, 2013

Happy birthday to me

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Happy birthday to me
Happy birthday to me
Happy birthday to meeeeeeeeee
Happy birthday to me

Today was a beautiful day filled with family, friends, a cake (made by yours truly), some delicious vegan, gluten-free food, and a few very lovely and thoughtful gifts. I am a lucky woman. My favorite part of the day may have been the card I received from Julian (pictured above). He is a french fry fanatic, and this is the most fitting card I have ever seen. I laughed so hard.

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Goodbye January

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Well, January is almost over, so today I’d like to review my progress this month. (Tomorrow is my birthday, so it feels right to review today and give myself a holiday tomorrow. I’ll still post, but I won’t be doing any serious “work”).

My resolutions this month, and my progress evaluations:

Take care of your body

I have flossed every day (except that one time), exfoliated often, taken the time to pluck my eyebrows, and filed my nails. These may not seem like big things, but they are little things that I hadn’t been taking the time to do. I’d like to add a few other self-care items to this list as I go along, but for now, I am comfortable with what I’ve accomplished so far. Surprisingly, I have enjoyed flossing my teeth. I think it’s that inherent removal-of-foregn-object-from-body satisfaction people get when pulling out a splinter or popping a pimple. It feels productive and oddly self-indulgent.

Eat whole, balanced, nutritious foods

I have rocked this resolution. I’ve been cooking in bulk almost every Sunday and keeping healthy snacks around to grab when I need them. I drink a protein shake every day, and regularly take all my supplements. My sugar cravings are almost gone completely, and that alone is AMAZING to me. Last week I made raw energy balls (sweetened with dates and cranberries), and one batch lasted me 5 days (with no other sweet substitutes). I’ve also been juicing regularly, and making sure I get extra protein. It makes me so happy to know that I have exceeded my expectations for this resolution.

Support your family’s health

This is one resolution I would like to improve on a bit as I continue my journey. Right now I make sure J gets his supplements every day, brushes his teeth, etc., and once in a while I remember to encourage Husband to take a vitamin, but overall, as the domestic leader here, I’d like to do a little more encouraging and assisting on the family health front. I want to provide what I call a “monkey platter” (an ice tray, or similar, filled with healthy snacks) on a daily basis for J, so we don’t have to play the are-you-hungry game. And I’d like to find a way to encourage Husband to take more supplements (maybe by getting one of those days of the week pill boxes?). I know there’s only so much I can do for them, but I’d like to do more than I’m doing.

Clean, de-clutter, and increase usability

I keep thinking that I want to do more of this this at home, but then I look around and realize that I can’t figure out what more to do. I suppose that means I’ve done pretty well! Most of our space fits my usability criteria, and I’ve done quite a bit of cleaning and de-cluttering. Husband and I have our everyday bowls and plates now, and I’ve made my office space work for me, cleaned out my closet, re-organized toys and kitchen clutter, and found space for my crafting supplies. Now to file…

Ease your mind

This resolution may have been a bit broad for me, but I think I’ve made some progress in the area. I’ve been a list-a-holic this month and made sure to be much more on top of to-dos and “nagging tasks” (Gretchen’s term). I get a boost from just doing something rather than spending hours trying to figure out what needs to be done first. I still have a tendency to just ignore certain tasks I really don’t want to do, but I’m working on facing those. I still haven’t take Radical Homemakers back to the library. I’m starting to feel like the library police will track me down and put me in library jail.

Move your body

This is another resolution I really rocked. I have exercised (in some form) almost every day this month, and I’d like to do more than I’m doing, but it’s practicality that’s holding me back a bit, not lack of motivation. I’ve taken up running, and I’ve ridden my bike and taken pilates. I still haven’t taken a dance class, and that thought makes me want to cry, but overall, I am MUCH more active than I was last month. Physical activity is an easy habit for me when I have the means (and am not nursing a feverish two-year-old in bed for five days). I get hooked to a regular physical routine fairly quickly and it becomes somewhat of an obsession. In fact, I will admit that one day while stuck inside with a sick J during sub-freezing outdoor temperatures, I actually ran laps around our house to get some cardio. Every few minutes I would remember what I was doing and burst into laughter. Our dogs would glance up at me each time I passed through the living room and give me this look like, “Yup, that’s it. She’s finally lost her marbles.” I might have looked crazy, but hey, I got my cardio (and a good dose of laughter).

And that’s January! Stay tuned over the next few days for my February resolutions! They are in the works!

Today was a warm, grey, and very blustery day. J and I spent a lot of time outside cleaning up the yard, gathering kale, and picking up dog poop (one of J’s favorite activities!). While outside, J found a “hammer”, a “screwdriver” and a “saw” in the form of three differently shaped sticks and proceeded to fix our fence, our stairs, and the raised garden beds. I think we’re going to need to send him to Grandpa’s to learn how to fix and build things. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Book list

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Today is all about books.

A friend requested that I write a “book list” post, and I have somewhat of a book obsession (and a list osbession!), so here I go! The idea happened to come at a perfect time, because I just finished reading Radical Homemakers yesterday. Great book. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in carving a conscious, home-centered life path. In fact, I will list it as #1 here. I think I will limit myself to a list of ten tonight, so that I don’t get too carried away. I’m not going to put them into any sort of specific categories (or order) – just ten books I love and would recommend to friends. Each book has contributed to a more happy me. ๐Ÿ™‚

1.) Radical Homemakers, by Shannon Hayes. I’ve described it a lot recently, so I will resist doing so again here. Check out Shannon’s website if you’re interested in learning more!

2.) The Continuum Concept, by Jean Liedloff. By far the most influential book I’ve ever read. If you’re into history, anthropology, evolutionarily-correct living, natural parenting, attachment parenting, or are just a human on planet Earth, I recommend you read this book at least twice. Check out Jean’s work here.

3.) Sabbath, by Wayne Muller. “Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in our Busy Lives.” I loved this book, because it was beautiful, poignant, and practical. It’s broken down into lots of very short chapters, and it’s full of great ideas about how to find more depth and solace in life. Check out Wayne’s website

4.) Hold on to Your Kids, by Gabor Matรฉ. Matรฉ is an “international authority on child development,” and has a lot to say about attachment theory and research. He writes about how kids today are attaching to their peers instead of parents/caregivers and the problems this creates. I highly recommend it for anyone parenting in today’s world, and especially for those with children in school/daycare/etc. Check Matรฉ out here.

5.) Dumbing Us Down, by John Taylor Gatto. Gatto is wise, witty, and a joy to follow through this critique of America’s public school systems. Warning: reading this book may change your entire perspective on the idea of “schooling”. Gatto is a three time winner of Teacher of the Year in New York City, and the 1991 recipient of Teacher of the Year for the State of New York.

6.) Unconditional Parenting, by Alfie Kohn. “Moving from rewards and punishments to love and reason.” Another extremely influential book in my life. Kohn packs this book full of research, statistics, stories, and practical advice geared towards helping parents create a respectful, loving relationship with their kids. I think I’ve said it before, but the man is brilliant.

7.) The Natural Child, by Jan Hunt. This book goes along nicely with The Continuum Concept and is easy to read. Jan writes about parenting with empathy and trust, advocating for children, guiding children, and more. She also has a wonderful website called The Natural Child Project .

8.) Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne. In this awesome book, Payne writes about “using the extraordinary power of less to raise calmer, happier, and more secure kids”. He suggests de-cluttering kids’ environments, keeping strong rhythms, loosening tight schedules, and limiting media in kids lives. A must read for parents in today’s day and age, and a great compliment to Sabbath.

9.) A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle. I must admit, I haven’t finished this one yet, but it’s good enough to put on here anyway! Tolle’s vision for the world and humanity’s capacity for consciousness is awe-inspiring and makes me believe in Earth just a little bit more.

10.) Pathways to Family Wellness Magaize. Ok, I realize this one isn’t a book, but I’m absolutely obsessed with the amazing articles in their recent issues. It’s the only magazine I’ve ever read cover-to-cover. Check them out here, or pick up a copy at your chiropractor’s office.

I hope this list inspires and informs. ๐Ÿ™‚

What a crazy, beautiful day today was. The weather in North Carolina jumped from a freezing and ice-filled 28 degrees on Saturday to a balmy 65 degrees today. J and I spent a lot of the day outside, watching construction trucks (an excavator and a back hoe loader) downtown, eating lunch with Husband at a Thai place, and riding about 4 miles on our bike. Tomorrow is predicted to be just as gorgeous, so I’m excited to soak up more of this odd January weather! J also had his first non-invasive dentist appointment this morning with our local holistic dentist, and it went smoothly, for the most part (because he didn’t even have to open his mouth to show her his teeth!). The goal was to begin establishing a relationship. I hope it makes the next trip easier!

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Phew.

Husband is home. And J is (mostly) well – lingering cough and raspy voice, but no more fevers or night freak-outs, and much less snot. I feel like this week changed me. I was supermom (not to brag…). I was calm, empathetic. An unyielding force of support. And I DIDN’T LEAVE OUR HOUSE FOR FIVE DAYS. If you know me, you must know how incredible it is that I survived that long. It kind of feels like I climbed Mt. Everest. Or participated in an extreme-sport. I think I now know how Gretchen felt during her “Week of Extreme Nice.”

In The Happiness Project, Gretchen talks about a week in February (the month where she focuses on her marriage) that she dubbed her “Week of Extreme Nice.” She says:

I’d been working on giving proofs of love when I decided to push myself to the highest level of proof: a Week of Extreme Nice… What was “Extreme Nice”? It was an extreme sport, like bungee jumping or sky diving, that stretched me beyond my ordinary efforts, that showed me new depths within myself. All done in the comfort of my own home. For a week, I was extremely nice to Jamie [her husband]. No criticizing! No snapping! No nagging! I even offered to drop his shoes off at the shoe repair shop before he asked me!

It’s funny, because I didn’t intend to have an extreme week, but it definitely turned out that way. I suppose I was trying to prove something to myself. I have a temper (I have been known to throw adult tantrums), and I have a tendency to get stuck in negative thought spirals when I’m isolated or overwhelmed, but I decided that wasn’t going to happen last week. J needed all of me. And he needed the calm, centered Mama I knew I was capable of being. So that’s what he got. Sure, we had a few rough moments, but over all, our days passed smoothly and sweetly. My commandments came in handy.

Breathe through it.
Embrace imperfection.
If you think, you’re dead.
This is not an emergency.

Tonight was soup night at our house, and our two friends and their two-year-old twins came for what will be their last time. They are moving across the country this weekend. It was a lovely evening, and I hope they have a lovely journey.

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The Surprise

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Tonight, I have a story for you.

From: Frog and Toad, All Year
By: Arnold Lobel

The Surprise

It was October.
The leaves had fallen off the trees.
They were lying on the ground.
“I will go to Toad’s house,” said Frog.
“I will rake all of the leaves that have fallen on his lawn.
Toad will be surprised.”
Frog took a rake out of the garden shed.

Toad looked out of his window.
“These messy leaves have covered everything,” said Toad.
He took a rake out of the closet.
“I will run over to Frog’s house.
I will rake all of his leaves.
Frog will be very pleased.”
Frog ran through the woods
so that Toad would not see him.
Toad ran through the high grass
So that Frog would not see him.

Frog came to Toad’s house.
He looked in the window.
“Good,” said Frog.
“Toad is out.
He will never know
who raked his leaves.”

Toad got to Frog’s house.
He looked in the window.
“Good,” Said Toad.
“Frog is not home.
He will never guess
who raked his leaves.”

Frog worked hard.
He raked the leaves into a pile.
Soon Toad’s lawn was clean.
Frog picked up his rake
and started home.

Toad pushed and pulled on the rake.
He raked the leaves into a pile.
Soon there was not a single leaf
in Frog’s front yard.
Toad took his rake
and started home.

A wind came.
It blew across the land.
The pile of leaves
that Frog had raked for Toad
blew everywhere.
The pile of leaves
that Toad had raked for Frog
Blew everywhere.

When Frog got home,
he said, “Tomorrow I will
clean up the leaves
that are all over my own lawn.
How surprised Toad must be!”

When Toad got home,
he said, “Tomorrow I will
get to work and rake
all of my own leaves.
How surprised Frog must be!”

That night
Frog and Toad
were both happy
when they each
turned out the light
and went to bed.

I read this to J the other night, and I thought it provided a beautiful view of happiness. ๐Ÿ™‚

This evening, I was trying to get J out of the house and into the car when he looked at me very sternly and said, “When I am finished coloring, we will leave. Kapish?” I was frustrated at first, because I really wanted to leave, but then I had to try hard not to laugh. I love this kid’s confidence.

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Process vs. product

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I love Radical Homemakers.

Like Charlie in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, my favorite book tends to be the last one I read. This case is no exception. I am so inspired by the families in this book who have eschewed mainstream America and followed their own paths. Reading their stories gives me the confidence and approval I seek while carving a similar path myself. It’s interesting to me how extremely different a book Radical Homemakers is from The Happiness Project. The authors live opposite lives and have very different ideals, but to me, the books make great companions. Both Gretchen and Shannon are doers – they both take control of their lives, make big changes, and continually seek the highest sense of well-being possible.

The life of a Radical Homemaker (or even a stay-at-home mom) is not easy. To me, it’s far more rewarding and pleasurable, but it’s not easy. Essentially, I feel like I have spent most of my adult life so far trying to forget everything I learned in school as a child. ๐Ÿ™‚ I was never very good at working for other people, but deciding that I don’t think I will ever work for someone else again, or have what is considered a real career, was a huge step. As was deciding to be a conscious consumer. I don’t make any purchase lightly, whether I’m buying a computer or an orange, and I hope one day to be much less reliant on purchasing the things I need. For example, I am in the process of learning how to garden, crochet, and sew, and my cooking gets better every day. I don’t know if I will ever be as radical as some of the people Interviewed in the book, but my heart is in the right place. Husband is on board too (and hopes to one day work only for himself again), so who knows where we will end up!

What I seem to miss most about my previous life (and many Radical Homemakers in the book echo this) are connections with other people and extrinsic motivators/rewards. I could write about isolation and a lack of community for days here, but you might stop reading if I do, so I will spare you and talk a little bit about rewards instead.

In our culture, most of us are raised with extrinsic motivators. We complete a task to get a grade, a degree, a title behind our name, a “good job”. People don’t seem to have faith in the fact that humans are intrinsically motivated when left to their own means, and this is something that constantly drives me crazy a.) because I do not extrinsically motivate my son and b.) because I am so conditioned by rewards that shifting to a life without “good jobs”, progress reports, and promotions has been very difficult at times. No one gives you an “A” for cleaning the kitchen or promotes you from “Mommy” to “Super Mommy” when you learn to cook while breastfeeding. You have to find the joy in those accomplishments for yourself. I feel like I am just now really beginning to see the joy that exists in everyday life and all the little milestones it holds. I appreciate washing the dishes because it means I’m taking care of our home and family. And after nursing J through a sick night, I am thankful I can be there for him, and the look of security on his face is enough.

Tonight has already been one of those sick nights, and its only 9:15. I have been trying to put the groceries away and eat a late dinner for several hours now, but J needs me to help him sleep. (I am currently blogging via iPhone while he snoozes with me). Motherhood can be thankless, and so can other jobs Radical Homemakers encounter, but you know what? It’s a beautiful life, and its wonderful to find the joy in the process instead of the product, or worse, the reward for its completion. This reminds me of a quote by Herman Hesse:

Happiness is a how; not a what. A talent, not an object.

For more on the dangers of rewards, I refer you to Alfie Kohn. The man is brilliant.

Oh, and guess who is choreographing piece for Blabbermouth Atlanta in May! Yours truly. ๐Ÿ™‚ I can’t wait to get started. This is the kind of job I am looking to have from now on, if any. I call the shots, and the time spent away from my family is minimal. See you in May, Atlanta!

Husband and I have a running joke between the two of us- sometimes J wakes from a nap and seems so much older than he was when he went to sleep, so we say he’s “been having lessons with Dumbledore.” Today was one of those days. J woke up, and looked at the stars on our ceiling. Pointing to a constellation, he said, “You know what that one is called? I was thinking we could name it… Hmm… Jennifer lives in that one. You know Jennifer? Jennifer and Brooklyn? She lives there.” Love this kid.

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Right now, I am sitting at my old desk in our music room, blissfully watching snow fall through the window beside me as I chat with Husband (who is still in California and about to attend a recording session at Fox Studios!) via iMessage. J is still sick. We had a rough night last night that included several wake-ups full of frightened coughing, wheezing, and crying, and today marks day four of our quarantine in the Blue House, but surprisingly, I feel happy.

When I started this Happiness Project, I really didn’t expect to see immediate results, but I got them anyway. I think it was all about action and a change in perspective for me. I think I needed someone or something to give me an excuse to get off my ass and make changes in my life. There wasn’t anything wrong with my life before, but there were things that needed shifting, and here I am now, shifting them.

That said, we are headed into another sick night tonight, and I haven’t seen a real, live person (other than J) since Husband left at noon on Wednesday. I was supposed to take J to see our homeopath tomorrow morning, but I have been warned to stay off the roads until after 10 am (when the appointment is scheduled to end), so it looks like we will be spending another day here at the Blue House. I am wishing us a restful night and a peaceful day tomorrow. For both of our sakes.

And because I want to go clean the kitchen and get ready for bed myself (yes, at 8:30 pm on a Friday night – I am that cool), I will leave you with another great quote from Radical Homemakers to mull over:

John De Graaf, David Wann, and Thomas Naylor argue that a root cause of many or our ecological problems is “high-impact thinking,” which includes “a compulsive need for spotlessness and tidiness.” “The cleaner our houses, the more toxic our environment, from runaway chemicals used to overpolish, oversterilize, and overdeodorize our homes.” Likewise, the more pristine our lawns, “the browner our streams,” say De Graaf et al, “from all the nutrients and pesticides that run off.” Indeed, the typical suburban homeowner in the compulsive pursuit of visual perfection uses six times the pesticides and synthetic fertilizers per acre than a non-organic farmer would apply to his or her crops. The obsessive manicuring also incurs an ecological cost – a power mower emits more exhaust in thirty minutes than a car driven 187 miles.

Today was day four of what I will call our Winter Quarantine. Against what was possibly my better judgement, I assisted J in going out back to play in the ice for a while. I mean, how often to we have snow and ice in North Carolina? He seems to really enjoy the cold.

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