Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Choosing What is Better

A few weeks ago, I shared a link to my friend's blog (Grace Bounty) and this morning I wanted to share this one (Become Good Soil) because when God is telling me something, I get really excited and I won't hush up about it. I suppose that's a good thing. The first blog link I want to print out and plaster on every wall just so I won't forget.

The truth is, getting what you know in your head that short 12 inches to your heart, can feel like running a marathon. I suppose it is. (Hebrews 12) I mean, life IS a marathon, right? A series of small choices that give you your end result? All those little things seem insignificant, but they add up. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, yada yada yada. But there's a balance (isn't there always?) that one wrong choice, or a thousand wrong choices, doesn't mean you can't make a good one right after and change your direction.

Am I doing what's important to me? Are my children seeing me LIVE what's important to me? Sure, the laundry has to be done, people have to eat, bathrooms have to be cleaned, but am I falling short in what MATTERS, to keep up all those things to perfection? I do teach my children that Daddy leaving for work is because he loves them and so he can provide, and I'm showing them love by cooking, or washing, or cleaning. I want them to know that. We structure our house to intentionally NOT revolve around the children's entertainment. That's our desire, that's what works for us. However, I've been questioning whether I make those things too big a priority in my life over the desires God has placed in me. I make sure I get library books on things the kids are intrigued by this month, and I say that I want them to feel free to follow their hearts' desires and not fit some mold of expectation set out by us. But what do I do? Do they see me do things that bring me joy? Or do I show them by my actions that all the daily stuff that never goes away no matter how many times I do it, is actually more important?

I've been re-listening to John Eldredge's series on Desire again. It's FREE, right here. If you've never read or listened to anything of his before, DO IT! Seriously. I love the way he teaches and thinks. It has helped free me of so many unbiblical theologies I thought were, in fact, biblical. So I've been challenged anew to not set aside the things that make me come alive - that which God has put in my heart that make me ME. That's what I would tell my kids - it's important. Don't waste all your time on things that will always be there. If you wait until all of that is done before you allow yourself the "luxury" of giving time to that, you never will. Really. Ever. I have been totally slapped in the face with that reality right now. I WANT my kids to grow up with lots of exposure to music and worship. How am I doing that? By waiting to play piano and sing after I finish (insert everything that would make my home suitable for Southern Living)? You know why? Because I feel guilty. It feels like an indulgence. Because I enjoy it? Who says something's worthwhile because it's hard or difficult? Obviously, there are things in life you have to fight for and through, but God gives us plenty of things just. for. joy. If I don't make a single step every day to bring music into their lives, they won't. If they don't see me reading (insert chore guilt) just because I enjoy it, they won't. If they don't see me slow down, breath deeply of nature and enjoy how frivolous and wasteful the creation we live in is, THEY WON'T. 

I want my kids to stop and see the wonder He has spread before us. I want my kids to delight in things God has put in their hearts. That means burning away the chaff. Getting rid of what looks good and making time for what IS good. That may not look the same for all of us. Ha. I know it won't, because we're all different. All our families are different. Each of my children are different. All of them may become musicians. None of them may. It doesn't matter. What matters is they learn to be after God's heart, which is after theirs. The things they love, and make them feel alive, are things that point them towards the heart of God, because they are made in His image. 

Just as C.S. Lewis wrote in The Screwtape Letters, there is an enemy after our souls, my children's souls, even now, and he will do anything to distract them from that which leads them to God. Luke 10:38-42 "As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Great Children's Books

We love books! We love the library! We take advantage of the PINES system to the fullest extent and I'm always on the hunt for great new books. We have favorites we check out repeatedly (and probably should just buy from Amazon) but then there are those that make me question who was in charge of sending them to print. O.o If you're a parent, finding a book you don't mind reading for the twentieth time, or hundredth time, is a great treasure. This is by no means exhaustive, and in no particular order, but here are a few books on our shelf right now.

Whopper Cake

If You Give a Cat a Cupcake (I love the whole series!)

You're All My Favorites

A Visitor For Bear

Doctor Ted (Another Series!)

Lift-the-flap Books - this seems really simple, but the boys will look through these over and over again. Great vocabulary builders, too.

Classic Winnie the Pooh

Oh, the Places You'll Go! - Obviously, Dr. Suess is a beloved writer, but this particular one I really like.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mommy's Broken

Wow. So, it's been awhile! Time sure does slip away. I suppose I haven't been overly inspired to blog lately, and I just honestly decided not to feel guilty about it! So, if I've hung around in your feed, yay! 

This post has been brewing in me for a long time, but I wasn't really sure how to put to words my experience with hormone imbalance. I'm a little hesitant to post on this topic, but it's been quite an important season for me in the last few years. It keeps surfacing in the lives of those around me, so I've decided it's just time to tackle it, because I felt so alone when I went through it. Even if I stumble for words or explanation, hopefully it will help someone else feel less alone.

I don't suffer with PCOS, and I've always had a very regular cycle, so this isn't about that, or infertility issues. I'm also not a medical professional, by any means, but this is more of my own personal journey to understand myself and what I could do about it, preferably without prescription. This isn't medical advice, but perhaps it will be of benefit to you. I will reference where I can, so that you can see some places I gleaned from for yourself, if you desire. This has been at least a two year process for me, and I therefore don't remember, nor did I note, every place I read something helpful. If you don't know me well, my basic approach to any new subject is to just research the heck out of it. I don't find one good book or website. I check out 27 books from the library system and look at dozens of sites. There are a lot of opinions and perspectives, so I figure the more places I learn about something, the more likely it is that I will get a balanced view.

Before I get into the nitty gritty, I would like to explain why I really want to talk about this, even though, it's a little hard to talk about. It was a very painful, lonely time for me, before I started to come out of the hole and get my life back. I felt like a failure in every aspect of my life, and was piling on a lot of guilt about something I really had no control over. While I have grown up Christian, when asked what I believe, I tend to label myself non-mainstream Christian. But, that's another post entirely. The main thing is, I believe God can and does heal, but we live in a fallen world, and there are people with plenty of physical problems that aren't because they're being punished and doing something wrong. I don't judge a diabetic for using insulin, yet I was judging myself harshly for not being able to "just get over" what I was going through. There still remains a HUGE stigma (Christian or otherwise) on mental illness. And believe me, if you have ever suffered with any facet of a hormone imbalance on a grand scale, that is precisely what it feels like. My sincere hope is that anyone going through this too, will feel hope that they can make it back.

I really struggled that first year after my twins were born. They were born at 33 weeks in November, the winter Swine Flu made its appearance. To say I was constantly worried and stressed would be an understatement. I felt woefully unprepared to be a mom, my twins were colicky, and well, as you moms know, lack of sleep goes a long way to making you feel crazy. I nursed for 6 months, and through loving encouragement from my husband, weaned for my emotional well-being. After the boys hit the one year mark, I started to feel a little more normal, but that was short-lived. By the time their second birthday rolled around, I had hit rock bottom. I cried out to God because I felt I couldn't possibly go on living the way I felt. He didn't choose to heal me, but I did feel a prompting to research PMDD. I hadn't known anyone who had it, and I still feel strongly that it was God helping me to know myself. He could have healed me instantly, but I have learned so much on this journey, and am thankful for who I've become along the way.

Female hormone imbalance can present itself in many ways, and in varying degrees. The most commonly known is of course, PMS. While most women have experienced the physical symptoms of normal ovulatory function, it's the emotional facet that sets PMS apart. PMDD is a more severe form with substantial disruption to personal relationships, often accompanied by anxiety, anger, and depression. Postpartum Depressionperimenopause, and menopause can also have similar symptoms. Looking at your particular symptoms can help you determine more closely what your particular issue may be.

I kept writing off PPD initially, even when we considered it that first year, because I didn't have all the symptoms. Plus, taking care of two colicky newborns was hard, no matter what you called it! I never felt suicidal, or that I might hurt my twins. (No judgment if you struggle with PPD, this is why slight variances in symptoms can make such a difference in your personal struggle.) When I read these symptoms for PMDD:
  1. Very depressed mood, feeling hopeless
  2. Marked anxiety, tension, edginess
  3. Sudden mood shifts (crying easily, extreme sensitivity)
  4. Persistent, marked irritability, anger, increased conflicts
  5. Loss of interest in usual activities (work, school, socializing, etc.)
  6. Difficulty concentrating and staying focused
  7. Fatigue, tiredness, loss of energy
  8. Marked appetite change, overeating, food cravings
  9. Insomnia (difficulty sleeping) or sleeping too much
  10. Feeling out of control or overwhelmed
  11. Physical symptoms such as weight gain, bloating, breast tenderness or swelling, headache, and muscle or joint aches and pains 
I just wept, because I felt hope. Simply realizing perhaps I wasn't crazy and destined for an institution was a freeing step in and of itself. I read somewhere else that it often was more severe after birth! It made me reflect through my teen years and early twenties, and I recognized seasons of my life when I had dealt with it, only not to the full severity that I was currently experiencing. 

I began further research on natural alternatives, because I really, really didn't want to take a prescription unless I had to. I started my research because I wanted a natural remedy for PMDD so that's the basis for a lot of these herbs.  I discovered they were used for many other things, including PMS, postnatal healing and menopause. Except for Ginkgo, all are considered generally safe while breastfeeding. Low-percentage side effects include colic in young infants.

  • Gingko Biloba - to help with mental clarity, breast tenderness and fluid retention
  • Evening Primrose Oil - hormonal balance/PMS symptoms and excellent for skin issues including eczema
  • Milk Thistle - primarily for cleansing the liver of toxins, but makes a notable difference in symptoms
  • St. John's Wort - Mood
  • B Complex - energy
  • Magnesium, vitamin D & Calcium - a lot of women are deficient in these and that can worsen symptoms
  • Chasteberry - overall PMS issues
  • Omega 3/6/9 complex and vitamin e oil because the fatty acids help a lot of things, not just PMS symptoms
We decided that I probably wouldn't get any worse off by adding some supplements to my diet, so I started taking them almost immediately after narrowing down what I thought were my best choices. I began to feel differently within a week, and even better after two weeks. After a month, I felt like I had my life back. It was like I could see again. Things made sense, I wasn't irrational, I could think clearly and make better decisions. I wasn't just trying to keep my head above water, only to feel like I was still drowning. I couldn't believe what a significant difference a few herbs could make.

I remember times when I would just sit on the floor and weep out of hopelessness, only to have one of my toddlers walk up wondering what was wrong with mommy, and I would just say, "Mommy's broken", because, that's how it felt. There was so much I wanted to do, but I felt completely out of control of my emotions. I knew I was missing such a wonderful part of my children's lives because I couldn't be fully present, only pray I wasn't traumatizing them irreparably. I couldn't look at situations and relationships objectively, and ultimately closed myself off because I was afraid I would show how crazy I really was.

It amazes me to look back and reflect on how I felt and to revel in thankfulness for how far I've come. Now, I am pregnant again, and have felt some of the emotional swings, only to not have my herbs to turn to because many aren't safe during pregnancy. Fortunately, it has been sporadic, and seems to have balanced out. I know I have some more learning ahead of me as I find my normal again after birth. It just isn't quite as frightening because at least I know ahead of time what may be ahead. It won't go on as long, because I recognize the early signs now, and can do something about it.

I sincerely hope this has been an encouragement to someone out there who may be going through the same thing. As I said before, I'm not a doctor, and this isn't intended to be medical advice, but just a reflection of my journey. I pray that I can help someone else feel a little less lonely, and a little more hopeful that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Things That Go Chomp in the Night...and the Day Too...

Okay, so being the bibliophile and researching nerd that I am, when I started this garden venture I tried to be very thorough in my studying. But the truth is, while they may have given me a great learning curve, experience is a wonderful teacher. (And perhaps painful, too?) I have lost my entire summer squash bed this year. Again. Georgia has a beautifully long (albeit hot) growing season, so I planted another round this morning.

Last year I surveyed pictures of the basic garden pests so I would be familiar if I spotted one, preferably before it destroyed the whole harvest. As I've said before, The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Ed Smith has been a helpful beginning gardening guide without being too overwhelming. I also love all the pictures - they came in very handy when identifying these unwelcome guests and how to combat them.

While I was disturbed at how big the tomato horn worm can get, let alone how quickly it can devour a plant, I was just plain disgusted with the squash bug fiasco of 2010. *full body shudder* They were EVERYWHERE. I have to admit, these guys really snuck up on me and I lost the battle before I even realized there was one. Fortunately, that attack was more delayed and I harvested quite a bit before calling it quits. Also, the prolific zucchino rampicante (the only vining zucchini) held up the longest against the squash bugs. Not to mention the ridiculous amount of fruit it bore. Seriously.

This year I was ready for squash bug battle. But not for the squash vine borer. I carefully surveyed every day, killing the very few squash bugs I found and crushing any eggs on the leaves. It really never got out of hand...but they were dying left and right and I couldn't figure out why. They went from healthy to wilty within 2 days. That was when I noticed the damage at the base on ALL of them. Most had hollow cores and were on their way out. I realized the very dead ones had no grub in the stem, but the slightly perkier ones did. I decided to pull everything in hopes of capturing the grubs simultaneously. :-\

So my squash bed is empty, but with the hope of a second round to come. I'm a big fan of companion planting, and opt for these beneficial relationships over traditional pest control methods. Nasturtium is reportedly a great deterrent for pests that feast on cucurbits, so I have seeded it in heavily with my squash, hoping to ward off another raid. Onions and garlic are also helpful for repelling, but I have already planted my onions in another bed.

The other veggies seem to be faring well, despite the heat. I purchased a Mister Landscaper kit at Lowe's, and it is fantastic! It's a drip irrigation system just for gardens that's very customizable. This will really help to reduce water waste, plus, it will help prevent diseases on the leaves from traditional sprinkler watering. It also won't matter what time of day I turn it on because it waters directly on the soil and won't scorch the leaves in the sun. Time to go oogle all my green tomatoes and dream of the fresh salsa to come...

Friday, May 27, 2011

Trellis Netting

Last year, I used twine trellising for our beans, cukes and tomatoes. It worked okay, but midway through the season, it began to degrade and break. Originally, I had liked the idea of being able to toss the whole mess into the compost come season's end, but this was a bit soon for my taste. I'm also not a fan of traditional tomato cages. I imagine everyone has their preference, I just felt like they were less than adequate.

So, this year, we opted for some nylon trellis netting I found at Lowe's (or Home Depot, can't remember which). It was fairly inexpensive still, and I hopefully can use it next season too. There were a couple different brands and sizes, and I chose the one that best suited our bed size without having to trim or throw any away. Our beds are roughly 4' x 12', with a 5' x 10' pipe trellis frame. The netting was very stretchy, and I attached it to the frames with small zip ties on the top and middles, and larger ones for the sides. (The netting didn't quite stretch wide enough, so this gave me a few extra inches.)

Almost June Garden

Well, the garden is off to a beautiful start, and I'm looking forward to reaping soon! The peppers and tomatoes are already producing and I know the boys will be happy when we pick our first cukes. I'm sifting through canning books/recipes to determine what I might like to try this year. There are dozens that sound delicious, but I know that's quite unrealistic ;) I really hope to do some pickles at least though. And maybe some peppers...

I'm being much less neurotic this year when it comes to all things garden, but I feel much more prepared this year overall. My okra did so well last year I hardly gave it any attention this spring. I just threw some seeds in the dirt in another place in the yard, thinking it didn't really need the deep beds. It responded by sprouting 2 very sad seedlings out of 40. So, plan B is to stick some more seeds in the empty middle of the potato bed. I definitely don't need as many as last year, though! There's still okra in the freezer.

I planted my climbing zukes and cukes in the front bed at our porch and hung trellis netting on both sides. I also used this for my tomatoes and beans. Hopefully it endures better than last year's twine. That worked, but by the end of the summer it was starting to disintegrate. These plants will grow tall and thick, and give some much needed shade to the front of the house, which gets very heavy afternoon summer sun. I got this idea from my last copy of Mother Earth News, and I was very intrigued. This is my first attempt in that direction.

Here are some early pix of the garden, and while not overly impressive yet, I'm excited! More bountiful pix will come soon...

  Yellow, red, green, cayenne and jalapeno peppers:
 Yellow, purple and sweet potatoes:
 One of the 2 tomato beds: (Probably 10 or 12 different varieties)
 1 of 3 green bean beds, 4 different varieties including a few asain long beans:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hard Lotion Review

I first heard of MadeOn hard lotion sometime last year...and I was intrigued. Stephanie over at Keeper Of the Home raved about how it had transformed her hands. All four of us have dry skin, and patchy eczema. You can order the bars pre-made, or order the supplies in bulk and make them yourself following her tutorial. And most recently, she has put together a kit to make it yourself! I was very excited because I just had never gotten around to looking at her suppliers, placing orders, yada yada yada.

I ordered the DIY kit, which came with a small pre-made bar so you knew what it was supposed to look like. I followed her suggestion to freeze the packets before opening them, and that made it very easy. The whole process went very quickly! I actually dumped everything in my Micro-Cooker, put it in the microwave and melted it there instead of on the stove. I used ice cube trays for most of it, and the 4 lip-balm tubes. (LOVE!) I figured that would give me small sample sizes for family and friends.

It works fabulous. Absolutely amazing. I no longer use any other lotions or lip creams. I also use it on my eye area and sparingly on my face. (Come winter, it will be perfect.) It feels so good and is long-lasting. The ice cube bars are a little small for normal use, and get difficult to apply other than to your hands. I have a brilliant idea to save my deodorant container and melt some in it for body application. It is about the same melting point, and I think it will work really well. I love applying it to my legs after shower/shaving. My sister-in-law is using it on her prego belly and says it feels wonderful.

I can't wait to make my next batch! I think it would also make excellent gifts...