quiet chaos

the ancient oil tank in our basement sprung a leak, and the resulting fumes found us scrambling to pack up diapers, food, and clothes and camp out in one of camp's retreat cottages for a few nights.

"we're going on an ADVENTURE!"  was dylan's gleeful mantra.  she was a trooper and enjoyed trying out a new big girl bed.  we swaddled james into a little bundle on the floor, and jim and i squeezed into a cozy twin bed for two nights.

all things considered, it wasn't a bad way to spend two snowy days.  we didn't have to pay for a hotel or be confined to one room, and it was nice to get a break from tv and computers and have more time to read and rest.

we are happy to be back at home now.  well, the three of us are are home; jim is back on the road for a conference.  we got enough snow that they cancelled church while jim was packing up to go away.  again.

the fumes were worrisome, mostly because no one seemed to be able to determine the toxicity.  we soaked up the oil and some of the smell with saw dust and soda ash, but you can't really do much about the oil that has soaked into a concrete foundation.

i called the non-emergency police line to ask about hazmat, and they didn't even return my phone call.  i called the fire department, and they sent two volunteers to check things out, but they didn't have any advice about air quality.  the oil company couldn't be reached, and the guys who installed the new tank didn't know anything either.

we aired out the house while we were gone, and i don't smell anything right now, but i'm still not thrilled.  i plan to get a few more houseplants, because supposedly they can purify the air a bit, but i don't know they they can do anything about petroleum fumes.

anyone have any wisdom for me?


the fallacy of colorblindness

i see color.  we all do.

why then, is it so common among white people to pretend that we don't?  to insist that equality is sameness or that talking about differences is wrong?

have you every been talking with someone who is describing another person, and suddenly their voice inexplicably falls to a whisper, and they say "black" like they weren't supposed to notice?

according to the popular melting pot, colorblind worldview, everyone is the same and recognizing differences is somehow inherently racist.

but we're not all the same, are we?  we are equally deserving of rights and respect, of course--but it's foolish to presume or pretend that we all share the same perspective, experience, or access.

refusing to acknowledge color is a luxury enjoyed exclusively by people who've never been on the receiving end of personal or systemic racism.

when white people insist that all people are the same and color doesn't matter, we're choosing to ignore racial inequalities (that we may benefit from) and the unearned privileges that we take for granted and others lack.  we ignore minority stories in favor our our own imagined narrative.

if we want to move forward from past and present injustice, we can't pretend our way out.  white people need to be willing to have hard conversations about race and actually listen to perspectives of people of color.

a few years ago, i remember asking a white acquaintance who was internationally adopting a black child how she could help her child get a sense of a racial and cultural identity they did not share.  she essentially said that it would be a non-issue, since her child's primary identity was as a child of God.

how could a child's race and the obvious fact that she looked different than her family and most of her community not be an issue?

kristen, over at rage against the minivan, is mother to two white and two black children, and she has an interesting post about race, parenting, and pre-schoolers that is worth reading:  "our colorblind era of denial is not serving our children well," she says.

how do you teach your kids to be inclusive and to appreciate differences?  how do we all begin to have the kinds of conversations about race that allow us to be vulnerable, awkward, and real?  if we live in homogeneous [segregated?] communities, how can we begin to dissolve the prejudices in ourselves--and prevent passing them down to our children?

food, shelter, and what was that last one?

after dropping dylan off at the neighbors, i was feeling pretty pleased with myself that i was going to be on time for james' well-child exam.

having only one kid meant i could trade the bulky diaper bag for my smaller purse.  it was a little warmer today, so i planned to carry him in his sling, forgoing the bulky carseat that i hate lugging around.

with james on my chest and my purse over my shoulder, i felt downright light walking into the doctor's office.

a little too light as it turned out.

i got into the office and began undressing him.  the nurse began the barrage of questions that make a mama feel alternately good (yes, he's grasping, yes, he's sleeping in his own bed, yes, he sits up assisted); guity (no, i don't know infant cpr); and a little defensive (of course my husband's rifle is locked.)

then i made an unpleasant discovery: 

james' diaper had exploded up his back and through his outfit and blanket, and i'd neglected to bring a change of clothes in the little purse i was so glad to be carrying moments before.


the nurse found a baby hospital gown to wrap james in after his exam.  it didn't seem like the warmest thing to wear out of the office, so i had to leave james with her while i ran to get the carseat.

i then strapped my bare-legged, barefoot baby into his carseat wearing nothing but the tie-on gown and a knit apple hat.  at least james' carseat had a wooly blanket to zipper around him like a little sleeping bag.

i'm fairly certain i got a big "unprepared" for today's exam.

at least two out of three of my child's basic needs were met today.  it would be a fantastic batting average.  i wonder if the nurse made a note of that in her question database...

(linked to keeping it real)


in inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife

a little anniversary crept by yesterday, so quietly i almost didn't realize it.

i've been writing "so much shouting, so much laughter" for two years.

when i started, i didn't know a thing about blogging.  i didn't even read any blogs, except for an occasionally updated one by a former pastor.

i didn't know anything about html or widgets or seach engine optimization. (not that i know much about that now.)

i just knew that i needed to write.

one night, i came home from a weekend away, and started a blog.  just like that.  if i had to do it all over again, i probably would have imagined a shorter title, but i'm not changing it now.  it's a line from an ani difranco song.

i had a baby who wasn't quite three months old.  i needed a place where i was a mom, but not only a mom.

because i was still so many other things.

a woman.

a thinker.

a christian.

a writer.

i wanted a place where i could articulate my passions and wrestle through life and faith.  and i wanted to share about my family with loved ones who are too far away. 

this place began as a journal of this moment in time.  Lord knows i was never going to scrapbook;)

a felicitous and unforeseen benefit of blogging has been connecting with other women:  misty, michelle, penny, dorothy, tami, kelly, kelli, jenney, becky, heather, and more than i'm sure i'm forgetting.

if you had told me two years ago that blogging would create relationships with strangers in other parts of the country and across the world, i would have told you that was insane.

what kind of creeper becomes "friends" with people online?

um, apparently me, and i'm grateful for the connections, especially during a season of life that can be achingly isolating.

being home all day with tiny people is lonely.  and wonderful.  but lonely, nonetheless.

this space has made the distance seem narrower.

thank you, friends, for journeying along this pilgrim's way these past two years.  i'm so grateful for your company.

"He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy." (Job 8:21)



7 days of school
1 play date
2 lunches
1 MOPS meeting
1 shrove tuesday pancake dinner
1 ash wednesday service
1 steering team meeting

All Cancelled

it started snowing on friday february 5


for the love

i don't remember the last time i exercised
i just keep baking
and eating

i went to aldi's today
and got bloodwork done at the hospital
and i almost peed my pants i was so happy to be out of the house

i know it's lame to complain about the weather
i mean, it IS winter and all

i'm thankful to have a warm house
and a bed
and two sweet kids to cuddle up with

but i am SO looking forward to spring


buyer beware

i bought a little bird oil to use on dylan's skin.

bird oil, you ask?

about that...

dylan has a patch of eczema on the back of her knee, and dry winter heat has not been kind to it (no matter how much we run that humidifier.)  what was once a tiny patch is taking over her little knee pit, and she keeps scratching it raw.  i've tried jojoba oil, aquaphor, vaseline, apricot oil, and shea butter, and while some things provide temporary relief, nothing was truly cutting it.

so, while browsing online, i came across a product called "eczema oil."  it's ingredients were kukui nut oil, emu oil, and jojoba oil.

sounded great! 

jim was there when i opened the package.

"emu oil?  like the bird?"

"nooooo...emu is a plant or something.  right?"

a little google search revealed that emu oil is, in fact, from australian emu birds.  and it's it's known to be really healing and anti-inflammatory.

the verdict?  it's awesome.  her knee looks great, and both kids' chapped winter cheeks seems to like it too.

yep, i'm putting bird oil on their little faces.

and i like it.

good thing we're not vegan;)

(this post is linked to works for me wednesday.)


on birth and babies

there is an interesting post over at crunchy domestic goddess this week on the way natural childbirth is portrayed in the media.  she also links and reacts to a video of a scheduled cesarean that the today show aired live last week, and it's worth checking out, too.

giving birth is an accomplishment and a miracle, whether medicated or natural, at home or in the hospital, with a doctor or a midwife.  there is no one "right" way to give birth.  i do think, however, that women are culturally conditioned to fear natural childbirth--and we don't need to be.  we're afraid we won't be able to do something our bodies were created to do, and we may not consider the risks of certain interventions.

"birth story" details to follow.  so you know.

i'd wanted to have dylan naturally.  maternal drugs get to the baby through the placenta, and even if they are considered safe, i knew that they can interfere with a baby's interest in breastfeeding, and i didn't want to create any barriers.

my contractions began intensely and at five minutes apart right off the bat.  after a sleepless night at home, we went to the hospital a 8 AM, only to discover that i was barely dialated.  they weren't even sure they wanted to admit me.  i labored there for hours with jim and our doula, who helped me to relax as best i could.  i walked the halls (thankful to not be hooked to an IV), labored on a birth ball, and tried all sorts of positions.  my contractions grew closer and more intense, but they still weren't progressing my labor.

around 3 pm, after 13 hours of active labor, i was still at only 1 cm, and i had a epidural in order to rest and gather strength.  i labored without pain for a few hours and my cervix finally dialated, but when it was time to push, i didn't have all my sensation back, and my body just didn't know what to do.  i must have heard "just one more push!" dozens of times, and each time i grew more discouraged.  finally, my midwife performed the episiotomy i had not wanted, so that they could get dylan out--at 8:50 PM.

i was so exhausted (and i think partially traumatized) that i barely remember those first few minutes after dylan was born.  thankfully, i came out of my "baby daze" and was able to hold and nurse her soon after birth, but it was a long and painful recovery that in many ways was harder than labor and delivery.

james was born naturally, and it was such a different birth experience. with him, my contractions never got to five minutes apart (the magic number that is supposed to signal a trip to the hospital.)  contractions came and went.  by dinner they were coming more regularly, and by 8 PM, they were really intense.  we watched glee, i focused on my breathing, we went to bed.  i tried to rest but couldn't.   my contractions were fierce, and sometimes they'd be spaced at five minutes, but then i'd have a bit of a longer respite.

at midnight, even though they weren't completely regular, my contractions were painful enough that i no longer wanted to labor at home.  this was my second baby, it was a 40 minute drive, and i did NOT want to have a baby in the car!  we woke up a friend to come stay with dylan and left for the hospital at 1 AM.

we called the hospital to say we were coming in and later learned that they did not call my midwife--who lived an hour away!--until after i arrived.  we checked into a room at 2 AM.  i was seven centimeter dialated and progressing rapidly.  this baby was ready, but my midwife didn't arrive until after 3:30.  she didn't even get her lab coat on before telling me to push!

pushing was short and productive, and she put our sweet boy into my arms immediately (at about 4 AM).  i held and nursed james for over an hour in the early morning stillness before they even weighed him or cut the cord.  we enjoyed the loveliest, quietest family time together, and i cherish those memories.  i didn't need an episiotomy, and my recovery was remarkably easier.

my natural birth and recovery were significantly easier than my medicated one.  we read books about the bradley method and used strategies we learned there to manage pain--and it made a huge difference.  having a doula for a first birth (whose focus is entirely on the mother's care) is something i wish for every new mom aiming for a natural childbirth.  i also really appreciated our midwives, who really listened and offered wonderful care.  with our insurance we didn't pay anything for prenatal care or our natural hospital birth--a blessing that cannot be understated in these days of bankrupting health care bills. 

any thoughts you want to share about your birth experiences?  do you think the way childbirth is portrayed on tv or in the movies affects the choices women make?  did anyone see that c-section piece on the today show?  what did you think?


sweet as pie

this is the dear face that greets me happily every morning.  what a treasure.


i know i shouldn't encourage this kind of thing with photos...

...but i couldn't help myself;)

the local schools have been out all week.  jim is still gone, (but he should be home tonight.)  most everything i'd plan to keep us busy got cancelled, but i'm not feeling as stir-crazy as i thought i would.

before more snow fell on tuesday i took the kids to the library to stock up.  i was a little nervous having both kids there by myself in the snow, but james slept in his sling, and i didn't have to carry that crazy heavy carseat around.  dylan was well behaved, so i took her to get a treat at the bakery after dumping our book tote in the car.

dylan took my hand and we stomped around happily amid the snow flakes that were falling fast.

we each picked out something when i realized my wallet was in the car.  i told them i'd be right back, and they graciously said not to worry about it, and that i could pay my next time in.

"don't worry about it.  we know you; you're in here all the time."


our neighbor nikki came over yesterday to take dylan out to play in the snow.  i was so thankful, since i wasn't really about to bundle james up in the snow.

in the second picture you can get a sense of how big these drifts are.  the snow is really much too deep for dylan to really play in.  i think they mostly just flopped around:)  and then we all had hot chocolate.

other neighbors had us over for a wonderful dinner last night. i wished i'd had my camera with me. their eight year old son loves babies, and he couldn't have been happier to sit and hold james, who smiled contently right back. they were both so cute!

seven days after the first big snow fell, it is still snowing, and we're supposed to get 6-8 more inches monday. this is getting a little ridiculous!


how to make powdered laundry soap {natural recipe}

when i became pregnant with my first child, i began eliminating conventional cleaning products and synthetic chemicals from our home, and discovering this homemade alternative to pricey green detergents was music to the ears of this stay-at-home mama.

it's inexpensive, gentle on sensitive skin and the planet, and once you gather the ingredients, putting it together is easy.  there are only three ingredients:  borax, washing soda, and a grated bar of soap. 

borax is found on the bottom shelf in the laundry aisle of supermarkets.  there is some disagreement in the natural community about the safety of borax, but after doing research, i feel comfortable using this traditional, naturally occurring mineral salt in my home.  like many things, borax should not be inhaled and must be kept out of reach of pets and children.

washing soda is sometimes sold in the laundry aisle.  if you can't find it there, it is also called "soda ash" and stocked with pool care products or sold at hardware stores.  it can also be purchased online.  although washing soda is chemically similar to baking soda, baking soda cannot be substituted in this recipe.

you can use any bar of soap you like, as long as it isn't a "beauty bar."  fels naptha is often recommended, and using regular soap would make this recipe extraordinarily inexpensive, although you may want to be wary of using your food processor or grater on anything not completely natural.  i use dr. bronner's castile soap, in lavender and mostly followed the instructions given at healthy vegan blog.

1 bar soap, finely grated (makes ~ 1 c soap dust)
1 1/2 c borax
1 1/2 c washing soda

that's it.

store it in a lidded contained, and use 1-2 Tbsp per load.  one recipe will clean up to 64 loads.

if you're accustomed to using traditional laundry detergent, doing a load of wash with 1 Tbsp of soap sounds preposterous, but the truth is, most conventional detergents have a lot of fillers in them (as well as questionable ingredients like brighteners, enzymes, and a host of synthetic chemicals).  when we use too much soap, residues linger in clothes, which can trap odor and cause skin sensitivities.  we use 2 Tbsp on heavily soiled loads, but 1 Tbsp is sufficient for most.
using 1 Tbsp of laundry detergent wasn't that foreign to us, since that is the measurement charlie's soap calls for, too.  charlie's soap is the most recommended detergent for use with cloth diapers, which brings me to my biggest question:  could this homemade soap get diapers smelling sweet?

we've been using it for several month, and i've been really pleased:  our diapers look and smell clean.  (we also use a scoop of off-brand oxygen powder--natural and cheap!-- in every load and sometimes a little baking soda, vinegar, or biokleen bac-out.)  i appreciate the mild fragrance of essential oil instead of synthetic perfume on our clothes--especially for my kids' sensitive skin.

DIY laundry soap is a completely do-able step in "greening" your home.  the planet--and your wallet--will thank you.

UPDATE:  i'm back to using charlies soap on my cloth diapers.  after a few months, they seemed to retain odor (that even vinegar didn't eliminate), but it's still great on our clothes.

do you have a favorite green cleaning recipe?

shared with Your Green Resource, hosted by A Delightful Home, SortaCrunchy, Live Renewed, and The Greenback Gal.


on bootstraps and such

On Undercover Boss Sunday, the CEO of Waste Management spent a week incognito picking up trash, sorting recycling and scrubbing port-a-johns to find out what it was like to work there and how his policies played out in reality.

The premise is interesting, and I thought it was cool that the CEO would humble himself in that way.   If only all managers were required to work a week as an underling in their own company!  The show reminded me a bit of a shinier, happier Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America--such a good read, as is The Working Poor: Invisible in America.

Cameras revealed employees' various health problems and financial difficulties along with admirably strong work ethics.  In the end, the CEO, who seemed visibly touched by his experience, promoted some of the workers and vowed to enact policy changes.  Viewers are made to feel good when those four or five employees are recognized and rewarded, but I wondered about the thousands of other WM employees.
How much does a person earn sorting recycling? 
What is the physical toll of standing on your feet for eight hours a day? 
Do they have health insurance?  Does it cover chiropractic? 
Do the people who work at the landfills have greater incidences of asthma? 
What about cancer?  One of the featured landfill employees said she'd battled five types of cancer by the age of 25, and I couldn't help but suspect that it was an occupational hazard.
Next week the CEO of Hooters gets a front row seat to the sexual harassment that is tolerated internally in his company.

So, did you see this show?  What did you think?

image:  flickr


love and war and a giveaway

i had never read anything by john or stasi eldredge before, but i admit to harboring a few suspicions based on things i'd heard.  john's wild at heart is a sort of manual for christian masculinity, and stasi wrote a primer for women called captivating.

i'm wary of prescriptive statements about gender identity, especially if cloaked in religious language, because they often don't mesh with my understanding of scripture.  narrowly defined gender roles presented as The Biblical Way can be hurtful, inaccurate, and unnecessarily limiting.

of course, holding opinions about something you've never read is unfair (and pretty lame), so when i was offered the opportunity to review the eldredges' new marriage book, i was interested.

john and stasi co-wrote love and war:  finding the marriage you've dreamed of, and i have to say, it was better than i thought it might be.

they argue that marriage is a love story, and the setting is war, specifically spiritual war.  in the bible, marriage is often presented as an earthly picture of the unconditional, sacrificial love that Christ has for the Church.  the eldredges put it this way:
God created marriage as a living, breathing portrait laid out before the eyes of the world so that they might see the story of the ages.  A love story, set in the midst of desperate times.  It is a story of redemption, a story of healing; it is a story of love.  God gives us marriage to illustrate his heart toward us.  It is the deepest and most mythic reality of the world--that love is true, that God pursues us.
the eldredges offer a lot of godly wisdom.  because of the spiritual significance God puts on marriage, it is especially vulnerable to spiritual attack.  God can use marriage to transform us into the people he's created us to be.  changing destructive habits and patterns within ourselves and our marriages is not impossible, especially with prayer.

all in all, i found it to be a practical and helpful book.  they humbly and openly share some of the struggles in their own marriage and some of the ways they've experienced God at work in their life together.  it's challenging and encouraging without being preachy.

of course, not ever single part sat well with me.  as i understand it (again, not having read other titles), the eldredges have a thesis that men have a need to "rescue a beauty" and women have a longing to offer their beauty and have it appreciated.  or something like that.  i hope that they're talking about beauty in the Larger Sense, but i don't really get it, and it kind of creeps me out.  the authors seem to emphasize beauty as the valuable thing women bring to a relationship [men offer strength], which is insulting, shallow, and pretty hard to defend biblically.  by "beauty" they apparently also mean inner beauty, but it's such a loaded word that they'd have done better to express themselves with another--especially for readers who have not read their other work.

in the book, stasi admits to struggling with her weight and says
Packing on the weight sent a message to John that was clear and strong:  You are not worth being beautiful for.

then, there is this little goodie, from john:
When I got home, I fixed the leaking kitchen sink--a triumph that makes a man feel mighty fine.  (I tried to help Stasi relate, "Imagine you just lost five pounds today.)
i think i threw up a little in my mouth just typing that out.

yes, several passages and lines fired up the feminist in me, but if you are willing to overlook them (and perhaps they wouldn't bother you), love and war does contain wisdom about growing a marriage that honors God.  i'd call it a worthwhile read, all things considered.

want to read it for yourself?  i'm giving away my copy.  just leave a comment by noon on february 14 and make sure i have a way to get in touch.  (U.S. addresses only.)

i received a copy of this book but was not otherwise compensated for this review.


up to our armpits

when do kids grow out of giving terrible "CHEEEEEESE!" faces?

two feet of snow arrived just in time for jim to go out of town.  again.  but not until tomorrow:)  tonight, we're looking forward to watching commercials football and spending time with friends.


happy winter

when i was little, one of my favorite books was happy winter by karen gundersheimer.  my copy disappeared, but happily, my mom found another at a used book store, and now it's one of dylan's favorites, too. 

it's a delightful story about two sisters and snowy day at home spent making snow angels, drinking cocoa, playing make-believe, making art projects, reading, and baking with mom.  a perfect snowy day.

what a treat to snuggle under blankets with my favorite girl, reading the sing-song poetry and taking in the adorable illustrations.

it is out of print, but if you come across a copy, snatch it up!  it is such a wonderful children's book.

dylan usually requests "read happy winter!" but sometimes, confusing the title with what was her halloween greeting, requests "happyWEEN!"  which is pretty funny.

as is this picture.  james smiles ALL THE TIME, and yet i can't seem to get it on film.

what i did get is this:  dylan doing, what she refers to as "Jesus' mommy."  so there you go.

today i led a MOPS bible study.  dylan could have gone with the bigger kids, but she told the child care workers she wanted to stay with james, so she did.  she is so great with him--kind and tender.  my two little blessings.


love in a time of cholera

in high school i tried (unsuccessfully) to get through one hundred years of solitude by gabriel garcia marquez. 

i hate not finishing a book, so when we were supposed to read garcia marquez' love in a time of cholera for penny's book circle (in december--i'm still behind!), i made myself finish it.  i wish i hadn't bothered.

it's about a man (florentino ariza) who falls in love with a girl (fermina daza), and even though she marries someone else (dr. juvenal urbino), florentino carries a torch for her for more than fifty years.  his epic romantic obsession does not, however, preclude him from taking six hundred and twenty two lovers, including his fifteen year old grand-niece, so there is a substantial ick factor that runs throughout the novel.

none of the characters is particularly appealing, and the portraits of love are selfish, broken, and frequently misogynistic.

i just found a review on amazon, titled "at the end, i wished i'd died of cholera."

that pretty much sums up my feelings.

my experience did help me to decide something:  namely, not finishing a book isn't some sort of fatal character flaw.  i have two kids, limited free time, and a long list of books i'd like to read, so i'm not going make myself finish ones i dislike anymore.

take that, garcia marquez!

of course, garcia marquez is beloved worldwide, and he has won the nobel prize for literature, so clearly i'm in the minority in my lack of appreciation.

do you enjoy gabriel garcia marquez?  is there another acclaimed author that we're "supposed" to like that you just can't get through? 

what do you like to read?  any recommendations for me?


my wee two

we got our computer cleaned up and a new hard drive installed, so hopefully we'll be able upload pictures more easily than the slower-than-molasses pace of the past few months.  i haven't actually taken any pictures in a while, except this silly one.

(yes, dylan's tee shirt is pulled over her head.  how funny are tiny babe bathrobes?)

i'd wanted to enroll dylan in a four week class called "just wee two" at the Y for toddlers and parents that started today.  i thought it would be a nice thing to do just the two of us and a way to meet other families with kids her age.  yesterday i was disheartened to find out that not only was it forty bucks (!), only one child was registered, so we decided to skip it.

i was still bummed when i headed to a la leche league meeting with the kids.  the last time i went, i was the only mom there (besides the leader), and i was pleased to find a full crowd yesterday, including three moms i hadn't meet before.  LLL attracts mamas who tend towards cloth diapering, babywearing, natural childbirth, etc, and this particular group also has a number of Christians, which is another great connection. i'm definitely looking forward to getting to know people better.  i'm thinking about training to be a leader...