Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Going Green

It's quite the catch-phrase these days... going green. You see it everywhere-- on the covers of magazines, on interstate billboards, on food labels, on beauty products, on home appliances... and yet, up 'til now, I've rolled my eyes many-a-time upon considering this new trend. Attributing much of this movement to far left wackos and their Mother Earth mentality, I've grossly ignored much of the hype surrounding the GREEN movement as I've continued in my efforts to simply survive adulthood... parenthood... and all it entails.

Yet over the past several weeks and months, I've come to realize that going green isn't necessarily a wacky sort of thing. I mean, sure... there are certainly those who take it a bit too far (as with anything else in life), but there are also those who have simply refused to accept today's fast-food, fat-saturated, sugar-laden standard... today's norm... and have attempted to set a new course... a healthier course... for their families and for future generations.

After much thought and careful consideration, I've concluded that it's time that I, too, make a few changes in the way we live. As far as our eating habits are concerned-- I'm embarassed to admit the number of times I've rejoiced simply because my kiddos willingly chose a healthy snack (instead of a pile of Doritos). I'm embarassed to confess the number of times I've rejoiced because all the food groups actually made an appearance on our kitchen table during a single day, and better yet, that all were even sampled in some measure or other... as if that was enough. As if that was all it took to adequately/appropriately/even wonderfully feed my family and thus help them to live and grow in a healthy manner. Yes, I'm embarassed.

But now, after a fair bit of research and some lively discussion with a few knowledgeable folks, I've come to realize that healthy living means so much more than that... so much more than a piece of fruit here, an extra veggie there. You see, through a series of "coincidences" (of course NOT coincidences at all but God-ordained meetings), the Lord has offered me a timely wake-up call-- it's time to start taking my family's health seriously... SERIOUSLY... and it's time to start doing so now.

So how are we gonna attempt to go green in this tiny northern Virginia home?? Well, I don't know... exactly. I'm still trying to prioritize and absorb it all. Change itsn't always easy, and it's certainly not inexpensive. But as one blogger suggested-- I'd rather pay more now for healthy living than pay more later for sky-high medical bills.

So... where to begin? Where to begin? I think we'll tackle the pantry first... because several of the foods my family consumes on a very regular basis lend no positive results whatsoever (other than a few sweet moments of sugar-induced bliss!). Stuffed to the gills with preservatives and hormones and steroids and artificial gooks... crammed to the brim with chemicals designed to extend shelf life and to improve travel-ability, to fatten and brighten and redden and strengthen... well, can those unpronouncable 45-letter ingredients actually do us any good? I don't think so. In fact, it's much more likely they'll do just the opposite. So I'm starting to wonder-- why do I want to continue purchasing said products when there are other-- SAFER-- options available? Yes, those "cleaner" choices may cost a bit more in the here and now (and thus require a reworking of our typical weekly meal plan), but as one writer stated (somewhere in my research)... if I can't pronounce it, why would I want to eat it?

So as a result of my ponderings, I've come up with a few ideas I'd like to implement in my effort to set my family on a healthier track... now::

Breads: whole grain breads-- not the store-bought variety, the truly homemade sort. My good friends, Lea & Laura, have been educating me a bit on the benefits of such an undertaking, and I'm beginning to understand just how much better it would be for all of us-- bread made from SCRATCH with grains we mill ourselves. No more Pillsbury instant mixes, no more bread-loaf-in-a-box sort of eating... just real, whole ingredients from start to finish. Yum, yum, yum. Of course, in order to do so, I'll need to make a few purchases as money permits-- a bread mill and a bread machine, for instance, and a few necessary ingredients; thankfully, I can get them all here... in the very near future... hopefully! (And if you're interested in reading a few articles I found particularly refreshing-- and very challenging--read here, here, and here.)

Gardens: This spring we'll be building a raised vegetable bed in our backyard, planted with a few seasonal favorites... and maybe a few new things, too. In the past, I've always depended on my mom to deliver her home-grown deliciousness; now I think it's time I give it a shot for myself (though you can be guarnateed I'll be calling her often... very often... for advice!). The boys are excited. Chris is on board (the dogs will surely wreak havoc if I don't fence it in somehow, but that's a whole nother issue). And if we're successful, we'll be enjoying some of our own home-grown deliciousness in the summer months to come (and I'll finally have a place to stick all that compost we've been collecting since last summer :)

Around the house: My friend, Jennifer-- the queen bee of inspiration-- gave me much food for thought in this recent post. In it she detailed several ways she's made the journey towards not only healthier eating but towards simple living as well, and I can't wait to put a few of her ideas to work here in my home. (Make sure you check out all her links-- they're well worth your time!). And, if natural homemade cleaners are your thing (think: simplicity!), read here.

Body care: Ok. I've just gotta share this great little discovery I made the other week, just in case you're anything like me and have had your head in the sand for the past few years (grin). Did you know there's an online safety guide called Skin Deep (run by a group of researchers from the Environmental Working Group) that actually shares with us-- the consumers-- info regarding the safety and chemical hazard levels in our favorite bath & body products? Yep. This group has tested most everything out there, and in the event you're concerned with the goods you're smothering all over your largest sensory organ... your skin... go check it out. (Evidently there are no set standards in the beauty industry-- no set guidelines as found in the food business, for instance-- to regulate various levels and chemicals combinations. So when one manufacturer uses the term "organic" or "natural" to describe his/her popular product line, he/she may very well mean something completely different from his neighbor on the grocery store shelf. So just because your favorite lotion says it's "all natural," be careful-- it may not be as safe as you think.)

So back to this research group-- they test everything... from make-up to lotion to bodywash to lip balm-- and then make the results available to everyone. And guess what I found?? Most of the (very expensive) products that once lined my bathroon shelves were not nearly as good for my skin as I had been led to believe. So they're now being put to good use at our local family emergency shelter (and soon my store-bought cleaners will be, too... once I get around to making a few of the homemade ones as described in the link above). As for my bathroom shelves-- they're now lined with a few replacement products, thanks to the very delightful Body Care purchaser at Whole Foods Market who gave much of her time in an effort to help me understand the ins & outs of "clean" and natural products (I especially love this one for my littlest ones). Want to learn a bit more? Read this article... very interesting stuff.

So there you have it-- the beginnings of a very exciting journey here in the mid-Atlantic region. We're on our way to healthier living as we learn to embrace a few new vocaubulary words: Simple. Green. Organic. Whole. One step at a time. Because I'm beginning to realize how much better I think such living would be for my family. AND because I also want to be a good steward of all God's given me... including His creation and His temple (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Starting now.

And just in case anyone's intereted in a few extra worthwhile reads... a few good starting places perhaps, here are a few links to some very interesting articles... thanks, once again, to Simple Mom :)

Friday, February 19, 2010

This morning

It's been one of those weeks. Well, not a full week, really. Just a few days of running, running, running. Laundry, laundry, laundry. Dishes , dishes, dishes. Mess, mess, mess. And I'm tired. Tired of the constant. Of the never-ending. Of the repetitiveness of it all. How many times am I going to wash these same dishes? Scrub these same pans? Repack this same cabinet?

Oh, I could sit and grumble for hours. I could pout and grump and grimace all day long (and sometimes, truth be told, I think I have). But this morning, the Lord reminded me... through the servant heart of Ann in this timely little post-- it doesn't have to be perfect. The house is not a museum. It's not on display and the Queen of England is not preparing to stop by.

No, it's our home. It's where we live and play and learn and forgive. It's where we accept and nurture and embrace and serve. And it's where LOVE abides. God's love-- pure, unadulterated, selfless, sacrificial... perfect from start to finish. Forever.

And... praise God!... when LOVE abides, the mirrors don't have to be spotless. The counters don't have to be clean. The windows don't have to sparkle, and the floors don't have to shine. Because He lives here... in all His wonder, in all His grace, in all His beauty, in all His strength. And when He abides, we are complete, we are whole, we are safe, we are free... to dance and laugh and sing and play... to accept the lego-covered floor (because busy, creative minds flourish there), to understand the always dish-filled sink (because ever-growing bodies put them there), to look past the mountain of under-bed and bed-side books (because lifetime learning happens there).

This morning I am free to remember that this house... the Lord didn't provide it as a showcase to the world. Instead, He stretched out His hand and offered this place... for us. To live securely and peacefully and fret-lessly and joyfully... to embrace life-- true Life-- found in His heart, His truth, His ways. And as I focus on that, as I remember why I'm truly here, the rest just sorta slips away.

Monday, February 15, 2010

1000 gifts: The everyday

Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails...

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

Overwhelmed by the measure of His love, I give thanks...

blue skies and brothers

glorious sunshine and melting snow

playmates and pizza

big boy bear hugs


I love u Mom written on the steamy bathroom mirror

sweet tea

lemon-poppyseed muffins

"Hold me, mommy!" while little girl arms reach high

this button nose

handwritten letters

"I love this book!"

puppy kisses

helpers around the house

talents used for the glory of God

fears... conquered.
faith in Him... victorious.

God's love, vast as the ocean

a heart, saved by His grace

a faithful husband, a loving daddy... God's perfect provision for us

wise counsel

a breath of fresh air

my 5 yo... memorizing the books of the Bible

the anticipation of spring!

peace amidst life's storms

Jesus' command, "Love one another."
And His perfect example (1 John 3:16) so we'd know what that looks like.

LOVE's ultimate expression

"But God demonstrates His own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Romans 5:8

"Come now, let us reason together,"
says the LORD.
"Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be white as snow..."

Isaiah 1:8

Join the Gratitude Community~

holy experience

and the list continues...

Friday, February 12, 2010


A friend is always loyal,

and a brother is born to help in time of need.

Proverbs 17:17

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


to. rejoice. right. now.

... because my house is buried in snow. My yard is no longer recognizable. My driveway has morphed into a roofless tunnel with frozen walls of ice, 3 and 4 feet high. My gardens have disappeared, and my laundry room, oh my laundry room... it's littered with snow boots and coats and hats galore, and there's simply no end in sight! I've dried sopping wet gloves more times than I care to count... when, oh when, can we call this quits?

And through it all, I know... I KNOW... that as a believer, I'm called to "Rejoice in the Lord always." Yes, Paul even emphasizes this point lest I try to ignore his exhortation, "I will say it again: Rejoice! (Phil. 4:4)"

But. oh. my. goodness. Sometimes that is so. very. hard.
Sometimes, my circumstances just don't help me out very well.

Case in point: even as I type, snow pours down upon us. This past weekend the heavens dumped over two feet on our city; this current storm looks like a repeat performance. Only this go round, we'll cope with blizzard force winds, too.

Ugh. As I've said so many times over the past few days-- Florida sounds really nice right about now. But alas, no. This is where the Lord has planted us, and this brutal winter is what He has supplied. For now.

Spring. WILL. come.
Indeed, it will.
But in the meantime, I'll trust Him when He says that He'll never hand me more than I can handle WITH Him... and to that I'll cling!

So over the next several hours-- as the snowflakes bluster to the ground, as the trees moan & groan under the weight of it all, as the outdoor critters seek shelter & warmth amidst the storm-- I'll be rejoicing. Because that's what I'm called to do. At all times and in all things. And with the strength of His Almighty hand (cause that's what it's gonna take right now :), I'll be singing praises... all. day. long.

Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings... my guess is it'll be white :)

Monday, February 8, 2010

1000 Gifts: Winter!

A week full of reminders...
from God's always & forever faithfulness
to the abundance which flows from His hand.

With a cup filled to overflowing,
I offer thanks~

I Love u Mom written on the bottom of my grocery list

a play date to the roller rink & a pizza lunch afterwards... with wonderful friends for my entire crew (thank you, Lea, for the photo!)

girlfriends... to counsel and encourage and uplift and commiserate

girlfriends... who appreciate a steaming mug of chai tea, just as much as I do :)

birthday celebrations & birthday presents, too... and these... her new favorites.
"Beeps," she calls them... because they squeak :)

new life-- fearfully & wonderfully made, and 2 very special friends-- parents a third time around

more snow... and then some more... and still more to come

safety amidst the storm

the prayers of loved-ones


a well-stocked pantry

hats and mittens... ski gear for all

tunnels and piles and mounds of snow... to climb in, to climb on, to jump in to, to jump off of

and brothers who share... even their hide-outs

a little girl who longs to be just. like. them.

a driveway-- shoveled clean, and cars-- no longer buried three. feet. deep.


my eldest son's mealtime prayer, "...thank you for the beauty of the snow..."

my heart convicted... for grumbling about the inconvenience instead of praising Him for the beauty of His hand

two boys who worked diligently to help dig out our neighbors... two boys who learned well the value of a job well done
(not to mention the treat of monetary rewards :)

quiet rest

twinkling starlight

His presence... always

and His gentle reminder... new life-- true life-- is forever found in Him

likewise, persevere: spring. will. come.

Join the Gratitude Community~

holy experience

and the list continues...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dried apples slices...

Those dried apple slices I mentioned yesterday...
I never dreamed they'd be such a hit!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Oregon or bust

The Oregon Trail,
as experienced by our co-op :)

A fellow history teacher and I served as the guides.
The kiddos... well, they were our pioneers.
And our red radio flyer wagons,
stacked to the gills with goods the kiddos chose themselves... our prairie schooners.

And much fun was had by all.

So here's what we did--
we brought in (my friend & I) all sorts of household items:
blankets, pots, pans, books, bowls, mittens, candles, games, sewing kits, buckets, etc.--
things we knew the pioneers would have taken with them
when they made that perilous journey so long ago--
and allowed each child to choose ONE item to add to our wagon.
After all, the families who traveled the real Oregon Trail
had to be very selective as they packed for their journey
(moving vans simply did not criss-cross the country back then as they do in the here & now :),
so we wanted our students to feel that same kind of pressure... sort of~

Anyhoo, once our wild & crazy assortment was tucked snuggly inside,
we moved on out towards "Independence, Missouri"
(and had you peaked at the contents of our wagon,
you would have quickly noticed that... evidently... food wasn't all that important :)

In Independence we "purchased" a few last minute items
and then set forth down the "Oregon Trail."
We crossed rivers (blue sheets draped across the hallway),
we encountered Indians (one wonderful mom helped us out here...
in costume and face paint to boot!),
we battled cholera (yes, a few of our travelers had to moan and groan on the floor
for several fretful minutes until-- miraculously-- they all recovered),
and we even ditched some of our gear by the side of the trail
as two of our weary & beleagured oxen died of exhaustion.

We gathered "buffalo chips" to build our campfires
(=dried piles of buffalo dung, though ours were only paper :)
and we snacked on cornbread & dried apple slices
which Noh-man and I had prepared ahead of time.

We also ate (Yummy) Homemade crackers, pionner style
before shutting down camp for the night.

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
~2 T softened butter
1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400 .
Mix the flour, baking powder, & salt in a bowl. Use a fork to mash in the butter until the mixture looks crumbly. Add the milk and stir until a mixture forms a ball.

Roll dough (on a floury surface) into a rectangle (as flat as you can), and then cut into small squares or rectangles with a knife. Place the "crackers" onto a greased baking sheet, poke with a fork, and bake for 9 minutes. Makes roughly 24 crackers.

They're not very jazzy, but surpirsingly, my children really liked them
(and so did the kids at co-op)!

And by the time we finally made it to "Oregon,"
we were beat!
We collapsed in exhaustion (or at least pretended to)
and then silently thanked God
for planting us in the modern era...
not in the 1840s!

And just in case anyone's interested-- just in case anyone's gonna study the Oregon Trail any time soon-- here's a handful of resources I found especially helpful as I prepared my co-op lesson and as I then supplemented for my own boys at home. Enjoy!

Bound for Oregon by Jean Van Leeuwen

Dandelions by Eve Bunting

Little House on the Prairie by Disney (2006)... not a story of the Oregon Trail but an excellent peak into pioneer life. And if you can accept the fact that different actors are playing some of our very favorite characters of all time, I promise you won't be disappointed. All 3 of my boys (make that 4... including hubby) LOVED it!! (Just be forewarned, there are one or two scary encounters with the Indians and the wolves, but everything turned out ok :)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Two. Oh-so two.

Happy birthday,

Our very favorite two-year old in all the earth...
our super fun-loving,
"me too"-speaking,
ice cream-eating,
wonderfully precious little girl.

You have filled our family with joy,
and we love you beyond measure~