Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Day 78: Lockin’ Up the Lunches

It’s grocery day once again in my personal land of Oz. Because grocery shopping is the precursor to everything else that I do in this house, you will likely hear a lot about it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

We are completely out of everything we like to eat. We are almost out of bread, but we have enough to last one or two more days in the event of near catastrophe, so we haven’t outright starved. Although, if you ask Aaron and Victoria, they may have a different take on the matter.

As a positive change for all involved, the kids are now responsible for packing their lunchboxes for school the night before, with the exception of the sandwich, which they make themselves the next morning. As they prepared their lunchboxes Thursday night both kids were at a loss once they realized we were out of their lunchtime staples: natural cheetos and organic gummy chews. What’s a kid to do?

“Mommy, when are you going to the grocery store?”

“Tuesday. We will have food again on Tuesday.” (Ever since emptying my pantry in June we have not had real “overstock” of anything. And if the kids find something they like, it goes fast!)

“That doesn’t help us much for tomorrow,” I heard Aaron say as both kids peered into the empty vastness of their lunchboxes.

I couldn’t resist pointing out that I had previously purchased just enough lunch snacks to last until the next grocery visit. But, when they snack on those items during the weekend, that leaves them in a bind later on before the next grocery run. My point finally hit home.

I shared this bit with a co-worker who suggested that I get a large clear plastic bin to keep on the bottom shelf of the pantry, and all the lunch foods can go inside. Then, if it’s in the box, it’s off limits to anything but packing your lunch. Everything outside of the box is fair game for weekends and after school snacks.

I love this idea. I am hoping to implement it this week, and see how we do as the next few weeks go by. Now, to find my stash of Rubbermaid containers…

Monday, August 30, 2010

Day 77: Sharing a New Resource

I read a term today that I think I am going to adopt. “Food-like products” describes the over-processed, super-sized, nutrient-poor, body-harming stuff we eat every day. Stuff that really doesn’t deserve to be called food. In an open letter to the President, George Mateljan, author of The World’s Healthiest Foods, describes the devastation that our American eating habits have wreaked on our overall health. I stumbled upon the letter while I was googling “When is an eggplant too ripe?” There is nothing the Internet can’t answer. And yes, my eggplant was past its prime.

With all due respect to Mr. Mateljan, I want to share the following blurb, lifted straight off of the World’s Healthiest Foods website. I probably should have sought permission first, but his site has information people need to know, and NOW, and this blurb will better explain what he’s all about. I do hope he will forgive me for any dabbling in his beeswax.

"George Mateljan has been promoting a Healthier Way of Eating since 1970. He was the founder of Health Valley Foods. His not-for-profit George Mateljan Foundation supports the WHFoods website (www.whfoods.org), featuring nutrition education backed by the latest scientific research. Every month, about 1 million people look to the website for nutrition and cooking expertise, which has inspired thousands of readers to improve their health and also lose weight by eating healthier. His latest bestselling book, The World's Healthiest Foods, explains everything you need to know about the Healthier Way of Eating. He created over 500 quick, easy, and delicious recipes, healthiest way of cooking methods and a healthy eating plan that provides all the essential nutrients individuals require each day to help them live a healthier life."
As I read his letter to President Obama, I felt pride and relief that someone with some oomph and wherewithal was trying to make a change at levels far above what I can reach. At the very least, his letter proved to me that I am not crazy, not on some bass-ackwards mission of imminent self-implosion. He addressed the school nutrition programs, the popular lure of unhealthy foods, and the resulting health problems from heart disease to cancer that plague our friends, family and neighbors. I have added a link to this site in the section at the left labeled Links to the Positive. Anything we can all do to promote healthier eating is a step in the right direction. I am not talking about convincing everyone of the benefits of organic produce. I’m talking about the benefits of making better choices about what we consume on an average day. It starts with US spreading the word. I appreciate Mr. Mateljan and his letter to the President. Pass it along.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Day 76: A Wing and a Prayer

“Yes, Annelle, I pray! Well, I do. There, I said it. I hope you’re satisfied.”

“I have suspected this all along.”

Those lines from Steel Magnolias make me laugh. I suspect most of us pray without others realizing it. And I suppose that is the way it’s supposed to be. But my prayer life, while comfortably casual, seems to be calling me to something more determined. Allow me to explain.

I pray in a VERY casual manner. Casual like I’m talking to my mom, casual. I don’t even start out, “Dear God…” I just bust up in there with, “Hey. You busy? What do you think about this?...” and we proceed to have a conversation. So naturally, this occurs at random several times a day. (You already know I’m odd…just go with it…) I hope I never get asked to pray in public. I assure you, it will be a fiasco of ginormous proportions. I’ll probably default to the dinner blessing and confuse the heck out of everyone present.

In keeping with a previous positive change, I have been attending daily Mass at the office. There is a sweet, elderly gentleman who sits behind me each day. Every once in a while, he brings prayer cards for us, and hands them out as we all file out of the chapel when Mass is over. Most recently, he gave me a tiny pamphlet on The Hour of Divine Mercy.

I’ll get this out of the way right now, confessing my Baptist roots, by saying that I had no idea what this was. I learned, via this brochure, that The Hour of Divine Mercy is – essentially – the 3:00 hour in which Jesus died on the cross. Now it clicks. I have tried off and on over the last few years to implement a prayer time at 3:00 in honor/commemoration/memory of that moment in history. But, let me tell ya... 3:00 in the afternoon is a hard time to put on the brakes. 3:00 in the afternoon is usually right when I’m realizing lunch just wore off and I need a snack. 3:00 in the afternoon usually finds me throwing back a handful of almonds and a strawberry milk box. (Long story on the latter – to clarify, no I’m not usually a milk-box drinkin’ kind of girl.) 3:00 in the afternoon is a busy time. 3:00 in the afternoon is the last “kick it into gear before the work day is over” moment. 3:00 in the afternoon…

Is much more sacred than I have let it be. Perhaps I need a little more formality, perhaps not. I don’t know if I’m fit for praying out of a pamphlet. I like my random, casual conversations with the Man Upstairs. He hears me, and on occasion I hear him. But I will make a point daily to reflect on his Divine Mercy, if only for a few moments. Maybe I should retreat to the chapel briefly, and with my list of prayer intentions place the needs of my family and friends at the foot of the cross…at 3:00 in the afternoon.

Day 75: Purpose-Driven Planting…(Or Not?)

I think I have said before that I don’t grow potted plants very well. I’m almost positive I have said it out loud. I have thought it numerous times, as proof stares me in the face.

The thing is, I forget about the poor guys until they look, well… dead. And now that I think about it in greater detail, I realize that my plants’ stages of decline closely resemble a human’s stages of dealing with problems.

First, they are in denial that any responsible plant owner would withhold water from them. They are also in denial of the fact that they do not have a responsible plant owner.

They conveniently skip the anger stage and go straight to bargaining. “C’mon. Just a little bit of water…I’m jonesin’ over here, lady! You think this is the Sahara or somethin’?!! I’ll perk up if you could just spare a teaspoon or so…” They start to look a little wilted, hoping I’ll notice their distress. And then…

Acceptance - the final stage. They come to fully realize that I am not paying the least little bit of attention to their pleas and they give up. Drooping down the side of the pot, their little stems shriveled from existing on their own nutrients, they resign themselves to the fact that their demise is imminent and their care-giver is clueless.

In February of this year my co-workers gave me a coffee-cup plant pot and I loved it so much I just had to stick a plant in it. So Margie brought me some jade and we both reveled in the fact that jade is a hardy succulent and that it should have no problem thriving in my office, as it does in her office just two doors down the hall. I think it wasn’t until one of the branches broke completely off and lay on top of my filing cabinet that I noticed the plant looked a little dry. Of course, I immediately flooded it with water but it was apparently too late. I noticed a couple of weeks later that someone (Margie) had stuck a fork in it to help the neglected little sprouts stand upright again. As desperate as the plant looks, I still only manage to water it about every other week, despite its wilted and defeated appearance, which I absentmindedly ignore.

Trying to work a solution here, I have one of those as-seen-on-TV glass watering bulbs that I have put into the jade. Sometimes the water drains right out in a day and other times I don’t see any water leaving the bulb for days on end. I think the darn thing just creates a vacuum of reserved water that the plant has no strength to fight for. In the end I fear it won’t be long before another plant of mine takes a dirt nap.

My grandmother once gave me a fake African Violet, noting - out loud - that a silk plant might be the only kind that could survive my care. She said this because of the year she spent visiting after Aaron was born, where she witnessed firsthand (and commented on often) my plant neglect. I still maintain my view that a houseplant is the absolute worst gift for a new mother. She already has one new living thing that she HAS to keep alive and that is stressful enough. For the love of all that is holy, don’t send her home with MORE things that depend on her care and attention!!

But now that the children are school age and I feel I have successfully established that I can keep them alive, maybe I should try a little harder for the sake of the green leafy children. I so want to have thriving plants. I have made several attempts at an herb garden. Basil remains the only thing I can grow, only outdoors, and only because it appears to be more stubborn than I am. Plus, I want a vegetable garden some day soon. That’s not going to happen if I can’t remember to water the houseplants.

Trouble is, I have no houseplants at the moment. I killed them all in my checkered past. So, I am going to purchase some plants and make a new, honest effort to water and feed them on a regular basis. I'll need to correlate the watering to another chore that I don't forget to do.  Perhaps every time I do laundry? That’s three times a week. I'll let you know how this standard of care progresses. 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Day 74: Deciphering the Decaf Dilemma

You’re probably wondering if I can actually make a solid change each day and just move on. The answer, of course, is no. Change is a process, and for me it is a long, sometimes painfully neurotic process. ;)

I was sharing my decaf idea with mom when she so cleverly pointed out that decaffeinating coffee is a detailed chemical process. And – helloooooo – aren’t I trying to avoid chemicals? So I started researching the matter. I am STILL researching.

In addition to finding information on the ill effects of the decaf process, I also came across several sites that essentially dog the heck out of caffeine and coffee itself. By the time I closed my browser, I was all but resigned to give up coffee completely. Since dropping down to one cup a day I have noticed that I can do with less and less, or that I can wait later in the morning. This makes me think that my dependency on the caffeine is somewhat under control, and giving it up wouldn't be that big a deal. (I hope I’m not just in denial.) I mean, if it is something my body shouldn’t have, then I have to keep with my purpose and look for ways to oust it.

I found one glimmer of hope in all my reading yesterday. Teeccino. Don’t laugh. It’s herbal coffee so it is naturally caffeine free. And they say it tastes just like coffee. (Yes, yes, yes…”They” are the people who make it!) It even comes in several flavors and roast strengths. Please stop laughing.

I shared this information with Dom, who quickly responded, “If you’re not going to drink the real thing, why drink anything at all?!” I see his point, but as I explained to him, I LIKE the taste of coffee. I like the smell of coffee. I like the warmth of the cup. I like the ritual of the morning coffee experience. (You’re not alone; he was laughing too.)

I am going to continue to research the matter until I am satisfied with a definite choice. In the meantime, I’m going to Sunshine to buy some Teeccino.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Day 73: Dabbling in Decaf

Brace yourselves, friends. I think I’m going to have to change my coffee to decaf. Yes, me. The coffee-loving, Starbucks worshipping, have-to-have-it-by-10am-or-else… ME. And the reason really has nothing to do with me. Go figure.

For the past week, sporadically, the kids have wanted coffee in the morning with their breakfast. Granted, the mixture I make for them is about one-fourth coffee and three-fourths milk, but still. It’s coffee. And they are little.

I can remember my PaPa making himself a cup of coffee and telling me as I begged for a cup, “It’ll put hair on your chest.” I loved the milk-coffee so much that it was worth the risk, and I was pretty sure he was joking. But I kept close watch inside my shirt, just in case.

I never gave it much thought on the rare occasions when my kids would ask for a cup, which would end up only half-consumed anyway, even when served in their child-size plastic mugs that match my Christmas china (Isn’t that adorable?! Stop rolling your eyes.) As you all know, this dietary change has really made me reconsider everything that goes into our bodies. Here I am cutting out all the petrochemicals, but I’ll feed my kids a cup full of neurotoxins in the morning and think nothing of it? Au contraire, mes amis!

I find it mildly amusing that I now base my consumption decisions on what it will do to me later, rather than how good it will taste now. What a difference that has made! I don’t want candy, I can easily pass up the leftovers in the kitchen at my office, and even restaurants don’t appeal to me as much because I find myself wondering, “What are they really serving me?”

Along the same lines, I consider the long-term effects on my kids rather than what is quick and easy right now. Which brings us back to the coffee, and the shocking news that I’m going to buy decaf next week when I go to the store.

So if you are one of the individuals who sees me before noon each day, and you notice a little change in my behavior, like say, I take on the persona of the Wicked Witch of the West, please bear with me and know it’s the decaf. I’ll be back to normal after a small adjustment period.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day 72: Back to Breakfast

Okay, so I haven’t exactly been doing so great at the breakfast thing. But now that school has started, Victoria doesn’t want to eat breakfast either, which is not such a good idea for a third grader who needs to hit the ground running each day. So she and I have to work on that. Really work on that…

I tried asking her what sorts of foods she might like for breakfast. Personally, I am known for juggling my travel mug of coffee and grabbing a granola bar on the way out the door. Not exactly what one might call a good role model. Sometimes breakfast just creeps me out. Can’t explain it. Whatever it is, Vic shares the feeling.

Vic and I are going to have to take baby steps on this one. Last year (or longer ago?) we were all really good at eating breakfast. I’d get up early and have smoothies and ham & eggs on the table by 7am. I look back on that and wonder why we stopped. Then, I ate breakfast for a little while after I named it as one of the early changes of habit in this blog. But it was a habit that I didn’t hold to very well, and now have to revisit.

Breakfast foods sound really good to me during the day, but not so much early in the morning. Yesterday Vic started out with a half piece of toast, and I had a cup of grits. Baby steps. Maybe we will graduate to something good like egg-white omelets soon. I think we can work back into a good breakfast habit. It’s just gonna take some early-morning effort. ;)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Day 71: Shampoo Suggestion

I was thumbing through my email yesterday when a new follow-up post on Tending the Garden appeared. I found this blog quite by accident and have enjoyed following Laurie’s progression toward natural, although I think she may be even more into it than I. But I like the spin she puts on matters.

When I was most concerned about preservatives, harmful chemicals and artificial colors in my shampoo, Tending the Garden’s author was concerned with the wasting of resources using too many disposable bottles. I honestly never thought about my shampoo’s packaging. Dang-it! Add one more growing concern to my list.

So, while I have found an acceptable line of hair care products, I love Laurie's follow-up post in which she details a new hair care routine:

"Ok, so I haven't said goodbye to the process of cleaning and conditioning my hair, but I think I have officially given up commercial shampoo and conditioner. It's been about a month since I started, and I have found that a mixture of equal parts Dr. Bronner's liquid castile soap and water works perfectly as shampoo, and about 3 tbsp of apple cider vinegar (ACV) per 1 cup of water works great (in a spray bottle) for conditioner. I only have to wash my hair every third day, or less. Most days I just wet it in the shower, spritz with the ACV mixture, rinse, and have amazing hair the rest of the day. We're talking texture and volume I haven't been able to achieve without really expensive products. Simple. Cheap. Clean. Less Plastic. Awesome hair."
I am quite inclined to give this a try. I will let you know how it goes. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Day 70: Look Who’s Teaching

One thing I never, ever, ever thought I would do is teach a class. When I was younger and fellow students would ask me to explain the assignments to them, I failed miserably. I never was able to break it down to an understandable level for the other person. I always started out at the level of MY understanding, and that just left the fellow student bewildered. No, for the sake of anyone who would ever know me, I would never be caught teaching.

Have I ever before mentioned my asinine use of the word “never?” It seems almost everything that I verbalize, “Oh, I’ll NEVER do that,” eventually happens. I hate eating my words.

But here I go, entering my second year of teaching the 2nd Grade First Communion class at my church. Contrary to what anyone else says, I view my efforts last year as a complete flop. Oh, I managed to make the best of it and end the year with a genuine feeling of love and pride for twenty-nine children I did not previously know. Not to mention my own daughter was in the class, a situation any sane individual would avoid altogether. So between that, my fall case of shingles, and an emotional breakdown on the Big Day, I really felt like I had somehow botched the whole experience.

As a matter of reconciling myself to the task, I am prepared to make every effort for this year to be 100% better than last year. The first thing I realize I must do is prepare the lessons. (Yeah, that one seems like a no-brainer. But remember the intro to this where I said I was not cut out for teaching? I rest my case.) I am also going to plan some craft activities with the ideas my friend Mickey gave me last year. And, as I realized at the end of last year, I must do a better job of communicating with the parents.

My goal is three-fold here, and these may be fleshed out in later days. For now:

1. I plan to have Dom pick the kids up from PSR so that they can get to bed on time, and I can have a few extra minutes (or thirty) to talk with my co-teacher. This should alleviate the problem of neither teacher knowing what the other is thinking. (Welcome to the plan, honey. Sorry to spring it on you this way.)

2. I need one evening a week to detail the plans of the next lesson, and to prepare any parent communication to be sent with the children. Sunday seems like the best day to do this.

3. At some point soon, I sincerely hope to have the PSR website up and running so that anyone can get information on our program and classes when they need it. I think I will need to update it on Wednesdays after classes so that any new information is immediately available and pertinent.

There it is, folks. The Big Plan. Here’s hoping I can pull it off, and that this year will be better than the last.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Day 69: Doin’ Dishes

I finally changed my dishwashing detergent. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, since I have been a Cascade fan since childhood. There were a lot of considerations to make in changing my dishwasher detergent. Remember, I make mountains out of molehills all the time!

First, I really wanted to go back to the individual packets of detergent where all you do is plop this tidy little plastic packet into the soap holder in the dishwasher door and you never have to wonder if you used too much or not enough. But, I had been told that the packets were not completely biodegradable, and the remaining plastic would clog up the dishwasher drain lines and cause mucho problemos. So, I stopped using the cute little packets when I got a brand new dishwasher. I didn’t want to gunk-up my pretty new machine quite so fast.

Second, I wanted to be sure that if I switched to another brand that it was actually going to get my dishes clean. I CANNOT STAND to see streaks and such on my dishes as I’m putting them back into the cabinet.

And, as a natural result of my research, in the last couple of months I’ve felt the need to use something friendlier. We run our dishwasher every-other-day at minimum, twice a day if we’re home for any length of time (like our lovely stay-cation in June). At that rate, if I’m using a product that is essentially poisoning the water supply or leaving any kind of soap behind on my dishes, then I consider that to be problematic. (This excessive use of the dishwasher is on the list of things to be addressed, by the way.)  And I may be only one household who is willing to change in favor of an earth-friendly option, but I am one household who is willing to change, nonetheless.

Once again, I turned to Mrs. Meyers Clean Day products for my solution, the largest selection of which is found at Sunshine Health Foods. And no, I don’t get paid for this unabashed promotion of the two, in case you were wondering. I just love the store and the products! Mrs. Meyer’s has BOTH the dishwasher packets and a dishwasher liquid in practically any of their wonderfully herby fragrances. I bought the basil scented packets for the dishwasher. And guess what…they work!!! They’re great! My dishes are squeaky-clean and I’m using a product that is safe and natural. And the basil scent in the products is very mild.

I scoped out the safety of their products on their website. They are very direct about their ingredients and their philosophy in manufacturing them. Aside from being completely biodegradable, “Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day products are safe to use in the presence of children, pets, and expectant women.” What’s not to love?

To quote one of my favorite early ‘90s movies, “Dishes are DONE, man!”

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Day 68: Live Deliberately

Not every day is rosy and fun. We don’t wake up every morning with bluebirds singing at our windowsill and gentle deer waving satin ribbons in our midst.

In fact, some days the dog pukes right before our alarm goes off.

And the day is set in motion.

A horrible, downward spiraling motion.

But the whole way down, I am consistently aware that I am making a choice to continue in the spiral. The entire tirade of “where’s the carpet cleaner?!-why is he puking?!- and why can’t he make it to the %$#$!@ tile?!!” is punctuated by my own inner thought of “why is this such a big damn deal?”

Ultimately, it’s not. It’s a choice to make it a big deal. It’s a choice to view it as an attack on my personal space and time or a minor inconvenience in my morning. And what about poor Mason? Do I think he WANTED to get sick at 6:25 A.M.?

My point, I guess, is that in the midst of anger and blame there is chaos and confusion. There is no room in those emotions for rational thinking. And – I believe – without rational thinking there can be no deliberately chosen response. It’s all improv, and not even very good improv at that. A positive, healthy lifestyle also involves living deliberately. Experiencing each moment for what it offers us, valuing the experience for what we can learn from it. From dog puke to real disasters, I think it’s important to relate kindly to each other so we can get through the situation a little more easily.

Thankfully, we were able to talk and laugh again before the cleanup was complete, and everyone is cheerful in the Mainiero home once more. I recognize that we all made a choice at that moment, and I am grateful for it.

We are not guaranteed a future. We have now. Shouldn’t we make it the best NOW that it can be? Dog puke and all??

Friday, August 20, 2010

Day 67: Studying PG

One of the ingredients I have been trying to avoid, among all the parabens, aluminum, and preservatives (even in deodorant) is Propylene Glycol. “PG.” As in, NOT the movie rating.

I saw a deodorant labeled as PG-free, and I tried to figure out on my own what the letters stood for. I mean, since I had spent all summer researching, I figured I should know, right? Well, I didn’t. Mostly because I had Propylene Glycol on the safe list. Now here’s my crazy issue with PG and related chemicals…

Back when I had the shingles last year, I also had an odd feeling in my left shoulder. A surface irritation, like a sunburn feeling, where fabric moving against my skin would actually hurt, even though there was no obvious injury. That showed up three months before the shingles, and when I saw my dermatologist while enflamed with the shingles, she suggested that the shoulder was completely unrelated to my more prevalent issue, and that if it persisted she could send me to a neurologist.

A WHO?!!!!

After the shingles and all that great medication they had me on so I would not go stark raving mad, the shoulder pain subsided. I thought I was healed. YAY! No need for the neuro dude.

But, in June after the conference that kicked off what this blog is all about, I suddenly had pain identical to the shingles in my back. I went to my family doctor this time (she also saw me with the shingles…one of four doctors who treated me that crazy week!) Anyhoo…my family doc suggested that this intense back pain I was feeling was not likely to be shingles because of several reasons you are really not interested in, but more interestingly, if the pain continued she could send me to a….

You guessed it… a neurologist!

What is WITH these people?!!

Now, 60+ days later, I have a list of ingredients that cause nerve damage…freaky weird stuff no one can probably explain. These ingredients are called neurotoxins. Nice, huh? Here’s MY take on it: if these ingredients are KNOWN to cause neurological defects, and we use them all the time in all our products every day, sometimes several times a day, can we not expect to see some symptoms? And of course, if we believe our food and our beauty products are safe, would we ever dream of looking at them as the source of our issue? I wouldn’t have. EVER. Seriously, the threat of my child being brain-altered by chemical ingredients was my primary focus. This whole nerve damage from extended use of a certain ingredient I never even knew existed has given me a whole new insight.

OHH!!!! Not to be outdone by the dreadful preservatives, PG can also be found in our foods. I nearly dropped a pre-packaged muffin the other day at work when I read the ingredient list. Ack!!!

PG is not the only neurotoxin I’m looking to avoid. The list is so full of stuff I can’t even pronounce, but I recognized a few of the items, like caffeine, which makes sense. Please note that this does not mean I am cutting out my morning coffee…yet. Acetaminophen…well, it’s a medicine. If it didn’t affect the nerves, it wouldn’t work at all. Duhh.

Do I know for sure that I have nerve damage? No. Do I know for sure that I am suffering from overexposure to PG? No. Do I hurt? Sometimes. Can I learn more about the neurotoxins that might be harming us? Yes.

Will I? That’s a Hell Yes.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Day 66: Making Room for Better Sleep

Yes, I know I already addressed in another post the hours of sleep needed to feel like our absolute best selves. Some things just bear repeating, and this has a slightly different spin.

Victoria determined earlier this week that she simply was not getting enough sleep. We had already adjusted the bedtime to provide for better sleep during the upcoming school year, but she continued to be a Cranky Franky. And she blamed it on lack of sleep.

While I know my eating and sleeping habits can affect my mood in a New York minute, I was not inclined to allow her to blame a situation for her mood, but rather wanted her to accept responsibility for choosing to be a grumpy bug, and then look for a solution to the situation she found herself in.

Boy, did she find a solution! Victoria announced that she wasn’t sleeping well because Marsha Mallow (the bunny) keeps her awake at night. She reassured us of her love for Marsha, but asked that we PUH-LEEZE remove Marsha from her room at night. She even had a suggestion as to where Marsha could sleep – in the playroom upstairs. “After all,” Vic surmised, “you’re not using that room for anything else!”

She makes an excellent point.

And I can vouch for Marsha being noisy at night. Sometimes in the sleep-state between surrender to the pillow and REM, I can hear the bunnies playing in their individual cages. Last Friday, I slept in Victoria’s bed with her because she woke up in the middle of the night and I went to comfort her and just decided to stay. I tossed and turned all night while Marsha played, tossed her food bowls in the air, and drank rather noisily from her water bottle. When do rabbits sleep, I ask ya???

So Monday night we moved Marsha’s cage into the playroom. But that lasted about 30 minutes, if that long. Aaron and Vic suddenly felt very sad for Marsha having to sleep all alone in a room she wasn’t used to. Aaron declared in a most direct manner that he would rather have Marsha sleep in his room than have to be by herself. (She’s alone all day long, but I guess that’s different because it’s daylight??) Plus, he swears the bunnies don’t keep him awake. So, Marsha’s cage got dragged down the hall to Aaron’s room, where she now sleeps during the night before being dragged back into Victoria’s room in the morning.

All in all, this arrangement seems to be working out. I’m proud of Victoria for offering a solution to her problem. Everyone seems to have adjusted well to the new nighttime habit. And Vic has slept well all week.

May there continue to be peace at night.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Day 65: New Year, New Habits

There is only one thing on my mind as I write my post this morning. The New School Year. Part of me is looking forward to it – returning to the normal ebb and flow of the school calendar. The other part of me is just praying that all the new things we have begun at home don’t get sideswiped by the school experience. (And praying that Vic has a good year!)

Today I am pleased to report the new habits my kids have sworn to, some of their own free will, but all with an open mind and pleasant attitude. (This is a WOW moment, folks!)

1) Victoria vows to make A’s. I do not insist on A’s…I insist on honest effort, and let the grade be what it will. My questions to the kids when they bring home their report card are 1) Did you do your best? and 2) Did you learn something new? To me, that pretty much sums up the student’s and the teacher’s purpose for being there. But Vic's enthusiasm for the school year is quite refreshing.

2) Victoria will take her lunch this school year. Vic is a school-lunch kid…always has been. And for $1.50 I couldn’t complain, at least until I found out that she was spending $1.50 every day and just eating the roll. Whaaaaa???? She has offered this year to start taking her own lunch each day because, as she puts it, “The cafeteria food might have bad ingredients in it.” Jamie Oliver made an impact on us, I tell ya!

3) Both kids are accepting of the mandate that they are old enough now to make their own sandwiches. I bought them the Sandwich Thins so they don’t have to fiddle with cutting off the crust. (When do they outgrow that, by the way?  Just curious.)

4) Both kids got their backpacks ready last night and hung them on the wall. Pencils sharpened, grade-level appropriate book packed for free-time reading, new pink pearl eraser tucked neatly into the pencil pocket. I think I love school supplies almost as much as I love office supplies. Eeep!

5) Both lunchboxes are sitting on my countertop right now, packed with Natural Cheetos, organic gummy bears (well, ok…rabbits) and their BPA-free water bottles. Sandwich boxes are ready to hold the entrĂ©e. The kids were troopers about setting everything out last night to save us time in the morning.

6) Uniforms were selected and laid out neatly. (We found Aaron’s belt - abandoned all summer long - with relative ease. That’s pretty major for us.)

7) Both kids are prepared – at least for the moment – to tackle the extra assignments (Accelerated Reading and Math) within the first six weeks of each nine weeks for the reward of a friend sleeping over each quarter. The bribe – that’s all me, baby!!!! I believe it will keep our stress to a minimum if those extra things are out of the way before report card time winds around. And at least this time, I’ve bribed them with play dates and sleep overs. Remember, Marsha Mallow is the result of an AC Math reward from last year. Perhaps I’m getting a little smarter as we go along?

So there it is in a nutshell. Yes, I am prepared to let it go if these things are not checked off military style. My vow for the school year is to gently guide them at home, hold to the routine as much as possible, and make sure everyone eats and sleeps well. Oh, and NOT flip my lid if this doesn’t go as planned. ;)

Happy First Day of School!!!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Day 64: Can We Talk?

OK, folks. This is where it gets ugly. The gloves are off. I am in an all-out battle with – of all things – are you sitting down? - my deodorant.

Yeah, you heard me. Flip to another bookmark if you don’t think you can handle this conversation. I will keep it as genteel as possible. IF it’s possible.

Natural deodorant. Good freaking grief!!! I swear, it’s all the chemicals that keep us from stinkin’ up the place! The skinny on this is that I have tried three brands of natural deodorant since I trashed my Secret Clear and I am praying this latest brand cuts the muster!

This latest brand, by the way, is for men. I am past the point of caring whether there are horses or halos on the bottle. Just give me something that works! Because Saturday during Mass I had my arm around Victoria when she looked up at me and said, “Um, Mommy, your deodorant isn’t really working that well.”


Granted, it was a 106 degree day and we were in a church with a dying air conditioner. Whose deodorant could withstand that? Really?....

But the fact of the matter is, no matter how unappreciated Victoria’s comment was, she speaks the truth. I immediately assumed the stance: elbows permanently imbedded in my hip bones. And I vowed to find a functional natural deodorant if it is the last thing I do!

So far the Herban Cowboy deodorant is working fine (does that name crack you up, or what?!!), even at my office yesterday where we had faulty A/C and I thought I was experiencing hot flashes. But I have been tipped off to the Jason line as a potential success, so I will be investigating that too.

Changing deodorant is the pits!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Day 63: Back to School

My kids have two more days of summer, but they will be far from lazy days. We are in high-gear trying to get ready and adjusted to the idea of a brand new school year. Last night I imposed on Dom my mental list of ToDos in an effort to satisfy my need for everyone to be on the same page, more so than for anyone else’s benefit.

Basically, it seems everyone is willing to go with the flow and/or whatever I suggest needs to be done rather than interject their own thoughts or spend these last two days of summer (God forbid) planning the first few weeks of school. I think they all know that I’d rather we all do it my way, and being the sweethearts that they are, everyone plays along.

Maybe this weekend has just been too hectic. Maybe I spread myself too thin, and this is my knee-jerk reaction to feeling pulled in too many different directions. I feel the uncontrollable urge to pre-pack the next two weeks’ lunches or something equally illogical. I feel like I just got the kids on a summer routine, and now I have to switch it all up again. I usually go through this each August, if I recall correctly. And within a week or two, I realize that the school year is actually EASIER than the summer, albeit busier, and everything just falls into place.

My moments of reflection bring me back to some basic understandings: 1) I cannot change people and - sometimes - situations, 2) I can change my attitude toward a situation, and 3) there is no rule that says I have to do it perfectly.

I believe I should make a habit of allowing my inner peace to direct my outer chaos.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Day 62: Planning and Preparing, Preparing and Planning…

As a reader of this blog, beware that you are about to dive head-first into the depths of my neurosis. But please understand something about me: in order to make something work effectively and efficiently, I have to first make a rotten mess of it. Shotgun-blast-the-hell-out-of-it is always my first step.

I have said on many posts that I am going to need a lot of help with such-and-such, or that a particular change was going to present a particular challenge. Three words sum up this one…

Pray. For. Me.

A residual result of all my changes, this one presents my biggest problem: In order to be a good time-manager, I have to plan the menu. In order to serve good meals, I have to plan the ingredients. In order to plan the ingredients, I have to plan the grocery list. In order to plan the grocery list, I have to know the menu. And in order to plan the menu, I have to know our evening plans.

Can you see my head starting to spin? My goal of preparing a month of menus at a time was manageable before all this natural/organic, oh-my-gosh-will-my-family-actually-eat-that, Holy-Mother-of-Pearl CHANGE was set into motion. I have to get a handle on this, and fast. Yesterday had me spinning so far out of control with my grocery trips, that I started to wonder if I was going to set out to prepare the first meal and have a breakdown over breadcrumbs. Hey, I’ve been hormonally emotional lately. It could happen.

So today, for what little time I can afford to invest in this thought process, I will try to wrap my head around not only what I plan to be doing for the next two weeks, but also for what I need to do next month, so I’m not rushing around like this two weeks from now when I grocery shop. To my credit (what little I am allowed in this experiment), I have identified one source of chaos for myself: After I plan the meals, I forget where I put the recipes. Are they in this book, or that one? Did I rip it out of the Southern Living, or do I need to rifle through the magazine rack?

Here’s my rough outline of a solution: I need more lists. I should have an alphabetical list of all the recipes and where to find them. I should also have four rotating grocery lists, one for each week, so I can buy fresher ingredients and adapt for changing menus and schedules. (Seriously. I used to have two rotating grocery lists and it was a beautiful system, even if not quite so complex.) That’s my starting point. Every project needs a starting point, right? Hear me out…if I have a list for each week, and I know when certain items are going to be consumed, then I can plan when to buy them. Better yet, I can extend this to my non-food consumables and plan when to buy them too. Whoa…I might even be able to predict our consumption so well that I could systematically identify when to go to which store, and lessen the burden on any particular week. For instance, I can get all dry and paper goods on a monthly schedule and only have to deal with Wal Mart on a limited basis.

Time for four new words, my friends: Send. Me. To. Counseling.

Before I can wrap my head around my next move, I have to come to terms with what I did yesterday…I think I’ll re-organize the refrigerators today. That always gives me a fresh perspective. Yeah, I’m odd like that.

But after 62 days, you probably knew that already.

Day 61: Shop ‘Til I Drop

And that I did! In the spirit of saving money, buying organic, and intentionally driving myself to the brink of insanity, I hit 5 grocery stores yesterday. That is not a typo, people. F-I-V-E.

Now you understand me a little better, don’t you? I’m starting to morph into “That Crazy Lady Who Writes a Blog.” You also understand why this post is a day late. I was tiii-yerd!

Now, let me explain that four of the grocery stores were separate locations of two chains. I have to know if different locations of the same chain will carry the same stuff for the same price. (I told you I overthink things!!) I can manage to plan my grocery days around Bossier and Youree Drive, but I have to be absolutely certain that the trip is worth the extra effort. So, of course, I had to hit ALL of them to see what products were on-hand and if the prices differed. I am pleased to report that the prices were consistent for each chain, and I believe I can narrow down my future grocery trips to only four stores.

Only four stores. That can seem pretty overwhelming if I really think about it, so let’s find something positive to focus on. Hmmmmmm…oh yes…check THIS out:

Kroger on Youree. A literal wall of organic produce. No more guessing…no more looking for the green labels. And right in front of this wall of produce is an organic fruit stand. No more wandering through their acre of produce for all my goods. One stop. Isn’t it beautiful????? I bought things I didn’t even need!!

But I also recognized that for all the wonderful things Kroger on Youree has in natural and organic products, the Kroger by my house carries all the same items that I am actually going to buy. It may not be as big a spread, but it suits me and saves me a trip if I have no other reason to go to Youree Drive.

So even though yesterday nearly killed me, and I managed to miss lunch because of all the shopping, it served the unique purpose of helping me understand my shopping situation so I can plan better next time. Next time, as I reflect on my completed grocery shopping, I won’t be tired, hungry and oh-so cranky (hopefully).

A reminder just popped up that it’s time to inspect the tires on our cars. 10-4. Crazy Lady out…

Friday, August 13, 2010

Day 60: Bean Time

That’s what my mom calls the dinner hour. Bean time. As in: bean time for the puppies, bean time for the grandkids, “You ready to take a break? It’s bean time!”

As often as I have heard her use that term, I never really mulled it over in my subconscious (um, consciously) until now. I would like to set our bean time.

I’d like for dinner to be served at 6:00 at our house, barring strange or unusual events. 6:00 seems the most reasonable time to assimilate our evening meal, given our work schedules, evening chores and bedtimes. If I shore up my efforts at pre-planning the meals and all that is involved in cooking them, then 6:00 should be totally do-able.

I don’t know, maybe I just like the idea of my kids knowing dinner is at 6:00 regardless of what else is going on….or how old they get. I picture them being all grown-up and just instinctively knowing that if they make it to mom’s by 6:00, there will be dinner served, for them and whomever they bring along.

I like those little glimpses into the future when they hit me out of the blue. Although, I kind of concocted this one, so I don’t know if I can call it a true glimpse. I had the original True-Blue Future Glimpse in college. I looked over at Dom and saw gray in his sideburns. Two blinks, and it was gone. I knew instantly that I would grow old with him.

Maybe there exists an infinitesimal difference between a glimpse and a desire. Something internal, defined somehow by either destiny or hard work. Whatever the nature of my glimpses, I do know that everything I love about this life has taken a lot of work, and has been well worth the effort.

Before I get all philosophical on ya, what say we save this chat for bean time? Y’all drop by around 6. Dinner will be on the table.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Day 59: List Love

I had some time to kill yesterday while cooking/waiting for Dom to get home, so I had the brilliant idea of making more lists.

I love lists.

I made four lists: Grocery, Googles, Food Inquiries, and Blog ToDo’s. Actually, I made 5 lists, but the fifth list was all about accounting, and no one really wants to hear about that. ;)

My Googles list is all the stuff I want to research, but don’t have time to do it when I think about it, and then I forget what it was I wanted to look up the next time I’m on the Internet. I spend a lot of time in the car in the summers. A LOT of time. So naturally, that’s where I do most of my thinking. And it would be perfect if that’s also where I could do most of my researching and listing, but I don’t have a chauffeur and probably never will, so the time I spend driving will have to remain The Time I Spend Driving. However, if the day ever comes that cars drive themselves, you’ll see me surfing the web from the front seat. Just sayin’.

Some of the things I Googled in my “spare” time yesterday are:

1) “Healthy substitute for Baker's Joy.” This led me, of course, to the Baker’s Joy website where they are NOT going to tell me what I can use INSTEAD of their product, although they do have a handy list of other healthy substitutions that don’t involve their product. (You're wondering why I need this?  Baker's Joy has one of the forbidden preservatives in it.  Great on my waffle iron, bad on my body.  It's gotta go!) My search also led me to Joy the Baker where I was totally amused for an amount of time I should not have spared, but did anyway. (And Dom wonders why I’m at the computer so much…)

2) “Cuisinart griddler.” This took me to the Cuisinart site where I realized I am not likely to find a Belgian waffle maker with removable plates (if you know of one, for the love of all that is holy, speak up!) and that I can’t afford their way-cool food processor. The Panini maker looked do-able and would possibly prevent us from scrubbing down the George Foreman in the sink anymore.

3) “Angel Hair Pasta Toss recipe.” Found a couple of good ones, I suppose. I am a little embarrassed to admit that I actually put out a search on it. The resulting recipes were pretty much no-brainers. Angel hair pasta…olive oil…whatever else you want…toss it all together…duhhhh.

4) “Calories in honey lemon water.” I have begun to drink hot water with lemon and honey stirred into it in the evenings instead of a cup of tea or coffee. We tend to keep our home at arctic chill levels, so sometimes I just want a hot drink. But, I don’t want to sabotage all the good I’ve done with my weight, so I thought I’d search the matter and see what the ‘net had to say about it. Turns out, honey is a good substitute for sugar because you get the natural vitamins, minerals and amino acids from honey, whereas they are all refined out of our sugar. Something to do with chemical composition and such. I’m all, “Yeah, yeah, so it’s good for me. Got it. Diet progress remains intact. Check.” I like the fact that the honey I buy comes from Bossier, and that this particular bee farm is the one I called when my home was a bee hotel one summer, ala the Amityville Horror. The bee dudes were great. See? Product loyalty does still exist.

But more important than my Googles list, my Food Inquiries list will be another continual work in progress. I have decided to contact our favorite food brands and ask them if they have natural substitutes for the foods we like, or if they are planning natural substitutes anytime in the near future. There’s only one way to get the foods we want on the shelves of our stores. We gotta start asking for them.

So, two new lists have been born and I will try to keep them updated, or at least not crumpled at the bottom of my purse. My ever-so-small, too-tiny-to-carry-everything-I-really-need purse. ;)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Day 58: Every Hand Shall Scrub

It’s not enough that I’m constantly seeing and looking for things to change; my kids are doing it too. This weekend Aaron emerged from the downstairs bathroom with the pump bottle of Softsoap in his hand and asked, “Mommy, are you planning to replace this? It has Yellow 6 in it.”

On one hand I am befuddled by the fact that these ingredients are almost inescapable. I tell you, that crap is everywhere! On the other hand, I am so proud of my kids for 1) taking interest, 2) accepting the change, and 3) expecting more change. What troopers they are!

So yesterday on my lunchtime jaunt to Sunshine Health Foods, where they now know me on sight and can predict my lunch order, I wandered down the cleaning products aisle to price-compare on the countertop spray I wrote about the other day. (Brief side note: I used that spray on my stovetop, an antiquated blast from the past pull-out drawer that contributes to my oven being the bane of my existence. Anyhoo, I sprayed it and then assisted Dom at the sink for a minute or so, grabbed some paper towels and expected to just make the crud on the stovetop a little less nasty. OMG!!! I got the stovetop AS CLEAN as if I had used an SOS pad! And I did this with a PAPER TOWEL, people. Granted, it took a few paper towels because my stovetop was due for a good cleaning. Hey, it’s a 40-year old pull out drawer, okay? I’m sure it looked great in the late 60’s when they built my house around it! All this to say that Mrs. Meyers Clean Day countertop spray ROCKED my oven cleaning!!!!)

Back to Sunshine’s cleaning aisle. See? I’ll get us back on track…

While I was snapping pics of all the products and their corresponding prices so I can enter them into my phone’s grocery app (did I just tip you off to my OCD?) I noticed that Mrs. Meyers has a liquid hand soap in a pump bottle in several scent choices – all natural! Voila!!!! It’s a lot of soap, too. 12.5 ounces for a bargain price of $3.59. I filled one decorative soap dispenser and put the Meyers bottle at the kitchen sink. Now the kids can scrub up with complete confidence.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Day 57: Practicing the Fine Art of Delegation

A few nights ago Aaron was organizing his Pokemon cards and noted that he had too many of a certain card, and the pile was overstuffing the binder pocket page and causing it to break.

“Looks like you need a Ziploc baggie to put the extra cards in. That way, you can keep them, but you don’t have to have them taking up room in your binder. I’ll grab one from the kitchen for you.“ (Mommy always has a solution.)

“Okay,” replied my sweet boy.

I continued doing whatever-it-is-I-was-doing in his room and then left to get distracted by something else.

It dawned on me the next morning that I never did go get the Ziploc for him. And yes, I actually felt sorry for him, what with having such a useless mom and all.

But wait a minute. Is that really how this should have played out? Wouldn’t it have been much better if I had just said, “Looks like you need a Ziploc baggie…Do you know where they are? Bottom drawer by the dishwasher? Go ahead and get one, sweetie.”

This simple act of delegating would have solved two problems. 1) Aaron would gain more experience in resolving his own issue, and 2) I would not have any reason to beat myself up for forgetting something and letting someone down.

It has always been my habit to see a way to make something better, suggest it, and then offer to do it so that whoever will benefit most will also be inconvenienced the least.

Strangely, that’s how I’ve rolled.

Today I will start making a concentrated effort at delegating for everyone’s own good.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Day 56: A Lean, Mean Kind of Clean

Once all this natural stuff started infiltrating my brain, I knew I was going to have to do something about my household cleaning products. I had NO idea where to even begin, but I did notice that Sunshine Health Foods had a selection of household products. And then when Jessica turned me on to Kroger’s natural and organic section, I found similar products there. The first one I settled on was Mrs. Meyers Clean Day countertop cleaner. We simply HAVE to have a good countertop cleaner for our kitchen area, since coffee and numerous PB&J’s are made there.

So far I really like the Clean Day cleaner. I have used it for more than just the kitchen. What I like most about it is that you can easily dilute it if necessary without losing any of the cleaning power, AND it’s all natural. (Although the lemon smell is a tad strong at times; I am going to get the lavender refill.) Also, I won’t hesitate to have the kids using these products too. Whenever they grimace at my request for their manual labor, I remind them that they will need to know how to do all this on their own before they go off to college. In the back of my mind I know that when the time comes for them to leave home, they're going to wonder: If she prepared me so well for this adventure, then why is she crying her eyes out? 

Anyhoo, the countertop cleaner is a good purchase.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Day 55: Where Are My Shoes?!!

The kids used to constantly ask me, “Mommy, where are my shooooooooes?” To which I would reply, “I do not wear your shoes, baby. I don’t know where they are.” Or, “Where did you leave them?” Whichever reply I used, the reaction from them was always the same: “Oooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” followed by a huff and a quick exit.

One day I was in a hurry to leave the house and I asked Aaron if he had seen my shoes anywhere. You know exactly what he said: “I don’t wear your shoes, Mommy. I wouldn’t know where they are. Where do you think you left them?”

Smartie pants.

Today while we were getting ready to go to the pool for Aaron’s birthday party, I was bustling around looking for my shoes. The shoes I keep by the back door in a basket for easy donning and traipsing through the yard. The flip-flops. The I-don’t-care-if-they-get-wet-at-the-pool shoes. I started to ask if anyone had seen them, and I stopped mid-sentence. Aaron really had an impact on me all those years ago. I managed to find one shoe in the appropriate basket by the back door and the other shoe…gasp…in my closet with all my other shoes.

Shoes put away in my closet…the sure sign that Dom has been here.

I have gradually been moving toward better shoe care. And I thought the shoe basket by the backdoor was a great idea. Alas, so did Mabel. It seems that she is the culprit who runs off with my flip flops at random, causing me to lose my ever-loving mind.

I need another shoe system. Not just for the flip flops, but for all shoes in the house. A basket at the bottom of the stairs, perhaps? A nightly routine of everyone grabbing their own shoes from the basket and toting them up the stairs for the night? There has got to be an easy solution to the shoe disorder here.

Or I could just try going barefoot everywhere… I always did like Shoeless Joe.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Day 54: Here We Come A-Counting

I love a good play on words. Sometimes deciding on a title for my post is more fun than the actual change I am writing about. It’s a perk of sorts…lagniappe…the sprinkles on the chocolate cupcake. Alright, alright…on with it already…

Dom announced last summer that he wanted to get all his accounting credits to sit for the CPA exam. A wonderfully driven and completely pertinent idea, I thought, given that he works at an accounting firm. The kicker was when he said he wanted me to do it with him. After I stopped laughing and listened to what he had to say about it, I was pretty much sold on the idea. One of my biggest regrets has been dropping the accounting minor from my undergrad studies. THAT was one dumb move.

So we gathered our resources, met with a college advisor to determine what hours we lacked, and enrolled in distance learning classes at LSU. We had to re-take Accounting 101 because I was a COMPLETE FRESHMAN DORK WHO SKIPPED THE LAST TWO WEEKS OF 101 and landed myself on the professor’s proverbial S***-List back in 1990. A move like that can drop you from a B to a D very fast, regardless of your test scores. Trust me.

So, we got all enrolled and ready to study and learn, and then bam! I got shingles and didn’t feel like standing upright, much less studying accounting. Then fall turned to winter, we had all the holidays, then the new year, then spring, and before we knew it our time in the class was up. Ahhhhhh, but there is that beautiful extension option whereby you can pay more money and take more time. Lovely concept. And, you can extend your enrollment TWICE.

Which we have now done.

Our deadline – our final deadline – is fast approaching, and we have got some ‘splainin’ to do!! We now have a study schedule all planned out, and we are ready to take our first test next week. (Wish us luck. I haven’t taken a test in fifteen years!!)

So, add a more serious attitude toward my own professional development to my list of healthy changes. With any luck, I will be able to report my final grade very soon.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Day 53: Early To Bed, Early To Rise…

How does that saying go? “…makes a man healthy and wealthy and wise?” I’ll settle for just healthy. And awake. I am one tired mama.

I realize what is causing this tiredness. I have been going to bed around 11pm and rising at 5am. Six hours of sleep. SIX. That is not nearly enough!! There was a time not so long ago when I managed to get to bed around 9pm in order to wake up at 5:45. It was heavenly. I felt so rested and relaxed when I got up, and I didn’t have to fight getting out of bed. (Although, this was back in the day of the snooze button, and don’t think for a minute that I didn’t use it anyway!)

Oh, how I would love to get to bed at 9:00 every night. Eight solid hours of sleep. Who could ask for more?

Now, I must say that the kids need way more than I do, and we make sure that they get to bed on time during the school year, which is fast approaching. This is the first summer where we were not strict about getting them to bed at any certain time. But, with a 30 minute drive ahead of us on summer mornings in order to get to Grandmama’s house, there was no sleeping in, either. Let me tell you…EVERYONE can tell when my kids have not had enough sleep. THAT’S WHEN THEY ACT LIKE SPAWN OF SATAN!!!!

“Aaron LOOKED at me!”

“Victoria HIT me!”

“Because he LOOKED at me!”

OMG, people, REALLY?????

Yes, starting this past week, we have reinstated the strict 8:00 bedtime to get them back on track for school. And I can’t talk about their bedtime without throwing this in: children who get more than 8 hours of sleep a night (mine get 10) are – statistically speaking – healthier. I have seen it in practice. The school-age children I know who do not have bedtimes have more random illnesses, always seeming to be fighting this cold or that. Worse, some have chronic health issues that I believe are compounded by their bodies not getting enough rest. My munchkins typically battle one modest bug a year.

As for me, I need a strict bedtime. And not just to stay healthy – to stay SANE. I do feel a little like I have over-scheduled my healthy living to the point that it keeps me busy until 11pm. So, I will need to tweak the schedule in order to get more sleep. I can’t have all my desire for positive change actually doing me harm in the end, now can I?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Day 52: The Plague of Pesticides

Finding a good website that shares a ton of information in all fields related to its main topic seems to be the highlight of my days recently. I was browsing Stonyfield’s website this weekend and came across a lot of interesting information regarding pesticides. Scary information, but interesting nonetheless.

I must admit, had I read this information 10 years ago, I would have made these lifestyle changes then. For whatever reason, I was oblivious. The most astonishing thing I learned is this:

"Young digestive tracts absorb toxins more readily than adult digestive tracts, and young kidneys don’t detoxify as efficiently as adult kidneys. As a result, toxins circulate longer in babies’ bodies, boosting exposure to four times that of adults."
FOUR TIMES! I’m aggravated enough at how I have endangered my own health. Now I discover that I have compounded the problem for my children? Yikes, people!

It is not easy to switch to organic at the drop of a hat. I’ve been slowly moving over for two months now, and I’m not anywhere near where I ultimately want to be on this. But I have stumbled upon a few things that help me when I’m at the grocery store. First off, Kroger has a rockin’ natural and organic section, and I have fallen so much in love with Sunshine Health Foods that I want to pitch a tent in the back of their store. There ARE better options, even in my little ol’ neck of the woods. Even my WalMart has some organic options which are easier on the budget.

A simple starting point for me has been fruit and vegetables. There is a handy-dandy wallet size list on Stonyfield’s site that lists the fruits and veggies which are better for you in organic form, and those which are ok to buy regular. I’ve printed the list to keep with me while I shop. This way, I won’t stress out over not buying organic onions. However, I have noted that organic fruits and vegetables at Kroger have generally cost the same as, and sometimes less than, their non-organic counterparts. Plus, I think buying organic whenever possible tells the store that organic is worth keeping in stock and tells the farmers and producers that we appreciate and support their efforts.

Interesting factoid from the USDA site: Did you know that in order for a producer or handler to be certified organic, their ENTIRE PROPERTY has to be pesticide-free for THREE YEARS before certification?  And then they have to provide detailed records of their growing cycles and controls, etc.  In a funny way, all the stuff they have to do to keep certification reminds me of all the hoopla involved in Natural Family Planning.  Soil tests, crop rotations, you get the picture.  (And just incase you're wondering, I was never any good at NFP.)

Whether the organic mission starts in the kitchen or the powder room is up to the individual. There is a lot of room for improvement in my home. But I am pleased to have found two additional websites that offer (angel chorus) ORGANIC SKIN CARE AND COSMETICS, and more information on the ingredients we want to AVOID.

As for all-out intentional pesticides, I may have found something that is sort of okay for the dudes who really want to kill bugs. EcoSmart has a line of pest control products for home, lawn and garden that seem to be okay. They do have trace amounts of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, which is less than pleasing to me, but the other ingredients appeared to be genuinely natural, even organic, and the Materials Safety Data Sheet was not at all alarming. (I read the MSDS on a different pesticide last week. The pesticide claimed to be “Earth Friendly” and safe for vegetables and fruits. Aside from all the warnings and “in case of contact” instructions, the MSDS listed the transportation category as “Environmentally Hazardous Substance.” It made me laugh out loud, even though crap like that is really not funny.)

Still, I want to find old-fashioned Great-Grandma-Approved methods of controlling pests in my garden, and especially when I grow vegetables. (Hey, I know I don’t have any now, but it could happen!)

I am learning much, and sometimes it’s downright overwhelming. But it is worth it to be informed. I can’t help thinking of the good I’m doing my children by investigating the facts and making healthier choices. Long live the munchkins!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Day 51: Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fightin’…

…Those rabbits were fast as lightnin’!!

We went to my grandmother’s house this past weekend for a 24-hour visit, and we left the bunnies, Marsha Mallow and Graham Cracker, with Kasie for care, feeding and some quality kid-time with my niece and nephew. Kasie called Dom’s cell at about 2pm on Saturday.

“Um, the rabbits are fighting. Graham is attacking Marsha. Has this ever happened before?”

“HUH??? WHAT’S happening??? No, they don’t fight.”

“Uh, yeah, they do.”

Apparently, Graham got ticked at Marsha and the cage door was not completely closed, so Kasie suddenly heard this ruckus coming from the cage. The door sprung open and two floppy-eared furballs rolled out fighting! Kasie said fur was flying everywhere and they resembled a cartoon tussle, rolling one on top of the other until they had spanned the length of the hallway. It was enough to freak everyone out, so Kasie put Marsha in a pet carrier to get some peace from Graham. She sent me a text an hour or so later and said she had put them back together, and now they were asleep on top of each other.

Since we got home Saturday night, Dom and I have both been disturbed by the amount of times we have heard the cage rattling. It sounds like they’re about to bust outta there! When we go check on them, they freeze and stare up at us as if to say, “It wasn’t me!!!!” Then we turn our backs, and the tussle starts all over again. The only proof of discontent (aside from the noise) is the tufts of fur laying in the bottom of the cage.

Talk about getting their ears in a twist!

Originally, I thought they just needed a bigger cage – one where they could spread out and chill with each other. Perhaps a nice two-story bunny hutch? Given that I had read how they were such social critters, I figured they would naturally insist on being together. But my phone call to Critter Company yesterday taught me otherwise. Apparently, when rabbits start to reach maturity, they don’t like to be together, and will fight.


So, now healthier living spreads to the bunny rabbits. In the interest of inner peace Graham and Marsha shall henceforth be separated when it is cage time. They can play together each day when the kids let them out to roam their rooms. And, now, Aaron will be solely responsible for the care of Graham, and Vic will only have to worry about Marsha. I’ll be making two bunny care chore charts instead of one now, but it will be for the good of all involved.

Does EVERYONE have to learn these things the hard way, or is it just me?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Day 50: Can You Believe It’s Been Fifty Days???

If someone had told me a year ago – heck, even four months ago – that I would be making all these lifestyle changes and sharing my successes and non-successes in this mission on the Internet I would have said no freakin’ way. And yet, here I am. It’s funny how things work out, isn’t it?

In February I put myself on a “diet” with the goal of ousting the last pounds of baby fat, plus the extra pounds I found as my children grew. I had no idea that the discipline I inflicted on myself for that endeavor would come in so handy for this one. And I am constantly amazed at what I hear about other people’s experiences in the transition to a healthier lifestyle. I am thrilled beyond belief at the changes I see friends and family making on their own, and it tickles me to learn with them a few more ways to live just a little bit better. To all of you who have made a change in your lives – no matter how big or small – thank you for sharing them with me.

This transformation process is a challenge, to say the least. I am grateful for the not-so-exciting changes like cleaning the hairbrush and removing the junk from the passenger seat of my car each day. Those tasks give me a little more control over something simple, and the reward is instantaneous. The larger challenges, the desire to eat more organic foods for example, while totally worthwhile, are a tad more daunting. Where in all of Shreveport can I find organic rump roast and flank steak? For a price I can afford? And how much energy is reasonable to put into such a search?

I’ll offer just a brief rundown of the successes and near-misses that stand out the most for me:

SUCCESS: I actually found a natural (partially organic) sunless tanner. Voila!! Life is SO good! It’s by Lavera, it’s sold at Target, it’s $20, and it has so far lasted more than a month with only half the bottle empty right now.

NEAR-MISS: I have not gotten to talk to the Mary Kay people yet. They gave me a phone number to call. Keep wishing me luck.

SUCCESS: This weekend’s grocery run resulted in a totally natural and organic basket of goods, including an organic Strawberry Milk box for Aaron. He is on Cloud Nine.

NEAR-MISS: I am doing really well at driving the speed limit, but I occasionally still catch myself going 5 miles over.

SUCCESS: I have risen from the bed ON TIME EACH DAY since Day 1 when I renounced the snooze button and changed my evil ways!

NEAR-MISS: I am still a work-in-progress on the whole breakfast idea.

SUCCESS: One cup of coffee per day has not killed me.

NEAR-MISS: My organic eyeliner runs. I’m back to using the old one, and still on the hunt for a better product.

SUCCESS: I am learning to let myself off the hook for not completing my chores as promised. I am learning instead to be grateful for the extra time with my children as they insist on teaching me about Pokemon characters.

NEAR-MISS: My chemical-free vegetable-based hair color is way too dark. I should be happy that it gave me back my 19-year-old hair, but even at 19 I wanted lighter hair. However, even though it is not my preference, I do not look awful with my hair this dark, seeing as how God planned it that way and all.

SUCCESS: I make eye-contact with more individuals that I pass in stores, parking lots, etc. And I smile at them. Amazingly, they smile back and usually offer a greeting. People aren’t so darn bad after all. ;)

All in all, life is good, and this journey is worth it. Thanks for traveling along. :)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Day 49: Too Hot and Too Tired to Change Anything Today

Well, I got up earlier, but not to exercise. With only six hours of sleep last night, I'm finding it hard not to crash on my keyboard. At bedtime yesterday I went upstairs and cleaned my brush. Hunched over the bathroom sink until my back hurt, I scrubbed the brush under the hottest water I could stand. And ya know what? My brush is now B-E-A-Utiful!!! Amazing. Mom will be proud.

Next on the agenda is time management. With all these things that I want to change, it’s getting just a little daunting to keep it all in line and on time. Last night as I was kicking myself for not making it to the grocery store (again) and for still needing to wash two loads of clothes, and for the kitchen being a bit of a mess, I had to remember all that stood in my way throughout the day. Air conditioner problems top the list – when the outside is 102 degrees, and the inside hits 80, we’ve got problems! Then there was the moment of sheer joy when I drained the sink water where my basil had been washing, and suddenly found myself in a basil foot bath. The drain pipe had popped loose, so while I struggled to plug the drain to keep the other half of the water from flooding the floor, Dom wiggled under the sink and banged the pipe back into place. Add that project to the ToDo list. Then there’s Victoria, who spent the entire evening in a fit of tears because – well, who really knows why? It was just a rough ol’ day.

All in all, I had an incredibly busy and moderately productive day yesterday. But today I am tired. Tomorrow (YAY! Day 50!) I’ll recap the successes and failures of this project so far. Today, I’m just going to try to keep smiling, and hope I don’t fall asleep in the middle of any conversations.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Day 48: Balancing Act

I’m on my third re-write of this post because I keep busting myself on all my lame excuses. The gist of this issue is that I need to exercise. Strike that. I need to make exercise a priority. After 6 months of changing my eating habits to lose weight, I’m now the size I want to be. I’m just not the shape I want to be. Make sense? Okay, okay. Some parts just shouldn’t jiggle. There. I said it.

My mom has a saying: “Whenever I feel like exercising, I lay down until the urge passes.” I guess you could say I’ve been laying down a lot.

OK, so, no more excuses. No “I have to fold laundry,” or “the dog just puked,” or “I have to go harvest the overgrown basil.” The old standbys are out the window. Somehow, by hook or by crook, I will get 20 minutes of exercise in. Every day. The best way I can see to fit it in is to get up 20 minutes earlier. Waking up is hard enough; but waking up to exercise?!! Sheesh!!

I will need a lot of support on this one, folks, lest my yin overtakes my yang, and I lay there until the urge passes.

Day 47: Brush-a, Brush-a, Brush-a

There are some things about my life that I probably should not share. But, I figure that even though some of these changes are real no-brainers, even insignificant to most people, they are pretty huge in my average day. Take my hairbrush, for example. Yes, really.

Several years ago my mom happened to see my hairbrush, for whatever reason, and I vividly recall her reaction: “Oh my goodness, Lori, don’t you EVER clean your brush?!!!!”


I never really thought about it before, but apparently, my mom grew up cleaning her hairbrush on a regular basis. To this day her hairbrush looks as good as it did on the wall of the store. Let's just say mine does NOT look that good. I just always figured when the brush got too funky, then it was time to buy a new one.  To clarify, yes, I do pull excess hair from my brush when the mood strikes me. I just haven’t made it, you know, a habit.

Which is probably why the act of cleaning my round rolly-brush the other day was nothing short of IronMan training.

So, in the interest of healthier living, I’ll be cleaning my hairbrushes more regularly. I mean, it’s the least I can do, right?