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The sound of imagination in action

 

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I once read that if you could listen in on playground talk at an elementary school you would note a distinct difference between the boys and the girls.  The girls converse with words and dialog, but the boys’ conversations are made up of noises, and sound effects and I suppose words….as necessary.

As a mother of an “active” 5-year-old, I often find myself tempted to tone down his “boy-ness.”  “Stop running.”  “Don’t throw that!”  “Is there a reason why you can’t sit through dinner?”  “Do you need to jump up and down while you talk to me?”  There is a fine line between teaching right behavior and just letting boys be boys that I have not mastered.

But the other day I happened upon Sawyer so engrossed in play with his monster trucks that he barely even noticed my camera.  It was pure joy to watch him at play.  I don’t know exactly what was going through his mind, but I am sure that in the land of his imagination what he was doing was as exciting—if not more incredible–as a real monster truck rally.

God, in his mercy, gives me these moments to help keep me sane and to remind me of how wonderful my kids really are.

Sometimes my house is just….well, gross!

I am in awe of those who keep an immaculate home–I will never be one of those people.  It is just one of those things that try as I might just doesn’t totally mesh with my personality.  Perhaps because there are about a million things I would rather be doing besides cleaning, it seems like I am always cleaning.  I am just always aware of the time I am spending on something I would rather not be doing.  That being said, I like living in an organized, non-gross environment so I keep working at this seemingly hopeless goal of a clean home.

I have a daily routine where I pick up the clutter, make the beds, and clean the kitchen.  After that I usually try to tackle one weekly chore such as vacuuming or cleaning the bathroom.  Of course, there is ALWAYS laundry and about once a month I feel caught up with that for about five minutes.  But there always seem to be things I never get to and then one day I realize how long it has been since something has been cleaned when I see the complete grossness before my eyes.

I had that moment this morning when I put my hand on the back of my stove top–the part where all the knobs are.  It was covered in this sticky, greasy film.  I then realized that my back splash and microwave were also covered in this film.  This prompted me to take a closer look at the rest of my stove top and I dared myself to lift that lid on my electric range and check out the hidden nastiness lurking underneath.  Wow!  Super Gross!

As embarrassed as I am that I have that kind of nastiness going unnoticed in my home, there is something more satisfying about cleaning something that is actually really dirty than something that could go a couple more weeks before anyone noticed it needed to be cleaned.  (There is another insight into why my house will never be spotless!)

I started spraying in an effort to dissolve at least the top layer of filth and then I started scrubbing.  I had to rinse out my sponge numerous times just so I wouldn’t just keep spreading the dinginess around.  Lucky for me, Maddie took a decent nap this morning so I was able to clean the microwave, the backsplash, and the stove top without interruption.  I even cleaned my utensil caddy–that alone took 10 minutes of scrubbing with bar tenders friend cleaner because it had that sticky film on it too.

I had to run to the store to buy brand new bowl things for under my burners because after doing all that scrubbing I couldn’t bear to put my old ones back on there.  They are beyond hope of ever being clean again.  I tried cleaning them about a year ago and the burnt stuff didn’t budge. But being cheap, I have lived with those nasty things for a year!   Chris did mention about a week ago that they were pretty nasty, so that with the shiny clean stove finally motivated me to fork over the $16 for new burner bowls.

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All this got me thinking that I should make a weekly top five list of the grossest areas of my house and then try to clean those things along with my weekly chores.  Always an overachiever, my list started as a top 10 before I realized there was no way I could keep up that pace!  So five for now.

Here are my top five—the work from today not included.

  1. The inside of my oven
  2. The door to the playroom and the back yard
  3. The inside of my dishwasher—well the outside too if you really want to know
  4. The walls in my kitchen
  5. The front of my kitchen cabinets

OK–so one week, five gross jobs.  I am choosing to focus on the kitchen before working on the rest of the house.  Hopefully at some point, I can get past gross and move on to the areas that are just annoying and disorganized or the projects that I procrastinate, but for now I am tackling the gross.  Because let’s be honest, I would rather be disorganized and a procrastinator than just plain gross.

I plan to take before an after shots so you can feel better about yourselves and your much cleaner homes.

Not the Sunday Morning I had planned!

My husband left Friday for Haiti and will be gone for eight days.  For most of the week it’s just me and the three kids.  My sister is here visiting but she was still sleeping when my morning started.

At 6:43, Sawyer yelps from his room and I hear the patter of feet and a voice beside my bed informing me that he has wet the bed.  I have to get up at 7:00 anyway so no big deal.  I ask him to change out of his wet stuff and put on new, but darn that daylight savings–its still dark!  He is tall enough to reach light switches, but for some insane reason the light in our bathroom is about five feet high.  He’ll be 10 before he can turn that light on by himself!  It’s also hot here and I have the ceiling fans on so the light to his room doesn’t work without pulling the cord on the ceiling.   That leaves the hallway.  The moment he turns the light on, I know I am doomed!  I hear Madelyn start to stir in her bassinet because the light is in her eyes.  If she wakes up, I will have to nurse and breakfast isn’t started.

Meanwhile, Sawyer begins to whine about having to touch the pee clothes.  By this time, Madelyn is definitely awake and I hurry out of the bedroom to feed her before Lucy wakes up–she was in my bed–I have no idea why!

I start to feed Madelyn and of course Sawyer needs something and I am pretty much stuck in the chair until I am done nursing.  He is not persuaded to drop the subject and keeps nagging me until Lucy wakes up.  She is CRABBY when she wakes up before she is ready.  She gets out of bed and starts crying, but she won’t tell me what’s wrong and I can’t convince her to come to me.  So she is just standing in the hallway sobbing at the top of her lungs.  After a serious line of questioning with no coherent answer, it finally dawns on me that she probably peed herself.   She says no, but after finally convincing her to come to me, I feel her pants and they are soaking wet.  Not even 7:15 and there are pee clothes all over my house!

Being two and a little fashionista, Lucy picks out the outfit she plans to wear for the day—but it’s Sunday, and I need to have a little say in the matter because she is not going to church in those faded rainbow polka dot pants!  We argue for several minutes and over at least three outfits before she is finally dressed.  Time is ticking away and breakfast is not started.  Baked oatmeal takes exactly 5 minutes to prepare and 22 minutes to cook and at this point all three of my kids are crying or whining!

I then realize I am out of applesauce and need to improvise the recipe.  I decide to make up a recipe for peanut butter oatmeal on the fly, but have to go downstairs to find a new jar of peanut butter.  I leave the screaming cries of “Mommy, hold me” and “Mommy, I have to tell you something.” and dash to the pantry downstairs where I in a hushed, but emphatic voice shout–“Just SHUT UP!!!!!!” and hope they can’t hear me use the “S” word.  This relieves enough stress for me to get breakfast in the oven and get two of the three kids ready for church.

I finally hop in the shower fifteen minutes later than I planned and get myself ready for church.  Five minutes before leaving for church, I realize Madelyn is still in her pajamas and wet diaper—oops, I have three kids now!  Luckily my sister is here visiting or this may have started my personal meltdown.  But she got the older two out the door and buckled in car seats while I got Maddie ready.

We made it to church and weren’t even the last ones to show up!  Not the Sunday morning I had planned.  I know church-goers often joke about the hectic pace of Sunday mornings and about how it seems the Devil will do just about anything to destroy your ability to come to church ready to worship.   The chaos is worth the fellowship though, and I was truly blessed at worship today which focused on ending Modern Day Slavery and by the kindness of friends at church who know my husband is gone and offered very practical help–a meal and a play date.

Here is the recipe for the Peanut Butter Baked Oatmeal which was delicious and satisfyingly filling!

1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk)

1 egg

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup peanut butter (I used half almond butter and half natural peanut butter)

1-2 tsp vanilla (I didn’t measure)

2 cups old fashioned oats

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

a pinch of cinnamon

1/4 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350, spray 8×8 pan with cooking spray, and bake for 22 minutes–give or take if your oven cooks differently than mine.

Modern Day Slavery- Can I afford not to be convicted?

Before I was a mom, I used to marvel at how my mom-friends were so clueless about what was happening in the world and quite frankly I was pretty judgmental about how their talk seemed to center only on their children and their bodily functions and other accomplishments.  Of course now that I am a mom, I am TOTALLY guilty of telling poop stories at socially inappropriate times.  But worse I have to admit how easy it is to forget about life outside my family because the demands of every day life seem to suck up all brain activity.  I need other people to remind me of how I can care for my family and others too!

This Sunday was Freedom Sunday at my church.  We have been learning about how we can become involved in ending modern day slavery.  Our speaker, Kevin Austin, called for action from the Christian community in the work to end modern day slavery.   Kevin actually came to speak in chapel at the college where my husband works last year and stayed in our home, but I was unable to hear him speak and during our informal interactions I found myself unable to speak intelligently not only on the topic of slavery but also on what my response to slavery should be.  It was a privilege to hear his presentation today, and I feel both overwhelmed and moved by what I learned.

One of the most practical tools Kevin spoke about was a website called free2work.org which evaluates industries, specific products and companies in four categories that measure their involvement in perpetuating modern day slavery.  Their website and app, help train clueless people like me to become conscious consumers so that my chocolate habit doesn’t unwittingly enslave some five-year-old little girl.

After perusing the website, I honestly feel more overwhelmed than hopeful.  Very few companies that I have heard of score high.   Take children’s clothing for instance,  we shop where we can find the best deals.  But to my horror,nearly every children’s clothing line on the list that I recognized received a low score, except Old Navy which received a B.  Way to go Old Navy and Gap people!  But here is a listing of the failures–That’s an F people–Carters, Genuine Kids, Just One Year, OshKosh B’Gosh, and Child of Mine.  Faded Glory received a D+ and Disney received a C-.   The Children’s Place, which we shop often, was not rated.   How achingly ironic that keeping my kids clothed, keeps other kids in bondage.

And to think, I almost spent $40 at Carters just yesterday, but didn’t because I forgot my coupon!  But here’s the problem, if there are so many bad choices available where do we shop?  I understand that my demand for cheap clothes contributes to the problem,, but these companies should be kept accountable as well.

Am I really ready to kick my chocolate addiction?  I ate two handfuls of chocolate chips on the same day I heard that 70% of the world’s chocolate comes from slave labor.  worse, I told myself it was ok because I already bought it and I wouldn’t want to waste it.

I fear not being able to afford becoming a conscious consumer, but can I really afford not to be convicted about modern day slavery?   There is a lot to think about and I’m not sure how today will change me for the long haul, but I want to be a part of changing the way people are treated.  I want to stand up for the rights of those who have no voice.  That’s something I care about–it should be more important than chocolate or a great sale.

Too busy to be me!

I often get carried away with a new project or a new idea into a world of possibilities that keeps me entertained and distracted for days or even weeks until I take some sort of action to make my idea a reality.  Of course most of my ideas require boundless energy and time to actually carry to fruition, but I optimistically plunge forward with success as my goal.

I’m not a consistent list maker—my lists get too long!
I’m not super organized—but I spend more time than most people trying to be!
I’m not good at everything and truthfully I don’t even try to be.  But I have a lot of things I would like to be better at and I’m always running out of time to actually be skilled at anything!
I love learning.  I devour new ideas, chew on them, and find ways to integrate “newness” or inspiration into my life.

I have a brain that won’t turn off.  Some days I long for a more simple personality that would more easily focus on a few important things, but then I get some random idea and off I go into imagination land.  The end result–I’m too busy to be me and I end up living life between the me I want to be and the me I actually have time for.  Leah one the edge of sanity, contentment, tears, laughter….it really depends on the day.

The Fear of Eating Healthy

Over the past decade I have made numerous changes to my diet to include healthier choices, some have been easy and some have seemed torturous at the time.  Almost all the major changes have been accompanied by a twinge of fear or at least hesitation.  Fear of what, you may ask—Well, as you become more conscious of your food choices and more aware that a truly healthy diet means leaving behind a lot of familiarity and relearning many of the skills associated with eating this can be quite intimidating!  Healthy eating is in many ways an emotional choice as much as it is based on factual knowledge of eating the “right” foods.

I have found it empowering to reflect on my fears and articulate them.  I’d like to tackle one fear at a time in a series of posts beginning with today’s fear:

Fear of trying new foods and trying to get your family to try new foods.

I am a pretty adventurous eater, but I am cheap.  I often hesitate to purchase a new food because I don’t want it to go to waste if I can’t stomach it!  I like to be sure I am going to like something before spending my hard earned cash!  So, I will often ponder trying new foods for months before actually purchasing something.  I have even visited foods at the store several times before committing to the purchase.  Funny, I know, but true nonetheless.

Like I said, I am compelled to try things because of the adventure of trying new things—my husband does not share these feelings.  I can totally understand his perspective though.  I am in control of the food I eat because I go to the store and buy it and then cook it.  In many ways, he isn’t.  He gets home from work and eats whatever I made him.  I can imagine that from time to time this puts him into shock.  For example, I went to the dentist yesterday and we were talking about green smoothies–I have yet to try one, but now I’m intrigued.  My husband has no idea that he is going to get one of these one day when I finally work up the nerve to put spinach in my blender!

I think it is easier to make big changes in your diet when you are making the choice for yourself.  When I make a change in my diet it is out of conviction based on solid research and a passion for making a better choice.  Having that sense of control is important if any change is going to be longterm—especially if the taste isn’t immediately amazing!

If you really want to make better food choices, you will need to look at this change as an adventure and not as torture.  For me, the adventure begins way before tasting a new food.  It begins when you learn about why something is healthy and how God created it to sustain you.  It begins when you take control of the change in your eating and you become free to grow and change as a person.

All this talk about adventure doesn’t mean you won’t be discouraged when your family or friends try your new concoctions.  Don’t lose heart when they whine and complain about your latest dinner experiment.  Keep trying, you may be surprised to hit a home run or two when you introduce new foods on a regular basis.

Darya over at Summer Tomato has an interesting article on convincing your family to eat healthy food.  She suggests that you have to convince naysayers with the way you describe the food and show your excitement for what you are serving.  I agree!  This definitely works when I know I have a winner on my hands, the trouble for me comes when I’m not so sure about the food myself.  Hard to sell to someone else when I’m still convincing myself!

I have found that trying new foods based on the recommendations of friends and family as well as trusted blogs and other recipe sites that have a rating system has greatly improved my success rate with cooking and eating unfamiliar foods.  There is something reassuring about knowing that someone you trust has eaten something and not only survived but enjoyed it enough to tell you about it.

Getting tips on how to prepare new foods correctly is also critical.  If you don’t make it right, it won’t taste right!  Find detailed instructions that answer your questions and reassure you that you are on the right track.  I like to look for sites that tell me the good and the bad, so my expectations are more realistic.

Here’s a sneak peak at some of my other fears related to eating healthy.  I’ll cover fear of being a food snob in my next post.

  • Fear of being a food snob.
  • Fear of making others feel uncomfortable because of your restrictive diet.
  • Fear of looking or feeling stupid because you are clueless about what to buy or how to shop at the health food store.
  • Fear of being judged by where you are on your eating journey by those further along or more extreme in their healthy lifestyle.
  • Fear of leaving the familiar, having to learn to cook differently, enjoy social settings differently, and even spend your money differently.

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up- Today’s Garden Adventure

I have wanted to have a garden for a long time, but we have only had a house with a yard for the last couple of years and our yard has a lot of shade, so it has taken me a while to figure out where I can plant things so they get enough sunshine.

I love the idea of gardening, we had a garden growing up and I weeded it laboriously for years, but I have never planned a garden or been responsible for planting, growing, etc.  I have started a few herb gardens from seeds, but they seem to dry up and die on me shortly after sprouting.

The bottom line….I may be better at killing things than growing things, but nevertheless I am determined to have a reasonably sized patio garden this summer.

Today’s gardening task was to simply go out to the transfer station and get some dirt to fill some containers.  It should have taken about 10-15 minutes tops.  Instead, here is what happened.

I drove to the transfer station with my two kids safely buckled in their car seats…so far, so good.  I drove around looking for this elusive dirt with a sinking feeling that I had no idea where to go….how can it be hard to find dirt?  I find what I think to be a good pile and set about my task.

I get on my gloves and get out of the van and go around to open the hatch to get my shovel and bucket.  It’s locked…so I head back to unlock it.  The van is locked, the kids are inside, and the car is running.  Have you ever tried to convince a 3-year-old to get out of his carseat to unlock a door?  It’s a REALLY windy day in Kansas and I am outside next to piles of yard waste and dirt.  Phone is in the van, keys are in the van, kids are in the van, shovel is in the van, bucket is in the van…you get the point.

Embarrassed, I see a fellow yard worker and ask to borrow his cell phone so my husband can come bail me out of my predicament.  Grrrr……Husband comes and lets  me in the van.  My son has peed himself cause he was stuck in the van.  Oh well.  I start to get to work and realize the pile I thought was dirt is really mulch….really Leah….are you that dense!  YUP!

I finally find a dirt pile that’s kind of hard to get to and start digging.  Then the guy running the wood chipper came over and told me I was using the wrong dirt and pointed me to the compost pile.  great…now more witnesses of my idiocy.

So, I drive over to the compost pile and start digging…again.  On my second trip my bucket literally blows away and I have to chase it into a field.  I manage to get my dirt and head for home.  I must have been muttering because my son keeps saying…”This is terrible….we’re having a terrible time.”  I gotta learn that three year olds repeat EVERYTHING!

Anyway, my garden adventure may prove that Kitchy Mama should stick to familiar territory and keep cooking, but I’m not giving up yet.  I’ll keep you posted.