Present over Shopping

Here’s a fact about me. I’m always on the hunt for something. I love to research, whether it be our next vacation, an updated leather jacket, or a new home. And all that researching usually amounts to absolutely nothing.

Most of the time, I can spend hours scrolling the internet, walking up and down aisles, or driving down neighborhood streets, and I don’t make a single decision. I’ve just wasted time.

I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction lately, though. Specifically, memoirs by authors like Glennon Doyle Melton and Shauna Niequist, two people with wonderful – albeit very different – writing styles. But the common denominator of both is this: As women we must learn to be fully present where we are, how we are created.

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Something I’ve realized through all this nonfiction therapy is that my researching is an addiction. An addiction wrapped in the guise of shopping, or planning, or bettering my family. Especially in the last few weeks, I’ve even felt the binge and purge as it’s happening. While looking for a new pair of boots online I spent hours and placed numerous shoes in my shopping cart (the binge). Then they just sat there without ever purchasing (the purge). I would wander into a store with the intention of finding a gift for someone else, and then I get this manic feeling, like I’m running out of time or someone is going to take everything away from me before I can get to it.

I need these things. I deserve to have this. This is what would complete my closet.

This is the binge. The purge is that I buy it and then return it the next day. Or I keep it but purge by vomiting my guilt out to my husband as I tally up what I’ve spent.

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But this is in no way limited to shopping for clothes. I binge looking at vacations rentals. I binge birthday party ideas for my children. I binge on researching what book I’ll read next. And sometimes I either forget to purge, or think I can handle all this consumption. This is when I become sick.

When I become sick, the binging no longer works. I can tell I’m spending too much time looking up information or cities or black jeans because I’m doing it while nursing my son, or feeding breakfast to the kids. I feel a thrill when I begin a new hunt, and then get an anxious feeling moments later; a nauseous feeling like I’m doing something I shouldn’t be.

That nausea is the holy spirit, gently guiding me back to the present. I have to learn to be in the here and now – not planning the future, or my wardrobe. The spirit has me lay down my phone and look into the eyes of my baby. The spirit asks me to enjoy my coffee while the children giggle about milk mustaches and jelly kisses. The spirit guides me to meditation instead of spending nap times searching for the perfect Halloween costumes.

Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is Freedom.

That nausea is my invitation to a better way. It’s a wake-up call to get out of my head and back to what makes me truly come alive.

Today I’ve come up with a new plan for my life. When I find myself slipping into research mode – whether that be shopping for kids costumes or vacation homes – I will either read or write. If the children are present, I can either read to them, or we can play a game.

There’s no room in my life right now for anything other than today.

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What I’m Reading Now

With spring comes Spring Break, that lovely week involving vacations and ample time for new books. Right now I’m rotating between a few, multi-tasking novels with baby planning books. I love being able to go from toddler discipline strategies straight to the Scottish highlands. It makes for a great mental break, as well!

  1. Outlander Book 7: A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon – I’ve been fully ingrained in this series since last summer, when I began reading right before Starz debuted season one of the TV adaptation. Gabaldon has a way of taking the reader straight to Scotland with her skillful use of Scottish brogue and character/scenic descriptions. There’s history, romance, wonderfully crafted characters, and superb writing. I’ve even convinced my husband to start reading them.
  2. Lisette’s List by Susan Vreeland – My mother-in-law gave me this book because of my love for all things French. I had already read a few of the author’s other books, which include Luncheon of the Boating Party and Girl in Hyacinth Blue. Although I’m only about an 1/8 of the way through the story, this one seems to be just as carefully written as her others. Vreeland’s specialty is obviously historical fiction dealing with French art. Lisette’s List focuses on Pisarro and Cezanne.
  3. Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman – Another francophile book, this is my second foray into the world of French child-rearing, and I’m getting more out of it than before. One reason is that I had underlined many of the passages my first time around. Another is certainly that Druckerman has an entire section of the book devoted to discipline for toddlers, something that I was less focused on when preparing for my first child. Now I’m underlining and highlighting at the same time.
  4. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – I’m currently listening to this on Audible when in the car. Woolf’s To the Lighthouse is one of my favorites; I love the modernist method of free associative thinking that she employs in her writing. Mrs. Dalloway seems to be similar in writing style thus far, although I’m only a few chapters in.

What are you reading right now? I’m quickly going through these and would love other recommendations, especially when it comes to great literature and babies!

One Month of Simplicity

Simplifying my life hasn’t been as simple as I had hoped.

For starters, Griffin is a 14 month old. Although many clothes have been packed into boxes and stored, replacements have had to be purchased. I just couldn’t allow for him to wear high-waters – not just as a fashion faux pax but for the practical reality of cold temperatures on bare skin. We also went ahead and purchased some springtime things for him since we’ll be traveling to warmer climates in the next month.

There is also the not-so-small issue of my migraines. I’ve gotten a few new pillows to try out, hoping that one of them will help me to sleep better and eventually get better. No such luck so far. I guess in that regard it was a wash, because the new pillows will be sent back.

However, I can honestly say I haven’t gotten anything new for myself this month other than the headache accessories! And while that may seem like a trivial statement, it feels like a fairly large accomplishment to me. I really hope that the first month was just a training period, and February will be even better.

The more I think about this project, the more passionate I become about it. I want to clean out my closets, my drawers, the dusty back corners of each room. I would love to see some bare space – space that represents a step away from the main stream and a step in the right direction. Against the grain.

Consumption.

Why do we spend our money – 0ur hard earned money – on all this meaningless stuff? Stuff that will mean even less a year from now…perhaps even a month from now.

SatisfiedGrad school and its accompanying reading load leaves me little time for personal reading. Because of that, I’ve only been able to make it through one chapter of Jeff Manion’s Satisfied – Discovering Contentment in a World of Consumption. But that one chapter is dog-eared, underlined, and has frequent notes scribbled illegibly in the margins. I’ll leave you with just one:

Contentment is the cultivation of a satisfied heart. It is the discipline of being fully alive to God and to others whatever our material circumstances. Contentment is not achieved through getting everything we want but by training the heart to experience full joy and deep peace even when we don’t have what we want.

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Image“A portrait of my child, once a week, every week in 2014”

A look back at just one moment of our holiday travel.

Griffin: You can’t know how magical it was to introduce you to the characters that have been a part of your daily reading routine since birth. You are certainly a child who loves books – loves the wonder of flipping through pages and discovering who and what lies on the other side.  And sometimes, the pages of those books can come to life, which we got to witness you discover for yourself. This was the very reason your father and I planned this first trip of many to Orlando during the busiest time of the year. I want you to know that with a little imagination and a lot of faith, magic really can exist for you.

I am no photographer. Most of my photos are straight from my phone – a fact that I am not very proud of. And while my beautiful, shiny DSLR sits perched on a table in the living room just waiting to be lovingly scuffed up and battered with use, I often find myself taking quick snapshots with the iPhone anyway. Perhaps it’s because life happens quicker than the time it takes to jump up and leave the action. This is my reason for participating in the 52 Project this year. I hope to capture life’s little moments – for myself as a reference in the years to come, and for Griffin as a look back at the very beginnings of his world.

They Gave My Son…Cheerios

CheeriosGoing to church has been a challenge for us since Griffin was born. He is a child who loves his schedule, and that schedule includes a nap from 10am-11am. Since church starts at 11, that leaves me driving separately and lugging baby to his Sunday school class almost an hour after the other children have arrived. Which means we haven’t gone that often.

When we do go, it seems there’s always some type of challenge, but the main problem I’ve been having is in terms of food. I know I’m in the teeny, tiny minority when it comes to feeding my baby. He doesn’t get sugar, grains, or anything inorganic. And although I used to allow the nursery volunteers to feed Griffin food I brought from home, I quickly stopped that after hearing one discussing another baby in the class.

“He seemed hungry after I fed him everything his mother brought, so I gave him some cheerios.”

After my moment of panic, I relaxed. I would just tell them not to feed him anything, and I could do it myself after church. Problem solved. I also wrote it down on the sign-in sheet and underlined it for good measure.

But even after all that, when Jeremy went to the nursery after church to pick Griffin up today, he asked the volunteer how he handled everything.

“Oh, he was fussy at the beginning, but I just gave him a few cheerios and he seemed better.”

This is the point in which my husband freaks out and eventually goes in search of the Children’s Ministry director. Luckily, the volunteer (frantically) assured him that she only offered a few Cheerios, and Griffin would only take the first one. After that, he wasn’t interested. That’s right, he knew it wasn’t real food and wanted no part of it! I was a proud momma.

Unfortunately, even though the director assured Jeremy that this wouldn’t happen again, I’m sure everyone involved was thinking that we were simply Nazi parents. They’re just Cheerios, after all. Practically a right of childhood.

But that’s where I want to sit them down and share my viewpoint. It’s not JUST a Cheerio. It’s a genetically modified, ultra-processed grain. My son has never had anything remotely like that in his life. Not only would he not know what to do with something that texture and could potentially choke on it, but he might have an allergic reaction. It’s my job as his mother to introduce new foods to him.

Why is it that parents follow certain “rules” to the letter? Whattoexpect.com gives a long list of foods to never give babies under 12 months. Can you imagine if some stranger offered your kid honey or peanuts? Wouldn’t you have a minor heart attack and be looking for signs of an allergic reaction the rest of the day?

This is how I feel about grains. And for good reason, although as I’ve already stated, I’m in the minority where this is concerned.

Babies are functionally grain intolerant – their small bodies aren’t ready to digest grains. This is because until about three years of age, they don’t have a complete set of carbohydrate enzymes that can break them down. Especially where GMO, processed foods are concerned, grains at that age can lead to allergies, asthma ADHD, and even autism. Experts from the National Institute of Environmental Health also report that even very low toxic exposure in early life is a factor in a variety of behavioral problems and autoimmune conditions.

From Super Nutrition for Babies:

Cereals (like Cheerios) are

Chemical – Due to the processing they endure, cereals are sources of toxins, created via a high-heat process called extrusion, which denatures proteins, turning them into neurotoxins. Whole grains are even worse, as they contain more protein. Due to high heat during processing, cereals also contain more than 500 times the safe limit of a class 2A toxin: acrylamides. This toxin causes cancer and has a variety of other toxic effects in human and animal studies.

Sugar Loaded

Grains

    • Hard to Digest – At this age, your baby is barely making starch-digesting enzymes. Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, oats, and most cereals, is particularly hard to digest. Undigested proteins increase your child’s risk of developing gluten intolerance and allergies. (Considering I am gluten intolerant, this increases Griffin’s odds even more).
    • Lead to Autoimmune Disease – Early gluten introduction has been shown to play a role in the development of Celiac disease, as well as other autoimmune disorders. As the incidence of Celiac disease (and other autoimmune disorders) is on a steep rise, some experts postulate that this increase might be directly related to early and excessive gluten-containing diets, including an increasing reliance on grain foods for babies.

Addictive – A special enzyme (called DPP-4) is needed to digest gluten. Since babies don’t yet have this gluten-busting enzyme, the gluten can get “stuck” in a partially digested form. Called gluteomorphin, this partially digested protein acts similar to other opiates – opium, morphine, and heroin – clouding and fogging the brain, hindering development and perception, and altering behavior. Since gluteomorphins are just as addicting as other opiate drugs, your baby can get physically hooked on cereal and wheat.

Processed

So, with all that said, do I think all these issues are going to happen to Griffin because of ONE Cheerio? No, of course not. He didn’t have a reaction to the tiny amount he had (and you can bet I was looking closely).

But I don’t know that I can trust that he won’t be given more in the future, either. And that’s a shame. In our culture, babies are given food for everything – celebrations, boredom, and in Griffin’s case, when they are upset. Kids usually get 2-3 snacks a day, not to mention constant grazing. But I don’t carry around snacks for him, and I don’t want strangers feeding him, either. It really makes me sad that as a parent, my requests aren’t listened to. Having childcare at church is a huge blessing, but if I don’t feel safe (or feel that my child is safe in any way), I have difficulty bringing him again and again.

What would you do in my situation? I’m really torn right now. Any comments at all are welcome!!

A Nursery to Inspire the Love of Reading

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More than a year before Griffin was born, I started a board on Pinterest with all the things I found and loved. Sometimes they would be completely random, but more often than not the things that inspired me were of a storybook nature.

nursery13Jeremy and I thought about what Griffin’s room should be like – a peaceful place to sleep, an imaginative space in which to play, and a soothing environment for all of the times we would sit in the chair to feed him.

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Nursery12When we looked over the list we’d compiled, it didn’t take long to realize that the room should be centered around what makes us feel all of those things – books.

Our house is made up of books. Pages and bindings fill as many cracks as we can stuff them into. Stories line our walls, cocooning us in a world of words.

And now they do that for Griffin.

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Of all the children’s stories we knew, the one’s we loved most seemed to be classic British children’s literature. From Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan, to Narnia and Harry Potter, Griffin’s room is a creative mix of different worlds and lands that were founded by their authors in the UK.

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When entering his room, a signpost guides the way, telling what wonderful worlds await. A ship lights the way, always pointing towards the second star to the right. The Hundred Acre Wood  and Neverland make prominent appearances, but slight nods to the world of Harry Potter can be found, as in the snowy owl perched atop the crib.

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Wonderland, Narnia, The Shire, Neverland – these are the elements we used when creating a place Griffin where can grow and learn.

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Many of the items in the room came from Etsy – I love the handmade prints and decor you can find from creative people all over the United States. Restoration Hardware provided most of the furniture, and the ship was actually a clearance find on Pottery Barn. It was originally detailed with pink beads, but a short trip to a local bead store fixed that right up!

This is a room Griffin will hopefully grow into. The bed may change, but certain elements of this room will stay the same as he develops from baby to little boy.

It’s the Wonders I’m After

Three weeks into my class this semester, and I am already feeling hopelessly behind. Not because of the workload my professor has placed on me, though. It’s completely my fault. I simply want to read everything ever written on the subject.

The class is a Folklore and Fairy Tale Survey. As soon as I read the first book, I knew I was done for. Now, after meeting privately with the professor and discussing where I would like to see this class take me, I’ve purchased everything I can find on the subject. Amazon boxes are being shipped to my house in twos and threes each day. I truly cannot get enough – so much so, that I am seriously contemplating a doctorate in this particular field.

Chapter 1There is something about folklore that resonates with me. Perhaps the stories are in my blood, passed down from generation to generation and still echoing as I read them from a book. My ancestors most likely sat around a fire, telling each other these exact same stories. Who am I not to give them the respect they deserve? They will most certainly outlive me.

FairylandAs for the class, we are also reading some modern day fairy tales – current books written for adolescents with a modern day twist. The Sisters Grimm is a great example, with girl detectives as the protagonists. Currently I am tearing through the pages of Catherynne Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In a Ship of Her Own Making. A lengthy title, yes, but a deep read, as well. When first opening the cover I had no idea that I would be rereading certain passages just to take in their full meaning:

There must be blood, the girl thought. There must always be blood….It will be hard and bloody, but there will be wonders, too, or else why bring me here at all? And it’s the wonders I’m after, even if I have to bleed for them.

I had to put the book down at this point last night. That passage rocked me to sleep and gave me dreams of the wonders I’m after in my own life. Parenthood is one of those wonders, certainly. And there is blood on a daily basis. My heart bleeds as I love more fiercely than I thought possible. It gets ripped in two when my little boy hurts from bumping his head. I bleed and constantly take a beating, but all the good things in life will cause this.

Fairyland2To live a life that full of passion, people will inevitably wonder what form of crazy you may have. Why you would choose to bleed for a cause, a lifestyle, or a goal most wouldn’t ever think of attaining. That’s what motherhood has been like thus far. That’s what Christianity is supposed to be like, as well.

I am far from where I need to be in either of these aspects of my life, but it’s the wonders I’m after, so I’ll keep striving and fighting.

I have a feeling this course is going to change my path. Perhaps it will lead me to that doctorate. Maybe it will only allow me to see things with fresh eyes. Either way, I am so thankful to be allowed to take this journey, no matter how hard and bloody.

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