Saturday, June 8, 2013

A walk in the woods

 These days the only alone time I get is a once a week grocery shopping trip. This morning I woke up with an idea that I would go to a nearby county park and spend the afternoon hiking and reading - alone. Now, it's not that I don't enjoy family time or chats with girlfriends, but as an introvert  my quiet/alone time tank needs to be filled more often than most. A look at our calendar would tell you that there won't be much time for that in the next few weeks- I knew that in order to weather the busyness with patience and strength I had to grab my opportunity to fill up.

After stopping by Mission 1217 for a frappacino (thank you, Lauren), and a quick pit stop to grab some skeeter spray, I drove out to Deerfield Nature Park.

I started off on what I thought was Wildwood Pathway (2.54 miles), enjoying the scenic route by the river, until I realized that I had walked onto the Boy Scouts of America's camp property. I promptly turned around and re-found the actual Wildwood Pathway. I  continued on walking at my own pace- what a joy to not be paced by a 6 year old or having to drag along the 4 year old. I almost forgot about what is actually there to see on the forest floor. My senses were at work taking it all in; a wide variety of fungus (reminder: I need to get a field guide to inform my curiosity), dragonflies zipping about, a few wildflowers that I surprised myself by identifying, two snakes, countless moths and butterflies and about a gazillion hungry Michigan mosquito's out ready to suck my blood.

The trails were nearly empty, a fact that bewildered me due to the weather which could not have been  more ideal. It was in the mid 70's with a light breeze and a good cloud cover.

I sauntered around until coming to the end of the trail. I inspected the overnight sites, and then continued towards the covered bridge via the River Loop (1.47 miles). The approach to the bridge was somewhat enchanted thanks to the overabundance of cottonwood. It looked as though a plow had been through the white fluff, pushing it to the outer edges of the trail, accumulating in such a way to make the grass an after thought. I crossed the bridge and descended to the river's edge, finding a seat upon a concrete ledge. I opened  the book I had brought and before I could read 3 pages I was covered in ants. Of the red variety. I quickly did the hokey poky and shook them off, gathered my things and crossed the bridge again. I eventually found a seat near a well that flowed to the river. I finished an amusing chapter, giggling out loud often, and then took my time back to the parking lot.

Deerfield is a great afternoon destination, an easy hike we've often taken the kids on (most trails also accommodate strollers well). There are many picnic and outlook spots, even a grill near the covered bridge, if you'd like to carry your things that far.  A recreation area is on the northeast side of the park and offers a disc golf course, fishing spots, pavilions and a beach area.

It was wonderful to walk alone with only my thoughts for a few hours admiring the work of the Creator. My soul could use more days like today.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

April Goals

I'm going to start listing my monthly goals here to keep track of them and to also keep me accountable.

1. Make kids summer clothes. A few shorts and shorts for each, a dress for Willow.

2. Do yoga and run once a week each.

3. Finish Cedar's sweater.

4. Decide on and plan summer vacation. To chicago?

5. Go on one nice day hike as a family or perhaps alone?

6. Put house on the market and do what is neccesarry to start the process for our next living arrangments.

It's going to be a busy month!

I can see clearly now . . .

This week has taught me one thing: why middle aged mothers are pudgy. I blame the husbands and children. Yep, it's all their fault. Well, maybe the chocolate I have stashed accounts for a portion, but still . . . It's a sequence that goes like this:

- You get pregnant with your first child, husband is worried sick about you miscarrying (again) so he discourages you from basically any physical activity other than getting in and out of the car by yourself.
- Your precious new little one doesn't sleep. At all. Like, seriously,  at all. No naps. Not at night. And your husband doesn't get up at night to help because he "doesn't hear her".
- After you've learned how to cope with extreme sleep deprivation you start to work out again, basically because you need some time to yourself and also because you want to prove to your husband that no, you don't do 'nothing' all day as a stay at home mom.
- Then, BAM!, you're pregnant again. You miscarry the baby, get depressed, stop eating anything good for you, stop working out, and starting baking a ton.
- Happily, you soon get another bun in the oven.
-You give birth to the little guy, lose the wait, get back in shape, and then find out that you can't eat gluten.
- Depressed because you can't eat a donut, you devour a ridiculous amount of starchy substitutes.
- Life goes on. You think you've got a handle on this and refuse to ever be 'that middle aged mom'. You know, the jaded one with the short hair and the pooch.
- A few miscarriages and years later you make it through another pregnancy and give birth to a giganto baby that nearly rips your 100 lb frame apart.
- You endure a summer of a broken stroller and pubic symphisis and a prolapsed bladder and a screwed up back that makes you feel like you are 80. You get new running shoes for your birthday thanks to your awesome hubby, after using them a few times, the pain is excruciating and  not worth it to put some miles in.
- Fall comes and you've still got a squishy tummy. Winter comes and it gets worse. Spring comes and you have ambition to get out their and get in shape.
- You and your hubby plan out which days you get to run and which ones he gets to run. Between his work schedule, his freelancing work, and his race training, there is no free time for you to run. Except for maybe 9 o'clock at night, which doesn't work because after being up the whole night before nursing and rocking your youngest who still screams through the night, and homeschooling and dealing with kids all day, then cooking/cleaning up supper, and  finally holding and caring for baby while husband draws, watches shows, or runs; when the baby finally falls asleep around 9 or 10 all you want to do is actually take a shower by yourself uninterrupted or go to sleep.
- Your hubby buys the kids a trampoline. You think it'll be a great way for you to have fun with the kids and get some cardio in. You excitedly jump in. Within 3 bounces you've peed yourself and are dying from the pain of your pubic bone.
- After stuffing a cookie in your face to relieve the stress and then changing your pants while a screaming baby holds onto your leg you realize that yes, you will in fact become a jaded, pudgy, middle aged mother just like everyone else because that's just how life is.

So, I'm a little discouraged at the moment. After writing it all down, my head and my heart feel a little bit better, but I don't want to look in the mirror. I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. I love being a mother, more than anything, and until the last few years how my body looked didn't matter much to me at all.  I've only become insecure since the commencement of motherhood.

In perspective, none of this probably matters. When I am a middle aged pudgy mom I'll probably be content with the way I spent my time during young motherhood, yet still baffled by how quickly the hours, days and years flew by, and will still be conjuring up rational one liners to say when my child or grandchild asks why I have such a squishy tummy. Motherhood is a sacrifice in more ways that I first understood. My body will  never be the same. I may never run as much as I used to. I'll be glad to make it to 40 and still be able to walk without emptying my bladder. But I don't regret them.

 I guess, overall, I'd rather have to go change my pants after bouncing around singing and  holding hands with my kids on the trampoline , than having no hands to hold.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

No heels. No tofu.


I think these thoughts began while perusing the pages of an anniversary edition of the Betty Crocker cookbook. These ideals of the perfect housewife. And the guilt was brewing already.  They came rushing back the other day as I scrambled to clean the house before guests arrived, debating on whether I had enough time to wash the dirty dishes or if I should hide them in the oven, and whether or not I should change my clothes into something more 'suitable for company'.  

Within a month of saying "I do" I was ready to entertain. I had always enjoyed large groups of people; cooking for said groups of people. Good food and good company were some of the things I loved most about life. I especially loved impromptu tacos after church, conversations that turned into being hungry that turned into a trip to Meijer, that turned into time in the kitchen laughing or digging deep into a friends soul. The good stuff. 

But once that ring was on my finger and we had an apartment of our own, I didn't think that's how things were supposed to be done. Oh no. I had to pull out the big guns. You know, the high heels, aprons, and fancy meals that you would usually find on a nice cafe's menu. Between working, finishing up school, and being pregnant I had to find time to polish the silver and iron my husbands shirts. Not really.. . he did the ironing. I tried to once before a show he had and ruined his shirt. 

The first dinner party that we had, I spent most of our $50 a month grocery budget to make an antipasto salad, coq a vin, a dessert that I can't remember now (but it is written down in my Betty Crocker cookbook on the page meant to document your first dinner party. Gold star for documentation), and a sangria. Never mind that Jeremy wouldn't eat the antipasto salad due to the olives, nor did he drink the wine, and I hate chicken and was a vegetarian at the time. We subsisted off of ramen, rice, and pudding cups from Walmart the rest of the month. 

Life went on like this for a while until we spun 180 degrees in the other direction. Willow was a baby and I was hyper motivated to do what was best in every facet of our lives. We (well, me specifically here), were heavily influenced by friends on the other side of the spectrum. The crunchy kind. So now, not only was I entertaining guests for dinner in an apron on a shoestring, but it had to be organic! local! vegetarian! whole grain! fair trade! and be labeled with a foreign word  unpronounceable  by my husband. Pretty soon I wasn't entertaining at all because I couldn't afford anything but rice. Probably not even of the brown variety. 

Suddenly, I felt forced between entertaining people with inexpensive ingredients that I believed were harmful to one's body and may have caused harm to someone while being harvested, etc. Or giving them a very small amount of food that I could make from our local co-op, that they probably wouldn't even like to eat (I won't elaborate on the lentil soup incident) but would satisfy my conscience.  This resulted in me shutting the doors of our home to most people. Mostly out of guilt that I wasn't living up to either ideology. 

The funny thing of it all was: I was the only person, in my mind and heart, who had to meet the bar. 

People. I don't know where I'm going with this. But the short of it all is this: I love you. I love you all and I want to feed you. I want to talk over tea while our children play (loudly).  I hope you aren't offended if I don't have organic food for your kids to eat at my house, or won't judge me if there is a box of Lucky Charms on top of the fridge.  Please don't think me a cheapskate when I bring a simple dish to a potluck or compare my idea of a holiday supper to the traditional ideal. If you are at my home I'll probably serve you some sort of deer (or as the kids say "forest cow"), and  if I don't have anything else in the house I'll be happy to fry you up an egg or pop you some popcorn. I drink Tazo tea because it tastes good and doesn't cost me an arm and a leg (and a few fingers of the other hand) at the local co-op.  My house may be a mess, but I think it will at least be sanitary. My kids will most likely be in underwear and will probably be watching Netflix. I will be in the same jeans I've worn all week because I haven't had the time nor mental energy to search through the piles of unfolded laundry in my basement to get to other ones. Oh wait, I don't own other ones. . . anyway . . . 

The truth of it is: I value my relationship with you more than I care about imaginary standards of who we should be, what we should be eating, what kind of toys our kids play with, how much media time our kids consume or any of those other things mothers batter back and forth about. I will not judge you if you are the friend with the sticky toys or the one who refreshes my kids with a pitcher of Kool-Aid, and my hope is that you feel the same. 

So come on over- bring hand sanitizer (just kidding :D) and a sense of humor, there will be no heels and no tofu. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

New duds for all

Pants are too short and shirt fronts are speckled in stains- that means one of two things. Either I'm going to be spending some quality time with my friend Husqy or I'm heading to Target. I truly do enjoy sewing, especially for my kids, but at these times I usually opt for the later. Because who can pass up $4 shirts and pants in cute coordinating colors? Not I.

However, I have been convicted recently about my quick trips to the Bullseye (and other department stores) and what that means on a more global and ethical perspective. What may be saving me an hour of time may support something that I am morally opposed to. I'm not going to get into the politics and such of fair labor rights and wages, let's just say that I am concerned about the sweatshop situation and I try often to take care when I make a purchase. I'm not a saint nor am I rich, therefore I don't always make the best purchasing choices, but I'm trying to make it more of a priority. After learning about the history of and process of making chocolate, Willow and I have decided to buy only fairly traded chocolate when available.

As an intro activity to our China unit study, I had Willow read labels on clothing to see where they were manufactured. I was reminded of how much of our clothing comes from the Asian region. My heart sank as I thought about articles I had read in the past regarding labor rights, sweatshops, and clothing manufacturers. And I felt the urge to make a change.

With all that said, from now on instead of running to Target, I'm going to do my best to make the kids' clothes. I'm sure there will be an occasional Target purchase (socks, undies, tights come to mind) and garage sale find, and of course awesome hand me downs.

I'm blessed with totes of fabric and patterns given to me from relatives, and a well stocked basket ( i.e. overflowing mess) of items to be repurposed. I also have a huge basket of notions a friend found on the side of the road and donated to my collection. So, I'm all set in that department.

Willow's Easter dress is done, some retro skinnies and a fun bowling-style shirt are in the works for Cedar. All I've had to buy so far is a package of interfacing and white thread. I'm rolling up my sleeves, heating up the iron and spending some quality time with my friend Husqy.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The rundown

I thought I'd post a bit about the gear we've purchased to equip our family for the trail.

Though we camp often the equipment we currently owned was far from lightweight and compact. Since both of the older kids can only carry a minimal amount of gear we had to prepare for the adults (mostly Jeremy) to be the Sherpas. I began to research and plan appropriately.

So far, this is what we have gathered-

Sleeping bags- Jeremy also insisted on a packable pillow for each of us. We're going with these: Therm-a-Rest Compressable Pillows. Large for him, a Medium for me, and Smalls for each of the kids.
• Sequoia- Kelty Woobie
• Cedar and Willow- Big Agnes Little Reds
• Jeremy and I- Big Agnes Big Creek double bag

Sleeping pads-
• Willow and Cedar- Thermarest Z Lite Sol Small
• us- Big Agnes Dual Core air pad Regular

GoLite Shangri La 5

Water Filter- SteriPen Adventurer

Stove- Jetboil Sumo Cooking System

Cookware- GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Camper Cookset and Light My Fire Sporks

• Cedar and Willow- Lake and Trail 20L bags (I'm planning on a Cilogear 20L WorkSac for Willow next year)
• Jeremy - Kelty Coyote 80l
• Sequoia and I - A decade old REI backpack carrier. After this summer, I'll go back to my MacPac and use a Piggyback Rider for Sequoia when he needs a lift.

Black Diamond Apollo Lantern
Petzl Tikka headlamps for Jeremy and I, Black Diamond Wiz kids' for Willow and Sequoia an a fun Lego guy one for Cedar.
• Everyone has Patagonia Capilene 3 base layer, even Sequoia!
• the boys' rain gear is from Tuffo and Willow's is from OakiWear. (Jer and I already had Mountain Hardwear rain gear)

I'll write another post later on the rest of our clothing and a few other odds and ends. I'm super excited for spring to come!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

To the woods

A patch of woods stood in the center of the field near the home where I grew up. I was never allowed to enter them but often during the winter or in early spring before planting, I would venture to their edges and peer in on the world there shadowed under the canopy above. I daydreamed about adventures in the depths of the shadows.

I devoured juvenile literature that had anything to do with exploring nature or adventures alone in the wilderness. All things I loved the most. Books and words. Being alone. Dreaming. And the woods.

I asked for a tent for my 7th birthday. A green pup tent that my dad slept with me in the yard one night. Another for my 15th birthday when I also received a lantern (that I still have, thanks Gram). I put it up in the backyard and tried to convince every friend and cousin to stay in it with me. I kept it up so long that the grass underneath the nylon floor began to brown (sorry Ma!).

I moved to college and left my tent and auxiliary accessories at home in the garage attic. There I discovered that I wasn't a lone crazy earth child who craved being outside more than going to the movies or well, pretty much anything else the average teen enjoyed. There were actually others like me! I slapped on (or is it squeezed?) a pair of climbing shoes and as my fingertips curled around a hold and I felt its roughness, I began to whole heartedly connect with who I really was for the first time.

I climbed, I camped, I rappeled from the rafters of the field building; I rafted and kayaked and zip lined to my hearts desire. I got a job working at a summer camp loving on kids and helping them to challenge themselves on the wall, on the ropes, or in the water. I was happy.

Then I met Jeremy. Not that he made me unhappy, definitely the opposite, it's just that our interests didn't jive. I remember one of our first conversations; I proclaimed that I could live in a tent and be happy the rest of my life. He stated that he would never camp and preferred his own bed. I shook my head and crossed his name off of the hypothetical list of potential husbands.

Years past. We were engaged, got hitched, were broke as church mice, had a baby, went nearly insane from lack of sleep thanks to said baby, moved a lot, finally bought a house, and had two boys. Last summer I took stock of why I was so unhappy. Was it jer? No, I loved him more than ever. Was is the kids? No, I felt called to being a mother. And even though there were rough times ( a daughter with some extreme sensory needs, a son with allergies), I loved my job. With more thought I determined that it wasn't where we lived, it wasn't our financial state, it wasn't anything of that sort. I wasn't even really unhappy, just not feeling whole.

My problem lied with my purple macpack backpack sitting in the garage attic and the fact that I hadn't put it on in over six years. Once I relieved Jeremy by telling him that essentially it wasn't his fault that I was feeling unhappy, he was glad to hear how he could help the situation. And ladies and gentlemen, I am seeing result of his proposed solution and the fruits of his labor as the UPS man brings me cardboard gifts of joy. Little golden nuggets from REI, GoLite, BigAgnes, and GSI.

I have hope that I can find and be the real me again, the one who craves the outdoors more than anything else AND experience it with my crazy fun loving kids and my husband who loves me enough to sleep on a 3/4 inch piece of foam.

Folks- I'm heading to the woods!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Dun Dun Dun

There are acquaintances, good friends, best friends, and real friends. I classify real friends as the ones who laugh at your dirty house, you don't mind when they stop by and you are still in your pjs at 4 pm, they bring you food and chop up your placenta (hmm. . . Maybe someday ill share more about that), and on top of everything don't dismiss most of your ideas as crazy, but instead join you!

Enter my (great!) real friend, Larissa and the journey of dreading our hair. Because its way more fun to be crazy together. 22 hours she spent twisting and ripping my hair, while we talked, sipped tea, watched British comedy and a little bit of the golden girls.

Our moms think we are weird, our husbands are rebelling, a child may have cried- but we are in this together.