Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Stretching

**I know....it's been weeks since I've done a going green post. I have ideas- and ideas for other posts- just haven't had computer time lately. Hopefully soon, I'm itching to write again! In the meanwhile, here's something I wrote a couple weeks ago... :-)**

I recently read an excellent book, Loving the Little Years. (Review should be coming soon!) A couple places in it, she urged personal expanding…stretching and growing and learning. She even had a rather different- and fascinating- take on Psalms 128, different from the typical one you see. Essentially, she suggested that when the verse talks about being a “fruitful vine” it doesn’t seem like it’s talking about having a bunch of kids…they’re already had and young olive plants, yet she’s still fruitful. The author mentioned that it seems more in reference- or perhaps in addition to children- to living a fruitful life. Trying new things. Being productive. Exploring and expanding your giftings….and trying things you don’t consider to be your giftings. Elsewhere in the book, she discusses doing so for the sake of your children- being willing to constantly grow and add to your repertoire for the sake of all the different personalities and interests you’ll have amongst your children.

*Disclaimer: I’m not necessarily stating whether I agree or disagree with her on the verse interpretation. I’ve enjoyed chewing on it. I think, perhaps, the verse should be applied to all areas of life- including your children. But not just having lots of kids….pouring fruitfully into the ones you have. And letting that on its own not be enough.*

This was inspiring and challenging to me. I happened to read it after both Ben and I started stretching ourselves and moving into fields we’d previously considered things we just couldn’t/weren’t good at/etc. I started designing diaper patterns, something I’ve said for the past 2 years I wasn’t interested in doing because I’m just not brave enough or good enough at pattern creating for something that “complicated”. Ben’s worked at challenging himself physically (with the encouragement/pushing of my younger brother), working on better wrist action (particularly working on Ultimate throws that have always been more difficult for him). He has less dexterity in his wrist, which makes it more difficult to make some throws, or play certain sports in general. But, as my brother has pointed out more than once, that’s not a reason to not get good at it…it just means you have to work harder at it than the average person.

I’m a reasonably creative person (in my own fields), and I love living a productive life. So for the most part, I’m often pursuing new things, learning and researching how to do new stuff, and enjoying full, productive days exploring stuff with Viviana. I love pattern designing. I thoroughly enjoy being creative in the kitchen. I like learning new health stuff, and changing how I cook as I go. I enjoy pondering up entrepreneur pursuits. I love a good budgeting/buying challenge. I enjoy writing and recording memories. And that probably only scratches the surface.

But….I have so much I could grow in. I still get into ruts- I might be creative and exploring in some fields, but there are some that I’ve always just considered “off-limits”. For example….I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “I’m just not good at decorating” or “Decorating just isn’t my thing” or something along those lines. It’s true that I’m not good at it, and don’t have a natural taste for it. Some people are super talented in that area and have the best ideas for totally changing a room, decorating a party table, etc. I don’t….but I’m sure I could learn. I could watch and gain ideas, I could locate books. I could come up with things to make our home a lovelier place if I got over the idea that I just “can’t”. And if we have a daughter who has an eye for d├ęcor and loveliness…I’m sure I could learn along with her, to be able to help her, and to help appease her desire for beauty in our own home. I’ve written off cake decorating as something I’m not/wouldn’t be good at- though I haven’t even tried. I’m just not really interested in the tediousness of it….or of making other fancy baked goods. But if I had a child that was interested in that direction, I could, for their sake, learn along with them and enjoy the fellowship and helping them grow in their interests. I wouldn’t, though, if I always wrote it off as something I just couldn’t do, or a waste of time.

I could potentially permanently injure my children by my lack of willingness to try new fields. By my “it’s just not for me/us” attitude. By sticking with my small circle of things I know how to do. Not to mention the fact that I don’t want to pass that kind of attitude- the kind that shirks from anything difficult, work-involved, time-consuming, or with potential for failure- on to my kids. If I want them to explore life, find new pursuits, and dig headlong into whatever they try (i.e. not be lazy) I have to be it, too.

And sure….I’m going to encounter things that I’m just not very good at. And it’s okay to have different interests. I might never get good at cake decorating- but if Vivi wants to make a go at it, then I want to do our best together. Decorating might never hold a lot of personal pleasure for me, and that’s okay. I don’t have to do everything all the time. I can choose activities for my free time that I truly enjoy. But if one of our children is into interior design, or coordinating/decorating parties, I want to be able to help- and enjoy it at that. And in all that….I might just fall in love with something I was certain I could never like. At the very least, it’s always very gratifying to plunge into something that I avoided for one reason or another, and see the activity/job through. So many times, I’ve put something off because it looked or sounded complicated. I just thought it was out of my playing field. But on more than one occasion, when I gritted my teeth and just did it, I found the thing far more interesting (and usually easier!) than I imagined.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Goals in Raising Our Family


Figuring out what's for dinner, maybe? Or, just seeing what treasures mommy has hidden...



One of Vivi’s most recent enjoyments is sitting in the sink helping with dishes while I’m washing. It’s one of her favorite parts of the day, and something she generally gets to do at least once a day. She loves helping and splashing in the water.

She also enjoys sitting on the counter and helping me stir stuff now…or doing it by herself. It’s created some opportunities to learn that tantruming doesn’t get her her way, since she sees no reason for help. J

Recently, when Vivi was in the sink with me, someone commented something about my efforts to create a “right hand” in her for the years to come. I think I was too taken-a-back to make much of a response at the time, but I’ve turned the conversation over in my mind quite a bit since then. Until it was mentioned recently, it had honestly never crossed my mind to put the effort into including Vivi now so that she could help me take care of my kids and my home when she’s older. So, what am I raising Vivi for? Why do I see it as important to include her in my day-to-day life?

The idea of raising Vivi to be my right hand is repulsive to me. Ben and I aren’t raising kids just so we can have a ton of kids (and, you know, look righteous), because they can take care of each other and the house. We both feel strongly that if we can’t take care of our own children, we shouldn’t have them. Nor do we want to “enslave” our older children….or become so dependent on them that we’re reluctant to see them move on in life- getting married, pursue new paths, etc. It happens too often in homeschool circles, and it’s ugly.

However, now that we’re off that soapbox….we do believe in being responsible….earning one’s keep, so to speak. It’s the reason Ben likes to help with dishes when we eat at someone else’s house…it’s why I like to contribute to the meals we share in. We want to be, as a family, contributors, not takers. And a lot of our goals for our children will end up meaning they contribute to our family. At some point our kids will have to contribute at least a little bit to society, and I’d rather ingrain that in our kids from an early age, so they can learn to take pleasure in work, instead of being thrust suddenly into it as lazy, good-for-nothing adults who don’t even know how to use a broom.

In a nutshell, our goals in raising Vivi- which motivate virtually every decision we make- are to raise a responsible, self-motivated, serving, caring, loving adult. We desire a strong and lasting friendship with Vivi, in which we can mutually share in good fellowship. We want Vivi to be able to think through the decisions she makes and the person she is. We want her to be self-motivated, willing to see what needs doing, and do it…in her own life and home and in that of others. We want her to be loving and grace-filled, with an ability to love people for who they are. We want her to be generally knowledgeable, and thoroughly capable. I want her to be able to manage a household by the time she’s a teen, and have a pretty good grasp of cooking, health, homecare, general management, budgeting and finances, etc. We want her to be willing to pursue things she’s curious about, to find out how the world works in any area of life. We want her to feel free to pursue whatever life direction she feels God calling her in- and to have the self motivation to make it all the way there. We desire her to be a contributor in life, rather than a taker who relies on others to help her and do for her all the time.

So when Vivi washes dishes with me…it isn’t so I can “make good use” of her in future years. We wash dishes together so we can enjoy sharing life- enjoy our relationship….we do it so she can begin to develop the makings of a hard worker. We do it so she can learn and see how it’s done…and so she can see how much fun it is to work together. Because we won’t reach our goals if we keep Vivi shut out of our lives, and in her own world, until we deem her “old enough” to be “useful”. A 5 year old doesn’t suddenly love having chores…and the effort it takes to get an untrained 5 year old to do any menial task (and, being untrained, do it unwell at that) is incredible. Plus, in waiting, we’ve lost the building of sweet fellowship. We’ve also lost opportunity to model how fun working together is…kids are smart, and they certainly don’t get that impression because they’re brushed aside by a stressed mother who says she’s too busy for a mess.

Having a helper makes everything take longer….it meant, when letting Vivi help stir granola, that we got oats on the floor. It makes doing dishes relatively inconvenient. It means flour all over the counters, and water in places I wouldn’t get it. But, it’s also an opportunity for so many beautiful things….beautiful things it’ll be too late to start working on and sharing in all too fast. And I hope that I’ll have unhelpful helpers for many years to come, as God blesses us with more children. Because having goals for our children that affect the rest of their lives mean that just training the first 3 or 4 (so they can do everything) isn’t good enough. I’ll spend the rest of my mothering career training and retraining the same jobs with different people.

Eventually- probably in just a year or two, if we can continue to instill a love for working together in her- Vivi will start to become truly useful. Messy, still, but actually helpful in some respects. And yes, she will be helping with household chores as she learns how to accomplish various tasks. In their turn, she’ll learn how to vacuum, wipe counters, unload dishwashers, sweep, do dishes for real, do laundry, put her clothes away, clean bathrooms, make bread, pull together a full meal, garden, etc.

And so long as Ben and I continue to hold on to our visions, it will always be something our kids do with us. Vivi will never learn to accomplish everything so someday I can sit in my recliner and watch the kids do all the work. But, hopefully, she will learn how to love what she does….learn how many pursuits there are in life and discover what she loves best….acquire enough skills to be thoroughly useful wherever God plants her, and capable of anything…and know, undoubtedly, she has parents who love and treasure her- no matter what.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Better late than never....yes?

Holly's hosting a crock pot freezer meal link up....or has been, for the past week. It closes in about 11 hours...but I didn't even see it till this morning. It's been a crazy week with minimal online time. :-) Anyway- since I'm the one who requested it, I thought I better chime in, too. And then I remembered that I already did a post with a few of my favorite freezer meals, including a few that work great for the crock pot.

The meatball recipe shared is also great with spaghetti sauce...so on the day you want it, you can dump your meatballs in a crockpot along with frozen or canned spaghetti sauce, and let it simmer away.

I've done south of the border chicken bake several times in both a crock pot and roaster oven.

Enjoy!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Going Green week six- eliminating or reducing aluminum foil and saran wrap

Welcome back! And sorry for last week’s skip…a lot of unexpected things happened last week, and the blog didn’t remain a high priority.

My latest game has been greatly reducing our saran wrap/aluminum foil usage. I’ve started making, first myself, then for my etsy shop, reusable bowl and pan covers. I’m totally in love with mine, and so thrilled to be getting rid of saran wrap/aluminum foil!

Reusable covers are generally made with a cotton exterior, and a food safe nylon on the inside. Some are also just made with two layers of cotton, but these can only be used for dry food storage, and not for very long, as they’ll dry out faster. Some also use PUL (a typical diaper-making fabric), but so far as we know, PUL is not food safe and therefore not recommended. Most are made with narrow, hidden elastic about an inch away from the edge, but I found that fold over elastic worked far better- it holds a much tighter seal than regular ¼” elastic. With the elastic edge and the nylon lining, these seal/prevent from drying out just as well as, if not better than, saran wrap and aluminum foil.

As an economical non-waster, it’s always really bothered me to buy aluminum foil and saran wrap. Essentially, you’re just buying something that you know you’ll be throwing out shortly. As someone growing more concerned about the environment, it bothers me even more.

But- even if you could care less about the environment, it doesn’t bother you to throw things out all the time, you have all the money in the world, and your primary concern is personal convenience, these are still awesome. Simply from a convenience standpoint, I love my new covers! I’m not sure about all the rest of you, but I always have issues with saran wrap. It never sticks (except to itself and me), it slides all over, and if you absolutely have to have something completely covered, you use way more saran wrap than you should need. Aluminum foil isn’t much better- acidic foods (and even non/low acid ones, I’m finding) eat away at the aluminum. That means holes in your cover, and having to go through the tedious process of picking off all the flecks of aluminum from the top of your food so you don’t eat them. It rips easily, especially in the freezer.

Enter reusable covers- the slip on quickly, and fit snugly over the bowl or pan. To care for them, all you need to do is wipe off, or, if they get pretty dirty, wash in the sink with your dishes or in your washer machine. I recommend air drying to get the longest life span from your covers. Plus, they make a pretty addition to any kitchen, potluck, gathering, etc. Needless to say, I have a new love. These are one of the most convenient “green” switches we’ve made.

If you sew, they’re really easy to make, and fairly inexpensive. Basically, you just cut a circle a few inches bigger all the way around (so, if you’re cutting 3” bigger, it’s really 6” bigger) than the largest bowl you want them to fit. The larger size bowl covers fit a wider range of bowls than the smaller ones because with more elastic, they have more stretch/versatility. All covers will fit at least a couple inch range, though. Put wrong of your cotton fabric against the shiny/sticky side of your nylon, and place a few pins in. Then apply FOE just like you would for diapers, and just like it sounds- fold it around the edge of the fabric, and stitch on a wide zig-zag, stretching the elastic as much as you can as you go. When you reach the end, cut the elastic and tuck the edge under the backside; zigzag over. Dimensions of my large pan covers, which fit 13x9/15x11 are 19”x15”. My largest bowl cover is about 18” diameter, my large is 2 inches smaller, and the other two go down by one inch. I know that makes for a lousy “tutorial” (if I can even call it that!), so if you want to make them and have questions, let me know.