August 18, 2012

Fear & Truth & Waking Up

I've had something akin to this post floating around my brain for a very long time. I've been afraid to write my story. Afraid that I might offend someone. Maybe afraid to allow the abstract mess to become concrete and tangible. Afraid. I think I've been afraid to let it all go and to embrace all that I really love and all that brings me joy and to really go all out in my own skin. I'm beginning to realize just how afraid I've been. If I'm honest with myself, I've based a whole lot of my choices on fear. I would have told you in a heartbeat that I wasn't a people-pleaser, and I had no problem telling people the truth and spouting off a bunch of bullshit about living as your true, authentic self. Which may have led people to think that I was living that way. Mmhmm. While I do believe we are all meant to live freely, with our own gifts and joys, how could I have possibly been living as my true self when I needed validation for just about everything? Things like my decorating choices, wardrobe choices, my hobbies, my beliefs, my career choices. If friends didn't like colors I chose or thought something looked goofy, a healthy person would probably say, "okay" and then proceed to do whatever they wanted to do. Not me - I was so locked in my little fear prison that I would be crushed, and I would choose to do something different than what I really loved. You might think, design, color, clothes? What's the big deal? We all like a little encouragement or approval. But it was so much more.  

My fear of living my own desires and likes and what made my heart happy, even if no one else in the whole world approved, kept me unfulfilled. If I ever had the notion that someone, anyone, was mad at me or disapproved of something I did, inside I was a wreck until I made sure the air was clear and everything was a-ok. Can I tell you how many times I asked my husband if he was mad at me?! He is the most loving, gracious man in the world, but I was like a scared little puppy. At the same time, I'm a very strong-willed, won't-take-no-for-an-answer kind of girl. If there's something I really want to do, I'm going to make it happen. Like when my mom told me not to try out for the fifth grade chorus, because what if I didn't make it, and I would be disappointed? Yes, that would be tragic to learn a valuable life-lesson about disappointment. But alas, I missed out on that life-lesson opportunity, because I tried out anyway, and I made it! I remember going out for ice cream with the fam after our big performance. Or like the time much later, when I told my parents I was going to spend my college summer break with an organization in Colorado and I would be traveling abroad. Oh, and a minor detail - I would need to raise 5,000 dollars. My dad: "Where are you going to get 5,000 dollars?" A valid question, but that was it. I don't really remember any excitement or encouragement or anything along the lines of tell me more about this group. Let's think this through to make sure it's a wise decision. Turns out it was a great decision. I went back the next summer to help a lead a team, too! You can see how this being afraid to really live plus my will to truly live equalled quite a bit of internal confusion. 

Recently, a friend told me she feels like she is alive for the very first time. My heart loved those words, because I feel like for so long I lived inside a huge ice block. I could see everything around me, but there was always a thick, clear wall between me and the rest of the world. No matter which direction I looked, the wall was there. I was watching everyone else live, but I could never fully connect. Imagine always being on the outside, peering through a window seeing a party that you weren't invited to. That is how I felt about life for a very very long time. Apart. Not part of the group, whatever the group might have been at any given time. Because when you are surrounded by a wall, or an ice block, or what have you, you can't really connect. And you can't really let anyone in. It's solitary confinement. I've had some amazing experiences, pushed through my wall to make some wonderful things happen in my life, and created some great memories. But the see-through wall was always there. Even when I was with people who really did love me.

Just how did I get this way? There's a lot I've been processing lately over the past fourteen years. Still, I've had these wounds that I could talk about, and I could tell you about a less-than-ideal childhood, but I couldn't totally pinpoint the problem. Thus, a cloudiness of things just not being right when I thought about my past. There was hurt, but a lot of it was abstract. I've started seeing a therapist, and you know what? The more concrete my swimming feelings and memories and thoughts and wounds and questions become, the more I'm able to take hold of them, and when I take hold of something, I'm able to really see it, and then open my grip and let it go. And when I let something go that has wounded me for so long, it's grip on me goes. It's all a very freeing process. I still have a lot to walk through, but the ice is melting, and I'm waking up, and GOOD NEWS! I really like me! Like, I really like me, and I don't care if you don't. And I don't care if what I do to my house meets your standards of what's acceptable or expected. And I'm starting to feel like I can really connect with people, and like the last vestiges of the walls that have separated me from my husband and my children and my friends are on their way out. I'm starting to feel alive and awake and free. Free to love and to live and to dance and to pretty much do whatever I damn-well please. I'd say please excuse my french, but guess what? I don't care if it bothers you!

This is all very good timing, because in a few days, I'll be jumping into a huge fun splish-splashy puddle of learning at home with my girls. I'm super-excited, because the curriculum I chose is very hands-on, nature-filled, encouraging of exploration and imagination and discovery. And what in the world does this have to do with my ice wall melting and me waking up? Everything.

The people behind this curriculum truly get children and life in a way that I haven't seen many other places. When I read what these people write, I feel like all of the beauty and wonder and laughter and love and potential that surrounds us and that I see in my girls every day is drawn on paper with beautiful words. Here's an example from one of their books:
Learning how to "draw out" that inner being hidden within each child is our primary concern as parents. There are several means whereby we can accomplish this feat, but we should be aware from the beginning that the task we are approaching is tantamount to the feat of young Arthur, as he drew the sword out of the stone. It is not a task to be accomplished easily. Drawing out the inner being of the child into conscious manifestation requires more than strength, more than subtlety, and can be accomplished through no less of a price than our own transformation. In effect, if we wish to save our children, we must lose ourselves in the process.
If this prospect sounds too ominous, we need only remember that the "self" we will be losing is only the shadowy image composed of our fears and self-imposed limitations. As we become aware of these fears and limitations we begin to transcend them, and gradually find ourselves awakening, as if from a dream, into a realization of our own true nature, our own "inner being." As we begin to demonstrate more fully who we are, our children will likewise begin to rise above their limitations and express more fully their own unique strength, wisdom and beauty.
When I read this, my heart smiled a really big smile. This is exactly where I am - "losing only the shadowy image composed of our fears and self-imposed limitations." Learning to live freely. And I as I choose to heal and live fully and freely, I am empowering my two amazing little girls to embrace a life of wholeness. Thank God, I decided to go down the windy, bumpy, wonderful road of real living, just in time to take my girls' hands in mine and skip down that road together. Here's to looking ahead, and liking what we see on the horizon!

Do you like my post? Can you leave me a really affirming comment? JUST KIDDING!

August 06, 2012

Perfect Cherry Tea

So I have been loving Celestial Seasonings' Cherry Berry Tea ever since I went on their tour back in June. I'd never really been a fan of fruity teas, but I guess my tastebuds decided to expand their horizons, because I fell in love with both cherry and peach flavored teas. As in I drink at least one of them every. single. day. So it was a sad day when I recently opened my lovely little tea drawer, only to discover my cherry tea's dedicated little space was empty! Gasp! Single tear! What's a girl to do? Oh the drama - I seriously have a one-minute drive to the closest grocery store, but I was not in the mood for dragging two unwilling kids to the car, pushing them around said store in a ridiculously gigantic green monster of a shopping cart, listening to a bajillion questions of, "Can we get it? Can we? Please please please? Whine whine whine..." Now, really my girls are the greatest daughters a mom could want, and I love them with all my heart, but sometimes you just are not in the mood for the grocery store with kids for just one teensy thing, right? Well, also not in the mood to do without, I was determined to make an acceptable substitute. SO...I made myself a cup of PG Tips black tea, put in 4-5 frozen sweet cherries I happened to have in my freezer, let it sit for about 8 minutes {or maybe it was 93 minutes? Have I mentioned I have ADD? No, really, I do.}, stirred in a bit of stevia, was so good! I liked my creation even better than Celestial Seasonings'. And with things like "other natural flavors" and soy in their ingredient list, I think I'll stick with my version.
In a nutshell:
  • Make tea
  • Add a few frozen cherries
  • Stir in sweetener of choice
  • Allow to steep until cherry flavor fully infuses tea
Enjoy your cuppa!

Bacon Fruit Salad!

That's right - bacon + fruit in the same bowl! We had bacon. We had peaches and bananas. I think avocados are pretty much amazing with everything. {I know, I'm weird.} So I thought, hmm...why not throw it all in a bowl and see what happens? And then my taste buds danced.

In a nutshell:
Cut up a peach
Dice an avocado
Slice a banana
Crumble cooked bacon
Throw it in a bowl
 Be amazed!

Mommy/Daughter Night {or Caffeine & Cereal}

Heading to Starbucks tonight with my daughters, I realized that the chai I had been thinking about all day was probably not going to be a good idea. Glancing at the clock in my swagger wagon, I saw it was 6:57. If I have caffeine after 7:00 PM, it becomes insanely impossible for me to get to sleep at a decent time. I'm a night owl anyway, but add some caffeine, and it's a party! Did that stop me, though? Nope! Life is too short. So I got a tall.

The girls and I had a great night, with treats at Starbucks, then an hour at our favorite park. Daddy had to work, so here's a picture of him and Katie at the park from a different visit. He was still there in spirit. :) Our park has no playground, which suits us just fine. We love watching the fountain, rolling in the grass, running, climbing, playing Barbie and The Three Musketeers with sticks, throwing our frisbee, then running some more. It was so much fun to see the girls running free and wild, without a care in the world, using their imaginations. As parents, I think when we give our children too much in the way of TV or toys or playgrounds or even our own ideas, we take away their freedom to imagine. And wasn't pretending and running free what being a kid was all about when we were little? I don't think any of those things are necessarily bad, but I do think we need to at least give our kids just as much free imagination and nature time as we do the rest of it. And we need to actually play with our kids.

Annnyway...we finished off our mommy/daughter evening with a quick stop at the grocery store for some long-awaited cereal. We have recently started eating a whole lot healthier, creating almost all of our meals at home from scratch, focusing on good fats, protein, fruits and veggies, very little grain. It's amazing just how many incredible meals and treats you can make with real food! And believe it or not, fat will not kill you, if you eat the good kind and allow your body to work the way it was intended to. Eating real food has mostly been great, except that poor Chloe has been missing her morning cereal something fierce. She'll eat eggs and bacon with the best of 'em, but sometimes you just want a bowl of cereal, you know? I thought we could just ignore the cereal requests until they stopped, but a couple nights ago at dinner, Chloe actually prayed that God would "make mommy say yes to getting some cereal." How can you say no to that? I don't really believe in total depravation anyway, as long as you can keep indulgences infrequent. I feel so SO much better eating real food, but if I really want a coke every now and then, I'm going to have one. Keep in mind, though, that I'm talking once or twice a month, not once a day, and we try to avoid HFCS, food dye, etc. I know, now you're wondering how that works out with Coke. Two words - Mexican Coke. But yes, a treat can be a wonderful thing. So tonight, Chloe got her cereal. And the angels sang.

And with that, I'll say goodnight. Or is it morning?

August 05, 2012

Get Your Kids to Drink Water

Okay, so we all know we're supposed to drink water. All of us need water, including our kiddos. But have you ever had a little one who just doesn't like water? This can be especially true if said little one has been primarily given bottled juice to drink. Of course they don't want water! It's not sweet, which means it's boring! Enter a little cuteness + stevia.

First, you'll need a super-cute water bottle or cup that doesn't leak. We have these Camelbak water bottles for our girls, and we love them. I have a bit of an unhealthy obsession with researching products before we buy them, so I was fairly certain these wouldn't leak, and after almost a year of use, they have lived up to that expectation.

Okay, now that we have the cuteness factor out-of-the-way, let's get our kids to drink some H2O! Fill your cup or bottle with water, add a bit of stevia, attach lid, shake, and watch your little one drink down a ton of water! A note on the stevia: a minuscule amount really goes a long way. If you've never used it before, definitely trust me on this and only use a tiny sprinkle. You can always add more if you need to. The great thing about stevia is it doesn't impact blood sugar levels, like sugar does. I can tell you my kids do not get hyper after ingesting stevia, like they do with sugar. Also, it comes from a plant, so it doesn't scare me, like aspartame and those other fake sweeteners, so that's a bonus! We like the Kal brand, because it doesn't have a weird aftertaste like some brands do. Stevia may also have some health benefits, but that's a subject for another day.

Have fun making your kids some not-boring water, and enjoy the fact that their cute little bodies are being hydrated without coloring, preservatives, sugar, or any of that other hullabaloo! And pretty please, let me know in the comments if you have any other suggestions for leak-proof kiddy cups or water bottles. Thanks! Until next time...

August 04, 2012

Foam Soap Hack

Lots of us love foamy hand soap, right? I pretty much think it's the greatest invention ever, since my girls can wash their bacteria-ridden sweet little hands, without getting soap drippings all over the counter. {Unless they decide to have playtime in the bathroom. In which case all bets are off, and who knows where water and soap of any kind will end up. Keepin' it real, here!} I also love that the bottle doesn't end up all slimy and gross. Honestly, I find the foam completely entertaining, and I would totally still use it even if I didn't have kids.

As much as I like it, though, it's kind of expensive. Want to know a little trick? When you're foamy bottle is empty, refill it with a tablespoon of regular liquid soap, {slowly} add water leaving a bit of room at the top, replace pump, shake, and voila! You have just refilled your foamy bottle with a tablespoon of soap, people! You like? Do you have any money-saving tips and tricks to share?

P.S. Method has no idea I exist, and I hope I don't go to jail for using their picture. I just really like their soap. I linked it to their site. Go buy it. The end.

August 03, 2012

Life by the Sea

Carefree days, warm sand under my feet, perfectly salted ocean air, delicious food from local restaurants, reading with the waves and horizon in front of me - this is how I picture life by the sea. Alas, by the sea is not where I live. At least, not usually. Recently, though, our family went to the beach for a relaxing week with my in-laws. They live in a different state, so it's always a treat when we get to spend time with them. It was so much fun to all be together and to see the girls having fun with Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Kelly, and Uncle Matt. We often wish we all lived closer and our week at the beach definitely reminded us of how much we miss our long-distance family when we're not together.

One of my favorite times from this trip was leaving our beach house early one morning to look for shells with Mom and Lew. Along the way, we came across several starfish. They were so pretty laying there on the sand, but back into the water they went for a new lease on life.
The girls had tons of fun, of course. Katie quickly learned that she did not approve of the waves splashing her, so she made herself comfortable in the sand, with a plethora of new toys (thanks, Grandma!). Chloe loved the shallow pools of water that formed when the tide went out. I always love (LOVE) the water, but being a mom, I really enjoy watching my kids have fun. They're so blissfully happy with simple things. Methinks there's a lesson to be learned there.

We had a great vacation - a week together that was wonderful, but of course ended too quickly. Here's looking forward to being together again soon!