Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Project Get Outside

This month I started a new project. I like to think of things in "projects." I don't really know why, other than that's how I did fairly well as an art major. I loved doing projects. Having ideas and visions and then working on them into completion. This month my brother moved down to Texas and we are all renting together now. Maybe him being here was what first gave me the bravery at first to get out and do a bit bigger things with the girls. I'm sure to a lot of mothers this is not really a big thing. But for me, it has always been really hard for me to get everyone ready and out the door. Most days I just want to stay at home. I think I was use to life in Arkansas and small country towns where you didn't have to really leave home to be outside in nature. Here in the city though, I think it takes more effort. We have to all get dressed and pack snacks and seize the day a bit. If I don't do this I feel like both of my children start to sort of go crazy, as do I. I think they have energy they need to give back to nature. And I, I need nature to give me that energy back. This is how "Project Get Outside" came into being.

Another huge factor that has made me feel more driven and passionate about getting outside was finally picking up the book Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. Andrew has had this book since college, since he majored in Outdoor Education. I had picked it up before, but it drew me in with new eyes now being a mother. I have been sad about the lack of free space we have in the city. So much so that I am often reevaluating my ideas of what is necessary for a happy childhood. I always thought I would love a big city. Which I do love the culture and entertainment I guess you could call it, that comes with a bigger city. I do however miss my laundry line so much that it literally makes me heart ache. I wish we could just open the door and be outside more. Sure, we can "be outside" but sidewalks and men doing landscaping just doesn't give me the same sense of calm as looking at cows grazing in a pasture.

This is a big topic for me, the idea of being outside and in nature and what it all means. I hope to sort of start a series on what I am learning as I read this book, and also what I am learning about myself and my own childhood. I have written before about walking through harvested cornfields as a child while staying with my Meme when my parents were getting a divorce. I went to the nature that was around me to escape. I have seen myself use nature for an escape and also therapeutic healing, Now I raise my daughters in the city and read this book and fear they will not know nature.

Marring the man I did though, I know he will continue to led us into the wild. But this project is more about myself and the girls. Me being only with two small children and saying yes to the adventure of being outside and in the wild. Maybe our wild will still have sidewalks, but it will be ours and we will learn more about ourselves each day.

Before I was sick last week, I had done over a week of outings. I think in nine days we had gotten out five times on our own and three other times with my brother or Andrew. I have been picking different parks and playgrounds. It doesn't always have to be woods or an empty field. Sometimes it is. Other times I take Blanche to a playground and we end up under the trees. Or like above she finds confetti on the ground from an old birthday party and makes flowers with them and sticks. Both of my girls are under three years old and not old enough to send out alone. But I can let them be. I can give them time. I think the biggest thing I have seen about myself so far is that I like to rush things and put it all on a nice schedule. Today we went to a park with a sandbox and after thirty minutes I felt like it was time to do something else. Blanche didn't. Thankfully I realized there wasn't anything else we needed to rush to do. I wore Rosemary in the carrier and let her nap while Blanche played for over an hour in the sand. I think that so many times children are rushed through their days and expected to behave and act as adults. There is something so magical about how well behaved they really are when you take them outside and just let them be.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Love Shack (Part 2)

I have a very clear memory of one night in high school when I was completely exhausted. My mom was living in Saint Joseph, a bigger city about twenty miles from where I went to school and where my dad was living in the very small town I grew up in called Gower. It was during a time when my parents were divorced and all of us kids tried to go back and forth between the two of them. I was on my high schools dance team and also worked at Sonic. I drove about thirty minutes to school each day.  I would get there early for dance practice, and other days drive my siblings in as well to school. After my day I would go to work at Sonic and many times it was the later shift and I would help close. This one night I remember my legs hurt so bad between the dance practice and skating at Sonic (I swear the north has way better Sonics and people skate). I had homework and a history test the next day. It was probably ten thirty at night, and I was just overwhelmed. I remember my mom rubbing my legs and then I ended up crying. My mother likes to fix things, I am sure I got that from her. She told me it was okay. Maybe she would just call in for me and I could study a bit in the morning and take the test later that day. I am sure if I told my friends what had happened they would think it was unfair. Or maybe even other mothers would think I was being babied. But life isn't really fair, and I think my mom already knew that. I was driving to and from two different cities all week to see both of my parents and probably using a lot of my work money for gas. So you know, screw that history test. Just do what we need to do to survive.

I don't really know why that one night in high school has stayed with me. Maybe part of it was that I always thought it was cool my mom would do that. She would let us sort of bend the rules. I will probably do the same things at times with my own children. Sometimes rules are dumb and life is hard and you just need a break.

But I am also learning now that I am an adult that sometimes you don't get that break. Sometimes my legs hurt and I am tired and I lay in bed crying and there isn't anyone to say that it can be fixed. My husband will still wake up and go to work in the morning and my children will probably rise close to 7 am. Sometimes when you are the parent no one can really hold your hand and tell you that you can have a day off.

I had this type of day this last Friday. Just a day where I was in a funk I couldn't get out of all day. I wanted to, but I just felt a tired fog all around me. Sometimes I just don't even know what I am doing. I am just cleaning and doing the motions and wishing I could do something else.

And then right when I thought I had no clue how to change or that things weren't going to change, we woke up the next morning and it was 55 degrees. It was rainy and cold and felt like it was Christmas morning. I had a text from an old friend and roommate I had lived in Ireland with, who now only lives an hour north of me. She said, "Step outside it feels like Ireland today." I went out onto the patio and everything felt so amazing. It was like a huge breath of fresh air to my hot and dusty summer. The warm sun feels good, but sometimes I become so dry and worn... and then the cold rain brings me back to where I need to be.

I am a sensitive person. Sometimes I wish I wasn't.  Sylvia Plath wrote in her journal once that she felt as if she lived in two extremes,  joyous positive and despairing negative. I heard this on a video about Plath once and it gave me a little comfort that I was not alone. I probably get my feelings hurt too much . I am probably too harsh with Andrew. But when I am happy, I am so happy. After I gave birth to Rosemary I told my nurse I wanted a thousand more babies. I float on clouds. When I am happy and content I feel as if all of the world makes sense. Every little detail in  my life can be beautiful. But when the clouds fall into a fog around me, nothing seems to make sense. Things feel so overwhelming and I feel helpless. Seeing this in myself makes me feel like a hormonal teenager, or that maybe something is more wrong with me than I realize.

I sometimes wonder if those closest to me wish I would change. But the truth is, it all just happens. My emotions snowball and Andrew can come home from work and he may never know what my day or my opinion of life is going to be that day. I would like to say that most days are pretty predictable and that I just have good days and occasional bad days, but I guess only Andrew could answer that.

I realize I need to work on not letting my emotions rule me. I think it takes thinking about it at least once an hour. Telling myself things are okay, keeping myself in check. I know though that if I wasn't this way, I couldn't sit down and write things as clearly as I do. Or when I look into a camera I wouldn't see things a certain way. My sensitivity and emotion makes me who I am.

After the brilliantly cold day yesterday, I felt better and refreshed for today. I told myself that rather than laying in bed at night realizing what I have to be thankful for, that I should try and write them in the morning. Or even write them in my journal through the day. There are so many things. There is so much sweetness happening all around me. I fear I am loosing myself in motherhood at times. I think maybe my children will be gone and I won't know who I am or who Andrew is and I won't even know what direction to walk. I clean up messes all day and fold laundry in between making snacks and pretending I'm a lion or dragon. I think that maybe right after college I was figuring out who I was and now motherhood has put all of that on hold.

But I always seem to forget that motherhood is changing me for good. I never sat down and wrote like this in college. The last time I wrote was in high school. So much was happening in my life when I was in high school. I journaled in college but did a lot of my processing talking with friends. Now I sit down to write at night once my children are asleep. I breastfeed, cloth diaper, baby wear. I do all these things I had never known anything about before children, and now I can tell you more than you would probably want to know. I am learning to be patient. I am learning to be content. I am learning when to stop folding laundry and sit and play with my daughter that will only be two for one more month.

I can't change my emotions. But I can know myself and set myself up for success or failure. No one can know how their day is going to go. And no one always likes going to work. Motherhood feels hard for me because my job never really ends, but at the same time I can sit in my pajamas and drink coffee until noon. Okay, I don't really sit long and the coffee gets cold... but its still comfy on rainy days.

Just as I wrote that I am probably too harsh with Andrew, I also feel the extreme on the other end of the spectrum for him as well. He is my best friend and I can get so frustrated and I want him to have the answers to all my questions about why life is the way it is. But then even though I think he has said all the wrong things he will just give up and say his last words to me in bed late at night in a sleepy voice. He told me how much he misses being in the wilderness. I asked in dramatic fashion, "Then why are we doing this?" In my mind I just see us loosing ourselves doing the 9-5 job, with a commute, living in the suburbs. But he just said it was because he wanted a family more. And that certain things are just on the back burner for awhile. And with that I won't forget those words. I can be mad or feel self pity or whatever funk I am in and then he just tells me the honest truth and it humbles me and I know he is right.

Who said it was my right to sit around doing all the things I want to do? I think I just want a given time where I know that I will have a couple of hours to myself, but with limited time during harder weeks... I start to feel trapped. Trapped in my own life of helping everyone but myself. But then I think about Ma and Pa Ingalls. Yes I do. Their daily tasks and work were their hobbies. So many people spend life just working to survive. It is a privalaged problem to not have time to scrapbook. I always have a hard time trying to process what it means to be a writer or artist. Most creative people know that it is not just a hobby or something we enjoy in our spare time. Making art and having the need to create something is really what drives so many creative people.  

I think what all this rambling really looks like is the pictures above. Just a wonderful messy day. I am a mom. I can't choose to always have a break when I would like it. And just because I would like to sleep in or read or take a long hot bath does not mean I will always get to. But at the same time, no one is telling me what type of mom I have to be. I can do this thing however I want. We can paint and play outside for every moment I'm not working on a chore. Which is actually what my next post is going to be about. My newest project sort of, "project get outside."

I am trying. I want to be thankful and loving. I want to have God help me love my family and to be thankful for all the many things I have. I am trying to know myself and know what it is that I need to be a thriving mother. And I think finger paints can really help.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

What Makes a Love Shack

I have this folder in my photo catalog labeled "Love Shack." I slide pictures in there from time to time while loading pictures from my phone or off my camera. It is something I do with pretty much all emotion and almost zero thought. If it feels like a photo that seems like a "love shack" photo, I slide it in there. I was looking through this folder the other day and it got me to thinking, "What Makes a Love Shack?" Was it it that makes me put certain photos in that folder and leave others out?

We all know the song, Love Shack. Actually the song just reminds me of being at the skating rink in fifth grade. If there were any serious sexual metaphors they all went over my head. But I would say the idea of me cruising around the skating rink and that song blasting is a high that seems true the beautiful moments in life. The skating rink is dim, strobe lights and disco ball going. The stale air that smells of old skates flying by my noise as I go round and round. Smelling popcorn and cotton candy towards the front of the rink. The cool 20 something DJ blasting music and hearing the arcade games going in the background. Perfection.

When I actually looked up the lyrics I did like this part:

"Sign says 'Stay away, fools'
'Cause love rules at the Love Shack
Well, it's set way back in the middle of a field
Just a funky old shack and I gotta get back
Glitter on the mattress
Glitter on the highway
Glitter on the front porch
Glitter on the highway"

That sort of sounds like the bohemian dream to me.

I decided to put up some of the pictures I have in this folder. I like that they all loaded in random order. There are flowers through out pictures of some what crazy and whimsical walls.  Gardens and indoor plants. Vintage and wooden toys. Quilts and always a laundry line.

Lately I have been thinking about happiness. Not just being thankful or grateful. But happy. Obviously everyone knows happiness comes and goes. It comes in more abundance sometimes than others. There's grief and suffering. There's joy and gladness. And then there is just that old and strange word. Happy. It seems to dance around me. Coming and going almost unable to catch it. Like a firefly, lighting up in front of my face and then before I can put it in a glass jar to keep it forever it is  gone again.

People post stories of people with awful lives. And I feel like compared to them I should be happy. I see war and death. And think I should be happy. I should be happy not because of those things happening, but out of guilt that if that is not happening to me, I am lucky and should be happy. I have clean water and clothes and shelter. Clean and nice shelter, not just a box or a real shack. But so many of us are not happy. I am not trying to get into a lengthy discussion about depression. I know the topics of depression and sucide are serious and often debated. I do believe people often need medication and professional help. Because sometimes it is so much more than just looking for happiness. When I hear of people commenting sucide my heart breaks. I don't have the impulse to write out some post (Like I have seen before) about how this person gave up and should have went to God. I don't think it is that simple. But I do have this sad feeling, more of a pit of despair for whoever that person could be. There was a sadness inside too heavy and painful to bear for one more moment. I think deep down that these people are not selfish but so empathic to the world around them that they can stand it not longer. The pain is too great. I do believe God is there, and that He can help. But the brain is a complicated and fragile thing, and I don't have it figured out.

All this to say that I often struggle with depression. I think it is why my environment is so important to me. I am a visual person. I love beauty and want to be surrounded by it. I love that Andrew buys me flowers so often. I really think they do help me. I think nature is something that is very therapeutic for me. I long to be in the sun hanging laundry or out in the forest. I want to swim in the ocean and hike through the woods. Being a stay at home mom of two that are two and under... those things don't always happen like I would like them to. Some days are really hard. My days can be minute by minute helping those around me, maybe taking twenty minutes for myself... and then not until the late hours of the night when everyone else is asleep and I alone with my thoughts again.

I feel bad to not feel happy. I am grateful. I am thankful. I have seen children beg in India, my children always have food. I have seen parents lose their children, I have lost a classmate to murder, I have watched my parents divorce and my husband grew up without a father because of cancer. I know real pain. Most days that is not my life. My days have smiles and baby drool and good food and cool air flowing from the clean vents. I am so thankful. I am not always happy.

I think I decorate and organize and place things all around me as a little game of bringing a smile to my face. I will make happiness. I will make rainbows and apples in the window sill make it feel like the world is a happy and beautiful place.

There is always the overwhelming bearing reality that the world is a fallen place. No one can deny it. We all run to certain things. I pray and ask God to help me see how I can change. Because it has never been about God making my life a happy one, but about my eyes being able to see the blessings and beauty that surround me.

I lie awake at night sometimes almost angry at the amount of work I do all day for everyone else. And then something happens to that anger when I see a post from a person on Instagram who has a lost a child, or a friend posts a picture of me and my beautiful babies on Facebook. The anger and selfishness starts to fade and gratitude and thankfulness turn my heart to love. My biggest blessings are the things that take the most work, time, and energy. My family.

No one has a perfect life. Everyone has some sort of suffering. It is not about finding the perfect life or place where there is no pain, but about changing yourself. Maybe that means decorating your house or staying up all night making art or living in the woods. Prayer that changes the heart will change my eyes as well. Thankfulness is a powerful thing. I'm not saying there is a secret way to be happy. I think I do certain things to help pull myself out of depression. I'm not claiming to be clinically depressed or know all the answers for those that are. I am just talking about me. I am talking about trying to learn contentment and to choose to get out of bed each morning and be thankful for what I have. And not to compare it to someone else or anyone else. Anywhere.

I want to work on being a more positive person in all the little moments. To take an apartment that has all walls painted white and hanging up rainbow colors of scarves. Bringing in the life of living plants and wildflowers. Turning on the music and hugging my babies and realizing my mindset is a powerful thing. A Love Shack is a place where you choose happiness and love.

Click here for other love shack pictures

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Cloth Diapers Made Simple

Since I started cloth diapering with Blanche almost three years ago, I have had quite a few friends ask me about my process with cloth diapering. While I am certainly not an expert, I will say that I have made my routine pretty simple. I thought I would share with you what it is that makes cloth diapering something doable for me, even now with two small children.

When I first learned about cloth diapering when I was pregnant with Blanche, my friend from college was selling them. As she told me about the waste of disposable diapers that can take something like 500 years to decompose and all of the untested chemicals inside of them, I knew that cloth diapering was something I wanted to do.

I chose to use Bumgenius because it seemed fairly simple. I had good advice from my consultant friend to probably use the snaps over too many velcro. She said the snaps are harder for babies to undo and seem to last a bit longer. The ones that I use with bum genius are called "AIO" or "all in ones." They are really simple with an insert that slides in the inside pocket, and the outside has snaps that can adjust the size. This makes them usable from what they claim to be from 7-35+ pounds. I have found that both of my babies needed to fatten up a bit before they worked ideally. Blanche also reached a point in her pre-potty training days (from about four or five months ago to now) where when she holds it all day and then does urinate in cloth, it seems to be a little too much for cloth. So she isn't in them anymore.

I have found the more research I do about cloth diapering,  the more I realize there is so much to know. In today's market there are so many options and ways to do cloth diapers. I felt like a lot of people looked at me funny when I said I wanted to do cloth, but now that I live in Austin I am surrounded by people who not only cloth diaper but know way more about it. There are pre-folds and wool pants and all the little hippie ways I sort of wish I would/ could have done. But at the same time, like I am trying to figure out, it doesn't have to be all or nothing. There's nothing wrong with doing cloth diapering in a simple way, and using disposables as well sometimes.

The main reason I thought a post like this might be helpful was to list what supplies I have found to be needed. Or what things make it easy. I had a "cloth diaper shower" when pregnant with Blanche, and a lot of my friends and family chose to buy me a diaper or two which has been such a great gift that I now use with Rosemary.

-25 cloth diapers with inserts (bum genius all in ones come with a smaller and larger insert for each diaper) Having this amount can last long enough to wash every 2-3 days and still have a few while washing and drying.


-2 large wet sacks It took me awhile to get this one down. I don't know why it took me so long, but it did. For almost two years I was buying planet wise wet sacks and hanging them on the back of my bathroom door. I went through multiple and no matter how I dried them (on the line, inside, dryer etc.) all of them would eventually leak. And smell. Then a wise friend in Austin told me about Thirsties wet sacks that were actually diaper pail liners. Or you know, ten dollar plastic trash cans from Target. All I do is have one wet sack lining the pail right next to the toliet and place my diapers in there after washing.


- 1 or 2 "to go" wet bags" These smaller wet bags are great for on the go. Its nice to not even worry about messing with your diapers and just putting them in a bag while on the go. My wet bag wasn't from thirsties but is similar to the link below. It keeps moisture and odor in well too.


- Natural "Cloth Diaper friendly" rash cream and wipe spray I actually think out of all my cloth diapering products this one brand is what I am the most passionate about. I love this company and the small family that runs it. She has amazing products. A good friend from Arkansas that also cloth diapers told me about her "baby wipe juice." It is made with natural and healing oils. A teaspoon is added to my little glass spray jar. I choose to spray the cloth wipe and a little on her bottom over soaking the wipes, but it is totally preference. I also love Lusa Organics diaper rash cream. It is so healing, smells amazing, its natural and organic... and cloth diaper friendly. Certain rash creams will not come out of cloth diapers. So be careful.


- Disposable wipes or cloth wipes I actually made a lot of cloth wipes and hankies when Blanche was younger. You can see them here and here. Also there are really cute pictures of Blanche so you should click on those links. But its totally preference on what wipes and when and how and why (sort of like diapers as well).

Spray Wand In one of the pictures above you can see the spray wand on the toilet. It is a life savor for getting a good start on those dirty diapers. I highly recommend getting one. Actually its kind of a bidet. If you bought one under that name over a special "cloth diaper sprayer" it would probably be cheaper.

Of course, I am up at midnight trying to finish a post about cloth diapering. I do this because I like to feel like I still use my brain. Rosemary has been sick all week, after bringing her to the dr for her check up she got a virus. So, she isn't quite herself in the pictures. I am also starting to fad while writing. Lastly though I wanted to do a quick run through of what it looks like.

-cloth diaper on
-cloth diaper off
-use baby wipe spray and cream to clean
-spray diaper clean in the toilet
-put in wet sack

repeat until two or three days

-wash (I like to use Charlie's Soap )

And when I wash, I first do a cold rinse, and then a hot wash. Normally the wash has a rinse at the end. People get sort of crazy with all the rinsing and how many times you should do it. Then I read an article that said that didn't matter and it made me feel better and I stopped doing it so much.

-hang in sun to dry

The article that said all the rinsing didn't matter... said that frequent washing and sun drying were the most important elements to having clean, white, nice smelling diapers.

So this is what I do! A whole world of taking care of baby poop. My last picture is my "on the go" supplies. I have a mini spray bottle for home and to go. The same with the amazing cream. There is something so nice about walking into a restroom and changing my baby and never leaving any trash. I just throw it all in the wet bag to wash at home. I also love having my babies in just a cloth diaper during the hot summer. Or with a little shirt. Its so cute. I do wish I had a few more girly colors of diapers. I bought mostly yellow and green, always thinking I am pregnant with a boy when it is a girl.

I hope this can help someone who is interested in cloth diapers! Cloth can be super simple. Even if its just around the house a few days a week. It is just one extra load of laundry and can save so much waste from just sitting in the Earth. With cloth all the yucky stuff goes down the toilet with the rest of ours, but with diapers all of that waste sits there forever in a landfill. I hope some of you will be open to trying cloth diapering!

Below is also a great link that has a "registry list." She has supplies like I have listed, but also breaks down different types of cloth diapers with a few brands included.