Random Mom Tip #2

I have discovered the easiest way in the universe to clean high chairs and booster seats… and the dining chairs to which said booster seats are strapped.

Stuck on baby food puree?  Cheerios plastered to the bottom with dried baby spit?  Other unidentifiable crust?  No problem.

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Step 1:  Drag everything crusty into the driveway

Step 2:  Spray everything down with the hose

Step 3:  Fill a bucket with water and a little dish soap

Step 4:  Take a rag or sponge and scrub, scrub scrub

Step 5:  Rinse with the hose

Step 6:  Let it all dry in the sun

It dawned on me one day as I was trying to get in around the nooks and crannies in the high chair while my hubby was washing the cars that I was doing a completely unnecessary amount of scraping.  If I just washed this stuff like he washed the cars, it would all be so simple!  And it was.  And it is.

And so it shall be forevermore.

Amen.

Health & Fitness Update 3!

My, how things… well mainly me… are moving along!  Woot!  I started the journey to better after-baby health in January with everyone else’s resolutions and good intentions, and some very real change has taken place in that time.

Two dress sizes, 14 lb, and 3 inches off my waist are gone.  It’s about 25% of the way to my goal of getting down that box in the garage labeled “Crystal’s Pre-Preg Clothes.”  There’s some good ish in that box.  I dropped some serious cash on my professional wardrobe before Taz came along and surprised us.  I am very much looking forward to playing dress up in my old clothes, but also aware that things may never fit the way they did before two babies stretched my middle out to there.

The MFP app I mentioned in the last update made an absolutely massive difference.  That free app has held me accountable, given me a plan, and connected me to other people on a similar journey so I don’t flood my friends’ news feeds with a constant barrage of workout selfies.  

I think the trickiest part has been figuring out how far to push myself.  I want change to take place, so I know I need to push past my comfort zone to make my body adapt, but I have enough physical limitations from the pregnancies that I’d like to avoid heaping injury on top of those.  I realized about a month ago that my knees were not very strong at all and needed some support to avoid injury, so I bought some knee braces at CVS.  They look kind of ridiculous with workout shorts, but whatevs.  Wearing them ensures that my knees don’t feel like they want to give out after a workout.  MFP is a calorie counter, so for awhile it was hard to figure out what to eat on rest days when I didn’t get an extra 200-400 calories from a workout.  I have since figured out how to fill my dinner plate with mounds of veggies and fruits instead of grains and starches, and it’s a lot easier to get a full belly with fewer calories.  My body had to adjust to eating less, but I’m now more than satisfied eating within my calorie allowance for the day.  

It is so important to REST!  I had to learn that the hard way.   I did too many training days in a row and hit a major wall.  It’s hard to drag yourself through the day with two little people depending on you for everything when everything HURTS.  I took my body’s hint and went back to taking long walks for a couple of days, and made sure to get to bed early.

I have Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred and her Shred It with Weights DVD, and a Gaim Cardio DVD, and a Yoga DVD that I have been rotating.  I got pretty comfortable with Level 1 of the Shred, so added Level 2 after already doing Level 1.  The first day, I seriously felt like I was going to die after that.  It’s completely doable now, but I have to modify 2 or 3 exercises in Level 2 now.  

The most encouraging thing has been seeing signs of muscle growth in my arms and middle.  I feel strength in my body again, and it feels fantastic!  Putting away the extra-large jeans felt pretty fantastic, too.

Finding time to workout is the challenge.  When I’m home, I wait until the afternoon nap.  Working out with little kids around is just about impossible.  Taz constantly pops into my face to ask, “Mommy what are you doing?  Are you OK?” and repeat 50 times.  It just works better for all of us if I get out the stuff when they are snoozing away!  When I work, I have been taking long walks on my lunch break, and occasionally getting up before everyone else to squeeze in a DVD workout.  But seriously I hate getting up early, so I don’t think that’s going to be a thing for very long.  

I’ve certainly learned the importance of picking up the many toys with wheels in the living room before working out, too!  Slipping on a dump truck once was eNOUGH for me.

I have a pretty “goal” dress that I purchased in an optimistic moment about a year ago now.  It’s still 2 sizes away from fitting correctly, but it sure feels great to be able to get the zipper up now!  I’d love to wear it to work while the weather is still warm this year…. we’ll see, I guess!

I believe. Help my unbelief.

I am grateful for a God bigger than my doubts.

I have many questions, and He is not intimidated by them.  I examine everything I was raised to believe, and He’s cool with that.  I get angry about the dumb stuff my fellow believers and leaders do and say in the name of God, and He lets me know that stuff pisses Him off, too.

I resonate with the phrase the father of the demon possessed boy cried out in Mark 9:24, “I do believe!  But help me overcome my unbelief!”

If there is any verse that could sum up my faith experience over the last 6 years, it is that.

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I have been thinking a lot about Nicodemus lately.  He was a Pharisee- a religious leader.  He was a very educated man. He knew his theology inside and out.  And then Jesus came along with some crazy things to say.  They were contrary to the things Nicodemus had grown up with and believed all his life, but he couldn’t help but see that Jesus was performing miracles wherever he went.

John 3:2 “He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God.  For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.'”

I think Jesus really shook him up.  And I get that- my faith has been shaken pretty good lately, too.  And the thing I love about this whole conversation at night with Jesus that Nicodemus has, is that Nicodemus asks Jesus a bunch of questions.  He lets him know that the stuff Jesus is saying is just not computing in his head.  And Jesus comes back and tells Nicodemus that he’s making this whole thing way harder than it needs to be.  It’s not logical, and it doesn’t have to be so over-spiritual.  What Jesus is offering is mysterious and illogical, but it is fulfilling and experiential- right here, right now, on earth.

John 3:12 “I have spoken to you of earthly things; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?”

That always reminds me of what my dad had to say about some of the more legalistic members of our church, “They’re so heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good.”

I think sometimes in the church we make reaching out for Jesus way harder than it needs to be.  We add all these rules and caveats- you have to be this, this, and this before you can experience grace and fullness.  That’s just not true.  Here, Jesus is saying to just throw out what you think you know and believe in him.

I listened to this sermon over the weekend, and it was refreshing to hear this pastor speak about exactly the story that has been on my heart.  It is just about 12 minutes long, and well worth the listen.

Sermon on earthly things, wombs, and the resurrection from the dead

Lord, I do believe.  Please help my unbelief.

Fitness Update #2

8 weeks in and I am seeing progress!  Fiiiiiinally.

I really can’t believe how much harder it is to get in shape in my late twenties, after 2 babies, than it was in my teens and early twenties. (said every woman ever)

For about a month, I was making minor changes- changes that would have produced weight loss in my younger days- and saw absolutely zero results.  

Then I upped my workouts by quite a bit.  I bought a kettle bell and learned how to use it properly, and have been rotating running/ speed walking, kettle bell workouts, yoga, and cardio workout videos 4 times per week.  The two weeks of doing that saw no weight loss at all, but I could actually jog an entire mile and a half by the end of two weeks which was great.  

This little app has been the key to seeing baby weight come off:

http://www.myfitnesspal.com

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It’s a really easy calorie tracker.  You enter your gender, height, weight, activity level, and goals, and it comes up with a calorie number you need to hit daily to get to your goal.  I have tried calorie tracking before on programs like Weight Watchers, but they were always so confusing for me.  I didn’t like the points system (too confusing), and when I tried tracking calories before, I had to enter nearly every food into the program manually since the library wasn’t very big.  MFP is awesome because nearly everything I buy to eat has already been entered in the system.  They even have an easy to use recipe calculator on the site for homemade meals.  

I realized after a few days of doing this that in the past, I have been eating way too much, and too much of the wrong stuff.  I’m still able to enjoy everything I normally eat, but I’ve filled in a lot more fruits and veggies now- high in fiber, low in calories, so I can actually feel full.

I’m down a pants size, down 7 lb, and starting to feel like my old self again.

Yay for things happening!

Babies Don’t Keep

I took 30 of my music students on an after school field trip to go to the opera this past week.  What an incredible experience it was for them.  They showed up in fancy attire, the ladies had their hair and makeup done (a big deal as makeup is banned at our strict Catholic school!), and they got to feel what it was like to sit in a red velvet seat and be completely wrapped up in the incredible sounds coming from internationally renowned opera singers and a world class symphony orchestra, just feet in front of them.  It was a true privilege to introduce them to one of my favorite art forms.

But something that I love about doing these kinds of things with my students is that we get to hang out outside of our normal classroom time and build our relationship.  I wrapped up business with my glee club and had about an hour to spare before we started greeting opera arrivals, so I decided to join some of the kids who were hanging around the school for dinner at one of our local restaurants.  I ended up walking right behind four siblings, their mom to my left.  The kids are all two years apart, almost to the day, and they were lined up by age in front of me- like perfect stair steps.

And it really struck me.  When I first met this family, the mom had her youngest in my mommy and me music class.  He was 2.  Sometimes the other three would come if school wasn’t in session, and they were all in 2nd grade or below.  She was in the middle of parenting very young children, and she loved it.  For nearly a decade, there was an infant or preschooler in the house.  Now, here they all were- the oldest leaving for college in four short years, the youngest to follow in fewer years than he’d been in her life.

Everyone says it goes fast.  It seems like somewhere in between the heavy lifting of the infant and toddler years and the transition of the teenage years, time slips away.  Sometimes I have enough time to catch my breath and believe it.  Sometimes it feels like this will always be my life, with little babies to care for, but I know that’s not true.  There are a million little moments I wish I could bottle up and keep.  Like having two wiggly boys in footie pajamas on my lap for a bedtime story, their sweet smelling heads right under my chin.  Or getting tackled on Saturday morning by a two year old eager for hugs and pancakes.  Or picking up Little P at daycare and feeling him giggle with happiness to see mommy as I lift him into my arms.  This time in my life is so sweet.  So much work sometimes, but so sweet.

Song for a Fifth Child by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton (1921- )

Mother, oh mother, come shake out your cloth!
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking!

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby, loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo.)

Oh, cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust, go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby. Babies don’t keep.

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Why Having 2 Under 2 was Awesome

When people find out that we had our little guys just 15 months apart, they usually gasp and say something like, “How do you do it???”

I usually answer something like, “uh, one day at a time, I guess?”  

The truth is that, like everything, you just take it as it comes.  This is my life, and so… I’m living it.

But I think people get caught up in obsessing over the couple of months of lost sleep that comes with a newborn, the busy-ness of a little toddler, add those up in their heads and come to the conclusion that it must be close to impossible to live through.  From my perspective, I’m so very glad we had the boys so close together.  I have a few of you out there who are expecting 2 under 2 any day now, or are in the first few weeks of it, so let me be a voice of encouragement for you!

7 Reasons Why Having 2 Kids Under 2 Is Awesome!

1.  The older one will never remember being an only child.  This may be unique to us, but we never had to deal with sibling jealousy when we brought home the new baby.  He was so young himself that after about a week, it was like “Baby” as he called him, had always been a member of the fam.

2.  2 in diapers = way the heck easier than 1 in diapers and 1 potty training toddler.  Trust me on that one, especially now that we’re in the middle of potty training Taz.  Before, we did a butt check every 2 hours.  Easy.  People always make a big deal out of diapers like it’s hard or something.  You know what’s hard?  Cleaning up potty training accidents.  Diapers are cake.

3.  They are entertained by the same things!  I used to lay Taz down next to Little P and make them both giggle for 20 minutes by tickling them or making funny faces.  Then we would do blocks.  Then we’d load up the double stroller and go for a walk.  They love the same toys and same activities!  So we don’t have a big kid set of stuff and a baby set of stuff.  We’re in baby mode all the time!

4.  The house is already baby proofed.  No need to put up gates and re-adjust to living life around baby proofing gear. We’re already there!

5.  The baby clothes are being well used.  We had two of the same gender.  Little P is about a year behind his big bro in clothing size.  They go into the attic for a few months, then it’s time to get the box out for baby boy!

6.  I never got used to sleeping all night anyway.  It’s funny how your body adjusts.  I didn’t have that fog in the first few months that I did with Taz.  I was already used to getting up a few times a night and functioning the next day, so no need to readjust for that.

7.  They both go to bed super early.  Once Little P started “sleeping through” (whatever that means for a baby), they both went to bed at 6:30, and still do!  Wahoo!  Mommy and Daddy time!!!

So, really!  It’s great, you guys!  2 under 2 is not really all that hard.  At least not harder than anything else in life.  We’re already in baby mode.  We didn’t have to get OUT of baby mode and then get back in.  In fact, we’re kind of thinking that if we want to add more kids, we’d better get on it soon before we get used to not being in baby mode….

So what I’m saying is… I’m in trouble.

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(Church) Family Drama

I was recently having lunch with a friend, and we were talking about our church.  We were in a restaurant, and an older man at the table next to us leaned over and started an awkward conversation.  He opened with, “I heard you talking about spiritual matters,” and I quickly tried to assess if he wanted to talk about God because he needed some encouragement, or if he just wanted to make a point.   It was one of those where he started asking strange, pointless theological questions (like “What is God the Father’s name?” I admit I thought he was a JW trying to proselytize, so I answered, “Is the answer you’re looking for “Jehovah?”).  I managed to try to get him to make a point, and he told us, “I just wanted to commend you for being spiritual girls and having faith.”  Alright, cool, man.  But honestly, it was like someone stopping me on the street and commending me for having brown hair.  My faith is just that integral to who I am.  My relationship with God is the heartbeat behind my day.  It is my frame of reference for everything I do.

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I say that in the hope that the following rant/ stream of consciousness will be understood as coming from someone who truly loves God and loves the Church.  God is my foundation, and the Church is my home, my culture, and my family.  Like every family, however, we have our issues.

There has been a lot of talk in the blogosphere lately about how the church is losing members at a rapid rate (see some examples here, here, and here).  The Barna Group published results from a 5 year project that stated up to six in ten young people who grew up in the church leave the church for an extended period (or permanently) by age 15. Much speculation has been thrown around about what is behind the mass exodus, particularly among people from my generation.  It seems to fall into a few categories:

1.  The church is seen as being a negative force in our society more than a positive one.  They are anti-gay, anti-sex, anti-woman, and anti-science.

2.  Young people feel that they are being forced to accept the church’s stance on political and social issues, or risk being outright rejected by the community.

3.  After being raised in a church that separated the kids and teens from the main congregation with their own, personalized services that catered to their tastes and tried to be “relevant,” young people are bored by the “grown up” services, or feel that there is no longer a place for them.

4.  Continuing on the theme of #3, nearly 50% of US adults are single (2012 census).  After youth group and before the young, married with kids group, most churches don’t have a place for adult singles to find a home.

I have to admit that I have struggled with each of these points at one time or another.  We’ve struggled over the course of our marriage about where we fit in our church community.  It was made blaringly obvious that we did not fit in the conservative denomination in which I was raised after two years of our attempting to make it our church home.  We’re just too damn liberal.  Plus we like beer sometimes.

When Bryan’s sister came out of the closet, we experienced a lack of support from our church home.  We were wrestling with what we believed/ their amazing relationship right in front of our faces.  Instead of listening with compassion and authenticity, many (though it must be noted- not all) fellow church members recoiled in disgust at the very mention of the word “gay.”  Any attempt at critical thinking or processing that resulted in conclusions that were not consistent with the “traditional” stance of the church was met with cries of “Deception!” and “Blasphemy!”  I was told that God would remove his “hand of protection” from my life if we continued to love our sisters and support their relationship.  It has been a year.  God has not abandoned us.

I have struggled with depression several times as an adult.  It is frightening, isolating, and dark.  It is lonely.  And it is thoroughly misunderstood.  Friends, depression is a disease.  It is a chemical imbalance in the brain.  And there is so much help available, but we have GOT to STOP stigmatizing depression.  My senior pastor has depression and has bravely mentioned it from the pulpit multiple times.  For that, I am so grateful.  It is unbelievably frustrating to me, then, when other pastors and speakers at our church give examples of people in their sermons that are clearly struggling with depression, but fail to recognize it for what it is.

We recently heard a sermon series about guilt.  There were two separate speakers who both mentioned people in their lives who told them that they knew they were forgiven by God for the bad things in their past, but they could not forgive themselves.  The bad things they did came back to assault them time and time again, sometimes throughout the day, most often when they were trying to sleep.  The speakers both told them to PRAY, to CLAIM GOD’S PROMISES, to ACCEPT THE BLOOD OF JESUS OVER YOUR SINS.  They failed to recognize that their friends had done those things.  They should have said, “Friend, if you have indeed prayed and you still have things haunting you, if you have irrational fears that you know are unlikely to come true, if you have thoughts of ending your life because you don’t think you are redeemable, if you are frightened that something terrible will happen to your family/ loved ones:  I have significant reason to believe you are struggling with depression.  I know where to help you find therapy.  May I walk beside you through this journey?  I can help you make the first phone call.”

One pastor passionately proclaimed in his sermon “You don’t need blogs!  You don’t need alcohol!  You don’t need sin!  You don’t need medication!  YOU NEED JESUS!”  You know what?  Sometimes you have Jesus, and you still need medication.

Bryan and I were a stereotypical Christian couple who got married right after graduating from our small, Christian college.  If I hadn’t met him, if I had remained single, I think I would have a very hard time attending church right now.  In fact, if we didn’t have small children, I would have trouble motivating myself to attend church.  My kids love it, and I’m so thankful for that.  Right now, they have a very clear place to fit in our church.  I hope to help instill a faith in them that will be there to light their way, even when they are in my shoes, and don’t really know where they fit anymore.

That was all over the place, I’m aware.  So many points to make, so little time.  I want to keep exploring it further, and I will as the mood strikes and my small children line up their naps.  I suppose my point is that I love my Church family.  I love them so much.  But we’re not always the best at understanding each other.  There have been many times where we have been tempted to throw in the towel.  If this is so hard, why are we still hanging around?  Well, because the Church is our family.  And you don’t leave your family.