Monday, April 27, 2009

Greener Cleaner

I used to be a very cluttered person. And I never really knew how to clean. But as I have begun to cleanse internally, the mental and emotional clutter has started to clear and naturally, I now desire an external space that reflects my internal space.  Suffice it to say, I now can be found cleaning and tidying a lot more often than I ever thought I would. When things are in order it gives me a sense of peace. It is very calming.  Cleaning gurus "as seen on TV" often speak to the opposite order of things, that organizing your space will give you mental clarity. While that may be true, I see that as more of a band-aid. A symptom reliever - like taking a pain reliever for a headache.  Something that masks the symptom but does not heal the source.  From my studies of homeopathy, I have learned that we heal from inward to outward, therefore permanent change can only start on the inside. You know, the same that any weight loss program will tell you. You have to heal the deeper problem to be able to truly heal and ultimately achieve a healthy body.  

Ok blah blah blah, fast forward. I clean a lot now and obviously I want to move away from chemical cleaners so that when I do so I am not giving us or our planet a dose of toxins.  I have switched mostly away from paper towels, though I find them quite necessary for dog accidents and other equally foul jobs.  I use micro-fiber towels and rags for all of my wiping needs these days.  They work well and can be thrown in the laundry with our abundance of dish towels and cloth napkins.  

I have found that pumice stone, the one made to scrub callouses off your feet, does a fantastic job at removing hard water stains from the toilets, tubs, and showers.   I still use a commercially prepared green cleaner for general toilet scrubbing. Well, let's just call it yellow- green, because its made by Clorox and I intend to stop purchasing their products sooner rather than later. But the ingredients are natural so at least it has that going for it.

I use a lot of lemons. At least a dozen a week, probably more.  I felt bad throwing the rinds in the compost knowing they contained all that lovely lemon oil that could be used if I could only get to it.  Thank goodness for Google.  I learned that throwing a bunch of rinds in a bath tub overnight could then be drained and shined to a gleaming finish. I was skeptical at first and so was Evan when he saw our tub with floating with the beginnings of lemonade. He was gracious enough to shake his head and dismiss it as one of my odd experiments.  It turns out it really did leave the tub sparkling and I got one more use out of the lemons before they were retired to the compost bin.

When we visited Vermont this winter I picked up a local green magazine called the Green Living Journal.  It was really a great little periodical. I really wish one existed in our area.  In it was a list of green cleaner and cosmetic recipes. I have tried a few so far. 

Tub Scrub:  Mix 1/2 cup of baking soda and enough liquid soap (I use Dr. Bronner's) to make a frosting-like consistency.  Great for scrubbing sinks, showers, and the like.   I then was informed I could add this mix to my dishwasher along with plain vinegar in the rinse cup. This worked very well but I should issue the caution that only a tiny bit was needed.  The first time I had a bit of a bubble-overflow all over the floor.

Spray Cleaner:  1 tsp Borax, 1/2 tsp detergent, 1/4 cup distilled vinegar and 2 cups of hot water. Mix and add to a spray bottle.

There are also recipes for floor shine, linoleum spray, window wash, toilet bowl, oven cleaner, drain cleaner, facial astringent, and lotion.  They also have a sesame oil sunblock which I plan to try very soon. I'll report back on that.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Attitude Adjustment

After several days of power struggles, tears, and way too much yelling I decided someone needed an attitude adjustment.

No, an attitude Overhaul. 

And that someone would be me.

Motherhood offers numerous personal growth opportunities as our children offer us a crystal clear mirror of who we are and who we present to the world.  Last week was a rough one for Ian and I.  I felt as if he were turning into an all-out brat. Screaming, power struggles, melt downs and then just down right meanness. There were moments I wanted to check out of the whole mothering thing and often I was mentally and emotionally checked out.  I was meeting these encounters with brute force. I was stuck in a mindset of winning. Like engaging in a struggle for power with him. I had to win because if I didn't he would "win" and then be empowered for a longer more drawn out display next time.   When the power struggle reduced to his tears and my yelling...and then eventually my tears of frustration, I still powered through. Firm I stood,  impenetrable to his efforts to manipulate me with his tears and anger. I am embarrassed to admit that I had made it practice to send him out of the room to cry and scream by himself.   While this never quite sat right with me as the best way to handle things, it was a far better option than to let his screaming start aggravating me so that we both lost it.  This happened too.  And from this I concluded that HE was turning into a brat and an angry child.  Talk about being a completely unconscious parent. 

  What I came to realize is that we were both miserable.  And what dawned on me one early morning was that I was modeling for him the very behavior I was trying to teach him not to do.   I want to raise a man who understands compromise, who not only treats people with kindness and respect, but who feels compelled to serve and protect those who can't do so for themselves.  Who listens to people, comforts them, and handles disappointments with dignity.  I was SAYING these lessons, but I wasn't living them.  As a family, he will learn how to navigate socially in this world based on the microcosm of our family dynamic. It is my role with my son to model desired behavior and I was failing to show him this example in our relationship.  How can a teach empathy and compassion unless I show him it unconditionally?

I want to raise a great husband for someone.  What I was currently doing was showing him BY EXAMPLE everything I didn't want him to be. Someone who argues, stands firmly against emotional outbursts, someone who abuses their power over people.

When this lightbulb lit up, I realized I was being given a glorious opportunity to grow as a human being.   "Be the change you want to see in the world."  Didn't someone quite evolved say that?  Oh yes. Ghandi.  

So I immediately made a shift.  When Ian seems to need attention or comfort from me, I give it  When he has something to say, I listen and validate.  Its not that I never did these things before, but often my own daily agenda would keep me from truly being present.  That's really all it is. I realized that when I was biting back or "standing firm" it was really just a matter my not being present with him in his moment. I was frustrated because he was putting a crimp in my routine. I am learning that when I am present, those struggles seem to melt away. 

Thanks to my friend Erin Goodman's beautifully written blog, she opened my eyes to my role in helping Ian re-center himself after a meltdown.   Particularly this entry.  Why hadn't it occurred to me before? He is relatively new here, to this place called earth. He's been here for 3 years. He doesn't have the experience or neural connections to handle disappointments in a graceful way and it is my unique privilege as his mother to teach him these things.  So now when he is melting down, I try to listen. To validate, to be present and hold him.  And then if he still just needs to cry, I hold the space for that.  Isn't that what we want when we are upset?  Sometimes I just want someone to listen to my rant and not judge it, fix it, or rush it along.  This is very challenging but have found the more present I am the quicker it passes.   

Filling my role as his mother in this way has also been more gratifying for me.  I am enjoying being his mother again.  And I think he might be enjoying being my son again.  After a rough few days, that is a very good thing.   There is a fine line between allowing him to run the show and allowing him to feel empowered and heard.  But in each interaction, I have a choice. I have a choice whether to meet him with anger or sweetness. I have a choice whether to respond with kindness or impatience. Either route will lead me to my end goal, but one way is a whole lot more enjoyable for everyone. Why not take the time and choose the one I hope he chooses as an adult?  Choose kindness. Choose peace. That's what I want him to learn.  This new approach seems to be paying off. My sweet, thoughtful, intelligent and generally happy child has re-emerged.  Ian is so forgiving of me as I stumble through parenthood.   For that I am truly grateful. 

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Brain Building vs. Brain Rot

My friend gave me a book, Endangered Minds: Why Children Don't Think- and What We Can Do About It.  I just started it last week and was immediately hooked. I still have a long way to go but the concepts, even in the first chapter or two are fascinating.  I've struggled with the whole concept of Ian and television. Should I allow it? Is it really that bad? Is it really harmless?  How much is too much?  So over the last year we have phased in a moderate amount of television time, usually about an hour on most days.  It's pretty limited to Curious George and Sid the Science Kid so there is some educational component.  Even this is concerning to me because it never quite sat right since I know that it certainly isn't adding value to his brain development.  Then I would reason that he is awake for 12 hours so what harm does 1 hour do? Ok occasionally it was more than 1 hour. The draw of TV is seductive to me too.  I'll just put on George so I can make dinner, I'd think.  Or worse, so I can check my email.  And other than his shows, the TV is rarely on during daytime hours.  It is saved for sickness or a stretch of inclement weather.

But then I read some of this book and realized how our children's ability to read and comprehend is quickly going down the crapper in this generation. The book includes fascinating observations from lifelong child educators and a smattering of examples of declining test scores. So in an effort to bring some balance to the TV watching in this house, I've decided on a potentially long term solution.  Ian may watch TV in equal time to how much we read together..and eventually how much he reads.  And night time stories do not count as they have always been part of our routine.  Ok, honestly long car rides also will not count, but using the Wii does get docked from earned book time minutes. I am sure in the future I will need to put a cap on the TV portion, but for now I figure this will inspire me to read more to my son and then also alleviate my guilt for allowing the boob tube for a bit of daily reprieve.  I'm reasoning that at least I will be helping build up some brain cells as fast as the brain rot tries to set in.  Ok, that may be a bit excessive but I do think that over time this practice will help keep in balance the whole TV issue, for both of us. . It will jut be The Way It Is.  Of course, I do have the hope that I will inspire in him a love for books and reading as the most intelligent people I have ever known are avid readers with impressive vocabularies. 

So this morning, when Ian awoke at a time no human should be awake which in our house is anytime before 6 am, instead of being cranky about it, I went and crawled in bed with him.  Figuring there was no time like the present, I suggested books.  He picked four and crawled up and we snuggled and read. We discussed the concepts, both obvious and abstract.  I tried to point out some lessons. Planting seeds of comprehension.  In no time 30 minutes had passed and he picked four more books.  So for one very enjoyable early morning hour, we enjoyed some quiet cuddling time reading and talking.  At one point he looked at me sweetly and said, "Thank you mommy for reading to me."  (Really, he did!) It was so genuine and touching so I know I am onto something. Maybe it will be our daily morning ritual.  A gentle way to connect and start the day. 

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Keeping Hydrated

I've recently been making a bit of an effort to stay better hydrated. I've never been much of a water-drinker so this is more of a chore than anything else.  But I wanted to blog briefly about my new work-out beverage of choice: fresh coconut water.  This is considered one of the purest forms of water on the planet with an electrolyte profile and composition similar to human plasma, nothing hydrates quite like it. (It has been said that coconut water has been used for blood transfusions during war).  I've been hitting spin class 2-3 times a week.  From my experience, in order for it to be a good spin class, one must leave looking like they just took a shower.  Therefore, hydration is key.  Since starting to bring one bottle of coconut water and one regular filtered well water, I have noticed a marked increase in endurance. I feel like I can push myself harder and have more energy for the duration.  So I highly suggest fresh coconut water from young thai coconuts for all your aerobic activity needs.  If you can't or don't want to obtain fresh water, then there is a product called vita-coco that claims to be fresh and unpasteurized. Not sure if its any good but worth a shot.

Most Whole Foods carry young coconuts in the produce section. For my local readers, Puritan and Genesta in Mystic also carries them. I generally order them by the case (or two) from Whole Foods to take advantage of the discount. I have ordered through P&G, Sandy's Fine Food Emporium in Westerly, and Belmont Market in Wakefield.  And if you do order them be ready to use the meat too....if not, send it my way. I freeze it in 2 cup portions and use it for soups, desserts, smoothies and more!