Thursday, June 30, 2011


Well, today's a short one. I'm wandering off my well-beaten path today to toss a few random things in that aren't my normal repertoire, but I don't think anybody will complain too much!

First, if you're on Facebook, go "like" Downy and then click HERE to get a free full-sized sample of whatever it is they're offering. Sad that I don't know, yeah, but it's free and full-sized, so that's about as far as my concern goes. Last I checked, this was still open, but if it isn't let me know. :)

Second! Ancestry is doing a free weekend. Unfortunately, it's specific: They're only letting users search the Sons of the American Revolution membership database. But if you know what names you're searching for, you're golden. I've already done some research on there and I know what names to look for. I technically qualify to join the Daughters of the American Revolution, along with a few other "secret" societies, but I haven't bothered. I might someday.

Third, a lovely link: No More Rack. I'm pretty much obsessed with this site now. You get a free $10 credit for joining, and when you refer friends you can earn free products (like an 8gb iPod, a MacBook Air, two different Canon cameras, and all sorts of fun stuff). They don't even have to buy anything - just register. Go! Do it!

And, of course, rounding it all out, a link from the Pagan/Wiccan section on for making smudge sticks. Need to go find some juniper and dry it out - but that's easy to find wild. Not gonna buy herbs just to dry and smudge. Too expensive!

I'm going to go claw my right eye out now and wonder what's going on behind my left ear. Staying inside unless I have to today - heat index is supposed to be 105. Yuck. So glad the power's back on!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A little time please!

This is going to be short, but I just wanted to note that the last few days have been auto-posted. Sunday night a nasty storm rolled through, packing 80+ mph winds. Our power was knocked out around 2 AM Sunday and only came back on about an hour ago, so we've been reassembling ourselves slowly (mostly vegging in front of the TV and computers and enjoying the lights and air conditioning, I won't lie!). I may be behind a couple of posts for a bit as we get back into the swing of things. Apologies ahead of time! :)

Ecos giveaway!

Okay, folks. Here are the rules.

I won't be doing the giveaway until I have 30 followers on GFC (Google Friend Connect; basically, people who are following me and my blog). This sounds like a lot, but I already am almost halfway there - so I think this is something we can do!

Once I hit 30 followers on GFC, I will open the giveaway with a post giving a few more details. I believe there may be three prizes, all separate, so there's a good chance of a lot of people winning (but no more than one prize per person). They would be three or so Ecos products: the Free & Clear detergent I love so dearly, and probably one of their bathroom and/or kitchen products. I haven't settled on which, so this last part is up in the air, but I'd like it to be a variety. I'm working with them on this part.

You will get to comment once on that post. That will be your entry. If you go "like" my Facebook page you will get to post another entry, along with your name on FB so I know you really did "like" me. If you send someone else here after that, while the giveaway is still open, I may figure out something special (some kind of referral system, like them posting on my FB wall that so-and-so sent them) so you get another entry from that.  I won't go any further with the entry options just because I don't expect to have so many people interested in the giveaway that giving people twenty ways to win is really necessary. :P But in the future, who knows?

So, let the blatant self-promotion begin! Have your friends come follow me on Google here, and go "like" my Facebook page. Once we hit 30 followers on here, the real fun begins. :)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pagan values month - an outro

Well, June is almost over, and that means that Pagan Values Month is nearly at an end as well. Of course, this doesn't mean that we're all going to go crazy on you, but I think it does unfortunately imply that a lot of people are going to start glossing over the similarities of our collective values and morals again. I think that PVM has made a huge impact on the outer world, and has helped us gather ourselves together to show that while we all believe something slightly (or incredibly) different, in the end we all feel that there are many supposedly Christian-only moral issues that we established on our own, without the influence of any other religion (or maybe any religion at all).

The fact of the matter is, we're human. Intrinsically, we want to follow certain rules. We're hardwired to make our species continue, which means that we're meant to feel bad when we kill. That death was the end of another human life. 99.9% of the human race doesn't need any deity or religious path to realize as much. We are simply meant to feel bad or guilty about some things - and while some may argue it's the voice of the Christian god speaking up to show us right from wrong, let's face it, it's our conscious and it's an important part of ourselves and who we are. People of all religions have one, it's a uniquely human trait, and that's something we should take pride in.

So what have I personally learned from PVM? A lot of things. I've learned that I will never stop learning about this path, that what I think is perfect and right one day might be completely off kilter for me the next. I've learned that many Pagans from all walks of life and chosen paths feel differently about a number of issues, but that at our cores we all have a similar respect for life and property that is not unique to only members of other more "mainstream" religions. I have learned that there are just as many of our ilk who are able to be hateful and spout some horrific things as there are Christians who do the same, and that there are a number of kind, open-armed Christians who truly do respect their Pagan kin. I've learned that the bad always finds a way to speak more loudly than the good, but that if you're willing to look deep enough, the good shines so brightly you'll wonder how on earth you missed it. I've learned that I have a direction to walk, but that the path isn't very defined, and that learning to recognize how this path looks to me is something that only I can do, but that I can also ask for help and direction along the way without needing to feel as though I'm asking someone else to tell me what I believe.

I've learned that being Pagan means being myself, which is probably the best thing of all.

Tomorrow, a special announcement and a challenge - think you're up for it?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The virtues of calming the heck down

Assrats tend to spread quickly in this house; one grumpy person tends to become four incredibly grouchy people rather fast if we don't watch out for ourselves. We spread it to each other, and it usually ends up infecting all of us before too long, no matter who started it. Too often, it's me, because I don't take my medications like I should and have a very short temper. My fuse is probably shorter than the amount of time you have to throw a grenade after pulling the pin, except the damage caused is rarely physical. The spread of said assrat doesn't help; those things antagonize one another as they go on, and once one rears its ugly head you know the next person who is bitten is going to be ten times worse - until the circle finishes itself off and you're left with basically nothing but a few shells of formerly angry people who are just too tired to finish their fights anymore.

These vicious creatures are dangerous, frightening, and strike unseen. You never feel their bite and typically don't even know you've been infested until it's beyond too late, and their spawn have manifested. They crawl through your entire body, munching bits of you until you start to explode like everybody else who has been infected. And by the time it's over, you're all physically and mentally exhausted, so much so that the assrats can't even continue to bite one of you and reinfest.

You've probably had an assrat before, even if you don't know where you got it from and didn't recognize the symptoms. Those of us with a uterus, depending on the time of the month, often pass it off as a hormonal imbalance and grab our sappy movies and comfort foods and continue on with our lives. But when there's no other reason for getting grouchy - when you're angry and you just can't figure out why, and it came so quickly you never saw it hit you - you know the assrat has made his mark.

The worst part is that it's really hard to avoid letting the assrat's pissy serum get to you. You typically don't lash out until it's too late, and up until then you didn't even know you'd been bitten. What on earth is a person to do?

Well, I don't have any answers for how to avoid it, or how to recognize when you've been bitten. I'm still working on those things myself. But I do know that I've begun to realize the virtues of staying calm and patient, even when faced with frustration (especially when the basis of said frustration happens to be one of the offspring). Our kids depend on us to show them how to react properly to new situations, and for consistence in reacting to things they're already familiar with. They look to us to see how quickly they should be getting upset or frustrated with something, and how they should react to said frustration - so if we immediately freak out and throw something or yell, it quickly becomes a learned response for them to do the same. It explains why when we yell, the kids yell back - or why A's immediate response to having something taken away is to become excessively angry and throw or hit something. Mind you, we don't beat our children, but we've used spanking previously and they tend to funnel our feelings and spit them out at twice the volume - so what he does makes perfect sense.

It's a matter now of learning what to do in order to stop this circle of angry and make the whole process into something useful. Not easy when dealing with a toddler and a preschooler, but it's possible if we're patient enough and willing to work for it.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

20 Things I Will Never Go Crunchy For: #19

Don't get me wrong, I adore the idea - and I can certainly see its practical uses. Add in the idea that it means less water that has to be taken, used, and treated, and I'm for these awesome inventions 100%. The problem is that they're just not up my personal alley. Yes, they're perfect for a family who is pulling completely off the grid and trying to live away the needs of a regular society, but we will probably always be a household who lives, to some degree, in or near a city - and these toilets strike me as being incredibly over complicated for someone like myself (read: someone who is probably lucky she has the coordination to tie her own shoes).

I do get the idea, and love the concept, and would probably be all about them if we headed off to live in a cabin somewhere in isolation. But as it stands, and as neat as they are, I just cannot get myself hyped up about them enough to seriously consider it. No, really - ever. It isn't that I don't care about the environment (I was born on Earth Day, after all!), it's that I can't imagine for the life of me trying to properly upkeep one of these things without unintentionally destroying far-off worlds of sentient, intelligent creatures. Don't ask how I'd manage that. I know me. It's an inborn talent.

On another note, I'd like to give a shout out to Stephanie over at The Coexist Café, whom I only recently found. I love her blog, and just peeking at some of the recipes on there is making me hungry! We don't eat enough vegetarian meals around here, so having some new ideas is awesome - and she tends to post about things I care about, which is another plus! ;D

Friday, June 24, 2011

From Witch Mom: The blogging manifesto

I saw on my feed this morning a new post over at Parenting by the Light of the Moon, and wanted to share it. It's the blogging manifesto, basically a picture assembled with three incredibly important points that I think all bloggers ought to take to heart.

Most do, I think; the concepts are simple enough, stating that as bloggers there are a few things we do, don't do, and don't want from our blogs. For example, we don't want to be given a preconceived identity by a reader and locked into that. A mom who blogs about her religion may also blog about food, her family, her job, her hobbies, or any number of things - just because her main focus is often religion doesn't make her just a religious blogger. We also are held accountable to our actions, in that just as in school it's a really terrible idea to plagiarize, or simply copy and paste someone else's comments or posts as if they're your own. Not only are you not giving credit where it's due, but (almost more importantly) you aren't learning how to think for yourself, come to your own conclusions, and form your own thoughts. Last, but not least, the ever-important (especially in the religious community) is the idea that we should be kind to one another. The ubiquitous Golden Rule. The idea here being, of course, that we truly will treat others as we wish to be treated, and act as much the part on our blogs as we do in other parts of our lives.

Luckily, the fast pace of the internet and the tendency of people to want to voraciously protect themselves and their work practically guarantee that even the smallest mistake will eventually come to light. This can be a good thing - such as someone intentionally or otherwise copying another's work - or a bad thing - such as when a poster makes a comment out of frustration or anger and ends up called out on it later. Either way, it's an eventuality.

The point is, though, that we all just need to police ourselves, be kind, remember the Golden Rule, and respect others. If we can honestly do all of that, we'll be doing just fine.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


I'm gonna honestly say, I had no idea you could develop a latex allergy.

I mean, I know about randomly developing allergies, trust me. I've always had problems with pollen, mold, freshly cut grass, and animal dander. After years of various allergy medicines, this suddenly manifested into an inability to eat cantelope, bananas, watermelon, or any other melon without feeling as though my lips were burning and swelling and my throat was about to close - a dangerous and potentially deadly reaction called anaphylaxis. With bananas, I can subdue the reaction somewhat with allergy medicine ahead of time, but melons are still out of my league. Curiously, I had been previously consuming all of these things during my childhood without a problem, with the first reactions manifesting in high school. I'm lucky, though - these foods are specific and easy for me to avoid. I don't eat them, I don't have a reaction, the end. I can touch, smell, and be around them without a problem, luckily.

Latex, on the other hand, is a tough one - and for most people the reaction is only skin deep, leaving an uncomfortable, painful, and itchy rash wherever the latex contact occurred. Much like my random food reactions, latex allergies can show up after a person has used or come into contact with latex before - so a person can use latex products for years without showing any signs or symptoms, and then one day their body simply gives up on the concept and the rash appears.

Sure enough, Hubby's been having a problem for a while now, ever since he started working at the dreaded Golden Arches. His hands have been covered in that tell-tale rash, and after using a pair of elbow-length gloves the other night his arms developed the same thing within an hour, if that long. Today, he went to see someone about it, and sure enough was informed he has an allergy to latex. Luckily, the store (I hesitate to call it a "restaurant") does stock non-latex gloves, and the latex gloves they have aren't powdered so people who wear them can't spread latex particles by snapping or blowing on their gloves, but he's still probably going to come into contact with latex at work. Worse yet, the only way to lessen the reaction other than taking a daily antihistamine is by trying to lessen the body's reaction with steroids. Which means a constant visit back to the doctor whenever the reaction becomes something his body can't tolerate.

This means that we have to watch what sorts of latex come into the house and ensure that he doesn't handle it, just to avoid tempting the beast to rear its ugly head.

Luckily, some forms of latex-free items are readily available in major retailers. And I don't mean gloves. *Wink*

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why I'm tired of hearing about Ryan Dunn

Okay, I DO have a heart, let me assure you of that - but I'm absolutely sick and tired of hearing about how awful and tragic Ryan Dunn's death was.

I think the loss of any life is unfortunate, especially when a person dies because of someone else's poor choices (like the other guy who was also drunk, but also in the car, although that's another rant). I think it's horrible when someone dies because of something that could have been prevented. If someone had spoken up - taken his keys - called him a cab - anything! Maybe this wouldn't have happened. The point is, an individual capable of coherent, intelligent (I assume) thought became inebriated with no plan for how his drunkenness would be handled once achieved. I am sad for his family. Sad for the loss of an individual. But I do not feel BAD for him. It was a very real possibility, and unfortunately as things tend to work, Fate was tempted - and Fate answered.

I feel bad for the family of his friend who was also killed. I feel bad that he was too inebriated (and that their friends were too drunk or self-centered to care) to make a better choice than to get into a car with someone who was just as drunk. I pity the choices they made.

But I am thankful, more than ALL of that, that in their incredible stupidity they didn't take the lives of any innocent people with them.

I am understanding of a lack of education or knowledge, I am sad when information is not shared. But two adults who have had the dangers of drunken driving drilled into their heads all of their lives do not get my pity. They are gone; I hope their next lives take them in different directions and that they have peace now. But I don't feel bad that it happened. This was truly his last feat as a member of the "Jackass" crew, and it shows.

I don't condone purposeful stupidity.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Jimmy John's: You should know

I used to love Jimmy John's. Cheap food, not entirely horrible for you. Not organic or even really natural, but I could pack on veggies and eat something yummy and know it was from a business that started here in my home state. I had seen nothing but good things come from JJ's and I liked how their restaurants were set up. All in all, I figured it was a win-win situation to order from them. Fast, yummy food. And that was fine with me.

Except then this popped up from Smile Politely, an online magazine from the Champaign-Urbana area in Illinois where JJ's originated: Jimmy John's is a big man. With the photos to prove it.

And I won't lie, I kind of choked a little. PLEASE be warned, there are somewhat graphic images. Not horribly so, but if you're like me and happen to like animals - especially ones like elephants and large felines - you're probably going to feel kind of ill.

Now, I want to preface this with a statement: I don't mind hunting. I understand there are some populations of some species of animals that are a nuisance to us both agriculturally and travel-wise, like deer and geese, and I have no problem with hunting these animals. Raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, small birds, turkeys, whatever. Go for it. As long as you aren't just hunting for trophies, as long as you aren't being wasteful, have at. Get your tags, do your duty as a hunter. I may not participate, but I'm not bothered by your choice to do so.

But elephants? Leopards? Brown bears? The elephant shown in the pictures at the site above is more than likely an African bush elephant, which while not endangered, is struggling to maintain its natural habitat and is considered to have a conservation status of "vulnerable" which is only one step above "endangered". These are animals that are only, within the last few dozen years, beginning to come back to their natural grounds. They still suffer from poaching in areas where hunting them is illegal. They are still being killed for only their ivory. And since elephants have no real usage otherwise, I will guarantee you that Mr. Liautaud left that lovely corpse (or was it two?) there to rot. Thanks a bunch.

And what about that spotted leopard he's shown holding up like a huge children's stuffy? While it isn't yet in the threatened category, it is listed as "near threatened" because excessive hunting and loss of habitat have decreased its natural roaming ground drastically. In fact, experts warn that populations of spotted leopards may actually be extinct in North Africa, making hunting them for sport an unwise move. It doesn't take much hunting to throw a population from "near threatened" to hovering near extinct, as we've found out with too many other animals in the wild.

And there's that brown bear. Of all the animals he went off killing - and who knows how many more there were for which we have no picture proof? - the brown bear is the only one listed as "least concern" on the conservation status list. Grizzlies also fall under this status, and I'm no expert: I don't know if the bear in that picture is grizzly or brown. However, don't let their status fool you. At a population of somewhere around 200,000, its range has shrunk considerably in the last hundred years and it has gone completely extinct in some areas where it once proliferated. The movement of humans into areas where we once didn't live so openly has had a lot to do with this. Still, is it necessary to purposefully sport-hunt such majestic creatures who are hovering close to a threatened status?

Well, I went and mentioned that article on JJ's Facebook page. You'd never believe what happened: I came back from putting the kids to bed, after politely posting it and noting on there that I was simply curious as to what had happened and wanted to know why on earth he was sport hunting these animals, and found that my "Like" status had been removed, as had my commenting abilities. I can still go re-like the page, but I cannot post anymore. No more comments, nothing. Anything relating to my commentary is gone - as it if never happened.

The problem I have with this is that regular people don't get to go spend the amount of money it takes to go safari in Africa and sport-hunt huge animals. Only people with massive amounts of money are given that privilege - and thanks to every single person who has ever purchased from his company, he gets to claim the status of "filthy rich".

I know, it's up to you as a consumer to decide who you will and won't support. But remember that it's your money - and if you wouldn't head to Africa or Alaska just to kill some near-endangered animals, I'd suggest not purposefully supporting those who do.

If you're wondering if that's really him, it is. Here's a link from an article in another paper with a picture of him for comparison. We're looking at the same guy and those aren't shopped images.

And for good measure, I have gone to re-like the page to show that I really have had my commenting abilities taken away:

Notice that I have no "comment" option link or box showing up beneath any other comments. 

Ecos product giveaway!

Get ready, everybody - Ecos says they'd love to provide a product for a giveaway! Working it out now, so keep watching and get ready to spread the word about TCC! I'm super excited!
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Sunday, June 19, 2011

20 Things I Will Never Go Crunchy For: #20

#20: Hot dogs.

Yes, I realize that the majority of hot dogs are disgusting. I know what's in them, how they're made, and all of the extra additive junk that gets thrown in to try to make them palatable. The only halfway acceptable ones are vegetarian or vegan, but I have to admit that veggiedogs just don't do it for me. I have gotten progressively pickier about what hot dogs I'll allow into the house, though - cheap meat mixes are only okay if they're on sale (hey, we're living on a budget here, after all), and we're not big on serving more than one or two every other day or so to the kids. I prefer nitrate-free all-beef dogs - Angus beef is the ultimate, but I can do without - or kosher dogs if possible. Hebrew National are great to me, although I don't mind the all-beef nitrate-free Oscar Meyer hot dogs. We don't have a Whole Foods or a dedicated store that carries a decent selection of healthy foods, so most of our options come from our nearby grocers - meaning our choices aren't always what we'd like them to be, but we still manage.

Still, there's something about a good hot dog that's been grilled over an open flame for a while that I find hard to resist. A perfect hog dog with the right snap and taste in a smooth bun, overloaded with horrific amounts of mustard and mayonnaise is pretty much ideal to me. They're admittedly a portion of my lifestyle that I should probably rethink, given their calorie content and the creation process, but they're a guilty pleasure. We use them in moderation, but they're a hit with the kids, too - if they won't eat anything else, I can almost always guarantee that they'll each eat a hot dog. And they pair well with almost anything: the old fallback of macaroni and cheese, chips, fries, broccoli, green beans. It helps that A will eat almost anything without hesitation anyway, but with G, whose food choices are far more picky, I know if he's having a hot dog he's likely to eat most of it and I won't get that sinking feeling that I usually do at mealtimes that I'm about to have to argue for him to eat half of his dinner. They're easy, quick, and something everybody will eat every time, meaning that they're perfect for evenings when we're short on time for dinner but all need to eat something - and I try to balance their presence out by offering healthier options alongside (such as serving them alongside baked sweet potato fries, broccoli and cheese, or rice with red beans) or for dessert (fruits, yogurts, smoothies). None of us could eat them every day, but they're versatile enough that I'm not concerned about using them off and on throughout the week - especially because if I put them into a dish instead of serving them as a lone item, I can stretch a package out to several servings.

Please note that while I try my best to make health-conscious decisions regarding my family's health, living, and eating habits, there are some things that are a part of our lives and preferences that make us imperfect when it comes to 'going crunchy'. I want to share this ongoing list as a way of reminding others that while we all try our best, none of us are perfect!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The neverending strep

When I first got strep this year, it was in February I think. It was a short-lived thing that ended up popping back up in March. It came and went again and again until it finally decided to stick with me halfway through the month, and even after two rounds of different antibiotics it took some pretty heavy Levaquin to make it go away some three weeks after the original diagnosis. It attempted a comeback in mid-May and now is apparently on its fourth leg, torturing me yet again because it sounds like fun. Luckily, I have some Levaquin left over from another issue, and have started throwing it back now that I'm nearly incapable of swallowing yet again and am in pain. I can only hope it improves my problem significantly. I hate this feeling, and I hate the fact that I keep getting strep. It's getting old, you know?

In other news, I'd like to start introducing a new column that I'm going to work through: The top 20 things I will probably never go crunchy for. A long title, but with good reason! Look for the new post sometime in the next, oh, day or so. Meanwhile, I have a metric ton of cleaning to go do (or, rather, go stare at bitterly until I get distracted).

Friday, June 17, 2011

A laundry miracle

Sometimes, miracles happen.

I've been struggling rather badly with our cloth diapers for a while now. I've tried everything recommended to me by friends and "pros" - soap nuts, stripping with Dawn, Rockin' Green, Purex Free & Clear, powdered Tide, this, that, and the other. I've done hot washes and cold washes and added in bleach-free OxyClean and taken it out again and rinsed and stripped again and again. I did everything everybody suggested, but nothing stopped that horrific ammonia smell, nothing fixed the absorbency problems. When I found something that temporarily fixed the absorbency, it left my diapers stiff and uncomfortable, and when I found something that helped the stink a little, it turned out to give A a horrible chemical burn because his skin is so sensitive. The worst part is that Purex Free & Clear is our regular washing detergent, but since it didn't work on the diapers as well as I would have hoped, and since my diapering routine had become so extensive, I had probably two detergents, one soap bottle, and two separate containers of cleaning agents specifically for diapers alone! My laundry room is enough of a disaster without all the extra stuff, let me tell you - and there were days when I sincerely wondered if all the hassle was worth it.

It was purely by chance that I was at Wal-Mart one day when I decided to look online one last time for a potential new detergent. I was tired of the switching and the disappointments, of my poor kiddo being in pain and acting as my sort of lab rat because I could never be sure what he would react to. I poked around and finally ended up at the site I use as my Detergent Bible: the detergent chart at Diaper Jungle. I've tried several of their recommendations, and agree that a good portion of them are spot on, so I gave it one last go and scrolled through the list on my phone to see if any of the bottles looked familiar.

The funny thing is that one did - and I was positive it was familiar because I had just walked past it, not because I had used it before. I walked back and sort of stared at it for a while. I won't lie: the container was a little intimidating. I looked at it and wasn't entirely sure if I was buying detergent or shares of Greenpeace, but there it was, the container of Ecos detergent. It was the same size as the large bottles of Purex Free & Clear, and at a dollar more with the same yield but a severe lack of basically anything potentially allergenic - no dyes, no perfumes, no essential oils, no fabric softeners, no brighteners, no formaldehyde, no.. Nothing, basically. It's purified water and a 100% natural coconut kernel oil-based surfactant. That's it. Cleaner, and water. The concept almost baffled me, as I was used to using things that had so many ingredients that only the active ones were listed. It even has a neutral pH!

I thought about all the money I had spent on every single product I had purchased so far just to try to wash diapers. I thought about how stupid it was that I had so many detergents sitting around. And I wondered, oh so casually, what if? What if this detergent worked for everything? What if it was my miracle? At only a dollar more per 5 gallon container, if you factor in everything else I've bought, just a few uses pays for the whole thing. If it worked, that was.

So I got it, and came home and crossed my fingers. I had two days worth of diapers to wash and I knew if I was going to challenge that detergent, this would be the way to go. So I started my routine with a cold rinse, then a hot wash on full load with about a quarter of the recommended amount of detergent and a cold rinse in that cycle. Then another cold rinse. I figured this was its chance to prove itself.

I was in shock.

My diapers didn't stink, even after being put in the dryer. They weren't stiff or rough. Inserts were soft and just smelled CLEAN. And during usage, I had no problems with a lack of absorbency or rashes. The best part is that this stuff works just as well on our regular clothes - so we're down to exactly one detergent for everything, and one SUPER EASY wash routine for diapers. I didn't even have to strip them first!

I don't know what I would've done without finding Ecos. If you've tried everything and you're thinking about giving up cloth because of all the same problems I had, give it a try. Seriously, the difference was absolutely amazing, and I will NEVER go back!

Note: Ecos did not in any way reimburse me for this glowing review. I tried it, and I LOVED IT, and this story is true! It was the best fluke ever!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Failing at discipline

There are some aspects of parenthood that, despite having two children, I still haven't gotten the hang of. One of those things is discipline - whether or not to use it, when to use it, what to use, what to not fight, how to say and do what I end up choosing. Today I have a lot of questions going through my head as I battle my "spirited" (he is my payback for being a terror for my mother, I'm sure) four year old to get him to pick up his toys and do the few, easy things I ask him to do.

should I avoid discipline all together? Tempting, because it seems like the most friendly and AP method of raising a child. I don't WANT to yell, or feel like I'm getting angry or have reached the end of my rope. I don't like being frustrated, having to constantly count up or down to certain numbers, having to make EVERYTHING into a game that still ends with him complaining about being tired (he isn't) or getting completely distracted by playing with the same toys I've repeatedly asked him to put away. Should I have to make picking up into a game every time, without fail? Can't I simply make a request and have it fulfilled? Having my preschooler help me around the house when it's just the three of us is huge, it makes life so much easier to know that while I can't ask him for help with everything, I can give him simple directions ("Please pick up all of the shoes and put them back in the corner," or "Please pick up your toys and put them back in the boxes in the back room") and have him listen.

But he doesn't.

Should I agree and play along every time he insists on being a Pokémon or some other character while cleaning up, or should I insist that while he is cleaning up it isn't time to play pretend and he needs to be himself? The problem here, of course, is that pretending to be a character is effective in coercing him to pick up for all of two minutes, after which he again loses interest.

But this brings up a slew of other related problems - like his distinct inability to listen. Mind you, when it's my two year old I'm far more understanding; he's still learning rules and limits, and wants to test them to see how far he can push us. But G? He knows better - or damn it, he should at least, right? - so to me it becomes a neverending struggle when he continues to do something when I've asked him not to - or refuses to do something I've requested he does. For example, not a minute ago he was putting his feet on me, something I really don't like. I said, "G, please don't put your feet on me. It hurts because you kick me every time, and I don't think it's polite." So he stops. Half a minute later, he's doing it again, feet all over me and kicking me again, now on purpose.

We've done everything, including the detested spanking. Time out is irrelevant, no matter how long they stay there, spanking doesn't do anything but upset them, and yelling may as well be the same as politely requesting with an explanation for all the good it does (read: none whatsoever). I can't help but wonder if some of his issues come from his intelligence. Yes, there is a possibility that I'm just like any other parent, extolling the virtues and talents of my kids, presuming they're the smartest, but really, G is pretty darn smart. He's sounding out words and relating what he sounds out to words he already knows, and is able to "read" short books if given time and patience. He has a distinct understanding of a lot of concepts that seem to throw off kids his age, and has learned to add and subtract and do simple word problems aloud. He can count to almost any given number, assuming it's still low enough to keep his attention long enough to make it there, and is from a developmental standpoint so on-par that I'm actually concerned he won't make it into preschool after his screening this summer because educationally-speaking, he doesn't have anything to work on (it's the learning to listen and the socialization I'm concerned about). Maybe I'm tooting my kid's horn. Maybe I'm wrong. But I've looked up developmental guides and milestones, and from what I can tell he's closer to six or seven than four when it comes to his abilities.

G is smart.

So why doesn't he listen?

I'm truly at a loss trying to explain his behavior; it could be that he's also testing boundaries, and I'm the one failing on that end, or that he seriously does have an attention span so short that putting away toys without being consistently reminded of his goal and progress is impossible; he can't function for longer than that alone.

The issue with being a discipline-free household - one where we don't yell or demand, one where our children respect us just as much as we respect them - is that I have yet to have the alternative method explained fully to me. Do I ignore bad behavior, even when it's painful or potentially harmful, and only reward or praise good behavior? This doesn't seem plausible, especially when it's my two year old reacting through hitting, kicking, biting, pinching, or some other destructive behavior. How do I react when G politely asks to be excused from the table, but A, who has recently been moved from a high chair to a normal chair at the table, constantly gets down and sprints off? Do I assume that he is done, even when he's hungry again ten minutes later? How do I convince G that helping me pick up - even when A is doing the opposite to see if I'll react - is important and helpful?

What on earth do I do that will help my children and I respect one another enough that we can function as a group instead of as a bunch of argumentative individuals?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The hardest part

I'm back in school for the summer, and will continue to be through at least next summer. It's hard, working around schedules and switching off the kids here and there. The days are tough, mornings are hard on everybody, meals are tense. We're behind in a lot of ways, we're dysfunctional in even more. This is unquestionably the hardest thing I have ever, ever done (despite what the emo high school version of me would tell you).

Hubby's putting the kids to bed right now so I can work on my developmental psychology homework that's due tonight. Our local cable and internet provider has spent the day down, so this is the only chance I'm going to get. I have to put on headphones and music so I can't hear him reading and singing to them - but too late. I heard it. I heard him going through our entire bedtime routine without me, alone. And god, it hurts so much, to the point of tears, to know that this is going to become a regular thing. That my kids are going to be shuffled around, going to have things be so messed up sometimes because of me.

Because I'm trying to make things better, one way or the other.

But is it worth it? The sane, logical side of me says that my kids aren't going to care if once or twice a week only Mommy or only Daddy puts them to bed. They'll get it, they understand - things are changing and they're sweet, amazingly smart boys. They have been so tolerant. The mom in me wants to scream. I just want to be there for my kids and to be helping them through their days, through their lives, and the idea that I can't - that I won't - that I'll be working full time and missing so much - it kills me. And yet somehow I want to think that I can make up for not being here by making sure they have what they want, what they NEED. A home, food, shelter, things to do and play with and read, clothes, the ability to have something special sometimes, to go places and do things.

I feel like such a horrible mother right now, and I have to turn the music up louder - because maybe if it's louder to me, they won't hear me cry.

Please, please, let all of this be worth it. I'm begging you.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Something happening

There's something happening at my house right now, something I never really thought would be an issue, something I didn't expect to see, something I don't approve of but don't feel I can speak about aloud.

I have a friend over, someone I wasn't too sure about in high school but has become a close friend and like a sister recently, especially since she had her first child. And I was understanding - maybe too much so - when she misused her carseat in ways that were downright dangerous and deadly (twisted strap, too loose, mispositioned shoulders, chest clip at the belly button), rarely held her child, used disposable diapers and claimed that breastfeeding was "not for her" because it was disgusting. I let that all go. I tried my best to ignore the fact that she had no interest whatsoever in putting her child in a sling or carrier for ease of access, even attempted to let go the fact that she uses CIO methods to sleep train. I tried to let go a LOT of that, because other than the carseat issues, the rest are parenting choices - ones I don't agree with, ones I think are downright abusive in my opinion, but it's nothing more than my opinion. She's a close friend who is strongly opinionated and who claims to back up her opinions with things that I wouldn't necessarily call "research", but it's all kosher to her. So I let it go.

Then she put her six month old daughter in her high chair, here at my house, tipped it back, propped up the tray, and positioned her bottle atop the tray so the baby - who cannot yet hold her own bottle, yet is having sippy cups forced on her that she also cannot hold - could "self-feed" and my friend could do whatever she pleased.

And for some reason that REALLY pissed me off.

So in lieu of yelling inappropriately at said friend because my moods are rather unstable right now anyway, I'm venting here. But seriously? If your kids are so much of an inconvenience that while you're at someone else's house hanging out and you STILL can't be bothered to pay enough attention to them to feed them... Maybe you ought to reconsider having and keeping your kids.

Pagan values month - an intro

As pretty much everybody in the blogosphere knows by now, June is Pagan Values Month, a wonderful opportunity for those of us who live an "alternative" lifestyle to share our reasonings and purposes behind what we believe, and to show the world that despite using a very wide-open word to describe a lot of people, and despite not having ten commandments or a single book to guide us, we all share similar values. I have to say, I'm pretty much in love with the concept, especially since I'm fairly new to this road.

Okay, that's a lie. I'm not NEW to it, but the first time I traveled this path I did so as a follower, as someone who was simply desperate to find something that fit her - but I was 13. My experience with organized religion in general was still somewhat negative, and when my best friend at the time turned from Christianity (she was ironically the same person who got me going to the church we both attended in the first place) and proclaimed herself Wiccan, I was eager to follow suit. It helped that I already felt a draw to nature; my boyfriend at the time (now Hubby, yikes) jokingly called me a druid and was positive I could speak to animals and influence the wind and fire. The whole experience led to a massive amount of spiritual and religious confusion that ended with me avoiding church and basically anything involving organized religion for many years, and only recently have I found a new awakening drawing me back into spiritual concerns.

So here I stand. I was baptized shortly after birth in a Catholic church as a Lutheran, was baptized again as a Christian in 8th grade, rescinded that and proclaimed myself Wiccan about a year later, then spent 11 years as a self-proclaimed confused agnostic. My experiences are hardly unique, and I'm learning more and more that a good portion of the pagan community got to where they are today through experiences with other, more "mainstream" religions. They realized they were dissatisfied, confused, disappointed, or that what they had known all along simply didn't satisfy what they looked for in a religious experience and allowed their spirit to be called in another direction, and found themselves staring down the throat of something still all-too-commonly seen as evil or negative. It's something a huge portion of the world experiences at some point in their lives, and more often than not the only thing that changes is the end result.

I was discontent with Christianity. Mind you, I didn't have an issue with a good deal of the values and thoughts behind them, but the idea that if I even once messed up that I risked eternal damnation - or, almost worse, that when I screwed up all I had to do was apologize to a deity and it was as if nothing had ever happened? - was intimidating. The god I saw in my head was forgiving, had a sense of humor, and had more respect for his creations. In my mind, Jesus wasn't an actual savior, but a very smart man who had some incredibly intelligent, wise things to say and who had a way with words. I didn't see him as the earthly embodiment of a creator. And most of all, I hated the idea that certain portions of the Bible - a book I had by that point accepted as being written entirely by mankind - were enforceable and that it was my moral duty to follow them, yet other things that had once been just as important (if not moreso) were easily ignored and swept aside. I hated how people used a book they turned toward for answers to spread hatred and intolerance. I hated the idea that somehow being gay was wrong or bad, that in one breath people insisted on loving oneself and thy neighbor but in the next breath they hemmed and hawed about how doing this or that would send you straight to hell. It was a lot to take in, and it was irritating and it rubbed me the wrong way. I couldn't come to terms with what I had learned and what I had heard, couldn't fathom how so many contradictory statements could be made when the well beings of people were at stake.

But would turning from Christianity mean giving up all sense of morality and leave me a valueless (pardon the use of the word) heathen?

Of course not!

I am of the belief that people don't need a religion to tell them what to do; there is an inherent sense of morality in all of us that the tenets of the Bible were based off of. Feeling guilty about doing something wrong, trying not to be jealous about what others have that we don't - things like this are inherent for the majority of people. Sure, there are some who are on the outside of the realm of "morality", those who don't experience the same sensations of guilt for doing wrong, or who don't have the comprehension of right and wrong to avoid it in the first place. But those people are surprisingly few and far between. It turns out that there's a good portion of humanity that doesn't need a special book or tenets issued by a deity to do the right thing! What a concept!

That being said, I think a lot of people have a desire and need to integrate their sense of morality and values into their religion regardless of what's already provided. I'm a part of that; I believe that stealing and lying and cheating and murder are wrong, and while I don't believe that I'll be punished in the afterlife for them, I do believe that what happens in the next round and what I experience in the afterlife will be affected by what I do here and now. I think there are some things that are okay, others that aren't - but as a rule I do believe that fate and karma favor those who act out of kindness and sincerity, who have the best interests of others in mind, but who can still live for themselves and achieve their goals.

So this week I'm going to try to go into what I believe, and why, and why I think it's important for people to understand that I can be pagan and still share these values.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Pictures on the side

I love photography but don't have very good equipment or a very good camera (no offense, Mom) compared to some of the people out there who are actually taking payment for pictures. But I dabble anyway - and thanks to Hubby's editing skills, my less-than-perfect abilities look a whole heck of a lot better than they probably would otherwise!

So, enjoy some of my work - two of my college friends, Bec and James, who are married and pretty much adorable. I do pictures for free. :)


Monday, June 6, 2011


This is a topic near and dear to my heart. As an overweight woman who has been big her entire life - as someone who is making an active and conscious attempt to lose weight, despite the difficulties - I've heard the nasty comments and bad words. I've often worried that my children will someday come into contact with cruelty from other children, especially since (for the time being) we plan to utilize the public school system. And of course, it's a possibility. Children can say some pretty mean things, and sometimes they don't think about the immediate repercussions (like a classmate's reaction, or a friend's feelings) before speaking. Sometimes it's an innocent slip or a thoughtless gaffe; more often than not, anymore, it's conscious meanness meant to demean the feelings, thoughts, abilities, looks, or beliefs of another person.

It's easy enough to pass along Biblical proverbs to children whose families adhere to those religions, easy enough to quote religious texts of any kind - but what does a pagan parent say to their kids without trying to give a separate lesson on religion to a young child who may be experiencing bullying (or worse, may be the bully). What am I to do when I can't quote Christ or a disciple easily because my children haven't grown up in that lifestyle, and aren't familiar with the people and characters and stories I know from my experiences?

I know that first of all, there's common sense. While there are a number of religions that have done their best to claim the Golden Rule, Christianity among them, I believe it's a rule that has been around much longer. From the days of bartering for goods, people have understood that in order to get what's best for them, they have to be willing to sacrifice a bit for others - which means being willing and ready to treat others as they'd like to be treated. A family might give up a cow for less produce than it is worth, with the understanding that because they were kind, next time the produce farmer might give a bit more for a little less milk or meat than usual. It's an understood part of life, in my opinion, but a concept that's hard to explain to a young child who isn't having that same treatment returned to them. It's easy to say, but I know from experience it isn't so easy to DO, especially if physical violence becomes a part of it (at which point I intend to raise my children the same way I was raised: you may NEVER throw the first punch, and you are expected to find alternate routes to end the confrontation, but if you seriously feel you have no other option but to fight back, do so minimally to escape).

So now I'm looking for common sense, kid-friendly ways to explain how to deter bullies. I'm new at this parenting thing still, and I don't expect to encounter this for another few years yet, but I want to have an idea of what to do and how to say it when the time comes. Any pagan parents out there have any recommendations, books, things they've said/done that helped their kids that they want to share?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

My husband is a kitchen witch

Food, in our house, is special.

This isn't just because we're all fat people who like to eat (which is no less true), but because it's something that sees a deal of care taken during preparation. Hubby is an accomplished cook; though he has no serious training in cooking, I'd go as far as calling him a chef. He obsesses over herbs, how much we have, how fresh they are. He knows his spices, and adds by smell or taste, often using recipes only as bases for what he turns into his own concoctions. Rarely does he follow something exactly; everything, for him, is simply a suggestion or a place to start. And everything he does is with a sort of odd concern and carefulness that most people would reserve for things like neurosurgery or microchip construction.

I always sort of mocked him, playfully, for the care he takes in scraping down the ceramic surface of the stove, for pre-arranging his spices, for putting a jade figurine he calls his kitchen goddess over the stove in every place we've lived. One year, for his birthday, I gave him a moleskin book with a plain round binding, full of 1/4" graph paper, that has become a well-worn book we teasingly call his bible. It lives in the kitchen, partially full of his writings on the gaming worlds in his head, and partially a sort of ritual manual of recipes he has created or found and tweaked - sauces, stir fry combinations, brownies, cakes, breads, meatballs, pancakes. It seems like an endless menagerie of things, but he knows where every recipe is located and what every pencil-scribble says, even when it's so well-worn and loved that I can't even begin to decipher the things he's jotted down. Some of it even seems to be stream of consciousness, a combination of ingredients that came to him one night in a dream and that needed so desperately to be put to paper lest time and fate drag those sweet (or sour) words away.

We called him a kitchen witch because it seemed fitting, because he has an apron and calls the kitchen his. He's always claimed that somehow food talks to him, and I'd believe it - the man can sense a burning pan before anyone else can smell it, he knows something's done even when there's time left on the clock, knows food needs to be turned. It's almost off-putting, when he jumps out of his seat and informs me, "The food's yelling at me." At first it was odd, but I've grown used to - even fond of - this quirk of his. He isn't kidding, it seems; he's never wrong, never off. If he says something needs to be done, it does. It never makes sense to me - I follow recipes, don't dare substitute, and follow prescribed cooking times to a T. I can't do what he can.

So while wandering online, I found an article on highlighting Kitchen Witchery, and with a delighted giggle I forward the link on to Hubby to read, sure that I was really doing no more than poking fun at him again (as he's a self-described agnostic with no real religious or spiritual leaning, other than an apparent belief in an afterlife and past lives - and mind you, there is nothing wrong with that!), but as he read it over he grew silent.

"You know," he mused aloud as he glanced back at me once he was finished, "the funny thing is, I do all of that."

For him, food and cooking are a spiritual journey in and of themselves.

Friday, June 3, 2011


So as a budding pagan, I'm kind of trying to figure out who, exactly, I'm worshiping. There are a lot of options out there (I say that like I'm going to the store for a deity, haha), and everyone finds that there's a certain somebody who calls to them more than others, or someone to whom they fit more closely - male or female - or that there's a pantheon that matches more closely with the workings of the world as they see it.

But for me, I've always just sort of looked at it as a "god" and "goddess" situation, with no real identifiers to anybody. Which is fine, all things considered, but it seemed silly to me to continually envision someone but not know who, exactly, I was thinking about. Does that make sense to anybody? No? Um.

Well, that's about as good as I can put it for now, but apparently I just figured things out. In my head, I always see Athena.

Now, I know for a mom, this sounds kind of silly - Athena loved everybody, but in a purely platonic way. She only kind of had a child (who wasn't even technically her's, but that she took in), she never had a sexual relationship - doesn't that kind of destroy the open pagan sense of relationships and seeing sex and intimate relationships as sacred things? How can I see these things as still sacred and important while envisioning a goddess that never took part in any of those?

I don't even now where I am right now in my thoughts, so this is going to be very stream of consciousness I suppose; apologies for that.

But when I see a goddess in my head I see someone strong, someone patient and kind who loves everyone, someone who is wise and thoughtful and creative. I see someone I'd like to think is the kind of person I'd like to be. I see Athena as she's described here, though maybe with a little more earth worked into her, a sort of perfect combination of Diana and Athena. But they're two separate, unrelated Greek goddesses. Do I have a right to combine them in my mind? Maybe not, but I can look at them as two functional, respective parts of a whole - two beautiful goddesses who in their own rights provided of the world. Jupiter and Apollo, as gods, strike me similarly. So in a description of the Triple Goddess, who do I see? Diana, obviously, the Mother. Athena - neither Maiden nor Crone. How does this fit in? Who is the Crone? Does it matter? Do I even have a right to be reassigning these things as I see fit?

Is there anybody out there who can lend me guidance?