Creamy Kale Pesto Sauce Recipe Vegan Paleo Plant-Based

 

My food goal right ought to be simple: eat real food, eat more vegetables, self-diagnose food sensitivities causing problems in my body. In addition, I want that real food to taste good, and eventually, I want it to taste so good, I can serve it to normal people who don’t eat strange things like me.

This recipe falls in the five or six things I’m cooking these days, which meets all those qualifications.

I begin with homemade almond milk. Store-bought almond milk has questionable ingredients, no fat or protein, and I’m reacting to various pre-made ingredients. I make my almond milk with raw almonds and purified water. It’s easy, quick, and about 100 times more delicious than store-bought.

Next comes the pesto sauce (from Pinch of Yum). Note: I only use 1 Tbsp fresh lemon or lime juice, not the entire fruit as the recipe calls for. This recipe has held up well for me, with many variations. In place of the kale, I’ve subbed basil, cilantro, parsley, spinach, in place of kale. In place of almonds, I’ve subbed pine nuts, walnuts, and I have a hankering to attempt it with pepitas.  I also usually set aside some of the pesto to spread over cauliflower pizza crust!

Lastly, I make the creamy pesto sauce like this:

1 cup almond milk
1 Tbsp thickener of choice (sweet rice flour, cornstarch, arrowroot powder, etc.)

Cook over low / medium heat until thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in 1/2 cup pesto.

To keep it plant-based, serve over top of roasted vegetables, cooked spaghetti squash, or spiralized vegetable noodles (Shown in the photo is my favorite mix of zucchini, summer squash, and onion, sauteed in olive oil, along with baked spaghetti squash, for a nice variety of texture and flavor).

Oh, and a tip on cooking the spaghetti squash. Stab several holes in it with a sharp knife. Set it on a baking sheet. Cook at 400 degrees for around one hour, or until you can easily smoosh it with your hand (using a hot pad). Easy PEASY.

Save

The Day I Breastfed and Weaned My Four-Year Old |An Extended Breastfeeding Journey

web20120310_079
I’ve written this post a hundred times in my head. I think it’s so hard to write because it matters to me SO much.

But I don’t want to be judged. So. I breastfed my firstborn son until he was four. If that freaks you out, you can go read something else now. Or, maybe, reading this will help you understand why something so crazy and weird and socially unacceptable, might have occurred to me and my son.

See, I didn’t set out to nurse him until he was four.

I just started out breastfeeding him when he was born. About an hour after he was born. Then an hour or so after that. Then some days after that. And some weeks and months after that.

I never knew how, or when, or why, moms would wean their babies.

So I didn’t think about weaning, when I breastfed him that day he was born. I thought about nursing.

web20120310_077

Those first two weeks of breastfeeding were AWFUL. I mean, really awful. I was totally, completely determined to breastfeed my children. Before they were born. But in the middle of those first awful weeks, I COMPLETELY understood why so many moms give up breastfeeding.

It hurts. I mean, it really hurts. Even after two lactation consultation visits, it hurt. It only stopped hurting while they were at my house, helping me. That little hour of pain-free nursing was my light at the end of the tunnel that it was possible.

My newborn didn’t want to nurse every three hours. He wanted to nurse every hour. Every thirty minutes. Every hour and a half. He refused a pacifier (I tried several kinds). Nursing made him so darn happy. Even when it was hurting me like hell.

There’s a reason sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture. Because it is. Torture. Breastfeeding a newborn, being woken up a bazillion times a night, for days and weeks and months on end. Torture. So painful. So overwhelming. “Exhausted” is so lame at capturing the feeling, that it’s kind of a joke to even use that word. Desperately, unbearably, horribly, dark, deep, fatigued in every cell of my core. Emotionally drained, physically empty, mentally unable to think straight or even in a wavy line.

I can’t blame all that on breastfeeding. But exclusively breastfeeding (EBF) means no one else can feed baby in the middle of the night. I guess they could IF the baby would take a bottle of pumped milk (which mine wouldn’t). But the alternative to waking up to nurse a baby,  is waking up with horribly engorged, rock hard, swollen breasts from having skipped a middle of the night feeding. So it wouldn’t really be worth it.

At some point, the advice of the lactation consultants began to help, and it got easier. And stopped hurting. Hooray.

Until I got mastitis. Having mastitis feels like having the worst flu ever. High fever, aching body like a beating with a baseball bat, horribly horribly sore breasts that make nursing burn and tear. I was grateful for the help of my lactation consultant, kellymom.com, and my naturopath. I got rid of the mastitis in 24 hours. It came back a couple weeks later. And we got rid of it again. I hate mastitis.

Then one day, breastfeeding was the easiest thing in the world. I never noticed it had happened, until suddenly, it was. Easy. Quick. Painless.

Even more suddenly, it became delightful. Amazing, incredible. Bonding, cuddles, intimacy, connection. Smelling the top of my sweet baby’s head while he nursed. Relaxing on the internet, blogs, or Facebook while he nursed to sleep. Long naps for both of us in bed together, interspersed by nursing sessions. Co-sleeping at night, because everyone got more sleep that way.

Breastfeeding is the purest, simplest form of connection I’ve experienced with my children. It is priceless, and a gift I’m blessed with. I can’t imagine my life, or my relationship with my children, without breastfeeding.

I have SO many photos of Jax breastfeeding. We spent hours and hours nursing and sleeping and nursing and awake. He would nurse in any position, in any carrier, anywhere we went. Nursing was his anchor.

Around twelve months, we both got thrush. My son had whitish spots inside his cheeks in his mouth. I had horrible pain in my nipples, the skin got pink and would peel off, and crack and bleed.

With help from my support team of lactation consultant, naturopath, and kellymom.com, I was again able to treat the thrush naturally. It took several weeks to clear up. It popped up again a few months later, and receded again.

Twenty-one months went by. My son was almost two years old! He slept about eight hours straight at night. The rest of the the 16 hours of the day, he nursed every 1-3 hours, on demand. I never scheduled him. I never put him off from nursing. He was speaking in sentences by this point, and could clearly ask for nursing when he wanted it.

Because of the frequency of his nursing, and my physiology, my feminine cycles had not returned. We wanted to get pregnant again. I knew I had to reduce his nursing frequency, to get my cycles back.

Telling him “No” was torture. He cried. I mean not just a little whine or fuss. Bawling, sobbing, huge tears rolling down his face. I eventually discovered it was easier to tell him “The next time you can nurse is _____ (example, at naptime),” compared to “No, not right now.” Getting him down to three nursing sessions in a 24 hour period (bedtime, naptime, and morning wake up time), was SO, SO hard on both of us. So many tears were shed, by both of us.

As a parent, I’m a firm believer that children are real humans. They have real feelings, opinions, needs, and ideas about the world. I treat my kids with respect, even when they are little. I allow them to have a say in what goes on in their world, as reasonably much as I can. I expect them to cooperate with me, but I find that the more I can understand and listen to their ideas and needs, the more easily they cooperate with my plan.

With this philosophy, I absolutely could not “just wean him.” These tears were real tears. They were tears of sadness, disappointment, loss, pain. They were tears begging for comfort and connection. They were tears needing to know Mommy still loves, and the world is safe and secure. Seeing his tears, I could not physically deny him what he asked for and needed. I had milk to give him. My body was capable. I could only stall him enough to achieve what I wanted – pregnancy.

I had two cycles before we conceived on the third cycle.

Lots of people said their child naturally self-weaned once they were pregnant with another baby. Supposedly it changes the taste of the milk, or the quantity. To be honest, I was hoping for that.

If it did, my two year old didn’t notice or care. Once again, I was in breastfeeding pain. Pregnancy makes the breasts and nipples extra sensitive, and also reduces milk supply. Sometimes I could hardly stand to nurse him longer than a few minutes. But any “no” or “that’s all for now” was met with such sadness and so many tears. And it was clear every time we nursed, that he loved it. He felt peaceful and happy and satisfied. What a gift.

We began to talk about the baby. How the baby would need lots of nursing. How the baby would need to nurse first. How there would still be enough milk for my firstborn. My Jax. How there would even be MORE milk for both of them! I was prepared to tandem nurse, but had no idea how that would go.

Tobi arrived when Jax was nearly three.

Tandem nursing totally tapped me out physically (pun intended). It’s extremely difficult to get two small human bodies positioned in a way that actually works to nurse at the same time. Especially when one is a floppy newborn. Especially when the toddler wants to wiggle around while nursing. And having two little mouths sucking on my nipples at the same time was just way too much for me to physically tolerate. I was willing to nurse them both, but not at the same time.

It’s hard for a firstborn to adjust to the arrival of a sibling. Really hard. I think parents underestimate how shocking and terrible this can be for a firstborn child. How painful the loss of attention can be for the first child. The second child never knows any different. But the first, really this is quite a tragedy – the arrival of this new person. Taking Mommy and Daddy’s time. Taking Mommy’s breasts and milk.

I was so grateful that I could still give my firstborn something reliable. Something that assured him of our connection, of my love, of my availability to him.

In the first few weeks, I was so engorged (like the first time), and mastitis threatened several times. I happily let Jax nurse much more than his usual “designated” times of day (bedtime, naptime, wake up time in the morning). I eagerly let him nurse a few times when his younger brother skipped a feeding, and I was getting engorged.

Eventually it wasn’t working for him to have flexible nursing times. He would ask to nurse all day long, just like when he was an infant. But I couldn’t nurse him like an infant, when I had a newborn nursing on demand. I went back to our three-times-a-day schedule. That worked better. He knew what to expect. He would still ask at other times, and it would make him a little sad when I reminded him of his next nursing opportunity, but it was usually without tears. He eventually stabilized with the predictability of his own nursing schedule, and the difference it was from his brother’s nursing schedule. I also made it a point to read books, do puzzles, or give him my attention, while nursing the baby.

When my second son (Tobi) was four months old, we moved. We bought our first house. We had been living with (renting from while sharing a home with) my parents, since before Jax was born. Living with me, my husband, and my parents, was all he had ever known. My parents played with him at intervals during the day and evening, we ate meals together, and he saw them frequently throughout each day.

Moving away from their home, into our own home, meant a huge loss for him. A huge loss of the playtime and connection with his grandparents. A gaping hole of attention. Not only was a new baby stealing attention, but now there were fewer available adults to fill the attention gap.

Within a few days of moving into our home, Jax turned three.  I had been ramping up to wean him on his third birthday.

It was getting increasingly difficult to keep up with his three-times-a-day nursing sessions. The worst was bedtime, because that was also a fussy time of day for the baby. I would end up either

1) Nursing the baby first, while Jax fussed and complained that he wanted to nurse. The baby would take such a long time to nurse to sleep, that sometimes Jax wouldn’t get to nurse, or would be begging me for such a long time that I didn’t know what to do (since the baby was still nursing). Tandem was so uncomfortable for me, and truly almost physically impossible especially with small breasts like I have.

Or 2) Nursing Jax first, in a big rush, while Tobi screamed. Not relaxing or enjoyable for anyone.

Naptime wasn’t too far off from bedtime, in difficulty, and similarity of issues.

Because of these troubles, I wanted to wean Jax on his third birthday. He’s smart. Really smart. Also really verbal, and quite opinionated. I knew that in order to wean him, I would need a good reason, or he wouldn’t go along with the idea. The only thing I could come up with was that three years old was too big for nursing. So that’s what I began telling him in the weeks leading up to his third birthday.

I nursed him on the morning of his third birthday, and even posted a photo on Facebook that it was our “last” nursing session. I refused to nurse him that day, for naptime or bedtime. He only fussed a little, and I was hopeful.

IMG_6828

The day after his third birthday, when he woke up that morning and asked to nurse, I tried telling him no. No, three years old is too big for nursing.

Soo many tears. So much sadness and hurt and loss. I relented, and nursed him.

I got to thinking about all the changes going on for this three year old. Totally rocking and shaking his world. A new brother. A move. A new home. A new room. Losing daily companionship with his grandparents. Really, it was a lot of sadness. A lot of loss and confusion. Very little security. A world upside down. Truthfully, not a good time to be weaning a child who was still so needy of nursing and security.

So Jax and I had a talk. We talked together about the baby. About how much the baby needs to nurse. About how hard it is for Mommy when the baby is crying at naptime and bedtime, and I’m trying to nurse two people. About how it would be better if Jax didn’t need to nurse at bedtime or naptime anymore.

He has such a tender heart, and an intelligent mind. We had a truly reasonable, respectful conversation. We agreed that Jax would nurse once a day – when he woke up in the morning. This was the most peaceful nursing session for me, and the one he also seemed the most attached to.

For the next year, he nursed once a day – when he woke up in the morning. He only got one “side” so there would always be milk for the baby. Sometimes he asked for more nursing at other times. I allowed him to do so only rarely, as it seemed to spawn more requests, and more tears at my denial. The reliability of the wake-up time nursing worked for both of us, and wasn’t hard on me. It was a sweet time to connect with him in the morning, before our day got going. Most days, he woke up before the baby, so we had time together alone. Like the old days, before his brother was born.

At some point when he was three, I asked him why he liked nursing. I was expecting all sorts of answers, but not the one I got. My chocolate-loving, candy-desiring, sweet-toothed son, said he liked breastfeeding, “Because it tastes GOOD!”

As we neared his fourth birthday, my husband ventured to me in private, that he was getting uncomfortable with how old our son was, still nursing. Up to this point, he had been okay with the breastfeeding situation. We had talked on several occasions about my reasons for continuing, and were on the same page.

I was feeling ready to wean him as well, but was anxious about how it would go, since it went so badly before.

I began talking to Jax with the same mantra I had chosen the prior year. Four years old is too big for nursing. After you turn four, you will be a big boy, and we won’t nurse anymore. You will be all done nursing after your birthday, because four years old is too big for nursing.

On the morning of his fourth birthday, I nursed him, and reminded him it would be our last nursing time. I again took a photo, but this time didn’t share it on social media. I honestly didn’t know how the next day would go.

FullSizeRender

The day after his birthday, when he woke up, he asked for nursing. I gently told him no, four years old was too big for nursing, and we were all done nursing. He cheerfully replied, “Okay, Mommy!” and went on with his morning.

He didn’t ask me again.

A couple days later, I asked him about it. “Are you okay that we are done nursing?” “Yes, Mommy, I’m fine!”

A few days later. “Are you still okay that we aren’t nursing anymore?” “I’m okay, Mommy.”

A week or so later. “Are you feeling okay that we don’t nurse anymore?” “Mommy, it’s okay.”

And that was it. He was weaned.

It’s been over two months now since he nursed. He doesn’t ask me to nurse anymore. Although he is very quick to let me know when his brother is distressed and seems to need nursing!

I was a little more heartbroken than I expected. That was it. I was done nursing my firstborn. We had nursed thousands of times, and this was the end of it. And he was fine with it.

I guess part of me wished he wasn’t fine with it. Wished it had been a battle, so I could have seen how much it mattered to him. But, it was easy. He was ready. It finally mattered little enough, that he was ready for it to be the end.

That is when I weaned my child. When he was ready.

Before I had kids, someone asked me once, how long I planned to breastfeed. I remember thinking, “I’m not even pregnant! How would I know how long I plan to breastfeed?” I hesitated, then answered, “I guess, when they are old enough to help themselves?”

Jax could help himself by five months old. At church one Sunday, while I held him on my hip, he pulled my shirt down and latched on. All by himself.

Since five months old was clearly too early to wean him, that idea of “old enough to help himself” went out the window.

Once he was past the age of being able to “help himself”, I figured one day he wouldn’t want to nurse anymore. I had no idea that day would be his fourth birthday.

I didn’t plan it. I didn’t mean it to be that way. I didn’t expect it.

If I had seen a four year old boy running around and you said I might be nursing a boy like that, I probably would have laughed in your face and felt terribly awkward about the idea.

It happened because my son needed to nurse. Wanted to nurse. Was physically and emotionally benefited by nursing. I nursed him because I’m his Mommy and I wanted to do what was best for him. And at each point I tried to wean him, or reduce his nursing, I was met with such sadness and despair that it didn’t seem like the right thing to do.

Until he was four.

Then he was ready.

I’m sad. I’m relieved.

I’m grateful for our journey.

New Braunfels Train Show Jamboree Review

web_20160209-DSC_9076
In this post, I am going to describe our family’s experience at the New Braunfels Train Show Jamboree, which was less than stellar. I have not found other reviews for this event online, and hope our story could help other families in the future.
On this, my personal blog, I do my best to post positive and contemplative things, which I hope can have an impact on my readers. This story will be an exception to the usual programming around here.
Overall, the event was advertised as family friendly. We didn’t find it to be a child or family-friendly event. It is an event designed for adults, specifically elderly retired men, who collect and build vintage, expensive, model trains.
So, here was our experience Saturday.
My boys are 18 months and 4 years old. The four year old is currently enthralled by trains, specifically, Thomas wooden railway trains. He has a train table and train track at home, and owns several of the Thomas engines.
First off, we drove an hour to get to the event. Secondly, adult tickets were $8 and child tickets age 3 and up were $2. Third, they only accepted cash, so once we arrived, we had to leave again to go get cash. Once we got inside, we were sorely disappointed.
Here’s some information from the website that talked about the event.
– “Over 60 Vendors from Texas, and some from out of state, displaying on over 300 tables, for you to buy, sell, or swap.”
In reality: When we entered the main room, we found collapsible type tables set up all over the room, with model trains laying on the tables, and elderly men selling them. There were signs everywhere saying “do not touch.” The prices of the train parts averaged $200 to $2,000 and some were more expensive than that. We walked by table after table, looking at vintage, collector items of adult toys, in prices no parent would allow a small child to touch, even had there not been a slew of “do not touch” signs. As we passed table after table, my son would look longingly at a few trains that took his interest and ask, “Mommy? Are these for touching?” No.  “How about these? Are these for touching?” No, I’m so sorry, son. Occasionally, I allowed him to place a finger or two on a train priced under $200, because he was so patient and gentle, and because I couldn’t stand to answer his quiet question, “Mommy, could I touch this one? How about this one?” with yet another, “No.”
Based on the advertised phrase “for you to buy, sell, or swap” we got the impression that attendees of the event could buy, sell, or swap items. My sweet son had brought a bag of his Thomas wooden trains that he was hoping to swap or sell or buy with other kids. Of course there was nothing like this, as all the sellers were set up in advance, and nothing like his was being sold.
We finally located ONE table that sold child toy items, including a few Thomas trains. All the train toys at that table were priced substantially higher than the identical items can be purchased at regular stores like Target or Toys r Us.
– “Kids get to be a Junior Engineer at our Famous ‘Kids Run the Trains’ Layout.”
In reality: We asked if there was anything here that kids could do, and were told there was a place kids could run the train. We went to that area, and found a running model train engine set up on collapsible tables. It was made from miniature size pieces, very fragile, vintage, with lots of “do not touch” signs. The model train on the track was going around and around, and the table was set up at about an adult’s chest level height (too high for kids to see easily). There was a separate table nearby, with a black electric box that had a handle to make the model train start up and go around, or stop. The black box also had a button to make the engine whistle sound, and the horn to sound, and the lights to turn on or off.
My son was allowed to sit in a seat next to the elderly man who was using the controls. The man connected an engine to the model train on table, then came back to the black box, near where my son was seated. Wordlessly, the man pushed the red lever, and the train began to go around and around. Then he pushed some buttons for the whistle and lights and horn. Then he allowed my son to put two fingers onto the red lever and touch the lever, without moving anything, while the elderly man continued pushing the whistle and horn and lights button.
Since the lever seemed so simple, I rather expected him to let my son at least pull the lever down (stopping the train) and push it back up (starting the train back up again), but he did not. Since pushing the buttons for the horn and whistle also seemed extremely simple and impossible for a four year old to break, I expected perhaps my son to be allowed to do so. Instead, the man continued pushing the buttons repeatedly, and telling my son, “Listen!” After about a minute of patiently waiting, holding two fingers gently on the immobile lever which the man kept gripped in his fist, my son quietly asked to go do something else.
– “Extra large exhibit of Lego Trains”
In reality: There was quite a large table set up (perhaps 8 ft by 8 ft) with a very fun looking lego train going around and around on tracks through a lego city. It was colorful and had a few Disney type characters built from lego, in the lego city where the lego train was going around. There were high plexiglass walls around everything so it could not be touched, and also a barricade to keep people several feet away from the plexiglass. There were no stools to help a small child get up high enough to see very well. And even if they could see very well, you were so far away from the train, you couldn’t see details to well. After watching the train go around and around a few times, perhaps a couple minutes, that was all there was to see.

The ticket prices for this “Train Show” were $8 per adult and $2 per child 3 years old and up. We were in the entire exhibit hall less than thirty minutes. My sweet son walked all around the building, holding my hand quietly, asking at each table, if there was something he could touch. No, nothing you can touch. Over and over again. Even on the “Famous” place where “kids run the trains”, that was false advertising. I don’t consider it enjoyable or interesting to a child to be allowed to barely touch a lever, without moving it, for sixty seconds, while an adult does all the fun stuff (which the child could be capable of doing).

……………………….
As we left, we asked staff members if there was anything “child friendly” to do with the train show – perhaps we had missed something. They recommended leaving the show, and driving a few minutes away to ride the miniature train for which we had the free tickets. They told us we should have received the “free tickets” when we entered the show. Of course we hadn’t, but they were kind enough to give them to us at that point. The staff also recommended the New Braunfels Railroad Museum (which is free). And they recommended McKenna Children’s Museum (which we have been to, and there are high ticket prices there, even though it is a small children’s museum).
We didn’t come to New Braunfels today for the children’s museum; we came for a train show, for my train-loving son to have an awesome train-filled day. Clearly there was nothing for him at this train show.
– “Free Ride Ticket to the Landa Park Miniature Train for all children, age 5 and under.”
We drove a few minutes away to Landa Park, hoping to put our children on a free ride the “miniature train.” The Landa Park Miniature Train is quite similar (if not nearly identical) to the one at the San Antonio Zoo / Brackenridge park.  We soon learned that in order to ride it, we were expected to purchase adult tickets ($3 each), since the free tickets were only for our children. They wouldn’t let us on the train without purchasing adult tickets, and of course we could observe it was not something we could send our children alone. We declined to pay more money at this point.
We walked across the street, and had a picnic lunch at Landa Park. There are several playscapes at the park, quite fun for children. We spent a little time there, and the kids loved it, while the adults tried to lick our wounds of disappointment over the two failed events thus far today. But you know, it’s a park. There’s lots a great parks in San Antonio which aren’t an hour’s drive away.
– “Museum Store with thousands of items available at low cost.”
This was the last stop of our day. We drove to a third separate location, the New Braunfels Railroad Museum, which is indeed free. Surprisingly, at the free museum, you may also receive a “free child ticket” to ride the miniature train. The same ticket we had received at the Train Show (the ticket that was just for children, where an adult still has to pay). The same ticket that was marketed in the event advertising as a benefit of attending the Train Show. At the Railroad Museum, you ask for a child train ticket, and they will give you as many child train tickets as you need. This would be a great (free) way to get a discount on riding the train, should riding the miniature train be something you wanted to do. You could do this any day the Railroad Museum was open, which is much of the year. It has no connection to the Train Show Jamboree.
The Railroad Museum was small, taking about thirty minutes to see everything. However, it the best part of our day, because there are actually things a child can do.
You can go inside an old train engine, and a dining car, and had it not been under renovation, also a caboose. You can pull the bell of the train engine (too difficult for a kid to do, but they had fun trying). You can pull levers inside the train engine. You can sit in a chair in the dining car and pretend you are riding the train (they also rent out the dining car for parties).
Inside the “museum”, which is the old train station, there are a few rooms. One has old antique train station and train parts set up behind barricades (again, where you can look but not touch). One room has a few model trains at adult eye level, behind plexiglass, and the model trains do not run.
In another room, there is a train table for kids to play with. You know, the kind of train table you have in your house, because your child loves trains. Just like that one you have at home, and maybe at daycare or church. Only this one has a handful of broken tracks and a few cute Thomas train engines. Later, when I asked a staff member about things a child could do, they actually directed me to that train table. As if a train-loving child has never seen one before, and it would be “so” exciting to them.
In another room, there are several more adult miniature model train displays, at adult eye-level, behind high plexiglass walls. One is operating, running around and around the tracks. In that room, there is one Thomas child-size toy train at a child’s eye level. It goes in and out of tunnels so fast you almost miss it, and of course it says “do not touch.” In this room there are a few stools for kids to look at all the operating model train that you can’t touch.
In a final room, they sell a very small assortment of overpriced train type toys. It’s about the size of one fourth of the Target Dollar Spot. I’m really not sure how someone decided to market this as “thousands of items available at low cost”, unless they included cheap disposable toys like jars of pencils, stickers, and stamps, that parents buy just to get the kid to stop asking them to buy something.
At this point we finally purchased a small train for $13. It included a battery-operated engine, tender, two boxcars, and tracks for the engine to go round and round, that we could set up and enjoy at home. You will need to purchase batteries elsewhere, or hope you have some at home. At least you can set it up and enjoy it at home. Where it can be touched.
………………….
I wanted to go into detail, so you could “see for yourself” through my eyes, the experience of a family and a train-loving four-year-old, at this event. I didn’t want to merely say “we didn’t think it was child-friendly.”
For families with train-loving kids, I could definitely recommend visiting the New Braunfels Railroad Museum, which is free and open much of the year. I could also recommend picking up free child train tickets at that Railroad Museum, and using them to get your kids on the Landa Park Miniature Train for free, since paying $3 each for adult tickets wouldn’t be so bad at that point.
I could honestly never recommend the Train Show to any family with children under ten years old. And I’m not sure I would take any child, except perhaps a model-train obsessed teenager who has a few thousand dollars in allowance money to spend. The people the event is designed by, and for, are adult collectors of high-end, vintage model trains. The one Lego train set up and the laying a finger on the train lever, are a bad joke for a child, and for the parent considering the price of admission. You could have done a lot of fun things for $20, and this event just wasn’t one of them.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Category One: CLOTHING

My previous posts about our KonMari journey:

Marie Kondo’s method of sorting belongings in the home is unique. Rather than organizing by room, one is to organize by “category”. The first “category” is clothing. Since she also says individuals should deal with only personal things, I began with my clothing.

It wasn’t all in one spot. And I used to be a “clothes horse” as they say. I get attached to my clothing. I spent lots of money on clothing during my professional working years. It was tough to begin with this category, but begin I did.

Kondo says – gather ALL your clothing, from ALL the places it is stored in, into ONE spot.

In our previous home, I stored clothing in:

  • Our joint master closet, using about 75% of the space
  • My son’s bedroom closet, using about 50% of the space
  • A loft in the garage, perhaps 10 boxes of off-season items or maternity / too-small clothing

In our current home, we have two separate master bedroom closets. I stored clothing in:

  • My own bedroom closet
  • My husband’s bedroom closet
  • Our hallway coat closet
  • Garage totes (clothes for painting / working)
  • Attic boxes (off-season and maternity)

The first task Kondo says, is gather ALL your clothing in one huge pile. If it’s too much, break it down into subcategories, like blouses / tops / sweaters, pants, underthings, jackets, etc. Then you TOUCH. EACH. ITEM. to decide if it sparks joy.

Here are quotes from the second book to help identify joy:

“Pick the top three items in this pile that give you joy. You have three minutes to decide.” Those three items – the way they make you feel – that’s joy.”

If you feel unsure about any piece of clothing, don’t just touch it; hug it. The difference in how your body responds when you press it against your heart. Try touching, hugging, and gazing closely at any items about which you are not certain.”

“Feelings of fascination, excitement, or attraction are not the only indications of joy. A simple design that puts you at ease, a high degree of functionality that makes life simpler, a sense of rightness, or the recognition that a possession is useful in our daily lives—these, too, indicate joy.”

In a video interview with Kondo, she says “spark joy” gives up an upward or lifting sensation to your body. When something does not spark joy, you may feel a heavy or downward sensation.

Before we moved to our new home, I quit my job of seven years at a brokerage firm. I donated and sold many of my suits and business clothing.

I get really attached to my clothing. I used to spend a lot on clothing when I worked full time. I hoarded clothing so I could have a full closet to choose from, when I got bored of wearing what seemed like the same thing all the time. I enjoyed collecting clothing, and dressing fashionably.

My current job, caring for my children, made my old wardrobe impractical.  I still had a really hard time letting go of it. Some was sold or donated before moving, but a lot came to the new home.

Here I was, facing my closet with a new way of getting RID of things – by KEEPING them, and keeping only those which spark joy.

Because I’m a mom with two small children, I have lots of messes to clean every day. I wasn’t about to empty the contents of my closet into a pile, only to have to put it all back. That giant mess might take weeks to clean up.

So I cheated. I did the process by looking at and touching my clothes, keeping them on hangers. This cheat is likely why it took me so long, and so many times through my closet, to get it down to just the right items.

The day I began, I had an hour or so before my kids woke up from nap. This was my chance to do what I could.

At first glance, I was nervous. I thought I owned MAYBE five items that truly sparked joy. That’s really not enough clothing to be presentable in public.

So instead, I removed garments I felt strong negative emotion toward. I looked at them, and touched them, and assessed my feelings. If I felt a downward or ick or sad feeling, I got rid of those items.

If you count the business clothes I got rid of before we moved as my “first pass” of purging my clothing, this was my “second pass.” Getting rid of things that made my chest tighten up, made me discover I despised them.

This led to an interesting discovery.

I most often wore things in my closet I hated most.

This was for two reasons: 1) If I wore the things I liked most, they were likely to get stained, ruined, or faded from frequent washing. Instead, I “saved” them by not using them. 2) The things in my closet I had negative emotion toward, I purposely chose to wear because I felt bad for them. I felt bad they were in my closet being disliked. I wore them in an effort to make them feel better.

This reminded me of the childhood problem – which stuffed animals or dolls get to sleep in bed with you, and which are cold and lonely in your dark closet all night. It’s a terribly guilty feeling, thinking about objects you own, but have rejected.

So all those negative-feeling clothes left my closet that day. I also got rid of a few items that were loved, but stretched out or stained.

Kondo asks you to “thank” your discarded objects, as you place them in your get-rid-of pile. You can thank them for teaching you they are not your style. You could thank them for years of good service, now that their journey is complete. I didn’t do this, unless I found something particularly hard to let go of. Then, I considered why. Sometimes I would say thanks, but to God, for an experience represented by that garment. Sometimes I would learn something about myself in that moment.

I got through all my hanging things before my kids woke up from nap. It felt good.

On another day, during nap, I went through small containers of non-hanging clothing (socks, undies, shorts, etc.). Our closets have two hanging racks and large built-in shelves. We use small bins to create mini drawers. For bulkier items like jeans, we folded and placed them directly on the shelves. We did that both before, and after, KonMari.

And here is where I began to go wrong, but didn’t realize until we were almost done with KonMari.

Apparently, I make mental “rules” for myself, and apply them with a black-and-white sweep of the hand. This is an attempt to deal with my conflicting emotions.

Example: “I don’t like orange. I don’t like wearing orange. The only reason I own orange is because I used to match my clothing to Jax, and some of his clothing was orange. (Although I didn’t like his orange clothing either). So all my orange clothing is going away today. But what if I need an orange shirt for Thanksgiving photos? What if suddenly I’m in the mood for orange, even though I don’t like it? No. I’m getting rid of ALL the orange. I also really don’t like pink. So everything pink has to go as well.”

All the orange clothing went away that day. Everything pink went away except for two shirts I particularly liked and could not bring myself to apply my “no-pink rule” to.

Problem: There was this one pair of cozy fuzzy socks that were pink/orange/red striped. I have several of these fuzzy socks, and wear them very happily in the winter. They keep my feet and ankles warm. None of them are particularly attractive, and they are too thick to fit inside my shoes. So I only wear them in the winter in the house, when my feet are terribly cold. I always feel silly wearing them because the prints are silly, and generally speaking I don’t like looking silly. BUT. They are warm. They keep my feet warm, and I like soft, warm feet in the winter. I had them in several colors and patterns, and I got rid of the pink/orange/red striped pair because I don’t like orange or pink and was getting rid of all orange and pink.

The day I sold them at my yard sale for fifty cents, and watched someone walk away with them, my heart cringed a little. So soft! So warm!

But it was summer, and I wasn’t thinking too much about wanting to be warm, so I sold them.

Here comes winter, and a day when I’m wearing that one long-sleeved pink shirt I kept, that I like. And I realize that I wanted those pink/orange/red striped socks to wear, to match my pink shirt. Because all the other fuzzy socks don’t match. And if I was going to wear silly-looking socks, they should at least match my outfit.

I put this story in this post because it belongs here, and is part of my journey. But it wasn’t until completing all of our KonMari categories, that I got to thinking about a handful of items I sold at our yard sale, that I really regret.

In each case, I applied an internal rule, rather than allowing “spark joy” to guide me.

So I discovered that “spark joy” works for both “pack-rat” personalities and “purger” personalities. The “hoarder” or “keeper” personality keeps too many things that don’t spark joy. Thus they are surrounded by lots of items, but not a lot of joy. The “purger” personality (me), gets rid of things because getting rid of things feels good, and less clutter feels good. But they may use internal rules for disposing of items, rather than “joy spark keeping”, then regret it later.

So our goal, is to be surrounded by items which bring us happiness, function smoothly, make our lives easier, have a clean design, and help our days go by with pleasure. Our goal is to KEEP, not dispose of. But to be quite selective in what is kept.

I’ve had now perhaps ten “passes” through my closet. Since I was emotionally connected to my clothing, it has taken time for my heart to become sensitive to what truly sparks joy for me. In each “pass” through my closet, I disposed of more clothing.

I did shoes a few times. I did certain seasonal items once I reached that season, and had a better chance to assess my feelings about them. I did all my grungy “work / paint” clothes another day – this one was tough because a bunch of sentimental college theater t-shirts were there. Not clothing I would wear on a daily basis, but clothing I was attached to for the memories. At one point, the only clothing still in the attic was high-heeled shoes and winter boots. I was getting close to Marie’s point that all my clothing should be in my own space.

I eventually got rid of enough, and spent enough time going through my closet repeatedly (within about a two month time period), that ALL MY CLOTHES FIT IN MY CLOSET. This includes winter coats, scarves, boots, work clothes, EVERYTHING. It now even includes my jewelry and most of my baby carriers.

THIS IS MASSIVE AND MONUMENTAL. I seriously never thought it possible.

I did purchase a few new things along the way, which sparked more joy, and enabled me to let go of others that were merely “fine.” But when I shopped, I kept far fewer items than previously.

Nowadays I order clothes online, using sales and coupons. I try it all on in the privacy of my home, when my children are asleep. I take my time. I encounter my true feelings about things. I try to keep only the most joy-sparking ones. The ones that I put them on and say, “YES. THIS.” without any hesitation. Hesitation isn’t joy.

I have fewer clothes, but more of them make me happy.

Since finishing my closet, I’ve resolved to try to dress myself every day in a way that I can look in the mirror and feel good about myself. I might spend all day cleaning floors on my hands and knees, and wiping poopy butts, and crawling around on the floor playing with children, but I want to feel okay about myself and my appearance while doing so. If I feel pretty, I feel less like a slob and slave.

Dressing nicely is faster and easier when the contents of my closet are 1) few and 2) all joyful.

There was a point in the closet purging journey where I sent my husband a photo of clothes stacked up that I was getting rid of. When he came home from work, I proudly showed him that the only clothes in his closet were HIS. My clothes, and the kids clothes, had been removed from his closet.  THAT my friends, is what convinced him to let me read the book out loud to him, and begin his own journey into KonMari.

After fully discarding a category, keeping only what sparks joy, Kondo has excellent tips for organizing what you choose to keep. She has a unique folding method for drawers. She has ideas like hanging things slanting upward to the right by color and length.  She talks about which type of clothes to fold and which to hang. If the closet has shelves, she talks about which shelf should hold which type of items. Some of these tips are in the first book (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up) and more are in the second book (Spark Joy).

We use her folding method, although we don’t own dressers. Our closets have built-in shelves, plus hanging rods. On the shelves, we use small bins and baskets to store little items (undies, socks, etc.), folded in her method. We also use bins for floppy items like gym shorts. Bulky, stiff items such as jeans, are folded and stand on-end on the shelves, rather than stacked on top of each other. We have made use of the wall space as well, to hang organizing tools, or to display sentimental items.

I read the second book, “Spark Joy”, about nine months into our KonMari journey. I went through my closet again, after reading it. This time I was arranging things for a more visually pleasing space. I disposed of a few more things I hadn’t done properly before. I purchased a few pretty baskets and a jewelry storage system.

Another Kondo principle is to display things you chose to keep. The goal of her storage methods are to keep everything “on display” – where you can see it at a glance, access it, and easily return it to its proper place. Most of what I’m still tweaking in my closet is how things are stored and displayed. These changes are smaller than the original purging process. But they create an inviting and beautiful space.

Kondo says the closet should be the owner’s personal “power spot.” It should be decorated with things that bring the owner joy. I now have several sentimental items displayed on a shelf in my closet, that previously were in boxes. It is such a joyful place for me to enter now! Not only organized, but decorated with personal and meaningful items.

Despite Kondo’s recommendation that I do this category “all in one go”, I could not.

I could not because of time constraints due to having small children need me all day and all night. I could not because there was too much emotion to process. I could not because I owned such a large volume of clothing. I could not because I was only at the beginning of learning to listen to my heart’s spark. I could not because I was applying broad internal rules instead of listening to my emotion’s voice regarding each individual item.

But get through it all, I did.

Or rather, I will.

Once a friend gives my maternity clothes back.

| Filed under konmari | Tags: ,

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Imagine It

Our bedroom today
Our bedroom today
Our bedroom two years ago
Our bedroom two years ago
My side of the office today
My side of the office today (Benjamin’s desk not pictured)
Our shared office two years ago
Our shared office two years ago

 

 

There’s a reason Marie Kondo titled her book, “The LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC of Tidying Up,” rather than “Tidying Up Your Home.” Her process, unlike any other I’ve used to organize my home, has been life-changing. God is responsible for my life-changes. And He’s using Marie Kondo as one of His instruments in my life.

This post is number three in my writing-processing of my journey through my home and myself using the method in Marie Kondo’s book. The other two posts are here:

Step One – Read the Book

Step Two – Deal With Your Own Stuff in Your Own Spot

The first step, according to Marie’s book, is actually to spend time thinking about, articulating, and writing down your ideal lifestyle and home, before beginning the tidying process. And by tidying, we do not mean cleaning (removing dust and grime). By tidying, we mean going through objects you own, in the way she describes.

We sort of did this exercise, but it was hard to put a finger on. The best I could do is an assortment of thoughts….

Spend less time cleaning.

Be less annoyed with clutter in home, and messes kids make.

Have more time available for playing with my kids.

Have more time available for things I would like to do, instead of things I have to do.

Not be  a slave to cleaning my own home.

Enjoy being in my home.

Be able to have guests visit without lots of time spent cleaning the house.

I didn’t write it down. And I gradually came up with this list of ideas as we went through the process. Now that we are 80% done, I would say that all of these have happened at least in part.

She says to write down these things in as much detail as you can. Not “have a cleaner house”…. but what would your life look like, if your house was cleaner? What would your life look like if you had extra time on your hands?

In her second book, “Spark Joy”, she unravels this concept a bit more, by suggesting finding a photo that represents your ideal home. Even if it isn’t a realistic or practical photo, if it strikes your heart as “THAT is a place I would like to live in”, that is the photo. She encourages readers to look through decorating or lifestyle magazines – a bunch of them all at once – and notice what you like, and if there are common threads. She suggests a person actually choose ONE photo out of all of them, and pin it in the home in a place to easily see it.

A friend hosted a little party for some of us in the KonMari process, to do just this. Some women were able to find just one photo. I couldn’t. I like an eclectic variety of things, and wouldn’t want every room in my home using the same style or color scheme. I did find lots to like on Pinterest, and a few in the magazines, and made a board of them. I reviewed everything I pinned, then narrowed it down a little.

I learned some things as I observed others choosing and discussing, and observed my own internal responses to photos of various styles of homes.

I learned that I like almost entirely neutral rooms, with little splashes of color. I like white (not ivory) walls. I am drawn to cool blues (like aqua and navy), warm yellows, and bits of rich red (not all in the same room). I like geometric type patterns, rather than prints (for example, stripes not flowers). I like visual and tactile texture.

Here are two Pinboards I have for my home.

 

 

| Filed under home, konmari | Tags: , ,

My battle is not against clutter – Lectio Divina – Psalm 127:3-5

11j

 

Psalm 127:3-5

“Children are a heritage from the Lord;
       Children are a reward from Him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
     are children born in ones youth.
Blessed is the woman
    whose quiver is full of them.”

 

Arrows would be used for defense. Also for hunting food. For self-protection, protection of others, provision, nourishment, survival, resourcing.

Since the heritage and reward sometimes feel far-off…..

And yet, they aren’t far off because I love their laughter, cuddles, happy spirits.

Their happy spirits are so dependent on my own. If I’m grumpy, tired, irritated, I can be unkind with them, which makes them grumpy, tired, irritated.

I am a warrior and this is my battle. The battle is not against my children, or against the mess. My battle is for the state of my soul; the state of their souls.

My battle is not to win against clutter, but to win against anger, discouragement, sarcasm.

I am a warrior and my battle is a Kingdom battle.

God fights for me, and I am no alone.

| Filed under lectio divina | Tags: , ,

Eating the fruit of your labor – When effort seems fruitless – Lectio Divina – Psalm 128-2

03j

 

Psalm 128:2

“You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours.”

 

What is the fruit of my labor that I desire to eat?

A peaceful feeling from cleanliness?

A husband happy with a tasty dinner?

That’s small picture stuff.

Bigger picture stuff is
…Children who are happy and peaceful
…Children having a childhood of fun and adventure
…A calm spirit with a gentle response
…Feeling proud of my home?
…Feeling proud of my heart.

Talking to my children all day long about Jesus. Living with His presence near so they experience the effects of it and learn to live in this manner.

This verse is an encouragement: Don’t give up.

Much of your labor may seem fruitless, repetitive and mundane. Planting but never harvesting. Cleaning without ever getting things clean.

But your labor is not without fruit.

Your effort is not without blessing. Your sacrifices are not unto nothing. Blessing will be yours. Prosperity and fullness will be yours.

| Filed under lectio divina | Tags: , ,

For all the times I feel empty – Lectio Divina – John 1:16

20140322-DSC_1282

 

John 1:16

“From the fullness 
of God’s grace, 
we have all received
one blessing after another.”

FULLNESS.

For all the times I feel empty,
drained of my resources, strength, energy.

When I feel physically and emotionally needed,
beyond what I have left to give.

His fullness.
His grace.
The fullness of God’s grace.

Never empty.
Never dried up.
Never used up.
Never half full.

Always totally full,
overflowing,
rich,
deep, wide.

More than enough to fill me.
To fill my children.
To fill my bank account.

| Filed under lectio divina | Tags: , ,

Being needed by people can’t be crossed off a list – Lectio Divina – Luke 10:38-42

20150425-DSC_0639

“As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. 

But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’  

‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’ “

Luke 10:38-42

HAD to be made…. HAD. So much that HAS to be done. HAS TO.

What are my reasons to overfunction?
I need to have things a certain way.
I need to be in control.
I have to do everything myself.

Being WITH people
Being needed by people
can’t be crossed off a list.

Sometimes I think about my older son. How he needs my attention. Always asking me to play with him. My husband, working to provide for our family. Desiring my company. The baby. So little. Still so much need. No way to tell him “No…” or “Please wait….”

(Note to myself – I don’t want him crying at my feet in the kitchen anymore. Need to store a baby carrier in the kitchen for easy access.)

And I think,
“Why do all of you have to NEED me so much?!
Can’t you see I’m busy getting things done?!”

I want a task I can cross off my list so I can feel I’ve done something, anything, which won’t have to be done again in an hour.

But I can’t cross off
being with my people,
off a list.

| Filed under lectio divina | Tags: , , ,

I am living the life I dreamed of. So then, where is my joy? – Lectio Divina – Isaiah 55:1-3

20140823-DSC_5806

 

 

 

Nourish. (my home. my children. myself. my faith).

Joy. (experience it. feel it. be it.)

Nourish (not Maintain).

Joy (not Drudgery).

ISAIAH 55:1-3

Come, 
all you who are thirsty, 
come to the waters; 
and you who have no money,
come,
buy and eat!
Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen,
Listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to Me;
hear Me, that your soul may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love that I promised.


Nourish the Soul.
our dreams
our longings
Take time to do this despite the
seeming monotony of maintaining our days.

Joy……
in this.
in my days.
in cleaning the floor under the high chair
for the fifth time today.

“Let me tell you,
what He has done for me.
He has done for us.
Great is our God,
for He is good.”
……..David Crowder Band

I am living the life I always dreamed of.
So then,
where is my Joy?

……………………. These thoughts were journaled in October 2015. It was from a women’s group I participated in, which facilitated a devotional time on this verse. It was the catalyst for me to begin personal devotions again. Something I haven’t done for maybe fifteen years, since high school. Since October (it is now February), I’ve accomplished it around 2-3 times per week, on mornings when I wake up alert and the kids are still asleep. I’ve decided to share some of them publicly, as much as possible as-written. It is my journey with Jesus as a young mom, and I have been nudged by the Lord that it could possibly help other young moms with young kids. I tend to start projects and slowly lose interest in them, so we will see how this one goes.

| Filed under lectio divina | Tags: , ,