Thursday, 31 May 2012

What I Am Into - May 2012

Today I am joining Megan at SortaCrunchy in sharing What I've Been Into this past month.


What I Am Into :: MAY 2012

On My Nightstand:

I've just finished Part 1 of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain, and already I've lost count of how many times I have told my husband how awesomely amazing this book is. Everyone in the whole entire world should read this book, introvert or not. I want to draw pink sparkly hearts all over its cover, but alas, the library would not appreciate my visual enthusiasm. I love this book.

I've also started Gordon Fee's How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, O. M. Bakke's When Children Became People: The Birth of Childhood in Early Christianity, and Ruth Beechick's The Three R's. I need a good fiction book to read now that I've finally made it through Christopher Paolini's massive but worthy conclusion to the Inheritance Cycle series, Inheritance.

Want to Read:

Next up, after finishing one or two of my current books, is Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church by N. T. Wright. I'm also looking forward to reading through Your Amazing Newborn by Marshall Klaus, in mental preparation for having a newborn again late this summer.

T.V. Show Worth Watching:

I'm currently mourning the series finale of House. Oh, House. I will miss you.

Movies I've Seen:

The four of us watched We Bought a Zoo during our last family movie night. Other than mentally cringing at a couple of words I hoped the kids wouldn't pick up on, the show was excellent. Not at all what I expected, but in a good way. Definitely a worthwhile watch and one we're likely to watch again.

I was really hoping to see both The Hunger Games and The Avengers in theater, but so far babysitting just hasn't worked out. May was a busy month! Still crossing my fingers that we'll find time to fit one or both of those in before they're not playing in theaters anymore.

In My Kitchen:

I've been incredibly frustrated lately by my persistent lack of appetite this pregnancy. It has made meal planning a torturous weekly process. I don't want to think about food, plan food, cook food, or eat food. Fortunately, the husband has been a big help both with meal planning and cooking, so that makes the whole thing a bit more bearable. Still, we've had some definite meal successes this month.

PhD in Parenting's zucchini bread/muffins have continued to garner praise from family and company alike. The only change I make to her fantastic recipe is to reduce the chocolate chips by half. The muffins are great for on-the-go snacks while the bread is perfect for company or potlucks. If I only have a small zucchini, I'll add a grated carrot or two and it still tastes great. Sometimes I'll replace all of the zucchini with carrot and the chocolate chips with raisins; again, it always turns out delicious. Love this recipe.

Both these lemon sugar cookies and these honey roasted red potatoes have received enthusiastic appreciation from the husband. The leftover potatoes were even better the next day, sliced, fried, and served with fried eggs and toast. That was a breakfast that won't easily be topped anytime soon.


I'm always watching for good stir fry sauce recipes, so I was thrilled to find this collection of 15 delicious-sounding recipes. It's been great to have something new to try instead of our usual stir fry sauce. So far we've particularly enjoyed the sweet and sour ones served with a stir fry of beef and various vegetables.

In My Ears:

I cannot even tell you how much I am currently despising Wee Sing Dinosaurs right now. The boys, however, love it. When they're not asking to listen to it, they're singing it. Loudly. And when they're not singing it, the songs are playing in my head anyway. Loudly.

As far as adult music goes, though, I've been enjoying Jenny & Tyler's Faint Not album. I like the sound of this new-to-me duo. We've also been listening to a lot of Beatles songs lately, thanks to a recent purchase of Rock Band: The Beatles. Super makes me proud to hear my kids singing "Hello, Goodbye" and other Beatles songs. Now there's good music, kids. Forget that dinosaur garbage.

Pinterest Finds:

Ah, Pinterest, the newest online potshot target. I am so entirely sick of reading such sarcastic statements as "it may not be pinnable, but it was fun all the same" and all the many variations thereof. What does that even mean? Pinterest is an excellent visual bookmarking tool, and if some people misuse it to create some sort of perfect fantasy life, well, so be it. The rest of us are busy visually bookmarking the useful ideas and recipes we see, no longer to be lost in the abyss of yesteryear's bookmark folders. Anyway, on to what I'm loving on Pinterest lately:



My newest favourite pinner is Wee Folk Art. Their boards are beautiful and their pins both inspiring and useful. I absolutely adore their rainbow gazing board; so much cheerful beauty. It always makes me smile to see new pins added to that board.



Love the detailed tutorial for this car trash bag or reusable lunch bag. This bag instantly became my next sewing project; I plan on lining it with ripstop nylon and keeping it in the car in hopes of preventing all those bits of garbage from taking over my floor and seats. Hey, it could happen.



My next go-to rainy day activity will be this LEGO maze. Build, find a marble, and have fun! The boy will love this, and I'm pretty excited about it myself.

What I'm Looking Forward to in June:

I'm kind of amazed at how quickly June's calendar is filling up: block parties, homeschooling get-togethers, family visits, birthdays, and more. It should be a great month, and I am very much looking forward to more sunshine and warm weather.

Well, friends, that is What I've Been Into this past month. What about you?

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

How to End a Day

Every night it's the same. I sit with my two boys until the little one falls asleep, and then I quietly slip out, leaving the older one with his lamp and his stack of books.

After he's read for a while, I hear his quiet footsteps as he comes out to find me.

Mommy, he whispers, can you come for a little snuggle?

I come.

As I settle myself down on the floor beside his bed, he asks me his question, always the same question: What was the best part of your day?

The best part of my day. Sometimes the answer comes without hesitation. Our walk through the forest or baking cookies with you or when our friends came to visit or when we read all those books this morning. He'll smile and sometimes he'll agree; other times he'll have his own moment, and it's rarely quite what I would have expected.

Some days, though, I have to dig deeper to find my answer. He waits patiently, never rushing me, as I think through those long days in search of some nugget of goodness to share. He doesn't let me get away with a careless "I don't know" - no, each day must have something good in it.

He's right. Even on those days when everything seems to have gone wrong, I can always manage to find something to share with him if I think long enough. Maybe it's as simple as a particularly good meal or as unnoteworthy as stepping outside to check the mail, filling my lungs with damp spring air. Always, though, there's something, and this little child is the one who draws it out of me on those days when I can't easily see it myself.

He thinks these nightly snuggles are for him - and they are - but they're for me too. On those nights when I go into that room reluctantly, ready to be off-duty after the day's work, gratitude reminds me that it wasn't all work. There was beauty and joy, too, however small the moment was or however blind I was to it at the time. I leave that room feeling lighter, because what else can gratitude do?

Thank you, sweet child, for reminding me to end each day with thanksgiving.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Weekend Reading

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Rest in quiet trust

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
"In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength."

- Isaiah 30:15a

In returning and rest, in quietness and in trust. His Word never fails to bring reassurance to my tired soul.

Oh Lord, You are so good.

And yet how easily I forget. I feel the urging of our culture, both within and outside of the church, to do more, be more, try harder, strive further, argue louder, follow this simple formula to improve yourself/your marriage/your kids in Six Easy Steps. Again and again He reminds me that this quiet life is enough. His burden is light; rest in quiet trust.

My prayers have felt like this lately. Words don't come easily, so I simply sit. I soak in His presence. I breathe in His peace. I listen more than I talk. I carry that steady communion with me as I continue with my day, and it is good. It is good to simply sit and rest, to be still and quiet before the One who formed me and knows me and loves me. Somehow the silence feels full even when my words feel empty. He is there.

May your weekend be filled with quiet rest.

Monday, 21 May 2012

NPN Blog Hop: Preparing for Baby the Natural Way

Welcome to the monthly NPN Blog Hop! Each month, one volunteer with the Natural Parents Network will host this hop, giving you a chance to discover new natural parenting blogs as well as to link up and share your favorite posts. You will find some great new blogs while exposing your blog to a potential boost in new readers as well. Topics will change monthly but stay in line with the natural parenting philosophy and lifestyle.



May’s theme is Preparing For Baby The Natural Way!

How To Participate:


Share your favorite post that coincides with the monthly topic. Add your URL in the linky form below. The linky will be available until this coming Sunday, May 27th at 11:59pm, so feel free to link up your post any time this week! Your post does not have to be new, just on topic.

We would love for you to grab the html for the Natural Parents Blog Hop button and either add it to your blog sidebar or as a picture in your actual blog post:


Visit some of the other blog posts that are linked up for the week, and be sure to leave them a comment letting them know that you are visiting from the Natural Parents Blog Hop. If time is not on your side, please at least click on the post immediately before yours on the linky list and leave a comment. The #1 link on the list can comment on a post on our current host's blog. The more support we can lend each other, the better!

Be sure to stop by the official NPN Blog Hop page on the Natural Parents Network site. You can find links to previous blog hops as well as find out when and where the next hop will be!


Memories of Weaning: Unique and Gentle

Welcome to the Carnival of Weaning: Weaning - Your Stories

This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Code Name: Mama and Aha! Parenting. Our participants have shared stories, tips, and struggles about the end of the breastfeeding relationship.
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Twice now, it's happened: my babies have weaned.

While my approach has been similar with each of them - partial weaning initiated by me, ultimate weaning left up to them - their two stories are entirely unique, just as the boys themselves are. It's a wonderful thing to watch them grown in their own unique ways, but it's a strange feeling, too, to witness them leaving behind a stage in their lives.

These are their stories of weaning.

Weaning My Oldest: Sweet and Sentimental

At one year, my first son's diet was mainly breastmilk. We had introduced solids at six months, but those first several months of solid food were more for play and experimentation than anything else. Believing in a baby-led-solids approach, he was offered food that he could self-feed. Just as feeding on cue had, this allowed him to follow his natural appetite in choosing when and how much to eat. It wasn't until he was about 15 months old that he began to eat significant amounts of solid food.

When he was 18 months old and no longer relying on breastmilk as his main source of nutrition, I began to cut back on the number of his nursing sessions. Still infertile at this point, I was beginning to resent breastfeeding and knew that it was time to make that change before our nursing relationship was adversely affected. I gradually cut back on our daytime nursing sessions until he was nursing only three times a day - morning, before his afternoon nap, and at bedtime. It was a slow and gentle process with little upset, but it was a difficult decision to make nonetheless. Even in hindsight, I am not convinced that it was the right choice to make, but neither am I convinced it was the wrong one. It simply is what it is.

I was positively thrilled when, 21 months after my first son was born, my period finally returned. I began to truly enjoy nursing my toddler in a way that, until then, had been clouded by frustration over its corresponding lack of fertility. I had love the warm snuggliness of nursing a newborn, the sweet silliness of nursing a happy baby, and the precious bonding of nursing a yearling, but this business of nursing a toddler was something entirely different. There were the breastfed dinosaurs and cars. The sly requests for milk when he knew the answer would be no, and the laughing attempts to latch on anyway. The sleepy cuddles while nursing in the morning. The relief of being able to nurse a sick child who would eat and drink nothing else.

When we found that we were joyfully expecting our second child, I was grateful for each week that my milk supply remained unaffected. I temporarily returned to work full time, and while I was sad to leave my son, it was a good four months of bonding between him and his dad. Because I left before he woke up, he no longer nursed in the morning. For a while he would nurse when I came home for lunch, but it wasn't long before he stopped asking and we simply ate lunch together. As my sensitivity to nursing grew along with my stomach, I nightweaned him, which he accepted with relative ease. In this way, he went from three nursing sessions a day plus nightwakings, to only one nursing session at bedtime. He was a little over two years old at this point.

Then my milk supply disappeared, and the pain while nursing increased. I began to shorten the length of time for which I would nurse him at bedtime, replacing that nighttime routine with other methods of comfort. By the time he was two and a half, he nursed for only a minute or less at bedtime. Then it was mere seconds. Then it was less than a second - not even a real latch on. I joked to my husband that he was just "kissing them goodnight" by that point. One night, instead of wanting milk, he asked to lay on them, leaning against my bare chest for a short while before climbing in bed. Then...nothing.

Not that he ignored them. Not at all! He just seemed to transfer their possession to his yet-to-be-born little brother. He had been aware for a long time that he would have to share mommy's milk with the new baby. Now that he was done nursing, he was content to hand them over entirely. Any mention of them was done in conjunction with the baby. He no longer asked to nurse, but he would occasionally state that when the milk came back after the baby was born, he could have mommy's milk again.

He never did. While he often watched the baby nurse and commented on the baby having mommy's milk, he never once asked to have any himself. It was with both relief and disappointment that I could say it officially - my little boy was weaned.

He was growing up.

Our nursing relationship had been a precious time. Its comfort has now been replaced with other comforts, its bonding has been replaced with other activities, and its nutrition is no longer relied upon. While I still question the limits imposed at 18 months, and wonder how long he would have nursed if not for the pregnancy, it was done, for the most part, on his terms and in his timing.

Weaning My Youngest: Easy and Unexpected

Our second son was born soon after our first had weaned. He, too, had a smooth start to breastfeeding, and I enjoyed the lack of pain this second time around.

With my younger son, I found I had a less romantic and more practical view of breastfeeding. He needed to be fed and I had just the tools for the job. He seemed to feel likewise; unlike my oldest, who would nurse for long sessions at a time, this one was a very "get down to business" sort of baby. And comfort nursing? Don't even think about it. Yet on difficult days, when my nursling and I found ourselves feeding off each other's grumpiness, nursing allowed us to take a break and quietly snuggle and reconnect, walking away a few minutes later in much better spirits.

After passing the one year mark, we became fully entrenched in the typical early-toddler stage of increased nursing. He wanted to nurse constantly. This was an adjustment for me after his first year of nursing only for nourishment, but I soon got used to our new normal. With each passing month, my "not right now's" slowly began to increase. It was less deliberate than the nursing session reduction that I put in place when my oldest was 18 months. By 18 months with the younger one, his main nursing sessions happened at naptime and bedtime, when he would nurse most or all of the way to sleep. During the remainder of the day, I would generally accommodate his requests for milk, but sometimes I would offer a drink, snack, or activity in its place.

For the next few months, the same pattern remained in place. He passed the intense early-toddler stage and then, to my surprise, began to drop nursing sessions all on his own. He nightweaned himself. He stopped nursing at naptime and bedtime himself. He asked less frequently during the day. It was so different than my experience with my first son; I didn't quite know what to make of it.

22 months after his birth, my period returned at last, and soon we were expecting our third child. Nursing became only slightly more painful, a welcome change from my first experience of nursing while pregnant. And still he continued to nurse less with no prompting from me.

By the time he turned two, he was barely nursing at all. Sometimes he would go days without and I would wonder if he had weaned, only to have him ask to nurse again later that day. After a two-week long stretch, I was sure he was done; again he proved me wrong by sleepily snuggling against me to nurse early one morning. I remember kissing his head and inhaling his sweet smell. I remember the feeling of his little body tucked against me, and I remember how heartwarming it felt after its two week absence. I also remember that it was the last time he ever nursed.

He wasn't even two and a half. Although there was again a sense of both relief and disappointment, the disappointment was stronger this time. It had been so abrupt, so different than the long and slow process my older child had taken. I was plagued with self-doubt: Had I turned him down too often? Was it my fault he had weaned? Was it because of me that he had lacked the strong emotional connection to breastfeeding that my older child had had?

Now when he sees my breasts, he talks about how the baby will drink Mommy's milk one day. He never asks for milk himself or suggests, as his older brother had, that he too will have milk when it returns after the baby is born. He's done, and he's okay with it.

And I'm learning to be okay with it too.

Preparing for a New Nursling

Now here I am again, preparing to begin from the start, a sweet little baby to nurse over the next months and years. More darling gazes, more tiny hands patting my side, more lovely milk breath; more spit up, more wet shirts, more laundry; more nourishment, more bonding, more comfort. I look forward to watching the evolution of another nursing relationship, with its myriad of benefits and its own beautifully unique path. I expect that this new child's eventual weaning will be much the same as that of his older brothers, with partial weaning initiated by me and ultimate weaning left up to him, a gradual and gentle process that evolves along with the individual child.

Despite the questions, self-doubt, and second guessing myself, my experiences with weaning two children have also given me a renewed confidence. When someone warns me that my babies will never wean if I nurse on demand, I can think back to my own boys' weaning stories, each one unique in how it happened but equally gentle in its approach. However it happens, whatever their stories, whatever their ages, my babies will one day wean, and we will move together into a new stage in our relationship.

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Thank you for visiting the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Dionna at Code Name: Mama and Dr. Laura at Aha! Parenting.


Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (and many thanks to Joni Rae of Tales of a Kitchen Witch for designing our lovely button):


Saturday, 19 May 2012

Weekend Reading

Friday, 18 May 2012

Letting go and celebrating small victories

I'm tired.

Really, to say I'm tired feels like a ridiculous understatement. This past month has been the lowest I've felt quite possibly ever. I'm tired in that if-I-have-to-stand-up-I-might-cry sort of way. Just let me sleep and then sleep some more. Please.

But I can't. I'm pregnant and raising two small children and I'm surviving but some days that doesn't feel like much.

I'm tired.

And no wonder. After my blood test last week, my midwife phoned to tell me my iron levels had dropped significantly and my iron stores had plummeted spectacularly since my last blood test. The Floradix I'd been taking, which had thus far allowed me to do such things as feed the children and maintain some semblance of being on top of the housework, wasn't enough. So I have more iron supplements on the way, along with some chlorella, and maybe I'll soon be able to return to the land of the living.

In the meantime, you know what? I'm not dealing so well. I cry. A lot. I cannot even tell you how very much I am not a crier. I didn't cry when my husband proposed. I didn't cry on our wedding day. Not when I saw the positive pregnancy tests, nor when I saw all the disappointing negative ones in between the first two. I didn't cry when my babies were born. I didn't cry when my granddad died. I've often felt guilty about it, even as a very little child, but I just don't cry.

Yet here I am, sobbing in the shower and when I lay down in bed and when I have to somehow find the energy to get dressed. And when I'm not crying, I feel like I'm about two seconds away from doing so.

Everything feels like a huge deal. I need to make a decision? Cue the tears. Don't make me decide anything. Please. I see another disgusting "we must WIN THIS CULTURE WAR!!!1111ELEVENTY!!!!" post on Facebook? Cue the tears. And the rage. And the dwelling on it for the next week. Oh yes. Overreaction has become my new constant companion.

I have no appetite. I haven't had an appetite since before I was pregnant. I don't want food. I don't want to think about food. I don't want to cook food. I don't want to plan what food everyone else is going to eat. I don't want to have to think, period.

But the worst of it is myself and my shoulds.

It's a nice day out. I should take the kids to the park.

It's noon. I should figure out what I'm going to make for dinner.

Dinner's done. We should go for our evening walk through the forest trails behind our house.

It's Saturday. We should go to the farmer's market and then have a picnic afterwards.

I should take the kids swimming, like I've been promising forever. I should do more with them. I should work more with the boy on his reading and writing. I should I should I should should should.

And this is probably just more overreaction on my part, but I'm tired of the blame being placed on Pinterest, or on "mommy blogs", or on Facebook, or on whatever. These shoulds are all mine, baby. I'm not trying to make a "pinnable" life. I'm not trying to live up to some image projected by any of the bloggers I follow. It might be easy to blame our whatever - perceived shortcomings, longings, misplaced motivations - on Pinterest or blogs or Facebook or insert other online target here, but the truth is it's just me and my own expectations of myself.

So I'm letting go and celebrating the small victories. No more shoulds, just reality. If we don't make it further than our front yard, awesome. If all I can bring myself to make for dinner is a pot of oatmeal, awesome. If we sit in bed and read ten books together instead of going for a walk, awesome. If we go to Timmie's after the farmer's market instead of having a lovely outdoor picnic that I've prepared the night before, doubly awesome, because I love Timmie's.

Whatever. I made it through another day? I'm awesome. Go me and my utter lack of iron. I can be a different kind of awesome when I have the energy I need to raise my arms above my head and wash my own damn hair without crying. For now, this is my awesome.

And I'm celebrating this week's small victories:

  • We searched out some new adventures earlier this week. Two toddlers, the boy, and myself, we walked down to the open field before the playground and I sat on a blanket, throwing balls for them to chase. Then we became pirates looking for treasure, and they brought all sorts of lovely things to me. I handed over the water bottle so they could make a little patch of mud to play in. It was lovely and simple and hey, it was something beyond the front yard. Victory.


  • We ate. Every day. Victory.

  • Bedtime the past two nights? Happened without any yelling or impatience on my part. Victory.

  • We went to the library before yesterday's midwife appointment and brought home a stack of awesomeness. And then we read through half of them in one sitting. Victory.

  • I scrubbed under the kitchen table so that my mother-in-law's feet wouldn't stick to the floor when she visited this weekend. Would she have cared if I hadn't? Not even a tiny little bit. Was it my own stupid pride that had me down on my hands and knees scrubbing the floor last night? You bet. Am I going to celebrate it anyway? Absolutely. Victory.

  • The kids and I are all freshly bathed/showered and ready to go grocery shopping when the husband is finished school today. I've even planned a couple of meals. My mother-in-law won't be offered oatmeal for dinner while she's visiting. Victory.

  • I'm letting go of self-imposed shoulds and embracing what is. Victory.

Celebrate with me? Share your own small victories from this week. Because you're awesome too.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Monday, 14 May 2012

A day in my life

This was actually our day last Thursday; it's been a busy blog weekend in the meantime. Thursdays are our "just us" days. They tend to feel peaceful and easy after three days of caring for another toddler. They are often our days to do errands, make appointments, visit friends, or just stay home and enjoy each other's quiet company. Below is a pretty typical Thursday for us.

Morning

I woke up this morning to find the husband gone for the day and the landlord trying to water the garden in front of our open bedroom window. I quickly closed the window before our bed got sprinkled with water (it wouldn't be the first time) and, since the boys were both still asleep, laid back down for a bit more sleep myself.

I woke up an hour later to the sound of the toddler playing cars on the floor, waiting for his brother to wake up. Next time I opened my eyes, the two of them were sitting in bed beside me reading a book together. The older asked for breakfast while the younger informed me he had pooed his diaper. Time to start the day. I felt much better and more well-rested than I had in a while. I was grateful they had given me the chance to sleep in, but now we had to get moving because I had to have my blood taken before lunch.

After cleaning up the toddler's diaper, we headed to the kitchen for breakfast. The boys had yogurt with granola I'd made the previous day. This sounds impressive until I confess that I'd been meaning to make a new batch for months, guiltily buying Mini Wheats and Cheerios in the meantime. Oh well.

My midwife had instructed me to have two eggs, toast, and butter before getting my blood drawn. Unfortunately we were out of bread, so I had a pita and hummus along with my two hard-boiled eggs. The boys finished their breakfast and came to assist me in finishing off my own. They're very helpful that way.

The boy dressed himself while I got the toddler ready. I used a wet comb in a mostly-failed attempt to smooth down the boy's unruly hair, which I had just cut the day before. The boys got their boots on while I quickly washed and dressed myself. I came out to find that they had both put their boots on the wrong feet; we headed outside anyway, grabbing the bag of library books I'd set by the front table the night before.

Got to the lab, found a parking spot, unbuckled both boys, and realized I'd forgotten the blood work form at home. Mentally kicked myself. Buckled the boys back in and drove back home for the paper. Grabbed it, drove back, found a new parking spot, unbuckled both boys, and doubled-checked for form, keys, and phone before locking the doors and heading to the lab. Scooped up the dawdling toddler a moment later, wanting to get a spot at the lab quickly before the lunch crowd started to arrive.

Fortunately, the waiting room was nearly empty when we walked in. The boys went to sit down while I checked in. As soon as I joined them, the toddler's string of "why's" began.

"Why is the mail truck stopped there?"
"So the mail delivery person can take the mail to the people it belongs to."
"Why?"
"So they can get their mail."
"Why?"
"So they can read their letters and pay their bills."
"Why?"
"..."


Gratefully, we were soon called back. We talked about the various medical supplies while waiting. I answered a couple dozen more why-questions. A lady came in, asked the boys if they were going to watch, and promptly stuck me with the needle. "See? Didn't hurt at all!" she said to the boys. Hah. It hurt. A lot. The boys watched intently while I kept my eyes resolutely locked in the other direction. Two vials later, she removed the needle and I let out the breath I hadn't realized I'd been holding. Yes, I'm a wimp.

We left the lab and headed to the bank to make a deposit. The boy put the card in and pressed all of the buttons for me (except the PIN; sorry, kid). Next we took a quick walk around the thrift store, where the boy found a small set of miniature block houses, the perfect addition to the extravagant "cities" he makes all over the living room floor most days.


The used book store was right across the street. We hadn't been for a while and I felt like browsing, even though we were planning to head to the library next. The boy settled himself down in front of the children's books. The toddler walked up and down the long aisles and jabbered excitedly about the store's resident cat, a fat old grey thing that was currently asleep next to the cash register. I felt winded after only a few minutes of wandering (a new pregnancy development, whoopee), so I sat myself down on the floor next to the boy to look at the children's books.

A slightly embarrassing fifty-five dollars later, we left the store with a stack of new-to-us books. The boy was no longer interested in going to the library today, and he also turned down my offer for lunch while we were out. He just wanted to go home and read all his new books. The toddler didn't care what we did, just so long as I stopped to let him pick up pinecones along the way. We dropped off the library books, went through the McDonald's drive thru to pick up an iced mocha for me and chocolate milk for them (tsk tsk, I know), and headed home.

Afternoon

The next four hours were spent reading through the new books. The boy had recently discovered The Magic School Bus series and had been thrilled to find a whole stack of them at the bookstore. He'd selected a few of them and was most excited about reading those. I was very disappointed; some of them were newer ones and the quality was terrible compared to the old-style ones written by Joanna Cole. Fortunately, I'd grabbed all of the older ones they'd had, suspecting this would be the case, and we'd only ended up with three of the awful newer ones. Most of the other books were excellent. My favourite was Iva Dunnit and the Big Wind by Carol Purdy; the boy's favourite (aside from the Magic School Bus books) was Extreme Dinosaurs by Robert Mash; the toddler's favourite was Insectlopedia by Douglas Florian.

We paused reading long enough to eat some tacos and homemade guacamole on a towel on the living room floor. The boy loves when we have indoor picnics like that. I said a silent prayer of thanks for the sweet way the toddler sucks the guacamole off his taco chip before eating the chip itself. Those little moments make my day; I paused to breathe in the beauty of the moment, the day, these children, the food.

After more reading, the boy climbed up to his craft area on the counter to experiment with his new "how to draw dinosaurs" book, and I took some time to write down our day thus far.


Early Evening

The husband arrived home at 5:00. He sat down with the kids and spent 20 minutes looking through their new books with them (particularly the Extreme Dinosaurs one, which he thought was pretty cool too) before heading into his office to check his email and whatnot.

5:30, time to get supper going. I did a quick tidy of the kitchen. The husband put the rice on while I made the sauce for the salmon and put it in the oven. I prepped the asparagus and left it waiting there until the rest of the meal was nearly done. I took a shot of my beloved Floradix, without which I can scarcely muster up the energy to even sit up, much less feed the children or do even a minimal amount of housework. I chased the Floradix with a square of chocolate, because hey, why not?

The boys went into the office with Daddy to play "the building game" while dinner cooked. The "building game" is actually Tropico 4. When I asked their very responsible father what the actual name of the game was, he asked if I was blogging about it. "I might make mention of it," I replied. He came out of his office with a slightly guilty look on his face to tell me that I may want some more information on the game before telling the "blog world" (his words) that my toddler and five-year-old play it with him. Turns out you can do some rather not-so-nice-or-ethical things as the dictator in this particular game. Oh yes, and it's rated Teen. Lovely. Just lovely. He assured me he keeps it very child-friendly. I glared at him anyway.

The toddler soon lost interest and came out to join me on the couch, which meant lots of kisses and snuggles for me. He's very affectionate lately, which is heart-melting, of course. He joined me in checking on the fish and turning on the asparagus, blowing more kisses to each part of our meal. We returned to the couch to read some more insect poems from Insectlopedia while supper finished up.

Suppertime! The toddler set the table for the boys while I got everything else ready. Grace had to be followed by "silly grace" ("Rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub. Yay, God!"), introduced by the boys' Opa some years ago. It just never stops being funny, at least not when you're five and two. Dinner time conversation included the day's experiences, electricity (always electricity, thanks to the husband being an electrical engineering student), what happened to their Oma's fish (it died), and the fact that the husband and I would be turning 30 next year. The toddler was having a hungry night and ate as much as I did; other nights we're lucky to get more than a spoonful or two in his mouth. Toddlers are funny creatures.

After dinner, the boys wanted to talk with the above-mentioned Oma and Opa. The boy wanted to ask if his daddy's old Magic School Bus books were still at Oma's house, and the toddler wanted to talk more about the dead fish. After talking with them on Gmail video chat for a while, it was time for the evening's tidy, followed by snack (applesauce and cheese), a bedtime story, and teeth brushing. Since their dad takes care of the bedtime routine, I puttered around on the computer until they were ready, my cue to take over. As happens every night, the boy asked if they could go to bed by themselves. As happens every night, I declined his generous offer, as the rare attempts at letting them put themselves to bed invariably end up with them still chattering away to each other at midnight. So I grabbed my phone, glanced guiltily at the dirty dinner pots I had neglected to take care of while the boys were cleaning their toys, and headed into the bedroom to sit with them until the toddler fell asleep (usually a very short process, unless he's fallen asleep at any point during the day).

Late Evening

Tonight it took 30-40 minutes for him to stop squirming and talking long enough to fall asleep, during which I won several games of Ticket to Ride against my phone. I left the boy with a stack of books, a cup of water, and a dimmed light to read in bed for a while. He's always been our night owl and we've given up trying to change that. He reads until he falls asleep each night.

Back out of the bedroom, I decided to tackle the kitchen before sitting down. Better than having all the dirty pots and such staring at me for the rest of the evening, or worse, still there to greet me in the morning. Then I switched the hermit crabs' food dish with a fresh meal (tonight's crabby menu: avocado, dried cranberry, and asparagus; there would have also been a piece of salmon if I'd remember to save them some, but not a big deal since they just had tuna the night before). With everything taken care of, I sat down to update this post.

After texting back and forth with my sister for a bit, I decided to get comfortable in the bedroom with my laptop and some chocolate chips (tsk tsk again). I intended to spend some time fleshing out my Mother's Day blog post (How Motherhood Changed My View of God), which I had only briefly outlined thus far. First, though, I spent nearly an hour browsing through my feed reader to read other people's blogs. Funny how that always seems to happen. The husband, meanwhile, was busy studying for his next exam (or, more accurately, "studying for his next exam", AKA playing another take-over-the-world style computer game while eating taco chips).

Finally I started writing. An hour later, I had poured out my heart through the keyboard and felt spent, done for the night. I would write a closing paragraph and tidy it up another night. I browsed my favourite websites for a while until the husband came into the bedroom. We watched an episode of Arrested Development, read for a little while, and went to bed far too late. Two half-asleep boys stumbled into our bedroom shortly after.

An unfair combination of pregnancy insomnia, a full bladder, a squirmy baby-in-utero, and a complete inability to shut off my brain eventually kicked me out of bed out of sheer boredom; thus, here I am at 3am finishing off this entry. I hear the toddler stirring and muttering, so back to bed for me. Good night, all. It's been a blast.

Shanti Uganda Mother's Day Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to Laura, who was selected via Random.org as the winner of the Shanti Uganda Mother's Day giveaway! Laura has won a beautiful patchwork shoulder bag made from Ugandan batik fabric. Laura, watch your email for information on how to collect your bag!

If you didn't win, shop Shanti Uganda's Mother's Day sale and receive 40% off your entire purchase! Enter the code springcleaning at checkout. But hurry - this code expires May 15th!

Part of Shanti Uganda's involvement in Uganda includes working with a group of HIV+ women in a women's income generating group to provide livelihoods and income opportunities. The Women's Income Generating Group produces beautiful beaded necklaces, bracelets, and earrings made from recycled paper, as well as a variety of bags made from traditional East African fabrics. Shanti Uganda also sells 100% organic cotton t-shirts ethically made in Canada. Happy shopping!

Congratulations again to our winner and I hope you all had a wonderful Mother's Day weekend!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

How Motherhood Changed My View of God

I knew that when I became a mother, things would change. Gone would be the hours of solid sleep, the chance to sleep in on the weekends, the career I'd been building, much of the spontaneity that I had previously enjoyed. Maybe I wouldn't stay up so late; maybe I'd get more serious about cleaning up our eating habits. There'd be more laundry. I didn't really know, I was just guessing.

Then he arrived, this perfect little miracle. I took him home, quite certain someone would stop us before we got to the car, demanding to see my parenting license or certificate or something to prove I was able and prepared to raise him for the next eighteen years.

No one did.

We've made it through five years so far. Sure enough, I get a lot less sleep. I only miss my career occasionally, usually when I'm scrubbing orange juice off the kitchen floor or poop out of the carpet and muttering to myself about how I have a professional designation, dang it!, as though I am somehow above such menial labour. Things do require a bit more planning ahead, but in other ways they've become even more spontaneous as I walk through life beside these two wild boys who see beauty and wonder in things I wouldn't even notice. I still stay up too late; our eating habits go through highs and lows. There is way more laundry. My hamper overfloweth.

But nothing prepared me for the way motherhood would change my view of God.

Starting from scratch

Becoming a mother was the catalyst for a nearly unfathomable amount of personal change and growth. The sudden thrust into parental responsibility somehow became the permission I needed to throw out everything I'd ever been told and start from scratch, digging into His Word for myself. I wanted to pass on to my children a more accurate and encompassing understanding of God than I had grown up with. As I read the old stories with new eyes while also learning from those who had gone before, I discovered so much more of who God is, something more authentic than I had ever had before. Motherhood meant freedom.

Defining and refining

Just as I was discovering this God who was so much more than I'd ever known, my growing son was needing me to share it with him. Breaking down my faith and my understanding of God into terms that a toddler, and then a small boy, could understand was a challenge beyond what I had imagined. It demanded a complete defining and refining of my every belief. Was it accurate? Did I understand it? His questions became more difficult and complex as he grew. I would explain as best as I understood it at the time; other times, I could only admit that I truly didn't know. Those challenging conversations would drive me back to the Word, digging into it more for myself, learning, growing, stretching, then later revisiting the conversation with a clearer understanding. And sometimes that clarity was simply that I really didn't know, and I could accept that with peace. Motherhood meant refining growth.

Learning grace

He was already challenging me, this growing boy, with his questions and conversations. But then a second child lay in my womb and I was tired, I was impatient. And then I learned humility, seeking the forgiveness of a child and, what's more, having that forgiveness extended to me so freely and wholly. It put to shame my own habit of holding on to hurt, loving justice above mercy. I saw, too, how their own misdoings, such as a child's are, failed to change my love for them in the least. I received grace from them. I extended it to them. And in doing so, I caught a glimpse of how my Heavenly Father does the same for me. Motherhood meant forgiveness and grace.

Understanding parental love

I'd rediscovered God. I'd broken down my faith and understanding into the simplest of terms. I'd began to understand grace in a very real way. But motherhood wasn't done with me yet. As I lay in bed one night, marveling at my consuming love for a third child not even yet born to me, God whispered something to my heart: "That is but a reflection of the way I love you, My Child." More than doctrines and discipleship and details, God loves me in that intense, passionate, intimate, consuming way that I love my children - only His love is even more perfect and more complete. And beyond that, I was His child, and just look at the way my children love and trust and rely on me! I had understood God as Father for years, but rediscovering that from this side of motherhood left me completely undone, raw and open and without words. The wholeness and uniqueness of parental love was beyond my understanding before these children arrived in my life. Motherhood meant parental love.

Onward

I have so far yet to go on this journey, but I rest confident in the knowledge that He will bring to completion this work He has begun in me. In the meantime, I know He isn't finished using these precious children of mine to draw my gaze to Him, to deepen my understanding of Him, and to pass on the knowledge and love of the Lord from generation to generation. Praise be to Him always.



Happy Mother's Day to each of you:
to the mothers,
to the mother figures,
and also to everyone else,
for you made us mothers
and through you
we have grown.



_____________________

Today is the last day to enter the Mother's Day Giveaway for a chance to win a beautiful East African patchwork shoulder bag! Entries close tonight at 11:59pm PST, so head over and leave a comment on the post to be entered. Good luck!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Weekend Reading

Regarding the TIME controversy (Are we really so easily led into attacking each other as mothers? Of course we're all "mom enough" no matter how we parent our children. Be confident in that and place the blame at the feet of the sensationalism-driven media, not each other or the beautiful mothers included in the unsurprisingly misleading article.):



Back to your regularly scheduled general Weekend Reading:



Where else I've been this week:



Also, the giveaway! Don't forget to enter the Mother's Day Giveaway for a chance to win a beautiful East African shopping/laptop/diaper/library/whatever-you-could-use-it-for bag! Entries close Sunday at 11:59pm PST, so head over and leave a comment on the post to be entered.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Shanti Uganda (and a Mother's Day giveaway!)


Today I am pleased to introduce you to The Shanti Uganda Society, a registered Canadian charity and Ugandan non-profit organization dedicated to the support and empowerment of birthing mothers and women living with HIV/AIDS.



Our Mission:
The Shanti Uganda Society
improves infant and maternal health,
provides safe women-centered care,
and supports the well-being of birthing mothers and women living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda.


Programs

Currently, Shanti Uganda's programs fall under three categories:

Conscious Birth - Shanti Uganda's goal is to lower maternal and infant mortality rates, reduce HIV/AIDS transmission rates from mother to child, improve access to education and supplies, and honour every birthing woman. Projects include midwifery education, birth kits, and the Shanti Uganda Birth House & Learning Center.

Holistic Health - Shanti Uganda offers Teen Girls Workshops, where young girls are empowered to become more aware of and confident in their bodies. Each girl taking part in the workshop receives health education, a safe place to ask questions, a workbook, and a washable menstrual pad kit which allows them to attend school and do other activities while menstruating. The Shanti Uganda Society also supports locally initiated projects that improve the nutritional health of communities on an ongoing basis, including chicken coops, community gardens, and a Safe Drinking Water Initiative.

Sustainable Community Development - Shanti Uganda's Income Generating Training Program provides training, supplies and support to women who are HIV positive and either a grandmother taking care of multiple grandchildren, a widow, or a women in a situation of extreme poverty. Once graduated, the women become members of the Shanti Uganda Women's Income Generating Group, producing either beaded jewellery or textile products. Shanti Uganda also offers a scholarship project to provide young adults with additional education in the form of skills training or tuition.

Values

Shanti Uganda's core values are kept at the forefront of their program development. In their words, these values include:
Community Participation: All projects are locally initiated and supported with a deep sense of solidarity and ownership. Work on the ground is supported through the time, passion and employment of the local communities we work with.

Unity: We support and embrace everyone within the global family and believe in the power of unity to change the world. Moving towards a vision of ‘we’ allows us to act and serve from a place of love and compassion.

Sustainability: Our projects reflect our deep respect for the earth and all those who live here. Each project is able to sustain itself over time and provide long-lasting benefits for generations to come.

Traditional Values and Knowledge: We believe in the sacred power of traditional healing, wisdom, culture and community. All projects are rooted in cultural sensitivity and reflect the knowledge of the given community.

How You Can Help

Celebrate your mother this Mother's Day by supporting the well-being of birthing mamas in Uganda!

Donate

A general donation will allow Shanti Uganda to make the best use of your funds by contributing to the project elements most in need. Become a birth partner through a regular monthly donation, helping Shanti Uganda to provide consistent levels of support and care with the least amount of administration costs. Honour your friends and family by buying them a program-specific Gift of Action. Donate supplies, host a home party, spread the word via Facebook, or volunteer at home or in Uganda.

Shop

Part of Shanti Uganda's involvement in Uganda includes working with a group of HIV+ women in a women's income generating group to provide livelihoods and income opportunities. The Women's Income Generating Group produces beautiful beaded necklaces, bracelets, and earrings made from recycled paper, as well as a variety of bags made from traditional East African fabrics. Shanti Uganda also sells 100% organic cotton t-shirts ethically made in Canada.

Shop Shanti Uganda's Mother's Day sale and receive 40% off your entire purchase! Enter the code springcleaning at checkout. But hurry - this code expires May 15th!

Giveaway!

Shanti Uganda is generously offering to give away one of their beautiful bags to a lucky reader. These bags are made from traditional East African fabrics and are lined with batting to make a beautiful, colourful and sturdy bag that is perfect as a diaper bag, laptop bag, shopping bag and more. Each bag is made by their collective of amazing women who are actively creating their own destiny through financial independence.



(Colours may differ from product photo.)


To enter, simply leave a comment below (one entry per person)! Giveaway open to residents of Canada and the United States.


Comments will be closed on Sunday, May 13th at 11:59pm PST. The winner will be chosen via Random Number Generator and announced Monday morning. Good luck!

Comments closed! Winner to be announced in a separate entry Monday morning.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Busy

...building Lego contraptions...

...and testing them...

...hiding in forts...

...and making homes for the ants.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Surviving Pregnancy with Toddlers and Preschoolers

For most mothers, pregnancy is exhausting. Being pregnant while taking care of other little children, however, is exhaustion taken to a whole new level. The constant demands, both physical and emotional, combine with the physical and emotional demands of pregnancy and can feel overwhelming at times. More than halfway through my third pregnancy, my second one with young children to care for, there are some things that have helped me through:

Be straightforward with your kids about how you're feeling. When you're feeling tired or sick, explain that it takes lots of energy to grow a baby. Talk about the foods the baby needs to grow strong. Apologize for bad days and reassure them that it wasn't their fault. Engage them in the pregnancy by letting them feel the baby kick, looking at illustrations of growing babies (our favourite fetal development animation is this one), and talking about how big the baby is in comparison to fruit or other tangible objects. The more involved they are in the pregnancy, the greater their cooperation and understanding is likely to be.

Find engaging activities that you can do from the couch. Some of our favourites include puzzles, card games, board games that take up little space (The Kids of Carcassonne is our newest favourite), and catch with a soft indoor-friendly ball. A small portable end table, card table, or TV tray has big value here. When I'm feeling up to it, the three of us will snuggled together with blankets and pile of books for some out-loud reading time.

Teach skills that will increase their independent activity. While this is an ongoing activity throughout childhood, pregnancy is a common time to take stock of what skills your child is able to learn to do on his or her own. Depending on the age of the child, this may include cleaning up spills, tidying toys, using the toilet, increasing their bathroom independence, setting out breakfast dishes and utensils, getting water, preparing basic snacks and breakfasts (buttering toast, putting yogurt in a bowl, washing an apple), putting clothes in the hamper, and so on. Be cautious, however, about pushing too hard. It is easy, particularly once the new baby has arrived, to see your bigger children as older, more mature, and more capable than they really are.

Nap. These may not be the long, solid, whenever-you-feel-like-it naps of a first pregnancy, but nap when you can. If your children still nap, ignore the dirty dishes in the sink and sleep at the same time they do. If they don't nap, you still have options:
  • Settle them into a self-directed activity (don't rule out the TV) and lay down on the couch to close your eyes for a while.
  • Replace child naps with a family quiet time. Depending on what works best for your family, either have each child spend quiet time on their own or have everyone pile into your bedroom with a stack of books and a few small toys. The kids can play quietly, look at books, or nap while you rest.
  • Take a pre-dinner nap while your partner cares for the kids (even better if they cook dinner, too!)
  • Let yourself fall asleep while putting the kids to bed in the evening. Getting up again is optional! An early bedtime can make a big difference the next day.

Don't neglect your own needs. The challenges of parenting while pregnant greatly increase if you allow yourself to get too tired, too hungry, or too worn down. Keep easy-to-grab foods on hand, such as almonds, hard-boiled eggs, apples, and yogurt. Combine carbohydrates with protein and fruit with fat to maintain stable blood sugar levels. Be sure to eat iron-rich foods; nothing saps energy quite like an iron deficiency. Make time for chiropractic visits or prenatal massages if needed. Along with caring for yourself:
  • Let it go. Simplify your daily life, prioritize your responsibilities, and reduce your expectations.
  • Minimize obligations. This is very much a season in which to say no; you cannot be all things to all people.
  • Accept help. Whether from your partner, friends, family, a mother's helper, or a cleaning service, accept help when offered or seek it when needed.

Prepare for morning the night before. Slice strawberries to go with the morning's yogurt, make a batch of waffles to quickly reheat in the morning, or prepare a crock-pot breakfast. If you will be going somewhere the following day, lay out clothing and have snacks and supplies ready to go. Do, however, take into account your own individual pregnancy. If evenings are your rough time of the day, then do some extra prep in the earlier hours instead - put dinner in the crock-pot, lay out bedtime supplies, prepare bedtime snacks, and so on.

Take advantage of bursts of energy. Use this time to do spurts of housework, bigger activities with the kids, or preparations for low-supervision-required activities. Then when those bad days hit, you can rest without feeling stressed about falling behind, and the kids can enjoy the self-directed activities you have prepared.

What did you find helpful in getting through pregnancy with a toddler or young child?

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Weekend Reading


Also, in response to the recent disgusting words of Pastor Sean Harris urging parents to "man up" and punch effeminate boys, author Samuel Martin is offering his book on corporal punishment and the Bible free of charge. To request a copy of the book "Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy", email the author at info@biblechild.com. Thank you, Mr. Martin, for fighting back against such vile teachings within the church.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Wordless Wednesday: The view from here


My tired little toddler, sleeping on my lap earlier today.


And in a decidedly not-so-wordless manner, a snippet from my morning:

Just me and four boys - two mine and two more toddlers.

Mid-morning they began to play my favourite game, bringing all of their blankets and pillows out, piling them on the floor, and pretending to have a nap.

Suddenly, for one blessed moment...there was silence.

Four boys and silence.

I closed my eyes, breathed it in, savoured it.

And then someone giggled, someone else followed suit, blankets became a collaborative fort, and the previously quiet moment became beautiful in a new way.

I hope your day was filled with beautiful moments as well.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Those days don't define you

Last night I tucked the boy into bed, none too motherly, after a very long day.

My favourite part of the day, he said, was when I was in my room by myself, because then you weren't yelling at me.

Oh, my heart.

It was that sort of a day. I had grumbled about messes and yelled about noise and commanded unkindly - hurry, faster - and followed up with more grumbling and more yelling.

And then I topped it off with a particularly shining moment when, in an effort to reconnect, my beautiful boy brought me a beautiful collage he'd made for me, and my response was to express dismay that in doing so, he had unknowingly cut up a parcel delivery receipt I needed. His voice cracked as he apologized and left the room; I found him a moment later, sobbing heartbroken cries in his bedroom.

I fell asleep later that night with tears of my own dried on my face.

I'm so tired and everyone needs me and I just want to be taken care of instead. Meals cooked, house cleaned, someone tucking me into bed and sitting beside me until I've drifted off to much-needed sleep. And most days I get by. I nap when I can and I gratefully eat food cooked by a kind husband. I try to keep a quiet schedule. I let some things go. Even so, some days get the better of me and I bumble my way through them, so very human in my weakness.

But those days don't define me. They don't define my children's childhood, either.

Most nights as I tuck them into bed, our bedtime conversations are filled with good memories from the day and hopeful plans for tomorrow. And when those bad days come, I am not left helpless.

I apologize. After the boy shared with me his favourite part of the day - when I was in my room by myself - I finished getting them into bed and left. I wallowed in my self-pity for a few minutes. I'm a terrible mother, I'm messing it all up, woe is me. And then I went back. I apologized for my poor behaviour that day. I acknowledged my wrongdoings. I sought forgiveness. My children need my humble and sincere apologies as much as they need my unconditional love. They need to know that they are worthy, that they don't deserve to be treated poorly, and that my mistakes are not excused simply because I'm an adult.

I reconnect. As always, he held no grudges. Few things are as complete as a child's forgiveness. We snuggled there in dark and reconnected after a day of disconnection. I listened to him as he talked about designing cars one day, and maybe Lego kits too, and why did you decide not to have a job when you grew up, Mommy? How quickly perspective is restored when I am reminded that this right here is my dream, my choice. Since when are dreams to be expected to come easily, without sweat and sacrifice and perseverance?

I seek balance. Sacrifice is required, yes, but so is self-care. Put on your own oxygen mask first. After a good cry, I went to bed early last night. I fed myself well this morning. I took a few minutes to be alone and mentally prepare myself for the day. Today I will minimize my distractions in order to prevent frustrations, and tonight I will rest. I cannot meet the needs of these little ones if I have failed to take care of my own needs as well.

Today there is peace. Yesterday's failures do not define our lives unless we allow them to consume us. Instead, I choose grace, letting those days fall away like dead skin so that I can move forward with today, new and clean and lighter.

May your day be filled with peace as well.