Saturday, April 25, 2009

Soccer Saturday

Today's Tallies:
Time spent on a (gusting, icy) windy soccer field for two different children's games: 2 1/2 hours
My weight despite really watching it yesterday: 141 lbs. 15 pounds heavier than last year at this time. :-(
Test scores on the four tests I took this week: 100%, 100%+ (thanks to an extra credit point), 85%, 82%. Ouch on the last two.
Time I spent on the couch snuggling with my three youngest when I should have been studying, writing for income, or cleaning: 3 1/2 hours (that were worth every minute)

Weekend Projects: Get the garden started, declutter my kitchen, write a 700-page paper on ethanol, do 14 chemistry problems, study for Spanish test, design a killer research project for Biology. Plus laundry and all the mom stuff. See why I shouldn't have been on the couch?

It's What's for Dinner: Whole wheat pasta with homemade pesto sauce, steamed broccoli, canteloupe. Under five bucks and soooo good. Just make sure you have a lunch or breakfast with a decent amount of protein.

Interesting thought of the day: I should not get my children a treat that is contingent on good behavior if I have no intentions of taking away the treat. For instance, fifty-something-dollar-a-pop tickets to Walking with the Dinosaurs. Was I really going to toss one of the tickets if they didn't eat dinner? Really? Luckily, they ate their pesto despite its appalling color (green) and I wasn't forced to find out.

Comments on Comments: I recently rejected a comment to my post on Jon and Kate Plus Eight. Now, on another board I read that Jon and Kate Gosselin actually google themselves and then leave anonymous nasty comments on blogs where people criticize them. I'm not saying they do this, but the post had a few Kate-isms and was particularly vitriolic. Plus, he/she totally contradicted themself. In one line, Anonymous told me I was jealous and in the next he/she said Kate has it really hard. Um, if she has it that hard, why would I be jealous? And I'm not jealous of her exploited, overexposed children who have no privacy or normalcy, nor am I jealous of her interesting-in-a-car-wreck-kinda-way marriage. What am I jealous of, her appalling overuse of disposable plates and cups or her porcupine-ish hair? And I think raising six children the same age would actually be easier once they hit two or so, because you are flying in all different directions with a large family with normal spacing. And she shouldn't have a weekly television show if she wants a quiet life and no commentary on her family.

I rejected the comment because it brought nothing to the discussion. Just namecalling. Try again, Anonymous; I'll publish even rude comments if they have some value.

The one I'm jealous of is Michelle Duggar, not so much her beautiful family as much as her sweet nature and unfailingly positive attitude. In difficult situations, I have actually found myself thinking, how would Michelle respond to this? I think the Duggars are awesome parents despite any other differences between our lifestyles.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

What Does It Profit You?

This is something I have been thinking about a lot lately, as career plans come closer to realities every day. What are my goals in life? Not just in my future work, but in my life in general. Here are a few of my goals:

1. To be close to my Creator, close enough that I can accept His guidance and wisdom. Each person has a unique plan and a unique purpose. I want to know that purpose and fulfill it. I don't spend a lot of space on this blog talking about religion, because I believe that my spiritual journey is too personal to be shared with the masses. However, this is truly the core of my life, and I hope it comes through in my actions and my writing.

2. To have a strong family. My husband and children come after God and before everything else.

3. To be a good steward of my time and resources. This includes people given to my care, like my children, and also the planet. Green living is closely tied to religion for me, because I believe loving God should include acting lovingly toward His creation.

I think intelligence and academic ability are also resources to be used wisely. I have spent much of the past seven months working toward career and academic goals that I think will use my gifts to benefit many other people. Since beginning this path, I have had an unshakeable feeling that I am where I am meant to be, and this makes it easier to get through the discouragement and challenges.

On the other hand, school has to stay in its place. It is important, but not as important as living simply. Certainly not as important as my relationship with God, or being a helper to my husband, or keeping my house in order, or caring for my children. School is demanding, but it isn't everything to me. As the verse says, "What does it profit you if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?"

I know too many mothers who neglect their homes and their families to chase dreams. I don't want to be that person. I have to consciously set up my day to begin with prayer, then family time, then chores, and then, finally, school and work. I don't believe that every woman is meant to be a housewife, but I think that even working moms, especially working moms, need to constantly think about priorities and what comes first.

Green Easter Baskets

A green Easter basket? How can it be? Don't worry folks, my ideas are green, cheap, and easy.

1. Skip the chintzy plastic basket. Instead, buy sturdy ones that you can stash until next year and reuse. I haven't bought an Easter basket for the better part of a decade. Alternately, you can make or have your kids make woven construction paper ones and lay them in a special place the night before like Christmas stockings. Instructions for the ones below can be found at

2. Skip the weird plastic grass. I've heard of people growing actual grass in their baskets, but that sounds both time consuming and messy, not to mention the relatively high failure rate of houseplants around here. I recommend shredding normal paper, which seems to be what they did in the picture at left as well. We have an endless supply of scratch paper from my husband's work, so we are going to color it with pastel markers and then shred. If you use recycled paper and then recycle or compost the paper grass when you are done, the environmental effect is negligible.

3. Fill with care. Most of us can't afford to fill several baskets with organic free trade candy, and that's okay. I've collected plastic eggs from a few garage sales and sterilized them in the dishwasher. I am going to fill these with jelly beans. We'll have a few pieces of candy, some homemade, iced sugar cookies, and homemade play dough (recipe below) in pretty Easter colors. I always give each kid a coloring book and crayons, and I'll throw in hair pretties and other stuff the kids need anyway.

4. If you already have the plastic stuff, keep it and reuse it. Throwing things away is never the right choice, even if the stuff is embarassingly un-green.

5. Skip the boxes of Easter egg dye. The packaging is crazy, and it's a lot of money for food coloring. You can make your own dye simply by dropping food coloring in vinegar and using it the same way you would boxed dyes. Or, you can go really traditional and use one of the organic dyes below.

Homemade Play Dough
4 cups flour
1 cup salt
4 cups water
4 tablespoons oil
1/2 cup cream of tartar
Mix all ingredients in a sauce pan. Cook and stir over low/medium heat until play dough is completely formed and no longer sticky. Allow to cool slightly before storing in an air tight container or zip lock bag.

Organic Easter Egg Dyes
Boil your eggs in water with a bit of vinegar and one of these ingredients below, then let simmer until color is right--this will take at least 15 minutes.
Purple grape juice (for lavender)
Red cabbage (for blue)
Spinach (for green)
Carrot tops, orange peels or lemon peels (for yellow)
Coffee or black walnut shells (for brown)
Yellow onion skins (for orange)
Beets or cranberries (for pink)
Red onion skins (for red)

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Sage Mommy Summer Weight Loss Challenge

I am just a little more roly-poly than I was last summer, 15 pounds to be exact. I know what caused it: going to school, sitting on my backside, and eating fast and easy lunches. As summer looms nearer and my pants loom tighter, I need to do something. And that something can't involve real dieting, because I need my brain in good working order and I can't see dieting while surrounded by junk food at school. So here's my healthy, non-diet weight loss plan:

1. No white flour or sugar.
2. Drink green tea with every meal.
3. Drink a glass of water every waking hour.
4. Eat a serving of vegetable protein and a serving of high fiber food at every meal.
5. Fifteen minutes of strenuous, raise-the-heart-rate exercise every day.

Obviously I can't change what I've eaten today (I had blueberry pancakes for breakfast and kettle chips for lunch while running from biology to chemistry), but I'll be posting a picture and my daily weigh in tomorrow. Please leave a message if you want to join me. I'm going to make a widget with all participant's blog addresses and my current weight.

Let's see how much we can lose without dieting!

Killing Us Softly, Part 2: It's What's for Dinner

If you sent an alien with no Earthling experience whatsoever to the United States, they would probably be appalled. Although we seem on the surface to be the most health conscious culture ever to roam the Earth, we are literally killing ourselves. This series looks at how our well meaning actions and well thought out decisions are taking years off our life spans... and those of our children as well.

I am a big advocate of the cheap-is-healthy diet. When people tell me they can't afford to eat healthily, I am that obnoxious person who asks bluntly what they spend, and then tell them that my family spends half as much per person for a very healthy diet. (The exact fraction varies from family to family.) Inevitably, the conversation turns to what we can possibly eat with such a low budget. When I start giving examples, the person interrupts me and asks if we eat meat. Two or three times a week, I tell them. Then they want to know: can I give them a healthy, reasonably priced menu that includes meat at every dinner? And a few things that are a little more convenient maybe?

Of course I can't. It's impossible, at least in my area. If you want to eat healthy, the most obvious and effective step is to cut back on meat and convenience foods. If you want to eat more economically, the most obvious and effective step is to cut back on meat and convenience foods. If you want to reduce your impact on the planet, the most obvious and effective step is to cut back on meat and convenience foods. To me, this sounds like a win-win-win situation. To most people, this sounds like a recipe for lifelong misery.

I've thought a lot about how we, more than any other culture, have gotten hooked on meat. Here are a few of the reasons I can come up with. Feel free to email me if you have another reason.

1. Americans view excessive meat-eating as traditional. In fact, meat was not a part of every single day's cuisine in most families until post World War 2, except in the wealthiest households. I collect old cookbooks, and one from the forties actually suggests that housewives increase their family's meat intake to three times a week. Egad! In Little House on the Prairie and other books, the described diet that is based on fresh produce when possible and meatier meals when nothing else was available. In addition, experts suggest that their meat portions were far smaller than ours. They ate a very low meat diet compared to what modern Americans eat, except during times of the year when fresh vegetables simply weren't available. This has been the way of the world for millennia. It's the diet humans are biologically made to live with. Eating meat every day makes you non-traditional.

2. Americans are afraid of carbs. Getting rid of them does cause you to lose weight, no doubt about that. It's due to taking in fewer overall calories combined with your kidneys shutting down from too much protein. There are healthier ways to lose weight, ones that won't take a decade off your life expectancy. Carbs are your friends if they make up the right proportion of your diet. Whole grains, legumes, and potatoes are all healthy dietary choices that absolutely will not make you fat, PERIOD, end of story.

3. Americans view meat as a sign of affluence. We all want to look a little more successful, right? And eating steak every night is the dietary equivalent of a Hummer in the driveway. Unfortunately, they have roughly the same impact on our planet.

4. Americans think religion somehow suggests that a meat-heavy diet is superior. God made cows, so how can they be bad for the environment? But did God make massive herds of cows, then selectively breed them and pump them full of growth hormones until they are more than twice their natural size? Of course not. It takes a human to be that foolish. Archaeological evidence suggests that the average Biblical family ate meat on special occasions, and rarely at any other times. Wars were fought over lentil fields because they were the top source of protein, a matter of life and death to Israelis and their neighboring tribes.

We can dispute archaeological evidence, but what we can't dispute is that there is no passage in the Bible that suggests eating meat in a moderate way is sinful. In fact, God did not make our bodies with the capability to handle so much meat, and he didn't make our planet with the ability to handle so much livestock. This suggests to me that God doesn't want us to eat meat as often as we currently do.

5. Americans don't understand what meat is doing to the environment. First, animals require much more land per calorie than plants. With space running short and people in other countries suffering for lack of protein, it's only decent to eat in the most efficient way possible. Second, the animals themselves are destructive, producing waste that pollutes waterways and gas that pollutes the air. Third, meat requires more processing than plant foods and more refrigeration. It usually must travel long distances, from where the animal is born to where it is raised, then to a feedlot, then to a butcher, then to a processing plant, before the stores even buy it. This is why it is pound for pound more expensive than vegetable protein, even though the government throws more money at meat than any other food.

I'm not an advocate of zero population growth; I think we can all live here happily if we make certain concessions and lifestyle changes. However, with more and more countries adopting the wasteful American diet, we really are coming to a point where we have to choose between having enough resources to go around or eating meat/driving SUV's/buying plastic/etc.

6. Americans aren't used to the 'feel' of vegetarian meals. If you are used to the heavy, overstuffed feeling of two to three dietary servings of meat (that would be six ounces, by the way) at a time, then it might take a while to learn what a full-but-not-overfilled stomach feels like. Maybe they are a little intimidated by the new flavors and ingredients, or not sure how to get enough protein. If this is an issue for you, the internet and the library can both supply endless stacks of information and recipes. It's natural to resist change, but being an adult means seeing where changes should be made, and then making them.

I don't have to tell anyone how bad packaged foods are. You already know. So all I can say is this: try to give up meat one day a week. Then take it to every other day. Most people live very comfortably eating meat every second or third day while relying on other protein sources in between. It will do wonders for your budget, your waistline, and the planet as well.