Friday, April 24, 2009

The Joy of Boxes, The Joy of Imagination

I have been enjoying watching Baby Bear play with a variety of boxes, over the past few days. The first was a giant box from our new dryer, which promptly became her new house. Today, an empty cracker box became a bed for a stuffed friend- a clean rag became the blanket.

It makes me think about the many times I've thought "Oh, Baby Bear NEEDS this toy or that toy... she'll just LOVE it!" Only to have the object met with mixed reviews. The best toys in the world, it seems, are the ones conjured up by a 2-1/2 year old's imagination.

Baby Bear constantly teaches me lessons about what's truly important in life and how little we actually need. The cracker box was later used to practice her scissor-cutting skills, and I didn't even need to worry about Baby Bear "destroying" her expensive (and apparently unnecessary) things. :)


Mama Bear

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Organic or Green

I often struggle with the difference between being organic or being Green. To me, an organic lifestyle can sometimes seem wasteful. Trading in perfectly usable bedding, clothes, towels, kitchen gadgetry, etc. for items more sustainable is an honorable endeavor, but what of the perfectly good items being replaced? And, is trading in a traditional package of processed cookies for a package of organic cookies really any healthier for ones family? Don't get me wrong; I think the positive effect organic farming has on the environment is a good thing. It just sometimes seem that the Organic Lifestyle can get to be a little over the top, if not completely overwhelming.

Green, on the other hand, focuses more on reusing items already in the stream of commerce-- not re-inventing the wheel, so to speak. Green definitely speaks to the frugal side of me. To me, it's about simplifying for the greater good.

But, again, comes the question of healthfulness. Is it better to buy a local apple or an organic one? Obviously, the best answer is both, but that's not always easy to achieve. Speaking of apples, I searched high and low for a local, organic, "pick-your-own" apple orchard this past fall with poor results. For me, this means buying the organic ones from Argentina, rather than a chemically treated, local apple, as I choose to put the health of my family first. On a similar vein, I sometimes sacrifice the humane treatment of animals to buy organic milk, eggs or meat that is less expensive than the grass-fed variety. I just can't always afford to make all the best choices for man and beast alike!

Here are some tips I've found for overcoming the high cost of organic food:

1. If you have room for a freezer (energy star, if possible!) I highly recommend buying a side of organic meat directly from a local farmer. By doing so, we are able to save approx. $3-4 dollars per pound of meat.

2. Grow your own! If you don't have room for a full-scale veggie garden, plant a few containers of tomatoes, peppers, or lettuces. You just can't beat the fresh from the garden taste.

3. Coupons. Lots of the organic brands have coupons available on their websites, and many grocery stores now have an organic/natural section in their sales fliers.

4. Club memberships. Costco has many choices on organic food at reasonable prices. I can buy 2 lbs. of organic butter for the price of one at the normal grocery store. You, of course, have to shop enough to balance the cost of the membership-- try going together with some friends to cut costs even more!

As organic becomes ever more popular, being both Green and Organic will become increasingly more achievable. In the meantime, make the best choices you can for your family.


Mama Bear

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The House Experiment

As with the birth of any child, Baby Bear's entrance into the world brought about many changes. This past fall, we decided to make one of our most drastic changes yet; we spiffed up our house and put it on the market. We were fortunate enough to purchase it at a time when the market was low so, even with it "priced to sell," we intended that we would be able to us our profit to purchase another, larger home in a "less desirable neighborhood," thus eliminating our mortgage.

I'm happy to say that we were successful! After three months on the market, our house sold right around where we needed it to be. Finding a new house ended up being harder than we had imagined, but we have finally closed on our new home, and are quite happy with then results. It is a fixer-upper, but not terribly so. Dada Bear has spent the last week building a fence for our dogs and refinishing the hardwood floors. We anticipate fully moving in this coming weekend. A little paint and a little love (and some new appliances), and it will be just dandy! As for the "less desirable neighborhood" part, we have never been so welcomed into any other neighborhood where we've lived. We already know the names of more of our neighbors than we ever did in our old home, after 10 years! All in all, we couldn't be happier.

During this tenuous time for our nation, we are so happy to say we now own our home and are on our way to becoming self-sustainable. We praise God for the blessing! Have you taken any drastic steps to become self-sustaining?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Waldorf and Weaving

Baby Bear started participating in a parent/child Waldorf class this week. For those unfamiliar with the Waldorf philosophy of teaching, here's a useful link:

The class focuses on the importance to young children of finding rhythm in life-- Ecclesiastes comes to mind. Waldorf schools like to teach about seasonal changes as well as the day to day tasks we do as we go through our lives. There is truly a purpose to everything under heaven!

One of the activities we did during class consisted of the parents doing a "meaningful work" task while the children played near by. In this case, it was sewing. There were sewing/threading boards available if the kids wanted to give it a try, but mostly it was about watching us, their parents, perform necessary tasks. It got me to thinking how, not too long ago, Baby Bear would not let me think of sitting and doing something that didn't involve her. She's now matured to a point where she understands that she can play quietly by herself, or just watch me, and that it's perfectly okay! I remember when I never thought we'd get to this point. Time does certainly fly!

Later in the week, Baby Bear and I had a Waldorf-like moment when we went out to Grandma Bear's pasture. I sat and wove Baby Bear a basket out of twigs while she played near by, "baking cakes" out of hay and tree stumps. It was a truly delightful afternoon! This was my first attempt at basket weaving-- I will have to go into more detail about that, at a later date.


Mama Bear

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Consistancy and Persistance

Before Baby Bear was even born, I knew that Attachment Parenting was a good fit for our family. Allowing her to become emotionally secure through her trust in us, her parents, before expecting her to trust the world around her made (makes) sense to us. At nearly three years old, she still sleeps snuggled, safe and warm, between us, and nursing is still one of the greatest joys of her life. She knows she can trust that first, important connection to me, even when the rest of the world seems too big or too scary.

Despite all this, I seem to have lost my way, somewhere along the line, when it comes to Attachment Parenting. I find myself listening less to her feelings and expecting more than maybe she's comfortable with. I find myself speaking more sternly than I'd like and taking a "because I said so," attitude. It was much easier when I felt she was too young to listen; it's hard to remember that she's still, technically, in her infancy and that I simply need to remain consistent with my expectations for her. She'll eventually catch on to what I expect and need.

A great example came the other day, when I noticed Baby Bear taking off her shoes and coat at the door. I've never instructed her to do this small thing- we are just in the practice of doing it- and she caught on all on her own, without a word of direction.

There will always be days when I'm stressed and my temper is short, but I can't get too down on myself (and neither can you!). Parenting, so it seems, is a never ending learning experience. If I simply remain consistent (and persistent), Baby Bear and I will survive the experience just fine.

What are your biggest struggles with parenting? How do you get through the ups and downs?


Mama Bear

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Blessings of Family

For the past two months our little family (three people and two dogs) has lived in a variety of interim housing while in search of a house to purchase. After closing on the sale of our former home, we we're given the opportunity to live in a tiny one bedroom apartment, on a month-to-month basis, until we found a new place. Our new next-door-neighbor was displeased with the management’s decision to allow us to keep dogs in a "no dog" building, even temporarily, and made life very difficult for us (picture woman standing in hall outside our door yelling "you don't belong here!"). We moved out after three weeks, when we could no longer take the anxiety we we're feeling and, apparently, causing.

Next, we moved into the studio that houses my husband's business, for approximately four days. With no shower and no kitchen, it became clear all too quickly that we needed something more "home-like."

So, finally, we decided to take my mother-in-law up on her offer to share her home. What a blessing! After the chaos and drama of moving, it truly felt like we had come home. I now have a greater appreciation for cultures that traditionally house a large, extended family on one property. I enjoy chatting with another woman as I go about my day; sharing the ups and downs on a more intimate level than phone or email can provide; sharing not only chores but laughter and secret frustrations only understood by another woman who’s already been where you are.

As excited as I am to be back in our own home, with our own belongings, I will truly miss and treasure my time spent here. I thank God everyday for providing my family this peaceful retreat in the midst of a very chaotic transition. I’m searching for just the right way to show my appreciation to mother-in-law, as well. Any thoughts?


Mama Bear

An Experiment for Love- An Introduction

It is strange where life takes us. I can remember a time, not too long ago, when the important thing in my life was my next great vacation. In fact, until my daughter was born, I had only an inkling of whom I wanted to be-- whom I was meant to be.

Baby Bear was born in 2006, by way of a most glorious (though unplanned) home-birth. My husband and I had everything planned out prior to her arrival-- where she would be born, where she would sleep when we brought her home, how we would juggle work and childcare-- all the plans of a couple having their first child! I think Baby Bear's unexpected arrival should have been taken as a sign demonstrating just how quickly our plans would change.

It was love at first sight. Dada Bear and I quickly realized we would do anything for our sweet girl. Even still, we attempted to make "The Plan" work. I returned to my previous work life after three months of maternity leave, while my husband juggled his own business, a part time job, and caring for Baby Bear while I worked. When I got home, he was off to work; we never saw each other, and Baby Bear wasn't very happy with the situation either.

The first thing to fall was His part time job. He was miserable and exhausted. This part of the plan was definitely not working! Things eased after that first, vital step, but I was still not satisfied. I spent my whole work day thinking about Baby Bear and wishing I was with her. She never learned to take a bottle, so I was acutely aware of just how much she needed me-- I was her only form of sustenance! After three months "on the job," Dada Bear and I both agreed home was where I needed to be. The result is a family previously supported by three incomes now being supported by one small, family business.

So, that's the Great Experiment. Making this work will take sacrifice, ingenuity, frugality and FAITH! This blog is meant to outline the great and drastic steps a family can take in the name of Love. Come along for the journey, if you're so inclined. Have you done something similar? Do you have advice to share? Your comments are welcome and appreciated!


Mama Bear