Lessons I’ve Learned

Just a few things I’ve learned, or re-learned, in the last few months.

  • I cannot read in moderation. There’s no point in trying. No matter what promises I make to myself, no matter how I try to ration my reading time, I get absorbed and forget to do small tasks like, you know, take care of my kid. Self, stop trying to read during the day. Maybe you shouldn’t even do it after the kid is asleep unless you’re absolutely so physically exhausted that your body is simply not capable of staying awake all night to read “one more chapter.” Possibly some deep nonfiction could be slowly digested, but fiction and fantasy? They’re the donuts of my reading universe—don’t even try one, because you know you won’t be able to stop until you’ve finished the box. Or book. Or series. Whatever.
  • Worms are the most resilient pets on the planet. Mine have been living outside during this winter, and every time the weather warms up after a frost, I go outside to feed them, expecting them all to be dead, and they’re thriving. Seriously, the first thing I saw when I lifted the lid was about 4 worms getting ready to lay eggs. These worms are doing better than my indoor plants.
  • Getting kids involved in chores makes chore time playtime. To Kara, mashing up bananas for granola bars is just as much fun as painting. It makes everything take longer, but who cares? You’re spending quality time with the kid AND keeping the house from falling into chaos. Well, maybe keeping one small step ahead of complete chaos. If you’re very fortunate, you may even happen upon a task that the kid loves doing so much that you can let her keep at it while you do things you’d rather not have her “help” with. Kara, for example, LOVES mopping. And vacuuming.
  • Exercise makes it easier to get moving doing anything else. I know this. My brain has learned this lesson quite well. But when I’m cold and wearing 3 layers of clothing and all I want to do is stay under a blanket and, you know, maybe read or something ( 😉 ), or sleep for a couple days, the last thing I want to do is change into workout clothes. Sure, I may warm up right quick once I start a workout, but that first step is hard. And yet, once I do that, it’s so much easier to do all those other things I have to do, like make dinner and do dishes and bake bread and, yes, play with my kid. And yet I keep skipping out on my workout. I’ll let you know when I figure out how that makes sense.

For Her, I Can Be Beautiful

I have a gorgeous baby girl. Well, not so much a baby anymore, as she lets me know at every available opportunity. She’s a “big girl.” She can do everything “all my by herself.”

But she’s amazing. Cute, of course, but also beautiful. Stunning. Gorgeous. Blue eyes that are not just a beautiful color, but also amazing for the thought behind them. Blond hair, turning darker, with the perfect bouncy waves. Perfect hands that already love coloring, petting animals, and climbing.

And in the last couple months especially, people keep saying she looks just like me.

I’ve never been one to set a huge store on physical appearance. I don’t say that to try to make myself sound superior; it’s just never been that important to me. I say that to emphasize that my appearance has never been a giant part of my self-identity. I consider myself not hideous, and that’s always been plenty for me.

But my angel is gorgeous. And if she looks like me… then I’m beautiful too.

And that comes to me, not as an ego boost (or not only that), but also as a responsibility. Because there’s a good chance that if she looks so much like me now, that she’ll keep looking just like me. And she’ll keep hearing about it. So if I have any insecurities about my physical appearance, well, I need to get over myself. For her. Because she’s beautiful, and she looks like me. So it’s time for me to know I’m beautiful too.

For her, I can be beautiful.

Definitely a Hippie

I made my first batch of homemade deodorant a couple days ago. (The batch I’ve been using was a gift.) Let me tell you, it’s exceedingly strange to whip up a batch of deodorant in the kitchen, then use the same utensils and some of the same ingredients to make granola bars.

The granola bars, by the way, have no sugar, just honey and a mashed banana. (Kara’s friends are going to be totally weirded out and disappointed when they start coming over for dinner. “Spinach burgers? WTF?” “You call these granola bars? There aren’t even any chocolate chips.”)

My worms are eating my garbage. You’re not supposed to feed them meat or dairy, but that still means I can feed them almost any leftovers we don’t get to in time. And, of course, all those odds and ends of the vegetables that we don’t eat. And banana peels. Point is, they eat royally, because we eat like hippies.

It’s a good life, the hippie way. Of course, our hippie way doesn’t smell bad. Or involve drugs. So maybe I’m not that big of a hippie after all.


My Vermicomposting Adventure Begins

I know you’ve all been waiting in tense anticipation to hear about my foray into worm farming. Well, it began about a week and a half ago when my little critters finally arrived from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm:

DSCF1396DSCF1397 They came in a nice cozy-looking (I guess?) travel bag. You can see in the second picture that Kara was real eager to see what this was all about, too. I was a little worried about how they’d travel; some of the reviews said that the worms seemed half-dead upon arrival and it took them several days before they bounced back. But I guess the extra shipping paid off; my worms were squirmy and only a little skinny. Here we are introducing them into their new home:

DSCF1398 DSCF1399

Kara, of course, needed to help with this process. She wanted to hold the worms. I wouldn’t let her do that, but I told her she could pet them. So that’s what she did. Their new home is just a Sterilite container from Walmart with holes drilled in the bottom, sides, and lid.

I got 2 pounds of worms for only a couple dollars more than 1 pound. The book I read (Worms Eat My Garbage) suggested 1 pound for an average family of 2-4, but I don’t think I’m flattering us too much to say we eat more vegetables (and thus, have more organic compost) than the average family of 2-4. I keep a 2-quart jar in the fridge and throw all my stuff to compost in there, and once it’s full, I bury it in the worm bin. So far I’ve been “feeding” them about every other day. The bin doesn’t stink, and my worms aren’t trying to escape, so I guess I’ve been doing ok so far.

The other exciting thing about doing this is that the trash can doesn’t stink, either. So we aren’t going to have to take the trash as often.

I Want Worms

A couple weeks ago at work, one of my coworkers started emptying the coffee grounds and some eggshells into a container to take home. It’s not uncommon for people to take compost from us, but I happen to know this particular guy lives in a studio apartment, so I asked him where he was taking the compost. Why, home to his worm bin, he told me.

This probably isn’t as big of news to the rest of the world as it was to me, but as he told me about the system he had set up at home, I got really excited. Because I’ve been very interested in composting, but I thought that was something I would have to wait for until I had a yard. I doubt many landlords would take kindly to a compost heap in the back of the duplex; even if the landlord was forgiving, I doubt the neighbors would be.

But now, enter the world of vermicomposting. With a drill, a rubbermaid-type tote, some shredded paper, and some purchased redworms, I can start composting in my home. I’m pretty sure that a very large percentage of the trash we’ve been throwing in the dumpster is actually compostable, and I feel pretty bad about throwing perfectly degradable things into a landfill. But with a system like this, I won’t have to. All you do is drill some small holes in the container to ensure a good air flow, shred up some paper/cardboard/etc. and get it nice and wet (but not too wet), and add some worms. Then you bury your food scraps under the paper and let the worms turn it into compost. The only reason I waited this long to get started is because I was hoping to find a place I could buy worms locally. Today, I finally decided to just dive in and order some worms online.

I’m inordinately excited about this whole thing, and I hope it works out for me. Kara’s getting excited about feeding the worms “trash,” too. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on how this journey works out for us.

Two Coping Strategies

I have the smartest, most beautiful two-year-old ever to have graced the planet. Unfortunately, even the smartest, most beautiful two-year-old is still, well, a two-year-old. She can go from brilliant to monosyllabic obstinate in less time than it takes for me to compliment her on being such a good, big girl.

When she spends over an hour crying, screaming, and refusing to let herself be consoled, well, my level of parenting often takes a similar downward trend. After I found myself yelling, “CALM DOWN!” and realized how utterly ridiculous that was, I decided I needed a new coping strategy. I’ve found two that work for me. Perfectly? Of course not. I’m human. Sometimes I have to lock myself into my room and scream into a pillow. Or sit in the middle of the room, sipping my coffee, and trying to find my happy place. But for the main part, I can continue to act like an adult when she’s in temper-tantrum mode by:

  1. “The Seesaw Effect,” as described in this article. Basically, it says in words what we kind of intuitively grasp anyway, but it helped me to read it. The more frantic your child gets, the calmer you should get. I don’t know if it actually shortens the duration of Kara’s tantrums, but I like to think that it teaches her how to model calm behavior. More importantly at the time, however, it keeps me from throwing an adult-sized tantrum alongside my angel’s two-year-old one.
  2. Mind Your Manners. Why do we so often think that we can choose to ignore the rules of basic civility when it comes to those we love? When you most want to throw any rules of polite society out the window is probably when you need them the most. While it is possible to overuse this principle and punish those closest to you while wearing a mask of frosty formality, I think you’re probably better off, in the heat of the moment, erring on the side of being polite. This usually results in scenarios in which I replace a retaliatory action with a polite one. As an added bonus, I’ve noticed Kara saying “Please,” “Thank you,” and “Excuse me” regularly.

What do you do to keep sane during the insane times?

“Man Meals”

I work several evenings this week, which is a problem, because I’m pretty much always the one who cooks dinner. Since I know Kara is perfectly happy to eat things like cheese, fruit, and crackers, I wanted to make it easy for Steve to fix real meals for both of them. Like so:


Steve laughed when he saw them. “Did you find that on Pinterest?” he asked. I told him I hadn’t, and he said it should be on Pinterest. “Man meals,” he called them.

So here they are. Just for Pinterest.

Mix all the dry ingredients together for a one-pot meal. Write any instructions on the top of the container with a dry-erase marker.