Sunday, November 13, 2011

Christian in a Post-Christian USA

Oh, politics. I've always detested political science (my worst class in college) and government (my worst in high school). Not that the subjects are hard, not at all. I simply find them difficult to study because nothing in the system seems to work quite as properly as it should once people are added to it. When alleged Christian politicians are being recorded making horrific, personal statements against people in authority, that's just wrong.

Titus 3:1-2 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing humility to all.
Professionally pointing out documented flaws (in that particular party's belief system) in another politician's actions, I can handle. The verbal backstabbing and poison darts, not so much. It's immature, unnecessary, and embarrassing on an international scale.

Furthermore, it seems that every year I get farther and farther away from each of the political parties. There is nobody to represent me properly, and I balk at voting for someone just for the sake of "not wasting my vote". It's not really being wasted if the politician isn't going to represent me anyway.

The problem has been on my mind for awhile: what exactly do I want from my political representative? There's the [major] rub. I want a Christian who doesn't run on a Christian platform. When did the Republican party become the "Christian" party? Doesn't anyone realize doing so is folly, especially when they get tangled up in sordid affairs after being elected? And what about the separation of church and state? Good heavens, part of the reason the colonists revolted against England because we were tired of being told what, who, and how to believe in something. I love Jesus, I really do. Because of Him, I will never run for any public office. I just don't want to go there. But if a Christian feels compelled to run for office, I really don't want to hear about it. Let your Christianity be seen by your lifestyle, not your campaign promises. Ostracizing 50% or more of the electorate is not a good idea in this post-Christian nation. How can your electorate trust you to truly represent them and not yourself?

As far as the "issues" go, I have nowhere to turn.

1. Abortion. I don't believe in using abortion as a birth control method. According to Planned Parenthood, 1 in 3 women has had an abortion by the age of 45, and "more than half of abortions are obtained by women under 25 years of age. In fact, 35 percent of pregnant teenagers have an abortion, according to the National Abortion Federation" (livestrong.com). So a lot of women have abortions for a myriad of reasons. But if a majority of abortions are going to happen under the age of 25, then why not make it possible for females of child-bearing age to have access to free or very reduced-price birth control? Why not make it a requirement for single women accepting any kind of government support (welfare, military, etc.)? Single mothers work hard, and they often don't have the opportunity to "get ahead" because they chose to keep their child. Preventing pregnancy is far better than the possible risk and guilt associated with ending a pregnancy.

That being said, abortions could still be available, but their use would probably be dramatically reduced on the pregnancy prevention plan.

2. Taxes. When Warren Buffett is complaining that he's not paying his fair share of taxes (he paid 17.4% on his taxable income last year), there's something going on. There's no reason average and below-average Joes and Janes should be paying 25-28% of their incomes. Make it fair, folks! Get rid of loopholes. Incentives are okay (e.g., charity, having kids), but I draw the line at the home mortgage interest deduction. That thing is costing our government a whole lot of money! Every should have a home, yes, but not everyone needs to own a home.

3. Social activities. I support helping people in need. However, there should be limits on the amount of time a person gets support. I know families who are on their fourth generation of folks on welfare. I understand that if you're poor, it's hard to break out of the system. However, there has to be an incentive to get out of it! So many people I know on welfare refuse to go to school or work because they make more money by simply hanging out at home. That's ridiculous.

Additionally, this whole unemployment paycheck for 99 weeks is insane. Two years' worth of unemployment pay does not provide anyone incentive to find a job. There are some people who genuinely need the help, of course, but there needs to be a tiered system and extra requirements for folks who are going to be drawing unemployment for that long.

In order to qualify for government assistance of any kind, there should be very rigid requirements. Drug testing (for welfare or educational assistance) and proof of actions (depending on the assistance) are two ways to get people moving toward supporting themselves. My brother's solution to welfare is simple: If after X years, adults are still on welfare, then they should be sent to work as harvesters, much like migrant workers. When did Americans get "too good" for outside work, anyway?

4. Environment. Why do you have to be a Democrat if you care about the environment? Every Christian should be clamoring for better environmental controls. Man's first job was to name the animals (Gen. 2: 19) and was even created, in part, to till the ground (Gen. 2:5). God even gave Moses laws on how to protect wild game (Deut. 22:6-7). I don't want to drill more, I want viable green options. I want the government to pour money into making green energy feasible instead of just supporting the corn industry. I want our nation to be mindful of the toxicity of our everyday objects, processes, and habits. We need local governments to provide incentives for their local businesses to change their dirty practices.

Those are my four "big" issues. The only person who could represent me properly right now is my husband, and he's tied down in his current job. Who in the world would vote for someone on that platform anyway? Christians would call us a bunch of traitors. Democrats would call us unhinged social terrorists. Republicans would call us anti-capitalist terrorists. And so next year brings me another year in which I will be misrepresented by whoever is chosen to speak on my behalf. Grrr.

The only thing to do is act right based on my beliefs and be the change I want to see, right? Because the Bible clearly says that I need to be obedient to my authorities, and if I want them to see things my way, I need to be nice about it...which is hard for me. I'm not the nicest of people.

Challenge: If you're frustrated with your current representative's views and can find a viable alternative, then vote for the other person. If not, then start making your own changes. Research the topics you're passionate about and start writing letters to your representatives, making environmental changes, talking to people about XYZ. It's easier to find a representative if the representative knows what it is that you want.

Domestic Goddess out.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Old Mine Ranch

The Domestic God was on leave today, so he treated the family out on a date. After McD's Big Breakfasts (with pancakes!), we went to Old Mine Ranch in Dumfries, VA. Sadly, I forgot our camera AND my phone, so we have no proof that we were actually there. Despite that slight setback, we had a fantastic time.

The ranch is down a windy road just off of Route 1 here in NoVA. To me, it's not really a ranch (disclaimer: I come from Texas and have driven past King Ranch too many times to count). That's more of a marketing ploy to draw people in. Whatever, it's fun!

You enter through a little farm store, where you pay for your tickets ($8/child and $6/adult) and get tempted to buy farm goodies. Once through, you enter a ginormous kids' playground. This year, there's a bouncy slide. It's only for kids 3-10, so Thing #3 stood on the edge, guarded by us, while the other two slid their hearts out.

Then there are the slides built into a (tiny) hill and made out of huge tubes. They're big enough for adults under 6' to slide through comfortably and lots of fun. We spent about 30 minutes running up that little hill and sliding down. Fun, fun, fun.

Our kids didn't really dig the maze, but I credit it that to not being able to see above the barriers, and I know exactly how that feels. It's why I don't like to go wandering about in woods looking for GPS coordinates. I don't like not being able to see above around things...it puts a damper on fun.

This year, the train ride, pony ride, hay ride, and animal feed are all included in the kids' tickets. It's a really great deal. The girls got a kick out of the train ride because they didn't have to ride in car seats or even with us. They got a little car all to themselves, and they sang at the top of their lungs the entire lap around the "track". They also waved like Queen Elizabeth at all the passers-by.

Things #1 and 2 got a great kick out of the pony ride. It's just a small tour around the pony's pen, but that's long enough for a kid. A ranch hand stays next to the kid and guides the pony around, so it's completely supervised and quite safe. I was surprised Thing #2 was so enthusiastic because she normally shies away from animals larger than her. The pony was so sweet and docile that she had no problem and had a great time. Another thing that surprised me was how the girls kind of instinctively (or maybe I've just lectured them about animals that many times) remained quiet and still around the pony. At any rate, a 3- and 4-y/o handled the experience quite well.

I think the hay ride was a bit of a let-down for me, but that's just because I've been on some pretty cool (and long!) ones. It's a nice little tour around the ranch. The ride is slightly longer than the train ride, but it's still only a few minutes long. The kids enjoyed it, especially Thing #3. She especially liked the wind on her face and the hay to play with.

The highlight was, of course, the petting area. Our Solo cup of feed went a long way. Horses, ponies, goats, sheep, and alpacas happily gobbled the food up from our kids' hands. Again, Thing #2 surprised me because she generally wants nothing to do with anything that's going to dirty her hands. This time, though, she very happily fed everyone except the horse. He kept snuffing and making loud noises, which she's not fond of. Thing #3 likes animals, but she doesn't like to touch them unless they're smaller than her...which means she only touched the rabbits. It seemed like enough of a thrill for her, though. :) Thing #1 was all over the place, making sure everyone got enough food. She liked touching the rams' horns the best. "They're smooth and bumpy at the same time," she said. Good observation.

For all the parents wondering about common sense stuff like bathrooms, hand washing, and food, never fear. There's not really food for sale, so you don't have to worry about kids whining for stuff. A hand washing station is located just outside the end of the petting/animal area, so you don't have to pack tons of hand sanitizer. It's a fun station because it looks like a trough and has about eight spigots, so everyone can wash at once. Watching the water start up and run through each spout was particularly interesting for our Things. And finally, there are two outdoor restrooms. Two "real" toilets that flush are housed inside of an "outhouse" provide privacy and are very clean, even with two school buses' worth of children present. You can bring your own snack or lunch if you want. About six picnic tables are scattered around, some shaded, some not, for visitors to use. Management just requests that you clean up your area so the wandering animals (mainly small goats) don't eat anything that can make them sick. Trash cans are cleverly positioned close (but not too close) to the tables.

All in all, it was a great date. The girls left their pumpkin decorating for the end of the trip, and they were all pretty worn out. Thing #3 was swept to bed immediately upon returning to the house. Thing #2 went down for a nap without conversation about 30 minutes later. Thing #1 is probably telling her preschool class all about the adventure. The Domestic God and I are just chilling now and marveling about how great the morning was. If you go, please remember to take your camera!

Challenge: Find a local pumpkin patch or farm (there are tons in the NoVA area!), take some time off of work, and get yourself away to some fresh air for a morning or an afternoon.

-Domestic Goddess out.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Abby's Lane

I have met some really fabulous people here in Prince William County. First and foremost is Kristina of PWC Moms. Not only is she a native of the area (which is a rarity here in NoVA), she's got the most beautiful heart in any person I know besides my immediate family. I'm so blessed to have her as a friend!

As it would turn out, Kristina introduced me to Cate*, a fellow mom in our kids' preschool. Cate subsequently introduced me to Abby's Lane. I have used Kelly's Closet exclusively for the purchase of our entire cloth diaper stash, so I kind of put off visiting the Abby's Lane website. However, when Cate started working at the local Abby's Lane store in Manassas, I knew I'd have to find a reason to visit. That came in the form of another friend, Keira*, who is expecting her first baby. She's a motivated mama who's doing all her research on cloth diapering and planning ahead (wish I had been that motivated before the arrival of Thing #1!). When Keira expressed an interest in visiting the shop, I happily volunteered to drive her out there.

The drive to downtown Manassas from the south is pretty. I love that Abby's Lane is SO close to the train station parking lot. All we had to do was cross the train tracks and turn right. Easy! Even I couldn't get lost (yes, the DG has some serious navigation issues...even with a GPS).

The store is NOT what I expected. I was MUCH, much more. I was in a cloth diaper nirvana of sorts. Every diaper I'd ever heard of, plus many more that I hadn't, was stacked neatly in shelf upon shelf, ordered by diaper type, size, and print. Choruses of happy birdies started chirping wildly in my head. Sadly, I was too far gone to even think of taking pictures.

A great bonus was the child-friendliness. There's a HUGE play area for kids to play, read, or chill in. Nobody fussed when Thing #3 upset a display of BabyLegs or when Thing #2 got tangled in the various baby-wearing slings. They just smiled and waved it off as though they've seen it all before...which they probably have.

The absolute best store feature is the attendants. Keira and I spoke to three different ladies who gave us the complete low-down on nearly every diaper in the shop. I learned a lot about "old school" diapering and how to properly use a tri-fold. I've been using my new techniques ever since and thus expanding the period between washings.

In addition to diapers, there were training pants, spray mechanisms to attach to your toilet, cloth diaper safe laundry detergent, Planet Wise reusable snack bags, wet bags, CJ's BUTTer products, wooden toys, and much, much more.

Visiting Abby's Lane was a real treat. If you have any desire to know anything about cloth diapers, I highly recommend a visit. If that's not possible, email or call. They are extremely responsive. They've got a great rewards program for mailing list members. They always save at least 5%, whether in store or online. Give them a try!

Challenge: Go to a store that sells stuff you've always wanted to examine. You'll have fun!

*I changed these people's names because I didn't have their permission beforehand to publish their names. Yes, I'm a bit OCD about privacy and security.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Things I Will NEVER Understand

If King Solomon wrote things he'd never understand, I guess I can as well...

OF CHILDREN:
-Why the best game in the world is to run around the dining table for half an hour
-Why things right in front of them are invisible yet things right in front of me are plain as day to them
-Why dirty diapers or serious bathroom breaks are necessary three minutes before leaving the house
-Why they refuse to eat their meals but get hungry as soon as we leave the house
-Why boxes full of toys are ignored until it's time to give them away

OF MALE SPOUSES:
-Why a messy house has no effect on their mood (I really wish I could do the same!)
-Why they can't hear more than one thing at a time
-Why a sparkling house (that required hours of attention and elbow grease) escapes their notice until two days later

OF MYSELF/SEVERAL OTHER FEMALE SPOUSES I KNOW:
-Why we don't get our mood swings but our husbands have them scheduled
-Why we have to eat at a certain hour or we turn into she-bears
-Why we doubt my homemaker/mothering skills when our children are obviously fabulous and our houses aren't breeding colonies of rodents
-Why we crave silence when we have houses full of children

Challenge:
Get over it! We're just not destined to understand some things, and it's okay. Deal with the things you do get, learn something cool (or easier) instead, and have fun!

Domestic Goddess out.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Summer Summary

Yes, another season! I am loving this fall already, and it's only just begun. I had the opportunity to turn my a/c off for an entire week, which is a HUGE novelty for anyone from the Gulf of Mexico area of the U.S.

I am so sorry it's been two months since my last blog. I've been all over the place lately. At the end of August/beginning of September, my parents came to visit us here in Virginia, and we had an absolutely fabulous time hanging out together. We all went to Boston, Massachusetts for a few days and then headed to Lancaster, Pennsylvania for a few more. It was a FANTASTIC vacation.

Boston was fun. We kind of kept to ourselves and followed the historic walk through downtown. Naturally, we ate clam chowder, drove through the Harvard area, and got lost a few times. Other than that, it wasn't a hugely impressive time. It was a chill out, get reacquainted with Grandma and Grandpa time. Let's just say that was VERY successful. Thing #3 definitely got "Gamma" down in no time at all. Grandpa ended up just being "Dada" with a finger pointing at the proper one. :)

It was Lancaster that we had the best time. Probably because we were staying a lovely bed and breakfast instead of the cheapest hotel I could find on priceline.com. I managed our budget to make that B&B possible, and boy am I glad I did! We stayed at Stumptown Manor, hosted by Carl and Sharon. They were SO wonderful. We discovered that Lancaster has a lot of hipness as well as old-schoolness to it. It was cool to explore and observe the Amish lifestyle during the day and hang out at the downtown arts and crafts night out in the evening.

Anyhow, that's about it for the "official" vacation. Here in NoVA, we took my history buff dad to the Manassas battlefields and visited various siblings of his a few times (Things #1 and 2 LOVE their "huge" family). The big girls got back in the swing of school, and Mama and I visited the cafe at the Tysons Corner American Girl. Pricey, but YUM! :)

Two weeks after their departure, Thing #3 still wakes up and goes to the guest room looking for Gamma and Dada. It breaks my heart, especially when she's upset about something and looking for Gamma. She really enjoys video chat with her grandparents. Thank God for technology!!!

Challenge: Call or video chat with special family members this week.

-Domestic Goddess out.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Advice for First Time Mamas

I just met a wonderful gal at a fellowship dinner. She's just moved to the area and isn't going to get a "replacement" job, and she's pregnant. We had such a fabulous time talking, finding stuff in common, and just enjoying each other's company. As we chatted, I started thinking about all the things I should have done during my first pregnancy-the "if I'd only known" syndrome, I suppose. So here're the Domestic Goddess' advice at the low, low rate of free. :)

1. Chill out! Not in the "chill pill" way, that is. Just relax. Take a deep breath and enjoy it. If you work, then take advantage of any time you have with your spouse. Take this time to truly get to know him and enjoy your alone time. Trust me, childcare for date nights can be tough (and expensive) to finagle! If you're an at-home spouse, then don't worry so much about the state of the house or daily "stuff". Take some time to devour your reading list, do your nails, and soak in the tub.

2. Don't buy anything unless you absolutely have to, and even then, try to get it second-hand. Gosh, I would have saved sooooo much this way. All those fabulous gift cards could have been used to buy formula after I discovered I couldn't breast-feed. The toys our baby "just had to have" were great, but babies change so much and so quickly that the only way we'd get our worth is to have about six kids and then pass them on to a friend who would have to have six kids of her own. Impractical.
Example: A play mat I paid full retail of $40 would have cost $7 at a kid's consignment sale or shop. Find friends who are done with their baby-producing stage and ask if you can take the stuff off their hands. Trust me, it was so nice to find out my college roommate was expecting right around the time we were packing. She took all that good stuff off my hands for free! Great deal on both sides. Of course, check for recalls on anything before buying it.
What You Really Need:
Car seat (buy a new one that will last until your baby is at least 40 pounds),
Crib,
Jogging stroller with a swivel front wheel and tires you can inflate at the gas station (but don't jog with baby until 6 months),
BPA-free bottles if using formula or pumping, lots of onesies (at least 10 will last a week),
A couple of weather appropriate pieces (Cold weather: jeans/pants, jacket, hat, leggings, socks. Hot weather: shorts/skirt, hat, swim diaper, socks.),
Sturdy diaper bag,
Diapers (about 20-25 if you're using cloth),
Free and Clear detergent.

3. Eat right. I gained 85 pounds with Thing #1, and I'm still struggling with the last ten. She is four years old! I was totally depending on breast-feeding to help me lose weight. Naughty me. I should have known better than to depend on something unpredictable. Sure, you can give into a craving here or there, but moderation is KEY. It helped me with Thing #2 and Thing #3 to think of cravings as a budget. I could splurge occasionally instead of making it a lifestyle like I did with Thing #1.

4. Exercise! Gosh, it made a world of difference in my post-partum attitude. I had knee surgery nine months after Thing #1 was born. Thing #2 arrived nine months after that, so I didn't really have a great opportunity to get back into a good work out program. I truly believe that's why I had such a bad case of the baby blues after Thing #2 arrived. Even if exercise doesn't prevent post-partum depression, it will help keep you and the baby healthy (besides working off those occasional craving splurges!).

5. Cloth diapers. I discovered these with Thing #2, and even though I only used them from her 8-12 month stage, they sure did help with potty training. Thing #2 potty trained herself the week before her second birthday. The cost? Five training panties, three of which doubled as evening soakers. Pricey, yes, but I'm reusing them on Thing #3. Thing #1 didn't really get proficient with the toilet until she was nearly three (switch from diapers to disposable training pants around 2 y/o) and then didn't figure out night training until she was 3.5. In fact, Thing #2 was done night training about a month after Thing #1.
Potty training for Thing #1 cost waaaay more than it did for Thing #2 and even more than Thing #3 even though we've subsequently bought three more training pants. Thing #3 is only 14 months old and has a very solid interest in the potty. I strongly believe it's the cloth diaper because she can feel the wetness.
Resources: Diaper Swapper (if you're okay with second-hand diapers). Kelly's Closet (for new diapers).

6. Read Shepherding a Child's Heart by Ted Tripp. I read that after the arrival of Thing #3 and vehemently wished I'd discovered it during my pregnancy. It's a Christian-based philosophy on child raising and disciplining. I loved it. I started implementing several of Tripp's ideas, and within weeks, I could see the change in my kids' perspectives on how they viewed their actions.

7. (Not so much for pregnant contemplation...more for when you've already got your babycakes in hand.) Get reusable stuff or find ways to reuse stuff you buy.
Buy Reusable Stuff: Each of the kids has a Nalgene Grip 'n Gulp cup in their assigned color. Not only are these things super durable, Nalgene will send a replacement if anything goes wrong with the cup. We also like reusable snack bags from Planet Wise. Baggies have been reduced to puzzle storage. I feel so much less wasteful now whenever we pack snacks or picnics.
Reuse Stuff You've Got:This is my favorite mommy aha! If you're going to buy jarred baby food, keep the glass jars so you can store snacks in there later. You can keep baby cereal in there for on-the-go and then just add water when you're ready to use it. My 14 month old loves to eat her Cheerios and goldfish out of there. They are just the right size for a little one. The jars are surprisingly durable, and the lids screw on, so you don't have to worry about an unmixed cereal mess in your diaper bag or snack pack.

So there you have it. If this list is useful to at least one person, then I'm happy.

Challenge: To spend less than $100 on baby prep items (not including the car seat-I am a firm believer in buying those new).

-Domestic Goddess out.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Hairography

I just discovered Glee. I know, I know. I'm two years late. It's okay. I watch about four movies in theater per year and don't have cable, so yes, I watch everything two years after the fact. Netflix has Glee available right now, and after hearing my cousins rave about it, I decided to give it a whirl. Naturally, I love it. I think the story line is a little beyond believable, but hey, it's TV. I love the singing, though. Those guys are really talented! Anyhow, early in Season 1, there's an episode called Hairography. In it, the Glee folks watch a group of girls from an opposing team. There's a lot of hair tossing and booty shaking as they dance to Beyonce's Bootylicious. The director feels threatened by them and introduces a hair tossing routine into their repertoire. Rachel, a Glee member, insists that it's a mistake for the team. She defines hairography as "all the whizzing of their hair around just to distract from the fact that they're not really good dancers and their vocals are just so-so." The director ignores the advice and goes on to have his team perform Crazy in Love, also by Beyonce.

Personally, I find this hilarious. It seems the writers for Glee find Beyonce to be all hair and no real talent. Sure, Beyonce has a great voice and some really good songs, but sheesh! All the fuss about her is ridiculous. I've seen lots of prettier girls just walking around the mall, and I've heard lots of equally talented girls at church and at my former schools. Whatever the case, hairology seems to make a lot of good money, so if any of you have lovely tresses, go ahead and learn how to whip it.

That being said, how much of what we see and buy into is real and what is hairology? What do we believe is true talent, quality, or necessity? What is actually smoke and mirrors? We have to remember who creates the drive within to be like someone or purchase a product. It's marketers who want us to buy into these beliefs. I urge you to please look past the smoke and mirrors and make intelligent, informed decisions about who you want to emulate, what you want to buy, and how you want to live your life.

Challenge: Analyze your weekly purchases and choices. Determine who or what you're buying into before you make any decisions.

-Domestic Goddess out.