Thursday, February 28, 2008

Leaping Towards Spring

As we pass with the gracious addition of one more day into the month of March, it truly is feeling like we are entering maaliskuu (Finnish for earthy month as the earth starts to show from under the snow). The weather is balmy by all comparisons, the ground is moist and losing its tundra-like temperatures, and the deciduous trees are beginning to unfurl their ends into pollen releasing wonders. To say nothing about the Juniper (Ahh-chooo!).

The Ides of March, St. Patricks Day, the Vernal Equinox, and Easter will all be upon us just as quickly as ever.

It's been quite a week.

Between getting sick while traveling, returning home to extremely sick children, and thinking that this is now the second trip of the season where timing has been horrible, I've spent some serious time wondering why sickness is necessary at all.

I grew up with a mother who believed that to say "I'm sick" was to accept the plight of sickness for the time it took for the sickness to come in, arrive in the body, set up camp, do its business, decide to move out, and for health to once again arrive. It was suggested to me to never say "I'm sick." In fact it was suggested that I never even say things like "I'm sick and tired of..." because even such a benign statement as that could invite sickness into the body, which would thus overrun and cause all sorts of maelstrom-like activities to occur within the body.

Interestingly, as I've aged, and been sick many more times than I can count (fortunately nothing beyond the normal sick stuff...), this advice has managed to get stuck in my psyche. When the first twinges of illness show their nasty little tendrils, instead of saying, "I feel awful" or "Uh oh, here it comes, that nasty crud that's been going around," my first instinct is to say "I WILL NOT GET SICK!!!!!" Followed by a whole slew of curse words in my head.

Being a Mama, getting sick is akin to being chained to floor and having your children jump on your stomach endlessly, so essentially, getting sick is not an option, at least not for more than a few minutes. When it really happens, God forbid, then may blessings fall at the feet of the Mama at hand so that life can progress forward without any ill effects.

This advice my Mother doled out while I was a kid who was secretly hoping for sickness so as to avoid that mandatory necessity called school ,has actually proven effective. At least in comparison to others I know. On average, I've found that my illnesses last fewer days than those around me (non-mothers, of course). Of course this may be attributed to the arsenal of herbs and other supplements that I flood my bloodstream with, but I tend to take the superstitious view and place the result on my attitude.

With all that, I'm thankful that for today, at least, during this lovely pre-spring day, I was feeling better, even while nursing my little ones back to health.

Now those gardens are another topic...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

La Lune & Ashwaganda

One of my favorite celestial bodies is the Moon. Also known as Luna, la Lune, Луна, Φεγγάρι, Mond, Maan, to translate into just a few different languages, the Moon is our Earth’s only natural satellite, and has scientifically confirmed influence on the ocean tides, and unconfirmed influence on the psyches of humans.

Wikipedia is full of all sorts of interesting snippets of wisdom regarding the moon and its darkside, and if you have time to browse it, I fully recommend it!

Being an astrological Moon Child, I have been drawn to lunar associations ever since I was a gothic, jaded, and moody teen. When I entered college, and disposed of my gothic persona, I became drawn to the cosmic, ethereal forces of the moon. Since I lived 20 ft from a tidal bay, I was able to witness the effects of the moon on the tides two times each day. I commuted to school on bicycle, and I had to ride up a long, steep hill each day on my way to class. I noticed that on the mornings when it was high tide AND a full moon, it was infinitely more difficult to ride up that hill—almost as if the gravitational pull of the tide and moon was pulling my bicycle backwards towards the murky, muddy depths of the water—reaching for my soul and attempting to suck me into a death of cold, deep mud.

Even now, as a down-to earth, practical, and grown-up adult, I am still drawn to all things lunar. Whenever I see the fingernail-sliver of the waxing or waning crescent moon, I still draw my breath and admire in wonder. I’ve even hooked my moon child 5-year old into my lunar fixations. When she sees the sliver of crescent moon in the night sky, she delights in chanting “Mommy’s favorite moo—oon, Mommy’s favorite moo—oon,” like a mantra of a sing-song know-it-all.

Last night, after we’d been happily spending our evening in the warm waters of the therapy pool while the local chapter of the A&FCP&D rehearsed in our playroom, my daughters and I had the fortune of watching the lunar eclipse. Due to a bit of overcast clouds, when the eclipse reached its apex, the moon seemed to vanish completely into the night sky.

Thoughts of ancient times danced through my head~~what would our local ancient natives have thought as they witnessed the disappearance of the moon? What did the Vikings think was happening? The ancient Greeks? Some of these questions are addressed in myths and folklore surrounding eclipses. But the thoughts of my 5 year old were equally mythological. As the sky became dark and the place where the moon was hidden covered with thin clouds, my daughter began a slight wimper, “Come back, Earth, come back Earth…the Earth is going to disappear with the Moon…I don’t want to disappear! Mama, make the Moon come back!”

I was thoroughly fascinated. A child is essentially operating on primal emotion and instinct for many years before society eventually kills those instincts off. I was witnessing her own primal reaction to the eclipse and was able to observe how the mysteries of the unknown truly do trump all that science has to offer. Sometimes it’s just too cool to have these little beings around to remind us of that!

During my studies of herbal medicine, I’ve discovered a wealth of myths and folklore surrounding the cosmos, plants, and healing. Many herbs are presumed to be under the influence of the moon, and so, today’s lunar herb of the day is Ashwaganda.

Ashwaganda, or Winter Cherry

Latin Name: Withania somnifera

Ashwaganda is a member of the nightshade family, however it lacks the poisonous constituents found in other nightshades such as Datura and Belladonna. Typically found and cultivated in India, Ashwaganda is generally prescribed to overworked, overstressed and often hypertensive people. Ashwaganda is India's native answer to Ginseng and it is currently being applied in Ayurvedic medicine to treat hypertension and stress related ailments. It is also prescribed for male infertility and is said to increase libido. In Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwaganda is said to be a rejuvenative herb, and is considered an adaptogen—meaning that it helps the body to adapt to stress and change and restores balance to the body’s physiological functions. It is also used to help treat memory loss associated with aging. A double-blind study found that ashwaganda prevented stress-related ulcers and vitamin C deficiency, and increased energy and endurance when under stress. It is well established for its effectiveness in dysmenorrhoea. It is said to produce an estrogen-like effect that enhances the repair of the endometrial tissue and stops bleeding. It is also useful in internal bleeding, hemorrhoids and also hemorrhagic dysentery.


The plant is rich in potent alkaloids, including withamosine, visamine, cuscohygrine, anahygrine, tropine, pseudotropine, anaferine, isopelletierine, and withaferin A. The plant contains a large number of novel compounds known as withanolides.

Parts Used

Eastern and Western herbal medicine use the dried root. Most notably, the dry, cut root. Berries of this plant are mildly toxic to the stomach and gastrointestinal tract, however, the berries are used as a rennet substitute for the making of cheese.

Typical preparations

Tea decoction from the root, liquid herbal extract, herbal capsules (non-standardized) Dried crushed or powdered roots can be applied to food or directly consumed.


Botanical safety guidelines in the US and Germany have suggested that Ashwaganda may be a mild abortifacient and it is not recommended for pregnant women.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Herb of the Day -- Dandelion

Despite some recent spring-like conditions it is indeed still Winter, and it might be a good time to start thinking about herbs that can help the body transition from winter to spring. Winter diets tend to be more starchy and laden with carbs and fats, and as the seasons begin to change, our bodies might naturally start craving lighter fare that has a cleansing detoxifying action. This week I'll focus on some herbs that can be useful in supporting the body as the season ends and the days gradually shift towards spring. The first one for this week is Dandelion.

Latin Name: Taraxacum officinale
Other Names: Lion's tooth
Part Used: Root, Leaf
Herb Forms: Tincture, capsule, tablet, teabag, bulk herb, powder.
Affects: Endocrine system, Liver
Cautions: The root is contraindicated in cases of bile duct or intestinal blockage and gallbladder inflammation.
Botanical Info: A common plant of the Aster family with single flowering heads full of bright yellow strap-shaped flowers on hollow, unbranched stalks with hairless, large-toothed leaves.

Medicinal Uses:

Dandelion root, ubiquitous in lawns and gardens, is widely-used for cooling and cleansing the liver; it is excellent in herbal formulas for hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver toxicity. It increases the flow of bile and has been used for a variety of liver-associated illnesses. Dandelion has anti-carcinogenic, estrogen-lowering, and blood cholesterol-lowering capabilities. It also helps with headaches, emotional swings before or during menstruation, acne, red, irritated eyes, mood swings, and other problems related to "liver heat" and is a strong diuretic. In Chinese medicine dandelion root is taken internally and applied topically for abscesses and nodules. Additionally, it is used to increase lactation and clear liver heat when there are symptoms such as painfully inflamed eyes. Dandelion root tea is also a famous specific for breast cancer but should be taken in conjunction with other blood purifying herbs, such as sarsaparilla, red clover, and burdock root, as well as appropriate immune-strengthening herbal therapy and positive dietary and lifestyle changes.

According to Chinese herbal energetics, Dandelion has a taste of BITTER, SWEET and a temperature of COOL.

Dandelion is a natural diuretic that increases urine production by promoting the excretion of salts and water from the kidney. Dandelion may be used for a wide range of conditions requiring mild diuretic treatment, such as poor digestion, liver disorders, and high blood pressure. One advantage of dandelion is that dandelion is a source of potassium, a nutrient often lost through the use of other natural and synthetic diuretics.

Fresh or dried dandelion herb is also used as a mild appetite stimulant and to improve upset stomach (such as feelings of fullness, flatulence, and constipation). The root of the dandelion plant is believed to have mild laxative effects and is often used to improve digestion. Research suggests that dandelion root may improve the health and function of natural bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Studies have also reported that dandelion root may help improve liver and gallbladder function.

Some preliminary animal studies also suggest that dandelion may help normalize blood sugar levels and improve lipid profiles [namely, lowering total cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing HDL ("good") cholesterol] in diabetic mice. However, not all animal studies have had the same positive effect on blood sugar. In addition, research needs to be conducted on people to know if this traditional use for diabetes (see Overview) has modern-day merit.

Dandelion may be used in a variety of available forms:
Dried leaf infusion: 1 - 2 teaspoonfuls, 3 times daily. Pour hot water onto dried leaf and steep for 5 - 10 minutes. Drink as directed.

Dried root decoction: 1/2 - 2 teaspoonfuls, 3 times daily. Place root into boiling water for 5 - 10 minutes. Strain and drink as directed.

Leaf tincture (1:5) in 30 % alcohol: 100 - 150 drops, 3 times daily

Standardized powdered extract (4:1) leaf: 500 mg, 1-3 times daily
Standardized powdered extract (4:1) root: 500 mg, 1-3 times daily

Root tincture (1:2) fresh root in 45 % alcohol: 100 - 150 drops, 3 times daily

Possible Herb-Drug Interactions:

Dandelion leaf is a diuretic and may increase the excretion of drugs from the body. If you are taking prescription medications, ask your health care provider before taking dandelion leaf. If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use dandelion preparations without first talking to your health care provider:

Lithium -- Animal studies suggest that dandelion may worsen the side effects associated with lithium, a medication used to treat bipolar disorder.

Antibiotics, quinolone -- One species of dandelion, Taraxacum mongolicum , also called Chinese dandelion, may decrease the absorption of quinolone antibiotics (such as ciprofloxacin, ofloxacin, and levofloxacin) from the digestive tract. It is not known whether Taraxacum officinale , also known as common dandelion, would interact with these antibiotics in the same way. As a precaution, dandelion should not be taken at the same time as these antibiotics.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Valentine of Mine

I've had a few Valentines in my life, including the very special 3 that I currently share my life with, however, none have been so very Valentine as my very special Valentine Grandfather.

You see, he was born on February 14, 1917 in a little place just outside of Salt Lake City. Twenty four years later he met his Sweetheart, and they married on Valentine's Day, 1941.

During my childhood, once the potentially heart-breaking ritual of giving and receiving classroom Valentines was done for the day--my Grandfather created a family tradition of always giving a box of Senor Murphy Chocolates to all the granddaughters and ladies in the family. It was a treat I continued to cherish until 2006~~ the last Valentine's Day my Grandfather was present for.

My Grandfather was an amazing person. His interests were varied and spanned the realm between nuclear physics and teaching himself to play the piano late in his retirement. He was praised for his remarkable ability to grow the sweetest corn that side of the Rio Grande, and was the first to show off his computers~long before anyone owned a "personal PC" much less a laptop thinner than a notebook. He used to read Tolkien to me when I was probably too little to understand what I was hearing. And on those rare mornings I had to catch the schoolbus from their house, he made a point to serve me Cornflakes with homemade vanilla ice cream simply because he could, and noone else (not even my Grandma) would complain.

Being a girl, I've always been a sucker for all things Valentine: cupcakes with pink frosting, heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolates, home-made paper hearts, and secret admirers. But thanks to my Grandfather, I've never been one to complain when my own Sweetheart showers me with compliments rather than roses, mostly because I've come to value the long-lasting love that comes with family, and that seems to trump all the commercial consumerism that most holidays seem to be about.

Anyway, on this Valentine's Day, I continue to miss my quirky but wonderful Grandfather, and I'll be sure to cherish even more my sweet little Valentines, and my very special Sweetheart.
Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Herb of the Day -- Honey

Being new to this blog writing business, I'm trying to develop a theme for this site that will be fun for me and useful for others.

While not exactly mind blowing, I was thinking that perhaps an herb of the day lesson might be useful for some, and if nothing else, interesting for others.

With that...

Yesterday I wrote an all too long treatise on Dal. While I like Dal well enough and we do eat it quite frequently, I'll be honest in saying that I don't eat it for weight loss or for strictly health reasons on average. Apparently, in China Dal is called congee, or porridge, and is also used as medicine. Typically the Chinese will add some useful medicinal herbs to the batch and will tailor the herbs to whatever ailment is presenting itself. Personally, I tend to stick with the "green chile and garlic cures all" mentality. But since I study this stuff and have imbued my brain with countless hours of research, I still feel like I have to share the traditional medicinal concepts and practices of other cultures.

Since yesterday's topic was really a response to the Bomb Town News Observer blog regarding the consumption of meat, and the disgusting excess (that comes with a cheap pricetag, but high cost) that has become the norm here in our American culture, I thought that perhaps I should introduce the concept of Purgatives today.

Herbs that fall into the category of Purgative are, well, purging...and generally they act from the "bottom" down.

Some are extremely powerful and can be used for only one dosage, while others are considered gentle, and can be used daily. There are 3 types of purgatives: attacking, lubricating, and cathartic.

Attacking purgatives purge internal heat and inflammation. Lubricating purgatives (also called laxatives) attract and hold water in the intestine to lubricate it and also help to promote bowel elimination. Cathartic purgatives are the most powerful and are used to forcefully evacuate solid and fluid waste--thus these should be used with caution.

Ayurvedic medicine promotes the use of an ayurvedic formula called Triphala, which gently eliminates "excess" without creating dependency. Triphala can be purchased in most natural food stores, or ordered on the internet.

Today, however, I'll focus on one sweet little purgative that is probably not known as a "laxative," and that sweet nectar is HONEY.

According to Chinese medicine, Honey, or Apis melifera, has a neutral energy and a sweet taste.
Honey affects the lung, spleen, and stomach meridians.
Honey contains natural sugars, inorganic salts, enzymes, protein, wax, pigments, resin, aromatics, pollen, choline, Vitamin A, B2, C, and D.

In Western Herbal medicine, Honey is said to be antitussive, aperient, demulcent, tonic, laxative, and expectorant.

Honey is especially useful for chronic dry stool, and constipation in the elderly. It should not, however, be used for chronic diarrhea. Cinnamon is more useful for chronic diarrhea.

Generally, the dosage for constipation would be 15 to 30 grams, 2 to 4 times per day.

Honey, can be taken with tea, and will lose none of it's purgative properties even when mixed with tea.

Even though Honey is considered to be a laxative, it is probably more well-known as an expectorant and demulcent --meaning it helps the body to remove phlegm, and is moistening. It truly is one of those wonderful blessings from little bees that those Vegans are really missing out on.

More later!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Food of the Gods

“Let your food be your medicine and your medicine, your food,” -- Hippocrates

It is generally recognized by most systems of natural medicine throughout the world, that the majority of all diseases begin in the stomach, with symptoms such as faulty digestion emerging first. In areas of the world where food is scarce, it would be unthinkable to treat diseases caused by inadequate nutrition with raw foods, liquid fasts, or vegetable and fruit juice as these would not supply the adequate amount of protein and complex carbohydrates and would only cause more degenerative wasting.

In the West, where food is abundant and excess is more likely to be the underlying cause of disease, raw foods and juice fasting may be more appropriate as an initial treatment to eliminate and detoxify excess waste clogging the circulatory vessels and organs of the body, however as a long-term diet it often leads to deficiency and weakness.

Few of us are sufficiently in touch with how food affects our mental states, emotions, and overall state of health. However most people understand the hyped feeling that comes from consuming too much sugar, the heavy, dull feeling from an excess of dairy, fats and red meat or the ungrounded, spacey and unfocused effects from too much chocolate or caffeine.

Kichari and weight loss
Indian Dal, also called Kichari is a mainstay of East Indian cuisine and consists of split yellow mung beans or lentils, and white basmati rice cooked together with ghee (clarified butter) and mild spices. According to Ayurvedic medicine, Kichari detoxifies the entire system, and helps to kindle the body’s digestive fires called ‘agni.’ Unlike other fasts or restricted diets, following an exclusive diet of kichari with the addition of some steamed seasonal vegetables and fresh fruits and perhaps a few tablespoons of yogurt mid-day, supplies all the bodies’ nutritional needs and will cause no nutritional deficiencies.

An exclusive diet of kichari for at least one to several weeks is the safest and best way to lose unwanted pounds.

In Ayurveda the human constitution is evaluated according to the three basic body types, Vata - sensitive, and nerve oriented; Pitta – fire oriented; and Kapha – water oriented. This is called Tridosha and is the cornerstone for all Ayurvedic treatment.

Ayurveda teaches that each individual is naturally born with a predominance of any one or a combination of these three basic types and that this dominance is reflected in one’s overall constitution, personality, and their day to day climatic and dietary preferences and aversions. Thus the term ‘dosha’ means ‘fault’ because an imbalance of any of the Tridoshas is deemed the cause of disease. Ayurvedic treatment then goes on to prescribe dietary, herbal, activity, and lifestyle changes that are specifically intended to restore balance to an individual.

This ancient medical theory has its modern scientific counterpart with the more contemporary theory of somatypes developed in the 1940’s by American psychologist, William Sheldon. This is a respected scientific principle of physiological and psychological medicine probably and shares similarities with the Ayurveda tridosha system. Sheldon corroborated three body types, endomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph with human temperament types. These are described below with their Ayurvedic tridosha counterparts.

The endomorph corresponds to Ayurvedic Kapha type and has a more phlegmatic, naturally rounder shaped body with a greater tendency towards stockiness along with congestive and digestive disorders. They are more prone to conditions and diseases exhibiting an excess of fat, fluids and mucus. Their complexion and hair is lustrous and more oily. Temperamentally they are slower responders but with a tendency towards greater tolerance and pleasurable self-indulgence. Negatively they may succumb to greater rigidity and ‘stuck’ manners of being. The stereotype is “the fat, jolly person.”

The mesomorph corresponds to the Pitta type is tends to be musclular and have a fiery energy. They tend to be of a more medium build with a tendency to be impetuous, quick, courageous, active, dynamic, assertive and competitive. In contrast, while the kapha individual has greater stamina and endurance for the long haul, pitta types tend towards more dynamic bold initiation and risk taking. The stereotype is: “type A personality,” “jock” or “Super Hero.”

The ecotomorph corresponds to the Vata type and tends to be thinner, more hypersensitive, introverted and moody. Thus they are metaphorically compared to air with less focus on the physical act of doing and more on the mental process of creating ideas. The vata type is more likely to be the ‘seer,’ or visionary or negatively the one tending towards deranged mental states. The stereotype is the “hypersensitive individual,” “airhead,” and “thin skinned.”

An Ayurvedic doctor will prescribe diet, herbs, and lifestyle changes according to one’s dosha imbalance. It is possible to further fine tune the basic Dahl or Kichari recipe according to ingredients, proportions, consistency and spices based on one’s dosha propensity. The result is the same, which is the ability of kichari to restore metabolic balance while eliminating toxins called ‘ama’ and kindling ‘agni’ which is digestive or metabolic life fire.

Basic kichari:
1 cup split mung dal (yellow)
2 cups of white basmati rice
2 tsp of ghee (clarified butter)
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp of coriander powder
½ tsp of cumin powder
½ tsp of whole cumin seeds
¼ tsp of rock salt
8 cups of water (6 cups when using a pressure cooker)

This is suitable for all body types. However for those who may be more of a kapha or vata type, one may want to make a more heating version of kichari by adding:

1 inch of fresh minced ginger root
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
1 scant pinch of asafetida and either red chilli or black pepper omitting or limiting the inclusion of dairy or yogurt.

Why White Rice?
Rice is universally regarded as one of the most perfectly balanced foods. The difference between naturally brown and white rice is that brown rice has all of the out skin or bran intact while white rice has been mechanically polished to remove part or all of the bran depending on one’s digestive capability. Japanese Macrobiotics favors the use of brown rice but they also advocate chewing each mouthful of food 80 to 100 times. For most this is extremely impractical and overly rigid especially since many older people may not even retain all of their teeth for proper chewing. White rice has less of the whole food nutritional elements of brown rice but it is better assimilated. Further, by adding beans or other protein-rich foods to white rice what is lost nutritionally is mostly replaced.

How to make Ghee.
Ghee or clarified butter has had the majority of the saturated fats removed from butter. It is said to restore vitality, mental clarity, clear the skin and enhance digestion. All of these attributes along with its delicious buttery flavor, make it a desirable cooking oil. It is easily made in the kitchen. Simply obtain a pound or two of unsalted butter. Place it in a skillet atop a low flame. The butter will melt to a liquid and eventually the fat solids will congeal and settle to the bottom. Be careful to not burn it. After a period of time, carefully decant the clear golden butter oil (ghee) into a wide mouthed jar to which one should place a metal spoon to absorb some of the heat and prevent the jar from cracking. Discard the white fat solids.

Ghee does not need to be refrigerated and will keep unrefrigerated virtually indefinitely.

The Spices of Kichari
The three spices turmeric, cumin and coriander are the basis of Indian curry mixes. Besides adding wonderful exotic flavors to foods, these also have potent medicinal properties, which I may expand upon later.

With thanks to Michael Tierra.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Of Gardens and Education

Winter is not generally the season people think about plant identification, but it seems poignant to note that two of our community’s revered plant experts, Dorothy Hoard and Terry Foxx, will be teaching classes about plant related things this month at PEEC.

I’ve not been thinking much about live plants~~other than dreaming about how I wish to finally get a garden going this summer. Being able to grow and nurture some fresh, home-grown produce would be worth, well…bushels!

I’ve had the placeholders for my future garden sitting dormant in my back yard for about 3 years now. Unfortunately, what began as a great idea, has turned into a crumbling choss-pile of debris. Being that I’m a working Mama who loves to recreate in the outdoors (beyond the garden), I haven’t had much time to devote to getting those garden beds completed. The choss-pile of sandstone rubble that could become some pretty nifty garden beds should probably just be removed, and some standard wooden beds erected in their place. Of course, this will require a helping hand by someone other than me, as I’m not necessarily a wood-working wizard, although I can fix the plumbing in most any toilet pretty quick!

My New Year’s Resolutions this year weren’t about losing weight, or getting on a fitness program, but were, rather, on a different track: 1) To get my garden beds completed and grow some scrumptious veggies this summer, and 2) To open my heart more to my immediate family.

Two really completely different things, that actually will likely work symbiotically, assuming we get Resolution # 1 in place. Having a plot to grow their own carrots and strawberries will be both educational and plain-old dirt-diggin’ fun for the kiddos, and not having to trudge through the supermarket each week for certain kitchen staples will be priceless for me. A less-harried Mama means a happier Mama, and muddy kids mean happier kids thus Voilà! A more peaceful home. Simple, really.

At least in theory.

As a voracious reader of topics great and small, I’ve been doing a lot of recent research on education. Radical educational reform, homeschooling, unschooling, and regular public schooling. A wonderful line crossed my eyes a few weeks back. It was so simple, and yet stunningly subversive in this day and age of trying to make our schools more competitive, more efficient, and just more better. While I don’t have the quote directly in front of me, the quote was along the lines of this: “ Children just need time. Time to play. Time to grow. Time to be bored on occasion.” This was being said in reference to our fast-paced, highly scheduled society, where children (especially in this town) are shuffled from music lessons, to soccer practice, to dance practice, to swim meets, chess tournaments, and miscellaneous other sports and clubs that last long into the night, only to have to come home to homework that must be completed before rising again early the next morning. School days are longer, recesses are shorter (and even non-existent is some schools), and children are well on their ways to becoming stressed-out, overworked, overbooked, overstimulated adults with no concept of how to enjoy free time (other than the TV, of course).

If I can do only one thing right as a Mama, I want to at least provide my children with time. Time to play in the dirt. Time to be bored. Time to pick strawberries. Time to splash around in a puddle. Simply, time to be a kid.

If there is one thing I wish for as an adult, it is more time. More time to enjoy the things I love, and more time to complete the menialities that must get done. However, as I'm sure most adults have noticed, time seems to go by faster each year, and thus I can strive for helping my children to enjoy this time in their lives when time seems not so fleeting.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Parenting from the Heart

Before I ever had kids, I envisioned that being a Mom would be a sort of idyllic paradise where the kids would be beautiful and healthy, I would walk the path of parenting calmly, I could instill in my offspring my (previous) virtues of patience and diplomacy, and we would all enjoy the vast array of fun that life has to offer.

The realities of parenting are an iron-cold slap in the face.

When you are expecting your first child, people congratulate you and tell you how much joy you’ll experience as a parent. They’ll tell you wonderful stories about their own children and how rich and full their lives have become. They’ll say neat little things like “Your life will never be the same and in a good way,” or “Children are such blessings,” thus leaving you satisfied in your decision to be a parent.

I am guessing that the reason people don’t say things like “Children will make you rip your hair from your head,” or “You will never go anywhere again without forgetting the 2 items you actually needed while hauling 17 other items you don’t really need,” or “You’ll spend the next 13 or so years picking up toys and clothes and food and cups in an endless cycle of repetition that will leave you squirrely in the head,” is that to terrify you into not having children will leave them without anyone to commiserate with in the future.

If I had known that being a Mama consists largely of being interrupted 1,179 times per hour, repeatedly cleaning up messes that seem to breed by the minute, and feeling exasperated nearly all hours of the day, I might have considered just getting another puppy. However, the clock cannot be reversed, and as such I must forge on with the realities of being a Mama, and try my damnedest to do my best.

By the time my first born was 3, I discovered that there is nothing terrible about the 2s, and that no one warned me about the 3s. There are not enough adjectives that begin with T to describe them: troublesome, tormenting, torrential, trial-like, terrifying…other letters of the alphabet must be explored.

I discovered I had no idea how to handle this bundle of trouble, and thus I began a search for books to help me untangle myself from the web of chaos I felt I’d been caught up in. Not wanting to be a repeat of my own parents, I’ve sought resources on parenting that seem to be in line with my heart.

And thus begins the challenge~~ how to parent from the heart, while not going crazy in the process.

As an example, I was busy getting dishes done the other morning (about 7:23 am) when my eldest daughter came up to me as said, “Let’s go somewhere. NOW!” My hands were fully immersed in the liquid grease-soap-shmegma that was encrusted to the bottom of the casserole dish from the previous night’s dinner. I calmly rinsed my hands, looked her in the eye and said, “Honey, it’s not even 7:30. After I’m done with the dishes, and tidying up a bit, maybe we can figure out what we’d like to do today,” To which she replied loudly, “I want to do something NOW, let’s go. I want to go NOW.”

I shrugged my shoulders, and said calmly (while grimacing inside), “I’ll be done in a few.”

She ambled on and then things got really quiet. At first I was relieved that she’d found some activity to enthrall her for a few more minutes while I finished the menial task at hand. And then I began to get nervous. It seemed unusually quiet. My nerves started to go on red alert, and I rinsed off in order to set out and see what was going on.

To my horror, there she was in the bathroom, scissors in hand, and grinning from ear to ear. “Look how nice Sister’s hair looks!” she shouted in glee. And there was my 2 year old with freshly butchered bangs and sides. A real live mullet. It has only taken 2 years and 3 months for my 2 yr. old’s hair to obtain the minor length that it was, and it was all removed in less time than it took for me to walk from the kitchen to the bathroom.

What is a Mama to do? What would you do? What would Scooby Do?

I’m going to explore this range of emotions I’ve felt all weekend, and hope for a less-challenging week. In the meantime, I’ll just enjoy the snow.

Friday, February 1, 2008


Edges, that is.

We left off yesterday discussing TCM theory and the 5 Elements.
According to TCM theory, Metal controls Wood.

I had the fortune today of allowing metal to control wood in a very tangible and fun-filled way.

If there is one thing I can be ever-thankful to my parents for, it's introducing me to the wonders of lift-serviced mountain sports (of course when I was a kid, skiing was all there was). Every time I sit my bum down on a chairlift and enjoy the ride to the top I am thankful, and then I continue on in awe of the amazing beauty--the clouds speeding by, trees standing as bold sentinals close by, the ice crystals forming rainbows around the sun, the sparkle of snow crystals below. Whatever the weather, I am always in awe and perfectly happy to be at that place at that time.

Today, I was more than happy, as I was riding a brand new piece of snow-gliding equipment, due to the unfortunate and untimely demise of my previous ride. Needless to say it was perfect. I had done my homework, shopped around, and ended up with a near-identical match to my previous contraption. Unintended, but beautiful.

The conditions at the little blue bird today were much better than I had expected. While areas were indeed wind-blown and crusty, with a little bit of strange crud thrown in, the majority of the slopes I travelled were remarkable and dreamy. So dreamy. I rode Precious 4 times in a row, and every time the powder seemed softer and deeper than the previous run, which given the physics of reality, we know that just can't be. However, each time it was so delectable and addictive I just had to come back for more...until I realized I needed to head somewhere else to assess the possibilities. Ahhhhh....yes. I love our mountain.