Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Talking about food and such

You might recall that I mentioned the 100 Days of Real Food menu plan that I decided to follow a few weeks ago.  Actually, I ended up adhering to the menu plans for two weeks before branching out and creating my own. So, for three weeks now, with the exception of the occasional bakery visit and a trip to Runza, we have not consumed any refined sugars or processed food.   I knew that completely avoiding refined sugars and processed foods would be good for us,* but I didn't fully realize the changes it would make on Harriet's mood and our general digestive health.  Harriet has been much more stable and her fits have been infrequent.  Steve and I feel less off and I have officially gone below my pre-Edmund pregnancy weight.  That feels pretty good.

A couple of changes in our menu plan have really made a huge difference for us:

  • Thanks to 100 Days of Real Food, I'm now being very intentional about planning snacks throughout the day.  During the first week of following the menu plan, I noticed a considerable difference in the tone of our day because I was prepared to give Harriet a nutritious snack before the crankies descended upon her.  Instead of rummaging through the kitchen in a panic or (more often) "stealing" food from another meal, we now have specifically assigned snacks for each day.  A relatively "duh" solution that makes a big difference.
  • By carefully planning every single aspect of the menu for the week, I have an accurate idea of how much grocery I actually need to buy.  Again, major DUH.  I think I was having a mental block because I hate spending lots of money in one location all at once, so I would kind of skimp around on the grocery list in order to "save money."  The reality?  We would venture back to the store multiple times during the week and, you guessed it, spend way more than our food budget allowed.  Now?  I plop down the moolah once and...we have stopped making emergency runs to the store.  Nice.
With all of this brewing, imagine my excitement when I found the Parents Need to Eat Too cookbook at the library!  I'm seriously in love with this cookbook.  It combines the real food perspective of Food Matters* with the family-friendly attitude of 100 Days, all geared toward a busy mom chef.  The author also has a super-balanced perspective on eating organically, when to include treats, etc. It's perfect.  It's the cookbook I would write if I had the time and someone else hadn't already done it for me.  I know that we will be including many of these recipes into our new detailed meal plans.

And while I'm on a tangent about eating well, I happened upon this video which expresses my belief on why we need to eat well and exercise and go to bed at a godly hour:

I couldn't agree more.  Making all of these "health conscious" choices isn't really about saving the earth or looking really fit or prolonging life.  We make these choices so that the Holy Spirit can bear fruit in our lives and so that we can be ready servants of Christ. (I'm with Piper on I-exercise-so-I-don't-get-depressed.)

And here is Edmund attacking a banana:

Okay, so there you go.  I am fighting off some stupid cold/sore throat thing, so I feel like my head is floating around 25 feet above my body.  This post probably reflects that oody-doody mental state.  Good night.

*We strive to eat healthily, but sometimes it's good to step back, analyze how we've moved away from good choices, and have tools to jump back into the groove.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The idol of predictability

Just for the record, I hate change.

I hate change of Big Plans, like how in the world I'm going to finish up my degree in Children's Ministry when I have to take the remaining 16 credit hours on a campus that is 6 hours away from my house.  I hate how this change will alter my plans for the fall and spring.  I'm left hanging without a solution.

I hate change of Small Plans, like when I'm going to be able to do the dishes or read my Bible when the children will not nap consistently at all.  I am constantly adjusting and readjusting my day and it's exhausting.

I hate changes in Relationships, like when people you thought were your friends, your Christian friends, don't seem to be that way any more.  Or when people who appeared to have it all together seem to be falling apart and denying what they previously stood for.  I am always and forever untangling this knotted mess of what was and what should be and I can never find the end of the thread.

I'm afraid of potential changes, like what if someone in my family (one of my kids!) gets really sick or is in an accident, or what if the Best Laid Plans of Steve and Amelia never come to fruition and we end up being Carl and Ellie from Up after all?

It's a tension that sits in my stomach for days and results in a complete lack of appetite and a desire for any temporary diversion possible.

But do you know what, my silly soul?  God hates idols more than I hate change.

So many times the Idol of Predictability is what I worship: the control, the routine, the sameness, the ability to measure my success (yes, even sanctification) by how strictly I've adhered to some daily planner or Real Food menu or give and take in relationships.  It's a sneaky idol that peeks in among all of the good things that planning and organizing can accomplish.  But it's there, nevertheless, and God will have none of it.  As my mom and I say, "God loves us too much to let ____ (job, fitness, intelligence, reputation, perfectionism) become an idol."

This world is forever changing.  God does not change.  I want to care more about worshiping and delighting in the Unchanging One than in working so hard (and worrying so futilely) to keep my life from changing.

And then, by his grace, the Big Changes and the Little Changes and the Relationship Changes and the Future Changes will be all wrapped up into his great plan of loving me and glorifying himself.

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.  Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Psalm 138:8 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Introversion and Motherhood

I have been reading a book called Introverts in the Church, which has proved to be both interesting and infuriating at the same time. Some books are just like that, you know?  And you want to stop reading them because they are so exasperating, but then a good paragraph or two will show up so you keep reading.  Then, if you are me, you keep reading despite the weirdness because you want to give an accurate analysis to all of millions of readers devoted friends and family who read your blog.  Also, if you are me, you keep reading because then you can rant to your husband about all of the ridiculousness contained therein...and watch him get that silly, "There goes Amelia again" look on his face (which I find rather adorable because I want to be known for my ability to Discuss Things).

Yes, I'm reading Introverts in the Church and I want to write up a few of my thoughts on the subject, BUT I can't find the book.  It has disappeared.  I don't know if the dog ingested it or Harriet buried it in the garden or what.  It's not readily available at the moment, so you're going to have to wait for my rants.  Sorry.

This does not mean that you escape (should you choose to read on) a discussion of how my recent foray into the understanding of introversion has helped me.  Consider this: I have been helping Bug and Eleanor work on their 4-H sewing projects every weekday afternoon.  This is all fine and dandy while the little kids are napping, but as soon as they wake up my attention becomes split into about fifty different directions: Harriet needs a snack, Margaret messed up the zipper (again), Eleanor is asking why the machine isn't sewing, and Edmund is whining for who-knows-what-reason.  Add the general noise and chaos of the Young Heathens who have come to spend the night and you'll find me in the bathroom behind the shower curtain wishing for some kind of child tranquilizers...or Mary Poppins snapping fingers, at least.

Before I read my books on introversion the above situation would have led to the following conclusions:
  1. I hate sewing
  2. I hate teaching people how to sew
  3. I hate small children
  4. I hate noise
  5. I hate having to keep calm when all I want to do is run and scream
  6. I hate the idea of ever having more than two children
  7. I hate myself for thinking such horrible things
Granted, these are strong statements, but they represent the total frazzled nature of my brain.  And I'll admit to thinking some of these thoughts yesterday before the what-I've-learned-about-introverts kicked into my thought gears.  Here's what I remembered:
  1. Introverts don't like being interrupted during a task. They like to knuckle down to a task with a great deal of focus and get the job DONE, for Pete's sake.  This is why I am perfectly willing/able/very happy to teach the girls how to sew when we can do it without interruptions and when we can really devote a period of time to the projects.  Therefore, it's not the sewing or the teaching process that fries my nerves, it's the constant interruptions associated with having two very small children.
  2. Noise, confusion, and activity zap introverts' energy levels.  While extroverts get energized from loud and rambunctious environments, introverts have the exact opposite experience.  So when my house is filled to bursting with active children and the noise is being bounced around the 512 square foot living space, no wonder I want to run and hide.  It's not that I dislike children...I just have my energy zapped from having to deal with the noise and activity level associated with lots of kids.  This is a vicious cycle because the less control I maintain, the more chaotic it gets, and the more my energy plummets.  
  3. Being an introvert is the way God made me.  I don't have to hate myself for having limits to my personality.  I can learn more about what makes me tick...and figure out ways in which God is stretching me and sanctifying the sinful aspects of my personality (such as my idolization of Aloneness)...but I don't have to impose my inability to tolerate long sessions of noise into "I will never have any more children."  Or "I am a horrible hateful person."
All of this led me to wonder: Okay, so I do want more kids and I do want to enjoy parenting them in spite of the noise and interruptions.  How do I live as an introvert and a mother without losing my mind?  Millions of other women have done it. Where's the manual?  What's the trick?  (Besides either a) sending the little monsters to school or b) buying a Victorian mansion with separate rooms for everyone.)

When I read Quiet and Introverts in the Church, certain "helps" stood out to me: things like creating a quiet time and setting limits for extroverted interactions/expectations.  I started to think about how I could apply those "helps" specifically to my role as a mommy to two very little kids.  Of course, my tendency is to say, "Hey, if I can't have three hours of absolute silence every day, I'm just throwing in the towel."  However, I really want to make this work, for my own sanity and for positive relationships with my children.  Here are my ideas:
  • Mandate a daily quiet time.  This is hard-ish now, since Harriet's naps are inconsistent.  But I do make sure that when Edmund takes his afternoon nap, Harriet is either asleep or watching a movie that she really likes.  Then I completely forget about the dishes and housework, and I read my Bible, another book, or work on a portable craft project.  Yes, my mothering responsibilities are still there, but at least they are subdued for a half hour or so.  As the kids get older (and we either remodel or buy a bigger home) I want Quiet Time to be part of our daily routine. It only helps everyone.
  • Make quiet opportunities.  This week I have been noticing that most of my undesirable chores are really perfect quiet "escape" moments.  Washing the dishes allows me to keep an eye on H and E, while also engaging in some introspective thought time.  Hanging the clothes out on the line is strangely relaxing when I know that Harriet can wander about the yard (and E can sit in the Bumbo and stare at Nature) and I can have a few moments of quiet with just me and the laundry.  It's really great!
  • Exercise regularly.  I can't have the kids hanging on me when I exercise, be it at Jazzercise or when I go running.  Both activities force me to stop, leave the children with reliable babysitters, and zone out while I burn the calories.  For me, exercising is more than keeping in shape.  It's a chance to accomplish a task without interruption, be temporarily devoid of responsibility of small folk, and have the opportunity to think about abstract ideas.  I used to think that exercising was a waste of time.  Not anymore!
  • Stop trying to be the extroverted mother.  I have a really hard time not participating with everything that my kids are doing.  I want to be a "good mom" by always engaging Harriet in conversation, always playing with her, always singing and dancing along to the Wiggles.  But guess what?  She can learn to play alone sometimes without compromising our fabulous relationship.  She can foster her own quiet side by thinking her own thoughts without my running commentary.
  • Keep one household area clean and tidy.  Just like noise and confusion zap my energy, cluttered spaces drive me to utter distraction.  Any mother of a two-year-old knows that you can't spend the entire day picking up after the child, so I've designated one spot that I'm going to keep clear for my sanity's sake.  
  • Request a regular break time.  I haven't implemented this idea yet, but I think it will work better when Steve has his four days on/off schedule.  I want to request an hour or so (after situating the kids happily with their father) to Leave The House, go get a coffee, and sit in some quiet place like the library or something.  This could be every other week, or so, but I want to make it a regular re-charge session.  
When I look back on these ideas, I think, "Wow, Amelia, aren't you being selfish...demanding all of these quiet things?"  The truth is, Nope, I'm not.  I have a feeling that when I am taking care of my needs for quiet, I will be able to meet the needs of my kids better.  When I'm developing quiet moments into my routine, I'll be able to handle the loud and chaotic days.  And when I can't have those quiet times, I can trust that God knows exactly what he did when he made me...and instead of feeling guilty for not ramping up my noise tolerance, I can trust him for grace to deal with the situation with love and strength.

So what are your ideas?  How do you/would you integrate your introverted personality with the oft-times loud and crazy role of motherhood?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

It's been a hard days night...

Well, the past few nights have been rather interesting, as far as sleeping is concerned.  Harriet wakes up screaming bloody murder as if she's had a nightmare, but when we attempt to calm/comfort her, she only gets super-duper angry and starts hitting and screaming at us.  I'm sorry that she is having a scary time, but it's not my fault...I promise!  Steve ends up taking her out into the living room and turning on the lights so that she will fully wake up.  Then...sometimes...she will go back to sleep in her bed.  And sometimes not.  And then we are all very Miserable and Squished with four Rodgers in a bed.  This is made more miserable by my having multiple dreams that Steve is having a blatant affair with another woman.  So then I wake up feeling gross and sad and wondering why I want to kill my husband.  Poor Steve is getting a lot of nighttime abuse from the women in his life.  Edmund sleeps through it all.

SO.  Steve got a new position at BD!  We are insanely excited.  He will be moving from working on a machine in the production line to being a lab analyst - dealing with the additives that are added to the tubes in the production process. There are many perks to this position:
  1. Daytime hours (6:30am-7:00pm).
  2. Four days on/four days off.
  3. Regular overtime, due to the pay schedule.
  4. Pay raise.
  5. No more UCK machine.
While Steve had applied for this position (among others), we had no idea that he would be fully qualified for it, let alone hired.  This is such a crazy, shocking, exciting gift from God.

In other news, the Florida trip was amazing, despite the torrential tropical storm weather which doused us in rain every time we ventured forth into the Great Outdoors of Disney World.  The Gospel Coalition Conference was a huge blessing on so very many levels.  It took all of me to keep from bawling, like, the whole weekend.  It was so glorious to remember that a) God really does exist, b) He loves Amelia Elizabeth Rodgers, c) He reveals his glorious Self in his Word and d) my complete, eternal happiness is found in him - and that happiness can be happening now.  So, if you haven't listened to any of the messages yet, get your little browser right over to this here spot and don't do a thing until you listen to this one and this one and this one.  And then listen to all of the rest of the messages, too.

I don't know how I happened across 100 Days of Real Food but I really really like it.  Of course, we already mostly eat like this, but her meal plans and grocery lists are a lifesaver.  I'm super happy to have healthy snack ideas, along with plans for breakfasts and utilizing leftovers.  Some of the menu ideas don't exactly meet our needs for high-protein meals, but I can easily slip those in without breaking the "rules."  Thanks to my Food Matters cookbook!

I have a couple of interesting posts brewing on my continued informal study of introversion.  Stay tuned....