what we've been up to

lots going on lately!

-at atticus' 9 month appointment, he had gained 3 inches but only 1 ounce since his six month appointment! he's tall and skinny - who'd have thought? :)

-dr. paschen said he couldn't hear the hole in atticus' heart!! i'm still waiting for the next visit to really believe that it's been healed, but i think it's definitely a possibility!

-i bought 10 pounds of local honey and i seriously can't get enough of it. honey is like a miracle food: it's great for your hair and skin, it can help alleviate outdoor allergies (as long as it's local), it's the only food that never goes bad (they found some in the egyptian tombs that was still good), and it's naturally antibiotic- you can use it in place of neosporin! however, i think its main purpose here will be in recipes and in tea!

-we all spent this week out of town: todd went to a work training in columbus, OH, and atticus and i drove down to my parents'. atticus was super enthralled with the cats!

-todd's really enjoying his new job, and even gets to lead a bible study over lunch once a week.

-atticus learned to dance, hold his own bottle, and wave. he also discovered that he loves apple juice.

-atticus has 8 teeth now.

-i think i'm about 9 weeks pregnant! only five more weeks to go until the "smooth sailing" part of pregnancy!
-i am POOPED. i'm not as sick as i was with atticus (thank the lord), but i'm still queasy most of the time. being pregnant and continuing to nurse has been really difficult - i'm not hungry, so i feel like i'm not taking in enough calories for me, atticus and the new baby, and i know atticus isn't getting as much as he used to. we're having to do a lot more with solids to avoid having to switch over to formula.

-atticus still isn't WALKING-walking, but he's getting a lot braver and taking more steps without holding on to things. oh my - i'm not sure if i'll be able to keep up once he gets going!

-atticus' new favorite thing is to crawl inside the end table and hang out until he gets stuck and starts to cry. once i get him out, his favorite thing to do is repeat the whole process.

thoughts on the toy collection

"the most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things." - plato

since simplifying atticus' toy collection, i've been thinking a lot about toys. what purpose do i want them to serve? what kind of boundaries, if any, are appropriate? i had been thinking a lot about my desire to see atticus play with a few, higher-quality, natural-material toys, which in part motivated the toy purge of last week (or whenever it was).

then, when reading a book that i thought was totally unrelated to the topic, i came across some great guidelines that seemed to articulate what i had already been thinking about.

1. is it beautiful? does it encourage kids to value good design and craftsmanship, and to prioritize human work and experience over consumption?

2. is it simple? can it be used in a variety of ways across a variety of ages? does it evoke creativity and imagination?

3. what is it made of? does the toy collection show an adequate representation of materials that occur in nature? not only are these toys appealing to the senses and long-lasting, they can be talked about in terms similar to those regarding whole foods: the closer to the original source, the better.

4. what senses does it use? is it beautiful to more than one sense? children are particularly sensitive to sensory stimulation, so the more it engages their senses, the better!

5. how is it organized? i loved this guideline - adults feel more comfortable and productive with organized materials in an organized environment. it only makes sense that children would feel the same way about their things! are toys easy to find and accessible?

6. is there too much? the author stressed that this might be the most important guideline. are we teaching our children to overconsume, or to appreciate what they have? do they KNOW what all they have? if not, there's probably too much - or it's probably not organized well.

(guidelines are from 'the creative family' by amanda blake soule)

a few more that came to mind as i was reading:
*do you know where it comes from? who made it and why?
*is it repurposed/could it later be repurposed?

just some things that have been on my mind lately - definitely not saying that it should be a hard and fast rule for every family, i just think it's the direction i'd like to go.

fortunately i don't have swine flu.

so, while feeling nauseous and tired could be attributed to H1N1 or any number of other bugs, the only bug i have is a fetus.

that's right. you heard it from the fetus-grower's mouth: i'm super fertile. we think this little bugger is going to pop its way out around april 30.

i'm going to go lay down and pray that god drops some KFC on my doorstep.

homegrown hygiene.

um, yucky title. kind of yucky results.

okay, so it all started with a piece of garlic. if you rub a crushed clove of garlic on the bottom of your foot, in a few seconds you can taste it in your mouth. not only is this gross because you now have foot food in your mouth, but it's also gross because it shows that what goes on your skin ends up in your bloodstream and then elsewhere in your body.

well, it makes sense then that if you're concerned with what you put in your body, hygiene products should make the list as well.

so i went to to research the products we were using on our skin, and i found that most of the products we use rate between a 5 and a 6 on a hazard scale of 0-10. not horrible, but really not great.

on a hazard scale of 0-10 of things you should eat, i would say filtered water is a 0, pure iocaine powder is a 10 (princess bride, anyone?) and a toaster is probably a 5-6. so while it's not eating iocaine powder, it's still like eating a toaster. or something.

whatever. moving on.

so i've been trying to find recipes for homemade health and beauty products. our first experimenting has been with bath products: shampoo, conditioner, and soap.

day 1: dr. bronner's peppermint castile soap (0) - um, so gross. apparently this soap is vegetable oil based, which left my hair SO greasy. i tried rinsing it with apple cider vinegar (ACV) (0) and conditioning with coconut oil (0). WOULD NOT RECOMMEND THIS METHOD TO MY LOVELY-LOCKED ENEMY.

day 2: baking soda (0) and ACV (0) to rinse. still sticky and gross.

day 3: ivory soap (3) and ACV to rinse....same results.

i was starting to get really discouraged and decided to just look up on the website what shampoos had a rating of 2 or lower (0-2 is low hazard). but i'm going to guess that since most of them were organic brands, they'd be WAY more expensive than my huge 78-cent box of baking soda. i did read that after transitioning away from commercial detergent (shampoo) products, your hair kind of does a purge before it normalizes. after that it's actually less greasy than it would be if using shampoo regularly, since shampoos contain waxes and mineral oil (a petroleum byproduct) that builds up on your hair.

so i decided to stick with the baking soda a little longer.

day 5: baking soda and lemon juice (0) to rinse - WAY BETTER RESULTS!!! i think i may stick with this.

baking soda has done great on atticus' hair all along (baby shampoo has a rating of 5). we've been continuing to use our regular dove soap, since it's only a 3 and the castile soap was making me break out. (and the honey/salt/cinnamon mixture, while it made me smell like a fresh-baked cookie, kept getting stuck all over the inside of the tub and i'd find rogue bits of cinnamon in my pants at the end of the day. not super thrilling.)

for baby lotion, i just add a tiny bit of coconut oil to his bath water after i've washed him and kind of rinse him with it. he doesn't feel greasy (although, a LITTLE DAB'LL DO YA with the coconut oil) and he feels soooooo soft!! i like it even better than baby lotion.

i'm liking experimenting with new things, but i'm giving my shampoo situation a month to iron itself out. if it's still "purging" then, i'll be buying something commercial and calling it a day.

***UPDATE: screw the baking soda. today i used what little is left of my herbal essences shampoo and garnier fructis conditioner and my hair smelled like a high-hazard heaven. WILL be switching to a lower-hazard albeit still REAL shampoo product. (you know it's bad when you keep trying to blow-dry the water out of your hair and then realize it's HEAD GREASE, not water, that is already on your head immediately after stepping out of the shower. and, shudder.)

i like to call the look 'homeless chic' and it's just not cutting it in the van voorst house. while we are on the crazy side, our standards are not that low. 78 cents a box for baking soda or not.

it's a garage sale miracle!!!

todd and i had been planning on asking for cloth diapering supplies for atticus' birthday. it's not like we're not used to making investments in a lot of diapers all at once, but cloth diapering has expensive start-up costs and we were hoping we could get some help with it.

then i found myself at a garage sale on friday with TONS of diapering stuff for sale - in really good condition - for really cheap! but since i needed to talk it over with todd, and he didn't get home until after the garage sale was over for the day, i wasn't sure if they'd still be there the next day. so we discussed it, decided it was a good idea, and i prayed HARD that they'd still be there on saturday.

so i left bright and early saturday morning, but forgot about the iowa/iowa state game traffic (um, 8 am was a madhouse) and then i forgot where exactly the garage sale had been. i was totally freaking out until by god's grace i found it - and all the diapers were still there!

so, for 50 bucks, i got:

7 dozen diapers in both infant and toddler sizes
12 bummis wraps sm-lg
2 pairs of waterproof pants
1.5 boxes of disposable liners
2 diaper pails
2 waterproof pail liners

um, how awesome is that?! and the lady reassured me that none of the items had ever been through the dryer...considering they don't have a dryer. (they were those people - lots of wooden toys and cast iron cookware and, well, cloth diapers available. my kind of folks.) the guy said they'd hold up through all our kids unless we were planning on having like six kids or it looks like we may end up trying to garage sale for more diapers at some point.

the only downside to buying cloth diapers at a garage sale is that another kid has crapped in them. but we're the van voorsts, and that's how we roll.

pride and parenting: 2

some final thoughts.

do i think we're doing okay? yes i do. do i think there's room for improvement? absolutely i do. i've only been at this for nine months now; i do NOT have this whole mama-thing anywhere near figured out. i'm challenging myself to REMEMBER this and to give a little more grace to others when they don't do things my way, and i'm asking others to do the same.

obviously, we shouldn't be parenting all by ourselves (we were created to live and learn in community), or be too proud to accept advice, encouragement and even rebuke from trusted veteran parents or, more importantly, god.

we also shouldn't believe that there is no "right" way to do certain things - some things are black and white issues (whether you feed your child organically is not, whether you feed your child real food is. obviously). but there are things that are "open hand" issues, in the words of mark driscoll. and frequently, i find myself too proud to admit that my opinions and passions fall into this category. i also find my pride getting offended at well-intentioned friends, family and strangers who just seek to help me make my job a little easier.

so long story short, i should swallow my pride and accept advice and opinions from others, but also take certain things with a grain of salt because i, not anyone else, have been given the responsibility of stewarding my family as a wife and mother, and not every piece of advice i receive would be best for my particular family.

so, thanks to the judgmental folks at hickory park the other day, i'm feeling much more confident in my parenting! hopefully any parents reading this feel encouraged as well! if you are doing the best you can with what you have - god's word and your time, education, family, and finances - , then consider yourself successful!

some thoughts on pride and parenting: 1

atticus has been doing this thing lately where he likes to shriek at the top of his lungs. he's stopped doing it at home, but still loves doing it in public. we're handling it, so it has started to fade out, but it's definitely still a work in progress.

today i was eating lunch at hickory park with a friend, and atticus shrieked. the two older couples at the table next to us (who i THOUGHT had been staring because atticus is so stinkin' cute...nbd) started whispering and rolling their eyes, and one of the ladies was like, "he's done it at least five or six times now." later, when we got up to leave, i heard one of the men make some judgmental comment about how atticus wasn't wearing any shoes.

my first reaction was to get really angry on the inside. he is nine months old, people. he's not going to always sit still and quietly in public, regardless of how many times you say no. and seriously, why does it matter if he wears shoes?

then, i realized that i should be thankful that they were merely talking about my child and my parenting skills behind my back rather than to my face. seriously. because as a parent, it often seems like everyone thinks they would parent your kid better than you ever could, including people who don't even have children of their own. and i wish people would have to pay me in order to give me unsolicited advice about my family, because then maybe i could afford to put atticus in some very expensive shoes.

i also realized that i am also guilty of giving unsolicited advice. i think it's everyone's tendency to have opinions and even passions that work well in their own family, that they would like to share with others. there's nothing inherently wrong with that. it's just when we think that our way of doing things should be THE way of doing things, or that our opinions should be accepted as gospel truth, that we cross the line. (a quick disclaimer, though, there are things that are gospel truths. as in, stuff found in the gospel.)

so, here's an apology to anyone out there who has felt that i have pushed my opinions about child-rearing (or frugal living or green cleaning...) as a "you ought to" rather than a "if it works for you" pieces of advice.

new jammies

guess what atticus thinks about his new, high-fashion sleepwear?

also, i made a candle out of bacon grease. nbd.

as close as i come to suburban homesteading.

so much of my day is spent thinking about food: menu planning, meal prep in the morning (thawing meat, etc), meal prep at mealtime, baking, making baby food, batch cooking, washing dishes, cleaning the stove and oven, thinking about which friend i can con into lending me some freezer space, seen as how mine is at max. capac. (for all you lisagrace fans out there), etc.

the other morning i realized that my grossest food job is chicken. yes, chicken in general. (if you have a strong gag reflex, perhaps stop reading now.)

i buy whole chickens from aldi, thaw them, then roast them whole. easy enough considering i don't have to kill and pluck them myself, except the whole "rinsing out the body cavity" thing. never thought i'd find myself regularly putting my hand up a chicken's butt.

after it's cooked, i take off the skin, take as much of the chicken off possible, then freeze it in meal-sized portions for use later in things like enchiladas and soup. i can get about 4 meals from a small chicken. nice.

so then i have this gangly, pathetically meatless chicken in front of me, which i promptly boil in a big pot of water with some veggies and seasonings for stock. i then strain it and measure this into one-cup quantities in plastic cups and freeze. then i put all the little frozen blocks of stock into a single freezer bag to use in recipes that call for broth or stock. i call it garbage soup. mmmm, garbage soup.

this weekend, i even tried frying the skin into cracklins (how very ma ingalls of me) to use in place of bacon bits in quiche and other things like that.

at the end of saturday morning, my skin smelled like chicken from the inside out. or really, just on the outside - i wasn't able to smell the inside, but i'm pretty sure it would have smelled like chicken, too. however, i felt very native american in that no part of the chicken went to waste. (well, that's not entirely true - i forgot to take out the giblets before roasting and that...was gross...and definitely a waste.)

so, in summary, although 'little house in the big woods' (which i read this morning) makes playing with pig bladders and making head cheese look glamorous, i'm not so sure. i think chicken is enough to keep me entertained for a good long time.

god doesn't exist, he subsists. - rc sproul

totally unrelated to the title, i've been a little discontent lately. i would really like to switch our family to more of a whole-foods, organic diet. but considering our (voluntarily) VERY limited grocery budget, i just can't justify spending $5 a pound for organic chicken when i can get the hormone-choked kind at aldi for 79 cents a pound. (that's right, 79 cents a pound! i hope atticus marries aldi someday so we can be related.), i found myself complaining to todd one night about how i really wished we had an unlimited budget (or an organic aldi - be still my heart) so that i could jump on the organic bandwagon with the rest of society. but, as usual, todd had a better outlook on the whole situation than i did, and said something really profound:

"we have a limited budget so that we're able to give more away. we don't eat organic so that other people can eat."

choke, choke. um, good point christian husband.

then i ran across this tidbit:

"Conventional good stuff is still good stuff. The most important thing is to eat something REAL. The country isn’t in a health crisis because our we eat too much produce with pesticides. If only! It’s in a crisis because we don’t eat enough produce of any kind. So first things first, people, get up to your gizzard in some plant foods. A conventional pesticide-laden peach is, like, a bazillion times better for you than organic goldfish crackers."

so with that in mind, bring on the aldi produce.

ahh, politics.

if you know me at all, you know i am highly involved in politics. or not.

in fact, if i ran into rush limbaugh in hyvee (or, more realistically for me, aldi. or more realistically for rush, some d.c. area republicans-only store, so probably fareway) i would have no idea it who i was talking to and would probably ask for a price check on store-brand tortilla chips.

however, the following quote was posted by laura on her blog, and i had a good laugh.

The healthcare bill will be written by a man who doesn’t understand it (John Conyers), passed by a Congress who hasn’t read it, signed by a President who smokes, funded by a man who cheated on his taxes, and overseen by an obese Surgeon General. What could go wrong?—Rush Limbaugh

hahaha, oh rush. you do have a sense of humor. i should call you rush limLAUGH. only in print though, because it wouldn't make as much sense to hear it as it would to read it.


i've gotten the urge to simplify our lives. first undertaking: atticus' toys. seriously, he has so many toys, and yet his favorite things to play with are a plastic cup, a blush applicator, my hairbrush, HIS hairbrush, a highlighter (with the lid jammed on TIGHTLY- don't worry), a piece of cardboard, an old magazine, an old CD, a wooden spoon and a canning ring.

so why all the fancy toys?
i tried to go through his toy basket and keep only high quality things that he would likely play with...the only problem is that I'M attached to a lot of them. i would find myself thinking things like, "he's never liked this toy, but i got it as a shower gift" or "even though he's never shown any interest in this one, maybe the next kid would like it." um, i'm apparently more attached to his toys than he is.
so i'm working on an experiment. i cleared out half of his toys and put them in a bag (out of sight, out of mind). in a couple days, i'm going to go through and clear out half of what's left. if there are specific things in the bag that i find myself missing or truly regretting getting rid of, i will retrieve only those things. in a couple weeks, i will sell or donate the remaining toys. i think it's better to keep our house uncluttered and allow someone else to potentially get use out of these things than to keep them around out of sentimentality.
obviously, i'm not getting rid of everything, or even all purely sentimental items. just trying to foster an attitude of thankfulness for the things we DO have rather than an attitude of stress because of all the things we've accumulated but don't want to manage, take care of, or keep organized.

atticus' toy basket AFTER clearing out half of what was in it!

next project: my clothing...yikes. if i find myself far too attached to atticus' toys, this one will be hard.