Friday, September 28, 2012

This Will Happy Up Your Friday::Weekend Links



best photo bomb ever

Does anyone else need to laugh?  I've had one of those weeks that leave me thankful for friends and downright desperate for laughter.  During difficult days I'm grateful for those rare people in life who consistently make this planet far more fun and hilarious.  Michelle, the photo bomber is one of those treasures.  Her resume of ridiculousness is impressive. She's one of the girls who randomly decided to join the Fourth of July parade we were watching this summer.  She up and joined a parade, ya'll.  One moment a spectator.  The next, a card-carrying, pageant waving, parade participant.  Even though Michelle is more than a decade younger than I am, when she sends me a text she oftentimes refers to me as "Dumb-butt." This is love.  She is the best kind of wonky. Without people like Michelle, this world would be sad and as bland as gluten-free, organic cereal.

I propose a toast to all the Michelles in our lives.  Got a Michelle?  Tell me a funny story.  Let's laugh our way into the weekend.

P.S.  Today my oldest baby turned 13.  I'm not writing a post about him today because I would cry, and I try not to cry on Fridays. Besides, we can't have his party for a few weeks, so we're kind of in denial that we're now the parents of a teenager.  Pass the wine.  The whole bottle.

How about some weekend links?

This is exactly why I am too afraid to learn to knit or crochet.

Don't forget!  I'm excited to get together with some friends and watch this on Monday.  Are you watching?

This is scary.  I keep trying to remind myself that my kids are watching and one day (way too soon) they will be driving.

This is creative and beautiful.

Yes.  Have you felt this way lately?

Nursing moms, isn't this fantastic?

I love this idea for boys.  

I'm reading this right now and loving it.  It reminds me of two other books I love - this and this.

This is something to follow along with this week.  Mercy Project is rescuing their first group of child slaves.  Don't miss it.

Can I introduce you to the other lovely ladies in the photo? The red dress is Juliette. She is the reason why the Fair Trade Fair is a reality.  The white shirt holding the cute baby is Becca. She teaches Hudson's class at school. The serial killer in the back - Meesh.  My heart swells with love for the people in this picture.

I hope your weekend is lovely and filled with just the right amount of wonky and wonderful.  If you get down, simply take a gander at Michelle's freak of a photo bomb.  When I needed a laugh this week, it was my go-to, instant source of happiness.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Favorite Fall Food::Pumpkin Muffins



2 1/2 c. sugar
8 oz. pkg. of cream cheese
1/2 c. butter
4 eggs
15 oz. can of pumpkin
3 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Combine sugar, softened cream cheese, and softened butter, mixing until well blended. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Blend in pumpkin. Add combined dry ingredients, mixing just until moistened. Pour into greased and floured muffin pans. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

I got this recipe from a friend a hundred years ago.  My boys associate fall with pumpkin muffins.  Because I detest baking, my favorite plan is to make a whole bunch of these, let them cool, then freeze the muffins in large freezer bags.  When the boys want one, they take a muffin out of the freezer and pop it in the microwave.  I only cook once, but the boys have muffins for weeks.  Best. Baking. Plan. Ever. 

This year, with the help of people way smarter than myself, I'm determined to come up with a paleo pumpkin muffin.

Happy Fall, ya'll.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Obama's Human Trafficking Speech




Did you watch the President's speech about Human Trafficking today?  No matter what our political affiliations are, human trafficking is a human rights issue I hope we can all come together to fight against.  If you don't want to watch the speech, you can read it in its entirety here.  I've added some helpful links to the great organizations and initiatives mentioned today by Obama.

These were my favorite parts of the speech...

"[Human trafficking] ought to concern every person because it is a debasement of our common humanity.  It ought  to concern every community because it tears at our social fabric.  It ought to concern every business because it distorts markets.  It ought to concern every nation because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime.  I'm talking about the injustice - the outrage of human trafficking which must be called by its true name - Modern Slavery."

"When a man desperate for work finds himself in a factory or on a fishing boat or in a field working, toiling for little or no pay and beaten if he tries to escape - that is slavery.  When a woman is locked in a sweat shop or trapped in a home as a domestic servant alone and abused and incapable of leaving - that's slavery.  When a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed - that's slavery.  When a little girl is sold by her impoverished family...runs away from home, or is lured by the false promise of a better life and then imprisoned in a brothel and tortured if she resists?  That's slavery.  It's barbaric.  It's evil, and it has no place in a civilized world."

"We are especially honored to be joined today by advocates who dedicate their lives and at times risk their lives to liberate victims and help them recover.  This includes men and women of faith who like the great abolitionists before them are truly doing the Lord's work.  Evangelicals.  The Catholic Church.  International Justice Mission.  World Relief.  Even individual congregations like Passion City Church in Atlanta and so many young people of faith who have decided their conscience compels them to act in the face of injustice.  Groups like these are answering the Bible's call to seek justice and rescue the oppressed."

"For all the progress we've made, the bitter truth is, trafficking also goes on right here in the United States.  It's the migrant worker unable to pay off the debt to his trafficker.  The man lured here with the promise of a job, his documents then taken, and forced to work endless hours in a kitchen.  The teenage girl forced to walk the streets.  This should not be happening in the United States of America."

"There are more than 20 million victims of human trafficking around the world."

"Congress should renew The Trafficked Victims Protection Act.  Whether you're a conservative, liberal, Democrat, or Republican, this is a no-brainer.  This is something we should all agree on."

"Every business can take action...Companies have a responsiblity to make sure that their supply chains, stretching into the far corners of the globe are free from forced labor.  The good news is, more and more responsible companies are holding themselves to higher standards...that includes the New Global Business Coalition Against Trafficking.  Companies that are sending a message:  Human trafficking is not a business model.  It's a crime, and we are going to stop it."

"Every faith community can take action.  By educating their congregations, by joining in coalitions that are bound by the love of God and a concern for the oppressed.  And like that good Samaritan on the road to Jericho, we can't pass by indifferent.  We have to be moved by compassion.  We've got to bind up the wounds.  Let's come together around a simple truth that we are our brother's keeper and our sister's keeper."

"Every citizen can take action by learning more, by going to the website we helped to create, slavery footprint.org, by speaking up and insisting that the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the products we buy are made free of forced labor, by standing up against the degradation and abuse of women.  That's how real change is made - from the bottom up."

"Right now there is a man on a boat casting a net with his bleeding hands knowing he deserves a better life - a life of dignity - but doesn't know if anyone is paying attention.  Right now there is a woman hunched over a sewing machine glancing beyond the bars on the window knowing if just given the chance she may one day sell her own wares - but she doesn't think anyone is paying attention.  Right now there is a young boy in a brick factory covered in dust hauling his heavy load under a blazing sun thinking if he could just go to school he might know a different future, but he doesn't think anyone is paying attention.  Right now there is a girl somewhere trapped in a brothel crying herself to sleep again and maybe daring to imagine that some day - just maybe - she might be treated not like a piece of property but as a human being.  Our message to them today is - to the millions around the world- we see you.  We hear you.  We insist on your dignity and we share your belief that if just given the chance, you will forge a life equal to your talents and worthy of your dreams.  Our fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time and the United States will continue to lead it..."

"The change we seek will not come easy.  We know that every life saved in the words of that great proclamation is an act of justice: Worthy of the "considerate judgement of mankind" and "the gracious favor of almighty God."    

Obama mentioned a few survivors and their stories in his speech today.  Read about Ima Matul and Sheila White.  Their stories of survival and how they are working to free others who have been trafficked are inspiring.

Be a Modern-Day Abolitionist

These are our favorite organizations working to eliminate human trafficking and the underlying reasons behind this injustice.  Connect with them!  Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.  Support the work they are doing!

Mercy Project - they will free their first group of child slaves next week in Ghana.  They are not only freeing children from slavery, they are working to heal the broken structures that cause kids to be trafficked in the first place.

Free the Captives - an incredible organization in Houston working to bring justice to trafficked victims and to educate communities about human trafficking.

International Justice Mission - a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work with local officials to secure immediate victim rescue and aftercare, to prosecute perpetrators and to ensure that public justice systems - police, courts and laws - effectively protect the poor.

Thoughts about the Speech Today 

I'll admit - I put very little hope in man-made proclamations and governments - no matter what brand of politician is in office.  The issues Obama addressed today are enormous and complex.  The reasons for modern-day slavery are vast and woven into the very fabric and belief systems of many cultures around the world.  As Americans, we often do not understand the framework in other cultures that allow human trafficking to affect millions of people world-wide.  We hardly have a grasp on why and how modern-day slavery is happening right here within our borders.  We're not all that sure how our own spending habits and corporate policies (or lack thereof) play into the puzzle of human trafficking and modern day slavery.  So I'm always a little nervous when we, as Americans, begin to assert that we know how to bring about change in foreign countries.  Poverty, discrimination, racism, sexism - these sad realities fuel human trafficking, and they are each very difficult to address and legislate in other countries (and oftentimes in our own country). In some cultures long-standing ideas about women, children, race, and religion would require a substantial shift for human trafficking to be eradicated or in some cases - acknowledged. Obama had my attention when he began talking about how our government plans to work with other nations and with existing organizations to address the injustices of modern day slavery here and abroad.  No matter who ends up in the White House, it's exciting to hear these partnerships between nations, cultures, law enforcement, corporations, and existing, anti-human trafficking organizations could one day become a reality.

It was moving to hear the President address these issues and talk with resolve and force about this variety of human rights violations.  When modern-day slavery makes national news, I think we have reason to celebrate. I'm grateful any time these injustices are discussed in public forums.  However, I think the most striking comment Obama made today was this one:

"Every citizen can take action by learning more, by going to the website we helped to create, slavery footprint.org, by speaking up and insisting that the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the products we buy are made free of forced labor, by standing up against the degradation and abuse of women.  That's how real change is made - from the bottom up."

I was reminded that change happens when I decide to care.  Change happens when individual people like you and like me decide human life and dignity matter more than "every day low prices" and much more than our own comfort and convenience.  Change happens when every day people see injustice and decide to actually do something about it.  Change happens when we're honest and admit that money talks louder than anything else, and we have the power to vote for the kind of world we want to live in every time we reach for our debit card.  Change starts right here at the bottom by people who will never speak at a fancy conference - by people whose names will never end up in a history book - by people who will never have an organization named after them - by people who will never own a URL. Obama's speech caused me to once again ask myself these questions -

What am I doing to ensure that I hand over a better world to my children?  What am I personally doing to fight for a world free of injustices like human trafficking, forced labor, and child slavery?  As a follower of Jesus, how am I modeling for my children the gospel lived out as it relates to freedom, justice, and the sacred value of human life? Right here - at the bottom - how am I laboring towards a day when all men are free and every soul knows its worth?

Related Links:

International Justice Mission responds to Obama's Speech.

 Find out how many slaves work for you at Slavery Footprint - this is a good combination of interesting and awful.

One of my favorite resources - The Better World Shopping Guide

Did you watch the speech today?  What did you think?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fair Trade Fair


Think about this: Just one Fair Trade purchase from every American churchgoer 
this Christmas would lift one million families out of abusive poverty for one whole year.  

I've been dreaming about a Fair Trade Fair in our town for years.  I was really excited when my friend, Juliette, said she has had the same vision and was willing to help make this market a reality.  Juliette is a Type-A, organized, go-getter, so she's basically the reason this market has moved from the "I'd love for this to happen" phase to the "Get out!  I can't believe this is actually happening" phase.  What would this world be like without Type A's?  If you've been dreaming of a Fair Trade Fair in your town, I wanted to pass along some information that will hopefully inspire you and give you some great pointers for getting your market ready.

1.  Form a Team

Thankfully, a solid group of women from our church and from our community have offered to help us before, during, and after the Fair.  If you live locally and want to help out, let me know!  Our market will run for two days, and we will have a lot of products available.  We'll need plenty of people to help spread the word, set up, man the tables during the event, and help us pack up and return the products we don't sell.  Without a team, this would be impossible.  Even if your event will be smaller, it would still be nice to have some help.  Maybe you'll get lucky and even end up with a "Juliette" on your team.

2.  Pick a Location

You could host the Fair Trade Market in your home or at your church. If you don't want to host the event at your home or having it at your church won't work, it might be nice to think of a local business that can hopefully benefit in some way from hosting the Fair Trade Fair at their location. Our first choice was a local frame/art gallery.  Thankfully, Greta, the owner goes to our church.  She is a huge supporter of the arts and is graciously giving us some space for the fair in her gallery. I'm personally hoping that having the market at The Frame Gallery will not only be a great venue for our market, but will also encourage guests to shop locally and buy some of the fabulous art and products in Greta's shop.  Plus, we get to hang out with Greta for the weekend.  That's what I call a win-win.

3.  Decide what Products You want to Sell

There are several fair trade businesses that will allow you to order product, sell what you can, and then return the products that do not sell.  There is no financial risk involved!  Here's a great list of companies that offer product on consignment:

Come Together Trading

If you live near the Dallas area you can pick up a large variety of great fair trade products from this Texas-based company.  There is no risk involved.  Simply return the items that do not sell.

Servv

This organization has been around for a very long time.  They work directly with farmers and artisans in developing worlds.  They offer a large variety of product to choose from for a fair trade market. Once again, there is no risk involved.  To find out how to host a Servv Sale, go here.

Apparent Project

One of my favorite companies, Apparent Project in Haiti, is working to keep families together by teaching Haitians a craft.  The jewelry from The Apparent Project is beautiful.  Apparent Project will send you a party box filled with an assortment of jewelry (and other items if requested.)  Sell what you can and return the rest.  Email Apparentpartysales@gmail.com to get the ball rolling.

Batik Boutique

This is an incredible company making a huge difference in the lives of women in Malaysia.(Our friends run this company).
You can find beautiful scarves, products for kids, and baby slings at the Batik Boutique.  To order products, risk free, for your Fair Trade 
Market, email amy@thebatikboutique.net

Global Mamas

You can find a variety of products to sell at your Fair Trade Market from Global Mamas.  Simply contact them at wholesale@globalmamas.org or call 800-338-3032.

4.  Spread the Word

Did you know anyone can write a press release and submit it to the media?  As long as your Fair Trade Market is not for profit, most media outlets don't mind spreading the word free of charge.  We've also created a Facebook group for our market, and will count on Facebook a great deal to get the word out to people in our community.  On our Facebook page, we'll post photos of the products we'll have available. Hopefully this will get people excited about all the great products they can find at the Fair Trade Fair.  Don't forget to contact local churches and let them know about your market.  We'll ask to hang up posters at local churches and businesses.

I'm really excited about the Fair Trade Fair this year.   Have you ever hosted or organized a Fair Trade Market?  If so, got any pointers for us? 
Know of any other companies that offer products on consignment without any risk?

My next project - spending way too much time on Pinterest looking for display ideas.  Got any simple display ideas that you love?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Weekend Links



Got any great weekend plans?  Anson has his first soccer game of the season.  Hudson has fallen in love with his new Buzz Lightyear bike - so that's where we find him in all his spare time.  I guess we could argue that all your time is spare time when you're 4. On Saturday morning I have big plans to finally watch this week's Parenthood.  Was it good?  Will I cry?  The Middles and I will practically move into the theater for the next three days.   We have grandparents in to see the show and lots of sweet friends will be in the audience.  Such a busy, dreamy weekend.

How about some weekend links?

Stories like this one and companies like this make me smile.

Since we've been talking camping around our home, I seriously sat and watched this whole video and almost decided I'd never camp.  Ever.  I can't believe I'm this old and have never had to do this in the great outdoors.  Maybe I should make a video titled, "The Art of Holding it" or "Bladders of Steel."

Wow!  What a great idea.  I love this company.

This is interesting and inspiring.

I used this concoction this week and it actually worked!

Speaking of aging, this post is really great.  I admire this perspective and want to be there some day.  Until then, you can find me right here whining and applying anti-wrinkle eye cream.

We are getting all kinds of excited about this.

Every time I read stories like this one I think, "Are you kidding me?  How could you not know?"  Glad she and her baby are okay.

This is beautiful because redemption always is.

These photos are fabulous.

However you spend your weekend I hope it's wonderful and filled with just the right amount of drama that makes life full and worth celebrating.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

He's a Music Man -


River City Kid


I could eat him up.  Right this second.


Ashton (Winthrop) with Cynthia (Mrs. Paroo - she's INCREDIBLE)

I admit - I could be just a tad-bit bias, but I think Ashton as Winthrop gives little Ronnie Howard a run for his money. I'm not sure if there are many other moments in life more meaningful or perfect than when you watch your child come alive as they tap into their natural, God-given, it's-just-always-been-there, talent.

This kid seems to float through his days.  He sings his songs all over the house, and we even caught him in the back yard performing for the cat.  He watches the clock all afternoon, eager to leave the house and get to practice.  While Hayden and I are dragging around and complaining about how tired we feel, Ashton is bouncing around the house singing Gary Indiana and asking, "Is it time to go yet?"  The little boy who was almost too terrified to audition told me last night, "I can't wait for all those seats to be FULL of people."  Who is this kid?

The other day I said, "Ashton - what if you had decided not to audition for this play?  Remember how afraid you were?  What if you had let fear win?"  He was quiet in the back seat of the car.  Then he slowly said, "I can't believe I almost didn't do the play, cause now I never want to stop doing them."  We took a moment and let the truth soak in deep - deep enough to stay put forever.  He'll need that truth again one day.  So will I. I've read a great deal of books penned by brilliant thinkers and find myself listening to smart people talk just about every single day, but I have learned some of life's most profound lessons from the likes of a snaggle-toothed nine year old on short car trips home from the grocery store. Strange how that works, isn't it? The rest of the car ride home Ashton sat humming in the backseat while I thought of the joy, passion, and life I've probably missed out on simply because I believed Fear's sneaky lies.

And a little child will lead them....


This is my favorite costume I wear in the play. I feel like Mary Poppins.


The running shoes aren't allowed during the real performances.  Rats.



Since Saturday, we've been at the theater for four hours every single night for dress rehearsals.  We're exhausted!  I've been sick, I crippled myself running the other day, I'm behind in all area of my life, my family has eaten cereal for supper every night this week, but we're having such a great time working on this play and watching it all come together.  Isn't that weird?  I don't know how a person can be sick, tired, overwhelmed, and still manage to have a fabulous time, but that's exactly how I'd describe life this past month. While I'm at it, I'll go ahead and make another confusing, seemingly contradictory statement - "We have had so much fun, loved meeting a group of precious, talented, dedicated people, have been incredibly thankful for this opportunity to be in this show together, and yet I'm so ready for the play to be over!"

Theater life is confusing, I guess.

The show opens Friday night. I'm off to pick up a prescription from the pharmacy and explain what "Break a leg" means to the boys.

Related Posts:

The kids audition:  I Take All my Advice from Parenthood, and that's not Weird at all.

All photos by Alan Bryant.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Parenthood::My Favorite Scene from Last Week



"She'll never live here again."  
- Christina from Parenthood

Maybe it's because my baby is turning thirteen in a few days, but when Christina spoke those words about her graduating daughter my eyes filled up with heavy tears.  "She'll never live here again."  There's a time when Anson will go, and no matter if he's home for holidays or summers - I know.  It will never be the same.  The door to this segment of life we've known as parents will be closed - sealed - there is no opening it again.

Did anyone else's heart ache watching Haddie stand in front of her timeline?  Seeing her life - past through present, boiled down and simplified?  I found it a little hard to breathe realizing that life is kind of like that - flashes of memories and events.  "I hope as Anson looks back - those memories - the collection of moments that seem to surface - are mostly good.  Mostly beautiful.  Mostly full of love."

When Haddie blew her parents off in the airport, I could see - her struggle to know how to be independent.  How much is too much?  This season in her life becoming real.  Realizing she doesn't yet know the exact distance to push away.  How far is too far, how far is still too close?

When Haddie turned back, with teary eyes and a quivering lip to bury her face in her parents' arms, I lost it.  Did you?  I could not help but fast forward my mind to that same moment when we stand on the cliff of this new season with Anson.  In this moment right here - right now - it seems like parenting is a constant exercise in teaching, training, talking, discussing, deciding, and trying to understand and listen.  There are so many dreams I have for our children.  Dreams that include turning four young men out into this unpredictable, beautiful world filled with faith and the skills they need to continue to learn and grow.  I want them to not only know how to diagram a compound-complex sentence, fold towels, scramble eggs, and know how to be a good friend, but to also know the importance of hope, grace, and forgiveness.  Sometimes everything I want them to know seems too big - too much - mostly because I don't know how to do all of those things very well myself.

Watching Haddie turn and make a run for her parents - seeing the three of them simultaneously grieve and celebrate the moment when everything changes - I was reminded of how simple the goal really should be.

Love.

I don't know about you, but I can feel overwhelmed at times with all the to-do's of parenting.  The list of what needs to be accomplished seems never ending.  "Don't lock the keys in the car."  "Pick up your dirty clothes."  "Don't leave dad's tools outside."  "Feed the cat."  "Take out the trash."  "Don't forget to put a new bag in the trash can."  "This is how you make a cursive g."  "Go read."  "Do your math."  "Do you have everything you need for school today?"  "Yes.  People really brush their teeth this often." "You're wearing two different socks."  "Your shirt is on backwards."  "For the five hundredth time - don't leave food in your back pack."  "It doesn't seem like you were being very kind to your brother." "Don't follow the crowd."  "Who cares what they think."  "You are beautiful and perfect just like you are."  "Don't make comments about someone's appearance."  "How do you think that made her feel?"  "You can't flush that."  "You can't put that in the microwave." "Money can make people do terrible things."  "Sometimes the only reason we can forgive is because we've been forgiven for so much."

Sure - it would be great if half of what I feel busy teaching our kids would make itself at home in their souls, but isn't what I want most for our kids is for them to walk away from this season at home knowing they are deeply loved. More than the lessons about life, and even more than the lessons about faith - shouldn't love be the banner over it all?

Doesn't love cover a multitude of mess-ups?  Won't love cover up all the lessons we forgot to teach and the ones we taught all wrong?  If love is the goal, then won't these days feel less like a constant countdown and more like an incredible, daily opportunity?

If love is the focus, isn't there always an open door - always time to continue to support and speak into our children's lives even after they go?  Doesn't love offer the perfect environment for faith to grow?  If there's love - won't there be time to continue to learn from our children?  With love, is the door ever really closed?

Maybe it's because Anson is turning 13 in a few days.  Maybe I saw us standing in that airport with our oldest child.  Maybe watching Haddie wrapped up tight in her parents' arms - it hit me hard and heavy - if we simply send Anson out knowing he's loved - he's valuable - then what else is there, really?  Maybe it's because for a brief moment I think I saw God's heart towards us - and it didn't look like a heart filled with to-do lists, books to read, or a record of where we're failing.  It looked like teary-eyed-I've loved you all of your days kind of love.  I can't put my finger on why exactly, but I know I walked away from last week's Parenthood less stressed about the details and more eager to simply spend these last few years with Anson making sure he knows how much we love him.

Other Posts from Parenthood:

 I Take All My Advice from Parenthood, and that's not Weird at All.

Parenthood

Friday, September 14, 2012

War on Aging::Daily Sunscreen


As promised - the first of several posts about my anti-aging agenda (and my obvious delusions that this vague plan is going to actually delay the inevitable).  I give you Avalon Organics' Moisture Plus Lotion with SPF 18 - Lavender, for sensitive skin.  My friend, Mandi, introduced me to this lotion.  I wear this SPF moisturizer every single day even in the winter when I refuse to go outside. It offers "supreme sun protection, optimal moisturization" and "daily UVA and UVB protection with Vitamins C&E for defense against free radicals."  I honestly have no idea what free radicals are, but quite frankly - they sound like people I'd normally love to have over for dinner - yet here I am defending myself against them daily.  

Brief disclosure:  All the thoughts about the products (or other anti-aging tips in my arsenal) are all mine.  No one is paying me to talk about these products, and I bought them with my own money.

I love this lotion.  It smells great.  It goes on smooth.  It works as a perfect base for my makeup.  I've been using it for a little over a year now.  You can buy it from a great company called Vitacost for $11.23 a bottle.  I am an over-achieving slatherer, and yet I don't even make it through two bottles a year.  I also order my favorite deodorant from Vitacost.

So what about you?  Are you using sunscreen on your face every day?  What products do you use that you enjoy?  I hate how late in life I started applying daily SPF protection on my face.  I have always used sunscreen when swimming or during times when I knew I'd be in the sun, but it's relatively new for me to wear sunscreen every single day even when I'm not swimming or hanging out for long periods of time outdoors.

_________________________________

Got weekend plans?  Aaron is going to see this guy in concert tonight.  Three of us in this house are still in community theater mode.  As thankful as I am for us to have this experience, I'm also really tired, behind, haven't run since Saturday, and so I'm ready for the play to be over. It's very weird to fully love something and yet also want it to end soon.  We have met a lot of fun, new people at the theater.  Ashton is Winthroping it up, and is so cute I simply don't know what to do with myself.

How about some weekend links...

Speaking of skin care products, have you seen this website?  Pretty interesting.  Simply type in your favorite cosmetic or toiletry and find out what's inside.

I would love to see my high school English teacher wearing this.

I'm eating a whole pan of these the next time I want to hate myself.

Then I'll eat nothing but these for three days - just to balance it all out.

Once the weather cools off the kids start asking for these.  I am bound and determined this year to learn how to make a paleo/gluten-free version.

This is the perfect, dreamy song for the weekend.

Wow.  Isn't this the truth?

Anyone going to see this?

This is a great coupon.  Yum.

We are talking seriously about going on our first ever tent-camping, camping trip.  I need to read this.

I am in love with this idea from Half the Sky - and this is one of my favorite musicians featured today. 30 free songs by female artists supporting women?  Heck yeah!

Don't forget to put this on your calendar October 1 and 2.

No matter what you're up to this weekend, I hope it's beautiful.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Parenthood


Do you watch Parenthood?  I love this show.  In all honesty, I'm really not sure if there has ever been an episode that did not make me cry.  The writing is superb and the family dynamics are portrayed with the perfect amount of beauty and dysfunction.  Each episode finds a way to celebrate the best parts of parenting and family while exploring deep places of fear, hurt, and uncertainty.

I can't tell you how many times Aaron and I have been talking (or arguing) through a difficult parenting decision or troubleshooting a behavior issue in one of our children (or ourselves) and said, "This is going to sound dumb, and I can't believe I'm about to say this - but remember how Gabby used that sticker system with Max?  What if we tried stickers?"  We don't take all of our parenting advice from Parenthood (now that would be crazy) but let's just say that if we miraculously end up turning out four productive, caring people into this world who love us and one another, you better believe Parenthood will be mentioned in my short, imaginary acceptance speech at the make-believe banquet where parents go to receive made up awards.  At this banquet all the nominees ride in on unicorns and fat-free, sugar free desserts that taste exactly like the fat-filled, sugar-filled varieties are served to guests by rainbow fairies.  You really should attend.

I can't put my finger on why this show speaks to me every week or why I love the characters so much I wish I could jump into the television and live next door to one of them.  Maybe it's because the idea of extended families living near one another, sharing daily life with each other, and committing to love one another and work through problems no matter what is something we all long for but few families are able to fully experience.  Maybe we see ourselves and our own families in the homes on the show.  We see what's good and should be celebrated about our familial relationships - as well as the areas of struggle, failure, and pain. This show conjures up complex thoughts and emotions because each episode either touches on something raw and real in my own, present-day home, emotions I have as I remember my upbringing and family, or feelings about the current dynamics within my extended family.  If Parenthood is anything - it's wonderfully and horribly human.

The new season started on Tuesday.  Every week I'm going to attempt to put into words the moments during each episode that moved me or inspired me.  I'm not going to write a summary of each show.  I'm simply going to write about an overriding idea, theme, feeling, or memory that was triggered while watching each week.  In that way, even if you don't watch Parenthood, we can still discuss the honest ideas and emotions this show dives into during every episode.

If you watch this show, why do you like it so much?  Which family on the show mirrors your current-day family closest?  Which family on the show mirrors the family in which you grew up?  Which character do you most identify with on Parenthood?  I'll meet you in the comments section to share my answers.  Join me?

Related:  I Take All My Advice from Parenthood, and that's not Weird at All.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Art of Aging and Slathering



Have you seen the preview for This is 40?  When Aaron emailed me a link to the trailer and said, "I swear - I think you wrote this movie" I was intrigued.  A few minutes into the trailer I was laughing and rolling my eyes.  I guess I can see (barely) how Aaron could think (wrongly) that I'm a little bit (I mean a tad bit) like the woman in the trailer who is freaked out about aging.  My fifty recent "I hate myself - I have wrinkles - I want to die - just go ahead and put me down now" meltdowns may have something to do with Aaron thinking I'm slightly (just a teensy-bit) scared (terrified) of getting older.

I'm not turning 40.  I still have a few more years to go, but still - I've been feeling old and tired lately.  We've all heard that beauty is fleeting.  I guess I didn't totally grasp that "fleeting" means beauty's rate of slippage could effortlessly pace with the likes of Usain Bolt.

Beauty is not fleeting.  It's galloping.  Galloping.  Beauty makes a break for it faster than a male exits a room when women start talking about birth or breastfeeding.

I have friends and read blogs written by women who completely embrace Gravity.  They have befriended Gray Hair.  With lighthearted laughter, a simple shrug, and a "Meh" they face that dreaded day when women must decide capris - not shorts - are their only summer option.

Their resolve is admirable and regrettably completely foreign to me.

For the time being, I have rock solid plans to go down breathlessly flailing and fighting wrinkles, weight gain, and floppy arms.  I don't want to care about my outward appearance.  It bothers me how shallow and vain I feel about my appearance changing.  I don't want to waste brain space worrying or spending time on areas of life that simply do not matter in the larger context of this world.  I make all of those statements while I'm obsessively slathering all sorts of creams and ointments in various key bodily locations.  Hating aging and coping poorly is obviously where I am right now.  I am well aware that I'm fighting a losing battle, and I'm fighting it with gusto which makes me both vain and idiotic.  Fabulous, right?  The logical side of my brain (this section inside my head is minuscule and only takes up a very tiny amount of space) reminds me that I've never seen a 75 year old lady - of the non-Hollywood, mortal variety - who looks like she did when she was 25.  Yet here I am - rubbing anti-aging cream on my face and neck twice daily.

How is everyone else feeling about getting older?  Are you handling your body changing better or worse than you expected?  How do you cope?   If you're young - go stand in front of a mirror and whether you feel like it or not - tell yourself how beautiful you are - hug yourself and chant, "It only gets worse.  It only gets worse."  Take lots of pictures of your legs.  One day you may or may not fall asleep crying, holding a picture of those gorgeous legs flowing out of shorts so short they stole sleep from your mother.

Most importantly - how is everyone fighting aging?  What products do you love?

Okay fine. (insert eye roll) Most importantly (I guess) - good thing our worth is not tied up in our physical appearance, that Aging's gnarly hands can never lay a wrinkled finger on our inner character and beauty.  That liver-spotted hag who visits me in my sleep and dances a devilish jig, whispering, "Sag.  Sag.  Sag!" is unable to wither the parts of my soul that have grown and are forever breaking forth in new life.  Growth, maturity, and a deeper faith mock Death and Aging. True beauty will ultimately win. (Right after we all go senile, forget the names of our children, people ignore us, and we start wearing diapers again - oh my gosh, Aging - I hate you.)

(she clears her throat) So for realz -

You better share your anti-aging secrets - your plan - if you've got one.  While I'm drinking plenty of water and performing neck exercises, I'll also be taking notes.

My plan - drink lots of water, exercise, whine a lot, wash my face every single day, cry, curse natural forces, slather, slather, slather, slather.  I'll be sharing the specifics in the next few posts.  Hope you'll hang out and contribute to the conversation.

"You sure are mean since your body got weird."  -- This is 40


Monday, September 10, 2012

9/11 Day::I Will Remember




Tomorrow is 9/11 Day.  9/11 Day is hosted by the 9/11 Day Movement. They are an international non-profit organization that encourages communities to observe September 11 every year through charitable service and good deeds. They created this observance soon after 9/11 to provide a positive way to forever remember and pay tribute to the 9/11 victims, honor those that rose in service in response to the attacks, and remind people of the importance of working more closely together in peace to improve our world. Today millions participate annually by taking time out on 9/11 to help others in need, in their own way.

Here are a few ways to get involved:

1.  On Tuesday, September 11, let your local police and fire departments know that you are thankful for their dedicated service to our communities.  You can write a note of thanks on their Facebook walls or send them a Tweet. 

2.  Send a thank you card or email to the service people you personally know in your life.

3.  Spend some time looking into charities and organizations doing great things - charities you've heard about but haven't made time to really research.  Connect with these organizations through Facebook or Twitter.  Look for opportunities to volunteer and become informed.  

Some of my favorites -

Mercy Project - freeing child slaves in Ghana.

Half the Sky - turning oppression into opportunity for women.

Apparent Project - keeping families together in Haiti by teaching a skill.  Their jewelry is beautiful.  I love every piece I own.

International Justice Missionsecuring rescue for victims of slavery & other violent forms of oppression.

The Fistula Foundation - raising awareness and funding for fistula treatment, prevention, and educational programs worldwide

Trade as One using fair trade to promote sustainable business and break cycles of poverty and dependency in the developing world.

The Batik Boutique - transforming the lives of women in Malaysia through job training.



4.  Keep up with tomorrow's events at the 9/11 Day Facebook page.



5.  Share your story.  Let’s remember together.  What do you remember about 9/11?  Where were you?  Did that day change you in some way?  I'll share my story - right after John Krasinski.  (I miss The Office).





I was pregnant with Hayden. I had finally quit dating the toilet and remembered my vow after Anson was born to do the next pregnancy differently.  There I stood - in our living room huffing my way through a stair step aerobic video. Two year old Anson was busy playing in his room.  During my first pregnancy, I never worked out and gained about 50 pounds. I ate a steady diet of anything I wanted and barely moved around. It's possible that I consumed about 3,000 calories a day and burned 3.8.  The impressive weight gain should surprise no one. With Hayden I was determined to eat healthy and exercise regularly. While I was in the middle of the workout, the phone started ringing. I ignored it. A couple minutes later, it began to ring again. I looked at the caller ID on the cordless phone. It was my mother. I decided she could wait until the video was over. My two year old was actually happy – content – playing really well. I wanted to finish the workout during this small window of opportunity.


The phone would not stop ringing.

Eventually I answered with an annoyed, “Mom! What?”

It took me several minutes to understand exactly what my mom was saying. “We're under attack.  Turn on the TV. Where is Aaron? Is he home?” While I was desperately trying to turn off the workout video and find a news station (I SUCK at all things electronic, so you have no idea how long this little switch-a-roo took me) my mom hysterically attempted to catch me up. I was glad she called.  Since ejecting my first human being from my body, I hadn't watched much grown up television. Unless Blues Clues decided to scroll the news at the bottom of the screen, I could have gone all day without knowing what had happened in New York.  I got off the phone with my mom and stood staring at the television for the longest time. At that point other reports of planes – in more cities – began to circulate. Aaron was near downtown Houston at seminary. I called him. Frantic. He had heard the news. His campus was in the process of determining whether or not to cancel class for the remainder of the day. I begged him to come home. I was surprised how scared I was that something awful would happen in downtown Houston.

I spent the rest of the day glued to the television. It was one of the first times I remember my heart breaking – tears streaming down my face – for people I did not know. I was a hormonal mess, but this was more than hormones.  This was a connection to the human race that I don't think I had ever been old enough to experience during a national tragedy. Other than a human bond, I had no real connection to the horrified faces on my television screen. I didn’t know the people who jumped out of the towers that day. I had never met the parents grieving for their missing children, yet it did not matter if I knew them. I was overcome with emotion for the survivors and the victims.

In the days that followed, I was moved by all the stories of love, care, and sacrifice. As terrible and terrifying as the events of September 11 were, as a young 20 something, I was moved by the strength and selflessness of human beings. For a brief moment, we simply came together. We loved deeply. We were compassionate.  We grieved with strangers. I sobbed with mothers over the death of their babies and for families as they buried a parent - their homes changed forever.  We set aside petty differences and united as one people. This was the first of many moments in my life when I witnessed the ability of tragedy to bring out the very best and the very worst in people - and tragedy's power to bring out the very best and worst in me.  In the aftermath, I remember the friction I felt about racial profiling, and the sadness surrounding the way American Muslims (or anyone who looked "Muslim") were treated (and probably are still treated).  Fear reigning - dancing wildly and ferociously through our nation, communities, the media, and my own heart.  I will always remember my first flight after 9/11 - watching an "Arabic-looking" man walk down the aisle - feeling simultaneously afraid and disgusted with myself. These feelings were new.  They made me sick, but I didn't know what to do with them.  Yet I also remember late night conversations with friends - each admitting our fear - the shame we felt - hating our racism, discrimination, and judgement.  Wanting love - not fear to lead the way.  Desiring good to grow in us and around us as a result of these disturbing events.  9-11.  It was tragic and yet beautiful.  I will never forget.

It's your turn.  Where were you?  How were you changed?

P.S. On a steady diet of salad and diligently exercising, I still managed to gain 50 pounds with the second baby. Wrong.  Wrong on so many levels.

9/11 in photos from The Boston Globe

Friday, September 07, 2012

Week Wrap Up and Weekend Links


7th grade

I swear - he was 2 a few months ago.


Pre-K, 5th grade, 3rd grade

As of Wednesday all Hendrick brains are officially being overloaded with information.  Today was our second day of school work at home.  Eight years of homeschooling and the first week inevitably finds me walking around the house muttering things like, "Uh.  Er.  Huh. Hmmm.  Where did all these kids come from?  Have I really done this before?"  The first week also finds the kids grumping around the house asking questions like, "Why? Why do we have to learn? Why can't we climb trees and catch turtles the rest of our lives?"  I have four words to say after our first week of school.  Is it summer yet?

Note to self for next September:  You'll find your groove again - eventually.  Slow, sleepy, unscheduled summers take some time to shake off, but soon you'll all surface and find Routine standing on the shore, ready to welcome you back home.

Yes - we learned about alliteration this week.  What of it?

We're still a part of a Classical Conversations community.  In a nutshell - our kids are classically educated.  They go to "school" one full day a week where they are presented with new information, show off their completed work to their peers/tutors, and then are home completing assignments the other four days of the week.

What's the haps in your part of the world this weekend?  We're still swamped in the land of community theater.  While the boys and I are running through Act One of the Music Man, Aaron will be tilling up the earth at our house. The ground is finally ready for some fall garden action.

How about some weekend links?

If you've ever sat through that moment when you hear a diagnosis for one of your kids, grab a box of tissues and watch this.  You are loved and you are not alone.

This caused me to stand and stare at my refrigerator.  Interesting.

This wrecks me.

I want these for winter.  I'm annoyingly cold-natured.  You don't want to be around me when the weather drops below 80.

Oh heavenly day - I'm in love with all of these.  All of them.

Where has this bad boy been all my life?

It's still 100 degrees in Texas, so why am I pinning things like this and this and this?

This is a new development. Check it out.  Are you following along?

Need to laugh this weekend?  Read the comments under this ridiculous new product from BIC.

If you're already laughing, this was such a funny idea.  The comments are hilarious.

Parenthood starts this week!

Oh. We've got Trouble. (hands on knees) Right Here in River City. (hands in the air) With a Capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for Pool.  (exit stage right)

Happy Weekend!






     

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Raven + Lily and a Discount Code








Have you heard about Raven + Lily?  They are based out of Austin and my friend Cameron is one of the women behind this beautiful company.  When Cameron was at Texas A&M she would spend time at my house.  Her love for justice and responsible consumerism were refreshing (and so were her homemade chocolate chip cookies.  I could eat 50 right now and not even think twice about it).  Cameron was a constant presence and sounding board in my life when I first began asking terrifying questions like, "Where did all this crap in my house come from, who is making it, and how is it possible for the shirt in my closet to travel from a cotton field to a factory in Cambodia and then across the ocean, land on a clothes rack in my favorite store, and come home with me for a mere $8.99?  $8.99?  How is that possible?  If I only paid $8.99 for this adorable shirt how did the people making my clothes make enough money to feed their families?  Did they get paid?  Are they treated well?"

Suddenly a bargain didn't feel so much like a bargain anymore.  Holding that $8.99 shirt in my hand I realized someone, somewhere had paid a hefty price for my shirt and that someone wasn't me.

I'm grateful for companies like Raven + Lily who value their artisans and treat them with fairness and respect.  Companies like this give us a unique opportunity as a consumer to use our purchasing power to vote for the kind of world we all want to live in and we want to hand over to our kids one day.

Raven + Lily is not only fair trade, organic, slave-free, and eco-friendly - their items are downright lovely.  Can I show you two of my favorites?  



I love these travel journals - and they are on sale.
Say it with me - "Stocking Stuff-uh!"

I'm sick in love with this scarf.  Don't mind me, I'm busy doodling Heather + scarf = true love forever and ever.  This scarf and I have already had a few imaginary babies.

{{Discount Code}}

See something you like?  Raven + Lily is offering a one week discount for all of us.  Get 20% off at checkout when you enter the code sitaspell.

If you want to feel inspired and hopeful spend some time on Raven + Lily's website, read the stories about the artisans, and connect with them on Facebook.  

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The Way It Was



Isn't it strange how you can walk into the same grocery store multiple times a week, know the layout so well you could stock the shelves in your sleep, but when you enter through the entrance on the opposite side of the store, it seems as though you've arrived in an entirely new world?  When the glass doors opened and I stepped inside the "other" entrance, it felt a lot like the first step out of an international airport on foreign soil.  There was nothing to do but stand there for a second, look around, think "Oh, this is where they keep the ace bandages" and fight the sudden urge to turn around and run towards the familiar.

I was heading through the store with no list because I only needed one item.  Surely I could remember.  Almond milk.  I grabbed the carton and walked towards the cashier. Then it hit me.

I want to dye my hair.

Three rows away from the check out stands I made a sharp, spontaneous right into the aisle of hair color.  Dark auburn.  Why not?  I grabbed two boxes.

As I was paying for my three items, the checker asked if I was changing my hair color.  Yes.  He laughed and replied with a spirited, "My mom always randomly decides to dye her hair."  Heaven. Help. Me.  When did 20 somethings start looking at me and lumping me in with their mothers?  Just a few years ago, I swear this same demographic allowed me to hang out in the group with their sisters or their friends. I hugged that bag of hair dye tight and marched out of the store muttering, "Your mother.  Are you kidding me?"

Hours later there were thin plastic gloves on my hands and colorful blobs of hair dye splattered all over the bathroom sink.  And on the floor.  And one on the toilet.  And how did some get on the wall behind me?  The boys were yelling, in dramatic fashion, about how I was smelling up the house.  Aaron came in to open a window only after declaring, "You're going to be beautiful and dumb if you don't get some fresh air in this bathroom."

I waited 20 minutes then stepped into the shower.  Wet my hair.  Lather.  I watched as streams of dark red dye streamed down my arms, pooling on the ground.  Jaws.  This is what it would look like to be attached by a shark in your shower.

When my hair was dry, Aaron said,  "It's bold and crazy, but I like it."  The boys?  No. Not so much. "Will your hair be like that tomorrow too, mom?" Hayden asked.  Yes and thanks.  Ashton was exasperated.  In the sweetest of voices he said, "I really can't stand your hair, mom.  I want it to go back the other way."  Aaron let out a guttural sigh and was about to lay into Ashton, giving him the speech he's had to give our boys more times than we can count - the one about what you say to women and what you don't.  "I'm really fine.  I like my hair, but yes - dive on into that speech - because if he ends up getting married one day, we'd like him to stay that way."  I have lived with tiny males long enough to not take their comments at face value.  They hate change.  If my hair is auburn for six weeks and then I dye it back to my natural color they will make these exact same remarks.  "We liked it better the way it was."

And don't we all?

I like my new do.  As my summer tan fades, the deep red tones make me feel less washed out and fully present inside my own face, but I keep finding myself standing in front of the mirror a lot disappointed that I still feel old and tired.  No amount of running, healthy eating, or water drinking seems to be able to take all of this and make it go back to the way it was before.  The fight against aging feels a lot like David and Goliath - except without the slingshot and stones.  The giant never falls and David is smashed into the ground.

Walking through the store, heading back from the dairy section with a carton of vanilla almond milk on my hip, I guess what I really wanted - more than hair dye - was magic.  Two boxes of ten years ago.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Mercy Project:: A Different Kind of Labor Day


With exception to white males, Pat Robertson has managed to offend every other demographic in America and cause most Christians to wonder why CBN refuses to pull the plug on the American Church's crazy drunk uncle.  After Pat Robertson's recent, absurd adoption comments on The 700 Club, I laughed out loud when I read a tweet by Rachel Evans -  


"I think it may finally be over for Pat Robertson. 
He just pissed off a bunch of moms."

Isn't that the truth?  I'm not downplaying the role of men in taking on an issue, but I do believe there are some core values that are deeply ingrained in most women, and when those issues are threatened, we can go a tad bit insane.

One of those issues deals with children.  You get the moms mad - and you better watch your back. We will cut you.



There’s an estimated 7,000 children who work in the Ghana fishing industry. Some of
these children are as young as 5 and 6 years old. All of these children are slaves.

Today while many in our country will take a day off from our jobs to celebrate the social and economic achievements of American workers, over 100 bloggers are using their voice to raise awareness about child labor, child trafficking, and what Mercy Project is doing to push back against those grave injustices.  Today as we celebrate Labor Day - a tradition that has largely been shaped by Labor Unions - organizations that are dedicated to protecting workers’ interests and improving their wages, hours, and working conditions, we're mindful of children who do not enjoy the same protection.

My kids are slowly waking up this morning.  We have big plans to do nothing at all today.  They will play in the creek, catch turtles and crawfish, and run wild and free.  Across the ocean five and six year old boys will work 14 hours today, eat one meal, sleep on a dirt floor surrounded by other slave children, and fall asleep missing their families.

Today I'll watch my kids with loving wonder and ask myself the same question I've asked more times than I can count.  What if my children were enslaved?  My answer brings an uncomfortable dissonance because I know what I'd do if these were my kids. I'd wage an all-encompassing, bloody, sweaty fight for them. Real life as we know it would be over until they were free.  All hands would be on deck.  Until my kids were safe and sound - in my arms - exactly where they belong, there would be no rest - for anyone.

So what is it about the ocean that causes my resolve to weaken?  If I want my children to live in a world free of injustices like child slavery, child labor, and child trafficking, what am I personally doing as a mother to fight towards that end?  These questions siphon sleep from me at night.         

Today I'm grateful for the many voices (many of them women) who are raising awareness about child labor, child trafficking, and what Mercy Project is doing to free enslaved kids in Ghana.  I know I've talked a great deal about the work Mercy Project is accomplishing in Africa.  Being a modern-day abolitionist is closely linked to my faith, and I'm grateful to personally know the people behind Mercy Project. I'm thankful they allow many of us to put feet to our faith and join them in bringing freedom to children in slavery.



Later this month, Mercy Project will free their first group of child slaves.  We'd love for you to follow along and celebrate with us.  In case you haven't watched the short, 10 minute documentary about what Mercy Project is busy doing in Ghana, will you watch it today?  Not only is Mercy Project freeing kids, they are bringing hope to entire villages in Ghana.  Their methods are holistic and culturally sensitive, removing not just the kids from slavery, but removing the structures that cause the need to traffic children in the first place.

If you want to connect with Mercy Project and follow along this month as the first group of kids are freed, here are a few ways to be a part of this story:




4.  Use your voice to advocate for kids without a voice.  Share Mercy Project with your friends. 

If you're one of the writers who advocated for these issues and specifically these kids today, thank you.

Happy Labor Day.  May we each labor towards the day when all can be free and the vulnerable are protected.