What I Learned From Watching the 2012 Olympics

Gymnastics - Battle Creek

Well, eight months later and a completely busted New Year's resolution to blog once a week, here I am. I'm not making any promises about writing regularly because I don't want to break them. But for now, I thought I'd share my recent life lesson--what I learned from watching the Olympics.

To preface, my daughters, four and two, watch a really limited amount of TV. There are only a handful of characters that they recognize, and when they watch TV, it's either a DVD or something selected off of Netflix. For example, my girls both learned about Micky Mouse at church before they did at home. My two-year-old doesn't really watch anything for more than five seconds, so she recognizes even less. She is in the stage of mimicking EVERYTHING her older sister does and says; so she can race to the TV with the best of them and starting yelling out, "I want watch, I want watch, I want watch, ummmmmm, THIS one" and pointing to the selection on the Netflix menu. Five minutes later she's wrapped around my feet while I'm trying to prep dinner, and she's begging with those big blue eyes, "Mama, hold you," which means, "Pick me up." But I digress.

So when the Olympics began, I broke all the house rules and dragged our only TV that works with an antenna into the living room, and NBC was constantly playing in the living room. My older daughter really enjoyed watching the different sports, and her favorite game was spotting the USA flag in the lineups before and after the competitions. About a week into the games, I heard her teaching my younger one to cheer, "Say it after me, U-S-YAY. U-S-YAY!" I tried to correct her, but I guess it really wasn't that far off. My two-year-old started out yelling USA! but she usually switched to "Go Pokes!" somewhere along the way. Can you tell my husband is a cowboy fan?

Overall, I really liked the exposure my daughter got to the different countries, especially their different flags. I also liked that she was introduced to a lot of new sports she has never seen or heard of before. And it was fun cheering as a family for team/player to win.

BUT, when the closing ceremony ended, I was more than happy to pack the TV back up. I just felt like a weight was lifted when that thing was out of the living room. There were many reasons I was reminded why we don't watch TV:

1. The commercials. Yikes. "Primetime family time" yet there were some really scary or really sexual commercials. I didn't think much of them at first because I didn't even think my daughter was paying attention, but then one day a friend was visiting and a promo for the new sitcom GO ON started. My daughter turns to her friend and says, "Watch this. It's so hilarious. This guy screams his head off." What? She has it memorized? Ugh.

2. We didn't get anything done. We didn't go outside (granted, it was over 105 degrees most days), we didn't talk, and we didn't read very much. All quality time was eaten up with TV time.

3. The role models. My daughter walked away with Gabby Douglas as the most recognizable face from the Olympics. We were grocery shopping, and and my daughter saw Gabby's face on a magazine and said, "There's that gymnastics girl!" Okay, she didn't even get her name, but still... If just a few hours of Olympics makes a formerly complete stranger recognizable to my daughter, no telling which other faces are going to start sticking in her head, making her want to learn more about them, and ultimately, wanting to buy whatever they're selling (not just products but attitudes, definitions of modesty, definitions of femininity, etc.)

And to touch on just one more soap box concerning the Olympics... I don't know that there's an answer to this in the world that we're living in, but... Doesn't it seem like we've completely strayed from the celebration of athleticism and discipline and national pride, and turned this into a grotesque competition where families are ripped apart by the physical demands and money strains that training to become an Olympian require? It rubs me the wrong way when I see someone's family sacrificed for that person's success. Is that really success?

Soap box over. What did you think of the Olympics this year? Did you have the games playing constantly in your house? Any lessons learned?


Today marks day one of a five-day whole-food fast. Basically, my husband and I, along with a group of friends, are eliminating processed foods from our diet for five days. I'm taking most of my rules from this blog (100 Days of Real Food), but I am changing a few things.

My basic rules are:

1. No whites (flour, sugar, rice, potatoes, cornstarch, etc.)
2. No packaged foods. If it's packaged, the ingredients (that I can pronounce) have to be no more than five listed. ("Spices" is a big red flag--it's a code word for hundreds or thousands of chemicals that the food company doesn't have to list.)
3. Minimal dairy
4. When in doubt, err on the side of vegetarian or gluten free.

Why I'm doing this:

1. I believe in the power of fasting (Isaiah 58); therefore, I believe I will receive insight and healing through this process.
2. This is a great way to cleanse my body and practice discipline.
3. I've been dealing with some hormone imbalance issues lately (post-partum and age-related best I can figure), so I'm really curious to see how this affects my moods. I watched this video about how gluten affects your moods and hormone balances, and, while I'm still going to eat some gluten (whole wheat), my intake is going to be considerably less than normal.

Here's my meal plan with links (to come) to recipes. Please understand, I am not an expert, nor have I researched this in depth. If you feel my meals do not coincide with a true whole-foods diet, I welcome your insight in the comments. I'm always willing to learn something new.


Breakfast: Whole-wheat banana pancakes with organic maple syrup.

Snack: Strawberries with Greek yogurt dip (raw honey and cinnamon added)

Lunch: Raw "tuna salad," whole-wheat Trisket-type crackers, apples

Snack: Coconut Pineapple pops (Mmm, these are yummy! Really good to kick a sugar craving)

Dinner: Veggie fajitas on whole-wheat tortillas with greek yogurt, salsa, and carrot avocado salad 


Breakfast: Raw oatmeal—oatmeal, honey, milk, raisins, walnuts

Snack: Popcorn and apples

Lunch: Avocado egg salad (Winner winner chicken dinner! This was delish!) with crackers, grapes

Snack: Yogurt drizzled with honey and frozen berries and granola (this made my house smell oh-so yummy!) 

Dinner: Grilled salmon with lemon; zucchini with feta, walnuts and dill


Breakfast: Fruit smoothie with breakfast cookies 

Snack: Mixed nuts and raisins

Snack: Celery and almond butter and raisins


Breakfast: WW Banana pancake leftovers

Snack: Carrot/pineapple/orange smoothie (tastes like an Orange Julius)

Dinner: Crispy black bean tacos & brussel sprouts (minus Sriracha)


Breakfast: Egg/avocado/sun-dried tomatoes/goat cheese open-face sandwiches

Dinner: Cilantro lime chicken with avocado salsa, steamed green beans, sweet potatoes


Where Are All the Writers?

photo courtesy of shutterhacks
Recently, I did a book review at my local SCBWI chapter's monthly meeting. I'm always inspired and informed at our meetings, but this time I walked away with two significant inspirations:

1. I was encouraged to polish an old manuscript and submit it for a manuscript critique at the SCBWI OK spring conference (and I did!). I'll blog about it after I get the critique back. I actually surprised myself at how excited I was to write something I was proud of.

2. I was inspired with a new blog topic (read: today's blog).

The big discussion topic for the meeting was the upcoming spring conference and why the registration numbers are so low (and why they were low back in the fall too). We began by brainstorming ways to get the word out. It became clear to me that the target age of the conference attendee audience is a large factor. For the most part, I believe the conference is targeting teachers and older adults who have always considered writing a book but never done anything about it. Therefore, most of the discussion at the meeting concentrated on print and television advertisements. Personally, I think social networking should be the focus of their advertising, and I think it would bring in a fresh wave of younger writers.

The frustration with the low numbers was palpable, but no one really could put their finger on why the numbers have shifted so much in the last year. Drawing from my recent clients, I suggested that maybe the surge in self-publishing was the reason people didn't feel the need to come to conferences anymore. It was like a light went on in the room, and soon everyone was buzzing about print on demand and people they knew who published a book (but probably didn't make any money off of it).

As an editor, most of my business comes from people wanting to self-pub. And, to be honest, I've turned away a lot of business for people who wanted to self-pub. I believe self-publishing has its place--primarily with people who have a significant market they know they can sell their product to (e.g., itinerant ministers who have a merch table with them wherever they speak). But there are a lot of people out there who want to see their names on the cover of a book, so they think they can be the exception and self-pub to make some money and break into the world of published authors.

I understand how hard it is to trek down the "traditional publishing" road. I know there's a lot of time, rejection, time, disappointment, and, of course, the time factor lurking on both sides of the road; and I realize that the obstacles appear insurmountable. But I also know something else that trumps all of that--when you get your first book contract, you get a big check (I realize big is relevant, but no matter how small you think your advance is, it will, more than likely, make a self-pub's profits look minuscule).

The benefits of self-publishing are short and sweet--you can see your name printed on a book in a relatively short amount of time. It will probably cost you a lot of money (probably more than you'll make back, unless you have an established market); and it will be more trouble than you are expecting. But, yes, your name will be on the cover of a book that you can show off to your friends and grandchildren.

Let me be frank:
1. The quality of your book will be significantly better if you publish through the traditional route (unless you're willing to spend thousands of dollars to get a professional editor and graphic designer to work with you--thousands is not an exaggeration. You get what you pay for in editing and design).
2. The world is a much smaller place, so finding the information you need to get an agent or publishing house to pick you up is easier than it's ever been. If you don't find the information you need, it's either because you don't know how to surf the Internet, or you're lazy.
3. A publisher should pay you for your book, not the other way around.
4. You need help. Just because you write a book doesn't mean it's publishable.
5. If you plan to self-publish, contrary to popular belief, you definitely should be investing in writing conferences and getting involved with local writers in your area. Getting your name on the cover of a book is only a small step in the publishing world. There's so much more you need to learn to be successful (i.e., to make money), and these conferences are your shortcut to getting a leg up on your competition.

Enter my not-so-subtle plug for the upcoming SCBWI OK conference. For the small amount of money you pay to attend the conference, you get to skip weeks of surfing the web to find all the information you need to get published neatly packaged in a day's worth of conference sessions; and you get an opportunity to submit to all of the publishing houses represented at the conference, which are normally closed to un-agented submissions (that's worth the price of admission right there). For a few dollars more, you can have a professional critique your WIP, again, skipping weeks of research and study you would've had to have done perusing blogs, Twitter accounts, and more figuring out what's popular right now, where your manuscript fits into the current market, and how you can make it better (please note, the deadline for submitting a manuscript critique is tomorrow--February 14).

I realize SCBWI focuses on writing for children, and there are many who read my blog who aren't interested in writing for children. The rules are the same. Just find a conference for writers in your area, get plugged in with other writers, and start doing your research online. With today's social media, there is no excuse for wasting your time submitting an inappropriate manuscript to an agent or publishing house.

Okay, lots of soap boxes in this post. I think I need to do more blogging about the research I've done on the publishing world. There's just too much good information not to share.

Two questions I leave you with:

1. Why do you think conference registration numbers are low (e.g., marketing, self-publishing, the economy, etc.)?
2. What are you favorite online sources for current publishing information?


Disposables Can't Keep Up

I am a classic Type-A mama. I've got my to-do lists, my routines, and my schedules. I love to plan, and I stay very busy. Minutes don't get wasted in my day. I'm a problem solver. When there's a problem, I fix it. Right away. I don't wait around for someone else to fix said problem, and I hate it when I ask for help and the so-called experts know less than I do. But my biggest pet peeve is when I use a product that only has one function, and when that function isn't working, that product is useless. Useless product = a waste of money that I have no control over.

Many of my readers know that I'm a cloth-diapering mama. I have sung its praises over and again, and I have guided many along in their quest to begin using cloth diapers. (Read this post for my most helpful FAQ blog about cloth diapering.) I started three years ago because I saw the potential for saving money and controlling which substances constantly rub on my baby's bum. What I've recently come to appreciate is the fact that any pee/poop challenge I encounter along the way, I can find a solution. (Disposable diapers don't afford me that luxury.) Right now, my challenge is a heavy wetter. I've read through friends' (who use disposables) threads on FB asking for solutions to heavy-wetter problems, and the answers boils down to only one option--get up and change the sleeping baby in the middle of the night. Ugh. No, thank you.

I've got a heavy wetter who soaks through disposables at night like a champ, but the solutions to my challenge are numerous in the cloth-diapering world. Right now my daughter, who has a protruding belly that could rival Buddha, wears a diaper to bed that basically balances out her belly in front with a ginormous fluffy bum in the back. Watching her waddle through the hallway in her PJs will bring a smile to the stubbornest of haters. It's really that cute. But more importantly, it's under control and doesn't cost me more money.

I start with a BumGenius pocket diaper, trifold a Hemp Babies insert, and stuff it in the pocket under the full-size insert. Then I layer another Flip cover over top of the BG just to keep it all together and add extra protection. Voila! Dry baby in the morning. Problem solved quickly, and I didn't lose money on useless product along the way--easy and inexpensive.

So, while I started cloth diapering because I wanted to save money and keep yucky chemicals away from my baby's bum, I've found that cloth diapers offer even more benefits:

1. I get to sleep through the night. Ahhh.
2. If my baby wakes up soaked in the morning (yes, she's that heavy of a wetter--we love our agua in this house), then I have other options to try or more layers to add. I don't have to (excuse my cliche, no pun intended) throw the baby out with the (quite dirty) "bath" water. I get to keep my baby, my diapers, and I can always find a solution. Even if I reach a wall in my limited knowledge of cloth diapering, through the networking I've done online, I always have a cloth-diaper mama with an answer who's only a few clicks away. Or I can get on Cotton Babies' website (my favorite source for cloth diapers and accessories) and find answers in their forums, on their live chat, or by calling their helpful customer service.

Disclaimer: I have not received any sort of compensation for this post, but I am entering the content of this blog in this contest.


Confessions of an Addict

Dear Readers,

It's been too long. I've seen many of you have been frequenting my blog even in my absence. Thank you to the faithful! I have to admit, I have been focusing my creative energy in other places, mainly Pinterest (If you need an invite, message me your email address). Does this even count as an outlet for creative energy? I'm just clicking and repinning the stuff I like. BUT, despite my hubby's daily tirades that Pinterest is of the devil, I feel my life has been enhanced. I have many many projects about the house inspired from Pinterest. And I feel like I'm reading more blogs (instead of less) because of it. It's like a pictorial guide to all blogs, and more often than not, I'm lead to blog posts I wouldn't have found on my own yet they cover topics I'm extremely interested in.

For example, food. I've been cooking and baking. A. Lot. Yikes. Calorie counting beware. I feel like all bets are off during fall. The pumpkins. The apples. The squash. The cooler weather that begs me to turn my oven on. Ahhh. I love it.

So, if you need a little inspiration and a new outlet for your creative energy (I refuse to repin the "Thank you, Pinterest, for helping me feel creative even though I've really been sitting at my computer for three hours" because it's not true), here are some links to my favorite boards right now:

Party Ideas (From decorations to food to themes, ahh, inspiration!)
Homeschool Activities (Mainly preschool stuff but really a little bit of everything including some Montessori-inspired pictures that I adore)
Gift Wrap (DIY ideas for wrapping gifts, making cards, and free printables)
Dinner (Recipes, recipes, recipes. If I've already made the recipe, I've commented below it with my evaluation and suggestions for next time)

Enjoy. And go jump in a pile of leaves. I just love this season.

*photo courtesy of jinterwas


Living Simply

photo courtesy of Horia Varlan

ately, I've been dwelling a lot on the concept of living simply. I read stories like
this of people who limit their possessions to 100 items or less, and I wonder if I'm capable of the same. I don't see any need to do something this extreme, but the principle of reducing, refusing, and rejiggering is appealing.

If you strolled through my home, you'd see a severe lack of toys. Despite the fact that I have two young girls, my house is not overrun with plastic or large toys. I prefer to buy things that stimulate the imagination and leave room for creativity rather than dead-end items that only have one purpose or character to each. Sure, my daughters love going to friends' homes and excitedly running/crawling from toy to toy trying new buttons that flash and make noise and rolling around new characters they don't see often in their own home. And I'm completely fine with that. It's new and exciting for them, and I love to see them experience new things.

Despite friends' toys' newness, I cannot think of a single item in the last three years that my daughter has chosen to cling to, cry for, or desperately want after we leave our friends' homes. In fact, most toys she plays with at others' homes only hold her attention for a few short moments before she's on to the next one. Playtime is generally a race to touch every new toy in the room before leaving.

We've all heard parents lament the high-ticket items they were so excited to buy for their children only to find that a bucket filled with water and other cups and bowls, or an empty box provided hours and hours of child-preferred entertainment. This only reinforces my desire to keep only meaningful toys in our home. Perhaps this will change as the girls get older, but my desire is that the principle will never leave them--money can't buy happiness; enjoy life in the now and the people who surround you.

All this to say, while I make it a regular routine to clear out our toy baskets and throw away unused toys or cheap kid's meal prizes, I see a great disconnect to extend that routine to every other area of my home. With our house for sale, we've filled a rather large storage unit with all of our "unnecessary" stuff to de-clutter our home for show. I can count on one hand, actually, one or two fingers, the number of times I've had to go back to the unit to get something out that I needed. Naturally, this makes me wonder why I needed all that stuff in the first place.

If our home does sell quicker than we find a new one, we've contemplated switching to an apartment temporarily. To be honest, this idea thrills me--a life of less. Less bills. Less cleaning. Less clutter. Less responsibility. It sounds divine, doesn't it? And since my daughters thrive both in the home and outside doing activities of all sorts, I have no doubt they'll conform well to a change toward simplicity.

What are your thoughts, dear readers? Are you appalled at my hypocrisy to simplify my daughters' lives and yet hoard useless items of my own? I'll be honest; I am appalled at myself. And I have every intention of having a huge moving sale once our house sells. Even though I had to put all my stuff in storage to realize how little it means to me, at least I've taken that step, and now I'm ready for the next. How about you?


Need Help!

Dear Lovely Readers,

My daughter is less than two months away from a big diet change to more table food and less monochromatic (i.e., boring) food. She's doing great eating well--almost too well. My grocery bill is growing in leaps. This girl consumes A LOT of food at each meal. So, I'm looking to you for some new, fresh ideas. Here are the big players in our daily diet right now:

Sweet potatoes
Black beans

I'm staying away from rice and flour until age one. She's tried yogurt, but it made her break out, so she's off that until she turns one. Any ideas? Snack ideas are especially welcome.

Thanks so much!