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Why I Am “Frazzled Mom”

Why did I choose the name “Diary of a Frazzled Mom” for my blog? I would prefer a blog name that draws people in by the peacefulness of the title. I read blogs at Shalom Mama, Sanoma Garden, and Deliciously Organic. I get updates from The Organic Mom, Thank Your Body, The Village Green and others who guide me along my way. They sound so peaceful and inviting. I love The Hobbit and wondered about: “There and Back Again.” But with each try, my name was taken at Word Press. I settled on “Get Real”. Taken. “Keep it real”? Nope. Any variation thereof? Not a chance! “Diary of a Frazzled Mom.” Ding! Ding! Ding! No one had taken that one!

To be real, I am frazzled. And I imagine that many others are as well. So, “Diary of a Frazzled Mom” it is. And my facebook page: Frazzled Mom.

I have four amazing kids, ages nine to twenty-two! This month, our oldest graduated from college and went to Jakarta, Singapore and Malaysia for a tour; daughter number two completed her freshman year of college, moved home for the summer and is in Legally Blonde the Musical at our community theatre; daughter number three finished up elementary school and prepares for middle school; and our youngest finished third grade. We’ve been to concerts, musicals, plays, field trips, muffins with mom and doughnuts with dad (where I make our own muffins to take), Cub Scout crossover and graduations. I made lunches every day, sent substitute treats for all the parties and activities (and there are many at the end of year), and made the two plus hour trip for concerts and shows at the college. It’s been a frazzling month! And now, school is out, and it’s about to get even more frazzling!

In the past four and a half years (that’s how long we’ve been family of six), we’ve taken cross country vacations to New York (NJ, IN, St. Louis, KC), California (twice), Seattle (with a stop at the Tetons for a swim in Jenny Lake and a hike), New Mexico, and Colorado with other shorter trips to visit grandparents. Six of us in a van. The latest trips to Colorado, New Mexico and California with a dog! We’ve had two graduations from high school, one from preschool, one from kindergarten, one from college and one from elementary school. In addition to numerous symphony, vocal, orchestra, strings and band concerts and plays, musicals, volleyball games, swim lessons and more. That might give some insight to reasons for my frazzled nature!

In the past two years we have abandoned all artificial flavors, dyes, fragrances. (I explain why we started the journey in The Boy’s Very Bad Day.) I have learned to make my own toothpaste, deodorant, lotion, lip balm, blush and bronzer. (I can’t wait to share my favorite recipes with you!) We planted a garden this spring. I’m also learning about soaking and fermenting grains to make them more easily digestible, so I’m making sourdough bread on a regular basis now as well. All of these journeys are a bit frazzling!

I wish I could say I’m in a routine and it’s getting easier. But I just keep discovering new things to add to our life style. What can I say? I’m frazzled.

How do I survive this frazzling life? By the grace of God! Daily time to read, journal, reflect and pray. Sabbath time with my spouse to connect with God and each other and to remember why we like each other. Supportive family and friends who lift us up in prayer. Walks with my children and my dog. Stories with my kids. Listening to the birds and to music. Enjoying the tastes and smells of the new real food that I make. I get excited when I find a new DIY recipe that I’ve been looking for, or solutions to a gardening problem I’ve been wondering about. I’m eager to lend a hand, a recipe, a discovery to another frazzled one along the journey. I like the results… the increasing sustainability of our lifestyle… the increased gentleness with God’s creation… the improved behavior and health in my family. In the end, this frazzled life does bring increased peace.

Mother’s Day was peaceful. The following day, with only four days left in the school year, I had clothes hanging out to dry, walked kids to school, struggled with sourdough recipes, sewed on patches for the Cub Scout crossover, needed to shower and prepare supper before fifth grade honor night, with only a few days left to make lotion, lip balm, laundry detergent and deodorant while they were still in school. Frazzling!

I also paused for coffee with my 18 year old and husband, looked at pictures posted from Jakarta, Indonesia and Malaysia from my 22 year old, threw sticks for the dog while hanging clothes, watched some YouTube musicals with my daughter and teared up in gratitude at the Cub Scout cross over and Fifth Grade Honor Night thinking of how far my four kiddos have come. In spite of, and in the midst of, my frazzled-ness, God is working miracles. I’m ever so grateful!

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you,and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29

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The Boy’s Very Bad Day: Our Journey Away from Artificial Everything!

The Boys Very Bad Day

The Boys Very Bad Day

Our youngest has various challenges in his life. We’ve learned a great deal thanks to this young man. (I have LOADS of links to share from our frazzled adventures with him!) When he was in first grade, he had what we call “His Very Bad Day.” We were coming off of a holiday, class parties, a visit to Grandma’s and heading back to school. As a “treat”, Grandma sent home sugary cereal and other holiday goodies. That next morning, I let him fill his bowl with that sugary, artificially colored and flavored cereal and offered him some strawberry mix to add to his milk. AND he drank strawberry milk at school. Not to mention it was a “Red” Holiday where he’d had red candies. We don’t serve lots of sweets and treats. I don’t usually have sugary cereal or serve strawberry milk. But over the course of the week, he accumulated a great deal of it in his little system.

I usually received daily reports from his teacher just to touch base and make sure things were going along ok… to see if we needed to tweak the routine or sensory diet or work on anything in particular. This day, he’d been unusually wired (you have to understand, he USUALLY was wired!). He’d jumped from unreasonably high places on the playground, had less self control in class, and my husband noticed our son shaking uncontrollably as he laid on the floor that evening after his shower.

When the children were in bed, Greg and I reviewed the day and what led up to this very bad day. We noted a holiday, a big weekend at Grandma and Papa’s, and took a look at his diet over the past few days. We recalled all the red foods on the menu and remembered a classmate of our youngest daughter who avoided red dyes. (His mom told me that even vanilla frosting and marshmallows could have red dye! Whodathunk?!) Greg “googled” “red dye” and discovered Feingold Association.

We discovered that many children with ADD/ ADHD symptoms sometimes have sensitivities to artificial colors and other petroleum-based ingredients in foods. That includes synthetic food dyes (i.e., red dye 40, Yellow No. 5), artificial vanilla – also called vanillin, other artificial flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives, like BHA, BHT, TBHQ and more. I went to the cabinet and found these lovely ingredients in my cereals, all the Valentine’s Candies, the strawberry milk mix, artificial vanilla flavoring, chocolate milk mix, and more, unlikely, sources. The tossing began. Talk about a frazzled mom! What was I going to feed my family?!

One day as we were transitioning to the “Feingold Diet”, Grandparents took the kids out to eat. When we met them at the restaurant, the boy seemed like he was on drugs (uncontrolled laughing, not able to carry on a conversation, unable to regulate his own behavior). I discovered “vanillin” on the list of ingredients on the cookie wrapper. Got my attention!

Then the Feingold list came in the mail. It didn’t stop at foods! It included artificial fragrances in soaps, lotions, detergents, scented candles, other cleaning and health care items. If my kiddo was sensitive to this stuff, he had a steady dose of it everywhere he went. My eyes were open… wide… deer-in-headlights wide! I was beyond frazzled!

Feingold Association has a list of acceptable foods and items for its members. And I believe it’s well worth supporting. It was my first step in discovering how synthetic our food and health supply has become. They helped me realize I cannot simply rely on an “organic” sticker to stay away from things like BPA linings in cans or MSG. Feingold does a great deal of research with individual companies to confirm that it is ok for their members to partake. Feingold Association helps get rid of the biggest triggers for many children. They have amazing success stories of parents “getting their children back” after eliminating these ingredients from their children’s lives. And many parents discover personal health symptoms went away as well!

When I started, I spent A LOT of money on so-called “natural” cleaners, shampoos, lotions and soaps that were approved on my Feingold list, only to find questionable ingredients lingering. The fewer the ingredients on the list, the more expensive the items seemed to get (due to lack of shelf life and low demand). So, over time, I have found I can make my own for much less! (I will share some of those recipes with you on another frazzled day!)

Our lives improved. A fog seemed to lift from our son’s little brain. But we discovered a new problem in our food system in GMOs (genetically modified organisms) that would change our habits and help the fog clear even more! (That’s another frazzled story for another day!)

We were never under the illusion that there would be one single miracle change that would bring about the healing our son needs. For him, some occupational therapy and a “diet” of sensory activities scheduled throughout the day help him to focus, each new year of living in the same place with the same family (even if it is frazzled!), other helpful people and resources in his life, and removing artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, and fragrances all work together to help our little guy learn and grow in ways no one could have predicted!

It was frazzling to throw out most of our foods and search for acceptable replacements, switching brands a number of times. It was hard on our oldest kiddos. It was challenging for me to find recipes that everyone would eat. But I told one of our daughters that since I tend to be a “canary” (foods, environment, chemicals tend to affect me before others), this change might very well save my life. I’m thankful for this frazzling journey. I’m grateful to the Feingold Association and others who have helped this frazzled mama make significant changes for the life and well being of one special young man and the rest of my family.

Life often will be a challenge for our little guy. But even if you proved to me that the foods contribute NOTHING to his behavior (which I believe they DO, significantly), I still would not put those artificial ingredients back into our bodies. I look forward to sharing more resources that we have discovered along this frazzled journey.

You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 16:11

Are Cheap Clothes Worth the Cost?

When I was a frazzled mom of four, and daughter number two was attending an International Affairs Seminar with the topic of the Modern Slave Trade, I read the book Not for Sale. (It also can be found at Amazon.) It tells success stories of people who have gotten out of the slave trade! It broke my heart, informed me, and gave me hope all at the same time!

You might have noticed that learning new information motivates me to change what I purchase and from where I purchase it. Coffee, Chocolate, now clothes! I was moved by stories of women gaining new opportunities in life when given a micro loan or making jewelry or clothing for a small company that pays them a living wage. I wanted to be part of the solution to this awful reality that exists in the twenty-first century! I went to sites recommended in the book. I looked up fair trade clothes online. I desperately wanted to know what I could do. My first find was Fair Indigo, one of my all time favorites!

I determined I had enough clothes in my closet to last until I could replace them with fairly traded clothing. I made the commitment to myself not to purchase any new clothes unless they were designated fair trade. I spend more on an item of clothing but I buy less often. And I watch for sales. I have to save up for my clothes and have to have patience. But they feel so good! Often, I receive the name of a person who made my shirt or dress attached when it’s delivered. I feel connected. When the garment factory fires occurred, it broke my heart and strengthened my resolve. (The most recent one was in Bangladesh. You can read about it in the New York Times).

Unfortunately, it is taking longer to switch all of my kids’ clothing over, so I am aware that I am still contributing to the problem. I am finding more fair trade sites with children’s clothes as I continue along this journey (and my kids keep growing! Daughter number three can wear some adult extra smalls from my favorite sites!)

When I discovered the poor treatment of workers in the garment industry, I wanted to change immediately. Over the past two years, I have discovered other fairly traded and organic clothing sites that I would love to share! These companies started with the goal to provide products that are made from sustainable practices that consider the people who made them and the earth on which we all live. I believe that we do vote with our wallets. With each purchase, we vote on the kind of world we want to live in. These companies make it a little easier to vote for a world where workers are paid a living wage and treated with respect, where life and creation are regarded as gifts rather than things to be used up and tossed aside.

So here they are!
Of course, my first find was Fair Indigo!

Threads for Thought (I found some great clothes for my husband here. My oldest daughters love their tanks. I bought some nice cottony dresses that I can layer with a turtleneck or camisole.)

Soul Flower (I discovered some great earrings and found Organic MukLuks for Greg! He has a thing for mukluks!)

Gaiam designates some of their clothing as fairly traded, but they’ve been on the cutting edge of eco clothing for a long time and they had Tennis Shoes! I’ve had trouble finding shoes!

I’m grateful that Tom’s gives a pair away for each pair I buy. I’m not sure about all the materials, but it’s a simple shoe that gives back. And they’re on Zulily! All three daughters, Greg and I each have a pair!

With the simplicity of the styles, I’m starting to think even I might be able to make some of my own dresses, leggings, shirts, p.j.’s, etc. So, I’m looking for dealers of organic, fairly traded cloth! (That will be another frazzled adventure! Right now, I have a daughter graduating from college, school programs to attend, two daughters to move home for the summer, and daughter number three graduating from elementary school, a garden to check on, a dog to walk, a checkbook to balance, supper to fix and kids to pick up from school!)

I’d love to hear your favorite fair trade sites!

Then, There was Chocolate

This is the Equal Exchange Chocolate at our church.

This is the Equal Exchange Chocolate at our church.

Back when I was a frazzled mom of two, our lovely coffee coordinator at church shared a story of the chocolate trade with me that broke my heart! Ugh! Children along the Ivory Coast were kidnapped, tricked, and sold to work for chocolate growers under slave conditions. The cocoa is sold to the world chocolate market. Most of the well known chocolate companies determined it was too difficult to make sure their chocolate was not purchased from the Ivory Coast and was fairly acquired. If you’d like to learn more, the following blog explains it well: http://equalexchange.coop/blog/child-labor-cocoa-industry and another one here: http://smallfarmersbigchange.coop/2009/08/13/profiting-from-child-trafficking/.

I discovered this near Halloween one year. I LOVE Halloween! I LOVE giving out candy! I LOVE eating leftover candy! But walking down the chocolate aisles, I felt sick. It made me nauseous to think that this candy was made at the expense of children and their families from whom they’d been taken. I couldn’t justify buying candy at their expense to give out to other children. What’s a frazzled mom who loves candy, Halloween and children to do?! At that time, I got a bunch of non-chocolate candies, the tart and brightly colored things that I’ve learned are filled with artificial everything (another frazzled mom moment in that discovery and more changes to come!).

Thankfully, we had Equal Exchange Coffee at church, and they make GREAT baking cocoa, hot cocoa, sipping chocolate and chocolate bars as well! Now, they even make dark and milk chocolate minis (my favorite for Halloween, Advent calendars and Easter!)! This is wonderful chocolate. I’ve seen it at Whole Foods, The Merc (Lawrence, Ks) and other healthy food stores. But, just like the coffee in my last blog, I can get it for much less through my church, so I buy it there. If you’re interested in selling Equal Exchange coffees and chocolate through your Non-profit Organization, check them out here: http://equalexchange.coop/programs.

Or, you can shop here at http://shop.equalexchange.coop/.
I didn’t realize how poor my timing was on this entry. They suggest not to order chocolate bars between May and October since it can melt, so you can order today and tomorrow or save this for fall. But you can get yummy cocoa and hot cocoa mix for your summer mochas! Or you can come over to our church and pick some up for Mother’s Day!

(I’ll have to repost as a reminder in October now that you’ve looked at all those amazingly wonderful chocolate bars they offer! I love mint chocolate, dark chocolate almond, and the really dark chocolate! Two of my kids prefer milk chocolate and the other two will eat whatever chocolate I put in front of them!)

The sad thing is here we are in 2013 with very little progress in the purchasing practices of big chocolate dealers. There are further complications with big companies following new minimal criterion for certain fair trade labeling. So, even if it’s a step in the right direction, it’s many steps back from what organizations like Equal Exchange are trying to do. You can read about it at: http://smallfarmersbigchange.coop/2013/04/. I like to stick with companies I trust not to take advantage of the workers.

Eating an Equal Exchange Candy Bar while sipping Equal Exchange Coffee makes me very happy! I get to enjoy great tastes, the farmers and workers who provided it are paid fairly and treated fairly, and the growing practices are sustainable. Win-win situations are the best! What’s not to like!

If you want to read more stories about the farmers, you can check them out here: http://equalexchange.coop/our-partners/farmer-partners.

If you live in Boston or Seattle, (or visit one of those lovely cities, Equal Exchange has Cafes at
Equal Exchange Espresso Bar
1400 NW 56th Street, Seattle

Equal Exchange Café
226 Causeway Street, Boston

Equal Exchange Free Range
Charles MGH Station and Other Locations, Boston

I don’t work for Equal Exchange. I just love coffee, chocolate, God’s creation and God’s children. Equal Exchange lets this frazzled mom love them all and provides me with wonderful coffee and chocolate! And that leaves me just a little less frazzled! Does it get any better than this?

Next up: Fair Trade Clothing… that’s a bit more timely…

It started with Coffee!

Coffee

Lack of sleep will leave me frazzled! In many ways, my journey toward real and sustainable food started with coffee (ok, it really started with my grandparents’ farm, but today we’ll start with coffee.). In college, my friend and I would put on a pot of coffee to keep us up for all-nighters. It didn’t help us stay awake since we were majorly sleep-deprived college students, but we enjoyed the coffee anyway!

Later, I learned that many coffee companies clear cut the Rain Forests to make way for easy coffee growing. I tend to like to breathe, so losing a major source of oxygen didn’t seem like a good idea. Then, I learned that many of the coffee growers didn’t receive a fair wage for growing coffee. I was raised on scripture that tends to frown upon taking advantage of people. I began to wonder if I needed to give up coffee all together!

Fortunately, when I was at a friend’s church for a lecture by one of our seminary professors, Newell Williams, I discovered Equal Exchange Coffee! Woohoo! Equal Exchange deals directly with local farmers who grow the coffee in the shade, organically! Organic, Shade Grown (did you know it TASTES better this way?), and Fair Trade! I love win-win situations (thank you, Stephen Covey!) The Rain Forest could be left alone, we get to breathe, workers get a fair wage, and I still get coffee! Does it get any better than this?!

It does! A woman in my church decided she’d be willing to coordinate selling Equal Exchange Coffee at our church! LOVE! If you have a church that might be interested in selling fair trade coffee, click here!

I’ve seen this coffee at The Merc in Lawrence, Kansas, at Whole Foods and other Healthy foods stores. It’s less expensive through non-profits so I love helping out our church knowing we’re in turn supporting ethical and sustainable practices as well.

And, it gets even better! They sell organic and fair trade CHOCOLATE! That’s the NEXT story in my food journey!

http://equalexchange.coop/ web page
http://equalexchange.coop/programs/serving-our-coffee for your congregation

Diary of a Frazzled Mom

I’m a mom of four: ages nine to twenty-two! I’ve been married to Greg for 27 years. I’m an ordained pastor who served twenty years in ministry.  I took leave to tend the needs of our youngest children. I’m frazzled. I think I’ve always been frazzled. Adding a four and a six-year-old to our family while our oldest two were in high school probably brought all my “frazzled-ness” front and center!

In one month’s time, I learned about foster care, ICPCs, and how to add a bedroom to make room for new family members. I had this strong but crazy belief they were supposed to be in our home by Christmas! (That’s a frazzled story for another time!)

Then the real work began! I read about SPD, ADD, ADHD, Love and Logic and other parenting systems. I learned much from head start, school teams and parenting classes. I entered the world of IEPs and OT. I discovered ways to make Occupational Therapy a part of everyday routines to prepare my kiddo to survive a day at school or make it through Cub Scouts or Bible Study. (All stories and links for another day!)

I’ve re-read A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, Bible Stories, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, Junie B. Jones, Magic Treehouse books and more. I’ve been introduced to Dork Diaries, Fable Haven and Captain Underpants!

One day when in first grade, our youngest had a “very bad day.”  Review of the day revealed a large amount of red dye!  Greg “googled” red dye which led us to Feingold Association, which resulted in dumping all artificial colors, flavors, fragrances, additives, preservatives and other stuff from our food, lotions, soaps, shampoos, laundry and dish detergents, cleaning supplies, air fresheners, candles and more. Whew! Then I discovered the problem with GMOs (One place to discover ways to stay away from GMOs if you want to get started is here http://www.nongmoproject.org/. And here). Ugh! So we’ve pretty much gone organic. (Again, more frazzled stories and links for another day!)

At first, it felt very complicated navigating grocery stores with our new limits. Actually, it’s somewhat simple. I look for ingredients I can read! I get fresh and local organic produce whenever I can. I make more from scratch. I’ve discovered recipes to make many of my own supplies. We got a plot in a community garden. (More opportunities to learn and be frazzled!)

I have learned many things along this journey and discovered some amazingly helpful resources. I’m not an expert at much of anything; but this frazzled mom can point the way to many cool resources I’ve found along the way! I will share with you resources that I have found for the various aspects of my frazzled life.

This is a journey to Get Real! Real is authentic, organic, and genuine. That’s what I want in all of life! I don’t want to be fake, artificial, imitation, or synthetic; and I don’t want to eat, apply or breathe anything that is!  I want the real deal in life, in all its abundance. Trying to navigate that journey leaves me pretty frazzled at times. And yet, it brings great freedom, peace and perspective. If you’re a bit frazzled, I hope this page will help you in some way along your path as others have helped me along mine!

I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.
– Jesus, John 10:10b

You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your rght hand are plasures forevermore.

Psalm 16:11