"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Monday, March 31, 2014

Surviving Lead Contamination

Lead poisoning is still with us.

I just took Pom in for a repeat test and his numbers are still elevated. His initial number was 13.5 (5 or below is acceptable) and then second test had him at 12 and now we are down to the third test and he's at 11. You might remember this short post back in August when I leaked that our old house, rehab project had brought lead into our life. We have old paint and that's our source, mainly through dust. I had a freak out phase but after a while of grappling I am feeling more confident and steady about the whole topic. I thought it was time to share a little more about it since its become one of the big things that I care about in the last year and I think what I found out might help some other parent out there.

The good thing is, that his contamination is steadily dropping, its so scary and annoying to have this crazy thing hanging over you. I had a short stage this past fall when I was having trouble sleeping at night because of all the terrifying stuff I had read about lead and its effects on the body. I am so relieved to tell you that I quickly realized that approach was helping nobody and focused on reading what helps, what heals and sometimes just on distraction. Not sleeping does not help the body heal from lead. That I can tell you.

I am sharing a list of stuff we have tried any or all of which may have helped. I am one of those, Try All The Things!!!! types of people.  

Here's what we've done:

  • Clove oil on the skin
  • Vitamin D oil on the skin
  • Lots of calcium and iron in the diet
  • Iron drops by mouth
  • Re-painting as many of the walls as possible
  • Chewable Vitamin C by mouth
  • Healing prayer (no, really!)
  • Added more garlic and cilantro to our diet
  • Did Epsom Salt baths (meant to try clay baths but never got around to it)
There is also a hopeful study published a few years ago, about new research showing lead poisoning is not quite as irreversible as once thought. I was really excited to see that kind of information coming out. 

I want to encourage scared parents out there that you can remove lead from the body, there are things you can try, its not a death sentence for the brain, nutrition helps, you're not bad, your kid isn't doomed and nobody hates you. Having lead poisoning is kind of a closet issue, like having bed bugs or something. People think certain things about "the type of person" who deals  with lead poisoning.

Truth: People from all walks of life can have lead toxicity.
Truth: It means nothing about your parenting or your ultimate health as a family.
Truth: You can heal your child.
Truth: Lead can be in your kid and not cause brain damage.

Remember that there was a whole generation before us who used lead paints with impunity and they did not all end up brain damaged and stunted. Doctors who are well meaning can scare the living daylights out of parents. Not everyone has the money or the need to completely rip the house apart for lead remediation, we don't. Covering up the lead paint is helpful and its worth doing.

The big take-away is, hang in there! 


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Reading, Writing and Skateboarding

This week we learned that Ru's favorite skateboarding instructor is moving to Florida. Sending out a tribute to Burton for all of his laughter, unruffled coolness, his persistence, and his example of rubberized bravery.  I am so excited about the things I am watching the boys learn at the skate park. I am really grateful for Burton's hand in it all and hoping for a grand future for him in his big leap towards his print shop dreams in the land of sunshine down south.

Skateboarding is a fabulous way to learn to belong to a group, to embrace failure as useful and expected and to learn creativity in a kinesthetic form. Ru has always been a mover and shaker. I remember catching him trying to ride his scooter off a wooden chair balanced in our Lazy Boy recliner when he was just a toddler. I love being able to press into those proclivities and direct him into a place where he can flex who he is and grow wiser and more savvy in the process. I kinda thought the idea of skateboard "lessons" sounded ridiculous at first, it seemed like a really upper class, poser kind of idea. I have to say though that it basically amounts to open gym time in a skate park with a big brother or two on hand to give you pointers whenever you want them, low pressure, expansive, and whatever speed the kids who show up need at the moment. Sometimes there are games of tag and "double dog dare ya's" happening and sometimes everybody's lining up to try a new trick together single file. Its as playful or organized as people want and I appreciate that. Its been such a great release in the middle of this frigid, endless winter to have a place where my 7 year old could go blow off steam. He goes to sleep like an angel on the night of his skate class. Love it.

I'm kind of intimidated by being a skate mom but I'm really excited to see my boy take off so avidly towards something he loves. I want to get over my own worry about coolness and his ability to push past his bumped knees and keep going. I am expecting to spend a lot of time at the outdoor skate park in town and I think having a board or two in the trunk is kind of a given now.

Now if I can only figure out how to safely allow Pom to learn. He sobs when Ru skates because he's so jealous and spends all his time trying to climb on the board whenever he gets the chance. Hey. I'm watchin' yard sales this summer y'all! Time to get him a board of his own. If this kid can do it, then so can Pom.

Monday, March 24, 2014

So Many Somethings

Pom is in a charmingly, particular stage. He has learned how things "ought" to be and is spending a lot of energy demonstrating that he is on the up and up which means he's become king of specifics. He carries pieces of hair and lint to the trashcan one by one and makes individual trips to the compost bucket with each strand of clementine pith. He is avid about making sure I have my phone and come earnestly chasing me down with it calling, "Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!" all the way into the next room if I have left it next to the armchair in the living room for a minute.

One hilarious variation of his particularity is his Bring It To A Grown-up Game. He finds little things all over the floor and kind of randomly he'll decide that a given little widget is important and will be missed and will bring it earnestly to me. Sometimes I know what it is, (a Lego, a nut, a marble, a tiny pebble) but I'm astonished by how often I am flabbergasted.

How does he find so many strange little somethings? We have a big house and are a bit on the sloppy and disorganized side but man! He makes me think we have a troop of fairies living in the eaves using the house as their playground, leaving little whatnots all over after their midnight games.

Can you identify the following?


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Spring Means Scrub !

Spring Cleaning is happening! Lucy and I are spending this week taking the house apart in a good old fashioned Seasonal Scrub. I love the booklet my bloggy friend Alison offers on her blog. All the specifics and details in one place. I printed and bound my copy at Kinkos this year for easier reference.

Today we finally busted out the sponges and the soap after a lot of dusting and sweeping yesterday.

I am so thirsty!!! I keep pouring big glasses of ice water and downing them every time I end up in the kitchen again. Lemon wedges and lime slices are my best friend at the moment. Wonder if it's all the dust in the job, the hard work and sweating or the just spring coming on that's making me thirsty.

Yesterday we rough swept each room, put the rugs into a big pile and vacuumed cobwebs down off the ceiling.

Today we stripped the beds and cleaned and flipped the mattresses, then cleaned the microwave and upstairs refrigerator. I am almost done washing all the pillows and blankets and throws.

I am purging things as I go, heaping up big piles of things to take to the kids consignment shop, to sell online and to just pack off to Goodwill. Feeling giddy over the lightening!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, March 17, 2014

Zero Insanity For Lent

There is corned beef slowly simmering on the stove although I put it in late enough that I might not actually get to serve it tonight. I feel a sludge of would-be guilt trying to rise up in the back of my throat. I want to be a good mommy. I also almost ran out madly to the store to buy cabbage and potatoes and whatever else seemed important (leeks?) for having a truly Irish St. Patrick's Day dinner.

And then I realized that was insane.

I have made a pact with myself and with God for Lent. No ridiculous woman-pressure insanity.

There are no awards for "perfect" moms who serve all the most Irish foods on St. Patrick's Day and nobody even cares. The dinner doesn't taste better. The boys aren't happier. I am not more organized or more peaceful or more mature or any of the other feelings I am actually trying to cultivate in myself. Its ridiculous. We can see how the corned beef comes out and if it still isn't cooked enough we'll have it for breakfast. We can eat Polish Sausage out of the freezer and it will be quick and all the boys will love it (its one of their favorites). I have a soda bread that I bought that I can serve with extra butter. We can eat carrots (so Irish!) and we'll be fine. We don't need to spend more money on buying last minute festive foods. We don't need to spend more gas on running madly to the store at 6 PM. We don't need to spend our energy or harvest a big crop of stress (mommy yelling at the kids and boys all fussing as I pack them into and then haul them back out the car fro my manic trip to the store) all for the sake of a "festive meal." We can eat broccoli because its green and read the real story of St. Patrick and recite his breastplate prayer that the boys and I are working on memorizing.

I can cut myself free from the out of control madness. I don't need to act like a loony just because I am a woman and I feel pressure to be homemakey and clever and warm and creative. I can be all those things without being insane. I can do all those things while saving money. I can do all of them in smaller, low stress ways. I also don't have to manifest all of those things TODAY for St. Patrick's Day or risk losing my badge. There are no prizes for most harried mom, most overextended woman, most ridiculous self-deception.

There is personal peace.
There is a real legacy and a real man to celebrate in simple ways.
There is home and us and just having a meal at the end of the day.
There is a limit to how much we need fancy and celebration.

I can cut myself free and so can you.  This is my Lenten gift to myself and my family and God. Maybe by sharing it, its my gift to you.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Poetry Friday: Turtle Medicine

Happy Poetry Friday! We made it through the one last full week of winter. That is worth celebrating! Lets have a poem for dessert since we made it, shall we?

On vacation I bought myself a small carved turtle figure, a personal reminder of the life choices I was making and the lessons I keep being reminded of right now.

In Native American teaching, animals can be instructors and messengers sent to teach us things for a while or coming alongside us as tangible reminders of our identity and role in life. I have been learning turtle lessons for a while now and feel like God sends me turtle encounters as gentle nudges of His Presence and my own strengths and callings.

So today, a little turtle poetry...

Turtle Medicine
I am a turtle woman.
Placid rover, called to grounding
Needing slower paced out stalking
Hearer of the ancient wisdom
Trees and rocks and river talking
Drawn by God through paths of effort
Dredging through the channel blocking
Peace within, a well of comfort
Holy salve where fear is knocking
Long-lived being made for always
Eternal creature never stopping
Bearer of the world around me
Pillar-legged never balking
Wearer of my home and haven
Belonging present at each docking
Tortoise, Hawksbill, Slider, Terrapin
Loggerhead, Box and Painted teachers.
God's cold-blooded, scaly speakers
I am turtle woman listening.

You can click through and read more of my poems where I am slowly collecting them, on my Original Verse page. 

Tune in for the rest of this week's participants and see what other poems are out, waiting to speak to you. Our esteemed host for the collection this time around is Kara Newhouse, over at her blog Rogue Anthropologist. I always think a nice dose of poetry browsing is a fantastic way to celebrate a slower weekend morning. May you enjoy the same....


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Cartoon Man

My graphic art obsessed child struck again.

Ru is deep in a stage of writing his own little graphic novel scenes. He's left them scattered all over the house, mostly composed from the giant book of Asterix and Obelix stickers I gave him a couple of months ago. So fun to find them sifting around the desk, the kitchen counter and the playroom tabletop.
They are even starting to appear taped to the walls in hidden corners. Today I promised to take him to Kinko's to laminate one for each person in the family to use as placemats. (His dream!)
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Making It Together

Am immersed in reading the impossibly good Daring Greatly. Life-changing philosophy, psychology and research on vulnerability, trust, human connection and overcoming shame. Brene Brown is officially on my list of most inspiring humans. Love it when brilliance becomes a best seller and shows up at every library everywhere. It's can't-put-it-down, divinely inspired, putting-in-missing-pieces-I've-been-puzzled-over-forever....type of good.

This morning I noticed that the snowdrops are blooming at the back door and the daffodils at the front door are showing healthy green shoots too. The grocery stores are selling dollar bundles of daffodils for a fix to tide us all over. I am super fixing my faith on the return of warm and leaning it mentally. Not much longer now. We are all going to make it.

We have made two expeditions to the beach this week. Somehow just sifting sand in our fingers and collecting shells together is enough of a recollection of summer and our recent trip to help hold us.

Came home this time with a collection of purple quahog bits, the parts that the local tribes used for money, storytelling, rank and all kinds of other signifiers. Amazing to finger these bits of shell smashed by seagulls and imagine people from another time gathering and trimming them to add beauty and value to their long ago lives too. We are all marching along together in this world, looking for beauty, holding on through the winters of our lives and standing shoulder to shoulder with historical and real-time peoples....a countless line of folks who making meaning together.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Good People Are Cold People

Winter has been grueling this year. I have always been a person who has said that I love the change of seasons but I have to say that if I am truthful, I think that's my Northern Michigan roots speaking out of pride. I think in my head that good, salt of the earth, energetic, humble, country girls who grew up in the ice and snow should take a certain amount of pride in the grueling grind of winter, in the flagging spirits of those around them and their own contrasting stubborn appreciation for the beauty of ice crystals and falling snow. I feel like a wiener admitting it but I long for sunshine and warm and green, green, green and I hold no special place in my heart for chunks of ice and falling snow.

It was 62 degrees outside today and I felt positively giddy, the last of the snow seemed like a silly joke and I really feel like I am going to make it. I rolled the windows down as we drove errands, hunted up the first crocus in the woods around the corner and felt like singing a Julie Andrews anthem. I love that we have made it to the other side, warm weather is actually going to start happening now, slowly but surely.

I also ordered a SAD light to mount over our computer keyboard for sunning outselves during the last few cold and dreary days. It is time to be honest. I don't think I am a cold weather person. This year, I told my husband after years of insisting that I could never live in a warm climate, "I think I love green and sunshine more than I love four seasons." We can always visit snow and ice. I can make ice cubes. Those I love will always live in chilly places. I just feel like I need the green and the warmth and the hope of sunshine. Maybe we won't be moving to California tomorrow, (I have a friend who lives in mortal fear of her friends moving away to warmer places.) but I'm open to it. After The Bahamas I decided that I totally could even live in a place that was tropical which seems like a silly admission but took a fair bit of vulnerability and guts.  I was raised to believe that strong, good people love the cold.

The notion of "should" is really powerful. I think I feel a lot of cultural/familial pressure to be attached to cold weather and feel personal pride in my toleration of it. But that's not the same thing as actually loving it. Truthfully, for who I am it seems like a kind of insanity to keep insisting on living in the land of the chilly. I get depressed and dry skinned and weepy, lethargic and drab and filled with ennui and try to hide it under a mask of should-laden Arctic identity connected to a vague notion of strength of character. Having my sister Lucy here has been emboldening. She's gotten so brave about her own love of warm and it took me a while to unravel the fact that I'm cut out of the same cloth. Its scary to admit it out loud but I think I'm a sunshine girl. I like warm. I like grass that never goes grey brown. I like flowers all year. I like water, not dry places. I like being able to open the windows whenever I want to. I like maple syrup but I don't have to actually make it myself. I like snowmen but don't find them essential to life. I can snow shovel if I have to but I'd really rather weed. I am from Michigan but my ancestors are from all kinds of other places and I'm me, not any of them. I love being able to be comfortably outdoors all year round and I love being honest.
The good people are not the cold people and the tough people and the deprived people and the people who live in more traditional ways but the people who live honestly, the people who give their bodies the things they need to be healthy, the people who are willing to try new things and those who live authentically even in the presence of "shoulds" galore.

What climate is really "you?" Where would you live if you had nothing to lose and all your dreams could come true?


Monday, March 10, 2014

Tropical Cure

We have been to parts further south, warming our toes and tanning our pelts in the tropical sun. The world is a much better place now. We are home to our beige and grey yard and it all seems shockingly wan but the snow is almost all gone, the garden catalogs are piling up in a heap on my To Read Shelf and the chickens are started laying like gangbusters. I feel a change in the wind. We 'gon make it!

My life has felt like a ridiculous tumult lately, painful and crazy and feeling out of control. I hate, hate, hate to even tell you that I know part of it has been hormonal woman-timing. PMS is so humiliating and it makes me feel so shammy and non-legit. Blech. Also, I think its a good year to just certify myself as clearly sucked under by Seasonal Affective Disorder and realize that the endless bland, bone-chilling cold and lack of sunshine has screwed with my ability to remain stable. (I am seriously considering getting one of those dorky lights to sit under, folks!) My world has also really been truly stressful. We are trudging our way through marriage counseling, one of those scary things that nobody talks about out-loud. Marriage is hands down the hardest thing, the scariest endeavor and the deepest learning experience I have ever, ever been through in my life. Honestly, it kind of terrifies me and I long for "easy" and "happy" in my marriage but its been everything but. Nobody talks out loud about marriage, you know? Its kind of this confidential, if you-have-one-you-are-supposed-to-feel-blessed kind of a thing. I don't want to make A feel bad or dump our relational dirty laundry but I do think its important sometimes to whistle blow and just be authentic and I know we both agree on the honest desire to be .

Marriage is hella hard, yo. I have never cried harder or felt deeper or worked more from the pit of my own soul than this. I am encouraged to know that people change, relationships are dynamic, that I am growing, that we love each other, that we have resources, and that we are not the first people to walk this way. Please know, if this is you in any way....not everyone marries their high school sweetheart and gets to post on Facebook that they feel so lucky to be married to their best friend. Lots of us out there are working out our marriages, its about growth and change and hard self-work and grace and patient turtle medicine in bucket loads. I have been doing some serious soul searching and I honestly believe that life belongs to the over-comers, to the learners and the doers, those who will not be defeated and will not give up, to those who humbly and vulnerably connect and believe in a spirit of change. I'm clinging to evidence of our progress and firmly planting myself in the committed but unwilling to be victimized category. I'm committed to our marriage, to the pain and the growth and the believing in each other, to preserving myself and encouraging him to do the same, to sacred advisors and the village that surrounds us, to showing our children and people who don't have it easy can be winners too and figuring all this craziness out. Please know that you, struggling married person of great worth, are not alone. I'm all about creating a new culture of humanity, openness and growth around marriage....I'm super over the trite happy-happy pretend that all is bliss or that all conflict is sickness.

This is what the tropics hath wrought. I read and prayed, and dreamed and saw things on the shore, talked and argued and made resolutions and said brave things, soaking in sunshine, slept and slept and slept, wrote lists, took photos and just *was* in a hammock on the seashore. And I'm more whole, more honest, more awake and determined to make it.