Friday, April 23, 2010

Life Choices

Kind of a long, wandering...tangent rant. ha ha. Oh well...that's what blogging is for sometimes....

If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be a stay at home/schooling mom, I would have had a very difficult time believing it!

I guess my first brush with any kind of alternative parenting came with the decision to breastfeed. I know many moms try to breastfeed and do so for a while, but it was a decision we made to continue it for their first year. Katie was relatively easy to do since I was home a lot with her, in school, but home for feeding her. Noah was a bit more difficult since I went to work when he was 5-6 weeks old, so pumping a daily supply was a more stressful but still rewarding experience. Then, we also ended up having our babies in the bed with us when they were very young. I said I would never do that and even tried to put them in a crib, but it ended up being easier, and just more natural to have them right beside me for sleep's sake and convenience for middle of the night feedings. Katie went to her own bed when I was getting very pregnant with Noah, and Noah slept in his crib in our room till he was about a year old and sleeping through the night. Now evidence has been shown that co-sleeping is actually very healthy for babies, won't spoil them, and even prevents SIDS. 95% of the world co-sleeps with their newborns and have almost no incidents of SIDS. My kids go to bed on their own now, and there is no brokeness in our marriage from it. Not to say that it wasn't very difficult at the time, but I now in hindsight attribute that more to other factors.

We also have chosen to not use spanking as a method of discipline. I have read many blogs, arguments, been in parenting classes on both sides... and really it's just something that came naturally to us. For isn't natural to spank. I think it is overused and ineffective in many cases and depending on the personality of your child can really be detrimental even when done "appropriately". Corey and I decided when they were babies that if the time came when they "needed" it, then we would consider it. But... we haven't and now I have read so much about alternatives that I am pretty much against ever doing it. When I was teaching, I had to keep 20 children engaged in work, behaving, and learning.... without spanking. I figured if I could do that, then I could certainly discipline my own children effectively since then I could even teach moral lessons and biblical standards. It has worked for us. Some people don't "not spank" effectively and some people don't "spank" effectively. I think it has little or none to do with the method, but with the parent's consistency and dedication. This is a pretty controversial issue. The most solid proof that it is working though, is the fact that most people are shocked when they learn that we don't spank. Definitely an indication that loving discipline can be just as, if not more effective in the long run that a spanking....because when the ability to spank effectively (it being intimidating, or "hurting") disappears (ie, teenage years) there goes your entire system of discipline. Just my opinion. I am sure some people use it and it works fine, but... just not for us.

Then.... came the point in time that my mother in law could no longer be our full time child care provider while I worked. It was the most difficult decision Corey and I ever made, but that is when we decided I would stay home. I hated my job with a passion, and I think it was just to make the choice a reprieve for me. Katie went to preschool that first year I stayed home, a 3-yr old private prek program. It was a neat experience for her. But when "real" prek time came, we weren't sure what we were going to do. Paying for both of them to go to prek was going to cost around $450/month. I was discussing it with someone who became one of my very best friends in the world. Bethany introduced me to her family...a family of four homeschooled children who were now adults and very sweet, dedicated Christian women. Smart, college graduates...not "weird" and very close as a family. She said, "why don't you just homeschool them?"

I really had not considered it before then. But... the more I started researching, the more the teacher heart in me fell in love with having students that were literally my very own. We set up a classroom, and that journey has varied on the structure spectrum, but we are happy with our choice and have no plans to change it anytime soon. People often ask, "Do you plan to homeschool them all the way through high school?" I tell them..."I don't know what I am going to do next week, much less that far ahead."

Throughout those years, we became more and more alternative in our lifestyle. With no school requirements for doctor visits, we found ourselves there less and less. I had some female health issues that led us to a few other natural choices, and it seems that what works best for us tends to be the opposite of what everyone else is doing. I started consulting the internet for natural remedies instead of running to the doctor for medicine. Part of it had to do with money, but a lot of it had to do with the fact that once that worked for us, it seemed silly to drug when we didn't want or need to.

I find myself trusting my gut and my own instincts (spirit) more than I trust any opinion, personal or professional. Even more than the research. That's how I see a doctor's perspective now: simply an opinion. We may try several natural remedies and techniques before we get to the solution, but that's really all a doctor does too. Except then you are dealing with more new side effects and are reliant on drugs.

A recent situation in which Katie was randomly throwing up, has now led us to a food revolution. We were already adding in healthy grains, avoiding dyes and artificial flavors, watching sugar intake... but for a while we completely eliminated corn products from our diet. It got me looking into just how much of what is on the store shelves that contain corn. Mainly corn syrup and corn starch, but about half the other ingredients you can't pronounce are also corn derivatives. This took me to looking for a grocery store that sold products that all had ingredients that you could actually find in nature. Trader Joe's opened us up to the world of affordable organic/natural eating. We no longer eliminate corn (we think she has reflux instead and have had success treating that naturally) but I am glad that it opened our eyes to some diet changes that will be better for us in the long run. Now I find myself in a very small minority: the mom who doesn't go to McDonald's. Ever. ha ha. We haven't been in weeks and weeks and I have no plans to go anytime soon. Other fast food is in that category too. I just can't stomach it anymore.

Then, throw in the fact that I watched Food Inc.this week. Cuuurazy! I don't know if I will ever be able to eat in a restaurant again! I already knew that sanitation in a restaurant can be iffy, but the inspection scores can help somewhat with that. The problem now is where the food actually came from to begin with, before they even cooked it! I don't want to eat a hamburger that is a mix of 1000 different cows that were fed a diet of hormones then ground up and bathed in ammonia to kill the e-coli! YUCK!

I know we will eat in restaurants. ha ha. But... I can guarantee it's going to be happening a lot less often! I have already decided to plot out our vacation route and find some local healthy places to eat, or else bring our own.

Oh yeah...and I started making my own laundry detergent! ha ha! I forget about that all the time because really it is such a "non-thing" to me. It's so simple, doesn't require a lot of tedious work, and can be done in about 20 minutes. If baking my own bread all the time were that easy, I would be doing it too. I'm not about things that make my life harder, but the food thing is going to break that trend I think. turns out that I am the mother in a family who....

doesn't get flu shots, homeschools, shops in a natural/organic food store, co-sleeps with their infants, breastfeeds their infants, uses natural house cleaning products, takes herbal supplements, doesn't use hormones (in several areas of our life), doesn't do what any doctor says without doing our own research (I can't believe how many people do this anyway!), doesn't "do" Santa Claus, and I am sure there are more.

I am by far not the most "crunchy" mom I know. There are so many more....who choose even more alternative practices. I am sure that if we have another baby I will have the opportunity to make even more crunchy choices too! But, I am writing all of this to say..... something that crossed my mind today.....

If you met us, talked to us, saw us walking down the street.... you wouldn't be able to tell any of these things about us. I would venture to say that many of our friends don't know many of these things about us. I think some people care too much about outward appearances. That last sentence is said a lot, but they take it only as far as personality or in, "pretty is as pretty does" etc. The point is.... a lot of people "look" the part of a good person. They attend church, they quote scripture, they make changes to the way they look in order to be some kind of picture of what people think a good person should look like. People also go to the other extreme.... my favorite example, the "biker church" or even our church... they want to make Christianity look cool...crazy haircuts and color, alternative clothing style, etc and that is totally fine with me, I am not saying they are wrong.

I re-read the previous paragraph and realize that I didn't make it connect with the point I was trying to make. What I meant was: People try to be "different" in so many ways...either in looking conservative, crazy, rebellious, or type of car, house, etc... but then they don't even care to try to consider being different in the real ways...the lifestyle choices I am talking about here. It makes no difference what kind of "different" you choose to be, if you don't pray and consider over the real issues where it will pay to be different...the things we can't see.

The issue to me is... that people don't put that much thought and effort into the lifestyle choices they make. I have said it before...but many people just put their kids in public school because that's what's normal.....whether they are a pious deacon or an alternative church attendee. They feel homeschooling would really be a "calling" rather than considering the fact that just as much thought and prayer should go into the "normal" choice as well. A lot of people just put their babies in a crib alone because everyone would think they were spoiling their child to keep them in their room or bed. Zero research into the alternative. They spank their kids because it's how they were disciplined and assume that time outs are for pushover parents.... without any thought or prayer about it. Why pray over a temporary illness like the flu and not pray about where your child will spend their formative years full time?

I believe God has called us to be different. Not just in the words that come out of our mouths or in where we find ourselves on Friday nights and Sunday mornings.. but in our choices. Not necessarily the ones you can see... but in the ones you can't see.

I also believe that you don't have to openly crunchy to be right either. In fact... in your face superiority about personal alternative choices is annoying to people who may have given lots of thought before choosing the mainstream path in a matter. It's also just a non-attractive personality trait in general. I am so supportive of homeschooling, but I can't stand to be around someone whose life revolves around it, like they are constantly at a protest or something. Yeah, our life naturally revolves around homeschooling, but its not the first thing people find out about me. I also don't try to convince everyone that they should do everything I do... I mean generally speaking. If someone is on the fence, yeah I will share why we make our choices but it's not my job to convert the world to breastfeeding. It's up to each person to make their choice.

Our choices are not for everyone. I am not saying they are. I am saying I wish more people gave personal thought, consideration, and prayer to choosing the norm without ever considering the abnorm. I think there would be a lot more happy people out there is all. Being different can be more than just being the only Christian in your workplace, or being the cool Christian who can reach their community in a new way... it can be totally blending in the crowd... listening to rock music, having cable and a phone with internet service, loving movies, loving girls night out, reading the newest bestsellers....and then choosing to homeschool..... or say no to McDonald's. It's not an all or nothing lifestyle's a prayed over one. Every single choice is important.


Andy's Bethy said...

I love the point that we often feel the need to pray about "alternative" things, but when choosing the "norm", it is just accepted. That is taken for granted entirely too often.
I have really enjoyed seeing how our lives have evolved through the years. Isn't it amazing where God takes us. Who would have thought 10 years ago that I would be a military wife and you would be a "crunchy" momma? But, here we are, and happy to be where God has led us (which includes far from McDonalds...!)

melanie said...

Carrie, I loved reading this post. Your family is so amazing and the path you have chosen is obviously well thought about and prayed over. Keep up the great work...and keep updating the things you guys choose to do. It's very enlightening!