Six Things I Learned This Fall (2017)

I’m joining Emily P. Freeman in sharing what I learned this quarter, from science to crafts to social media hacks. Here are six things I learned this fall, in no particular order.

1. The difference between a chrysalis and a cocoon.

cocoon vs chrysalis

This fall, Lydia and I started doing nature walks and nature journaling as a part of our homeschool. As a result, we’ve gotten to know a lot about the creatures around us. And one of those things has been the differences between moths and butterflies, and between cocoons and caterpillars.

We learned this sort of by luck. We happened to catch two different kinds of caterpillars within days of each other, and put them into our butterfly house. Both pupated within 24 hours of being caught. And that’s when we learned this valuable distinction:

Moth larvae make cocoons; butterfly larvae make chrysalises.

(“Larva” refers to the caterpillar stage.)

In the photos above, the image on the left is a chrysalis, made by a swallowtail butterfly caterpillar. You will notice that it is smooth and hard. It is actually made from the shed skin of the caterpillar. Weird, right?! That’s how you know to expect a butterfly to emerge from it.

The image on the right is a cocoon, made by the larva of a white-marked tussock moth. You will notice that it is all fuzzy and hellish looking. (Just me? I dunno, it makes me shudder.) It’s made of silk. You can see the adult moth has already emerged from it!*

*(But wait, you say. How can that be a moth? It doesn’t have any wings!! Well, my friends, that is because it is a female white-marked tussock moth, and it doesn’t have any wings. It just sits there and waits for a winged male to come find it and mate with it, and then it will lay its eggs right there on its cocoon. I know, creepy/gross/weird. I kind of regret having kept that caterpillar, to be completely honest.)

I could tell you more about moths/butterflies/caterpillars/pupae, but I’m sure you’ve heard more than enough.

2. My homemade laundry detergent maybe wasn’t cutting it.

detergent

I’ve been making and using homemade laundry detergent for the last six years. You know, the kind where you mix washing soda, borax, and grated soap. Honestly, I was perfectly satisfied with it. It is SOOOOO cheap, and has no toxic chemicals or fillers in it. Yay!

So maybe my laundry didn’t come out perfect. My whites got a little dingy over time and my clothes weren’t as soft as they could be, but meh. I was saving so much money, and it’s so much better for the environment!

Then I came across this (kind of sensationalist) article on why homemade laundry detergent actually doesn’t work. And, well, her argument was pretty compelling. My clothes and linens were probably all holding onto years worth of build-up in their fibers, making them duller and less soft than they ought to be.

To summarize briefly: The reason that homemade laundry detergent doesn’t work is that it isn’t detergent at all. It’s just water softeners and soap, and the difference between soap and detergent matters. Soap works fine if you’re using really hot water and a really aggressive method of agitation, like scrubbing with a washboard. But modern washing machines don’t work like that. They just kind of swish the clothes around. For modern washing machines, you need an actual detergent. You can read more for yourself on The Trouble with Homemade Laundry Detergent. (<– a much more even-tempered analysis of the issue than the first article).

I didn’t bother with “stripping” any of my laundry like so many writers advise, but I did pick up a bottle of Nature Clean detergent* the next time I went to the grocery store, and I’ve been using it ever since.

*(I’ve been using their dishwasher detergent for years, and trust them.)

3. How to do a bobble stitch in crochet.

bobble stitch

Until recently, most of my crochet projects have been pretty basic and straightforward. Then I saw a textured cactus pillow that I just had to recreate. But I needed to learn how to do a bobble stitch. I turned to trusty YouTube.

For my fellow crocheters: you basically repeat the first part of a double-crochet 3-5 times in the same stitch, creating a bobble that pops out on the other side of the fabric.

It looks pretty fantastic, but it is time-consuming. (if you want to learn, I recommend searching it on YouTube yourself. I had to watch left-handed versions, which wouldn’t help 90% of you.)

4. You can save other people’s Instagram posts to Collections.

instagram collections

I had no idea. Before I discovered this, when I came across an Instagram photo that inspired me, I would take a screen shot of it. And then it was just saved in my “screen shots” folder on my phone. (I know. Adorable, right?)

Turns out, when you see a post you want to save, you can hit the little bookmark icon in the bottom right and save it. And if you hold it in, a “Save To” tab will pop up and you can save it to one of your collections. I quickly made collections of some of my current obsessions — Bread, Knitting, Watercolour Painting, and Home Schooling. I can refer back to them when I need inspiration. Yay!

I’ve been using this feature like crazy! It’s so fun!

(I actually learned this tidbit from Emily Freeman’s last “What I Learned” post.)

5. You can make pretty designs on your artisan bread using a razor blade.

basic sourdough boule recipe

I’ve been playing around with sourdough bread for the last few months. One of the fun parts of the process is scoring the top to make it pretty. I mean, you kind of have to do some scoring to prevent the loaf from falling all over the place, but you can be intentional about making it attractive while you’re at it.

Until recently, I just did a few diagonal slashes across the top. It looked nice. But after browsing (and saving! — see above) a bunch of bread porn on Instagram, I decided I wanted to try getting fancy. You can make lots of small, shallow cuts into the top with a razor blade and create intricate designs. It comes out looking awesome. The leaf pattern shown here is a pretty common one, and I can see why — it’s simple and gorgeous.

6. Taika Waititi directed Thor Ragnarok.

When I watched Thor Ragnarok in the theater, I couldn’t believe how funny and weird it was. The previous Thor movies had all been kind of boring and unconvincing. And I immediately recognized Korg’s distinctly Kiwi accent. I spotted a couple of familiar Kiwi actors, too. A lot of the dialogue just had some of that New Zealand flavour. So I did some digging and realized that the actor who voices Korg — Taika Waititi — is also the director. And he has directed some of my favourite comedies of all time, including The Hunt for the Wilderpeople and The Flight of the Concords.

If you’re familiar with these other titles, you know that New Zealand humour is incredibly unique and distinct. (They refer to it as “the comedy of the mundane.”) I was thrilled that Waititi was able to infuse some of this amazing humour into a blockbuster film. The guy is awesome, I am crushing on him pretty hard. (He’s handsome as heck, too!)

That’s about it for now! Hopefully you learned something you didn’t know from this post! What else did you learn this season?

How I Went from Being a Thinker to a Maker

knitting edited

*Note: Please forgive this bit of shameless navel-gazing. Even though it’s completely self-centered, I thought I’d share this, in case anyone else can relate. It’s connected to my last post: Why I’m Not Writing a Book Right Now.*

A few weeks ago I was editing my Instagram profile — I think I was just temporarily changing the link to a specific blog post — when I was struck by my own description of myself: “Thinker.”

I’ve been using that word to describe myself since I started this blog six years ago. (You can still see it in my author description in the right column of the blog). I’d gotten used to it.

But all of a sudden, I noticed that it didn’t feel like it fit anymore.

For basically all my life, I probably could have described myself as a “thinker.” I’ve lived most of my life in my head. (My mom would attest to that. I’ve always been absent-minded, absorbed with my own thoughts.)

I ruminate. I imagine. I ponder. I reflect. I take things in and I dissect them with my brain. I’ve never been much of a talker or a doer.

That’s why my life has always revolved around the written word. Words are a thinker’s tools.

It made me rather clumsy and not very useful in the real world, but I thrived in an academic setting, which is where I spent the first 24 years of my life.

But that’s not the kind of person I was seeing reflected in my Instagram feed the other day.

My feed isn’t full of thoughts and words, like you would expect from a “thinker.” Instead, these days it’s mostly full of pictures of stuff I’ve made: bread I’ve baked. Hats I’ve crocheted. Artwork I’ve painted.

“Looks like I’m more of a maker,” I thought to myself for the first time.

Hmmm.

In recent years, my focus has shifted away from reading, writing, and thinking, to mastering new skills. Baking. Cooking. Painting. Knitting. That kind of thing.

I no longer read to learn new information nearly as much I do to learn new skills. And often, I find that watching videos is a more efficient way to learn these things than reading books. So I do a lot more of that.

In the last three years alone I have picked up crocheting, knitting, watercolor painting and sourdough baking. Before that it was gardening, preserving, cooking and blogging.

What changed?

Well, I graduated from university, for starters. When I stopped being a professional student I started to recognize the value of learning some life skills.

And shortly after that, I had a baby. I had to learn some additional new skills; and my brain got so worn out by the demands of caregiving that I couldn’t think like I used to. But in those early years of mothering I still devoured books and information, and spent a lot of time reflecting and writing.

And then I had a medically complex child who spent his first year in the hospital and everything came apart. Including my brain.

What exactly happened? What encouraged this shift from thinking to making?

Thinking became too difficult.

Having two kids in my care who never slept and who constantly needed my attention put a special strain on my mental capacities. I just didn’t have the brain space to think much anymore beyond what was immediately necessary for all our survival.

Making stuff is a bit easier on the brain, somehow.

basic sourdough boule recipe

Thinking became too painful.

Since the trauma of Felix’s hospitalization, and my family’s separation, displacement, and isolation, almost all thinking triggers pain. My brain became a stew of sadness and anxiety. To this day I have to carefully guard my thoughts at every turn to keep me from turning into a useless puddle of grief and worry.

Making and doing is much less painful.

Nobody gets hurt when I create.

I needed more beauty in my life.

Especially in the dull monotony of hospital life, I started to really notice what a difference beauty made in my life. The gorgeously-decorated Christmas trees in the halls of the pediatric ward somehow allowed me to take a deep breath and relax for just a moment. The carefully-tended flower beds at the Ronald McDonald House made me feel loved and cared for.

This need for beauty has carried on. I wanted not only to witness beauty, but to participate in it.

I get a feeling of peace and calm when I pull elegant loaves of artisan bread out of the oven. I love to lay beautiful liquid colours down on paper and watch flowers pop out of the flat whiteness. It energizes me. It brings me joy when everything else feels like crap.

watercolour lily

I needed to feel in control of parts of my life, when everything else  felt completely chaotic.

Ever since Felix was born, my life has felt largely out of my control. We weren’t able to pursue any of the parenting choices we wanted to make for him, from breastfeeding to co-sleeping and elimination communication. Doctors made all the decisions about how to treat him, how to feed him, and who could even see him. For several weeks, we didn’t even know if he would live.

I have felt so completely helpless in the face of his suffering and pain.

So it feels good to be able to pick out a ball of yarn in the colour of my choice, select a pattern, and knit a sweater, just the way I want it. At least I have control over this one little thing.

knitted pink pixie bonnet

I needed to feel productive, when I realized there was so little I could actually do to help my son.

This is kind of an extension of the first. When I couldn’t do anything else, I could knit my son a hat. When I can’t figure out why everyone in my family is so miserable, I can bake them some bread.

I can’t always solve my own or anyone else’s problems, but I can create something beautiful. That’s something, at least.

How about you? Have you experienced anything like this? Can you relate?

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I’m Still Here . . . Just Not Blogging

sidewalk chalkYou know that magical time of day, when your kids are all in bed and you get a couple of hours to yourself, either to relax with your spouse or knock out a couple of items from your to-do list?

Yeah? Is that a part of your reality?

If so, GOOD FOR FRIGGIN’ YOU.

That is not a part of our reality, nor has it ever been. If we are awake, you can bet our kids are awake. If we are asleep, there’s still a pretty good chance our kids are awake.

Our kids don’t sleep. So the only time I can blog is if the grandparents are able to offer free childcare. (I don’t really make a substantial income from blogging, so it has to happen at zero cost.)

And if the grandparents are either on vacation or working extra hours at their jobs, that means blogging (or reading or art or hobbies or fun) doesn’t happen.

So! I have a couple of months-worth of blog posts I fully intend to write, but it might be a while before my hands can hit these keys for any extended period of time.

I hope you are enjoying your summer (or winter, you southern hemisphere folks!), and I hope to be back here . . . eventually.

Why the LGBT community might not feel loved by Christians

Why the LGBT community might not feel loved by ChristiansPhoto credit

Note: I consider myself a recent but very imperfect LGBTQ ally and also a Christian. So if I say things that are hurtful or incorrect to those who belong to either/both camps, I apologize in advance. And I’m aware that there are affirming churches out there, so I’m not talking about them when I say LGBTQ people might not feel loved by “Christians.” I’m talking about those individuals and groups that express the attitude I’m describing below.

As many of you are probably aware, there has been much debate and discussion around the new Beauty and the Beast movie in the Christian community. Much of it has to do with the inclusion of what the director has called an “exclusively gay moment,” and whether or not parents should let their children watch it.

This post is not about that. (But I will say that I took my daughter to see the movie, IT WAS DELIGHTFUL, and that any hints towards homosexuality were very, very subtle.)

Anyway, what I wanted to talk about was something I read in one of those well-circulated articles by a Christian mom debating the merits of the movie.

Overall, the article is a very thoughtful, kind and gentle reflection on the kinds of things we want to share with our children. She doesn’t tell us whether or not we should watch the movie with our kids, — in fact, she seems unsure herself — only that we ought to be thoughtful about such decisions.

Here’s the part that stood out to me, though, and made me pause. It comes at the end of the post:

…if you are one of my gay friends, and you read this and heard me hating you or disrespecting you or looking down on you, hear me now: I love you. I love you more than you think I do. I pray for you – not to not be gay. I pray you have a good day, that your kids are protected and grow up kind and strong. I pray you are happy and loved. I pray you’ll know Jesus in an intimate and amazing way. I pray you’ll know His love for you. [Italics in original]

Outwardly, this seems like a very loving and respectful sentiment. She loves gay people! She wishes them well! She doesn’t even want to change their sexuality! Who could object to that? I’ve heard this sentiment repeated over and over by many wonderful, caring Christians, and it sounds really loving.

But something didn’t sit right with me, and it took a couple of seconds to figure it out.

The part that bothered me was this: “I pray you’ll know Jesus in an intimate and amazing way. I pray you’ll know His love for you.”

Future tense.

The author seems to assume the gay reader doesn’t already know Jesus in an intimate way, or already know Jesus’ love for them.

The author appears to assume that the gay reader isn’t already a Christian.

That’s what bothered me. How can she possibly know that they aren’t already Christians? Maybe the gay reader already feels perfectly aligned and in tune with God, in a perfect, loving relationship.

It seems really presumptuous to assume that because the person is gay, that necessarily means they are not already a Christian. Maybe that person has a different interpretation of Scripture which allows them to feel they are already in good standing with God . . . while still being gay. Heck, maybe they’re better Christians than the author!

After reading this passage, reiterating a sentiment I’ve heard a hundred times and even shared myself in the past, I couldn’t help thinking that LGBTQ people will always feel unloved and unwelcome by the church as long as we believe you can’t be gay and Christian at the same time.

(Of course I can’t speak for how gay people feel, as I’m not one of them. But when I imagine myself in a situation where the dominant group thought it was impossible for me to be one of them on account of my sexuality, I think this is how I would feel. I’ve heard from LGBTQ people expressing similar feelings.)

This isn’t about the author specifically, but about all Christians who say they love gay people but believe they are living in sin. I’m not saying they’re wrong, I’m just saying I’m not surprised if gay people aren’t flocking to their doors for church invitations.

If you think it’s impossible to be gay and also be in a good relationship with Jesus, I suspect you will never feel like a completely safe person for an LGBTQ person to be around.

I couldn’t help but think that if I was one of the author’s gay friends, I still wouldn’t really feel loved or accepted, no matter how nicely she told me she loved me. Because she doesn’t think I’m in a good relationship with Jesus!

It made me think of how insulted I feel when an evangelist comes to my door and starts trying to convert me to their particular brand of Christianity without learning a thing about me first. I’m already a Christian! I want to tell them. How do you know I need saving? How do you know I shouldn’t be teaching you about spirituality??

It reminded me of an experience I had a few years ago. Some friends were talking about Ellen Degeneres and her show, and how much she amuses us. Ellen is one funny lady! Then one friend piped up, “Too bad she’s going to hell.” And everyone nodded sadly in agreement.

Wait, what? I thought. How do we know anything about Ellen’s soul and her eternal destination? We’ve never even met her in person! And even if we had, how much do we really know about a person’s relationship with God? How can we possibly know if someone is “going to hell”? Who are we to say we know such a thing? But it’s fairly common among many Christian circles to assume that people living “the gay lifestyle” ( <– a really problematic phrase, BTW) are destined for hell unless they change something dramatic.

Again, if I was gay, I don’t think I’d feel comfortable hanging around people who “knew” I was going to hell. I wouldn’t feel loved. I would feel judged. Even if everyone was polite and friendly.

If you do believe being gay or being in a homosexual relationship is a sin, I am not trying to argue with you. I think it’s your right to believe that. I know it’s possible to hold that belief and be perfectly civil to people who disagree with you. We can live in harmony and hold different beliefs. I’m just saying, don’t be surprised or confused if gay people don’t really want to be around you or listen to you.

Would you want to be around someone who thought you were living in sin and going to hell? Even if they repeatedly told you they loved you?? I just don’t think I would. I would want to seek out people who thought I was their complete equal in Christ.

That’s all I’m trying to say here. You may think you love gay people, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they feel it.

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What I’m Into: February 2017

crying CollageMy life right now

Remember when Felix used to wake up to play for two hours every night?

Yeah. We now refer to those as “the good old day.” His wake-up time can now be anytime between 11:30pm and 5am. The duration is typically three to four hours. He plays, drinks anywhere from one-half to three bottles, and throws a couple of tantrums. Every night.

I’M NOT COMPLAINING, YOU’RE COMPLAINING.

All right, so I’m also just a little grumpy because we were supposed to go to Florida for two weeks and then that fell through. So we planned a mini-vacation to Detroit and then that also fell through. We’ve hardly left our home to go anywhere but the hospital in the last three years but THAT’S OKAY, EVERYTHING IS FINE, I’M NOT COMPLAINING, I’M A SELF-ACTUALIZED HUMAN ADULT AND I MEDITATE AND I HAVE A FRIEND IN JESUS.

And if I reflect back, there were plenty of good things that happened on February. Like the following:

syrupTapping the maple tree to collect sap…

syrup boilingBoiling it down into syrup…

muddy walkA few days warm enough (IN FEBRUARY!) to walk barefoot . . .

forest schoolGoing to the forest school drop-in . . .

libraryAnd our local library finally opening after an eight-month strike!!!

Anyway, none of this is what you came here for! You would like my book and movie recommendations for the month! Right? So here’s what I’ve been into!

Books

Movement Matters – Katy Bowman. You guys probably know by now I’m a huge fan of Katy Bowman. I’m a devoted podcast listener and I’ve gushed about her other books. Movement Matters is paradigm-shifting collection of essays exploring the consequences of our sedentary culture. She puts forward the daring idea that we could improve our health, the environment, and our communities if we would just move more. It will probably take me years to make any kind of progress in this area because it’s just so counter-cultural, but I definitely want to move in that direction.

Audiobooks

I’m just gonna say once again that I THANK GOD for audiobooks and Overdrive. I’m going on year five of no sleep (on account of children who don’t know what nighttime is for), and these technologies have allowed me consume WAAAY more books than I’d ever be able to read with my eyeballs in this season of life. I listen while I cook dinner, scrub the bathtub, and sweep the floors. It’s amazing.

(These books would all be equally great in text form; I just happened to receive them as audiobooks.)

Bossypants – Tina Fey. This lady makes me laugh out loud. She is brilliant and delightfully self-deprecating. I always enjoy hearing the story of how folks like her get where they are. And hearing about how she became Sarah Palin’s double was a treat.

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things – Jenny Lawson. Another woman who can make me laugh until I cry. This is The Bloggess’ second memoir. Her discussion of mental illness is both needed and weirdly hysterical. She is a strange, strange, wonderful human being. (Major language warning. I’ve never hard anyone use the word vagina as much as Lawson does.)

Jane Steele – Lyndsay Faye. A complete delight. If you’re a fan of Jane Eyre, I think you’ll get a kick out of this novel. It follows a young Victorian orphan girl who, like Jane Eyre, goes to an awful boarding school and later becomes a governess. She’s clever and brave and self-aware. And also? A murderer. With a heart of gold, of course. (She only kills horrible men.) From the start she’s aware of her similarities with the famous fictional heroine. I promise, it’s better than it sounds. It reads like an authentically 19th-century novel and all of the characters are stunningly three-dimensional.

Eleanor and Park – Rainbow Rowell. I listened to this one just to see what the fuss was about. It was cute, and it’s clear that Rowell has a vivid memory of what it feels to be like a teenager. She conveyed all those feelings of first love fabulously. I enjoy a good romance every so often but I only thought this one was okay. (Don’t hate me, Rowell fans.) (Again, lots of salty language.)

Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari. I checked this one out mostly because I’m a Parks and Recreation fan (He’s the actor who played Tom Haverford). This book completely surprised me: it’s more of a sociological study on romance in today’s technological world than a humour book. He wrote it with an actual sociologist, and they conducted actual research projects, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups all over the world. It was insightful and informative and surprisingly hilarious. I think hearing Ansari read it himself was a huge bonus. He’s got a unique way of expressing things and made comical asides to us lazy audiobook listeners. (Warning: very explicit language.)

Television

DRAGONS: RACE TO THE EDGE HAS A NEW SEASON ON NETFLIX!!! Okay, ostensibly this is Lydia’s show. She is obsessed with it. But I finally gave up all pretenses of just “overhearing” the episodes she was watching and started to sit down to watch with her. SO SO GOOD. I laugh out loud multiple times during every episode. I find the twins genuinely funny and I have a soft spot for villain-turned-good-guy Dagur. Hiccup and Astrid (“Hicstrid”) are ADORABLE. I love that the main character has a disability. I love that all the nonverbal dragons have distinct personalities. And I still haven’t gotten tired of the whole Vikings-riding-dragons conceit. It’s the best. Warning: this is definitely a show written for older kids. There is a surprising amount of violence (of the face-punching kind) if that kind of thing bothers you. (I don’t mind, despite the fact that I’m a pacifist.) Lydia’s four-year-old cousin found it so scary she cried. And this season finally introduces a romantic subplot that I LOVED but Lydia HATED. (She covers her eyes and yells every time they kiss.)

Movies

Arrival. Oh my goodness. If you enjoy a good ugly cry, this movie is for you. (I personally DO NOT. I started bawling five minutes in. I cannot handle stories that center around the loss of a child.) I can’t deny that it was stunning and surprising and original. Brilliant sci-fi storytelling at its best. But oh, my poor heart.

That’s it for now! What have you been into?

*This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!*

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How Selling Our Second Vehicle Changed Our Lives

How selling our second vehicle changed our livesI know this sounds hyperbolic, but I’m being completely serious: selling our second vehicle, and becoming a one-car family, has changed our lives in ways we never expected. (Mostly in terms of financial freedom we never believed possible on our tiny income.)

Here’s the story.

Our Financial History

Like many young people of our generation, Ben and I have always struggled with money. Not because we’re bad with money, but because we just can’t make any.

school-dayMy first day of school as a married woman.

We got married when I was still in university. For the first four years of our marriage, I was in school full-time. Ben went from working shift-work at a factory to working for my carpenter dad to starting his own carpentry business. We eventually had kids and I put my degrees to work by becoming a stay-at-home mom. (That’s what liberal arts degrees are for, right?)

So our household income has always been low. But we have always been frugal. We were raised by frugal Mennonites. We shop at thrift stores, buy used vehicles, cook from scratch, and DIY all our home renovations. Our idea of a fun, indulgent night out involves going to a local bookstore to flip through (but never buy) some books and share a venti frappuccino.

Despite our frugal lifestyle, though, we could never get ahead. We never got into debt, apart from our mortgage, but we could never make a savings, either. Our bank account always hovered around the zero mark.

We had no safety net in case of financial emergency, and absolutely nothing set aside for retirement. I felt constantly anxious and we fought about money often.

Month after month, year after year, we would look through our budget and wonder, where on earth can we cut back? We were already spending the minimum possible amount on everything. We almost never ate out; we didn’t go to the movies; we didn’t have satellite for our TV or data for our used smartphones. We biked instead of driving whenever we could. We didn’t buy each other Christmas gifts. All of our technology was outdated. We didn’t go on trips or buy new clothes. What else could we possibly do?

(I am leaving out the year we lived in the hospital with our son and were financially supported solely by our wonderful government and absolutely incredible community.)

The Vehicles

We owned two used vehicles, both for which we’d paid less than $10,000 (in cash). Ben needed a truck and trailer for his carpentry business, for picking up materials and for bringing cabinets to his installation sites. We needed a family vehicle for everything else. So we owned a 2003 Ford F150 and a 2003 Dodge Caravan.

But it felt like we were constantly pouring money into these vehicles. Repairs, gas, insurance, license plate stickers, maintenance . . . it never stopped. These inexpensive, used vehicles were sucking our bank account dry. They were like black holes for money.

But we thought that was just how it had to be. We needed the two vehicles.

Or did we?

Last summer we came across the blog Mr. Money Mustache. He promotes a frugal lifestyle similar to the one we were living, and writes about it in an engaging way. He calls it “baddasity,” and we thought it sounded exciting and life-enriching. But he had one interesting, new idea: ditch the second vehicle.  Even more interesting: ditch the work truck, even if you run a business like Ben’s.

After reading this fantastic article, Ben approached me with this shocking idea: what if he sold his truck and started using the family van as his work vehicle? The van would in fact work double-duty.

He only rarely needed to pull a trailer — less than once a week. The van could handle that. Most of the time, he could probably load his materials into the back of the van. The rest of the time, he was working from home.

And since I stayed home with the kids, I only rarely needed the van, too. There were usually two vehicles sitting in the driveway, sucking up money just by existing. Even with one vehicle between us, our transportation needs would rarely conflict. And when they did, one of us could bike.

Losing the Work Truck

see ya, work truck!

Within a matter of weeks Ben had sold his truck. And suddenly we had an extra $5200 in our bank account. For the first time, our bank account was well in the black, with no reason to go down any time soon.

And the money kept piling up. We got a $1200 refund on car insurance for the year. We saved about $1000 on fuel and $500 on maintenance by not using a truck. Ben had planned to replace the tires that year, which would have cost another $1500.

That first year, we earned/saved $9000 by not owning and operating a work truck.

It was mildly inconvenient for Ben to do all his work with the family minivan, but definitely not $9000 worth of inconvenience.

What To Do With All This Money?

It was thrilling, for once, to have extra money. What should we do with it??

The first thing we did was create an emergency fund. We’re not big fans of Dave Ramsey in general, but we felt this was a first good step. It lifted a huge burden from my mind to know that money was there in case of emergency.

And beyond that, we knew we ought to invest some of our money. But how?

Investment planning is not our forte. There are likely better ways to invest extra money than the route we chose. But one thing felt like a safe bet: to use it towards our mortgage.

The amount of money you can save in interest by putting cash towards your mortgage is mind-blowing.

We figured out that by putting down an extra $8000 on our mortgage, we would be saving almost double that in the long run on interest (i.e. close to $16,000.)  (The savings on extra mortgage payments for you will, of course, vary depending on your interest rate, amortization and size of mortgage. But for some, it could mean doubling your money, as it did for us.)

Another bonus? The sooner our mortgage is paid off, the sooner all of our income becomes pure spending money, with which we can do whatever we want — from investing and saving to just plain old spending on things we want (including donating to good causes). We estimate that our first extra payment alone shaved off almost two years from that goal. We are eager to enjoy that freedom as soon as possible!

And there’s more!vacation

In addition to putting down all that money towards our mortgage, in the second year we were also able to do the following:

  • buy some good used bikes and a bike trailer for getting around town
  • visit the dentist without guilt or worry (first time in six years!)
  • experience general freedom to purchase things we needed, and get the best quality
  • start saving up for our next mortgage payment!

We plan to continue putting extra money down on our mortgage every year — ideally at least $5000 — until it’s paid off in full. In doing this we hope to shave off more interest and more years to reach financial independence.

All that freedom from getting rid of the work truck that we thought we “needed.”

In Sum:

So, basically, a $5000 clunker we were maintaining to mostly sit in our driveway had the potential to suck up $20,000 of our hard earned money and life energy over the years. Once we got rid of it, all that money slowly trickled back into our lives to go towards smarter things.

We feel more relaxed about our financial situation and we have more freedom to choose where our money goes.

We’re not promising we’ll never buy a second vehicle, but the benefits of going without for a few years have already been enormous.

If you have more than one vehicle, maybe you’d benefit from giving one up, too? Just something to consider!

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Six Reasons I Still Love the No-Poo Method, Five Years Later

I Still Love the No-Poo Method, 5 years later

Five years later, I still use and love the no-poo method.

(The no-poo method, if you’re new to it, is a method of cleaning your hair without shampoo, a.k.a. “poo.” Instead, you typically clean your hair with a baking soda rinse followed by an apple cider vinegar rinse. I first wrote about it here. I wrote an update a year later, and offered additional tips for people interested in giving it a try.)

I seem to be an anomaly. In the years since I published my first post on going shampoo-free, there have been many posts from other no-poo bloggers who have changed their minds on the method. They have had experiences with their hair being damaged and getting broken. They have written long, detailed explanations as to why the no-poo method is scientifically bad for your hair. Apparently the strong alkalinity of the baking soda can strip your hair of its natural oils, leading to porous, fragile hair. (This article from Empowered Sustenance is one of them. Beth from Red and Honey also had a bad experience.)

So the method certainly doesn’t seem to be for everyone.

But after all this time, it’s still working for me. My hair and scalp are as healthy as they’ve ever been. I haven’t noticed any damage after five solid years of using this method. My hair is shiny and strong, I don’t have the dandruff of my youth, and my hair doesn’t get as oily as it used to. I also don’t battle the static and flyaways that I did for most of my life.

So I thought I’d explore that a little bit, and then talk about why I still love it.

Wait, How Does This Method Work?

no poo method materials(My super-classy tools)

My method has slowly evolved over the years. Here’s how I do it now.

Once a week, I make my rinses.

I make my baking soda rinse in a plastic cup. I dump in 1 Tbsp baking soda and then fill it up to the 1-cup mark with hot water (to dissolve it). Then I keep it in the shower. When it’s shower time, I just pour a small amount of it on my head and gently massage it in my scalp then rinse with water.

I keep my ACV rinse in a high-quality spray bottle in the shower. I pour in 4 Tbsp vinegar and then fill up to the 2-cup mark with water. After the baking soda rinse, I very thoroughly spray my whole head with the ACV, then rinse with water.

Who Are the Best Candidates for the No-Poo Method?hair after no-poo

I can only speak from my own experiences, but I have a few suspicions why the no-poo method works for me and not for others.

I think the primary factor is hair type.

I have straight, slippery hair that leans towards oiliness. It’s also never been dyed or permed. Virgin hair, this. My greatest hair woes have always been lack of volume and a tendency to get greasy. (As a teen, I used to have to wash my hair up to twice a day to battle the greasies.) So “stripping” my hair of its “natural oils” doesn’t seem to be a problem. See ya later, “natural oils,” and good riddance!

You might be a good candidate for the no-poo method if you’re like me — you have naturally smooth hair with an abundance of natural oils.

The folks who seem to fare the worst when it comes to the no-poo method are be women with dry, coarse, frizzy, and/or brittle hair. It also seems to be incompatible with coloured hair. So if you belong to this group, you might think twice before using the no-poo method.

But hey, I’m no expert, so do what you want. And if you belong to the second group and have had great, long-term success with no-poo, let me know!

And now…

Why I (Still) Love the No-Poo Method

no-poo method, five years later

  • It is SO CHEAP.

I just emptied out the last of my baking soda box that I bought in January. (I wrote the date on the box when I bought it.) It’s the beginning of August. That’s almost seven months. So I only use about two boxes a year — for me and my husband. That’s about $3 a year in baking soda for the two of us.

I get my apple cider vinegar from my mom, who makes it from discarded apple cores and peels. So it’s free for me. But even if I bought 2-3 jugs a year, that’s only an additional $6-9. Bringing the grand total to about $12 a year for the adults in this house.

There are some natural shampoos that cost that much per bottle. And they’re teeny-tiny.

(Side note: I don’t use baking soda and ACV on the kids. Too messy and complicated. Wanna know what I use? Water. Turns out, kids who haven’t reached puberty don’t really need shampoo. I just rinse their hair with water a couple of times a week for regular maintenance. If there’s food in their hair I use a squirt of this natural shampoo which you can get at Whole Foods. I think I bought our last bottle two years ago.)

If I didn’t have the no-poo method I would probably use some kind of natural, organic, fair-trade shampoo and conditioner like I occasionally use on my kids, and that ish is expensive.

  • It’s so environmentally friendly.

waterfall

Like I said above, I use about two boxes of baking soda and two jugs of apple cider vinegar a year. Both of those things come in minimal, recyclable packaging. And the production of these natural food products uses a lot fewer resources than conventional shampoo and conditioner. Ben and I use about 1 Tbsp of baking soda and 4 Tbsp of vinegar a week between the two of us. Plus there are no toxic ingredients that get leached into the environment.

You’re welcome, planet.

  • It has no smell.

Some people like their body care products artificially perfumed. I’m not one of them.

You can use essential oils, of course, but that gets expensive over time, too.

My favourite scent, then, is no scent.

When we had to suddenly move into the Ronald McDonald House in another city so that our son could receive treatment at the hospital, we had to use the shampoo they provided for a while until we got settled. I couldn’t stand that strong, artificial smell. I tried to buy some unscented shampoo at the nearest drugstore but it was almost impossible to find.

Eventually we were able to get everything arranged so that we could use the no-poo method again, and it was so nice to not have to pour unidentified smelly chemicals onto my head.

  • There are no toxic ingredients.

I don’t want to belabour this point, but we all know most shampoos contains ingredients that are harmful to our bodies. (Read this article from the David Suzuki Foundation if you want to learn more.) As I’ve mentioned, there are natural shampoo alternatives, but they are tricky (many still contain troubling ingredients, and others don’t work very well) as well as expensive.

So if I can use ingredients from my pantry to clean my hair, I’m going to do it.

  • I can find the ingredients anywhere.

As I mentioned above, when we unexpectedly found ourselves in the Ronald McDonald House in another city I scoured the drugstore shelves for an acceptable shampoo alternative. I couldn’t find one.

If you use a special natural shampoo, odds are you can’t get it just anywhere. It probably comes from a special store or website.

But baking soda and apple cider can be purchased just about anywhere you can buy food. I’m pretty sure they’re both available all over the world. So if I travel to other countries, I know I’ll be able to pick up my trusty hair-cleaning products at the local grocery store, no problem. That’s a real comfort!

  • It works for me.

no poo method - result after 5 years

Like I said in my opening, the no-poo method has made me happy. My hair is healthy. I couldn’t be more pleased with the results. Why change it?

 

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Why This Pacifist Supports Her Daughter’s Violent Play

lydia's drawing edited“This is a bad girl, and this fairy is killing her with a sword,” my daughter explains about the picture she has drawn.

“Oh,” I remark. “That’s interesting.”

“I’m going to pick up a stick and stab the monster in the head and the tummy,” she confides in me as we walk through the scary trees.

“Wow, you’re brave,” I tell her. “Show me how you’re going to do it.”

When I started retelling her the story of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, the part of the story that most intrigued her was the part where Eric drives a ship into Ursula’s gigantic belly. I didn’t hold back on any of the details. She was fascinated.

As a princess-obsessed four-year-old who spends her days drawing and dressing up, I’m surprised how often my daughter speaks of “killing.”

And as a pacifist, I’m sometimes surprised how okay I am with it all.

I’m A Pacifist, But . . .

I don’t believe in hitting children in any manner or under any circumstances. (In fact, I don’t even believe in punishing them at all.) I don’t believe in carrying a weapon for self-defense. I come from a long line of pacifists (Mennonites) who have risked their lives to avoid participating in war. I don’t believe there is such a thing as redemptive violence. Ever.

I’ve always been the person to outlaw violent video games in our home because they “encourage violent behaviour and a glorification of guns.” I would recoil in horror if I heard children talk of stabbing or chopping up enemies. I nodded with understanding when studies reported that watching violent media leads to increased aggression. Of course it does!, I thought. I assumed we would have a no-toy-guns policy when our kids got older.

I’m still committed to radical non-violence. But my relationship to violent play changed last year — before my daughter had any vocabulary or visibly inclination for violence — when I read the book Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence by Gerard Jones.

To my complete surprise, Jones managed to overturn many of my beliefs about fantasy violence.

Now that my daughter is older, she’s starting to think about, imagine, and play out violent behaviour, mostly towards imaginary creatures. And instead of trying to talk her out of it, suppress it, or lecture her about it, I support it.

Here’s why.

1. Kids need a safe way to express their fears and aggression.

The world is a scary place, and children feel very small and powerless in it. “Of all the challenges children face, one of the biggest is their own powerlessness,” Jones writes (p. 65). Children are constantly and painfully aware that they are extremely vulnerable. Their bodies are small and weak in a world ruled by grown-ups, and they have very little control over their lives. Thus “one of our most profound yearnings as we grow up,” Jones argues, “is simply to feel powerful” (p. 66). Play violence helps a child experience that feeling. After all, one of the greatest powers a human can wield is the power to kill a foe. Some might do it with a magic wand; others with an imaginary dagger.

Play — especially aggressive play — allows children to release those powerful emotions and experience some of those feelings of strength and mastery. “Aggression is an expression of the need to feel strong,” Jones argues. “Children will face it, and feel it, and have to do something with it. Playing with it makes it feel less scary, [and] puts them in charge” (p. 68).

I like how Jones summarizes some of the essential functions of play:

It ‘explodes’ tension through emotional arousal and make-believe aggression. It provides correctives, happy endings, that help children to believe that what frightens them can be overcome. It helps them navigate their concerns through structures and rules that they can learn and predict and so feel they’ve mastered. It allows them to manipulate troubling ideas until those ideas become familiar and lose their power. (p. 101)

Lydia grieving over my remains. A monster shot me with swords and now I have turned into dirt.

Lydia grieving over my remains. A monster shot me with swords and now I have turned into dirt. Of course she is dressed as Elsa.

2.Violent play doesn’t cause real violence.

I don’t have the space or desire to explore this extensively — you’ll have to read Jones’ book yourself if you want to learn more. But he argues very persuasively that make-believe violence doesn’t necessarily cause or turn into real violence.

Yes, kids can get hurt when they wrestle or swordplay with sticks. And yes, boisterous play can get out of hand and require occasional adult intervention to keep them from destroying the living room.

However, “the benefits of rough-and-tumble play are well documented,” Jones points out. “It can be annoying for parents, it can get out of hand and lead to head bumps, but most authorities agree that it’s normal, healthy, and generally conducive to more confidence kids” (p. 37).

And yes, there are kids who are genuinely violent. But their violence stems from other problems in their lives, not from violent play.

He explains: “Profiles of violent adolescents don’t generally show any exorbitant amount of aggressive play early in life, and, in fact, often show the opposite: violent teenagers often had trouble bonding with peers in normal childhood play” (37).

Kids know the difference between fantasy and real violence.

We adults feel anxious when our kids talk about killing and shooting and stabbing, for fear that they will want to act out these things in real life.

But kids know that their bloody fantasies are separate from reality. They don’t actually want to plunge blades into actual bodies. My little girl can talk about stabbing monsters all day, but I know that if I gave her a real dagger there would be a 0% chance she would actually stab somebody with it.

But sometimes we act like we genuinely fear that our children will try to kill each other when we see or hear them play-fighting, and that sends confusing messages.

In fact, when we get worked up about their make-believe violence, we send the troubling message that their fantasies are dangerous.

“We don’t help children learn the difference between fantasy and reality when we allow their fantasies to provoke reactions from us that are more appropriate to reality,” Jones argues. (56)

When we freak out and start shouting, “We don’t shoot people!”

we blur the very boundaries that [children are] trying to establish. We teach them that pretend shooting makes adults feel threatened in reality, and therefore their own fantasies must be more powerful and more dangerous than they thought. The results for the child is more anxiety and self-doubt, more concern over the power of violent thoughts, less sense of power over their own feelings, and less practice expressing their fantasies — a combination far more likely to lead either to behavioral problems or excessive timidity than safe self-enjoyment would be. (56)

(Side note: a popular Mennonite old-wives tale tells of a child who pretended to shoot another child with a stick, and then real bullets came out and shot the other child. This is a perfect example of what Jones is talking about. The story meant to deter children from play-shooting, but what I think it really does is tell children that imagination can be dangerous.)

So when Lydia tells me she was trying to “kill” her cousin, I don’t have to worry that she harbours any real desire to murder her little friend. We do need to have a conversation about respecting her cousin’s desire not to be whacked on the head, but I don’t need to be alarmed by her violent language. I don’t need to tell her “We don’t kill people!” because she already knows.

So I’m not going to worry about all of her violent language and play. I’m confident that I’m still raising a little pacifist who will someday use her self-confidence and imagination to make the world a gentler, more loving place.

(Check out Killing Monsters by Gerard Jones if you want to learn more. It’ a great read!)

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What I’m Into: January 2016

The seasons, according to my preference

Winter is objectively the worst season by a billion percent.

I’ve always hated winter, but this year is especially tedious because we have a child in isolation. We can’t go anywhere. We can’t go to the library or the petting zoo or a friend’s house. We can’t go to grandma’s. We can’t run to the store. We’re just inside. At home. All. The. Time.

Technically we could go outside, but Lydia is always wearing those damn princess dresses without any leggings or tights or socks (“They’re not pwetty enough”) so getting ready to go out in the wind and slush takes an hour so I just don’t bother trying anymore. (By the time I’ve convinced her to bundle up Felix needs a bottle or a diaper change or I need to start on supper.)

I wish I was mature enough not to complain, especially given that last winter we spent in the hospital with Felix (I should be perpetually delighted that we’re all alive and well and under the same roof) . . . but I’m just so friggin tired all the time.

Felix’s habit of waking up every night for a two-hour party has expanded to twice the number two-hour parties, so now Ben and I each have to take a shift every night. So we’re both always tired. I don’t have the mental energy to be positive.

Spring should hopefully bring with it sunshine, warmth, and an end to isolation.

So I’m trucking along, repeating, Only two more months till spring . . . Only two more months till spring . . .

In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been into.

Firespiral Woven Baby Wrap

carrier

A dear friend whom I know only online sent me this amazing woven wrap from Firespiral. (I’d never used a woven wrap before.)

I just cannot get enough of it. It’s gorgeous. It’s comfier than any other baby carrier I’ve ever used. Felix loves it — it’s like holding him in a constant hug (while leaving my arms free.) And thanks to my experience with the Moby Wrap, I had no trouble learning how to use it.

I’m in love.

Books

Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence (Vicki Robin). This doesn’t sound like a very exciting book, but it’s one of the first books on money to get Ben and me excited about finances.

This is not a budgeting book, telling you how to allocate your money and stick to your guns. (In others words, this is no Dave Ramsey, who just never worked for us.) It’s about developing consciousness around where exactly your money is coming and going, so that you can align your money flow with your values. It teaches you to see your work and money as “life energy,” so you can reorder material priorities.

Unfortunately my enthusiasm for this book fizzled out when Ben and I realized we just don’t have the mental energy to implement these fantastic practices right now. We just need to not kill each other until spring.

But eventually we’re coming back to this.

Kids’ Books: Princess Edition

princess books

I decided that if Lydia was going to be obsessed with princesses, FINE. I’m not going to fight it. But I will try to introduce her to some decent princesses in some decent stories. (She recently informed my sister that all princesses do is stand in windows and get ready for the ball. Oh no she didn’t.) (P.S. I got a lot of ideas from this awesome post).

Princess in Training (Tammi Sauer) – This one kinda feels like it was written by an angsty teenager. Princess Viola doesn’t fit in because she likes to karate chop, dive, and skateboard. (She probably also listens to emo music about how “Nobody understaaaaands me.”) So she takes princess lessons, where she struggles to do things “right.” In the end, her predilections help her to save the day when a dragon crashes the party. (How, exactly, skateboarding and diving into a fountain help defeat the dragon is beyond me.) I’m just glad the story has a plot (a rare quality in princesses stories), even if it does feel like the author is trying too hard. The illustrations are fabulous. And Lydia has already memorized it.

Paperbag Princess (Robert Munsch). I loved this Munsch classic as a kid. Clever Elizabeth realizes she can outwit the dragon and doesn’t need dumb Prince Ronald after all.

Princess Hyacinth (Florence Parry Heide) is about a princess who floats and who isn’t allowed out of the palace (for her safety, so she doesn’t float away). She and a local boy figure out how she can live an enjoyable life despite her unusual problem. I find the illustrations weird but the story is lively and surprising.

Princess Pigsty (Cornelia Funke). I like this one more than Lydia does. Princess Isabella is tired of being a princess (it’s boring) and she would rather take care of the pigs, to the king’s dismay. It ends up being a tale of a girl’s assertiveness and a father’s enduring love. Isabella and her father both come out winners, which is pretty sweet.

Children’s Bible

Jesus Storybook Bible - review

I wrote about my struggle with children’s Bibles two years ago, and got quite the response. Turns out I’m not alone. But this year we found our Bible:

The Jesus Storybook Bible (Sally Lloyd-Jones). Finally. The Bible I’ve been looking for. It’s not perfect (the author takes a few liberties, and it’s missing some important stories), but I like how it brings the stories to life. The author really sets the scenes with purple skies and sweet-smelling breezes and laughing birds. The characters are delightfully three-dimensional, and the artwork is lovely and whimsical and kid-friendly without being juvenile or garish. It doesn’t look the other way from death but it doesn’t dwell on it, either.

And Lydia loves it. She’s excited to read from the Bible every night to find out what’s going to happen next. That there is the biggest win.

I’d heard many rave reviews of this book in the past, but I never thought Lydia was old enough for it. Now that she’s four, it’s perfect for her.

Movies

The Abominable Bride. Remember how absolutely gaga I am for Sherlock? I about lost my mind when I discovered that the special episode (which takes place in Victorian England) was playing at our local theater. Grandma babysat and we made it a date. (With two of my sisters in the backseat of the minivan.)

It was everything you could possibly want it to be. I watch the show 80% for the relationship between Sherlock and John, 10% for the hilarious banter, and 10% for the actual mystery-solving. The costumes, sets, and music were perfect. It was creepy, thrilling, and full of surprises. Does anyone else just adore Mrs. Hudson? Oh, and Moriarty? Gah, I just loved everything about it.

Inside Out. We finally saw this on DVD. It’s brilliant, moving, and delightful, as we’ve come to expect from Disney-Pixar. But difficult for the four-and-under crowd to understand. Lydia was totally confused and couldn’t grasp the conceit at all (The characters are personified emotions living in a little girls’ mind), though she did enjoy watching the characters’ silly antics. I definitely cried more than once.

That’s it for now!

Linking up with Leigh Kramer.

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Why This Exercise-Averse Mom is Trying Kettlebell Workouts

3 Reasons to Try a Kettlebell (Even if you hate exercise)

I hate to exercise and so I never do it.

(When I say “exercise” I’m referring to “working out,” i.e. exercising for exercising’s sake. I.e., running in one spot, lifting the same heavy piece of equipment over and over again, etc. It’s not that I hate all physical exertion. I’m happy to ride my bike long distances if I have a destination in mind, or lifting and carrying things to improve our back yard. I love to swim and dance and take long walks. I just hate any of the stuff that goes on in a gym.)

There are two major factors that contribute to my exercise aversion:

1. It feels so pointless.

Obviously people exercise for a reason (i.e. the goal is weight loss, increased strength and endurance, etc). But I have never derived any satisfaction out of physical exertion without an immediate purpose or goal. Like I said — if I need to get somewhere, I get a thrill out of biking there. I don’t mind “feeling the burn” while toiling in the garden.

But if, at the end of the session, all I’ve done is gotten myself sweaty, I kind of feel like I’ve wasted my time.

I’m a naturally thin person. (I’m sorry.*) I have no interest in losing weight. I’m happy with my body shape. So it’s hard to set achievable goals, aside from being able to do X number of reps. Which isn’t particularly inspiring to me.

*(If it helps, I started getting acne at eleven — a full four years before I hit puberty — and it doesn’t seem to be letting up now that I’m thirty. My boobs are about the size of an eleven-year-old’s too, but saggy now, because I breastfed for over two years. So we all have our aesthetic crosses to bear.)

2. I have two kids who don’t sleep.

In spite of trying every trick on the Internet, our four-year-old doesn’t seem to need more than about nine hours of sleep. Which is exactly the same amount of sleep I need. Plus my one-year-old likes to have a two-hour play session every night around 2am.

I’m a stay-at-home mom who works hard to cook from scratch, educate my children, and save every dollar I can by doing things myself. So I don’t have a ton of time or energy (or money) for working out at the gym. Or even running on a treadmill at home. Even if I wanted to (which I don’t. See #1.)

At the end of the day I just want to squeeze in a little sleep before my littlest monkey decides it’s party time.

 Kettlebells: The Answer?

kettlebell swing(Image courtesy of wellnuff.)

I do, however, want to take care of my body. I need it in order to care for my family. My health is important to me. I work hard to eat healthy, and I know exercise is also important to my well-being.

During the summer I can take long walks outside with the kids, but winter is particularly challenging. (Especially this year where we’ve had to stay isolated for Felix’s safety.)

A couple of years ago I came across some interesting articles on kettlebells. These articles claimed you could do a workout in just ten minutes a day.

I created a “Maybe I Will Exercise” pin board on Pinterest, and pinned these articles to it.

That pin board remained that way, untouched, for a couple of years while I sat on the idea.

This year, with another winter of isolation upon me, I decided to ask for a kettlebell for Christmas and take the plunge.

Why Kettlebells Appeal to Me

1. You only need to work out about ten minutes at a time, three times a week, to see results.

At least, that’s what Tim Ferriss and Wellness Mama tell me.

It supposedly works as strength and cardio training in one. It’s a workout for your entire body, developing all-purpose strength and flexibility.

I can fit that into my schedule! Even someone as exercise-averse as me can stand to pant and sweat for ten minutes.

2. It only requires one piece of (relatively inexpensive) equipment, which takes up almost no space.

3 reasons to try a kettlebell

One kettlebell. That’s all you need to get started. Mine cost about $58. (You can get one at just about any sports store). And it takes up as much space as a decorative vase.

Once you get the hang of it, you don’t even need to watch or own any videos. (I get so sick of workout videos.)

And unlike a (huge, ugly, expensive, cumbersome) treadmill, it uses no electricity, making it an environmentally-friendly choice. (That matters to me.)

I know there are workouts you can do that don’t require any equipment (like pushups, burpees, etc), but honestly, I felt like I needed something physical to remind me and motivate me to do my work. Something to hold in my hands and make me feel like an Amazon warrior princess.

3. You don’t even need to change your clothes.

At least, that’s the impression I get from all the online videos I’ve seen. Everyone seems to do their kettlebell workouts in jeans. Which is what I’m always already wearing. Perfect.

I don’t know why this was such a big draw to me. One less step to keep me from ever actually getting around to it.

You don’t have to go anywhere, you don’t have to shower afterwards . . . all you have to do is try to find ten minutes out of your day.

My Experience So Far

Granted, I’ve only been trying this for a few weeks myself. So I can’t say much from personal experience.

I start with a bit of easy yoga to stretch and warm up, and maybe do a few practice swings without the kettlebell just to warm up. Then I’ll do ten dead-lifts to get started. (I learned from Tim Ferriss.)

So far, I’m only doing very short sessions, just to get the hang of it — twenty swings, followed by a ten-second rest, repeated five times. Even that is enough to turn my legs to jelly!

I plan on working up to Wellness Mama’s workout in the next few weeks.

But I’m enjoying the mild soreness in my legs afterward, letting me know it’s working.

I love how quick it is — in just ten minutes I’m back to my old routine. It doesn’t eat up Felix’s entire nap time.

Hopefully I’ll be able to update you with success news in the upcoming months!

*Important Note: I totally expect to give up in the summer when I have real-life exercise happening. Can’t wait to pull my kids all over town in the bike trailer! The kettlebell is just to hold me over during these awful winter months.

What do you think? Do you hate exercise, too? Have you tried kettlebells? What was your experience?

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