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    Life, death, and more

    "What happens when we die?"


    Maybe it is asked while we were looking at old photographs, or had a conversation with an elderly person, or saw a dead bug on the sidewalk. My children are full of those questions which are the essence of life. They ask these questions, the questions we all ask, and I – without intimate knowledge of previous or future lives (at least that which I can remember) – answer to the best of my ability: I’m not sure.


    Yet, my job as a parent is to know things, to educate my children, to share my understanding and experiences of the world, and to guide them on their path of understanding. Even if --- I’m not actually sure about what I know. Uncertain as I may be, I feel the need to delve a bit deeper. (Because, around here, unless everyone is REALLY tired, “I’m not sure” as an answer, just doesn’t cut it.).


    So from the depths of my 35 years of quasi-understanding come some frazzled bits of semi-certainties, which start my conversation: When we die, our bodies stop working. (Why?) They stop working because they are very old, and when things get very old, they start breaking down, and eventually don’t work any longer (I usually reference some bit of concrete “evidence” of the toll of age – like a rusty bike wheel that doesn’t spin well or won’t hold air any longer).



    Okay, so far so good. And to this, I think most people, regardless of belief system, can agree – people, and animals, and plants, die when they are old. So, I could leave well enough alone, and let the concrete “certainties” suffice.


    But here’s where it gets tricky. Because… death. See, I’m just not so sure that death IS so concrete. Our body yes; bodies die. Yet, to me, there’s more than just a body in life.  And as such, as we are here now, in life, in the living, I feel there’s more of an explanation needed of what happens when we die that my children should hear from me.  Because I believe there’s some explanation of life; implicit in a full definition of death. If you can’t explain life how can you explain death?


    I believe there’s something MORE to life than just humans mindlessly (or even mindfully) wandering the earth, aging out of their bodies, and keeling over once spent. I think (therefore I am) that there is more.


    So I endeavor to explain this --- more. I tell my children that we are not just body, but bodies filled with energy – a life force. This energy is something that ties us all together as humans, animals, creatures on this planet. This energy is something we have some control over which allows us to affect others by being positive, negative, joyful, or sorrowful. This energy is why when you are feeling sad or hurt; sometimes just a hug from a friend is all you need to reconnect; and accordingly why it’s important, when you see someone feeling down, that you offer them YOUR energy through a kind word, a “gentle touch” as we like to say, or just being there to listen. And this energy is why a walk in nature is all it takes to re-charge when we’re feeling depleted – the life force of the mighty trees, the connection of your feet to the immensity of the earth, the warmth of the sun on your skin, the air in your lungs – this is why it is so important to care for the earth – because she cares for us. This energy and strength within us is so important to our own everyday lives and the lives around us – animal and plant alike – and it’s the something MORE that transcends our existence in this body.



    So, what happens when you die? Maybe the energy in your body, the amazingness of YOU, goes back into the earth, the air, the trees, and gives more life to the people around you. Maybe it becomes another life. Maybe, just as in life, you continue to enhance other lives after death (like the way bugs and leaves decompose and fertilize the earth for the next generation of bugs and plants).


    Or. Maybe there’s nothing after death – I’m sure that too is entirely possible. But I’m not quite ready to believe the necessity or benefit in accepting that possibility. So, at this point, I don’t share that with my children.  Their positivity is so inspiring, I see no call to dampen it with cold uncertainties. None of us are certain of why we are really here, nor what happens after death; so why not believe that life can be wondrous – the now and the hereafter? The belief that there is reason to be here – that I am connected to everything around me helps give me purpose. The promise of continuing life beyond the limits of our frail bodies is motivation to me to continue living, sharing, and giving the energy that I have, in hopes that it will continue to foster those who live beyond my body. Maybe it’s not a concrete energy or force – but maybe if my children simply internalize my belief in the power we have to affect everyone and everything around us – and pass that on to their children – that is enough hope for life after death. I can’t be sure. But simply answering, “I’m not sure” leaves too much to be desired. So I give them more. 

    Posted: Mar 29 2011, 23:44 by kelly | Comments (13) RSS comment feed |
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    Starting Seeds

    Last year was the first year we tried planting edible plants in our backyard in containers, and had a fairly successful (albeit modest) harvest: a couple of sweet strawberries, three tiny cucumbers, and several handfuls of cherry tomatoes! In our condo, we are blessed with a tiny fenced yard which allows us a private (although mostly shady) area where we can plant our own veggies and flowers, along with a sunny garden we built up against the woods in the common area. We've used the in-ground garden in past years for non-edible plants (due to the pesticides & fertilizers which are spread in the neighborhood [not inside the fences], I'm not comfortable eating anything from the common area) like sunflowers and pumpkins. This year, we decided to get a bit more ambitious with our edible garden, and we're going for some shade-tolerant root veggies: beets & carrots, greens: lettuce, spinach, and broccoli, along with fun-to-grow & eat snap peas! It's still a bit too cold yet in New Jersey to plant veggies outside, so we decided to start our seeds inside, and move them out to the back in a few weeks. I'm not sure yet whether we'll construct a raised bed, or plant in pots again. We also haven't decided what's to go in the common area garden yet either. Stay tuned for details!

    We bought some lovely organic potting soil (from Maine - yay!), biodegradable pots, and organic seeds, put down some newspaper, and got to work! The kids had a blast in the dirt (okay, so did I!), my daughter showed a bit of her creative side with designing the seed markers, and my son practiced his motor skills gently watering the finished pots. Enjoy our afternoon in pictures... Can't wait until they start to sprout!

    (Go Organic!)

    (If you could only SMELL this dirt - *swoon*)

    (Carefully filling the pots)

    (Gently sprinkling the seeds)

    (More seeding...)

    (Watering the pots)


    Are you planning a garden this year? What are you planting?

    Posted: Mar 28 2011, 00:35 by kelly | Comments (6) RSS comment feed |
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    Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil Salad or Bruschetta

    Inspired by the upcoming growing season (okay, and the beautiful display of tomatoes and basil in the grocery store!), the kids & I decided to make a salad for dinner. This recipe is simple, uses just a few fresh ingredients (perfect for summer when your garden is full!), and can be served in a variety of ways.


    3 Smallish to medium tomatoes on the vine
    1 cup Fresh basil
    1/2 cup Fresh mozzarella balls (you can sub cubed tofu to make this vegan)
    3 Tbs Extra virgin olive oil
    2 Tbs Balsamic vinegar
    Sea Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper

    Alternative Ingredients:
    Baby Spinach


    Cut the tomatoes into whatever size you'd like - smaller chunks for bruschetta, larger for a salad. Chop the basil & loosely fill a one cup measure. If you like your salad more basil-y (yum!), use more! Add all the ingredients into a large bowl and toss gently. Allow to marinate for just a bit, then enjoy!

    We ended up adding some chopped cucumber at the end, to add a bit of volume to the salad, and I served mine over a bed of baby spinach leaves. You can also chop the tomatos a bit finer, and serve on toasted sourdough or Italian bread as a fabulous bruchetta!

    Posted: Mar 23 2011, 22:39 by kelly | Comments (6) RSS comment feed |
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    Why Should You Breastfeed Your Baby?

    If you are pregnant, you may be considering breastfeeding your baby once she arrives. Breastfeeding is natural, normal, and healthy – for your baby and for you! You may not know yet if it’s the choice you want to make, but, please consider these reasons why breastfeeding – even if you aren’t sure it’s the right choice for you – is likely the right choice for your baby:


    Breastmilk helps fight infection!
    When you breastfeed, your antibodies are passed from your body to your baby. What this means is that your baby will get sick less often [50% reduced risk of ear infections, 64% reduced risk of GI infections, 72% reduced risk of hospitalization from pneumonia | Source: http://www.breastfeedingtaskforla.org/resources/ABMRisks.htm
    ] and when she does get sick, it will likely be less severe, and the duration will be shorter. The antibacterial properties of breastmilk don’t stop IN your baby. You can use breastmilk topically too – to clear & moisturize tiny noses, treat pink eye, and soothe rashes, small scrapes, and other infections.

    [Source: WomensHealth.org]

    Breastfeeding your baby reduces the risk of SIDS!
    SIDS risk is diminished by about 50% in breastfed babies according to a study done in Germany
    . But WHY does breastfeeding help keep your little one safer? There are several reasons! [Eight of which are discussed in detail on Dr. Sears’ website]. The infection-reducing properties of human milk keep baby healthier while sleeping – reducing the risk of RSV which can lead to SIDS. Breastmilk contains vital nutrients and fats to help baby’s brain and nervous system develop more completely. Breast milk is natural – so if aspirated, is less likely than formula to cause irritation or lead to apnea. Breastmilk reduces the severity of GER in infants. Breastfeeding calms and organizes baby so she does not fall into unnaturally deep and potentially dangerous sleep. Breastfeeding helps mom connect more deeply with her baby – and become more sensitive to baby, even while asleep (I have felt this distinctly myself). Finally, breastfeeding is more of a challenge for baby than bottle feeding, so baby develops better sucking, breathing, and swallowing coordination and facial muscle tone – all of which help baby breathe better while sleeping.


    Breastfeeding is natural and normal; formula is not!

    Human milk is perfect for human babies! What comes from your body is designed specifically for your baby. If you can’t breastfeed, another human’s breastmilk is still far closer to what your baby needs than formula made from another species' breastmilk or from a plant. Breastmilk is living: it changes with your baby, according to her needs, and is always just the right temperature. Formula is made in a factory, and is mixed with water and served in a bottle. As such, it can be subject to contamination. The ingredients (water and bottle included) can be tainted with pesticides, fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics, cleaning chemicals, dangerous bacteria like salmonella, foreign material, high levels of metals like aluminum (particularly in soy-based formulas), and the list of potentially toxic or dangerous possibilities goes on. While breastmilk isn’t always contaminant-free, you can control most of what is in your breastmilk through your diet. And, even if what you eat or drink isn’t perfect, breastfeeding is still the healthiest choice for your baby. If you’re concerned that what you eat might not be compatible with breastfeeding, check this page out first – you might be surprised! There is very little that a mother can't ingest that would negatively affect baby. 


    “…research tells us that the quality of a mother’s diet has little influence on her milk. Nature is very forgiving – mother’s milk is designed to provide for and protect baby even in times of hardship and famine. A poor diet is more likely to affect the mother than her breastfed baby…” [Source: How does a mother’s diet affect her milk?]


    The truth is, our bodies do an excellent job of filtering out what isn’t good for baby, and giving baby exactly what she needs, even if we don’t do the best job of eating ourselves. Trust your body to do right by your baby!

    [Source: WomensHealth.gov] 

    Breastfeeding is free!

    This may seem like a simple concept, and as such, it is often overlooked – particularly if you’ve been given tons of free samples in the hospital (and from friends, or in the mail). But the fact is, when the free samples run out, you have to buy formula – and it is expensive; particularly if your baby needs a special formulation due to formula intolerance, or you choose premixed liquid, instead of powder. And as baby gets older, he’ll need MORE formula, as it is always the same and doesn’t change in composition like breastmilk. Going rates are anywhere from $100 - $300/mo. or more just in formula costs – and that doesn’t include bottles, bottle brush, drying rack, etc! Now, if you add in to the equation that breastfed babies are typically sick less often (thus reducing doctor and presccription bills), breastfeeding really is the most economical choice. For an interesting comparison of the cost of formula with the typical costs of breastfeeding, check out this calculator.


    With all these benefits in mind, why not give breastfeeding a try? Even if you only nurse your baby for a few days you will have given your baby the natural gift of your milk. I really believe the choice to breastfeed your baby is a choice you won’t regret. I know I never have; it's one of my most amazing parenting experiences so far!

    Wordless Wednesday: Spring Geocaching

    Spring is almost here! The morning rain stopped, and the afternoon brought warm(ish) temperatures and glorious sun - just perfect for an outdoor geocaching (what's geocaching?) adventure!

    Starting off...

    Getting closer...

    I think it's down there somewhere...

    We found it!!!

    Kids & water...

    Cool old house alond the way...

    I just had to peek inside (it's the photographer in me - going to have to get a real camera one of these days!)...

    And look, the daffodils think it's Spring!!

    What are you doing now that it's nearly Spring?

    Posted: Mar 16 2011, 17:50 by kelly | Comments (3) RSS comment feed |
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