Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Tour of Our Church

Welcome to the September 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Home Tour
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have opened up their doors and given us a photo-rich glimpse into how they arrange their living spaces.
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We fell in love with our home as soon as we walked through the doors, but before committing to the purchase, Amanda and I asked ourselves how practical it would be to live in a one room, renovated church.

We compiled a list of pros and cons to help us make our decision. One positive attribute we listed was that the space was perfect for entertaining. The open floor plan would allow plenty of flexibility to plan everything from intimate dinner parties to larger events with live music. We couldn’t wait to start having guests over.

In the negative column, we admitted that the open floor plan, lack of closets, and small square footage would be impractical if we were to have children. It was the perfect home for a couple or single person, but not a family.

We have now lived in our home for eight years, and discovered we were horribly wrong on both points. We have a five-year-old son and a five-month-old daughter, and living in a single-room, loft has meshed wonderfully with our parenting style.

We are happy that our church has turned into such a great home for our family, but have been disappointed that we entertain less than we originally planned. Though the space is perfect for parties, its location is not ideal. The tiny town we moved to is a little too far from our friends to entertain frequently.

That is why I was excited that this month’s Carnival of Natural Parenting allowed us to invite people into our home for a virtual tour.

It is not as fun as a party, but at least the drive is shorter.

Welcome to our home . . .
Our front doors open into the bell tower. Though we are disappointed the bell is no longer in our tower, our neighbors are grateful to not live next door to a four-year-old with 24/7 access to a church bell.

Ezra and Fable have their own areas throughout the house including an "office."
Our bedrooms are upstairs in the choir loft. Though it is one open area, Ezra has his own space on one side of the loft.
Thanks for visiting our church. If like me you love to peek inside other people's homes, visit some of the links below.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon September 9 with all the carnival links.)
  • Being Barlow Home Tour — Follow along as Jessica at Being Barlow gives you the tour of her family's home.
  • A Tour Of My Hybrid Rasta Kitchen — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama takes you on a tour of her kitchen complete with a Kombucha Corner, a large turtle, her tea stash, and of course, all her must-have kitchen gadgets. Check out Hybrid Rasta Mama's most favorite space!
  • Dreaming of a Sisters Room — Bianca, The Pierogie Mama, dreams, schemes and pins ideas for when her younger daughter is ready to move out of the family bed and share a room with her older sister.
  • Building a life — Constructing a dream — Survivor at Surviving Mexico-Adventures and Disasters shows you a glimpse inside the home her family built and talks about adaptions they made in constructing their lives in Mexico.
  • Why I'm Sleeping in the Dining Room — Becca at The Earthling's Handbook welcomed a new baby but didn't have a spare bedroom. She explains how her family rearranged the house to create Lydia's nursing nest and changing room in spaces they already had.
  • The Gratitude Tour — Inspired by Momastry's recent "home tour," That Mama Gretchen is highlighting imperfect snapshots of things she's thankful for around her home. Don't plan to pin anything!
  • Our Home in the Forest — Tara from Up the Dempster gives you a peek into life lived off-grid in Canada's Yukon Territory.
  • natural bedding for kids — Emma at Your Fonder Heart shows you how her family of 3 (soon to be 4) manages to keep their two cotton & wool beds clean and dry (plus a little on the end of cosleeping — for now).
  • I love our home — ANonyMous at Radical Ramblings explains how lucky she feels to have the home she does, and why she strives so hard to keep it tidy.
  • Not-So-Extreme Makeover: Sunshine and Rainbows Edition — Dionna at Code Name: Mama was tired of her dark, outdated house, so she brightened it up and added some color.
  • Our little outdoor space — Tat at Mum in search invites you to visit her balcony, where her children make friends with wildlife.
  • Our Funky, Bright, Eclectic, Montessori Home — Rachel at Bread and Roses shows you her family's newly renovated home and how it's set up with Montessori principles in mind for her 15-month-old to have independence.
  • Beach cottage in progress — Ever tried to turn a 1980s condo into a 1920s beach bungalow? Lauren at Hobo Mama is giving it a try!
  • Conjuring home: intention in renovation — Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama explains why she and her husband took on a huge renovation with two little kids and shares the downsides and the ups, too.
  • Learning At Home — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling helps us to re-imagine the ordinary spaces of our homes to ignite natural learning.
  • My Dining Room Table — Kellie at Our Mindful Life loves her dining room table — and everything surrounding it!
  • Sight words and life lessons — The room that seemed to fit the least in Laura from Pug in the Kitchen's life is now host to her family's homeschool adventures and a room they couldn't imagine life without!
  • A Tour of Our Church — Garry at Postilius invites you virtually visit him in the 19th-century, one-room church where he lives with his spouse and two kids.
  • Preparing a Montessori Baby-Toddler Space at Home — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares the Montessori baby-toddler space she's created in the main living area of her home along with a variety of resources for creating a Montessori-friendly home.
  • The Old Bailey House — Come peek through the window of The Old Bailey House where Erica at ChildOrganics resides with her little ones.
  • My New House Not-Monday: The Stairs — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl shows you her new laminate stairs in her not-so-new-anymore house.
  • To Minimalist and Back Again — Jorje of Momma Jorje shares how she went to the extreme as a minimalist and bounced right back. Read how she finds it difficult to maintain the minimalist lifestyle when upsizing living space.
  • Our Life As Modern-Day Nomads — This family of five lives in 194 square feet of space — with the whole of North America as a back yard. Paige of Our Road Less Traveled guest posts at Natural Parents Network.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Our Week: The chase is on

Ezra loves his two infant cousins. Why wouldn’t he? Besides being adorable, they both beam at the sight of their older cousin. They giggle at his funny faces and antics, and find even his mundane actions completely fascinating. They are a captive, adoring, and fully attentive audience.

Over the last month, Ezra is beginning to realize that all good things must come to an end - or at least change. His once passive fans are becoming toddlers.


Wait they can move now?
And, take my things?


Can’t you let me read in quiet for just two minutes?


I have enjoyed watching Ezra assume this new role. Rather than the entertainer, he is learning to become a patient, giving older playmate with his cousins. With this new role, he is learning to place his little cousins’ (and eventually little sister’s) needs above his own.  He is also learning an important lesson: it is tough being the “grown-up.”

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Who Wore it Better?

Fable v X-men's Ororo "Storm" Munroe

Fable is pretty cute, and her most striking feature is her hair. Everyone who meets her comments on it. "She looks like a Dr. Seuss character; She looks like a dinosaur; She looks totally badass, punk rock."


Friday, June 20, 2014

A Modern 20th Century Family

“Having children changes you” is a phrase all new parents hear, but what exactly are those changes?

One side effect of parenthood is an increased susceptibility to nostalgia, especially about your own childhood. This is not surprising. Parenting is like traveling in a time machine that returns you to places and feelings you left behind long ago. Dormant memories of holidays, games played with siblings, and treasured childhood possessions suddenly reawaken. For the first time in your adult life, you suddenly want to do those things again, and recreate those special memories for your children.

Major toy companies capitalize on this desire. Now that children of the Reagan-era have their own children, toy shelves are stocked with millennial versions of My Little Pony, Transformers, Strawberry Shortcake, Cabbage Patch Kids, and Star Wars.

I do not wish to share with Ezra the toy chest of my youth, but this does not mean I’m not guilty of romanticizing and repackaging my childhood. Rather than toys, my preoccupation with the past is focused on the households of my generation, and I am inadvertently surrounding Ezra with the cutting-edge home appliances, consumer electronics and gadgets I grew up with. My 21st century son is being raised in a 20th century home.

I came to this realization when it came time for our family to choose a new phone. iPhone, Droid RAZR, Samsung Galaxy … how do you pick which is best?  We didn’t. We ordered a vintage landline (c. 1963) to replace our cordless phone (c. 1990) whose battery could no longer last beyond a ten minutes conversation. Tired of continually hanging up on people, we decided the best solution was a technology downgrade. Perhaps a rotary dial (c. 1919) is in our future?
I then began to notice that our phone was not an anomaly. Not only is much of our home technology outdated (typewriter, record player, and even traditional non-digital books!), but we are also missing pretty standard 21st century household staples. A quick inventory revealed our lack of smartphones, tablet, flat screen or even analog television, microwave, air conditioning, cd player, dvd/blu-ray player, and gaming system.

We may sound like luddites, but we are not philosophically opposed to modern technology. So why are we so slow to embrace what the 21st century has to offer?
My personality can be partially blamed. I do not like to surround myself with miscellaneous things I will not use often. My response to most purchases is, “do we really need that?”  My reluctance is even greater when the new item is a piece of technology. I have never coveted new gadgets; I am the opposite of a tech-geek dad, and convincing me that new tech will enhance my life is not easy. For example, I rarely go a day without using our computer and Internet, but I question whether the cost and distraction of having Internet access available at my fingertips 24/7 via a smartphone would improve my life.

My answer to the smartphone question is “probably not.” Still, I suspect my aversion to new technology is less pragmatic and more sentimental. I, of course, feel less dependent and connected to current technologies than a 20-year-old. I clearly remember my life without these things, and I don't recall that time of my life being particularly difficult.

If I were asked whether advancements in household technology are continuing to improve our lives, I would respond with a non-committal, “meh.” The technology related to our basic needs have not changed much in the last thirty years. When I was a child, we had convenient and effective ways to store and prepare our food (which are pretty much the same as today); easy ways to communicate with people far away; and traveling long distances was not difficult (or slower than it is today). It seems most current advances in home technologies are outlets for entertainment. While these are fun and distracting, I think they are easy to forego. Maybe my generation had to wait and watch Star Wars according to HBO’s schedule rather than on demand, but that is a pretty insignificant complaint about life.

Did the technology that significantly improved our basic needs and comfort really peak during my childhood? That is unlikely. The more probable explanation is that I’m nostalgic for my childhood and early '80s households. Having children has exacerbated the problem.

As I observe Ezra’s childhood, I reminisce about my own, and my childhood was not filled with woeful tales like my depression era grandparents. My memories do not belong in the “walking barefoot, uphill, in snow to school, but we liked it because it made us stronger!” genre. I remember a childhood that was comfortable, simple and happy; those are the same feelings I want Ezra to associate with his childhood.

Feelings are easily projected onto inanimate objects. I suspect that is why I am subconsciously surrounding Ezra with objects from the late 20th century. I am generally not fascinated by “antiques,” and as I previously stated, I am reluctant to buy things that I do not think I will use often. Yet, several years ago I was excited to come across a mid-80’s Conair Air Popper. It reminded me of a Christmas when my grandfather used his new gift to pop corn for my cousins and me. I kept the popper for years even though I don’t really like popcorn and have only eaten it a handful of times in the last two decades. I buy used children’s record albums that are warped and scratched even though I know they will sound horrible and we could easily listen to the same music on Spotify because I love watching Ezra use our record player, and cringe whenever he is using our computer.
Nostalgia is fantasy, and the idealized past is a very seductive place to raise your child. I realize it is a place that only exists in faulty memories, and a place Ezra can never visit. Instead, he will one day be looking back, with nostalgia, at the 2010s. His memories will more closely reflect those of his friends’ childhoods than mine. . . mostly. He might be the only one in his peer group who fondly remembers the exciting day his family bought a microwave.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Who's afraid of quicksand?

Amanda and I both visited the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, a National Park near Chicago, as kids. Since it is only a few hours away, I’m sure we will return one day with Ezra and Fable, but unlike their mom and dad, they may not be able to scale Mount Baldy, the most prominent sand dune at the site.

Mount Baldy is temporarily closed. Last summer, a six-year-old boy was swallowed by the 123' dune after investigating a small depression in the sand. The boy was rescued after spending three hours beneath the sand, and scientists are still searching for an explanation to why this happened and how to prevent another similar incident.

When I heard this story I could not imagine a more frightening experience for a child. Sinking in sand was a nightmare come true. I, like all my friends, spent my entire childhood terrified of quicksand. Sand was a dangerous and unpredictable ground covering that should be avoided. Beaches were especially fraught. The only way to avoid sand was to swim in the ocean where you were basically lunch for Jaws. Quicksand was incorporated into our imaginary adventures, how to survive quicksand (don't panic or you will sink faster!) was a common topic of conversation, and all our fictional heroes had at some point faced this peril.

Flashing back to these memories, I realized I have not come across any mention of quicksand in the last 20 years. Is this still on kid’s radar? Are they still afraid of quicksand?

I stumbled across a Radiolab podcast that answers this very question.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Kinsey Institute Juried Art Show 2014

This Friday, the ninth annual Kinsey Institute Juried Art Show opens at the Indiana University's Grunwald Gallery. The exhibit features just under 100 contemporary artworks that broadly explore themes related to sex, gender or reproduction. You can preview the exhibit here.

Indiana University, where The Kinsey Institute is located, produced a video to help promote the exhibit. I was interviewed on my first day back to work after Fable's birth. I was still a little sleepy.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Our Week: Great ideas

"I think I just want to run up and down this hill for awhile," said the energetic, preschool boy.

Great idea.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Star Pants

I love when movies, set in the real world, look fantastical because of the visual design. The filmmakers replace the chaotic appearance of our world with one that is carefully curated. Every location, object, paint color, and piece of clothing is considered and selected depending upon how it affects the visual whole. This is usually achieved by placing specific aesthetic constraints upon the set design and costuming. A few colors, patterns and visual themes are repeated throughout the film and each character is dressed in a particular, usually eccentric, style. Am√©lie, Wes Anderson’s films, Pushing Daisies, and Mad Men are great examples of films and television series that succeed at being slightly too stylized to look realistic.

I often fantasize about having such an immaculately designed life. Unfortunately, restraints - time, money, my family’s freewill, and reality – have prevented me from fully achieving this dream, yet I still try.

My family is tolerant of this obsessive behavior. They overlook my occasionally absurd statements like, “this apple is too red for the color palette I’m using for tonight’s dinner,” and in general, are open-minded of my recommendations on what they should wear.

Lately, most of my recommendations have been for Ezra since he is more likely to be updating his wardrobe than Amanda or me. I like the idea of Ezra dressing in a very specific style 100% of the time, but of course that is much more difficult for a real person than a character. Ezra doesn’t wear a uniform, own a signature accessory (“bowties are cool,” 11th Doctor), or have a single outfit like Charlie Brown, but he does wear certain types of clothing enough to claim a look of his own. Ezra wears a lot of striped shirts; he likes knit hats; he prefers colorful leather shoes over sneakers; he likes his hair long; and purple, blue, orange, red and grey are more common in his wardrobe than earth tones. Some of the components of his look come from me, some from Amanda, and others are his own personal preferences – I’m not a tyrant – but together they have merged into the “Ezra look.”

The article of clothing I most associate with the “Ezra look” are Mini Boden’s corduroy pants with star patches on the knees. He has worn a pair of these pants, multiple times a week (unless it’s shorts weather) for the last 2 ½ years.
These pants have become so much a part of his identity that when Ezra was 2 his best friend refused to wear a pair that were handed down to her from a family friend. She insisted her parents pass them on to Ezra.
Ezra is now on his fourth pair of star pants. The knees in his current pair are threadbare, and with every wearing you see more of the ankles on his growing legs. Sadly, this is the largest size of star pants Boden makes. Though it seems silly, saying goodbye to these pants seems like a milestone. Everyday he is growing and changing. Will he still be the same character if he changes costumes?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Our Week: Puzzled

You didn't think that 100 piece puzzle was too difficult?

How about 300 pieces?!!
Actually, make that 299 pieces...

Monday, April 21, 2014

39 Weeks

She is less than a week old, and Ezra has already mastered an impersonation (seen above) of his new sister, Fable. "She cries really loud," he likes to tell people.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Our Week: Birth

We pass a goose, patiently sitting on her nest, every morning on our way to work and again in the evening when we return home. We slow the car each time we drive by, check on her progress, and wonder if today is the day she will become a new mother.

Though her goslings haven't hatched, other families are welcoming their spring babies. Our new daughter, Fable, was born this weekend.
Though Fable was born a couple of weeks early, we were not surprised that she could not wait until her due date. Like her brother, she was born ten days early. What did surprise us was the unexpected birth that took place at the same time as Fable's. A feral cat gave birth to kittens on our back deck.

Birth Announcement


Fable Beatrice Wren
was born at home
on April 19.
She weighed 7 pounds and
measured 18 1/2 inches in length.

Monday, April 14, 2014

38 Weeks

"I'm glad the baby is head down so that he doesn't come out of your mouth." ~Ezra