Floor sitting, our Christmas tree, and a cinnamon roll improvement

I am blessed to have a husband who is patient with all my wacky ideas. Of course, to me they seem perfectly sensible, but sometimes they are beyond what many people would tolerate.

Example: Recently, I was pondering that in the time of Jesus, people sat on the floor to eat, and I wondered if it was a function of not having chairs or if there was an actual reason for floor sitting. I read about the benefits of floor sitting and floor sitting while eating (they are numerous), and I was convinced that it needed to be a part of our lives.

I recognize that our couch has value and even our kitchen table and chairs, but we can floor sit more. The most compelling evidence to me was that in Asian cultures where floor sitting is the norm, people even into their 80’s can get up and down from the floor with ease! I want to be able to get up and down from the floor when I’m old, so I need to start practicing now. It’s a fun family experience- picnics every day- and the kids love it.

About a year ago, I read about the benefits of squatting and for the last year, I’ve focused on doing that more, just whenever an opportunity arises. I squat when I change diapers or to do things low to the ground. A year later, I can tell some differences from practicing it, and I am only convinced that I need to squat more. Floor sitting could be the same. Sitting in a chair, especially when using the chair for back support as well, doesn’t do anything for our bodies, but when we have to support ourselves a little, we are using our core and all kinds of muscles that would otherwise atrophy.

You can engage muscles and tone them simply by using them in a normal way. If you pull your shoulders back and have good posture, you are using your back muscles. No crazy exercises required. All those years I wasted doing sit-ups, when all I needed to do was hold in my stomach!

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We decorated for Christmas last week and it was so satisfying. The kids were begging to decorate, and I thought- why not! I love our Christmas decorations and I’m never anxious to put them away. Let’s enjoy them!

And I love our tree! I kept the clearanced Norfolk Island Pine alive from last year…be proud. I have hated this tree all year, because it’s so much work to keep it alive in the dry heat from the woodstove. I wanted to keep it for this Christmas, and then I was going to happily part with it, my duty done. However, once we got decorations on the tree, I fell in love with it. It cost me $3 last year, and of course it’s bigger now. I told John that was like spending $1.50 for each year. He said that my actual savings was what I’d have to pay to buy another, and there is no guarantee I’d find another on clearance. Is he trying to convince me to keep it?

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Hannah started clogging lessons, something I’ve always wanted to do. Instead of watching the kids clog, I decided (with encouragement) to do the class with them. I feel so excited to be learning, and who cares if I look silly! We practice together every night while I’m cooking dinner. Our teacher is so good that it’s very inspirational.

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Homemade cinnamon rolls are a staple breakfast in our house. I’ve tried dozens of recipes, and a year ago, I landed on the perfect (to me) recipe, somewhat healthy but still delicious.

However, I wondered a couple weeks ago if I could improve them by baking them differently. I have always baked them on a cookie sheet, but I pondered if they would bake better in a casserole dish. I tried it last weekend, and oh my goodness, they are amazing! It took me 200 times of making cinnamon rolls to come up with a seemingly obvious improvement…I’m not quick…but I am super excited about the results. Maybe after another 200 batches, I’ll come up with something else to improve them!

What are your thoughts about floor sitting? Anyone kept a Christmas tree alive for a year or more? Should I keep ours or ditch it? Have you ever joined one of your kids at a lesson? It feels silly, doesn’t it?!

Posted in Home, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Homeschool and practice routines

I went from a 4.0 in high school to a 2.5 my first semester of college. The problem: I did not know how to study or discipline myself. Public school and activities enforced structure on me; I could work within structure, but I had no idea how to set that up myself. The end of the story is that I figured it out, by bombing that first semester.

Hannah is just starting into the world of school and lessons, and I need to help her structure her days so she gets her work done and learns how to learn. She isn’t a part of a structured public school day to impose order (our days are all over the board). She doesn’t have all that much time-wise to do with school and lessons, but it’s enough that it can feel very overwhelming without a routine.

I am also tweaking our school routine slightly to make it more manageable. I don’t think we need to do every subject every day, but I didn’t have a schedule so I knew I could take certain days off of certain things. I was haphazardly doing a rotation, but I think a little order and structure in this would benefit us as well.

That being said, going without a routine for a little while was fine and reasonable; it’s just time to step it up a notch. We are ready for the routine now, and we weren’t before.

I realized in all of this that I expect Hannah to be a mind-reader, that she knows what she needs to do every day and that it should be obvious to her what is in my head. The obvious solution is a written agenda for each day of the week. We probably should have a set time that we start school each day. I’m not going to get uptight if we miss a day here or there, but we should have a plan.

This isn’t totally profound, but I made a list of what activities we’d attempt to do each day. Some things are every day (explode the code, journal, memory work). Some things are 2-3 days a week (math and spelling alternating, plus handwriting). There are some other little things I wanted us to do and I plopped those things in on a looping basis. It makes it feel more manageable to not have every possible thing we could do in my head every day.

As to practice, Hannah has to do her clogging routine (yes, we are doing an informal clogging class…so awesome!) once a day: 5 minutes. She also needs to practice piano 10-15 minutes a day. I wanted to wait until next year on piano, but she promised she’d practice daily, and so we are trying it (she’s only done one lesson so far).

The next step is writing this all out so the kids can see and know what we’re doing and what they need to do each day. I took back out the daily routine charts for them (brush teeth, make bed, dirty clothes in laundry, etc) and then they can move on to the school chart. It shouldn’t be stressful- they just need to know what’s expected of them.

I’m hopeful that in getting their routines down, I can be inspired to apply these lessons to myself!

Do you use charts or written routines for homeschool/practice? How do you set this up for your kids?

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Road trippin’

The right thing to do is often not the easiest thing to do.

Last weekend, the kids and I drove to see friends from our time in NY, as they are getting ready to move to another country. Driving 10-11 hours each way with 4 young children sounds crazy when you’re thinking about it. I knew going was the right thing to do and would be fun and something I would never regret. You would think that knowing all this, it would be easy to do. But a few days before, although my heart was fully convinced, my brain was having a hard time wrapping itself around the idea. If John could go, it was a no-brainer. But when I knew for sure that he couldn’t, I had all kinds of doubts.

I started to think about some things I wanted to get done and how I was going to do them this weekend (cue laughter). Even if I was home, I would not have done projects this weekend. Let’s be realistic.

I talked to a friend, the one who no matter what the idea, always says yes. If you don’t have a yes-friend, you definitely need one! She told me it was a fabulous idea and I would never regret it. I felt more confident.

It felt nutty as I was packing the car and driving off. Once we were cruising south on the interstate though, it was fine and normal. Trips like this, the car ride seems so long while I’m doing it, but later on, I never remember that part.

We arrived late at night on Friday at a YMCA camp we’d never been to, meeting our friends, and staying in a cabin with them. It was a volunteer weekend at camp, so there were others around, activities for kids, and work for us to do. The kids loved the camp experience. Hannah and BenBen had their young years at camps, but they don’t remember it. This was perfect.

On Saturday, another friend from NY drove to the camp to see us and hang out for the afternoon. The kids all played together and we were able to catch up in person. We have such wonderful friends! And Sunday we drove home.

The minute I arrived at camp, I felt absolutely certain that coming was the right thing to do. I would never take it back. We all had a fabulous time, and although the car rides were tricky, the kids were just fine. If I asked them if they wanted to do it again, they would say yes in a heartbeat.

The added bonus of a road trip is that all the new ideas that flow. Now I know for sure we need to find a family camp to attend or a camp we can volunteer at as a family. I have ideas for mini-trips for next year. I have ideas of things to do with the kids at home. Win-win.

Have you ever been to family camp with your kids? Anything crazy you did lately that you knew was worth it?

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News around the farm…mid November

P1110412Our animals are so funny. John just put them up by the little barn with a small grazing area for winter, so they have decided it’s time to start escaping. The funny part about it is that they know they are being naughty. The general pattern is that someone gets out, they graze on something for a minute and then they start looking towards the house, like “when are you going to come put me back in.” If no one comes, they graze a little more and then start looking towards the house again. It is so entertaining.

Of course we culled the truly naughty goats from our herd a couple years ago, so the ones left are docile and easy to put back in…but they are still goats and they like to get out every once in a while. Keep things interesting, you know?

P1110410John just finished processing the old layers plus our rooster, and he is now singing the praises of laying hens as a small farm animal. They give eggs, but when they are past their prime, they give us delicious meat. He skinned them to save time, but we still had a lot of meat. We cooked it in the crockpot (4 big batches) and even though the birds were 2 years old, the meat was so tender. Hooray!

We kept our 4 newer Rhode Island Reds, one Arucana, and 2 Buff Orpingtons. Now we’re adding some new layers, overflow from a friend. These hens were born in the spring, so hopefully they will give us eggs all winter. But, we won’t have as many as we had last winter (too many).

P1110411The outside gardens are all cleaned up for winter and the hoophouse is almost all cleaned out. I completely finished food processing (i.e. I used all my jars). We still have garlic to plant in the hoophouse, and I was hoping to try some winter spinach. We still have kale and carrots and cabbage in the ground in there.

With food processing, I figured out an amazing trick this fall for canning diced tomatoes in less time. Cut up the tomatoes and put them in a pot. Then, heat them with the lid on to a boil. Turn off the heat and let them sit for a few hours (or overnight). Then, you can pour off the water released and save yourself hours of boiling time. I wish I had learned this trick sooner!

Our sad news is that the new kitties disappeared. Honestly, we have no idea what happened to them. They were doing fabulous, the kids were doing chores for them, and they were fun to snuggle with and watch play. And then one day, during the day, they both disappeared. It was completely bizarre. They were not hit by a car- we went up and down the road. They hadn’t been roaming far, so it has us scratching our heads. A skunk had been in the area that day, and that is our best guess, but we’ll never know for sure. We are all determined to think happy thoughts in that the kitties roamed too far from home and they are so sweet that another family found them and is loving them. Because that just might be true.

In happy animal news, we finished connecting the water line to the barn, so no carrying water buckets this winter for us! Overall, winter caught us unprepared this year. There are several outside projects that we didn’t get to because we were counting on November. Alas, we can do them next year instead.

Did you do any outside projects this year at your place?

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The power of disagreement

Sometimes listening to someone you disagree with is all you need to renew your resolve.

A friend invited me last week to hear a nutritional speaker coming to the local university. With a quick search, I learned that this speaker was spreading a message contrary to what I have concluded about nutrition. After eating several different ways, at least for me, I know when I have felt the healthiest, had the most energy, had minimal cravings, and kept a consistent weight.

Last weekend, we were at an organic farming conference and one speaker in the middle of his talk looked at Micah in my lap and said, “Wow! Now there is a healthy Weston Price baby!” I’m sure I glowed. Several people came up to me afterwards and told me that I just received the highest compliment. I knew it too.

So there it is. I am all about raw dairy and grass-fed meat and lots of healthy fats like coconut oil and butter and lard. Add in local veggies and fruits and whole grains and that’s what we strive to eat.

I am no doctor, and I want to have the posture of a learner always, even if I feel settled in what I think to be true. So, of course I should go!

This speaker was advocating a plant-based diet with minimal fats and minimal animal products. With his salesman approach, it was entertaining. As to the research, I couldn’t buy it. He made several correlations that were not necessarily connected. He would explain what a research study said and then deduce that it meant a certain path was correct, a leap in logic if you will. Part of his tactic was moving so quickly through the material that you didn’t have time to think. I wasn’t convinced.

Surprisingly though, I agreed with a huge portion of what he said. The basic message was that the standard processed American diet is bad. Agreed! Over 50% of what an average American eats is processed- from a bag or box or can. I believe it. He was strong against the pharmaceutical industry. Of people over 60, 85% are on a prescription…and that means they are not healthy. Lastly, he was a proponent of organic, especially the dirty dozen and meats, saying you should not even eat factory-farmed meats and fish. Toxins in our food do matter and they do impact our health.

So, even though I knew I wouldn’t agree with his conclusions, I am glad that I went. I found more common ground than I expected, and it renewed my desire to take the next baby steps in Nourishing Traditions. I was needing a zap of encouragement to push further and listening to someone I disagreed with was just the push I needed!

Have you ever been encouraged about something by listening to someone you disagreed with? Or is that just my contrary-ness coming out? :)

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Halloween

P1110359Hannah- fairy princess, BenBen- “superman” (his invention), Sammy- fireman, Micah- ladybug

The abbreviated story of Halloween for us= candy detox. To say that my kids’ expectations for Halloween were exceeded would be an understatement.

They had never truly trick-or-treated before this year. We have always gone to a couple neighbor’s houses in costumes, stayed awhile to visit, and received a few pieces of candy on the way out the door. I love doing this, and sometimes it’s our best visiting of the year.

This year we did our normal visiting, and then we went to a lovely Halloween party with friends. We fed the kids, they went trick-or-treating in town, and then we turned out the lights and everyone danced in the dark. It was super fun, and my kids basically thought it was the best night of their lives to date.

Not only did they get to dance in the dark with glow sticks which is super cool, but they got more candy than they have ever had in their lives. Instead of limiting the amount they could have, I let them eat. It saved me from having to police and I figure if they eat it all or get a bellyache, we won’t have candy again for awhile (just fine with me).

Hannah mostly danced at the party. She ate some candy, sure, but not an obscene amount. My boys, on the other hand, ate and ate and ate. I didn’t count the wrappers- better not to know. All I know is that BenBen suddenly packed up his things at the party and told me it was time to go home.

I used to always detox myself and the kids when we’d been traveling or visiting someone and not eating well. I hadn’t done it for a long time, but a detox was in order on this one. Raw milk. Lots of protein. Good fats. Probiotics.

Would I do this again? Yes. One night a year of junking out on candy isn’t something I’ll lose sleep over, and then it’s done. But I am glad that we’ve held off on Halloween like this for seven years.

P1110372 P1110373 P1110374 P1110375And yesterday…hooray for ice skating! It was Sammy’s first time on skates and he loved it. Hannah and BenBen picked right back up where they were last year; they can’t wait to go again.

Do you let your kids junk out on Halloween night? Do anything fun that day? What did your kids/you dress up as?

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In October…

October goals…

  • dates with kids
  • date with John
  • play tennis once
  • do a fun Halloween breakfast
  • 2 new local hikes
  • sewing projects with the kids
  • figure out my serger
  • re-upholster a headboard
  • October family adventure
  • finish up the IAT in my area or at least do a long run

With school, we’re adding one thing at a time and keeping it consistent. This month we added handwriting and spelling.

Seasonal changes always have me scratching my head as to what life looks like with the kiddos. The I’m-done-with-food-processing-and-garden shift means I’m possibly able to read and craft again, but with a baby? It’s proving to be harder than I expected- one challenge of a small house. I can’t do much when a baby is sleeping! I have several projects I’m excited about for this winter (quilts, braided wool rug, homemade deodorant), plus I have some ideas for next year’s outside projects (grafting trees).

What is working…

Before I dive into winter projects, I am making myself get some other little projects done. So far so good. It feels nice to see a few less projects around. Then, I can play!

We have dabbled into kid activities this year- new territory for us. I put Hannah in gymnastics one hour a week, and she loves it. The kids are also doing an evening church activity while I’m at Bible study, and although it’s not amazing from my perspective, the kids like it and it allows me to do Bible study with very little hassle. Instead of swimming lessons, I opted for swimming occasionally as a family, and we have actually done it. We are busier than we usually are, and we’re trying it on. If it doesn’t work, I can get out of any of it.

What is not working…

Figuring out how to sew with a baby in the house. Frustrated about that…I’ll own it. I know it’s a short season and I shouldn’t feel that way, but I do.

Keeping up the house. Honestly, the problem is too much stuff. A smallish house plus 6 people means we can’t have too much. I need to initiate a pre-Christmas purge.

I’m thinking about…

Christmas ideas for everyone; I have a good start!

From the bookshelf…

  • I Promise Not to Suffer: A Fool for Love Hikes the Pacific Crest Trail by Gail Storey
  • Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis

November goals…

  • dates with kids
  • date with John
  • November family adventure
  • add math to our homeschool
  • finish three quilt tops (this isn’t as ambitious as it sounds…two are mostly assembled)
  • do a long run (or maybe IAT? I’m still holding out hope!)
  • play tennis once
  • take the kids to an orchestra concert
  • ice skate once a week
  • take the kids swimming and to the indoor rec center
  • visit the nursing home and pack food again at the food pantry
  • upload photos to shutterfly for kids’ scrapbooks
  • drink 2 kleen kanteens of water each day
  • get rid of 100 items around our house
  • do a fun celebration for 3 years (!) in our house

Anyone else cleaning things out before Christmas? Do you struggle to find space for certain projects…what works for you? I could use the encouragement!

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