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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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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Kid news…Late October

I look at Micah now (5 months old) and I feel like I am looking at a kid, not a baby. It’s like I can see the kid face starting to reveal itself. But he still has a toothless grin!

Micah is growing, no doubt, and healthy and becoming more active by the day. He is grabbing for toys now, rolls back to front and front to back, plus he scoots while on his belly. It all seems so fast, but he’s just perfectly normal. I told Hannah it was hard to believe he was 5 months and she looked at me like I was crazy; “Mommy, it’s been MONTHS since he was born.” Perspective.

Micah is still a sweet, easy baby. He really doesn’t require much to be happy. I know. I am super blessed. His smile fills us with joy. I love watching the boys interact with him and of course, Hannah is almost his mother. She does everything but feed him, although she does have the attention span of a 7 year old (because that’s what she is) and she sometimes gets distracted, mid-diaper, mid-clothing change, mid-whatever. It’s usually funny. You know, it’s hard work directing everything in the house.

Sammy, the big 3 year old, keeps us all on our toes. He’s become super-affectionate of late, and I can’t say that I mind. He continually has to give me one more kiss or one more hug, and no one hugs better than Sammy.

I wrote a couple weeks ago about Sammy’s collections that travel with him, and he has since added a plastic screwdriver to the menagerie because “he has work to do.” It can get a bit stressful at bedtime, naptime, or when we leave the house to make sure he has absolutely everything: BB, cars, screwdriver, pizza cutter, and backpack.

Sammy just loves to play, and he’s good at it too. He really gets into imaginative play with the big kids now, and they are more apt to include him in their games. The thing with Sammy is that he is loud. He sings loud, he plays loud. Like there is only one speed with him and that’s buster, there is also only one volume.

Sammy has started telling stories and I was excited to hear him reference “Uncle Joe Bob” who was BenBen’s story hero. Maybe we’ll have another round of Uncle Joe Bob stories? I can’t help but be excited.

BenBen is becoming more boy. That sounds funny, but let me explain. He is diving more into play about hunting and protecting, like he is a little man. Earlier this week, he was training Sammy to hunt with him (BenBen has a rubber band gun that a friend made him). He packed a backpack with snacks and a jacket, the rubber band gun and plenty of bullets (rubber bands). He told Sammy, “Now we have to walk quietly and if you see anything moving, tell me and I’ll shoot it.” It was a Christopher Robin moment and that made this mama proud….I love the adventures of Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh, adventures that seem epic but are really all in your head. It’s perfect kid play.

Just this week, BenBen has become interested in learning his letters. He’s been watching Hannah reading, and he loves books so much that we could tell the wheels were turning. He’s been working at the chalkboard and his letters have made exponential progress, because other than B, he didn’t know any of them. I did them with him the first time, but he’s taken off on his own from there. He loves writing his initials and he’s really proud of his work…and he should be.

I’m not sure yet what BenBen will be for Halloween- he has several ideas, but one of them was to be superman. I asked him what superman looked like, and he told me: he wears a shirt that says “super”, he has a rubber band gun, a rope, a stick, and something to start a fire with. Isn’t that awesome! I kind of hope he is that for Halloween just because it’s his own creation.

Hannah is my voracious reader; she reads and reads and reads. We started spelling for school and I began with words she already knows how to spell…building confidence. She now thinks spelling is about the most fun you can have. She asked if we could do it for an entire day. I know the novelty will wear off, but it’s a good note for me to start with the basics so my kids enjoy a subject.

I look at Hannah and she is starting to look so big. Yet, she has such a sweet and innocent spirit. Hannah still feels such confidence to wear whatever clothing combination she wants, or put on glasses with the lenses popped out as an accessory, or be completely silly. This is a benefit of homeschooling that makes it feel so right for us.

Hannah loves gymnastics (the activity we decided on for the year) and she’s already improved a lot. She gets funny urges in random places, like “I need to do a standing backbend right now!” Doing gymnastics has grown her independence and confidence for sure. When she first started, the boys and I had to stay to watch, but now she tells me I can just drop her off by the door and pick her up at the end of class, although she loves it when we do watch her.

Four precious kiddos. I wouldn’t change one of them!

Have your kids come up with any random Halloween costumes? Any Christopher Robin adventures?

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Admitting incompetence (or it’s hard to be a beginner!)

I read something recently that resonated with me strongly in its truth: Adults can forget how hard it is to be a beginner, and everything worth doing starts with an awkward beginning.

When you are a kid, you are surrounded by people who know more than you about what you’re doing, and you are constantly a beginner. You learn the letters. You learn to read. You learn to work with numbers. You learn to swim and bike. You have nothing familiar to stand on; it’s all completely new.

By the time we get older, those new experiences are harder to jump into. We want to feel like experts or at least like we have a clue what’s going on, and to step into something totally new is scary. We have enough solid, tested ground that we often don’t do it for that reason. We don’t have to. We do what we know and stick to that because it’s easier and feels comfortable.

I have perpetually, as an adult, felt like I should already be an expert at this or that field, like I somehow missed out on my opportunity that I should have learned how to ____. The right answer is that it’s never too late to learn, but that’s easier said than done. I think I should already know how to use this tool or fix this bike or jump into this project and it’s embarrassing to admit you are clueless, especially around someone else who does have more know-how. It’s easy to be a beginner surrounded by other beginners, but to admit to a more competent person that you are not, is super uncomfortable. Instead of having the attitude of learner, I am on the defense, which is not a posture of learning.

Another part of the struggle is that it take mental and emotional energy to do new things. I am poured out much of the time with my kids and to be a beginner is beyond my capacity (or so I think). Adventures tend to fuel me, and creative space fuels me, but when I don’t have either, it’s hard to jump into something new.

My little adventures of late have helped me. I can move from them to something I don’t know all about already and it does not intimidate me nearly as much. But I still struggle to have the posture of a beginner, take off the mask of pretending I know something, and really focus and start to learn.

And really, having an interesting life requires being a beginner often, don’t you think?

What about you? Do you find yourself on the defensive when you don’t know about something or have a ridiculous list of things you think you should already know? What helps you to be a beginner? Or anything you are glad you learned after putting it out there that you didn’t have a clue?

Posted in Learning/Goals | 2 Comments