Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Heart Knows

   Around the 28th of every month, I start to lose my mind. Whether I realize it our not, I begin feeling very low, inexplicably weepy, and moody. When I mentioned to one of my dearest mama friends how I was feeling one day she said, "Well, tomorrow is the 29th." That's it. I felt awful that I hadn't remembered myself- afterall, he's on my mind all day, every day, shocked that my head was responding the way it was, and I told her so. A loss mama herself, she said gently, "The heart knows, Meg. Even when your brain doesn't, the heart knows."
   The last couple days I've been pretty weepy. I chalked it up to a combination of pregnancy hormones and a crappy diet. Last night, as we all sat around the table eating dinner, conversation turned to the upcoming New Years Eve and if we were going to have a mini-party and let the kids stay up late. My husband mentioned last year and I reminded him of what we'd done, which I remembered profoundly because I was in the throes of hyperemesis. I was still pregnant then. The thought punched me in the head. Asher was still alive then. Last year. Right now. He was still alive. Tomorrow's the 29th. 11 months. It's been 11 months since he was born, lifeless, while I was strapped to a table unconscious, my husband in the waiting room, and neither of us ever saw or held him outside the womb.  As the thoughts tumbled in, they stayed and weighed heavier and heavier on my heart. I forced my head to focus on what the kids were saying and kept going through the motions as I finished my now tasteless dinner. Then it happened. A kick. HARD. Right to my lowest right rib. My boy. My sweet boy who was healthy, alive, and growing in my belly. Not Asher. Not a replacement. A very different, unique, beautiful rainbow. A little one whose name means, "Peace." We purposefully chose the name because for months as we mourned and dealt with other very real struggles and I fought the PTSD that controlled me for months, we found ourselves constantly asking God for peace. Along with healing, provision, and learning to walk with our daily pain, he gave us this rainbow. Peace.
   After dinner I sat with my laptop to check my email and my rainbow was going wild in my womb. Clearly he likes my homemade meatballs and steamed broccoli. I had this sudden driving urge to buy him something. I started browsing baby clearance on Old Navy to use the gift card sitting in my inbox, but nothing was weather appropriate. My husband snuggled up to me and asked what I was up to. I asked if we could go to Target. "Why?" He asked. I burst into tears. Eventually I composed myself and told him tomorrow's the 29th, it's almost January, and I just felt like I needed to buy clothes for the baby who would get to wear them even though we have months left until his birth. To Target we went. I love my husband.


Monday, December 28, 2015

Cilantro Lime Slaw

   Back when I was in college I was kind of a glutton for punishment. I had my own apartment, when to school full time, but scheduled all my classes for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday so I could work my TWO part time jobs- one from 5:30am to 2:30pm, the other 3:30pm to closing, sometimes midnight or later- Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. My evening part time jobs was at an Outback Steakhouse, and I loved it. Back then Outback still made everything from scratch, right down to sauces and french fries, so I learned a lot as a server going in and out of the kitchen all night. I'm so thankful for both the work ethic and the kitchen skills that time in my life taught me.
   When I got married and moved away, my husband and I started working opposite shifts to trade off the baby and skip childcare expenses. That meant I stopped teaching after Baby #1 was born, and went back to being a server, that time at a high end 'steak and seafood' kind of place that again made everything from scratch. One of their very popular dishes was a Mahi Mahi taco. It was very simple- just lightly seasoned grilled cubes of Mahi Mahi on a small tortilla with a citrusy cabbage slaw. I had never seen a slaw before that was not a mayo dressing(nor had I ever had a cabbage slaw I liked), and it intrigued me. It actually ended up being really delicious. No sugary-sweetness or mayo-turned-watery-slop. Just fresh, crunchy veggies, a bright citrus vinegarette, and a light onion bite. Not to mention- exponentially more healthy without being coated in sugar and food lube. 
   Over the years I have worked on recreating that flavor myself at home, and tweaking it to my family's liking. Here's what we like, but it's really up to you and yours to make it fit your taste buds:

1/2 large organic cabbage
2 organic carrots
1/2 yellow onion
1/4 cup cilantro
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1/3 cup organic olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Start by giving the cabbage a nice fine chop. If you have a food processor to shred it for you that is a great option and makes this recipe even faster, but alas mine bit the dust last year and has yet to be replaced so knife work it is for me. 

Next, give the carrots a good, hardy shred, and slice the onion very thin. Again, if you have a food processor with a slicing and shredding heads then you can can just drop these veg in, too, and your work is done in seconds. I chop, chop, chop. If you're not a huge raw onion fan or just like something milder than yellow onions, you can use a sweet onion, or even chop a couple green onions.

Chop the cilantro into nice fine ribbons and toss them on top of the pile. Next, pull out a small dish or glass measuring cup for making the dressing. I like to use my 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup because there measurement lines are already there for me, and there's plenty of room for whisking. 

Add the lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and whisk-whisk-whisk until it emulsifies into a nice, thick, cohesive dressing. Pour it over the bowl of veggies and mix well with tongs, your hands, whatever you prefer, but make sure the ingredients are all really thoroughly combined and dressing coats everything. 

A word of caution: This is going to look like a very small amount of dressing for such a mounded bowl of veggies. Trust me, it's plenty. I learned the hard way back in my restaurant days that if you add too much dressing to a slaw you end up with wilted veggies and that nasty, watery soup in the bottom of the bowl, and "too much" usually looks like "just enough." So err on the side of too little. You can always add more later. 

Let the slaw sit for at least an hour before you serve it. After the flavors have had a chance to marry and the veggies have started to soften a little in the acidic dressing, you can toss it again with tongs, scooping from the bottom up to ensure everything's well-coated, and give it a taste. If you think the dressing is too light, now's the time to add more but sparingly

This is the perfect side for BBQ's, classic picnic foods, and yes, on top of tacos. Today we had it with Mexican seasoned black beans, grilled and season chicken on tortillas for delicious, fresh tacos that the kids added shredded cheese and sour cream to as well. Adding a dry cajun seasoning blend to the dressing adds some kick and delicious flavor, but we keep it mild around here to make sure toddler tongues keep eating. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Annie's Tomato Basil Bisque

   Three days ago my almost-9-year-old came to me and said, "Mama, I had a dream that I made herb-tomato soup. Can I make the recipe for lunch some time? I still have it in my head." I love that my girl has such a passion for cooking so young, and find it fascinating that she dreams recipes. That tells me her passion for it goes even into her subconscious, so I have a serious duty to encourage and enable her passion. I asked her to write down the ingredients and we would get them at the store on Friday. Shopping day was yesterday, and she never forgot for a moment, leading me around Kroger to get the supplies she needed. Last night, SHE made dinner for the six of us. I asked if I could take pictures while she worked and she agreed. Her face is not in most of the pictures because she was giggling(therefore shaking) uncontrollably at my phone-tography.


  • 1 46-oz bottle of organic 100% tomato juice
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • A few good cranks of fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup organic crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup organic whole milk
  • 10 large organic basil leaves, thin chiffonade
  • (Optional) Fine shredded Asiago cheese for garnish
Pour the tomato juice into a medium sauce pan. Add the salt, pepper, oregano, and crushed tomatoes.

 Whisk gently to combine. 

Add basil. 

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn off the heat and add the milk, whisking gently until well combined and smooth. Sprinkle with Asiago cheese and serve with grilled cheese on sprouted multi-grain bread. 

Starting with tomato juice makes it very pure and smooth tomato flavor, leaves out the chemicals of canned soups(Just not-from-concentrate tomato juice and citric acid in the one we use), adding a little crushed tomatoes makes it a little thicker without being chunky, and the milk makes it creamy. 

My girl is already dreaming up what she'll cook next. I promised her I'd phone-tograph and blog her next time, too. 
What do your kids like to cook? How old were they when they started cooking? It always fascinates me to hear how other kids learn. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Hey Again and REAL Clean Eating for 6 on a Budget

Hey strangers! I've been away from my blog for about four months now. Not for lack of desire- on the contrary I often have things bursting inside me to be written, but the time is just not there. Two of the reasons my time and energy have gone elsewhere:

   I went back to school! In August I felt a distinct calling to take on a new mission. Since then I have been working on my certification to become a birth and bereavement doula through an amazing, unique, collegiate-level, internationally-respected program called Stillbirthday University. While the certification makes you a fully licensed birth doula, it also has an additional aspect of learning how to support families during loss in all trimesters, and helping families through difficult pregnancies. My tiny Asher gave my life a brand new purpose, and I am eager to complete my training and begin helping families through all types of birth in every trimester. 
   The second reason I've been so absent: Asher sent us a rainbow! Remember that selfie in my last post, "A Day in the Homeschooling Life"? Yeah, that fluffy middle was the start of a bump. ;-) Due early spring is #6, another adorable little boy, and we could not be happier. 

   Now you know what's been taking my time from the blogging I've done for the last 11 years, here's why I'm finally sitting down to write: CLEAN EATING! That phrase has totally become a "buzz word" the last couple years, and judging by what people apply it to, it means something different for everyone. I've seen it applied to garbage-filled Shakeology mixes(read the label. It's nothing but highly-processed and indigestible food products, chemicals, and synthetic fillers), cereal bars with 12g of refined sugar in a single serving, chemical-filled and sugar-laden gluten-free mixes, and cold cuts and convenience meats(prepackaged nuggets, meatballs, etc) made from the throw-away ends of meats compacted together with gelatin, sodium, and chemicals.  For us it means no preservatives, as few chemicals, refined sugars, and refined, processed foods as possible. We also have the duty to feed our family this way being conscious of our littlest guy's many(and rare!) food allergies on a tight budget. It takes creativity, to be sure, but the main two ways we do this: buy in bulk and make your own food! It's shocking how much most American families have come to rely on highly processed, pre-packaged convenience foods. When I say that I make everything, right down to our breads, pasta sauces, and more from scratch most peoples' jaws drop and they exclaim, "Oh my goodness, I could never do that!" What might surprise them more is that it takes very little time and skill. Somewhere along the way, though, we lost the way from making our own food. It's long become a cliche that those who are low-income have no option but to buy cheap, processed foods, but this could not be further from the truth. I've been there- the one in line to get food stamps because my husband's job just didn't pay enough, and daycare for two little ones, one of which had special needs, was far more money than the salary as a teacher in New York State would pay so me working would be counter-productive. Did we eat Ramen Noodles? Yep. Every once in a while I broke out the Ramen, dumped in some frozen peas, and called it dinner when I needed something on the table fast for hungry little mouths. But whether you believe it or not, those heavily-processed garbage foods devoid of soluble nutrients are actually MORE expensive(not to mention AWFUL for your health) than real food. 
50 lbs. of chicken from Zaycon split into meal-size
portions for the freezer
 So back to that first point: We buy in bulk. Zaycon Fresh Foods has high quality, humanely-raised chicken for much less per pound than the cheapest chicken at Aldi or WalMart. The catch: You buy 50lbs of it at a time. Zaycon also has wild-caught(not the nasty, chemical-filled, sickly farm-raised nonsense of MOST grocery stores) North Pacific salmon for less than half the price of a similar product at the best grocery store. It's also MUCH fresher, because Zaycon gets it right from their fishing boats in Alaska, immediately vacuum sealed on-site, then puts it on the trucks and ships it to the buyers. Again, the catch is buying in bulk, 25 lbs at a time. We also buy beef in bulk, either by the quarter or half cow. We get all cuts from all parts of the cow, cut to our specifications, straight from the farmer who raises them humanely, no feed lots, no "fattening up" on GMO grains to raise the price by adding chemicals. Just good, healthy, grass-fed beef in all cuts- steaks, roasts, and everything- for a flat rate that is less per pound than decent quality ground beef at any grocery store.

A cart full of "clean eating," mostly organic groceries at Costco
 Another way we buy in bulk is a membership to bulk food stores. After trying Sam's Club, BJ's, and Costco(the membership prices for which are all comparable), we have found that the latter definitely meets our needs for unprocessed foods and quality, organic store-brand products the best. We can get a huge variety of raw, mostly organic, preservative-free ingredients in larger amounts that meet our family's needs at a much smaller unit price than most grocery stores, including Aldi and Walmart.
   For literal purposes, here's what we bought at Costco today that will last us at least two weeks and can be used MANY different ways:

  • 20 lbs sweet potatoes(used for hash, fries, mash, and in stews)
  • 20 lbs organic Yukon Gold potatoes(used for hash, mashed, home fries, soups, stews, roasted with herbs, and curries)
  • 2 5-lb bags of organic french-cut green beans (used in soups, casseroles, stir fries, sauteed with garlic and EVOO, and steamed)
  • 1 case(3 half-gallons) original Silk Almondmilk (used with cereal and oatmeal for breakfasts)
  • 4 lbs unsalted organic butter (Do you REALLY need to know all the ways I use butter? LOL!)
  • 3 lbs natural cultured sour cream (tacos, nachos, baking, Greek food, baking)
  • 6-pack large organic red bell peppers(used many ways in cooking, as well as roasting- tutorial here- and using roasted red peppers various ways like hummus, sandwiches, sauces for pastas and meats)
  • 5-lb bag organic dried "super fruit" blend(used for kid snacking and husband's lunches)
  • 3-pack organic cucumbers( used raw in salads, cut into strips for dipping in things like hummus and used in sandwiches and wraps)
  • 1-lb shaker tub of organic granulated garlic(like the butter, I put it in EVERYTHING where raw garlic cannot go)
  • 1-lb brick Asiago cheese(used in sauces, topping for pastas, meats, soups, and more)
  • 2 dozen large organic free-range eggs(fried with hash and scrambled with meats and veggies for breakfasts, and so much more)
  • 1-lb smoked wild-caught Norwegian salmon(special for Christmas morning)
  • 1-lb dried organic cherries(kid snacks, husband's lunches, added to pancakes, waffles, and muffins for flavor and fiber)
  • 2-liter jug of organic extra virgin olive oil(pretty much used everywhere that coconut oil or butter cannot)
  • 30-pack organic tortillas(quesadillas with cheese and/or chicken for lunches, breakfast burritos, soft-shell tacos, veggie wraps)
  • 3-lb bag organic corn tortilla chips(nachos with melted cheese, beans, seasoned meat, and veggies on top, dipped in hummus or homemade not-fried refried bean dip, snacking with salsa and other veggie dips)
Total spent: $155.79

After Costco, we go to the local grocery store(Kroger) for the remaining goods we by in smaller quantity or cannot get at Costco or the local natural foods market, Good Foods Grocery. This time we bought A LOT of extras for Christmas.
  • 2 lbs rotini pasta(used for 2 meals of the kids' requested cauliflower mac'n'cheese- recipe forth-coming!)
  • 2 bottles organic tomato juice(used for tomato-basil soup- my oldest's favorite meal to make the family!)
  • 2 tubs store-brand oats(used for oatmeal, granola, peanut-butter oat bars and more breakfast favorites)
  • Parchment paper(Christmas! )
  • 1 can crushed pineapple(Christmas!)
  • 1 large can pumpkin puree(Christmas!)
  • 5 lbs organic store brand all-purpose flour(Christmas baking to share!)
  • 5 packages store brand cream cheese(Christmas baking to share!) 
  • 6 lbs blocks of various store-brand cheeses
  • 1 jar organic seedless raspberry jam(Christmas baking)
  • 1 gallon organic store brand whole milk
  • 2 lbs local(Sausage Craft), preservative-free breakfast sausage
  • 6-lb organic, free-range roaster chicken on manager special
  • 2 boxes organic baby salad greens mix on manager special
  • 3 lbs organic lemons
  • 8-lb store brand bone-in ham(Husband's request for Christmas dinner)
  • Cilantro(Mexican-style dishes like nachos, tacos, salads, burritos, Thai-style stir fries and soups)
  • Basil(Italian-style dishes like pastas, meats, and soups, Thai-style soups, stalks and ends used for stock)
  • Flat-leaf parsley(Italian-style dishes, soups, and stock, guinea pig food)
  • 3 heads garlic(used everywhere, just like buttah)
  • 5 lbs yellow onions(again, like garlic)
  • 7 lbs organic bananas(kids eat them like crazy, then they turn into egg-free chia banana muffins when they brown)
  • 10 lbs organic carrots(guinea pig food, soups, stews, curries, raw sticks dipped in hummus, peanut butter, and more)
  • Celery
  • 3 lbs broccoli crowns(steamed, sauteed, stir fries, guinea pig food)
  • Cranberries(Christmas!)
  • 3 lbs Clementine oranges
  • 5 lb organic cabbage(sauteed with onions and ACV, put in soups, stir fries, and more) 
Total spent: $129
Our bi-weekly budget for groceries is $300, so that leaves us with about $30 for more fresh produce as needed before the next paycheck. 

This has gotten crazy long with my receipt lists, so I'll leave this here and promise that I'll be back with more recipes for how I use all this very soon. Have any questions? Ask away! I'm happy to answer ASAP. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Day in the Homeschooling Life

I am asked often, "How do you do it?" I wrote a post about it a few months ago called, what else but How DO Your Do It?!  Today I answer the questions and tell you quite literally how we do it with a 'Day in the life of' kind of post. Much requested, and I'm finally MAKING myself git'er'dun.
   To start: Alarm goes off at 6am. I actually slept until I heard it this morning, which is rare. Usually my youngest has me up already. Get up and at 'em, and start my day with my playlist on my laptop on the kitchen counter. It's all my favorite worship songs, and gets my head in the right place for the day. 

The next most important thing after that: a cup of home-brewed kombucha. It's always the first thing I put in my stomach. Fantastic for both immune and gut health. 

After that, I munch on a bowl of cashews while I get around to unloading and loading the dishwasher, making Husband his breakfast, and packing his lunch(usually leftovers). Today straining kombucha and getting a new batch brewing was added to the list. Yes, a kombucha tutorial is also much-requested by my readers. One of these days I'll make the time to do it.

While I'm puttering around the kitchen and talking to husband about his day, the kiddos begin waking up and doing whatever the mood strikes them. Thankfully, it's usually something quiet. 

Usually. Sometimes they wake up and announce their presence by hissing and growling ferociously from the top of the stairs, letting us know not only are they awake, but they're a rabid raccoon today.

Somewhere around 7am, we all meander out to the front porch(pets included. No joke. They're always there) to give Daddy our hugs and kisses goodbye.

.... Then we stand there and wave, kids screaming, "BYE DADDY! I LOVE YOU! YOU'RE THE MOST AMAZING DADDY IN THE UNIVERSE! BE SAFE! I LOVE YOOOOOOOOU!" until he's out of sight. Undoubtedly, we are the neighbors an acre over's alarm clock. I'm sure of it.

Once he's gone, I make breakfast for the now-awake remainder of the household. Today it was smoothies. One over-ripe banana, 2 cups frozen mixed fruit, 1 cup frozen blueberries, 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, 2 cups organic, pure coconut water makes enough for all four of them. Add a handful of almonds to the side of their cup for more protein, and breakfast is ready in less than 5 minutes. 

While they're eating, I get to thinking about the day's meals, and do any prep I need to. Today I put a roaster chicken rubbed with garlic powder, sea salt, and chili powder in the large crock pot on high, then 2 cups pinto beans, 1/2 a chopped onion, chili powder, and cumin, and 6 cups water into the small crock pot on high. They'll be done for a kind of Tex-Mex flavored lunch with cubed cheese(protein for the poultry-allergic one), grapes, and mixed greens sale. 

Everyone was up early today(usually breakfast is at 8, today it was at 7:30), but regardless of the time, the routine after breakfast is the same: Wash hands and faces, brush teeth, get dressed, come downstairs ready to start school. The goal is by 9, but today we started shortly after 8. Look! I took a selfie so you could see that even I get dressed. Well, you know, if you consider layered tees and my fave LuLaRoe leggings dressed. I do. 

We start with math. It's the hardest for my oldest so it takes her the longest, and since I started teaching her first we've just stuck with that. We get it done and out of the way while her mind is fresh, and the rest of the day is smooth sailing. It works well for everyone else, too, so we don't fix what's not broken. 
Start with #1. She likes to work beside the guinea pig cage. I guess Wilbur helps her focus. We go over her work for the day(review of multiplication in horizontal, vertical, and word-problem forms), and I leave her to it. 

#2 gets to work by himself while I'm working with #1, because he's an excellent reader and can get started by himself. I check in with him to make sure his lesson is going well. 

Before I sit down with #3 to do her math lesson, I hunt down #4 and make sure he's not harming himself or anyone else. Just then he was playing in my bed, laughing, and talking to himself about some imaginary adventure in the blankets and pillows. I leave him to it. 

#3 sits quietly at the table waiting for me. Don't you love her "fashions"(what she calls her outfits and accessories)?

We go through her lesson on simple addition, sequential numbers, and the 40's family at the dining room table, then go to the wall in the school room to practice her counting, by 1's, 10's, and families, to 100. 

While the big kids continue their math, #3 and I work through her reading(practicing letters sounds and basic blends) then phonics workbook. At some point during this, #4 meanders out and does a drawing, adds stickers, then asks to play PBS kids on the laptop. Yep, that sure is smoothie on his forehead and shirt. He's a grazer so he was still sipping on his and I don't bother cleaning him up until he's done. 

#1 comes out and needs help clarifying a concept on a word problem, then goes back to her work. #2 comes out and needs his math checked. Done, and I give him his reading assignment. Off he goes to the floor behind the couch with the dog to read, and #3 and I do her history. We learn about the flag, and how many states are in the USA. After that, draws a picture of the flag, then she practices some lower-case s's for penmanship, before reading a quick paragraph with me about fingernails in science, then she's done and off to play PBS Kids with #4.

 I go over reading comprehension questions with #2, then we get to work on his grammar and phonics work. Also, I'm hungry again. A bowl of mixed greens topped with purple onions, crumbled leftover falafel, feta, and drizzled with tzatziki join our ELA work. #2 plugs his nose while he works. 

#1 comes out with completed math, and today everything's correct. HOORAY! She takes a while(today it was 1.75 hours), but she's thorough, heartfelt, and as long as she's focused she does very well. I give her the day's reading assignment(She's working on Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women"), then go through the day's history with #2. By the time #2 is on to penmanship, #1 is moving on to her Language Arts workbook. Before long, I am in the schoolroom breaking up the bickering as #2 bemoans cursive t's and #1 has insulted him by insisting they're "Easy-peasy lemon-squeezy." I got bad with the pictures after this as I played referee between them and tried to help #3 and #4 realize that repeatedly jamming their fingers on the touch screen of the laptop would mean the computer would freak out and NO ONE got their way(compromise-shompromise when you're 2 and 4). #2 finished penmanship so we did his science as #1 did her history reading and wrote in her notebook the answers to the reading comprehension questions. #1 and I review and discuss her history, then she moves on to penmanship as I give #2 his spelling test. 100%!  He's proud, and I'm proud of him. #2 is done for the day and scampers off to build a boys-only fort in his room out of bed sheets, blankets, and the bunk bed. #3 and #4 follow him and do likewise. #1 and I do her science reading together and discuss the various joints of the body after, then I give HER her first spelling test of the year. Out of 25 words, only two wrong. She gets down on herself very easily, because she's a natural-born perfectionist. I try to encourage her that she's AMAZING, pointing out how she spelled much harder words like delightful, disobedience, and Pennsylvania just fine, it's just the easier words(today it was errand and academic) that trip her up because she over-thinks them, expecting them to be much harder than they are. She is her mother's child, to be sure. 

By 11:30am we're done for the day, eat lunch, then run outside to play with the hose on this nearly 100F, stiflingly humid day. Even the puppy partakes! 

Clean and dry clothes followed by 1.5 hours of quiet rest time(the younger ones nap, the older ones or whomever doesn't sleep lay quietly in their beds and read books), and our afternoon is wide open for anything and everything. Today we laid low and played inside, because I was too tired and sweaty for any adventures. The boys pretend to be mummies in their sarcophagus- aka an old box from recycling- and the girls have a birthday party for #3's imaginary friend, Bleh-Bleh, complete with ripped-up paper confetti and a cake made from Styrofoam and colored pencils. Happy 42nd birthday, Bleh-Bleh! Hard to believe you've been around that long. Do you age in months?

That's about it! I'm busy all day. If I'm not teaching, I'm cleaning or doing laundry. Or something. Always something. 

Have any more questions on how we do our homeschool day, how we teach, or our curriculum? Ask away! I know every family is different, and I'm happy to share what works for us. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Trap of Imaginary Enemies

    With the new school year comes the onslaught of technical questions and discussions about state
requirements. Inevitably, with those discussions comes the avalanche of ignorance. As outliers of the mainstream, we as homeschoolers deal with a lot of criticism and judgement. Neighbors, cashiers, friends, family, and strangers everywhere have preconceived notions and ignorant questions("But how will the learn how to stand in line or make friends?!") about how we do things, so we tend to spend a lot of time sticking up for ourselves, our legal rights, and our kids. Unfortunately this means we're often going in with our dukes up, so to speak, with certain people, especially administrators in the public school district.
   When I first began homeschooling we were in New York state, one of the most demanding and difficult for homeschoolers. Not only does the state require a Notice of Intent to homeschool, but when they respond to your NOI, you then have 15 days to respond with a complete IHIP- Individualized Home Instruction Plan- which is a plan for how you intend to meet the requirements for each subject(specific curriculum book names, co-ops, community classes, etc) for each individual child. Throughout the year you must also send in quarterly reports, which are detailed write-ups on what you covered in every subject that quarter, and the student's grade for said work. At the end of the year you must provide an approved form of evaluation, whether it be an annual review(acceptable every other year for the elementary school ages) or standardized test grade report. This load of reporting, on top of the responsibility of teaching the kids was really intimidating! I did my fair share of asking questions. After several years, though, I realized it was pretty simple. Tedious, but homeschool coordinators in all the various districts we were in were helpful, flexible, and understanding of life's circumstances.
   Despite this kindness and flexibility, I found there was a constant undercurrent of tension between the district personnel and the homeschoolers, and the source was surprising. It was the homeschoolers! Always ready for a fight, always assuming the district personnel were 'glaring' at the homeschoolers, so to speak, in their paperwork and conversations. The homeschoolers were constantly inferring this from the district without the personnel doing anything. When I stated on several discussion groups the reminder that the district was just following state requirements and weren't actually the enemy I was always met with two extremes: profound agreement or outrage. OF COURSE THEY'RE THE ENEMY! THEY WANT TO CONTROL US! When asked for proof of this in either in word or deed, there's nothing. Ever. Just a perceived notion.
   One example was when a former friend(she became so angry with me as a result of this discussion that she eventually cuts ties with me) was attempting to obtain speech therapy for her child through the school district, but balked when they approved the therapy but asked for the child to be registered with the school district. The other homeschoolers in the discussion on Facebook pulled out their dukes and proclaimed the district was trying to control what she could teach her child. When I, who actually had a child receiving such services from the district so I knew from experience pointed out that registered was different than enrolled and all they wanted was their home address, child's date of birth and social security number so they could prove to the state where the funding was going as well as that the child was a legal citizen residing in their district, the commenters and mother of the student in question turned on me with mob force. SURELY I WAS WRONG, BECAUSE ALL THE DISTRICT WANTS IS EVERY CHILD UNDER THEIR CONTROL!!! When I asked what proof they had of this idea, what the interactions with the district had been thus far? Oh, nothing but pleasant, were all the responses, but they just know that's how the districts and state work. So just your ignorance and seeking offense? Gotcha'.
   Because there is so little required reporting here in Virginia, I expected it'd be different here. I was wrong. All that's required here in VA is a Notice of Intent to Homeschool and a copy of a GED or high school diploma to prove you are equipped to teach your child. Then at the end of the year you supply the district with some sort of evaluation showing your child has adequately progressed in Math and Language Arts. VERY simple and very respectful of parents' rights. But no. They find beef here. And by "they" I mean the homeschoolers. Just today there was an uproar about the minuscule semantics of the wording of various districts' responses to NOI's. One poster said, "They're trying to insert some power over us with their wording." Another said, "They should have said they ACKNOWLEDGED receipt of our NOI instead of 'accepted'. I don't need their approval, thank you very much." Seriously, one word's difference, and 30 women were in literal outrage over the abuse of imaginary power the schools were trying to infer over them and their children. They're kidding, right? But no. The indignation over minute semantics was pathetic. I took the time and wrote out a very thoughtfully-worded post reminding the moms that the district was not our enemy, that they're just printing off copies of the same letter and sending them to everyone who sends in an NOI as recognition for their records. There's no ill will, no contempt, no assertion of power. While MORE than 30 'like'd my comment, many more turned on me with that mob force and told me I knew nothing.

Yep. You're right. I know nothing.
Select "Turn off notifications."
Don't return to the conversation. 

   If you're a homeschooler I beg you to remember this: The district is not your enemy. You likely know the laws far better than ANYONE in the district, because all they do is perform lip service to the position for which they're trained. YOU know the laws because you've done the hard work for the sake of your children. Know the laws for your state. Be informed so that should you actually encounter a need, you are able to advocate for your family. Acknowledge that the homeschool coordinators did not create the paperwork themselves, they're simply handing out what was created in response to the creation of homeschool laws decades ago. They're not trying to make things hard for you. They're not trying to control you. In reality, they're all probably very nice humans just doing their jobs to earn a paycheck for their own families. The only reason district personnel have a bad attitude toward homeschoolers in my experience is because of the bad attitude of homeschoolers before you. Don't let the ignorance of others push a bad attitude into you. Fulfill your state-mandated requirements, and enjoy teaching your kids. End of story.

Post publishing note: Since writing this I have received a huge outpouring of kudos and messages of gratefulness for writing this. There are MANY of us who agree here. It's hard to say if we're the minority or not. The din of ignorance is so deafening, are they just the squeaky wheels? If so it's certainly time for those of us who disagree with their animosity to speak up. If you're silent in the face of ignorance then you're promoting their message by default. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Why I Love Back-to-School Season

It's the most wonderful time of the yeeeeeeear!
I really do sing that about the start of a new school year. Every year my Facebook feed is filled with mothers posting variations of, "I cannot wait for school to start and get these kids out from under foot!" Some aspects of that I can understand. How much could I actually accomplish if my older three got on the bus at 7:30am and didn't return until 3:15pm?! My house could be clean, my meals more thoughtfully prepared, my gardens less neglected, the laundry done, and I might even actually have time to sew more than once a month, not to mention the quality one-on-one time I could have with my toddler. But the very thought of not having my babies with me for the greater part of their waking hours 5 days a week 10 months out of the year is heart-wrenching! I know there are plenty of mamas who do have to send their kids to school and still feel identically to me, so I know it's not just a homeschooler thing. It's just a thing. A thing that forces me to be much better at time management, or else much better at prioritizing. 
   So why is this the most wonderful time of the year? Well for starters, the smells of fresh books, right off the press, a brand new box of real wood pencils, and brand new chubby crayons are delicious. 
   Secondly, I don't have to spend time keeping my kids busy, or at the very least supervising the littler ones to make sure they're not endangering anyone or themselves in their creative play, or planning regular outings to keep people from getting stir-crazy. Instead, we have a very structured day for everyone through lunch time, then we have quiet time while the toddler naps, and after everyone's awake it's a free-for-all play time until dinner. The kids appreciate their play time so much more when they've had that structured, task-filled morning. I rarely hear the dreaded phrase, "I'm bored," during the school year. It's amazing. 
   Thirdly and most important of all to me is the time spent focused on each child individually and connecting with them instead of just supervising them while I try to get my to-do list done. Sure, we have one-on-one time during the summer as well, but there's just nothing like the time spent with each child, several minutes at a time during each subject, explaining, connecting, learning their language, that helps you understand them each as individual human beings. Watching them struggle with a concept is frustrating, to be sure, but growing relationship with each child and learning how to teach it in their unique language, then watching their eyes light up and their pride well up inside their chests is just unlike anything else. It chokes me up every time- every single time- and I've been doing this for six years now. Those little moments every day can never be underestimated. They MAKE my life as a homeschooling mom. When people say, "You homeschool? Oh wow, I don't know how you do it." All I can think is how lucky I am to be able to do it. 

My sweet crew on Monday, the start of our 2015-2016 school year:

Thursday, July 16, 2015

What Not to Say...

  There seem to be a lot of those "What not to say to/when/how..." posts being shared around these days. The response seems to be one of two things much of the time. Either, "OH MY GOODNESS, YES!!!" or "OH MY GOODNESS, YOU OVERLY-SENSITIVE, POLITICALLY-CORRECT LITTLE NINNIES! GET OVER YOURSELVES!" Very rarely do I ever see responses of people who considered the words and their actions, making note of how unknowingly hurtful they could be, and shared with a vow to try and care for others' hearts. It happens, but it's rare. But in the past few months I have been given the  incredible privilege of having scores of women come to me after reading my story of Asher's life, death, birth, and the grieving process, and express their own similar hurts and experiences, thanking me for being vocal about our common hurt. In the sharing I have noticed we have all had a few things in common, and one horribly painful thing is this: the comments, meant to be some kind of comfort or pain-relief, that actually stabbed us deeply in the heart, because the speakers had not been through such a loss therefore could not relate and had no idea what they were actually saying.
The two most common:
"You can always have another!"
Yes, most people can have another baby after a loss. And many do. But what you are suggesting is a replacement child. Like having another baby will make ANYTHING about the loss of this child better. I assure you, it will not. Pick one of your kids. Or a parent. A sibling. A best friend. A spouse. Any one close to you. Now imagine them dead. Don't worry! Don't cry or be sad. Just go make another human replacement! Yeah.
"Just focus on the child/children you DO have!"
 Let's make something really clear here: It is absolutely okay and normal for a parent to grieve their dead child, and it in no way makes them ungrateful for any living children they have, nor does it make them ungrateful for their fertility. Their grief is not insensitive to those experiencing infertility. Their heartache is normal and okay, and it is absolute cruelty to infer that their daring to grieve is insensitive or ungrateful. Say your spouse dies, very young and unexpectedly. Your world is crashing down around you, and you're suddenly chastised for your grief, and told that you're being insensitive to those who have never found a spouse. Does that seem in ANY way right?

It's interesting to me that I have been mulling over this topic in my head since my last post, Think About It, and just as I got children busy and sat down with my laptop for some time to write, my sister re-posted this poem her cousin(also a mother of Heaven-born babies) shared. Perfect. So perfect. 

Nobody Knew You
By: Jan Cosby
Nobody knew you
"Sorry about the miscarriage, dear, but you couldn't have been very far along."
... existed.
Nobody knew you
"It's not as though you lost an actual person."
... were real.
Nobody knew you
"Well it probably wasn't a viable fetus. It's all for the best." 
... were perfect.
Nobody knew you
"You can always have another!"
... were unique.
Nobody knew you
"You already have a beautiful child! Be happy!"
... were loved for yourself.
Nobody knew you
... but us.
And we will always remember
... You.  


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Think About It

   Why don't we treat a miscarriage like a birth? Why don't we treat a miscarriage like a death? Scientifically, it is both. The baby has died. The baby must be born. Why does death and birth by miscarriage get dropped into an enormous void in which we treat it as neither? Is it something about the 20th week of pregnancy that suddenly makes a baby's death and birth more qualifying for those terms?
   Science validates both the death and the birth, so why do we as humans invalidate them? For the family it is both. Why is it different for others? Because nobody calls Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep for photos of the birth of a dead baby in your bathroom, or because the photos hold far less romantic and memorial appeal when Mama is unconscious and strapped to a table? Or is it because it's really easy to turn a blind eye to what they never saw? A bump rounding out a shirt is not as precious and memorable as tiny, wrinkly fingers and toes.
    Physically, the birth is very, very real. The mother's body does everything exactly the same, but the baby is smaller. The recovery is the same, but the belly has less mass to shrink down. If, God forbid, the mother's body cannot give birth naturally and a surgical birth is required, the physical trauma is exponentially more, and the recovery is often longer than full term birth. I can tell you from experience that the surgical birth of my tiny Asher in January was exponentially harder than any of my 4 full term live births. By 8-10 weeks post-partum with my live births, I was completely recovered and there were no signs of my recent pregnancy aside from the babe in my arms. My tiny Asher was born five and half months ago and I am still not only not physically recovered, but under medical treatment for things resulting from his birth.
   Emotionally? Let's think about that. I had severe post-partum depression with three of my four live births. I know the difficulty of those newborn weeks and the intensity of adding the very dark cloud of PPD to it, and I can tell you with certainty that the experience of empty arms, empty womb, and grief are exponentially worse than anything I dealt with during the emotional ups and downs or post-partum depression of my live births.
   It's cruel the way much of society drops the families affected by miscarriage into some void that everyone knows is there but tiptoes around hoping to avoid the awkwardness of not knowing how to respond. The only people who seem to get it are the ones who have been there. Most of us don't talk about it much because of this- because for some reason we want to protect others from feeling awkward and uncomfortable. We have a code where, "How are you?" and gentle hugs hold much more than they seem to, and unspoken undercurrent tells one another what we mean. Why on Earth are those of us experiencing the loss and pain protecting everyone else?! Why isn't everyone else trying to help US with our burdens?! THIS IS ALL SO BACKWARD!
   I don't think people  realize all of this- the cruelty and backwardness of it all. I think it's a societal norm we've been groomed into, so we don't give it a second thought. Until it's us. Until we're the ones on the table hearing the words, "I'm sorry. There's no heartbeat," kicking us off the beaten path to a much rockier, more painful, lonely one. If you're one of the blessed ones who have never touched this path, I beg you to empathize. When's the last time you took a meal to a friend or a meal train was organized for a family experiencing a loss by miscarriage the way they're organized for live births? Is it because we don't have a live baby to keep our hands full so surely we can prepare our own food? I assure you, the shock and grief had me stuck in a huddling ball on the couch much longer than a sleepless, breastfeeding newborn ever did. When's the last time you took flowers or sent a card to some one experiencing loss by miscarriage the way society says is proper etiquette to do for some one who experiences the loss of a family member? We received a couple cards in the months following Asher's birth, and those moments of thoughtfulness, those gestures of, "I'm truly hurting for you. Please know you're in my thoughts/prayers," triggered tears every time, but they were a different kind of tears, and a welcome change from the oceans I'd been crying for my son, and those cards are all in his tiny box of keepsake memories in my bedroom.
   I dare you to change the way you think. I dare you to empathize. I dare you to reach out. It doesn't matter that you don't know what to say. Just let them know you know and you care. Say their child's name, if you know it. Send them a card on his/her birthday- because it IS a birthday. Start a meal train. Send a card. Give hugs. Be a visible source of love and support, because there literally is almost NONE for those suffering. Dare to care. Awkward or not, your effort will mean so much more than words can say.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Whip It Good

   If you've been on Facebook for long, you've undoubtedly seen the weight loss products flooding your feed. On the one hand, it makes sense. According to the National Institute of Health, 2/3's (68.8%) of adult Americans are overweight. In that light, it makes sense that a large number of people on Facebook would be using these MLM weight loss products, and it certainly benefits them to make non-stop posts about the products that make them money to such a sedentary, constantly scrolling and reading market as the social media scene. What better option than to drink that pink stuff, those green ones, swallow those pills or choke down those nasty dirt-like powders with the promise that you'll lose weight by changing nothing else about your lifestyle? It seems like the perfect solution.
   Here's the secret: It's all nonsense. We're very much an eating disorder-driven society. I know when people think ED they think frighteningly skinny and starvation, but in reality the gamut of the mental illness of ED's runs from fatal starvation to super-morbid obesity. When you view food as anything other than fuel for your body that happens to taste good, too, that is disordered eating. Spend enough time practicing this disordered eating mindset and you are bound to develop an eating disorder. With 69% of Americans overweight and many others with ED's on the opposite end of the spectrum, nearly 3/4's of the American population has true, clinical eating disorders whether they recognize it or not.
   Here's another secret: Real, true weight loss only comes by changing lifestyle habits and disordered eating thought processes, and when that is achieved you will maintain that healthy weight. Too simple, I know. It can't possibly be true. But actually it's not simple. It's very, very hard, and that's why it's true. Real, true, maintainable weight loss does not come from a shake, a pill, or endless hours of exercise.
   The only reason a 'Pink Drink' might help you make any progress is because it is tricking you into drinking huge amounts of water when you wouldn't ordinarily. The water fills your stomach so you feel physically fuller faster, but it also hydrates you. Guess what? You'd get identical results if you drank that same amount of water without a powder added.
   The only reason a pill or patch may help you make any progress is because of caffeine. Even the "natural," botanically-based ones have 'herb extracts' and the like that are nothing more than caffeine. Yes, caffeine temporarily boosts the metabolism, but consume it in large amounts long enough and you will develop adrenal fatigue, auto-immune disorders, migraines, and more. As soon as you stop using these pills or patches, your body will struggle to fuel itself without the caffeine addition, so you really will be under the illusion that your body has more energy and must be doing better on these pills.
   The only reason a meal-replacement shake may help you make any progress is because of starvation. Every single shake I've seen on the market is full of metabolism-slowing and liver-taxing preservatives, alcohol sugars that act as laxatives(and are touted as safe for diabetics, but they actually raise blood sugars HIGHER for type 1 diabetics ), and are just chemical fluff, highly processed fibers, and artificial sweeteners and flavoring. They will do nothing for your body in a nutritive sense, but the alcohol sugars will push the pause button on your hunger by raising your blood sugar. They will not sustain you, though, and in the end you'll be more hungry, and your body will go into starvation mode.
   I could go on for many, many more paragraphs, but who wants to read that? Most only want to read the success stories, temporary, fake, or otherwise, and see profound(and photoshopped 99% of the time) before and after pictures, not the truth of the science behind these garbage products. What would happen, though, if we spent our money on real food instead of chemical products? Shakeology shakes are at least $120/month. Plexus is more because they want you drinking their pink water, taking their diet pills and powders, and their probiotic. What if you spent $30 each month on a high quality, high potency, multi-strain probiotic like Probiotic Sufficiency or Garden of Life RAW Probiotics that naturally cleanses your body on the inside and speeds your metabolism naturally and sustainably, drank plenty of water(cutting out juices, sodas, and other water-replacements), and spent the same amount of money you already do on  groceries, just made better choices? Even those with hormonal issues like PCOS and thyroid issues like Hoshimoto's lose weight this way, and it's permanent(unlike the diet products that make your system crash as soon as you stop them) and well-documented. Start removing the chemicals from your diet, helping it to function better internally starting with proper gut health, and putting nutrients in your body for fuel instead of whatever tastes good and is easily at-hand, and you can't not lose weight. That is scientifically proven every time.
    I've struggled with my weight my entire life. According to most, "I have the fat genes." More people in my family have had gastric bypass than anyone I know unrelated to me, and almost all the women have weight struggles, thyroid disorders, and auto-immune disease related to hormones and weight. As a teen I was bulimic to deal with the struggle. As a young adult and mother I learned how to do better. How to eat better. How to be healthy. The last two years, though, since the birth of our fourth child, I've faced a lot of struggles and have turned to food, whether in boredom, anxiety, distress, and sadness, I ate to stuff the feelings or self-medicate to just have "good feelings." Now I am a mother, a wife, and an American in the vast majority that medicine labels by numbers as "obese."  I need to lose 75 pounds just to squeak under the line of what is a healthy weight for my height, build, age, and gender, and I am so sick of all these fake stories of the impossibility of doing it naturally. I and my 'fat genes,' four kids, no time, no extra money, Hashimoto's Thyroid Disease, pre-diabetes, and hormone imbalance are "defying the odds" and getting healthy without spending a single penny extra or adding a single meal shake or diet pill or powder to my diet. In the last three weeks I have lost 7 pounds solely by eating just a little less at each meal and making smarter choices like making my coffee before I leave the house instead of getting Starbucks on the way.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Blessed Mother's Day

   It's Mother's Day! Hoorah. I'm so blessed to be a mama. I was told at 19 I'd likely never conceive and carry to term, but here I am eternally blessed with four children Earth-side, and two in Heaven.
   My husband blessed me with a wonderful day. He informed me when we woke up that we were going to breakfast. When we arrived at our first choice before 8am, there was already a half-hour wait. Seems giving moms a morning off from cooking was not a unique idea. Our second choice was close-by and had no wait, so we ended up with a really nice, quiet, unhurried breakfast anyway.
   Then we went bargain hunting. I never imagined myself to be one who would be at the doors of a store waiting for it to open so I could get good deals on a holiday, but that's what happened today. I had Kohl's Cash expiring today, a Kohl's Rewards coupon for $30 off, and a 'today only' 20% off code- all that I could stack- and we ate breakfast so early that we were the first ones in the store. Several more stores and clearance rack searches later, and my kids' summer wardrobes were completed for 60-80% off. I call that a good shopping day.
   Several errands later, and it was closing in on lunch time. Yesterday we attended a fun community festival where Noodles & Co. was a sponsor, and we received two free meal vouchers. Lunch at a bargain, too? Yes, thank you. I'm an introvert by nature- I keep to myself, I love being home with my family, happily enjoying a rather boring day. Days out with lots of errands like this are usually really stressful to me, but today was so quiet and happy, relaxed, full of stops but with no timetable or crowds(once we left that first breakfast stop), and bargain shopping(and eating! LOL) to boot made it so nice.
  Then we came home and gardened! Much of my garden did not do well upon first planting. First there was a feisty pup who got in there and did some digging. He's now been trained not to go in garden(he has a healthy fear of the water hose). Then there was the attack of the ants. Diatomaceous Earth has hopefully taken care of that problem. Then there was the case of the mole eating the softened seeds after we planted them for peas and beans. The mole has been taken care of(thanks, kitties!), so we gave it one last go. Beans are replanted, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and watermelon seedlings are in. It's like a giant sigh of relief to have all that done.
   Once the children were all napping I wrapped my arms around my husband and thanked him for the wonderful day. He gave me a weird look, doubting my words, but I assured him that to be so productive was nice for me, knowing those things were checked off my list, and getting to spend the day with just him and the kids no matter where we were was so nice. I still don't know if he believes me, but it's true. It's been a great day.

Do you Instagram? I recently quit Facebook(if you're seeing this from my Facebook it's because my blog posts are sent to my Facebook by default) and don't have time to write full posts here as much as I'd like, so I started an Instagram for sharing snippets of our days with friends and family.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The First Mother's Day

   Everyone's making plans for this Sunday, whether they be to take advantage of other's wanting the day off so they can work extra long hours to make the money they need, or to drown their sorrows in alcohol and just get through the day, or actually celebrating with family, but plans they are. But did you know that the FIRST Sunday in May is a special day, too? It's International Bereaved Mother's Day. It's for the mothers who are dealing with the absence of one or more children in their lives, whether it be to death or infertility. Did you know this was last Sunday? Most do not. It's uncomfortable to acknowledge so most will just scroll past the information, skim the article, or ignore or forget altogether because it does not apply to them.
   But it is absolutely perfect that this should come first. While it is excellent and right to appreciate all mothers, it is also excellent and right to acknowledge that there are those among us for whom this traditional Mother's Day is incredibly painful for many reasons. For some it is the absence of child by infertility. For some it is the absence of mother by death, abandonment, abuse, and other pain-filled reasons.  For some it is the absence of child by death. This year I have joined the ranks of that last group. It's a terrible group. I have always had a heavy heart for those who have felt pain on these holidays, but now I know first hand how awful it is, and it means all the more that the world should recognize our pain, because by recognizing our pain they go outside themselves to care for others, and that is huge. For those affected by death it recognizes the existence of the humans in our lives that are now gone. It recognizes struggle, and for some reason having others recognize even for a brief moment the heart-wrenching load you carry every second of the day, that load is made lighter. So THIS Sunday let's go out of our way to, for a brief moment, come alongside those whose pain was acknowledged last Sunday by the few who cared to notice it, and help carry that burden of the heart. Acknowledge the pain of the lack and the loss. You have no idea how that brief moment of discomfort and awkwardness for you may touch a person for whom the pain is constant.
  Several years ago I saw this shared  when it was brand new, and I loved it. It moved me to tears. Now I cry over it for a whole new reason, and even if you read it every year, it will never get old or lose its importance. So every year, please- pastors, teachers, employers, leaders of all kinds- share this. You have no idea how it will touch the people who need to hear it:

To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you
To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you
To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you
To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you
To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.
To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you
To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you
To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you
To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you
To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience
To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst
To those who have aborted children – we remember them and you on this day
To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be
To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths
To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren -yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you
To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you
To those who placed children up for adoption — we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart
And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you
This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.


Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Best Laid Plans

   My husband and I decided earlier this spring that as soon as we were done with schoolwork, we would try to do fun family "adventures" at least 2-3 times every month. We want our kids to learn more about the world outside their little bubbles, expose them to new things, and help them to learn from new experiences. This weekend's adventure: The Celebration of the Horse just 15 minutes from our house.
   Our kids have been around horses a couple of times, but in very short chunks, like when we went to the Journey of Hope 4 Autism several times a little over a year ago. It was somewhat terrifying for our kids then, because they had never been near horses, and the sweet, free-roaming goat, Karla, had tiny horns that my kids thought might as well have been meat cleavers. We thought that now they would be old enough to enjoy the event.
   Our oldest as immediately in love with the horse shows happening and would have chosen to stand there all day watching, while our middle two seemed to know nothing was near them except porta-potties and food trucks, and the youngest was disturbed by everything anywhere near him, and could handle nothing but to be held by Mama- and a simple hip-hold wouldn't do. Oh no. He needed both my arms around him at all times or he would squeal. I did, however, manage to get all four interested in the very brief "leadline" class, mostly because they were fascinated to see kids their size and smaller riding horses. QUICK! GET A PICTURE SO WE CAN PRETEND THEY LIKED IT!

We finally gave up and left when all but the oldest were in inconsolable tears. We tried. We made it 45 minutes. We DID manage to catch an English Pleasure Class with a gaited pony. My husband had never seen such a thing(nor had the kids, obviously), and all but the 2-year-old were fascinated. Ignore the food allergy talk in the background. We were trying to figure out if the drink the toddler was begging for was safe for him. 

After we left the festival, we gave ourselves a treat of iced lattes while we kept the kids busy looking at stuff at Target so we could enjoy our drinks in mostly-quiet, and I got the afternoon off from making lunch with a stop at our favorite allergy-friendly spot, Noodles & Co

So I guess the day wasn't a total loss, but I had these visions of grandeur for our learning adventures. Thoughts of summer neatly recorded with pictures and child-written descriptions of their favorite parts of the days compiled in a scrapbook for us to look fondly back on and remember the things we learned. Aside from our 8-year-old who held back disappointed tears as we left less than an hour into our adventure, I'm pretty sure any memories of the day would center around lunch and the kerchief-wearing pitbull we passed on the way out. Here's to hoping the next adventure is better. Or maybe I'm just setting myself up for a very disappointing summer.