Tuesday, 30 September 2008

What We've Been Up To, or Why Rubber Chickens Are Funny

* WARNING, pictures may gross you out. But at least you cannot smell them. Just saying.

The lovely Abby at Sugar Creek Family Farm invited us out to help with chicken preparing. Good times that. I'd helped with this chore as a kid at Deedle's farm, but Dearest had never even seen it done. We are all about hands on learning.

So, chickens are calm when you hang them upside down by their feet.

Feathers come right off after a scalding dip. That's the part that smells. Really smells yucky.

Dinosaur looking feet snap right off. You know, I never really thought about that part before.

Wee tots hiding under native lean-to. Cute toes. They mostly avoided the carnage of the day. Despite Lil'Bugs exclamations of, "We'll eat them!"- I think some of the visuals upset her. She's learning too.

Me? I held the baby. Thank you Blueberry! Hey, I'm good with fruit. Fruit is not bloody, does not smell like wet feathers, nor does fruit come pecking at the carnage bits of its tree brothers. Shudder. Apple anyone?

Then, I was blessed with the chore of laundry. I washed the chicken blood spattered clothes three times, frustrated and grossed out that a spot on Dearest's work jeans just wouldn't come clean. Until I realized it was a paint spot. Red paint from our parlor ceiling. Gah. The same red staining paint that has plagued me in recent times into thinking I had a rash. I am never using red house paint ever again.

Saturday, 27 September 2008


Ultimately, I believe what Wendell Berry says in his last poem in A Timbered Choir: “There is a day when the road neither comes nor goes, and the way is not a way but a place.” That day has come for me. The way to a more sustainable life indeed is a place.

Wow does this passage speak to me right now. I was blog hunting for similar families in our new neck of the woods. She's up in South Dakota (Google is weird sometimes), but I love the poetry of this passage, both in the actual poetry quote and in her response.


Fall is here. I just noticed. Last Spring I took the time to pay attention each day to the unfurling of the tree foliage and I intended to meditate the same way on the color changes this fall. We haven't had a cold spell and it still feels like summer to me. So it goes.

We are very busy around here. Sarah came to take photos and share chocolate yesterday. Much to my chagrin my dog jumped on to our king size bed and pushed all the blankets and sheets to floor. He was upset I had closed him in the room when company arrived. So I had spent the effort making the beds for naught. Gah. Tornado Tot did the same thing to her own room. And I was making apple butter. I wonder why I bother making the beds first thing in the morning if all they do is rampage my efforts.

Oh yeah, it is in case we get a Realtor showing up with prospective buyers. Okey-doke, I'll keep at it. We've been on the market 3 weeks and had 7 families look. Not so bad really. The next open house is early October. I hope to have the laundry room done by then.

Anyway, things are moving forward here on all fronts. Canning is getting done, house is clean, photos taken, slugs cuddled (yeah, it's a Lil'Bug thing), and we are all happier than ever.

The energy and excitement being generated from the farm acquisition moving forward is amazing and contagious.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Size 14

Clothing sizes have always baffled me. What's the point if even the actual size varies from brand to brand. Gah. Add that I am uber petite in height and finding comfortable clothes that fit without having to be altered is just a nightmare. Remember me trying to find maternity clothes? Well, now those don't fit, which is a good thing, and I needed a decent pair of well made jeans.

I refuse to pay 70$ plus for women's jeans that don't fit. Often it ends up being even more. Since I'm not pregnant I don't get to give in and buy another pair of expensive jeans. I started lamenting that they don't have adjustable waists in adult clothing like they do for kids.


I used to be able to buy boys jeans with elastic waist bands. Well, I'm not really built for that in the hips anymore. Yesterday at Target I stumbled back into the boys jeans section and it was as if a light shone down. Holy cow, I'm a HUSKY boy shape now! AND these jeans have adjustable waistbands! A one year warranty! Lots of pockets! Very well stitched, heavy denim.

Best part. 13$.

Better part. They fit. They really fit. No elastic waistband. Button and zipper fit. Next month, when they go on sale, I'm buying 2 more.

It is so sad that the same fitting charts used for children and men are not applied to women's clothing. It is even sadder that the price is so jacked up for women's clothing that doesn't fit and falls apart when worn hard. I'm not worried about chipping a nail, I'm worried about my jeans ripping (well, not now I'm not).

And no, I am not embarrassed to yell out, I'm a size 14 husky! How about this: I'm a meat eating, healthy woman, mother of 2 daughters who will also wear boy jeans. So ha.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Food For Play

CSA Thoughts

Every CSA I've looked up today has a waiting list. More demand than product. Interesting.

The model just may work for us. Reading more about it between grading papers, baking pies, and tending to nursling and tot. If any one who reads here has a CSA or has a resource to share, please post it! I have a lot to ruminate on, but I an hungry for more data.

Dearest went out and walked the property today, came home tired and excited. We played at the park for 5 hours and came home tired and excited. Right now they are all sleeping soundly and it is not yet 8 pm. Wow.

Time to reflect in the quiet I guess. Or go grade papers. You know, whatever.

I had a conversation with a student today. It really amuses me (and saddens me too) to think about the irony of my unschooling home and life in contrast with my teaching Literature and Composition to college kids. The difference in my teaching approach (revision, ability ot correct exams for full points, lots of discussion, self directed topic study) really freaks some of them out. It would be easier for me to adapt the fail/pass model, much less work, but I like how teach. I would not like the other model, easier though it may be, it would make me unhappy. I didn't mortgage my brain to mechanically grade papers day and night, I did so to learn and relish in my discipline. The bonus is that now I get paid to pass on, day after day, more of my craft and knowledge. Lucky that I get to do so in my PJ's in my kitchen. Yay Interweb.

That actually speaks to the way we live as well. Some things we have chosen are harder than the way our mainstream peers do things, but we are happier for it. Yes, it would be easier to go buy a pie from Hy-Vee but it simply cannot compare to picking our own apples, hand rolling the lard crust dough, the smell of baking pie, and finally, cutting fork into that first delicious, warm, gooey bite. Easy as pie. God, I love apples!

And one last thought.....Zone 5, peaches. How can I possibly choose which varieties from Stark Bro's? I used to be limited to just the 3 cold hardy varieties and now just about every variety is doable! My head is about to explode with possibilities. Suggestions are welcome.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Part 2 of Haunted Mansion Project Series

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Part 1 of Haunted Mansion Project Series

Since that lovely comment that our super cool friend Sara left, I've decided to treat you all with a series of posts. Before and afters. We really have come a long way with this house.

The inside of this bathtub was the only thing "done" when we moved in. I often cried when I looked at it. This picture isn't even technically a true before picture since I took it after the walls and ceiling were repaired.



I've been waiting to post until we have news, but we still do not have any real news to share. The only significant thing happening here is that my house is still clean and I am a ball of nerves waiting for an answer on the farm purchase.

I want it more than I realized I guess.

Today I am baking bread and pie. Anyone want an apple pie? I'll have an extra when I'm done. ;)

Monday, 22 September 2008


Let your capital be simplicity and contentment. -Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862)

Acknowledging Talent

Acknowledging Talent/ Not my own, but SarahSignature's. For sake of time, I snapped these photos yesterday during the open house (which went great, BTW....7 couples walked through, 2 more called and couldn't make it and will come this week sometime....whoo hoo!)

Anyway, here are the shots I snapped. I'm making a promised batch of apple butter to try and lure the photographer back here this week. LOL :)

More than anything though, I want to acknowledge and thank my MIL, the great Nana, because her talent is really shining here. She brought pictures, rearranged spaces, and cleaned this week. I worked as hard as I could to keep up, taking notes along the way so I could keep it clean and know for future home keeping what she did (but that's a post for another day).

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Big Day, Big Week, Big Dreams, ect.

It is officially Dearest's 30th birthday. Happy Birthday my love!

We are having an open house for the selling the haunted mansion project (see posts a few back for pics) later today. I haven't gone to bed yet because I am wound up, anxious, and just plain not done cleaning yet. Not sure I can do much more now since floor stain is setting, paint is drying, and all else requires hammer and loud noise (ah, the babes are finally asleep as of 30 minutes ago)......

Also, while we vacate (flee) the house for the open house time (1-4pm) Dearest is playing his first gig at a bar with the country band he's been practicing with. A BAR! We never go to bars and Dearest previously did not care for country music. To his credit, he plays punk drums so the band is a little more rockabilly than most country bands on many songs. Anyone reading here in the DM area and likes country music? PM me and I'll send the location and time. I'll post pics when we get home this evening.

Still no final word on the house offer. Still in negotiations. Still learning my lesson in patience. Dearest says I'm like Toad (from Frog and Toad) trying to get my garden to grow. It takes time, there's nothing you can do, playing music to the carrots won't help, but I am doing it anyway. La la la la!

Also, to get as much possible into one post....I attended a Blessingway this evening for a dear friend. It was beautiful. I missed the part of the invite that said only nurslings and Lil'Bug was a bit disruptive, but I hope not to the point of ruining it for Sarah. I hate when I miss details like that. Anyway, there was a lovely ritual of cleaning negativity with rose water and then envoking the names of mothers and grandmothers. I did not expect that. Instead of listing I offered that I am the daughter of "many". I know the names back 6 generations, but saying them aloud envokes such negativity and sadness in me I did not want that to be my offering to Sarah and her baby. Nor do I really feel that the biological chain is the anchor of mothering for me. Sigh. I wish her many blessings.

Here's to selling our house, birthdays, bar debuts, farming dreams, and babies!

Wowser, has this been a freaking busy week. Do weeks begin or end on Sunday?

Saturday, 20 September 2008


I am not good at waiting. I get ancy, anxious, and become a pain to everyone around me. I am working on it. So, of course life threw at me negotiating with a family who rides around in a horse and buggy and have an abundance of patience.

I get it. I really do.

So today, after days and days and days and days of back and forth and such, we wait some more. For an answer to the question.....will we be farmers yet in 2008?

:) I can't wait!

More Clues?

Friday, 19 September 2008

Mystery Berry

Name this vegetation......edible or poisonous?

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Fruit of Our Labor

I am nearing completion of today's tasks and I realized something. This push to move is actually getting items checked of my list from January! The north bedroom of doom is cleared of junk and actually a lovely bedroom now. The hallway is painted. Things are less cluttered and organized.

I'm not done yet, but very soon. Wow.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

au Natural

I've been mulling this over for a couple months now, ever since the Natural Living Expo.

Make-Up. Cosmetics. The irony of it in the "natural"living community. There were at least three booths for cosmetics at the expo. Beauty products. And the new trend is "green" products (well, "green" everything really...." But the be your more healthy natural self crowd should really see the funny in this.

I stopped wearing even the little bit I did wear while pregnant with Blueberry because of the aluminum issue. I'm sure I wrote about this before. I packed a kit in the hospital bag, sure to have it so when guests visited I would not look like a goon.

A goon. Yes, that was my thought. Me without make-up=goon.

I was pushed to wear make up in 5th grade by a family member. Looking back I now see how sad it was that she pushed it on me, but in a way it led to growth for me. Another person took me aside and said that the pretties women in the world wear make up so that it looks like they don't.

You know, that's not even going far enough. I wanted to quit, but I always felt like my adult acne and splotchy completion was embarrassing and so on caked the foundation, if just that.

But 12 hours after Blueberry was extracted I lurched toward the bathroom to wash up and braced my hands on the sink for the first look in the mirror.

Huh. Pretty?

Yeah. I liked, for the first time in my adult life, my naked face.

Since I stopped, I still have acne but WAY less. I feel different, more confident. The downside is that I am not constantly spot checking in mirrors so sometimes I miss a streak of paint or tot launched spaghetti sauce, ect.

Another issue: since not covering them, my lips rosied up in the sunshine and stopped being constantly chapped. My eyelashes darkened up too, since they were not shielded either, became fuller since not being crimped, painted, and scrubbed. Huh. Freckles. :)

Natural. We all have flaws. Are they really less apparent hidden under a mask? Or a mound of concealer?

The comment: "I should take more time for myself." Ha. I HAVE more time for myself now that it is not spent messing with goo and worrying about lipstick. I also have more money to spend on chocolate. I also have more love for myself. My kiddos don't have to see me looking at myself in a mirror so often, wondering what they'd have to apply to be "pretty" too.

My beauty routine? Wash, rinse, repeat. Now I can afford the special soap I love. :)

ABC Meme I stole from Sharon!

A. Actively Pursuing.........a farm, a better life for my family
B. Belief........love
C. Cake or pie........apple pie!
D. Daily life........kid chaos
E. Essential item..........clothing, quilt, can you tell I am cold this AM?
F. Fluent in......... time bending
G. Grateful for.........my family
H. Hopes...........that our house will sell quickly and our move to a farm (the farm) will go smoothly
I. Indulgences...........chocolate
J. Just learned...........that I cannot cook liver.
K. Kids...........twp pretty sweet girls
L. Life isn’t complete without...........my husband
M. Marriage date...........January 1999
N. Number of brothers and sisters.............1 of each
O. Obstacles.....clutter, literally
P. Phobias..................closets, touching liver
Q. Questions............Where are my apple trees?
R. Realization..........That I am at home wherever my family is, but that I really do yearn for the life of a farm wife.
S. Simplicity............every day, a little better, soon much better.
T. Thought............fall is here, sweaters and boots in the AM and t-shirt weather in the PM.
U. Unknown.........the future and changing.
V. Vocation...........mother, professor, worrier....
W. Worst Habit.........worry
X. Xenagogue.......my aunt, who is weathering the storm in TX. She is my inspiration.
Y. Yearning.........farm fresh eggs and milk still warm from a family cow. Apple pie made with apples picked minutes ago, not months and miles. Fields of flowers.
Z. Zero Tolerance.......stupid. As in racist, parroting, or mean.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Upon Waking WIth a Baby

This post at FOILHAT made me think today. Here are my thoughts:

This week or last Blueberry was officially the same age Lil'Bug was when my maternity leave was over and I went back to work. Full time+ some+ graduate school+ volunteer work+ + +

Lil'Bug would cry and be awake all day and then sleep from when I picked her up until the next morning with a 2 hour I'm up and play session from 2am-4am. Unless I was in class at night and then she'd cry until I got home. She was a high maintaince baby, to put it gently. Or was she?

Waking up in the morning was a forced and hurried ritual of diaper change, bottle and milk gathering, dressing, loading, dressing myself and out the door. Getting home was more of the same plus laundry, studying, cleaning, and thesis work.

This past morning I realized forcefully what I had missed.

Waking gently in the morning with a babe touching my face and smiling. Giggles.
Waking with a ray of sunrise peeking through the curtains and watching the sweetness of my two sleeping children snuggled together.
a million other variations of the same.

A gentle start to the day. Pure happiness.

I got to be the one to take Blueberry to the zoo for her first visit. Watch her roll over for the first time. Get to know her during her awake times. I lost that time with Lil'Bug. I have always mourned that loss but recently I have nurtured an understanding of that loss, a wound, how deep it is.

That is a cost that can not be offset by money. By working. I am raising my children. That is my choice. I am working too, but blessed enough to do so at times they are sleeping or playing and I can set down my work when they need me.

Perhaps working moms who have always worked will never know this loss, perhaps they do. Amy said in her post that she is feeling a lot of resentment from them. Perhaps it is not what it appears to be and it is the anger phase of grief?

I don't know, can't say for certain, but I never get snotty to working moms. I assume they've weighed the options and made the best choice for themselves and/or their family. I think though, that raising children and caring for your home are very de-valued by many. I know a couple moms who homeschool just to justify continuing to stay home, to fill a void in their own worth. It is not nessecary. Raising kids is hard work. Period. Homeschooling? Piece of cake, Black Forest Chocolate layer cake with fancy frosting.......anyway, now I am hungry.

My point is this, lets not de-value others OR ourselves. Go over and give Amy a virtual hug. (Oh, and she makes soap too!)

Monday, 15 September 2008

Home is where your heart is......

Home. That concept for me if complicated. We moved a lot as a kid and my home life was, well, we'll just say....turbulent. When people ask me where I am from, I have no answer. The places I've lived? The people? I don't really associate with any of it. I've lived in Iowa almost half my life, so that is the closest I get.

My husband asked me of the farm house: Can you call this home?

Wow. That question has really set in my heart. Because really, I will follow him to the ends of the earth. Where he is, where my children are, that is home. That's not what he meant, but that is really the heart of it.

We've been back to the farm house. I took better pictures. I allowed myself to get excited. Now I am listening to Christmas music and cleaning house. I spent a good part of the morning on the phone with insurance, utillity companies, the chamber of commerce, the county development corporation, and both the realtor and my Dearest.

We took a break and visited an old friend and her brood. Little anxiety over that, but it went well, I think.

Tomorrow we are going back. We are closer to our dream than ever before. We are in that excited, anxiety, frantic, calm before the change phase. You know what I mean? It is hard to explain.

Me? I'm craving Cajun food and Christmas cookies.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

My House That Is For Sale......

The amazing Sarah at SarahSignature came over yesterday with chocolate and took these pictures. These are my favorite ones, though they are all amazing.

It occurred to me that we may not live here long and many of you ask what my big Victorian mess, I mean, house looks like. Well, here it is! I'll post more next week.

Also, a big thank you to my MIL and GMIL who came over and cleaned and arranged furniture.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Dreaming Big

I've always been one to dream big. When I was younger I was often mocked by friends and family for my lofty goals. It was not until I was an adult that my tenacity and goal orientation (obsessed focus) paid off. My impatience and my big dreaming.

But first let me tell you about my day......
7 AM load car with sleeeeeepy, cranky girls. It is raining.
7:10 AM Pull over to feed, discover milk duct yeast infection.
7:20 AM Pull over, change Blueberry's diaper, discover that what I thought was yeast infection was actually red paint from painting night before.
7:25 AM Finally leave DM city limits and head south to meet Realtor at farm previously mentioned (the big pond with house restored by Amish people....)
8:20 AM pull into town, easily find road, 30 miles short of Google maps? Ok. Turn in, read addresses, check maps, assured farm is 1/2 mile away down this road.
8:21 AM Road turns into Grade B access road. I can see the farm. Turn in.

8:22 AM Get stuck in mud. Call Realtor who says he's on his way and going to help us. Call Dearest. Get mocked by Dearest and his co-workers. I hand Lil'Bug a chunk of cheddar cheese:

8:40 AM Realtor arrives. Verifies stuckness. Heads over to the neighbors to borrow truck to tow us out. Yay. I get to meet my possibly new neighbors. Lil'Bug proceeds to spit out cheese go and paint her car window and seat. Car smells like cheddar and......poopy diaper? Gah. Get out, sink 6 inches into the mud while sloping around the car to get out Blueberry and change her diaper AND then feed her.
9:20 AM Get towed out. Still raining. Follow Realtor to farm. Get reassured that every southern Iowan gets stuck in the mud at least once.
9:30 Amish family is home. I somehow must have violated every single etiquette rule ever. I try and photograph house, not very successfully.

9:50-10:30 AM Head outside to photograph farm buildings and lake. It is still raining. End up with not very many, not very good pictures, find a beehive, and get soaked up to my waist, but at least no longer as muddy. Listen to Lil'Bug throw a couple fits.

Yes. That's honey.

10:30ish AM Get back on Hwy 14 and head home. Car starts to shake over 35 MPH. Alignment messed up durring tow? Gah. Drive home taking back roads going 35 MPH. In the rain, pulling over to feed, re-diaper, find pet cricket, cry in the rain.
12:55 PM Get home. Wet, muddy, cranky. Dump kid in bath. Answer phone. Try to download photos to dump to flickr (if you know my account, the pics are there now) but computer freezes and eats them, deletes from my camera. Gah.
2:PM Retrieve pictures from obscure folder on desktop. Sarah calls.
Rest of Afternoon:
Sarah arrives to take pictures. Hold squirmy baby while shoving toys and bins and tornado tots into places behind camera to photos can get taken. Done. Eat chocolate, drink tea. Answer Dearest's 35 million+ phone calls to me to ask questions about the farm and the pictures.

Get excited about the farm. Decide to go back tomorrow to take better pictures and such.

Dream Big. Start picking out house colors.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Check Up!

Blueberry's well baby check: 13.5 lbs, 24 inches. She grew 3 inches since our last visit? Yup, and 2.5 lbs. She's been busy.

All systems a go. She's a thriving, squishy, big, healthy baby. She even laughed for the Doc. :)

As a side note: We no longer use the silicon breast shield. I had her off of it at 5 weeks, but we needed to go back for a while due to severe pain (incorrect latch). Once I healed back up, I taught her the correct latch and we're back off the shield. Yay! She's 14 weeks now, but things take time. I forget that sometimes.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

How We "School" Part 3: Lessons

Lessons. Lil'Bug has taken lessons. How is this exactly unschool? To unschool is to embrace what and how you learn from life and naturally, right?

Sure, but there comes a point when you want to master something and you seek out teachers, or perhaps taking a lesson sounds like a fun, dare I say it, social thing to do.

Here is where the difference, at least for us has occurred.

Lil'Bug took music lessons. Really, music lessons is redundant in our family because we have a music room and she has access to about 15 real instruments and 30+ of her own toyish percussion things. But she wanted to take lessons, which as a three year old means singing and dancing and playing with toyish like percussion things only with a room full of other three year olds. Fine.

Here is where we take a different approach. One lesson we had a substitute teacher whose style of relating and rule sets were different from our regular teacher. In our regular class, Lil'Bug always played helper and assisted in handing out things and cleaning up. The new teacher balked at her efforts to help and explained "nicely" that Lil' Bug would get an instrument when she sat down and waited. Lil'Bug stood there stunned for a bit, but processed it and sat down. And yet, the teacher made a point of handing sticks to everyone, including me, before giving them to Lil'Bug very last and saying to the class that she got hers last because she sat down last.

What? That was unkind, but apparently acceptable to everyone there. Well, except for my sweet tot who set her sticks "nicely" down and left. Walked out of the classroom.

I followed her out and sat down with her. She explained that she didn't like the teacher, thought what she did and said was rude and unkind. She wanted to go home.

So we did. I agreed with her AND if I was in her position I would be allowed to choose to quit. As adults, when someone treats us poorly we have choices. Why not let her choose how she wants to be treated? Because she is a child, should she suffer the ill treatment of someone just because they are years older than she is? I don't think so. Sure, I paid for the class, but that money was already paid and gone and certainly not worth the price of humiliation for my child in front her parents and peers.

So we quit. She tried going back once the regular teacher was back, but it was never the same. So that was that.

Some parents I have talked to said they would make their kids stick it out, finish what they start. Some said they would have confronted the owner and/or the teacher. And some agreed with my decision. I learned a bit about myself and my kid that day. She could have thrown a fit, but she simply walked out and clearly articulated her needs. What would have happened to our bond and her trust in me if I had ignored it? She looks to me to be her hero, her helper, her teacher, and her friend. But most of all, her mama.

So, back to lessons. We also do swim lessons, she calls them that. Really it is swim play and she asks me to teach her things or spot her while she tries out "dangerous tricks." She trusts me to not let her drown. She trusts me to catch her. I think she calls these swim sessions lessons because she has been taught to by PBS kids shows and peers that when you learn something it is a lesson. Schoolish thinking.

Lessons, just a word, but we have decided to make it our own. It is our way of countering the culture of schoolish creeping in.

Monday, 8 September 2008

How We "School" Part 2

This is really more about how we found community. When Lil'Bug was a little over a year old I sought out homeschool groups online and park days to attend. I attended these with another mom who had a slightly older child, still not of official schooling age.

I am so very glad I did search because of what I learned. Some of the groups showed disdain and suggested that I go find a toddlers moms group. I tried those, but most of the kids were heading to public school and while I have no problem with that, I also needed others to talk to about our choice.

Our choice is different even to the traditional school at home community. We unschool.
Finding unschooling community is really important. I found another great local support group, and they were inclusive, but the majority were school at home and there was a lot of unspoken disdain towards unschooling. Especially when it was time to talk curriculum. Perhaps it was just me feeling left out or uncomfortable, but when failings of various methods became topic, I couldn't help but join in with statements about children learning naturally vs forced useless subjects; the negative feelings swelling up in ME ultimately led me to back away. I wasn't adding anything good, just salt to the pot. With the unschoolers, learning naturally is a priority and a goal worthy of working towards.

Then I found it, a park day hosted by unschoolers. That has made all the difference. Why?

1) Other moms to chat with
2) Other kids to play with
3) No age segregation, the 3 year olds are welcome to play with the older kids and vice versa
4) Sunshine

I could go on and on.....Lil'Bug asks to go every week. The games they invent there come home with us. She climbs trees and explores and buries treasure and trains as a Kung Fu Master Princess Warrior and and and.....

A couple weeks ago the only kids there were unschooler boys over the age of 11. They welcomed her into a game of Frisbee, helped her with her fighting moves, and discussed with her the merits of root beer. The next week the only kids were all under 7 and the wild game involved dragging tree limbs to build a house in the woods.

I breathe a sigh of relief when I sit down with the other moms. My doubts are eased when the kids strike up a conversation with the group, adults and kids, about kayaking or peaches or politics....these always unschooled kids are not wild, strange, unsocialized recluses but rather articulate, civilized, and engaging young people. Compared to them I am the strange, unsocialized recluse.

I get asked the question by others all the time, you know, THE question about unschooling: how do you know it works? Part of what fuels my confidence is this weekly burst of exposure to other families and the large range of children thriving in this method, really, this lifestyle.

More than that, I feel at ease when breastfeeding or talking about cloth diapers or chatting about local foods and my aversion to corn syrup and oil. Or bees. I had a 45 minute conversation about bees recently. I have all these interests and once a week I can sit down with IRL moms and no one gives me a hard time when I say I aspire to be a sheep farmer or I want to dye my hair purple again.

I look forward to Thursday afternoons almost as much as Lil'Bug.

Who's Side Are You On?

Today Lil'Bug exclaimed, "Who's side are you on? Don't give him the Oregano!" As I was handing dearest the seasoning for dinner.

She was betrayed deeply when I handed it to him because obviously I was not on her side.

She also informed me that she was going to open a flower shop because she has lots of flowers and she'd be good at it.

She licked the mirrors at the eye doctor. Then she was thrilled to help clean them.

It has been a day like that.

Me, I am filled with a restlessness. We put our home on the market and, even though the market is terrible, I half expected at least one call by now. Even though the house isn't technically ready. Even though the picture isn't up yet on Realtor.com. Even as I have a pile of laundry to get through, drapes and pictures still to hang, and some painting to do. I expected a call. At least one.

It is more than that. We will be caught in a middle phase when we do sell. We can look for a house now, not able to buy until we sell, or we can wait and either way we can't buy until we sell so the new house has to be on the market when we do sell OR we need to find a place to rent for a short while and we have 2 birds, a dog, a cat, and 2 tornado tots. And a short while could be anywhere between 6 weeks and 2 years. And we may end up moving to Ohio. It is a time of great change and just thinking about it sends me into a small panic.

So do we get our hopes up for the 40 acres with pond, a turn of the last century home restored by an Amish family? Or do we quit tormenting ourselves with all the possibilities Realtor.com has to offer and wait until we sell to even look? I spent at least an hour looking today when I should have been painting or making apple butter.

I need to be able to visualize. I need to have something in mind to work for. So far my hopes and prayers have been with the visual focus of an apple tree. Is that silly? I have always been a dreamer. The dreams help me work toward goals.

Our goal is simple: we want an acreage to homestead. We want to raise our own food, everything: milk, cheese, eggs, fruit, berries, nuts, veggies, grains, honey, fish- everything. Then, maybe we could consider a CSA once we become self supporting. It will be a lot of work. I love a challenge. I also want sheep for wool. I want to learn to knit our own socks. I want to raise chickens and pick fruit at sunrise and run and play in the sunshine in an open field of wild flowers with my children.

Completely unrelated, I got assigned another Lit class for the Spring semester! Now I'll be teaching Kid Lit and Science Fiction. Neat.

So, while these thoughts are not completely as articulated and organized as I would like, neither have I been.

Cold Rain

Today it is raining and it is cold.

Today I have many things and thoughts running around in my head, dizzy. I will go clean and hang pictures and then come back write about them. Expect a few longish posts later today.

A strange bit of anxiety soup hangs think in the air today.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Building Houses

I looked out the window this week and found:

Dearest got bored playing pirates go to Mars and together they built this, a faerie house. In something like 30 minutes. Perhaps I am not the only one here that can bend time?

Lil'Bug has been writing and leaving notes for the faeries. She checks and they have taken every message!

This week we also hosted this little guy:

Beauty and music all in one little critter. :)

VERY Busy Week

This week and weekend has been a whirlwind of frenzied chaos, to an end, it will bring order to our home.

Basically, we have been working our behinds off finishing loose end projects around the house.

However, were are some highlights from last week:

Blueberry watching clouds while we picked MORE apples. Yes, more. :) Seriously, half my deep freeze is filled with sliced apples and I have another bushel to process. Applebutter on Tuesday. Yummers. The babe looks so serious with her cloud watching. She laughed and squeaked. Then she started singing. I've never heard or heard of a baby doing this, singing, but that's what it sounds like and she bursts into it when she's really happy. Very cool. Also, before I took the picture, Blueberry had stretched her little body and reached her tongue out to lick the half eaten apple left by Lil'Bug on the blanket. Her official first taste of food other than mama milk. The serious look may have actually been annoyance that I moved her away from the apple.

Lil'Bug got the hang of tree climbing this week. The child has no fear. None.

No fear + little balance/attention span= fall on to mama holding camera. Lil'Bug has been a ball of volitale, nervous energy and things have exploded in her wake. I don't blame her. Change is scary, but the worst part is the calm before the change happens.
Lil'Bug and Dearest enjoy the view of a friend's farm. She was so gracious to let us come and raid her trees. The day spent there was glorious, indeed.

We brought home TWO more bins full.

This is what I have left to process.

My work station. I have seriously clean hands and lovely lemon juice bleached fingernails.

This pie is made with lard crust. I will never ever, ever, ever go back to the other ways of pie crusts. 1. It was simple divine and flaky and 2. It was simple. Um, I mean, really really hard back breaking labor. Hours and hours of work in the kitchen, did you hear that Dearest? I realize you think otherwise, given that I was in the kitchen at 10 AM and the pies were done and cooling by 11Am BUT here's the thing. I bent time. It's stretchy like that. I only use my super power in times of dire need like finals writing (or now, grading), cleaning house (the entire house) in the 25 minutes before Realtor shows up, or pie baking. Each task requires 10 hours of labor. Really. I stretched time.

No, I will no abuse my power just to fold laundry and make beds. Emergencies only.


Friday, 5 September 2008

Done and Signed

We just signed the agent listing papers to sell our home of the last 10 years. This is just one of many steps we have taken to begin a new journey and buy our dream: an apple orchard and farm.

For now I plan to blog update about that process here, but I am considering a second blog to document our process. Any thoughts?

More later, right now I have to finish painting the never ending hallway of doom. Gah.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Why Tuesday Really SUCKED

Over the past year I have related stories about the vet who let Lil'Bug help with the exam and even look at ear mites with the microscope. The dentist who lets her sit on my lap during MY exam. The Midwife who let Lil'Bug help with the prenatal exams with her toy tools.

Last week Lil'Bug had her first dentist visit and when they were cleaning her teeth she said the toothpaste burned she asked to stop. They stopped. They made no big deal about it.

Apparently, we've been blessed and lucky to encounter such child friendly professionals. Tuesday we went for my annual eye exam at the Des Moines Eye Clinic. Lil'Bug went with me last year, this year was no exception.

The exception was in how she/we were treated. It is not enough to say we will never go back there.

Lil'Bug was nervous and wanted to stay near me. So the assistant told her where she could play next to my chair. The OD came in and was really mad about where she was and picked up her toy and moved it. Lil'Bug was mad, but gracious. Then he stepped away and she thought he was done so she moved back (after all it was where the assistant told her to be). The OD was really angry. He took her toy and moved it. She cried and hid behind my chair. The Doc and stormed out while telling me to get control of my kid and how he couldn't work under these conditions.

I got up and comforted my child, my frightened and upset three year old. I set her on a chair and gave her my phone to hold. She asked to call Daddy. I said yes.

Doc comes back in the room and declares that he cannot work in the presence of a child with no respect for adult authority.


My child? My Lil'Bug who, to that point, had behaved civilly and wonderfully?

She looked at him and asked him to please be quiet so she could talk to her Daddy. He stormed out again. I gathered her and Blueberry up and walked out. As I walked out he continued yelling at me that I cannot bring children to eye appointments. Something about dilation and not being allowed to drive with children. Fine. I would have had Dearest come pick us up or taken the Metro Bus home. Whatever.

Lil'Bug turned to him and said, "You are a meanie."

Well, he was.

I said nothing. I did not stop to schedule another. I walked out. Calmly. Seething. With. Rage.

I mean, what just happened? Obviously he was having a bad day. Professionals don't usually act like divas about children, right? Doesn't matter. We are never going back. I was worried they would charge us and I wouldn't be able to go somewhere else, as my insurance covers only one annual exam per year. Dearest took care of that.

I wish I would have been about to say something to his face. I was at a loss for words. I was angry. I walked away.

Today Lil'Bug has been feeling anxious and upset because the "doctor" said she was bad and naughty. She WAS NOT. But he's an adult and said it to her.

So, we shall work through this, but really, is this what is expected? Is this how most professionals feel about children? I think we have stumbled upon one of the major flaws in our culture. Children should not be hidden away and excluded, they should be welcomed and brought into the folds of our daily lives. They are not second class citizens.

I am also reflective of my own reaction. This is how I always deal with bullies. I walk away. Silence. I don't stand up for myself. I don't like this, but I know no other way.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

How We "School" Part 1

I've been asked to write a bit about how we do things around here and what our long term "plan" is. I don't mind a bit. It seems to fit in with all the curriculum listing others are doing. The thing is that I will likely do more ranting about "school" philosophy and raving about delight in learning than anything else. Also my oldest is almost 4, but we'll get to that in a bit.

What we do is as close to radical unschooling as anything else. I hate to put labels on things, but the reality of it is that the label has helped us find like minds, community, and lots of support locally and online. We attachment parent in addition to unschooling and that makes us radical unschoolers. So be it.

So what does that mean for us? How will our children learn to read and do math? All good questions. What that means for us is lots of conversation, a very special and respectful bond with our daughters. This extends to their interests and learning desires. I also don't take their interests and ruin them with too much academic parental intrusion. That's not cool. Here is an example:

Lil'Bug likes bugs. She catches them, plays with them, wants to read stories about them. We bought her a bug house and lots of books about bugs. We took her to the Science Center Bug night. She doesn't care for some of the books, but they were helpful to me so that I could learn data and answer her questions, use the book as a reference guide to help her identify the critters. What we also do is show GREAT enthusiasm when she presents her finds. I get out the camera and document, I ask her questions, I answer what I can, I ooh and ah over her delight. Dearest and I catch bugs too and present them to her with the same excitement.

We do not quiz her. We do not check out extra books and insist on reading them. We do not make her stay and listen to presentations and lectures at the park when she is not interested. We present opportunities and options but she knows they are hers to choose.

When we do count spots on the critters, or legs, or eyes, the counting has meaning and context. How many of something helps identify it, what kind of eyes and such tells us about what it eats or how it builds. We're not just singing a counting song without reason (though she's been known to break out into "nine pirate girls" just for fun!).

We do remind her that bugs are living creatures and we treat them with respect and care and always try to release them back to the places they were found.

Stay tuned for more!

Ta Da!

Wow. Heather and Sharon (Hmmm, I thought it was Sharon but now I can't find the post......) both bestowed this on me. Thanks ladies!

I shall pass it on to Laura at LifeDreamed who is cuddling her new little baby now!

EC at This is How We Do It, who's knack for eighties song references constantly has me falling out of my chair laughing. Her photography is awesome too!

Sarah at SaraSignature- also amazing photography!

Needleroozer- an inspiration in art and kindness. May Art For Food be a huge success!

There are MANY more amazing bloggers out there. Cheers and blessings to you all!