Sunday, 28 February 2010


We have a lot of snow and to be perfectly honest I don't mind most of it. The snow in the driveway is what I have issue with. That snow sprained my ankle, iced and was responsible for 2 yucky falls, my truck with boom lift getting stuck, and then my car getting so stuck Dearest had to tie a chain to a tree across the road and wench it off of the ice berm created by the snow plowed off the road.

And when it all melts it will flood. It is predicted that most of Iowa will be under water if the melt happens too quickly. We're high enough up I think to not worry about our house and our road is an official detour during floods, but a lot of area around us is a flood plain and a marsh designated for the purpose of flood basin. The ground will be saturated for Spring planting. These things are all issues that will affect our farm.

So much snow. More on its way. Last year we maybe got 2 inches TOTAL accumulation. I could have swept the driveway with a corn broom. This year? I broke the 4WD going in and out of the freaking driveway. So all my cheery, "I "heart" the snow!" bit me in my cheery cheeks. Thanks karma. You know what? I still love the snow.

I love the view from our living room windows. I love tromping out in/through knee deep drifts to gather half a dozen eggs and feed my layers. I love the feel of the winter air on my face and the depth of the stars at night. I love that we can eat snow and not worry so much about auto pollution that the city snow came down and through. This winter has had its hardships, but that is life.

The drifts are ridiculous in some places. So are the plow banks. They had to bring a special machine onto our road to widen the lane and it made the banks even higher. It's like driving inside a giant snow maze.


Beauty is in the Eye of the....


Lil'Bug's first punk rock hair cut. She wanted to dye it black but settled for stripes of dark brown. You know, some things are tricky- like me dying my hair. I was worried about how dying my hair red would be taken by our neighbors and extended family, never really considering the little ones at home. She confessed to me after the beauty day that she was sad that I dyed my hair and that's why she dyed hers too. We have the same natural hair color, why doesn't mama think that it is pretty? 
Yeah. Broke my heart. At five, a simple act of cosmetic drama, hurt her self esteem. We talked about it, but nothing I could say changed how she felt. I have a lot to think about before the next time I get my hair done.

I think that sometimes, especially when a child looks like a parent, that so much of the child's self view can be affected by the actions of the parent. If the parent doesn't self value, then neither will the child. Just like the billboards up all around Des Moines say, "Children live what they learn" or is it, "Children learn what they live"? So when a child sees their parent worrying over looking fat or putting on make up, all of those things hit them where it counts. It is a delicate balance though, if a parent says to the child that they do look just the same but they really don't, the child can start to self doubt too. I had a relative who was overweight constantly tell me we wore the same size dress and it made me doubt what I saw in a mirror. I weighed 85 lbs at the time. 

On the other hand, I really like dying my hair red. Working on the farm is hard and dusty. A little bit of colour cheers me up. I don't wear make up of a lot of jewlery, so this was a little bit of fun. I do wish that mattered to my kid's broken heart though. It doesn't.

I also think her stripes are really cool. I told her this. I think she may be having salon regret, but the change will grow on her. She can always decide to grow it out or do it again. It is her choice and I think that is a valuable lesson too.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Everything in Exclamation!

"Here's how to do this Blueberry!" and, "I will read to you!"
 Dancing and Singing!

Eggs! The first green one since before Christmas! Spring surely must be on her way!


Friday, 12 February 2010

Doing the Right Thing is Hard

I have always tried to do the right thing, even when it broke my heart in two. I always put thought and consider as many factors as I can.

I also don't hide this from my girls. I talk them through what I struggle with. I think it is important for them to see the process and understand that there are facets and details in human relationships that are fragile but also that morals and family safety are important.

A couple weeks ago in Sunday school Lil'Bug had a rough time. Two of the little boys had crushes on her and were being teased by some older kids. The way they were displaying affection (and being teased) embarrassed her so much that she asked to come and get me. I quietly sat with her, but the teasing didn't really stop (the normal teacher was gone). The kids asked me to decide for her.

I responded that any person would be lucky to have Lil'Bug as a friend because she is smart, funny, and kind. I added that if they have serious marriage proposals that they needed to take it up with Lil'Bugs father and that I would be happy to go get him if they needed. Yes. That stopped that. We did mention the incident to their parents though.

Then the class got out crayons and paper. The crazy loud bunch started a ruckus about who could draw what animal pooping and who's poop was grosser. That did it for Lil'Bug.

She stood up and declared firmly, "I am going to draw Jesus. We are in church and this is Sunday school. I need to be thinking about JESUS." And with that she sat down and drew this:

From Left to right you'll see, "Jesus's parents crying, Jesus as a heart on the cross, a pond with fish jumping up to give him water and birds flying over head. Not pooping. Oh, and the sun which is hot." That is her description.

It is hard to take a stand and do what is right. The other kids were having a blast and no harm was done, but it still was not the best way to behave in church. She didn't point fingers. She stood firm, made her message clear, and then took action.

One of the kids noticed. He stopped and started drawing firetrucks instead. After class he said to Lil'Bug and me, "I really like you Lil'Bug. You are brave and cool."

Yes. She is brave and cool and amazing. I am lucky to be her mama.

Not every encounter with difficulty is handled so gracefully though. She got in a fight in art class and caused a major disruption. Her explanation was that the girl was a know it all bully and started yelling at her, but in a tricky way so only Lil'Bug got in trouble. As it turns out, this kid and Lil'Bug have history. LilBug decked her in the face two years ago for being a bully to one of Lil'Bug's friends. It is a proud family tradition to stand up to such people (on Dearest's side that is) but we've been working hard to teach Lil'Bug how to better handle such situations. I was thrilled that it was yelling! Not hitting and biting! This is wonderful!

I am still working with her how to even better handle such situations, so that, for example, the bully isn't able to trick the teacher into blaming Lil'Bug. And yes, I do believe her when she says that is what happened. I am also glad that she has a wonderful teacher, who was not in fact tricked at all. :) These things are hard.

Also booya to all those people who exclaim that kids need public school for socializtion experience like dealing with bullies. Seriously. Booya. (And yes I double checked urbandictionary to make sure that word means what I thought it did. Giggle.)

Growing Up, Little Gifts

Some times life gives us little gifts. This week Lil"Bug "polished" her room. She's kept it almost this clean all week. A couple times she's asked for my help (by assigning me "chores" which actually amounts to, "Hey Mama, if I pick up the toys and make the bed, will you put away my dress up clothes?" I am totally cool with that.) She's read books to her sister and kept her fish fed. She's insiting on starting the night in her own bed and asking for lots of alone time. Growing up. Someday these things won't mean so much to her and the months and years will fly by with no discernable difference, I am glad that she's still little enough for me to bask in the glow of her wonderment.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

There's more snow in the forcast, by the way.....

Sunday, 7 February 2010

After and Before, playing with photo editing.


After and before. Aperture does some really cool things.

This is the result that looked like this before:


I have some favourite changes and adjustments that I go to first and I am still exploring the colour wheel and how to change individual colors. Photography, as I am learning, is not only about the initial capture of the moment. 

A Day This Week, Up and Down

 Growing up is hard. Sometimes it hurts in ways that are new, physically and emotionally.

No worries. The sisters decided to create valentines and tape them all over the house. I went upstairs to get a sweater and came down to the creative juices flowing. Lil'Bug had set up her sister with crayons and paper before getting her own project out. It was so sweet. It is hard to believe that the hour before that was full of screaming and sisters hitting each other and jealousies and more screaming with Mama just blown away by the emotions and severity of the kids' feelings.

I want more of the good times please. Or at least some sunshine. Sunshine would be nice. We're getting through the mess though and we'll all be better for it at the end.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Dreaming of Greens


Last years garden was a mixed bag of success and failures. This year will likely be the same. I am drooling for some fresh spinach though and this week will attempt to make haybale cold frames just to be able to grow my own right now now now! :) 

I just spent a lovely evening working on various things with my lovely friend Abby from Sugar Creek. We've been expanding the Simply Food site and such with a yahoo group and message board soon to be unveiled. So exciting! 
Then we went through what seed packets I have left over from last year- I know I have more somewhere and I'll have to dig deeper tomorrow. Soon I will place our seed order. Very exciting stuff. 

I am more excited for our tree order. That will have to wait for income tax returns though. This winter has been rough and we have no extras to spend on anything, let alone my orchard. I am still praying that our Des Moines house sells so we can start really building the farm the way we want to. On that front I am giving a talk to a local group of rehabbers in March and hopefull that will get foot traffic through the house which hopefully will lead to the perfect person for the house walking through.....oh please God. 

So that's where I am at this lovely Saturday evening. Also preparing for the next wave of snow. 8 inches expected on Monday! Whoo hoo! The more snow we have the taller the summer grains will be, that's the old tale. :)

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Little Acts of Love......

This week I am making a fabulous dinner every night of the week, ready just as Dearest walks in the door. I am making sure he has some quiet time before bed to read. I am trying not to say anything harsh. Yes, I should strive to do these things everyday but life with kids on a farm doesn't make that possible. This week I am going to put some extra effort into it because he is attending an IT training thing that is Microsoft and it is exhausting and boring and all day long.

I am also trying to put into action some of the strategies from Siblings Without Rivalry. So far it is slow going, but we are seeing results. Some basics are: regarding sharing, respect property rights- don't force sharing, encourage it. This, above all, has really helped the sister fighting. But it is still happening and with increasing force as the baby gets her own ideas about play and rules and ownership. She is growing up so fast!

Dare, but to what end or consequence?

Just as I wrote this a couple weeks ago and stuck it in draft:

This weekend, in church Sunday School, this was written on the chalk board:

Dare to be a Daniel,
Dare to stand alone!
Dare to have a purpose firm!
Dare to make it known. 

I had never read the stories of Daniel. I'll actually admit that I have not read a lot of Old Testament. It never inspired me and I rarely felt led to it. My faith is a gift and I have always felt spirit led when I open the Bible, rarely led to the Old Testament. I digress though, today I was totally inspired by the story of Daniel.

I dare. How dare I? This kept flowing though my mind as I sat there listening to the lesson. Daniel refused the King's table food, not wanting to defile himself. Yes! I thought. That is why I reject mainstream convenience food! All those extra additives, altered molecules, pesticide soaked ingredients that cause sickness and cancer.....those defile us. I reject that. Sometimes it feels as if I am standing alone when I feed my family whole foods, fresh foods, local and home grown foods. It would be so much easier to eat from the king's table and microwave some chicken nuggets, my kitchen would be so much cleaner all the time if I didn't take the time to make food from scratch, but then I'd also have to pay attention to food recalls and e-coli outbreaks. It is a pretty apt metaphor though. Think about it. Those additives and toxins are added to the food so someone can make a bigger profit and have less of a loss, all at our health's cost. Those additives don't make the food more nutritious and nourishing. They are added to make things have longer shelf life or ship better or process easier. They are added to make less work for the farmer or rancher, less of a livestock loss, easier harvest. The king may also be eating from his own table but that doesn't mean the food is safe or clean.

I hear all the time, I feed/fed it to my kids and they are fine. Really? I mean, really? Cancer rates in children and young people are skyrocketing, not to mention infertility issues in my generation, skin disorders, higher rates of ADD and Autism, teenagers with irritable bowel syndrome ..... That's not even the half of it. I'm not blaming margarine for the cancer epidemic, but I do want to share my own story as example.

Since eating whole foods- I no longer suffer the symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, my body naturally flushed out huge bands of uterine fibroids without drugs or surgery, I no longer have heart burn and ulcers that made me constantly nauseous and unable to eat much, I don't get kidney or bladder or yeast infections, I don't even need to use a moisturizer let alone acne creams, my nails grow, I rarely get migraines anymore, I can actually taste what I am eating. Oh the list goes on and on. And then my blood work came back. My stats look like that of a vegetarian.  I'm 8 pounds over what they say I should weigh and those 8 lbs push me into the obese category? I eat bacon every other day, I eat meat at almost every meal. The word low fat or fat free or diet is not on anything in my food stock. No soy unless it is in soy sauce. I try really hard not to buy things that have ingredients I can't pronounce or identify. Yes, we do like to drink soda, but that is available with real sugar now instead of HFCS. I make things from scratch from food, not processed stuff that has double talk on the label. Processed cheese food? Anything that has to remind you that it is actually food or compares itself to food, likely isn't. And cheesy peas, corn is in EVERYTHING. I even picked up an apple at the grocery store that had an ingredients list label.

But I am going a step beyond my own shopping list. We have started a farm, pledged and worked to make our products wholesome and chemical free. I have made it my purpose to educate people about the quality of locally grown, chemical free food, the importance of nutrient rich heirloom vegetables and free range meat. Trust me that this is no easy task as complete strangers are more open to the message than my own family, even though the health of my own family is WAY more important to me than anyone. I can't even convince my own baby sister to give up processed "low-fat" "fat-free" convenience fake food, nor my husband to give up Cherry Coke. It is an uphill battle, a dark hole that becomes a point of bitter contention whenever I even bring up the subject.

Did Daniel back down when things he believed in were challenged? No! He stood firm.

It would be so much easier not to challenge the mainstream and just do what everyone else is doing. I'd have happier holidays that's for true. But this is my calling and an act of faith. I stand alone to make a difference and soon, I won't be standing alone. In fact, I'm not sure that I am anymore.

The lesson really resonated with me, even a week later. What else does the mainstream "defile" themselves with? What else can we or do we reject to honor what we were created for and as? What else is the "king" offering us from his own table that is dangerous? Ah, more questions.

The Passionate Homemaker wrote this post on natural living. Wow. This was just what I needed to stop me in my excitement. I mean, I am still really inspired and the session really got me thinking, but now I am adding to the thought soup.

I have damaged relationships in my passion for real whole food. I was the one at the family gathering who was loud about my kid not eating something because it was not actually food. That was me at a church gathering too. Those relationships are something that I value more than I care if my kid eats a questionable pork by-product or a bit of something resembling but not really butter. I do care about what food they eat, but I care more about my family and our relationships with each other and our friends.

Eating the way we do actually costs less than eating conventionally and we're pretty tight in the budget right now, so I don't think it is cutting into our offerings to our church. We do try to share our excess garden production though, when we have it and sometimes even when we don't. Sharing a meal is a basic fellowship, I understand that.

I just think that maybe, as in all things, sometimes my passionate nature might well do with a tempering of compassion and empathy. I think I might not have applied the same wisdom when it comes to parenting choices, educational choices, and various other things. I can get pretty excited about the things I have researched, applied, and feel are good choices for us. Even if I am simply stating, with all my heart, how wonderful life is because of these choices, perhaps I should be more aware of my audience. You know?

So back to Daniel. He might have dared to defy the king with his diet, but he did so quietly and his influence on the king was slow, quiet, and over time a wonderful benefit. Not loud. Not with a bull horn. Just a daily presence. And this story is important.

So perhaps I am not yet ready to pronounce myself a warrior for real food. I still have quite a lot to battle in my own heart.

Monday, 1 February 2010


I think sometimes that as a homeschooling mama I forget the good things about public school. There are good things, not everyone can stay home with their kids and educate them, some families feel the need to have dual incomes. Not every family feels they are capable of home education, even though they probably are. Some families are abusive and the kids are better off away from them all day. There are plenty of needs that families have that are met by an education system that is collective and not run by parents.

I have met so many awful people who are teachers though. Horrible people, people who are mean to kids, people who hurt children, people who are control freaks and lash out at those minors under their care. Not to mention the absurdity of textbook data and group field trips where children are herded like cattle through things that might interest them.

And yet, many of the awesome moms I know were once elementary school teachers. A person in church cried last week because they were worried about their students and making a difference in their lives, genuinely moved because of their dedication to those children. My own life was touched in many positive ways by the good teachers I have had over the years and by the refuge from an abusive situation at home. Public school is not evil, though it may be flawed and corrupt in design, the people teaching are called to the profession and most love the children in their care.

As my thoughts were meandering a bit this morning, my heart settled on a particular problem I am having. There are social circles that I encounter parents who think homeschooling is a terrible injustice to my children, that homeschoolers are weird and their kids will be freaks, and some that think our decision is poorly thought out. This frustrates me. I don't immediately jump to those conclusions about public schooled families. Is every kid in PS a social butterfly with grace and wit? No. I certainly wasn't. Are there weird and quirky kids who get picked on and don't fit in? You bet. So all those worries about socialization? Yeah. Public school doesn't fix that and homeschooling doesn't cause that. I could cite academic statistics up and down the wall about achievement and success. It doesn't matter though.

What does matter is how my children and I are best suited for our educational choices and if someone decides to be snooty about it or demeaning it is on their heart and their issue not mine. Someday they might turn to me in need and I am not going to close doors to people just because of their ignorance. A fine example of this would be the grace extended to me years ago. I challenged some mamas about TV watching and video games on a homeschool list and instead of the firestorm that was likely by my negative attitude and disparaging comments...they walked gentle and simply educated and prodded me to think about my reasoning and what things might have led me there. They could have just closed the door.

Five years later I count these mamas in my circle of friends and admire them more and more with every encounter. I may not agree with them 100%, but the more I live this life the more I have to learn.

I find myself asking myself this dazzling grey morning, what losses have I incurred from closing doors on people? What loss from being locked out on the other side of that door? How much better would it be to simply stand firm and welcoming in my ideology to shine the light on ignorance or prejudice? I'm not saying it is better to never shut the door, sometimes it just needs to be slammed and barricaded and booby trapped to keep out evil but I think more thought should be put into that door and its traffic flow. You know?

Anyway, I was just thinking about this as I iron out my thoughts about how to better handle some of the negativity I am dealing with from a public school teacher at church. I wonder if I can better handle myself, not bristle so much when the negative comments are made. How can I set an example for my daughters that is graceful and patient both face to face and when I start fuming about it at home?

I'll let you know.

Good Start to the Day