Monday, 30 December 2013

Best of 2013 Part 2: Oh My, the Deliciousness.....

Oh My, the Deliciousness.....  Until 2013, I never considered myself a food blogger. Early in the year a woman from a different part of Iowa emailed me and asked me to be part of a food blogger gathering. I was panicked as I agreed to be on this list and part of the gathering. Other bloggers on the list were folks I read weekly and admire, some have published cookbooks! No way was I good enough to be included. I felt like a big faker, but I went to Iowa City anyway. I was not sorry and I learned that we are all on different journeys and certainly different stages of growth. I am blessed to be included in such a fantastic and generous group of bloggers.

It has been good for me to view my blog through the lens of food blogger too. I created the Farmhouse Kitchen tab and I am working on making food posts Pinable and printable.

The following posts are not necessarily the top ranked by views, they are simply my own favourite posts. For some I loved the pictures, others have a new place on our table, and the rest are family farmhouse classics.

Dirty Wild Rice Dressing   
This recipe was created by accident. We needed to sell more sausage at Sample Sundays and folks kept asking us for recipe ideas. I had previously failed at making Dirty Rice, even out of a box. I sat down with about 20 recipes and compared them. I compiled a list of ingredients that I wanted to use. 2 hours before getting on the road for Sample Sunday, I pulled out those ingredients and started cooking. While the rice was simmering, I packed kits so customers could make this at home (still hoping it would work.....)

We sell out the kits every single time. It is so simple and so very good.

Alligator Soup 
This recipe was Lily's idea for her birthday. Hyvee had alligator in the freezer section. I do not approve of the confinement farming used to raise the alligator, so it is not something we will make often, but there is a seriously lack of alligator recipes online that are not breaded and deep fried! The complex flavour is lost in the hot oil, this soup is way better.

Banana Spice Oatmeal 
Holly had a hand in the kitchen when we made breakfast this day. Bananas are yellow, if you know Holly, you know that is all they have to be! 

Super Hero Soup (Hamhock and Beans in a French Pot) 
Another Sample Sunday kit in the making. Good grief I love this red pot. My kids love this soup best of all. 

Ribs and African Peanut Sauce  
A favourite of Chad's. This recipe is like the one he used originally to get me to eat pork ribs for the first time. I was hesitant because at that point in my life, I would not eat any meat with bones. (Nope, only blenderized meat mush made into patties for me! Oh my yuck.) However, I was pregnant with Holly and hungry. This recipe evolved from that.

Grilled Farmhand Sticks  
A summer favourite when we are super busy and need to eat on the chore run.

Red Chicken in a French Pot   
A farmhouse classic. This recipe is easy and nourishing.

And the best for last? Yes, please!

Iced Coffee and Maple Syrup   
This.  If you have never tried real maple syrup in your coffee it. You will not be sorry. No, you will thank me and share this recipe with all your friends. This is the iced version. The hot version is: 1 3/4 cup of hot coffee, 1/4 cup of 1/2 and 1/2 or whole real cream (up to you) and 2 T of real maple syrup. Your welcome.
Friends, again I thank you for all your support and kind works of encouragement. I look forward to 2014 and all the amazing food that I get to cook and share! 

Best of 2013: This is What Winning Looks Like

2013 was cruel. The year knocked me face down in the snow and ice and then stomped all over me. 2013 tried to take me down. 2013 tried to passive aggressively spread rumours and undermine my confidence. The year was persistent and mind boggling obsessive and mean.

I was not about to take this or that or anyone's shit anymore. I did not just get up and punch 2013 in the face. I did not use the same dirty tactics. Instead, I got my feet under me and went on my own way. I ran into the arms of my family, I leaned into my work, I was more giving and generous, I made a goal to write every single day, and I made sure that I was nourishing myself spiritually and emotionally daily. Every now and then 2013 would step out and remind me that it was all about her and she hated me, but I looked that self hate in the eyes and was terrified of the pain and suffering and the anger. That is not who I wanted to be at all, ever. That was enough to keep me on my feet and moving.

This is what winning looks like.

So, for you friends, those whose generosity and support walked with me on my journey.....Thank you. Thank you so much for your friendship, for reading here, for kind words, and for just listening. Thank you for being here. Thank you for not walking out on me when I needed you. Thank you for not standing by while life beat me up. Some of you are new friends, some I hope to meet, and some have been here for a very long time. All of you, thank you.

I present to you the best of 2013 on this blog. These are the posts that were shared and shared again. These are the most read of all time in the 7 years I have been writing here, aside from the blog post about rendering lard!

The Girls in the Locker Room
This post was about an experience I had at our local public pool with my daughters. It is still being read and shared almost daily, so it must have really hit home. Every now and then I get a private email asking if the girls I wrote about or their mothers ever got the message and the answer is I have no idea. I think they must have, being a small town, but if it worked, if my message made a difference to them, no one has told me. In the meantime, it has reached a lot of people and made a small difference in the conversations that have been created both in folks who disagree with what I said and in those who have been there themselves, self harming.

To The Universe I Say, Bring It.
This post is my favourite of all time. Chad wrote this one for a conference my friend Molly was speaking at and I cried when I read it and then asked him to share it here. We are blessed in so many ways by Chad and his role of father in Isaac's life is one of the crucial keys to Isaac thriving in the shadow of his 22q deletion diagnosis.

Why I Stopped Writing, Part Two
This was part of a series in which I write about why I struggle to find my creative voice. I never imagined anyone was reading it!

Something No One is Talking About, This post is about how children are treated in the medical world, the language we use, and how they are less than human in the way we address their fear and their bodies. My concern is that we are grooming them for victim hood. I have no easy answer, just observations.

This post is about what we do for our own family in light of Isaac's 22q related immune deficiency. I was encouraged to write about these things because of how healthy Isaac is despite his lab work and on paper immune response. He gets sick less than other 22q kids and even less than a normal school child. Why? I have no idea, but these are the steps we take to help things along.

Mercy in a Ziplock
I wrote this post because I was being crushed by the holiday blues. I kept hearing folks say they were approached by someone in need but had nothing to offer on hand. Sometimes we need a list and a kit, so here you go.

This one did not rank very high, but was my most cherished post. This one, folks, was a long time coming and very hard earned. Way to go Isaac!

Thank you again, friends for reading, for sharing, and for being so awesome. There were many directions and possibilities that stewed and bubbled and even festered at the beginning of the year, but without all the support and love that I was blessed with...... I would not be thriving.

Sunday, 29 December 2013


So the plan was that Chad and Lily would go to the matinee and then when they returned I would head out to coffee shop loiter and write. Only, this plan had #FAIL on it from the start because the movie was 2 hours and 40 minutes long, plus the 15 minute drive home AND Chad didn't think about what to feed the kids for dinner AND THEN I DEVASTATED HOLLY WHEN SHE DISCOVERED I TOOK HER LEGO HORSE BARN APART TO PUT IT AWAY. Seriously, I thought legos were all about the build and rebuild. So tears and sobs and broken hearts along with death glares and Mom, I am hungry! That kid, by the way, did not touch a bite of food on her dinner plate. Not one bite.

I was all geared up to go. Because of the holiday I have not had away time to write in almost a week. After bedtime sessions with restless kids flopping over my keyboard are frustrating and not having the light on to read my textbook means I have to work on other things. Other things= drudge and dribble from inside my own head.

I also feel a huge anxiety of getting all geared up and excited and then having it fall through. Late summer I had struggled to arrange a writing retreat for myself. I had to save money for it, 2 days of hotel and food, arrange child care, then actually get to book a hotel that I could afford. I finally thought I had it all lined up and then the money needed to be used for something else. I had to call and cancel reservations. I was so sad that I sobbed for an hour and it took me a week to get my feet under me and get back on schedule with daily writing since there were things I put off, looking forward to 48 hours of alone time.  The main project still has not been touched since then. My chest gets tight just thinking about it because I need to immerse myself for about 6-8 hours to get it finished and the edits reworked. I need that 6-8 hours to be continuous. Either I pull an all nighter here (yeah, not going to happen) or I just wait.

So this got me thinking. This Spring I did not seek out extra classes to teach, though I really enjoyed the Women's History class I taught last Spring, perhaps the most I have ever enjoyed teaching. Some how this extra class time not being designated to something was parallel in my thoughts to another idea.
  • Class in Spring Creation and Teaching
  • The feeling like I missed the chance to learn the classics and technique of poetry
Gosh, anytime any of the places I teach for could say, "Hey, we need you to teach a Poetry class...." and what then? Do I tell them I know nothing but intuitive free verse? That I flowed through my college classes on youthful ego and caffeine alone? That at times I feel like labelling myself a poet is a cruel joke? None of those responses would go over well, I imagine.

So? It is never to late to learn. I tell that to people all the time. ALL THE TIME. Time to walk the walk, self.

So, why not create a grad level poetry class for myself? Crazy? Well, most of my ideas usually are and as far as track records go, I have a pretty nice success rate. I spent an hour gathering writing and poetry books from all over my house. Geesh. I need more bookcases. Just the poetry books from undergrad, counted 25 books. Of course I held on to each one of them, what else would I do? At least 100 of my own choosing. I clearly have enough to make a decent self study course.

My plan is this: When I sit down to finalise the two Literature courses I am teaching, I will also draft up this one. Then as the 16 weeks progress, I will complete my own assignments and coursework. No grading involved, of course. That leaves me with the accountability factor left open ended though.... I would like to start a blog for it, post the poems and exercises there but an experience of one of my grad school professors haunts me- he had his work stolen. Poems are so precious and personal to me. How do I copyright them if I self publish on a blog? Or should I make the blog private and only invite a few friends I trust to read there at first? I don't know. I have two weeks to figure this out. 

I need this. I needs this to not have the self hating mirror narrative to include my insecurities about not having mastered the tools of the craft. This is my new year resolution. Will 16 weeks be enough to undo the last 15 years? I have no idea.

If you are interested in being a reader, email me or comment on this blog post itself (not on the FB share).


Saturday, 28 December 2013

Laugh Lines

I know, I know. Dreams are the most boring things to read/hear about. Sleeping dreams, day dreams, goal dreams. I love the imagery and the hope these wishes bring with them. Chad, not so much. So, to all the folks like Chad.....move along. This one is for those of us who revel in the magic of dreams.

Last night I woke up in the darkness from a strange dream. It was one of those life like experience dreams.  
It started at a coffee house where I confided in a friend that I was concerned about the lines around my eyes, laugh lines, crows feet- those lines. I said I was feeling....not old....not wise....but faded and tired.
He responded, "Stop calling me your gay friend in that annoying ironic way and then I will introduce you to Ana."
So, to pause here. I would never worry about facial lines or call someone my gay friend. Dreams, eh?
So in the dream we walk through an urban streetscape and down a lane and then into a wooded neighborhood to a cabin house that is surrounded by water landscaping, like a river moat with a mill generator. In the water is a women, middle aged with wild golden hair, pulling a giant log through the current and up to the side of the house where she opens a giant metal door and reveals a roaring fire. In goes the log, the door slams shut.

I realize there is ice in the water and it is snowing.

My friend says, "That's Ana. She'll let you warm up inside."

Inside we see that the fire fuels a giant kiln for pottery. Ana is soaked and has ice forming in her hair. She laughs at my look of concern and silent wonder. She tells me, "It is strange now, but you'll grow into this life. You know. What would the city girl think of the farmer you are now? You know."

I do. I see. We sip strong tea. We wander her halls and look at art. She shows us her solar generators and her indoor greenhouse. It is warm and clean and inspiring. Tile floors that she handmade and set, living plants everywhere, and sweet smells of fruit and spice.

Then she says, "You can come back. I charge 50$/hour for art lessons. I agree that I should take you as my student."

I am sad at that. I am tired of paying people to have company. I then think of all the ways that I pay for friendship. I retreat out the door and walk home, lonely through the neighborhoods and into the rural township all the way home to the farm.
I do not know what this dream means, though I am pulling at bits of the wisdom. I had a very powerful urge to gather up all my writing books and take another look at the craft of poetry. I also felt very lonely in the darkness, though my toddler son had decided that sleeping perpendicular and across my chest was the most idea for dreaming soundly while my 5 year old daughter needed her feet by my face.

This new year is bringing with it art and inspiration where it is found and as it presents itself.

Friday, 27 December 2013


A few months back I had a close friend say I reminded her of a mermaid. The comment has stuck with me in a way that has been haunting my dreams and waking reflection.

I have often, let's be honest here, my whole life, felt out of water. I have felt like an alien on a strange planet. I don't understand people. I don't understand the way they think, act, or do the things the so many call "normal". None of it makes sense to me immediately, so I observe.

Like a mermaid, I sometimes long to have legs and walk with them, like a normal person. Sometimes I have a deep longing for the ocean, to find more people like me that "swim".  Caught on dry land with fins and gills.

Growing up I dealt with everyone thinking I was a freak. I was a prodigy, a writer/poet, that instinctively knew how to turn a phrase and make an artful metaphor.

Now, understand that I am not really saying I am a mermaid. It is a metaphor. I have to state this disclosure because in the past I have been accused of being crazy for using metaphors or story telling.

But what I am saying, is that life is hard. Maybe it is harder for quirky people with poor social skills? I don't know. What I do know it that it is really hard to thrive out of water. It took time, growing up some.

I recently read an article about child prodigies and how as adults they fade and flop and struggle. The article, to sum it up, says that they are all intuition and that early success comes so easy to them that they never learn to actually master the craft or work to improve. I could not find the article but this one says similar things.

Yes. That. I flowed through writing classes and to this day I still don't know how many syllables in a haiku- I have to look it up. I have no idea what kind of verse Shakespeare used. I graduated with a degree in creative writing and published poetry and I should know these things! I should have studied them, paid attention, mastered the craft. Instead, I just walked away from it.

So now, I feel like I am drowning. I feel like I am not very good at any of it. I feel like Garth Brooks- a country music super star who's passion was really rock and roll. I'm good at making pork and farming- but that's not really what I want to be good at. That's not what I want to do. I am paddling upstream in murky alligator snapping turtle infested muck, my own insecurities and incompetence like a bag of cannon balls weighted and tied to my legs.

I have to make peace with that. For right now, I have to make this swamp and mire my home. I have to make friends with those beasts in the river, my tail, and either drown or emerge queen of the swamp.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

A Foot Deep With Two Days Left

We got 8 inched of snow, though Chad says less. That's not the foot deep I am referring to in the title of this post. I am so, so intensely deep into just surviving my own emotions this season.

A Midwestern storm blew in just as our family cow went down and refuses or cannot get up. I spent 4 hours in the freezing rain pulling and pushing, running a quarter mile back and forth to the house checking on the kids and trying to make dinner then back to Rosie. The sheep are in heat and the ram was feeling aggressive. I got the truck in the pasture and felt like I broke the fence trying to get it there and keep all the sheep from escaping led by the llama. I did it though, facing the truck downhill and put the brights on so I could keep going down to Rosie, begging her to get up, pulling on her, the rain freezing in my hair and making my clothing stiff as it froze and thawed and refroze. My breath like needles on my mouth in the air, in and exhale. Rosie's calf, crying out for milk and the ram slamming on her side. All of us begging her to get on her feet. Rosie tried and tried and just couldn't. I get that. I get being so deep into pain and just not having the energy to get back up even with pulling and pushing and begging and the rain.

I cannot give up on her. I called the vet for after hours help and he came to the farm in the dark, freezing rain. I called Chad and was rude to him about not being home, but he got on the road and headed home.

The vet got Rosie stable, a could shots, instructions. I hauled a tarp to the pasture. I gathered food for her. I made oven baked shrimp for the kids. Changed diapers. Changed boots and into dry clothes and repeated the rounds out to the pasture.

By the time Chad got home, all my own pain and all my own loneliness had frozen and was crackling into shards of nothingness. Rosie still isn't doing well, two days later, but she's still with us. We are nourishing her and attending to her. Praying that she'll make it.

Me? I am still out there. Soaked to the bone in freezing rain, buried in a foot of snow, waiting for the moment when I will be up on my feet again.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

All Anyone Wants is to be Included

Lily and Holly are in the church holiday pageant. When they found out that other three year olds are too, but not Isaac (because he isn't ready for the Sunday school preK class) they marched up to our Pastor and asked why Isaac couldn't be included. They said, "All anyone wants is to be included." The Pastor was quiet for a moment and said, "You girls are right. I will find a way and Isaac will be in the show too."

Not five minute later, Isaac was cast as a lamb. He will toddle and run around the sanctuary during the show, making lamb noises and dancing. He can be loud and go where he wants.

All anyone wants is to be included.

Inclusion is not having a kids table at the holidays. Not having special sports just for "special" kids or just for girls. Inclusion is being a family and being involved together. Inclusion is remembering how important inclusion is even when the normal of the world is exclusion and isolation.

My friend Holly says that when you get her family you get ALL of them, no one gets left behind (or at home). This is how we live and to us Isaac really is a normal kid. Even when we encounter fully verbal and active kids his age, we see Isaac as a whole and beautiful person. It is easy for us to forget the delays that others see, easy for us to forget that not everyone can read his hand signs, we just know him.

Holly and Lily though, they advocate for him in ways that even I missed. It never occurred to me to even ask for him  to be in the play. I figured I would stay in the nursery with him while they performed. I would miss out too, but better than trying to hold him while he signed frantically for "trains" and "play" and screamed loudly the whole time. He loves the church nursery so, so much.

The girls, my girls, thought better. They never even missed a beat because to them, of course he should be included. 

The response from our church family? So loving and wonderful. Just one more thing that helps me know we found the place where we can thrive. Open hearts, open minds.

*Unfortunately, a Midwestern snowstorm has cancelled the service that included the pageant. The girls have prepared a speech to present to the Pastor all the reasons why the show should still go on, even if it has to be after Christmas. The story of Jesus is IMPORTANT even after Christmas, they told me. I am so blessed by these children. Every single day, I am blessed.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Not Writing Anything Much

Today I have nothing clever to say. Today was spent doing mundane boring things. My phone spent the day on the charger. I made eggs for breakfast. Shepherds' Pie for dinner.

Nothing special.

That in itself is special.

We were at home, at the grocery store, at the farm, doing things that normal folks do. Not in a hospital, not at a funeral, not wondering what to do next.

Taking this moment to be grateful for our quiet day.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Demolition- What I Can Destroy With Just a......Metaphor?

Destruction is cathartic. When we finally got rid of the strippey couches and I decided I could not ethically burn them (pollution and all, they were really, horribly gross), we stood and cheered when the garbage truck crushed them in its giant, powerful jaws and crusher. Oh happy day.

We were not just crushing fabric and wood and mouse nest, no, we were destroying what it meant to take on couches I hated because I had to leave the gorgeous, lovely ones that I picked out and paid for behind. While owning these strippey ones, I had been friends with less considerate people. My kids had vomited on them. I sat on them with Isaac (covered) upright so he would not aspirate on spit up breast milk while wrapped in a billiruben light blanket. I was sitting on these couches when the neurologist called with Isaac's diagnoses.

That era was over. Now we were able to at least buy a second hand couch, one that I picked out, and these could just go. Go, they did.

So, today, I was feeling again like I had to destroy some of the disappointment and aggravation that the farmhouse still holds for me.

Cue music of doom. Actually. This song works too.

So. This bathroom. It has/had a plastic shower that was glued on to the wall. It leaked. It got grungy. It is the downstairs bathroom that visitors use. It is HORRIBLE. When I tried to clean it, the gross stuff multiplied and fought back. Norwex? Fought and LOST. It got so bad that I refused to even let muddy kids use it. Ugh.

Bonus? The pipes all freeze. All the time. To the point that I sometimes have to stay home on pipe duty instead of leaving the farm for kid lessons and my friend time. Well played bathroom from hell, well played.

 So. Jessica and I got the crow bar out. Actually she also used the screw gun and took apart the fixtures. Let's not go too crazy here.

See all that water damage? Good thing it isn't that old. The bathroom was an addition in the last 10 years.

Here we go, down to studs!

Not really. The fake plastic shower was glued to a fake plastic wall. Good grief.

Holly helped. She got her fixer boots on and dove in.

Destruction is so cathartic. Try it. (I also threw out a lot of damaged clothing and toys this week and one particularly emotional piece of clothing (all cotton) went into the wood stove). Some things I just want out of my life for ever. I don't want them lingering in the landfill of my emotional landscape. I want them gone.

That's what purging is all about. It isn't just making room for more. I am welcoming in different energy and purpose. Making more time for creative process. Less laundry and dishes= less time working on laundry and dishes= more time for playing, creating, and writing! Win!

A new tile in the bathroom? Less time battling the cracked, deteriorating science experiment of a plastic box that pig farmers and children wash farmyard compost off themselves in.

What can you banish from your life that is fighting you back? I've got my hammer and crow bar and I am making a list. I am not even checking it twice, I am just diving in.

I will post progress as we go with this bathroom. It may take a while, we have zero budget and have to get creative.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Spirit of the Season

This is a deep sea squid. It lives where the water pressure would kill a human being.
I am a squid.
I meant to do the 12 days of Christmas for the Holiday Spoon Club series but then our drains had a major crisis at the farm and the weather turned to freezing and then a member of our close 22q community got her angel wings. Keeping up a post a day was about all I could manage with food pictures and cute moments with my children. I was in tears so much of the time from both ends of the emotional spectrum. I don't do well in December usually, so this was past my breaking point.

Blessed I am to have friends that recognised this and were there for me. Even more, Chad recognised that I needed more from him, even though he was spending time in the mucky basement thawing the clogged pipes and doing field chores and building fences. He took the time to do dishes more than his usual turns (basically giving me a pass on dishes so far this month. Wow. He also helped me with organisation and some huge purging that we've been pretty intense with lately.

December makes me sad. It isn't just the waning daylight, the lack of fresh vegetables, that my extended family lives so farm away, that my aunt died without me ever getting to tell her how much her encouragement meant to me, or a million other things that all pile up into an emotional train wreck and leave me exhausted and on the verge of a near constant panic attack. I just want to break and smash things and sit alone in the dark with nothing but the feedback loop of self pity.

You know? Many of you do actually. That is what I am finding. So many people feel the same way, so overwhelmed and alone. What is it they say to Harry Potter? He's easier to defeat if he thinks he is alone. That.

I am not alone. I don't just mean my family or friends either. Since I began this journey back in May to reboot this blog and start writing again, (not just blogging, but to pick up poetry again too,) an amazing community of creative people have come into my life. Getting to know and having these folks cheer me on, lift my spirits, allow me to be part of their circle has been so invigorating. I feel refreshed instead of recycled. There are others who feel like small potatoes, others who are afraid to really express their inner forces, and still more who are just afraid to make the time and say this part of me is important, I am an artist. 

So this season, as we count down to Christmas and New Years, take time for your art each day. Sometimes for me that is cooking, sometimes writing, and sometimes visual arts. You know, it is also an art to just be present in the moment and that is a craft I am still working on, for the sake of my children.If I plug into the creative forces at least once a day, I feel like I can make it through the season. The writer's mind is slowly being nurtured and keeping me company through the day instead of the white noise of negative self talk.

Do go out there. Make a list of the things you meant to do- start a blog? Join Pinterest? Paint the bathroom? The dishes can wait. Create and get messy.  (Then pretty please share it here! Link in the comments!)

*The bathroom re-do starts tomorrow!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Real Christmas Trees

For folks who worry about carbon as a pollutant, disposed of correctly (such as using it for structure in the bottom of our large farm pond), the tree is a net gain for the environment in many ways. You are actually sequestering carbon, contributing to a habitat for animals in the form of the tree farm (instead of it being corn or some such), and helping the local economy.

If you heat your home with wood, burning it will be a net gain as well since there will be less pollutants than heating via coal which is probably where your electric comes from. Even if not, there are very few good technologies producing electricity for large utilities - the more localised the better.

If you have no other use for the wood, burying it would be the next best option since it will eventually break down into soil, but even sending it to a landfill would sequester the carbon in the trunk and branches, and eventually return it to the soil instead of the atmosphere. -Chad

And now for the part from Danelle-
Real tree doesn't just mean the tree part to us. It means everything, from top down. I used to go nuts with our 10 foot tall artificial tree, Nutcracker theme, 200 glass balls in 9 different colours, 10 strands of lights, everything placed just so......and then I had children. Ha.

At first I tried to compromise- the 200 glass balls went to storage and were replaced with plastic balls. That worked mostly, but 1 year in storage and they all started to smell like urine. Ew. So out those went. Then went the fake garlands and the lights burned out.

In 2009 we moved to the farm. Our first Christmas here I NEEDED a real tree. We had lived on the farm almost one year and, magically, living here cured my 30 year old chronic sinus infection that flared especially at the holidays and would turn into bronchitis too. So, maybe a real tree would no longer kill me slowly? Maybe? 

Local tree farm, for the win!

I survived. Not even a sniffle. By then we had 3 house/farm cats and a just walking 18 month old. Yikes. So no glass balls still. So many broken things. I replaced the lights with just 2 strands of LED lights. Lily and Holly started making ornaments for the tree. This has turned into something extraordinary. Now, every ornament on our tree is heirloom, a gift, or handmade by my children or someone we know. I love it like I never thought I would. Handmade doesn't always mean pipe cleaners and goggle eyes either. Look at what my 9 year old Lily made this year!

Here is our 2013 tree: From plastic balls to jingle bells and evergreens, the magic of the holiday is transforming more than what is on our tree. Our values are changing as well.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Nutcracker Sweetie

Today was Holly's traditional day out with Mama to see the ballet. She gets excited round about July and starts bugging me to order tickets and then I forgot until last Tuesday! Ugh!

So we headed out today for our Holly Mama day. It was lovely. She is a doll and absolutely adorable. This is what she said as we walked up the lawn:

Holly: Mama! A squirrel! I didn't know squirrels could climb stairs! Oh I bet the squirrel is excited to go to the Nutcracker too! Just like ME!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Banana Spice Oatmeal

After the last batch of oatmeal, Holly asked if we could try a batch with bananas. Grampa makes her instant oatmeal that is banana, could I get that flavour too?

Well, I could try. We usually have bananas on hand.....

4 cups of old fashioned oatmeal with the corresponding amount of water that the kind you are using requires.
1/4 cup of maple syrup (real)
1 Tablespoon of Allspice
1 ripe large banana cut up into small pieces

Make the oatmeal according to directions
Add the maple syrup and the spice
Stir in the banana pieces

Now, to cool enough right away we use frozen berries or ice cream (Mom of the Year here.....), but I was out of ice cream! So frozen raspberries it was, and oh my, was that a perfect choice.


Wednesday, 11 December 2013

And do not be grieved, for the JOY of the LORD is your strength.....Nehemiah 8:10

And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.....Nehemiah 8:10

Yesterday a little girl with 22q deletion syndrome died. She died with family that loved her and a community of thousands cheering her on daily. When she was born, my friend Jennifer adopted her, knowing she had 22q. She died after a year of surgeries and interventions that included having her chest cracked open and left open for machines to keep her alive. Through it all she shone her huge personality and light for the world, and her mother was generous to share her with the world through near daily updates.

Joy mattered. She changed my heart in so many ways.

Chad wrote this, and I cannot say it better:
I've posted a few times here about Joy, a little girl with the same genetic disorder that Isaac has, but with all of the major complications that Isaac has avoided. Joy was as hardcore as anyone you can name, and she fought as hard to live as anyone could have. Joy died this afternoon - she was just over a year old.

Her story was recorded in very near real time here - Joy's Journal. It's sad, but it's worth looking through to see some of what families with special needs kids go through. Joy's story was particularly heart wrenching, and through that she brought many people together in support of her and each other.

Joy was important. She will be missed.
Before Isaac was born I became so annoyed with a fellow homeschooling mom who posted near daily updates about candle vigils and baby memorials for people she only knew from the Internet. I ended up blocking her because it annoyed me so much. How could a stranger be so emotionally involved in the death of another woman's baby? So emotionally involved that she changes her profile picture every week to honour a different dead child that she never knew in real life? It seemed to me like borrowing trouble, funeral chasing. I know. I was a horrible person. Those of you who know me, know how I feel about blocking people, I just don't do it.

Since then, asking those questions out loud (be careful what you wish for y'all), I have been given the gift of knowing why and how. Joy's struggles were a testament to the human desire to live and love, to strength of spirit. Her mother fell often to her knees, reminding us all that we were blessed even in the darkest times. Praising God when most of us would have walked away from faith.

I often wondered how this group of 22q moms could possibly tolerate me, let alone welcome me into their confidence and friendship. Isaac is not struggling with medical needs. He is not sick all the time. He has never been hospitalised. The truth of it is that the future is unknown and these women KNOW that. They know that life and health can change near overnight and that a healthy, vibrant child can lose all colour and spirit and meet with Jesus in the morning. 22q does that. They know that, I know that. What they also know is that finding our own Joy, to live each day in her light and warmth, is what we must do. When the darkest times fall on us, we fall to our knees, and we walk through each day with grace.

In the meantime, we are human. Last year another 22q warrior, Jacob, died. When I first met his mother Becky, my foot went directly into my mouth as I said to her that her updates made me terrified as I held my baby, that the unknowns of life with 22q were overwhelming me and her stories left me dreading the future. She had quite a few words to say to me and the other mom that were feeling this and none of what she said was cruel or untrue. 3 years later, I know her more, and I am so grateful for her patience and grace. She had 15 years with Jacob. He mattered to all of us. All of the 22q children matter to us. We share with each other our fears, our frustrations, what we wish we'd have said to an incompetent medical professional, what we DID say, and sometimes we fall apart. We also share the joy and value that each life lived can give to the world. Jacob and Joy both had a life of peace and happiness and their lives were not tragic or sorrowful. Should I be terrified of that? No. Not even a little bit. By Becky and Jennifer's example, I am more gentle with everyone around me who makes careless or stupid remarks like I once did (will again, knowing me).

I am heartbroken on this winter day. My tears froze to my cheeks and fell like icicles into my hair as I brought in firewood. Grief stabbed at my heart for a child and a mother that I have never met in real life. Tonight, we will light a candle and pray for them.

Joy was adopted. People often ask why would a family adopt a child with so many medical needs. Why borrow the trouble? The answer is because that child matters and is important. That child needs love as much as any of us. In that, Joy was flooded with love and prayers and all of us can still only do that.

Please forgive me as I stumble through these emotions and thoughts, if I have worded something in a terrible way or not conveyed what I meant. I will try again once my mind and heart are healed a bit, which may be a while. Please take the time to go to Joy's page,
Joy's Journal, and read about her. Pray for her family.

As Jennifer would say, WE ARE BLESSED. 

Sisters Full Speed

Sisters. They woke up this morning, jumped up, giggling, put on their craziest dress up clothes, and headed down to dance. I love moments of closeness that our choices have made room for. If we parented and schooled conventionally, even if we homeschooled conventionally, the day would have looked a lot different. Not bad, but not filled with this kind of relationship and joy. Moments like this really help. Moments like this are what we live for.


Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Mushroom and Iowa Chops One Skillet Meal

This is one of the easiest, simple, one skillet dinners I make. It is so good that my husband compares it to the best meals he's ever eaten.

1 lb of mushrooms, sliced
1 large onion (I used yellow), sliced or diced
butter or lard or bacon grease for the skillet
2 Iowa chops
Seasoning salt of your own choice (Swamp Fire)

Cast iron skillet, warm enough that it melts the butter or fat that you choose. Add the mushrooms and onion and simmer until the mushrooms release their liquid and the onions start to caramelise. Rub the seasoning on the chops and add them to the skillet, moving the mushrooms to the sides to make room. Cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Uncover and flip the chops. Do not re-cover. The liquid will start to cook off. When it is gone, scoop the onions and mushrooms out into a serving dish. Then keep cooking the chops until they reach 145 degrees, remove and wrap in foil to rest for 10 minutes. Set the table, get drinks, wash hands, wrangle kids to the table. Then serve!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

What You Should Know About Winter On A Farm

 Every year a new batch of potential farmers or just starting out farmers make their way to the groups Chad and I help with or belong to. Every year they ask the same questions, the underlaying theme is obvious, they have no idea what a midwestern winter will look like on a farm.

We didn't. We pridefully went into our first without taking advice that was given. These folks will do the same. You don't know until you live it.

We lived in an urban centre just 60 mile from our farm, lived in the Midwest most of our lives, and yet we were still not prepared. So with winter on the horizon, oh it is still just over that hill even though it was -1 F last night, I give you a few observations.

1) 9 months of the year we are preparing for winter. 5 months of the year ARE winter. We start joking in July that Winter is Coming.....

2) Tires. You need good tires and they wear out more often. Budget for tires, get them rotated, pay attention to them. Good tires.

3) Make sure you have enough feed for the animals in October that will last through April. Make sure you have enough storage and that it is in good storage (the rats won't nest in it, raccoons won't feast, ect). Make sure you know how you are going to make sure that livestock has water when everything freezes. Planning to use hoses? Make sure you have enough length on hand. Plan on hauling buckets filled in the kitchen anyway.

4) Make sure you have actual cold weather farm clothes. Real wool socks. Carharts coat/overalls. Thermal gloves. REAL BOOTS. Then double them for when the first set gets soaked and you still have chores. Make sure every member of your family has this gear. *I shop the thrift store all year round and get about 3 pairs in every size. I get expensive, good quality boots for next to nothing this way. I look for coats like this too.

5) Have a plan for unfreezing pipes. Revise it when it doesn't work. After the first dozen times, you'll get the hang of it. Have a back up plan for drinking and flushing water.

6) Have a backup plan for electricity. Have a whole years worth of good pastured meat in your deep freeze? What will happen when the power goes out in an ice storm? We fill gallon jugs with water and freeze them too, those take the empty space and fill it. In an ice storm you can't just run out for dry ice. A generator is expensive but a good investment, however, it will run the freezer and not much else and you'll have to keep gas on hand to run it.

7) Car safety. Keep extra socks and gloves in the car for each passenger. Get thinsulate jackets for kids in car seats that can't wear bulky coats. Keep a bag of hard candy, a freezer safe mason jar of water, power bars, extra diapers, and beef jerky in the glove box. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged when you go anywhere in the car. Pay attention to gas tank levels and never let it get less than half full. Do NOT underestimate the dangers of blowing snow creating "white out" across the roads. Prairie winds can blow around 2 inches of fluffy snow and make it so you can't see 3 ft in front of you.

8) Wind is not your friend. Get to know all about it, what kind and direction works for and against you.

9) Get a wench. Not that kind, pirate fool, though I suppose that might also help keep warm..... Get the kind on a chain that will help you pull your car or truck out of a ditch when it is too icy to use another truck. You can attach it to a tree or a post and then crank your car up and out. In theory.
*I have since been informed that what I thought was called a "wench" is a "winch" and is actually a "come along"....sorry for the confusion (and the giggles, COME ALONG!).

10) If you heat your home with wood or propane or electricity- make sure you have enough BEFORE winter starts. In the case of wood, make sure you know who to call to get more when you run out. It is not practical to plan on heading out to the woods to cut some more when you run out. Wood has to dry and season and hauling in 4 ft of snow? Yeah, call someone and have it delivered.

11)  First aid. I'll do a post or two about this soon. You'll need to have your kit stocked and not the way that the local grocery store sells them. Just know that what you need on a farm is different than a tube of cream and some bandaids. IF you have livestock, make sure that you have a first aid kit for them too AND a place for them to be if they get injured. We call ours the med shed. It needs to be near the house and a real shelter. If you do not plan for this just know that bloody sheep in your kitchen is really hard to clean up after.

12) I am sure there is more. Sure of it. There will also be problems that happen on the fly that are unique to you and your farm. Like septic lines freezing, dogs getting skunked, broken windows, and the like.

13) Ice. If you have a pond.... TEACH YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT ICE. Don't you be foolish about it either.

What would you add to the list? If you would, my friends, share your most horrible winter stories and let us all be wiser.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Mercy in a Ziplock

Most of us are only a heartbeat away from the kind of poverty that is harsh and cruel and inescapable. None of us believe it to be true, but in my years working with poverty level students, living in an urban neighbourhood with economic diversity that ranged from the elitist antique dealers to the homeless veterans living in tents on the banks of the Des Moines River, and my own experience as a child in a family that used food stamps....I can tell you for sure, each of us is closer to the edge than we will ever realise or admit. Those already there work fiercely to hide it and survive and others just sink.

Having a medical needs child and not qualifying for any assistance and having crappy insurance can push a family to the edge of that.

Let me tell you about my own experience though. The shame of food stamps and free lunch was so great for me that I would skip lunch instead. From that experience I struck out at others, you should be ashamed and work harder to pay for your own food! I would not back down. Then as I grew into a mother and adult and nurtured students along, I realised that even food stamps were not enough to hoist them up and out. Cycle of poverty it was called officially. One student could not afford to renew her tags, so she kept driving to the job that would give her the paycheck to do so, but got pulled over for having expired tags, and now has a $350 dollar ticket that she can't afford either. $350 was also her rent for the month. Which does she pay? Once behind, never caught up.

I thought of her the next time I saw someone at a gas station trying to pay for gas and her card was declined. Her shame was palpable and her panic real. What happens next?

Does she stand outside and beg for the money? We live in an independent society and often have no one to call that can help.

A generous stranger stepped up and paid her bill. Smiled and said she'd been there too.

I wish I had been that stranger instead of a bystander.

But so often I would be a bystander and think, I wish I could help. I don't even carry cash. One day last Spring I was having a terrible week. Terrible. Someone posted a kind word on my facebook wall and much of my woe melted away. Kindness is powerful. Kindness heals. This is where we need to direct our hearts.

I set out to not be caught helpless when someone needed 5$ for gas or food. A friend was making Mercy Bags to send overseas to a 3rd world country, why not address the poverty and suffering of our neighbours. Why not make this mercy a part of our lives. Those of us who stand on solid ground, offering a hand up to those on the edge. If all we have is words, give that. If we have extra food, find out who needs it. Extra gloves, give them to someone who has cold hands. I don't mean bagging up your unwanted and dumping them at a charity, though that is good too, I mean looking your friend in the eye and saying, "I see your need. I want to help. You are loved and valued."

You could carry a Ziplock with a water bottle and granola bars, a 5$ gas card, or grocery store gift card, some candy, a simple note inside. Even a cup of coffee delivered to a new mom and left on her doorstep with a card can make the day better for someone. Think of the kindness you are capable of, write it down, and then DO. Take these bags of mercy out into your community, then be IN your community.

Here's my list that I hit hard when I get gloomy and overwhelmed and eye twitchy (like this week):
  1. Post on 10 friends' facebook or twitter feeds what is special about them to you. Maybe they have never heard you say it before, maybe you say it all the time, and maybe they need these words more than you will ever know.
  2. Bring a meal and coffee to a friend for no reason.
  3. Listen when someone starts to share what is on their heart.
  4. Fill a bag of groceries, good food that you would eat, then bring it to your local church and ask the pastor to pass it on to someone who needs it.
  5. Invite others into your home for meals. Send them home with leftovers. Especially on holidays when so many people are far from family and alone.
  6. Send cards to troops. They are missing folks back home. They are.
  7. Pay for the coffee of people in the drive up line in front of you. 
  8. Leave a gift card for groceries at the local food bank.
  9. Find out what your food bank needs that week. You may be surprised at what is on their shelves and it may break your heart.
  10. Carry 1$ gloves in your car. Give them away. You may be surprised how fast they go and how many people can't even afford that simple accessory. 
  11. BE KIND. When the secretary snaps at you, when the bank teller is bitchy, when your cousin says something hurtful- remember that it is probably not you. We all have battles we are fighting and most of the time hiding from others. Sometimes it bubbles over. Be the calm. Be the light. Be patient with those who need it the most. 
  12. Pay attention to people around you. Start seeing their suffering. Be the person that brings calm instead of adding to the pile. Even if you are just as broken, this effort will turn others to you as well. 
What things would you add? What will you do?  Share in the comments!

Friday, 6 December 2013

Laundry Time!

Ok, you all know if you have been reading here that I am a little (soap) nuts about laundry. You may also remember how resistant I have been to line drying my clothes. I would sometimes run dried towels in the dryer just to warm them up.

And then our electric co-op mentioned that our monthly bill is higher than it should be, nearly double of our neighbours. We wrote it off as the electric tank heaters for the livestock....but then I noticed that the trend continues in the summer.

So the first step was to use a Kill-O-Watt meter on all major appliances. Nothing was pulling unreasonable amounts, it all added up to less than 100$. So what could it possibly be? We could not hook it up to our electric dryer because the plug is different. So I stayed upstairs and Chad stood at the meter......I hit power and the meter went from near still to spinning.

Yeah. We found our offender. I usually do three loads of laundry a DAY. Running the dryer, meter spinning like that for 3-4 hours each day. Whoa. So, things are also getting frugal with our monthly expenses and this money needs not to fly out the window into the farmyard.

So first up? I bought a 12$ indoor line. Mounted to the ends of the room above the machines. Pretty good tension, is supposed to retract but that part is a pain so we do not, but cannot really hold jeans or wet bath towels. This becomes the line that dries underwear, t-shirts, diapers, and dance clothes. Downside is that I have to use a step stool to hang them. I'll live.

So I had a brilliant thought. We already dry mittens and coats on the metal baby gate around the stove..... how many loads could this dry? So one full load of towels or jeans is the answer and it takes about 8 hours to dry during the day or overnight. The towels stiff and crunchy until first use, but that makes it super easy to fold. The jeans dry stiff like ironed and starched. Totally awesome. Bonus, the fold so easy that it makes them easy to stack neatly and then go straight upstairs and get put away.

As you can see, I am still working on having mad folding skills. Not there yet.

Other benefits we have found? No static build up. No lint. So much moisture goes into the air. Moisture that would otherwise be wasted! Moist air feels warmer so the heat can be set lower and we feel comfortable. The woodwork, animals, children, and my skin are thankful for the extra moisture in the air. Holly breathes better too.

Our monthly electric bill arrived showing just two weeks of our efforts resulted in 100$ savings. I only ran the dryer two times in those two weeks, both times with the vent outlet into the room instead of outside so we don't waste the heat and moisture that way. I was really surprised at how much lint it produced and static electricity was horrible from those two loads.

I am looking into getting racks. If I had forced air floor vents, I would set them over those.

This method is definitely saving us money. I am also extra attentive to clothes that are not dirty being thrown in the laundry pile. Not cool folks. Way too many things. How could we be so wasteful? For so many years?! We are also shopping around for a good stable laundry line and T bar system for outside, it has to be able to stand up to the really strong prairie winds, sometimes gusting at 60 MPH.


Today the discussion over at Midwest Homesteading and Permaculture is about things that we've tried and then failed at. Also, about how dangerous and violent emus are, but that I already know all 

Music. I have tried and failed to learn to play a number of instruments. It is hard, I have a lot of respect for those who can do this, but it is not something I enjoy enough to keep trying.

 See these? Oh, the picture is gorgeous but the filling had so much salt that we had to scoop it out and just eat the pepper and the bacon.

These fried green tomatoes were way too salty too. Salt has been a problem in my kitchen lately. I am having a hard time finding the balance since I switched from Kosher flake salt to fine ground pink sea salt. I have since switched back. One year I put too much cayenne in everything, or so I thought. I have since decided that there is no such thing as too much cayenne. Maybe that's why I can't taste salt...

Failure, as I tell my writing students, is an indicator of what needs improvement. It is a chance to revise and do better. If you always get it right then there is no learning, or if no one pointed out that you needed improvement, that is even worse. Revision is learning. Life is about failing over and over again.

When I was in the sixth grade I came home sobbing every day for a week and hid all my homework from my parents. A teacher had told us that if we failed an exam we would fail the class and that homework was just as important. It was history and the homework was stupid map colouring. I pointed out that one of the maps was wrong and I failed the worksheet. I got so anxious over failing the class that I couldn't eat or sleep for a week. I finally broke down crying to my dad and he called the school.

I had a B in the class. Also, failing that worksheet for pointing out an outdated borderline and country name is bullshit. I should have gotten extra credit.

Failing is not something to be afraid of. It is what life is all about, learning holds a lot of it intrinsically, and kitchen failures? My mistakes make me a better cook. Yes, I still have a fire extinguisher and activated charcoal in my first aid kit- I have set the oven on fire too many times and spent too many nights in the ER with Chad over food poisoning when we were first married to not be super aware of that. Those experiences made me research fire safety, food safety, and general health. Bonus is that I am pretty sure Chad is now immune to most food poisoning bacteria. So there is that.

I want my kids to fail too. Lily has burnt eggs so many times that she knows now how NOT to burn them. She used the wrong kind of paper to paint with and the paper ripped when she tried to move it, she knows now that details like paper thickness matter. She cut herself with her new pocket knife. She knows now not to cut toward her hand AND she knows how to deal with a deep slice of a cut. She is my brave girl and being fearless of failure has led her to fail a lot. Instead of shaming her and internalising it, we focus on how failure is part of the process and not a destination. It is only the outcome IF you stop there and do not keep trying.

Sometimes failing is a good place to stop though. Sometimes relationships fail and you just have to walk away. Sometimes there is nothing that can be done for the lamb attacked by a fox during birth and the vet has to put him down. Sometimes failure is a sign that it is time to move on. Is it still failure then? Maybe. Maybe we have too much tied up in that word as a culture to really embrace it?


I usually only blog success in the kitchen. Should I start including the failures too? What things have you tried and failed at?

Thursday, 5 December 2013


 A few months back a friend left a comment that she was glad to see my muchness coming back. Those words swirled around me like a hug. This was exactly how I was feeling, like I had lost something and it was just an ember. I have to do everything to get the fire back and keep it strong enough to warm me and fill me up. I was feeling so lost and so cold.

Recently another friend said she writes because not writing feels wrong. Yes. This. I love writing, but it goes deeper than that. For me, writing is like working out is for some people. That is the only way I can describe it- I need it to stay healthy physically. Without this creative outlet, I get tired and sluggish and even nauseous. I get foggy in my thinking, forgetful, and unattentive. With the daily exercise, I feel bright and sharp and ready for the world. Yet, doing so and hitting publish takes a certain amount of bravery. Silence is safer.
"And since your history of silence
Won’t do you any good,
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?
Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave"
- Sara Bareilles, Jack Antonoff
Then this song comes on the radio and it lights me up from the inside every time I hear it.  So much silence.  Sometimes being brave means walking away and putting things behind you. Grief does strange things to people.

When I set out to revive my blog, it seemed like a good first step. Promising to write once a week wasn't working. I'd miss it and then feel guilty and avoid it again. Every other day was a habit to easily avoided as well and it was too easy too let the draft folder pile up. Every day was easier, it could become a daily routine, but if now and then I miss one or just post a photo, it would be doable.

I also needed to stop drafting and fussing over proofreading. That means that sometimes there are errors and the writing is messy. I am trying to hold a higher standard than casual blog writing, but at the same time, that is what this is. Messy in many ways. I am not going to be critical about this when I need to focus on editing other work. This writing gets to be raw and true and jagged like a field stone pushed up by Spring rains flooding the soil.

Another friend worried over starting a blog. I said do it. Do it. Write every day. Don't proof. Don't fuss. Write about what matters to you. Don't care if it is all over the place. We are adding to the history books, folks. These are the modern diaries that historian will someday use, just as we use letters and diaries from past eras to compare and verify historical documents and figure out what daily life was really like. If that means someday someone will look at pictures of my lunch and my children and my ramblings about feminism, then so be it. History of the peasants tells more about life than the history of kings. Your story matters. My story matters. If you disagree, there is a whole huge Internet to find some other story to read or you can let silence be the ashes of your life. I'm done with silence. I am reviving the fire.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Holiday Cheer and Glad Tide(ings) Preview

The holidays are not easy on me.

My anxiety rises every time I go shopping. The extra lights, extra people, extra noise. I hate it more than anything. That would be my boggart for sure- the malls at Christmas, the traffic around malls, and maybe even a crowd of adults with glazed eyes asking for the things they want.

How am I going to get through this?

Internet shopping, extra coffee, and some extra patience with myself.

Back at home I am working with a lot of laundry issues and changes. Here's my latest project:

Indoor clothes lines. $12 on Amazon and it mounts to the wall. It is also supposed to be retractable, but that part doesn't work well. No mind, since it will just stay extended. Not as much sag as we thought it would have either, but I cannot hang jeans or towels on it. It isn't heavy duty enough for that. Tomorrow I will post how we dry those heavier items and the math behind why we have started this new change.

With the success we have had not running the dryer this last month, I think we will seriously look into an outdoor line for next Spring.

I am also working on the cookbook and holiday photos and keeping the kids entertained. The usual stuff keeps me busy and distracted and joyful.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Today, December 2nd

Today my girls are outside picking rose hips for tea they are making.

Isaac is playing with his toy cars.

Chili is bubbling on the woodstove.

Chad and Grampa are cutting and stacking firewood.

I am planning out the Christmas blog series of how I am going to emotionally survive the holiday season. Lily told the pastor at Children Time, in front of the whole congregation, that all she wants for Christmas is a Midwife kit and for her mama to be happy because Mama is always sad at Christmas.

Whoa, hearing that hurt my heart. 

Time for a change, y'all.

This year we are also paring down activities and changing things up a little bit. We are hand-making quite a lot of the gifts this year, we are hand-making ornaments, hand-painting wrapping paper, decorating the tree just us without company, and we are going to stay home more.

Staying home also means more reading time, more dancing time, more art, and more home cooking our meals. I am really looking forward to weather cancellations, snowed in days, and hot tea.

As I was planning out what to write this week and next, I also looked at archived blog posts. It is amazing to see how much our family has changed and how slow this change has happened. Last night I hug my laundry on indoor lines. Even as recently as last year I was proclaiming the high praise of the electric dryer and saying that hang drying clothes was NEVER going to happen at our house.

Change happens. When it is real change, it is gentle and slow. So that is how we will change our traditions here too.

Happy Monday!