Saturday, 28 September 2013

Meet the Meat....

I've been thinking a lot lately about food budgets. My own especially since my two almost three year old has the appetite of a teenager. He eats almost as much as I do at a meal! So I thought I would go through our budget again and figure out where and when we can make improvements in both expense and quality.

To take it back I thought I would talk about meat first. About 7 years ago we started buying pork in bulk, whole animal. Then about 5 years ago we started buying beef that way too. Now we raise our own chickens, get a deer, and if we can afford it we also buy a lamb (this year we are raising lamb and maybe a beef too!). We also fish our pond for fresh fish and have duck and turkey now and then. All fresh, all local. That's a LOT of variety. This year if we had paid for our own pork as a customer, the cost for 175 lbs of meat would have been approx 614$. Our pastured beef side was $850. So pretend that we didn't get all the other meat and just bought beef and pork in bulk....that's 1464$.... 121$ per month, $35 a week for enough really good meat to host several large parties and serve T-Bones and Iowa Chops and our family eats really well, not just on sale poor quality ground meat and cheap cuts.

I get to be creative. I get to learn about new cuts of meat and how to prepare them. I get to use my heirloom cast iron skillets. My family eats well. We eat together. We eat at home.

That last bit saves us a lot of money. We eat at home. Quite often, the cuts of meat and quality of meat we eat here at home is better than what is served at the restaurants we can afford. I won't pretend I am a sous chef, but I know I have put on the table meals that were better than Cracker Barrel or Applebees menu fare. I know my Iowa Chops rival the State Fair on a stick variety (and those are really good!). Plus, this is for weeknight fare and regular breakfasts not special occasion meals.

I also know that we are paying premium price for our bulk meat and it is still cheaper than store bought. Easily found in our area are cheaper bulk rates, for example we charge $2.75 per lb hanging weight for our pork and a neighboring farmer charged $0.60 cents per lb last year. I cannot figure out how he can charge that AND pay for feed for the animal since our feed costs are double that at least.

Gun Play

My kids don't really do gun play yet, but recently there was some discussion in our local group about how natural it is- that boys will make guns out of sticks and dolls if they don't have the actual toys.

I call bullshit.

It is not human nature to play with guns. It is not part of our being or a boy's natural being. According to this website, the first gun was in China in 1232.  It wasn't until much later, hundreds of years later that guns made it to the rest of the world and until the industrial revolution era that they became more commonplace of a tool and part of military repitoir. So what did boys play with before that? If it was part of nature, an intrinsic part of their being, then they would have been playing "Bang Bang You're Dead", right?

It's not that simple. What is part of human nature is to imitate roles in our society, especially roles that are held in high regard. In earlier times that would have been the warrior (think knives, swords, clubs), the hunter, the shamen/priest/wizard......anyone that displays power and gains respect. Our times and nature are no different.

The problem isn't necessarily what the weapon of choice is but rather what the kids are learning about its power and use. Gun are now mostly used for military application, law enforcement, and crime. Rarely does entertainment (movies, tv) show self defense, hunting, or museum quality collecting/art. Gun play isn't about providing the family or community with food or even about protecting each other FROM harm- it is about harming other people.

I was watching Monk and Bones on netflix and it occurred to me: we glorify and respect the bad guys. We honor and give power to their genius. They almost outsmart the good guys or it wouldn't be a show. 99% of bad guys are not super evil geniuses but anyone watching wouldn't know that. On the shows often they are funny, attractive, and really smart. Their victims are not. What message does this send us? It is not reality. In fact, most bad guys are desperate people and not very bright and yet many of them get away with all sorts of crime before if ever getting caught, walking away when they do after a little time or fine. It's not reality we are seeing but children, how believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy, think it is. The see it, they play it, they respect it because we do. That is problem.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

1 hour, 10 Minutes or The Road Through the Woods

1 hour and 10 minutes is how long it takes me to get from the farm to the big city grocery store/art lessons, etc. I take the back way, not really dirt roads, just smaller highways 55 MPH speed limit just about all the way. There is another way that is mostly 70 MPH Interstate and while logic says that is easier, no thinking driving- it takes 1 hour and 45 minutes for the same point to point.

That is kind of a metaphor for the whole of our lives. We go slower, go the back way which is beautiful rolling hills, get there all the same, but happier and safer. I know too many people who choose the conventional fast way, never slow down, choose convenience over logic or common sense just because it is easier to put on cruise control and just drive, drive, drive until something stops the inertia or forces a slow down. Something like heart disease or cancer or a car crash or infertility or a sudden allergy or gall bladder attack or all of the above.

The way we eat is simpler, cheaper, but takes more thought. The clothes we buy, simpler, cheaper, but takes more effort in the finding. The way we parent is simpler, cheaper, but takes more thought and effort. The way we educate is also not mainstream. See the pattern? We still get from point A to point B, which is the goal right? Slow down, take a deep breath and just be for a bit. We take the highway sometimes too. It is all about making it work not an extreme of one over the other.

Now, we don't take back roads by horse and buggy. Obviously we have melded two worlds, two ideals and found what works for us.

We use a wood stove to heat the house and cook with, but we have the gas range and electric in the kitchen in use too. We read real paper books, but also have kindle apps on our phones and computers. This list goes on and on.

Usually, in blog essays like this, I have found that the authors tend to then get very wishy washy about not judging one way of farming/parenting/eating over another- that they are all good and we do what works for us.

That's not how I feel about it at all. Parents who physically and emotionally abuse their children do not get a free pass because it "works" for them. I feel this way about Cry It Out parenting. Not cool. Spanking, also not cool.

Diet and fat free foods are unhealthy and gross. They cause cancer and illness. Diet sodas, fat free dairy products....not good for people and I am not going to stop calling those products chemical shitstorms. I will not ever willingly or knowingly eat margarine. Butter is actually good and healthy. Still, this is not a deal breaker for me, and I generally let live on this topic.

Farming. We do not farm the way we do just because it is easier or works for us. We do it because it is ethical and we strongly believe that animals should be treated with respect and each life cared for before we earn the privilege of that animal nourishing our family or anyone's family. I will not ever say that conventional confinement pork production is fine and ok because it works for someone's family. Sure I understand that folks are in over their head in debt and need to feed and care for their kids, but that doesn't make the cruelty of the animals acceptable and I am not going to ever shut up about it. I believe in a better way and I truly think that the more we educate and demand change the more likely our dollar backed votes will create that change.

I am sick of people being luke warm on these topics, especially farming. Just because I know and you know great and wonderful caring people who farm and raise livestock in a good way doesn't mean the whole industry doesn't need a revolution. Just because those folks are good, doesn't mean they are doing good. Just because people have kids and healthcare needs does not mean that farming practices that exploit people and harm animals get a free pass.

We don't just do what works for us. We are also a voice for change. We have to be, too many people are silent on the matters that matter.

What are you using your voice for?

Monday, 23 September 2013

Severing Ties With the Past

This post is not about what you think it is about.

It is about my house. The house that is not my house anymore.

For 13 years I was the The Mistress of Hatton House. I need to let that go. I need to say goodbye to that part of my life. I still come across items and pin it thinking it would be perfect for the back parlour. The house doesn't even have the same floor plan now, and still I dream about walking the halls and the ghosts that haunted me when I lived there.

The empty rooms used to laugh at me when I cried longing for a baby. Infertility. PCOS. Broken systems. Not the right time.

I know why these themes are haunting me again.

Isaac is two and starting to wean. My body is returning to the phase that waits for the next baby to grow and come. That is no longer a possibility for us. Some people know when their family is complete, and I know ours isn't. That doesn't change the fact that in the course of three births and one tramautic delivery, the scaring and damage is too great to support life anymore. That makes me sad to the depths of my soul and brings me back to the tear filled heartbroken days that I longed to get pregnant, each month, each year, a let down after a burst of hope.

I have three beautiful children. The memories of this era are returning and I am grieving for the loss.

To let go of the Hatton House is to let go of that grief and move on. We left the house incomplete. The projects we started were not done, left in a state of not done, as we packed and moved on to our next adventures. In many ways we are still paying for that era, that education, and if asked, "Was it worth it?"  I will answer a million times, "Yes."

Our family is incomplete, not done, left in a state of not done, and yet we have packed up and moved on to our next adventures.
I see the parallel. I feel it to the depth of my heart. I tremor with longing when I hold my friends' tiny new babies. This is hard to let go of.

I thought that writing about it might make the transition easier, maybe it will.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Drenched in Cidre, Part 3

Photo courtesy of Jessica Fisher
This is the press in action. Oh it is cool. So long ago, I had a cider press on my wish list. Now, dream is reality and the product is amazing cider juice. We pressed all day, learning as we went. 

As promised the two pictures of Chad and I together in the same frame. I can count on my hands how many pictures we have of us together, since I am usually behind the camera! Thank you Jessica for this gift!

Photo courtesy of Jessica Fisher  
Photo courtesy of Jessica Fisher
We invited friends down, a bring your own apples type of party. Oh and party it was! The kids played and played and went fishing. We ate chili and drank sweet tea and eventually cider. We gave tours of the farm. It was fun.

So the technical notes on the project are as follows.....The cloth bag that the press came with got trashed in the washing machine. I destroy everything in my washer- from cloth diapers to bath towels. This was no exception. So, I bought a nylon net laundry bag and it happened to fit perfectly. Just enough slack to get good movement.

Note that there is a giant clamp on the top holding the grinder on. Do not grind whole apples. Do not let me work the crank. The two together equal broken destruction show. I guess I have a lot of upper body strength that isn't immediately obvious, or maybe the screws were installed wrong. Anyway, quarter the apples first.

Next, once the press is screwed down, do not try and keep going. Let it rest for 5 minutes at least before turning again. We cracked the wooden disc not following this rule. I think the disk was cracked before hand though, also, I spoke with an older farmer who had experience with pressing and he said that it should have been made with two discs and installed with the grain of the wood of the two running crosswise from each other. That way the natural stress of the grain of the wood is distributed. Makes sense. When we get the replacement I will inspect it for this.

I have a cast iron sausage press. It looks very similar. I think it make work for apples and for cheese. I will try it once I get it cleaned up this week.

Chad has the idea to build a Whiz Bang press.....I am very much excited about this. I am apple crazy!

Also, Isaac didn't care for peaches this summer but he is making up for it in apple consumption. Whoa buddy, is he.

Drenched in Cider, Part 2 Pictures

Photo courtesy of Jessica Fisher

Photo courtesy of Jessica Fisher

Photo courtesy of Jessica Fisher

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Last Day of Summer Drenched in Cider, Part One

To celebrate the end of summer and my fantastic husband's birthday we brought home 5 bushel boxes of apples from our favourite local orchard, Berry Patch. 3 of the boxes were supposed to be for cider, but we only got through two of them. I decided that I wanted to keep back one box of macs for pie. This week has been declared mini pie week. We also brought home windfall for the pigs to eat.

So, to start......
Berry Patch Farm

Jessica and Chad, quartering apples.

Josh and Jim Curtis running the press.

Holly helping.

These apples are like CANDY, Mama!
There are more pictures to come, but many were taken by other friends and I have to get permission to post them first. There is even a picture, gasp, of Chad and I together!

Friday, 20 September 2013

Big Complicated Feelings

Grief. Anger. Joy. Fear. Love. Hope.

How is it possible to feel all of these all at the same time? I am not sure.

Sometimes when I look at Isaac I feel all of these all at the same time. All of them all at once hitting me in the heart like a sucker punch. I fall to my knees, sometimes I cry. Sometimes I cry myself to sleep at night. Sometimes chopping onions gets the waterworks started, driving alone at night coming home from work and the song 22 comes on and in my head that song is all about 22q deletion syndrome and not a group of spoiled hipsters, or in church, or at the park.

I have become a master of hiding my tears until I am alone.

I am not crying for sadness, not really. It is complicated. At the park, Isaac starts playing or conquers a new task, a big one, and then a kid half his age barrels past and does it with ease. I am proud of Isaac but sad for him too, that he has to work so hard to do what most kids take for granted. I love him so much! He's so brave and patient and wonderful.

Then I get terribly scared for him. He has a genetic defect.

Suddenly it seems like all the sci-fi movies I watch are all about mutants with genetic defects and how basically society wants them all locked up and killed, even if they look or act normal. Alphas. X-men. Gattica, Brave New World.....this list is long. People in our culture are afraid of genetic defectiveness and medical difference. There was a facebook page that was all about killing autistic people because the page claimed that they are all murderers waiting to happen.

History is pretty clear that every so many decades people, normal everyday people get behind the idea to kill off the medically fragile or disabled.

My son has a genetic deletion. This strikes fear in my heart for him like nothing else can. His deletion does not make him look different, noticeable, so he can pass for normal eventually if he learns to talk, the mere idea of this makes me queasy to even think this way.

This is why the awareness campaigns make me nervous. We, the caretakers and families of these fragile children, are we making them easy targets by tagging our cars and ourselves with pride ribbons? Are we? Does the general population need to know about the hundreds of different defects possible in children? How does that help? Why not focus the energy on the folks making the diagnosis, the medical colleges and nursing schools? How is a jaunt around a lake helping?

Then my mind comes back to the park, and the joyful noise of my children playing and laughing and living in the moment, and I have lost being in that moment because my mind has drifted into the lost sea of what ifs and worry. I need to anchor in.

This is where my faith comes in. I pray to a God that is kind and is love. I pray that humanity is moving towards a way of life that will protect my children and their children, embrace their fragile difference, and participate in the joy that they create. My faith that God will protect us has never waivered, but sometimes I drift away on the undercurrent of worry.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Today Holly and Lily asked if Isaac can play in the snow with them this year, last year and the year before he was too frail and still just crawling and the weather was so severe that I did not let him. The snow would have swallowed him up.  This year he has a snowsuit, boots, and waterproof gloves. He will love it, I know, but I am still afraid of the snow.

Just like I am still afraid of my own society and the humanity in the world swallowing him up. History repeats itself, it is just a matter of when and how. I cannot even watch or read the news anymore because stories of children with special needs pop out at me and if they make the news, more than likely the outcome is terrible. The teenager with Downs being killed by mall cops at a movie theatre, the mother of a severely disabled teenager murdering him and then attempting suicide because there was no affordable care for him, rape, murder, a child with a genetic disorder being denied a lifesaving organ transplant because of her disorder, the list just keeps going and going and we are becoming more aware of all of it. Is that a good thing? Is that the awareness we are seeking?

I am plenty aware, what I need instead is hope and compassion.

Recently I had a conversation with someone I love so much about white deer and she said that it was a genetic defect and they should all be killed so they don't damage the rest of the healthy population. I seriously wanted to vomit and at this moment, maybe she didn't even notice, I cried in public. In the middle of the museum my tears flowed freely. I was silent then I tried to make light of the exhibit and explain that the law against hunting white animals protects unicorns too.... but I was broken on the inside and my heart was shattered.

My heart was broken in to millions of tiny quivering pieces, because that is what people think of my son. Not all people but enough that it makes the world we live in dangerous. Even families in the 22q support group have discussed sterilisation of their children so as not to pass on 22q to another generation.

I blurted this all out to my aunt as we approached the mammoth exhibit. Of course she didn't mean that, that way. That's people. Animals are different. Of course I knew that she would never be that callous to intentionally say something so hurtful, it is her husband Isaac is named for- the fire chief, small plane pilot, car mechanic, ect who also happened to be deaf and paraplegic. If someone said he couldn't do something, he turned around it did it x10 and in their face.

It doesn't change the fact that there are people in our community who do feel this way about our children. Be aware of that and hold guard because there is no registry for psychotic assholes, no ribbon, no walk or 5k, no warning.

That's what is on my mind tonight.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Lily's Night Out

Lily is getting to be so much more muchier. She helps more, she talks more, she does more. Everything is so much more.

Every week she and I take an art class together. This one on one time has been great for us, so much so that we decided that one other night each week we should take a walk together or take the boat out at dusk. We have had lovely talks. This week she asked if I could help her create a vlog for her to narrate and demonstrate certain tasks for other kids. She wants to start with how to tie a hook on a line, choose a worm, and fish for catfish. Cool idea, eh? Look for that soon.

With responsibility comes privilege and slowly we are figuring this part out too.

I am so glad I get to spend my days with her. She is such a neat kid with big ideas and dreams and imagination! At art class we were asked to make dessert sculptures. Everyone made cupcakes, pies, cake slices, cookies......Lily made a bowl of pudding and added snails to it. That's my girl.

She's always thinking and doing her own thing. She's got that spark and does not see the need to conform to what the other kids at the table are doing. How do I preserve and protect that gift? Nurture it? That question keeps me up at night.

She also asked to take over washing lunch dishes. Yes! Score! However, she'll only do them on her terms. She has to sit on the counter and she wants to use the sink full of soapy water method, not the always running hot water method I use. She says that I am wasting water. True.

Lily is a complicated girl though, she feels so much more love and passion and so much more anger when she's mad. She is a five alarm fire, like this song goes.

Soon she will be nine. I have had her in my heart nearly all my life. She is my dream come true, my prayers answered. Lily is the child that taught me to be a mother and continues to teach me everyday.

I look forward to celebrating nine with her, baking her a peach pie and making soup for dinner. I look forward to reading books, making art, and singing loudly in the car. This year she wants to learn cartography and navigation. Easy enough!

 I still have not figured out the special gift from mama that I give her every year. Suggestions welcome!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The Hungry Caterpillar (aka Tobacco Hornworm)

Lots of children catch caterpillars, lots of families let them keep them in a tank. We do this every year and they often hatch them to butterflies or moths.

What is special about this time isn't the activity. This is first year Isaac has been involved in the activity. Sometimes his physical delays cause us to forget that he is almost three. He is almost three years old. That is so amazing! This day in the photos he spent about 20 minutes watching the caterpillars, he lay on the floor next to the tank, pointing and babbling and cooing while I made lunch. He would walk in and check on them a couple times an hour through the day. He gave them bits of his snacks through the top hole. He even reached in an pet them a few times. The girls set one on his leg and it scared him a little, so they backed off of that.

It was amazing.

In general it is so easy to underestimate the working mind of people with physical disabilities. Holly often reminds us that Isaac is a big boy trapped in a baby's body. He can read. He can count. He can think about things that he can't ask questions about and so we don't think to offer explanations. He is curious.

We also started sign language class last week and it is going very well. He's picking up alphabet signs faster than I am and really loves the music. Lily loves it too, but I think she also enjoys being his assistant in learning at home. His verbal language is coming along too and since he can read about 20 words, we think, I also started putting up large magnet words on the magnet board. Today I told him to get me the word that means Dada but starts with an F. He brought me FATHER and then kissed it. It was adorable.

This experience this week served as a reminder that Isaac is so much more inside than his little body holds him back from. This is why we push forward to make him stronger, braver, and more patient each day. In doing so we are also becoming stronger, braver, and more patient with each other and others.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Farmhouse Kitchen, What's On The Table Tonight

First course: Bacon on a plate.
Anyone helping prepare the meal, set the table, and catch up on dishes got to snack on bacon.
It is a pretty big motivator at our house, especially considering that we have been out of bacon for six weeks. I had to go to Piper's where we have inventory and buy it. Ha!

Second course: Lamb ribs with cider and crabapple honey glaze with spices, salt, and pepper, Snoop Dogs Mashed potatoes courtesy of Martha Stewart, and buttered corn. Pan fried beef ribeye was also on the table. I'll see if I can figure out where I wrote down the glaze and post it later this week.

I wanted to make African Pork Ribs, but we are so low on inventory that I was out of those too. Crazy.  I was worried that lamb ribs would be tiny and not meaty, but I was completely and utterly wrong about that.

Dessert: Peach Pie. Simple Peach Pie. I made a standard All American double crust, the speedy way in the food processor, took 3 pints of home canned peaches (two were brandied peaches), drained them, added 3 T of cornstarch, 2 T raw sugar,  mixed with peaches, cut out strips for a lazy lattice, and a sprinkle of cinnamon on top of the crust. Oven at 425 until bubbly and brown.

I realised that the thing that was off in my pies was the spice. These peaches have so much sweet and flavour that they do not need more sugar and do not need any spices to shine. Shine this pie does, simple, brightly flavoured, the Missouri peaches really brighten the farmhouse kitchen and THIS is why people drive from the coasts, weary, to rest at my table, fork in hand. The world needs more pie like this.

Recipe in detailed pictures to come. I'll have to make another pie. Maybe for Saturday's Apple Pressing party. Cheers!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Super Hero Soup (Hamhock and Beans in a French Pot)

 Little bit of a story first, my kids first looked at their bowls of bean soup with disdain and distrust. They like kidney beans, but all these funky beans, all in one pot? No way. So, I started eating one bean at a time, sharing the back story and the magic of each of the six beans.

1) The ability to sing like an opera star! Ahhhhhhh! LALALALALA! Figaro!
2) Jumping as high as a monkey!
3) Dancing forever!
4) The antidote to magic non stop dancing
5) The ability to sneak like a ninja
6) Super strength silly beans!

The carrots get eaten for night vision, the onion for stinky monster breath, the ham for protein and brain power and strong bones, celery for sonic hearing, and.....apples for good health (protection against monster sneezes).

The gobbled the soup. They asked for seconds. Dinner was hilarious. Easy. Frugal.

Without further ado, I present Super Hero Soup!!!!

 Start by running hot tap water, fill a bowl or pot, and cover the beans in the water by 3x the depth and then cover, set aside.

When they are ready to use they take up all of the water. I let them soak all day until an hour or two before the meal time.

In a separate pot, a crock pot or an oven roaster, place a hamhock and sprinkle with seasoning of choice. Salt, spices, and a bay leaf. Do not forget the bay leaf, it is very important.

 Add 3 stalks of chopped celery. I like to use the leafy greens of celery too. Next 3-4 large carrots chopped into bite size. 1 large onion, 2 medium tomatoes, and 1 gala apple. Any sourish apple will work, but I like gala or braeburn the best.

 Fill the pot with water and roast at 220 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 hours. Low on a crockpot, if that's what you are using.
A good hamhock will have a lot of good, deeply flavoured meat. It is hard to get to when making cuts, but falls of the bone when slow cooked.

This one had two full pounds of perfect, tender ham.

About 2 hours before meal time, drain, rinse, and then add the soaked beans.
Continue to cook until the beans are perfect and tender. 

This makes about sixteen servings. I freeze what our family of five doesn't eat. 

Recipe: Super Hero Soup

1 2lb hamhock
4 carrots
3 celery stalks
1 large onion
1 apple
2 tomatoes
2 cups of bean mix
seasoning and salt
bay leaf

Soak the beans while the meat and veggies simmer all day. 

Cook meat and veggies and spices in a pot of water for about 8 hours at 220 degrees Fahrenheit or in  a crockpot on low. Add the soaked and drained beans 2 hours before serving and finish cooking.

Serve with a hearty French bread or cornbread.

Jump around and be super silly while eating dinner. Savour the smiles, laughter, and sweet joy of children.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Now Is The Part Of The Show Where We All Do Dishes

Food is a huge part of our homeschool. Food is a huge part of our life and lively hood. We farm, we raise meat animals, we educate and hand hold those who are starting the whole/real food adventure.

That means we dirty a lot of dishes. Oh yes we do. The children are big enough to help clean up, even Isaac. There is nothing cuter than when he grabs his cup and walks it to the kitchen sink. He LOVES handing me dirty dishes to wash, gleefully he helps.

I both hate and love my kitchen.
I have huge dreams for the remodel.
Chores for dishes break down like this:
  • Lily is in charge of keeping the under cabinets organised. This serves two purposes, the first is she knows where everything goes (to put away and to get out while cooking) and the second is a lesson is spacial math. How to get everything to fit and have it make sense.
  • Holly is in charge of the spoon drawer. Her job is to put them away, keep it tidy, and bring those to the table at meals.
  • Isaac helps when he can, as he can. He's two.
  • I do a sink load of dishes in the morning after breakfast.
  • Lunch and Supper dishes get washed after the meal, usually by Chad, while I head upstairs to bathe Isaac and get Holly and Isaac into bed if it is that late or they are that tired.I still have to wash all the cups because Chad can't get his hand in them to get them clean. Maybe I need to buy a bottle brush?
  • Lily and I share putting away the clean dishes that go up high. I want Holly to start helping with this, but right now there are too many appliances being used and hot on the counter she would have to stand on.

No dishwasher means we have to keep up on this task. Doing it together, each having responsibility, is awesome.

Chad opened dinner the other night with a monologue about the children not having a maid, and that mama should never be treated as such.

My children do pick up though. In fact, they have a lot of chores. Not paid chores, not assigned chores, but things we all do together to keep our home tidy and nice to be in. Usually the kid working with me on a task is the kid who wants to be and the kid who needs that extra one on one time. I tell them stories if they help me and I am a fantastic storyteller.

In a typical day Lily and Holly gather dirty laundry and take it to the laundry room. They gather eggs, feed the bucket calf, and tidy the media room if they want to watch television or play computer games. Music time requires that room be picked up. The dining room table must be cleaned before every meal or before a major art project comes out. They know this, they do this.

The kids, all three, did most of the work today cleaning this room up.
It was full of toys and instruments. They let me vacuum though. ;)
Their rooms are something else. Lily keeps hers tidy on her own. It is very small so she has to for her own movement sake!

Holly's room gets attended to by me. Holly helps sometimes. Isaac makes the biggest messes in here, so I usually take care of it.

Lily told me recently that she decided that it takes less time to just do what I ask her to than it does to argue about it and that's why she gets her work done quickly and heads outside with Isaac. Works for me, though I have made extra effort to praise her and let her know how needed her work is.

Chad keeps his desk tidy and takes care of all things outside. He works, commutes, comes home to hours of outdoor chores, and still finds time to help with anything I ask him to. He watches the kids while I write, he cleans up dinner, he tidies spaces with us. He does all of this on top of things I cannot help him with. Plus he's intelligent, caring, and handsome. Seriously. I am one lucky lady!

The thing is, I know that this is a blessing. I know that not all households work like ours. I know that even when we all prioritise other things over tidy and clean up, that he will help me catch up. We are almost 15 years into this crazy beautiful marriage and housekeeping is very much not my gift. Recently however, I did two things: I hired someone to essentially teach me how to do it and I started directly asking for help. I try not to get upset when people are unable to help me, not giving them grief about it is my way of being respectful  to their needs. This includes children. I never ask them to drop a game or movie in the middle to help with a task, in exchange they show me the same respect.

Things go a lot more peacefully when I am mindful of this respect. I won't lie and say that I never end up yelling about the left open drawers or the mountain of unfolded clean clothes that takes over my bedroom and threatens Armageddon. I do. I do dramatically, like an angry dragon with a thorn in her side.

Eventually, I put on my super hero belt and tackle that monster. If I have made everyone hate being near me by being nasty and mean to them, then I have to do it alone. If I bring chocolate and promise music and story time, then little heroes and dragons appear by my side, swords in hands.

That's how I prefer to tackle life too, chocolate and music and good stories surrounded by dragons and heroes and peaceful, joyful progress.

If I fall behind on tasks, I have a back up coming with relief supplies. Several back ups, actually. Knowing this alone takes a lot of the stress out of it and that makes a huge difference. 

How do you handle kid chores?

Thursday, 12 September 2013

All Dressed Up

 We have one whole closet dedicated to dress up clothing. I pick up retired dance recital gowns, old prom dresses, post Halloween clearance rack, and odds and ends to round out accessories.

So much of my kids' play requires costuming. I am cool with that. I encourage it. I find that by having a broad range and attire they are more able to explore who they are inside themselves. It is also a gateway to many other things too, like history, sewing, theatre, social norms, and the like.

A day in the life of our homeschooling usually involves mud, costumes, cooking, reading, games, puzzles, sunshine, and jumping and dancing and spinning and swinging. These kids are at the can't sit still stage. I am so glad I can homeschool them so they are not confined to a chair or desk and can learn through play. Some kids learn best sitting still and focusing on one task, mine do not. Mine learn best on the go.

I also let them wear their costumes all year round, out and about. Especially to the grocery store. They get the attention they crave, act like princesses and princes (or pumpkins), and I get the shopping done. Win, win.