Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Life and Death

My most recent post for Today's Frugal Mom still makes me cry three months after writing it.

"Learning happens all the time.  No matter what we are doing in our lives, we are gleaning new information, perfecting past actions, figuring out what will result from our current efforts.  Even when we are doing 'nothing,' our brains are churning thoughts, processing past experiences, and pondering future possibilities.  Life teaches.  It’s what it was created to do.  My husband and I believe life is a better teacher than we will ever be; after all, when a life is lived fully, few important things slip through its 'curriculum.'...”  Continue Reading Here...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sometimes I Don't Want to Write

I want to be a great writer, but I lack the ability to write when I don't know what to write.  Hence, the reason my posts are few and far between, but now that I have committed myself to writing for Today's Frugal Mom. Commited, meaning I have to write something even when I don't have a thing to write.  I'm still not sure how I feel about that.  Something inside of me wants to rebel because it feels forced.  However, I think in the grand scheme it's good for my writing and for me.  Here is my latest post that lacked inspiration:

"Sometimes writing comes easily for me. An idea will pop into my head and it spills out of my mind onto the paper effortlessly. If it’s a piece that brings encouragement or laughter, I think there is nothing I’d rather do than write. Other times it is a painful process. My mind is a blank canvas and there is not an artist to be found; I am at a loss to write something…anything. I’ll jot down a few lines and then cross it out. I’ll write something else, only for it to become a crumpled ball on the floor. Other times, there is a disconnect between my mind and my fingers, and the thought stays trapped in my head. It’s as if the ability to take those thoughts and transform them into a story no longer exists. It can be utterly frustrating and leaves me wondering why I ever thought I could be a writer in the first place.  
Homeschooling is much like this...."  Continue reading here...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Write Stuff

Consistent writing has never been my strong suit.  In an attempt to have some accountability and stretch myself as a writer I began writing monthly for a website, called "Today's Frugal Mom".   It's a great website offering resources and Christian encouragement to moms.  I've linked to the articles I've written for them thus far.

My first attempt was at sharing our new culinary view point.  I don't think that cooking posts are my "cup o' tea", but these vegetarian meatballs prove better than my culinary writing ability any day.

I shared our family's path to discovering our homeschooling style. (Don't worry grandmothers, the kids are learning stuff.)

Brian and I headed to Hawaii for a week and the anxiety. I felt beforehand regarding tsunamis was no different than the fear I feel when I meet more academic-minded families. 

The trip to Hawaii taught me more than how to say, "Hello" and "Thank You".

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Truth in the Uterus

For decades a debate has raged in our country over women's uteri and what they can/should do with them.  I have yet to meet an individual that does not claim allegiance to one side over the other.  Both positions are passionate and have fought to the death for their cause.  The Pro-lifers advocating for the lives of the unborn by explaining that every life has value and that life begins at conception. The other side of the coin, Pro-choice, disputes when life actually begins, contesting that a women's body belongs to no one but herself, and she should have complete authority over what she wants to do with it.  Battling over lives and prerogative, the two sides seem to stand unbending.  Their backers just as resolute in their stance, or at least it seems that way, until  it comes to uteruses like mine, uteruses that have more babies than deemed "normal" by 21st century American culture.  Then some, not all, begin to back away from their steadfastness.

I am currently pregnant with our seventh child.  I haven't really announced it, announced it, until now for a couple of reasons.  First of all, my last pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage and I didn't want to
have to say those words again to those outside of my immediate family.  Telling someone, "I lost the baby," is more difficult than I had ever anticipated.  Secondly, as our family and close friends celebrate with us over our new addition, many do not.  It's exhausting coming up with responses or faking laughter yet again, when strangers and acquaintances alike creatively share their witty comments regarding our sex life, my lack of hobbies, or my ignorance about the facts of life.  Not to mention, it makes me a bit angry that I have to defend my family's size.  Really, I shouldn't have to.  After all, it seems that everyone falls into one of the two "pro" categories.  Yet, the less-than-humorous comments continue and sometimes even out right mean things are said by individuals of both parties that seem to have lost their bias.

As a woman, is it not my right to do with my body what I want to do with my body?  We with larger-than-most families could really go without the "it's a uterus, not a clown car" comments.  If we want to rival Michelle Duggar, shouldn't that be our choice?  Our choice.  Yet the words of some Pro-choice women to a preggo mom with multiple children in tow are as strong as the incense one has been burning or the power in which another grandstands in her corporate heels.  Words that don't mince the belief that birth control is an option that should have been exercised.  If it had been used they assume the world's problems could be avoided, after all we are contributing to the world's  overpopulation, a growing carbon footprint, taking tax dollars for government assistance, and perpetuating the belief that women should be uneducated birthing machines.  At this point, they no longer believe the choice is the individual woman's, it's theirs, because our choice no longer matches what they want for themselves, our gender, or our world.

Having a Pro-life bent myself, I would like to say that my family of soon-to-be seven is celebrated by all on my "side", but it's not.  Often it doesn't appear as offensive, but anyone that can read between the lines, a.k.a., everyone, can see the slight disdain in a curled upper lip.  Although the church-going financial supporter of the local pregnancy center with no more than two Baby Gap attired children would never want a mom to terminate, they are bewildered by a mother who would sacrifice comfort to have gobs of babies.  Her concern for moms of many often revolves around the work of more than the number of children she has and the ability to live as comfortably as she would like. The value placed on life is great as long as it doesn't interfere with her contentment. Do you sense a disconnect?

I'm not saying that everyone needs to have "a lot" of children, what I'm saying is that if you believe life is of value and begins at conception, then you celebrate life. Period.  We don't need to hear that this isn't the life you could handle.  Heck, half the time we can't handle it.  Remind us of the what you believe to be true--every life is a gift and has value.  If you truly believe that a women's body is hers to do as she chooses, but you think she's crazy to have a more than three children, then admire a women who is going against societal norm and embracing the beauty and power of what a women's body can do.  We mamas who make the choice to allow baby blessings in our lives don't need criticism, supposedly funny comments, or even belly rubs (okay, that last one is my own personal preference), what we do need is the truth.  And regardless of what point of view you agree with, to a mom pregnant with her seventh baby, there is truth to be found in both.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What Mommy Wants

The other morning I found the four youngest children huddled around the back door calling in the stray chihuahua, that continues to live with us, and our teacup poodle.
"Mom, there are big dogs out there, over by Max's hutch."
Panic immediately seized me as I imagined large dogs snacking on our smaller canines. This is not what I want to deal with any time, let alone first thing in the morning. I barked for the kids to grab something for me to wield while I slipped on Brynna's flip-flops that everyone was tripping over trying to get a glimpse through the glass door. In my heart I was wishing Brian was not in the shower so that he could handle this. With a Nerf bat placed in my hand by one of the children, I proceeded out the door in sub-freezing temps wearing a wife beater and pajama pants. There were two German Shepherds who looked like they were fresh out of the police academy and a Chow who hadn't been groomed in some time. They were circling our rabbit's home and my presence didn't seem to deter them. If only Brian knew what was going on and could get the pellet gun, I thought. I hadn't grabbed it because it's hidden in our closet and for safety reasons the pellets are housed elsewhere. I wanted it, but this situation demanded immediate action. I began yelling at the dogs waving my bat and hitting it on the ground. They were unfazed by my dramatics. I moved a bit closer demanding they move on and they began to trot off through the field. I had broken the bat during my tirade and so I walked over to the trash can and then circled in the house. I gave the "all clear" when I saw the pack moving in the distance and Keely ran out to comfort Max after such an ordeal. As soon as she reached the hutch, I saw Keely running across the yard and her face spoke of true horror.
"Max is gone! My rabbit is gone," she screamed.
The dogs had ripped off the rat wire and abducted Max from his cage; Keely witnessed the empty aftermath. She continued to scream at the top of her lungs. Not words, just gut-wrenching wails. Never had I heard such a thing. Ryleigh began bawling and Sadie, in complete oblivion to the dismay at hand, added to the chaos of the moment by fake laughing. I ran in my room enraged and trying to explain to Brian what I was doing as I grabbed a sweatshirt and keys . I wanted to find the owners and tell them that their irresponsible pet ownership had broken hearts. I sped out of my drive and down the dirt road. Once I saw one of the German Shepherds with the lifeless body of our sweet Max dangling from his muzzle, I just wanted our bunny back. There was no way they would enjoy the spoils of this war they had waged. I sped ahead of them and jumped out of my truck. I began yelling at the threesome to "drop it" as the alfalfa farmers looked on. They had thrown rocks at the dogs as they had come close by, but the lead dog still held tightly to Max. I deepened my voice and with determination I descended on the dogs. The moment was David-and-Goliath-esque as I boldly walked forward with prayers. The dog dropped Max and I ran to grab a blanket from the back of the truck, warning them not to approach him again. I ran back and snatched up the lifeless body of my Keely's pet. My eyes burned with hot tears as I got back in the vehicle to follow the dogs to their owner. They began to head up the road when a wild rabbit darted from a bush into the brush lining the road. I sat there for a few minutes, but their hunger was greater than my determination to have their owners witness my sorrow. I just wanted to get back and hold Keely. And that's what I did for some time as she cried, wishing her pet was still alive. Jace buried Max that morning in the backyard and Keely and Ryleigh made "moonstones" to adorn his grave. Most of us cried throughout the day as we would remember how much Max loved being out with the chickens, or when we didn't separate some dinner scraps for him, and again when Sadie chanted, "Max is dead!" repeatedly. I was so frustrated that I didn't stop the horror for Max or for my kids. After calming down, I told Brian with resolve that I was buying a small gun that weekend and that this was never happening again. I didn't want to kill anything, but I desired for every stray dog in the neighborhood to fear me and to stay away from all that was mine. I left for work that night melancholy and arrived home to a .22 caliber pellet pistol on my pillow. Ryleigh said, "Do you like your gun? We helped dad pick it out, cuz he said, 'what Mommy wants, Mommy gets.'"
Yesterday Brynna came running in the house from being in the coop with her chickens. She breathlessly told me there was yet another German Shepherd on the property. I grabbed my gun and pellets. I placed the silver blunt bullet in the chamber, pumped the gun several times, released the safety, lined the dog up in the sight, and taking a deep breath I pulled the trigger. Even though I didn't hit the dog, Mommy got what she wanted as the sound of the pellet whizzing through the air got him running in the opposite direction. R.I.P Max.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Earache Bellyacher

Vance is sick. Like others with an over abundance of testosterone, he wants the world to know of his suffering. So I thought I'd share of mine as well.

It began last night approximately an hour after I fell fast asleep.
Sadie came in and woke me up, "Mom, Vance wants you.  He's sick."
After a few seconds of trying to become coherent and distinguishing between dreams and reality, I heard the howls of Vance calling my name.
I groggily made my way down the hallway tripping over an overturned chair, a life-sized scarecrow lady the kids made earlier in the evening to scare Jace, and at least 3 mate-less shoes.  The sailor in my mind began to rear his head as I stepped on an upside heel while feeling my way to the little one's room. Regardless of the children each having their own bed to sleep on, the four youngest all tend to join one another in the queen size bed in the girl's room, and last night was no different.  In the far corner of the bed, Vance was flailing and calling my name in a voice that woke all of his bed mates.

"Buddy, what's wrong," I asked.
"My head hurts, I want cough medicine right now," he demanded.

I tried to calm and shush him, while reassuring the others they could go to sleep.  His story changed from his head, to his teeth hurt, to he just needed a drink.  With a sippy cup of water by his head and I was on my way to bed.  Hunkering down in a nice warm bed after walking the gauntlet created by six kids in a chilly house is just this side of heaven.  It didn't last long.  In fact, it lasted 45 minutes.  Just enough time for me to drift off to sleep to be awakened by screeching.  I grabbed my sweatshirt and shuffled up the hall to avoid another dress-up shoe puncture, wondering to my myself why I didn't clear the way the first time.  Vance was bellowing his unhappiness for all to hear; we moved to the couch in hopes of muffling his cries from his siblings.  Sadie who was very concerned after witnessing the commotion, followed us to the living room.  Vance was irked by her mere presence and began a verbal assault on his little sister.  She was beside herself and began to bawl while Vance continued his tirade.  To say I felt overwhelmed at this point, would be the biggest understatement of my life.  I wanted to join in.  I wanted to cry like Sadie from exhaustion, frustration, and fear that other unhappy children would soon join us and I wanted to lash back at Vance for his ungrateful attitude directed at those who were concerned for him.  I kept it together though and bribed Sadie to leave the room with the promise of a morning lollipop.  Vance's voice lowered to a decibel that no longer made my eardrums throb after his sister was back in bed and it was just him and me on the sofa in the light of our pellet stove.  I tried to assess his symptoms, but they continued to change.  The common thread was his head, so I opted to give him pain medicine in hopes of being able to find sleep on a night that was beginning to seem like it was lasting forever.  I laid with him for a bit as he listed off complaints from the day and his current dissatisfaction with feeling ill.  After a while he wanted to go back to bed.  I obliged, because I wanted to too.  Three more times he repeated the pattern, of letting me sleep just an hour before caterwauling me out of dreamland, alternating his grievances of "I need a drink" and "my teeth hurt." I felt helpless not knowing how to soothe him as my eyelids drooped lower and my impatience grew higher.  He yelled for band-aids to hold since he didn't know where to place them on his body and had screaming-induced coughing fits, but finally sleep seemed to reach Vance's sleepy eyes.  I excitedly slipped back between a layer of blankets.

"Moooooommmm!  Moooooommmmmyyyy!"

For freakin' real?!?! A half an hour?  I demanded that he leave the girl's bed and come to the couch again.  He begrudgingly joined me.  This time he said his ears hurt.  Finally, something I knew how to treat.  I got out 1 tsp. sesame oil and a clove of garlic, warmed it up and put it in a dropper while listening to him spew a litany of complaints about how bad he feels and how slow I was at getting him relief.  He complained about there being too much light, there not being enough light, his ears hurting, and not liking the how the medicine felt as it dripped in to soothe his aching ear.  I couldn't win for trying. In the past this home remedy has worked wonders, but I was afraid that he would call me again from the sleep I desired more than life.  I found myself wishing I could have someone else come and care for this  crotchety old man in my little boy's body, because he was unbearable!  The sweet baby who would sleep in my arms when he didn't feel well couldn't possibly be this cantankerous kid.  I was DONE and needed back-up.  Then it dawned on me, actually I believe Jesus allowed me this epiphany to save both Vance and myself, and I called the best babysitter I know. Nick Jr.!  He arrived at the touch of a button and Vance was in a trance as he watched an episode of some mind-numbing sing-songy show.  Bad mother?  Possibly.  But I didn't care, because this mom was not nearly as bad as the one I would have been if I had woken up one more time before the 6:30 alarm went off.  And Nick Jr. did an excellent job, like I knew he would.  Vance was asleep when I got up and when he woke up 3 hours after that he didn't have a complaint to speak of--until he wanted breakfast and his cereal was MIA.

"Why do you never buy my favorite cereal anymore," he whined.  Such is life with my four-year-old Vance...

Nick Jr., a band-aid, and a plastic snake bring sleep

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Fine Feathered Friends

My oldest daughter Brynna and the childhood version of myself have many similarities.  Brynna is hilarious delivering impromptu impersonations and one-liners, has a love-it-wear-it mentality when it comes to fashion, writes or draws in her spare time, talks incessantly, and adores animals. She's a regular chip off the old block!  My parents were kind enough to affirm my sometimes quirky personality and foster my passions, especially when it came to animals.  They allowed me to have numerous dogs, cats, parakeets, finches, rabbits, sheep, turtles, chickens, and a goat. Now granted, I didn't have these all at one time, but any time a parent allows a child to have a pet it requires sacrifice of funds or time on their part. I realize this now.  Treasuring what my parents lovingly did for me and thinking they were more than a bit insane, I try to follow their example. As it stands now in our house we have three dogs (one of which is a stray still looking for a home 3 months after finding him), a turtle, and a rabbit, but we have had fish, rats, lizards, and snakes too. Brynna recently approached me about extending our family and asked if she would be allowed to get chickens. She wanted to raise them for eggs and after extensive reading about training chickens she wanted to teach them to do tricks too. Although I was wearing my best poker face, as to not give away my position on the subject, I can't describe to you the excitement that welled up inside of me.  As a young girl I had a special affinity for a chicken, an affection for a pet chanticleer. If this were a movie, right now you'd see Brynna leaning against the counter batting her eyes in an effort to sway my decision, me standing in the kitchen with my head tilted up and a distant look on my face, haphazardly drying my hands on a damp dish towel, and the fuzzy white memory bubble appearing right in line with my gaze...

...I was raised in a rural area and I had no neighbors my own age to play with, to compensate for the lack of companionship, animals were my surrogate friends. We had a flock of hens and roosters when I was very young, but none of them connected with me the way a young Leghorn rooster named Cutie Pie did.  I don't remember how I obtained the cockerel, but he was young and I filled his need for a mother hen and he mine for a best friend.  If I was home, that chicken was with me, often in my arms being carried around like  a baby doll onto my adventures.  One of the most cherished things I would do with Cutie Pie was to play my favorite pretend game,"Army."  This consisted of me painting my face green with my mom's eyeshadow, dressing in the camouflage outfit I had gotten from the Easter Bunny, placing Cutie Pie on the back porch to give myself a head start, and then I would take off running at full-speed.  I would sprint into the woods behind our house and hide under bushes and brush in an attempt to hide from my "enemy."  There I would wait, lying on my belly on the ground, holding my breath, waiting to see if he could find me.  Within minutes of taking cover he would bound onto the scene, as fast as a chicken can run, jumping sticks, looking for any sign of me.  Once he slowed he would become vocal, cocking his head from side to side, and sure enough that chicken would find me faster than any  bloodhound.  As perfect as Cutie Pie was for me, he had a serious fault.  His loyalty was only for me and he could tolerate no one else in his world.  He would attack our friends when they would come to visit, especially those carrying pocketbooks.  It was something that could be overlooked for a while, since we didn't have many visitors come to our neck of the woods.  I would ward off his aggression by picking Cutie Pie up or walking with our guests to keep him from them.  Gradually he began to turn on my siblings and parents, they told me something had to be done.  My parents contacted one of our friends who had a farm about 5 miles away.  They agreed to take my combative male, giving him the run of the farm and a flock of hens to keep in line.  I was relieved he wouldn't be on someone's dinner table, but was heartbroken over my loss none-the-less.  We took my Cutie Pie and dropped him off at his new residence.  With a gigantic barn, pastures, and lots of dairy cows, surely it had to be any chicken's dream home. I made plans to visit Cutie Pie, but within days of his arrival he hatched a plan of escape and ran away.  I wanted to believe he was running to find me. Maybe his little chicken mind thought it was just another game of Army.   I  expected that one day I would be in my yard playing, there in the distance would my beautiful white bird with his noble red comb leaping obstacles to get to me.  Alas, it never happened...

This is where the bubble disappears and I wipe a tear from my eye.  While keeping my composure, I told her that I would talk with her father, but it would mean a lot of work to get the yard chicken-ready and I didn't know if we could get the money together for a coop.  However, in my head I'm knowing this is going to happen even if I have to build the coop my dang self and sell half my possessions on ebay.  Brian, as I expected, was a bit more reluctant than I about adding to our menagerie and the work it would mean for us parents.  Neither one of us are chicken virgins, his family raised them too.  We realized there was work involved, but now that we are re-evaluating how and what we eat, he eventually agreed...or maybe I just took his silence to mean yes.  Either way, Brynna is expecting the arrival of 15 fuzzy baby chicks this Friday.  She is so excited. I'm excited too.  I can't wait to hold a chicken in my arms again, hear their peeps and clucks,  and even more so to see the relationships my children are going to make with their own feathered friends.

Here is a picture my sister Karen took of Cutie Pie and me in 1987 (age 11).

Also I'm on Twitter tweeting, soon to be clucking, about life, kids, food, and chickens.  lifeXthehandful

Sunday, January 6, 2013

I'm Afraid We Can No Longer Meat Like This

Growing up in a small farming town just south of the Mason Dixon line, I saw and visited many farms in my youth.  I'll even admit to you that I enjoy the smell of cow manure on a summer morning.  Birds and cicadas singing, dew on the royal blue Bachelor's Buttons and grass, and cow manure in the air is a sweet memory etched in my mind.  I don't expect those of you who didn't grow up in a rural area to understand; and maybe those of you who did don't share my olfactory senses, but it's something I long for to this day.  You see, I always wanted to be a farmer.  I wanted the lifestyle where hard work in duck boots was a must, but there was a simplicity that filled the days.  As an adult I daydream about it.  If I ever have a far-off look in my eye, I'm walking between my farm house built in the 1800s and my stone and brick-red barn. 

My fondness for farm life left me with an idyllic picture of where our food was grown and raised which has now been destroyed by my penchant for documentaries. Our family loves documentaries; even the young ones will sit on the couch and enjoy a vicarious glimpse into someone's life or an unknown process. Since I began working part time in the evenings last year, Brian has been watching a ton of food docs without me. He fills me in on the details of the films when I get home and I am always shocked by the information. Commenting on the injustice is where it stopped with me. His words were alarming, but not revolutionary. I continued to eat "normally" turning a blind eye to the stories he had shared, but Brian wanted change. I finally agreed about six months ago to no longer cook dinners at home with meat. This was huge sacrifice on my part since I love burgers and the mere thought of chicken tacos makes me salivate. It has been a hard adjustment, to say the least, since I was raised believing that it wasn't a meal unless there was meat served. I didn't have a reference point for the new meal planning that needed to be done, thank goodness for the internet! However, not being able to recognize half the ingredients listed on some of the vegetarian websites was frustrating and I was easily discouraged. Over time I found a few good recipes, but our meals no longer held the variety of our omnivore days. We would go to a restaurant I would order the real deal meat without a second thought. I figured that limiting my meat intake was beneficial enough and I could enjoy a bacon burger every now and again. That was until...Vegucated.

I watched a food documentary called Vegucated that showed not only the health benefits of a vegan diet, but also looked at the treatment of animals on the "farms" that raise the meat we eat...and it rocked my world! The neighborhood farms of my youth are unfortunately not the ones supplying my food. The local 4-Her is not raising their steer for In n' Out, rather huge corporations and government have stripped the definition of farming down and all that remains are dollar signs and inhumane practices. Animals are being abused for our culinary pleasure, people! My mind immediately thought about all the times I never got around to browning the ground turkey in my fridge and it went in the trash. At that moment I realized a turkey raised in a grossly overcrowded barn, that endured having his beak cut off, died in vain. I was sickened. One video turned me from Farm proponent to PETA avenger overnight. The thing that sealed the deal for me were the pigs in the film. Being around animals I know how intelligent pigs are and to see the situations they were exposed to, broke my heart. You could actually see the fear in their reactions. Bewildered by my oblivion all these years left me with the realization that I can no longer in good conscious eat meat.

This is part of the reason I have taken up the proverbial pen again. To share our story. To be honest I have a crazy mess of feelings going on. I'm mourning the thought of no longer eating burgers. It sounds dumb, I know, but it's a real feeling going on inside my head. I'm afraid I'll fail too. I mean, can lazy vegetarian moms even exist? Is this one of my phases, like the time I stopped shaving my legs to take a stand against men's preferences in our U.S. culture? That lasted only 2 months before I bought a new Bic and looked less French. Will I waiver and think, "Pigs aren't that smart. Please pass the bacon?" I certainly hope I've matured past my fickleness, but I've done it in the past making it a possibility in the present. This movie has made me think I shouldn't wait for my dream farm, but I should begin to move toward the ideal I remember of neighboring farmers. Self sufficiency, kindness, stewardship, and meeting the needs of others through abundance. It makes sense. It probably won't be as I envision it, but little in this life is. As I attempt to blog again you can witness my failures, my attempts, and hopefully my successes as I try to change how I feed my large family.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

It's been almost a year since my last post.  I'm not very consistent with posting as it is, but the real reason for my long absence in writing was been because of the comments regarding my Debbie-Downer-like-posts.  I had a melancholy few months, okay make that several months, and when I blogged about it, it was met with less than positive comments so I stopped.  I'm a wimp that way.  I can't take criticism, hence why I'm not a very good or productive writer.  However, the sun has come out in my world and although I might not have the most upbeat posts in the world I'm ready to begin...yet again.  I'll be posting some things I wrote a while ago that I was too chicken to publish.  I hope you enjoy, but if you don't try to be kind.