Posts Tagged With: Family

Peach Picking 2011

I finally got some of our peach pictures sorted through.  We had such a fun time picking this year.

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We’re quite lucky the Bracken’s don’t weigh us before and after leaving the orchard… I think E ate his weight in peaches!

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Categories: Food, Simple Living | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

What We’ve Been Up To…

Sorry for the lack of posts lately.  We’ve been up to a lot.  We spent some time pulling weeds, trimming hedges, cleaning up the flower beds and mowing this weekend too, but I didn’t get a picture.  This is very sad, because it was the first time Rick used the new push mower!   Other garden news – the sunflowers and okra I planted are up and should make a nice screen soon.  But between all the projects, I’ve been pretty exhausted and have had weird hip-nerve-fire-stabbing pain going on my right side.  Because of that, I’ve been spending the boys’ nap time (my usual blog writing time) napping myself.  38 weeks pregnant and counting.  Here are some pictures of what we’ve been up to over the last couple weeks.  As always, click to view larger.

The tree stump came out:

 

The garden is growing:

 

The rest of the basement got “finished”:

The nursery got a few more touches:

 

 

Baby’s ETA is any time now.  I was 12 days early with E, and although I know I can’t count on a repeat of that goodness, I can still hope.  You can bet there will be pictures.  ;)

Categories: DIY, Garden, Hugelkultur, Simple Living | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Conquering Fears: Homeschooling, Josie and Postpartum Depression

Sometimes you begin writing about one thing, and it turns into something totally different.  Be prepared, this is a more personal post for me than I’ve written in a long while. And it’s long.  While it started as an intro to us beginning our homeschooling journey, it became more about my fears all last year, where I was at (since I was not blogging) and where I think we’re headed(?).

The idea of homeschooling has been discussed in our household for the last four and a half years.  Since we had H, in other words.  Rick was all for it from the beginning.  Me, on the other hand, as the one who would be doing the “home teaching,” I’ve been unsure.

We can see a lot of benefits of homeschooling.  One of the biggest draws for us is that our kids can move at their own pace, and hopefully will always be able to be challenged and not bored.  Boredom, I think, is one of the worst things that can happen in education.  I know it really made school tough for me, especially in high school when we were graded on attendance, regardless of test scores.

A big drawback/fear in homeschooling has been whether I can actually teach our kids.  I’m pretty type A.  Take for example the time that we did a craft project at E’s birthday party and three year old H started putting the stickers (a sun, some clouds) at the bottom of his project instead of the top.  I started to correct him (the sun and clouds go in the sky, of course), when my sister, who is a preschool teacher, shot me the relax-and-let-him-do-it-you-crazy-control-freak look, wherein I promptly backed off.  Quite literally.  I had to leave the project table to prevent myself from squashing his creativity.  I have to constantly remind myself that he is perfectly within his rights to color an alligator purple instead of green – without comment from me. The fear is that I will crush their creativity out of them and turn them into neurotic perfectionists or something.

Oddly, my fear has never been about socialization.  That question just never made sense to me.  We socialize with all kinds of people now, and I don’t anticipate that changing, no matter what kind of education our kids get.  I also have always thought the structure of public school – where everyone is the same age together, is a little odd.  As an adult, you have to work with and live with people of all age groups, and meet them where they are at.

When we put H in preschool one day a week last summer, he started coming home with all kinds of new behaviors, habits and sayings.  Some of which were fun and cute (new songs, funny phrases), but the majority of them went from annoying (nose picking)  to down right against what we’ve been working for four years to teach (foot stomping, talking back, fit throwing).  Of course, some of those behaviors happen naturally at certain ages, but when my veggie loving four year old tells me he doesn’t like spinach (when I know for a fact he loves the stuff) and I ask him why, he says “Sam always says that – he doesn’t like vegetables.”  I find myself cursing little Sam and having to hear for weeks now about all the things H “doesn’t like” even though he goes right on eating them.  Annoying and now a habit that we have to try to change.

Of course that’s a minor example.  There have been words we have to talk about not using, even though friends at school use them and behaviors (like that foot stomping).  And it was helpful that my sister taught in the next classroom and could provide us with insights like, oh that Brady kid, he always throws fits when he doesn’t get his way… fits that look oddly similar to the ones H’s suddenly trying on for size.  This is not the socialization I’m loving.  I feel like that forces us to do more damage control than teaching.

One thing that has been extremely helpful to me in aiding our decision to start homeschooling has been the great variety of people we met at the farm that home school – all different reasons, shapes, sizes, etc.  Some un-school, some follow a curriculum put out by the state, some do it for religious reasons.  They all look different, but they all have a few things in common.  Their kids are getting educated, they are well spoken, polite and very well behaved.  And they have no problem conversing with both adults and the littlest kids on the farm.  These were never the kids that I had problems with H being around (like the kid to wanted to torture toads, the liar, or the one who pushed him down in the sandbox every week).

But, even with all these great and different examples before me, I still felt uncertain.  All last year, I really struggled as a parent.  I had major symptoms of postpartum depression (or maybe just depression?), but not the more morose symptoms, I had the angry, raging symptoms.  It was part of the reason we put H in preschool that one day per week.  So I (and he) could get some tiny break and maybe take a nap once in a while.  I was completely overwhelmed with life and parenting, and the idea of adding homeschooling to our lives was nearly enough to send me over the edge.  I felt like my sanity was hanging by a thread as it was.  I was taking supplements, trying to get out of the house and get some sunshine, trying to exercise, I even went to see a therapist twice.  I was praying a lot.  Mostly not to mess up my kids and that love would cover over everything – God’s love, since mine was not that apparent, though it was there, buried under all the rage.  I knew breastfeeding hormones were contributing, but I wasn’t about to cut E off, and I didn’t want to be on medication.

One very helpful resource for me during this time was my friend, Annie.  She is a doctor and married to a doctor and home schools four kids and has a real life and is honest and kind and genuine.  She invited me to her house and to the zoo a couple times last summer.  She shared bits of her homeschooling journey with me, and was a gentle listener as I lamented feeling alone and far from all my friends and scared of messing my kids up.  I met her at the farm our first year and I wish we lived closer to each other.

When I got pregnant unexpectedly 31 weeks or so ago, I was totally freaked.  I was overwhelmed with two kids and felt almost paralyzed with fear at the thought of adding a baby to the mix.  But a good thing happened then too.  See, when I’m pregnant, I have to eat an insane amount of food to counter the insane amount of barfing that comes with my pregnancies.  I realized that food was the thing I had been missing for all those months of anger and depression.  Not that I wasn’t eating – I love food and I was eating.  But I wasn’t eating enough.  I realized my habits went from a tiny rushed breakfast at around 7:00 to waiting until 2:00 when both boys were napping before I carb-loaded myself with lunch.  Then dinner (the only real balanced meal I had everyday) around 6:30.  This was not enough food to sustain anyone, let alone a breastfeeding mom.  No wonder I was crabby all the time.  Not to say that this was the only reason for the depression, but so much was relieved when I changed that pattern.  I just didn’t see it until I HAD to eat more, being pregnant.

Another big change happened when I got pregnant.  We finally realized we could no longer put off the bad situation we were in with Josie.  Poor Josie.  Our wonderful, horrible, funny, crazy, ill-behaved mutt.  Things were never easy with Josie.  She had food allergies that caused us to spend unreasonable amounts of money on her diet and separation anxiety that destroyed so much of our house and the apartment we had before it.  She was ridiculously athletic, able to jump our six-foot privacy fence in pursuit of a squirrel… and she did this with some regularity.  She was not good at socializing with other dogs, although we did all the right things when she was a puppy.  And she didn’t like sharing us with the boys.  Add to it the fact that at eight years old, her hips were really, finally hurting her, and we had a one-year-old with a toddler’s balance that could (and would) easily fall on her while she laid in her bed by the couch.  She growled at E every time he came near her.

One day, E fell on her back legs and she snapped at him.  All of this added up to a dog that was unhappily chained in the back yard when she was outside (so she wouldn’t jump the fence) and being shooed around the house from basement to kitchen amid a tangle of baby gates when inside (so she wouldn’t have to be afraid of getting fallen on and hurting her legs).  It wasn’t working anymore.  She was miserable, we were stressed.  After months of me “jokingly” asking our neighbor if he wanted Josie, he wisely suggested that maybe we should honestly look at either finding her a new home or putting her down.

I don’t think I would have heard anyone else.  He told us that he knew we were worried about her biting one of the kids and that it wasn’t worth the risk.  And he even offered to take her to the pound for us.  I am very thankful for his frankness in a really tough situation.  I cried and he brought us smoothies.

It was still a few months before we decided to actually do something.  I loved Josie, and I didn’t want to be one of “those people” who treated their dog like a child until they had kids and then just tossed the dog to the wayside.  But we were in a holding pattern with her and no one at all was happy.  We couldn’t risk a bite to one of the kids, not to mention the fact we now had another on the way and we couldn’t possibly ask Josie to wait out one more toddler.

We went round and round with trying to find her a new home, versus a shelter, versus putting her down.  We really felt like we were asking a lot of anyone to adopt an eight year old dog with hip problems, food allergies, separation anxiety, who liked to roam and that could not be with other dogs, cats or kids.  We really felt that no matter what, in the end, she’d end up in a shelter at least once, but most likely multiple times, finally getting put down.  I couldn’t bear the thought of her thinking we abandoned her and then having her put down by strangers regardless of how we tried.  We decided to put her down ourselves, out of respect for her… she’d never have to be frightened in a shelter and we’d be with her until the end.

We should have done it right away after making this decision, but by then it was only a couple weeks until Christmas and we wanted to wait until afterward (I don’t really know why, looking back now).  So I spent that few weeks, incessantly crying and questioning whether we were making the right decision or not.  We tried to make the last few weeks extra special for her – spoiling her with every kind of food and table scrap and letting her on the furniture.  Then Rick took her and we switched roles.  Now he cried and questioned.

Oddly though, as soon as it was over, a huge weight was lifted from me.  I was suddenly much more patient with the boys and I realized I was yelling a whole lot less.  We were all happier, even though we all missed having our dog.  I’d like to get a dog again at some point (Rick says when the new baby is around two we’ll talk), but I have large reservations about it even then.

Now, I was missing H on his school days too.  It was nice to have extra time with just E, but I dreaded the two days recovery H would need after his school day to get back into our routine.  And we realized that his school’s new curriculum was not teaching anything to help him prepare for kindergarten.

Additionally, he missed the cutoff for being able to start school in 2011 because his birthday is in November.  I have huge reservations about holding him back a whole year based solely on his birth date.  The school district we live in is one of the worst in the state, and when I called to get info about School of Choice to enroll him out of district, I was basically laughed at for wanting him tested to see if he was ready for kindergarten early and wanting him to go out of district.  The people I talked to were condescending, rude and impersonal.  I couldn’t help but wonder why these are the same people who are always harping on the socialization question for homeschoolers.

I got off the phone and cried to my mom about not being able to put H through all the drama and cog-making that I saw happening in public schools.  Once, Annie shared on her blog about how the neighbor kids “learned to stand in line” on the first day of school.  Barf.

So Rick and I decided that I’d home school H for kindergarten.  We figured it’s a year “early” for him to start anyway, so if it doesn’t work, we can always have him repeat kindergarten in public school (or private or charter?).  And, maybe I’d find that I liked it.  I already had plenty of friends from the farm doing it, offers to join home school groups, etc.  I feel pretty supported in the decision.

And I feel good mentally and emotionally.  I’m a little afraid of what it will be like with three kids.  A little afraid the postpartum will come back and bite me again.  But I do know that I learned a lot last year, and Rick did too.  And we’re planning on being proactive on that front this time around. And I’m taking joy in my kids instead of just trying to manage.

All in all, I’m excited to start school with H this year.  And for what the future holds for all of us, including the new little baby who helped clue me into what was wrong with me and nudged us towards taking care of things that needed taken care of – no matter how hard they were.

Categories: Community | Tags: , , , , | 15 Comments

Summertime Top Five

To me, this weekend is the official kick off for summer.  To celebrate, here are my top five favorite things about the upcoming season!

Sun-warmed tomatoes, straight from the garden.  We have thirteen varieties this year.  I truly, truly can’t get enough.

Farmers markets  Even though we have a big garden and a CSA membership, I really love strolling around a Saturday farmers market.  We always come home with a treasure.  Like the time we bought five kinds of mushrooms – just because.  Or some late-season strawberries that we had eaten practically before we left the stall.  Amazing breads, greens to die for, radishes in the colors of the rainbow.  And all the varieties of squash at the end of the season.  Such an adventure.

Dining alfresco  Whether an impromptu picnic lunch with the kiddos, a late-night backyard BBQ with friends or an everyday dinner on the back patio.  Eating outside is fun.  Bonus points for cooking outside too.  Sun tea, s’mores, and grilled corn on the cob to name a few.  Through some experimentation, we’ve managed to grill a few somewhat unusual things too, like pizza, biscuits and peach cobbler.

The Fourth of July  I love, love, love the fourth.  A BBQ with friends, sparklers and spinners with the kids, popsicles, watermelon, staying up late.  One year (2005) we saw fireworks from the beach with our friends in San Diego.  Last year it rained, so the neighbor invited us all to pile into his Volkswagen Bus.  We drove to an empty parking lot, popped the top and watched the fireworks display through the window of the top bunk.  We’re hoping for a repeat (with or without the rain) this year.  Every year, I can’t wait to get my patriot on.

Bare-feet and Line-dried Clothes  Ok… I know it’s really two things.  But I love being barefoot in the cool grass.  I’d run around barefoot everywhere if I thought I could get away with it.  And I love the smell of line-dried clothes in the summer time.  Particularly sheets.  We hang clothes to dry throughout the year, but laundry that’s been crisped by the summer sun and kissed by a warm breeze is just better.

What are your favorite things about summer?

Categories: Garden, Simple Living, Top 5 | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Mother’s Day Big Brag

Wow!  Happy belated Mother’s Day!  Here’s my official brag about how great my family is and what a great weekend we had on the homestead.  This weekend I had requested to get the garden planted.  The plan was for me to spend Saturday with my mom and sister while Rick and the boys went with his mom to the botanic gardens, and for us to plant the garden on Friday after Rick was home from work and on Sunday.

On Friday, we planted corn, onions, and carrots with the neighbor and put in our tomatoes.  But Friday night, we got a call that our friend, Chris, had caught a swarm of bees for us, and another call that the CSA asparagus was ready to pick.

Some things just don’t wait.  So on Saturday morning, while the guys were at the botanic gardens with Grandma, my mom and sister came over here for bunch, and Chris brought us the swarm.

The bees we had last year left in the fall, we’re not sure why.  We think either the queen died or left since there were bees milling around aimlessly for a week or two before they were all gone.  There were no dead bees, just gone.  Last year’s swarm was also much smaller and our friend caught it later in the season while we were out of town.  He had installed them for us then, so this was the first time I got to experience putting bees into the hive, and Chris walked me through it.  My mom got to watch ME put the bees into the hive (and took pictures for us!).

These new bees were pretty cranky, they had been in the box for a couple days and were hungry and thirsty.  It took me three good tries to get the majority of them in the hive and get the bars on the top.  My initial trial of things, they sort of swarmed around my head and clung to the gloves I was wearing.  But they seemed to calm down significantly in a few minutes and I was able to knock the majority of the rest of them into the hive and get the bars on top without any trouble.  I was really surprised at how they clung to the box, and also how quickly they just took to the hive.

We put them in with the old comb that last year’s bees had left behind (we’re pretty certain there were no mites or diseases), and they settled down fairly quickly.  Many bees zoomed off to the water and sugar-water we had out for them, but others went to the entrance of the hive and started fanning their wings to spread the queen’s pheromones so the remaining bees in the box and the air (there were still quite a few) would come on in and start making the new hive their home.  It was really exciting and I’m sad Rick missed it again.

Then, it was back to brunch with the girls for me.  It was a really nice time (I made lavender pound cake and my sister made yummy pecan-dark chocolate scones).  When Rick and the boys got home, we headed up to the farm to pick asparagus.  It took us less than forty-five minutes to pick a good 25 pounds before we trimmed it all up.  It came out to about 14 pounds of asparagus, processed and frozen, plus some to eat fresh this week.

Sunday, for some unknown reason I woke up super early, before any of the guys rolled out of bed.  When they got up around 6:45, they gave me some sweet cards and kisses, and promised to build me a picnic table next week!  We got dressed and they took me out to Snooze (one of my favorite places) for breakfast.  Afterward, we came home and started up more planting work.

We did the boys’ hugelkultur bed first.  H planted watermelon, carrots (two kinds) and tomatoes (an heirloom red cherry and a “white” cherry that will actually be yellow).  The boys got a new real shovel and special, colored tomato cages.  My mom always said she wouldn’t be a mother without me, and I sort of feel the same about my boys, so they get treats on mother’s day too).  E ran around the hugelkultur while Rick scrambled to make barriers to keep him from trampling the seeds.

It was nap time before we knew it, and Rick and I spent the afternoon putting up asparagus (Rick did most the work), and planting out the rest of the main garden bed.  By the evening I had gotten plans for my new picnic table, an order placed for the grub hoe I’ve been lusting over, a [nearly] fully planted garden bed, four kinds of basil in my flower beds, a delicious sunburn on my shoulders, a home-made dinner with fresh asparagus, and a perfect day with my guys.  Lucky me!

I hope your Mother’s Day weekend was just as special as mine was!  What did you do?

Categories: Beekeeping, Food, Garden, Hugelkultur | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Cleaning Up the Toilet

Around this place we are always taking steps, some big and some small, to try to live greener.  We have an old house, build in 1925.  I’m not sure when the plumbing was redone, but our toilet seems newish – for a house built in 1925.  It’s a normal toilet, 1.6 gallons per flush (average, now days, I think), no dual flush or anything fancy.

In a small effort to conserve water we have, in the past, put a brick in the tank, but this resulted in the toilet not having enough oomph to flush when it was really needed.  We took the brick out.  Then we tried the “when it’s yellow, let it mellow, when it’s brown, flush it down” method of saving water.  But this resulted in much more toilet cleaning.  Either because we have super-pee or because of Colorado’s hard water.  But we were getting a dark ring in the toilet that way, so we’ve nearly abandoned it, except first thing in the morning and last whiz before bed, when Rick and I will both go before we flush.

Now we’re considering collecting grey water from the shower and the boys’ baths to use to flush.  Our shower-head for sure wastes a lot of water, and the bath faucet drips while the shower is going, so I think we could easily put a dish pan or bucket in the shower and collect enough water for the day’s toileting.  Then when we went, we’d just dump the water from the tub into the pot and watch it go down.  At least that water would get “used” twice. I’ve never tried this, but it seems good in theory.

Or we could, eventually, spring for a fancy dual-flush toilet.  But then we have to figure out what to do with the old one – recycle it?  And really a new toilet is not in the budget and is pretty far down on the list of things that need replacement or repairs in this place. Or they make conversion kits but I heard they don’t work well and they cost nearly as much as a new pot.

Any advice or ideas?  Have you ever tried using grey water to flush?  What do you do to conserve water in the bathroom?

Categories: Sustainability | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Getting Back on the Menu Planning Wagon

Ack – the day is almost over (at least nap time is almost over) and I’m just now sitting down to post for the week!  So it’s a simple and short one.

One of my other goals for 2011 is to get back on that menu planning wagon again.  I’ve written about planning menus many-a-time before, and it really does save time, money and sanity, as well as usually results in healthier and tastier meals for the family.  I don’t know exactly why I stopped planning menus last year.  Or when, for that matter.  BUT I have seen our budget take a hit.  Usually in the summer we have so much food around that much goes to waste if we’re not careful to plan what to eat and what to store.  But in the winter, I’m often lazy and forget to get things down from the freezer or wait to go shopping until our house is mistaken for Old Mother Hubbard’s.

This week, as I was helping Rick make the grocery list (he’s been shopping AND cooking while I’ve been gestating), I realized that I was finally sick of the “what’s for dinner tonight” question that one or both of us asks every night.   This week’s menu is pretty simple.  I used some example menus from one of the magazines I subscribe to.  But it’s not cheating.  It’s just getting the ball rolling again.  Here’s what’s on the docket for the week:

Tonight: Spicy Black Bean Soup
Tomorrow: Potato-onion Frittata
Wednesday: Mushroom and Black Bean Tortilla Casserole
Thursday:  Butternut Squash Pasta Bake
Friday: Orechetti with Spicy Bacon-Tomato Sauce
Saturday: Pheasant Noodle Soup

On Sunday, we are celebrating Rick’s thirtieth birthday by going out for barbecue and bowling with friends.  I’m excited about this, since it’ll be a fun night out.  For my birthday, my mom is taking me to see Riders in the Sky on Friday.  I can not contain my excitement!  I’ve been a fan since I was a kid!  Yee-Haw!

Categories: Food, Menu Planning, Simple Living | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Stop Swallowing Watermelon Seeds and Other Goals for 2011

I may look like this soon.

So twelve weeks (plus or minus a bit) ago, I swallowed a watermelon seed.  This Friday we should be able to hear the heartbeat.  Yep, you read that right.  We are knocked up with number three here.

I was going to post those pictures that women take showing their growing belly, and I thought it’d be fun to take one every few weeks or so, so you could all see the progress.  But then my higher reasoning kicked in and said – Uh, it’s just not as cute the third time, and really does everyone want to see that, and most importantly, do you really think you can handle that type of commitment and level of laughter?

So you get my artistic rendering here instead.

We are excited, and well into the figuring-out-where-exactly-we’re-going-to-put-another-one phase.  We are planning another home birth, and despite everyone’s urging, we will be perfectly happy with another boy.  Three was not exactly planned, so it’s not like we were going for a girl or anything.  We’re fine either way, though our families are clearly already dreaming in pink.

On another note, as of last week, we no longer have Josie.  This was an excruciatingly hard decision for us, quite painful, and I will probably blog all about it at some point, but I’m just not ready yet.  She’s been missed terribly already and even typing these few lame sentences gets me choked up, so that’s all I have to say about it right now.

Besides giving birth this year, I do have a few other goals.  I’m not really the resolution type, but there are a couple of things I want to do different or better.  You probably thought things were crazy enough as it was around here (I know I did!), but it’s one of my goals this year to blog more frequently.  I joined wordpress.com’s Post-A-Week challenge, and even found myself a blogging buddy.  So look for more updates more often – baby ones included here on the blog.

We’ve been discussing a community type of gardening arrangement with our neighbor and a few friends this summer, and we’ve done some prep work and ordered seed catalogs.  This is a big project and I plan to tell you all about it this year.  I’m very excited!

It’s also a goal of mine to get our back yard patio completed.  We started collecting sandstone flags for it last summer.  We have a way to go, but I’d like to see it done before baby comes.

There are some other things too, but this first trimester thing has me worn out and nap time is looking pretty prime right now.  In all, I’m looking forward to 2011.  A lot of changes this year already, and I’m sure many more.  But I hope they will all be good, even if they’re not all easy.

Until next week (if not sooner)!

Categories: Childbirth, Community | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

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