Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What the Cuss?

How many cuss words can you say in a minute?

Yesterday morning, in between mouthfuls of Cheerios, Grace said, "Mama, sometimes i just want to cuss". In an inspiration of cool Mamaness, I said, "Okay, you and Maddie have one minute to say all the cuss words you want, you won't get in trouble, I'm setting the timer, GO!" Their eyes popped out of their heads, and Grace started,

"Cuss! Hate! Stupid!uhhhhh, SHIT!!!! Freakin'!"

and Maddie just mimicked all Graces words, both plagued with giggles.

And that was it, with seconds to spare on the timer. I was kinda proud the only cuss word they knew was shit. I know we've must of let some good ones fly over the years.

My Mom would have never allowed us to that! But what a freeing exercise for both me and the girls. The rest of the day, anytime Grace saw someone, that was the first thing she mentioned, with delight!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Warning: Never Take Bread from a Carbfiend

I have just witnessed something that was utterly cool.

I caught Grace and Maddie eating the top off one of the three fresh loaves of Whole Wheat Honey bread that I spent three hours making. I punished them by telling them that they couldn't have bread for dinner. This is like hell for Grace who is a carbfiend. And Maddie, well, she could care less, or she was taking some delight in Grace's anguish.

After we told Grace, "No way, no bread", she ran into the bathroom and sobbed (mind you, sobbing over bread!!). After a little while, making a grand re-entrance into the kitchen to fight for her honor to have bread, she was denied once again. She was so pissed at us, that she turned red in the face, tears began to stream, her teeth and fists clinched, and in that moment, where you either loose it all by punching or throwing something, Grace ran into the living-room area and started dancing like crazy--shuffling & stomping, spinning & kicking, just dancing and crying--(it was a billy elliot moment)...

After about three minutes of this, she realized you cannot be mad and dance at the same time--its impossible. The storm had passed and she was ready to move on.

Its moments like these, that the Buddha shines in the child...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Keeping the Pace

I don’t know, it’s been about a couple dozen times since I started walking the labyrinth. It started out where I felt like it was an exercise of just keeping my word to do same thing every day. And my pace around was thoughtful but constant…reach the middle, say some prayers or simmer with the thoughts that I carried with me on the way in. A quick stretch, maybe a rub on my heart center, and then off, spiraling out.

A couple of nights ago, while walking at dusk, my pace became really slow… then it became lethargic. I tried really hard to just stay in the moment with my body. I felt like a robot running out of batteries. I focused on what was happening as if I was outside my body, just watching with amazement. I finally came to a stop, mid-stride.

Now, I want to take moment to let you know how things are in my life. We have been battling Maddie, the 4-year-old, who has always been a strong personality—very much alive with such a large spirit. As my friend Gina said, “Maddie is an amazing child, I want her on my side, she is a fiercely loyal, genuine warrior”. I feel as if most people can’t take too much of her. She isn’t afraid to speak to an adult as if they are equals, and question them. She is super rational and likes explanations, yet spends most of her time being a flying unicorn.

So, I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed by her personality and quite frankly embarrassed at times. One of the homeschool mom’s, while we were engaged in a discussion about Maddie’s personality, said, “Maddie can be downright rude, and, at the same time, shine with inner love”. Of course, all I hear is “rude”.

So now, it’s getting dark and I can’t move. All of a sudden, I started weeping and down deep in my chest, I hear a low voice say, “be gentle with her, be accepting, be patient”. I take two deep breaths, and I started moving again…slow steps, then picking up the pace. My heart was lighter and my pace quickened. While spiraling my way out, and deep breathing, I thought about Liz Gilberts’ moment in her book “Eat, Pray, Love”, where a voice speaks to her in the bathroom. She calls the voice something like God. I’m not sure if it was God, but I’m listening…

Friday, January 21, 2011

Homesteading: Really????

On our little adventure here in the Sierra Nevada's, I often refer to us as "homesteading". Which people look like they understand exactly what I mean, but nod with a confusing look on their face. Don't ask me to try to explain what I mean. I think it just sounds cool and trendy.

I won't deny, I am one to turn lemons into lemonade. We moved back to California from Central Virginia, because my partner is no longer receiving funding to finish his dissertation, and we couldn't afford to live in the city of Charlottesville on only one salary. So we moved back to the family homestead. Also known as, moving back in with the parents. Ack! That sounds too bad, never mind, let's just keep it as "we're homesteading". that sounds so much better.

Since I'm not to clear on what exactly "homesteading" means, I looked it up.

Merriam-Webster: the home and adjoining land occupied by a family.

Wiki: Broadly defined, homesteading is a lifestyle of simple self-sufficiency.

Urban Dictionary: One of your best friends, so close that whenever you need a place to stay you can sleep on this person's couch and/ or bed.
"Yo dog! You my homestead!"

I'm partial to the Urban Dictionary's definition, however, a combination of M-W & Wiki is most applicable. Reducing our consumption, and living a more simple life. Here is what has been happening over the six months. We reduced our grocery shopping bill quite a bit by eating as whole and local as possible. We are eating bulk grains, garden winter greens, root vegetables, squashes from a neighbor, goat milk from another neighbor, making breads, etc. Our daughters eat what we put in front of them, albeit, the garlicky humus. But tone down the garlic and they are all over it.

At first, I went through fits of withdrawal from online purchases from the bigbox department stores...but the more I learned about how "stuff" is made, shipped, and how the cost is made so low for Americans, I became ashamed. It became easier for me to just delete those emails. Now we are only purchasing clothes from thrift stores, not washing/drying those clothes as often (reducing our electricity), and no more shopping for shoes just to get "new shoes".

Its been a challenge. However, my daughters are at such an impressionable age, that making adjustments in our lives, no matter how hard it is, pail in comparison to the amazing transformation our daughters have undergone. They are starting to get a grasp on what it means to live in a society where the poor are rich in comparison to other country's poor. To see them devour a fresh kale, carrot, beet salad like it was the best food they've ever eaten, makes my heart sing.

Now, if only I can get the social etiquette message to the 4-year-old that you can't tell strangers "McDonalds will kill you", I might actually begin to feel like we are making a difference in the world, one cup of lemonade at a time.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

New Routines, New Resoultions

Here I am surrounded by beauty, both inside and outside. Humble surroundings on the inside and majestic on the outside. Here on the property where we live, is an amazing labrynith. It was constructed years ago, and as of late, been trampled over by the horses and many deer that live here too. My father-in-law and friend, Jerry, fixed it up over the holidays, which I was thrilled about. So, I've decided to walk it everyday this year (when I'm in town), and see how the space transforms me. I believe in the power of sacred space and the impact it can have on our bodies and minds.

I've done the walk about a dozen times so far, and last night was one of the most powerful. After devouring a wonderful local meal of kale salad, lentils & rice and homemade bread, I realized the whole day had slipped by and I hadn't walked the labrynith. I got this grand idea for the whole family to celebrate the fullmoon by doing a lantern walk on the labrynith. We were already using our walking lanterns to eat and cook by, since Gracie insisted that we live by candlelight to cut down our environmental footprint (That's what I get for showing the kids the documentary "No Impact Man". ) Turns out, the family was super excited to do this.

Out we ventured into the cold January wind, and trekked to the other side of the property. The horses looked askance at us, and kept on eating their hay. I have to admit the lanterns and the moonlight-wow. What an image to burn in memory.

The start was a bit shaky with Maddie getting off to a rough start. But I am proud of my four- year-old's ability to keep quite while walking in the sacred space. While we walked in silence, Grace in the lead, and Maddie holding my hand, with Matthew bringing up the rear, the pine and cedars trees swayed in graceful accompaniment to the winds that howled. It was a magical time. And when Grace uttered the phrase, "may all people who need peace, find peace", my soul became full.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Life is Rhythm

Dear Friends,
My life has been so busy, I often pause and note something that i should share with you all, and then quickly that moment flits away and I'm onto something else. Here are some things I've started to notice around our little hut--butterflies, humming birds, and bees. All so good!!! So beneficial for our plants. This means that nature knows that we are here and beautifing our little piece of land.

The days and weeks are blending together now that school has started. I am thankful for this. We have established a rhythm that the girls are thriving in. I've always known that rhythm provides comfort for me, but never really realized how important it is to the children. It seems obvious to me now. Nature is built on rhythm, and children are so close to nature, it makes perfect sense that they would thrive in rhythmic cycles. For example, Tuesdays are our berry picking/ bread making days, Wednesdays we sew and snack on millet, on Thursdays we have stone soup, and Friday is adventure day-- popcorn and chamolmile tea out in the woods.

We have been busy making our hut into a home. Last week it got down into the 50s, so Matthew fired up the woodburning stove--very nice and cozy. We are ready for Fall. Not quite ready for Winter, we still have to weatherized the windows, put the floor molding down and the inside pine wall panels--lots of work!

I'm FINALLY attching pictures of the inside of our hut. Thank you all for asking for pictures of the inside, the problem was i could never get the place clean enough to take pictures!

One last note of interest. It seems like I'm in some kind of "keeping up with the Jones" out here, but in an alternate universive where its cool to live in the smallest space possible. I had a strange conversation with a flatlander turned homesteader where I mentioned that we lived in an 800-some-odd sq ft house, and she said,"Oh I know, we are in a 600 sq ft house". She one upped me! Can't wait to talk with the new family that moved here from Berkeley to homestead--could they possbily beat 600 sq ft???
Here are the picks.

View from the front door


Kitchen, Matthew making pizza dough. Note the awesome pine shelving!

Girls bedroom loft. Still need to finish railng/fence

Cedar lined bathroom--smells glorious!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

You Don't Know How Good Ya Have it, Until Ya Don't

Dear friends,
Many of you know by now, that our family moved back to California after an eight year hiatus in Central Virgina with a short stint living in the upper amazon of Brazil. What most of you don't know is that we lived approximately 40 minutes from "the most sought after farm" in America, Polyface, Inc. While Matthew and I were reading Omnivore's Dilemma, we realized that we lived very close to the "beyond organic" farm portrayed in Michael Pollan's book. In the fall of 2008 we started our quarterly treks out to Polyface. Once there, the girls could run around at will, feeding the hundreds of baby chickens, or walking around the egg mobiles, or hiking out to the pigs in the forested area of the 550 acre spread. It became a wonderful ritual that afforded us a refrigerator full of humanely raised chickens, grass-fed "happy meat", as Grace calls it, and amazing eggs! I didn't realize how good we had it until we moved back to California in the mountains where access to fresh meat is tough to come by.

Since our arrival here at the feet of Mount Lassen, we have become semi-vegetarians. We didn't plan to become veggies, its a natural consequence to limited access. Okay, surely we could go up to the Reeds market at the end of the drive way and get what ever we desired. However, I have seen and read too much about industrial farming that I dare not eat anything that is not humanely raised. Shoot, after the egg scare that is happing right now, can you blame me. Like Matt says, "What in the world are people in California doing eating eggs from Ohio?" Something is wrong with the picture.

I have really been missing the drive out to Joel Salatin's farm and a freezer full of his meats. He and his Son Daniel are the most unassuming, nicest people you could meet. After walking around the farm with the girls, we would hit the shopping list. A double-sided piece of paper, with all the selections and prices printed on it. With our pen, we'd try to figure out how many broilers, ground beef patties, eggs and hotdogs would last us for another 4 months. Joel and Matthew would have long conversations about how to raise cows, hogs, and chickens sustain-ably. You would think that the Salatin's might get a cynical view toward city folks coming down to their farm, (3,000 just last year ) but no. They welcome anyone interested in how to make farming sustainable.

I just finished reading an article about the Salatin's in Ode magazine. The author, Diane Daniel, conveys the sense of owe and humbleness you get from touring the farm. However, her last comment really struck me. She writes, "Finally, we head into town. After all this talk about farming and food, it is time to eat." Often this was a dilemma for our family. The closest town to Polyface is Scottsville, which doesn't have a lot of options for eating local, humanely grown food. I always felt like I was betraying Joel & Daniel, by stopping at the Five Guys on the way home for lunch. Eventually, we just couldn't do it any longer and we started packing bigger snacks for the trip back home.

So, we've been looking into options here and have found the Lazy 69 Ranch which is about an hour and half from here. BUT, as far as I can tell they don't have public hours--which really bites, since being on the farm is such a great experience for the girls. Well, at least they sell their meat locally down in Redding. Its chicken for dinner tonight!