Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Five Years

Today marks five years since my brother died. Still, not one day goes by that I don't think of him. He crosses my mind every.single.day. I've also now lived a longer life than he was afforded. Sometimes I am shocked by that fact.

I dread this day coming every year.  I dread it because with each passing year, I feel further away from the time when he was here with us.  I hate that distance. I want to undo it.  I want to go back in time, and make everything happen differently.  I wish I could. 

But I don't want this blog post to be about the sadness, or dwelling on what can't be undone.

I want to talk about how this has changed me. 

As a mom, I often look at my children, and think, "What if that happened to me one day?" Having this thought in the backdrop of my mind has made me cherish my kids, and each passing day, in a way I never could have, or would have, had Andy not been killed.  It sounds so cliche to write that, but cliche is not how I feel.  I feel sincerely, that this loss has caused me to value each day I have with my kids, and my husband.  My biggest fear is leaving them too soon.  I want them to know how much I love them. I hope I'm telling them through my actions each day.

Yesterday, we were talking about some Aunts and Uncles in our family. My middle child started to ponder. 

A few minutes later, he asked me when I was going to die. 

I think he has made the connection that his cousins are still kids, but their Daddy is dead, and could that happen to him?  He was worried, and he wanted me to tell him when I was going to die.  He wanted me to assure him that I would "be alive when [he's] a grown up."  I feel sad that he's worried about that.  I wish I could assure him that I would be alive when he's a grown up.  I want to be alive when he's a grown up!  I told him that for sure! It was a good lesson on death, and life, but not one I wanted to have, because it seemed like it was coming from a place of fear inside him.  And that makes me sad.  I just hope, again, that I'm telling him that I love him through my actions each day.  Not just my words, because those mean nothing if my actions don't confirm them.  I'm not a perfect mom.  I make lots of mistakes. Lots.  But I hope my kids know that I love them to the moon. I would do anything for their little hearts to be protected.  I  hope they never have to experience the pain of losing a parent before they hit adulthood.  No child should have to experience that pain.

I feel like I have let go of my anger toward these two men who took Andy's life.  They were high, and stupid, and should not have been doing such a heinous act, but they are now paying the penalty for their decision.  I'm sure they are suffering, and I feel sad for them.  I feel sadness for their kids, who also lost a dad that day.  I feel sad for my sister-in-law, and my nephews.  My heart breaks for them often.  I just wish I could fix it for them.  But I can't.  I feel sad for my kids, who never got to know their Uncle.  Or for my new Sister-In-Law, who never got to meet her Brother-In-Law.  And for hers and my brother David's kids, who will never get to meet their Uncle.  There are so many people who were affected that day.  Even unborn people.  The consequences are so widespread.  And so is the sadness.  But in the end, I want to focus on the tiny good that has come from this.  That being that some of us are cherishing life just a little bit more because of it. 

{If you are curious about the outcome of the people who murdered my brother, this article, and this one are good summaries.}

Friday, September 27, 2013

Pallet Staircase

So my Hot Little Contractor came up with this ingenious, resourceful solution to a recent problem of ours.
We moved into our double-wide in July, and upon inspection by the County Inspector, were told that the stairs we were using (given to us....bought by us...from the manufactured home company) were illegal.
We failed our inspection and had only 90 days to remedy the situation.
So The Hot Contractor spent a few hundred dollars on nice lumber, and built us a staircase. Out our laundry room door.
Then we called the inspector back out.
We failed again.
He saw us using a "pallet staircase" we had created (a bunch of pallets piled on top of each other) out our back sliding door.
*Busted!*
He told us we now had to build another staircase.
We weren't planning on ever building a staircase in the backyard. We eventually want to put a big deck back there, but we don't have the time or money right now for a deck as large as we'd like. So, in an effort to not waste another few hundred dollars in lumber, just so we could pass our inspection and legally live in our home, The Hot Contractor took all those free pallets we had, and turned them into a real, genuine staircase!
And I must say, I think they are supah cute! I kinda wish the other (very expensive) staircase matched, because its just so shabby-chic and homesteady to me. I heart them.
So let me show off my hubby's handiwork, if you don't mind me bragging for a minute.
Here he is mid-project, putting the stairs together.












And here is the finished product!




The only part he couldn't use pallets for was the handrail. So he used a piece of scrap 2x4 and, using one of his fancy tools (which I have no idea what it was called) formed the wood into a circular hand rail that meets the specific requirements by our county.
















Looking down from the top




They are super sturdy too! To prevent our feet from falling through those pallet cracks, he sawed off some other pieces of pallet to fit in the spaces. Other than the handrail, it is completely made from pallets.
And guess how much it cost us???
$0.
I love that price!

We just got the report back from the inspection office. It says "Passed! Very inventive staircase!" Woo-hoo!

Thank you, Hot Contractor! ❤❤

Thursday, April 18, 2013

How To Make Your Own Kombucha {while living in an RV}

I've had lots of friends ask me how I make kombucha over the years. Instead of typing it out in another email, I figured I'd do a blog post, and refer everyone here in the future. Please excuse the funny placement of my items...I currently live in an RV with less than 2' of counter space, so my stove doubles as a counter. :)
Here goes!

This is what you'll need:




• One gallon of spring or filtered water.

• A tea kettle.

• A large bowl and wooden spoon. Do not use metal or plastic bowls or spoons. Or at least don't let metal, and preferably not plastic, touch your finished kombucha.

• A large glass jar. I use some that are 3-liter jars, and some that are one gallon.

• One cup of white sugar. I personally think its important to buy organic sugar, since most sugar is now GMO. If you think it's crazy that this healthy drink is made using a CUP of sugar, you're right! But the sugar is necessary to feed the SCOBY (I'll tell you about that in a bit) during the fermentation process. You can also use honey, but it's a lot more expensive. I personally just got over the horror of using so much white sugar once I researched kombucha, and learned why the sugar is important, and how it is used up by the end of the process. It's SCOBY food, and if fermented long enough, there will only be trace amounts of sugar remaining.

• Five tea bags, using a mixture of green and black tea. The ideal ratio is to use three bags of black, two bags of green, but you can mix and match, or use just one type. It does need to be caffeinated tea, as the SCOBY uses the caffein for food also. If you choose to use green tea exclusively, you should eventually cycle in some black tea, as your SCOBY needs the tannins from the black tea.I recently read this article about commercial tea bags, and I will soon be switching to using only loose leaf tea.  I will probably use about 2 tsp of green tea, and 3 tsp of black tea.

• A cloth and rubber band to cover your jar while the tea ferments. I use an old cloth napkin or a kitchen towel.

DIRECTIONS:
Boil as much water in your tea kettle as you can. Don't fill it any higher than the bottom of the spout, or it could burn you when you open it.

Pour the hot water into your large bowl where you have placed the five tea bags and one cup of sugar.

Stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve the sugar. Leave sitting until it gets to room temperature.




Once it's at room temperature, remove the tea bags and pour the tea into your large glass jar.
Fill the jar up with fresh, room temperature or tepid water, leaving about 2" at the top. Pour in some starter tea from your last batch (if you don't have any, that's ok). Place the SCOBY in the jar.

A SCOBY is a "Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast". It's not technically a mushroom, even though it's commonly referred to as one. It's a funny looking thing. Here's mine in a jar, demonstrating the proper way to store a SCOBY. They can last for months in the fridge if they are covered in kombucha (this kombucha is also what I use as my "starter tea" when I pour in my SCOBY...I just pour the entire contents of the jar in).



If you are in need of a SCOBY, you can try growing your own from two store-bought bottles of kombucha (unflavored).  Just leave the kombucha on the counter, covered with a cloth, until you see a SCOBY form.  I got my first SCOBY from someone on my local freecycle.  I personally don't think you should pay for these, as anyone who makes kombucha quickly has them coming out their ears!  I am hay to share one with people who are local to me, and I've even been known to mail them to friends using the US Postal Service. Just ask around...natural minded friends and neighbors. If you absolutely cannot find one, you can always buy one here.

Once the jar is filled almost to the top, and your SCOBY is in it, place a cloth on top with a rubber band around the top to hold it on. This is just so no bugs or anything gets in there while its fermenting, and so it can breath. You don't want to put the lid on your jar...it needs the air during fermentation.




Place it in a location that is warm, but not hot. A dark cupboard is sometimes suggested, but I always have left mine out on the counter, and it has worked well for me. Just don't stick it by a sunny window or anything.

If you've never had kombucha, or don't prefer the taste, you can acquire the taste. I hated it at first. What I did to acquire the taste, was to ferment it for the minimum time at first. That is five days. There will still be some sugar in the kombucha, but it's ok if that's what it takes to acquire the taste. I gradually increased my fermentation time by one day. I really liked the sweet drink at first, and once I worked all the way up to a 14 day ferment, I still liked it! Typically I ferment for 7-10 days, but you can go as long as 14. It will taste more vinegary the longer you ferment, and sweeter the shorter you ferment. There are more health benefits to a longer ferment, but even a shorter one is good. It's better than drinking soda!

Once it's done fermenting, you can take the SCOBY out. You will have a "baby" growing on top of the "mother" SCOBY. The baby will be whitish, and look so pretty and new. The mama will be a little darker, but will still work fine. Unless the SCOBY turns a dark brown, or grows mold on it, you can keep using it over and over. Pretty soon you'll have them coming out your ears!
Here's a picture of the top of my jar (the baby) after nine days of fermenting.




Here you can see the mama and the baby that I'm separating. The baby is touching my thumb.




It is ok to leave the mama and baby attached, and just use a thicker SCOBY for the next ferment (it will ferment a bit faster). Or, you can eat it (its really good for you!). Some people put them in the blender, in a smoothie. I've given them to my chickens many times. My chickens love them, and it makes my eggs more healthy!


THE SECOND FERMENT:
This part is optional, as your kombucha is perfectly good to drink the way it is. But if you'd like to flavor it, or make it naturally carbonated, you'll want to do a second ferment.
Our go-to flavor is strawberry, although we've used every fruit (and combination of fruit) under the sun. Don't try banana though--that one doesn't work. Some we have done:

Blueberry
Raspberry
Blackberry
Peach
Rhubarb (especially strawberry rhubarb!)
Pineapple
Mango
Papaya
Pear
Orange
It is best to use fresh or frozen fruit, not dried. You can either put the fruit in whole, or blend it with some kombucha, then pour it back into the large jar. I like the way the whole fruit looks (it's really pretty), but I think the kombucha takes on the taste better when the fruit is blended.
I buy organic frozen strawberries in bulk, and keep them in my freezer. This is about how many strawberries I use for a gallon of kombucha. You definitely don't need this much fruit, but my kids love it this way, so I stick with it.




Before blending, make sure to pour some kombucha in with the fruit to create a frothy drink. Then pour it all back into the jar and put the lid on (SCOBY is out at this point). Stick it back in your warm spot, and leave it for 1-2 more days for the second ferment. It will take on the flavor of the fruit, and will also become carbonated. If you have trouble getting it carbonated, make sure the jar is filled with kombucha to within 1/2" from the top. This will help it to carbonate better.
Here it is with the fruit in it.




Because wine glasses make everything taste better, I try to drink my kombucha from a wine glass.

I hope you enjoy yours!





Friday, April 12, 2013

How I Became Such a Hippie

I've had lots of friends from my past ask me how I turned into such a hippie.  If you knew me ten years ago, you knew I was about as mainstream as they come. And I never planned on changing that.

So, how'd it happen?

The short answer: I became a parent. 

That's what started it all. Someone introduced me to cloth diapers.  I started researching.  But more than cloth diapers, my husband and I decided way before we ever had kids that we wanted to practice Attachment Parenting.  I'm pretty sure that was my hippy gateway drug, more than anything else.  Let me explain.  

Once The Princess was born, I began doing all these "strange" parenting things.  Like sleeping with her in our bed, breastfeeding her exclusively, wearing her on my body most of the time, cloth diapering, and not leaving her with other adults for more than a few minutes until she was about two years old.  I started feeling really lonely.  We were invited to weddings and other fun events, which we turned down because children weren't allowed, and I wouldn't leave my baby.  I also refused to let her Cry It Out (CIO), or sleep train her, but had zero freinds who were in the same boat.  I wanted more sleep, but the only suggestion I got when I mentioned my sleeping woes, was to make her CIO.  I'd researched enough to know this was potentially very dangerous for my baby, and I was adamantly opposed to it.  But then I realized I had to keep my mouth shut around my friends. 

I was a lonely new mom.

So I started Googling.  I found this forum called Gentle Christian Mothers, which is an online community of christian moms who practice Attachment Parenting (AP).  I began looking for friendships there, and even found some moms local to me!  We got together for play dates, bible studies, and family dinners.  We began forming an awesome bond, which we still have today, after seven years, and many miles between us. Even our husbands and kids became close. I cherish those sweet friendships. 

Through Gentle Christian Mothers (GCM), I began learning about all sorts of natural things.  Like natural healing through nutrition, homeopathy, and essential oils.  I also started learning from them how to make my own non-toxic cleaning supplies and toiletries. I learned about family cloth, the Diva Cup, and how menstrual matter is amazing for my garden plants!  (Did I just admit that publicly?). I learned about the wonders of coconut oil, unassisted childbirth, and tandem nursing. I was introduced to the Weston A. Price Foundation. These are all things I've come to love, and that have inspired me to research and learn more. 

The moms on GCM are some of the most researched and well-informed moms I've ever met.  We don't all agree on everything (there are people from all walks of life....the Right, the Left, Unschoolers, Public Schoolers, Vaccinators, Non-Vaxers).  But we all agree on gentle parenting, and we're all aiming for that goal together.  In those moments in my parenting journey, when I've been at a loss on how to gently teach and guide my children (without using punitive measures like spankings or time outs), I've been able to go to these moms for help, advice, and encouragement.  It's been my safe haven.  When I didn't have friends in real life to talk to about my challenges, because I knew I'd only hear "she needs a spanking!", I had some friends to go to who would give me practical tools to try to actually teach my child how to behave.  It has been so comforting, and so empowering!


A little background on how Mark and I decided we wanted to practice Attachment Parenting:

When Mark and I were newly married, we were trying to figure out how we would raise our kids.  We took note of a few families in our church whom we really respected, and whose kids we would want our own kids to turn out like.  We had dinner with two particular families, and informally "interviewed" them, to find out their parenting philosophy.  We knew that in the christian church, there were two main perspectives on parenting, both diametrically oppposed to each other.  We'd heard that churches had split over this parenting issue!  It was that big of a deal! So we were curious about it.

Because we weren't yet parents, it wasn't a heated, emotional topic to us.  We were open to anything, and just wanted to honestly expore our options.

The first family told us they practiced Attachment Parenting.  We hadn't heard much about it, but they gave us a brief description.  I remember the mom saying, "I just always want my kids to know I am their safe place.  Whether they're four or 40, I want them to always know they can find safety in me."  That was so profound, and it has stuck sharply in my mind to this day.  It's an attitude I'm attempting to emulate with my own kids.

The second family we met with (the father also happened to be the counselor who did our premarital counseling, and whom we respect highly) also told us they practiced Attachment Parenting.  We started to perk our ears up a little, and take note that both of these families, whom we regarded so highly, practiced this kind of parenting called "Attachment Parenting".

We also asked a little about why these churches had divided over parenting, and tried to learn a little about "The Other Side".  There was one other family we interviewed, who were neighbors of ours, whose kids were so perfectly well behaved, it was amazing! We were awe-struck by their kids' compliance and obedience, even as toddlers!  We thought there was something to it, so we "interviewed" them too.  It turns out they followed "the other side", a book called Growing Kids Gods Way (GKGW) by Gary Ezzo.  We wanted to have obedient kids too, so we were curious about it. We had dinner with them a couple times to find out more, and we thought it sounded pretty good! We surely noted their compliant children!

Our counselor, when we had dinner with him and his wife, was hesitant to tell us his feelings about GKGW, and why he'd chosen AP over it. He just kindly shared his own experience and journey, and told us that when he Googled "Gary Ezzo", he learned enough about him that he knew he didn't want to follow his lead.  It sparked my curiosity, and I went home that night and Googled Gary Ezzo myself.  I stayed up way past midnight, reading stuff I couldn't believe I was reading.  I shared it with my husband the next day, and we decided that this whole AP thing just felt right to us, and we wanted to pursue it more.

We began reading books on Attachment Parenting and Biblical Discipline when I became pregnant.  The more we learned, the more we just felt such peace about raising our children this way.  And I have to say, it has been a wonderful, growing, challenging experience, this Parenthood.  Especially in an AP way. I definitely don't think we chose the easy route, but I do believe we chose what is best for our children. 

And that's it!  The story of how I became such a hippie.  


Added note: Although our friends who followed GKGW had very compliant children, I've since learned that this compliance was out of a motivation of fear.  Fear is not what I want to motivate my children. It's God's kindness that brings us to repentance, and I hope that my kindness brings my children to repentance, not a fear of me.  My discipline is a work in progress, and I still have so much to learn, but this is my goal: to teach my kids how to obey because they want to please me and God, not because they are afraid of me.  If fear of me is their motivator, in my absence, I fear what their freedom from fear will produce in their behavior.  I'll blog more about this another time, but I wanted to make a point that I no longer admire those perfectly compliant children, because I know how those kids got that way, and it's not something I want.  


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Grain-Free, Sugar-Free, GAPS Chocolate Cake Recipe

Before going on the GAPS diet this past January, we were on a Gluten-Free diet for about two years.  One of my favorite recipes I discovered during that time was Gluten Free Goddesses Flourless Chocolate Cake. Oh.my.WORD!  This stuff is delicious!  I dare say it's the best cake I've ever had.  Moist, delicious, yummyness! 

But, it does have sugar.  And since GAPS is a sugar-free diet, I had to figure out a way to adapt the recipe.  So, here's what I came up with:

Grain-Free, Sugar-Free, GAPS Chocolate Cake:

Ingredients:
8 pastured eggs
1 C butter (room temp, preferably cut up into pieces)
1/4 C cocoa powder
1 T vanilla extract
3/4 C hot coffee
1 1/2 C raw, local honey

Put the above ingredients in your blender, and mix.

Pour into a greased 9" square or round pan.  I grease mine with coconut oil, but you could also use pastured butter. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or until a knife comes out clean. It will be really puffy when you pull it out of the oven, but will soon shrink down to a dense, moist, delicious cake. 

ENJOY!!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Coming Out of the Closet

I've thought about writing this post for YEARS.  Yes, years.

But I've been afraid.

Afraid that people will judge me, and think I'm weird, and that I'm permissive with my kids or something, and that I'm harming them, and that I'm....just...weird.

I'm not weird.  I promise.  At least I don't think I am!  Before having kids, I was so mainstream, it's not even funny.  How did I get to be such a hippie?  That's a long answer, and I'll need to do it in another post, but much of the answer has to do with becoming a parent. 

I just want to do the best thing for my kids.  Emotionally, nutritionally, educationally, physically, spiritually.  I want the best for them in their lives.  I want to do the best job as Mommy that I can.  It's my vocation, and I want to do it well.

Wanting to do it well spurred me on to research a lot as I became a parent.  I've read a lot on breastfeeding, and a long time ago (when The Princess was a baby) decided I would let my kids self-wean, because that is what I deemed best for them.  {For more info on extended breastfeeding, and why I chose it, see this article.}

The Princess nursed until she was three years, nine months old.  I was already pregnant with Baby Brother by this time, and was nursing both Little Brother, and The Princess.  I wasn't sure how I was going to tandem nurse all three of them if she continued on, seeing as how God only gave me two boobs, but I was OK with with trying, if that's what would happen.  Thankfully, she gave up on the Nursies when there was no milk on tap (due to my pregnancy).  Little Brother, on the other hand, continued on, and still nurses like a champ at three years, four months old.  I don't think he's planning on stopping anytime soon.  And I'm nowhere near pregnant, so I should have plenty of milk on tap for both the boys, for quite awhile. 


Whenever I have considered coming clean with my breastfeeding choices, I've remembered back to a time when I worked at a large church in Orange County, in the Children's Ministry.  I remember sitting in my office, with all the other women (moms) on staff, and they were joking and making fun of people who nurse their toddlers. This was pre-kids for me, and I didn't think much of it, other than, "Ya, those moms ARE weird! (I think?)"  These moms were talking about how "When your kid can ask for it, you know you've gone too far", and how "That's just WRONG!". 

Then I decided to be one of those moms.  Uh-oh.

And this is why I've been in the closet.  But I'm coming out.  This TIME magazine cover that was released today was my inspiration. 

Maybe I am weird.  But ya know? I'm ok with that.  I'm confident in my choices, and hope that people can respect my decisions, and understand that these decisions have been based on research and thoughtful consideration.  I NEVER would have imagined myself as this kind of mom.  I never planned on being this kind of mom. Honestly, when I pictured myself as a mom, I assumed I'd work, my kids would probably go to public school, I'd vaccinate my kids, and I'd spank my kids when they disobeyed me, just like all other "normal" American parents. Now I'm a Stay-At-Home mom who homeschools my kids, doesn't vaccinate, and practices Gentle Discipline.  Someday I'll explain how I got here.

For now, I'm starting by coming out.


Ahhhh......that feels good. 


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Homemade Toothpaste

I've been wanting to do this for SO long! For awhile I had a hard time finding a recipe that seemed simple, yet not gross. I also tried straight baking soda for awhile. It's ok, but kinda salty tasting, and was a little harsh on my gums.

I have known for a long time that toothpaste is filled with horrible chemicals that we should not be ingesting, but just haven't gotten around to getting it out of my house (what took me so long??). Even the healthy brands have ingredients I

A) can't pronounce, and

B) have no idea what it is.

Usually if A or B is true, I avoid it like the plague. Chances are it's bad for me. And I don't want to put bad-for-me-things in my body. Just trying to reduce the toxic load here, Folks. Reduce the toxic load.

Most toothpaste also contains fluoride, a poisonous waste byproduct that is known to cause damage to our brains.  You may choose to believe your dentist that unless you ingest fluoride, your teeth are going to crumble and fall out.  I don't buy that though.  I believe the bad faaaaaar outweighs the good when it comes to fluoride.  If there is any good to begin with. 

Did you know that toothpaste is technically a "cosmetic" according to the FDA? Therefore, since it's not considered to be something that will go inside your body, the standards are very low, and there's a lot more toxicity than you'd think. I for one watch my kids swallow that stuff like it's candy! And I get horrified at the thought of those nasty chemicals making their way through their little bodies. Yuck.

So, the other day I had this uber awesome day of being ever so productive.

(Don't ask my kids what they did...

...Um...something had to give, OK?

It was my focused attention on my kids.

And well, they watched a couple videos.)

Anyway...I made lotion (post coming soon on that one), and toothpaste. Here's my recipe. I adapted it from a couple other ones I found online.







3 Tablespoons coconut oil

3 Tablespoons baking soda

1/2 Teaspoon green stevia powder (not pictured above). The white stuff is processed, and not good for you.

About 20 drops of Spearmint Essential Oils (or another flavor you prefer).

I melted my coconut oil in my double boiler. If yours is soft enough, just use it soft. If it's winter, and your coconut oil is hard, melt it over the stove, not in a microwave. Microwaving things changes the molecular structure, and it's then not good for you to consume.


Once your coconut oil is soft enough, mix it with the rest of the ingredients.

I stored mine in this little 4 oz Mason jar I got at a garage sale last summer. This is a picture from before I put the stevia in.






Here's a pic from after I put it in








The taste wasn't that great before the stevia. The stevia makes it slightly sweet, and you taste less of the baking soda. The Hot Contractor is forever ruined over coconut oil (I used to have him take it by the spoonful because he loved it, and we were trying it on him for medicinal purposes.). He now hates it. Sad.

I, however, think it's great! I'm totally going to keep using it (as long as my gums don't mind...I'm hoping that with other ingredients than just baking soda, it won't be an issue anymore). I'm also going to let my kids ingest it until their little hearts are content. Plus, it's actually really good for them! Coconut oil is such a great oil for us to consume in large quantities. And baking soda helps balance the pH of the body, so I say, "eat away, my children, eat away!"