Thursday, December 31, 2009


I think often about whether I am actually present to the people in the room with me, or if I am present in this moment.  This wondering is part of what led us to get rid of the television so many years ago.  I try to remember whom I am neglecting when I am on the phone. I go through spells of no computer time if the children are awake.

There are times when I actively choose to escape this moment or this situation. I found nursing tedious at times, and I spent many hours reading John Adams and Truman and Middlemarch. At times of stress, I definitely enjoy light fiction and Jason and I might catch "The Daily Show" on the computer. I sing through some temper tantrums and I take knitting when I think I might get bored or antsy. I talk on the phone while washing the dishes. But with all these things, I am very cognizant of the choice.

By the same token, when Jason gets home in the evenings or before he leaves in the morning, I do not make phone calls and I turn off the radio or music. I want to be very aware of his energy, and I want to feel the way our family weaves together. I cannot do this as well if there is the buzz of music or if I am staring at a book or computer screen or if I am actually talking to a person who is not even here.

For the record, I do not think anyone can give their attention to a person in the room with them while doing these other activities.

I can always tell when the person on the other end of the phone line has begun to stare at their computer screen. My children's misbehavior is heightened when I am yacking away on the phone or checking my email.  Jason can be SOOO aggravating when I just want to finish my chapter. Truthfully, these things must be done sometimes, but it is good to be aware of what it means to the person sitting beside you.

So, when I read crazy things like "Spending time with my family watching some tv program" posted from someone's cell phone, I always shake my head.  That person is looking at at least two screens and interacting with one while being numbed by the other.  Can we really be "with the family" in that situation? Am I actually present in my life, separate from this space that doesn't really exist?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

No one comes first

There is a trick to being a group of five people all wanting different things.  When we sit down for school, all three children would like for me to focus on them the entire time.  Personally, I would like to float around doing my work, like a guardian angel, silently guiding at only just the right moments.  I would also love to finish a thought without someone asking for something.  When we go skiing, we all want to go our own speed and do our own things.  But we cannot at any moment even half hope that we are all getting just what we want right this second.  Contrarily, it is not "right" for any one of us to NEVER get the thing we most want. 

Again, that word- Balance.

Today, as we skied, Ezra desperately wanted to go off on his own.  He wanted to choose his path and go as fast as he could.  Phaedra wanted the group to be together, as she wanted to spend time with the friend who met us there.  Sylvie wanted to not feel left behind.  I want very much for Sylvie to ski instead of being pulled in the pulk.  Each child can be demanding and (dare I say it?) bratty, but Ezra seems to feel the most entitled to determine what every other person should do.  He quite simply wandered off.

For those of you not faced with this, let me explain.  I was on skis.  I had two younger children, so I could only go as fast as they could go.  There was no way I could leave them to chase him.  Fortunately, he wandered back.  I then explained for the 700th time this year that we must think of all the people in our group or family.  I actually did not mind setting a time limit and letting him take off; he doesn't get lost, he does well with responsibility.  However, our friend feels totally different about her child, and he had left with Ezra.

Ezra pulls an attitude when he feels unfairly hemmed in, so it took a bit of a threat (no friend's visit this afternoon) to snap him out of it.  Then, we divided the group by ability, and the children had a good time.  I was working, mostly.  I stayed with Sylvie to give her time to be a little person who falls often, which meant I was not even sort of skiing.  That's a trade off I was willing to make.  She, on the other hand, keeps trying to ski, because that's something our family does. 

No one got to do exactly what they wanted today, but everyone had a nice time.  And, I believe this effort at compromising is perhaps one of the most important things we can learn in our little family group.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


We had such a peaceful Christmas.  Jason was home four straight days.  We attended a tree lighting party with so many of our "neighbors".  We had our own small holiday party on Christmas Eve with just a quiet, peaceful, happy group.

On Christmas morning, the children were delighted by everything.  They LOVED their costumes (this is Ezra's).  They loved their new dolls and books and bionacles and mittens and socks and pajamas.  Everyone was happy.  Then, we spent the day quietly at home.  We had a walk, we had a ski, we knitted, we read, we played the new game Ezra received.

Now, we're still in our Christmas season; until January 6th, we'll mostly stay close to home, stay pretty quiet, and celebrate the light that we share.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Holiday Wishes for my children

Okay, so these are not really holiday wishes, but I feel a bit sappy and sentimental right now.

I hope my children do not identify themselves by some single characteristic- homosexual, conservative, dancer, programmer, christian, pro choice, etc.  I wish for them to know the texture life has to offer, that life is more like the dots in a Seurat painting than a single shade of green.

I hope they know many people who say, "There's a bit more to it," when they think they have figured out the "truth" of something.

I hope they cherish metaphor for its ability to get to the heart of something rather than a simple fact.

I hope they will make music, oblivious to detractors.  I hope they whistle, hum, bow, drum, sing, strum their ways through life.

I hope they learn that given a choice, they can still check for other options.

I hope they learn that the solution is always within them.

I hope they go to college only because that is what they want and I hope they go later rather than earlier (if at all).

I'm sure the list could go on forever, but most of all, I hope they find happiness.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


One really neat thing about snow is that you can see who has passed through while you were not looking.  So far, we have only had fox tracks, but that's still pretty exciting.

In Shelburne, we regularly saw deer, rabbit, skunk, turkey, and fox.  We occasionally saw coyote and bobcat.

In Johnson, we saw deer and mice tracks, and occasionally moose.

I haven't seen a bear track, yet, but they probably don't trudge through snow very often.

Our spot seems strangely quiet as far as wildlife is concerned.  I have a few theories as to why, but I am not certain how I'll ever know.  We are close to town and a state highway (for the Texans, this has less traffic than Trail Lake in Fort Worth or Duval in Austin, much less).  We were near an even busier road and denser population in Shelburne, but there was Nature Conservancy land right out our back door.  Also, there was less snow.  We live on the south side of a hill, so I keep thinking we should see more deer tracks.  We have seen other evidence of deer before we had snow, like scat and bedding places.  I haven't seen any sign of rabbits.  Maybe the ATV trail is more disruptive to wildlife than I understand; it does not actually have that much traffic, but it also does not offer much in the way of habitat.  Even the railroad in Shelburne had "wild" space in its easement.  Not sure...

Friday, December 11, 2009

The cold is pretty nice

Cold weather is finally settling in.  We've had about ten inches of snow this week that has not melted.  The children have been sledding every day.  They play and play and play.  They've been skiing around on our property.  There's enough snow for me to ski, but I've been busy with holiday labors.  The fire is burning.  We all do our part to keep it going.  We're having chicken and dumplings for dinner and we've had cocoa three times this week.  I like all these things.

Some wonder how we've adapted to this very different climate.  The truth is simple- we've equipped ourselves.  All of us wear woolies- that's wool long underwear.  It is NOT itchy unless you get too warm.  We all wear wool hats and socks- they are NOT itchy unless you get too warm.  We all have warm slippers.  We all have snow pants and snow coats.  We all have at least three pairs of gloves or mittens.  We all have neck warmers.  We all play outside so we don't get gloomy in the long winter.  Also, we have at least two blankets on all the beds, and the kids each have three.  Sylvie wears wool pajamas.

The cold means it's time to slow down.  You have to drive more slowly in the winter weather.  People are very forgiving when you run late.  You have to have fewer plans because it's darker and the roads are less navigable.  There's lots of being at home and being quiet.  However, this is balanced by having less to do.  There are no big construction projects, no yard work, no gardening, no camping, so what time we have is more easily given to casual socializing.

The cold is pretty nice.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The half pig

We cut up half of a pig last Wednesday, and I finished dealing with the 4.5 gallons of lard today.  At this point, we were removing the leaf lard and shaving some of the fat off the back.  To give some perspective, the counter we worked at is six feet long.

Here's a picture of me cutting the fat off the back.  This pig was pastured and had lots of milk and soaked corn.  Our friends raised six this year; they say they do not want to raise that many again.

This is the hind quarter.  We cut this into two roasts and some steaks.

We haven't cut up enough pigs to know quite what to do with chops this thick.  Maybe we made the wrong choice, but we just cut them and packaged them in pairs for us to treat as a meal for all five of us.  We also made a rib roast from one end of the ribs.

It's pretty amazing to do this work and fill your freezer.  We ground the bits and pieces into roughly 30 pounds of ground pork to use in lasagna, tacos, gravy, and for sausage.

Friday, December 4, 2009

$$$ Rice cereal treats $$$

Ezra asked yesterday if we could make "those cereal things with marshmallows".  I had no idea what he was talking about.  After some questions and his sisters chiming in, I figured out what they wanted.  This is not a regular food item in our house.  We actually eat very little packaged cereal; grain must be extremely processed to become cereal, so even "organic, natural" cereals are questionable in my mind.  Then, a marshmallow cannot really be called food; we eat them more often than cereal, like when we camp, but it's a definite treat.

I mulled all this over as the children began talking about the wonders of these rice cookies (Ah! the trials of being perfect!), and I decided we could make them if we planned on sharing them and if we bought the more natural options for cereal and marshmallows.

We had friends coming this afternoon, so I tried to buy my ingredients yesterday at our tiny little food coop.  Apparently, there is too little shelf space for things like marshmallows, so I went to the larger coop while in the big city today.  I bought a $4.39 box of organic, extruded brown rice cereal (Gluten Free!) and 2 packages of $3.25 natural marshmallows (Fat Free!) that had corn syrup instead of HFCS.  I seriously debated just buying the less "healthy" ingredients, but that would have involved another stop at a different grocery store with a smelly meat department.

I managed to make the treats; they were yummy.  But, they will remain a rare treat at our house- I just cannot afford the mental and monetary anguish necessary.