Every Dog Has It’s Day

A few weeks ago, when we got the new barn cats, I went to the pet store. We needed kitten food, some dishes, dog food, the things the dogs chew on, and cat litter. I kid you not the total was $110… 😳. I kept staring at the receipt when I got home trying to figure out what accidental goose liver pate imported from France I had accidentally included in my order. But it wasn’t there. It was all generic, run of the mill stuff. Why oh why is pet food so expensive??? And it appears a few companies have a pretty heavy handed monopoly.

Being the person that I am, I decided I could probably make my own and that someone had successfully done that before and I was going to find their blog about it and learn from their mistakes and save so much money.

Well, it turns out there isn’t a lot of personal experience out there about making kibble. I could put my dogs on a raw diet or prepare chef worthy meals for tiny dogs who can sit on a napkin at the dinner table with you. But there was nothing economical to feeding a 60 lb puppy who is growing even larger every day. I found this one recipe for a dog kibble online. So today, I made dog food.

Truth be told, this story started a bit sooner. We ordered half a pig from local Schafer Farms and we had to make space in our basement freezer. There was a lot of suspect stuff that I think probably moved with us from the old house…and the freezer was set too high and burning a lot of food. Most of the stuff in there was ruined and needed tossed. Since we have so many animals we try not to waste anything if we can help it. We opened every frozen solid vegetable bag and dumped them into a tub to feed in the pasture. Peas, carrots, corn, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, green beans, spinach…a veritable cornucopia of pasture animal joy. Once it defrosted I snagged a scoop of mixed vegetables and set them aside.

We also had a large box of meat that didn’t look too terribly bad but to be honest I couldn’t date it to save my life and I won’t eat suspect meats. One package was a large pack of boneless skinless chicken breasts. We threw them in the slow cooker with some broth and the scoop of mixed veggies. We cooked them into the night and then this morning, I puréed them. The kids thought this was disgusting. And I agree. Pretty gross. We roughly followed the dry dog food recipe with duck eggs and dry milk and wheat flour…and we made some weird chicken vegetable paste…

We spread the paste thinly on cookie sheets and dehydrate baked them for most of the day. As of writing this I put one of the trays back in to see if I could crisp it up more.

The real test? The dogs! I called them over for a treat…and they LOVED their new kibble treat.

Stella and Daphne chowed down! Super fast…like a treat. Which doesn’t bode well for a food replacement. But overall they were looking for more. So they really enjoyed it.

THE BREAKDOWN

Is it worth it?

The answer? No. No it is not. It was intensely time consuming and the recipe I suppose would be a ton for one small spoiled toy or smaller dog. But for two big dogs it looks like maybe 2-3 days worth of food…

It was cost effective for us THIS time because it was food we would have discarded anyway. I will continue to cook “older” but not spoiled food for them, but I’m pretty certain they would have enjoyed the shredded chicken and slow cooked veggies as they were without all the extra work and time. It would have fed them for the day or maybe 2 and I could have saved a whole lot of cookware.

Cost effective overall? Nope. The chicken was probably $7-8 worth. And maybe $2 worth of vegetables and we had to buy dry milk because that was not something I had on hand. So $10 to feed for 2-3 days? The sadly expensive dog food at the store goes further than that.

Will I do this again? Nope. 🙂

But now we know. And we tried. And that’s all we’re trying to do here!

7 Mistakes we made in the fire

Ok…so there wasn’t a fire. But there could have been.

Backstory first. I had just started scrambled eggs for the kids when the neighbor came to the door. Our goat broke a fence down and escaped to go eat different weeds because apparently her pasture weeds are not good enough. She was loose outside and I had to go catch her. Sam (8) has cooked eggs many many times before. I’m always in the house but he does the whole thing start to finish on his own.

Mistake #1. I let the eggs keep cooking and I left Sam in charge of the eggs while I caught the goat.

After a while, Renna (10) came outside and said “I think Sam burned the eggs.” I told her to run back to the house and move the pan from the hot burner to a cold one. Direct quote. Exactly what I said. Which is apparently not clear enough and mistake #2. I followed shortly behind her. I found the pan on the counter. Directly on the counter! Mistake #7. Yep. It’s out of order for a reason…

At this point I freaked out and started yelling at them. Then I saw the melted scorch mark on the vinyl that covers our kitchen table. Mistake #6. I freaked out some more. I told them I didn’t realize they were that dumb…not my finest parenting moment. I was disappointed and heated and afraid. I was scared about what could have happened. This is a parenting mistake…but not a fire mistake. More on that later.

I started to calm down and to try to get to the bottom of what transpired so we could learn something. At this point I hadn’t admitted my own mistakes to myself. Through blaming each other and tears and general sibling muck, we got to the source. Mistake #3, though good intentioned, Renna made a game to keep the twins “busy” while the eggs finished. She was supposed to just watch them and stay in the kitchen. Mistake #4 was the twins got rowdy and ran around with Renna’s treasure hunt game when they were supposed to stay at the kitchen table and sit and wait. Mistake #5, Sam saw them get rowdy and wanted to play and interfere too. Sam left the eggs unattended on the stove while he tried to ruin their game. He then came back and placed a hot pan on the vinyl table. Renna returned and moved the hot pan to the counter (see mistake 7).

None of the people in this story can be trusted. They all made mistakes. Mistakes that burned a little hole in the vinyl table cover but COULD have been much worse. And it’s that COULD HAVE that is so scary.

I did apologize to them for calling them dumb. They are not dumb. They made dumb choices. They are smart people who did a dumb thing. I am a smart person who made a dumb choice.

We spent the next 90 minutes talking about different aspects of fire safety and walking through the mistakes we all made and what we could have and should have done differently. No one mistake quantifying over the other except mine. I’m the adult. I made the biggest mistake. I started the chain that caused 6 other mistakes to follow.

I work very hard to teach my kids life skills and responsibilities, but I often forget just how young they are and how far those skills need to develop before they can actually use them without me. I struggle with the line between giving them freedom and ownership and recognizing those things need limits.

There was no fire today. And we are very lucky and thankful that there wasn’t. But what could have been can teach us many lessons. Many lessons from the mistakes we made in the non fire.

Start the coffee

I am NOT a morning person. I never have been. I was always late in high school. I took a class first hour that I could pass simply by showing up for test days on purpose senior year. I dropped every 8am college course I ever signed up for until I decided to just stop signing up. One of my greatest joys of homeschooling is not waking my kids up before the sun.

But lately, I cannot sleep in. Someone is counting on me. Well, actually many someone’s. 2 dogs who want out of crates, 3 goats, 6 ducks, and 25 chickens are waiting for me every morning. If the sun is up, they are up. And they’re depending on me.

I set alarms every night to make sure I’m up by 7 at the latest. I have not heard that alarm go off in a very long time. Someone somewhere who is good with words once said “Purpose is a powerful alarm clock.” And those words strike so true in my heart. When I wake up with purpose, it’s easier to get out of bed. It’s easier to deal with the why. If you love what you’re doing, and the people and things that are counting on you, and you see them as an opportunity to learn and grow and provide, the morning doesn’t seem so dismal.

After the barn is open and the dogs have gone outside, I still need a mass amount of caffeine to make it through the morning 😉 , but we’re headed to the right path. I let the kids sleep later because I love the quiet. But I hope to start waking them with purpose too.

What’s your morning purpose? What inspires you and gets you going?

The Misguided Middle

Sam is our middle child. He’s 8. He’s wonderful. He’s a bit of a shit…

Truth be told he always has been. I can say this because I love him. He came into this world backwards and screaming. He screamed for months. He wouldn’t let anyone else hold him. Once he could move he followed me everywhere and he screamed if I went out of eye line.

Sam pulled my hair. Sam hit me. Sam bit me. Sam hit and bit his sister. He ate all of the time. He was a bit of a shit…

As he grew, it started to become clear that Sam did not get language. He could not understand us and he certainly couldn’t express himself. Super long story short, Sam had sensory issues that interfered with language acquisition. We worked with our local ISD and did a ton of work at home, and eventually he started communicating, but to this day, Sam is not GOOD at expressing himself.

We’ve been working super hard on behavior. We’ve tried all the things. But Sam still hits people when he gets mad or upset or hurt and this happens on the daily. We talk about how we can’t control what other people do, just how we respond to it. He makes lists of other things he can do when he’s upset (count to 10, punch a pillow, walk away and do something else, etc) and he posts them on his wall. But I still worry, that Sam is a bully.

Last week, trying to be funny, he did something so upsetting and disappointing. Renna loves to draw and she even enters contests with her favorite YouTuber Draw with Jazza. The work she’s most proud of, was an updated girl with the pearl earring drawing in her sketch book. She worked so hard on it. Sam “added on” to EVERY page in her sketch book one day…including that one.

Elliott can’t write anything but his name, Sam…get a better alibi…

We had the big talk about how hurtful that was and how disappointed I was. How he had to make amends and he owed Renna something. He also had to apologize both in person and in writing and used his own money to buy her a new book.

Truth be told, Sam is my most helpful kid. When he’s showered in love and attention he’s amazing. He unloads the dishwasher, does laundry, helps with the animals, helps with outside stuff, pulls weeds, cooks breakfast, all the things when I ask. If I can hit him with a preemptive strike to keep him busy and entertained and working, he is a joy of a child. But being in the middle in a family with 4 kids is hard.

He’s not the oldest. He doesn’t have that extra responsibility and the opportunity often to be “in charge”. He’s not the baby and he got a double hit on that one with twin younger siblings. We do our best but undivided attention is sometimes hard to come by.

He’s stuck in the misguided, misunderstood middle. And sometimes that means he’s a bit of a shit… but we’re working on it. And we love his naughty little face off. And maybe someday, with enough guidance, he’ll be able to express himself without violence and vandalism 😉

8 Tiny Eyes

My kids are growing.  They are growing too fast and it’s NOT ok with me.  I mean, I want them to grow up to be strong, happy, successful people some day, I just wish it would take longer.  As they grow, some things have become so much easier.  No more diapers, no bottles, no incessant crying for no reason, no giant diaper bags that can hold a weekend trip for two to some fancy B&B in wine country but is instead full of burp cloths that smell like sour milk and 47 pounds of baby wipes.  All of that is done.  And I can leave them unattended for a short time and they are usually all alive and not bleeding when I come back…usually.

But as they grow, the problems and the situations grow with them.  The questions, the peer pressure, and the desire to be independent.  I think I’m what you would call a free range mom.   But my husband is not a free range dad.  He will openly admit his freedom leash for the kids is very short.  Luckily for them, it’s usually me here 😉  I am not, however, ready to hand them over to social media.

My nearly 10 year old has a phone.  I know some people think that’s crazy, but it’s a tracfone and we had a legitimate emergency where she had to be in charge for a short time while the neighbor was on her way home and I realized that our lack of landlines made this interesting nowadays.  So she got a phone.  It was supposed to be for emergencies.  But she started using it to google things when we had a question we couldn’t answer without help.  Good use of a phone.  Finding pertinent info.  Then she used it to play music to dance too.  Perfectly fine.  She watched her favorite Artist/Vlogger on Youtube.  Fine.  She wanted games her friends play, but after much research I decided she couldn’t have those.  They were too open.  Too public.  She also loves to take beautiful pictures and she asked for an Instagram account.   “…hmm…well…”  I am pretty familiar with the workings of Instagram and the privacy and security.  We had a “talk” about social media safety and I locked her account down like Fort Knox and then I added the friends she was allowed to have.  She had to ask me to add or follow anyone else.

She found some old friends from her first school.  Ok.  I guess.  Which ones?  I checked her account every single day.  Then I started checking into her friends accounts from her phone and I was shocked.  Little girls posting photos they shouldn’t.  Using words they shouldn’t.  Talking about topics they shouldn’t.  And then it happened.  My kid posted something mean to someone else…It was a celebrity, not like a friend they’re picking on, but still NOT OK.  I talked to her.  I asked her to explain.  I yelled I’m sure.  I made her write a paper about responsible social media use and then I disabled her account and deleted her app.  I also took her phone for 7 days.  I do think she gets it, but she’s not getting Instagram back any time soon.

She wanted to be on the phone…like she was an addict in withdrawal and asked daily for it back.  That’s when it dawned on me, that that’s the culture and the generation we are raising.  We are raising kids who think it’s normal to spend inordinate amounts of time on the phone.  Looking at it.  Reading things.  Socializing.  Working.  Watching videos.  Heck even banking and ordering dinner.  On the phone.  Never more than 10 feet away.  Mine is 12 inches to my right as I type this.  I can see it in case it lights up.  In case someone calls (rare) or texts, or sends a Facebook message.  I can pick it up any time and get dopamine hits from the little hearts on Instagram and the Like button on Facebook.  When someone likes your photo or comment your brain releases dopamine and makes you happy.  Your serotonin levels rise.  But it’s a short burst and you need more.

8 tiny eyes are watching us.  Watching us hold on to our phones too much.  Guilty as charged.  It must be wonderful if we’re doing it right?  So they want to do it too.  They want the dopamine hit.  They want the acceptance of their peers.  And the pressure to fit in comes in to play.  8 tiny eyes blinded by blue light.

I’m working on my addiction.  I’m working on it so 8 tiny eyes want to play outside, maintain their creativity and their zest for reading and learning.  I want them to get dirty and scrape their knees.  I want them to build forts and not just on Minecraft.  Real ones.  With like sticks…  8 tiny hands.  Covered in mud.36322606_10105388121782775_2744062426549846016_n

The Elephant in the Blog

Five months ago, I wrote a blog called Why I’m NOT Leaving LuLaRoe, and I announced I’m leaving LuLaRoe this week…and then I noticed some hits on that old post, and thought I should probably drag that elephant out here and talk about it.

I reread the blog and I stand behind everything it said except one part. I no longer LOVED my job. I was doing my job, but I LOVED everything else I was doing more. The things that I loved about LuLaRoe still stand. Creating a community so that no one feels alone, gathering with women, working for myself, and being home with my family, ALL of that stands.

This morning I got up, opened the barn, and took my time with the animals and watered the garden. I read my twins a book, made bread for our lunches and the rest of the week from scratch, researched and pitched a free lance article. I washed dishes with a rag I knit myself while I watched my kids through the window picking Mulberry leaves off the tree together in the sunshine to make our own herbal teas. They discovered silk worm eggs on a leaf and we made a habitat so they can watch their lifecycle happen up close. And this is all I want. And this is what I want to do and where I’m meant to be. People will think we are weird or odd, and that’s ok. They will never understand and they don’t need to.

It’s what we’ve chosen and it feels right. We will sell some tea, and some knit wash rags, and write, and host craft classes and keep building our community. We will all learn together and share what we can through social media.

So while I may not sell LuLaRoe anymore, I still believe in the things I wrote. And I still love the brand and all my friends who still sell it, and there are exciting things coming! Did you see the tank top? Finally! I hope all my friends sell the bananas out of those clothes. I’ll be here. Writing about chickens and making tea, and being super happy with my choices while I do it.

Make your choices for you and no one else, and if they think you’re weird, it’s just because they don’t understand 🙂

I Left My Heart on the Table

I was yelling at my kids today. I’m not sure why. But there was kind of a lot of yelling. I tried to apologize and then explain to them why I was yelling. I poured my heart out about the “mental load” that many writers and bloggers have been writing on lately, the part of your mind-space reserved everyday for all of things that need to be done and all of the things you need to remind other people to do for the household or for yourself. I started asking them questions, like who knows how to empty the dishwasher? Do you know it needs to be done even if I don’t ask you? Who knows how to brush their teeth without being told? Who knows where their plate goes after breakfast without being reminded to clean it up and where to put it?

The resounding answers were that they all knew, but none of them do it without being asked. They know how to start laundry and they all have an assigned laundry day. Never once has one of them started their laundry without me telling them to start it. And this is where the mental load gets heavy. As primary parents, caregivers, whatever, it’s super exhausting to micromanage everyone’s lives. They are children, so I know I need to know when important things come up, like they’re due for the dentist and make that appointment (note to self for the 12th day in a row, call dentist) and I accept that responsibility. But why do I need to tell them to put clothes on their body every single day? Why do I need to know when they showered last and why don’t they know they need a shower? Can they not see or smell that they are dirty? Why do I need to remind them that when we go to the car for a full day of classes that someone needs to grab the backpack, the lunch, and the piano music bag?

I’d love just a brief glimpse inside their brains and what their mind is filled with on a daily basis. One of my goals as a parent,and particularly a homeschooling parent, is to teach them to be strong, independent adults with life skills. At what age do they just know that things need to be done without being told 9,000,682 times?

So there I sat at the kitchen table pouring my heart out to them. They were receptive. They smiled. They nodded. The little one told me that when I look busy she could say hey it looks like you need help, mama, can I help? And I cried because she was so sweet and she understood!

Then I walked into the other room and within 10 minutes all of that eager helpfulness was gone. Dead on the floor. The mental load was left resting on the dishes still on the table. The juice cups mocking me with sweating koolaid rings. The laundry, left unswitched in the machine. And I yelled some more.

Suddenly, I understood. I NEED A BREAK. And that’s ok. And I am saying it out loud and I’m saying it with purpose. I NEED A BREAK. It doesn’t mean I don’t love them or appreciate them. I just need a minute with my own thoughts where I’m not the nag micromanaging everything. I tried to remember the last time I did something without them that wasn’t work, and the only thing I could come up with was the time I met a friend at target two months ago and we walked around drinking Starbucks for 2 hours. It was glorious.

I adore my kids. They’re fun and funny. They’re truly good kids. But I need a minute. Do you?