Barnes Animals

I realized ALL of my Facebook statuses (stati?) this week were about animals…like ALL of them.  So I thought I should do a blog post here for our animals.  Besides the 4 children, who are similar in many ways to the animals we care for 😉 , we are currently providing care for 22 animals.  That is 22 responsibilities for us and for the kids to learn from.  It’s also 22 things that can go wrong every single day.  This post might just turn into a who’s who in the backyard homestead, but they’re important enough to us to garner their own post.

Our oldest friends are Rocko and Lola, our 12 year old cats.  I had cats before I had children and honestly, when they pass, we will never own another cat on purpose.  We got Rocko as a baby with his brother peanut the year Lewis and I got engaged.  Peanut was this sickly little runt, and I’m a sucker for the runt, and Rocko was the brother they wanted to go with him.  True story, but obviously we love Rocko now, but he was definitely the consolation prize when his brother died of pneumonia probably from their birth inside a wall on a construction site where they were found.  The pet rescue had us come choose another cat when we told them what happened.  I chose Lola because she was so pretty.  She was standoffish and a little rude, but so pretty.  Well, like any ex-girlfriend will tell you, you can’t change someone, and Lola was no different.  She’s still standoffish, and a little rude, but so pretty.  She hates everyone but the people who live in this house and, in some ways, I respect her loyalty.

Next up is Millie. Millie is a Red Parrot Cichlid we bought at a Meijer grocery store when Renna was 4.  She is indestructible and ridiculously large for a fish.  She has outgrown 3 tanks, and no matter what weird thing happens to her, she keeps right on living…making messes, and making me feel kind of sad, that that clear tank is her life.  We’ve tried to buy her friends to keep her company, but she eats them all…

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When we moved to the new house, that came equipped with a chicken coop, we obviously had to put chickens in it.  It was sort of not an option not to. So we ordered 6 chicks from a hatchery and they promptly delivered 7.  We named one Spare since he was obviously the extra to make up for the sickly one they sent us that would inevitably die on Renna’s birthday.  True to her mother’s child, she had chosen the sickly runt to make “hers”.  So We had Spare, the White Polish Rooster (who now lives on a nice farm an hour north of here since he was NOT fond of small children as he grew), 2 White Polish Hens: Egg White & Snips, 3 Buff Orpington Hens:  Scissors, Radio, & Omelette.

These chickens were LOVED.  And by loved I mean the kids carried them around like stuffed animals, and took them onto the playset.  They sat on their laps while they would swing and slide and play.  When we came outside they would run up to us like puppies looking for snacks.  Elliott loved them so much, he would play and play and play and then eat food and touch his face and eventually get salmonella.

When your 3 year old gets home from a life threatening sepsis stay in the Children’s hospital, you take him out to celebrate his recuperation, right?  We took him to the park across the street where a town event was going on, and we came home with Daphne, a 1 year old boxer terrier rescue.  There were a bunch of yippy little dogs, a shaky chihuahua, and a super noisy coon hound.  But there, underneath the tiny yippy dog’s crate was another crate.  Where a medium sized dog sat.  Making medium sized dog faces and not a noise.  She laid there and watched everyone.  She didn’t bark. She didn’t growl.  She sat there, with medium ears half flopped over just waiting for someone to love her, and that was obviously us.  She’s turned out to be the perfect mix of adventurous and lazy to accommodate our lives.

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As our chickens grew, our rooster’s “needs” grew and we realized we needed more hens to keep him “busy” so we purchased our Barred Rock quartet from a homestead near Metamora, Maleficent, Roxy, Black Mamba, and Carla.  Lorelei believes that Carla is the most beautiful name in the entire world and she would name every girl person or animal, real or imaginary, Carla.  I’ve known some Carla’s and Karla’s in my time, and I must say they’ve been amazing people, so more power to you Lorelei!  And then Spare the rooster had to go anyway after his final frightening attack on Elliott.  We found him a good home, because we are not a “cull the flock” kind of family. We pretend we “farm”, but truly we don’t.  We love farm fresh eggs, but roasted breast of Roxy will never make our dinner menu.  I retract that statement. In case of Apocalypse, I am totally prepared to eat the animals.

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The first animals I would eat would be the bunnies.  They serve no purpose other than being cute and maybe someday a 4h show project.  We started with 2 little lionhead bunnies, Mufasa and Roary.   And I swear we are good pet parents, but Roary died too.  Roary had a baby bunny heart defect.  We know this because we rushed him to an emergency vet where they even gave him a bunny IV and bunny CPR when he crashed.  We couldn’t have done anything differently.  But again, the kids started learning that life with these animals would not always be easy and sometimes it was downright heart-wrenching.

So we added another hutch and in came Slippers (II, after the baby chick we lost) and Brownie, the mini lop sisters.  Brownie is super sweet and Slippers is FAST.  We’re lucky if we can ever catch her to try to pet her.  Our hutch is huge like a bunny condo and she knows it.  Lots of places to hide and run away.

This week, we celebrated the arrival of our first hoofed friends, our new goats Nan, the angora, and Blondie the nubian boer cross.  Someday, these goats will serve a homesteading purpose, but at the moment they are just the cutest hoofed dogs a family could ask for.  They run around the pasture with the human kids.  They knock things over, they try to go through or over any door that is locked.  They’re so curious and so loving.  They cry when we go inside.  They’ve been here 5 days and they love us.  They treat us like their herd, and we’re happy to be that for them.  The goats changed things.  the bunnies did not care what time we changed their water or opened the barn door.  The chickens have their own access to go in and out with or without us, so we had morning chores, but morning was subjective.  The goats are a bit more time sensitive.  They need to get out of the stall and go get some fresh brush and grass outside.  They need to run and play.  They want out EARLY.  So now somebody needs to get up early to let them out and you better plan to pet them for a while before you walk away.

2 days ago, our broody hen, Snips the white Polish, hatched out some baby chicks, yet to be named, but nonetheless 4 new Black Australorp chicken babies joined our backyard flock.

I THINK we are done.  We are out of stalls to put things in, at least until we decide to breed Blondie to make her a productive dairy goat.  But this is how in one year, we went from a city family with 2 cats and fish, to homesteading family with 22 responsibilities looking to be cared for every morning.  Some days the kids grumble about feeding animals or turning off the movie to go play with goats, but most days, they’re excited!  They want to be the one to find the eggs, or open the barn and the let the goats out, or brush the bunnies.  They have also learned a lot about caring for other things and they’ve learned some hard lessons about nature too.

So that’s our growing family.  If you’re in the neighborhood, or if you’re at the boutique, and you want to meet them, I’ll page a human kid to give you the grand animal tour!

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-Mary

 

Lethal Mistake

So, we found some baby birds…we cared for them. Renna loved them like pets, and she wanted to do a blog post.  Keep in mind Renna is 8…so I will close this one out with a moral for her.

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“One day we ran into a baby bird in the barn.  It was on the floor so we got our dad and he put it back in its nest.  That night, it jumped out…with it’s sibling.  Our dad put them back in their nest.  The next morning, they repeated, so we got a cardboard box.  We covered the bottom in shredded paper towel, added straw, and put them in.  We gave them friskies wet cat food pate.  That day was Father’s Day, so we went to our cousins’ house for the Father’s Day grill and pool party.  We took Nessa & Rico [yup, we named them] so we could feed them.  They are always hungry!  

“2 days later, Rico passed.  But their favorite book is “Are You My Mother” by PD Eastman.  We think Nessa and Rico’s mom is dead.  We live near woods and have lots of pets.  They are either starlings or barn swallows.  We hope they are not starlings because they lay their eggs in other birds nests and make the other mom abandon her babies.  And the starling will not take care of them either. 😦 “

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This play by play is all true.  We did our best to take care of and save baby birds.  Lewis had even said, in years past, he would have just stepped on the damn things to put them out of their misery, but this farm life has changed us.  We do the weirdest things for our animals.  If they insist on sitting on eggs, we buy them some to make them happy.  We rush bunnies to the emergency vet.  I have personally cleaned baby chick bottoms and dried them with a blow dryer.  I have cut bandaids to fixed splayed legs.  I have snuck out under the cover of night to put antiseptic and dresses on my chickens missing feathers.  I do not know what has happened to me.  Who is this person who does such things?  I have read about every weird chicken problem you could probably dream of and researched it until my eyes start crossing.  We went to and paid for a family goat care class!  If you had told me 15 years ago (even 5-10 really) that this would be my life I would have laughed at you and mused about some greystone in Chicago under the el where I was going to live.

So once we were sure they were abandoned and wouldn’t be ok alone, we scooped up these baby birds and brought them into our home.  No kidding.  In a box, in a cat carrier, in our laundry room.  I read what to feed them.  I read how often to feed them (it’s like every 30 minutes in case you’re wondering).  I wondered if once they learned to fly they would come back to say hi.

Rico passed away after only 2 days.  He was the one we found on his back, who could barely stand up, and ate very little.  I like to think we made his last two days comfortable and it was better than being stepped on.  I don’t know.  I’m not a bird.

Nessa the bird was doing so well!  She was getting so big and hopping around and making all sorts of noise.  We would take her outside to get some fresh air and practice gliding.  She was doing awesome!  She had a steady diet of wet cat food and tong fed meal worms dipped in water.  This was serious business.

Then one day, we ran out of the beef/chicken pate that she (assumed she…we never asked, we didn’t want to be rude) was eating.  I felt like the mealworms weren’t satisfying to her, so I tried to feed her salmon pate that the cats LOVE.

Oh my god, I am fairly certain I killed a baby bird…  She didn’t really like the salmon.  She tried it once and looked at me like I had just insulted her and that I was possibly the stupidest person on the planet.  She even rubbed her beak in the straw vigorously.   So I put her back in the laundry room and fed the rest to the cats.  She was quiet that night, but they always slept through the night.  Renna found her the next morning…dead.  And of course Renna found her.  Of all the kids, Renna.  Sweet attachment parenting expert Renna.  Renna loves things before she even gets a chance to know them.  She wept for days when the baby chick died.  And now she found Nessa.  She never finished her blog, I assume it was too hard on her gentle soul.  And I am forever the jerk that probably killed a baby bird.  “My mom is so mean, she kills baby birds for fun.”  I can hear it now.  Good thing she doesn’t go to school so she can’t tell all of her friends and teachers.

This is farm life.  And it has been hard on Renna and on me.  And I don’t know how real farmers who actually live off their animals do it.  How do they detach from the pig or cow or meat bird?  How do they feed it and watch it grow and then eat it?  I am not a vegetarian.  I enjoy the meat that comes from other people’s farms, but if I had to look Bessie the Cow in the eye, I wouldn’t be eating the hamburger made from her for dinner without at least a few tears and possibly an emotional disorder.

We have tried our best to be good animal caregivers.  And although I kill baby birds, I hope all of our research and efforts have given our other animals a very happy life so far.  And I hope one day Renna forgives me for that one damn can of salmon pate.

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-Mary

Glued

Once upon a time, I was a creative genius…

Armed with a bin full of feathers, a hot glue gun, and a 2am coffee buzz I would sit at my kitchen table with the madness of a scientist who just used the lightning to create new life where there was none before.  From the outside, I’m sure I just looked straight crazy.  But in my mind’s eye, I was expressing some deep part of my Native American roots and communing with the feathers as they told me what it was they wanted to be.  I realize now, I may have been talented, but I was also extremely sleep deprived and something was missing from my life.

I grew up a creative person.  My old friends, my parents, my teachers, etc. would probably use the words artistic and creative to describe me.  I wrote.  I drew.  I painted.  I sewed. I played piano.  I acted.  I directed.  I did none of these things perfectly.  I was not a protege.  But I did them all and they made up a piece of who I was.  WAS.  W A S.  3 painful little letters making a word that describes something gone, something that no longer IS.

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When I first started making headbands and jewelry from feathers, I was sad.  I felt like I had become a mom (a good one) but nothing more.  I am not belittling being a mom.  It’s the best job I’ve ever had.  It’s by far the most rewarding, and it’s definitely the most challenging.  Somehow, in the challenge and the hustle, I lost my identity.  I lost my ability to be anything but a mom.  At the time, I had 2 children.  I was waitressing.  I was a nanny to my nieces, and I was working opposite shifts of Lewis and doing every day the same.  So I found something that was for me.

I spent money we did not have, and time I could have used sleeping, or cleaning, or doing laundry; curling nagori goose feathers with safety scissors or twisting peacock swords into new unique shapes and images.  I burned my fingers on hot glue and I didn’t even feel it…possibly because it was some serotonin/dopamine induced haze.  I needed to create something that was mine and mine alone.  I needed something to be proud of that was not a tiny human.  ANYTHING.

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As mothers, many of us bury ourselves in our children.  We do for them.  We do because of them.  And we do to benefit THEM.  But who are you?  What do you do or do you have that is uniquely yours?   And if the answer is nothing, how do you survive?  I felt guilty at the time for being tired the next day, or for thinking about things I could make when I should have been reading Hop on Pop and doing puzzles.  I felt like I was taking something away from Renna and Sam.  So even in my joy, my mom brain was able to turn that into guilt and somehow what was entirely about me, became about them in the light of day.  But not at 2am.  At 2am I was alone in the quiet and I was creating something I saw in my head.  Something I hadn’t seen anywhere else before.   At 2am, I was gluing myself back together.  At 2am I felt whole.

I’ve changed directions with my creativity more times than I can count in this life.  And I’m sure I’m not done yet.  I went from feather creations, to hats, to dance clothes, to felted animals, to painting, to sensory toys, to websites, to a masters degree I had no idea what I would do with, to a blog 😉 . But what I do know, is that as time has passed I am able to beat that guilt away (most of the time).  I see in my children a 2am spirit.  They are creative.  They look up to me.  They imitate what I do, and they will stay glued together because of 2am.  I didn’t take anything away from them.  I showed them a spirit.  I showed them what life looks like when you’re feeling more fulfilled and you can create.  And I truly don’t think they’re any worse for the wear…yet.  This is a bit of rambling, but it’s almost 2am, and I’m pretty sure my point is, that when you hold on to those pieces of you, you ARE doing for THEM.  And they will do for themselves some day.

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-Mary

To see my feathers and glue site (down since I found out I was pregnant with the twins 5 YEARS AGO) go here:  www.fancythatfeathers.weebly.com

Also, now you know why I am always wearing hats…well that and for ALL the days I don’t wash my hair…

 

 

 

Looking for Zebras

On more than one episode of Grey’s Anatomy, they have mentioned hearing hoof beats and not expecting Zebras.  You should expect horses.  Since TV is obviously just like real life, I assume this is something medical people actually say :).  So what happens when all the horses have run away and you still hear hoof beats?

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This is Lorelei.  Lorelei is a phenomenally strong, pretty, smart, little lady.  Since the day she was born, she’s been skittish, tires quickly, and is uncomfortable in her movement.  We first noticed she was “delayed” in her motor skills when she was very small, but it became pretty obvious when she was 12 months and did not crawl, could not sit alone, and wouldn’t even pretend to put her legs down and bear weight.  I’m not the wait and see kind of mom.  I’m an attack it aggressively and prove it wrong kind of mom.  So Lorelei and I started trying to prove the signs wrong.  She went into early childhood care through the Macomb Infant Preschool Program for gross motor delay, and some speech and sensory issues as well.

She has always done well when you compare her to other kids in the same boat.  But Lorelei comes with a tiny mirror of normal milestone development, her twin brother, Elliott.  When Lorelei was first starting to do the rock motion to crawl, Elliott was scaling furniture and practicing death-defying stunts walking across the windowsill.  When she struggled to pick up a fork, he was building amazing block towers with a strong steady hand.  I know you’re not supposed to compare children (they’re all different after all) but the divide was shocking and growing.

Lorelei was generously diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy by her PM&R Doctor at the Michigan Institute of Neurological Disorders, but even he admits that this child does not have CP.  But it did allow us access to insurances and services we wouldn’t have received otherwise.  He’s a good egg.  She had her first MRI at 18 months.  Since I fancy myself an investigative physician, I asked for a disc and I looked at every darn frame.  I had no idea what I was looking for, but my heart stopped when I found this angel.

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Apparently the angel is just a weird Rorschach test and nothing concerning.  But strangely it made me feel better or calm or something.  I can’t tell if she’s like “I’ve got this” or “You’re looking in the wrong place” or “Don’t worry, it’s ok”.  Regardless, I find comfort in the fact that Lorelei has angels in her brain.  Let’s just ignore the creepy demon face at C1 ok?

I am looking for horses.  But she defies every horse of every color.  Part of me wants to just leave her be and let her be and watch her become.  But another very stubborn part of me wants an answer…and I want it now.  Is this just who she is and she’ll never be a star athlete?  That’s fine.  Is she going to be ok until she’s not and start regressing?  Her progress right now, is forward, but slow.  Cognitively she is perfect and so smart!  So why does she have muscle weakness?  Why is she so tired?  Why is she so clumsy?  Why do her eyes cross?  Why is her Babinski reflex still there?  (Graphic below because everyone loves random medical knowledge right?)

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So I’ve become a zebra researcher.  I look for zebras because none of the horses make sense.

Since we moved here to the country and were let down so badly by Elliott’s doctors, we sort of took a break.  I pulled off her tall AFO braces (saw that her calf muscles were in atrophy) and let her run barefoot through the grass.  We put up a swing set with a special swing for days that she can’t manage sitting on a regular swing and we stopped helping her as much.  We MADE her do hard things.  She can do hard things.  She’s mastered stairs. She’s even started jumping.  She’s doing ballet.  She climbs, she chases bugs and helps catch chickens.  She’s doing tremendously well.  But I can still hear the hoof beats.

We went back to PM&R today and he hears them too.  He has new ideas, so he armed me with a new battery of tests with a new focus.  Headed back down the rabbit hole chasing this elusive hoofed creature.  See you on the other side.

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-Mary

Tall & Chubby

Buckle up, this is probably a sappy post.  When I was 13 years old, I was already shopping at Tall Girl, that store most average women never gave a second thought, you know, by Target in Utica.  I don’t know exactly how tall I was at 13, but it’s the first year I remember being seriously taller than classmates.  It’s also an age when we become very aware of ourselves and start to fall into the trap of comparison.  Well, I went shopping at Tall Girl with my mom one day, and the manager, Tammie, was working.  She was full of life and spunk.  She was fun and she told you what she was thinking.  Always.  And if she didn’t, her face did 😉  Tammie said something to 13 year old me that day I was shopping with my mom that I have never forgotten.  She told me to always stand up straight.  You’re going to be tall regardless, you might as well look nice and have good posture.  MIND BLOWN.  I was going to be tall regardless.  It is true that I could be tall and stand hunched, or I could be tall and stand up nice and not look like a silly hunch back trying to pretend she’s not tall.  I chose straight.  I tried on a pink swimsuit that day with a zipper up the front that I LOVED.  I stood up straight and I felt beautiful.  Then my mom made me put it back because I was 13 and it was a $70 swimsuit in 1995…hard pass.  So no swimsuit that day, but words I would carry with me always.

As an adult I’m 6’1″.  I’m plus sized, which is a really nice way to tell you I’m chubby and have been for over a decade.  In college I once had mono for 2 months, and after that I was smoking hot.  But it was short lived.  A good dose of mono does wonders for weight loss, but I still wouldn’t recommend it.  I hear spleens are important.

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OH MY BLOG!  DID I REALLY JUST POST THAT PHOTO?  Am I sweating?  I think I’m sweating… But here I am.  This is a photo I took when I started a diet plan last August.  It was supposed to be my before and it was supposed to be for my eyes only sort of…so I don’t know what the heck I was just thinking.  But it’s out there on the line now.  The diet came and went and it’s possible you could say I failed but I’m going with I wasn’t ready. This is what I look like.  And even if I don’t always love it, this is the reality of a body that has worked hard it’s whole life (I’ve had demanding jobs since I was 12), carried 4 beautiful children (it has super powers and can carry two at a time), and a body that carries the soul inside of it.  ME.

It has always been difficult for me to shop.  Tall Girl closed it’s doors awhile back, and for a short time I had no store that felt like home.  Enter LuLaRoe.  That’s the boutiques part of our Barnes & Boutiques.  I was invited to a LuLaRoe pop up boutique in Grand Rapids.  It was too far, I’d never heard of it, and I didn’t have any money anyway.  But I started looking into it online.  I fell in love with the idea of their clothes.  I was messaging my hostess friend, Sarah, and the consultant, Emily, back and forth about how interested I was.  They had just come out with Tall & Curvy leggings.  Hey!  I am both Tall & Curvy and I have legs!  I wanted to try them!  Sarah, my world changer, sent me some of their clothes as a gift.  She’s an amazing human.  2 and a half years later, and I am the proud owner of a boutique FULL of LuLaRoe.

The funniest part of this job to me, is that I model my clothing line and take photos and post them on social media.  Me.  Chubby, super tall, me.  But here’s the thing.  I do love me.  Flaws and all.  I KNOW I’m not perfect.  I KNOW I’m not a model.  But when I put on the right clothes, I feel good.  I feel proud to be in my skin, and these clothes have reinforced that for me.  I’ve also watched them do it for other people too.   Some people think LuLaRoe is a trend.  A fad.  I disagree.  Loving yourself is always en vogue.  Putting on clothes that are comfortable that make you feel beautiful never goes out of fashion.  Pieces, styles, and prints may change but walking out the door without the hunch of hiding in your clothes will remain.

I have no qualms telling you most of these photos took several shots and knowing my angles.  But I do know my angles, so there.  And I know when I FEEL confident and comfortable, other people can see that too.  I won’t be going out the door in my Olivia Newton John Black cat suit any time soon, but in these clothes I feel beautiful.

 

I hope you tell your body how much you love it today!

-Mary

Why I Chose Home Schooling

At 6:45 the alarm woke us up with it’s horrible bark.  With indignation I would get out of bed, smack it silly, and then head upstairs to wake up Renna and Sam, inevitably waking the twins as well.  I tried to be nice about it, truly I did, but my patience is thin in the morning, and if I have to be up, they better jump up and MOVE.  I yelled at them to get downstairs and brush their teeth.  I yelled at them to get their clothes on.  I yelled at them to get to the table and shove food in their faces while I frantically searched for school appropriate snacks and made lunches.  I yelled at them to get their shoes.  Why are shoes so difficult to find?  Where did you take them off?  Why can you only find one?  Did you take each shoe off individually in separate rooms?  They’re a set.  You should really take them off together!  WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?  You’re going to be late!  Where is your jacket?  Why is it covered in mud?  Get outside, the bus is coming!

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They would board the bus at 7:30.  They got off the bus at 4:15.  They were exhausted.  I yelled at them to get their homework done.  I yelled at them to get changed for their activities.  When we got home, even more exhausted, I yelled at them to keep them moving and eat their dinner, shower, read, and go to bed.  And we did this…every day.  5 days a week.  But this is what we knew.  This is how it goes, right?  There isn’t another option, right? There are a million things they HAVE TO get done in a day…right?

 

In September of last year, Elliott got sick.  Like really sick.  The doctors kept telling me it was just a tummy bug and there was nothing we could do.   We just had to wait it out.  We were sent home from doctors 3 times.  And let me tell you, we don’t go to doctors unless I think there is something seriously wrong.  I stuck to my mom gut (always trust your gut, you’re their mom for a reason) and finally got some testing done.  My sweet baby, my 3 year old had Salmonella.   But not just salmonella, untreated major salmonella and he was septic.  His renal system was slowly shutting down.  He went to Children’s Hospital of Michigan by ambulance from our 4th visit to a doctor, where he stayed in infectious disease isolation for 5 days.  Hint 1, tomorrow is not promised.

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While Elliott was still in the hospital, I called my dear friend Kelly, to complain…  I was whining about being there and being tired when she gave me a shock.  She was undergoing testing because she had some major back pain and they found a mass.  After Elliott was healed, I went down to visit Kelly in Toledo Hospital, where, on the day we visited, she was diagnosed with Stage IV Primary Mediastinal Lymphoma.  She was 32 and one of my dearest friends.  It was in her chest, her back, her arms, and her legs. Hint 2, you never know what tomorrow may bring.

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Three days after Kelly’s diagnosis, my friend Bob, a part of my history and my adolescence, passed away of a massive heart attack at 41.  He laid down on the couch to take a nap because he didn’t feel quite right and he never got up.  Hint 3, LIFE IS SHORT!

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The next week, I pulled my kids out of school.  This might sound crazy, but we had debated it before and just never would have pulled the trigger.  This series of unfortunate events, spoke to me in such a way that I could not ignore it.  Life is short, you will never know what tomorrow brings, and it is not promised.  So we made a choice.

I cannot speak for Lewis, but I don’t have anything against the public schools.  I think teachers are remarkable people who dedicate their lives to educating children and helping build the future.  I was a public school kid, and I happen to think I’m pretty darn smart, well-rounded, and I have a love of learning.  I had amazing teachers who were able to reach me and helped me find myself.  But this isn’t about the school.  It was about us.  It was about FREEDOM.

I was tired of yelling.  I was tired of my children being gone 9 hours a day, and fighting their exhaustion when they were here.  I was tired of this grind, this mold we stick them into and expect them ALL to fit.  As a mom of 4, I can assure you that all children are created uniquely and none of them fit a one size mold.  I wanted the freedom to explore together.  I wanted the freedom to teach them life skills, and teach them what it meant to serve others and volunteer.  I wanted the freedom to stay up until midnight to learn about the stars, sleep late, and do math in their pajamas, because let’s be real, when I have to do math, I want PJ’s on and a comfy chair to do it.  I wanted to take them to museums, and adventure.  I wanted them to touch the earth and not just read about it.  When they did read, I wanted them to choose books and subjects that interested them and inspired them to learn something new.  I wanted them to make choices.

Here we are, 9 months later, and I think some people might call what we are doing “unschooling”.  I prefer to think of us as some sort of hybrid just finding our way.  We have workbooks and curricula, but we don’t use them all that much.  We do go on adventures, but we also learn life skills, and we work a lot on just discovering what we do and do not like to do.  For instance, I have discovered that I am not a huge fan of geocaching…the mud in the swampy woods ate one of my favorite boots and it never recovered….I’m not sure I’m built for the woods…  But I learned I love science.  And my kids have seen through my eyes and excitement that learning is fun.  Baking is math.  Animals teach you responsibility and biology.  Planting a garden can teach you about the earth, photosynthesis, the life cycle, and patience.  Trips to the library ignite a love for reading and reading opens the door to any education you wish.  Being able to touch things and break them apart and see how and why they work has done more for them this year, than any amount of table work they could have done, in my opinion.  All this said, I do recognize a need in the coming months for a little more structure.  It’s possible we gave ourselves a little too much freedom 🙂  But all in all, we yell a whole lot less.  We aren’t nearly as exhausted.  And we’ve given ourselves the gift of time in a life where tomorrow is not promised, you cannot tell what it holds, and LIFE IS SHORT.

I leave you with one of my favorite quotes which I submit to you as my home schooling mission statement:  There are but two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children.  One of these is roots, the other, wings.

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-Mary

Stop Kidding Around

The thing about a farm is, it needs some animals.  I struggle with this because I don’t want to up our expenses with nothing in return.  Like bunnies…I love our bunnies and they’re cute.  But that’s it…cute.  They don’t provide us with anything because we aren’t going to eat them.  I am not a REAL farmer.  I will not eat animals we raised.  We name them and love them and the stew pot is the last place you’ll find them.  This is liberal hippy farming ok?  I do however, greatly appreciate animals that are useful to the state.  I LOVE the chickens.  They ask very little from us and they give us eggs every day.  Thanks Chickens!  We don’t sell our eggs.  They don’t earn us an income, but we will never starve because there will always be an egg.

So what’s next?

goats

GOATS!  No Kidding.

Reasons WE LOVE GOATS:

  1.  They’re cute as babies and adults which is rare.
  2. They’re generally pretty friendly.
  3. They don’t eat a ton that they don’t find themselves on the ground.
  4. They serve a purpose.
  5. Renna – “I like goats because they’re nice and friendly.  They make great pets.”
  6. Sam – “Because they’re cute.”
  7. Lorelei – “cause I think them is really pretty.”
  8. Elliott – “cause them cute and fluffy.”

Did we mention that they’re cute?  Ok, so goats are kind of just cute pets but they also provide different things.  Our goats will provide fiber for art projects or sale, and eventually milk and cheese.  I guess you can even make soap, but I haven’t looked into that yet.  I want the kids (the two legged kind) to grow up with responsibilities and I want them to know what it’s like to put someone or something else first.  When I was 12 I started working in a horse barn to pay for my own lessons and leasing a horse.  I cleaned 30 stalls a day (3-4 days a week) and fed and watered 30 horses.  Horses don’t know it’s Christmas morning and you’re 12.  They still need a clean stall and food.  I’m excited for my kids to know that.   They THINK they’re excited too 😉 We’ll see what they say December 25th.

Today we attended a Goat Care Class at Sheepy Hollow Farms in Armada.  We THINK we’re ready now 🙂  We can be good goat owners.  PLUS!  What’s better than shopping a boutique of crazy comfortable clothing at someone’s house?  How about petting a goat and snuggling a bunny when you’re done?

Are goats a business expense? #Taxwriteoff

Nan the Angora, and Blondie the Nubian/Boer cross, coming July 2017

You pronounce that Bbbllllaaaa -ondie. 🙂

-Mary