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Lars - age 10

Lars - age 10

I bought the October Guide from Little Acorn Learning.  With all the wonderful festivals and holidays approaching I wanted a little help with ideas, and some help organizing myself.  Nothing beats having it all in the palm of your hand.  Our theme for the week is birds, and another great thing is Little Acorn includes a sort of weekly virtue in the theme.  They even provide a caregiver meditation to remind you to take time for yourself.  I love that!  The virtue for this week is showing kindness.  Not only are we to help create awareness of the need for kindness in our children, but we are challenged to become aware ourselves.

Mondays are “cooking days”.  This is where the girls help me with a cooking project.  Today’s project from Little Acorn was creating a homemade pet treat.  Our pet is a dalmatian whom I’ve written about a few times here.  His name is Lars.  John and I bought him as a two month old puppy the month before we were married.  He is ten years old.  Lars was our first baby.  He shared our bed.  We took him on special trips and bought him special treats.  Lars destroyed our couch and my collection of pewter figurines (yes, the dog demolished a soft metal with his teeth!) and we still allowed him to remain in the house.  We were over it in less than a week and carrying on as normal.  Unconditional love.

Then, came along Deladis.  Despite the fact that I had balked at the thought that becoming a mother would change my relationship with Lars, it did.  There was little time to snuggle with him on the couch.  He was so rowdy it was impossible for me to walk him while Deladis was with us.  His little shenanigans became more of an aggravation than something clean up and look over.  Keeping Deladis from eating out of his food bowl was a challenge.

Ivy came along.  We found out that Deladis was allergic to dogs, and we moved back to our mountains.  We could finally keep Lars safely outside, and we chose to do that, for Deladis’ sake and for the fact that dalmatians shed 24/7 all year around.  Their hair is not only white, it is fine.  I know (even with him outside) I will be sweeping his hair up long after he is gone.

With Lars outside, it has become even easier to not interact with him.  I shoo him out of the compost where he likes to visit and eat egg shells.  I peek out the door when he barks.  I make sure his food bowl is full.  Every now and then, I will pat his back.  But, mostly, he’s just there and I’m just here.

Lately, I’ve been doing more thinking about this because I know it won’t be long until he won’t be there anymore.  Though he gets around much like an adolescent dog, he has started falling through the cracks between the porch steps and gets stuck.  I have to pull him out.  I know he has lost hearing in one ear that stays infected most of the time despite our efforts to help him.  I’m pretty sure he has cataracts because he has started barking at us when we approach the house until we are right up on him.  When I see his legs shake beneath him, I know he has arthritis.

He doesn’t complain.  He isn’t sad.  He loves my children, and still follows me on walks and around the yard ready to protect me.  He lets Ivy mount him like a pony.  He cuddles with Roy (our rooster) on the front porch.  He is nothing but sweet, gentle, and kind, in spite of my not giving him the attention I once did, and being displaced by our “real” children.

When we gave Lars the treats we made, he wagged his tail like he did when he was a pup and we gave him the gourmet treats from the Three Dog Bakery.  Deladis gave him the first one, then, Ivy.  I gave him one as well.  Then, as I was putting the remainder away, he was standing in the door, and I couldn’t resist letting him have a fourth treat.  I’ll be sorry when he is gone from my doorway, drooling over my cooking.  I don’t think I’ll ever love another dog as I have him.

A part of showing kindness is recognizing the finite state of our bodies.  Realizing that we are all here only as long as the miracle of life continues to allow us to take another breath.  The time for kindness is now.  The time to release our fear and stubbornness is now.  There is no other time.

…patience which is the first condition of real Love. In Love you give without attention to all the mistakes of another as the sun gives light and warmth to all people…

– Yogi Bhajan (on the Shabad Kriya)

I’m finding it harder and harder to even come from that anxiety driven place anymore.  It is becoming easier to stop myself from riding the waves of stressful emotion.  When you truly let go of expectations, extensive future planning (within reason), and begin to focus on the now, and your blessings, it becomes more difficult to be selfish enough to be impatient.  And yet, we are all human.

Kindness is a huge thing.  I think in the modern way of life it is too easy to avoid even the simplest acts of kindness.

Autumn is our season for hiking.  It is something the four of us can’t get enough of this time of year.  Today, was the first cool day of the season with no humidity.  We decided to celebrate with a hike to Bad Branch Falls.  The falls is a nature preserve in Letcher County, Kentucky and rests on the state’s second highest mountain – Pine Mountain.  The hike is short, but of moderate difficulty.  However, we were able to make it with the girls just fine.  I’ve been making this hike regularly since childhood.

I think I’ll let our pictures do most of the narrating.  Despite the fact that I was battling bad batteries and trying to take pictures quickly, the beauty speaks for itself.

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Much of the trail is tunneled in mountain laurel – my favorite flowering plant.

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Ivy stops to watch the rushing water coming off the mountain after two days of hard rain.

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The water is unbelievably clear and safe to play in, but I’ve always wondered if it is safe to drink.  It’s tempting.

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There is magic in these hills.  Without man’s intervention, nature provided the perfect seat for a rest.

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The reward!  There was more water than I have ever seen coming off that mountain.  The sky rained every last bit of humidity left from summer over the last two days.

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There are hidden spots all over these mountains like this.  The kind that make you stop and be in the moment.  Place yourself within the bigger picture.  Meditate.

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Join me on Wednesday for Wordless Wednesday and my best shot of the falls . 🙂

You remember that campaign of commercialism about 10 years ago of the brand “No Fear”?  It was all over clothes and emboldened teen and young adult drivers when they posted it on the back windsheild of their vehicles.  Well, here in the mountains, we like to personalize things.  You know, make it our own.  So, we turned “No Fear” into “Ain’t Skeered”.

Deladis was the embodiment of that term last night at the fall festival’s carnival.  She was exactly tall enough to ride all the big rides and that’s precisely what she wanted to do.  With the exception of the Gravitron and the Haunted House, we let her.

The "baby" swings

The "baby" swings

She started with the “baby” swings, and while it was obvious they were really fun, my child was looking for a thrill.  It wasn’t long before I was gritting my teeth and holding to John’s arm, while she rode the “big kid” swings that, to my mothering eyes, seemed to engulf her in risk.  I trusted her daddy’s judgment and watched her huge smile as it took her around and out into the night air.  Next, she rode in the front cart on the rollercoaster called The Screamer.

Just a boy really...

Just a boy really...

As if accepting the fact that my daughter is growing up faster than I had realized and she has enough of her mother in her to love to be daring weren’t enough, John had to bully past me to ride with Deladis the two rides where we felt an adult presence was necessary.  😉  Mommy didn’t get to ride a single ride. 😦  He played it off as daddy’s protection, but I know daddy just wanted to ride.  They are on the WindJammer in this picture.

We really enjoyed our time with our firstborn.  She shined last night.  Ivy stayed with my mother, and I’m sure she had a better time there.  I could just picture her running off into the crowd, or trying to stand up on the moving kiddie rides.  It won’t be long until we see the her flaunting her daring on rides.  I can’t believe they grow so fast.

The still, humid, hot days of this week are the “dog days” of summer, or if not exactly that, very reminiscent of them.  The air has been muggy, and to be out in it makes your skin damp.  When walking around the cabin and up the holler we’ve had to be extra careful.  Snakes are usually blind during these last days of summer, and will strike at anything that moves.  Fortunately, I haven’t seen any more copperheads – just a few harmless garter snakes.

The girls and I are still pushing for autumn, and preparing to celebrate everything it brings.  Tomorrow, John and I will be taking them to the fall festival I loved as a kid.  Today, we worked at preserving the first falling leaves to be a part of our first nature table (or basket, I haven’t decided yet.)

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We gathered the most beautiful leaves we could find on our morning nature walk.  Then, I spread the girls’ outdoor picnic table with newspaper, gave them a cup of olive oil and my pastry brushes, and let them grease down the leaves.  Deladis noticed right away how the oil brings out the colors and the intricate veins that run through the leaves.  She said, “They can be our friends now.”

The next step was laying them on a fresh piece of newspaper to cover them.

This is the second set of leaves we oiled.

This is the second set of leaves we oiled.

Finally, we laid the news wrapped leaves on a table and placed some heavy books on top.  In three days or so, they should be ready.  They will be flat, obviously, and not as easy to tear and crumble.  They’ll make a beautiful addition to our table/basket.  (Not familiar with nature tables?  Check out some examples at Hip Mountain Mama and at Homemade Serenity.  While you are at Hip Mountain Mama, check out her natural art supplies give-away!  I couldn’t think of a better one myself – thus why I have only had two or so give-aways. ;))

To add to the fun of our leafy thoughts, we read Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert.

With illustrations made from actual fall leaves and die-cut pages on every spread that reveal gorgeous landscape vistas, here is a playful, whimsical, and evocative book that celebrates the natural world and the rich imaginative life of children.

http://www.harcourtbooks.com/LeafMan/

Deladis has fallen in love with this book.  She will laugh and has to point out every animal, tree, or man made with the leaves.  Ivy has even started sitting through the reading of some books, and this is one of them.  I’m amazed more everyday at the foundations for her own comprehension of reading that Deladis absorbs from my reading and telling her stories.  She has even started telling me stories.

One of the highlights of the day was an indoor, personalized, winter, weather prediction that road in on the engine of our wooden toy train.

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This is a wooly worm and they are notorious predictors of winter weather.  This one is the first the girls’ have noticed.  Seen most often in early fall, you can read their colors to give yourself an idea of what to expect in the coming winter season.  It looks like we’ll start with a long period of heavy, cold weather, probably some large snowfalls (the larger black patch at the head).  Mid-winter will be mild (brown mid-section), and we’ll end with another shorter patch of rough weather (the last black patch).  This makes me hope for our approach to the bridge even more, so we won’t have to be breaking ice with the front bumper of the truck this winter in order to leave the creek.

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For more Wordless Wednesday visit here.

There was real joy in this last day of summer for myself and the girls.  I started going through our clothes, changing the breezy summer attire for the more cozy fall duds.  I actually got rid of half of my wardrobe of clothes – the chest of drawers is next.  Everything that is too big for me had to go.  I’m letting go of the fear that I will need those clothes again.  I’m residing in the fact that I will not.

For the last few weeks, we’ve been doing a fall theme for our Circle Time and our daily activities for homeschool.  Instead of changing after a week, I decided to draw this one out.  With all the festivals coming up and holidays, I thought it would be wonderful to have our own family festival as a culmination of the awareness our verse, songs, walks, cooking, and art are bringing to the natural change of season. (An non-original idea inspired by Heaven on Earth.) John is going to be horribly busy for the next few months, so I’m not sure when we will be able to have it.  I’ll have to plan well.

Today, we finished our leaf spiral.  Deladis worked on learning to use scissors while I traced and cut out paper leaves from the ones we gathered on our daily walks.  Deladis then glued them to the spiral we cut from construction paper.  We hung it in the kitchen.  I’m loving having these little projects decorating our cabin.

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Our four bean plants are full of beans, so I took the girls outside and we picked our third mess of this late season.  Deladis and I picked, and Ivy was in charge of putting them in the basket.

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Ivybeans

These beans have the best flavor, but they are the toughest beans to string.  The last basket full took over an hour to string, and I still missed some.  I didn’t worry about the mud from the drizzle that came down all day.  The three of us wore the earth like a badge of dedication to work as fun.  I was pretty amazed that the cabbage seeds I planted are up and doing well despite our neglect of them.  I’m going to have to go in and start taking better care of them now.  Get the hoe out.

There is an aromatic plant around the cabin that is just starting to flower.  The scent is very much like mint, but with a tartness.  I know this plant has to have a good use.  The more I take notice of what grows wild here, the more I wish I could have someone come and show me what to do with it.  This one is in our garden amongst the beans.

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It’s beautiful.  If you know what it is, please share it with me.

The earlier darkness has helped the girls find sleep easier tonight.  I will wake up tomorrow with a smile on my face.  Tomorrow we’ll go to the library and find books on autumn, squirrels, apples, and pumpkins.  We’ll go to the produce stand and get a few bags of apples and maybe try drying some.  I might even let the girls have one last Hawaiian Ice before the shack closes for the season.

I can’t say enough about the fall festival held annually in my hometown.  I anticipated it every year as a kid and continue to do so.  The cool nights.  The slurry of conversation.  Faces of all sorts, eyes connecting with yours and some not.  The carnival and the multi-colored lights on the rides.  The carnival operators with their strange American dialects and accents.  The aroma of traditional foods in both senses of the word – old-timey recipes and usual southern American fare.  The craft booths with work from mountain artisans.  Gliding through them because you can’t move quickly through the crowd, listening to the Mountain Idol contest on the main stage.  It’s plain fun.  I am taking the girls this weekend coming.  We’ll ride rides, hear the music, and taste the air. 🙂

I can’t say enough about the two costumes hanging in the hallway waiting for the girls and Halloween.  I’m looking forward to it so much.  They are going to have a great time.  Next month is also  my birthday month, and I always am grateful to have been born in October.  It couldn’t have been more perfect to have come to life in that month, and I continue to come to life in this season every year.

I can’t say enough about what I have learned in this last week and my little 40 days commitment.  The rules are reforming, adapting, and falling away, but the goals remain the same.  Commitment is seeing something through to the end.  It doesn’t mean perfection, or bullying your way to the end result.  It means knowing where a road lets out and being confident enough to see that there are different paces with which to travel and seeing that their are different means through which you are guided to the end.

I can’t say enough about modification.  To realize that committing to too much is a bad thing when you know you can’t be successful, but understanding the commitments you have already made are wonderful and redefining the new ones to work with the old.  I know as a mother to two little ones I can’t expect myself to practice yoga every day, every week.  I have already committed to five days a week and that is a huge accomplishment – it really is – I will admit that to myself.  What I can do is a 40 day consecutive meditation.  I can do that anywhere I am.  In the place I am now, it might be exactly what I need.

I can’t say enough about what simple awareness can do.  To actually be able to catch myself becoming reactive to stressors.  To see triggers.  To anticipate the needs of my girls, and attempt to be prepared.  To have a plan for the “next time.”  It allows me not to have solutions now, but to still see that I have made a huge step.  I’m not walking through the day blindfolded feeling helplessly tied to chaos, and not understanding where it comes from.  I can actually see why!!  I’m getting better at it as the days go on too.  It’s not the kind of stopping awareness that I anticipated.  It is an awareness that says in the moment, this is what is happening and it can stop now, or this would be a great time to…

I’m exhausted.  The girls are exhausted and sleeping.  Today, has been a whirlwind.  This week for me has been very much immersed in paying attention to our in breaths and out breaths and when they are needed.  Rhythm.  An activity that is active or one that is quiet and reflective.  Balance.  We’ve had more steady rhythm since we began focusing on homeschool and doing an active Circle Time.  This week I’ve been working on adding in regular meal and snack times for the girls and a bedtime of 8pm with a consistent routine.

The last two days have really shown me what an inconsistent rhythm can do to a child.  I think before I was blind to the chaos it caused and thought that’s just how it goes for us.  Last night we were fortunate enough to visit with my Aunt Sharon for a few hours after Deladis’s dance class.  She had come to Kentucky for just a few days and had brought us some homeschool crafting goodies.  We didn’t get back home until 9pm and the girls weren’t in bed until 10pm.  It was the first night since Sunday that bedtime was not 8pm.

Then, today we had a beautiful morning Circle Time.  The girls have been enjoying the new autumn theme.  We are readying for our first family festival and the local fall festivals.  Deladis sung one of our songs loud and clear with me today.  Her voice rang out and I think I really heard her unhindered singing voice for the first time.  I smiled.  I had a light heart.

The next veering from our rhythm was when Ivy had to skip her nap and I my regular yoga time.  We had a homeschool group meeting, as we have found one that is near enough to us. (Yay!!)  It was our first time going, and the girls played so hard.  Yet, little inklings of unrest crept into their countenance.  I knew it was about to turn for the worst when Deladis dropped her scoop of ice cream and when she went to ask for another and wasn’t heard, she stuck her face out and screamed an angry “HEY!” at the mother that was dishing out the scoops.  From there, every little bump or fall, she screamed like she had been stung by a bee.

We got home, and I realized I hadn’t eaten since breakfast.  It was about 4pm.  We decided to go out to eat since I had to go to the store anyway.  Ivy cried the whole supper and John had to take her outside.  It was so loud that the restaurant manager gave Ivy his bobble head ink pen to try to calm her.  As soon as we were home, the girls made it known they needed a bedtime.  Them in bed, I sat down to write this realizing how much being in the midst of that and trying to hold it together has wore me out, and understanding what our past has been.

So, I’ve learned that rhythm is a great thing.  It is worth it to have a balance in our daily routine.  It’s healthy.  In more ways than not, things have went smoothly this week.  I now know that I need to find ways to help the girls when our rhythm will be interrupted and to make sure those times are kept to a minimum.

I have also learned that in order to have a rhythm, it pays to be somewhat organized.  I have gone back and forth about whether or not we need a written schedule.  Now, I’m thinking again that we do, or at least a daily plan.  Making regular mealtimes has brought back meal planning into the picture as well.  It seems like a lot of work, but it’s suppose to make the home a more peaceful place.  So, I’m assuming eventually it will be second nature and I’ll realize how much easier it makes my job as a mother and how much less “discipline” the girls need.  Parenting is really a trial in personal growth.  I’ve never had to grow up so much in  my life, while still trying to think like a kid. 🙂

On day 3 of my 40 days of commitment, I’m realizing just how much I dislike housework.  I want to use the word “hate”, but I refuse.  For, it is not my conscious mind that holds the dislike.  In fact, I want to like my housework.  I like other types of work that are similar to this.  I love tending the chickens, even cleaning their poopy nest boxes.  I love it!  I love turning the compost with a shovel borrowed from our landlord because we haven’t bought proper tools.  Seriously, I find joy in it.  Planting and hoeing the garden is another great joy.  I also absolutely love to cook.  However, put me at the sink to wash dishes, and I’m a wreck of nerves.

It is something deep down that causes me to have anxiety when trying to keep a tidy house.  I’ve been trying to find the source of that, so I looked to my childhood.  My mother didn’t seem to enjoy her housework.  She was too tired from her job, and I saw how she became aggravated when cleaning.  Then, there was the power struggle of my teen years and the begging for me to clean my room.  Other women I’ve been in close contact with, have been obsessive about cleaning, to the point of being militant.  If you found yourself having to help in the work, be careful and pay attention.  If it’s not done right, they’ll take your head off.  And then, I came to John’s mother and found an example of what I would like to be when it comes to homemaking.  She keeps an immaculate home, which I’m not aspiring to with two small children in the house.  What I do love about her is that she really does seem to enjoy cleaning and keeping things tidy.  I want that ease when it comes to that kind of work.  I’d love for my housecleaning to be a time of focus and almost meditation.

What happens to me now?  I feel my pulse rise.  I get the feelings of butterflies in my stomach, and I find myself ready to lash out.  It comes from somewhere deep inside and housework is the trigger.  No, I’m not lazy.  I’m a hard worker, and wouldn’t be anything but that.  I really don’t know other than seeing people view housework as a discipline tool or a burden until later in my life, where it could have come from.

When thinking of Waldorf inspired homemaking and education, how we approach our housework is really critical.  I’m realizing for the first time how our approach to it will set the tone for how our children will view this type of work.

As we wash the morning dishes, sweep the floor, dust the furniture, let’s ask ourselves what our child sees in our gesture.  Does he see care in our bodily rhythm as we bend toward the task, or does he see a hurried duty?  Does he see pleasure in the task, or resentment?  Because the young child learns by imitation, he will imitate not only our physical gestures, but also our “inner gesture”.  We can teach our child to enjoy the rhythmic activity of the care of his toys and playthings by our own conscious enjoyment of the care of our home.  As we bring our conscious presence to the rhythm of these tasks, we give our child a dual gift: a sense of purpose and presence in the rhythms of daily life.

Sharifa Oppenheimer, Heaven on Earth

I read this and realized how my actions were impacting not only myself and how I viewed my day to day, but also my children.  It’s not a wonder why Deladis won’t participate without coaxing in tidying her room.  She sees the stress it causes me and wants no part of that.  Now, I’m wondering how we change years of deeply grained habit.  I suppose little by little.  I’m trying to be conscious of my feelings when they arise, and to talk myself out of them or meditate through them.  There’s not a reason that cleaning up after our family should put me into hypertension.

I have to start somewhere.  I will start with acknowledging that I love the look of a tidy, clutter free home.  I will say I don’t mind sweeping or laundry so much.  I can say that there is nothing else that absolutely has to be done in my day aside from taking care of the girls and John, so there is time for it.  It’s a start.

I’ll use this as inspiration.

My favorite kitchen of the day in the Worcester House at New Echota

My favorite kitchen of the day in the Worcester House at New Echota

A little girl's room - very few "toys" - I loved it, so simple and pure as was the boy's room

A little girl's room - very few "toys" - I loved it, so simple and pure as was the boy's room

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About Me

An Appalachian woman born and raised, mothering two little girls in a place that is non-existent to AT&T or UPS. Happily working toward a sustainable lifestyle and writing on the demand of a loud muse.

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