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None of my three daughters have been interested in baby food.  After my first was born, I decided not to fool with it at all.  So, with Ivy and Gwen and by default with Deladis, I have practiced baby-led weaning.

Baby Led Weaning, quite simply, means letting your child feed themselves from the very start of weaning. The term was originally coined by Gill Rapley, a former health visitor and midwife. – Baby-Led Weaning: The Mush Stops Here

The term “weaning” is used in the British sense on this website and does not mean ending nursing (breastfeeding).  It simply means introducing solid foods.

Deladis’ first swallowed food was cucumber.  Ivy’s was avocado, and Gwen’s was peas.  For Gwen, it is more about exploring the texture and the taste of the food.  She rarely swallows it.  I have noticed her increasing the amount going in to the stomach little by little.

I also do child-led weaning.  “Weaning” in this use means end of nursing.  Child-led means that the child dictates when the breastfeeding relationship will end unless the mother becomes uncomfortable and ready to wean prior to that time.  Deladis stopped nursing at 2 years and 6 months.  Ivy did at 2 years and 2 months.  It worked out beautifully for our family.  My girls have rarely needed antibiotics and are generally very healthy and strong.  I love nursing my babies and fortunately I’ve had an relatively easy go of it.  With Deladis I had some difficulties in the beginning, but once they were worked out, I had no more problems.  The key is when problems do arise to seek help if your remedies do not solve the problem.

Child-led weaning is actually in tune with the American Academy of Pediatrics breastfeeding recommendations.

Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk,” published in the March 2012 issue of Pediatrics (published online Feb. 27), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reaffirms its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months of a baby’s life, followed by breastfeeding in combination with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months of age, and continuation of breastfeeding for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby.

Anyhow… all this to say that this is what baby-led weaning looks like in our home. 🙂  Happy Sunday!

Yep, I "gommed" up a strawberry.

Yep, I “gommed” up a strawberry.

And now I get a bath in front of some nice moist heat and a picture window looking out on the sunny Sunday!

And now I get a bath in front of some nice moist heat and a picture window looking out on the sunny Sunday!

 

Today I gathered the three of you around

to apologize

Not a new path, but a re-commitment

To your youth

the path we now walk together

until your womanhood

forging your own

A re-commitment to your soft skin

your innocence

the sweet knowing that peers out from behind your eyes

An acknowledgment of the importance of

now

that Spirit entrusted me with your well-being

The original intent

going back to the ground from which I was formed

you were formed

To learn there

in the warmth of a sun cut by the limbs of trees

A re-commitment to out foremothers

their well trodden path

not a new path

 

Today, Confluence Herbals and Spiritual Coaching is born, and I feel the relief and exhaustion that comes after the labor that is listening to Spirit.

Trail to Bad Branch Falls

Trail to Bad Branch Falls

The weather has given us a break, and the girls and I took a hike this past Saturday.  It was lovely.  We got home and both the girls fell asleep by 6:30 and didn’t wake up again until the next morning!

Start with a nice blue sky.

Add a warm hilltop breeze

Two lovely little girls

 

A release of penned up energy waiting all winter long

And a few soft smiles

One portly little cat who follows along behind like a dog

Neglected hunting cabin

 

That had to have once been loved

A few open old deep mines

 

An old logging road

Big old maple leaves

A couple of rolled over rocks

Blow one last kiss to the sun

A gal has her first moon time and is initiated either gently or suddenly into womanhood.  A woman experiences pregnancy and birth or feeling love for someone more than any love she has ever felt for herself or another – a different love – and she is initiated into motherhood.  Today, I was initiated.  I took another step out of the speeding rat race of the world back into the days when woman, wife, and mother were words for many other jobs as well.

Yesterday was a blessed and sunny day.  We spent the day outside, enjoying our chickens who have finally started laying and setting.  The house chickens have found a safe nest – their third try.  The barn hens began using the nest boxes and sticking close to the barn.

House chickens - Roy and Little Girlfriend - on the bird table

The other day we found six of Little Girlfriend’s eggs in Lars’s doghouse.  She wasn’t setting, so we ate them.  She moved the nest under the old coop.

The girls played in the sandbox.  I planned for a breastfeeding workshop I am giving soon, sitting next to them in a straight backed chair with my lap desk and the sun giving the perfect light.

This morning it was gloomy.  The rain clouds came overnight.  John was preparing to leave for the weekend, and we had just finished our pancake breakfast.  Our neighbor, Brett, walked up on the porch in time to finish the last of the pancakes.  He wasn’t coming to eat though.  He was coming with photos of a hawk, down in the barn, killing our setting hen.  Brett wasn’t able to stop it.

We work really hard at getting things just so.  It seems to go better, then the natural world reminds us where we are in the scheme of things.  It didn’t take me long before I had a plastic grocery bag in hand and shoes on my feet to walk down to the barn.  I got there and realized the hawk hadn’t broken her skin, only her neck.  I picked her up by the feet, put her in the bag, and brought her up to the cabin to be prepared for eating.

I used a Buck knife my daddy gave me to remove her head.  She was our sweetest and prettiest hen.  The knife wasn’t the type I needed, but the best I have.  I tossed her bitty head, with cute tufts of beige feathers that stuck out from her cheeks, into the trees.  I made a quick phone call to my dad for some reminders and instructions, and John and I took her to the creek to gut and pluck her.

I remembered my great grandmother, Golda Johnson, and her deep fear of chicken feathers.  I remembered the story of my Uncle Vince ringing a chicken’s neck, and its body flying off and into my great great grandmother’s well, ruining the water.  I remembered my grandmother’s (Ida Hansel) disgust at a chicken and her druthers of not fixing it to eat.

John stood by to observe, and I stuck the Buck knife into her soft belly slicing downward.  The knife hit a shell.  When I opened her, I pulled out a perfectly formed egg.  The one she’d lay today.  I set it to the side.  With two fingers I began to remove her innards from the cavity of her still warm body.  I understood for the first time how much of her little body was devoted to making eggs.  To being a provider of life and food.  I held her tiny, healthy heart in my hands a moment to look at its perfection.

Plucking was harder.  It took me a minute to get the hang of it.  I finished her in the house, after a scald in the pot.  Plucked, drained, gutted, and washed, I placed her in a freezer bag to be fixed when John comes home.

I knew at some point we’d eat some of the animals we raise.  Deladis took it well.  She knows where her food comes from, and she likes meat.  Ivy cried a little, but I think she sensed my downtrodden mood.  I wasn’t ready to do it today.  Not without numerous diddles running across the field following their mama.  Not without a fridge full of eggs.  I couldn’t let her go to waste.  She wouldn’t leave her nest.  She couldn’t run.  In her death, she’s giving us a most healthy meal, and a perfect egg.  Both will be prepared with love.  We will consume her and know her.  We will know personally our food.

I think of the Appalachian women whose job it was to kill and prepare chickens.  Appalachians mostly ate hogs, but on a Sunday, fried chicken was a nice dinner, especially if you were expecting company.  I wondered at their chore of feeding the chickens, holding them under their arms, gathering their eggs, wringing their necks, plucking feathers, and preparing them into a special dinner with all the love they had to give.  It was the least I could do for our hen.

Later on, we stopped at McDonald’s after a prolonged doctor’s visit.  From the drive-thru I saw a mama dog with heavy teats wagging her tail at every stranger that passed by, hoping for a bite.  She hadn’t gotten anything, and she was begging so politely.  Hungry to the core as only you can be when nursing a baby, and yet she begged with more humanity than some people I’ve encountered on the city streets. We got our food, eased the truck next to her, called her over, and the three of us females donated half of our meat portions to her and her pups, wherever she had them waiting.  She ate without chewing, her front paws on my seat.

I’ve been initiated.  It’s hard to wash the smell of blood from your hands.

In my twenties, I didn’t think much about self improvement.  I would have laughed at anyone suggesting a self-help book.  I read little on spirituality, and honestly didn’t have a clue where I fit in.  I figured I was who I was by that time and I had to learn to endure the faults, the neurosis, and the walls that I had built for myself.  What I did dwell on were the negative parts of my childhood.  I couldn’t seem to move passed them, and I felt like I would need to muster all the strength I could to move on down the line.  I also clung to the good parts of my childhood.  They stuck to me – bittersweet, moments of bliss that were only to be glanced at here and there.

After becoming pregnant with Deladis, I realized that life was much more than existing in a past you can’t change.  I realized that there were things I didn’t want to pass on to my daughter.  Things that can be excused in families.  All ___ (insert family name) are mule headed.  Oh, you get that temper from your Uncle ___.  You’re always depressed, just like your ____.  Things that are chalked up as inherited personality traits, that can very well be negative if given the right circumstances, but given a different environment can be worked with and made into positives.  Instead of saying, that’s who I am, it’s in the blood, we can work to stop the scars that are passed down through generations in families.  Those scars don’t have to be a curse.  The fact is, you don’t have to live with them anymore the moment you choose to see them for what they are and no longer choose to accept them.  Not that it isn’t hard work through them, but acknowledgment that there is no power there to hold you.

I didn’t completely understand my great desire to become a better me after becoming a parent.  I would catch little thoughts as they passed through my mind that would hint at why.  If you keep losing your cool, your relationship with your child will erode. Do you ever want her to wonder if she is loved? Then, there is the whole aspect of parenting daughters as a woman.  Stop downing your physical appearance in front of your child.  You don’t want her to spend her whole adolescence thinking she is an ugly duckling or not feminine because she doesn’t like makeup or spending too much time on her hair.

Eli, The Good the most recent novel by the eastern Kentucky author Silas House came out in September 2009.  My grandmother went to North Carolina to hear him read and to buy me a signed copy of the book.  I thought that pretty dang cool of her considering she was supporting an independent bookstore and she was buying me the best kind of material present I could ever receive.  Silas House is my very favorite author.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect of this novel.  I had heard him read an excerpt at the Hindman Settlement School’s Appalachian Writer’s Workshop evening readings over the summer.  I appreciated the segment he read.  I soaked in the frankness of the tone and took up the imagery, making a movie in my mind, as the best books do for me.  I relished in his audible voice, true to his accent and unapologetic.  The kind that makes you even more proud to be who you are because someone molded from the same clay as you is making a difference in the world.  I was ready for this book.

I opened it and began reading, noticing immediately that this novel was very different from his first three (a series with the same family as characters).  It was different in feeling and much different in tone.  It was told from the voice of a ten year old child, Eli Book.  While the setting was obviously the mountains, it was more universal.  It felt like it could be many places.  Immediately, I felt like that child could have been me.

I went through the first half of the book wondering where it was taking me.  I didn’t grasp it fully because at times it was a very uncomfortable place to be, but as I moved onward I understood that was exactly the point.

By the end of the novel, I felt like I had been on a life transforming journey.  The kind that is a one way ticket.  You go from beginning to end and never look back.  The end of the novel held the juice for me.  Eli’s father dealt with demons brought back from the Vietnam war.  A war he had gone to fight still being only a child.  Eli’s mother clung to the love she found with his father because she had not known love as a child.  There was Eli and his sister both feeling the very same way, but coming to the understanding that what they were feeling was not the reality of their life, but the feelings that their parents were carrying with them and projecting out onto their lives.

But then he saw me.  I just stood there, feeling an overwhelming sense of sadness wash over me.  I had felt alone all my life, had felt as if my parents only saw each other as they moved through the world, thought they loved each other so much that there was no room to love me.  But now, by the way Daddy looked at me, I knew better.

His faced is what convinced me.  He was so hurt to see me there, to know I had seen all of this.  So I knew, once and for all, that he did care if I existed or not.

Eli, The Good by Silas House, Chapter 25, pg. 265

It was that moment in the book that sealed the deal for me and my commitment to becoming my true self.  The self that is uninhibited by my circumstances or past.  This was the point that gave me hope.  The hope that despite my shortcomings and my personal pitfalls, my children will at some point be assured of the fact that I love them and I love having been a part of giving them life.  They will know it because it is true.

All the things that I am doing are not only for myself at this point, though I believe looking inward is important  for people in all walks of life.  It is for my family.  From the choice of Waldorf inspired education, to moving up in the head of no where, to making our traditional culture a daily part of our life, those choices were made to help my children experience childhood.  We can grow up so quickly.  My spiritual studies, my yoga practice, my writing and reading, making the choice to become a childbirth educator, are all part of ending a cycle and embracing my natural state of well being.  Disease is not our natural state.  It is dis-ease.  Feelings of inadequacy, depletion, and blaming are not natural.  These are things that can be healed.  These are things that with mindfulness can be made whole in beautiful ways.

I want to bring my children up in a healing environment.  I want to do all I can to insure that I leave little baggage for them to carry into their adult life.  Any baggage they will have will be theirs, personal and part of that which helps us become independent of our parents.  It will be the stuffs of a beautiful life and the tools to make it a complete one.

We were blessed with a sunny day and warm enough weather to get outside and enjoy it.  Enjoy it we did!

We walked down to the barn, fed the chickens, and walked back to home.  As soon as we made it to the yard, Deladis said, “We can swing!”

Then, we walked on up the holler passed our house to my favorite spot in the little valley.

After seeing the emptiness of this valley thanks to Google Earth, I plan to thoroughly explore it with the girls.

Deladis is learning about the root and seed children that spend their time sleeping snug inside Mother Earth through the Winter.  We couldn’t help but notice many of the mosses and lichens have awesome blooms of red and yellow, or simply the brightest green.

Even our animal friends got in on the warmth.

Our dog, Lars, is a bird whisperer.  Have I mentioned they will lie next to him?

Lately, Deladis has been really in to AbbeyRoad by The Beatles.  John has our CDs with him most of the time, so we listen to the record collection.  John’s dad gave us his records and Abbey Road was one of them.  Deladis has Brer Rabbit, Fat Albert, and Chipmunk Punk, but Abbey Road trumps those every time.  Deladis’ favorites are “Come Together,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “Something,” and “Her Majesty”(the one about Madge being a really fine girl – I think that is the title).  I won’t forget the day she told me she liked “Something”.  She asked me what kind of song that was and what was it about.  George Harrison moved my four year old.  She’s a thinking girl.

We sang sunshine songs as we walked.  “Here Comes the Sun” was included of course as it is on most days of  our singing.  As well as “The Sun Shines on Everyone” by Snatam Kaur, and “You Are My Sunshine”, which Ivy has learned to sing really well thanks to her new auntie.  🙂

It was a fine and refreshing time.

I’m wonderfully optimistic about the year to come.  I think I’m finally coming to an understanding of what it means to let go and let God.  To kick off the new year, I have decided to start a series of posts on things we have a right to know about (in fact in many situations our life depends on it), but for whatever reason they are kept “secret” whether through planned secrecy or by tactful exclusion of information.

John and I spent the evening on the couch last night watching our new Netflix arrival – Food, Inc. .  I’ve been waiting on this movie since it came out a while back.  This film demystifies our current system of industrialized food and the problems that arise from our expectation of fast and cheap food.

It was a little over a year ago now when a prolonged illness of mine prompted me to switch our diet to a traditional foods diet as proposed by The Weston A. Price Foundation and authors like Sally Fallon and Nina Planck.  Since then, I have noticed a tremendous change in my health and well being along with that of my husband and children.  I have lost and maintained a 100 pound weight loss (though I was already losing weight before changing my eating, I contribute most of it to traditional foods).  I have more energy.  My gums no longer bleed when I brush or floss my teeth.  But, the most noticeable for me is my relationship to food.  I no longer fear food making me fat, because I know that what I am choosing to eat is real food and not something fabricated in a factory.  I enjoy my food and I eat plenty of it.  I’m eating things the diet industry tells us will make us obese and sick – butter, bacon, red meat, and whole fat dairy.

This approach to eating (I don’t call it a “diet” in the terms of how most of us view the word) has changed my life so completely that I can’t help but get excited about sharing it with others.  However, all to often I have noticed people don’t want to hear the truth about where their food comes from, and I tend to get tuned out.  Instead of accepting that there is a problem here and we are in need of huge change as a society, they continue to eat from the conventional store shelves food that more often than not is some kind of factory made variation of corn or soy bean products and they wonder why they are sick with things like diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, or obesity.  Why is that?

The fact of the matter is that we have a right to know where our food comes from and under what conditions it is being processed for our consumption.  Our food is life.  What we put into our body directly affects how we are able to live our life.  However, now that our food supply is being controlled by just a few multi- million (billion) dollar corporations that treat their farmers and factory workers like second class human beings, who don’t care at all about the health of the animals they process for meat, and treat our meat, produce, and dry goods with a variety of chemicals to give them unnatural shelf lives, we are being kept in the dark of food practices that if they were public knowledge would incite the citizens of this country to demand a change.

The truth is that 1 in 3 children in this country born after 2000 will develop diabetes1 in 3 children in this country are either considered overweight or obeseLow-income Americans (under $30,000) a year find it hard to afford a healthy diet.  This comes along with the idea of fast food being cheap.  You now can buy chips for a lesser price than a head of broccoli, and then there are dollar menus at fast food restaurants.  The question of food availability also arises.  Living in rural Appalachia, I find it extremely difficult to find food I feel is appropriate for my family, and I have to make too many compromises.

Our country is facing an epidemic that is inexcusable.  We owe our children a better chance at a healthy life than this.  We owe it to ourselves as well.  While industrialization has brought about many good changes in our way of life, when its principles are applied to certain more personal areas of our lives, we find we are detrimentally affected by its lack of concern for the greater human good as opposed to the low cost production industry holds so dear.  A few profit from the loss of many.

After viewing this film and others like it, I can’t help but encourage others to become informed as well.  Know where your food comes from.  Know that in one pack of ground beef there is meat from 50-100 cattle.  Know that most chickens raised for commercial slaughter for companies like Tyson never see the light of day or feel grass under their feet.  In fact, they are lucky to be able to bear their own body weight on their brittle legs.  Know that the tomato you are buying that is so pretty and red was shipped to your location in many cases over thousands of miles, and picked while still green.  It was ripened chemically.  Know this, and decide to change it.  There are farmers out there with answers to this problem.  We can have normal, affordable, healthy food.  We can live without the fear of food related disease.  Arm yourself with knowledge.  Then, cast your vote for the foods you want every time you choose your purchases at the grocery.

In honor of Native American Heritage Month and our own Cherokee lineage, we took a family outing today to the Native Nations Mini Pow-Wow at a local community college.  It was such a blessing to be there and to take the girls.  November is filled with many important and beautiful holidays that I rarely hear mention of this being Native American Heritage Month as well.  Everyone in the hollers and hills around us are preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Today, there was well deserved honoring of our Veterans.  Other Waldorf homeschooling families were celebrating Martinmas today, as they do in the Waldorf schools across the country.

For some reason, I didn’t feel the calling to pick up Martinmas for our family this year.  Though I do seek to follow the basic tenets of a Waldorf education for my children, I wanted something for us that was our own – something I didn’t have to research and contrive a meaning for myself in order to attempt to translate it for my children.  So much of what was right about my childhood was the diligence of my grandmothers in teaching me from where and whom I came.  When I had no self esteem at all, I still held great pride in my ancestry.  I want my girls to know exactly who we are and that there is a rich and distinct culture within our own family and within our own part of Appalachia.  I firmly believe that this will prepare them to be confident and tolerant adults able to communicate with and love the people they meet.  They will know themselves well enough that even when they are unsure of their path, they will know at the very least how they came to be.

There were many tribes represented from all across the United States from the eastern woodlands tribes, the plains peoples, and even the Pacific Islanders.  We saw hula dancers, tepees, various native dances and songs from the represented tribes.  I participated in as much as I could.  The best part for me was talking to a Mohawk Iroquois man.  He explained to me how the Cherokee who resisted/escaped the removal (Trail of Tears) joined with the Iroquois for protection.  He called it genocide, which is what I’ve always thought it was.  He spoke of how their family/clan system was set up.  He told me how the clan mother was revered even more than the chef, and in fact the chef answered to her.  This made sense to them because no one exists without a mother to bring them forth to the earth.  He explained to me the beaver bowl of rights and how Benjamin Franklin was key in bringing their ideas of place and government to the colonies.  The man explained that Franklin got it all wrong though.  He turned it into a Bill of Rights for the white Anglo-Saxon male.  He left out women, men of other races, and importantly Mother Earth and the animals and plants that were created for us to co-exist with.  All of those people and living things lost their rights.  That is when things fell apart.  When there was illness, and not enough food.  Polluted waters, and fighting over land – real wars.  This really made me think about the situations facing eastern Kentuckians with coal mining.  (I’ll leave it at that for now.  That topic would be a whole other post.)  But, apparently we are the 49th happiest state with only West Virginians being sadder than we are.  That really hurts my heart that things are so out of focus for many of my fellow mountaineers.

I loved walking the girls around and showing them the artifacts, regalia, and pictures that were on display.  They enjoyed seeing the wooden baby carrier (I forget what the woman called it.  It wasn’t papoose.).  Deladis got a kick out of the fact that we have one too, only not wooden.  I found myself tearing up a little explaining to her that our people lived in log homes and stayed put a little more than the plains tribes.  Our People. I wonder sometimes if I even have a right to say that.  I look in the mirror and search for the characteristics that I saw in my great grandmother on my father’s side and the pictures of her mother.  I believe that it is in my soul if not in my outward appearance, though I like to believe there is something of them in me.

The girls relished in hearing the drumming and seeing the dancing.  Ivy nodded her head to the beat.  Deladis was so excited she covered her face when she saw a man in full regalia doing the chicken dance.  He did take on the soul of that creature perfectly. 🙂

So, in remembering a piece of our history, I feel like we are moving forward as a family.  Homeschooling for us is not about sticking to some set of rules, or adopting practices just because a curriculum says so.  Waldorf for us is about acknowledging our relationship with the Mother Earth, with God, and paying attention to the natural blessings of changing seasons, weather, good harvests, and the animals.  It is about learning our place in that world and existing harmoniously as much as we can with what is natural.  What is natural to us right now, is grounding ourselves in our rich history, and using that foundation to move us toward the future with a postive light.

This is my fourth full day off of coffee!!!  My first day headache and body ache free.  I’m not nearly as emotional either.  It has amazed me what a complete hold something as “harmless” as caffeine can have on you.  I’ve been up and down all weekend.  So, today, my back decides to go out, but that hasn’t happened in awhile so it’s not completely a horrible thing.  I’m used to it.  I love chiropractors!

I felt ease in this day and coming home after a few days away felt really nice.  This afternoon we worked a little to prepare for the activities of the coming week and our homeschool.  We also wanted to make a few adjustments to the play area for the girls.

A pile of rocks for castle building or whatever they may become.

rocks

A pile of pine cones for future winter projects and neat bird feeders.

cone

birdfeeder

All from one tree in the front yard.

pine

We also put the finishing touches on the nature table that I will post pictures of on Wordless Wednesday.  I’m so happy with it.

However, when we came home today we found that a rather large creature that we have been trying to catch for over a month tried to chew through the pumpkin on our table.  We turned on our heater for the first time today as well, and when we pulled back the hearth, we found its nest.  Superman from Deladis’s birthday present of wooden super heroes was missing.  We found him in the nest with the back of his head chewed off.  This creature has the ability to carry baking potatoes to various spots around the cabin for its dining pleasure.  It eats and carries around our apples and our bananas.  It chewed through the lids on my containers of nuts.  I have seen this creature twice.  It is large.  The size of an older kitten, but really fat.  It doesn’t appear to have a tail, and it is apparently intelligent.  It has no interest in the fresh food we leave for it nightly in the live trap.  We added peanut butter tonight as per the advice of my step-dad, hunter extraordinaire.  We’ll see if that does the trick.  I’ll post pictures if it does.

Coming home anytime I’ve spent a night away opens my eyes to my blessings.  I’m blessed to be able to do what I am doing for my girls, live where I live, and have such an awesome adventure of sharing my home with and trying to catch wild creatures. 😉  I’m thankful… so thankful.

An arrangement of wildflowers for yellow Monday

An arrangement of wildflowers for yellow Monday

bb2

For more Wordless Wednesday visit here.

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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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