Archive for the ‘family’ Category

6
Sep

10 days down, 170 to go!

   Posted by: liz

we have just finished up the first two weeks of school here. it’s been absolutely the best first two weeks of school, ever.

perhaps it’s because i was focused a lot on the all-day 8th/9th grade class that i’m tutoring and got those first two classes down before sending my own kids to the same all-day co-op (but for their levels) this coming week.

perhaps it’s because we started every school day at the kitchen table together, and then broke out into individual subjects? i think starting at the table together makes the day feel like it has a beginning.  when you have a beginning, you feel as though you have an end to strive for.

or perhaps it was because summer finally kicked in these past 14 days, and we have spent more time in the pool these past two weeks than we have all summer (or so it seemed!). it was lovely to head outside in the hot sun after our studies were through in the afternoon and lazily bob around in the pool, or get a lot of exercise swimming and jumping, and wait for dinner.

perhaps it was because i’m back to planning our evening meals, and we’ve been able to eat well before rushing off to soccer practice and auditions (which both started this week). i always feel so much better when i’m feeding my family good stuff instead of relying on mcdonald’s to fill them up after soccer practice, or before a rehearsal. planning it out makes it so much easier.  even though our eating of dinners has become a bit more complicated since my celiac diagnosis.

and on that note…perhaps its because i’ve given up all grains and i’m finally feeling as though i’m not walking around with rocks in my stomach.  and because cookbooks like danielle walker’s Against All Grain and Meals Made Simple have really helped me be able to manage our meals so i’m not cooking two different dinners for all of us. and…grain-free sandwich bread! and an amazing chocolate protein-packed shake for my busy wednesday’s? and grain-free pizza crust!!!!

~~~~

our family curriculum is fully entrenched in Classical Conversations.  Even though I’m tutoring the 8th/9th grade level class on wednesdays, our three boys are able to partake in their own classes on wednesdays, when we meet together.  they start this week, and then i know our other school days together will be busier, but i’ve planned this fall so that we’re not rushing off to afternoon lessons or practices every day.  we have one day of gym class but the rest of the days are truly home.

in the spirit of education, here is a fun link with even more fun photos.  i’m alarmed that parents had to send their children on 4 mile-long walks to school (and home!) each day, but that explains the shorter class day, perhaps. in some ways, we do the one-room school house here and our co-op is modeled after the one-room school house.

here is another post that a friend of mine wrote comparing their experience to schooling in australia.  i find it fascinating how active the australians are in their school day compared to the american school system. and apparently the activity is a year-long thing.

IMG_3574so with that, we bid adieu to another wonderful summer and look forward to the lovely fall weather approaching.  i’m hoping fall stays around for a while this year and keeps winter at bay.  an early spring and hotter summer next year would be awfully good as well.

This post has been in my drafts folder since June 10th, his actual birthday.  We had a big celebration – with friends, minecraft party, and presents. He introduced us to the world of the Leopard Gecko. We now have two, and we will soon have three (all three boys wanted one for their birthdays this year!).

Happy Birthday, Adam Henry!

IMG_3042

24
Jul

Lyme is the Enemy

   Posted by: liz

today i spent more time in doctors’ offices, pharmacies, and my car than one who has a full-time job.  from 7:00-3:30, i drove from a medical lab to the dentist office to a pedatrician office to two different pharmacies, and finally landed at home at 3:35 pm.

the medical lab was for me, where i “donated” four vials of blood for more of the same-old testing that i’ll probably undergo for a few more months. the dentist office was a “date” for my husband and i to get some routine dental cleanings while my mom stayed with the boys.

IMG_3717 the pediatrician was for sawyer. after we noticed this on him last night (photo). it was tiny, but we noticed because we’ve been there before. that is a bulls-eye rash, and you can see that it’s about an inch in diameter. an INCH. that’s not very large. and Lyme bulls-eye rashes aren’t raised or itchy, so if you get one on your inner thigh, or your back, you may never notice you have one. we live in western pennsylvania, one of the most densely-populated Lyme-disease areas in America. so we know to look for these. after the second day of sawyer complaining about a stiff neck and a headache, we started looking for the rash.

he is the third in our family of five to contract Lyme disease since we moved here (from Pittsburgh) 8 years ago. and all three of those of us who have Lyme (Kenny, Adam, and now Sawyer) have had different symptoms.  Kenny and Adam had high fevers for three-four days (along with typical flu-like body aches). Kenny and Sawyer had bulls-eye rashes. Sawyer did not have flu-like symptoms. Adam had a red rash at the tick bite, as did Kenny. Sawyer only shows bulls-eye rashes. Adam and Kenny did  not have head aches.  Sawyer is on day 3 of a head ache (and he’s not a headache-type kid).

Lyme is one of those diseases that presents itself differently in all of its patients.  It also presents itself as a lot of other diseases: MS and Fibro among the most similar in symptoms, if the Lyme is left untreated. Fortunately we know what to look for. We also know to check for ticks. I admit there are days we don’t check. And every Lyme case in our house has been when we never knew there was a tick bite. We have pulled ticks off  us a lot: but symptoms have never followed when we pulled a tick off.  We only get symptoms when we haven’t found a tick in weeks.  This makes sense: when a tick removes itself from its host, it regurgitates a substance that contains the Lyme bacteria into the bloodstream of its host. When the host (human) removes the tick, it (usually) doesn’t regurgitate the bacteria-substance.  So pulling a tick off of you is much better than never finding one in the first place.

Scary.

So…always, always check. Every night. Several times a day. whatever it takes. And be happy when you find if you do have Lyme in the early stages. Antibiotics are the only thing I trust to kick the bacteria out of your system, and fight the symptoms Lyme can bring. We can live in fear, or live in knowledge to fight the disease. I choose the latter. We live outside during the summer. I love the outdoors when its warm (I wish ticks loved snow!  you’d never find us outside nearly as much during our winters!), and I’m not going to keep us inside for fear of Lyme. We fight it as much as we can. And if it wins by getting into us, we fight it with medicine.

Since I’ve been getting routine bloodwork done, I have them test me for Lyme. So far, I’ve not contracted it. But it only seems a matter of time, based on where we live. Still, I’m thankful for the age in which we live. We can fight these things instead of live in fear.

IMG_3547Last Wednesday was a very busy day. Actually all of last week was busy. Rowan Tucker Smith, the boy who made boy Kenny and I parents, turned 11.

He decided that he really wanted a Leopard Gecko just like Adam’s…so we found ourselves with a new little guy in the aquarium a few days before his birthday.  We ended up having to take that gecko back because it didn’t eat. Even after force-feeding it (hearkening back to the days when we were force-nursing newborn lambs!), it was not interested in eating. Or sleeping. So we returned it for a healthier guy this weekend. He’s just as cute, and a much better eater.

We’ve been really enjoying the World Cup over the past month. For several weeks we were able to follow the American Team, and weren’t disappointed, even when they finally lost. Rowan loves to research the teams, watching highlights of past games, and replaying important games. He claims it helps him learn how to play better. (can’t argue with that!) Since we’ve been watching the games at my parents’ house (since they have ESPN), my parents decided to give Rowan a replica of the World Cup soccer ball. He’s been loving it (and has even taken it to the local high school field a few times).IMG_3493

This summer is at the half-way mark today. It’s already been a much better summer than last year (weather-wise, mostly). We’ve had some great, lazy summer days spent entirely on our back deck, in the pool, with friends. The weather has been wonderful (almost perfect!). We are producing a new Shakespeare show with hobnob this summer – A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We’re thrilled that another talented theatre person has stepped up to the directing role. I hope more and more talent steps into the directing role in future plays as well. Then, I guess, we’ve known we made it. (ha ha).

 

7
May

lambing season: it’s a wrap!

   Posted by: liz

10292142_10152394699142970_2074714224835446309_n …at least we hope so!  we have one more ewe, but we do not think she is pregnant. or if she is, she is a month away from lambing because she is showing no visible signs of carrying. it is possible that we could have a late may/early june baby from her, but we are hoping that lambing season is done. this season has been a doozy!

our last set of twins was born without our assistance (what we were hoping for!), but it also happened at the crack of dawn, just before we arrived at the barn to check on our last pregnant ewe (daisy). in fact, she delivered outside of the barn, under the “porch” (probably because the barn was too crowded with other sheep).

IMG_2828kenny and i walked towards the barn after we noticed that daisy was on the porch with two white lambs. as we walked nearer, we noticed she was head-butting one of the lambs and not allowing it to get near her.  there was a larger lamb already cleaned off and sitting up, alert but daisy wasn’t cleaning off the smaller one and was in fact showing signs of rejecting it. this is yet another lambing experience we had not encountered, so we set off into learning/experiment mode. the first few hours of a lamb’s life are crucial in getting it to bond and eat. when the mama isn’t allowing the lamb near her milk source, you have to get creative.

rosie was still in the lambing pen with ramburger. so we let them out and they headed out to pasture. we picked up daisy’s lambs and carried them into the pen hoping daisy would follow. she wasn’t as eager to be near her lambs as the other mamas we had, so we had to coax her in with the one lamb she was seemingly accepting.  she finally made it back into the pen with her lambs and again was head-butting the smaller lamb (they are called “bummer” lambs). we kept them in the pen, and headed to do some research on tricks to get a mama to accept her lamb (which usually doesn’t work), or ways to get the bummer attached to another mama (which is actually harder to accomplish).

IMG_2887we read a few things we could try so we headed back to the barn and tried the following:

  • rub the bummer with the afterbirth (yep, it’s gross) so the ewe will start licking/bonding/cleaning it off again. didn’t work.
  • rub the bummer with mollasses (which sheep LOVE) so the ewe will start licking/bonding/cleaning it off again. didn’t work.
  • spray both the rear-ends of the twin lambs with air freshener. yeah, we laughed at that one, but since nothing else was working, we tried it. it WORKED!  as soon as we took the lambs away from mama, freshened their rear ends with some Glade Fresh Scent, and brought them back to mama, she allowed both of them to try to latch on and eat.  the idea is that the Glade Fresh Scent confuses the smell of the lambs and mama doesn’t know the difference between the accepted lamb and the bummer, so she just lets them both nurse. when the lamb nurses, the mama encourages it by pushing it closer to the milk source with her nose to their tail.

we were encouraged that the bummer was being allowed to nurse and it wasn’t being head-butted anymore. it wasn’t snuggling with mama, but it was eating and walking and this step was really important. throughout the day, we had friends over and we were able to check on them continually, snuggle the bummer lamb (allowing it some warmth) and finally by the end of the day saw that the twins began to snuggle together (while mama hung out on the opposite side of the pen).  i just don’t think this ewe has the mothering instinct. she’s just not a “good” mother, like the other ewes have been to their lambs.

~~~~~~~

IMG_2631to recap, we have had seven (7) lambs born over two (2) weeks to four (4) of our ewes. we’ve more than doubled our sheep population!  two (2) of the lambs are rams, so they will stay with us until late fall. we might even send some of the older ewes to the butcher as well since they’re getting up there in years, and won’t be able to produce lambs or wool anymore. our sheep are happy and comfortable, but they still need to earn their keep! otherwise, we’d run out of grass if we keep all of the lambs!

  • Iris (five years) delivered Lily and Chops (ewe and ram)
  • Violet (five years) delivered Marigold and Holly (ewe and ewe)
  • Rosie (three years) delivered Ramburger (ram)
  • Daisy (five years) delivered Sweet Pea and Buttercup (ewe and ewe)

Iris’ twins were the easiest delivery and she accepted both. Violet’s delivery was complicated, but she accepted both. Rosie’s birth was complicated, but she’s also accepted her lamb. We aren’t sure if Daisy’s birth was complicated or not, but she showed signs at first of rejecting a lamb. She isn’t very motherly to either of her lambs, but they’re nursing and growing.

 

IMG_2878It would be best if these ewe lambs would deliver next year, instead of waiting a few years for them to start lambing. But I don’t know if I have it in me to have another stress-filled few weeks of waiting for a ewe to go into labor, stressful births, or rejected babies. I say this now, but I also said once that there was no way I’d ever reach into a sheep and pull out a lamb. There was just no way I could do it without fainting or gagging. And both Kenny and I had to do just that this year. It’s surprising what takes over you, what fears you just ignore when you realize there are no other alternatives.

“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” 

And really, seeing those adorable lambs in the pasture, never leaving their mamas’ sides, bounding and chasing each other….it’s really the sweetest thing a small farm can witness. These spring mornings when the sunlight is urging itself through the fog after a night of rain, white buds of fruit trees and lambs rolling about in the pasture, and the birds filling in the background noise…you can’t get any better than those spring mornings!

 

 

 

22
Apr

Easter is better than Christmas

   Posted by: liz

IMG_2597Facebook and Twitter were “all a twitter” with Easter pictures this weekend: adorable kids dressed to the nines, family photos of matching and unmatching outfits, and baskets filled with confections, colored eggs, and stuffed animals. I tweeted an adorable picture of my too-cool-for-skool boys, but the remainder of the pictures I took throughout Easter Sunday were of food.

I loved each picture that was shared – I looked closely at what they were wearing, what each hostess was serving on their dinner tables, what desserts were eaten, and what easter baskets were filled with.

Easter is quickly becoming my favorite holiday. Christmas, the long-time favorite, is fun and nostalgic and warm and fuzzy. But Easter is the celebration of resurrection, life that springs from death, the end of winter, cold, and grey. Easter is robin-egg blue and blue skies and green grass and yellow daffodils and warming temperatures; new lambs and more eggs in the hen house, the rebirth of the Alleluia at Eucharist. Easter is second life. Second chances.

IMG_2586

I don’t help to prepare an altar for Easter Eucharist anymore. It was the best day to prepare for, as an altar guild member: such gorgeous flowers, polished silver, brand new beeswax candles, and crisp linens. I did help to prepare a dining room table for Easter dinner. I took lots of pictures of the new linen napkins, the gorgeous colorful tulips my mom sent, the gorgeous platters filled with dishes from other guests. And the china and freshly-polished silver passed down from my great-grandparents. The table was prepared with holy hands from the past, and from now.

And even though Poinsettias are regal and stunning, tulips and hyacinth are my favorite.

 

16
Apr

joy

   Posted by: liz

tonight at soccer practice…(four words that do not, on their own, invoke joy in my heart)…i experienced joy that i haven’t felt since holding my newborn babies.

when rowan was born, kenny and i couldn’t take our eyes off of him. he looked just like kenny – every hospital visitor told us so. we would sit and stare, watch his breathing in and out, comment on every sound he would make and surmise at every whimper: gas? hunger? wet diaper?

i remember feeding him in the quiet of our nursery once we were home, and having an overwhelming feeling of joy. i wasn’t necessarily happy at the moment: i was exhausted and sore and a wee bit scared. but i remember feeling joy. this little tiny newborn, who i had been getting to know since feeling him kick inside of me, sat nursing, completely content and happy with no reason to be happy except that his needs were met. he was warm, clean, and his hunger satiated. because of me. joy doesn’t have to be felt only in the presence of happiness: in that particular moment, i felt joy in the midst of exhaustion and pain.

IMG_2453so tonight, i watched three separate soccer practices sitting in a not-so-comfortable folding chair on a windy field in 43 degrees for nearly two hours. if you know me, you know that being cold is pretty much torture for me. but i was sitting in that chair, exactly where i needed to be, and i was joyful watching our three boys growing into their soccer abilities, having a great time with these somewhat strangers. the boys aren’t the best players on their teams, but for the first time in our six years of playing fall and spring soccer, they are in the better half of their team. they have confidence in their dribbling and fast breaks, and they’re not timid around the ball or the opposing players. and they’re loving every minute of it. when you’re a parent, it almost doesn’t get any better than watching your child when they’re experiencing their own joy.

 

8
Apr

scenery

   Posted by: liz

at dinner tonight, one of the boys asked, “remember that farm when we’d go to get milk in a jar?”

it’s been a while since we’d bought raw milk. soccer was canceled (because of the rain, and bad field conditions), and kenny had rehearsal for the musical he’s working on with another company.  so the boys and i dug out our old half gallon mason jars, cleaned them out and headed towards Slate Lick to the farm we used to frequent for raw milk when the boys were much younger.

it rained the whole drive there, but towards the end of the drive, there is a summit that is always so gorgeous. tonight, it was especially beautiful with low-hanging clouds horizontally slicing the far mountains in half (click to enlarge for detail):

IMG_2469

the entire 26-minute drive isn’t all this idyllic. in fact, parts of it are downright frightening. there’s the steep hill that reminds me of an episode of Twin Peaks:

IMG_2470

and then not a mile away, i swear i’ve stumbled onto the set of The Walking Dead:

IMG_2474

 

IMG_2473

These scenes are especially eerie with the cloudy dark skies surrounding them. The country around us can go from gorgeous to strangely desserted-looking quickly.  I guess that’s what you get out in big land country.

 

 

3
Feb

reading. and the guilty conscience.

   Posted by: liz

I have always read to the boys. From the time they were infants sitting in my lap or toddling around the local library, and during preschoolers library story hour. When their kindergarten curriculum didn’t include “book time,” I added it to our daily routine.

So when I hear a parent say, “We have instilled a deep love of reading in our child” and see their child with a book in their hand, or sitting in a corner with their nose in the book, I ask them, “How did you do it?

Every parent’s answer has been the same: “I have always read to them, even when they were a baby.” “We spent so much time at the library when they were toddlers,” “I model reading for pleasure all the time. ”  “I’m always looking for books that I know will interest them, and they devour everything I find for them!”

I have done all the same things since the time our boys were newborns. And all three of my boys hate to read. They would rather wash dishes than read. Clean the toilet than read. Go to church over the library.

I love to read. My husband does not. And if you look at our professional record, he is much more successful than I am. So I shouldn’t worry about the fact that even though my boys can all read, they just don’t like to do it.

But deep down, I fear their brains aren’t being stretched and challenged, their hearts aren’t learning to love fictional characters and worlds created by all the great writers. I am saddened that they don’t find (any!) joy in going to the library with me. I try very hard not to play the comparison games with other kids whose moms (dare I say) brag about how much their kids have read and are reading, and how they “instilled a love of reading in them!”

Because it’s all bollocks. I am convinced that we do nothing to influence our children in their love or hatred of reading. It would be like me saying, “I have instilled a love of minecraft in all three of my boys: isn’t it wonderful?”

One of these days, moms everywhere will learn that what our kids love has more to do with them and less to do with us. I am learning this. Ever so slowly.

 

 

11
Sep

happiest ninth birthday, sawyer cole!

   Posted by: liz

sawcosawyer’s birth was the shortest of the three boys. he was born much in the same ways that he tackles his days today: quickly, fiercely, and with purpose.

kenny, one-year old rowan, and i were dining at an indian restaurant with friends when i was having contractions that were 10 minutes apart. i was ready to have this baby (only 3 days away from my due date), so i ordered Mateer Paneer extra spicy. within 9 hours, sawyer was born!

IMG_0704sawyer, you take on each day with gusto. you are intrepid and passionate. your heart is big and your willingness to help and learn is huge! you care about what others think and take their needs into consideration, which is a quality beyond your nine years. you love to learn to play the piano, you have fun in your soccer games, minecraft is your favorite video game, and you chose Cocoa Puffs as your birthday cereal this year.

we love you and couldn’t be more proud of who you are growing up to be! (PS. he wanted me to take this photo because he was sure it looked like he was drinking beer because of the glass.)