I think it’s time for a…

Fast Friday Mission!

Last week, my friend Greta of Gfunkified asked on Facebook if anyone used a running watch, and if so what their thoughts were…she was thinking of purchasing one for herself.

This really resonated with me, funny though it sounds, but running is very important to me and because Greta is planning to run FIVE HUNDRED MILES in 2013!

I happened to have a $30 running watch I bought at Target when I started training more seriously years ago. I haven’t used it in about six months because I downloaded the Nike running app for my iPhone.

So I sent it to Greta. I love running, and regular exercise has done so many wonderful things for me, my health, and my sanity (thereby helping my whole family). So I’m eager to encourage or support other runners or anyone beginning a new exercise regimen.

Do you have a hobby or skill and have acquired extra equipment over the years? It felt GREAT to pop that watch in the mail. Root around and see what you can find and pass it on to someone you know who is interested in the same activity. It could be scrapbooking materials, yarn or fabric, sheet music, a yoga mat, tennis balls, books you loved but are unlikely to read again in the next year. One of your friends, or a child or young adult you know, might be inspired by something you really aren’t using anymore.

Leave your mission accomplished tales in the comments and go brighten someone’s day!


Tasting Summer

It is always this time of year we begin to feel impatient for spring at our house. The holidays are over, we’ve spent several beautiful months enjoying the special vastness that comes with Kansas winters. There have been a few bitter, cold snaps this season and only one snow, we’ve rarely gone more than a week without the weather being nice enough to play outside in the afternoons. And yet we are waiting, looking for things to green up and realizing how far away that really is.

It’s not even lent yet.

Oh my, that makes warm weather seem far away.

My Farmer asked for taco salad for supper this past weekend, and as a side dish I pulled out one of our favorite summer recipes. My mother-in-law gave me this recipe a couple of years before she died. She probably clipped it from Country Woman Magazine. I think of her every time I make it; I remember many of the times we shared in the kitchen, prepping food together for our hungry farmers. This recipe is quick, easy, healthy and delicious. How many wins can you get in one dish?

Corn and Black Bean Salad

2 cups each (cooked and cooled – I usually just use frozen) sweet corn and black beans
1 chopped sweet onion
1 chopped sweet bell pepper (I really like using orange in this salad)
Juice of 1 lime
dash of hot sauce
1 Tbsp oil
Spices of your choice (I added ground red pepper, chili powder, salt, pepper and cilantro)

Mix veggies with corn. Stir spices into oil and lime juice. Mix well with veggies. This is even better if it can sit for a couple of hours in the refrigerator before you serve it.

As it turns out, it is also delicious ON taco salad. And it makes picnic season seem much closer.

WARNING: This dish will also make you long for a Margarita, so plan accordingly. I did not, and alas, had to make due with beer.

Do you have a favorite recipe from a relative you miss either because of distance or death?


Just For Laughs

Little Cowgirl got a pink iPod Shuffle from Santa for Christmas this year.

We’ve had as much pleasure watching her enjoy as she has received from listening to it. We love to hear her sing along with the songs.

For this first month, she has been expressing surprise and excitement at the songs Santa knew she liked and loaded onto her iPod. Most recently, she yelled from the back of the suburban (in the louder-than-usual-because-I’m-wearing-headphones voice) “MOM! MY IPOD HAS ‘OH I SING OF LETTUCE” ON IT!”


I asked if she’d sing a little bit of it for me.

This is the song I never realized was about salad.

Have a great week!


Five Things I learned about taking your children snow skiing for the first time…

(1) Your first glimpse of the mountains will be more exciting than the last time you saw them (because this time you are going to ski down one!

(2) The closer you get, the more amazing the mountains will be. (Side note: people who get carsick should sit where they can see out the front window the best – in the front if you are an adult or in the middle of the back if you are in a carseat.)

(3) You will all look like cute little bundles of winter clothes – ask a nice stranger to take your picture.

(4) Remind your husband to take some pictures; he is actually much better at photography than you are.

(4b) There is nothing cuter than your honey and your littlest riding up the lift together.

(5) Put your children in ski school. They will be able to do this after a day (and a half):

How To Be A Crunchy Gym Rat

Okay, so it’s no secret that I adore the YMCA. I like to lift weights, need a place to run when there isn’t daylight or heat during my slotted running hours, and I have designs on taking a yoga class one of these days with a friend of mine.

I also take my children there for gymnastics, rock climbing lessons and swimming classes. In the past, we have also participated in Kid Fit, tae kwan do, dance lessons and water polo during other sessions at the Y.

In fact, since we began homeschooling, the YMCA has been a steady and important part of our weekly pattern.

This past summer, I went to a whole new level of crunchy. I started using beauty and hygiene products with the lowest possible ratings from the Environmental Working Group’s data base. This was similar to the transition we made away from convenience foods in the past. It seems crazy and impossible at first; it sounded suspiciously like everything was going to be more difficult and take more time. As it turned out, none of that is true, it simply took some adjusting. Here are some ways I have combined these two parts of my life:

I still wash my hair with baking soda and condition with a white vinegar rinse. I take the baking soda in a ziplock bag. When I get out of the pool (oh yeah – I’m taking swimming lessons now too. And wow it is going to take a long time to make a swimmer out of me, but hopefully my knees will thank me eventually.) I hop in the shower with my baggie and dribble just a bit of water into it. I use the paste to rub on my face like a mask – it has been amazing in terms of minimizing my pores and reducing my acne. Then I fill the bag half full of water. I seal it and shake it up, then pour over and scrub my hair. I bring the vinegar in an old, empty shampoo bottle which allows a great deal of control over how much I’m squirting over my head at one time.

I bring my ZUM goats-milk soap in a little old tupperware.

All the chlorine is doing new and interesting things with my skin, so I have found a lotion we like (Hugo Naturals) and slather it on before dressing.

I would love to experiment with using oils for moisturizer – does anyone hanging around here reading this have experience in this department? Angela? Delena? Maureen?

Crunchy gym rats also like a good breakfast, so I’ve been taking a banana along to eat on the way there. When I get home I have a little bowl of oatmeal made with coconut milk, which really powers me through a morning of homeschool.

Are you exercising right now? What great routines do you use to combine practical beauty and staying fit?


How To Find A Lost Pet

During our trip to the Rocky Mountains over New Year’s, our sweet dog Lola ran away from her pet sitters. It was an experience I am not eager to ever repeat (nor are our friends, the sitters, who may have been even more sick and worried than we were).

Lola with the boys on the first night after we adopted her from the shelter.

If you have lost your pet and are looking for ways to help reunite, I have compiled a list of useful tips, ideas and actions you can take to help find your missing family member. I received a great deal of support when Lola was missing; most of these ideas came from people who helped us.

Lola was four when she came to live with us, and Shooter was seven.

* Create a flyer with your pet’s information on it. Have a clear photo, LOST in bold letters, along with a short description of your pet, microchip information, area last seen, and how to contact you. My dear friend did this for me, and after having hundreds of them made she realized she wanted to include more contact information. So she wrote additional numbers on every single copy. That, I tell you, is a VERY GOOD FREIND (with a very sore hand).

From the very beginning, Lola fit right in with these rough-and-tumble farm kids.

* Notify all area shelters, the animal control, veterinarians, police and fire stations. Hand-delivering flyers is the best way to be sure your pet is reported missing, that these facilities have the correct contact information, and that they will be able to recognize your pet when he/she is found.

Her nighttime routine involves waiting patiently for Farmer Boy to fall asleep. Then she will move to a more comfortable spot at the foot of his bed.

She has been a nighttime caretaker for any child who is sick or scared. Waking from fever or bad dreams always led to a quiet, furry friend appearing beside Mommy to see what was wrong.

* Canvas the area your pet was last seen. Post your flyer anywhere you can. Give copies of your flyer to people in the area. Everyone was very helpful and willing to listen when we were looking for Lola. In fact, a jogger in the area was the person who connected us with the woman who found our dog.

Sometimes I forget how little the children were when she came to be a part of our family…

* Utilize social media in any way that you can. I posted a photo and information about my dog on Facebook. Many of my friends shared the status update and soon Lola was making her way around the internet. I also found a great deal of emotional support and many new ideas for finding our dog from contacts on Facebook once they saw the update.

My Little Cowgirl doesn’t even remember a time before Lola.

* Keep going back to the last place your pet was seen. Eventually, that is where Lola was found. If your dog has a bed or blanket, leave it in the area with a laminated flyer attached to it. If you don’t have any bedding, leave an old shirt or other piece of clothing that you have worn so that it carries your scent. If your pet finds the item, it is likely that your pet will keep coming back to it.

Farmer Boy is visibly upset when we even mention that she isn’t as young as she used to be.

* Sign up with pet finding networks. Lola appeared on PetHarbor, Lost a Dog, Stray Pet Alert, and a Facebook page dedicated to missing pets in Colorado. These services provided some piece of mind for me, and they reduced a great deal of leg work someone would have spent delivering flyers to places that could receive all the same information in electronic form.

She loves being outside as much as the children do.

* Place an advertisement in local newspapers. Several papers in the area we were vacationing printed lost pet ads free-of-charge.

Lola loves a good hike, a new adventure.

* Don’t give up hope. I gave up hope every time we failed to find her in another search location. Each new place we searched left me feeling completely desolate when we turned up empty-handed. Each time we began again in a new area, I was certain we would find her. It was a ridiculous emotional roller coaster. But I kept hearing stories of pets that were found days, weeks, even months after they had gone missing.

Lola is always a willing participant in the life of our family.

* Keep perspective. As much as I love my dog, and as heartbroken as we all would have been if we hadn’t found her, she is still a dog and not a person. I wasn’t missing one of my children. I cannot count how many times My Farmer and I said to each other “imagine if this were our child…how do parents survive when their child is missing?”

As hard as it was to face the idea of never seeing her again, it was much harder to face the idea of breaking that news to my children.

* Lean on others. We were fortunate to have My Farmer’s brother and his family with us. They went far above the call of duty to keep our children happy, distracted and safe while we searched for Lola. My sister trolled the web and made phone calls from hundreds of miles away. Some of my closest girlfriends tore up the internet finding and signing Lola up on the lost pet sites. Our friends who were pet sitting when Lola ran away probably got less sleep then the dog did during the three nights she was gone; they spent every possible second looking for her. And My Farmer and I also had each other. In crisis, I am always reminded what a great team we are, and how very blessed I am that God made us for each other.

Furry family members give us so much love.

I hope you have a happy ending like we did; don’t give up!

We are so grateful to have her back with us, and for all she has contributed to our family in the past five years.

A new friend on Facebook (who sent us loads of great advice and encouragement after seeing out story on a mutual friend’s page) also shared an idea she puts into practice since going through losing her own dog on vacation (who was found after nine days!). Keep a “lost pet” kit in your vehicle with an extra collar and leash, some treats, and the phone number and hours of your local shelter. You can be the hero to a family waiting, hoping and praying to find their missing friend!

Everything is back to normal around here now, thank you everyone for all your help, advice, thoughts and prayers.


Things I learned on our most recent Road Trip with Kids

(1) Do not leave for a trip the morning after a Red-Neck New-Years 40th-Birthday Party when you were not the DD.

Yes, that is me singing karaoke wearing a bra that shows under my tank, feather earrings, a hunter’s hat and a (fake) tattoo. Also not pictured are the cammo army pants, belt with my name on the back, and shotgun. All redneck party items came from my own closet, thank you.

(2) Even if you have been identifying with the Libertarian Party and their principles, sometimes the 1980s reruns of “The Dukes of Hazard” are more intense than you bargained for, but they can sure help pass a 500-mile drive.

Oh NO! Will they get away from Boss Hog’s evil plan?!

(3) If there is an American Girl Doll store where you are going, and your daughter has an American Girl Doll, you should take her there despite your feelings about the expensive items. It will be fun and there will be a doll she will want her picture with.

A skiing American Girl Doll! Little Cowgirl used some Christmas money to buy her own doll a pair of pink eye glasses. No, I don’t know why aside from the fact that they may have been the only thing she could afford in the store besides a pair of doll panties.

(4) Do not brag about your dog to the people who have offered to watch her. Do not talk about her subservient nature and obedience training. She will run away and make you look like a complete ass hat.

(5) When your dog disappears in a large, strange, metropolitan area do everything you can to find her. Support your friends who she ran away from who are doing everything they can to find her. Sign up with lost pet sites, notify all the authorities and shelters, notify your veterinarian and microchip provider. When the flyers your friend napalmed the area with find your dog, take them champaign.

It will be worth all the effort in the end.

I am working on a post as a resource for owners who have lost a pet. I was fortunate to have so much help, and I’d like to pay it forward.


Of Tolerance and Friendship: The Conclusion

I started writing yesterday about a political disagreement that ended in someone who once referred to me as “one of the very chosen few in the inner circle of [her] life” publicly declaring me no longer a friend.

Today I am revealing the topic of debate in hopes that friends can, indeed, disagree.

If you are unable to maintain a friendship over disagreement on a single issue, I feel it proves you to be intolerant. It makes you an enemy of your cause because I’m likely to associate you (and possibly your cause) with fanaticism and irrational fear. You have not won anything for that which you campaign, instead you have willingly abandoned the opportunity to discourse with someone who once held esteem for you.

In actual fact, what you are saying is “I was wrong about you – I don’t like or respect you at all, and cannot stand to have contact with you because you are so foul; if I had ever known you believed this way, I never would have been your friend in the first place.”

And to me, that is the worst sort of hubris and the least civilized part of human nature. “If you are not like me, then I will drive you away.” We have been fighting against that mentality since the beginning of recorded time and it has caused nothing but problems for humanity.

I guess the only reason I can imagine that I would not want to be a person’s friend any more would be that level of intolerance. If you are unable, or worse unwilling, to hear the viewpoint of another and agree to disagree, if you are unable to find any sort of common ground, I you dole out hatred or withhold love over a single issue than I am probably not a good fit for you as a friend.

Though you can expect that I will listen to you with respect. And if you would like to move me into the “crazy friend” category and have more careful contact with me, that’s alright. I will likely be doing the same with you, but it isn’t going to change the things about you that I already liked in the first place. It is okay with me if you are judging that area of my life, I’m probably doing it too – but so long as we are doing it in order to understand one another and maintain our relationship I say no problemo. And I’m probably going to work hard not to offend you in this area, because I don’t own you and it isn’t my job to make you think like I do.

If you did come up with a deal-breaker in terms of friendship yesterday, I hope it wasn’t over gun control.

I have been a political orphan my whole life. I grew up in a home with a Canadian parent (liberal and statist) and a tea party-esque parent (ultra-conservative). This was a great contributor to my understanding of tolerance and my confidence in the ability of people to disagree and continue to hold one another in a positive light. As an adult, especially once we began homeschooling and undertook a thorough review of American History, I began to have more and more in common with the Libertarian party (click here to learn about Libertarian Philosophy and here to read a great compilation of rebuttals to objections to Libertarian views). The Libertarian ideals of personal responsibility alongside their fiscally conservative/socially liberal platforms lined up with my understanding of what America was meant to be. During the last presidential election, I finally felt like I had some choices that I liked because I was paying attention to third-party players. In terms of gun control, I am a firm supporter of the second amendment and staunchly against more firearms regulations.

If you disagree with me about gun control, and especially if you live in the New York area, I encourage you to exercise your First Amendment rights and contact my friend Christine at Quasi Agitato. She is a part of the Million Moms For Gun Control movement and is hosting a rally in NYC on MLK day.

And whatever your position is on any of the most intense questions of our day, I encourage you not just to tolerate, but to seek out, read about, study and consider each side of the issue. One of the best ways to do that is to talk with people you like, respect and care for.

If there is someone you respect and care for who feels differently than you and you find that discussing it causes too much friction, I hope you can be considerate of one another. Change the subject. Stick to the topics you enjoy sharing, relish the places you have common ground and above all, treasure your relationship.

Your comments yesterday were so helpful and insightful. I feel I have a better understanding of what this person was feeling (she really does class me as a child-abuser and does believe anyone who disagreed with her is extreme whackadoodle and out of their mind). I also have a new perspective on my own treatment of sensitive issues among others, especially those whose relationship I take for granted.

These problems are problems we are facing all together. They can only be resolved by educating ourselves, listening to one another, and giving each side a face and a name; because each side represents real people. First we must truly care about each other, only then can we start dealing with the issues that bind us (whether we like it or not).

Of Tolerance and Friendship; Part One of a Two-Part Series

I am sorry for my disappearance into the hole of the holidays…this has happened every year I have blogged and I am surprised by it each time. NOTE TO SELF: duh!

I have returned with a heavy topic for you. This series is meant to stimulate thought and conversation, but most importantly the former. Please keep your comments kind and positive.

I am a big fan of tolerance. The thread of my writings, if you’ve been reading me for long, are pretty consistent in the message “do what is best for your family; make an intentional decision of what that is.” I’ve been clear in stating that what is best for my family has nothing to do with what is best for yours.

My reading list looks like this:

Quasi Agitato, a brooklyn-based red head I have a lady crush on who combines humor with intensity,

Writing, Wishing, giving me a glimpse of motherhood from across the globe, supportive and community-minded

MODG, always makes me shoot coffee out of my nose, usually by the most creative use of swearing ever,

Sellabit Mum, sometimes sentimental, often funny, occasionally gripping, always a good read,

It’s On My To-Do List, Catholic homeschooling mother of four littles, this blog is about everything on Delena’s mind,

Four Plus An Angel, where I’m either going to weep or sit riveted at least once a week,

Bread With Honey, my crunchy mommy hero and an inspiration in how I cook and educate.

As far as what our lives look like every day, these women and I do not have a lot in common. In several areas we are on truly opposing ends of the lifestyle spectrum. There are things they write I would never agree with. There are things they do I would never do. I can say with 100% certainty that everyone reading this blog feels the same way about me.

But I like them, these bloggers. I have a burning desire to be friends with them, to hang out with them in real life, rather than just being their internet stalker. Despite the areas where my opinions and views are divergent, I still feel that I understand where they are coming from and I want to hug them, sit in a room with them, learn from them. I like who they are.

I was publicly “unfriended” by a real life friend whom I have been close with since I had only one infant. That’s more than a decade of shared nursing sessions, toddlers distracted, eyes rolled at whiney kids, secrets passed, feelings shared. And I don’t just mean unfriended on Facebook. This person unfollowed me on Instagram, Pinterest, and any other social platform we had contact through. I’m sure my numbers are deleted from her smart phone and my email address has been purged from her contacts.

I am still mystified by this encounter. I disagreed with this friend on a hot-button political issue.

Please understand, I have hundreds of Facebook friends. They are on every end of the political spectrum you could imagine. Many of these friends post links to, banners for, memes supporting, and articles about their ideas. I tend to leave those alone when I am not aligned with their thinking because I’m interested in knowing what they believe and why, and I believe in free speech. Even if I disagree with their position, I’m likely to read their link or article in order to better understand their view. So why did I get involved in this particular discussion?

The post began with “Unless you believe in this cause, unfriend me.”

I engaged in discussion because I assumed my friend just didn’t realize that there were people she liked and cared about and respected who didn’t feel the same. I knew I would be moved into the “crazy friend” category, and I wondered if I might stop receiving invitations to visit…but I never expected “You are dead to me.”

I’ll not bore you with the details, but once it was clear that I did, in fact, disagree with completely and not support the cause this friend was championing, I was erased from her life. She told me it was a sacrifice she was willing to make for her convictions.

As I see it, cutting someone out of your life for refusing to agree with you doesn’t make you a martyr, it makes you a jerk.

What about you? Do you have an issue that is a deal-breaker in terms of friendship? Religion? Abortion? Politics? The definition of marriage?

In my next post, I will reveal the issue at the crux of this public friend-cleanse I was a part of. Hint – it isn’t any of the above.

Why am I holding a liver?

My husband and I still laugh about a song we heard on a (comedy) radio morning show years ago. It had to do with why a person might suspect he has ADHD. The ‘main character’ in the skit is a genius surgeon, and throughout a surgery, once he says hand me the scalpel, he talks non-stop about seemingly unconnected things. Finally he ends with “why am I holding a liver?”

This is me.

I had been sitting at the computer for half an hour trolling through the year’s pictures. I couldn’t remember why I was looking through the pictures in the first place. Then I noticed a strange bonking sound. I went to find out what it was and realized that I’d put eggs on the stove to boil an promptly forgot about them once I sat in front of the laptop screen. As I was draining the eggs (they were VERY well done) I saw dirty dishes in the sink – which I thought I had already done. I opened the dishwasher to put the dishes in and found it was half full of clean dishes. Then I remembered that I had been emptying the washer of the clean dishes when I decided I would boil eggs at the same time because I was going to be in the kitchen anyway, so I had closed the door of the washer to get the pot I needed and forgotten about the clean dishes. This was beginning to make some sense now. I was really getting somewhere. I finished the dishes and the eggs were ready to come out of their cold water bath. I went to put them in the refrigerator and saw the first Christmas Card of the season hanging on the door. AHA! When I’d gone to retrieve the uncooked eggs the first time, I had seen that card and realized I had better get on the ball ordering my own if I wanted them out in a timely fashion.

Which reminded me – THAT’S why I had been looking at the pictures in the first place.

At which point I came full circle and headed for the computer again.

Why am I holding a liver?