FEMA Ain’t No Homestead

When we bought our house we had the intention of lessening our carbon footprint, establishing a sustainable homestead and all that responsible stuff. Four years later, we have failed to keep any vegetation alive. We are nowhere close to self sufficient or even as hipster as we thought we would be.  I hadn’t realized how much we had done, however, until we evacuated.

We hardly ever threw out food trash. What fell on the floor or didn’t get eaten at supper, the dog ate. What scraps were left over from preparing dinner, the chickens ate and what wasn’t suitable for the chickens went into compost. The only thing we threw out was leftover meat that went bad in the fridge. Sadly this happened a lot.

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Seriously not even three days worth of cardboard. It just keeps appearing. 

The kids usually play with any cardboard boxes and tubes that come from grocery shopping. When they are finished, what can’t be used for craft projects would get recycled. In fact, we were at the point where we recycled twice as much as we threw out. At least three times a year I’d actually remember to bring plastic grocery bags back to the store. This, is a great source of pride for be because without fail, I ride around with bags in the car for at least three months before remembering to bring them *in*.

We haven’t yet been successful ingrowing any food bearing plants but we have kept the established satsuma tree in our back yard from dying. Of this, we are quite proud. In the fall, we usually live off those satsumas. Recently we discovered succulents. We’ve had great success neglecting uh, maintaining succulents. These are still alive in the window sil of the flooded house. Faith, hope and love are still alive. Family took a big hit. Read into that what you will 😉

Being in the FEMA trailer, we do not have our dog, we do not have compost, we don’t even have recycling. Without the dog, we have to sweep up *a lot*. We’ve gone from taking the trash out every other day to twice a day. It’s absurd how much cardboard a family of 6 generates.

So what are we to do? We aren’t allowed pets, so dogs and chickens are out. Recycling doesn’t run through our trailer park and the closest recycling center takes only glass. That leaves us with compost.

What at one time seemed like such an overwhelming project and huge step into homesteading has now become our quick fix.  We got a large rubber tub and Ryan drilled holes into it all around. This weekend we filled it with dirt and start composting. I doubt it will make a huge dent in our trash can, but at least we’ll be doing *something*, a salve to our smug pride.

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I also bought seed starter packs from the dollar store for the kids to have fun with. If they don’t destroy them within a week, maybe we’ll have to see about some window box gardening.

As for the mountain of cardboard and glass, we are going to start making weekly trips to our flooded house and use the recycle bin there.  We also bought a token houseplant. It’s been in the trailer two days and so far hasn’t been dumped out, so there’s hope for that!

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Token Houseplant

We accept (through gritted teeth) that this trailer is going to be our home for longer than we hoped. Establishing some of our old habits, however, help us feel as though we are reclaiming our identity a bit. Even if we aren’t in the home where we have worked so hard to make our own, we are still the Carruths, and the Carruths compost.

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Children’s Entertainment That Isn’t Obnoxious

At Evangeline’s first Christmas, she received a 2 disc Nursery Rhyme and Lullaby CD set. We had a lot of traveling to do so we turned on the CD’s in the car. After 3 songs, we rolled down the window, pitched the CD out screaming “I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!” The speed and pitch were all sped up. It wasn’t even cute like The Chipmunks; It was just one awful, frantic, shrill song after another. The baby was not calmed at all.

It was then, after having been parents for a mere 3 months, that we decided.  Our kids would never have obnoxious entertainment.

At first we were afraid our kids would be doomed to a sheltered life of Prairie Home Companion and they would grow up to be withered old souls who never had fun. Surprisingly though, we’ve found a wealth of un-obnoxious entertainment for our kids. We’ve only been at it for 5 years, but here’s what we’ve found that entertain the kids without annoying parents!

PBS Kids

 

photoEvery time I take the kids to the doctor and have to sit in the waiting room watching The Disney Channel, I make a donation to The Corporation of Public Broadcasting. PBS Kids is a favorite in our house. Sure Peg + Cat has random freaking out screams, the Daniel Tiger re-mix songs make you roll your eyes and seriously Martin Short, The Cat in the Hat doesn’t have to be *that* excited about everything. But still, the shows on PBS Kids are overall mellow, fun and educational in a non-banal kind of way. We like Curious George and Dinosaur Train; Evangeline has announced she has out-grown Daniel Tiger, but she likes Arthur and Odd Squad.

 

Real Music

Our kids like to dance; the girls especially like to play balleranias. Come to find out, most music is kid-appropriate without having to be marketed to kids. We listen to classical music, ballets and operas, folk music, 1920’s Jass, Musicals and Irish ballads. The kids love them. We don’t have to listen to Kidz Bop 254 we listen to Alison Krauss. We don’t need Angelina Ballerina, we have straight-up Tchaikovsky. Our kids are not only being entertained, but they’re also being exposed to a variety of *real* music. No, they don’t know who wrote the concertio they’re listening to, what a concertio is or why Etta James is such a big deal, but they’re hearing it all. And they’re enjoying it. And so are we. This has also been a great way to introduce them to bits of our culture and where we come from — Swamp Pop, Irish ballads, the crooners and Bluegrass.

 

Wee Sing Songs

Least you think we don’t allow any kid-specific music, we’ve come to enjoy Wee Sing Nursery Rhymes and Lullabies. It was recommended in a homeschooling curriculum we were looking through. We were both reticent to buy another nursery rhymes CD. I still get headaches thinking about that first CD. But we’ve been delightfully surprised. The songs are a part of a greater narrative which adds a level of entertainment. They are sung mostly by children, but it’s like human children singing songs that were meat to be sung by real people. The kids enjoy the story and even “head on down the coast road” when they’re playing at home. We mostly listen to this in the car and it’s perfect.

 

Peter and The Wolf

Along that same line, we all like listening to Peter and the Wolf (narrated by Patrick Stewart). I was given a copy of it when I  started playing the oboe in junior high. It’s wonderful. Patrick Stewart tells the story of Peter and the Wolf. Each character is given a little fanfare played by a different instrument of the orchestra. The bird is an airy flute, the hunters are the kettle drums etc. Patrick Stewart will tell a line of the story and then it is acted out by the orchestra. He will say “One day Peter went walking in the woods” and then you hear a little fanfare from the strings. When the bird and the duck (oboe) argue, there’s a duet between the two. You get the idea. It’s a great way to introduce the kids to the idea of storytelling through music and to Patrick Stewart!

 

Hayao Miyazaki

We are particular about movies. First we want to ensure that the overall message is a good one (sorry Disney’s The Little Mermaid). We also want the film to be beautiful. This led us, of course, to Hayao Miyazaki. We began watching his movies while we were in college and thoroughly enjoyed them. Now the kids do too. There are some elements that the kids aren’t used to (like spirits) but it allows for conversations about what we’re watching. Our favorites are Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle.

 

 

The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea

mv5bmjezmjezntizof5bml5banbnxkftztcwmtg2mjaymw-_v1_uy268_cr10182268_al_mv5bmtq2mdmwnjewnv5bml5banbnxkftztgwotkxmzi0mze-_v1_uy268_cr10182268_al_Cartoon Saloon is another animation production company we’ve come to enjoy. They are based in Ireland and set out to tell real Irish folk tales with real Irish art styles. We watched The Secret of Kells before having kids and thought it was wonderful. Both The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea are beautiful. The acting is very well done (Brendan Gleeson anyone?) Like Miyazaki, there are elements of fairies and the supernatural. That is in part what makes them so great. It is great fodder for he imagination and at the same time gives the kids visually different styles of culture.

 

Kiwi Crate

kiwi_crate_logo_2xHave you ever noticed how stupid some toys are. It’s hard not to. And a lot of craft style toys and kits have sooooooooo many very teeny-tiny-choke-your-baby-stab-your-foot-pieces. Enter Kiwi Crates! I’ve posted about them before, but we still love them. It’s a monthly subscription box that comes with materials to make 2-3 themed crafts. They’re educational and fun! Evie doesn’t know they are educational, but she does know they are fun. They now have different boxes for older children. There are other subscription boxes that we haven’t tried, but are interested in, like the Little Passport boxes.

 

What we are finding is that you don’t really need to keep re-inventing the wheel. There are of course movies and music that aren’t child appropriate, but a great majority are. If you like it, you’re kids probably will to. And even if your kids like something, doesn’t mean the whole family has to be subjected to it.

Are you choosey about what your kids play with or watch? What are you favorite child’s entertainment that’s not obnoxious?

 

The Chicken

for emily, whom i’ve always loved

The Chicken comes by day, she’s hungry.

From your street she left, empty beaked.

The Chicken comes by night, she’s hunting.

The Chicken’s claw discriminates not.

The Chicken’s heart is cold, unyielding.

The Chicken’s beak cares not what it pecks.

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Your urban plot has tamed her roost;

You penned her coup but not her heart.

Your fields were once all hers alone;

Your flowers ate she stem to bloom.

Away it went with one lap of your plow —

Earth to grey mulch, hard pellets that never sprout.

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Her perch left empty these years past.

Forgotten, you thought away she would stay.

Yet hear her caw, her bwak comes nigh.

You’ll rue the day you tamed her roost!

The Chicken comes by day, she’s hungry.

The Chicken comes by night, she’s hunting —

you.

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I Could Have Slept All Night

giphyI’ve heard it often sited that sleep deprivation can have the same physical effects as intoxication. This factoid is usually told as a cautionary tale to cross country truckers. Its only been recently that I’ve heard the same tid bit applied to new parents.

Months of broken sleep totaling less than 6 hours total means most parents of newborns are walking around legally impaired.

Maybe this explains why baby Ugg boots are a thing.

While the physical toils go uncontested, little is made of the psychological effects of so many restless nights. What happens to a person sitting night after night in a dark room, rocking and humming to a semi-sentient creature?

 .

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Song parodies of course!

This is my most recent accomplishment. You can decide if picturing Audrey Hepburn is a help or not.

I Could Have Slept All Night

I could have slept all night

I could have slept  all night

and still have slept some more

.

I could have closed my eyes

and dreamt a thousand things

I’ve never dreamt before

.

I only know if she

wouldn’t have screamed for me

I could have slept

slept

slept

all night

So don’t worry about us parents. We’re just up all night rockin’ to the rhythm of our own insanity. But seriously, though, if you see us driving with that “baby on board” sticker, it may just be best for you to leave a little extra space. We really can’t be held responsible for what we may or may not do on less than 6 hours of broken sleep.

The Problem of Birth Culture

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For obvious reasons, babies and birth are often on my mind. Even if I weren’t having a baby a year, I’m surrounded by friends and family who are. Despite living in a region of the country with the highest epidural and Cesarean rate, I’m actually pretty natural-birth minded. It is my outlook that birth ought to be respected as a natural process and intervened with as little as possible.

That being said, of my four births, all have been hospital births involving pitocin and epidurals. My last three were full inductions. Feel free to laugh at the irony. I do. It is ironic that someone who says they want as little intervention as possible has ended up 4 times with every intervention in the book short of a section.

The greatest irony, however, is that of all my births it is the first and not the three inductions that has given me the most grief and emotional turmoil. Even after delivering a baby for the second time, I was still struggling with remnants of trauma from my first birth.

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The first time I went into labor, I was dead set on seeing it through with no pain medicine and no artificial augmentation. My water broke early and my doctor wanted to start pitocin right away. She “put me on a clock” to deliver by 18 hours. I fought her tooth and nail and delayed pitocin trying every natural induction method I could find in Dr. Sear’s The Birth Book. Ten hours later, after having been up for over 36 hours already, I had made no progress. I was in shock, exhausted and defeated. After ten hours, my fever spiked and in went the epidural and pitocin.

That’s it. That’s what traumatized me for years after. Not the physical shock of birth pain, not even delivering in an OR under threat of section. Nine months of pregnancy, 18 hours of labor, 2 hours of pushing, Evangeline’s first cries, none of it came to mind when I thought of that birth. I thought of failure and defeat whimpering for an epidural.

I could have been better prepared for the birth and I certainly could have had more support from the hospital facility and staff. But regardless of the physical surroundings, it was the mental circumstance that made this such a profound experience. I spent months before the birth reading up on natural labor propaganda. I was convinced that the need for medical intervention was a myth. At most it was just needed for the most extreme\emergency situations. A real woman need only trust her body, breathe in the right rhythm and her body does the rest. My prenatal education also had me convinced that any intervention would snowball into needing an emergency section. My doctor would pump up pitocin until the baby went in distress just so she could get me in and out of a section in time for her golf game. My child would languish for days under the effects of the epidural, not latch or nurse well and never go to college. My baby would suffer if I were too weak to resist interventions.

Since Evangeline’s birth, I’ve come to know more women who have been similarly traumatized by changes in their birth expectations. Why is this such a big deal? Why does intending a natural birth mean any deviation is a personal failure? Why is the natural birth culture so militant?

If a woman is going to go through labor and delivery without artificial pain medicine, she needs support. She needs complete support and focus. One lone nurse suggesting “a little something to take the edge off” and the laboring woman’s focus can be completely thrown off. To make it through delivery, a woman needs to believe she can do it; she needs to visualize herself doing it and she needs to hear everyone around her telling her she is doing it and she can keep going.

But what happens when medical intervention is needed? Everything the woman has been working for, envisioning and expecting is suddenly derailed. Most often, she feels it is her fault, her body’s fault. Something about her is broken and she failed to birth her child. This sense of failure and of brokenness can last for years and completely taint every memory associated with the birth of her child.

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It is true that to pursue a natural birth experience, it helps to push all thoughts of intervention out of your mind. But we need to stop pushing it so far that it becomes an enemy at the gate to be fought at all times. Modern medical interventions have their place in obstetrics. Not just in extreme or emergency situations. Giving an exhausted mom pain medicine or an epidural to a mom with high blood pressure, is good. Artificially rupturing membranes to kick start a stalled labor can help. And opting for a scheduled section to avoid a probable emergency situation in labor, is a good thing.

If women went into labor with a more balanced view of these practices, maybe the trauma of labor would be slightly less. Maybe more women would come through labor, not focused on what didn’t go according to plan, but all the resources that helped her bring her child into the world. There has to be a way of respecting both the natural process of birth and the benefits of medical interventions. Surely we can acknowledge the place these interventions have in the modern birthing process. Maybe by doing so, more and more women can understand the success of their labor and delivery does not hinge on a black and white birth plan.

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Kiwi Crate — Referral Link

I’ve written before about the Kiwi Crate subscription Evangeline got for Christmas. She just received her third box in the mail this morning. She got all pouty when I told her we couldn’t do the crafts yet because she was going to the movies with her dad. Ha! We have both been having a lot of fun with the boxes and talking about all the new things we’re learning. So far we’ve colored pictures of the Southern Lights, made a polar bear costume, went penguin bowling and made arctic shaped window clings and snowflakes. I peeked in the new box after Evangeline left, and we’re going to get to make a bird costume and a bird’s nest with bird eggs!

Evangeline painting the Southern Lights
Evangeline painting the Southern Lights

Anyone thinking about joining Kiwi Crate for their kids? Each month of your subscription, your child gets a box in the mail with 2-3 crafts — all materials included, boxes are themed and informative. Age ranges are 3-10. Evie is just three, but she loves loves loves getting her boxes in the mail and doing everything in them.

Felicity the polar bear -- she likes the boxes too!
Felicity the polar bear — she likes the boxes too!

The link below is a referral link to my account. If you join through this link, we both get $10 off. Of course I wouldn’t mind getting $10 off for myself, but I also think this is a really great program that kids will enjoy.

http://www.kiwicrate.com/Refer?i=KelliC7

The State of the Union When No One’s Expecting

Like most people on my facebook news feed, I watched the President’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night. I was surprised how often things I learned from What to Expect When No One’s Expecting crept into mind listening to the speech.  In his book, Jonathon Last illuminates challenges to child-rearing in our modern, Western world.  The President’s itemized speech this week provided the perfect platform to see how these issues are often ignored in the most pressing of political topics. Below are the two main topics I found lacking in light of falling birth rates:

Immigration— The President focused on many of the positive attributes immigrants bring to America like culture and perseverance. But one thing he failed to mention was babies! Typically Latin American and Middle Eastern immigrants bring with them the intention to have more than 2 babies, often over 3. Not only does their adult presence add to our current workforce, but their children add to our future tax base. In fact, with few exceptions, the influx of immigrants and their high birth rates are what’s keeping our economy and social security from completely collapsing like many in Europe and the Far East.

Equal Pay — Oh the standing ovation President Obama received when he promoted equal pay for women! An embarrassment, he called it, that in the year 2014 a woman earns 70 cents to the dollar a man in her position makes. He declared that a woman’s job should not suffer because she wants to have children. She should be free to take off work to care for a sick child. A father should be free too, the President said.

But not a word about paid maternity leave, and certainly not a breath on paternity leave in any form or fashion. Should a woman who wants to have a child be punished for also needing to work? Apparently the American spirit agrees that her work should not suffer, but what about her family, her new baby, her health or her mental well-being? A great effort over many hard  years was made to give mothers the rights they have today in America’s workforce. In no way do I mean to downplay the significance of these rights. That a woman cannot lose her job based on a pregnancy is a giant step forward in keeping women valued in the workforce. However, it is not only a woman’s role in the workforce that needs to be protected, but her role with her family as well. It is time for another giant step.

What options does the American workforce offer a father? No more than 7 vacation days if they weren’t taken previously during the year? Isn’t being among the only three countries in the world and the only first world nation not to offer paid maternity leave also an embarrassment in the year 2014?  A father should be granted equal rights as a mother for caring for a sick child and given the time to be with his new baby in the precious months following their birth.

There are many political and economic ramifications to issues like immigration, social security and worker’s rights. Many positive changes have been made and will be made yet. One aspect that has been routinely neglected, but that is just as important is, family and fertility. Parents and future children need not only to be protected,  but encouraged. Incentives need to be allowed to not only support families, but also to encourage them to grow. Our culture, economy and way of life depend on strong families with lots of babies 😉