My children are all away at school now.

I have no goats to milk, rabbits to groom, or chickens to keep alive (as my once-necessary source of eggs-that-don’t-give-me-migraines).

I have read over 180 books this year, since I quit feeling embarrassed for my high-consumption of novels, and for the first time in forever I can sit still and feel a sense of choice and options in how I will spend my time.

Years ago, when Jay was traveling, and I had rabbits/goats/chickens (and rats, God-help-me) in the depressive dark of winter, along with three beautiful children who looked to me for all things good, I was much more limited in my choices.

One funny part, in a quirked way, was that I couldn’t choose to write. Writing wasn’t optional if I wanted to be sane, kind, and have any energy at all. Writing was essential like showers were essential: maybe not to life, but without question to quality of life.

I remember the moment when I realized that I was perpetually falling into “crisis mode,” that lifestyle where nothing mattered but staying warm fed and sane. Trouble with that, was the niggling part of my mind that insisted healthy also needed to be in the equation somewhere, especially since this looked to be my lifestyle for a while.

This resulted in a life-changing awareness:

If I’m going to spend this much time in crisis mode, I need a way more efficient crisis mode!

And you could say that’s what I’ve spent the last three years learning.

We’ve gradually removed stressors from our lives — first the rabbits, then the goats, then the little house, then the chickens…

We’ve added margin: Jay travels less, we have more physical space, we live closer to Jay’s work, so we have more time-space, and now the children are all off being taught by somebody else.

One of the intriguing things about being on Facebook is watching trends within my own news-feed. A kindergarten mom shared her tear-red face on day-one, and asked the next day if she’d ever get used to giving up her boy.

I’ve never been particularly sentimental, but I’ve also been particularly good at treating whatever it is I want to do as simply normal. I never considered sending my kids away for kindergarten. I didn’t seen the point, really. Natasha’s first day of school looked a lot like every other day of her 5/6-year-old existence, with reading, songs and a bit of colored-bear mathish games thrown in.

The main difference was that I mentioned her neighbor friend was going to his first day of school. Natasha froze, then, very carefully said, “I’m not ready to be away from you all day. I’m not big enough.”

This, I loved.

And I also loved how everyone was ready this year.

So now we’re on day-three, and I have the option of sitting quietly. Having learned and lived a sustainable “crisis mode,” having become familiar with the absolute minimum that will keep a home together while those in them are at their weakest, I am reminding me to pace myself.

Usually I do my best work when I’m alone in the house, so the last two days have been a bit tense while I find a balance between maximizing my alone time (so I will be able to focus better on the kids once they’re back), and doing it in a way that doesn’t leave me physically exhausted.

The thing is, all this margin and reading and rest has been *wonderful,* but in a way it’s underscored how much the last five years have sucked out of me. I tried to be active and productive and go maximize my empty house (clean! organize! exercise!) and I was reminded that I am still low on stamina and strength.

So I’m still playing things by ear. My one big goal this semester is to finish the second part of my lindorm story, with the smaller (as in quieter, less-forceful) goal of recovering health is working in the background.



So I seem to have a habit of giving people more than they’re [really] asking for.

Gerald, my Toastmasters mentor, called up over his lunch hour and opened with some species of “How’s it going?”

I’m often very good at giving the standard flippant response, but I’ve been mulling over that same question all morning, so instead I said, “Well, I’m a little traumatized right now, actually.”

“Ah,” he said, still in convo-lite mode. “That snow coming down.”

“No,” I said, suddenly realizing I’ve been surprised by it all four times I’ve walked out the door since it started. “I had a trauma yesterday– The goat went into labor, I spent two hours with my arm inside her trying to straighten out a baby that was too big to get out anyway. We ended up getting her a C-section and the baby was born dead. So, yeah, traumatized is a good word for ‘how I am’ right now.” Then I rushed on, recognizing there’s probably no way for him to recover from that statement. “But that’s not why you called, how can I help you…?”

More trouble is that the surgery cost twice as much as the goat did, and she’s still not voluntarily walking around, she’s shivering in the warm barn, and too many things look swollen that shouldn’t be, so I am still concerned for her life/health, and the whole thing doesn’t feel over yet.

I had two appointments Thursday morning, because usually I take the kids to school and it’s a good day to get stuff done.

I had to cancel the doctor appointment, but it looked like I could make the consultation at the IDEA (homeschooling) office, so I pressed into that.  I felt really shaky, and every time I told the next person (four people over five hours) what I was doing/looking for and why, I got teary and self-conscious.

But I kept pressing because I wanted answers. I wanted something solid and concrete so I could wipe this question off the front of my mind.

The result is that I came home shaking and exhausted (I hadn’t brought any food or eaten lunch) but I had all the pieces I needed to loop the loose ends together and make a coherent whole.

Winterdust wasn’t then and still isn’t now seeming better as I’d hoped, and I’ve fallen back on my old standby (denial?) just staying inside and moving slowly forward on some small projects, like getting that broth canned, so it’s not wasted, and running the dishwasher.

One sad thing is that being the time of year it is I can’t even de-stress by catching up on TV shows, because they’re all finales, so my whole reason for watching shows right now (closure) is unlikely to be fulfilled.

Along the same line I’ve been delaying the dive-in to the next novel (Shadow Swan, NaNo 2010), because I dipped my toe earlier this week and all my intensity jacked up, full-throttle. That is, I usually feel the tension/stress of my stories until they’re completely written– which explains why I haven’t had the emotional energy to do a lot of work sometimes.

NaNo has been the exception– the pace of writing (and the legitimization of making the Story almost my main world of occupation…) it seems to work out.

There’s a *lot* that needs to be fixed and added to finish it from “just” 50,000 words, and I need to treat this like a marathon, not a sprint. But that looks like it’s going to take some rewiring.

Basic Steps Toward Healthier Living

This is the text of the talk I gave at my kids’ school assembly, to all the parents and kids that were present for the Fall Festival last Friday night.

There are two main approaches or philosophies when it comes to food.

The first, the one we’re most familiar with, is the Subtraction Model:

We make decisions based on what we’re told to remove from our diet:

  • Fat
  • Carbs
  • etc.

The second food Philosophy focuses more on what your food puts into you: vitamins, minerals, good, sustainable energy. An Addition Model.

If your best friend shows up at the door with ice cream and a new game, you want the door to let that person in. If the dog makes a mess on your carpet, you want that same door to open to get the mess out of your house.

Now, out of those two images, if you imagined yourself in both, which one had you moving faster?

 I’m thinking the dog-mess for me, because if she’s really my best friend, she’ll still be there if I don’t open the door right away.

 This was the easiest place for me to start my growing awareness of nutrition and healthy eating.

For me it was cutting gluten and soy,

The result was losing weight and getting rid of my migraines, so you can understand I was motivated.

But it was also hugely stressful because it meant changing the way I ate, and learning a whole new skill set.

You probably don’t want to start at the gluten-and-soy level, but I’m asking you– to consider—cutting three things that will give your entire family a boost in healthy living: Continue reading

August Update 2012

Okay, school’s in session.

Jay asked me to spend the the first day of school on-site, in case the sudden change was too much of a shock for any of the children.

I camped in a workroom one wall from Melody and Elisha’s 1st & 2nd (combined) class and heard their first interactions with their teacher (Elisha’s spontaneous and musical, Melody’s called-on, but confident). The teacher kept going no matter what, continued her lesson without hiccup, and I began to realize how very different this rhythm was than anything I could do.

Before the end of the morning I was pretty agitated, actually. The hum and energy and metronome-steady press so close to me was nearly overwhelming.

I went into their classroom at lunch, and read to Melody after she finished eating.

She’d seen an illustrated version of Heidi in the book basket, one she remembered reading at home, and asked for it. For the next few minutes she lay in my arms and just soaked up Mama. While the rest of the class thrummed by their desks waiting to be released to recess.

The next morning (and every morning the rest of the week) Melody made it clear she was not interested in going away to school anymore, but we emphasized this was not a decision she got to make.

At the same time, I understood.  The clip and the rhythm and the push of an experienced teacher is very different that what any of us are used to, and it was nothing that I would be comfortable with myself.  I wrestled briefly with whether I could make my kids do something I wouldn’t do myself.

My conclusion was two-fold:

  1. I already had done this. I wasn’t asking her to do something I never endured.
  2. I think all children need both structure and the opposite in their lives. If my kids can get the structure side of things from someone else, that means that I don’t have to make it happen. And that. is awesome.

Continue reading


We’re currently fighting a serious bug going through our house.

Melody’s fever seems to have finally stayed away (after four days of persistence), and everybody’s been pretty listless on both ends of the fever (N and E have had symptoms as well.  And it’s been interesting to observe how feeling yucky really does make you act yucky. It’s a backwards sort of nice that I can say, Woah, this is really out of character!)

Melody went through an entire square box of tissues Saturday. Elisha and Natasha picked up her cough by Sunday evening, and until yesterday (Tuesday) Elisha’s the only one who could hang on to energy.

Sunday I stayed home with the younger two. Elisha was a great helper, and Melody got dressed, which was an accomplishment compared to Saturday.

Monday both girls held their low fevers and needed lots of holding by Mama. Which was fine, accept when people want to eat, too.

Conveniently, when they’re feeling this crummy, they don’t seem to care as much about food.


When was the last time you cried while laughing?

Today, for me.

Here’s the scene:

Oh, yay, it’s snowing. Oops. I haven’t shoveled the yard in a bunch of days.  Ugh, that means I have to get dressed to go outside.  I was hoping to avoid that while sick.

[Be the adult, get dressed for the day {about noon} and stagger out to the living room realizing that simple act consumed my energy allotment for the hour.]

Thank God Jay’s back from his morning of running errands.  Collapse on the couch and confess negligence and abdication of scooping responsibility.

About this time Elisha comes back inside, glowing with smiles and cold.

Don’t worry Mama we saw it.  It’s not buried yet.

Now, I have already forgotten both that I’d offered the excitement of watching mama race the snow and a 4-year-old’s interest in poop.  I was only sick and tired and annoyed that one of my articulate children once again used a pronoun instead of a noun that would actually convey information.

I have grown to hate the words it and thing with severe intensity.  They’re like serotonin inhibitors– filling a hole that would normally be a channel, or at least a resting place, for something that could contribute a great deal more than the current squatter.

When I finally understood what the boy was talking about, he also conveyed that he and his sister were (helpfully!) doing what they could to make sure the piles were still visible.  Actively “brushing away” the still accumulating snowfall.

Keeping a straight face I politely informed him that I don’t want that job done any more, and asked him to leave things as they lay till Mother can deal with them herself.

Oh you don’t have to worry about that, Mama.

I am now worried.  This is a new phrase for him.

I be sure to stomp it.

How this could, in his mind be either helpful or reduce my inclination to worry, I think I’ll never know.  I was ready for a good cry by this point, and here was as good a trigger as any.  Jay was home and I could retreat for a little private catharsis.  But I couldn’t even speak, I was laughing so hard.  Tears streamed down my face, and poor Jay had to wait quite a while for my answer to, “What did he say?”

So I got my cry in the best possible way.  And yeah, I feel better, too.

Whoops, it’s been a While.

And I’m not apologizing, because I’ve been working hard, but *man* it’s been busy.

Usually I like to blog as a memory-keeper, or a processing assistant, but while we’ve had lots happening (and I’ve had plenty to process, believe me) it hasn’t happened at a time to write.

I have been thankful to find a generous serving of gluten-free blogs, and will be adding a specific category to my sidebar (today, I hope: my browser windows are getting pretty congested.)

We’ve been eating (nearly) gluten-free for about a month now.  We’re still minimizing dairy and soy (and I’m *avoiding* eggs), but gluten is the one I’m not budging on.

Since going gluten-free my thoughts and emotions have been much less cloudy, and my energy has been up.  And as challenging as it is, gluten-free is the most discretely (as in, clean, individual, recognizable steps) doable.

Everything requires multiple steps before I can begin, and I get frustrated at how I’m not organized enough to have food ready before we’re all hungry. Frustrated that I turn into a bear (yes, even with the bear-outbreaks I’m sticking with my assertion I’m more stable). I do have days when it works, and I wish I took better notes, so I know why and can try to recreate those days.

One thing that helps is keeping dried fruits and nuts in the house (other than peanuts and almonds, that is). I’m getting to where I think of those before I stretch too far and the quick sugar/fat/protein combo is very helpful.

We’ve purchased a manual grain mill that we’re using to grind our gluten-free grains into a variety of flours. I am totally game to make pasta now, except the pasta maker we were given has been packed into who-knows-what-box. (I’m missing my Vitamix too, but that’s another story)

So I’m learning how to cook completely new things.  And it’s not for our health.  As in, I’m not yet trying to eat “organic” or “local” or to get the kids to consume their 5-a-day of fruits and veggies (I’m happy if they get one!).  I’m just trying to keep food in their tummies and aches out of their bodies.

And, you know, other than meal times (as in, “Mama, my tummy hurts, can I have a snack?” “Nope it’s dinner time, you’re supposed to be hungry.”) we haven’t been having complaints any more.

It’s a truckload of work, I shouldn’t even have my feet up right now– I should be cleaning the kitchen while my kids are watching their movie, so we can try (another) new recipe today.  But it’s good to stop for a minute and say, Wait-a-minute, yeah, I think it’s working!

Tummies took a while to adjust, but I think we’re stabilized now, and have a good idea where to seek our path.

Life is Getting Complicated

So, lets see.  This has been a busy week.


  • Distributed 6 copies of my novel
  • Realized M’s b-day was the next day and I had *no* plans
  • Didn’t get to freaking out or worrying before God provided for a party opportunity.


  • Melody’s 6th birthday
  • “Monday Marvels” at UAF was about physics. Primarily waves, and applied by measuring the speed of sound and the speed of light (live, in front of ~70 people). Highlights included
    • the chocolate burning in the microwave (which apparently didn’t really matter because the presenter had pre-preped his light-measuring ingredient, and
    • Natasha winning her daddy a cool university sweatshirt (she was very proud of this) by coming up with the elements of a wave’s speed.
      • Frequency and wave-length, if I remember right.
  • And Grandma Teena flew in to Fairbanks, for just one night, and the children were thrilled at the chance to see her (though, a little confused in the morning. She had to leave before they woke).


  • Spent the day getting ready for the 2:00 party:
    • made a train out of four little loafs of crazy cake
      • The recipe for which I had to pull out of my head: apparently  packed my hand-written recipe book.
      • The kids had a ball sticking candy all over the frosted cars, mostly piling it on top, as if they were full and carrying hoppers of M&Ms and Jelly Bellies.
      • Used black licorice to connect to cars, and red to lay out the tracks under the cars.
    • Also made strawberry shortcake, because (After I had mixed up the crazy cake) Melody seemed to realize what I was making and asked if she could have a white cake.  I was very thankful she agreed to shortcake, because I didn’t want to decorate two cakes.
  • The Party was perfect.
    • a pile of church friends were there, including her *best* friend, who, perfectly, gave her the best present– one she’d wanted for a long time.
    • The cake went just far enough, there was ice cream, and everybody got to climb the ladder by the house to see the baby robins (!) in Grandma Judy’s hanging basket.

Wednesday the hard stuff started:

Continue reading

Allergy Testing pt. 1

So after the challenge that was “special eating” in February, I’ve still decided to get me and the kids a general allergy (blood) test.

We spent something like 2 hours in an 84-degree office answering detailed questions and wracking brains to be sure we’d thought of everything possible for each of the four of us.

And we get to go back on Wednesday for the actual blood-draws/pricks.

Now, part of me objects to the extended torture that is five people in a near-airless 6×10 room– especially since, in theory, the test does everything. But another part is intrigued by the naturopath’s effort to tie diverse symptoms to possible causes or solutions/remedies.

One possibility she suggested is zinc deficiency, that’s been tied to sensory integration dysfunction/sensitivity.  This label is something that can both be scoffed at and tied to G/T kids. This (G/T), if you’ll forgive a mother for saying so, I have evidence all the children are.

Which makes perfect sense, considering their parents’ brains “work differently” as well.

So we are adding zinc to our daily supplements, with the hope that it will level out a spectrum of sensitivities displayed by members of our family (yes, I can be more specific in e-mail if it’s important). The main question is whether a zinc deficiency is playing a role in these behaviors or if they are simply elements of personality. And we can’t even know right away because this deficiency take so long to remedy– anywhere from 2 months to a year, she said.

What I want for myself is my tolerance-level for normal kid-stuff (tapping, touching, chewing loudly, spontaneous explosions of sound) to be neutral again, rather than them feeling like personal assaults. “It hasn’t always been this way.”

The progression toward answers goes like this:

  1. Initial consult (Today)
  2. Blood-taking: full draw from me, prick from each of the kids (next week)
  3. Discussion of results (something like 3 weeks later. Apparently the labs take a long time.)

So we’ll keep stop-gapping with what we know about, experimenting with what we don’t, and generally try to live as normal a life as we can with random tummy aches in a house that isn’t ours…

The upside is that the general level of stress seems to have gone down.  I know I’m more relaxed than I have been, and I think the kids are too.  For all this I am *thankful*!