Archive for the ‘In the Beginning’ Category

In the Beginning – Part 4

November 11, 2010

The weather has finally turned cooler, the leaves are changing with the impending season of fall, and my thoughts return to the “falls” of yesteryears.  I admit that fall is by far my favorite time of year.  I’m sure growing up in New England has something to do with that love for this season!

I recently returned from a hiking trip with 2 of my girls and along the trail we were reminiscing about all the hiking we did when they were little kids.

I remember distinctly when I decided that I was going to give my children the opportunity to fall in love with the out of doors.  My friend Jan and I had taken our girls up to the lodge on Mount Rainier in Washington state to do some walking around.

It was a gorgeous day and the vistas were breathtaking.  Together, we walked along the paved pathways around the lodge.

I had Victoria in a backpack, Lauren (2) and Catherine (4) holding on to my hands.  Jan had Olivia on her back in a backpack.

Jan and I got to talking about all the hiking we had available to us and why did the fact that we had kids keep us from doing something that she and I both loved to do?!

On the drive home we decided we would start researching hikes around the area and what it would take to hike with kids.

We didn’t have a lot of money to spend on this new venture so we had to be smart about our purchases.

Jan and I each researched different hiking books.  We finally decided on a hiking book of easy to moderate hikes in the Cascades.  We also bought a book of hikes for children.  This book had some great tips about hiking with children.

Next, I went to Goodwill and bought backpacks for Catherine and Lauren – the ones who were walking!

I couldn’t afford great, expensive hiking boots for my girls so I bought the best ones at a discount shoe store.  I did want them to last for a couple of seasons since they would be passed down to the next child.  When other people found out we were hiking, they would pass their kid’s boots along to us.  It wasn’t long before we were the “go-to” family if you were looking for hiking boots.  I kept ALL sizes to be passed from child to child.

Each child had a hat, a whistle and a towel for their backpack.  They also had to carry their own lunch and water, occasionally, a special blankie.  I usually had a baby on my back and couldn’t carry all the extra stuff for them.

Jan and I decided that we would hike once a month from May – Sept.  We switched from year to year, taking turns putting the hiking schedule together.  When other friends heard about our hikes, they wanted to join us.  We handed out schedules but it was funny.  A few went once or  they wanted us to take their children with us on the hikes while they stayed home.

Wading in the water with the kids after we ate lunch. That's me in the white shirt with Michael and Victoria. Jan is behind me in the yellow shorts. Cascades, WA

We had 3 rules which all children had to obey when they hiked with us:

  1. No whining
  2. Take it in, take it out
  3. Never get so far ahead that you can’t see an adult

Sometimes when we had a large group (Jan and I were suckers for taking kids without their parents), I would make badges for the best hiker or there was a prize at the end for those children who obeyed all the hiking rules.

We had the best time and the kids were wonderful!!  Jan and I agreed that our own kids had grown so much in character from hiking.  They often surprised us with their stamina and drive and good attitudes in “not so pleasant” conditions.

Our goal - the lake. Even though the water was cold (glacier fed) we still let the kids get in if they wanted to - their choice. Cascades, WA

Some tips that helped to motivate our kids –

  1. We chose hikes that had a goal at the end – a waterfall, lake, or river
  2. I’d read that special snacks were motivators.  I would buy something they wouldn’t normally get and we would stop at different intervals to partake of the special snacks.  I.e., if it wasn’t too warm, I’d get chocolate kisses and we would stop every 20 minutes or so to eat 1 or 2.  This was used more so in the beginning when we were training them to “keep going!”
  3. Sometimes they could invite friends, although they found out quickly which friends were fun to take and which ones weren’t 🙂
  4. I’d buy special treats for lunch like juice boxes.  It didn’t take much for them to be excited about hiking until it was time for lunch!
  5. Jan and I always made a big deal about our hikes and the fun we were going to have out on the mountain.
  6. She and I each wore a whistle.  Whenever the kids heard that whistle, they were to get to us as fast as they could.  We’d have practice drills every now and then to see how the kids would do and they loved it.

Victoria had just turned 4. Mt. Rainier in the background.

Once my first two girls got the hang of what was expected for hiking, it was a snap for those that came along after.  The younger ones never questioned the rules – it’s just what you did when you hiked!

Jan and I began to learn the different flora and fauna for our area and taught the children to identify the plants and trees.  We talked with hikers we met along the trails, our kids always getting kudos for all the hiking they had done.

Michael in the left bottom corner. This is the day he hiked for 2 miles all by himself! Mt. Rainier, WA

Jan and I both homeschooled our kids and this outdoor classroom had the greatest impact!  We also used the car rides to the trailheads for teaching – spelling games, math computation contests, music with grammar lessons or names of presidents.

Discovery!! Lauren (5) squatting down, Olivia (Jan's daughter), Victoria (4) in the white shorts, and two boys I don't remember. Cascades, WA

I loved sharing my appreciation for the outdoors with my kids and it’s been wonderful to see that appreciation carried with them throughout their growing up years.  Hiking with my children when they were small had so many benefits.

I personally loved the break from being inside and sitting at the table for school lessons.  When we were walking, there were a myriad of questions, “Mommy, what’s this?  Why are the mountains so big?  What is that bird?  Where does the water go?  Where does it come from?  Why is there snow in the summer?”  It was endless… and wonderful!

Catherine - had just turned 8. Cascades, WA

I loved the exclusive time with my kids, discovering, and exploring.  I wasn’t competing with a phone or the pressures of running a household when I was out in the woods with them.  They had my undivided attention.

It was a great time to spend with my friend, Jan.  Not that we had a lot of time for any deep conversations but just the fact that we were sharing this time together made our friendship stronger.

The physical benefit to our kids – unbelievable.  One time we were hiking in the Cascades and Michael was 2.  He really didn’t want to be in the back pack so I let him walk.  He hiked for 2 miles along the trails, climbing stairs that were steep, and he never complained!  I was amazed.  Competition with his sisters started young 🙂

Michael (age 2) in the backwards baseball cap. We were crossing a marshland. Mt. Rainier, WA

One of the greatest benefits from hiking?!  Those sweet, sleepy, tired faces after a warm bath in the evening.  My kids slept great and usually slept a little longer the next morning, and that meant a little bit of cherished alone time for myself.  Well worth all the planning that went into hiking with my kids.

I know I’ve kept track of all the trails we did through the Cascades and the Olympics in WA, but my favorite way to remember is to listen to my girls and Michael tell the tales – the time we got lost and walked a few extra miles; the time we went over the mountains to Eastern WA and hiked a VERY remote trail, crossing 20 some streams and how unhappy the daddy’s were because we were out of cell service and got home late;  the time our battery died way up on the mountain and we had to make a sign to see if someone would stop to help us; the time Lauren threw up on the way to the hike because the road was too windy; playing in the lakes until it felt as those your feet would fall off because they were so cold.  Priceless, precious memories…

I highly recommend hiking with kids.  Yes, it takes a little extra planning, and yes, it takes some training to teach them proper hiking behavior but in the end, it is so worth the effort.  It’s an activity you can share with them no matter the age. The memories for both you and them will last forever.

In the Beginning – Part 3

May 31, 2010

Catherine Anne was born to us on May 13, 1988, 2 and half years after we’d been married.  The awe of motherhood took me by surprise.

My pregnancy had been rather uneventful…until the end.

I went in for my check up, two weeks before my due date, and had gained 16 pounds in one week.  I was so swollen and puffy.  When the doctor checked the reflex in my knee, I kicked him involuntarily!

I was told to go directly to the hospital.  I was appalled.  This was not on the schedule and I wasn’t ready to bring home a baby yet.  I’d been working on crafts and I still needed to clean up that area.  My bag wasn’t packed and mentally I wasn’t quite ready for delivery.  I begged the doctor to let me go home first and then go to the hospital.  He finally relented. I cleaned the house under Dave’s watchful eye and then we went to the hospital.

I had toxemia and the only cure was to get this baby out.  They tried pitocin   without success.  Nothing was working.  Finally I was prepped for a c-section.  I was devastated!  This wasn’t covered in the prenatal class we’d taken.

I remember when they lifted our baby into the air and announced it was a girl.  A girl?  I was so sure we were having a boy.  Not sure why I thought that since I’d never had a baby before and certainly had no idea about the differences in the way each sex carried.

Catherine was so precious, so tiny and so dependent.  I’d made the decision to nurse our baby and as soon as she was born, they laid her on my chest.  Amazing…

Because Catherine was early, she had a low bilirubin count and had to be under lights in our home.  I became engorged because she was so lethargic and didn’t really want to nurse.  The hospital sent over a breast-feeding consultant.  She was incredibly knowledgeable and patient.  She explained how the body worked and how beneficial breast milk was for the baby – not just for nutrition but for other aspects of the baby’s health.  For instance, she told me that if Catherine ever got a cold, don’t use the saline solution that most doctors would prescribe, instead, squirt breast milk up her nose.  She explained that the breast milk was just the right temperature and wouldn’t be as offensive as the saline water; the milk was sweet and would feel good hitting the back of the throat, unlike the saline; breast milk could be absorbed by the lung if it happened to go down the wrong tube – the saline solution in the lung could cause pneumonia;  breast milk had all my antibodies for fighting a cold – the saline solution had none.  Unbelievable!!  As I listened and put into practice the advice and wisdom this nurse shared,  my sphere of thinking began to expand.  Breast milk and nursing were created by our Creator.  What else could our bodies do because of the way they were created?  I began to question a lot of the practices society called acceptable.

I had a greater respect for my body and its functions, wanting constantly to know more.  I also wanted Catherine to have a good start to life.  Food became a point of focus, especially for her.  I started to make my own baby food, grinding up the vegetables that we had eaten and also the meat.  I’d freeze the pureed food in ice trays for easy portion sizes.  Of course at this point in my life, I was satisfied with the fact that I was using frozen vegetables from the store, organic hadn’t even crossed my mind!

Of course, Dave was the first to introduce chocolate to all of our babies!

I’m a bit of a rebel at heart and when we started the regular doctor visits, I’m afraid this aspect of my personality really began to show up.  I questioned the pediatricians constantly, wanting to know “why.”  Doctors aren’t real fond of people like me.  I went to one pediatrician in Seattle who came highly recommended.  It wasn’t long before I was in search of another doctor.

I was uncomfortable with all the shots that were “required.”  For pete’s sake, I’d lived through mumps and some of the other illnesses they were vaccinating for.  I wanted to know why she had to have these shots and was it my choice to say yes or no to their administration?  My biggest battle was over the polio shot.  I’d started reading about vaccinations – pros and cons.  I read an article about the polio vaccine, the difference between the dead virus and the live virus.  I wanted the dead virus one.  Well, they had to special order that one.  I didn’t care and I stood firm on my decision.

I’d read that the live virus polio had the potential to re-infect a person who might be changing the baby’s diaper, especially someone whose immunity might be compromised or an older person whose vaccination was no longer viable.  I wasn’t willing to take that risk.  The dead virus was much safer and still effective.

Interestingly, a couple of years after I’d made this decision to have my children vaccinated with the dead virus of polio, they took the live virus off the market and the only one available was the dead virus vaccination for polio.  What triggered this decision by the higher ups??  An increase in the cases of polio, a medical condition that had almost been eradicated.  Hmmmm, wonder where people were getting it?  Baby diapers perhaps?   …just a thought.

Until I had children and was responsible for another life, I’d never really questioned much about lifestyle and what I was eating.  I really believe this is when my interest in homesteading began in earnest.  I’ve always been interested in that era, the pioneers and how they lived.  Now I wanted to know how to live that lifestyle in today’s society.

My steps were slow but the ever increasing brood came quickly.

Dave was in ministry with a pastor’s salary.  When I was pregnant with number 4, we made a major decision.  Dave was going to start his own recording studio and we were going out on our own.  No more regular income, and no insurance.  Major changes came our way…

In the Beginning: Part II

April 18, 2010

I got to thinking about our journey of homesteading and realized that if you didn’t “know” Dave and me b.c. (before children) then you really couldn’t have a full appreciation for our journey into homesteading.

When Dave and I met, I was living with some friends in the same town where I’d gone to college.  Dave was working on his Master’s degree in Piano Performance and was in his last year of school.

I’d graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Speech Education and I was filling out applications to get my Master’s in Speech Pathology.  I was also planning a 3 month backpacking trip across Europe.

Instead, I got engaged and tossed my plans aside for a later date.

I remember talking with Dave about children.  He’s the youngest of 3 and has 2 older sisters.  I’m the oldest of 4 and have a sister and two younger brothers.  Dave had never been around children and I had done a ton of babysitting.  When he asked me how many children I’d like to have, I said 1, maybe 2.  He was happy with that answer.

Dave had grown up in the typical suburbs of the Portland, Oregon area.  His dad, Bob Ball, was General Manager of a radio station for all of Dave’s growing up years.  Dave’s mom, Barbara Ball, was a Child Psychologist in the Portland school system.  She started her own developmental testing business in the early 80’s and still runs her business today.  Dave was a soccer and basketball player and of course, music was a huge part of his growing up years!

I grew up in a Navy family and we moved every 6 months for the first several years of my life.  My family settled in Connecticut when I was 7 years old.  My dad left the Navy and became an airline pilot for American Airlines.  We lived just outside of New York City.  We didn’t live in a suburban neighborhood but we didn’t live in the country either.  When I was 16, we moved to NH, not far from Boston.  This time we lived in an historical district because our house was built in 1806.

My mom was a stay-at-home mom and our family was very much into sports and shopping.  We lived on 3 acres but we didn’t keep any kind of farm animals.

When Dave and I started our life together on November 29, 1985, he was working at a radio station in Seattle, WA.  Soon afterwards, I was working in customer service for a large mortgage company in downtown Seattle.  We were a corporate couple with 2 cars, no children, and debt, living in an apartment on the outskirts of the city.

The thought of homesteading wasn’t anywhere on my horizon.  My knowledge of animals consisted of dogs and cats, hamsters and parakeets,  one session of horse lessons for a birthday gift and some trail rides.

And then we had a baby…