Thursday, December 31, 2009

The New Year

I subscribe to "The Daily Groove" and get short daily inspirational messages regarding enjoying parenting more fully ( Today's started: "If you make only one resolution this New Year, let it be simply to LIVE LIFE MORE FULLY."

I think that encompasses it for me. The last number of days at home, I've carved out time (thanks to Kali's patience with me sitting and knitting with someone talking via the CD player in the background) to listen to the CD's I was given by Marshall Rosenberg on Nonviolent Communication. While I have been introduced briefly to this model of communication, listening to 5 hours of him sharing about this "language of life," with many stories that I could relate to was a very powerful experience, as well as humbling. In our family meeting last night we agreed to listen to them together in the evenings next week.

It's been interesting to already notice how the conversations I have with Kali and Jason shift when I try to apply some of what he suggests. Some of the most powerful tidbits for me so far include:

1. It is often hard for us to separate out observation and evaluation. Many of us are conditioned to always be judging or evaluating. While those can be important skills at times, we need to know how to also make observations that are free of judgment. While it sounds simple, it does not come easy for me and I can see how much many of my relationships would benefit from me becoming more at ease with that skill.

2. No one else is responsible for my feelings. And I am not responsible for anyone else's feelings. Kali cannot make me angry or frustrated or annoyed or elated. She can do things that trigger those emotions in me, but the same actions can trigger different emotions depending on what is going on inside of me at the time. Also, seems rather common sense, and yet in practice in life it is a powerful shift in language for me. Just to notice how many times I might say, "I feel ____, because you ____." I like so much that he gave examples of how we can shift our language to focusing on observing what is happening, identifying our feelings and our needs and then working at strategies for addressing the needs.

3. Identifying underlying needs is hard work!!! I'm putting many situations and relationships through my new "nonviolent communication lens" and find that I get stuck when I think about things that frustrate me and then try to keep asking, "what is the need behind that feeling? "

So this is what I hope to explore more in depth in 2010. It goes right alongside our continued journey into parenting in a way that respects Kali and us, and is in line with what we value most in life. So I think it all fits into living more fully. And for me that also includes being more present in every given moment of each day.

Today at lunch was one of those moments with Kali I am so glad I didn't miss. She made cornpone for us with her new kitchen stuff from Aunt B (including a red apron which she wears without any complaints, despite its color!). She was gobbling them up but then got thoughtful (and distracted) when they were gone and all that was left was soup that was fun to play with but not as inspiring for eating.

She mused, "There are three different meanings to the word bear/bare...the one when you really don't like something but you can bear it...then there is the animal...and then there is bare when you aren't wearing any clothes." That must have triggered another thought because the next moments she piped up that she had a joke for us. "What does a horse say to a kid who is running around without any clothes on?"

"Neigh...kid" I know this is an evaluation statement, but I think she is a pretty funny little girl! I could also state that her jokes fulfill a need in me for playfulness and I'm so glad she is in my life because of the way her approach to life enriches my own!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas 2009

We are happy to be home safely from our holiday travels to see both of our families last week. Kali enjoyed time with cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents, as well as some new adventures (riding a pony for the first time and making her very own gingerbread house). And there is no doubt that she was happy about presents too. Especially her little dog, Spot, pictured here. And her baby doll, Zelda, her new runner sled, her very own microscope and many new books and games, that we are enjoying (to name a few!). Speaking of which, she just called "Moooommmmyyy" and I imagine we will soon be out in the recliner by the fire finishing "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever." It is nice to have a few days here with ample down time for reading books and playing new games.

For more pictures, see

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snowed in!

We are enjoying our 1-2 feet of snow! Many pictures online at for those that wish to see more. We are about to stock up the fire, bundle up and head out to try out Kali's Christmas present - a runner sled!

We are also enjoying the time indoors. Kali invented a soup recipe and wanted to try it last evening. She was very cute writing up a few instructions like "stirred until cooked." Here it is in case you wish to try it:

Chicken (we used our home canned)
Potatoes (grown next door and given to us by our generous neighbor)
Chicken broth (also our canned broth)
Water (as much as needed to make right consistency)
Barley (or rice if you are out of barley and snowed in!!)
Salt (we also added some garlic for extra flavor)
Oil (doesn't really need it but we had to follow the recipe)

She stirred and stirred and then played for awhile when it wasn't done in the 5 minutes she allotted for it to cook. She ate two bowls of it and determined it to be delicious soup that someone might want to buy the recipe for. :) We don't plan to sell the recipe but feel free to try it out! No specific amounts of each ingredient determined.

We've been eating yummy foods all weekend. This morning's breakfast topped it off and should sustain us for a long time of snow playing. With the smell of fresh bread in the oven, we sat down to chicken sausage (Jason's first time making it from the dark meat of our chickens), roasted brussel sprouts with fresh garlic and rosemary (thanks to generosity of friends), and an egg, bread, cheese bake. Yum! Now off to utilize the energy it provided us and to have more snow fun. I hope we'll all still be feeling positive towards the snow when it comes time to shovel our way out when we actually have a commitment (work tomorrow for me!) to be somewhere other than here at home!!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Another lost tooth!

Okay, so it was bad enough that Kali lost her first tooth while I was at work. Today I called to check in on Jason and Kali and while I was talking to Jason I heard "uh oh." Kali had coming up to him with her SECOND tooth in her hand. She didn't want to talk to me for fear that this time I would really be mad to have missed it. I assured her this evening that while I give her a hard time, obviously she is allowed to loose her tooth whenever it comes out. :) She can now fit a straw in the gap between her teeth. And she wanted the light bulb snow people in the picture with her (one of the fun activities she did with Grandma at Thanksgiving).

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Snow hike

So we got our tree up yesterday and decorated (without too much disagreement concerning Christmas tree ornaments) and then enjoyed a wonderful evening with neighbors. Jason and I did allow the "apple ornaments" to be put aside - thankfully, neither of us cared for them all too much and Kali had a clear opinion on getting rid of them! It was special to pull out the ornament given to us last year with a picture of Kali and Nora together, as well as the one Kali made for Nora with Nora's name on it her first and only Christmas with us. Kali came to me with it in her hand and said,"Do you see what this one says?" That kind of thing is about all we hear from her about Nora these days, but she has been very clear that she wants us to go to the service tomorrow night where you get to bring an ornament to put on a tree (a service held at RMH for families who have lost children).

And then today, the snow was melting fast but it is Sunday and so the only day of the week we can hike on the mountain during deer season. We gave up a few hours of potentially "productive" time at home and ventured out well prepared (I thought!) It was picturesque and fun and Kali was jumping and skipping and stomping in the snow and talking about how she was going to live on ice for 6 years. The lake was gorgeous and the snack we enjoyed there was unbeatable - the persimmon tree by the pond was still LOADED and they were almost all dead ripe and ice cold. Yum!!!! You can see many more pictures than those below online at

These photos were all taken before she got cold... Then she wished we hadn't come on the walk, she was "frozen," her hands were so cold (despite switching from her wet mittens to the second pair of gloves I had brought!). So for the last 1-1.5 miles Jason or I carried her, trying to wrap Jason's coat around her to warm her up. I had to laugh at a number of points as we watched the sun setting and the snow melting from the trees, while lugging our 50 pound plus daughter home in our arms whimpering and chilled to the core. It was one of those times that will in all likelihood be more memorable because of Kali's presence with us, but a time in which I would have also savored a relaxing hike with just Jason. And clearly it was probably unrealistic to have her go with us all the way to the pond without snow pants or really heavy gloves. We live and learn!

She warmed up soon after we got home and at dinner was heard saying that she wanted to go to the North Pole...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

We were coming up our driveway from our snow walk to the mailbox, which extended into a walk to the end of our road with a snow ball fight going continually along the way. We were talking and singing and stomping through the snow. Kali sang, "All I want for Christmas is some snow equipment." It made us laugh. She wants it to snow every day. She said it is very easy to get her to go out in the snow and very hard to get her to come in. We agreed with her except noting that once she gets cold she wants to come in fast! We successfully agreed on a little tree to cut for our Christmas tree and it is sitting inside the front door dripping as the snow melts. Decorating will have to wait for awhile.

Is this really me?

Last evening Jason, Kali and I found ourselves once again on the 4th floor of the outpatient unit at RMH for the 24th Annual Bereaved Parents Memorial Tree Service, sponsored by RMH's Grief and Loss Services. We went bearing a little star ornament that Kali had written Nora's name on and decorated with colorful dots. Since last year Kali has mentioned several times wanting to go to the service again so we were thankful when our neighbor M brought down the local paper with an announcement of the event - I had been naively waiting for another invitation which apparently only go to families in their first year after the loss.

It was one of those evenings where I felt slightly out of place, yet also connected in a strange way to the stories (most of which I knew little to nothing of) of those gathered in that room. We were a group of no more than about 30, persons that would likely not find themselves at many common gatherings but who share a common experience of loss. Mostly it was just being present that mattered for me last night, and particularly being there with Kali and allowing it to be another experience to place in her bank of memories of these years. She said very little but enjoyed helping to place the dozens and dozens of ornaments on the tree that had been accumulated over the years. She wondered on the way home why there kept being more ornaments. It was that which struck me as well as I hung each one on the tree, knowing that each represented a little life that someone out there missed.

One of the things that was shared by a mother who lost a baby at birth was how she was told soon after her loss that for awhile the grief will carry you but someday in the future you will find that you will carry your grief. It was emphasized that it never goes away, but it shifts and changes over time. I have found that to be true.

So taking a monumental leap in my thought processes, it seems that these last few years are full of finding myself in odd places where I can't help but question, "Is this really me doing this or in this place?" While it often leads to growth and changes I'm grateful for, it almost always includes a slightly unsettling feeling as well.

That was so true of Thanksgiving day and the week following where we found ourselves immersed in our largest butchering project ever. I should note that Jason was the central person involved and I found myself entering in at various moments throughout the process, which for this time was enough for me as I slowly gather the courage the fully engage myself with the source of my food.

Thanksgiving day I found myself plucking feathers for the first time since Bolivia (1997-98). At that time I hated the smell, hated making the children help, hated doing it myself, and was not thinking about much else. This time I was surrounded by my own family and good neighbors, I felt like I had grown much more familiar with our feathered friends through my decade of being married to Jason. I watched in awe as Kali dove into the project with no hesitation, resentment or fear of the smell, the wet feathers, the blood. But I still feel like such a novice on so many levels and I can hardly tout being fully engaged as I can't yet muster the strength to do the actual killing and I still feel a bit squeamish about the butchering portion. Yet it felt good to be involved and to allow myself to feel the awkward feelings, as well as those uncomfortable feelings of power associated with taking life (I know that so many aspects of my life contribute to both taking and giving life and therefore it feels good to get close to it even though it feels uncomfortable).

Kali, on the other hand, seemed right at home. She came and helped and then went off to play. At one point she went and grabbed two feet off the butchering table and was playing with them. Before I knew it I heard her by the rooster pen asking them if anyone wanted to trade for a new pair of feet. I didn't know whether to laugh or be horrified, but was quickly reminded of Barbara Kinsolver's chapter in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle where she reflects on a butchering day that found their children doing much the same. Kali clearly has grown up around the cycles of life and death and did not find it odd or gross and I'm grateful for that. I hope that she sees in all our actions a true respect for the animals we care for and in the end eat.

Part of that respect involves for us attempting to use as much as reasonably possible of the animal that we kill. After learning from friends that the feet provide the best soup stock - high in protein - we decided it was time to try it. Another stretching experience to have a pot of chicken feet simmering on our stove for a day or two. But there is no doubt of it being high in protein!

We left the chickens aging in the cooler while we took off for our wonderful weekend in WV. While there we got a call, similar to one a few years back: my uncle D had shot another deer and by now had more venison than they needed. Did we want to take it home? Oh, we have such a hard time saying no to free, local food (particularly a great protein source that Kali loves). So like we did when Kali was not yet two, we came driving back to Harrisonburg with a deer tied to our roof, this time more securely--the last such trip, the deer shifted on the roof rack and Kali (then just beginning to say a few words and animal sounds) caught sight of it "looking in at her" through the car window. I watched in horror as she examined this creature out her window for awhile and then I heard, "Duck?...Woof Woof?" Poor girl, she was trying to fit what she saw into her limited repertoire of animals. We laughed, but not altogether comfortably!

So Monday through Friday was filled with cutting meat off bones, grinding meat, cooking the bones down, picking cooked meat off the bones, canning meat and broth. And now the pantry shelves are once again loaded to the brim and the canner is put away (are we now truly done for the year??). I found the most amazing part to help with this time was picking the meat off the chicken bones. It may not have been so relaxing for Jason as I was asking him about the name, placement, and function of every other bone that I cleaned off. Sometimes I feel like I'm just starting my education - and now I'm doing it for me, not for anyone else or for a grade or because I have to. What a difference that makes!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Our bookworm taking flight!

It felt like an odd morning today. No, not that fact that we are deep into meat processing (more on that later possibly), but the fact that I was at home puttering around the house (cleaning, baking, cooking, laundry) and it was almost as if Kali wasn't at home. I don't think I heard a peep out of her at all for well over an hour at one point. She is quickly becoming a bookworm. It's fun to see her enjoying reading so much (though she still won't read to me except at a very rare moment when she does it without thinking about it).

She had a wonderful time in WV. We were there for Thanksgiving with my folks and the best surprise of all was SNOW! Enough for sledding and making snow people. I wouldn't normally describe Kali as super adventurous but she loves sledding and went airborne twice. The second trip down the steep slope and over the bank ended with a few tears until she got over the shock of how fast she went and how hard she hit. But it didn't scare her too badly as she has been asking for a runner sled for Christmas.