Thursday, February 26, 2015

My Homeschool Day in the Life-A Tad Overdue

So I try every year, and it doesn't always happen, to post my homeschool day in the life. A basic look into how I try to run my life and teach my kids at the same time!

So in the interest of full disclosure and all I am going to tell you that 2014 was horrific. Okay that may be a bit of an overstatement. but holy cow it was HARD!!!
My husband decided it was time for a career change. He was/is a carpenter and decided he wants to become a firefighter/paramedic. So starting in the fall of 2013 he started an EMT course, passed that and became a certified EMT. Then went straight to Paramedic school and that is where it all went INSANE!

We were warned by a good friend who is currently a firefighter/paramedic that this part would be hard. Not just hard but so insanely difficult that marriages have fallen apart, or people drop out because it is just too much. So we had a head's up, but does anyone ever really understand how hard something is until they are actually living it? Your mind can say "yeah OK it's going to be hard, I get that," but your heart doesn't have a clue.
So thus began the hardest, most challenging, sometimes painful year of my life. He was working full time while going to class 3 nights a week and Saturdays. We never saw him.

I mean never.

He was gone before we woke up and back after we were asleep. When he was home his face was buried in a book that weighs more than my 5 year old, and taking tests online everyday. As time went on he was more often than not asleep in that book late at night.
And I? I was basically, for all intents and purposes, a single parent. Granted I was a single parent who was basically getting paid to stay home and take care of the kids, but in some ways maybe that made it harder. I never, and I mean NEVER had a break. I didn't get to sleep in (unless the kids did on a rare occasion) for over a year! In fact I got to sleep in for the first time on Valentines Day. and I am not talking 9:00 in the morning here.

 I am talking about sleeping in people! Till 11:00AM!!! it was heavenly. sigh....

So it was long year and about half way through, my children and I went into survival mode.
Everyday we would start out with high hopes and by lunch everything fell apart.
My children, now 8 and 5, entered  the he's-touching-me-breathing-near-me-generally-in-the-same-universe-as-me phase of siblinghood. And to think, my parents didn't even have a working radio in their car to crank up over the noise of my sister, brother, and I when we went through this phase.
I shudder at the thought.
So 2014 was very, how do I put this without sounding like we didn't do anything?.........very fluid!

We went to visit my parents and father-in-law, A LOT. For extended periods of time. That was awesome. To have people who would say, "you know you look like you could use a break, i got this."
Heavenly words, I tell you.
It was also good because my dad was experiencing some health problems and I got to be there to help out and keep him from getting too down. He loves his boys and they are a good distraction, when you don't live with them 24/7 LOL
I make it sound like they were monsters, and some days, OH MY HEAVENS they were! But for the most part they did well. And as long as I reminded myself that they missed daddy as much as I did, I was able to keep my cool. The traveling actually gave them a break from our strange limbo we were living in. It gave us all a break.
So a lot of our homeschool was unstructured. More like the unschooling method I have heard about so much. If they became interested in something we explored it, when they became bored we moved on. We didn't focus so much on subjects as we did experiences and trying to keep from going nuts. Especially when we only had 1 car and my husband had it ALL the time. And I was right there with them: Learning!
I learned how to go shopping with just me and my boys. Was I freaked out the first 100 times I did it? Hell yes! (pardon my language) but I was T-E-R-R-I-F-I-E-D.  The few times I took them shopping by myself it had been a disaster. I was THAT MOM. The one you see in the store, one kid in the cart screaming, the other kid running around like some crazy chicken on crack. And there I was desperately trying to get them to stop and behave like civilized beings. I swear it is amazing I didn't have a full on heart attack on those early outings.


Oh Costco I heap many blessings upon you and your double seater carts!!! Praise be to you!!!
Costco saved my sanity. I shopped there more than anywhere else during this time because, 2 seater carts!!!
A mother's best friend and sanity saver! We would stroll into Costco grab a cart, the boys woudl crawl in and off we would go to the book section. I would let them pick out a board book each and off through the store we would go, grabbing the occasional free sample (books put away until done of course) and shop. It was wonderful. Until they would start in with the he's touching me blah blah blah!
Well I can't expect Costco to solve all my problems lol

Needless to say it was a long frustrating year. I cried many times and there were quite a few times especially towards the end when I felt like I wouldn't be able to go on one more day. My husband, in fact, asked me if I wanted him to quit. He said he would if I wanted him to. Can you imagine!? That he would give up everything he was working so hard to accomplish, his dream, just because I asked him to? My mind just boggled. I looked at him and said "But you've worked so hard, I've worked so hard and were almost done!" Apparently some of his classmates had actually quit just a month or two before completing the class. How sad. They were so close to being done, so close to reaching their goal.
I told him my heart would not let him quit. For one thing this was his dream. It may be a new dream but it is what he wanted, to help our family. To help him feel fulfilled; as contributing to our community and society. And we had both worked so hard, to make it work, to get this far. WE couldn't quit. I would have been so devastated if we had. And I know it would have done serious harm to our relationship.
So we continued on and finally in January 2015 he passed all the tests and became a certified paramedic!!!
The Official National Paramedic Patch!


The Official State of Utah Paramedic Patch!



Graduation from Mt. Nebo Training and HAPPY BOYS!

 The only thing left is Fire Academy. He starts in March!
We have been told that Fire Academy will be a walk in the park compared to paramedic school. So that is refreshing, but I am not holding my breath. And of course after that, he needs to get hired lol!

So after all this rambling we get to the actual reason for this post: What did my homeschool look like?

Not like anything I actually planned! Oh I would sit down and write out a weekly schedule, and we did well until we were about half way through paramedic school. Then everything just became more crazy, more difficult and my sanity less and less apparent. Of course at this point I also FINALLY had my own car so we could actually go places!
So what happened was we switched to the unschooling method, without actually realizing that was what I was doing. I was just trying to hold it all together and still be a good mom, wife, and teacher. When my youngest wanted to learn about tractors, we checked out books on tractors. When my oldest was only interested in making Lego creations, I let him create. I let him make how-to videos with his builds, made him edit them and re-shoot them until he got them just right. Well as right as he felt they should be. He made little movies with his Lego minifigs and shared them with us and his aunties and grandmas. I made him read me a book everyday, I felt that, at least, had to still be a major part of our schooling, and I read to them a lot also. We would go to the library and check out 20 to 30 books at a time and read them. I would let them get whatever struck their fancy. Which is how we ended up with this book:

Which honestly I wasn't too excited about until we read it! It was fun, bilingual, and it rhymed!

It's how we ended up making gazpacho for my youngest.
                                               

 And while he loved making it, he didn't love IT. The picture speaks for itself. 
Ignore the thumbs up he is only doing it to keep from hurting my feelings. LOL

And my oldest actually did love it so that is a totally honest thumbs up with a mouth full of gazpacho!

 We would wander the whole library (its not very big) and whatever they wanted we would get and read.
We would go to the natural history museum (we have a membership) and focus on one section each time. We would really explore it and I would read all the little informative plaques and things and let them do the hands on stuff as much as they wanted.
Then thanksgiving came and Christmas and things got even more crazy. We always take a break during December because my life if full of our very own ELF , not to be confused with that creepy elf on the shelf guy, and he was busy, busy, busy this year.

our elf Crumpet

Yeah "HE" made a fireplace!
 We had company in December and had a ball decorating and playing, seeing Santa, shopping and getting everything ready for the big night!
Auntie H came to visit!!!
It was a weird Christmas for us also. We always go to our parents for Christmas, and this year was no different, only my parents weren't there. We ended up house sitting for them as they went to visit my brother this year. So my boys had their first Christmas without grandma and grandpa. We had fun though, and spent lots of time with my father in law and my in laws. January was crazy, it was the final few weeks of intense studying for the big test and then finally it was over!!!
I felt like we could finally get back to a "normal" routine. But it is hard to break a crazy routine that had become the norm, you know what I mean?
Now that my oldest has had his birthday and we are finished with birthday craziness until June I can finally focus on writing out our goals for the year, schooling wise, and sit down and write out a real schedule for the first time in what feels like forever.
I am sure it is going to be difficult to get the boys to transition into a more structured schedule, but I also know that once we do we will love it. They are craving it. I am craving it.
I came to the conclusion during the past 3 months that I need to not only restructure our homeschooling but I need to restructure how I do everything.
Some people do not know this but I went to college to become a stage manager. A stage manager is basically (and I am going to quote Mr. Lawrence Stern here) "the person who has responsibility for making the entire production run smoothly, on stage and backstage, in prerehearsal, rehearsal, performance and post performance phases."
Stage Management

Yup. I had to be in charge of making sure everyone and everything went smoothly. Phew no pressure right? And I loved it. I loved being so super organized it would make your eyes cross! I loved making charts and schedules, writing reports, running tech rehearsal and most of all I LOVED performance. I loved calling all the ques and watching the show unfold exactly as it should. The only problem was, that was the only part of my life that was organized.
My house was a disaster, but my paper work and prompt book were awesome!
So I have decided to bring my need to be a stage manager together with my need to have organization in my house and life in general. And maybe just maybe I will write a book about the whole thing. Or maybe not. Either way this is going to happen. I will update on my progress,when I can, as I am just starting out. I am also on a major purging of my house. TOO MUCH STUFF!!! Its taking over everything. Except the Lego's. You can never have too many Legos!!!
So there is my very long and rambling excuse as to why I haven't posted in a long long while, and my homeschool day in the life. Perhaps once we are actually settled into more of a routine then we are right now I will post what it looks like for us at that point.
This past year was hard, hard, hard!  I want to give a shout out to all those awesome single moms and single dads who do this everyday! You are all amazing! And I am really, really glad my stint is over, for now. Who knows what the future may hold but I am really hoping that was my one and only run as a single parent.
 As hard, frustrating, lonely, and completely horrible as I remember it being, I did actually learn a lot about myself.
 I am stronger than I think I am, I hate the thought of quitting something that means so much to someone I love, and though I may grumble about the sacrifices I occasionally have to make, I will make them.

 And eventually I will look back on them and smile.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Where's the homeschool in this blog!?

So today I came to some realizations that I have been ruminating on for the past month or so. I have just been to busy to write them down until now. (which means I am avoiding my sink full of dishes LOL!)

Realization #1: I haven't blogged in quite awhile!

Realization #2: I have yet to write about homeschooling!

Realization #3: (This is actually more of an incident really) I need to chill out today seriously! Big time! This happened during an incident while trying to get my oldest to do some copy work and it became more of a power struggle than a learning moment. And then it became an ah ha! learning moment where I said "Dude! (Yes I still say dude and I am 36 years old) Self! Chill out already and let the kid go he is 7! Plenty of time to prefect his penmanship!" I was having flashbacks to middle school and high school homework sessions (okay math homework sessions if we want to be transparent.) which usually ended with me and my mother in tears. So I backed off, I said "Yes go watch Jake and the Neverland Pirates. We can do this later. Lets do something fun and chill out." This caused my sensitive 7 year old to cry even harder because he so hates to disappoint. We talked about it, about how I was making this "not fun" today and that we could take a break and come back to it tomorrow, so we did.
We had a mini popcorn picnic in the living room with lots of pillows and some smoothies and we watched (shudder) Jake and the Neverland Pirates. He loved it, my youngest loved it and I, well I was just loving the laughter and dancing and singing. Cuz honestly that show annoys me to no end! Though I suppose it could be worse it could be Barney or something as equally sinister. The important thing for me was a reminder that this homeschool thing is supposed to be enjoyable, for the most part, and part of why I am doing this is to avoid the whole tears with homework thing! During our break I thought you know I really should write up a blog post. It's been awhile and a lot of the bloggers I follow have been posting their "day in the homeschool-life" and I thought: cool I should share mine on my blog!  I mean I know I am probably the only person who reads it besides my sister, whom I force into the role of editor whenever I actually have something to post, but hey a girl can dream right? (For the record she was too busy to edit this one so go easy on me here!!)

Here goes:
First let me start by saying, I never intended to homeschool. At least not before I had kids! LOL isn't that how most of us start!? Once I had my oldest boy (whom I shall now refer to as Bubba-g, see pic below and you will understand!) 

I began to wonder about homeschooling. By the time I had my second boy (whom I shall now refer to as The Hulkster, his tantrums are monumental!) But when he isn't doing this:

He looks like this:



AWE...but I digress, back to business...

 My oldest niece, (who was in high school at the time) joined the homeschooling ranks. Well, I thought, if it is good enough for my wonderful, brilliant sister-in-law then perhaps there is something to this!
So I asked my SIL questions, lots of them, and began researching and looked at curriculum's and styles and after being completely overwhelmed by it all went back to basics.
Why do I want to homeschool my kids? Lots of reasons of course!  And I don't want to go into them all in this post or it will be like trying to read War and Piece and that is not my goal here. So let's just say I want my kids to love learning, I want them to know that learning happens any where and every where, not just inside a classroom. I don't want them to spend their evenings in tears, as I did, while doing home work all hours of the night! I don't want them to start thinking they are stupid because they don't understand something. For years I believed I was stupid and that math was not something I could ever do or understand. Guess what?

I was wrong. 

I can do math, I can understand it, though it may take me awhile, and I can and do find it beautiful! I do not want it to take my kids the 20 years it took me to figure that out about anything!

So how do I do this homeschool thing?  Its not easy!  To do this we became a one income household!  Which is hard because we are by no means well off. Not at all. We must budget everything. I mean everything! If it doesn't fit in the budget it doesn't happen. But my budgeting can wait for another post if you are truly curious!
I chose to use the same curriculum my SIL used. The Oak Meadow school. http://www.oakmeadow.com/index.php 
They have an actual school,  do homeschool curriculum's and you can also enroll online. For now we are doing the non-enrollment portion. We may enroll once we get to middle or high school but we like where we are now. For the record, their curriculum does cost money. I know there are a lot of free curriculum's out there and a lot of ways to homeschool for free, I however like having most of the prep work done for me!  I also like being able to take my questions to a professional!  But what I love the most is there approach. They are mostly Waldorf based, and I love that they do not rush you. It's a nice calming rhythm with a focus on nature and arts and crafts. They engage the whole child-hands heart and head! So yeah I pay for the curriculum and I love it! Just as important my boys love it!

So a day in the life of our homeschool!

I have Bubba-gump(7) who is in first grade and the Hulkster (4.9) who is in preschool.
Please note I have put down times but they are not set in stone!  Bubba-g is a late sleeper and Hulkster is an early riser.  I use the times more as guidelines and on days that we do have appointments or errands we stick to these times like glue!

So a typical Monday,  we will do this past Monday

We wake up. Usually Hulkster wakes me up around 6:30-7:00am. The Hulkster and I stumble around for coffee and an apple then watch a show (not always educational gasp!) while we wait for Bubba-g to wake up. The Hulkster and I are pretty much peas in a pod when it comes to how we function in the morning. We stare at the wall, or the pretty moving pictures on the TV until we are able to function ;) Bubb-g however is ready and raring to go the moment his little eyes pop open!
Once Bubba-g has emerged we have breakfast, get dressed and begin circle time.
I like circle time, the boys love it one day hate it the next but we do it and sometimes I change it up!  Usually we do the morning verse (which stays the same all year), a little seated meditation (not always successful with 2 energetic boys!) Our two poems or songs we learn for the week and do everyday, then our closing verse (also the same throughout the year).

After this we do our Buddha Coloring pages. Think of this as the equivalent of a short Bible study, we just happen to be Buddhist so we are learning about the Buddha's life in Coloring book form!

This usually brings us to:

9:20 we begin our first official lesson of the day. This right now, consists of our letter of the day, which on Monday was big S, little s. We read our story The Snake King and we draw a picture in our lesson book from the story, incorporating S. We go over our new poem "Swan swam over the sea". I have Bubba-g read it out loud and to help with his writing he writes it out. I don't always make him write the poem, we alternate between that and just practicing writing big s and little s. Or whatever letter we are studying. I usually spend two days on each letter, and use the stories from each curriculum. So for example on Tuesday we read The Six Swans from the Kindergarten curriculum.

10:00 ish they have free play time and I get to do something fun like the dishes! Then I prep lunch.

10:45 free play time is over and I have them clean up their toys or whatever and set the table for lunch.

11:00 lunch and lunch clean up.

12:00 Second lesson. MWF is math and TTH is science. Because my boys are 2 years apart math is a little longer because I combine the lessons from both their curriculum. This works well as it reinforces things Bubba-g already knows.
So for the Hulkster's lesson we go over the number 5, read a poem about number 5, and read The Star Child-which focuses on, you guessed it number 5! Then I will have him work with our tangibles either beads or nuts to make piles of 5. I also use one of those preschool activity books you can buy at Costco and have him either go over the number 5 activity or the letter of the day activity, if he is interested.
For Bubba-g we expound on our story about the gnomes: Plus, Minus, Divide, and Times. We have made them out of beeswax and he gets them out to act out the math problems I give him using nuts for his tangibles. Today we have introduced multiplication so Times gets to have all the fun handing out the nuts to the various Woodland creatures.

12:30ish *this depends on how long math takes. Craft/music/art/nature walk! (This depends on the day. Mon is usually Crafts, Tues and Thurs music and art and Friday nature walks. We also do nature walks on Wed at the natural history museum. They have a great trail you can walk and the boys have a ball!) Today we called Papa K and sang him happy birthday.  Then we made some cards for upcoming birthdays!

1:00 free play time so I get to do some more housework or not ;) sometimes I crochet instead.

1:45 we clean up, prepare a snack and

2:00 snack and reading time!  We enjoy a snack while I read a chapter or two from our latest book, which right now is: On the Banks of Plum Creek.  Then I have the Hulkster pick a book and I read that. Then Bubba-g reads to us from his Little Bear reader or his Batman reader. His choice. We usually do Little Bear and then Batman at bedtime, but I like to leave it up to him.

3:00 free play
This allows me time to do some cleaning get dinner going and whatever else I have on my list

5:00 is USUALLY dinner time and we start our bed time routine at 7:15. This includes bath/showers if needed, medicine, one last snack, teeth brushing and story time. I read one or two chapters from our current night time book Fantastic Mr. Fox, then Hulkster picks a book or two and Bubba-g picks a book I read and he reads from his Batman reader. Usually I have Bubba-g read first because if he is too tired he has a hard time staying focused.

Then it's lullabies and dream land. Hulkster is usually asleep first and it takes Bubba-g another 30 min to an hour to go to sleep. Luckily I no longer have to sit in the room with him the whole time. We realized several years ago that if we stay in the room he just keeps talking. If we leave the room he still talks but he falls asleep faster! 

And that is my day in life. On Wed we go to the natural history museum in the afternoons; we love it there! And of course it is very rare when it goes as smoothly in real life as it looks on paper!
There are always interruptions, fights, loss of focus, and just life in general getting in the way. 
It is hard to get the Hulkster to stay focused and with us the whole time. He loves art, he loves story time, circle time (usually) but sometimes he gets board during math and wanders off. I don't worry about it too much since he is only in preschool. As his attention span gets longer he will be able to enjoy the other lessons. 
Next year will of course be different as Hulkster will be entering Kindergarten and Bubba-g will be in second grade. Our schedule will change and bring new problems to solve, and new adventures to be had.
How is your homeschool different or similar to mine? I would love to hear about it!!!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Have I become a granola crunchin'dirty hippie momma?

      Someone mentioned to me the other day that they think/are worried that I am becoming a granola crunchin ' dirty hippie momma.  I wasn't sure whether that was a compliment or a comment on my personal hygiene.  For the record I shower regularly and I shave my armpits and legs,  which IMHO disqualifies me from the dirty hippie part of that label.  So working on the assumption that this had nothing to do with my personal hygiene,  what would prompt someone to believe I am granola crunchin ' momma? (I mean other than those girls from high school who believed I was a full fledged member of the granola crunchin ' club because I didn't wear makeup or force my hair to defy gravity with fifty tons of hairspray.  They don't count.)
     Now assuming (I am just assuming all over the place,  let's hope it doesn't come back to bite me,  you know what they say!) you have read my previous post about cow shares and my journey toward being more informed about what I eat and where it came from,  you will not be surprised to learn that I have begun to turn that focus toward what I am putting ON my body. I don't want to get all preachy here but we put a lot of questionable products on our skin. Did you know "The skin is the largest organ of the body, with a total area of about 20 square feet.  The skin protects us from microbes and the elements, helps regulate body temperature, and permits the sensations of touch, heat, and cold."-http://www.webmd.comhttp://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/picture-of-the-skin/skin-problems-and-treatments/picture-of-the-skin
Now just because our skin is protecting us doesn't mean it doesn't absorb what we put on it,  sending it directly into the blood stream.  So all those chemicals and parabens and petroleum based yuckies are going right into our blood stream and doing goodness knows what to our bodies!  I don't know about you but that bothers me. A lot.  Why?
       My oldest child has eczema on his wrists and it gets bad.  Really bad. It looks like his hands will just fall off his wrists bad.  The solution?  Well according to his doc keep it moisturized, and if that doesn't work they will pull out the big guns: steroid cream!  I don't know about you but whenever the word steroid is mentioned I kind of freaked out a little on the inside.  I know they aren't talking the freaky body builder type of steroids but still something about it makes me twitchy.  Especially when that word is used while talking about my child!  
     We jumped on the lotion crazy train, where I searched high and low for natural lotions that would help instead of aggravate the problem. And none of them worked in the long run. I tried every all natural, paraben free, gluten free, whatever free, I could find and afford and eventually all of them failed. Then one day in my email in box I got this http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/2012/02/make-your-own-moisturizing-body-butter.html and I thought why the heck not!? I have tried everything else and whats the worst that could happen? We could hate it and be back to square one, which is where I was already!
     So we tried it, and we LOVE IT! Now in the effort of full disclosure I use less coconut oil than the recipe calls for. Coconut oil can be drying for some and I found that that was the case with my son. We halved it and it is working really well for us. We have been using it for about 4 or 5 months now and as long as he remembers to put it on his hands and wrists after washing he is good. The few times he has had a flare up, the lotion helped to calm it down and soothe it a lot faster than anything else we have tried. I stopped using my store bought lotion and have been using this instead. I love it, its a lot cheaper and lasts quite awhile, even with my son and I using it several times a day everyday.
     This lead me to looking into making my own dishwasher soap (ah Pinterest how we love thee!) Sadly this was IMHO an epic fail. It didn't get my dishes clean! This of course could have been due to the fact that in the 2 or 3 years we have owned this dishwasher I had never cleaned out the filter! Well when I decided to clean it out I learned why I hadn't tried to before! What a pain in the A$$! But it was done, I have just been to afraid to try my homemade dishwasher soap again! Maybe I will give it another go, it can't do any worse than the store bought stuff I am currently using! LOL.
     I also switched my jet dry out for white vinegar-um yeah not so great either! I don't know why this doesn't work for me. Others have reported that it is miraculous. Perhaps it is my hard water I don't know. What I do know is that everything would come out of the dishwasher cloudy and covered with a white film. And yeah that was even after I had cleaned out my dishwasher. This failure has prompted procrastination in making my own laundry soap.
     I have everything I need to do this but I have been reluctant to try it. (Can you blame me?) The recipe I plan on using is also a bit involved, as in if you do it wrong get ready for epic laundry failure! I have everything I need to do it, I just need to Woman Up and do it I guess! Here is the link if you are curious: http://www.budget101.com/myo-household-items/whipped-cream-super-laundry-soap-3993.html
So all of this tinkering with personal care products lead me down the proverbial rabbit hole and I began to wonder if maybe there was something I could use on my face instead of the wash and moisturizer I was currently using. It's not that I was unhappy with what I had been using, but I wasn't happy either.
      Let me tell you about me and my relationship with my face, well the skin of my face to be more specific. The two of us have been duking it out since I started puberty. All through that time I heard "don't worry once you get through puberty it will all get better" LIES! ALL LIES! Okay I will admit that it is actually better than when I was 16, but once a month I might as well be in 10th grade all over again! Ya know what I am sayin'? I tried all the prescription junk on my face-it only made it worse and was painful-I tried Neutrogena, Clearasil, Noxzema, I even tried the infomercial stuff, Proactive when I was in my early 30's. You name it I have probably put it on my face. Masks, clarifiers, acne specific soaps and lotions the list would be longer than this post! I am 35. 35 years old! And I am still dealing with acne like I am a teenager! Frustrating much? Oh yeah!
      Then one day this appeared in my trusty in box: http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/2013/05/oil-cleansing-a-natural-and-effective-way-to-care-for-your-skin.html
It was all about something called the Oil Cleansing Method, ever hear of it? I hadn't either. I was however, intrigued by all the testimonials and comments about obtaining the glowing, dewy, blemish free skin they had always dreamed of! Yeah I got all excited, could this be the solution I have been looking for? Why not? Worse thing that could happen? I could totally hate it and go back to my old way of cleaning my face.  Was there a little part of me that was screaming "you want me to put OIL on my face!? Are you CRAZY?!" I am not going to lie I was a little worried as I have always been told that OIL = BAD as far as our faces go, but ya know I have begun to realize in my 35 years on this earth that "the man" is usually a total liar who doesn't have a clue what he's talking about most of the time. So why not? This stuff is way healthier that what I had tried in the past, and I could actually pronounce all the ingredients and knew what they were!
     So I read up on it using the above link and the basic recipe contained therein. I got some grape seed oil and castor oil at the grocery store in an effort to prevent the heart palpitations I inevitably cause my husband whenever I say the words "I need to order______(fill in the blank) on line." So do I love it?  Has it changed my life? Made me famous beyond my wildest dreams? brought about world peace? Um, ok that's a bit over the top, I get carried away sometimes sorry!
     Let me clarify, I have been using this method for about 2 months. I love the way it makes my skin feel, all soft and supple. Am I dewy? Glowing? Blemish free? Well so far no one has said anything about my skin looking amazing so I am going to have to go with a no on the first two questions. Blemish free? Sadly no! It is still only once a month but now they are bigger, more painful, and there are more of them! That said they don't stick around nearly as long as they used to, but still! I was seriously considering going back to my old facial cleanser and moisturizers. But I just couldn't give up! Something inside me really really wanted this to work! Whats a girl to do? Troll the Internet of course!
     So I did. I searched for all natural facial cleansers and what did I find? Even the "All Natural" ones have ingredients I can't pronounce and have no idea what they are, and the price tag!? HOLY COW! The hubs would have a heart attack if I told him I need to buy this little bottle of face wash for $45! and I don't blame him one bit! The cheapest one I could find was $18 not including shipping costs.
    But then I stumbled across this http://www.crunchybetty.com/removing-your-makeup-the-honey-face-wash-way which in turn led me to this: http://www.crunchybetty.com/honey-challenge Washing my face with honey? Really? I figured why not? Perhaps this is the boost my OCM blend had been missing? What did I do? That's right I ran right out to Costco and bought a big old thing of honey! Got home tried it out and loved it! My face felt even softer! This had to be the answer! (Insert celebratory dance) and then I read this: http://www.crunchybetty.com/honey-guide
Now you would think that this would be a no brainer considering the fact that this has been a quest to find something natural and good for my face right? Wrong! Wrong! WRONG! (insert mental face palm here) I know. I know. Shouldn't it have been obvious that I needed organic, cold-pressed grape seed oil and organic hexane free castor oil? and RAW honey!? Apparently not to me. Sigh. I got all gung-ho and ran out and bought everything without doing ALL of the homework. (In my own defense my first articles on OCM did not mention any of this! It should be obvious but apparently it's not)
    What did I learn? Several things. First I learned that my OCM blend may not be working because they are not organic or cold pressed or hexane free (i honestly don't know what this means. I Googled it but that didn't help! LOL) Second, my face may not like grape seed oil, or it could be that it dislikes castor oil. Some people just can't use it because castor oil is very drying. I could be one of those people, as I have had to adjust my blend several times adding less and less castor oil and more and more grape seed because I have been having issues with dryness. (light-bulb?) Third, my honey is not RAW. So all of the goodness has been heated out of it from the pasteurization process. Which they only do so that your honey doesn't crystallize as quickly.
    So what are my options now? Well I am going upgrade my honey, and my oils. Until then I will just keep doing what I am doing. And yes I totally expect to have movie star gorgeous skin once I do upgrade! So keep your eyes peeled, as I may be coming to a theatre near you! LOL I am not giving up. This method works for so many people I just can't give up yet. And considering everything I have done wrong, I am hoping that once I start doing it right I will start to see the results I have been hoping for. I will keep you posted.
Here is a link to the OCM method that I found much more informative than the first one I used: http://www.crunchybetty.com/nitty-gritty-on-the-oil-cleansing-method
   Can you tell that www.crunchybetty.com is my new favorite hang out on the web? Yeah I like it. I like the tone she sets, and I like her mission statement. And after watching the video she made (see the honey wash link above) I love her sense of humor. I am actually thinking of just biting the bullet and buying her OCM blend which she sells in her Etsy shop. The upsides, she does all the work for me AND she even sends you the complete recipe so you can make it yourself if you so desire. This I really really like! How many companies are willing to do that?  Honestly I will probably buy it and then do a price comparison using the recipe and see which is cheaper, buying from her or making my own. If you are interested in my price comparison let me know in the comments and once I do it I will post it here on the blog.
     So where is my granola crunchin' journey going to lead me to next?
I am looking into doing this: http://www.crunchybetty.com/no-poo-to-you-too The no shampoo, shampoo.
I am a little nervous about it. My hair is long and has always been fine. If i don't wash it at least everyday it becomes a grease pit. However this could be from the fact that I am stripping all the natural oils out of my hair when I wash it. This causes the scalp to overproduce the natural oils our hair needs thus causing me to wash my hair everyday. It is a vicious cycle. I also suffer from eczema/psoriasis on my scalp (the dermatologist isn't willing to give me an actual diagnosis. Whatever! ) So I am seriously thinking of giving it a try. Anyone interested in doing it with me? Sometimes it helps to have a buddy! LOL
     If you would like to be my No 'Poo shampoo buddy let me know in the comments and we can totally set up some sort of challenge. Please read the whole article above before you decide you want to do this as it takes at least three weeks for your hair to adjust back to a normal way of being. Your scalp will over react and it will overproduce oil during this three week period, and then it will be happy and shinny and beautiful! So until the happy and shinny part of this experiment I would go with her recommendation of hats and ponytails!
     I am still exploring the Crunchy Betty site, it may take awhile I have about 5 years of posts to go through! LOL I do encourage you to check it out if you are at all interested in making your own products. I just found a make your own deodorant post-Yup I may be doing that next too because really who wants to develop Alzheimer's because of the stuff you put on your armpits?

     Am I bothered with being titled a "granola crunchin' dirty hippie momma"?
Honestly? Just the dirty part, because as I have expressed before I do have personal hygiene standards!
I do not consider myself  a granola crunchin' hippie momma because
1) I don't eat granola, hardly ever, even though I do like it.
2) I haven't worn Birkenstocks since I was in high school! and
3) as much as I would like to be 100% organic, my wallet won't let me. It is getting more affordable but it is still, a lot of the time, outside of my price range.
I do what I can, when I can and as far as I am concerned every little bit helps.
So sure you can call me a GCHM if you want to, but I know some real ones and quite frankly I am not even a rank amateur compared to their greatness. ;) And I am okay with that. We all need something to aspire to right?

Here is a recap of all the links I referenced in the post:
My lotion:  http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/2012/02/make-your-own-moisturizing-body-butter.html

The laundry soap I hope to make someday: http://www.budget101.com/myo-household-items/whipped-cream-super-laundry-soap-3993.html

The first OCM post I read: http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/2013/05/oil-cleansing-a-natural-and-effective-way-to-care-for-your-skin.html

The honey wash make up remover solution: http://www.crunchybetty.com/removing-your-makeup-the-honey-face-wash-way

The honey wash challenge: http://www.crunchybetty.com/honey-challenge

Why does honey quality matter: http://www.crunchybetty.com/honey-guide

Crunchy Betty's OCM post: http://www.crunchybetty.com/nitty-gritty-on-the-oil-cleansing-method

No'Poo shampoo:  http://www.crunchybetty.com/no-poo-to-you-too

I do use the whipped body butter lotion and as I said I love it!  I enjoy making my own products because I know (when I am paying attention, ahem) what goes in them, they last longer, and save me money in the long run.

      So hey jump on the Granola Crunchin' band wagon and go make something!!

UPDATE: I did buy Crunchy Betty's oil cleansing blend: It's Tamanu Thyme Cleansing Oil. I haven't tried it yet as I am doing the honey wash challenge.  I am on day 5 of the 2 week challenge.
But once I do I will check back in :)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Forget time share, I want a cow share!

Seriously! 

I am being completely serious here.

I grew up in rural Southern Idaho but I was a townie. My father was a teacher,  and my mother still works for a farm equipment company. So farming was something I was vaguely familiar with but hadn't ever really done. We had a vegetable garden for several years and my husband and I have had a veg garden every year we've had a house, more or less.

Then several things happened over the course of many years that changed my view of farming.
First this country girl (who coincidentally had never thought of herself as such) moved to the "Big City!" 

Now don't laugh. 

Coming from a small town where everyone knew everyone; Salt Lake City seemed huge.  It took 20 minutes to get from my small town to the "big" town where the mall is and between them were fields as far as they eye can see, and cows.  Lots of cows.  In Salt Lake everything runs together. You can't tell where one town begins and another ends! So to me it seemed so large! 
And freeway driving!? FORGET IT!  I refused to drive on the freeway the first 3 months we lived here.  Most of my driving had been done on sleepy highways and quiet country roads so forget Utah freeways!  In truth I still hate driving on the freeway and I have lived here over 12 years.  Utah drivers are crazy!  I am sure people say that about their own cities but seriously you can see some of the nicest people you have ever met turn into enormous rage monsters once they get behind the wheel.  In Utah they are usually enraged soccer moms. I am no exception to this rule, except the soccer mom part, but I digress... 

When I became pregnant with my first child I read an article by Michael Pollan.  It was about how he had begun to wonder where his food actually comes from and decided to buy a calf and follow its progression from farm to CAFO to plate. It was an amazing, humorous and horrifying glimpse into the world of food production. I ran home and told my hubs all about it.  He wasn't as surprised as I was,  he actually grew up on and worked on a dairy or two.
But it got us both thinking about alternatives to where our food comes from.
Not to long after that I developed asthma and the doctors wanted to put me on a steroid. One of the possible side effects was violent hallucinations. I was breast feeding at the time and suffering from postpartum depression. So violent hallucinations weren't anything I wanted to mess with in any way.  The Dr. dismissed my worries and questions treating me like I was a paranoid idiot.
I called my husband in tears.  Bad enough I was a new mom away from my family,  no real support network,  suffering depression and now I had a Dr who was supposed to help me treating me like I was crazy just because I dared to doubt his word!

I was quickly losing faith in the mainstream food and medical industries.

Luckily for me we have a friend who is a homeopathic practitioner and Chinese medicine specialist.  We threw the meds in the trash and went to her that day.  She was (and still is) marvelous.  She listened to me, didn't dismiss my fears and worries and helped me find a way to control my asthma without meds.
Then I saw the films Food Inc and Super Size Me.  My (food) world was literally rocked off its foundations.  We started reading every Michael Pollan book we could get our hands on and began talking about chickens and getting a place out in the "country". 
Child number two arrived, the housing bubble burst,  the economy crumbled and selling our house so we could move into the country was no longer a possibility.
My children are now 6 and 4. We are still in the same house, living in the semi-ghetto.  We plant a garden every year, which our boys love.  My youngest will eat vegetables but usually only from the garden.
We try to eat mostly plants.  Because we are lower income we don't eat a whole lot of meat, which honestly, considering the things I have learned about the meat industry, is a good thing!
We don't eat out nearly as often as we did before Michael Pollan came into our lives.
In fact my children don't like chicken nuggets or Mac and cheese from a box.  They think the powdered cheese tastes gross!  (Am I doing a happy dance?  Heck yeah! ) They prefer my from scratch Mac and cheese! 
Do they like fast food?  Of course they do, it is manufactured to speak directly to our biology.  Lots of fats, sugar and carbs.  So yes occasionally my kids get a fast food meal but it is usually rare and considered a special treat.  I don't mean to come off like I am better than anyone else because believe me usually all my 4 year old wants to eat is "peanut butter sandwich with honey!" (And 6 times out of 10 I just give in and give him one) I swear he asks for it for every meal and half the time he won't eat what is actually on his plate!  It is frustrating,  I have bribed him with desert.  Doesn't work. I have tried forcing the food into his mouth or tricking the food into his mouth. Doesn't work.  He is one stubborn monster but I have learned if I keep putting the good stuff on his plate he will eat it,  eventually.  It took a YEAR! Yes a whole year! before he would even try carrots,  asparagus or broccoli.  It doesn't usually take most children this long but Sam is nothing if not stubborn!  Which only proves that this is something you inherit. I swear he is my grandpa reincarnated!
My oldest has always eaten his vegetables.  I have never had trouble getting him to eat.  Which, of course, just makes it even more frustrating when DS #2 won't. 
So yes my kids have better eating habits than a lot of their peers,  but trust me if you gave them a choice between cake and a carrot, they would take the cake! LOL!
So my dreams of acres of space for my children to run freely on and not have to worry about traffic (we live on a very busy road) were dashed.  I looked into getting chickens which is actually allowed in our county. However,  the coop must be a ridiculous amount of space from not only our own door but every one of our neighbors doors too. Though with some strategic planning it may yet be a possibility. We can't have roosters (though I know for a fact someone near me does I hear him every morning) and we can only have so many hens but we are only a family of four so we wouldn't need many anyway. 

I am however pretty sure they won't let me get a cow.  (Yes finally we get to the cow!) 


After I had my first son I read a book called The Untold Story Of Milk.  It was a very interesting look at why and how milk became the pasteurized less nutritious substance we are familiar with today and why that may not be a good thing.  So we went looking for raw (unpasteurized) milk.  We found a goat farm, Drake Family Farms (in the middle of Salt Lake City!) that sells raw milk, cheese and yogurt.  Unfortunately it is waaay out of our budget and though we did buy some milk on that visit, we haven't been able to go back.  It is just too expensive for us.  However since reading about the benefits of raw milk, I have wanted to get a cow of my own. 


Crazy right?

A townie who now lives in urban sprawl wants a cow!  What do I know about cows?  Nothing.  Not a thing. All I know is that when they are calves they are super cute!
 
My husband who, as I mentioned before, worked on a dairy has told me that cows are big smelly and stupid. You must,  MUST milk them twice a day or they will also be miserable cows. 
Do I still want one?  YUP!

I want to do a cow share.  They are expensive beasts to buy, feed and to take care of. (At lease I think they probably are, I haven't done a great deal of research into this since I am pretty sure I couldn't have one on my current property)
 
So why not get a group of like minded people who go in together on getting a cow? Buying its feed, paying for the medical whatever and in return they all get a share of the milk, butter, and cheese that comes from said cow? 

There you have it.

My idea for a cow share, way better than a time share in my opinion!  I realize this idea is probably not new or revolutionary in anyway but I still think it's brilliant ;)

My cow would be grass fed (way better for you than corn fed). She would only take medicine when absolutely necessary (no crazy antibiotics regimens for my sweet Bessie Thank you!) and of course because I didn't grow up on a farm I would think of her as a pet. A family member really, rather than just some beast who is here only to serve my needs.

(Yeah I would probably put bows on her ears and dress her up on Halloween too,  but how cute would that be?!)

So that is my fantasy. I know in reality things would be totally different.  I mean in reality you have to muck stalls and other yucky things but I would just delegate that to my hubs! (Which is probably just another fantasy! LOL!) 

So yeah I want a cow and chickens and a goat (a fainting one!) and space and green things.
Someday,  hopefully in the not too distant future, say 3 or 4 years, this dream will become a reality. 

So in the mean time think about it. Wanna go in on a cow together?

(Aren't they cute!? The furry ones are my favorite!)




***here are some links to some of the people, films, books, and cows I mentioned that have changed the way I think about food!***

For all things Michael Pollan:

Information about the documentary Food Inc.

Where to buy the documentary Super Size Me:

The local goat farm! Drake Family Farms

Where to buy The Untold Story of Milk (You may be able to find a copy at your local library as well)

Information on Highland Cattle: (the cute furry ones from the pics!)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Ramblings from an Easter hangover...With a rant on education for good measure ;-)


Ever have one of those days where you just can't get up the gumption to do anything?  That has been me the last two days!

I kind of wonder if it's an easter hang over...

I was overly ambitious with my culinary endeavors and made several recipes I had never tried before. 
There were strawberry donuts with strawberry glaze and French Toast with strawberry butter and yes we did fall into a sugar coma directly after breakfast and I slept from 10 am until 1pm!
Then I started making my sweet potato gnocchi and as if that isn't time consuming enough I decided to make regular gnocchi because one family member despises sweet potatoes with a passion I have never seen before.  So okay bring on the gnocchi!  It took me all day,  then I had to make the mornay sauce and then roast the asparagus and make the corn bread and the salad,  well actually I forgot the salad to be quite honest.
The gnocchi was a huge success both kinds, tho my boys didn't like the mornay sauce.  And the asparagus was perfection,  the corn bread (a new recipe I was trying,  buttermilk cornbread) turned out sadly flavor less.

Anyway I was so busy I didn't get to hide or find any eggs with my boys :( so next year I will either prep way in advance (which I tried to do this year but forces were conspiring against me) or just do something super simple. 
I feel like although I had a ton of fun in the kitchen I missed out on some serious memory making. 

But with all that frenzied kitchen activity packed into one day,  and the late night playing easter bunny I just couldn't seem to muster up anything more than a cup of tea and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. For every meal and snack!

Monday and Tuesday I honestly didn't want to do anything.  And I mean nothing, nada, zero, zip,  zilch.  No dishes, no meals, no school.  Monday we did manage to get our  lessons in but Tuesday was a failure and it didn't help that my new shiny, as I am going to call it, arrived mid morning on Tuesday.  My new shiny is the Samsung Galaxy note 10.1 and I am loving it, but it definitely has been distracting, for me and my kiddos.  They love all the drawing apps and those damn Angry Birds,  they are addicting! We resisted as long as we could but they have Star Wars Angry Birds!  Star Wars for cripes sake! How is a fangirl supposed to resist?!



Ky and Sam's art done on the new shiny. 


Needles to say we have not been all that productive.

So Monday all we got done was school and one load of laundry. Tuesday we got all the laundry washed-it is currently piled on top of my bed- a load of dishes done, the new shiny explored,  a lot of Justice League,  Yo Gabba Gabba,  and Muppet Babies watched and I made cream of asparagus soup and FINALLY froze my homemade chicken stock. No school but the boys and I just seemed to need a break. 

I hope Wednesday I will have a bit more get up and go. Of course it hasn't helped that it has rained the last few days, being stuck inside can be such a downer, ya know? 

And don't even get me started on my lack of coffee!!!!! Tea just isn't doing it for me. Don't get me wrong I love tea, all kinds but as far as lighting my fire in the morning, give me a good ol' cup of Joe! I have been out of coffee for about a week.  I have a Keurig and we have been researching which would be cheaper,  grinding our own or buying the k-cups.  I have surmised that buying the k-cups from Costco.com is cheaper than any other option.  So I am going to try their new Kirkland breakfast blend.  200 k-cups for $84 that includes shipping etc. If you know of a cheaper alternative by all means throw it at me!  But I love my k-cups and the brew your own filter dealio just doesn't taste as good ya know?

On a totally awesome note my oldest read his first word tonight!

He said,  "Mom what does m-o-o say?

"My response: "well sound it out,  M makes the... what sound?"

He said "mmooo, moo!" 

"That's correct,  do you know what you just did?"

He looked at me then his face lit up like the forth of July and he said excitedly, 

"I readed!?" 

"Yes you did",  I said,  "you read your first word!!"

 I know it is only the word moo but this is serious progress to me, it means my teaching endeavors are paying off and my children will not end up illiterate!  HAPPY DANCE! 
Being new to the whole homeschooling thing I honestly worry about these sorts of things.  And it can be so hard to balance between where public education says my child should be, learning wise, and where his curriculum says he should be.  Don't get me wrong I love our curriculum, we use Oak Meadow in case you were wondering, but sometimes that pressure to have my 6 year old reading The Odyssey and my 3 year old starting on The Shakespeare Sonnets can really mess with my head ya know?
I find it insane that if my sons were in public school they would be expected to know how to do things in kindergarten that I didn't have to know until 1st or 2nd grade.  It's like the experts decided the only way to fix our boken education system was to speed it up,  because that is totally going to work for all the kids currently getting left behind!  
And don't even get me started on the whole no child left behind B.S...er I mean legislation.  ;)
 We will save that for another day possibly in the future, because I honestly did not intend to get up on my educational soap box tonight, but there you have it LOL
Enjoy and remember sometimes you just need to play hookey to refuel and regroup, because we don't want any burnout here Thank you!  :-)

P.S. I totally wrote this entire post on my new shiny! :-D and yeah that makes me super excited! 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

I am a bad bad blogger

The title says it all! I am bad at this.
We were so busy last year with homeschooling and preping for my sisters wedding and then our house flooded and we lived in a hotel for 2 long weeks! Then our furnace had to be replaced, and my oldest started refusing to do lessons! All in all it was a pretty crazy year and it definitely kept us on our toes!
So to recap:
My little sister (18 month difference) got married this past summer. I was her maid of honor and had much to do as we live in different states! I was in charge of making her a shrug with her colors and it turned out beautiful in my humble opinion! I also made brackets for the bride and bridesmaids, yup even one for me. And I taught my self how to do some Retro 50's hairstyles. I only did my sisters hair but she looked GOOD! Which amazed me but it is far easier to do someone else's hair than it is to do your own!
The wedding was beautiful and we had a grand time. When we got home we got back into our homeschooling routine for about two days and then our house flooded! Almost all of the flooring had to be replaced! The first week we lived with fans and dehumidifiers going nonstop. It was very hot in my house as it was the end of August and we couldn't run the swamp cooler.
Then 2 weeks in a hotel while they redid the floors and moved everything back in. While that was going on we realized the furnace breeder to be replaced so that was a very expensive welcome home present to us!
Finally tho we were home and able to start up again. There was only one problem...
My oldest started refusing to do lessons. I tried to be patient hoping it was a phase but as days turned into weeks I really had to dig to figure out what was wrong.
Watching him play one day it hit me, as those mommy epiphanys often do, he is bored out of his mind with our current curriculum!
I talked to him about it, asked him what he would like to do and he told me: He wants to read.
I looked at oak meadows first grade curriculum and decided it would be a perfect fit.
I ordered everything I needed including an extra recorder for my youngest. Sounds a bit crazy but I would rather listen to loud off key recorders than I would the fighting that would ensue if I had only gotten one!
Then of course right after Christmas we were hit with the flu. HARD. It has taken 3 weeks and 3 Dr's visits but we are all finally on the mend. So we have resumed our journeys into first grade. So far he seems to be really enjoying it.
It has been difficult for me, I wasn't ready to part with our kindergarten schedule. It was easy and relaxed and only required a few hours of prep time a week.
When I first went through all of the first grade curriculum I felt completely overwhelmed and inadequate. In all honesty it isn't too much different than kindergarten, though it is a bit more intensive. Math (not my favorite thing) is beginning in earnest, and there are lots of science experiments. I think the worst is the one that states I need to find a pond and and take the kids there. "I have to find a pond!?" I wailed at my husband.
I was having flashbacks of sophomore science class and the pond water experiment. Our classroom reeked of pond scum for two months! It was nauseating!
So yeah first grade is more involved, more prep time and more responsibility which scares the crud out of me! But when I think about the alternative, public school, that scares me more than having to teach my boys math!
Now my current problem: my 3 year old who I am trying to do OM preschool with. I feel like I am so focused on the oldest that my youngest is getting the short end of the stick. We include him in all the activities we do and if he isn't interested I let him color or go play.
Do I need to be doing more? He's 3 will be 4 in June and he is very smart, likes to look at books, loves to sing and play games, but he isn't as verbal as his older brother was at this age which is only a problem when we can't understand what he wants.
He seems happy with "school" as it is now so maybe I am just toying with the mommy paranoia and guilt cards.
So far the year is finally looking up and I am hoping it will go a lot more smoothly than last year, or at least have less stress and more blog posts!

How do you manage to teach two children in different grades at the same time?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Goodbyes

Isn't it interesting how all worlds seem to connect? Lately a lot of the blogs I follow have been talking about goodbyes. Specifically with family members. I was going to write about something totally different this week and then I experienced my own goodbye, and my heart has compelled me to write about it.
A few weeks ago I said goodbye to my brother-in-law. He is moving to England. He will be the furthest away of all the family members.  It will be so strange to go home to visit and not have him there with his quick smile and witty observations (always said under his breath)  there will be a definite hole there. 
     My brother in law is a quiet person. He comes from quiet people, as I have discussed before. He is also shy, so I felt a kinship with him, since I am shy myself.  But his spirit/aura/presence, call it what you will, has always been there quietly and gently announcing him.
A constant gentle and loving presence, never forceful or overbearing.
     You know what I mean, something that has always been there and now it will be gone. Obviously not forever! The hope is to see him a few times a year, but after having been there always...it will be WEIRD.
He has been there from the beginning, and by beginning I mean my beginnings with my husbands family. 
15 years. I have known him for 15 years. In that length of time he has become my family, my brother, as real and dear to my as my own brother is. We have been through good times and bad times. Extreme grief and Joy. And I am not even going to mention the time when...well let's just say he is probably scarred for life. ;)
     He is closest in age to my husband and their youngest sister, so he was always there, around the house.  He keeps me up to date on the latest pop culture trends, because honestly other than knowing that Yo Gabba Gabba is the hottest thing for the under 12 set I am pretty out of the loop. His love of Marilyn Monroe is legendary.  In fact I watched Some Like it Hot the first time with him.  We share a love of The Beatles and he makes the BEST bread pudding on the planet, at least in my opinion! 
     Now he will be an entire continent away.  And it makes me quite maudlin.
     I console myself with the fact that he is going to be with his fiance. He is the happiest I have ever seen him, and he now has a quiet confidence he never had before. This makes my heart so happy. Knowing he is so happy and in love and the wonderful changes it has brought about in him. On the other side of that coin of course is the worry that he will have his heart broken, but he is getting married and I must believe in his happily ever after as much as I believe in my own!
So we hung out, talked about his upcoming new life in his new home, and in the end we hugged tightly knowing it would be a year before we saw him again. There is of course Facebook and Skype and email, but it is never really the same is it? However I am grateful for these technologies which allow us to connect over the vast physical distance that separates us.
   And no goodbye is final, not even the last and greatest one. We all meet again, eventually. So we look forward to the day when we can embrace him again and ply him with questions about England over a cuppa. 
Until then we will have to fill that missing piece in us with the memories and laughter and Skype dates. 
And hey now I have a far more compelling reason to visit England, a country I have always wanted to see!
How do you handle tough goodbyes?