Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Photos Around the Homestead

Things are continuing to grow and grow around here. We're trying hard to keep up with all the obligations on and off the property. It was a beautiful day today, so the kids and I spent some time outside with the camera.

Chickens are getting big

Pears are growing

Peaches are growing

I think this is one of our apple trees, but it might be another variety of pear.

Cherries are growing

Blueberries are growing

Strawberries are growing (and turning red already!)

Blackberries are blooming

Grapes are growing

Flowers are blooming

Children are growing

Despite all the work it takes, I'm still immensely grateful for this place.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Another Sam Update

I know that lately all I seem to write about is Sam and his behavior, but that's about all I've been focused on lately. We're seeing a lot of improvements, so I'm excited to share our experiences as we get to know our son better. Most probably won't understand this, but it's really difficult to "know" who Sam is because more often than not, he is not "here." His mind is off in some other place and communicating with him is extremely difficult. Lately, though, he's been "here" so much more, so we're really enjoying spending time with our son and discovering our sweet boy.

Today, Sam had a not-so-good day. There was more humming and pacing than we've seen in the past 12 days. He's been solely focused on the TV, where lately, he's been better about participating in other activities. Today it felt like he regressed a little bit. For instance, tonight when Shawn got ready to put Sam to bed, Sam had a meltdown over shutting the TV off. He insisted that we MUST wait until the entire movie was over with before shutting it off. (He'd already watched the same movie earlier today.) Anyhow, Shawn got Sam into his room and put him in bed. Sam argued that he wasn't tired yet. Shawn gave him a magazine and told him that he could read until he got sleepy. Sam said thank you and then, as clear as can be Sam said, "Daddy, if I don't feel sick tomorrow, can we talk again?" It's times like this that make me determined to figure out what's causing these autistic behaviors. These moments of clarity give me hope that, one day, we'll no longer use the terms "good days" and "bad days" when referring to Sam's behavior.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ohhhh! So Exciting!

So, this morning Sam spilled his cup of water all over the floor. Obviously, that's not why I'm so excited. I'm excited at the way he responded to having made the mess.

I made pancakes for breakfast this morning. Sam had finished eating a while ago and his empty plate and water cup were sitting on the counter. Apparently he decided he wanted more pancake, and in the process of putting more on his plate, he knocked his water cup to the floor. Water went everywhere.

Just a week or two ago, his typical response would've been to holler, hop from one foot to the other, and bang his hands over his ears. He would've then gotten angry and said, "I'm gonna HIT the cup!"

Today, however, he said, "Oh Momma, I made a mess! I didn't mean to do it." I said, "I know Sam. Was it an accident?" He said, "Yes Momma, it was an accident. I wanted more pancake. Will you forgive me?"

Read that twice...I was here to see and hear it and I still don't believe it. I have to read it twice because it just doesn't seem possible.

Yes, Sam will still have meltdowns on occasion and still doesn't like large groups of people, but it's these small improvements that just blow me away. For most people, this incident would've been NOTHING, but to me it is an awesome, amazing, monumentous improvement.

So, I'm so very grateful that Sam spilled water all over the floor today.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I Am Not Crazy, I Am A Radical Homemaker

Doesn't "radical homemaker" sound so much more significant than "stay at home mom?" When someone would ask me, "So do you work?," I would reply, "I stay home with the kids." Now I just might start saying, "Yes, I'm a radical homemaker."

I came across this story and found it really interesting.
Read it if you have time.

It's so neat to read about others that enjoy living the way we do. Those types of articles help me to feel less crazy and more trendy. Yeah, apparently I'm cool, I'm trendy, I'm a radical homemaker.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Autism Improvement!!

(I've decided that, from time to time, I'd like to make note of any improvements or regressions I find in Sam's autistic behaviors. Maybe others would find this interesting or useful, but I'm really just doing it for myself. I don't keep a handwritten journal or anything like that, so this is the best way for me to keep track of his behaviors. This way, I can look back and do a better job of correlating his improvements/regressions with other things in his environment.)

Eight days ago we went gluten-free. We did this mostly for Sam. I've read in several different places that a gluten-free/casein-free diet works wonders in many autistic children. I didn't feel confident enough to try omitting both from our diet, so we started off with just getting rid of gluten. The change in our child has been extraordinary! He speaks TO us! It was normal for Sam to speak at us, but very rarely directly to us. When we ask him a question he will respond with an appropriate answer. Before, he would just repeat something from a movie or tv show. On day three of the gluten-free diet, I was able to watch Sam and Sarah play ball together for the first time. Prior to the diet change, Sam would roam around the property by himself. Getting him to stay and play with Sarah was nearly impossible. I was also able to witness Sam playing with other children. He actually said things like, "Come on, follow me!" and was running around with the other children. Awesome feelings...Seeing your 5 year old interact and fit in with his peers for the first time..Definitely lots more hope here now than there was a week ago.

There have still been a few meltdowns, although they are far less frequent. Also, he does still seem to get overwhelmed when there are a lot of people around. The erratic behavior comes back when there's a lot of noise and chaos.

Andrew is still having a lot of belly upset. Every single bowel movement he has is an awful mess. I don't really see where eliminating gluten has helped him. So, I'm making up a meal plan today that is going to be gluten-free and casein-free. I figure that this may help Sam even more than simply being gluten-free, but it may also help Andrew's belly. Perhaps it's the casein that's bothering him so much. If not casein, then maybe egg. I'm so tired of trying to figure this out, but I'm also awfully tired of dunking 2-3 messy cloth diapers a day.

So, for the changes here, our diet has basically been a Weston Price diet that eliminated gluten. Lots of farm fresh eggs, raw milk, grass-fed beef, organic fruits and vegetables, store-bought bacon, cod liver oil, raw honey, pastured butter and cheese, maple syrup, gluten-free oats, brown rice, homemade yogurt, etc.

Edit...I just went back and read my previous post on Sam's autism. I noted then that his humming and clapping worsened during quiet time. It's 3:15PM right now, so the kids are having quiet time. I can hear that Sam is awake in his room, but there's no humming or clapping noises whatsoever. My child is quiet...I can hear pages of books turning, but that's it. He is just so much more calm and peaceful. Our days have been very nice lately.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Do You See What I See?

You know, it looks like we could actually produce something edible off this property! It's so exciting to see life emerging all around us.

Here's one of our cherry trees (Look how many there are!...and we have TWO of these trees!)

Strawberries are looking beautiful

Little fuzzy balls that will one day become peaches (I guess it's appropriate that the picture's fuzzy too!)

Tiny baby pears where there were once pretty flowers

Here's our asparagus harvest from this morning. About every three days we have plenty to fix with supper.

Oh, and speaking of life emerging all around us, several of these little visitors have emerged. It's fun to watch them scurry around in front of our living room windows.

We're still enjoying every day here. Lots of work to be done, but so worth it!

Monday, April 5, 2010

My Thoughts...Take Them For What They're Worth

Once again, Rhyah has been an inspiration for a post. She posted a question on Facebook about cavities and the wheels in my simple mind started turning. As I fed the kids lunch I thought on it and decided to just write out my thoughts in a blog post. I hope this comes across ok because right now I'm just trying to put my jumble of thoughts into some sort of logical order.

First, a disclaimer...I have absolutely no training in dentistry or any type of medical field whatsoever. That's why, in the title, I advise readers to take my thoughts for what they're worth. I am just a mother that has done a lot of reading. Based upon the books that I have read, these are the opinions that I believe are accurate.

I believe that today's children suffer from a lot of maladies that children of previous generations did not. When I look back at my own childhood, I cannot name a peer that suffered from autism, ADHD, cancer, or even food allergies. However, when I look around my children's peers it's easy to lose count of the number of children suffering from these afflictions. Some might write that off as me simply being blessed with healthy peers. While that could be the case, I think there's more to it.

I believe that each generation is becoming more and more sick. I believe that those illnesses are exhibited in different forms. For some it might be simply an excessive amount of tooth decay or ADHD and in others it could be seen as cancer or autism. I believe that there is a direct relationship between proper nourishment and the severity of the malady.

I believe that there's a "snowball effect" when it comes to nutrition and health. With each generation the quality of our food becomes poorer and our health suffers. That poor health is passed on to the next generation and then worsened further when that generation continues to make even poorer food choices. So, with each generation, overall health is decreasing at an amazing rate.

I don't know enough about my own family's history to get this next statement accurate. I don't know if it was my grandmother or great grandmother or great-great grandmother that started choosing unhealthy foods. I do know that, at some point in my family's history, God-given whole foods started to be served less frequently and new, man-made processed foods started becoming more the norm. At some point my ancestors were eating food that God put onto this earth: fruits, vegetables, meats, grains, milk straight from the family cow...foods in their natural state without anything added or taken away. Then slowly we evolved into the Standard American Diet of macaroni and cheese, boxed cereals, fast food, and soda.

My children suffer from mild autism and eczema. So through the generations, my family's health has reached a point where my children are afflicted with these maladies. If I were to continue in the same direction, who knows what my daughter's children will suffer from. Will her children, my grandchildren, develop cancer or severe autism? What is the next, more severe, step if this cycle continues? I know how stressed I am in dealing with a child that is mildly autistic. I would do anything to spare my daughter that stress and I cannot even bear to think about her children suffering from a malady even more severe. So, the next question is..What can I do now?

While I can't go back in time and change my eating habits or the eating habits of previous generations, I can make a change now. My children already have the genetics that myself and previous generations have supplied them with. I cannot change that. However, I can try to feed them God-given foods instead of man-made processed foods. I can limit their exposure to environmental toxins. I believe that doing this will help my children now and later in life. I believe that providing my children with healthy foods and teaching them how to eat God's provisions will also benefit my grandchildren and great-granchildren. Instead of adding to the problem and causing further harm to future generations, I am choosing to make a change now and try to reverse the damage that's been done.

Some may read this and say, "So, you're blaming your Mom and Grandma for your sons' autism and eczema?" Yes, I believe their damaged genetics and poor food choices contributed to my sons' autism and eczema. My Father and Grandfather and Great-Grandparents also contributed. Likewise, I believe my own damaged genetics and poor food choices added to the problem. I fault my Mom and Grandma or myself for making those poor choices? No, I do not. Neither Mom, Grandma, nor myself knew what long-term damage we were doing when we sat down with our meals of processed foods. We may have worried that the food would make us fat, but that was the extent of our food worries. Actually, if our son hadn't started exhibiting autistic behaviors, my research on how diet affects behavior may have never started. We would probably still be eating the Standard American Diet.

So, I am asking you to look at your own family. Whether your loved ones suffer from tooth decay, chronic ear infections, ADHD, food sensitivities, eczema, allergies, diabetes, autism, cancer...make a change now so that you can at least TRY to prevent the problem from escalating. The results may not become evident immediately, but I do sincerely believe that a positive change now will benefit future generations. If you are fortunate enough to not see any negative effects to your health while you continue to eat a diet high in processed foods, then I believe that you are just living on borrowed time.

Ok, you may commence with calling me crazy, uninformed, and overly dramatic. That's ok if you think that. Maybe I am wrong. Actually, I hope I am. It would be really nice to believe that my past actions have had no effect on my children's health. Shawn and I are at peace with how our family's diet is improving. We believe in it so much that we sold our home and bought a 30-acre property where we could grow our own fruits and vegetables, raise chickens and cattle, and hunt deer and turkey. Shawn reminds me on occasion, when I feel like others are judging us, that we don't have to justify our actions to anyone. So, even if you don't agree with me, don't worry, you don't have to justify your actions to anyone either. I just feel really strongly about this and wanted to share.

If you're interested in further reading, a great place to go from here would be

Saturday, April 3, 2010

So, So Tired...

Sorry I'm not keeping up with the blog as much as I'd like to. We've been so busy around the house lately. We've been working...

In the garden:
Weeded strawberry patch and blueberry beds
Built door and finished reinforcing fencing around garden area
Spread finished compost out
Turned over compost pile that's still decomposing
Tilled up the most necessary parts of the garden BY HAND and yes, I am sore
Planted potatoes, onions, garlic, spinach, carrots
Reinforced the garden door after something got in the garden and ate half my spinach
Harvested ONE asparagus spear

In the barn:
Transferred chickens out of house and into coop
Built a second roost for the birds
Reinforced coop fencing (after Sam notified us that three hens had squeezed out!)

In the yard:
Removed dead trees from property
Taught the children, "If you see a wasp or bee, get away from it!"
Actually said out loud, "Don't run with that stick, you'll put your eye out!"

In the kitchen:
Made homemade yogurt from raw milk
Succeeded in keeping a sourdough starter alive
Made sourdough pancakes for the first time

In the home:
Switched Andrew over to cloth diapers
Gotten used to hanging clothes on the line (I haven't used the dryer in weeks!)

Not a day goes by where I don't think, "I ought to do a blog post about that," but to actually take time to sit down and type out my thoughts is easier said than done. At the end of the day I am happy about all that we've been able to accomplish, but I am so tired. To me, it seems that doing work around this property is tiring. However, doing the work around this property while LEARNING what to do and how to do it is just plain exhausting. I have to ask for advice on when to move chicks into the coop before actually moving them. I have to look up the proper spacing and plant depth for potatoes. Shawn and I had to discuss exactly where to cut our seed potatoes so that we have the appropriate number of eyes on each. So, even though I'd still be physically tired at the end of the day from all the work, the mental exhaustion is what's more overwhelming. I feel like there's 2000 things I need to be doing and I'm virtually clueless on where to start. I'm not even venturing into the food-related research that I'm constantly doing. Trying to figure out any common links between environmental factors and Sam's autistic behaviors is a whole other stress that's constant.

Ok, enough of Janice's pity party. I still have pictures on the camera that need to be posted. I have posts planned on: more seasonal changes around the property, updates on the chicks' growth, a fun picnic we had at the park with friends, things Shawn and I want to ensure our children are taught...

Just bear with me please. I'll get to them eventually.