What in the world are we doing?
Sometimes I wonder. Sometimes I look at the ways of our family, and how they can be so drastically different from that of our neighbors, and I wonder. Are we slowing down, just to stand out? We say we are setting an example for our children, but are we also maybe trying to set one for our community?
I know our slow it down mindset kicked off when Cash was four and we began to view food in a different way. He is now eight. I say four because that appears to be the last picture I have of a brightly dyed birthday cake. And that is what it began with. Food dyes, artificial colors, and other various petroleum preservatives. We banned it all. Began to make everything at home, from scratch most of the time. It was time consuming yes, but I like to cook and everyone was healthier and had much more pleasant attitudes. So win-win right? So I thought.
That whole foods diet began to set us apart. I was suddenly the mom that wouldn’t let her kid eat the party food. I was the one looking like a crazy person for not allowing my son to eat the donuts that were brought for the soccer game half-time. After the initial period of having to just get over it, I began to wear that badge with pride. It was easier for me to look down on those less enlightened folks who were still stuffing their kids full of petroleum than to try and inform them. Sure, I’ll stand out! My family is healthier because we questioned the Standard American Diet. See?!? Don’t you people see?!? Thankfully, my ego eventually quieted down enough for me to just go on about our lives without judging what everyone put in their mouth. I mean it was exhausting and unfair to those around me. The vast majority of our citizens really don’t know what’s in their food and what it is truly doing to their body and mind.
“LET FOOD BE THY MEDICINE AND MEDICINE BE THY FOOD.” – HIPPOCRATES
That little quote that hangs above my kitchen bar has become my answer to just about every food related question. Easy and done.
And then…well, then came Paleo.
I jumped on the Paleo train with gusto and threw out all the grains. Save for quinoa. I really love quinoa. And yes, amazingly I felt even better than I did before! How was it possible? Did people know this? That grain type foodstuffs could be the cause of most of our health issues and daily well being? My husband scoffed. Sure he had been on board with the all natural, whole foods lifestyle. But no bread? I mean, the hell?
Then he tried it. Over a year ago. And he will now testify to its greatness.
But in true disclosure we are a Primal (not fully Paleo) eating clan. We love some dairy, and we get crazy and eat some rice or corn about once a week or more depending on the busyness level around here. And we let our kids eat gluten all they want, as long as its whole foods based. We figure when they are teens they can make that decision to abstain from grains if they want.
So all this talk about food…it was actually leading up to something. Somewhere along the way, after fighting with outsiders (mainly school issues) regarding our diet, homeschool came across my radar. (Let me quickly point out, that our middle son absolutely cannot have anything with artificial ingredients in it due to allergies, and he was repeatedly being exposed to this at school despite my careful planning and packing.) Obviously I knew what homeschooling was, or I thought I did. But after being a devout reader of Pioneer Woman, I started to see it in a different light. What is this togetherness? This willingness to learn? This, shall we say, coolness of not going to actual school? I was intrigued, but content to just read about it from the sidelines.
Like with anything I get hooked on, my reading soon became obsessive on the subject. And then I threw the pitch. “Honey? I think I want to homeschool the kids.”
And like with anything I get hooked on, he voiced his views, and then gave me the reins.
If you’ve been a reader here for any amount of time, you will know that I think homeschooling has been wonderful for our family. And it has led to a multitude of other things. A multitude of ways to slow down.
Before I was the stressed public school room-mom (for two classrooms!) who said yes to everything, drove 60+ miles a day just to take the kids to school, coached two soccer teams, baked and cooked and packed three meals a day for three kids, planned parties and hated the waste the whole time I was planning them, worried incessantly about my kids education, among a whole slew of other “issues”.
Sidenote: Have I ever mentioned how I began to abhor waste? All those treat bags full of junk that would get thrown away? Why did we have to have that stuff? There are so many alternatives. The mounds of paperwork sent home? Everything that was unnecessary began to really bother me. I would go off on rants upon receiving something else I deemed waste or having to pick up after another bag filled with plastic junk. I kept the rants internal when it was something my kids brought home that was supposed to be a treat for behaving well or earning a academic award, but felt their could be alternatives to those things as well.
My kids were exhasuted daily upon school pick-up. Falling asleep on the 20 minute drive home. Learning but not really growing. Learning to fit in. Learning things that had nothing to do with real academics. Fighting and fighting and fighting during the few evening hours we had together as a family.
So we began to slow down. And it was lovely. We had more time for each other, more time to just be and just play. I said no to anything and everything that would stress me out. Of course there would be times I slipped and forgot. Like last year when I volunteered to teach two classes at our homeschool co-op and coach my daughter’s soccer team because no one else would and the head of the soccer association asked me very nicely. Luckily, I see that those obligations were not good for me or our family so this year I will be politely declining.
What comes next?
Small things, I suppose. We switched to raw milk for our health. We added a few goats to our Tiny Farm this year. Increased our flock of chickens. We plan on implementing some permaculture techniques in our garden due to us not being the most awesome gardeners. (Although, I do still have butternut squash in my kitchen from late last summer so we must not be all that bad.) We are learning to take care of our fruit trees and we added some berry bushes. All this to help bring our food a bit closer to home. Which is ironic since we own a grocery store. But you know, we’ve done things there to help the movement. Adding an organic/gluten free section and trying to buy produce from local farmers to name a few.
In the making it for yourself department, my husband has become quite skilled at brewing craft beer over the past few year. The man spent months chopping and stacking wood to ensure we wouldn’t be having to buy any this Winter. He received beekeeping equipment for Christmas and we will have new winged friends in our backyard in a few months. He seems more interested in helping the honeybees thrive than harvesting actual honey but I’m sure his tune will change. Just the other evening, I caught him making soap.
I do my part thru my cooking and gardening and animal tending. I picked up knitting as another slow hobby and a way to take back a bit of control of our accessories. $10 for a cheap scarf? No thank you. I’ll make it myself and know whose hands it came from. Not to mention that fiber arts are just beautiful.
And the road to simple just keeps on going. I love this road. It’s not smooth by any means, and a lot of the time it means hard work. But hard work is something our society has begun to greatly undervalue. Hard work can make you stand out. Authenticity can make you stand out. I guess in teaching my children the value of both of these things, I am teaching them to stand out. I’m quite alright with that.