A tribute to preschool wisdom

My family recently relocated with the military (more on that adventure here if you missed it) which means all of our young children went through the sometimes scary and always eventful process of beginning new schools and making new friends in a new place.

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Recently, while driving through our new town to my youngest son’s new preschool, I asked him to tell me a bit about his new friends in class. We discussed his peers in the true little-boy fashion I have come to know and love, which includes standard points like their names, what activities they do together, but also (and more importantly) what superheroes they like, what ninja moves they can do, and the fantastical tales they share about pirates, dinosaurs, outer space, and legos (all of which I’m certain I still don’t completely understand).IMG_6534

But what I found most interesting was his response when I asked him about one boy in particular that he mentioned playing with a lot, even garnering him with his “best buddy” status (which this kid doesn’t throw around lightly, believe. you. me.). Being the nosy mother I apparently am, I asked him what the little boy looked like. Not because it matters at all really, but because for some reason I wanted to see if I could find my son’s new “best buddy” in the class picture, or spot him on the story carpet at drop off. I don’t really know why, I think I was just excited that my little guy had a new friend more than anything else (and I tend to inherently want to know everything about everything our kids do. Sorry in advance to their girlfriends/boyfriends.)  So, I asked our son “what does your new best buddy look like?” and I really wasn’t ready for the preschool wisdom he was about to drop on me.

“I don’t know” he said.  “When I play with him, I look at him, but I just see a buddy. I don’t matter about the other stuff”

His simple, perfect answer hit me right in the chest and actually choked me up. Maybe it was because I was a little sleep deprived from being up with our 1.5-year-old the prior night, but mostly I think it was because he was so. right. on. And I… wasn’t. Because he was telling me, Mom, I don’t care about what he looks like in the way you are asking. All I see is my friend. And just like that, my little preschooler put me back in my place. Does it matter what his friend looks like? No, it doesn’t. Does it matter if I know what his friend looks like? No, it doesn’t. I don’t need to exert one ounce of my potential parental judgment into a classroom friendship that is making him happy.

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As adults, we tend to place so much emphasis on what we look like. In fact, I would even wager to say that we miss out on potential friendships because we can’t get past all of the things we “see” when we look at someone. Clothes, hair, color, shape, size, occupation… to name a few. Just think what we might see if we all looked at each other with a non-judgmental preschool heart. Past the physical qualities that so often define us to focus instead on our commonalities and shared experiences. Like being a mother or a father, a son or a daughter, a person looking for happiness, a person that likes dogs, sports, cooking, (or of course what ninja moves we can do, if only we could be as cool as our kids) or WHATEVER. What if we could “just see a buddy” in the people we meet? I for one, am going to try harder…

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So thank you, to my son for opening my eyes. And thank you, to his friend for playing with the new kid. May they enjoy many days of Batman, shark-hunting, and ninja-kicks together. And may we all bring a little preschool wisdom into our day.

 

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3 inspiringly resilient military children, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe & wine explorer.

Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography

 

Strong Women Series: Introducing Dr. Sara Smith Wellness.

We all hopefully have someone in our life that inspires us regularly. That inspiration can lead to anything. Slowing down and focusing, reaching out, emboldening dreams, or recognizing the need for change.
In this series, we at Real As a M*ther hope to lift these strongly and fiercely motivated women up by featuring them specifically on our blog. Today, I am delighted and honored to call to the world’s attention to my friend, Dr. Sara Smith. 
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I met this caring and soulful practitioner back in the day when we worked together at a chiropractic clinic. In that year of commiserating about life and work, we discovered that we have a bond that goes beyond the workplace. We share a common love of mind-body work and spiritual empowerment. I observed her actively seeking positivity which I find truly admirable – especially in this modern world of so much negativity.  I have since found her insight to be invaluable in the many seasons of my life since.
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So, enough about our relationship! Let me gush, now, about her expertise and experience.

She is a Certified Wellness & Life Coach with a professional background as a Doctor of Physical Therapy (PT) and Certified Yoga Instructor. She is a working mother of two, and a super badass wife to her husband and a prominent member of her community in the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

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Professionally, with her “multifaceted knowledge base, intensely caring attitude, intuition, and light touch of humor she guides her clients to find simple solutions to their most stressful and seemingly habitual problems so they can finally move forward with confidence and ease.” She is described as having “a gift to help her clients reconnect with their own core confidence so that they can tap into their innate wisdom, courage, and strength to find balance amidst very demanding professional and/or parental obligations.”

In her PT practice, Sara focused her studies in women/men’s pelvic health as well as chronic pain management. She has found that when we are not connected physically and mentally to our pelvis and core, when we lack physical strength and healthy “core” habits, we also tend to falter emotionally and spiritually. Woah – that’s deep. Literally. Her beautifully designed programs and gentle intuition remove the layers of resistance to help uncover those core weaknesses and transform them into core confidence and strength. True healing from the inside out.
She has lead numerous mind, body, and spirit conscious workshops. She combines these modalities in ways that create EASY habit change.  In these retreats, Sara mentions that she has been witness to “sacred sharing amongst other women that creates a level of profound awakening and healing and atunement to the people they are around.”
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When I asked her what her general energy was around starting healing retreats, she said “I want people to know that the frustrations they’ve had, the real life anger, anxiety sadness, the BIG EMOTIONS that make us feel ‘less than’…. within those things… it’s ok. And those can be very helpful to us.” Her upcoming retreat this November, for example, is focused around a blend of acknowledging the REAL emotions we feel as women, and the dreams and “crazy” yearnings that keep tapping us on the shoulder that we feel we need to push away cause it isn’t “practical”. This is a safe place to release the energetic gunk that holds us back.
It can be a quiet, sacred place to hear and deeply KNOW the next step to creating an action plan. This is for women, like me, who are hardwired to help others..so much they seem to keep putting themselves on the back burner BUT they know, truly know, something must change. I can show them how, and I am so honored to do so. A sacred small group has specifically been chosen in order to generate great power of group healing.
Ummmmmmmm, Sign a sister up! And thats exactly what I did after interviewing her. I am so excited to get my rejuvenation on.
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I have to say that one of the inspirations for featuring Sara today is my experience with her being her birth doula.  I had the honor of being with her for the birth of her eldest son, who has since been diagnosed with a very severe form of Childhood Apraxia of Speech. Her strength showed through from those first moments and through each hurdle along that path since. She has become an active advocate for her son, and has been celebrating the milestones along with him in his speech development journey.  If you are not familiar with Apraxia, here is some information about it.
Sara’s blog is dedicated to the emotions that come with being surprised with a special needs child in the family.
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It has rocked so much of our life and through education, awareness, and love, I hope to teach other adults and children that unforeseen differences can be the greatest gifts.
Right on, Sara. Right the freak on.  In a world of differences, it is my hope today that we can find a commonality in pursuing self reflection, and the gratitude with finding peace within our personal growth.
Please give it up for Sara Smith, personal life coach to this blogger, and general badass mama, lover of healing, and one amazing woman.
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Thank you for showing the world your insides, so that we all may have a better perspective on life.
I love you, girl
—Kristy and the Real As a M*ther crew.
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Dr. Annie Answers: Back to School Sniffles

Is back-to-school time giving anyone else the sniffles yet? No, I’m not talking about the emotional “my baby is growing up ones”. Though, holy pregnancy hormones, Kindergarten meet-and-greet had me reaching for the tissues tonight!!

Seriously though, I’m talking about the cold virus, mucus-attack-from-all-the-new-people-germs ones.

Cold and Flu Season

“Back-to-school” in my line of work means office visits are about to pick back up to packed days of people suffering with upper respiratory infections (URIs). If your kid is in daycare or just starting school after staying home with you – get ready for the fall/winter viral rodeo! We expect normal young children to get between 6-8 viruses per ‘school season’ in those first few years of exposure. Yep, that means pretty much one per month. This is all part of developing their little immune systems. Yayyyyy! Not.

Don’t despair though, people – once they get this immune system 101 out of the way, the frequency of illness decreases dramatically – generally by the time they hit 5-7 years old. Not everyone thinks this is a good thing – there were many, many tears from my 5 year old last year when 3 year old sister kept getting fevers and staying home from daycare with me, “I never get sick!!! It’s not FAIR!!!”. Proof that you can’t please everyone as a mom.

What the health?

Three questions come up over and over and over again in my office:

  1. Is it contagious?
  2. Do they need antibiotics?
  3. Do they need to stay home from daycare/school?

The answers to those, respectively are:

  1. “Yes, duh. If you are acutely sick with pretty much anything that is not food poisoning or an actual venomous snake/insect bite it is contagious”
  2. “Probably not. 85-95% of these are viruses not bacteria so antibiotics will do nothing except mess up your kid’s microbiome, probably give them diarrhea and probably increase rates of obesity.” Did that last part catch your attention? Check out This Article in Scientific American if you want to read a little more…
  3. “That depends.”. Let me expand on number 3 a bit.

And in case you’re wondering – no, that is not how I communicate with patients at my office. But this is Real As A M*ther and I’m gonna shoot you straight here.

To Stay Home or Not To Stay Home

That is the question, amiright? For me, staying home with one of my kids sick means either my husband or myself cancel 15-25 patients’ visits that they’ve been waiting for sometimes for weeks. Plus using my nearly non-existent PTO (no, doctors do not get great benefits a la Google employees). If I don’t really need to keep my kids home, I’m not gonna.

On the other hand – I know that other people who’s precious little ones are in our daycare or school are in a similar boat, so I’m also not going to go all Typhoid Mary and send my kids in to take down the class.  Here are the rules we go by – some dictated by science and some by school policy and some by just plain ol’ common sense.

  1. Pukers stay home until they’re eating normal food for 24 hours without relapse. This one is science + common sense.
  2. If fever happens (over 100.4F on oral or rectal thermometer), kid stays home until fever-free for 24 hours. This one is usually a daycare and school policy. It’s a little arbitrary since you can still be contagious with a virus for several days after the fevers go away. Usually you’re shedding less of the viral badness by then though. I would go with this as a minimum rule *but* if your kid has no temperature and yet still seems pretty sick, give it another day or two. 
    • IMPORTANT: This rule is different if you choose not to give your child a flu shot or the other routine childhood vaccinations. I’m not getting into any rights/wrongs here, but bottom line, if your child does not have flu or other major immunities and they get a fever, you MUST quarantine them for at least 10-14 days after any febrile (fever) illness. That means at HOME. Not taking them with you to Target to pick up a few things. Not hanging out at the library or the park. You do not get to take those germs in public to potentially kill other babies or people with weak immune systems. Period. Moving on…
  3. Diarrhea is a little tricker… in so many ways. This generally also earns a home-stay until it at least slows down to non-urgent, soft but not watery poos only a few times a day (I’m not being gross, you’re gross. Doctors have no TMI mode). If your kid is potty trained and old enough to wash their hands well or little and still fully in diapers, they can go back then. If they’re still in potty training mode and likely to have an accident, they should be kept home until they’re back to normal because that poo is still highly contagious for up to 2 weeks and who knows where it will end up. 
  4. Sniffles and coughs are generally ok to go in if they come without fever or rashes. However, if your child has asthma and needs to be watched more carefully or seems too sick to be able to be managed with only the offer of tissues or sips of water, keep them home until they’re better.
  5. Mouth sores, fever with a rash or a very sore throat should usually be checked out by a doctor before going to school. Some kids will get a ‘viral exanthem’ or viral rash at the end of the fever part of illness that is fine if it’s super mild – like you barely can tell it’s there, but if you’re not sure, get them checked.
  6. If they’re given antibiotics because the doctor is SURE it’s something bacterial like strep throat or true pink eye, they need to be on the meds and ALSO fever free for 24 hours before returning.

Gesundheit!

Got it? Great! Tell your friends and your mom and your sister and your cousin with all those kids. And as always, remember I’m not your personal doctor so take this as fun information and ask them specifically about any questions or worries. Getting your kiddo checked out in the office is always an option.

DSC_4458BW Dr. Annie is a family doctor, mom of 2 with 1 on the way and expert booger catcher in the Sacramento area.

Kristy, Au Naturale: “The Road to Serenity is Ahead” No Judgement Journaling

*Explicit language warning 😀 in this post…

IMG_9854I don’t feel like I am alone in this when I say that I have the best of intentions when it comes to making the time to write in my journal  all my journals. Mustering the courage to write my truth has always seemed too daunting a task. Faced with a blank page and SO MANY FEELINGS?

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so many journals, so little time

But… where do I start? What do I say? Somehow, my therapy via written word always finds a way of brushing itself aside with “I don’t have the time right now. Maybe later” and “Its 2:38 am, I should sleep. Ok, now its 3:02, 3:15, I’ll totally fall asleep because I’m so tired.”

Or, the all time most frequent anti-journaling monster…..distraction.

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Why should I journal anyways?? Before I got myself on the journaling wagon, I read a bunch of information about the benefits of journaling in PsychCentral.com articles, books and even Huffington post. Why bother? Here’s a few reasons:

  1. Writing can be an impressive way of challenging the mind to find words that otherwise may not be used in your everyday speech. Thus, expanding your vocabulary and your brainpower. (higher IQ levels for the win)
  2. Writing can also help boost your memory by actively beckoning the mind to remember events or ideas and then recalling them to the present.
  3. Bringing you into a state of mindfulness, journaling can create a level of self-awareness of just how deeply an issue, situation, or an emotion is felt. It helps you truthfully live in these experiences, so that you may be able to relate more appropriately to others.  Empathizing can be a powerful tool in emotional development. Being in the present moment, as well, can help to subdue the gravity of worries of the past, or the fiery pangs of the anxious ones to come. In essence, it’s helping you figure out your sh*&, so you can learn handy tools in dealing with your well-being going forward, and stop lamenting the worries of yesterday. (see what I did there?? I never use “lamenting” when I’m speaking to people. BRAIN BOOST POINTS)
  4. Others benefits, according to the PsychCentral.com article, can be related to problem solving, clarity of thoughts and feelings that can help you to know yourself better, and improving your interpersonal relationship communication.
  5. Sleep!!

So I touched on sleep above. Err, lack of sleep, rather.  Has anyone had those glorious nights where your kids are happily nuzzled cozy in their beds and sleeping all night, yet YOU can’t sleep because your mind is running around anazlying and worrying about everything and anything?

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The process of journaling has also been found to decrease the stressors that typically affect one’s ability to rest peacefully through the healing power of RELEASE. Dr. James Pennebaker authors a book titled, Writing to Heal, in which he expresses the true art of unblocking emotional barriers and traumas. We can give them a voice to be heard, understood, and therefore not over analyzed in our minds. He explains that writing exercises can

leave you with a stronger sense of value in the world, and the ability to accept that life can be good–even when it is sometimes bad.

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I know all this and yet…. Think of an excuse, and I’ve said it to myself to avoid journaling my thoughts and emotions that cause me stress and at their worst, keep me from sleeping. Truth is, if I just took five minutes out of my day to write that “thing” that is sucking my awareness into it down on paper, the huge monstrosity of looped thought may just exit my brain altogether. And hopefully, for good.

Here is the kicker: Journaling is also an awesome lesson in self-discipline. And with self-discipline, practice makes perfect.

I’ve admittedly been highly unsuccessful at keeping up with any journal.  It wasn’t that “I sucked at journaling” self judgey much? I just felt so overwhelmed with it, that I never even began to try. Frustration would set in before any therapeutic benefit could be reached.  The answer was that I hadn’t yet been connected to a journal that fit my personality/emotional needs.

It was through a gift from a dear friend that changed my perspective on that feeling. Suddenly, I was given a daily theme, a dated logbook with meditations, and small practical guidance to look within myself.  I found the points above were key factors in my adherence to writing behaviors. Helpful and simple tools, like this one below, are very powerful.

So, going through these insightful motions of jotting down my physical, emotional, and psychological thoughts for that day and relating them to an intention was my Aha! moment. I loved it, and looked forward to the time in bed right before I fell asleep when I could journal.

So, to Recap what we have learned:

  1. Keeping a journal is a healthy and awesome way to release emotional blockages and enhance your super smartness (which you already have a level of that for reading our blog;))
  2. You’ll need to find a journal that excites you, enticing you to make the time to use it as the tool it can be.
  3. Start slow. Pick a theme or an emotion to narrow in on in order to really understand it.
  4. Write quickly, without judgement, and in a space that can feel private and safe.
  5. Enjoy the process of opening up to yourself. You might be surprised at how in tune you become with your inner workings.

I’ll use my current theme as an example.  It is related to one of my favorite books, the Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck The title speaks for itself. Buy it. Read it. Live it. You will thank me.

The Journal, also a gift, called “Zen as F*CK” A Journal For Practicing The Mindful Art of Not Giving A SH*T”, has me laughing like an awesomely carefree mad scientist and I am 514B7Y42PML._AC_US218_LOVING it. Each page can take less than 20 minutes. I find myself smiling when I am done, accomplished in my mindfulness task for that day.

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One of the factors that I never found in my research about writing therapy, was the amazing affect it has had on my hopefulness. In the last 2-3 months since beginning this practice, albeit not daily but almost, I am slowly rediscovering who I was always meant to be. I am finding a woman who knows how to be confident in feeling happy, kind, warm, and balanced. Oh, and hilarious. Definitely hilarious. (if you can’t laugh at yourself, right?) And to think, it wasn’t that I found any old journal and started writing.  This all started to happened because,

          a journal helped me find my way back to me.

-Psssst, and I totally dig this new me. She’s kinda awesome.

I hope you take this time to rediscover you through the art of writing. Because chances are, you’re freaking incredible. Have an amazing voyage!

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Kristy is a doula, massage therapist, mom of 2 and homesteader in Virginia.

Save Our Water Series, Vol. 2: Sustainable Agriculture and The Importance of Supporting Regenerative Practices

In our first volume of the Save Our Water Series, we spoke about rain barrel production and the benefits on small gardens to big farms.  Today’s volume will illuminate the myriad of important information gleaned when researching sustainable farming, and what it can do to really save our planet.

We will begin by understanding what Sustainable Agriculture is.  In short, this type of farming practice keeps the greater good in mind. It protects the environment, public health, animal health and habitat, and allows us the ability to produce good food without hindering the next generations ability to do so.

Well what is GOOD FOOD? Great question. “Good” food, in my opinion, is local(the further it travels, the more preservatives have to be used), truly organic (get your round up out my face) properly fed (grass fed, or true omnivore diet for chickens because chickens are NOT vegetarian), non hormone or GMO enhanced (screw you Monsanto and the three headed , genetically modified horse you rode in on), FOOD grown or grazed in soil that not only is rich in proper nutrient densities and ratios, but also maintains a pesticide and herbicide free grade.

Let’s break down the difference between Industrial Practices and Sustainable practices.

Industrial Crop and Livestock Production

So basically, Industrial crop and livestock production uses a type of monoculture. What is Monoculture, you say? Oh, let’s let the experts explain.

“Monoculture is a common practice in modern agriculture in which large acreages of land are planted with one type of crop, usually multiple years in a row. Often such techniques are used to supply goods to other regions or countries. Monocultures deplete the soil and crops grown in this manner become more susceptible to pests and disease than those grown in a diverse crop environment, thus requiring larger amounts of chemical sprays (i.e. pesticides). Monoculture on animal factory farms refers to the raising of one type of animal (generally chickens, turkeys, cattle, or pigs) confined in densely packed expanses, often treated with hormones and antibiotics to maximize growth and prevent the diseases that would otherwise spread quickly through the farm. These operations produce much more waste than the surrounding land can handle, and the farms are associated with numerous environmental hazards as well as animal cruelty. The government calls these facilities Concentrated (or Confined) Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).”

Sounds AWESOME, right?

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This seems, to me, that they are operating under the notion that they are gonna treat everything like crap, just to “feed the world” chemically downgraded food that is low in nutrients, and high in toxic crap.

Sustainable Livestock Production

Farmers that use practices with sustainable focuses allow their animals to eat an instinctive, natural diet, to move freely on pasture, and to eliminate the stress and disease (hello no disease, no antibiotics needed…f*#%ing DUH) that a cramped environment produces.

People are led to believe that in order to feed more people, we must use genetics to produce food that can withstand drought, bugs, weeds, and weather patterns. That is just untrue in a lot of cases. Sure, the big companies take a hit in the wallet when these things happen, but to truly teach sustainable farming will impact our whole world.

“Regenerative Agriculture describes farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity – resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle.”

I cannot explain the benefits any better than Regeneration International can in their well researched list below.

A Global Shift to Regenerative Agriculture Can:

  • Feed the world: Small farmers already feed the world with less than a quarter of all farmland. > Read the GRAIN Report
  • Decrease GHG emissions: A new food system could be a key driver of solutions to climate change. The current industrial food system is responsible for 44 to 57% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. > Read the GRAIN Report
  • Reverse climate change: Emissions reduction alone is simply inadequate. Luckily, the science says that we can actually reverse climate change by increasing soil carbon stocks. > Read the Rodale Institute Report
  • Improve yields: In cases of extreme weather and climate change, yields on organic farms are significantly higher than conventional farms. > Read the Report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
  • Create drought-resistant soil: The addition of organic matter to the soil increases the water holding capacity of the soil. Regenerative organic agriculture builds soil organic matter. > Learn More
  • Revitalize local economies: Family farming represents an opportunity to boost local economies. > Read the FAO Report
  • Preserve traditional knowledge: Understanding indigenous farming systems reveals important ecological clues for the development of regenerative organic agricultural systems. > Read the Action Aid Nepal Report
  • Nurture biodiversity: Biodiversity is fundamental to agricultural production and food security, as well as a valuable ingredient of environmental conservation. > Read the Report
  • Restore grasslands: One third of the earth’s surface is grasslands, 70% of which have been degraded. We can restore them using holistic planned grazing. > See the Evidence
  • Improve nutrition: Nutritionists now increasingly insist on the need for more diverse agro-ecosystems, in order to ensure a more diversified nutrient output of the farming systems. > Read the Report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

We Can’t Afford Healthy Food

This is a legit concern as health food stores are quite pricey when it comes to organic food. Finding your local farmers market (yes, they have them in cities all the time) or finding a crop sharing organization such as Agriberry here in Virginia and Maryland, helps keeps the cost of truly organic farm fresh foods down.  It also provide the added benefit of having your family eat what is in season, which requires less industrial farming interventions.

 

In small towns, like ours here in Virginia, farmers markets supply these local farms a venue to sell the fruits of their hard labor. We utilize these markets for produce, and have a gone in for several years on purchasing a cow sharefrom a local SUSTAINABLE farm here in Orange, VA called Renewed Pastures Farms.

Farmer’s Market Setup

The owners, Jason Goforth and his wife, invited the family and I to tour the farm and see exactly what the farm does to remain sustainable. We could even see how the cows live and graze if we wanted to!

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‘Sup, Jason?!

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In the health food store, a pound of Grass-fed meat is roughly $6-$8 depending on the store and the company. Over time if you are an avid beef eater like we are, the tax, price for gas for the trip, the packaging, and price fluctuation in the market adds up quickly. So, we do a cow-share with some friends of ours. We get 1/2 a cow that is cut to order and will last us roughly 8-12 months. At less than $8 per pound, we get filets, flank steaks, London broils, and even or ground beef allotment for a STEAL compared to grocery store. And Jason delivers it right to our deep freezer!

So we have local (within 100 miles), preservative free (freezing is their only method), and true sustainably farmed meat that our family can rely on for an unbeatable price.

How can we NOT afford that?

*** Check out this PDF on Grass-fed Cow Market News.***

The simple truth is this, we have to support our farmers who work their butts off to uphold truly sustainable farms. They rely on us to purchase their products, be it produce or meats, in order to keep their higher standards up. So let’s get out there and support our local folks!

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Dear Teacher: An Open Letter to My Son’s Teacher

Now that it’s summer time, and we have the time to reflect upon a successful kindergarten year for my son, I have been thinking of you, his teacher, a lot.

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A few years ago, I took my son to his preschool friend’s birthday party.  A few of the other moms in attendance were complaining to one another about our kids’ assistant teacher. They were saying, “She’s mean. She doesn’t like children.”   I said, “She isn’t mean; she is strict. Discipline is black and white for her – there is no gray area. She doesn’t harm the children, and she doesn’t say discouraging or disparaging things to them.  She is tough. I am ok with that. Structure in the classroom is good.”  No one seemed to agree with me, and that’s ok.

My reasons for feeling this way stem from a few things, not the least of which is due to the kind of mom I am.  I work long hours. When I get home I want to enjoy my children.  However, if they have been unhinged all day, it’s impossible to do because I spend all evening trying to reel them back in. I would rather spend the evening enjoying them, eating dinner, reading books, playing games, riding bikes, rolling around on the floor and snuggling on the sofa watching a movie.

I do understand viscerally the emotions these women are feeling, so my sharing this story isn’t meant to shame them for how they feel. I feel it myself sometimes. When my son is on the playground and another child shoves him aggressively to get by, I feel an intense desire to intervene and protect my son. “Wait,” my husband says, “and watch. Let him handle it first.” I stand by, my palms sweating and my heart beating, imagining myself march up to the parent of this kid and ask why they haven’t disciplined their kid for putting his hands on mine.  Then, something magical happens.  The kid does it again, and my son turns calmly to him and says, “Hey.  Don’t push me.  Ok?”  Just like that, it’s over.  As I’ve shared here, I learn very important things from my kids every day – usually, and especially, when I let them try to resolve their own issues.

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We were watching reruns of Friday Night Lights recently. There was a scene where the coach is yelling at the kids in the locker room.  Not speaking words of encouragement – straight up yelling at the top of his lungs.  The team members shrunk in their seats, feeling the heavy weight of disappointment on their shoulders.  Then, they worked harder, they ran sprints, they rolled in the mud.  They learned their lesson and they tried harder.

As I was watching this, a light bulb went off in my head.  I thought about my husband’s volunteer coaching gig at a local high school and remembered him telling me a story about a kid’s parent who wrote him a strongly worded email, chastising him for “yelling at” his son.  My husband is not a yeller.  He explained to the parent that he expressed dissatisfaction to the kid because he was disrespecting his teammates, but he didn’t yell.  And so I thought to myself, what is our obsession, as parents, with trying to prevent our children from being disciplined by the very people that we are asking to teach, coach, and discipline our children?  When I played sports, I got yelled at by my coaches.  I didn’t like it, sure.  It didn’t make feel good.  But you know what?  I am so glad it happened.  It taught me so much.

I want my kids to learn how it feels to do something wrong – to feel the consequences, most intensely and piercingly being when you disappoint someone you love and admire. Your teachers. Your coach. Your mom. Your dad. I remember those feelings in the pit of my stomach. I don’t want to protect my kids from that. It’s better that they make mistakes and understand the consequences in a space where those consequences don’t result in life altering outcomes like injury, jail, death, addiction. Teenagers are emotional and impulsive creatures.  I don’t want the first time for my son or daughter to be held responsible be years from now when he/she is a teenager and makes a bad decision like drinking and driving which can result in a DUI or worse, hurting themselves or others.

Emotional intelligence is more important to me than book smarts. Responsibility. Bravery.  I teach my son to stand up for what is right especially when it is hard. When he comes home and tells me that his heart hurts because someone was mean to his friend, I revel in that moment. He needs to understand empathy. Not sympathy. He can learn his ABC’s any day.  It doesn’t take a genius to teach ABC’s, but it does take a great teacher to teach empathy, kindness, bravery, humility and leadership.  Those things don’t develop when teachers are only allowed to dole out positive reinforcement instead of appropriate discipline.

I want that when my son is given accolades for an accomplishment that he feels true pride in knowing what he did was exemplary. I want him to motivated by this feeling over and over again.  It’s impossible to know this feeling if everyone gets a sticker, award or trophy. It’s also impossible to know this feeling if you are never disciplined for doing something wrong.

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We find ourselves in interesting times. We are begging for leaders of strength, kindness, good-heartedness and intelligence. However, we aren’t fostering the growth of them. We won’t allow our kids to fail. Parents handle everything for their kids. Strength is not made when you don’t have to work for things. Our children must learn how to effectively communicate with their teachers, how to stand up for themselves, how to ask for help, and how to learn how they can do better, be better and reach higher.  Minds, souls and bodies are all like muscles. You must work them to grow them.

I am sorry, dear teacher, for the precarious situation you now find yourself in. I was surprised when my son’s amazing preschool teacher called me one day a few years ago  to talk to me about my son’s day. No, not because he is perfect. He most certainly is not, and I am thrilled that in our household we do not have those ridiculous expectations. But because she felt it was necessary to proactively explain to me that he was reprimanded for doing something mischievous with his friends (climbing a fence) and against the rules. That call made me so sad.  Not because my son did something wrong.  He was four, and he’s a very fun little boy who values his friendships above all else, so I wasn’t surprised.

The call made me sad because the teacher likely has to make dozens of these calls a week, if not more, in an attempt to protect herself from angry parents who want to know why their perfect child came home and told them that he/she was disciplined in the classroom.  You, teacher, must spend your evenings making these calls instead of relaxing after a hard day of being paid WAY less than you are owed.  What, my fellow parents, are we trying to accomplish with this intense oversight?  This is not a rhetorical question – I actually want someone to answer this for me.  Parents: What are you trying to accomplish by making our teachers and coaches afraid to teach and coach our children?

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I don’t want my son and infant daughter to be me. I want them to be better than me. In whatever way that means for them.  As I see their shiny faces, looking up at me, happiness and interest and calm, I want the world to be a safe place.  But it isn’t. I can make my home safe but I can’t control the world. I don’t want to. Don’t get me wrong, if someone harms my child (physical abuse or worse), I will intervene (and God help whoever has to deal with me in that type of situation, believe me.)  But, that’s not what we are talking about here.  We are talking about normal discipline in a school setting.  Warnings, time outs, privilege revocation, etc.

I want my children to be equipped to thrive in the real world. To know triumph. To know disappointment so that the triumph is sweeter. To search and work toward a solution. To lose. To win. To be bad at some things. To be good at some things. To be prepared. To be unprepared. To love and innovate and shine independently from me. They don’t need to change the world – just themselves, and always in a positive direction. For as they become the best version of themselves, they will change my world, their world, and your world. All teachers are not the same.  Some are loving.  Some are strict.  Some are silly.  Some will like my kids, and some won’t.  But THAT’S LIFE.  My kids will learn, just as I did, that not everyone is going to like them, and that’s OK.  I want my kids to be prepared for the WORLD.

So to you, dear teacher, your role is an important one. You are my partner, and I am yours. We work together and support one another.  You aren’t the mother – I know that that’s my job. You are their teacher, and I am so glad you are.  Don’t give them the answers. Help them learn. Don’t let everyone win. Help them grow. Hold my child accountable. Hold us all accountable to ourselves.  I support you, and I hope for a world where you can do your job without fear of being fired because a parent is upset that you hurt their child’s feelings by moving them to the back of the line when they couldn’t listen or follow the rules.

Otherwise what is the purpose of school?

With Great Gratitude,

Margo