living after the death of a baby, living with Autism, living as a family of six, living on our organic homestead, living miserably, hopefully, and with joy, and somedays just living

Archive for December, 2010

Death and Christmas

I’ve been thinking about this post again, I could write something similar and new, but it would just be regurgitation.  This is the first Christmas without my Babby, and while I likely feel the loss less than many in my family, I miss her.  There will be no cheery Christmas phone call this year.  It makes me very sad that we were here in Saskatchewan last year and didn’t go for Christmas.  Why?  We weren’t invited, I didn’t want to be imposing house guests, my Babby was worn out and my kids are BUSY.  There are a million excuses and none of them really answer the question, because they are all full of their own type of holes.  We can’t change the past.

As we live on the holidays will likely continue to have more people we miss.  That’s part of the inevitability of life, we all die.  Some before they should, some after a long life, some after injury, sickness or disease where death itself is a small mercy, but they all leave an emptiness behind.

I hope your Christmas is merry, and happy, ours this year promises to be.  Petra checks the calendar everyday and announces how many more days.  Elijah keeps telling us “Don’t forget to buy me a present”.  We have treasured family coming to visit, and there are presents a plenty for under the tree.  This year the girls are getting Princess American Girl type dolls.  Aurora for Tal, and Ariel for Petra (or maybe Tiana she keeps changing her mind, we have both for her, but one is going back), and there’s another Tiana doll in the closet for Kate.  Every year we buy something that we would have bought for her this Christmas and give it to charity.  It’s a nice way to include her in our buying, and it will make some little girl very happy, but the sorrow in thinking about the joy three princesses would have brought pokes through sometimes.   Still our kids have more than they need, and giving to a family with less is a great lesson for them, and that friends, is one more way Katie has blessed our family.

Merry Christmas to you!


First Posted Dec 18th 2009

Katie’s Christmas Legacy

Seems a few people I know are experiencing grief in a big way this season, it’s the first holiday after the death of their loved one.  I wish there was some way for me to bear it for them, because it really is so hard.  The world is happy, full of mirth, joy, and thanksgiving.  People are down right jolly.  When the one you love isn’t here, the contrasting darkness of your life feels so bleak, and almost shameful.  People still ask “Are you having a good Christmas?”  “Has Santa been good to you?”  “Did you get what you want this year?”  And the answer to all these questions is no.  Yes, even in sadness and in the mist of grief there are moments of light and joy, but they are breaks in the darkness, not lasting light.  A good Christmas would be with all those we love, that they would be alive, and celebrating with us.  That first Christmas after death  can be downright awkward.  Stuff your feelings, pretend to be happy, so you don’t bring others down.  Perhaps what those of us who can feel the joy in the season should be doing is lifting others up, not in a “Come onnn, cheer up!!” sort of way, but in an understanding ” I know this must be hard for you, but I love you” sort of way

This is our fifth Christmas without Katie, and still it’s hard.  Yesterday she was on my mind in a big way.  It’s not the same debilitating I can’t get off the couch, or why don’t we have more Kleenex sort of day anymore.  Having other kids now helps tremendously, they make you find joy.  But there was an emptiness in our house yesterday that doesn’t usually permeate the forefront of my thought.  I think knowing that the Christmas service in Edmonton for parents who have lost a baby was yesterday, didn’t help.  I had hoped that in being close I would make it there this year.  It really is a nice way to remember, how much is lost to some parents each year.  Kyle has been witting his exam, counseling students, and attending meetings about some ridiculous work bureaucracy, plus we had just made a trip to Edmonton last week, and therefore we just couldn’t swing it.

Witnessing, or knowing about new grief among my friends this season is hard.  It gets better, but constantly being told that that future is what we should hold on to, sucks, because the right now is miserable.  I think you have a right to be miserable if you need to, a big hole has been ripped open in your life, and pretending it’s not there does nothing to help repair it.  I wish I could find the quote, but I once read a quote that said essentially this.  God could mend your heart quickly with large lose stitches, but it would just tear open again, so instead He works slowly with small tight stitches, it hurts more and takes longer, but when He is finished it is lasting work.  You’ll always bear a scar, but your heart will hold love, hope and joy again.

So my friends, Lauren and Rob, Janine, and Jenn, and those of you who have lost someone you love this year, go ahead and have a hard Christmas, be lonely for the ones you love, cherish the breaks of light and feel joy where you can, but be true to how you feel, so that your stitches may be lasting too.  This scared heart is praying for you, and perhaps part of Katie’s legacy is understanding that sometimes you just need to grieve.


No Eggs and Ham

So it’s another food post.

Glazed with Alton Brown's Brown Sugar Mustard Glaze

I am crazy proud of what we have been able to accomplish on the farm this year, considering how little we knew about how to to do when we moved here. We figured we’d learn as we go, and boy have we ever. I’m going to have a gem of a garden this year with the knowledge I learned about planting from this year’s garden. We know how raise baby chicks into dinner size portions.  Plus keep hens (except the 4 we lost) to produce eggs of a much superior quality than supermarket ones. We buy our feed from a local organically certified farmer.  I couldn’t feel better about what we raise and eat.

Yesterday we smoked 3 slabs of bacon, rinsed a ham, baked, and glazed it it.  It looks less like a supermarket ham where they saw all the fronts and backs of the bones off, so it looks less like animal parts and more like magazine hams, and more like a part of a pig. We could have trimmed the bones too, but it cures and cooks the same regardless of whether you leave the ball joint and shank on, and it’s less work not too. It probably looks more like the farm hams my grandparents would have been accustomed too.  My grandfather’s (Gedo’s) family used to raise pigs I should ask him.

As it turns out it could have used a bit more time in the brine as it didn’t penetrate all the way through.  Around the bone was a ring of uncured meat that cooked up like a roast instead of a ham.   Maybe we have something going there?  A hybrid cut of meat to please everyone at the holiday table?  One for those who love a savory roast, and for those who love a salty spiced ham.   In the future we likely need a brine injector to get right to the center of the big hams, so the outer meat doesn’t become overbearingly salty.  Live and learn right?

Our ham does contain some nitrates. You can make it without, but I was too chicken to risk it.  Nitrates inhibit the growth of botulism spores, and while the risk of botulism is low, I wasn’t about to risk one of the lives of my children to do a nitrate free trial.  Because we aren’t making a commercial ham that needs a shelf life, we used the least amount of nitrate cure as possible.   The nitrates also give a ham that pink characteristic, something I didn’t know, but I always wondered why every other meat cooked up brown and ham stayed pink, now I know.    The pinker your ham the more nitrates it contains.

Our ham is a bit drier that a supermarket ham because it’s not plumped up with water injections to keep it moist and to inflate its weight, so you pay more for a cut of meat. It is yum none the less, and more hammy.  It was nothing like the boneless hams that are commercially available which are essentially whole processed deli style hams for you to bake at home. This is the type we used to buy. We’ve come a long way baby!

Since we left the shank on we have two sets of soup bones to make yummy winter soups.

We’ve fed some friends our home raised chickens, and eggs, now I can’t wait for our annual pig roast where we’ll be putting our own young pig on the spit and serving young vegetables from our garden to our friends.

It’s a new life for us next spring.  We plan on adding goats and turkeys, raising about 5 times as many meat chickens, and tripling our laying hens in order to start selling eggs.   Currently with the weather and light cycle we are getting zero to two eggs a day, usually zero.  We currently have none in our cold room, or in the fridge, and I’m out of mayo too, the next two are going to make mayonnaise, not breakfast.   Yup, we have no eggs and ham.

If you like my food/farming blogs I have a post in the works on why we do it all and why it’s worth it .  So stay tuned (maybe subscribed is the blog equivalent to radio tuned?) it should be soonish.

I’m off to enjoy some left overs, yum!

An Invisible Mom Named Erron

Tonight after tucking the kids into bed I came downstairs, and there on the coffee table was a tea party all set up, with a pot, plates, and snacks. Three place settings in all.  Looking up I asked Kyle:

“Were you and the girls having a tea party?”

His answer after some confusion then noticing the dishes was no.

I knew what Petra had been up to all day, and I also knew that Natalia had been playing by herself for a while.  I concluded it was Talia’s party and felt I should go talk with her about it.  We had just tucked them in, so I was fairly confident she wouldn’t be asleep yet, and I knew I wasn’t going to disturb the others because she’d been sleeping in the guest room because it gets more of the hall light, and as of late she’s become afraid of the dark (and of witches).

On entering the room I slipped under the covers to snuggle while I chatted with her softly.

Tea party for one or three?

‘Hey Tal? Where you having a tea party today?’

“Yeah” she quietly said.

“It looks like a nice party, I saw three plates and three cups and a pot of tea”

“And three cakes and a spoon”

“Yeah that’s right, Talia if you want you could ask mommy to come to your tea party sometime”

“Well, you were busy, and I was playing by myself ”

“Oh? maybe next time if you ask I can find some time, then you won’t have to play by yourself”

“There was an invisible guy there, and an invisible mommy too, named Erron”

Ughh an invisible mommy named Erron? My heart was suddenly washed with sadness.  Was I really so unavailable?  Was it really not even worth it to ask me to join her?  Do I say no too often? Was it easier to just pretend I exist?

I do value the ability for children to play on their own, I really do, I think it’s an essential skill.  That invisible mommy thing just kind of hit me hard.

In reflecting though, I’m glad that Natalia felt comfortable enough to tell me that she thought I was too busy.  I’m glad for teaching moments that teach me that tomorrow I need to make time for tea parties and more for tomorrows in the future.  Finally I’m touched that the imaginary mommy was named Erron because it means even if I wasn’t at that tea party I was desired to be there enough that I’m who Natalia imagines to be there.

Don’t Ever Do That…Unless I Tell You To.

So I’ve been trying to blog weekly.  So far I’m failing.  I have a couple of half written posts in my drafts, but instead of finishing one of them I’m going to tell you about our escapee pig.  Not the first time escapees, those ones are in our freezer now, but the Tuesday escapee.

Tuesdays are the worst days for being busy, we skipped art class because the kids had been sick the night before, but we still had Speech Therapy, Ballet, Grocery shopping, and I volunteer as a parent adviser for a group that counsels to parents who have recently received a diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum disorder, all back to back .

I can never seem to get us out the door without rushing despite my best efforts, I honestly think my kids think that HURRY UP , WE’RE LATE means: okay guys it’s time to go now. Now this Tuesday was unusual, we were running short on time as usual, but we were about to leave with enough time to get where we were going without the rushing. Yay!

I was putting winter outerwear on the kids (isn’t that the worst about Canadian winters?  Needing an extra 20 mins to get dressed to go out) and I had Micah on the floor.   Dash, our Jack Russel, was barking like mad to be let in, and I was annoyed by it as I had just let him out.  I tell Petra please let Dash in, and so she flings open the inner door and starts shouting “Oh no, Oh no, OH NO!” From where I was standing I look out the screened window of the outer door expecting to see a person standing out there perhaps, and see nothing.

He’s biting her!” Screams Petra, her being the new puppy Audrey.

Dash?,  I think, so I take a step forward and this is what I see, two dogs and our pig waiting to be let in.


After we let the dogs in she just stood there waiting for her turn

The pig is not a pet, she’s livestock.  Not being in her pen means we are no longer not late. I have to coax her back.

Pigs are Smart.  They don’t do much they don’t want to do.  She also weighs about 100-130 lbs: I can’t lift her.

Darn! I spend a lot of time trying to convince that pig to get in her pen.  All the while thinking about how we’re going to be late for speech therapy, where we pay 120$ an hour whether we’re there or not.  In the end she’s happy to follow me around like a puppy, but I can’t get her back in to the pen, even with the yummy slop bucket from the house.  So I start packing the kids up to go.

Well that pig hung out with us the whole time running towards us and away from us, and eventually as I’m trying to do Micah up in his car seat she tries to get in our van on the other side with the kids.  Ahh! What can I do! I’m on the wrong side and she’s halfway in already.  Crap!

I’m pausing here, to remind you of this: Gobsmacked at the effort of it all.  Remember Elijah kicking our animals?  Remember me all worried that he was mean and just didn’t get it?  Well that pig is halfway in the van, the kids are shrieking in the back that she’s going to get them and what do I say?

KICK HER ELIJAH! Kick her in the face, so she’ll get out!  Reluctantly he did, and she got out.

Yeah…….Nothing like telling your kid to do something you told him to never do, never EVER do!  I was so worked up about him and those animals, and in the end I’m shouting at him to kick her, in the face no less.  Just goes to show you never know what life is going to throw at you.

After buckling the baby in I went around the other side and tried to buckle the kids in and that pig tried a handful of times to get in that van.  She really wanted to be where we were.

Have you ever driven out of your driveway with a pig running her top speed, tromping through deep powder, snow spraying from her sides as she tries her best keep up with your vehicle, as you hit the gas hard, so as to leave her behind before you hit the road, all caught in the the frame of your side mirror?  I have.

I was sure we’d have no pig when we got home, but we live in Canada and that cozy hay-lined lean-to and full feed trough was too much to give up and go wandering.  When Kyle and the kids got home she was snuggled into the hay of her bed and I’d never know she had escaped if I hadn’t been there to see it.