we’re born makers

Chrysler recently came out with a new commercial about one of their cars. I don’t really care about new cars on the market so I can’t tell you which model they were advertising, but the spirit of the commercial made an impression on me. The very first words you hear are calmly yet strongly spoken,

We’re born makers.

If I could sum up this phase of our life we are entering, I don’t think I could say it in a more clear, succinct way. God is The Creator, and by making us in his image, he made us with imagination, creativity, and vision. These gifts are expressed in many different ways. Everyone has a different gift. Some make music, some make tools, some make children, some technology, homes, and every other thing on earth, but the point is that we recognize these gifts in ourselves and use them with all the gusto we have. Parable of the talents, anyone? If you trust in someone else to tell you what your gifts are or should be, or if you trust that it’s more important to get any job available in order to pay for the two car garage, brand new cars, and daycare, you’ll likely pass right by the opportunities given to you to find satisfaction in doing what you were born to do. And we’re setting out to make sure that doesn’t happen to us. SONY DSC Our blog is largely about where we’re at. Our life is changing, and this blog is changing along with it. Homesteading is good. I really enjoy it. It gives me the satisfaction of providing for my family and knowing that if the s*** hits the fan we’ll be alright. But it’s also important to us that we don’t spend our lives doing something that doesn’t fit our design. Homesteading to us has been an opportunity to learn skills, appreciation, values, and to create a backup plan. We’ve done that and more! I do plan to continue homesteading, and dream of one day having a large garden and some livestock, but the time for that to happen is not right now. Sometimes the original plan must be adjusted to make the most out of our lives. We have to do a little internal check once in a while to make sure that what we’re doing brings us joy, brings us closer together with the ones we love, and brings us the satisfaction of knowing we are following the path God has designed for us. We only get to live once, and I want to do my very best with the life I have. Today, that means using the time we have to make the most out of our small businesses. SONY DSC Despite the fact that we’re living in a very difficult time for small businesses, Papa and I are excited by the idea that we could create something out of our passions. We could create sustainable businesses and sources of income simply by taking ideas we care about and running with them. Whether or not we succeed in the sense of becoming financially independent, we both believe that giving it our all (which includes setting some other projects aside) is a better use of ourselves than spending our lives waiting for something magical to happen. God has given us our gifts for a reason. To bless others? To bless ourselves? Hopefully both! But no matter the end result, and no matter the obstacles, we have to try. We’re certainly not going to get anywhere by giving a half-hearted effort. I should know, because we’ve tried that too. The reckoning process I went through this summer allowed me to see that now is the time to stop hemming and hawing over the best way to spend my time. If I keep trying to do just a little of everything, nothing is going to get very far. So I decided to commit myself to developing a slightly greater number of clients as a doula, continuing my education as a maternity care person, and supporting Papa in Bags On Sticks in whatever way I can. SONY DSC I’m really excited about this! The feeling that Papa and I are both behind establishing myself not just as “the small-time homesteader” or “crafty homeschool mom” (which I am proud of!), but also as community doula is encouraging – I’ve been waiting for this moment for years. And the idea that Papa could be on the verge of creating a trend, profitable enough to sustain our family and build our home fills me with hope! The passion is apparently bubbling over, because the kids have caught the entrepreneurial bug as well. Buddy has been making and selling bows and arrows, Girlie has been making and selling artwork and paper airplanes, and even Pal has been trying to develop a marketable idea. They are enjoying making things and dreaming up creative ideas on how they can sell them. Buddy is even playing with the idea of saving his money to build a house someday. I don’t expect him to follow through on that quite yet, but it is so wonderful to see each of our kids developing their gifts to benefit themselves and others however they are able. Everyone loves a good story, so I’d like to share with you the history of our businesses, to help express why this transition is so exciting to our family, and give you a platform from which to begin the journey to financial self-reliance with us. SONY DSC (we’re getting a few flower buds, but we probably won’t see too many flower this year) Papa’s story began when he was a young boy, building robots, remote controls, and taking apart toys to build them into something new. He has always been fascinated by how things work, and what alternative uses materials can serve. Papa loves to create things, and his projects vary a lot. For example, the projects he has developed for personal enjoyment or for selling have included 3D art work, musical instruments, woodworking tools, a key scratch guard for a car door, chicken coops, and numerous electronic devices. Those things may not have a lot in common, but they all show how he loves to make things with this hands. This year he developed the idea of the modern hobo bag to be used as an everyday-carry handbag. What began as a sketch and experiments in folding handkerchiefs, Bags On Sticks moved to the sewing machine, experimenting with shapes, patterns, and stitches until just the right design was formed. The Keep became the original Bags On Sticks design, but it wasn’t to stay that way! Papa now has six bag designs with men, women, and children in mind. With handles made from recycled wood he shaped by hand and cloth and other materials he picked out himself, Papa has enjoyed expressing his imagination through a brand new medium, having never used a sewing machine before this year! We designed a website, which is in the process of being remodeled to reflect the growing number of products available, and having attended two arts and craft fairs so far, Papa and I are both really excited about where we can take Bags On Sticks next year. SONY DSC (Buddy practicing his Temple Run falls) This winter we’ll be doing lots of research to plan out the best places to take our booth next summer and fall, and hope to be traveling around Maine to introduce this unique style to as many people as we can. This will be a fun way to go adventuring with our children, bringing them to new places where they can meet new people and see new things that they might not get to around our area. We anticipate that it will be an all-around fun summer. My story began when I was a young teen, learning about the midwives of yesteryear and the powerful role they played in every community. I loved babies and wanted to have a few of them myself, but I felt a strong desire growing in me to become one of these midwives. I didn’t know that midwifery and home birth had been making a comeback, but I reconnected with an acquaintance who was a midwife, and she took me under her wing. Between then and now, I grew from an amateur midwifery assistant, to a birth doula, to a self-study midwifery student, and today I support women as a birth doula, giving them the emotional, physical, spousal, informational, and advocacy support that you cannot get from any other type of maternity care provider. I am now assisting my 31st couple. SONY DSC (Girlie practicing her Temple Run falls) I love helping families bring their babies into the world, and it brings me so much joy to see moms and dads grow in confidence in their ability to take on the challenge of birth and parenting as I come alongside them. In fact, seeing how important this type of support is to families, I am seriously considering remaining a birth doula and not pursuing a career in home birth midwifery. Every woman deserves to have the support of a doula, and I want to do everything I can to help families have positive birth experiences. This means that in the near future I will be taking courses that will enhance my role as doula (a.k.a. personal birth assistant ), such massage therapy with a focus on pregnancy and birth, prenatal nutrition counseling, and childbirth preparation. This winter I’ll be starting HypnoBabies’ Hypno Doula course to help couples using HypnoBabies techniques. While many women know about doulas in neighboring big cities, we live in an area where relatively few women know about and hire them. A large part of what I do is simply informing families of how a doula can help them, and I am hired by 2-6 couples a year to assist them at their births. My hope is that this number will increase to 6-10 couples in the near future. Word-of-mouth has been my most helpful tool in finding clients, as my they often tell their friends after I attend their births, but I have begun focusing on reaching out to the public more via facebook, networking with other maternity care providers, and offering independent childbirth preparation classes. IMG_4304 (photo credit: Papa’s brother, “H”) So this is where we are at right now with our businesses. The AFN homestead is still here. We’re still gardening this year, we’ll still have chickens. We’ll still be building our house, a root cellar, and all those homesteading projects we plan to get to so our homestead will run efficiently. We’re still homeschooling, still going on family adventures, voting libertarian, and learning about alternative medicine. All of that will be shared on our facebook page as interesting things happen. But you will also likely begin to see photos and read stories that follow our journey as startup businesses; the ups and downs, ins and outs of developing products and services, marketing them, and managing the ever-more complicated aspects of running a business under our corporate government. I have hopes that you will find encouragement for your own dreams as you follow along. IMG_4261 (photo credit: Papa’s brother, “H”, featuring his son, known here as Chap) In my last post, where we go from here, I shared my emotional side; the bittersweet side, of saying goodbye for a time to the work I have been doing. To the blog at AFN, to the garden, and to raising chicks. It wasn’t easy for me to make such a big decision given how much time I have invested into them already. Even though I have no intention whatsoever of making this a permanent goodbye, any change of course like that requires serious thought and consideration about how it will impact our life, and so I needed to express my feelings about it. When Papa got done reading that post, he said it made him feel depressed. He said that if he were to base my thoughts about this transition on that post alone, he wouldn’t think I was very happy about it. I knew I needed to end on a more positive note, because even though that emotional processing was a legitimate part of the story, it was absolutely not the end. No big change is easy to make, hence the sadness, but no big change is worth making unless you see joy on the other side. This is the joy part of the story. We’re born makers, and we’re going to live like it. IMG_4363 (photo credit: Papa’s brother, “H”)

where we go from here

Hello Everyone!

It turned out to be a good month to take a sabbatical, as August has been a VERY busy month for us. Before I reveal the future of AFN, here is a brief rundown of how we’ve spent our days.

We took our yearly, week-long vacation at the camp on the pond with extended family.

I planned out school for this fall and have gathered nearly all of the supplies I will need for Buddy’s 2nd grade year, Girlie’s 1st grade year, and Pal’s PreK year.

We registered with the post office in our town and got our mailbox set up at our physical address.

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Papa’s truck broke down again. For fear it is going to nickel and dime us we bought an ‘02 Ford Taurus for his work vehicle until he has more time to fix the truck.

Pal had the hives.

I have a health issue I’m working out right now, though I still don’t know exactly what is going on. We thought we were experiencing our third surprise pregnancy, but it turns out something funky is going on with my uterus. We’re praying I start my cycle again within the next few days or I’ll be starting a second round of testing with my midwife next week. Your prayers are appreciated!

We had our family pictures taken.

I’ve been getting my doula business set up to run more efficiently.

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I’ll be pickling cucumbers tomorrow.

I have tomatoes that need to be processed.

The peas, radishes, lettuce, and green and wax beans are either passed or nearly so. Most of them were eaten fresh – the best way!

Our turnips, onions, and carrots are growing very well and I’m happy with their progress and hopeful for a decent winter storage.

The beets and bell peppers didn’t grow much for “fruit”. Not sure what happened there.

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Our broccoli is just now growing heads. There is hope yet!

We’re still eating off the kale, spinach, lettuce, swiss chard, and basil.

We bought a new push lawn mower! YAHOOOO!! Not that I’m happy about that or anything.

Last night we had a visit from the contractor who is going to put in our foundation!

There are other things that have happened, but I think you’ve now got the idea of why taking off this past month has been helpful in permitting me time to mull over my thoughts about what comes next for American Family Now. The last thing I wanted to do was make any rash decisions, or say things without putting extra thought behind the words I use to describe said decisions.

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So here we go.

One month ago I shared that Papa and I had begun reevaluating our lives to ensure that we are following the path we want to be on. In that post I talked about how Papa and I share the same long term goal – to live off-grid in a cash-built home, as self-sustainable as possible in order to be prepared for anything. Yet our methods of getting there have diverged enough that we realized the current path we had chosen was not as easy, nor as peaceful or joyful, as we had hoped it to be.

We like to throw ourselves into adventures, but we do them together. That’s just the way we like it! And we know we would both be happier if we were following the same path to our chosen goal.

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Unfortunately in the short term, that meant I needed to decide to change my priorities and say a few temporary goodbyes. Not because I had to, but because I knew it would be better for my family if I did.

So, after lots of hashing out ideas, brainstorming, and weighing pros and cons, I made a few big decisions. The most relevant to you is that AFN is going to become solely a facebook page.

I know not all of you use facebook, and I would be sorry to lose any of you as readers, but this transition would allow me to continue sharing photos and stories about our life with you, without spending the 6-10 hours a week I spend on average maintaining this blog. We are now closing in on 600 facebook likes, and much of our blog traffic is coming from social media as well. I believe that for many, it will continue to be a convenient way of keeping in touch with our family.

What does this mean for the blog? I am currently in the process of publishing paperback and kindle versions of American Family Now: A Four-Year Blogging Journey, from 2010 to 2014. This book will be very special to me as it will include each and every post and picture I have shared here, telling the story of our family’s life in detail for a period of time. It will hold a dear place on our future bookshelf :::smile:::

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When this book is published I will share about it here, and then say my final goodbyes on this blog. I anticipate that by October I will have transitioned to facebook entirely and be ready to close the doors here, taking down the web hosting, and the posts with it.

Closing americanfamilynow.org is just the beginning of the changes we have in store. I have also decided to put the garden and homestead progress on ice for 2015 and possibly 2016. I’ll wrap up the gardens this year and preserve all I can, we’ll continue collecting and selling eggs from our current hens, but next year I will not be planting veggies or buying more chicks. I plan to fill the veggie boxes with a cover crop like buckwheat or alfalfa to add nutrients to the soil while I wait until the time is right to start planting again.

So if I’m not blogging, gardening, or raising chicks, what will I be doing, you ask? Part of me laughs at the fact that I feel I have to defend my choice. Let’s see, there’s raising and homeschooling four kids, managing my home, caring for our chickens, yard maintenance, and running my doula business. I could very well not replace gardening and still stay busy!

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Yet there is a very specific reason why I volunteered to set them aside.

I could choose to over exert myself, to continue working on building the homestead, but aside from occasional help, I have largely been doing it myself. With Papa’s focus elsewhere, I realized that homesteading on my own is not what I wanted. I want to enjoy life, not just check off as many things on the “good things to do” list as I can.

Part of me felt like I would be cheating on my ideals; disappointing myself and others for setting aside priorities I had stood so firmly beside before. I suppose that was the perfectionist in my, rearing its ugly head. But there is a season for everything, and right now that means setting aside raising vegetables, herbs, chicks, and wheat, at least for a year or two, so we can give our businesses a better chance of thriving, and of helping us become financially self-sustainable.

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Instead of raising our own food, I plan to stick by our values and support local farmers through a combination of farmer’s markets, farm stands, local shops, and a nearby community garden. The same goes for herbal remedies. As for our hens, we expect to wait every 2-3 years to buy new chicks so we can maintain our egg needs, rather than raising more hens to sell eggs.

These changes will inevitably increase our expenses a bit, but the idea is that it will also free me up to do other things that can sustain our family better, while not compromising our values, and contributing to the local economy at the same time.

So in all of my spare time ::: wink ::: this is what I’ll likely be doing:

  • maintaining BagsOnSticks.com and its facebook page
  • networking with businesses interested in displaying Bags On Sticks samples and planning next year’s fair events
  • managing Bags On Sticks finances and inventory
  • taking on more clients as a doula
  • hosting doula teas and other maternity related events
  • teaching more childbirth preparation classes
  • continuing my education as a birth doula

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Each of these things is time-consuming, but will make our businesses more efficient and contribute more to our family’s income, and the 15-20 hours I would save each week by not blogging or gardening would be put to good use in this endeavor.

I love AFN. I don’t like looking at this situation in such a practical way because it is sad to say goodbye. When Papa and I started talking about the practical side of setting the blog down, I felt almost sacrilegious talking about this before adding the heart factor to the equation. Papa always said, shutting down AFN would be like a death in the family. This hasn’t been just another hobby to me; it has become an online community where I pour my heart out, and many of you have here as well. Making this decision forced me to go through a mourning period of sorts, of which I have passed through and now feel confident moving forward.

The letters and comments you have shared with me have touched my heart and I am so glad I spent the past four years here. It has made a positive difference in my life, and from what you have shared, many of yours as well.

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Because of that I want you to know this was not a decision I made lightly, nor quickly. It has been on my mind for nearly a year as I have searched for answers about the direction AFN should take.

That’s why I hope you will continue to follow our family on facebook as we build our house, our businesses, and live life off-grid, homeschooling our kids. While the homestead may feel stagnant in growth to me right now, I know this journey to self-sufficiency is only moving forward, and will be an exciting one.

On facebook, I will continue to share photos and updates about our family’s unique life, homestead happenings, progress on cash-building our house, opinions on events, politics, and the like, as well as our journey to financial self-reliance.

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Papa and I hope that by focusing our energy on becoming financially independent that we will be able to finish our house sooner, be able to maintain our values for eating good food, using natural medicine, and buying local, and create a savings. Perhaps we will be able to establish a business that not only would support our family, but be adopted by one of our children some day!

Once our house is built, our financial pressures will be somewhat relieved, and I expect to begin gardening again. I don’t believe I can stray to far from it now that it’s in my blood!

If you have any questions about this transition, please ask! I do hope you will join us on facebook if you haven’t already, and that you will enjoy your own copy of our book once it is published.

Thank you so much for all of your support.

a sabbatical

Well this is going to be an interesting post, and I hardly know where to begin. I am literally sitting here, having written that sentence, wondering how to complete my thoughts. Let’s just take this back to the beginning.

In 2010, having been blogging for about three years elsewhere, I decided to join forces with Papa and create a blog that would network with his YouTube page, called American Family Now. So much has changed in the four years since we created AFN. So much.

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We accomplished what we originally set out to do, and our mission and goals began to morph, both online and in our lives, to adapt and move forward. If you’ve been here a while, or if you’ve known us personally during that time, you know this.

For a while I thought AFN could become not only a mission-focused outlet for me, but a small source of income for my family. But I soon realized that was no easy game to play. I spent a good amount of time last year trying to make that work, with not much to show for it.

Then this year I tried a couple of things; introducing a year-long video series to replace written posts, and an ebook on how to make our family’s herbal remedies. For one reason or another, neither was destined to live beyond the planning stage.

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It has been clear to me for the past several months, and probably more like a year, that AFN needed a good cleaning. It needed to let go of finished ideas, pick up new ones, and stay fresh and relevant. How that was going to happen, that part I didn’t know.

Over the last few months though, I realized that part of the reason AFN needed to be revitalized was because changes were also brewing in our family. Although our lives continue to involve homesteading and building a house, the blog as it was headed was not truly reflecting the direction our family was taking.

Homesteading has been a part of who we are, but it is no longer on the front line of where we are going, and it seemed we and AFN were beginning to follow separate lives. I would pour myself out on AFN, but for some reason it has felt like I’m not telling the whole story, or the blog doesn’t accurately reflect who we are. If you’re confused, I understand; this is very hard to explain, but I’ll do my best to lay it out clear by the end of this post.

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The “family path” aspect of this finally became clarified last weekend over the course of a few heart-to-heart talks with Papa. A necessary change had been churning around inside there and we could either avoid it because of our comfort with the status quo or take charge of it and dive right in.

I make it sounds like it was easy, but really it was one of the most difficult family discussions I’ve had in a long time, and filled with bittersweet tears. Somewhere along the way, Papa and I realized that while we share a long-term goal, our methods of getting there have diverged a bit.

My goal has been to take the path we set out on three years ago to be self-sufficient; to raise our own meat, veggies, and grains, to cash build an off-grid home, and otherwise have skills and resources available to handle another financial crisis or another SHTF situation we could face, while at the same time reducing our current expenses.

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Papa’s goal has been to develop his entrepreneurial drive into a successful business that will help us to build our off-grid home and enable us to handle any SHTF situation that comes along, while making it easier to pay our current expenses.

We have been supportive of each other’s methods, but the real passion behind the support was all but non-existent. Through this self-exploration of ideas that have surfaced recently, we recognized that each of us could go on working out our short-term goals separately, but it has already weakening our personal goals and our team work.

Our marriage is more important to us than anything. I say this not to imply that we aren’t working well together, because we are, but to stress why partnership is so important to us. No other goal, no matter how good, comes close to the importance we place on each other. So when we realized that we were weakening the potential of our relationship by not aligning our goals (not to mention having a harder time physically accomplishing those goals), we finally verbalized the fact that life-changing decisions needed to be made. And the path we have chosen to walk together will alter the course we have taken for the past few years.

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Because we are changing course, I need time to think about that and make new plans. I’m not ready to fully explain myself here, but I will. I am going to take a month-long sabbatical from writing here to process and prepare the next part of the story for you. From now until the 20th of August there will be no new posts here, but I will be sharing photos and short updates on our AFN facebook page where you are welcome to visit with us.

This next month or two is going to be difficult for me, but only in a bittersweet sort of way. I don’t like change very much, because I don’t like letting go of familiarity with things, but at the same time I am excited about what comes next, and I am so glad that Papa and I have a fresh vision for our family.

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Thank you for being patient with me as I work through this. Please stay in touch with us via facebook, but feel free to email us personally at americanfamily now@yahoo.com. And may the next few weeks be wonderful for you!

Until then!

how to live in a camper with a baby

A few weeks ago a reader sent us an email asking a few questions about how they can make a smooth transition to camper-living, as they also happened to be expecting a baby.

Interestingly, next to how to make a leach field or an outhouse, this subject is one of the most common search phrases that lead people to our blog on a regular basis. Until today, most of my baby-related posts have been about our experiences living in a camper with children, but I’d like to build on that with some helpful ideas.

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(introducing Chickie to her older siblings the day after she was born in our camper)

People want to know: Is it a responsible choice? Is it legal? How can you fit baby equipment and supplies in a camper? Can you meet a baby’s needs in a camper? And in the case of home-birthers, how can you give birth in a camper? Let’s break this down question by question.

1) Is it responsible to live in a camper with a baby?

I believe people ask this because they understand it is already a socially awkward choice to live in a camper, before you add kids to the equation. We Americans live in an age born of home mortgages, two-income families, and retirement packages. More and more young folks, for various reasons, are choosing to say goodbye to that age and choose a simpler, smaller, and cheaper way of life. For a growing number of people, living on the road in an RV or boondocking (living in a parked camper) meets their needs and values.

However, as soon as you go from one or two adults to a family with one or more children, the pressure is on. Shouldn’t babies have a colorful nursery with a big crib and plenty of floor space for toys, and even more space to grow up in? And what if you want to be on the road – what about depriving your child of their grandparents and other consistent non-parent figures in their life? These are some of the questions that come up when well-meaning people ask if you’re making the right choice.

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I can’t answer all of these questions for you, as everyone’s situation will be different, but I will say this – as a loving parent, you know how to provide for your child. Look at families all around the world and you’ll see a wide variety of types of healthy homes with a variety of housing. Some live in tiny houses, some in huge, some in vehicles, some travel full time. Igloos, huts, trailers, campers, mud houses, straw houses, tree houses. The list goes on. The recurring theme is that a good home includes at least one parent who loves the child with all their heart, and keeps them warm, dry, fed, clothed, safe, encouraged, and inspired. And while we may not be familiar with certain types of housing, it doesn’t mean they are inappropriate for living in.

So is living in a camper with a baby responsible? Provided you love your child and are meeting their basic needs, you betcha it is! Just as any other healthy environment is. If you currently are or plan to live in unconventional housing and have unsupportive family or friends, do your best to understand how their beliefs were formed, remind them of what makes a home, and be patient. When they see you and your baby living happily and comfortably in your home, they will likely feel better about it themselves.

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(our camper in 2012 when Chickie was a baby)

2) Is living in a camper with a baby legal?

I wrote a post about this question recently, and in conversation with a few knowledgeable people who responded, these concepts surfaced -

  • Each state has its own regulations about a healthy and safe home, but there are no known laws against camper living.
  • Most CPS policies state that if the child is living in a dry, warm place, and there is food available, that it is considered acceptable. Obviously good parenting involves much more than this, but it means that the state is unlikely to have a problem with camper-living.
  • If a CPS worker ever does come to your door, you should be as nice as you can be. Let them in, answer their questions, be polite. One person who commented on the above post works as a state agent who reviews cases in which CPS workers took the kids. He said that in most cases where a child was taken from a good home (and eventually returned), it was because the parents gave an attitude and the CPS worker got defensive, deciding to take the kids and ask questions later.
  • Some towns do have restrictions about how long a camper can be parked in one location, so if you plan to boondock, you will have to research local regulations.

In short, it is legal to live in a camper with a baby.

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3) How can you fit baby equipment and supplies in a camper?

This will depend on the design and size of your camper, but even if you own a 40‘ with a few slide outs, you will likely still need to minimize your supplies, especially if you have older children.

Consider different types of things you think you will need, and how you can either consolidate or come up with creative storage. Some pieces of equipment regularly used for babies are simply not necessary, like a changing table for example.

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Here are a few tips that helped us raise our youngest (who is now two years old) in our camper from birth -

  • Only keep on hand the number of outfits you can fit in a rubbermade tote.
  • Use nooks and crannies to hold small packages of diapers and wipes.
  • Breastfeed exclusively until baby is ready for solid food to avoid space-consuming bottles and formulas.
  • Use the infant carseat as an indoor seat until they can sit on their own.
  • Only purchase toys which can serve your needs. You don’t need a walker, a gym, and an excersaucer. Choose one large toy if you have room and keep a small basket of toys and a small stack of baby books.

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  • Use a high chair seat that sits on a chair rather than a stand-alone setup.
  • Only keep the number of plates, cups, and silverware your baby will need for 24 hours.
  • Avoid jars of baby food. Consider mashing up food or using a baby blender to serve food you are eating to them.
  • Instead of a stroller use a baby carrier. I used a small umbrella stroller when Chickie got bigger.
  • Plan out how you can fit a small crib or playpen or transform a bunk into a crib. Co-sleeping can postpone the need for a crib.

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4) Can you meet a baby’s needs in a camper?

Yes! Stop to think for a minute if you will, what do babies need? They need their basic needs met, and lots of love. For the physical needs in the first few months, he or she will need (in addition to the obvious, breastmilk, diapers, and clothing) a safe place to sleep, a safe place to be set down when you need free hands, and a place to take a bath. As baby gets older and more mobile, he or she will need a way to eat meals with you at the table, a baby-proofed environment, and a selection of toys.

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With a bit of creative thinking, each of these needs can be met in a small home. Here are a few tips we found useful -

  • Because we didn’t have a place in our camper to make room for a crib, we built a railing system to make one of the bunks safe for a baby. Sometimes you just have to think outside the box when it comes to sleeping arrangements!
  • We used Chickie’s infant car seat as a place to set her down when we couldn’t hold her.
  • For baths, I bathed Chickie in the mini tub, and avoided a baby tub because I didn’t want the extra piece of equipment. I probably would have used the sink if I didn’t already have older kids using the bath water.
  • Papa built a “pouting chair” to fit our bench set in the living area, and drilled two holes in the back to make room for a belt to be strung through and hold Chickie in. It worked great from about 9 months to 21 months, when she started preferring the bench. A high chair intended to fit on a regular chair would be a good alternative.

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  • Babies don’t need many toys – they’re perfectly happy transforming a box, a spoon and bowl, or an old phone into a fascinating toy! Nevertheless, a small basket of toys, a small stack of baby books, and a few stuffies will suffice and easily fit in a camper.
  • As for baby-proofing, it’s pretty much the same as in a house. Cover those outlets, lock those cupboards. Try to keep them from climbing shelves :::smile:::

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I will add one more thing babies need, regardless of housing, and that is fresh air. Newborns should be carried outside regularly for fresh air and sunshine. Older babies should feel grass and dirt between their fingers and toes. Families living in a small home will especially appreciate the great outdoors!

5) Can you have a home birth in a camper?

I’m guessing you know the answer to this question already. I gave birth to two of our first three children at home before we moved into our camper and then unexpectedly found ourselves pregnant again. I didn’t want to have a hospital birth simply because our home is small! So I hired two supportive midwives, and you can see for yourselves how it all turned out in this slideshow.

Some may say you should not live with your baby in a camper or other small home, but that opinion is usually based on inexperience with small housing. Here are a few other bloggers who have lived in campers with babies who can inspire you further.

If I’ve left out any questions you have about this subject, please share your ideas below!

the first Bags On Sticks event

Papa and I, along with our kids, attended our first event as Bags On Sticks this past weekend, and it was a great success. Folks who stopped at our booth were overwhelmingly positive about our products, saying this like,

They’re ahead of their time.

I wish I had money with me!

(enter name of loved one) would love one of these.

I love bindles!

These are so unique, cool, creative, cute.

Three representatives of local businesses expressed strong interest in displaying a rack of Bags On Sticks in their stores, and while there was no such award available, the directer of the event told Papa he won the award for “originality”. We even had folks complimenting the racks Papa built to display his bags!

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We sold three bags and a couple of extra accessories. Considering all the expenses of the event, we still made a small profit. It would have been nice to sell more, but the general consensus from other vendors we spoke to was that no vendors make a large profit at this particular venue.

As we are just starting to test the waters with this business, it was a huge encouragement simply to see the positive reaction of the people. When I go to craft fairs, I typically see people pick up items from a table, quietly examine and admire them, maybe ask a question of the vendor, and then either set the item back down or purchase it. It’s not usually an enthusiastic situation. But contrary to this observation, the majority of our visitors were excited about their find. The first woman who bought a bag said she had heard there was a booth selling bindles and she went searching for it! When she came to our booth, her adult daughter who was with her happily exclaimed, “there you are!”

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Ranging from young kids to senior citizens, people were excited to see Bags On Sticks, and this leaves Papa and I looking forward to our next event, which you can learn about by visiting our Bags On Sticks facebook page.

As for bringing the kids along to make this a family event, I think it went very well. They behaved well and enjoyed interacting with visitors. We also attended a magic show that was performed at the festival, and bought ice cream for lunch. Girlie bought a handmade tie-dyed t-shirt, and Buddy went googly-eyed when he saw a gigantic geode for sale.

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Papa and I took turns manning the booth so the other could tend to the kids, who happily, though unknowingly, advertised for us with their own Bags On Sticks bags. I had to smile when a lady stopped in while I was at the booth and mentioned seeing a few children walking through the festival carrying their own bindles. She had no reason to believe they were mine!

By the end of the event the kids were quite tuckered though. I wish I had on video Chickie’s expressions as we walked back to our car. She started out walking joyfully (though tired), then dropped the end of her stick and started dragging it behind her, and then about 30 feet from the car she stopped in her tracks and just started to cry. Having my arms full and unable to carry her, I pointed out how close we were to the car, at which her face lit up and she started running to it! Needless to say, we all slept well that night!

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There a couple of things we will probably do differently next time. For one, we’d like to sell bags that are cheaper to make so kids who want one can afford one. Second, we need to add a table display as that is where most people initially focused their attention as they walked by. Third, we’ll probably bring a picnic lunch to decrease expenses. And fourth, we may lower the sign above the tent, as some found it was not noticeable while passing closely by the tent.

Altogether it was a positive experience and has encouraged us to continue building this company. For more information about Bags On Sticks, please visit our website by clicking here.

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hungry for color

Ever since we moved here three years ago I have wanted to plant a flower garden. To me, flower gardens symbolize far more than just something pretty to decorate with. In a deeper sense, seeing a flower garden in front of someone’s house tells me they have set up home there. It is no longer a place of residence; it is where the heart lives.

I have avoided planting flowers here for a few reasons. For one, we’ve moved buildings around on the property enough that I couldn’t decide where the best place to plant them would be. Two, there have been far more “useful” things to do. And three, because we haven’t built our house, I haven’t felt rooted enough to display that tell-tale sign of a home that is firmly established.

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Today that all changed. I’ve been yearning,not only for a house to call home indefinitely, but color, beauty, and something a bit frivolous that says we’re not just trying to survive. I wanted to plant flowers. So by-golly I was going to do it!

Yesterday the kids and I took a trip into town and for $25 picked up 4 feet of mulch, 20 bricks, 1.5 feet of garden soil, and ten varieties of flower seeds. My mom contributed 5 gallon pails and old flower pots she had set aside.

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For a few hours this morning I worked on this garden, digging up dirt to put in the bottoms of the pots, arranging everything just so, and letting the kids “help” me plant seeds. We mixed and match seeds, with taller ones in back, to create a colorful (mostly pinks, yellows, and whites), overflowing arrangement when they sprout and bloom. I can’t wait to see how it looks!

I know it’s a little late in the year for planting, as around here we’re supposed to have flowers in the ground by the end of June, but hopefully we ‘ll have a nice fall flower garden of the following varieties:

  • bachelor buttons
  • zinnias
  • morning glories
  • snap dragons
  • nasturtiums
  • cosmos’
  • petunias
  • portulacas
  • alyssum

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Why the pots? Why not just plant them right in the ground? Well, to be honest, with my luck, as soon as I put something semi-permanent in, there will be a reason to uproot it. Keep it somewhat mobile and maybe it will have a chance! Haha. I guess in a way that also symbolizes the lack of “taking root” that I still feel about our home. Funny what a life of thinking a house makes a home does to you.

Next year I plan to add another row of brick and more mulch to make the bed deeper, and ideally start the flowers earlier! I would have liked to do that this year, but I don’t like to spend more money than I need to, so I tried to get away with the least amount I could while still doing a decent job. The bed of mulch is between 4 and 6″ deep depending on the spot it covers, so the weeds should stay down and the brick will hopefully hold everything together.

Tomorrow we’re off to the fair to sell Bags On Sticks, maybe we’ll see some of you there!

Have a great weekend everyone!

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the other side of the smile

I love my life. It ain’t perfect. Far from it actually. But it’s my life and while I can’t control everything that happens, as the saying goes, I’m the captain of my ship.

When people complain to me about their life, I’m tempted to complain about their attitude. Silly, I know. We all need to vent, otherwise we’d all bottle our feelings up and then explode with depression, anger, or something else serious. Really though, I do sometimes question these complaints.

I find myself thinking, “why do you think you have it so hard? Don’t you know there are others who have it worse?” And I’m not even trying to compare them to myself, which I could easily do. For example, you want to complain about the heat? Well I happen to live in a tin can and don’t even have enough water to fill up the kiddie pool! But see, that didn’t do any good, did it?

I complain a lot. Papa can tell you all about that, ha! But the things I complain about are usually things most people have to deal with, so I stick to complaining in the safety of my own home and rarely talk about them with other people. Really, what’s the point of complaining that your kid was up all night when your friend’s kid was up all night too? We all know kids wake up at night and often don’t sleep well, so let’s just give each other that knowing smile when we look tired and pick something else to talk about! Sound good?

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(the photos in the post feature the Nina and Pinta replica’s Papa and I visited on our recent date night)

Even though I do complain about certain things in the privacy of my own home, altogether I would say I am generally a “cup half full” type of gal. I look around myself and see so much to be thankful for! I may not have enough filtered water to fill our new blow up pool quite yet, but for nearly the entire day there are nice places to seek shade and breeze to cool off. For every thing I could complain about, I nearly always find some excuse to be happy. And yes, I mean excuse, because I don’t like being unhappy. I don’t like wasting time complaining. The easy way out for me is to find something to be happy about instead.

There are lots of good things about choosing to be happy, about choosing how to respond to things that happen. For one, it makes ones life more pleasant! But it also encourages others. It’s a better use of time – instead of mussing about something you can move on to better things. It gives glory to God because we are choosing to praise Him for His goodness rather than complain and be selfish about why we don’t have it any better.

The funny thing is, there is also a downside to being a mostly “cup half full” person. I hear people say, “oh I’m so jealous of your life!” And while I’m smiling and saying, “you can do it too!” I’m usually thinking, “you have no idea. at all.” While I’m filling you in on details about how well my garden is growing, how my new hens are laying, and about summer adventures we’re having, I’m not telling you about our frustrations. And when I do share about them, I usually gloss over them with a nice thought about how we’re going to fix the mess we’re in.

I thought about listing off some of the difficult things that have been going on around here the past couple of weeks, just to keep it honest. It wouldn’t be the first time. Usually when I get to this point, of feeling unbalanced in keeping things honest here about what our life is really like, I write posts like this where I tell you to think VERY hard before choosing our life, or list a number of things you should know about what living off-grid or being independent really means, as in this post or this, or just cut to the chase and show you pictures of what our life REALLY looks like when I don’t try to keep the nasty stuff out of the photos, as in this case.

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I’m not really sure what good that would do. If I don’t like listening to other people complain, who am I to think you would want to listen to ME complain?

I guess what it comes down to is, life has its ups and downs. Some of them are spectacular. Times when you just want to shout out praises to God for all His blessings. And then there are those other times where you just feel like finding a corner where no one can see you cry. As a mostly “cup half full” person, I don’t feel like I have too many of those hard moments, but sometimes I can feel it building inside me, where I see the goodness and I want to be thankful for it, but darn it, why can’t I just control those hard things?!

This spring and summer I’ve been able to do some really cool stuff. I’ve accomplished a good number of the things I’ve set out to do. I built a trash bin, prepared a brooding coop for next year, sorted through and organized two large piles of crap in the yard, added two raised beds to the vegetable garden, reorganized the herbal garden, and cleaned out all of the scrap metal roofing and most of the scrap wood that were hiding out under the camper. And it’s only July!

I’m very happy about all that, and I have more very achievable goals I anticipate getting accomplished this year, but there is also a certain anxiety growing in me and I find it frustrating. It’s that part of me that just wants to start complaining so I can get it out and let it go. So, contrary to my note about it being pointless, here it is, feel free to skip over it if you don’t want to listen.

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I’m anxious to have a house. I know it won’t solve all our problems, but it will help, and I don’t want to wait much longer. Papa doesn’t either, any more than I do, but he is very limited in his available time to work on it. Probably part of my frustration is actually built on my lack of knowledge about building a house. Papa reminds me that we have a good sized savings for our house set aside, and I say, “I don’t want cash, I want a house!” I don’t understand stages of building a house, and even though I know they go up quickly once you start framing them up, the waiting time before that feels likes aaaaggggggeeeeessssss. Seriously. This is worse than waiting for labor to start. And I should know cause I’ve been there done that a few times!

I am also frustrated for Papa because of that lack of time. He is doing his very hardest to provide well for his family and make a good life for us. He enjoys his job, and does well not bringing it home at night, but when he comes home, he’s usually wiped. And between that, getting Bags On Sticks off the ground, and the weekend get togethers which are frequent in the summer, his time at home is very limited. And it doesn’t help that lately when he is home, he’s busy fixing something else that’s gone and got itself all busted up. Like the truck, the lawn mower, and the water pump. And those were just in the past couple weeks!

I know houses get built, I know garden fences get finished, and rain water collection systems get set up eventually (and quickly when they do), but in the meantime, I am left feeling like I need to do everything I possibly can, to do as much as I possibly can. And it frustrates me that I don’t know how to do all the things that Papa has to do to keep up on the weekends. I wish I knew how to fix a stupid lawn mower so he didn’t have to waste a day doing it. I wish I knew how to frame up a fence so he didn’t have that looming over his head. I wish I knew how to set up and fix pumps, engine leaks, and gray water pipes so when Papa does have time to work at home he isn’t hounded by a long honey-do list and can get busy doing things that would be a real investment into our future.

But I don’t know how to do all those things, and I might never. I’m pretty proud of myself for learning how to use a weed wacker this week, and yet that seems like such a piddly little thing compared to all that remains.

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I know we have our lives ahead of us. That we will have a house in the next few years. That gardening is a never ending hobby which demands flexibility. But sometimes, I just wish there was more time, more energy, and less catching up to do.

So here I am, venting about the stuff I try not to share too often, trusting it won’t discourage you or make you think less of me, and at the same time thankful that there are so many good things going on in my life.

This week we started eating salad made from the fresh lettuce growing in our garden. The pea pods are growing well, and the tomatoes are full of blossoms – so much better than I was expecting at the beginning of this growing season! The garden, where I do spend so much time, is bursting with life, and the mostly weed wacked grass around the boxes emphasize the wellness found inside of them.

We are getting more and more eggs from our young hens every day. Eggs sales are going back up, and will soon be paying for our laundry again!

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The kids are healthy, we’re having fun. Yesterday we visited a famous flower garden. Tomorrow we’re going strawberry picking. Both with friends and family. Each day brings something new to smile about, and I am truly enjoying the life we’re living. But the next time one of you is feeling jealous of us, just be thankful you don’t need to prime the pump every time you need water for baths and dishes!

our beautiful daughter, and the second part of the story of her eyes

Three weeks ago Girlie got her first pair of glasses. Perhaps you think this isn’t a big deal, that many kids get glasses so it can’t be worth talking more about, but the reason behind getting Girlie’s glasses is a little more complicated than just addressing near or farsightedness as is typical for young eyes that are still developing.

Last spring I shared this post, which explained a bit about Girlie’s condition, but because we are taking a leap in a new direction I wanted to fill you in on the details, share more about what I’ve been learning, and about the decisions we’ve made as of late.

A little history first.

Girlie has inttermittent accomodative esotropia, or strabismus, which in layman’s terms means that we periodically see one of Girlie’s eyes become “lazy” and turn inwards. We noticed around her first birthday that she was turning her left eye when she focused on something, though we could see it retrospectively in a few photos of her as far back as nine months.

There are two types of strabismus: genetic and accomodative. At first we thought it was genetic because we noticed it so early in her life, but we know of no one else in our family with strabismus, which is a risk factor for developing it. Then we learned that the accomodative type develops at a young age, usually between 6 and 12 months, as a result of one eye being extremely farsighted. Whatever the cause, the two eyes cannot blend the images they are seeing like most people can, and the brain decides it is far easier to “shut off” one eye than strain both of them trying to see. When Girlie’s brain gets tired, it shuts off her left eye and uses the right eye alone to see.

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Shortly after we realized what was happening, I started doing some research and read reports by doctors that she might outgrow it, but we began using the patch (a once common treatment for strabismus) consistently by 18 months, taking breaks for periods of time due to her strong-willed personality making it a battle of the wills. We continued this method off and on until about age three, with short-lived positive effect. I later learned that the only benefit patching offers is preventing the weaker eye from losing sight, and will not help her to see normally.

I began researching lazy eye again and learned about vision therapy and strabismus in early 2013, when Girlie was four years old. In March, I spoke with on optometrist certified in vision therapy. He counseled me over the phone about Girlie’s condition and what to expect from vision therapy, but was concerned that her age would prevent her from being committed to the daily exercises. I purchased the book, “How to Improve Your Child’s Eyesight Naturally” by Dr. Janet Goodrich, and Girlie and I spent the summer doing the prescribed exercises. Despite the fact that it appeared she achieved fusion during one of the exercises, her commitment waned, and the positive effects were short-lived.

In March this year I gave Girlie a home vision acuity test, which showed her right eye saw about 20/32 and her left eye was worse than 20/40. While wrapping up her homeschool kindergarten school year, assessing her progress and considering materials for next year, it became clear that as her intelligence is normal, it is likely her vision that is preventing her from accomplishing her goals more easily, such as memorizing what letters and numbers look like, even though she can do mental math and say the alphabet.

I started reading up on strabismus again, because I was starting to feel like we needed to take another direction in treating Girlie’s condition more aggressively. Remember that we are not against hiring doctors, using meds, or other medical treatments, but we don’t want to use them until we feel other options have been exhausted, and I honestly was beginning to feel we had reached that point of needing to step up the ladder another rung, so to speak. This time in my research, I learned that because Girlie’s strabismus is not genetic, that glasses can help to correct the farsightedness in her left eye and make it easier for her brain to fuse the two images.

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So I took Girlie to see a local optometrist on June 11th. He prescribed her glasses (OD +1.50, OS +4.00 SPH) and strongly recommended I schedule an evaluation with a pediatric strabismus surgeon who is reported to use vision therapy. He was concerned that glasses won’t help Girlie, but he also admitted that he doesn’t normally work with young children, and he sounded out of his comfort zone in treating her strabismus.

Although the doctor was kind and explained things well, I felt uneasy about our relationship. We do not have a similar philosophy about health and wellness, and I’m not sure he felt until the end of our visit that I was even willing to do what was necessary to help her. Papa and I have talked about this at length. We are concerned that surgery is likely a cosmetic solution only, as fusion success rates following surgery can be as low as 30%, compared to in-office (not at-home) vision therapy success, sitting around 75%. This means that even after surgically strengthening her eye muscles, her brain still would not be using both eyes at once. This is why many people end up having second, third, or more surgeries in an attempt to deal with the strabismus. We don’t want to put Girlie through that! This is in addition to the fact that because her condition is accomodative, studies have shown that surgery is not recommended.

Despite the fact that most kids have their strabismus surgery before age 8, eye muscle surgery can be done at any point in life. It’s not an emergency, so we do not want to be rushed into it, but would rather wait until Girlie can be involved in the decision-making, maybe in ten years, after all other less-invasive methods of achieving fusion have been tried. At some point, Girlie will decide that the way her eyes look matter to her, and that will help her to become committed to strengthening her yes. Already she is asking questions about why her eyes are like this, concerned about how she can make it stop. It is exactly that type of questioning and discomfort which will help her want to do something about it.

Because of all this, we decided (big surprise) not to schedule an evaluation with the surgeon as we were directed to, and have no intention of doing so unless or until an optometrist who shares our philosophy recommends we do so. The research surrounding this issue simply does not back up such a drastic choice.

In the meantime.

When Girlie began wearing her glasses three weeks ago, we immediately noticed a difference in her vision. Although her eyes do cross at times with them on, we can see that when she is focusing it is easier for her to keep them straight. We also notice that her eyes are more likely to move together while watching things move than when she was not wearing glasses. She says her vision is no longer fuzzy. I gave her another acuity test. This time her left eye was seeing shapes on the 20/40 line (whereas before she couldn’t attempt it), and her right eye improved to 20/25.

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So here is our plan. Girlie will continue wearing her glasses, and we will work on home vision therapy games as much as she is willing to participate. If her vision continues to improve with glasses we will not consider surgery, but will update her lenses as necessary until she is 8-10 years old and will participate in in-office vision therapy at that time.

Of course, in order to update her glasses we need to have an optometrist, but the downside to saying no to the surgeon is that the doctor we saw does not feel comfortable continuing to manage Girlie’s case. I have a feeling that if I simply dropped in on another optometrist in 9 or 12 months when her prescription needs adjustment that they will start asking questions as well about why we changed doctors, why we aren’t seeing the surgeon, bla de bla be bla. It was hard enough explaining why we don’t have a pediatrician or haven’t seen an optometrist or opthamologist before now to this last doctor.

So what we are looking for now is an optometrist with vision therapy experience who would be happy to work alongside us, supporting our decisions, as we work to help Girlie achieve fusion permanently. We want to hire a doctor who will check her lense prescription annually or semi-annually without pressuring us to consider surgery, and who can help us with vision therapy once Girlie is committed.

I narrowed it down to three offices. One said they aren’t willing to work with us, another has stopped offering vision therapy, so I’m left with office #3. They were quite a trek though, so I’ve had Girlie’s paperwork faxed to a new office of theirs closer to our home. I’m still waiting to hear back from the doctor about whether or not they are interested in taking on her case. If they aren’t, we’ll have to make the hour and a half trek to office #3’s original location.

In the future.

If these glasses do not work, we would like to consider bifocals, prism glasses, or drops in her right eye, until vision therapy is an option, as those have also been recommended for strabismus.

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Papa just bought a pair of pinhole, or stenopeic, glasses, which he wants to use to correct his slight farsighted vision in one eye, and which Girlie can use for short periods of time to challenge her brain to fuse the two images. While no studies have been done to prove that they work, they have had anecdotal success.

We are also currently looking into chiropractic care; specifically, upper cervical and cranial adjustments, to help promote adequate nerve transmission and make it easier for her brain to fuse images. It is likely we will be scheduling a series of chiropractic treatments by the end of this year, but as everything we do is paid with cash, we have to plan ahead.

Originally, I didn’t think glasses would help her, and a while ago I thought she could do vision therapy at home at a young age. Even though it is possible glasses could have made a difference if she had used them at a younger age to correct her farsightedness, I don’t regret any decisions we’ve made. We’ve done the best we can to learn as much as we can and make the best decisions we can with the information we have. I think we’re on the right track.

Really though, the worst case scenario is that Girlie grows up with a lazy eye. The amazing thing about the human brain is that it adapts, so after the initial clumsiness it caused in her toddler years as she learned to switch to using one eye, she adapted. Or, true to the scientific name for the condition, she accomodated to using one eye. It doesn’t prevent her from functioning normally, and aside from it taking longer for her to recognize letters and numbers (which she is doing better at!) I expect that she would grow up to be a successful person. There are plenty of great folks out there who have learned how to live well despite having vision problems, strabismus or no.

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We will do everything we can to help Girlie learn to see with both eyes, and I hope that as she grows older she will gain the motivation she needs to help herself, but in the end, what matters is that she feels good about herself and her abilities. She will always be our Prettiest Girl in the Whole Kingdom!

herbal medicine #5 of 5 ~ herbal safety and additional resources

Temps have been sitting around 90 the past couple days, and the indoor thermometer read 94 yesterday. Finally, by the time I woke up this morning it had dropped to 76, but was quickly back up to 80 and rising as the sun made it’s appearance. I know it’s a lot hotter in some places, so I am grateful for cool mornings and evenings, but due to the fact that our AC sucks propane down like nothing, we are left with a box fan and cool baths/showers, and the past couple days have been rather difficult.

Difficult in the sense that the mugginess lowers our energy, irritates the mood, and makes it hard to sleep at night. Because of this, I’ve been trying to get up earlier and stay up later to make more use of myself in the cooler parts of the day. And I’ve been staying busy! My shoulders are really bothering me due to that work, and I’ve nearly fallen asleep when Papa lovingly gave me a massage the past two evenings (I think I’m getting spoiled!). So you’ll forgive me that I didn’t get to this post last night when I finally sat down at 9pm.

However! This post is not about the temperature, homestead projects, or even my comfort! This is the last post in my series on herbal medicine.

You can read the first four posts in this series by clicking on each of these posts:

Today I wanted to cover two aspects of herbal medicine: herbal safety and additional resources for making remedies.

As with any other important decision, you cannot base your decisions regarding herbal medicine solely on what I have said in this series or in any other post on AFN. This series may be helpful to you in your personal journey to healthy living, but it is neither a complete source of information on herbs, nor a mandate on how to use them. This series is simply meant to be an encouragement and a help along part of that journey.

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Herbal Safety

The notice of liability I included in the front of the rough draft of my book, which covered both autonomy in decision-making and herbal safety, and also applies to this series, was as follows:

The information in this book is distributed on an “As is” basis. While every precaution has been taken in the preparation of this book, the author and publisher does not accept responsibility for how the information in this book is used. Neither does the author and publisher accept any responsibility for the results of any herbal remedy used as a result of the information contained in this book. The author cannot guarantee that any herbal remedy will resolve a specific ailment; some people do not respond to herbal treatment, and some require specific treatment prescribed by a professional herbalist. If you experience an increase of symptoms after taking an herbal remedy, stop taking it and consider calling your doctor.

The truth is that while I can and have told you when I understand certain herbs should not be used, it is vital that you do additional research on any medicines you consider taking, whether pharmaceutical, herbal, or anything else. Now, I don’t want you to start thinking that I am concerned about herbal use. To the contrary, I believe herbs are one of the safest ways to treat illnesses and injuries, and I will tell everyone I know that I think they should use herbs because I care about their health and believe in the power of herbs. Research that is available on the safety of herbs shows that they have very few negative side effects, most of which only occur when taken in very large doses or when the person using them has allergies to certain plants. A little bit of common sense goes a long way to preventing any side effects from occurring at all.

This is in contrast to pharmaceutical drugs which are laden with potential dangers. Listen closely to any commercial touting the amazing, life-changing effects of a new medicine and you will realize that half the commercial is spent talking about the bad things that could happen to you if you take it. Even OTC drugs we all once thought were safe, like ibuprofen and acetaminophin can cause dangerous side effects. When Chickie had that ear infection I told you about earlier in this series, I gave her one or two doses of children’s ibuprofen daily to help her deal with the pain. It wasn’t until the tail end of her infection that I realized it had temporarily altered her heart rhythm.

Side effects of taking pharmaceutical drugs should never be taken lightly. We can relegate them to the “not likely to happen” category and use them anyway, but they aren’t that rare! Most people taking a prescription medication will end up with at least one or two minor, yet uncomfortable side effect. How many times does a person need one drug and end up taking two or three more to deal the side effects of the first?

Can herbs replace pharmaceuticals? That remains to be seen. Taken in concentrations you can make at home, it is likely that herbs would not be potent enough to treat more serious conditions. However, homeopathics and medicinal-grade essential oils (such as doTerra essential oils), which are based on herbs, have shown great promise in treating series illnesses, including cancer!

For most minor infections and conditions, a healthy lifestyle combined with homemade herbal remedies may be all that is needed to regain health. For more serious illnesses, a naturopathic doctor, or someone trained in homeopathics and essenial oil use may be able to help a person overcome their illness without pharmaceutical medications. I’m not going to write off man-made drugs completely (we do keep some in our medicine cabinet!), but because of the seriousness of accepting risk, I believe in starting with the least-invasive, homemade or local remedies and working your way up the ladder until you find what works.

Another cool thing about herbal safety: herbs are safer than pharmaceuticals in the sense that there is more room for error. What do I mean by this? When you combine pharmaceutical drugs, you have to be very careful, and involve your doctor to ensure safety. Overdose, bad combinations, and dangerous side effects are all too easy to experience.

I have personally known someone who died, where the determined cause was “likely an accidental overdose/wrong combination”. Two others I have known died within days of getting their heart medications changed. Are their deaths due to the medications? Could it simply have been their underlying illnesses that led to their deaths? Who knows. But so many cases like these have happened that I personally have seriously questioned the sanity of relying on these powerful drugs instead of gentle herbs.

Herbs can be combined safely, provided that you take into consideration their effects. For example, if you take a large dose of an herb known to relieve constipation, you may want to limit your intake of other herbs known to do the same thing. Otherwise you may be glued to the toilet for a while. Ugh.

A general rule about using herbs is to start small and simple. Learn your body’s limits. Some people need less or more to get the effect they are looking for. If you don’t get the effect you’re looking for with a smaller dose, increase it gradually until it works, keeping in mind any warnings you’ve read about very large doses. Another thing we’ve found is that if you do not respond to OTC medications, you may need larger doses of herbal medicines to get the effect you’re looking for.

The one exception that I know of about herbal safety is pregnant women. While specific herbs should be taken with caution by those who have allergies or chronic conditions, there are some herbs that should not be taken at all by pregnant women because they can cause contractions strong enough to result in a miscarriage or early birth. There are many herbs completely safe for pregnancy though, so if you are pregnant I would advice you to be open to herbs, but learn about the safety of any herb you consider taking.

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Resources for making herbal remedies

Again, I cannot possibly offer you a complete list of resources for making and using herbal remedies, but here are some helpful starting points.

A few of the books I have used for herbal medicine:

  • The Wise Woman’s Herbal for the Childbearing Years by Susan Weed
  • The Pregnancy Herbal by Jaqulene Harper-Roth
  • The Complete Book of Natural and Medicinal Cures by Prevention Magazine
  • Culpeper’s Complete Herbal by Dr. Nicholas Culpeper
  • Foraging New England by Tom Seymour
  • Edible Wild Plants and Useful Herbs by Jim Meuninck
  • Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health

Another book I would recommend is the Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine by Andrew Chevallier, which features 550 medicinal plants and is used by many as the “go to” for herbal information. I have used additional books, but to be honest, some of them are buried in a box at the bottom of the pile in the shed so I had to do my best to remember what I have used.

A few helpful websites:

  • numanfilm.com (medicinal uses for culinary herbs)
  • learningherbs.com (a family-run website offering herbal kits, free classes, and more to get you started)
  • woodlandherbs.co.uk (basic directions on how to make different types of herbal remedies)
  • moonwiseherbs.com (distance learning classes on herbal medicine)

Reputable companies selling herbal remedies, dried herbs, and/or seeds:

  • Mountain Rose Herbs based in Oregon
  • Avena Botanicals in Maine
  • doTerra, an international company selling medicinal-grade essential oils
  • Hyland’s Homeopathic in California
  • Horizon Herbs, organic growers of medicinal herbs in Oregon

Places I bought my remedy-making supplies:

  • Vodka and extra virgin olive oil have both come from Walmart or Hannaford
  • Beeswax I have either been given by a beekeeper or bought from an eBay store selling organic beeswax. The last time I made a purchase the average price was $1 per ounce
  • Tincture bottles came from Sunburst Bottle, LLC out of California. The last time I made an order I paid .70 cents per bottle plus shipping
  • Salve tubs are condiment containers I bought at Walmart

In closing

Herbs are an amazing gift to us. They allow us to maintain self-reliance, promote sustainability, be kind and gentle to our bodies, be thankful for God’s grace, and avoid the power and money-hungry machine known as Big Pharma. Each person in need of treatment must research their options, get second opinions, and make informed decisions about where to get their treatment from.

Good health begins with taking responsibility. The importance of good food, exercise, fresh air, and good relationships on health (holistic medicine) cannot be underestimated or undervalued. I hope that in your personal journey to healthy living, you will consider making herbal medicine a tool to help you along the way.

the 2014 birthday bash video

Saturday’s collective birthday party was lots of fun! 25 adults, 26 kids, 81 cupcakes, 4 boxes of ice cream, 3 games, too many prizes to count, 25 balloons, 2 tents, and 4 hours of rockabilly picnic madness!

After several hours of work, I squashed 28 minutes worth of coverage into this fun, 6 minute video all about our celebration of life. This year our kids are, or will soon be, ages 8 (Buddy), 6 (Girlie), 4 (Pal), and 2 (Chickie).

Come along and join the fun with us!