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10 Days of Real Food Day 3

I wanted to announce the first day of my Real Food Pledge adventure, however, I have been so busy I barely have the time I need to actually plan, prepare, and eat real food.  I literally have worked until 8 or 9 every work night for the past three weeks, and I am exhausted.  The only reason I have time to blog today is because my body crashed and I am home sick today.

So, here is an update of how things are going with my 10 Day Real Food Challenge

I picked Sept 21 as a start date because I needed to pick a stretch of 10 days that did not include some sort of celebration that required cake.  Bean’s birthday is the 17th and mine will be the 1st of October, so this 10 day period worked in that respect.  I also wanted a time that was after the big audit but before our trip to Cincinnati.  So, Tuesday was the big day.  I arrived at school with a large bag full of provisions so as not to have to resort to m&m’s, pizza, or diet coke in weak moments.

Here are the rules again:  I can eat:  whole foods, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy products that are not sweetened artificially or with sugar, nuts, seeds, healthy meats preferably those without growth hormones that are locally raised.   I can have beer or wine within limits and can use sweeteners found in nature like maple syrup, honey, and agave nectar if used sparingly.  I cannot have:  anything processed or refined like sugar, flours, rice, no sweeteners that are refined: including white sugar and cane juice, no artificial sweeteners like Splenda, Equal, Sweet n’ Low, etc…  Nothing out of a box, can, or bag that has more than 5 ingredients [allowable ingredients only], and also no deep fried or breaded foods.

This pretty much eliminates most of what I would normally eat on a daily basis.  A normal day for me starts out pretty healthfully with cereal of some sort or toast with coffee and half and half and one sugar with a half a sweet n’ low.  It only goes downhill from there.  By lunch I am famished and I usually have a diet coke with something marginally healthy, but by mid afternoon I am craving sugar and I usually cave to something chocolate like m&m’s or hershey kisses.  Dinner is generally on the run and that means eating out a lot which means heading further south nutritionally.  If my day has been really stressful, I will soothe myself with something sweet after dinner.  The mainstays of my diet are, therefore, white flour, preservatives, processed foods, non foods, artificial flavors and sweeteners, sugar, and unhealthy fats.

Day One of the challenge was pretty easy, actually.  I had some agave nectar in my coffee, which is really actually pretty good and you don’t need a whole lot of it.  I fixed some long cooking oatmeal and sprinkled on a tiny bit of Zero, which is a natural non caloric sugar alcohol, and a pat of real butter :).  Jason stopped by at lunch and ate most of what I had for lunch with me and seemed to enjoy it immensely.  We had sliced cucumbers and cherry tomatoes with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, oregano, and salt and pepper.  We also had a few triscuits [whole wheat/one of the few crackers allowed along with whole wheat matzo] and some muenster cheese and a kiwi.  After lunch I had an apple and some popcorn for snack.  At a later meeting, I had a Lara bar for snack [they are allowable if they have 5 ingredients or less and this one had dates, walnuts, apples, cinnamon, and raisins].  Later that night I stopped by Whole Foods and found a couple of prepared foods made with allowable ingredients:  pulled pork, brown rice, and greens.

The most surprising thing about the first day was that is was really pretty painless and I felt really good and not very hungry.  It is truly amazing, but when you get refined sugars out of your system, you are not jonesing for food any longer.  I actually have felt some hunger pains in the past few days, which I don’t usually get to feel because I am eating crap constantly, but they are undeniably different in that they are hunger pains but I am not crazy for food.  Normally, I don’t feel actual pains but I am irrationally craving stuff to eat when I am not even hungry.  So, what is pretty awesome is that when you take away the refined sugars, you can eat to live and not live to eat, so to speak, without the typical compulsions that do you in.

Since I had made a trip to Whole Foods and found some really good 5 ingredient whole wheat bread from the Ninth Street Bakery the night before, I started day two with toast, butter, and whole fruit wild blueberry spread.  This was the best tasting thing I have had since my love affair with toast in the UP this summer.  I had my agave coffee and was good for the morning.  Lunchtime, I had the cukes and tomatoes again but this time added some sliced sweet onion.  Then I had a big bowl of strawberries and sliced kiwi with pieces of muenster cheese on the side [yum].  Later, when our meeting for staff development began, I was still hungry, so I had a piece of the whole wheat bread folded over with some organic hummus.  It was just okay.  The new development for day two and that by 2 pm on day two, I was feeling like hell.  I was tired and just feeling off like I might be trying to come down with something.  It’s hard to describe that feeling, but you know it:  I call it feeling squirrelly and really it is just feeling really tired and hot or cold or both with a dash of nausea or dizziness thrown in.  I went home and decompressed briefly with a bowl of watermelon before heading back out to do a two hour training with a family in their home that would last until at least 8pm.  After leaving there, I was pretty darn hungry, but it was late, and I had nothing planned, so I was at a total loss and having a weak moment where I could have caved in to something completely inappropriate, and pretty much did.  I wanted to go and get a cooked chicken from Food Lion but I was literally too tired to motivate through the grocery store, so I went to KFC and bought grilled chicken for Alex and I.  I took the skin off a breast and ate it when I got home with some frozen peas that I cooked in the microwave.  I later took a peek on the website at the ingredients for grilled chicken which would seemingly be not much more than chicken, and thank God I removed the skin before I ate it, because KFC’s grilled chicken has 22 ingredients.  Nope, I am not kidding.  Here they are:

KFC® Grilled Chicken

of Turmeric, Dehydrated Carrot, Onion Powder, and Not More Than 2% Each of Calcium Silicate and Silicon Dioxide Added As Anticaking Agents ExtractivesYeast Extract,  AutolyzedFresh Chicken Marinated With Salt, Sodium Phosphate, and Monosodium Glutamate. Seasoned With: Maltodextrin, Salt, Bleached Wheat Flour, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oil, Monosodium Glutamate, Spice, Palm Oil, Natural Flavor, Garlic Powder, Soy Sauce (Soybean, Wheat, Salt), Chicken Fat, Chicken Broth,

But that is nothing compared to the more than 100 ingredients in the Chicken Pot Pie [no, I did not eat this] that they serve which appears to be so far from real food that it deserves a spot next to the Twinkle in the Awful Not Really Foods Hall of Fame.  Here they are [yes, you can get this on their website]:

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Stock, Carrots, Potatoes (With Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate To Protect Color), Peas, Heavy Cream, Modified Food Starch, Contains 2% Or Less Of Wheat Flour, Salt, Chicken Fat, Dried Dairy Blend (Whey, Calcium Caseinate), Butter (Cream, Salt), Natural Chicken Flavor With Other Natural Flavors (Salt, Natural Flavoring, Maltodextrin, Milk Solids, Nonfat Dry Milk, Chicken Fat, Beef Extract, Ascorbic Acid [To Help Protect Flavor]), Monosodium Glutamate, Liquid Margarine (Vegetable Oil Blend [Liquid Soybean, Hydrogenated Cottonseed, Hydrogenated Soybean], Water, Vegetable Mono And Diglycerides, Beta Carotene [Color]), Roasted Garlic Juice Flavor (Garlic Juice, Salt, Natural Flavors), Gelatin, Roasted Onion Juice Flavor (Onion Juice, Salt, Natural Flavors), Chicken Pot Pie Flavor (Hydrolyzed Corn, Soy And Wheat Gluten Protein, Salt, Vegetable Stock [Carrot, Onion, Celery], Maltodextrin, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Flavors, Dextrose, Chicken Broth), Chicken Stock, Sugar, Mono and Diglycerides With Citric Acid to Protect Flavor, Spice, Seasoning (Soybean Oil, Oleoresin Turmeric, Spice Extractives), Parsley, Citric Acid, Caramel Color, Yellow 5. Enriched Flour Bleached (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil, Water, Nonfat Milk, Maltodextrin, Salt, Dextrose, Sugar, Whey, Natural Flavor, Butter, Citric Acid, Dough Conditioner, L-Cysteine Hydrochloride, Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Benzoate (Preservatives), Colored With Yellow 5 & Red 40. Fresh Chicken Marinated With: Salt, Sodium Phosphate and Monosodium Glutamate. Breaded With: Wheat Flour, Salt, Spices, Monosodium Glutamate, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate), Garlic Powder, Natural Flavorings, Citric Acid, Maltodextrin, Sugar, Corn Syrup Solids, With Not More Than 2% Calcium Silicate Added as an Anti Caking Agent OR Fresh Chicken Marinated With: Salt, Sodium Phosphate and Monosodium Glutamate. Breaded With: Wheat Flour, Salt, Spices, Monosodium Glutamate, Corn Starch, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate), Garlic Powder, Modified Corn Starch, Spice Extractives, Citric Acid, and 2% Calcium Silicate added as Anticaking Agent OR Fresh Chicken Marinated With: Salt, Sodium Phosphate and Monosodium Glutamate. Breaded With: Wheat Flour, Sodium Chloride and Anti-caking Agent (Tricalcium Phosphate), Nonfat Milk, Egg Whites, Colonel’s Secret Original Recipe Seasoning OR Potato Starch, Sodium Phosphate, Salt, Breaded With: Wheat Flour, Sodium Chloride and Anti-caking agent (Tricalcium Phosphate), Nonfat Milk, Egg Whites, Colonel’s Secret Original Recipe Seasoning OR Potato Starch, Sodium Phosphate, Salt, Breaded With: Wheat Flour, Salt, Spices, Monosodium Glutamate, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate), Garlic Powder, Natural Flavorings, Citric Acid, Maltodextrin, Sugar, Corn Syrup Solids, With Not More Than 2% Calcium Silicate Added as an Anti Caking Agent OR Potato Starch, Sodium Phosphate, Salt, Breaded With: Wheat Flour, Salt, Spices, Monosodium Glutamate, Corn Starch, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate), Garlic Powder, Modified Corn Starch, Spice Extractives, Citric Acid, and 2% Calcium Silicate Added As Anticaking Agent OR

Set in Vegetable oil. Breadingof Annatto.  Extractivesof Turmeric and  ExtractivesDry Milk, Onion Powder, Dextrose,  NonfatWith: Wheat Flour, Wheat Gluten, Salt, Dried Egg Whites, Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate), Monosodium Glutamate, Spice and Onion Powder. Breaded With: Wheat Flour, Salt, Soy Flour, Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate), Monosodium Glutamate, Spice,  PredustedPhosphate), Salt, Dextrose, Monosodium Glutamate, Spice and Onion Powder.  Monocalcium, Onion Powder), Soy Protein Concentrate, Rice Starch and Sodium Phosphates. Battered With: Water, Wheat Flour, Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate, ExtractivesSeasoning (Salt, Monosodium Glutamate, Garlic Powder, Spice

Contains Egg, Milk, Wheat and Soy.

*Will contain one of the Ingredient statements above, depending upon regional suppliers

As soon as I ate dinner, I was so exhausted, literally unusually exhausted, that I headed to bed and was asleep before 10 -which is very atypical for me.

Another issue, is that since I am limited to water, milk, or natural fruit juices for regular beverages, and I am not really drinking the milk or juice, I have had only water the last couple of days and not enough of it.  I don’t particularly love water and I am not a big drinker anyhow, so I think I could be slightly dehydrated.

So, this brings us to Day 3 where I woke up feeling more than squirrelly and sick on my stomach and awful and I called in sick.  Jason came by and I told him and he thinks I am detoxing.  He attributes my sickness to the radical change in my diet, the increase in the fiber, and the decrease in the fluff– that my body is going ‘wtf’ what is she feeding me?  So, it is almost 11 am, and this morning I have had whole wheat toast with blueberry spread which is still divine and a cup of hot tea with honey, and I am still nauseous but I am sitting up and typing and my breakfast seems to be staying with me.

So, you might be thinking, wow, this diet has just made her sick!  But there are already benefits and here they are:

  • I have lost more than 3 lbs in 2 days [I know, Bean, it is probably water]
  • My skin looks better [face]
  • my eyes are brighter
  • I am not hungry

Those are the only benefits I can think of right now when my thinking is clouded by feeling not up to par, but I feel positive they will increase daily.

I wanna do it!

100 days of eating right

If you click on the link above, you will find an article I stumbled across this evening detailing one family’s quest to make it 100 days eating only whole unprocessed foods with absolutely no exceptions.  This means that their children cannot have a twizzler or a tootsie pop, they cannot have birthday cake and ice cream at parties, there is no fast food, pop tarts, or sugary cereals.  They do not eat anything with processed white flour, which would be my biggest challenge, and they only eat meats and dairy without hormones and fruit and vegetables that are organically grown and harvested.  Lisa Leake had to re-learn how to shop and cook [and get her family on board] and she blogs about this at:

100 days of read food or

I am so interested in this, I don’t think I can even finish writing my blog because I want to go finish reading her blog.  She and her family were on day 61 I think at the time the article was written, so they are still at it, but Lisa and family insist that if they can do this for 100 days, any of us junk food junkies can do it for 10 days.  I am seriously considering taking them up on this challenge.

So far they are:

  • spending more money, but feeling better
  • needing less sleep
  • craving less junk
  • losing inches and weight

I have so many reasons I want to do this, including but not limited to feeling better, losing inches and weight, aging more gracefully, and because I have thyroid and could be pre-diabetic.  So, all I have to do now is get ready and plan a start date.  Can I do this?  Could I even begin to bring my junk food loving teenaged son along?  Stay tuned.

String Theory

So, I stumbled upon an article recently that insinuated that the theory of gravity is incorrect, misunderstood… that gravity is really an illusion… a side effect of some other phenomenon.  This radical and arcane concept/proposal was conceived by really deep guy named Erik Verlinde, a professor of physics at the University of Amsterdam.  He is a string theorist.  To tell you the truth, this is what got my attention.  I wanted to know just what a “string theorist” was, so of course, I ‘googled’ it and in the process, stumbled upon a collection of short videos generated by a contest at Discover Magazine that attempt to explain string theory in 2 minutes or less.  Here is the winning entry.  If you can stand the computer-generated feminine voice, it’s an enlightening video.

I also liked this one made by an enterprising family of, I am guessing, sort of fun intellectuals– if this is any indication of an example of a daily conversation starting point.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not a scientist.  I do have a natural curiosity about the world and pretty much everything in it, but everything I know about quantum physics, I learned from reading books by Gary Zukav and Deepak Chopra that lured me in with their self-help, relationship, meaning of life, personal journey focus. So, independently researching string theory is pretty much a stretch for me.

I am not completely sure what so intrigues me about this subject beyond my initial reaction to the beauty in the simplicity of the words themselves:  string theory.  I do remember having conversations, though, with my youngest child who will sometimes engage me in conversations about the true number of dimensions in the world and his perspective on the dichotomy between religion and science.

Ultimately, I guess that one of the main reasons I am so intrigued is that I don’t believe that religion and science are mutually exclusive and because string theory and its exploration of other dimensions that we cannot yet fathom could bridge the gap between the two.  In fact, I can see that bridge when I imagine the concept of string theory.  At the most basic level, both religion and string theory require faith in things you cannot see and that cannot be proven.  And, that’s good enough for me, right now.

Home movies, Christmas letters, & facebook

Listening to a recent episode of This American Life on my ipod the other weekend, I heard an episode titled ‘Home Movies.’  Ira Glass astutely pointed out that home movies tend to catch glimpses of families at their best during times of joy and celebration or recreation and relaxation.  We don’t tend to take, keep, or catalog home movies of horrible family arguments, Grandpa’s drunken binges, family funerals, or other equally painful events.  He noted that if beings from another galaxy were to study us given only our home movies, they would likely conclude that we humans are a pretty laid back, carefree lot who spend lots of time playing– either around a decorated tree indoors or in or near a body of water outdoors wearing little clothing.

Listening to this episode, my thoughts drifted to other such misleading snapshots in our lives, especially those we share through two other venues:  the annual Christmas letter and everyone’s new favorite pastime:  facebook.

I have not written a Christmas letter in the last couple of years, the couple before that they have been quite short.  Prior to that, before my life imploded in 2004, I did take part in this painful ritual.  Painful, that is, to many of the readers of these yearly missives, especially if the writer is a braggart or writes in Faulknerian run- on sentences that cease to make sense midway through the holiday greeting.  Like so many others, I wrote of our joys and our successes and mentioned nothing of our failures.  I wrote of summer vacations, to Disney and Universal Studios, a summer trip to NYC, Jason’s athletic endeavors and academic awards, and Alex’s burgeoning art talent.  I wrote of my graduate school work and Kenney’s promotions.  In these letters, I announced the purchase of our new home, the prize-winning vegetables from our garden, the birth of our children and how they were blossoming each year.  Nothing can compare to the letters my mother writes where she highlights she and Jim’s big trip for the year and includes photos of the Canadian Rockies, Alaska, Italy, England, or Germany, and then proceeds to tell of the accomplishments that year of each of her three girls and her now eleven grandchildren.

This letter became a huge challenge, however, the year my life was turned upside down and shaken out like the contents of a messy handbag.  I remember several years ago, writing a ‘real’ Christmas letter that mentioned my youngest son’s increasing anger, the holes he was placing into the walls with his balled up fist, our nasty, horrible divorce, my ex-husband’s descent into drugs after quitting a six-figure job when faced with an executive intervention.  This letter detailed all the new psychotropic drugs we now purchased and that I had to take a second job to keep up; so now I was neglecting my children just to pay for their psychiatric care.  I never sent this letter, of course, but writing it gave me a perverse pleasure and allowed me to see just how silly the sugar-coated Christmas letter really is, and how painful a really lofty one is to read for someone who is presently walking through hell.

As to facebook, that playground where voyeurs and narcissists connect, just one look at the statuses provides evidence toward this comparison.  We create profiles that capture the best of who we are.  We include only the good photos of ourselves, and if we are under 20, they are most often self-taken at arm’s length or in the mirror of a bathroom.  If we are over 40, we don’t want the camera to magnify our new laugh lines or age spots, so we include photos taken from a slightly greater distance. The college-aged FB user shares updates of parties and adventures.  The newest facebook devotees, the 25-60 crowd share snapshots and status updates about current or upcoming vacations, children’s accomplishments, the incredible cake just created for a lavish party, all the holiday gifts piled round the tree, the new car, and even perhaps, what we had for lunch or the movie we are about to see.  I must admit I am part of this group.  I don’t share minutia, but I certainly log in almost daily to see who is [which I guess makes me one of the voyeurs].

Some fb friends are giving us glimpses of the real them; especially friends who are out doing good in the world, battling cancer, or sharing the nitty-gritty in their lives with freshness and honestly that puts it all into perspective.  My hat is off to them.

But, I have sometimes wondered what it would be like if we shared statuses that reflected the darker or baser sides of our lives or personalities.  If a user was to suddenly begin sharing his envy over his neighbor’s new pool, how excessive shopping led to a recent car repossession, a spouse’s suspected affair, or details about gambling debt or porn addiction.  I doubt I would want to stay tuned in.  I might want to turn off this friend and his problems like I turn off the nightly news when it just gets too bad to watch any longer.

I like finding long lost friends from high school and seeing how great they look and how well they are doing.  I like that facebook allows me to socialize with a whole lot of people I would not normally socialize with.  I keep in mind, however, that what I am seeing is a carefully crafted version of who these people are– that only gives me a few limited facets of their multi-faceted life.  I’m okay with that.

After listening to the episode ‘Home Movies’ on This American Life, I headed out to the back yard to play with my teenaged chickens.  I was shortly joined by Jason, Alex, Jenn, and Cam.  We did not film this moment, but it was one of those times that I would have liked to have captured on film or video.  A family laughing and talking on a bright, clear, early summer Saturday morning– enjoying the warmth of the sun on our faces, the soothing sounds made by the chickens, and the soft feel of the feathers in our hands as we held them.  The beauty of this moment did not escape me.  I was warmed by its simple joy.  We made a memory that morning, and I can imagine my children remembering it– perhaps one day a very long time from now after I am gone– where in laughter and conversation one of them might exclaim, ‘remember when Mom went through her chicken phase?’

So, keep taking snapshots and video of those moments of joy.  They are important because they remind us of the greatest pleasure in life– spending time with people who we love.  And those times, those joy-filled moments, make all of the hard times that we don’t want to capture and save, bearable.  They give us hope.


My mother was visiting over the weekend and Saturday Jason, Alex, myself, and Mom sat on the deck and had hot dogs and fries from The Dog House.  Saturday was clear and crisp in the morning and by midday things were heating up, but the warmth was nice and not too oppressive with the promise of summer in the gentle breezes ruffling the leaves on the tall pin oaks around the house.

Mom had somehow got onto the subject of summers at her Grandmother Cox’s house in Caldwell Ohio and I was intrigued by stories of an old woman who lived close by named Lonie [like in macaroni].  My mom and her cousins called her ‘crazy Lonie’ but undoubtedly she made a lasting impression because Mom still remembers and relates stories about her.

Sometimes I don’t really listen to my mom when she talks because she talks so much and so I often tune out and on this particular occasion, I tuned back in to hear her say she got into trouble for smashing eggs in Lonie’s apron pockets and laughing as she ate meatloaf that had soaked in dish soap.  So, I asked her to go back and elaborate on these stories and here is what she told us.

Lonie was old– according to Mom– really really old.  She always wore drab dresses covered with an apron, a bonnet, and dark shoes.  Lonie showed up at Grandma Cox’s house on wash days religiously– I think she said that was Fridays– and she brought along her Papa’s clothing to wash.  The only thing was, her Papa had long since been dead.  She would wash and iron and carefully fold these clothes each week and then bring them back  the next week to wash and prepare again.

Lonie was over 90 years old and apparently she was lonely, because she often showed up on the Cox family farm– on wash days, at supper or dessert time, or just any time would do.  She lived not far down the road, but she did sometimes walk to town and when she took to the road, she walked the stripe in the middle slowly and methodically like she was walking a beam.  When a car would come by, she would pause and turn her head to follow their car, glaring at them as if they had interrupted her walk or invaded her space along the middle of the road.

My mom was called “Jo” and she was the namesake of Nancy Jo who she called “Aunt Jo.”  Nancy Jo was my Grandfather’s youngest sister and only 6 years or so older than my mom; so at the time of this event, Aunt Jo would have been a teen of about 16 and my mom, Jo, would have been only about ten years old.  Evidently, the elder Jo tended to get the little Jo into a lot of trouble, because my mom would listen to Aunt Jo and do the bad things she told her to do.

Lonie had come up for wash day and had her apron over her house dress when the two Jo’s saw her take chicken eggs and put them into her apron pocket.  Aunt Jo said to little Jo, “look at her stealing those eggs.  You should go fall into her and smash them in her pockets.”  And little Jo did just that.  She walked up to Lonie, fell into her apron, and smashed the eggs.  This landed her a spanking and a stern lecture from Grandma Cox who said, “do you think I didn’t see her take those eggs.. if she took them she must need them more than we do… don’t you ever let me see you do something like that again.”

Another time, Lonie had come along after supper time and the family had finished a large meatloaf [or several meat loaves].  My grandfather was one of 22 children and by the time my mom would visit only the youngest few lived at home, but there were still lots of mouths to feed and Grandma Cox was used to cooking large.  The meatloaf pans were stuck up with a layer of crusty meatloaf and crumbles where it had burned some along the bottom and was needing a good soak before washing.  The two Jo’s had put it on the table with a shallow layer of soapy water to soak off the burned meatloaf.  Lonie walked up to that table and began picking pieces of the crumbles and crust from the water in the pan and eating them.  The two Jo’s stood nearby doubling over in laughter at the old woman.  When Grandma asked what they were laughing at, little Jo said…”Lonie was eating the meatloaf that was sitting in the soapy water.”  Grandma said, “then why didn’t you stop her?”  Little Jo replied, “because Aunt Jo told me not to.”  Well little Jo got another spanking, and these were the only two that Grandma Cox ever gave her.  Both of them came from making fun of Lonie.

After hearing these stories I was thinking I wish I had known Lonie.  I would have liked to find out why she was washing her dead Papa’s clothes.  I would have liked to ask her questions like “did you ever fall in love “or “are there things about your life you would change?”  I would have also asked her to tell me about her childhood, since she would have been a child just after the Civil War.

As a child, when my mom was visiting the farm, it was the 1950’s, and Alex said he wished he lived then.  We asked him why and he said because he thought things were simpler and purer then.  I said, “well, they didn’t have WOW,” and he went back inside to play some more WOW 🙂

May 12, 1992

Today, my youngest child turns 18 years old.  Legally, he will be an adult.  In fact, at his oral surgeon appointment this week since the day was so close, they made him sign all the consent forms as well as me.  Emotionally, he is far from being an adult and still has pivotal roads to choose and travel.

I remember so clearly the very first moment that I looked into his dark eyes.  He had the most powerful and concentrated stare from birth.  He seemed so serious and seemed to study me so intensely.  He was a force to be reckoned with from birth. The very first night home, he cried nearly the entire night.  I was breastfeeding, so if I did not have him at the breast it seemed he was crying.  He could definitely make his needs be known, and he seemed angry to be a helpless babe.  The crying began to subside as soon as he developed some control over his world and could sit up and interact with smiles and babbling.  He was a beautiful baby and by 5 months had a head full of soft, blond, angel hair.  

With those big brown eyes  that twinkled with mischief and that mop of white blond hair, we did not stand a chance.  He was rotten from toddlerhood.  He made us laugh constantly with his antics and his personality.  If you could fall from it, through it, or in it, he did.  If you could climb it, he would climb it as skillfully as a little monkey and we so we often called him ‘monkey.’  Eventually he became little Al to both Kenney and I and neither of us was very good at resisting his powerful charms.

With Alex, it was either all good or all bad.  He was either having the best moment of his life or the very worst.  He could throw a fit to rival the very best tantrum throwers I have ever seen.  We were not used to this at all.  His older brother, Jason, from birth was soft-hearted, golden, and sweet.  He was easy to please, easy to raise, a joy to parent.  Alex was the challenge that was thrown our way.  He took our world and shook it upside down.  But, we are all the richer for having him in our lives.  These brothers have always had much to teach one another and will continue to complement one another and lend lessons to the other as they navigate manhood.

I am a so grateful to be a mother– to have two sons who are healthy, well, funny, intelligent, and gifted in so many ways.  And so to my Mother’s Day baby, Alexander Scott, I wish you the happiest of birthdays and I pray that your life will be rich and full and that your journey will always be interesting and satisfying.

I love you.

1 & 2 Day Old Chicks

Today is Thursday, May 6th, and the last two days we have just been basking in the warm joy of 16 fluffy chicks to watch and hold and marvel over.  On Wednesday morning we transferred all sixteen to the brooder.  Both Sophia and Tammy were very surprised to find that the brooder is a large blue plastic crate with some wire pulled across the top, some newspaper in the bottom, and a water and food bowl.  I think they were expecting some official sort of brooder… Cathy was like .. I have a brooder at my house too if that is what a brooder is ;).

Seeing the chicks for the first time all fluffed out and in the bottom of the brooder was such a thrill.  They are so colorful and already have personalities.  We immediately began to name certain chicks.  Uno was what I called the firstborn gray Bantam, and Beyonce earned her name because when she was born she had a big backside that caused her to fall over.  Moe immediately named one after himself that he found captivating– one of the chipmunk looking chicks.  We named the another one marked like that with softer lines, Mocha.  Melissa is a black chick with a red head.  Of course Mumble is our special chick.

It is completely appropriate that we ended up with at least one special chick.  As we were trying to hand feed Mumble the first time and talking about his ‘disability,’ Moe Moe commented; “we can get a check for that one.”  We lost it completely.  These kids are so funny.  Today right before lunch Mumble began to make this high-pitched plaintive chirp that got my attention.  I wondered if he was just beginning to have some hunger pains, so we held him over the table on a paper towel and began to feed him and offer him water with a plastic spoon.  His bottom beak is exposed and like a narrow bowl and when you drop some mash into it he can rake it into his mouth with his long tongue.  He lapped up the food and the water until he was full enough to stop all that loud peeping.  We fed him several times more today, but we are trying to teach him how to do this himself.  He is not going to be able to peck at his food.  He will basically need to use his beak as a shovel and then use his tongue to get it the rest of the way into his gullet.  He seems to have an easier time getting water.  Our other school nurse, Lindsay, fed him a couple of times today but she gets so sad over him.  He doesn’t make me sad.  I just hope he can learn to eat in a way that will allow him to thrive.  

Our room has frequent visitors in and out all day long.  Everyone wants to see and hold the chicks.  The regular education kids are hilarious as well with their comments and questions.  One girl this afternoon asked me if they were ‘going to get to be big chickens?’  I am really not sure what she even meant by that.  Half of them want to take one home and keep it in their bedroom.  I remind them that in less than 5 months they will be great big hens and roosters and much less adorable.  In fact, I just kept marveling yesterday that they were the cutest they were ever going to be.  Today you can already see some feathers emerging on the wings and they seem bigger in one short day.

Birth Day

I was too tired to blog yesterday since I stayed at school until midnight the night before birthing babies. By the time I got home last night there were 16 chicks and that is the final total out of 23 eggs.  That is a 70% return and I am over the top excited, surprised, grateful for that number.  They are such a beautiful, diverse, little flock and we even got a special chick in the bunch.  But, let’s go back so I can get all this in.

Yesterday, when I arrived to school, three more chicks had been born in the night bringing the total of chicks to 5 at 7:30 am on May 4th.  At about 8 am we had another birth and by midday we had 9 chicks.  Our classroom was like a zoo with people coming and going all day to see the chicks being born.  Students could not stay in their seats and went back and forth all day to the incubator to watch for new hatchings.

The chick pips a single hole in the shell and then breathes air for the first time. After resting and acclimatizing, the chick will begin to use the egg tooth to zip open the egg in a circular fashion then they begin to stretch and kick.  Eventually, the egg begins to move and roll back and forth as the chick rocks its way out.  Finally, near the end of this process in a matter of moments the chick makes a few final big moves and slips from the shell.  After this, the wet and tired chick will sort of lie in a heap until it regains enough energy to try its legs at walking.

Each time a baby chick was born we would remove the eggshell from the incubator and sometimes it had a bit of afterbirth in it.  During one birth mid-afternoon, a chick was born who had its yolk sac still attached to its umbilicus and there was some blood.   The sac is supposed to be sucked up into the chick through the umbilicus right before hatching and this is what sustains the chick during the first two days of life.  This little bloody chick was freaking me and Sophia out enough, but on top of that the other chicks were pecking at the sac like they were eating it and so I ran for the school nurse [who is also our chicken expert and the egg donor]. She picked it up and sort of detached the sac gently and we put the little bloody chick into a paper towel lined plastic container so that it was separated from the others.  I was really worried about this chick, but he was right as rain by this morning and joined the others.  I actually knew he was okay when he stopped bleeding, fluffed up, and was trying to jump out of the cup and join his siblings.

I came back to school after supper and a couple more chicks had been born, when I noticed that one of the chicks had a deformed beak– the bottom of the beak points one direction and the top beak points in another direction entirely.  I quickly googled this condition and found that it is a caused by a genetic fault and chicks born like this are commonly called crossbeaks.  The color of this chick is unique as well.  He has a dark underfluff with yellow on top of that so that it makes him look sort of evergreen or green-gray sometimes.  In the morning, Ms Burton recalled the chick that was different in Happy Feet named Mumble and so we named him Mumble.  I stayed at school that night [Tuesday] until 11:30 witnessing what turned out to be the last chick birth.

late night chicken update

This just in:  2 chicks born before midnight on May 3rd…

I am just getting home from school for the umpteenth time today and it is 2 minutes until midnight.  When I arrived at school this morning, I had every intention of removing the turning mechanism and putting in some wet paper towels to get ready for the hatching which was due on Wednesday!!  However, when I looked into the incubator I was surprised to find the chicks were already pipping.  I think that is correct phrasing… the chicks pip not the eggs.  I believe the chicks pip the eggs.  Anyhow, there were 8 or 9 eggs with pipped holes in them and I could hear peeping and chirping.  Well, I immediately sprang to life and action getting the warm water and paper towels and rallying the children like we were going to actually birth some babies.  All this excitement gradually gave way to anxious waiting as the day went on.  I was busy googling whenever I could trying to make sure our chicks had not pipped and died. I discovered that after pipping, they typically rest for 3 to 8 hours since the actual breaking of the initial hole in the egg is so incredibly exhausting.  So, I guess during the school day, we were observing the rest phase.  Sophia did not want to get on her bus and I did not want to leave after school.  The peeping was getting louder and some of the eggs were beginning to move, so I just stayed at school until 7:30 or so.  About 7 pm I was able to film the first chick hatching, which was absolutely awe-inspiring.  I was mesmerized and delighted.  I came back to school at 8:30 and then again at 11 and then again at 11:30 and when I came back at 11 another chick was born.  I have been trying to upload a video to this page for the last 15 minutes and no luck.  I will try tomorrow since I am too tired to reason.

Chick Update

So, if I am not mistaken, it is day 17 of chick gestation and things seem to be going well.  The temperature has gone a little sketchy only a couple of times [last weekend being one of those] and the humidity has been sometimes difficult to keep above 55%, but the proof will be in the pudding and we should be serving that up on Wednesday of this week!!!!!  Cinco de Mayo is their scheduled B-day, so I have lots to do this week to get ready.  I need to:

  • buy some baby chick feed
  • create some sort of brooder
  • create a water station they won’t drown themselves in
  • get a light set up that won’t cook them
  • order their coop

When we go back to school on Monday , we will need to begin steadily raising the humidity, because everything I have read says it needs to be high for them to hatch.  On Monday or Tuesday we will need to take out the egg turning mechanism and replace it with lots of wet paper towels in case they hatch during the night.  Once they begin hatching, we have to leave them alone until they all hatch.  We can’t help them, because it is part of their developmental process to get out of that egg.  They can stay in the incubator after hatching for up to 48 hours with no introduction of food or water, but they won’t need to stay that long.  I will be taking pictures, so that is something else I need to do this weekend:  charge my camera battery.

I am clearly more excited than most of my students, but that is okay… this is more than a lesson, it is one of those things I have always wanted to do :).

We candled the eggs with a flashlight and a cone of cardboard in the supply closet about a week ago, but it is an inexact science at best.   We could see a big blob in about 50-60% of them, and some we weren’t so sure what we were seeing, but in one we actually could see a heartbeat and the outline of the chick [which is actually scary to me since maybe we should have been seeing that in all of them and maybe only a handful or, God forbid, one is developing].  Since we are dealing with four different kinds of chicken eggs with differing shell opacity, weight, and color, it definitely affects how much you can see.  Our flashlight also left a lot to be desired in brightness and focus, so it was not as definitive an exercise as I had anticipated.

This photo is lifted from the Internet as we did not take pictures of our candling.  I am not sure what kind of light this is, but if we had put our eggs onto the flashlight we had, we would not have seen this.  We had to go into a completely dark supply closet one or two students at a time and check one or two eggs at a time until we did all 23.

I am hoping we get at least 12 chicks out of this, that is my goal, but I would be happy to witness just one hatching.  It is all a learning experience, and anticipation, like always, is half the fun.