Monthly Archives: March 2010

Children Save Us

CHAT (Center for Hmong Art and Talent), a local non-profit has one of the best names for an after school program I have ever heard–“Art Saves Us.” I love this name, it feels good just to say it and it smacks of truth. Young people can participate in any number of specified programs ranging from break dancing and rap to writing. During the course they will create their own masterpiece to perform at the end of class.

As adults art still saves us, but I believe it comes in different forms. I am no longer considered youth, some may still consider me young adult but I am steadily moving out of that category as well. Last night I went to my brother-in-laws surprise 30th birthday party. Next year it will be my turn. My sister-in-law who is the same age says that she is just worrying about 29 and isn’t ready for 30 but I am there. I told my mom, “I already accomplished what I wanted to in life so bring on 30.” My mom acted surprised and said, “You already accomplished what you wanted to?” I said, “Well yeah–I’m a mom.”

It may sound simplistic but while I have gone off on occasional tangents this has been my goal. How lucky I am to find my soul mate whose life goal was to be dad. Of course we would love a farm, we would love to continue working to change the world through the local good supply, I would love to write a book, but when all is said and done the children are what saved me. They saved me from myself, from perpetually (and futilly) looking for the next thing that would bring me happiness, whether it was the next purchase or project or honor. I have discovered the more you seek to make yourself happy the more you need to be happy. Simple things are harder to find pleasing.

There is an art of raising children, the art of giving fully of yourself. If you can embrace that everything else in life will have a simple, unsurpassed beauty. Of course there are other ways to learn to give fully of yourself, but few rival the demands of child rearing. I have my soul mate by my side, we have a challenging and fulfilling career together raising 3 (soon to be 4 children) and for me nothing else really matters. Bring on 30!

Gate Keeper of the Home

This weekend has been an emotionally charged one. I grew up in what I believed was an extremely close extended family. We gathered nearly every week after church on Sabbath, or on Friday night for the start of the Sabbath and sit and talk and relax and just enjoy each other. Then about 7 years ago it all fell apart. It is a really long story, complete recovery is no longer possible at least from a human standpoint.

However over the past couple of years a tentative truce had been called and we were at least able to be cordial and spend time together at holidays and birthdays. Last year we all got together at my parent’s house for Christmas, a first since the trouble began.

Then last Thursday it all erupted again. Since then I have been dealing with all sorts of negative emotions–feelings of betrayal and abandonment, regret, frustration, helplessness, fury, loss, deep sadness, confusion, and even hate. It has been exhausting and draining. In addition I have been raising 3 young children, nursing a husband back to health and growing a baby. At times it has felt impossible to move, or get around, or get over the deep pain I feel over what has happened to my family, and it scares me for what it means for my children and immediate family.

Then the Lord gently reminded me, that I do not have to feel these emotions, I do not have to be stuck in them, I can give them to the Lord and move. This is extremely important because I, as mother, am the “Gate Keeper of the Home” to protect my children and family it is my job to keep the negative and evil out and when I let these emotions in my own mind I am not fulfilling my calling.

Above Rubies has a great study guide called, Gate-Keepers of the Home: How to Guard your Home it is a “study manual on the twelve gates of Jerusalem that Nehemiah and the Israelites repaired and relating them to building and guarding the gates of our homes.” The study asserts that in traditional societies while men had their place of leadership outside of the home, women guarded the home, the children and in essense the welfare of the men and the whole culture.

“Just as it was a honor to be chosen to be an elder and sit in the gates of the city, so it is an honorable position to guard the gates of your home. It may not be admirable in the eyes of society, but it is very important in the eyes of God. It is a God-ordained mandate.”

So now I must move on, reclaim my duty and and probably review the study. I don’t know what this means for my extended family, but I know with a certainty that I must focus on my children, raise them for the Lord and trust that the Lord if He so chooses can even redeem this dire situation.

Proeun is Back to Work!

Today is Proeun’s first day back to work after throwing his back out a week ago Saturday. That first weekend was really a scary experience for us as nothing that severe had happened to either one of us. Then of course you feel really vulnerable, like anything could throw your back out. I remember when I broke my leg in High School playing soccer. It was hard to mentally recover from the injury because I just felt so weak for so long after it.

Luckily Proeun is a strong guy and through analyzing what led up to the incident together and with the help of his chiropractor we are working on a plan to heal, strengthen and move on.

As the only healthy adult in the house for the past week it has been difficult to take on extra duties, especially while dealing with morning (all day) sickness. At least it gave me an opportunity to be thankful for my health. One thing that we are trying to do as a family is look for the positive in every situation in this one they include–enhanced appreciation of health, oodles of quality time, practice being a servant for me and the children, knowledge that you are loved no matter what condition you are in for Proeun (and I suppose for me and the children as well since we know daddy would do the same for any of us), appreciation of a good job with lots of sick time.

We need to be really careful for the rest of the year however and save up a bit of that time for the birth coming in October.  I am also thankful for the opportunity to return to a more normal schedule.

Treating the Children to a Movie

We have made a conscious effort to do as much together as a family as possible. This is not always convenient, but it is well worth it. This afternoon I went to a class for our Farmer Training Program on Record Keeping. I brought Mavis with me and Two and Avril stayed with Proeun at home. When we returned home little Mavis at 19 months was so excited to see her siblings. Avril apparently was excited to see Mavis as well. Proeun had called me to warn me the Avril was in a bad mood and asking for me. When I walked in the door with Mavis Mavis immediately went up to Avril with arms wide open. Avril stopped fussing for a while and gave Mavis a big hug.  I have seen this time and again. They are all so used to being together that if any member of the family is missing for even a brief time that person is sorely missed. Being apart is not a common thing in this house.

One sort of down side is that the children often come along to events they would rather miss. I tell myself being together as a family makes it worth it for them (as in the case of the Midwest Organic Conference). But I am not kidding myself that it does ask a lot of a 5 year old, soon to be 4 year old and 1 1/2 year old. So whenever possible we try to treat the children. This lets them know they are appreciated and loved and that we understand we are asking a lot of them.

This weekend “How to Train Your Dragon” came out. We had been watching and waiting for this movie and I knew Two in particular was really excited about the movie–and it was in 3D! So at the spur of the moment we decided to take the children to a movie

complete with popcorn and pop. The movie did set us back a bit financially (by about a tank of gas) but it was worth it to see how excited the children were at this new outing that includes fashionable eyewear.

Unfortunately the interest in the 3D feature wore off about half way through the movie for Avril and a little longer for Two. It was fun to see a movie in  3D but I think next time we may have to opt for a regular presentation just so the children don’t have to stare at a blurry screen if they want to take their glasses off.

Mavis was a little harder to keep occupied, but one good thing about doing things together–even if one person doesn’t care for the activity at least we were together.

St. Paul’s First Birth Center!

Last night, March 25th, I went to the open house of St. Paul’s first free standing birth center. Way back when I was looking for birth options with my 2nd child (after a horrible hospital experience with me first) having a birth center available would have been great. However at that time there were no centers in Minnesota and the nearest one was Menomonie, Wi about an hour and a half from our house. Now there is one right on Grand Ave.

It has a very in home feel. I have always removed my shoes in our home and most homes I visit, unless directed to leave them on by the people I am visiting.

The waiting area even takes into account the needs of the youngest family members showing that the center is really for families.

I talked with Kate Saumweber, midwifery assistant, she said that the center is really for families. The Center services families interested in homebirth as well as a center birth. “The center is often for families looking for an alternative to hospital birth but not ready for a homebirth,” Kate said, “once a woman has had a homebirth she is normally comfortable with that and doesn’t want to get in the car once she starts labor.”

I mentioned the amazing birth rooms (one pictured above), Kate laughingly replied that some woman do like to take little “vacations” at birth time to the rooms.

I have to admit when I saw the rooms I thought, “maybe I should consider this.” I mean look at this tub.

I guess I do fall into the category though of comfortable with homebirths–I have had 2 and am planning my 3rd.

I asked Kate how she got interested in being a midwife, she said, “I was going to school for music. I had no idea that midwives were a possibility. I thought they were just from the Bible. Once I found out about it I knew this was what I wanted to do.” Kate has attended around 100 births in the Twin Cities. Amy Johnson-Grass, main midwife, has attended over 350 births in the Twin Cities and practiced in Seattle for several years before coming here.

I talked with Catherine Burns, a doula and member for the Childbirth Collective. I asked if the Collective was excited about the birth center, “we are really really excited. We want famlies to have the best birth experience possible.” Burns added that the people who run the Menomonie Birth Center will open a 2nd one in St. Louis Park sometime this spring and that Abbott Northwestern Hospital plans to open one called, “My OB Home” across the street from the hospital.

In addition to a birth center also houses a yoga center, Naturally Aligned Family Chiropractic Care with Amber Moravec and Amy Johnson-Grass also practices natureopathic medicine. If you are unfamiliar with natureopathic medicine (as I am) here is a description from their website, “Naturopathic Medicine is not just the use of natural therapies; it is the art and science of individualized health care, going beyond superficial symptoms, and getting to the root cause of the illness or disease. Naturopathic physicians are primary care and specialty physicians who address the underlying cause of disease through effective, individualized natural therapies that integrate the healing powers of body, mind and spirit.”

Here’s a picture of the kid’s bed. For more information about the center go to Health Foundations.

A great pot of beans!

I have always loved beans. I loved the little squash as you bit through the thin skin and the flavor burst into your mouth. Oddly enough what I loved most about beans is exactly the thing my mother detested about beans. Consequently beans very rarely graced our family table–thank God for church potlucks!

As an adult I began experimenting with beans. Adding canned beans to dishes like chili and trying to make my own black bean soup. Then I discovered dried beans. My early attempts were not very good, pretty bland but adding them to dishes it was OK.

When I was pregnant with Two I craved black beans, tortillas and root beer. I continued to try and perfect my bean recipe.

Last year we farmed with a wonderful and inspiring woman named Paula. She started a farm as a 2nd career and decided to focus her farm on heirloom beans. Learn more about her farm at Encore Farm. I had never considered growing dried beans before but she encouraged me to give it a try. We did and grew Tiger Eye heirloom beans purchased from Seed Savers. For our first try it turned out pretty good.

This time around with my pregnancy I am craving bean buritoes ala Chipotle. However we could easily grow broke doing that so instead I make a big pot of beans and today we will have homemade buritoes. Here’s a picture of our beans getting ready for the pot.

I like to cook my beans in the crock pot. I had bad luck with burning my beans on the stove top–i always seemed to forget them during the 1 1/2 -3 hour cook time. So instead I put them in a crock pot, add a extra cup of water (or 2 from what the recipe calls for) and cook on high overnight. Do not add salt until the beans are finished cooking as this can make them hard.

I have also found a great recipe for beans from The Seven Secrets Cookbook available from Country Life. I have adjusted it somewhat to fit my taste.

Cuban Black Beans

2 1/2 cups dried beans
7 cups water
1/2 cup diced green or red peppers
1 cup chopped onions
2 Tbsp yeast flakes
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp Chicken-Like Seasoning
1 tsp onion powder
3/4 tsp garlick powder
3/4 tsp sweet basil

3/4 tsp salt added after cooking

Put all ingredients except salt and cook on high overnight. When cooked add salt. Great in burritoes, taco salads, or over rice.

Ecotheology and God’s nonhuman creations

I am a Seventh Day Adventist Christian, born and raised in the church but it wasn’t until having my own children that I had my own real conversion experience. Since becoming a Christian it is often hard for me to see the inconsistencies in the church especially when other non Christian groups seem to grasp the truth of behaving like Christ more then Christians do. Two areas have really bothered me–how children and family are viewed in the church and how the environment is viewed.

I was overjoyed to receive this weeks copy of my denominations national magazing yesterday. Here’s the cover.

In the cover story article Sigve Tonstad of Loma Linda University calls Adventists and other Christians to “mercy.” “We have to hear the plea of nonhuman creation, be sensitive to the abuse that is happening,” Tonstad says. He goes on to say that he believes there are humane was to produce and consusme meat,”the issue is not so much that the animal has to die, but that is hasn’t had a chance to live a normal life in any way.” Tonstad uses frequently the term “ecotheology” which I love. 

When we got the mail yesterday I was so excited to show Proeun. It was the first positive sign I have seen that the Adventist church has an interest in the environment and our negative effects on it. I plan to write a letter to the editor in appreciation of the article. To read the whole article go to, What Are We Really Doing to God’s Creatures?

Julie and Julia The Movie

I love food. That is why I farm and cook and do so much in my life. I love any kind of food. a couple weeks ago our local church school hosted an international food festival. The parents of the students make the food and sell it. This is one fund raiser I try never to miss. This year the offerings included African flat bread, Guatelman tamales, Vietnamese spring rolls, Korean eggrolls, Hmong fried noodles, potato pancakes and much more. I was enjoying my finds when another church member asked me what kind of food I would cook at home. I looked at my plate and realized I have and do cook recipes from each of these regions on a regular basis. I happen to love new and interesting flavors.

Proeun injured his back this Saturday and has been home ever since. After 2 days he was in need of some alternative entertainment. Off to the library I went to select movies. While there I decided I wanted one for myslef–Julie and Julia. When we first saw a preview for this movie Proeun said, “who would want to watch that?” I enthusiastically said, “I would!” It has everything– food, history, cooking, travel, writing, food.

Since Proeun is still laid up (we are going to venture out this evening) he was my captive audience. But in the end he saw the beauty in it, of pursuing something passionately, and eating well along the way. While we may be pursuing a different passion the end result is amazing food. Even Julia Child knew the importance of fresh food. There is a scene in the movie where she goes to the markets and says something to the effect that she finds shopping for food more fun then shopping for a dress.

When I journeyed to Paris in my college days I remember going to the markets and just wishing and praying for a kitchen I could rent or something. I didn’t know then that someday I would be a farmer growing my own food.

If food is also your passion or a passion, Julie and Julia is a great way to spend an evening. You might be like me and seriously think about trying some French cooking.

Whole Farm Planning

This weekend we had another training session through the Minnesota Food Association. Two representatives from the The Land Stewardship Project Farm Beginnings Program came to speak to us about Whole Farm Planning. Honestly I wasn’t too sure about the class. Proeun and I have been planning and dreaming for years now and I didn’t really think that we needed the class. However there is something to be said about being with like minded people. Over 12 farmers gathered together–ranging from young people wanting to return to the land, to older retired couples that are looking for the peace hard, physical labor brings. All of the farmers, except me were immigrants.

I wish I had brought my camera. There was so much brainstorming and creative juices flowing. We started out talking about why we farm. For me the answer was easy, “for our children.” Other answers were for healthy lifestyle, peace and my favorite answer from a young man named Tou “For me farming is an art–it’s more art then work.” Of course we all know that farming is work but different then the mentally draining work so many of us engage in. Art fulfills us, gives something back to us. In this way farming definitely fits the bill.

Nick from LSP said, “If you only plan for this year you will never move ahead.” So our main task was planning where you want to be in 5 years and then identifying the steps to get there–most importantly the next step. We were all given big sheets of paper and markers to draw our “dream farm in 5 years.” it was great getting it all down on paper, dreaming and color always helps. Another Tou in our class included a paintball field, ceramic house and the children he hopes to have in 5 years. He defintely taught me a few things about dreaming outside the box.

Even if you don’t want to farm, knowing where you want to be in 5 years and the steps to get there is really valuable. Recently we asked some friends of ours where they wanted to be in 5 years. They are the same age as us but just shrugged their shoulders and said, “I don’t know I guess still working.” Dreaming really set you free. Think about your “Whole Life Plan.” What do you want to change, what don’t you want to change and how will yiou make your life what you want it to be.

Spring Rolls

On the weekend we like to treat ourselves to special meals. This doesn’t mean extravagent but more something we don’t have time to cook during the week, a dish we want to make sure we have time to enjoy or a dish that Proeun especially likes to make.

Spring Rolls are a really popular treat at many Asian stores. They are also a really great and fun way to get your veggies and not very difficult to make. The trick is working with the wraps. For these wraps purchase rice paper wraps. The come dried and stiff as a board in a flat round container about 1/2 inch thick. To rehydrate these just put them one sheet at a time in a bowl of warm water. I discovered last night when all my other bowls were used that an 8 inch round cake pan works perfectly. When they feel soft and supple they are ready to roll.

For noodles we use soba noodles (Japanese buckwheat noodles) rather then traditional rice noodles. A restaurant down town Saint Paul introduced us to this and it adds a nice complex layer. Also chop lettuce, grate carrot and juliene cucumber (as we did this weekend) or add herbs, cilantro, green onion and mint are really nice. For meat sometimes deep fried tofu is added, steamed or barbequed chicken or pork and shrimp. You want all the ingredients to me room temperature or cold though–not hot. 

To wrap lay the softened rice paper out on a plate with a dish towel on it to soak up extra water. Take a very small handful of cooked noodles (try pinching between fingers and thumbs) and place a little lower then the center. Layer on the veggies, then fold over each side and begin rolling away from you. Sometimes they rip but you will develop the right touch.

Serve with Hoisin (Chinses barbeque sauce) and chopped peanuts. A lighter sauce of boiling together vinegar, sugar and garlic is also traditional.

I was surprised at how much Two liked these, he kept asking me to roll more and even asked for one with “just the veggies.”