Thursday, February 25, 2010

An Organic Getaway

I am going away for the weekend.

I get to spend the night in a hotel. Without kids. This does not happen often. Woo-Hoo!

I am just going to lay around, eat bonbons, watch movies, and do nothing for 48 hours....not! I am going to a conference and every bit of free time that I do have, I have filled with meeting a fellow blogger for dinner and coffee with a veteran homeschool mom who I think is going to be a great, forever friend for me.

Oh the conference, hmmmm, is it a blogging conference? No, but my new blog friend Fawn at Instead of the Dishes and I are going to be talking about one over dinner.

Is it a how to marry a park ranger seminar? Nope, I took the best one, but I can give you tips.

Hint: It is something I am passionate about and I get to wear my cute apron and handle produce. Cooking in Ree's kitchen? Wrongo again.
Yea, I am going to our state's farmers' market conference. I am so excited. I get to talk with other farmers' market folks, farmers, and even chef's. It is going to be a blast.

I know it is cold outside, but get your seed catalog's ready, I will be back with a ton of information for you.

Better go get in shape so I can till the garden!
The Park Wife

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Scenic Drive To Town Brought To You By FEMA

As I drive to town (I sound so rural), I pass something that you probably did not know existed and even if you had heard about it, it is something you have to see to believe. The educator that The Park Wife is, I felt today was the day that you were to be enlightened.

Is this a town where snow birds congregate to play bridge and have square dances? Nope.

A village of like-minded gypsies? Nope

This is what is referred to as a staging ground. Ooooh, I love a stage! Even though I would have been hard pressed to come up with a talent for Miss America. I thought about flaming batons, but after the one singed eyebrow episode and the fact that lighting them would be tricky for me (I would be a horrible arsonist) I rethought my Miss America aspirations.

Anyway, back to the lesson at hand (I get a little off track at times). These are travel trailers and mobile homes that are provided to victims of natural disaster for short term use while they make repairs to their damaged homes or find alternate housing.

There are over 10,000 units being housed on one closed runway and one temporarily suspended runway at our local airport. They really should have let this pilot know that he was going to have to land on a sea of tin cans.

FEMA, i.e. your tax dollars, is paying $30,000 a month, yes a month, for 231 acres (according to the main newspaper in the state) to house the homes here. I sure wish I had a big pasture I could have rented.

Now, I am from the South and know many people who live in modular homes, so don't go and get defensive, I am not knocking the trailer homes themselves, I am just sharing a sight that has to be seen to believe.

However, I am not sure moving these to a tornado ravaged area is the best idea. Seems like asking for a repeat performance. There is data that shows that mobile homes are more vulnerable to tornadoes because they are not securely attached to the earth.

A reassuring point is that if tornadoes are spotted in our area, I will feel a bit safer knowing that it will head toward the airport, aka a tornado magnet, than toward my house.

See the arrow, I pray this is something that never has to be used and that I am not ever a guest here, it is definitely not The Ritz. It is a mobile mortuary. Oh my scenic drive.

I understand the need to be prepared, it just looks a bit wasteful.

Well, to lighten the mood and finish strong here, watch this video of one of my idols, Julia Sugarbaker.

Going to practice my baton twirling,
The Park Wife

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mom Identity Crisis Averted

I went and got my hair cut and colored yesterday. I usually color it myself because, well, I am cheap. But, there are times when you mess something up so bad and you need a little help fixing it. Yea, that happened to me. I won't go into the whole story, but just know it involved bleach and some leopard spots.

So, my nice, trendy hairdresser that I had just met (she saw dollar signs when she looked at my hair) started doing the obligatory salon get to know you routine: Who are you? What's your story? Do you wear animal prints to match the back of your hair?

I started to formulate in my mind "my story" and my heart started beating real fast. WHO AM I??? The Buckaroos were with me so it was obvious that I was a mom and a homeschool mom since Little Buckaroo is old enough to be in school. What should I tell her next? Oh no, I am not going to have a mom crisis, am I? I went through an identity crisis a few years ago where I felt "bored".

I was not bored like nothing to do, I was juggling a husband, kids, house, animals, garden, etc.? It was a different kind of bored, like my creativity was dwindling, that I needed something new and different. I even thought about applying for The Next Food Network Star, but they would not let me use my smoke detector food timer.

I missed, and still do at times, the excitement of working in public relations. The travel, the social aspect, and the accomplishment of completing a job successfully. I identified myself for so long by my job and how well I did my job. And, the fact that society deems that as what is important is why I get antsy when people want to know "who I am".

My heart rate got back to normal pretty quick because I have figured out how to avert the identity crisis, intentional thankfulness. I am so blessed. I have an extraordinary husband and smart, healthy boys, a loving family, and friends that I adore. This is a wonderful season in my life, exactly where I am supposed to be. And, I could not ask for more.

Oh, by the way, right after my trendy hairdresser asked me about myself and I had my whole "oh my, who am I" flash, she said, "wait, aren't you Big Buckaroo's wife? I worked in the park gift shop right before I got married."

With a twinkle in my eye, I said "yes, I am. I am Big Buckaroos wife." And felt completely at ease and proud that that is who I am.

Big Buckaroo's wife,
The Park Wife

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Throw Me Somthing Mister

Happy Mardi Gras!

I grew up in Mississippi and went to college only and hour and a half from New Orleans. Needless to say, it was way too close sometimes (when it came to studying for Statistics and I wanted to run away) and now it is way too far.

Our boys have never been there. All they know of the city is that my college roommate Olga lives there, the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and of course, the triumph of the SAINTS. It was high time they "saw" some of New Orleans that I have experienced. So, last week the boys and I focused our homeschool work on everything New Orleans.

Hold on, don't go there, I did not share the irreverence or debauchery that many associate with the city or in actuality with Mardi Gras, but all the things I think of when I think of NOLA -its rich history, the music, the food, the culture, the architecture. Oh, how I love the plantations and the garden district.

We planned our meals around our studies, with red beans and rice, shrimp po-boys and of course, King Cake. When I went to NOLA for my first Mardi Gras with Olga, her mom sent us to the bakery to pick up a King Cake. I was real confused, why in the world would her mom want a cake with Elvis on it? It was not until we got to the bakery and Olga explained it to me, that I understood it. That is a true story. Plenty of Southern culture, just not any NOLA culture. That was remedied.

We finished our week of studying New Orleans with a Superbowl party at some of our friends home. We had wonderful food, kids had a blast with two great friends and we cheered the Saints to victory.

Four precious boys yelling "throw me something mister!" Yes, they had WhoDat and a Fleur De Lis painted on their faces. So much FUN!

I love the charm of New Orleans. It is a laid back atmosphere where you can just sit back and enjoy, letting your surroundings filter through all your senses. One day I will sit with my boys in Uptown watching the streetcars while eating some crawfish etouffee and listening to some Louis Armstrong or Harry Connick Jr. so they can experience the New Orleans I love.

Laissez les bon temps rouler (Let the good times roll),
The Park Wife

Valentine's and A Child's Heart

Hi moms,
I want to share with you a little Valentine idea I am doing with our two boys. My goal is to each year make a Valentine card and put it away in a box for their future wife. So, on their first Valentine's Day together as a married couple, he can give them to her (yes, I am also an idealistic romantic).

I talk often about how we are teaching our children to guard their hearts, and in the area of girls I want them to find the girl God has picked just for them without much drama or turmoil before that happens.

Our hearts are the control center for our lives. The Buckaroo's behavior (which does reflect their heart) is important to me but not as important as what is going on in their hearts.

I love being in love with Big Buckaroo and I hope and pray that our marriage is an example of a loving, passionate, romantic love that they will find with their spouse one day. I would be so sad to see them in a boring marriage where they just endure and fulfill their obligation. I don't believe that is what marriage is supposed to be. It is hard work, but I love reaping the benefits of that hard work.

Loving my Big Buckaroo on Valentine's Day and everyday,
The Park Wife

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the well-spring of life. Proverbs 4:23

Friday, February 12, 2010

Global Warming- My Toes Are Frozen!

Do you remember that movie from about 5 years ago The Day After Tomorrow? It had Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal in it and the premise was that after years of unabated global warming, the greenhouse effect is wreaking havoc all over the globe in the form of catastrophic hurricanes, tornadoes, tidal waves, floods and, most ominously, the beginning of the next Ice Age.

My toes think that the next Ice Age is upon us. Really, they are frozen, we Southern folks are not accustomed to this.

Quaid played a Paleoclimatologist, I did not know there was such a thing, I am sure he was one of those homeschooled geniuses. I jest, just perpetuating the stereotype. I love causing a ruckus. Anyway, he tries to save the world while also finding and bringing his son to safety who was in New York when the city was overwhelmed by the beginnings of the new big freeze. Once his trek began to find his son, walking.... in the snow... in the freezing cold, I had to pile the blankets on to watch it.

Movies effect me like that, by the end of watching The Fugitive, I felt like I had run a marathon.

Now, I am a Rockwellesque kind of girl, I have talked about that often. I love the idea of a lot of snow falling, a roaring fire, and cuddling on the couch. So, as the snow began to fall yesterday, a Saturday Evening Post cover waiting to happen formed in my mind.

Then reality kicked in. Kids going in and out of the snow 348 times, the mudroom is um, muddy, a ton of extra laundry and I do not have time to sit on the couch by the fire.

Alright, now I know everyone in the Northeast is laughing at this Southern girl complaining about the cold. But, come on I need some sunshine and warmth, we are beach people!

That's it, I am going green. Some people say global warming is a myth, I am not taking any chances, I would not make it if an Ice Age or even a Cold Age happened.

The Park Wife

OH WAIT, there is a glimmer, a little hint that I DO have a Rockwell kind of life. Our church in our wonderful little village surrounded by an extraordinary state park. Sigh, life is back on kilter in my mind.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Food, Inc. - Hungry for Change

It is almost time for our state’s annual farmers' market conference and I am so excited. Last year, we started a farmers’ market in our town and it was a blast. I got to sell our garden extras and bond with people who are like-minded when it comes to growing and eating healthy, nutritious food. It is amazing what you can learn sitting around with a farmer on a Saturday morning. These are some of the most wonderful people I know, they know what is important in life and are not consumed with an over-scheduled, keep up with the Joneses lifestyle.

So, that brings me to my latest recommendation: go rent Food, Inc. TODAY. Really, don’t wait, get on Netflix and put it in your queue or pick it up at your local movie rental store.

After Big Buckaroo and I got married 10 years ago, he started talking about a man named Joel Salitan and his Polyface Farm, a family owned, multi-generational, pasture-based, beyond organic, local-market farm and informational outreach in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. We bought all his books and a video of that he made of his farm and devoured them. So, I had read many books and articles that talked about what is included in this documentary. I also saw this which I blogged about on Oprah a while back that hit on some of the same things. But, watching Food, Inc. will change the way you view those little chicken nuggets you pick up on the way home for your kiddos.

One of the main messages from this film is to educate yourself where your food comes from. It is not as simple as it seems either. The government and giant food companies work very hard so that we have no idea what happened to the food before it got to our plate. Film Producer Robert Kenner did an amazing job at uncovering the veil that has been placed in front of us for so long.

The movie was what I expected it would be: Incredibly thought-provoking, sad, horrifying, very emotional…yet inspiring.

Here are some of the important issues touched on by the film:
Factory Farming: Approximately 10 billion animals (chickens, cattle, hogs, ducks, turkeys, lambs and sheep) are raised and killed in the US annually. Nearly all of them are raised on factory farms under inhumane conditions. These industrial farms are also dangerous for their workers (they frequently get infections), pollute surrounding communities (manure, anyone?), are unsafe to our food system and contribute significantly to global warming.

Pollution: The average food product travels about 1,500 miles to get to your grocery store. Transporting food accounts for 30,800 tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year.

Cloning: In January 2008, the FDA approved the sale of meat and milk from cloned livestock, despite the fact that Congress voted twice in 2007 to delay FDA’s decision on cloned animals until additional safety and economic studies could be completed.

Pesticides: Cancers, autism and neurological disorders are associated with the use of pesticides especially amongst farm workers and their communities.

Genetic Engineering: Some of our most important staple foods have been fundamentally altered, and genetically engineered meat and produce have already invaded our grocery stores and our kitchen pantries. Today, 45% of U.S. corn and 85% of U.S. soybeans are genetically engineered under a government-regulated system. In the 2008 election cycle, the food industry donated $65 million to candidates for federal office.

As consumers, we have the power to influence the market. If there is a demand for organic, sustainable, and plant-based products- the super companies will deliver. Wal-Mart now carries many organic products because there is a demand for it. Don’t be naive, I personally don’t think Wal-Mart cares about me in particular…but it is all about the bottom dollar for these super companies. If we demand it they will produce it.
Remember, farmers' markets are popping up everywhere! What a wonderful way to buy local and fresh, meet the farmer who actually grew the food you will put on your table.

We can harp all we want about Big Food, but until we start teaching ourselves and our children how food grows and where it comes from, we are fighting an uphill battle. Every time you eat, you are voting for the type of food that you want to see on the store shelves.

Have you seen Food Inc.? What were your thoughts? Did it change how you ate or how you viewed the food industry?
Not wanting a Big Mac (ever again),
The Park Wife

Friday, February 5, 2010

We Are Not in Gotham City

A homeschool moment gone awry, or a fly is more accurate.

Set the scene: It is 5:15, I am hurriedly preparing supper since Big Buckaroo will be home from work and hungry. This is right after I hurriedly did my "oh my, daddy will be home in 30 minutes, everyone clean up NOW" routine. Happens daily.

Big Buckaroo enters with a box in his hands. Oh great, a present for moi? I got flowers last week, what could it be this week? Chocolates ? New book? Spa gift certificate?

Park Wife: "Hey honey, what is in the box?"

Big Buckaroo: "a surprise." He is a man of few words.

Park Wife gets a little giddy, it is close to Valentine's Day.

Big Buckaroo: It is something I got for the boys.

Park Wife thinking: oh great, more Hank the Cowdog books.

Then, the box moves a bit.

Park Wife: "Big Buckaroo, did you bring home ANOTHER animal? Do you not remember Tonto the baby pig I had to take care of? Um, not to mention the rabbit, the baby goats, the chickens, shall I go on?"

Big Buckaroo: oh, it is just a bat we found in a tarp at the maintenance shop. I wanted the boys to see it. It was real cold and a bit lethargic.

Bat begins flying around my kitchen!

Big Buckaroo: I guess he got warmed up in the truck on the way home.

Park Wife: "ya think?"

Park Wife is ducking and bobbing while trying to continue dinner...with a bat flying around.

Excited children enter the room (stage right). I just decide to sit on the floor and cover my head at this point risking guano (aka bat poop) getting into my batter

After it flew over me the 52nd time I got up and went and got my camera. No one would believe this, I tell them this kind of stuff happens daily to me, but no one believes me.

He landed on a clock whose battery has been dead for, oh, about 2 years. Yep, that was when I started homeschooling. I just can't get it all done.
Pigs, goats, chickens, farmers' market, community library, homeschooling, clean house (relatively), food on the table, bats. Nope, batteries did not make the list.

See Big Buckaroos look of delight watching it fly around. Littlest Buckaroo, not so much. Watch out boy, they smell fear! Hold onto your daddy, he is really the Caped Crusader, no, more like the Joker.

It was a dark knight,
The Park wife

I apologize for the horrible quality of the pictures, but there was a BAT flying around my kitchen! Oh, and he was put back out into the wild shortly after this debacle.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Transportation Industry Downsizing

Washington can twist words, use their fancy rhetoric, but we are headed for economic disaster. We are in a recession and people are losing their jobs! 85,000 lost jobs in December alone.

And, now I hear talk that China is becoming the dominant superpower.

Scares me and makes me sad because this is our children's future that is at stake.

It really hit home when I saw this while traveling in the north part of our state.

Yes, the transportation industry is hurting too. A dramatic slowdown in consumer demand has been crippling the Nation's trucking firms.

What will happen when the Walmart trucks slow down? Where will you get your milk, eggs, bread? Or, your soap, toilet paper, razor blades?

Did you know that 11,000 Walmart warehouse (Sams) employees were laid off UNEXPECTEDLY a few weeks ago. And, 300 administrative positions at the Arkansas headquarters were laid off yesterday. You know it is scary when Walmart is laying people off.

Now, I know this was just a funny trucker with this on the back of his truck. I did find it hilarious. Then, being a mother of boys, I knew that was a Tonka tractor, yep, made in China.

Praying for our country,
The Park Wife