Thursday, October 19, 2017

Gluten Free Sourdough

WARNING: This bread is a work in progress. 

I  have the best childhood memories of homemade bread. Even better was the homemade sourdough cinnamon rolls! I would "help" my mom mix, kneed, and of course, served as quality control. It reminds me of Christmas and family and FROSTING.

I hit my early 20's and found out I was a Celiac. *SOB* No more amazing bread.

It has been my mission for years to figure out how to do a good sourdough bread that is gluten free and doesn't taste like sand/cardboard/icky things. Then I heard about a study out of Italy and it renewed my interest in figuring this out, more on this in a moment!

A long time ago, bread made this way wasn't considered anything special, it was just...bread. The woman of the house would feed a starter, remove some and mix with salt and flour and water, let it raise for a day or longer, then bake. Repeat daily. Bread took TIME, and science now tells us that it was actually better for us!

Commercial breads, even ones labeled "sourdough" are no longer made this way. It takes too much time and work, they use a powdered yeast and add vinegar or another acid to make it "sour". When bread is left for a "long rise" the yeasts break down the gluten and make easy for out bodies to digest. Think yogurt, its kinda the same thing. Grains are hard on our bellies (even non-celiacs) and sourdough makes them good for you!

Back to the Italy study. Researchers found a bunch of celiacs, broke them into 3 groups and gave group one "normal" bread, group two a lightly soured bread, and group three a long rise version of sourdough. Several out of group one didn't last the whole month long study, my belly hurts just thinking about it. Group two fared a little better. The best news? Group three showed no effect from the bread, the gluten was broken down and changed enough their bodies didn't react.

So back to the drawing board. Round one, I went with gluten free grains, but in the future I am going to try REAL WHEAT!

First you must start with a sourdough starter. I have some I am happy to share! It is my moms, started with potato flakes, sugar, yeast, and water.  Let me know if you want some!

Here is some help

I make 3 loaves at a time, because it is kind of a pain and I would rather make my kitchen a mess only once a week. And this bread freezes well.

Sourdough GF Bread
  1. Feed your starter. Let set for 12 hours. Remove the portion you need (mine calls for 1 Cup) 
  2. Make your dough. I fed my starter in the morning, made the dough that evening. See recipe below.
  3.  Raise dough in your bowl overnight in a warm, damp place. I put mine on "proof" in the oven with a bowl of water next to it and wet towel over the top.
  4. Punch down dough the next morning. Toss it back in your mixer and add 1/2 c. warm water mixed with 1 tablespoon quick rise yeast. Mix very well (2+ minutes)
  5. Place dough in 3 bread pans. Let rise until doubled, mine took a bit over an hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 425 with a bowl of water in the oven. When bread is risen, put in oven. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes then drop the temp to 350 for another 20-30.
  7. Bread is done when it is brown and has a hollow "thump".


Bread Recipe
6 c. flour (2 c. tapioca starch, 2 c. oat, 1 c. brown rice, 1 c. garbanzo flour)
1 1/2 c. boiling water
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. good oil (think olive or coconut)
1 t. salt
1 c. starter
1/2 T. xanthan

Later: Proof
1/2 c. hot water
1 T. quick rise yeast
dash of sugar

In your stand mixer, add 2 cups of tapioca starch. Turn on low and slowly pour in boiling water. As it mixes it should be stringy and gummy. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix very well. Let rise overnight (or 12 hours). Toss back into mixer with proofed yeast and mix well. Shape and place into pans. Rise. Bake. Butter. Enjoy!


Like I have said, this is a work in progress. This batch turned out very tasty, but I am really excited to try making a REAL and WHEAT bread. REAL sourdough doesn't use packaged yeast, but my GF flour needs the help. 

If anyone tries it, let me know how it works!

Average

Can I tell you a secret? Well, its only kinda a secret to those who know me.

I am a half-ass homeschooler.

This isn't because half-ass is what I am aiming for, its just that we all seem to like to do other things MORE. Things like going to the pumpkin patch or Littleton Historic Farm, things like the museum and the zoo, even things like going for a walk with my 90+ year old grandmother.


We are aiming for EPIC childhood with a passable education.

Every state is different, and here in Colorado, we are required to do testing or teacher review every other year starting in grade 3. I am not against accountability, I think testing gives us so idea of where the gaps lay in our children knowledge.

Testing makes me crazy nervous.

See, I am ok with our kids learning what they need to know when they need to know it. I also know that much of the knowledge my children posses is not that kind they test for; things like what chickens eat, how to care for foster kittens, the colors to mix to get the perfect shade of brown for the pony, how to make gluten free cookies...

This year we did testing for all the kids, even though it isn't required for all of them. Despite the fact that my children have never taken that style of test (all on a computer) they seemed to manage ok (except for Jamison, who broke down in tears because he had never used a mouse)

Know what? My kids all tested within grade level, totally average.

I am stoked. Maybe not all parents hear "average" and get excited, but I think average is perfectly fine for the amount of effort we put into actually school stuff. I know that test doesn't tell me how kind, helpful, grace-filled, curious, enthusiastic, and loving my children are. It doesn't measure how good of friend they are, how good they are at art and music, and it doesn't measure compassion. At the end of the day, I am much more concerned with raising well rounded humans than I am on raising children who do well at a test where someone else decided what is important.

Of course, you can be all of the above AND really good at school tests. Maybe I will end up raising a kid like that too. At the end of the day, I am really very happy with average.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

School Day BLUES


Image result for mr popper's penguins book

Most days we spend about 4 hours total doing school-ish stuff. Each kid has a notebook of core subjects (math, reading, writing, language arts, science, geography) and we read Story of the World with cookies at bed time for our history. We also watch all kinds of documentary's and shows like Cupcake Wars and Good Eats. School days start around 10 (because mornings suck) and there is usually not too much kvetching.

Until there is. Griping, that is. It starts small, building over the weeks until I hate calling them all to the table for school because I know bad attitudes are coming along.

It usually takes a week or two of this before I remember that one of the reasons we homeschool our kids and so we can enjoy learning together. When that stops happening it is usually because I have managed to suck ALL the fun out of learning and made home school look way to much like "real school". I can be a little slow on the uptake.

We were in the grumpy phase of school last week and it was time for a change. This week we did a unit study on the book Mr Poppers Penguins. It was awesome. We had fun together, we learned, we enjoyed a great story, and it was everything I started homeschooling for in the first place!

We read how the Popper family was short on money for groceries and used the adds to make menus, adding up the cost for a day, week and year of food. We practiced writing letters to people like Mr. Popper did to Admiral Drake. We each chose a different type of penguin to become experts on and figured out what kind of penguin was in the book. We used maps to find out where penguins live, what they eat and how they nest. We wrote newspaper articles about the Popper family, asking who, what, when, where and why questions. We used venn diagrams to see how all they types of penguins were alike. We took a field trip to the museum to see the penguin dioramas. We read countless penguin books and did a ton of penguin crafts!

This week reminded me why I love to homeschool my kids. Its fun! It also reminded me that a big part of parenting is figuring out when something STOPS working and being flexible enough to make a change. Maybe I will remember quicker next time learning has stopped being fun.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What is love?

"Baby, don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more..."

Maybe the rest of the world doesn't think in song lyrics, but I do.



Valentines Day. The haters call it the "Halmark Holiday" and while I am usually the first to be skeptical about all the things, this is a holiday I enjoy. Actually, I believe we should have MORE days that focus on love and making other people feel special.

My kids love Valentines day. Maybe it it the cherry coffee cake cut into heart shapes (a tradition I have continued from my mother) or the little boxes of chocolates or the little gifts from grandparents. It could be the party at school and the extra games and treats. But I chose to believe its more than that.

My kids are good at loving. Most kids are. Us adults have all these ideas about the "right" way to love someone, about the "correct" path to romance. Kids just like to love. My kiddos have been creating handmade Valentines for their family and friends for the past several weeks. My oldest wrote something she loved about each of us, along with a picture she thought we would enjoy, in each card. On Valentines day we delivered homemade cookies and card to friends and neighbors, with a special focus on those who might feel extra alone.

I got my love spicy almonds and dark chocolate and spent the day texting him poorly written, naughty poetry. He spent a bunch of time making me a book with pictures and things he loved about me. We ate an amazing dinner as a family, even Grandma joined in.

I love love. I love reasons to celebrate people I love. I learn (daily sometimes!) from my children on how to love better, richer, and more authentically.  They are never shy to ask to be snuggled, or to say they need kisses and hugs. They are willing to be the first to love, embracing the vulnerability it takes to toss your heart at someone elses feet and hope for the best. When I grow up, I want to be like that. I want to be brave in my love, I want to be willing to ask for love and give it with no strings attached.

So here is to the haters, I won't wish you a happy valentines day, I will only say that I hope you took the time to truly love somebody and be loved in return.


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Mama Fail

I have anxiety about homeschooling. I have been told by public school parents it isn't any less stressful to send a kid to school that to school them yourself and I have to agree. We all wonder "am I doing enough" or "is my kid really learning what they need to know?".

Some day, most even, I feel like we are doing pretty good. My kids all learn differently and are good at different thing and we do our best to encourage them to take on hard tasks with integrity even if they will never be the very best.

Sometimes I am pretty sure I suck at all the things, schooling my children included.

This is a story of a big, fat fail.

Addilyn has always been a reluctant reader. Learning to read takes focus, which comes hard for her. It also takes attention to detail (n is a different letter than m) which isn't her strong suit. She has performed at grade level-ish, but has no love for reading, which KILLS me. This year she has struggled. As a 3ed grader, she is beyond "reader" style books and firmly in the chapter book camp. It hasn't gone well.

The other day, after frustration and tears on both our parts, I sat down for a pow-wow and trouble shoot session with the hubby. We came to 2 conclusions: the first is Addilyn had to up her game and stop doing half-ass work and the second was that we needed to go back to basics and figure out what the kid had missed that kept her from progressing.

The next day we told Addilyn our plan of attack, she was on board and promised to work hard. We started with sight words flash cards. We did the kindergarten ones, the first grade ones, the second grade ones....

To my great surprise, she didn't struggle with a one. She knew them all, most without sounding out, and the ones that stumped her she decoded. I asked her why she did so well on the flash cards but struggled with the book we were reading.

Her, "The cards are EASY, I can see them"

Me, "...you can't SEE the words in the books?!"

Her, "No, the words are small in the chapter books and the letters look alike"

FACE. PALM.

Off to the eye doctor, who confirmed the child needed reading glasses. Off to the "therapist" (some people call it the liquor store) for the crappy mama who didn't realize that the kid didn't have a READING problem, she had a SEEING problem. Oy vey.

We now have some catching up to do. Not being able to see her work has lead to lousy handwriting and an even lousy-er attitude about reading. At least now she can see the flipin' words.







Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Square Peg dreams



Ahhh the American Dream! Keeping up with those Jones', the house in suburbia, 1.5 children, the job with benefits and a retirement account....

And maybe a bit of "rat race" and consumerism thrown in there for good measure.

It might be my issues with authority and conformity, or maybe the base lies in my general disdain for doing what is expected of me, but the above doesn't seem to hold the pull for me that is expected.

So, we homeschool our kids, and any career I might have is pretty much on hold. We have chickens and ducks in the back yard. We have a rotating cast of furry critters that we foster. We place creativity over information regurgitation. We spend our money more on activities ( Zoo pass! Museum Pass! Piano Lessons!) than stuff. My kids have no idea that the Nick/Disney tween programs even exist let alone do they care to watch them. We are not exactly fashion forward. My children are decidedly themselves, and maybe a little quirky, and most likely very square pegs. And thats fine with me.

On Matt and my bucket list was building a "Skoolie". This is a old school bus turned into a camper that would allow us to travel and explore, taking advantage of the fact that Matt can do his job anywhere and school is flexible. Through the course of conversation, we have decided that there is no time like the present. Might as well add another punch to the Quirky card.




Through all the research I have done ( and if you know me at all, you know that there is a lot!) I have discovered that we are really not so odd after all. There are all kinds of families who consider themselves "Fulltimers". They have sold all the crap that they owned (and owned them!) and chosen a life that is sustainable with a smaller income giving more space for things that matter, like time with family, adventure and learning new things.

Now that is commitment!

We are not quite to the "sell all our crap" stage, but we are in line with the thinking that we don't just want to be a family who life happens to. I don't want my kids to think that a bigger, fancier home leads to more happiness. I want to do adventure as a family way of life. I want them to understand that learning isn't a school thing, but a life journey. I have such respect for families who make the choice to go all in.

Don't be surprised that if in the next 24 months you see pictures of an airstream/school bus that we are building out. Its ok to think we are a little crazy, we don't mind, and you won't be the first or last.




Monday, December 14, 2015

Cookie Marketing





I am generally not too swayed by marketing. Cynical by nature, I see through the bull easily....and yet...

Pinterest is of the devil. It is brain-washing at its finest. I see pictures of families doing "fun" things and I think

"OH MY GOSH!! What a great idea! My kids would love to make hand-prints/use sensory bins/make Christmas cookies!"

I forget, that in reality, nothing actually looks like Pinterest. This is truth, sisters. I know. I have been sucked in to the deep, dark marketing hole that is that stupid site which I love. And I do it again and again and again. My innate cynicism about all things seems to fail when it comes to ideas from Pinterest.

My most recent stumble? Decorating Christmas cookies with small children. This is what I was promised:




Mom is so happy! The mess is neatly contained! The kids are enjoying themselves! WHAT A GREAT IDEA!! And don't even get me started on all the adorable cookie pictures of snowmen, Santa, gingerbread people, the delish frosted tress and wreaths. I relive wonderful cookie decorating memories of my childhood, what a delight to pass on such a fun tradition!

I tell the kids "we are making cookies!!" they are thrilled. "See, Pinterest TOTALLY comes through", I think to myself while dodging 4 short people in an attempt to organize ingredients. Kid #3 asks to crack the eggs and only drops half of one shell in the dough. Kid #4 decides to add just a touch more flour while mixer is going and dusts everything within a 10 foot radius in fine, white powder.

No problem! We are making memories!!

Flour swept up, egg shell retrieved, dough is ready to roll out. Each kid insists they will "help" with the rolling, taking turns, counting rolls, while I hold back my desire to edit. I mean, no biggie that half the dough is still 2 inches thick and the other has been smooshed into a transparent, sticky film. We can adjust it later.

Now the dough just needs to chill...for 2 hours.

Want to know the LONGEST way to spend 2 hours? Waiting for dough to chill with 4 children asking every 30 seconds if it is ready yet. Understandable, they are just so excited! "This is a good thing", I tell myself, as I set the oven timer for kids to watch. Cue 4 small children watching a timer count down...

Dough is ready and each child is given a bit to make there own cookies while I adjust the thickness to cookie level. Kid #1 meticulously rolls out dough. No one on the face of this planet has EVER taken more time to roll dough flat. Kid #2 promptly sticks her elbow in the middle of her sisters dough, causing eldest child to approach unhinged. Dough fixed, relationship repaired as kid 4 has massaged, flattened and abused his dough into a sticky paste that is now covering his hands. And face. And counter where he was working, despite the waxed paper. And the dough has taken on a suspicious gray color...I don't even want to know why. Pinterest must have left out the picture of the man-handled gray cookie dough rolled by 3 year olds.

Cookies are cut and baked (except the odd gray dough...it was tossed while #4 wasn't looking) And now the cookies must cool before we decorate. We prepare the stations: waxed paper, bowls of frosting, shakers of sprinkles! Yay! We could TOTALLY be a Pinterest family.

Each child chooses 5 cookies to decorate. But sister #1 took the cookie sister #3 wanted, so negotiation ensues. I might be raising at least one lawyer...and not the good kind...the kind you see on day time TV ads. Everyone is set...let the frosting begin!

Oh...my....GOD

Sister #1 is the worlds SLOWEST cookie decorator and would still be at it but she ran out of frosting. After perfecting a tree, she shows sister #2 who excitedly gestures with a frosting covered knife, promptly knocking the tree-cookie-masterpiece to the wall where it smears green frosting. Knife flinging sister also manages to get frosting in her hair.

Kid #4 alternates between smudging cookies with frosting, licking off the dripping cookies, and seeing how much colored sugar he can manage to stick to said saliva covered cookie. I make a mental note to NOT share these with friends...or anyone but him. Do you know what color green and red frosting make when mixed? A kind of poop brown. I now have 5 poop colored cookies that have been pre-licked.

Sister #3 knocks the colored sugar to the floor, and, when bending to retrieve it, manages to pull the keep-things-neat place-mat of waxed paper to the floor too. 5 cookies have now spent time on the floor among copious amount of sugar, chocolate chips, frosting drips, and various decorations.

I pour a glass of wine...for Christmas cheer of course. Are there really NO clumsy children on Pinterest?! Apparently not, because they all live at my house.

Sister #2 thinks sister #3 is using all the white, while sister #3 declares loudly that she is not the boss, kid #4 eats spoonfuls of white frosting. Sister #1 comments that my cookies are prettier than hers and proceeds to start pouting. Kids #4 has moved from frosting consumption to eating straight colored sugar.

I start wondering if it is too early to drink some festive whisky laced eggnog...you know...for Christmas Cheer.

Discuss with eldest that I have a few more years of cookie decorating under my belt than she has. Remove kid #4 from table as he shoves a handful of Chocolate chips into his mouth. He vibrates with sugar-high energy.

Daughters #1-3 finish the holiday cookie decorating. Green frosting is chiseled off the wall. Hair is washed free from rouge red frosting attack. All clothing worn is tossed in the laundry. I mutter curses to Pinterest pictures who have set crazy standards I will never hit.

That evening before bed, while enjoying freshly decorated cookies and hot coco we discuss our favorite parts of the day. Without fail, every kid remembers the cookie decorating fondly. HOW THE HELL IS THAT POSSIBLE? Were we not decorating cookies at the same house? Or maybe it is just me who missed the "Christmas Magic", after all, we listened to Christmas music, hung out with family, ate copious amounts of sugar, and...maybe made some Pinterest worthy memories after all.





Saturday, December 12, 2015

Gluten Free Sugar Cookies

I have made some really crappy cookies in my life. Though this sounds a bit like it might be a metaphor (might have to explore that angle later...) in this case I am TRULY talking about cookies. For real.

I have been on a quest to make a good loaf of GF Sourdough and a good batch of sugar cut-out cookies. While the sourdough experiments have most recently ended with me uttering obscenities and tossing out very sketchy looking starter after making a multiple batches of rolls that could double as weapons, my cookie quest is now at an end for different reasons.

Friends, loved ones, blog followers....I HAVE NAILED IT. I made cookies that not only have a dough that is easy to work with, but stay soft baked, hold their shape when made into cut-outs, and taste delish. Also, this is a respectable size batch of cookies, so you won't spend 18 hours frosting the little friggin' snow men that your children insisted on cutting out. This batch makes about 2 dozen, give or take.

HA! Suck that, stupid celiac disease!!

Because I am a sharing person (and I don't want to have to share the ACTUAL cookies...I'm not that sharing) I will bless you all with the recipe. Your welcome. Now go and make copious amount of cookies to decorate.

Gluten Free Cut-Out Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 t. vanilla flavor
1 t. almond flavor (not required, but tasty, trust me on this)
2 eggs
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
1 1/3 c. rice/GF oat flour
1 1/3 c. starch (tapioca is best, but potato or corn will work)
1/3 c. coconut flour
1 1/2 t. xanthan gum

Mix all dry ingredients in bowl and set aside. Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Add flavorings. With mixer on low add the dry ingredients. When all incorporated, scoop out onto a piece of waxed paper sprinkled with starch. Dough will be thick, heavy and a bit sticky. With slightly damp hands, pat flat, or roll out if it doesn't stick to badly to your rolling pin. Cool in fridge, on waxed paper (or, in my case, in the garage) until dough is very stiff. At least an hour, maybe a bit more. After dough is stiff and cold, use the rolling pin to get it to 1/4 inch thick and cut with cookie cutters. Place on cookie sheets and bake 8-10 minutes. Cookies should look dry on top, but not hardly any brown if you want them soft. Cool on sheets for 10 minutes until moving them to cooling rack. Cool all the way before decorating.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Joy in Learning



I am an ADD homeschooler. Maybe all homeschoolers are a little bit. We have the unique ability to ebb and flow with the needs and space our family is in. In my best moments, I am organized but flexible with the attitude of "children will learn what they need to know if exposed to a variety of information in a way they can absorb". This is a very un-school mentality, and a general belief system of education that I subscribe to.

And then I freak out, sure my children will end up stupid with no future prospects and living in my basement playing Minecraft, dressing like My Little Pony and eating cheetos until the are 40.

This is not my best space. I make dumb choice in this space and drive my kids to do monotonous things they hate and pretty much act like a fun sponge, sucking all the joy from learning. This is usually triggered by hearing what my friends kids are doing in school, like math facts and spelling lists and required reading time.

I have started reading a new blog over the past couple of weeks, an American teacher who moved to Finland to live close to his wives family and now teaches over there. In case you haven't kept up, American schools don't test so well internationally, but Finland seems to hold its own pretty well and has for quite some time. So what do they have figured out that we seem to miss? Things like almost no testing until you FINISH HIGH SCHOOL. The don't teach children to read until age 7 unless they want to learn before. They have daily instruction in fine arts. Kids learn how to cook, budget, clean and other life skills.

Woah.

Most mind blowing? Teachers are allowed to teach in a way that they see is best, teachers work together to make lesson plans and, overall, teachers WORK LESS than American teachers with better outcomes. They are given goals like "a child should find joy in solving the equation". Joy. In math. Its a thing, people, a thing they work to develop.

Finland has figured out that testing helps no one and there is more than one kind of smart. They figured out children learn best from a place of JOY not fear of a test, or shame of failing, but in JOY OF LEARNING.

I am not sure why this is blowing my mind, I mean, I already try to parent from that head space. I try to remember that children in secure relationship generally want to please and have a joyful, peace filled home. Parenting from a space of intimidation, shame, and fear undermines our wiring of needing to have real, vulnerable relationship. And parenting is just teaching a kid how to be an adult, so why would any other learning be different?

I have yet to have a child who really gets the reading thing really quickly and easily. My kids struggle at it, work at it, and get frustrated. Maybe I suck at teaching reading. This is a distinct possibility, as I am the common denominator. Anyway, I have been successfully making reading miserable for one of my kids. We both hated it. Great job, mom.

Today, I remembered joy. We started with sight word bingo, went on to a picture/word card challenge for candy, and then used the pocket chart for math and science. Know what? I heard my kids giggling, challenging each other and helping the other one succeed. We were silly. When it came time to work on cursive, the kids finished in record time and they had JOY.

Why do I find this so hard to remember? I enjoyed my kids, the house was peaceful, they had fun and they learned. So this week, I choose joy in learning, and I will try to keep my math facts freak outs to a minimum.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Critters

I watch him, king of his own back yard domain, stomping in his red rubber race car boots. White blond hair sticking up in all directions, shirt smeared with whatever happened to be on his hands. The chickens are smart enough to give him wide berth. But chickens have a short attention span and he is determined.

He sneaks, as quietly as his two year old body and sqeaky boots are able, and makes a grab for the chicken. Victoriously, he wrangles his feathered foe and carries it across the yard. Struggling under the weight and wriggling, he manages to hoist his conquest on to the hammock.

Back and forth he rocks the dismayed bird, singing at the top of his lungs. As the hammock slows, the chicken makes a break for it. Between fits of giggles, my boy scolds the flustered fowl and sets off to find a new "friend" to rock to sleep.

Inside my middelest daughter is snuggled in a chair, reading out loud, covered in blankets. The lumps under the fabric move and shift until two tiny orange kitten faces appear. She rubs the furry heads and tucks them in as she continues her book.

In the kitchen, the eldest child is cracking up. Amidst the laughing and quacking I see her teaching the duckling to drink from a cup. The duckling thrusts his head all the way down, pulls it out with a bill full of water and a loud quack and repeats. There is water all over the floor and the child.

My youngest daughter is rummaging in the fridge, looking for carrots for her and Rodeo to share. I have ceased trying to explain why it is gross to share a snack with a guinea pig and am just grateful the animal and the child are eating a healthy snack.

This is the chaos that causes my mother to roll her eyes and comment on the smell of kittens when she comes to my house. This is one of the many reasons my home will never be picture perfect and is often just above livable. This is why I do obscene amounts of laundry, clean poop off of the floor and vacuum up mud out of the carpet several times a week. My choice to live with critters (and children) make my life more complicated, I get that.

I also know that my children get some things that there friends whos homes are critter free will never understand. My kids know that it doesn't matter if you don't feel like feeding kittens, they are counting on you to be fed. My children know that life is fragile and death is part of the journey. My kids know that the fun of pets is balanced by the work it takes to keep them clean and healthy. Our animals teach responsibility, hard work, faithfulness and cooperation.

My life would be simpler without pets, no question. It would also be less rich. And, lets be honest here, a life with 4 small children is never going to be simple, so we might as well embrace to madness.