A Poem of Motherhood Shame


A Mother’s Moments of Shame

I hold my head down low.

It’s time to reconnect with my breath, with myself.

To move forward I must forgive-myself & my toddler.

First I ask myself “why”.

Why did I yell, throw something in frustration?

Why did I let myself get so worked up…over a toddler..again?

It’s those “buttons” of mine he presses..triggering, testing.

My mama bear instincts override my logic to protect my baby, my innocent sweet baby.

Why would you want to cause your little brother pain, distress?

He adores you, buddy, can’t you see that?

Breathe in, breathe out.

Let it go.

Time for apologies, of hugs and to reconnect.

I’m sorry, buddy, for letting myself get that upset.

Will you forgive me?

Will you work on being more gentle and loving to your brother?

Releasing and moving on.

It ends with a hope that this won’t happen again.

I remind myself that it can start and end with breathing in, breathing out.

It doesn’t have to build, to bottle up and come out with such intensity.

I remind myself that he is 3 years old and this too shall pass.

He’s off the hook…for now.


Our Kids’ First Funeral

 I was really missing my Mom today. She died 10 years ago but my heart still aches for her, especially now that I am living in my hometown.  She was a school teacher at my elementary school, which is where my kindergartener is attending. Daily I am reminded of her loss as I pull into the school grounds. 

On the day she died in the hospital, Father Ron (a dear friend of hers) was in the room. He coached her on dying without fear, while comforting us after she was gone. Last week, Fr Ron died. He was the first person my daughter really knew who died and today was his his funeral.

I skipped the wake and visitation yesterday. I am not yet prepared to experience that with my 6 and 3 year old. Today we experienced the special funeral mass, explained that he was in the coffin, and the process of his body going into the ground. Then the rest of the night was spent talking about heaven. As a parent, this was a challenging night.  Honestly, it would have been easier to just skip the funeral. My husband was out of town, it was cold and rainy, it was exhausting, and I would have avoided the tough topic of death.

Despite all that, I am glad we went. Out of this came some beautiful discussions on death, even though I don’t have all the answers. It was important for me that they begin understanding this as part of the life cycle. And even though Fr Ron was sweet to my daughter, I am glad their first funeral was not a major player in their life. This was a warm up to future losses and grievances.

Thank you, Fr Ron, for once again leading us through the process of death. Give my Mom a big hug from me. You will be missed!




Sugar, Sugar, Sugar!


I have to admit that Halloween is one of my least favorite holidays, only because I am a parent experiencing it. It’s the first of many holidays, kicking off a constant stream of sugar until Easter.  My kids might tell you that they don’t get much, and that might be true compared to other families.  But it seems like a battle that I’m losing.  I can’t control all the sugar they get at school, soccer games, birthday parties, grandparents, neighbors, etc.  At best, I can reduce it.  

So what’s the big deal anyhow?  Well, if you could be around my kids WITHOUT sugar pulsing through their body and then after, you would want the same thing too.  My kids (especially my 3 y.o. boy) are decent, well-rounded eaters.  Give them some sugar and they become the pickiest eaters. With it being that time of year where viruses are all around, their immune system is also compromised eating all that junk.

OK. Enough with my rant. 🙂 Despite my grumbling, we actually had a decent time.  We carved their pumpkins, ate some pumpkin soup, and then went trick or treating in the neighborhood. I adored watching them walk together and being in costume.  Rita Clare was a teacher, Tyler was a skeleton, and Ian was a Tiger.  

After we settled the kids down for the night, I spent the next hour picking up the house that had become a disaster in the midst of trick or treating preparation.  I really didn’t want to do anything after they were down.  Time to relax, right?  I’ve played this game with myself long enough that I know I would be regretting a messy house when I woke up tomorrow.  

After the clean up, I worked on the first steps in saving our pumpkin seeds.  In past years, I would roast them with the hull (shell) on and season it.  But then I was the only one eating them and many went to waste.  This year, I am going to shell them (hull them), soak them (sprouting), and then roast some of them.  It is going to be a little tedious but I’m hoping it will be worth it.  I’m hoping most of us will enjoy them this way and look forward to putting the seeds (pepitas) in recipes.  Next post will be on the complete process.  Tonight, they were rinsed and are currently drying. I can’t believe how many we harvested out of 3 pumpkins!!! 

Eating a Kit Kat from my kids stash,


Tales of Eating “In Season”

The End of the Harvest


As I’ve been savoring all the beauty of the leaves on the trees before they are completely gone, I’m noticing our neighborhood squirrels diligently working to prepare for the winter.  Gone are their lazy days of foraging and playing on our deck and chasing each other jumping from tree to tree. Now they are gathering their final harvest.  They are packing their nuts underground to help them survive through the cold weather.  I too have been gathering and anticipating the winter, a time when few local produce are available and even fewer options for my daughter who isn’t fond of all the leafy greens.

For the past 3 to 4 years, I have committed myself to learning when certain in-season produce is available.  I’m a bit embarrassed that it took me this long to learn when fruits and veggies became available locally.

I was inspired to live this way, after reading Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” The first purchase after diving in to this adventure was a deep freezer.   It has given me the ability to store up meals for a later day, be able to purchase bulk quantities of meat and seafood, and of course freeze seasonal produce to use throughout the season. Once the harvest is over (and it almost is!), we thrive off my gatherings.  This is when my food budget is at an all time low.

When I share to others that I try to mostly prepare meals based on in what’s “in season” and available to purchase locally and organic (learn about the Purple Porch Co-op where I shop!), many think that this means that I invest a lot of time and money into the process.  I’m left with the impression that people would do this, if they could “afford” it.

My response is simply that it is true that there is more upfront preparation and planning.  In the spring, we invested in a large quantity of strawberries to make strawberry jam.  It was honestly a lot of effort and I did get stressed out in the middle of it (long story but actually quite humorous to share someday).  I did this with the 2 older kids (ages 5 & 3) and they were involved from the picking, washing, cutting, mashing, stirring to the taste testing.  I did all the actual canning processing but they watched how it was done.

We made about 18 pints of jam that day.  I am HOPING it will last all the way until next spring when the strawberries are back in season.  Now that is done, we have it easy.  When our jar is empty, we walk to the basement and get a new jar.  No need to run to the store or fit it into our food budget.  I know all the few ingredients in it and was able to sweeten it to my satisfaction.

If I didn’t plan on this in the spring, we would have missed out on processing the best quality, local & organic strawberries.  We would have missed out on the experience we had together as we gathered and processed.

In the next few months of cold weather, I look forward to bringing out our spring asparagus, summer corn, fall squashes, and more.  The green smoothies are going to taste fantastic with our blueberries, strawberries, and peaches waiting to be used in our deep freezer.

Everything is already washed, cut, and ready to be put in a meal.  I believe all this effort will be worthwhile for us.  It will be healthier and tastier because it was picked at it’s peak ripeness, and won’t add to our food budget in the winter.

I’m a Weirdo!

It’s becoming clearer every day that I’m off the “mainstream” bandwagon.  Now it could just be where I’m currently living (Indiana) where I feel different than most other people I encounter. Two examples of this occurred this past weekend:

1. Yesterday, my daughter attended a birthday party for boy from her school.  It wasn’t clear on the invitation whether I was supposed to stay and attend or drop her off.  Now that my daughter is 6, the trend has been toward dropping her off.  But I didn’t know the family well and didn’t want to cause any problems.  So, The kids were having a good time at this indoor recreation center which has mini-golf, bowling, go carts, and more.  (As a parent, it feels a bit like Chuck E Cheese’s-I desperately wanted to go to a quiet, dark place after it was over and be left alone!) After awhile, the kids were instructed to sit down and have some pizza and drinks.  Trying not to hover over my daughter, I sat a distance away with some other parents (there weren’t many, so I guess I could have left). After they handed out the pizza (cheese or pepperoni), they went around and filled almost every kid’s cup with either Pepsi or Root Beer.  I almost jumped out of my seat (feeling like I was moving in slow motion going “NOOOOO” ) to prevent them from pouring it in her cup. To make matters even more awkward was that I was nursing in public and am pretty sure I was not surrounded by my LLL buddies!

Oh my daughter was not happy with me.  I told her she could choose between the soda or the birthday cake (hoping she would choose the cake).  She chose the cake. Whew!  Presently, I’m not sure why I felt like cake (AND ice cream) was better than the soda.  But I’ve been very committed to the rule that sodas are strictly “Daddy’s Drinks” at this point in time. I don’t really drink much soda and honestly would be over the moon if my husband decided to give them up entirely (probably a miracle).  I just don’t want my kids getting into the idea that having sodas (especially with caffeine) is an option for them.

So what made me feel extra “odd” in this situation is that it didn’t seem like any of the adults seemed like it was abnormal to be giving all these kids soda (and as many refills as they wanted!).  If I hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have even known Rita Clare had those to drink.  At some point in probably the near future, I’m not going to be there (especially because she already asked me to drop her off).

A big part of me wants to remove her from all the “mainstream” choices that’s currently chiseling away at all that I have worked hard at protecting her.  Sigh.

What do you think about restricting kids from having soda?

2. The second thing that happened was last night when Rita Clare and I were making “Magic Wands” for her birthday treat to bring to school today.  We had so much fun putting these wands together (definitely not a healthy treat but she was really excited about this).  After we were done, Rita Clare said proudly, “I’m the only one in my class who has made their birthday treat to bring in to share with my class.” My first reaction was, I’m so glad we did this.  I loved seeing the pride in her eyes and could imagine how great it would be to witness her handing these out to her class. Then a part of me was a little disappointed.  Are we the minority family in her class that the kids help out in the kitchen regularly?  And at some point, will Rita Clare lose interest because her other friends don’t do this?

I’m grateful that at this point, her spirit is excited to be doing this with me.  I hope we can continue to make many more memories in the kitchen together and that she will develop the skills to cook and love doing it.

Here’s a picture of our wands!


I love this girl!


I have to admit here that part of me didn’t want to post this picture because of her Hello Kitty robe. Surprisingly, I’m not even concerned about the messy kitchen in the background.  I personally have a hard time with paraphernalia that is marketing brands.  I’m especially not thrilled with Hello Kitty but that will be another blog post.  But in this instance, I decided to post it anyhow because the girl inside that robe is my star.  For the record, she LOVES Hello Kitty and just received that robe as a gift.

In peace,


Fall & Seasonal Celebrations

Celebrating and savoring each season of the year has become a priority to me for the last few years.  Once we moved back from Florida to Indiana again, I’ve come to realize how much I enjoy being a part of the changing seasons.  Florida has seasons but they are just not as distinctive.  I also try to avoid jumping into the next season until it has officially begun.  It drives me nuts when I am in a store and they have holiday products out that are months away (only one of many reasons I avoid most stores!).

This weekend, we stopped over at my favorite organic blueberry farm (Blueberry Ranch) for the last of their seasonal produce.  Not for picking, obviously, but for a 10 lb box of blueberries, which I will use often.  They are stored in the deep freezer and I have found that 10 lbs to be pretty spot on for the next season to start picking blueberries. Buying them at the end of the season and in bulk quantity has saved us money on buying organic.

One thing that surprised me today, however, was just how beautiful blueberry bushes are in the fall.  Check it out!



As we were leaving, I spotted a bunch of wild turkeys down a row.  Unfortunately, this picture didn’t do them justice.


I love sharing these discoveries of the seasons with my children.  If you would have asked me 10 years ago when blueberries were in season, I would have no clue.  My kids have discovered the seasons with me and look forward to new produce and adventures in the next seasons to come.

Another way we celebrated fall this weekend was by gathering with friends for a meal around a bonfire.  Included in this were some locally made hard cider by Lehman’s Orchard, a local wine called Witches Brew, and some ginger cake I made and brought to share.  Laughter, kids running around in the yard playing together, smell of burning wood, and gathering close on a cool night was spiritually fulfilling on a fall Friday night.  Ian (my 5 mo old) was cracking me up as he kept trying to drink Brian’s (my spouse) cider.


Don’t you just want to squeeze those adorable little cheeks? I love how it looks like he is actually the one drinking the bottle.


I’m bummed that Beth, the host, turned out blurry in this picture.  I love how she decorated the table outside with a seasonal bouquet she put together herself (probably from her gardens, as she is a landscaper and owner of Indigo Designs) and how her spirit of laughter was caught in action.  We had a great time spending adult time together as well as enjoy watching our children have fun outdoors together. Here’s a pic of my almost 6 year old, Rita Clare.  Can you tell she loves colors? 🙂


My Philosophy

I think it is important for me to explain who I am at a fundamental level, so you might understand the purpose of why I choose to live a certain way and what to expect from my upcoming blog posts.  I would say that my values aren’t uncommon but my interpretations of my values steer in a different direction than “mainstream”.

Instead of talking about all the things I am against, I will focus on what I am for.  My top admired leaders who have lived and died in recent times are Dorothy Day, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr, and Gandhi. This might give you a clue about my character.  I’m a strong Catholic who values social justice, peace, and community interdependence.

This summer when I was writing in my journal about the future of Small Footprints, I listened a lot to Peter, Paul, & Mary and Pete Seeger.  I love music, yoga, soup kitchens, trying to eat in season, and sleeping next to my baby, Ian (5 1/2 mo.) I am dedicated toward reducing my carbon footprint, as well as supporting as many local businesses as possible. We are one-income family of 5, which challenges me well in embracing a life of simplicity and frugality.

I’m not sure where I’d put my parenting style at this point.  I cannot even begin to count all the parenting books I’ve read (or partially read and lost interest).  I lean toward attachment parenting and am intrigued with Weston A Price’s take on living and eating in traditional ways. Our babies use cloth diapers, are frequently worn in a sling, are breastfed until around 2 1/2 (on average), and 2 of our 3 were born at home.

If you have any questions about my take on issues, please ask.  This blog isn’t meant to be a political soap box but I would be willing to answer most questions and will share openly.  As it states above, it is unfiltered.  My intent, however, is not to point fingers, judge those who have a different interpretation of life, or to create divisions among us.

Read what you want or none at all.

This blog is intended to nurture a community who shares similar passions as mine and to humanize all the celebrations and struggles as a mom.



Jen Starks