RedGateFarm is Moving!

I have decided to move my blog over to wordpress due to the added features available. So come on over, check it out, and let me know what you think! Be sure to bookmark it or become a follower to stay caught up, as I won't be posting here in blogspot anymore. See you at http://www.redgatefarm.wordpress.com/. Over and out!


What happens when little girls wearing skirts want to be like their brothers and play on the woodpile?

They wind up with little legs covered in red bumps and microscopic splinters that Mommy has to find a way to remove! I have to say, though, that, despite her tears, she did very well, sitting very still while I worked.

My Horse Fix

Isn't it funny how God arranges things for us? I decided to part with a few more horse things and placed an ad on craigslist. Long story, but the lady who wound up purchasing the equipment was trying to start a horse rescue. She had 7 horses at the time, including 3 pregnant mares. She was having some difficulty though, as a horse had kicked her in February and broken her leg. So she was still accepting rescues, but was unable to do any training with them. She was desperate for help, but had been unable to find anyone with any training experience. After we conversed for a while, she invited us to join her family for Easter lunch and get to know each other, which we did. Yesterday, my wonderful husband offered to take over my household tasks and to watch the kids while I went out to help her.

I couldn't believe how nervous I was. It has been 2 years since I trained a horse! It was somewhat hard to believe, but once I got to training some skittish, frightened mares she had, it all came back to me. I was embarrassed, however, to find how completely out of shape I was! I used to thoroughly groom 5 or 6 six horses in one shot, and after a basic grooming on my first mare yesterday, my arms felt like they were going to fall off! I am just thankful she had 20x20 stalls for me to work in instead of having to use her 80-foot pen. There is no way I would have had the endurance for that! Despite my workouts here at home, I re-discovered muscles I had forgotten existed! So humbling.

It turned out to be such a great situation, as, I was free to train the way I feel comfortable, using the gentle techniques I have found work best and fastest, and have the owner just trust me to do whatever I felt necessary. After doing some training with 2 of her horses and helping out with a few other tasks, I got to go play with this little 4-day old filly:

I cannot express to you how much fun I had yesterday! Today, my face and neck are sunburned, my back and arms are so sore I can hardly lift my babies, and I was so exhausted that I overslept this morning. But it is all so worth it! There are few things as thrilling to me as walking into a pen with a horse that is so scared of me that I can't even walk up and touch it, and, after working for a bit, being able to walk out of that same pen after not only approaching and petting the horse, but also being able to groom, lift her feet, have her follow me around without a halter or lead rope, and generally have her comfortable with my presence.


It was a wonderful experience and I thank God for the opportunity to refresh my skills. I look forward to returning in the future.


A Smile a Day...

I am thrilled to report we just completed our last post-placement visit with our social worker. Now we just get to await news of our finalization. This is a wonderful feeling that N is closer to becoming our son legally as well as physically. In celebration, I thought I would share little N's latest accomplishment:
N, 3 months
Since he has gotten over the RSV, he is just full of smiles and giggles. I didn't think he could be any cuter, but man, oh man, was I wrong! You should see him smile!



Yesterday, a good friend invited us over to her house to see her worms and "release butterflies." You see, a few weeks ago, she decided to attempt composting food waste in her back yard. So she ordered a little kit and 2000 red wigglers, and they set to work. Now she has one full tray of beautiful, rich soil. Around the same time, her daughter was given a butterfly kit, complete with caterpillars which formed chrysalises, and turned into butterflies. You can read more about the process on her blog. Anyway, so yesterday afternoon, we went over to her house, along with another friend and her kids.

The kids enjoyed watching the Painted Lady Butterflies flutter around their little net home, and eagerly anticipated releasing them.
My friend, K, decided to let them go one at a time. Surprisingly, the butterfly did not just fly away like we expected. Instead, it just sat on K's finger. So K transferred it to her daughter L's finger for a photo op. Of course, all the other kids wanted to join in the fun, so K continued taking them out one at a time, and giving one to each child (with instruction not to touch the butterfly, but just to let it sit on their finger until it decided to fly away).
JR getting "his" butterfly.
JR proudly holding and showing off his butterfly shortly before it took to the sky.
M got a great lesson on butterfly anatomy from Ms. K. She seemed fascinated.
M was a bit nervous at first, as she is really not to keen on holding creepy-crawlies. But, with encouragement, she accepted the butterfly. Her butterfly decided to hang around for a quite a while, so she had several minutes to enjoy it and get more comfortable holding it.
M showing her butterfly to A, while I try diligently to keep A from grabbing at it.

M trying to encourage her butterfly to fly away. It just wasn't interested. It was quite content just sitting on M's finger.

After all the other kids had their turn, and all the butterflies had been released, Ms. K took M's butterfly, and had L help her put it on a nearby rose.
The butterfly sat on the rose for another minute or two, and finally spread her wings and flew away, to the cheers of all the children.
This little event was so educational, it looks like I will be ordering us a butterfly kit soon, so the kids can watch them develop. Then we will have another butterfly releasing event at our house! I will likely wait until we get to the farm to do the composting, though. However, I am also considering trying an ant farm. What great science projects these will be!


Childhood Innocence

Have you ever just listened to your children? Have you ever sat around just watching them in their play? S and I love to do both. Our 2 and 4 yo say and do so many things that can only be described as sweet and innocent. Those same things, however, can be so humbling to a parent. It often leaves me wishing I still had some of that innocence.
For example, JR is learning so much lately, and not just that, but he is really putting concepts together in his little head. Recently, we have been learning about how God owns all things, and allows us to take care of things for Him. So the other day we had driven over to look at a house, and S was on the phone. JR asked who Daddy was talking to, and I replied that he was talking to the lady who owned the house. JR immediately said, "No, Mommy, GOD owns the house, so who is Daddy talking to?" I stood corrected.
On a more serious note, an area that really hits home for me lately is racial issues. Now that we are officially a transracial family, I am learning by leaps and bounds how society views race. Young children, of course, are totally unaware of racial issues, until a parent teaches them otherwise. Children in a transracial family are often referred to as "colorblind" because they see their siblings all the same, despite the color of their skin. However, I am learning that the kids are, in fact, well aware of color, they just don't view it with the stigmas that adults do. I got to thinking about this the other night when I was informing the kids that they would be having a new babysitter come watch them. JR asked, "What color is she?" Funny thing is, it totally didn't matter what color she was, he was simply curious. He is at the age where he likes to match colors and see who looks like who--JR has skin color like mommy, daddy, and M, A has blue eyes like JR and daddy, and N has brown eyes like mommy. Color is simply a means to help find an identity. Oh, if only the rest of society could have a bit of this innocence as well! What a wonderful place this world would be.
The reason I started contemplating these things tonight was actually something M did. As you know I am a Type 1 diabetic. I wear an insulin pump rather than taking shots. The pump is small pager-sized computer that holds and meters the insulin out as required throughout the day. It holds a little syringe full of insulin, which is connected to a long tube, which is connected to an infusion "site"--the part that actually sticks into my skin. That is held by tape. I have to change this set up every 3 days or so.

Last night was time to change. M is fascinated by this process and has been for some while. She doesn't grasp the concept of a disease at this point, but has no doubt reached the age where she wants to be like Mommy. In imitation of me, she will often say things, "May I have juice?..my sugar's low!" And if she is nearby when I change out my infusion set, she will often grab the old one and play with it while I finish up (don't worry, there is no needle attached!).

Last night was actually the first time she actually made the site stick to her belly. She was so proud to look just like Mommy. I just found such irony in her innocence. Here I have a disease I would give almost anything to not have. I pray frequently that God's protective hand would stay on my children, and that none of them would develop diabetes and have to go through years of needles, food calculations, finger sticks, and so on. Yet, my little girl, in all her innocence, just wants to be like Mommy, no matter what the cost.

It really humbles me and reinforces the hugeness of the responsibility Christ has given me as a mother. Everything I do will be imitated by our children, as it is only natural for them to want to be like their parents. They become mirror images in their behavior, and it is imperative that we always strive to model a good example, that they may mature according to the instruction of the Lord.


Our Little Birthday Boy

I can't believe A is a year old! One year ago this week, we were waiting impatiently for A's birthmom to agree to visit a doctor. We feared she was having complications, but she was refusing to go. We were praying for peace and strength, and relying on God to take care of our soon-to-be-son. Then we got the call that he was being delivered via an emergency c-section. The story of the call itself is an amazing one that God played a big part of. Then, due to complications, A spent a week in the NICU, connected to all sorts of tubes. I was separated from my family the whole time, as I stayed in a hospital room nearby, entertaining and getting to know his birthmother for a portion of that time. I saw her tears after she signed the adoption consent forms, and witnessed firsthand how a piece of her heart was left behind when she left the hospital, leaving A in my care. The following months were busy with post-placement visits, reports, doctor visits, and the joyous adoption finalization. There were some fears about his development, as he was delayed in many areas. We gradually became more confident she had used meth during her pregnancy, ultimately causing many of his problems. As a result, those months were also a time where I had to learn to love his birthmother for the simple fact that she chose to give him life, even if her time caring for him in utero was not ideal. Around the time of his finalization, she wrote that she had come to know Christ as her personal Saviour; news that we truly rejoiced at. We watched God's healing power as little A grew, eventually catching up developmentally. We have seen God work in so many ways over the past year. The simple fact that A is alive today is due only to God. His birthmother told us that she wanted to have an abortion before God re-directed her to adoption at the last moment.
Now, here we are, celebrating his first birthday. Those memories seem like yesterday on one hand, and simultaneously seem so distant. Grandma (S's mom) came for a visit to meet N for the first time and see the kids, so we decided to celebrate a couple days early so she could join us. Some friends also joined us, preparing a traditional Persian dinner for us to try. A absolutely loved it!

Daddy did M's hair for the occasion....his first ponytail! I was so proud of him!

I made my second attempt to bake a cake from scratch. My first was for JR's 1st birthday, and it flopped miserably. This one, an almond-raspberry cake with buttercream frosting, was at least edible, and actually pretty good (though I don't consider it worthy of passing on the recipe).

. Since A has RSV right now, we decided to put the candle only in A's piece of cake. Didn't want to risk him coughing, sneezing, or blowing that virus all over everybody else's cake! But, it didn't matter, as JR wound up having to blow out the candle anyway.

A looked around like, "Is this for real?", then dug right in!

. He couldn't eat that cake fast enough!

He definitely broke the record for being the cleanest baby after a first birthday cake. He liked it so much, he didn't spend any time playing in it, and just shoved the thing in his mouth.
Then we moved on to presents. We had to show him that he could pull the paper out of the bag, but once he figured it out, he found the present quickly (a little eager assistance from JR helped speed things along too!).

M had to make sure little N didn't feel left out of the activities.
We had a great time, and now, I guess technically I no longer have 2 babies, but 1 baby and 1 toddler (plus the 2 older kids).


Babies, babies!

Today has been a baby day!

First off, congrats to my brother and his wife who just delivered #2 this morning. So my whole family is pretty excited.

The other baby part of the day has not been so great. With all the colds going around this house over the last week, it was only natural that little N came down with something. Rather than improving though, over the last 4 days, he has gotten progressively worse. I was concerned by this morning, as I knew it was more than a cold, but didn't know what it was. After a 3 hour trip to the doctor, turns out he AND A have RSV. Thank the Lord, the doc said we were very in tune and caught it earlier than most. Therefore, he expects the virus can be easily treated here at home. But since A has had his cough for about a week now, he has to be treated as well. S and M likely had it, but are old enough that were able to fight it on their own. Nonetheless, it takes quite a bit to worry me with illness, and I have never dealt with a sick baby this young. So if you have a free moment today to say a little prayer for N, we would really appreciate it. He is on treatment now, so hopefully God's healing hand will touch him soon. Poor little guy is so heartbreakingly miserable!


Grocery Day Adventures

N, 2 months

One day a month, I drive about an hour to the nearest commissary, shop for all my non-perishables and whatever organic frozen goods I can find, and then I only have to buy my produce once a week. Today was that day. I should mention I have never done this trip with 4 little children in tow. 3, but not 4. So, since I require 2 grocery carts anyway--I mean I buy 20 boxes of cereal alone--I came up with this great plan for how to deal with the children. 30 minutes prior to leaving, my plan failed when my help called in sick.

But, I am a military mom, and flexibility is my middle name. So, I packed the diaper bag, prepared the bottles, and loaded all the kids. Everyone seemed to be over the colds except A, so I managed to get him to take an early nap to help him be happy for the trip. Sound good? Riiiigghht!

First, I get caught in a road construction in rush hour traffic. No problem, I packed plenty of snacks for the kids. Then, the construction sends me on a detour, right into the absolute worst part of a large city. So, by now, my blood pressure is increasing a little. Then, it happens.

I hear the horrendous "choke, gag, cough, cry" and know that I will turn my head to find vomit in the back of my van. Sure enough, M lost her breakfast. But, even in crisis like this, God provides. I immediately see a semi-safe looking gas station, pull in, and run around to tend to my screaming child. She caught most of it in her lap, which protected my freshly cleaned van upholstery. There "happened" to be 2 large bibs from a previous day sitting in front of her, so I grabbed those and started cleaning up. JR, meanwhile, is complaining of the obnoxious stench now permeating the back seat of the van. Then I remembered having given my portable wipes to JR the day before. They were sitting nearby, so I grabbed them and finished the clean up. M was pretty nasty, though. Thank God, I had had the foresight a while back to pack spare clothing in the van. So I grabbed her spare outfit and changed her, calmed her down, buckled her up, gave her a bag to hold (just in case), and off we went.

Now, any normal mother in her right mind would probably have turned around and gone home by now, but I am far too stubborn for that! I finally get back onto the freeway. About 10 minutes before arriving at the commissary, I hear the "gag, cough, choke, cry" once again. I yell at her to grab her bag! Once again, I pull into the nearest gas station, and clean her up. Wouldn't you know that my spare outfit I had already put on her was a windbreaker, meaning, very easy to just wipe off! (Thank you God, once again).

We finally arrived at our destination, and I am happy to report, we had a very successful grocery shopping trip, and returned home without further incident. I was reminded once again, however, that even at a time that could easily be frustrating and stressful beyond belief, God provides! I mean, there were no potty accidents or broken bones, right?! And, more importantly, I had all the supplies I needed, when I needed them.


Growing Up

Our kids are growing up all too quickly. As if I needed the reminder, JR walked up to me this afternoon and said, "Look, Mom, I'm getting hairs in my nose like Daddy! Can you see them?"


Mission Accomplished!

I must say, I have surprised even myself today! As you know (see previous post), we started out pretty rough this morning, but I have managed to update my budget, do school with JR, take the kids for a walk to the bank, help M work on her computer phonics, vacuum and mop, get my kitchen clean, do 3 loads of laundry, tidy up most areas of the house, have Bible reading time with the kids, read my Bible, and even taken a quick nap to make up for my lack of sleep last night! I cannot explain to you the sense of accomplishment I feel right now. I have accomplished everything on my list of daily chores, and most major items on my schedule. I would never have guessed today would have turned out so wonderfully. As tired as I was, I was dreading waking up tomorrow, far behind in my "to do list." But, today is a perfect example of and a testimony to God's rich blessing. He promises to give strength when we need it most, and He can always be counted on. Trivial as it may seem, any wife/mom knows the emotional relief felt by knowing you have accomplished tasks that will benefit your family, set an example for your children, and please your husband. Thanks to the strength and focus that God has provided me today, I know I will be able to go to bed tonight, fulfilled and encouraged, rather than dismayed and regretful.

Now, as scheduled, I am going to take the kids outside to check on our strawberries and water the other plants. Then I will come back in, start dinner, and bake my loving husband's favorite dessert....homemade cheesecake! What a treat for us all!

Long Night

I wrote about my schedule a while back. After a bit of tweaking, I am doing really well with it. I am accomplishing so much, and it is working out beautifully! My day typcially starts at 6 am (yes you read that right! I am actually up around 6) to feed N. By 7, I am dressed, tidied up my room, made the bed, generally gotten everything ready for the day, and even had some computer time in. On a great morning, I will even get a load of laundry going and have the kids' breakfast ready for them to get up. At 7, I go help all the littles get dressed and going. By 7:30 we are eating breakfast. Sound like smooth mornings? They are... I am loving the way every morning starts out with no rush or stress (even Sundays!)

Not this morning! Last night began on schedule for the most part. S happened to be gone last night, so it was just me. Just in case we were infected with the big "Conficker C" worm that's all over the news, I stayed up a little late backing up files and photos from the hard drive. By the time I got to bed around 10:30, M, who has a cold and doesn't feel well, was crying in her room. Hoping to make the night easier and prevent waking the other kids, I invited her to sleep with me. She was restless from discomfort at first, but I finally drifted off shortly after 11. Then she vomited. All over my bed (her side, fortunately). I learned an important lesson from this event--sick little girls should have their hair pulled back or you will have to wash it! Having long hair myself, you'd think I would know that already. So I cleaned everybody up (or so I thought) and we got back to bed after 12. Around 3, N woke up for his feeding. My up and down disturbed M's sleep, so of course she became restless again. When I got back to bed, I decided to turn off my 6am alarm. I didn't consider the fact that my kids really don't sleep in, despite what their night is like. So, of course, M was awake around 6:15, asking if she could go play. Fortunately, she is obedient, and on instruction, laid down and was surprisingly still until 7 when I could wait no longer to feed N, and the other kids were ready to get up. That is when I discovered that I had vomit on my PJ's still.

On one hand I am thankful I got the extra hour sleep. On the other hand, it was interesting having the comparison with my mornings over the last week. Between the slight rush to get back on schedule for the day, and the fact I am an easily irritated walking zombie, I think I will try to get up at 6 again tomorrow. I definitely prefer the peace and serenity of my morning hour now. One day I hope to be able to commit to my quiet times with the Lord during that hour, rather than later in the day like it currently is. But at this point, I am a bit sluggish during that hour to be ready to commit to it. One step at a time.

The story of the Proverbial Woman (Proverbs 31) is truly my goal on days like this. "She gets up while it is still dark;" (v. 15), "she can laugh at the days to come;" (v. 25), "she speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction on her tongue;" (v. 26), and "she watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness;" (v. 27).

So, lack of sleep or not, I guess it's time to start our day! And a few extra loads of laundry today.


Touch A Truck

This past weekend, we took the kids to a "Touch A Truck" event. It was a very interesting event where kids got the opportunity to touch, climb on, and ask questions about lots of different types of trucks, machinery, and equipment that they couldn't normally. M had a cold, so she wasn't feeling very well, and of course the babies were too small to care, so I tended the 3 little ones while S and JR had fun with the "big boy toys."

They got to walk inside a partially inflated hot air balloon. The basket was attached and laying just outside.

A moving truck...something we are all too familiar with as a military family!


Reading and Writing Textbook Style

A couple of months back, JR stagnated a bit in his phonics and reading skills. He was doing great with 3 letter words and basic sounds, but was having some trouble understanding long vowel sounds, silent letters, and longer words. I decided to purchase our first official school "textbook," Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I had read a lot about this book and many homeschooling moms seemed to love it. Well, for the last few weeks, we have been steadily working our way through the lessons. Let me say right now that I LOVE THIS BOOK!!
It uses a different concept of introducing letters to help young children or older kids with trouble reading. In addition to teaching the standard phonetic alphabet, it teaches common letter combinations such "th," "sh," and "ae" as additional phonics sounds. It writes the combinations in such a way that the children learn to see them as one sound instead of two. We are only in the first 1/4 of the book, and JR is already learning how to read long vowel sounds, ignore silent letters, and to pronounce those tricky sounds that had confused him earlier. In addition to teaching reading, it also teaches reading comprehension, listening skills, and focus. He is once again getting excited about reading and is becoming more independent with his computer phonics lessons (which I still use for reviews and practice). I highly recommend this book and plan to use it FIRST with my other future readers.


The Blessing of Motherhood

About 8 years ago, when S and I were becoming very serious in our relationship, I confided to him one evening that I would never have children. It's a long story that perhaps I will tell another day, but basically it had been ingrained in me from parents, doctors, family, and the experience of others, that Type 1 diabetics simply do not have children. That's just the way it was.

As I grew up, I turned my focus toward my biggest passion--animals. Animals consumed me. I worked at the state zoo, at nature centers, became an instructor and horse trainer for mounted police, worked at multiple vet offices, and even trained wild horses for the BLM. I pursued my education with every intent on becoming an equine (horse) veterinarian. I had my whole life mapped out. Apparently God had other plans.

Through meeting and marrying my husband, I realized that my plans to be a vet had been replaced by a desire to be a good wife. Soon after we married, I saw some diabetes and reproductive specialists who evaluated my health and diabetes history (a miracle in itself!) and convinced me that I could have children. Within the next 3 years, we were blessed with 2 biological children. However, the pregancies were very difficult for me--only partly due to diabetes. I had many complications and was unable to carry either baby to term. But we were content with our 2 and thought we were done with babies. Again, God had other plans.

The mental transition was very difficult for me, though. I must confess that I found little joy in motherhood. I felt all my plans for life had been thrown by the wayside. I was excited about each new baby, don't get me wrong, but the true, deep, inner joy I had expected just didn't come. I loved my children dearly, and I wanted to enjoy being a stay at home mom, but I just couldn't figure out how. It didn't help that JR had some health issues that made him a very difficult baby to care for. Then M came along. She was healthy, if a bit of a fussy baby, but suddenly I found myself not only a stay at home mom, but unable to even really enjoy my biggest passion--my horses. I couldn't just go ride like I used to, as I had two babies at home. Due to that and some other circumstances, I realized that I was going to have to give my horses up, at least for a "season." It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Then, through the blessing of adoption, little A came along. Although he was a happy baby by all standards, he too had some issues, due to meth-exposure in utero (we think). As a result, there were moments when he was frustrating to love and care for.

Then God really allowed a storm for me. He sent us to one of the last places I would ever choose to move, deep into an area where sin and evil abound, far away from family and horsey-friends, far from horse-related memories, far from most support systems as I knew them, far from babysitters and friends at church. As if that wasn't enough, having 3 children in itself was a HUGE change for me. A was only 8 weeks when we moved, so it only hit me after we moved how difficult 3 children, 3 and under could be. I basically ran out of arms. With 3 young children, I felt like a recluse in my home. I didn't have my past babysitters to turn to. I had to give up a job that I loved. I even had to sell my beloved car when the carseats outgrew it, and get the "soccer-mom" mini-van . I was about as lonely as I had ever been. In this place and situation He put me, I was forced to turn to God--I mean, REALLY turn towards him. I had been listening, and even doing the actions I felt led to do. But, if I was honest with myself, I did not obey with a willing heart. I was performing the actions of being a good mother, but my children did not have my focus like they should have. But once I began seeking God, He held true to his promise "...seek and you will find..."(Matthew 7:7). For the first time, I became willing to set my former dreams and ambitions aside and sought God's true will for my life. He showed me that it didn't matter how different my upbringing had been or why I felt the way I had; it didn't matter how much I had sacrificed to become the mother He had called me to be; it didn't matter how difficult the babies were or whether being a mother came "naturally" to me; it didn't even matter that I felt lousy and had trouble just getting out of bed on days when my blood sugars were too high or low. All that mattered was that God had called me to be a wife and mother. As a follower of Christ, I was expected to put my worldly desires, feelings, and emotions behind me and seek only the things of His will for me and for those entrusted to me. Scripture specifically states, "Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you." (Psalm 74:25) This kind of desire for Christ became my new goal.

I did not know the extent of my change of heart until I brought little N home in January. Over these last couple of months, I have truly and wholeheartedly ENJOYED being his mother. Not only that, but I have wholeheartedly enjoyed putting my focus on all my children. S and I keep thinking that N is the easiest baby we have ever raised. Part of me wonders if it is him, or if, perhaps, it is that my whole attitude has changed. I may never know.

Sure, we still have our off days. The kids bicker, we get sick, I have "bad-mommy" moments, and the house gets out of sorts. But I have realized that is part of learning how to best handle the life God has given me. I still miss my horses terribly. I realized a while back that it has been almost 2 years since I rode. But, I now look at it as a new season in life. Sure, I occasionally miss some of my independence I once had. I still dream about the day S can retire and we can settle into our farm, plant some roots, and call it "home." But I also know that, for now, home is wherever God chooses to send us. I have also realized that the trivial sacrifices I make to answer God's calling are NOTHING compared to the ultimate sacrifice Christ made for us. Looking back, I have to say my only regret is that I didn't realize all this sooner.

This morning when M woke up with a yucky cold, and I had to basically forget the day's schedule to just hold and rock her, I began to reflect on these things. I also realized that I didn't feel the discouragement or frustration I used to feel in that situation. Rather, I felt comfortable and at peace knowing that she is blessed with good health, that this is only temporary, and that I am doing what God has called me to do. I am being a mother! What a blessed calling!


Multi-Grain French Dinner Rolls

I love this recipe because it uses whole grain cereal such as oats, wheat, millet, soybeans, triticale, etc.

9 ½ oz. lukewarm water (1 cup + 3 Tbs.)
2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup multi-grain cereals
1 ¼ tsp salt
1 Tbs butter
2 tsp active dry yeast

Mix ingredients (according to your bread machine manual, if applicable) using a “dough” cycle.” Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead about 1 minute. Divide into about 18 equal-sized dough balls. Place onto lightly greased cookie sheet or muffin pan, and brush with softened butter. For a fancy touch, make a slice about 1/3 inch deep, across the top of each muffin. Cover and let rise for about ½ hour, or until double in size. Uncover and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. The longer you bake, the tougher the roll will be. Enjoy!

If you do not need 18 rolls, the dough can be easily frozen. After you divide the dough into balls, simply put the desired number of balls into a Ziploc freezer bag, and put into freezer. When ready to use, allow to thaw fully, either in fridge (overnight) or on counter (about an hour). The dough will rise as it thaws, so you will have to cut the bag off, and separate the balls when ready. Just re-roll, place on pan, and follow the steps from there.

Additional note: if you want to make a bread loaf, just use a standard bread setting instead of the dough cycle.


Don't Rope A Deer!

I found this on a homesteading forum. I don't know who wrote it, or even if it is true (considering it would be totally illegal!), but it had me laughing so hard I cried! I thought I would share.

I had this idea that I was going to rope a deer, put it in a stall, feed it up on corn for a couple of weeks, then kill it and eat it.

The first step in this adventure was getting a deer. I figured that, since they congregate at my cattle feeder and do not seem to have much fear of me when we are there (a bold one will sometimes come right up and sniff at the bags of feed while I am in the back of the truck not 4 feet away), it should not be difficult to rope one, get up to it and toss a bag over its head (to calm it down) then hog tie it and transport it home.

I filled the cattle feeder then hid down at the end with my rope. The cattle, having seen the roping thing before, stayed well back. They were not having any of it. After about 20 minutes, my deer showed up -- 3 of them. I picked out a likely looking one, stepped out from the end of the feeder, and threw my rope. The deer just stood there and stared at me.

I wrapped the rope around my waist and twisted the end so I would have a good hold. The deer still just stood and stared at me, but you could tell it was mildly concerned about the whole rope situation. I took a step towards it...it took a step away. I put a little tension on the rope and then received an education.

The first thing that I learned is that, while a deer may just stand there looking at you funny while you rope it, they are spurred to action when you start pulling on that rope.

That deer EXPLODED.

The second thing I learned is that pound for pound, a deer is a LOT stronger than a cow or a colt. A cow or a colt in that weight range I could fight down with a rope and with some dignity. A deer-- no chance.

That thing ran and bucked and twisted and pulled. There was no controlling it and certainly no getting close to it. As it jerked me off my feet and started dragging me across the ground, it occurred to me that having a deer on a rope was not nearly as good an idea as I had originally imagined.

The only up side is that they do not have as much stamina as many other animals.

A brief 10 minutes later, it was tired and not nearly as quick to jerk me off my feet and drag me when I managed to get up. It took me a few minutes to realize this, since I was mostly blinded by the blood flowing out of the big gash in my head. At that point, I had lost my taste for corn-fed venison. I just wanted to get that devil creature off the end of that rope. I figured if I just let it go with the rope hanging around its neck, it would likely die slow and painfully somewhere. At the time, there was no love at all between me and that deer. At that moment, I hated the thing, and I would venture a guess that the feeling was mutual.

Despite the gash in my head and the several large knots where I had cleverly arrested the deer's momentum by bracing my head against various large rocks as it dragged me across the ground, I could still think clearly enough to recognize that there was a small chance that I shared some tiny amount of responsibility for the situation we were in, so I didn't want the deer to have to suffer a slow death, so I managed to get it lined back up in between my truck and the feeder - a little trap I had set before hand...kind of like a squeeze chute. I got it to back in there and I started moving up so I could get my rope back.

Did you know that deer bite? They do! I never in a million years would have thought that a deer would bite somebody, so I was very surprised when I reached up there to grab that rope and the deer grabbed hold of my wrist.

Now, when a deer bites you, it is not like being bit by a horse where they just bite you and then let go. A deer bites you and shakes its head -almost like a pit bull. They bite HARD and it hurts.

The proper thing to do when a deer bites you is probably to freeze and draw back slowly. I tried screaming and shaking instead. My method was ineffective. It seems like the deer was biting and shaking for several minutes, but it was likely only several seconds.

I, being smarter than a deer (though you may be questioning that claim by now), tricked it. While I kept it busy tearing the tendons out of my right arm, I reached up with my left hand and pulled that rope loose. That was when I got my final lesson in deer behavior for the day.

Deer will strike at you with their front feet. They rear right up on their back feet and strike right about head and shoulder level, and their hooves are surprisingly sharp. I learned a long time ago that, when an animal -- like a horse --strikes at you with their hooves and you can't get away easily, the best thing to do is try to make a loud noise and make an aggressive move towards the animal. This will usually cause them to back down a bit so you can escape.

This was not a horse. This was a deer, so obviously, such trickery would not work. In the course of a millisecond, I devised a different strategy. I screamed like a woman and tried to turn and run.

The reason I had always been told NOT to try to turn and run from a horse that paws at you is that there is a good chance that it will hit you in the back of the head. Deer may not be so different from horses after all, besides being twice as strong and 3 times as evil, because the second I turned to run, it hit me right in the back of the head and knocked me down.

Now, when a deer paws at you and knocks you down, it does not immediately leave. I suspect it does not recognize that the danger has passed. What they do instead is paw your back and jump up and down on you while you are laying there crying like a little girl and covering your head. I finally managed to crawl under the truck and the deer went away.

So now I know why when people go deer hunting they bring a rifle with a scope to sort of even the odds.


Hamburger Bean Casserole

This is a delicious and highly flexible recipe for those evenings when you want to prepare a crockpot dish, don’t want to spend a lot of time cooking dinner, or need something fast. It is also a great way to use up some extras from your pantry and fridge! The whole family will love it. Although it is called a casserole, it is more like a stew, making it perfect for cooler nights. I prefer to use the organic version of all ingredients.

1 lb. ground beef
5 strips of bacon (optional)
1 can butter or lima beans, undrained
1 can kidney beans, undrained
1 can baked beans, undrained
½ cup maple syrup or ¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup ketchup
1 Tbs. mustard
1 Tbs. vinegar
¼ tsp salt

Brown the ground beef, and cook the bacon. Drain fat. Add all ingredients together in desired cookware (ie. Crockpot or large skillet), and cook until heated through. Serve with homemade cornbread. Enjoy!

This recipe will comfortably serve about 4-5 people. Amounts can be changed as desired to suite taste.


I recently moved A into his 18 month clothes. Today, I pulled this outfit out of his drawer, and couldn't help but think of many of you! In fact one of you likely gave it to me, I just can't seem to remember who (*sorry*). Can you guess why?

Maybe this view will help....

For those of you who still can't figure it out, here you go!

Ok, to clarify, I am NOT a sports fan, and, in fact, really don't know the difference between FlS and U of F. But, just the wording reminded me of lots of friends and family.


Homeschool Planning

It is so hard to believe that I have been a homeschool mom for almost a full school year. We started in July 08, really got going in August, and have been doing it ever since. The more I have done, the more hooked on it I have become. And I have learned soooooo very much this year!

In reflection, I have read countless books and articles about homeschooling to help me make the right choices. Through that, I learned that the choices are as various as the families themselves. I spent months experimenting with different methods of schooling--computer lessons vs. bookwork, coloring vs. hands-on art, reading vs. experiencing, and so on. I learned that everything has its usefulness, and, when the children have the right heart-attitude, they can learn so much from any method. Watching JR and M learn from the lessons we did together was priceless. I loved seeing his face light up when he finished reading a new book or wrote a new letter, or seeing M get excited and yell "I did it!" when she succeeded at something new. Those are special moments that I would have missed entirely had they been in a pre-school. What began as an experimental journey for 1 year, may be turning into a "school-career" decision.

Now that we are hooked, I have spent the last week or so planning next year. I read another book called "Managers of Their Schools," also written by Teri Maxwell, a homeschool SAHM of 8. The book was filled with tips and information that really helped me mentally prepare for this overwhelming task. She broke the planning into steps. Best of all, unlike other books I have read, she showed how to incorporate your beliefs into your school planning. For example, I love having S act as the "principal" of our school. Because successful homeschooling is a family decision rather than a mommy decision, I love getting S's input and direction whenever possible. However, since I am the one who does the research, makes the purchases, attends the curriculum displays, and actually does the teaching, this can often be difficult. In this book, Teri explains how to do this, even providing forms you can fill out, give to your husband to pray about for a while, and then arrange a time to come together and make the final decisions. She also discussed in detail many of the Christian curriculum choices available, as well as some of the Biblical aspects (or lack thereof) of different homeschooling methods.

We have decided to take a more traditional schooling approach next year. This year was a fun experiment, and I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to use it as such, but it also showed me some of my very weak areas. We will be incorporating textbooks and seat work next year. When I have used books with JR and M, they truly thrive. It doesn't just bore them, as many claim, rather, they learn life principles such as structure (specific lessons on specific days), self-control (sitting still), and even decision making and the resulting consequence (pay attention, finish the lesson, and go play, or sit here for an hour). There were also several opportunities where I was required to focus on training JR's character rather than just providing a school lesson. While not always an enjoyable thing to do, it is something I have learned to value as one of the most important parts of being a Christian parent trying to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Not only is their character something that will help determine success later in life, but something that could affect them for all eternity. I can't think of any God-given responsibility, more important than training our children's characters. And what a blessing it can be!


Adventure Awaits

We love camping. S had camped in countless locations from ice shelters on lava flows in Iceland to base camps on Mt. Whitney. My experience is mostly limited to state and national parks. We have back-packed several miles in, "horse-camped" with my horse, and even camped in a rented camper while I was pregnant (my back could not take the hard ground then!) However we do it, we love to camp. Unfortunately, when the kids came along, we stopped doing it for the most part. I was often pregnant, on bed rest, recovering from surgery, or the weather was a bit too nippy to take the babies out. Other times, we just got busy and didn't get around to it. Finally, this past summer, we took the plunge and went with some friends to a mountain near our home. It was great. It was also a learning experience for us. We considered ourselves pretty experience campers, but with 3 children on that trip, we quickly learned that family-camping is a whole different ball game! To say the least. You have to pack so much more than the bare essentials. You have to have bottles, snacks, oh, and of course, smore's. We also learned that we needed a new tent. We have two 2-man tents, which we used on our last trip. S, JR, and the dog slept in one, appropriately nicknamed the "boys tent," while M, me, and the baby (A at that time) slept in the other. S nicknamed ours the "nursery." Guess which tent got sleep? (hint...not mine!) After much discussion about options for recreation, travel, equipment, and expense, we decided to upgrade to a full, family-size tent that would leave us a little room to grow (you never know what God might have in store!)

We found a really good tent for a reasonable price at our local REI. Yesterday, S made the purchase, and as any experienced outdoorsman knows, you always try it out at home first in case there are any issues with it.

Our new tent and a couple of willing assistants.

Assembling the new tent.
The assistants were limited in what they could help with.
Our new, almost 100 sq. ft. camping quarters.

This should be plenty of space for the 6 of us, our 95 lb dog, and all our gear, yet still be sized for most campsites. It actually has a center divider that will likely come in handy at some point.
I am currently busy planning our first big adventure. I have a few other things I am looking for to get us more prepared for family camping, but I am looking forward to going. I feel so much closer to God some how, when I get out in nature, surrounded by the sights and sounds of God's perfect creation. S and I can't wait to share this kind of worshipful experience with our children, in the hopes they will grow to have a great appreciation for all that God has blessed us with!


Homemade Girly Girl

S has been encouraging me to learn to sew. After the old Singer I had lasted through a few curtain experiments, he bought me a Bernina machine for my birthday last year. Using the instruction manual that came with it, I was able to glean enough information that I could attempt to get started. When I combined that little knowledge with a lot of creativity, I was able to sew a few little experimental clothing projects. Well, I have just completed my first official outfit!

M picked out the fabric, and I made her a little dress (not the pink shirt), then used the scraps to sew her a long-desired matching purse and a little hair scarf. She loves it.

So far I have focused on very simple creations, and have been experimenting with different stitches. This outfit has my first zipper on the back. I hope I will soon brave actually buying a pattern to sew something. Though that is yet to be determined.
And, in closing, I have to share my favorite photo of the day. When daddy came home tonight, M eagerly showed off her new outfit, and then insisted he try on the scarf and purse for good measure!
I love having a husband secure enough in his manhood to entertain his little princess!


Parenting Politeness

JR, 4

Have you ever listened to very polite children and wondered how their parents taught them to speak like that? For example, imagine the following conversation I recently overheard taking place over a lunch:
random chatter
Child A: "May I please have some more to drink?"
random chatter
Child B: "We forgot napkins!"
Mom: "Would you mind getting some please?"
Child B: "Yes, ma'm"
Child A (upon receiving a napkin): "Thank you"
Child B: "You're welcome"
random chatter
Child A: "Thank you for this yummy lunch, mom!"
Mom: "You're welcome."
random chatter
Child A: "Child B, would you please (whatever)"
Child B: "Just a moment, please, let me finish (whatever)"

Could you imagine? OK, so now I have to brag. That conversation took place over lunch today. Child A was my 2 year old daughter, M, and Child B was 4 year old JR. I have to admit, even I was surprised. But, I cannot take all the credit for it. S and I have been trying to teach polite speak for a while now, but were struggling with it. My kids were certainly polite by society standards, but we wanted to take them above that to actually using specific terminology such as "ma'm," "sir," and "May I be excused?." But it has been difficult to set the example with some of these terms. For example, I can't really ask to be excused from the table when I am the one excusing everyone (although I have tried that, but JR always told me "NO!"). About a week ago, I implemented another tip I learned from a recent book I read.
Here's the deal: you have a small jar labeled with each child's name. You explain to the children that they will receive a treat in their jar each time they are caught doing a particular thing. In our case, we have chosen to use M&M's since they rarely get candy, and they get one M&M each time they say "Yes/No Ma'm/Sir," "No, thank you," "Yes, please," "May I please...," "You're welcome," for complimenting someone else, or for going out of their way to be polite or helpful (ie. picking up a toy that is in the way, even if they didn't play with it). They only get the M&M if they do the things without being reminded. So, if one child says, "Thank you" for something, he will get an M&M, but if the other child then says it, he will not since he was reminded by the first child. This causes them to try to be quick about being polite. Then, as M&M's are collected, they can also be taken away if the child does something in particular. For example, a behavior that they may know not to do, but continue, yet, perhaps it isn't worthy of true punishment. With our children, they lose one for impolite behavior toward each other. For younger children, this can be a simple and painless, yet devastating and memorable consequence. Then, once a day, they get to eat all the M&M's collected in the jar. As the children's politeness becomes more habitual, you simply wean them off the treat.

M, 2

So, yes, the above conversation was technically due only to some good, old-fashioned bribery. But, hey, nothing else was working, so I figured, why not? And, no doubt, it seems to be working with only simple training sessions on my part. In just the last week that I have implemented this "system," I have noticed a tremendous improvement in the kids' politeness. Through the natural course of this little "game," they are training themselves to become more conscious and aware of their speech and terminology. Besides, a little candy-coated chocolate is good for the soul, right?! ;)


A Day with Thomas

Like many boys, I'm sure, JR has had an interest in trains (among other things) lately. He asks lots of questions, talks about how he wants to ride one, and so forth. Because we love to allow our children to experience new things, particularly if it is something they are interested in, we researched every way we could think of to allow JR some exposure to trains. To no avail. Then we heard about a museum of sorts, not too far away, that gave train rides. So, we told the kids the night before what our plans were. Probably not a great idea right before bed! They were so excited, they couldn't wait until the next day.

This weekend, they got their first close-up with a real train. In actuality, it is a restored vintage train, and for a nominal fee, you can ride it several miles up the mountain, and then back down. History and distance were not a concern of the kids' of course, rather, they just thought they were getting to ride a "real" train!

At the station, waiting for the "Allllll Aboard!" from the conductor.

M in the entryway to the passenger car.

JR wanted to start his ride in the old-fashioned open-air car. It got pretty chilly once we started moving though, so we had to herd everyone into the closed and heated passenger car.

JR with one of the volunteer crew in their vintage dress.

A family photo in the passenger car. N can't be seen, but he is sleeping soundly in my wrap.

Daddy and the kids in front of the locomotive. The original steam engine could not be restored to a functioning level, so they had to use a diesel-electric locomotive. JR didn't know the difference, so he was just thrilled to see a real one!

In addition to the restored train we rode, there were several other cars on display that were either in the process of being restored, or for some reason, could not be restored. These included the original steam engine, a caboose, and a post office car.

The original steam engine from the side.

The original engine's frontal view.

So now the kids have another experience to check off their list (assuming they actually remember the experience!) and, if nothing else, we had another cool homeschool field trip. Ever since, JR and M have been playing pretend "train," complete with whistles, bumpy rides, who-sits-where, and who-is-conductor.